Friday, December 30, 2011

Mat's Top Releases of 2011

There have been a lot of releases that I didn't expect to end up on here, and a fair share that should have been on here, but didn't make it. I'm as surprised as you, dear reader. But no matter - this is my list. You may not agree, but at least listen to what I have to say before you shout profanities at me. Read below for albums including those by Across Waters, Russian Circles, Moonlit Sailor, Tides From Nebula, and many more.

10) Followed By Ghosts - Still, Here

Followed By Ghosts would like you to believe that they are simply a band from Iowa. What lies within, however, is so much more than anyone could have bargained for. From the first few moments of this album, that single guitar from "King, My Queen", I could tell this album was special. And special it was, right through to the end of the eponymous closer. Still, Here provides a different, calm, and creative look at what instrumental rock can be.

9) 65daysofstatic - Silent Running

A re-imagined soundtrack for a sci-fi classic could not sound any better. 65daysofstatic took on the challenge of writing a new soundtrack for the movie Silent Running, and what they came up with was more than anybody dreamed was even possible. A perfect representation of the movie on all accounts, Silent Running was filled with glory, strife, and a rush of adventure. The song that stands out most is probably "Burial Scene", being the softest and most sensitive of the tracks, focuses on a piano melody, and that persists throughout, sometimes supported, sometimes not, in what is a flawlessly aesthetic piece of work. The album represents the story in the movie entirely without fail, and works true wonders to the imagination and the aural senses.

8) Mogwai - Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

Ah, the first album I reviewed here on Muzik Dizcovery. It's been a long trek, but Mogwai's been here the whole time, with sounds varying from a "typical" (nothing is really ever typical for these guys) Mogwai song, "White Noise", down to the more domestic "Letters to the Metro", and hitting one of the most fantastic instrumental rock tracks all year, "Rano Pano". Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will has so much variety, life, and spunk that it's a really hard album to forget. Even though with their Earth Division EP they take a step away from this direction, this particular album is the most rock-oriented Mogwai has been since 2006's Mr. Beast, and it'll stick out as one of the most interesting of their releases for a while yet.
7) Beware of Safety - Leaves / Scars

This album really jumped back and forth on the post-rock / post-metal scale, flawlessly blending the two into one, with no qualms about it whatsoever. And Beware of Safety shouldn't have any - they do what they do so perfectly on Leaves / Scars that they have complete freedom over using and abusing the genre labels as much as they want. "Meridian" is a taste of what the band's capable of; "Memorial Day" is a test of their true capacity. A twelve minute minor-key odyssey, there is both clean and calm, and heavy, distortioned chaos existent on this track, and the band knows exactly when and how much to lay on both in order to create the most inspiring experience for the listener.

6) Moonlit Sailor - Colors In Stereo

I cannot escape this album. If you've read my best-of lists before, you'll notice that it has been top for not one, but two times. I don't know if it's the pure genius behind the musicality, or just the emotional place I was in when I picked it up, but Colors In Stereo means a great deal to me. Songs like "Kodak Moment" ring out in a clear, positive tone, providing a spouting fountain of hope enough to get through the rest of the day feeling significantly more upbeat than you did before, while "Weekday Escape" is driving, energetic, and has some of the most amazing guitar tones that I've ever heard. It's really very difficult not to like this album, much less fall in love with every track.

5) Russian Circles - Empros

Empros was an intense listen. Russian Circles lays on the heavy, and does so very liberally. Towards the middle, they lay off a little bit, in order to create the necessary contrast for a full listen through, but the band knows exactly what is needed in order for the listener to hit the full threshold of post-metal without being overwhelmed. Some of my favorite moments are the transition from hopeful to devastating on "Mladek" and the intense riffing near the end of "Atackla", with both being truly powerful and fully immersive of the Russian Circles metal sound. There's a lot going on in the album, and metal fans will appreciate this release a lot, I can almost guarantee it.

4) This Will Destroy You - Tunnel Blanket

Okay, so it didn't make my top three albums of the year, like I said way back in my April post. However, it nearly made it there after I re-discovered it about a week ago, while I was refreshing myself on some past releases. Once I started listening, I couldn't stop, and all of the emotions that I had been feeling while listening to the first time through, all of the hope and grief that the release stirred up initially, came back just as powerfully as before. It's an intensely emotional listen, and a truly fantastic release.

3) Tides From Nebula - Earthshine

Labels are hard to slap onto this album. The musicality of this album comes as much from the ethereal effects in the background as the main melodies in the songs. Tides From Nebula build Earthshine with echoic qualities prevalent in every song, but using them differently as well. Sometimes, it's a very powerful tool in order to keep a persistent sound, like in "The Fall of Leviathan"; sometimes it's to exaggerate a beautiful solo tone, such as the piano in "Waiting For The World To Turn Back"; and sometimes it's to haunt the listener with a tone that creates an eerie, atmospheric presence, like synths in "Cemetery of Frozen Ships". In all cases, it's one of the most prevalent aspects of Tides From Nebula's newest release, and one of the most identifying - it's used in so many ways that it really has a specific charm and quality about it, and among many other aspects, makes this release a very easy album to listen through, and one of my top three.

2) Beneath Oblivion - From Man To Dust

This is one of the most terrifying, gruesome collections of music I've ever listened to. It's also very much one-of-a-kind, and a fantastically interesting work of doom / post-metal magic. Beneath Oblivion brings us a concept album centered around a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and how survival is essentially futile, yet it's a humanistic need in order to do so, no matter how horrific or disgusting the cost. The screams on the album aren't your typical death growl, but more like the realistic, terrifying shriek of a man experiencing the most pain imaginable, and coupled with the VERY downtuned guitars, gritty distortion, oppressive rhythm, and extended song length, forcing the listener to sit through minutes of slowly progressing abhorrence, this album is the most brutal experience of post-metal anyone could ask for, and that makes it a sickly pleasure for those who have the stomach to appreciate what's being presented.

1) Across Waters - More Light Is Never Ending

This was something I didn't expect. Especially the way the band was (not necessarily self-promoted, but) promoted as Christian post-rock. Slapping a label like that onto yourself isn't necessarily the best thing for diversified listeners, but that actually didn't matter to me once I'd started listening. The beautiful way that Across Waters named their songs after biblical passages, and then had a spoken word intro to each of those songs, and followed it up with a musical reflection upon both of the prior aspects was a great idea. Even better was the fact that they took this concept and executed it flawlessly. More Light Is Never Ending is a work of art by four Christian men, with a greater-than-Christian ideal: an ideal that love and camaraderie is an important part of humanity, and holding onto and promoting this ideal with a passion bordering on insanity, Across Waters creates, in my opinion, the most stunning, unique, and wonderful release of the year.

Honorable Mentions:
Cassie - Something You've Always Wanted To Hear EP
Junius - Reports From The Threshold of Death
Explosions in the Sky - Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
Howler - Mud EP
Álfheimr - What Allows Us To Endure
Jesu - Ascension
10 Paces, Fire - Lakes Refract & Lakes Reflect
apolar. - the design.


  1. Surprised Tides From Nebula is included, let alone so high! I thought it was good but not that good, still each to their own, though. Plus, there's a few albums here I hadn't heard of before that I'll be checking out :)

  2. Matt knows good shtuff, Daniel. you know, he's one of Jeff's (djwildefire) real life friends, so he obviously knows good stuff.

  3. i like this. particularly the format ;)