In a way it doesn’t quite feel right being the person who has to neatly “summarize” the state of post- in 2021. I wasn’t actually actively here covering it for a good chunk of the year, and even when I was, I didn’t feel quite as connected to it as I had in years past. No matter what, we will never be nearly as comprehensive here as the likes of our friends at wherepostrockdwells, but I think that’s a good thing as there isn’t a need out there for more of what they do so well. Our focus will always be a bit narrower and a bit more analytical, but it also means we can really go deep in the weeds on what is defining post- of all stripes currently.
So what did post- represent in 2021? Perhaps some of my ambivalence about having to helm this in-review column this year is that for possibly the first time since we’ve been doing this column, post- didn’t really feel like it had a strong identity. I think partially due to complications from Covid in particular, the first half of the year felt pretty lacking in impactful or “big” releases save for a select few. I think you’ll definitely notice a trend towards second half releases in our personal lists below. But even then, at least from my perspective, there was a real lack of much that I feel held the music and “scene” together. It wasn’t just that it was more of a “quality over quantity” kind of year for us. There was perhaps a certain sense of momentum and energy that was lacking in the community, in which everyone was there to gas each other up and cheer on every successive release.
I think it’s fair to say that we’re tired for all sorts of reasons these days. Lord knows I am. Tired of this neverending sense of dread and anxiety, of halted progress or just plain stasis. 2021 was supposed to be the year of return to normalcy, of being able to see concerts and festivals again. But so many of those were once again canceled or postponed. It’s difficult to sustain and build a community when you can’t actually bring that community together.
I’m personally getting out of the prognostication game publicly, so I will not make any grand predictions about 2022, about whether we’ll actually get to have the kind of year we thought we were going to get in 2021, or if it will mostly be more of the same. Nor do I have any particularly clever themes in which to tie a bunch of albums together into representing some bigger thing.
So this will be a relatively short wrap-up column from us this time around. Below you will find our personal top 10 lists, though I will be doing something a little different. Rather than focus on a ranked top 10 and write about the releases from that perspective, I will be focusing on them as a group of albums that simply made me feel something strongly this year. It might have been righteous anger, sorrow, longing, or joy. But what binds them together and what makes them so important is that they are all albums that got me through this tumultuous year. And I think we can all agree as fans of post- that this is truly what the music is about.
Songs of Righteous Anger and Joy: Nick’s 2021 Post-Whatever Musical Survival Kit
Baulta – Another Second Chance
Starting this off with an album that I get the feeling was largely overlooked both when it came out and after. Finland’s Baulta doesn’t sound like a lot of their Nordic post-rock brethren. The music of Another Second Chance is a bit more ambient, a bit more understated and slow-burning than much of the other music I love from that region. It is, however, a perfect fit for the kind of cinematic post-rock that A Thousand Arms seems to excel in promoting. There’s nothing too fancy to write about in Baulta’s music or anything that immediately separates them from many other bands creating this kind of music other than simply just being really damn good at it. The compositions of Another Second Chance don’t focus too much on the payoff and climatic catharsis as much as simply making the journey itself compelling. This is what emotional instrumental music should be about.
BRUIT ≤ – The Machine is burning and now everyone knows it could happen again
Speaking of what emotional instrumental music should be about, there wasn’t a chance that I wouldn’t give proper time to perhaps the single most surprising and impactful album in the greater post- community this past year. Though they have (understandably) bristled at the comparisons to GY!BE, it is undeniable that The Machine is burning… taps into many of the aspects that have captivated fans of Godspeed for many years. The mixture of delicate orchestrations with gripping themes and melodies, all with clear political and anti-capitalist wrapped around it, are pieces that fans of the genre should be familiar with, but BRUIT ≤ manage to put a decidedly refreshing spin on it all. The Machine is burning… taps into both my righteous anger over matters of climate change and the general sense of the world coming apart at the seams, as well as hope that another option is possible.
Driving Slow Motion – Adrift:Abyss
I already had a good deal of admiration for Texas’s Driving Slow Motion after their brilliant previous album Arda, but Adrift:Abyss caught me off-guard with its attention to texture and creating a feeling of wide-open barrenness that matches its cover art. Adrift:Abyss has been in frequent rotation whenever I am in need of music that matches my mood on a dreary day. Much like Tunnel Blanket from This May Destroy You did over a decade ago, A:A envelops with a blanket of sound that is constantly swirling, developing, evolving, until it suddenly explodes for a moment and dies back down. It has made many a downer day much more tolerable, and for that I am grateful.
HØST – Kos
I will admit that despite the sax and jazz-laden Kos seemingly being a match made in heaven for me, it took me a few listens to really warm up to its lighter, at times bordering on smooth jazz vibes. ‘Tis the curse of the soprano saxophone. Once I got past those instincts though, this album from HØST sucked me in with its upbeat grooves and heavy use of sax and other non-traditional instruments to play roles that guitars generally do in this kind of post-rock. It’s one of the few “uplifting” albums you’ll see in this list, but that just makes their role even more important.
Long Hallways – I Still Believe In Us
Speaking of uplifting, I am not exaggerating when I say that the latest from the PNW’s Long Hallways has done a lot of heavy lifting for me the past few months. What I love so much about their music, especially here on I Still Believe In Us, is their ability to craft musical stories that are at once wistful and at times melancholic but still manage to ultimately paint a picture of hope and love. There is a warmth that radiates throughout the album that honestly just makes me feel like everything might actually be okay. And because it is tempered by those underpinnings of darker or more nuanced themes and feelings, that warmth and uplift doesn’t feel saccharine or anything but genuine. Plus, I mean, multiple kinds of saxes, trumpet, and strings? I just really fucking love this album, y’all.
Mogwai – As the Love Continues
As I wrote in our Superlatives post, Mogwai has never approached being bad or uninteresting. They have managed to evolve their sound and themselves as musicians time and time again over the years, and up until now the only real complaint I had about their more recent output was the huge splits in style (and occasionally quality) between their more synth and electronic-heavy soundtrack work and their studio work that was leaning more heavily on more conventional shoegaze writing along with their usual instrumental bombast. As the Love Continues is the first studio album that manages to combine all of that without losing the thread of who Mogwai are. There’s really nothing else out there quite like them, and good Mogwai somehow always manages to put a huge smile on my face.
Mountainscape – Acceptance
Another generally overlooked album, the UK’s Mountainscape answers the question “What if Russian Circles but still good and also cooler riffs?” Acceptance took an early spot atop my favorite post- of the year, and it’s held a steady position in the top tier since. This one is just bursting with good, heavy energy throughout its impressive hour-long runtime. Normally such a length would be a knock on it with this kind of music, but it stays fresh throughout.
SEIMS – Four
Simeon Bartholomew is a mad scientist and a wizard, it’s as simple as that. How else can you explain the absolutely wackadoodle shit he’s managed to come up on his own the past few years as SEIMS? 3 and 3.1 had already represented such huge leaps for the multiinstrumentalist in both songwriting and bringing together elements of math rock, prog, jazz, and the kitchen sink into a format that is at once head-spinning and also deeply listenable that it was difficult to imagine him upping the ante. But that’s exactly what he did on Four, essentially exploding our very notion of what SEIMS is, all with a general sense of glee. Four is just a massively epic feat, one that keeps me on my toes with every single listen and plasters a dumb grin every time. In its chaos lies a well of joy, and it’s infectious.
Shy, Low – Snake Behind the Sun
I don’t want to say that Shy, Low came out of nowhere for me this year because I’ve been aware of them for a long time. For whatever reason it wasn’t until Snake Behind the Sun though that they finally grabbed me in a meaningful way. As one of those bands that straddles the line between post-”rock” and post-”metal” they are masters of dark and foreboding atmosphere. Another album that I could throw on anytime I needed to let off some steam but not necessarily in a front-of-mind way. Snake Behind the Sun is just one of those albums that is cathartic in every direction.
So Hideous – None But a Pure Heart Can Sing
And last, but certainly not least, is the album that most made me want to scream from the tallest mountain in both righteous anger and triumph. The follow-up to So Hideous’s terrific Laurestine has been long-awaited. I remember chatting with songwriter/composer/guitarist Brandon Cruz a few years ago about it, and when he mentioned wanting to try some out there shit for the new record like afro-beat, jazz, and other such things, I was definitely a bit skeptical and perhaps perplexed but nonetheless excited. Hearing the seeds of that sprout and come into full bloom on None But a Pure Heart Can Sing, however, was nothing short of a revelation. Frankly, I’m still not entirely sure how they pulled off the dizzying blend of all of that and more – spaghetti western, anyone? – but lord does it work. I dare you to listen to the end of the opening track “Souvenir (Echo)” and not want to expel every ounce of air from your lungs as loudly as possible. I feel like there are so few albums that take this long to come into fruition that wind up truly being worth the wait. None But a Pure Heart Can Sing is one of those albums.
Eden’s Top 10 Albums to Disappear To
1. Kaschalot – Zenith
Yes, my post-rock album of the year is an EP. But what an EP it is! Kaschalot first came to my attention with their 2018 release, Whale Songs. That’s when they came to most of our attention, as that album skyrocketed them in popularity. But I was actually torn about that album. It was good, don’t get me wrong, but I felt that much of its promise was squandered on its admittedly not long runtime. But with Zenith all such concern has vanished; something about the EP format has forced Kaschalot to condense their sound, making it even more energetic and groove driven and the result is glorious. If you’re looking for an album by a band that has their roots firmly within “classic” post-rock but has started to infuse that sound with the energies of what’s happening in electronic post-rock, this album is for you.
2. Outrun the Sunlight – A Vast Field Of Silence
The boys. The absolute lads. What more could I write about this album that I haven’t already in my review? Suffice it to say, following Outrun the sunlight has always been a rewarding experience but seeing them take their craftsmanship to this level has been an absolute delight. A Vast Field of Silence is the culmination of the promise that was always inherent in their music, a new sort of balance between post-metal and post-rock that here is given full flight on the wings of amazing compositions, masterful tones, and flawless execution. 10/10 would cry to its melancholic, but fast protected, hope again (and I will).
3. Long Hallways – I Still Believe In Us
If you know me by now then you know that the first top three albums actually all share the number one spot in my hearts. I mean, are you going to really make me choose between three albums that absolutely tore my heart asunder with hope and sadness? Like the album above it on the list, I Still Believe In Us shows an absolutely ridiculous amount of growth from Long Hallways, taking every aspect of their sound to a new level. Its grooves hit harder, its tones go deeper, and it structures flow even better, making this an album of the year if post-rock wasn’t also creating so many other amazing works in the meantime.
4. SEIMS – Four
Do you really need me to review this album again? Probably not; I’ve covered it on the blog before, plus Nick included it in his list as well because he is a person with Exquisite Taste. And you can be too, by listening to Four, one of the most explosively energetic and interesting I had the pleasure to listen to in 2021. And then go read my thoughts elsewhere on the blog about leitmotifs and what makes this album work so well. OK, that’s it. Pro tip: play this one loud and leave some room for dancing. You’re going to need it.
5. RANGES – Cardinal Winds
While Cardinal Winds is not as pivotal a step in the already well established and incredible career of RANGES, it is a fantastic album in its own right. It sees the band tap even deeper into what makes them tick, namely making “classic”, cinematic post-rock that is still engaging, interesting and, most of all, human. The same themes of nature, grace, and wonder are still very much dominant but on Cardinal Winds they have found their most intimate expression yet for RANGES. This is the one album of the list that I would most recommend to fans of old-school post-rock, even though it, and RANGES, have their feet firmly planted within the current wave of American post-rock.
6. Driving Slow Motion – Adrift:Abyss
Once again, Driving Slow Motion have delivered one of the albums I most enjoyed getting lost in this year. Some bands do some of the things Driving Slow Motion do better but none of them capture the exact abyssal, all-encompassing, and enveloping vibe that Driving Slow Motion are able to capture. Like their previous works, Adrift:Abyss is somber, filled with a gravity that sucks you in within its folds, inviting you towards introspection and contemplation. In that sense, it continue the band’s tradition for being verbose, patient, and cataclysmic when the time finally comes to unleash their patented tsunami-like crescendos.
7. HØST – Kos
Man, I just love how daring this album is! From weird vocal guest spots, through unexpected song structures, and finally all the way to surprising instruments, Host just keep you guessing on this release.
8. Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster – The World Inside
More veterans of the American post-rock scene doing what they do best: making moving, sweeping post-rock on the verge of post-metal. The World Inside continues TNBD’s penchant for brooding melancholy and delivers it extremely well.
9. Voronoi – The Last Three Seconds
Jazz-fusion that feels like you’re in hyperlight speed on a sleek ship. Voronoi’s predilection for weird time signatures is tempered only by their love of groove, leading to a complex but intensely animating album.
10. Year of No Light – Consolamentum
The masters of the darkest of the dark post-metal return with another excellent notch in their illustrious career.
David‘s Top 10
1. BRUIT ≤ – The Machine is burning and now everyone knows it could happen again
Let us mark 2021 as the year that this French quartet grabbed the torch as the world’s premiere political post-rock band. You don’t always need words to convey discontent, and on this record the tension and unrest is palpable, which makes the moments of achingly beautiful bliss resonate with even more impact.
2. Mogwai – As The Love Continues
Very few bands have been in post-rock as long as these Scottish legends have, and even fewer have successfully continued to be seen as innovators over that lengthy a time. I suspect that what keeps them young, so to speak, is their dogged refusal to remain attached to any one sound. I mean this in the most complimentary way possible – Mogwai sound like they’re just out there having fun and playing it by ear. The utter lack of a formula is the exact philosophy that every “post-rock is dead” detractor clamors for, but insists doesn’t exist. Mogwai’s greatest strength has always been their undyingly singular nature; there is absolutely no one that sounds like them, and even they don’t typically sound like themselves from album to album. That feeling of being forever unsure of what you’re going to discover when you hit play on one of their records is what has kept them deeply relevant for two and a half decades now. Listeners can always feel comfortable simply dropping the needle and seeing what happens, which requires the kind of adventurous spirit that most likely got the overwhelming majority of us into post-rock in the first place.
3. BLAK – El Tall d’Escil-la
This Catalan quintet certainly take inspiration from the book of Mono and Silent Whale Becomes A Dream, but where those bands approach the high drama and emotional weight of their songwriting with more elegant sensibilities, there’s something rawer and fiercer about BLAK that keeps me coming back with more frequency. Think of the difference between a graceful showhorse and an unbridled stallion and you may get a better sense for what I mean. The relative restraint displayed on the opening track of El Tall d’Escil-la quickly gives way to more uninhibited performance, and that’s where the record shines the brightest. When it goes big, it goes huge.This is exactly the type of thing that made crescendocore so enticing for the modern generation of post-rockers, except very few do it with the kind of proficiency witnessed here. Not long from now El Tall d’Escil-la will become the final record pressed by the incomparable Elusive Sound, making it all the more crucial a release for post-rock in 2021.
4. RANGES – Cardinal Winds
Of their recent releases this one was unveiled with the least pageantry, but perhaps that’s because it simply wasn’t needed. These Bozeman, MT luminaries emerged as a trio for the first time and gave us the tightest and most dramatic record of their career. It’s always impressive to see how they thoughtfully dissect and improve their formula each time out, and Cardinal Winds proves to be their PhD course in modern post-rock proficiency.
5. Shy, Low – Snake Behind The Sun
Pelagic Records has become a landing spot for independent post- artists that deserve a home, so it should have come as no surprise that Richmond, VA’s Shy, Low became one of their newest signings in 2021. They’ve been carefully crafting their sound for a decade now, and doing so with some members doing double duty as performers with Au Revoir. But as that band remains in partial hiatus, Shy, Low has really taken the reins and made a name for themselves as a shining example of modern American heavy post-rock. Like their peers in Coastlands, they stretch the genre tag to its limit, presenting an increasing post-metal influence that is very much welcome.
6. Trna – Istok
Initially emerging several years back as an offshoot of the St. Petersburg blackgaze/post-rock outfit Show Me A Dinosaur, Trna gained some recognition for their long-form instrumental post-black compositions, which – while undeniably impressive – kept them firmly entrenched in a stylistic micro-niche. But in 2021 they emerged as a more streamlined (relatively speaking, of course) and thoroughly formidable group. Tighter track lengths, more structure, and even some guest vocals all contribute to making Istok an album that could easily cross them over from really, really niche to just sort of niche. Don’t be surprised if you see their next record showing up with glowing praise across more traditional black metal and heavy music publications, these guys know how to bring the maelstrom, and have now proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they can make a statement in well under twenty minutes.
7. Hereafter – In The End, We’ll All Become Stories
Between this product of the Pennsylvania multi-instrumentalist Rob Evraets, Jr. and the Buffalo, NY-based Josh Martin’s Thought Trials project, I’ve become convinced that drummers make the best solo artists. My deduction is that their #1 instrument is the one that’s the most difficult to track effectively, and it’s also their bread and butter. After that, everything else must seem like a cinch comparatively. Also, one of the most consistent downfalls of solo projects is that they tend to hide their lack of proficiency with that instrument behind simple, unremarkable programmed drums. But the drums are so often the very thing that lift the best post-rock to the next level, and without quality in that area otherwise strong songs can fall flat. That is decidedly not an issue on In The End, We All Become Stars. The smartest choice Evraets, Jr. makes on this album is to make sure that the energy behind all the other instruments matches his natural energy at the kit. This is a consistently engaging collection of three and a half to five minute songs that are breezy but focused, emotional but not overwrought, riffy without being showy. The pacing is also spot-on; nothing drives me crazy quite like a solo artist that gets all up in their feelings and tries to impress you with drawn-out, effects-choked atmospheric passages. This album puts its head down and just rocks, and sometimes that’s really all I need.
8. Death Stare – Haze
I understand that just praised Hereafter for its straightforward approach to post-rock, while bemoaning solo artists that bog listeners down with overcooked atmospherics. But hey, whatever, I reserve the right to seem inconsistent, especially when I can present a good reason for doing so. This is how you do the latter style correctly. It’s not enough to drench the listener with effects and string them along with ceaseless build-ups. Set the mood, create the world of your music, but then deliver something with real meat on its bones. It’s not easy to turn minimalism into something immense, but Salt Lake City’s Matt Wigham does just that with Death Stare. Reminiscent of bands like Of The Vine and Outlander in the best ways, Haze can be oppressive, gloomy, and weighty, but there’s a light at its center that makes all the difference. Take one look at the cover art to get a very precise feel for the overall tone of the album, but then also understand that there is genuine beauty to these songs. You may need to exhibit some patience, and a willingness to give yourself over entirely to the music, but I promise that by the end you’ll be surprised to find how utterly lifted you are by what you hear.
9. Isolation Drills – year one
Carrying over the vibes of the previous entry is the debut from this Indianapolis duo. It’s a dreamy slow-burn that can shift from simple, carefully restrained melodies to towering waves of crushing sound in the blink of an eye, and does so enough to maintain an engaging presence. I much appreciate the willingness to venture into livelier styles as well, such as with the shoegazey mid-tempo of “Glacial,” which, ironically, reflects the suggestion of that title the least out of year one’s four tracks. Performers Dino Maglinte and Tony Reitz seem very much in step with one another, resulting in an introductory album that explores the soft/loud, pretty/ugly dynamics about as well as anything else released this year.
10. Closet Disco Queen – Omelette du Fromage
If there is one thing post-rock needs more of, it’s fun. This Swiss duo (and friends) are nothing if not exactly that. They continue to flourish just under the surface of the genre, not really in step with the modern crescendocore style, instead favoring a focus on more traditional rock riffs and grooves, specifically of the stink-faced variety. If any album on this list is deserving of the “nasty” descriptor, it’s this one. Press play and prepare to move.
Honorable mention (seeing as I thought I had written ten blurbs but apparently actually wrote eleven): Go March – III
This Belgian collective is all about groove and movement in a way that I can’t resist. This is undoubtedly the most danceable post-rock release of 2021, and if you’ve been feeling like the genre has been growing increasingly stagnant, this may be exactly the thing you need to break out of your funk.
Trent‘s Top 10
1. Black Country, New Road – For The First Time
I’ve seen this album labeled many things such as art punk, post-punk, experimental rock, klezmer to post-rock, so heck, I’m picking it as my #1. One of the standout debuts of the year that grabbed a lot of attention due to them arguably bringing back a style of post-rock that’s faded from popularity over the years, that of an early-wave style that’s given them many comparisons to Slint. I personally prefer his sort of rambling punk vocals to that of the Slint ilk, but otherwise they’re not far off. Not an album for everyone, but I’m happy someone is bringing that sound back and doing a kick-ass job of it. I can already presume their upcoming 2022 release will be near the tops of next year’s list based off the new single. These Brits might just be the next big thing in the genre whether you like it or not.
2. BRUIT ≤ – The Machine is burning and now everyone knows it could happen again
Not surprised to see this album on a couple of our lists. For me this was the peak of neo-classical post-rock this year, out-doing genre heavyweights GY!BE at their own game. The fusing of that cello-driven chamber music approach with electronic touches is a revelation for its ability to augment the dystopian, apocalyptic atmosphere post-rock is so good at conveying. Politically charged provocative soundscapes with a futuristic spin, this French four-piece is at the top of the game.
3. The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – Illusory Walls
Another album I might be cheating calling post-rock (RYM’s consensus seems to be it is), but you can’t deny the post-rock-isms of this brilliant release from the group more known for its role in the emo scenes. Love this direction they’ve taken here, and a refreshing comeback from their forgettable 2017 release. Leans into some interesting progressive emo sounds that remind me of Fear Before The March of Flames at times, but much of the writing falls into the tension-stretching and slowly-gathering-steam approach of post-rock. Closing off the album with two 15-minute+ tracks that earn their length alone gives them enough p-r cred for me. Well done, TWIABP. Your name was always a better fit for post-rock anyway.
4. Maybeshewill – No Feeling Is Final
There wasn’t a post-rock album I was looking forward to more this year than the return of Maybeshewill after seven years. This anticipation was hamstrung by some cautious optimism however, as that last release (Fair Youth) left a bit of a sour note in most die-hard fans’ mouths, such as myself. On my initial listen, I was mildly disappointed to luke-warm at best – but wow this album was a grower. I had to accept that the more math-rock and electronic influenced sound of their early work is a thing of the past, and this newer modern classical with touches of neo-folk approach would take some getting used to. But it really paid off. This is Maybeshewill at their most vulnerable and earnest, with a palpable passion for not only the music, but even more so the political message that’s always been integral to their existence as a band.
5. Blackshape – Blackshape
These guys call themselves instrumental mathcore, which is close enough to post-metal for me. It’s not so much a pew-pew or EVERYTHINGISHAPPENING type of mathcore, but a more consistently complex polyrhythmic groove kind of mathcore. Think a bit like a less djenty, more atmospheric and haunting early-Cloudkicker. Whatever you want to call it, this album kicks ass and Blackshape were one of my favourite new-to-me discoveries this year.
6. Shy, Low – Snake Behind the Sun
As a proud supporter of Heavy Riffs in Post-Rock, it’s easy to see why I might like Snake Behind The Sun, the powerful fourth full-length from American group Shy, Low. They find a nice balance between said aforementioned Heavy Riffs and creating an interesting textural, cinematic atmospheres. Landing on spot on The Ocean‘s label Pelagic doesn’t come as too big of a surprise. Like them, they have a pretty good knack for incorporating progressive influences into their writing and style, while not being afraid to embrace their inner-metalhead. Take the little call and response groovy chugs of “Umbra” or the explosive drumming of single “Helioentropy”. Finding a common ground between heartfelt introspection and instrumentation that makes me make a stink-face is something I’ll always have time for in post-rock, and I’m glad Shy, Low haven’t strayed from that over the years.
7. Long Hallways – I Still Believe In Us
Not a lot I can say about this that Eden hasn’t already covered. It’s uniquely dynamic, and their stylistic use of horns is unlike much I’ve ever heard in the genre. Long Hallways straight up take you on an adventure to a land of undiscovered colour and emotion that I wish I could exist in.
8. Those Who Ride With Giants – Forlorn
This album blew up on youtube this year thanks to our friends at WherePostRockDwells, and it wasn’t undeserving. This Australian solo-project ties together an intriguing blend of modern post-rock with trip-hop and the ambient electronic of artists like Tycho and Boards of Canada. A pretty lengthy record at 1hr15min, but it covers a lot of ground from dreamy ambient piano soundscapes, smokey bass-driven chillout beats, to contrasting sky-painting tremolo-picked climaxes.
9. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END!
So, Godspeed did put out a new album this year, and we’d probably be amiss to not give it some kind of acknowledgement. Does it stand up to the F♯A♯∞’s and …Skinny Fists of their discography? Not quite, but it’s not entirely far off either, and their best since 2012’s ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! It’s drawn some criticism for being over-reliant on drawn-out tension building that never reaches a climax, which I find a bit harsh – post-rock is more about the journey than the destination, but I get it. To their credit, it seems they’ve recognized what made their early material so great and what was hindering their later releases, as they’ve doubled-back towards a sound closer to their roots in all their epic grandiosity and apocalyptic dread and they’re better for it. So yeah, they’ve still got it, and this gives some credence to the hopes that their best isn’t truly in the past.
10. Nordsind – Lys
Instrumental blackgaze is something that doesn’t seem like it should necessarily work that well on paper. The pained black metal vocals are such an integral aspect of the genre’s ability to harness that bleak atmosphere it does so well. Of course groups like the Russian TRNA whose new album Istok was a contender for this list as well would disagree, but Danish two-piece Nordsind excelled at this with Lys better than I’ve ever heard before. These guys plainly understand the power of proper post-rock writing; the ability to plant and grow a thematic mood through the power of melody and recurring motifs. The way they channel these heart-stirring essential post-rock-isms through more typical black metal instrumentation is the essence of what makes Lys stand out.