Well, here’s my first “Top #” list, and I thought I’d start easy with a sub-genre of music that tends to be soft and tranquil… ‘tend’ being a word used out of lack of others. For those unaware, post-rock in general is a type of music that is composed by the usual ‘rock band’ setup – guitars, drums, bass, keyboards, etc. and for the most part instrumental.
The defining part of this label is that bands under it tend to concentrate on composition; rather than being ‘in your face’ or suffocatingly attention-seeking. Instead, post-rock bands are basically rock bands acting as orchestras, trying to incite different emotions without a vocal influence or pop repetition; and playing on sensations.
As I highlighted earlier, ‘tend’ is an vague word. While post-rock does ‘tend’ to comprise of bands going for soft-loud approaches to their music, obvious examples being Explosions In The Sky or Godspeed You! Black Emperor, other bands tend to go for a more bold approach, embracing distortion or jam-like dynamics, examples of these would be And So I Watch You From Afar or Pelican.
Anyway, that’s enough of that. These are my personal top ten favourite post-rock tracks:
10. 65DAYSOFSTATIC – RADIO PROTECTOR
65days… became big as being one of the first bands that really introduced a heavy electronic side to post-rock, however, this song does not feature much of that influence. This, for me, is their most aesthetic song. Just so emotionally playful.
9. PELICAN– DEAD BETWEEN THE WALLS
Pelican was my first love in post-rock, one of the first to get me into post-rock and one of the first that I just obsessed over. However, they’re generally tagged as ‘post-metal’ now, which seems to be a heavier and more riff-orientated version of post-rock. This song is the hard-hitter on the list, and I love it for that reason. The music video for this managed to get played on MTV2 a few times too, which is amazing considering how instrumentals rarely get airtime.
8. THE SAMUEL JACKSON FIVE – FACE THE FAX
TSJF are usually manically upbeat and consistently energetic, delving in an very experimental direction and bringing in a wider variety of instruments such as the mandolin, the theremin and lapsteel – bringing a far kookier post-rock sound, in a math-rock bizarreness. Face The Fax has a constant high quality to me, every moment feels special and thoughtful.
7. EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY – THE BIRTH AND DEATH OF A DAY
Even though the word is overused in this day and age, and has lost its true meaning, it’s the only word I can use to describe this track: EPIC. It’s a monumental, end-of-the-world masterpiece that just sounds like months have been put into making this song (or at least, it sounds like it should have).
6. MAYBESHEWILL – THE PARIS HILTON SEX TAPE
Just a stunningly crafted, energetic song. I sometimes put this song on repeat when I was on the bus to and fro secondary school, during 6th Form (when I thought I was cool and non-conforming by still using my Walkman and carrying CDs around).
5. MOGWAI – THE SUN SMELLS TOO LOUD
Mogwai, a titan in post-rock and no related list is complete without them. I don’t really know why I love this track so much other than that melody is beautiful, and the way the instruments all seem to tie together and overlap through phases is just so beautifully done. I saw Mogwai earlier this year too, and they played this song (to my extreme joy), and in a live setting this song gave me goosebumps, absolute truth.
4. GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR – EAST HASTINGS
What is a “Top 10” post-rock list without the legendary GY!BE, a band who would rule the list without limitations and with so many great songs this was a hard choice. I must’ve spent the whole day trying to think which Godspeed song would make it on the list, and eventually decided this. Probably the most obvious choice, seeing as this track is used at the intense beginning of 28 Days Later and keeps making me think of it every time I hear it (plus, I was amazed to hear Godspeed used so well). It was a tough choice between this and The Dead Flag Blues, Sleep and Rockets Fall On Rocket Falls.
3. AND SO I WATCH YOU FROM AFAR – A LITTLE BIT OF SOLIDARITY GOES A LONG WAY
ASIWYFA were one of the first few bands that got me into post-rock (along with Bossk and Pelican), as well as being one of the most energetic that I know of. This track is a prime example of that. Twangy, upbeat riffs and melodies, woah-woah chants and handclaps are just spices that makes this song so unforgettable and reminds me of when I’d go on buses and trains to wherever while listening to the self-titled album. Really pulls on the nostalgic chords.
2. MONO – YEARNING
I’m sticking to the rule of one-song-per-band, because Mono would take up most of it otherwise. Mono are known for their build-ups and drama, musically, and their songs are usually over the ten-minute mark, although there are many exceptions. Yearning sticks with me the most out of all the others, although this is a very close first – tracks like Halcyon (Beautiful Days), Everlasting Light and Burial At Sea would be on this list if not for that self-imposed rule. And these guys sometimes play with a full orchestra, which is a personal bucket list objective for me to see.
1. GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT – SUICIDE BY STAR
This song leaves me breathless after every single listen, and I must have listened to it at least ninety times. GIAA know how to compose a great song with atmosphere: the clean guitar melody, with the low humming keyboards, the mid-pace drums and those angelic electronic ahhh-ing vocals… it feels like getting washed out to sea and trying to fight your way back. Then it jumps into the mildly distorted jumpy guitar, and it just gets more intense, climaxing when the double-bass pedals kick in. Just perfect to me.