Twelve Post-rock albums I like on eMusic

edited February 2020 in Rock Pop
Odd coincidence that both eMusic and went down within days of one another.  It's a race to see which fulfills its promise to return first.  But to the title...

Can all 21st century instrumental rock other than surf be called post-rock? How many lyrics disqualify? Does it have to be atmospheric, or can it be upbeat and danceable? Was there a clean break w/ progressive rock or are the two clearly related? I’m not going to weigh in other than to encourage a big tent, to include all the albums below, but I welcome any disputes for stimulating discussion.

Note that many are just 99 cents to own, eMusic’s remaining selling point, but there’s doubt about artists getting paid (unless you want to go with their blockchain tokens). Thus, support them via the Bandcamp links to feel extra warm & fuzzy. 

In approximate order of my liking:

  1. “The Relativity of Space and Time” - Zhaoze (The Swamp) (2016). Not to take on too heady of a subject, my favorite Chinese alt. rock group went post-rock in the 2010s, and rather well. This live album is the priciest but also the longest at 90 minutes, and Chinese instrumentation, mainly an electric guqin, features prominently on most tracks. They also sing occasionally. For more Chinese post-rock on eMusic, tell me if Yu Su is too jazzy. Wang Wen also has four albums, but I’ve only heard “Re: “ and another not available, finding both just OK. Find my full consideration of Asian alternative music on eMu here:

  2. “A Ella Te Conduce la Sagrada Espyral” - Pylar (2017). These Spaniards flirt with metal but alternate hard and soft numbers with a lot of skill. A lot of variation from track to track, with dashes of psychedelia thrown in for good measure. A mere dollar (or “name your price”) for a full-length album not to be missed.

  3. S/t” - Sensible Soccers (2011). A 20-minute EP from Portugal for 99 cents, this one starts out sounding a bit like a helicopter and never quite fits its title. Glittering circles of guitars and a distant female vocalist make for a very enjoyable and relatively mellow excursion. “Twin Turbo,” while under two minutes long, skitters into shoegazey dream pop territory crashing full speed into the wall of the fairly epic last track. All with subtle electronic enhancements, like a slowed-down Desert Sound Colony (one of my favorites I’ve mentioned several times elsewhere).

  4. “Sonder” - Hanan (2014). A short album of relatively short songs and about half electronic, these Minnesotans would not be out of place on Constellation or Kranky with their alternation between atmospheric and noisy guitars closer to math rock. In any case, these guys are full of crescendoes but know when to brood and contemplate, too.

  5. “Hacia Donde Va el Agua” - IIOII (2019). Maybe the most experimental on this list, these Chileans are on a label that otherwise has more ambient music. Tunes on the album are usually backed by an electronic dance beat, but the overall sound mostly remains more abstract and restrained than groovy. At times one has to strain to hear guitars, but they’re usually there. Someone who would include Ratatat in post-rock would have no trouble fitting this one.

  6. “BM” - Billy Mahonie (2009). Fully instrumental and more straightforwardly rock than most here, while also playing with rhythm a lot more. Fans of Ui and The Mercury Program will find much to enjoy.

  7. “Glass Wars” - 1 Mile North (2011). Almost wholly guitar-based, layered, and sparse, with some nice use of background sounds for variety. Most are long tracks more intricate and interesting than rousing, leaving even more softly than they came. A slow echo that can sometimes feel like full-song extensions of the quiet parts in Explosions in the Sky tracks, these songs almost entirely eschew percussion as too jarring.

  8. “Mort Aux Vaches” - Tarentel (2015). There’s probably more to be included on this list in the large series of 99-cent titles, but I’m starting with reliable names I know and love. Unlike most of their albums, this one’s fully instrumental and uses only standard rock instrumentation without frills.

  9. “El Hambre” - Los Desastres De La Guerra (2018). Another 99-cent EP (or nyp for all three titles on Bandcamp), this time from Argentina. It starts like it’ll be noisy but soon settles into organ and guitar pedal madness over a driving beat. The other two tracks, while not mellow, are more abstract and restrained.

  10. “S/t” - Ceylon (2019). By far the most vocals, and French female ones at that, of any on this list. Loungey, layered, but lighthearted and maybe a bit rockabilly or psychedelic. If they’re not post-rock I invite someone to categorize this long, 99-cent EP more appropriately.

  11. “This Culture of Background Noise” - Because of Ghosts (2006). Sort of meanders its way into the first track like plodding at an increasing pace. Maybe guitar purists will like this one more than I do, though they do add a violin occasionally, but even w/out it can be reminiscent of Dirty Three. They’re Australian.

  12. “The Unfolding Sounds” - Dreamer Strings (2017). One extremely quiet, long track for 99 cents doesn’t really reveal itself as a rock album until its final passage.

On other lists: Austin TV, Desert Sound Colony, Iah, Poly-Math.

Record labels to explore (on eMu): Feeding Tube, Indelabel, Awkward Formats, serpent, El Templo ReKords, Superstar Destroyer; Shinkoyo; Bartosz Leśniewski; Mascarpone; Swim; Salvation; Camera Obscura; MonseArt;

eMusic was my source for the original 1990s post-rock from Bark Psychosis, and I wish it a better 2020 than 2019. Thanks for reading, and happy listening (with more support of artists, I hope)!

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