Although post-rock has been around for decades, it generally laid low in the indie scene until the mid-late ‘90s. From mainly instrumental bands like Tortoise and Explosions in the Sky, to the heavily political and experimental Godspeed and jazz-influenced Toronto group Do Make Say Think, it’s the genre’s obscurities and ambiguousness that makes post-rock so interesting. On that note, here is a list of the ten best post-rock bands of all time.
Hailing from Chicago, Tortoise is often viewed as one of post-rock’s defining markers. The band came together in the late ‘80s, and their debut self-titled album was released in 1994. Tortoise’s genre-defying approach was bold and innovative for its time. Their latest album, The Catastrophist, was released this year and broke the band’s seven-year hiatus. Although Tortoise’s approach doesn’t strike as much surprise in its listeners as it did over ten years ago, The Catastrophist is the group’s first album that features prominent vocals, in contrast to their usual, heavily instrumental sound.
Mogwai’s influence on their listeners is like Toronto’s recent weather forecast: unpredictable. This post-rock band is known for taking their listeners on an emotional rollercoaster, from lingering melancholia and isolated strings, to intense clouds of feedback and whitenoise. The Scottish band’s first single “Tuner”/”Lower” was released in 1996, followed by their first studio album, Mogwai Young Team in 1997. Since then, Mogwai has released an extensive discography of eight studio albums, as well as a collection of compilations, live albums, and extended plays.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Formed in the early ‘90s, the Canadian group released their debut studio LP, F♯ A♯ ∞, in 1997, and carried their highpoint throughout the early 2000s. After announcing an indefinite hiatus in 2003, GYBE reunited for a tour and the release of their fourth studio album in 2012 ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!. Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress, released in 2015, was a pleasant surprise for fans, as the album managed to embody GYBE’s quintessential sound. GYBE’s strategic use of field recordings, spoken word, and worldly sounds to evoke images have established GYBE as one of the most, if not the most, politically charged bands in the post-rock genre.
Explosions in the Sky
Formed in 1999, Explosions in the Sky is a post-rock band (though doesn’t consider themselves to be) from Texas that was originally called Breaker Morant. With seven studio albums since 2000, their instrumental sound relies heavily on the pleasant pairing of light guitar and prominent drums. Explosions in the Sky is known for doing a lot of soundtracks, and is most famously known for writing the music for the television show, Friday Night Lights.
Sigur Ros is a post-rock band from Iceland that made their debut with Von in 1997, however, the band is still most famous for their highly acclaimed 1999 release, Ágætis byrjun. Ágætis byrjun brought to life Sigur Ros’ genre-bending capability to combine elements of classical music with Jónsi Birgissonin’s ambient falsettos to create a graceful and unforgettably airy effect in their sound.
This Will Destroy You
Also from Texas, This Will Destroy You made its way into the post-rock scene a lot later than their predecessors. Their first album, Young Mountain, was released in 2006 and showcased the band’s wide use of dynamics to create moments of tension and elevated anxiety in their music. In 2014 TWDY released Another Language, which traded their original sound for heavier, louder mixes. The album was acclaimed for its ability to effectively press the lengthy, atmospheric traits of post-rock into shorter tracks.
Slint formed in the mid-80s and disbanded in 1991, and since have been randomly getting together for reunions, although most of its members have participated in other known bands. Slint disbanded after the release of their second album, Spiderland. Since then, Slint’s guitarist David Pajo has played with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol, Tortoise, and more. Slint is one of the earlier influences in post-rock, and have remained highly respected in the genre.
Formed in 1999, Mono is a Japanese post-rock band that is known for their impressive live performances along with their recorded music. Their debut 2000 album, Under the Pipal Tree, gave life to the group’s use of crashing climaxes following pent up tension. Although not as critically acclaimed as some of the aforementioned bands, Mono have made a name for themselves in the post-rock canon.
American Analog Set
Another post-rock influence based in Texas, American Analog Set is best known for making their mark on the post-rock movement using basic, lo-fi techniques. AAS’s subtly plucked guitar and relaxed vocals create a simple sound that is both contagious and relevant. Their works from the ‘90s are a must-have for post-rock fans.
Do Make Say Think
Do Make Say Think is a Canadian post-rock big band that formed in 1995 in Toronto. The group’s pull on elements of jazz in combination with distorted guitar creates a unique and modest sound that progresses throughout their discography. While DMST’s Justin Small continues to release new music as part of a recent recording project, the band is also currently working on a highly anticipated new album.
(Photo from Explosions in the Sky’s Facebook)