When the year is almost over, it’s time to look over the shoulder and make a shortlist of the best releases of 2019.
Just like last year, I haven’t generated a list from 50 to 1, because I think that’s impossible and unfair. Instead of that, I have chosen to give you 40 releases that are placed in alphabetical order and placed my personal top 10 at the end, also alphabetically.
I hope you’ll enjoy my list and comments on the releases. I do appreciate your feedback, so please leave your comments.
A Swarm of the Sun – The Woods
Swedish duo A Swarm Of The Sun released their 4th album The Woods in January of this year. It can bes een as the logical follow-up to their 2015 release The Rifts and contains three songs. All the songs keep the listener haunted for at least 12 minutes. Carefully crafted with haunting, yet chilling melodies. This could be the perfect soundtrack to the end of our world.
Airwaves – Caught In The Clouds
Swedish film Music composer Oscar Fogelström released two albums in 2019. I added the latest release Caught In The Clouds to this Top 50. Oscar creates great cinematic post-rock on this album. For the drums he has been helped out by Rasmus Kihlberg, Bjørn Saether and Håkan Hansson. Oscar builds up the tension in each song very well. By bulding layers in his music, he let’s the listener find his own way and discover new thing with every listen. Although the climaxes are in some way a little predictable, he uses unconventional elements which make this album sound fresh.
All Is Violent – Cartographers Of Human Purpose
Hailing from Melbourn, Australia, All Is Violent named themselves after an album of God Is An Astronaut (All Is Violent, All Is Bright). Musically though, the trio has more similarities with a band like Russian Circles then with GIAA. While the titeltrack clocks almost 13 minutes, both other two songs are significant shorter, but both interesting as well. Cartographers Of Human Purpose is an intense debutalbum. A perfect soundtrack for a stormy Sunday-afternoon.
** Update from the band: “…we just wanted to clarify that we didn’t name our band after God Is An Astronaut’s album. It was actually a complete coincedence haha. We had never heard of that album until people started making the association”.
Am Fost La Munte Și Mi-a Plăcut – La Deal
These Romanians from Bucharest played this years Dunk!fest for the first time and they deserved that spot. Mixing postrock with elements from progressive rock and post-metal, they created an album that could serve as an example for a lot of other bands. La Deal contains well orchestrated, arranged and executed instrumental rock. Thoughtfull melodies are combined with heavy riffs, while the drums are supportive instead of claiming the main role. It’s that combination that makes this album so solid and memorable.
Augure – Apnea
After releasing their EP Omina in 2018, Augure retruned this year with their full-length Apnea. These Italians come from Caserta, a town near Napels, but sound like they could have come from the north of Scandinavia. Apnea is a deep, dark atmospheric album which pulls you deeper and deeper into dark moods with every play. Elements of shoegaze, post-metal and post-rock are mixed here resulting in a ice-cold landscape. Imagine yourself on great snowwhite planes, where mainly a pack of wolvesor a lonesome bear can survive the dark nights and this is your soundtrack.
Crows In The Rain – Sorrow for an Unfinished Dream
Last year the band Crows In The Rain surprised with their album Ashes Of The Past. A masterpiece with over 2 hours of great postrock songs. This year the band from Teheran return with their album Sorrow For An Unfinished Dream, which is slightly shorter, but still clocks a good five quarters of an hour. The concept of this album is about the young Sadako Sasaki. A Japanese girl whom survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, being only 2 years at that time. 9 years later she was diagnosed with leukemia as a result of the radiation. While being hospitalised she started folding paper cranes, after a girlfriend told her about the myth that one could make a wish to the gods after folding 1000 cranes. She hoped not only she, but all other childvictims too, could make their wish. She prayed for worldpeace and the end of all suffering. Ofcourse Crows In The Rain, coming from Iran, can relate to this concept theirselves, but have managed to create a subtle hommage with their music.
Da Voile – Lilac On The Diary’s pages
If you didn’t know, you probabely wouldn’t believe it, but this is a one-man band! Da Voile is from Minsk and have put out an album that could serve as a standard for post-rock itself. Clean and calm passages evolve into heavy distorted parts without losing focus. Great melodies are the foundation, supplemented with musical craftsmanship makes Lilac On The Diary’s Pages an album that is built like a fortress. A fortress though with an appearance of a castle.
Darkfield – History is Violent
When heavy should be heavy and calm should be calm. That’s what Darkfield from Portland, Oregon, bring to mind. In a way, the band uses a classical approach in terms of reaching to their climax, but they managed to use detours and shortcuts where you wouldn’t expect them. That’s why this album is so interesting. Bands like Coastlands, The Swan Thief and Ghostship Karpathos all come from Portland, but have a new force to reckon with.
Deer Park Ranger – Wolf
Trevor Humpfrey is a talented Multi-instrumentalist form Oakland California who releases his music as Deer Park Ranger. Though heavily influenced by Explosions In The Sky and Mogwai, Trevor manages to set his own trademark. His layered music is building up to powerfull crescendos, using very nice melodies. Wolf is his 4th release and is released in June on Fluttery records.
Driving Slow Motion – Arda
Arda is an album that specializes in experimental post-rock. Atmospheres are an important foundation on which Driving Slow Motion builds their massive wall of sound. Heavy shoegaze is infused with acoustic parts, which creates a dark atmosphere. The damp and foggy compositions turn each song into thrilling soundscapes. The clean guitars functioning as leads to clues are then brutally assaulted into overwhelming distortion. This is not for the faint-hearted.
Dutch Elm – In Hindsight
This band from Newcastle Upon Tyne have put out a wolf in sheep-clothes. In Hindsight contains mesmerizing hypnotic parts, but can be as relentless as a wreckingball coming through your bedroom window. Building op dreamy parts and crashing it down with the slightest of ease. The contrast that this band has to offer is interresting, although I’m sure that not everyone will appreciate their methods.
Fires In The Distant North – IX Circles
Fires In The Distant North are from Saint-Petersburg, a place where a lot post-rock seems to dwell. IX Circles combines the forces of doom-metal and post black-metal with experimental dark ambient and post-rock. A mixture that seems impossible to swallow, but on IX Circles this experimental sound has been brought to a certain level of satisfaction. Breaks are tearing down the structure and lead into doomy build-ups, evolving is heavy riffing. Even metal-elements like double bass-kicks are put into the experimental music from these Russians. Not your typical post-rock, but nevertheless a very interesting record to check out.
Her Name is Calla – Animal Choir
Unfortunately, Her Name Is Calla called it quits. Their last record is Animal Choir and came out while the band played on Dunk!fest this year. Their folky approach and the use of real strings make this record stand out. The massive sound gives this band the right amunition for their apocalyptic atmosphere. The band worked two years on this album and made sure that every detail is correct. From the sheer heavyness in opener Swan, to the hypnotizing Kaleidoscoping or the wrist-cutting Vanguard, this record has so much to offer. It’s such a shame that we no longer can enjoy this band live anymore!
Hymns for the Angels – The Spinning Heart
With The Spinning Heart, Dan Lyons offers us his second full-length. This man indeed has something has something to offer. Ambient soundscapes are the fundament of his layered compositions. Check out for example the song The Offering Hand. Which builds up the tension towards the end, without reaching to a climax. Or the mesmerizing psychedelic rock in Corridors Of The Mammoth which is carefully drifting into massive post-metal riffs. The Spinning Heart is like a voyage on a river that takes us through wild passages into calm but deep waters.
It Was a Good Dream – Help Me to Recollect
While releasing their album during Dunkfest 2019, It Was A Good Dream didn’t play there this year, but they are confirmed for next year. Which is a good place to check out their latest release Help Me To Recollect. Although the band only got started in the beginning of 2018 as a compositional exercise, things got a little out of hand, resulting in the release of an entire album. I’m glad they did, since Help Me To Recollect sums up what both Chris Antony and Alex Glover are capable of. Majestic melodies are weaved on thriling ambient soundscapes. This band has a great future ahead, for sure.
Kokomo – Totem Youth
Kokomo from Duisburg have released their 5th album, called Totem Youth. The didn’t step down or reinvent themselves, but kept going were Monochrome Noise Love left us in 2016. Heavy riffing in combination with psychedelic acoustics. Totem Youth features a band full of confidence, whom have raised the bar and set a new standard for themselves.
Long Hallways – Close Your Eyes To Travel
An exploration of the space between post-rock and jazz, that’s the best way to describe Close Your Eyes To Travel. Long Hallways from Portland know how to find the overlap between both genres. Unconventional instruments for a rockband, but not for a jazzcombo, like saxophone, cello, trumpet, maracas, horn or glockenspiel can be heard on this album. This original blend pays of for Long Hallway, because they’re not tip-toeing between genres, but merge them into a whole new genre of it’s own.
Maven – Synesthesia
Maven from Metz have released their first longplayer this year, called Synesthesia. They have evolved their ability to play dreamy post-rock. The compositions have become bigger and more challenging, but remain their dreamy signature. Certainly a band to keep an eye on for the future.
Minor Movements – Bloom
After releasing two singles in advance of the full album, the band Minor Movement from Nebraska finally released their album Bloom in March of this year. Tracks like Clouds Of Smoke or A Light Above stand out through their serenity, while Hamatrteya and We Dreamed To Each Other have a higher pace. All be it a diverse album which shows us a band that is capable of making great music without boundaries. This diversity makes you want to play the album over and over again.
Mono – Nowhere Now Here
Mono celebrates it’s 20th anniversary this year and the 10th anniversary of their most iconic album Hymn To The Immortal Wind. Which is why they re-released that album in a remastered version. But let u snot forget that the Japanese band also released a new record in January this year: Nowhere Now Here. Don’t expect the band to copy the succes of previous releases, that’s not why they the band stands at the top of the league. Mono keeps reinventing their own style and on Nowhere Now Here they did a great job. This album is more about the seperate songs. By positioning the shorter songs between the longer songs they hold the listeners attention. New elements have been added, for example in Breathe, where bass-player Tamaki Kunishi is singing. The new drummer Dahm Majuri Cipolla shows us what he is capable of in the titeltrack. Nowhere Now Here therefore is an album that’s shows us that our beloved genre is capable of progressing and not all about repeating itself.
Noorvik – Omission
Last year the German band Noorvik entered my top 50 with their debutalbum, simply called Noorvik. This year the 4 men from Cologne released their second album and called it Omission. The name of the band has been taken from an Alaskan town and couldn’t be picked better. The music leads you back to cold abandoned places around the arctic, and that’s exactly what the band intents you to feel. Hence the artwork, showing an aerial photo from an immensive iceberg. On Omission Noorvik have infused more elements from (progressive) metal in their music, while most of the music is clearly based on classic instrumental post-rock.
Old Seas / Young Mountains – Endless Summers
This Swedish duo has made a lot of releases over the past 4 years, but Endless Summers is only their third full-length. The title has been picked well-chosen, since it reminds us of long smooth summernights, and so is their music. Dreamy ambient postrock which guides on long summernights. Watching sunsets will never be the same again.
Once Upon A Winter – Pain and Other Pleasures
Illias Kakanis is the mastermind behind Once Upon A Winter. All music and lyrics are writiten by the Greek himself. On Pain And Other Pleasures he had the help from others to play his music alongside of him. Postrock is the main part of the music, but he infuses it with elements of blackmetal, shoegaze and progressive rock. This leads to a very diverse and intense album. It takes several spins to fully comprehend this great recording.
Paint The Sky Red – There is a Tomorrow You Don’t Know
In 2015 Paint The Sky Red released an album, soon to become a classic: Not All Who Wonder Are Lost. Expectations rose high the on their new release There Is A Tomorrow You Don’t Know, which came out at the end of March this year. And for sure it did not disappoint. With this third album, the band celebrates it’s 10th anniversary. In those 10 years they obviously learned how to compose great songs that grab the listener’s attention. Ofcourse a lot of elements ar typical for the genre, but this band from Singapore adds some originallity to their music.
Pelican – Nighttime Stories
Pelican ar not known for taking the soft and easy road. Their sound could be described as a mix of sludge, doom-metal, shoegaze and post-metal. But is always atmospheric and that makes this band so unique. The sheer mysticism just grabs you, then it embraces you while it swallows you. Hypnotic at some point, but not psychedelic. Just play this record and you’ll notice that the volume can’t go any higher.
Rosetta – Terra Sola
After two years of being on the road, promoting their latest album Utopioid, Rosetta have returned with a new 3-track EP. Where the titletrack Terra Sola is a post-metal track, the other two are more intimite post-rock songs. ‘57844’ feels more like a continuation of ‘54543’ (from Utopioid), while ‘Where is hope?’ contains the typical Rosetta-music, but only acoustics and lo-fi electronics. I am not certain about Rosetta’s future course, but I sure hope these songs are not a one-off.
Russian Circles – Blood Year
What to say about a new record of this boundary-breaking band from Chicago, Illinois? With albums on their sleeves like Station, Memorial or Guidance, they have proven to be so valuable for the genre. The best and at the same time worst comments on Blood Year is to say it doesn’t sound like any of these three albums. The snaredrums is noticeable placed more into the front of the mix. Logically, the guitars therefore would normally attract less attention, but in this case it completes the sound. Instead of being in the background, the drums have become a bigger part of the bands sound. Musicwise, Russian Circles does what it always does: they deliver. No questions asked. Blood Year is a solid record that doesn’t blend in, but fits in the bands catalogue.
Scale & Feather – We Love Dreamers; Things Look Different Here
It’s been an active year for Scale & Feather from Tucson, Arizona. After releasing ‘We Love Dreamers; Things Look Different Here’, he released another 4 albums this year. Writing new music seems as easy as eating breakfast. I’m sure, that’s not the case, but still Scale & Feathers manages to release some great songs. Musically he varies between ambient soundscapes and heavy guitar riffing. He’s a master in building tensions like diving airplanes coming down from 10,000 feet, as if they never seem to crash.
Ships Fly Up – Ghost Kingdom
Ghost Kingdom is the third studio album of Ships Fly Up, the solo-project of Egor Fedotov. His music is inspired by heavy rock/metal music. In combination with easy-going acoustic parts, you could label Ships Fly Up as progressive rock. But it has to much of that typical post-rock thing going on here, that it wouldn’t fit in that box either. Check out ‘About Death’ or ‘Your Own World’ for example. Maybe it is this untouchable thing that keeps Ghost Kingdom intriguing.
Stone From The Sky – Break A Leg
This doom-laden rockband from Le Mans, released a great album for fans of Isis or Baroness. Heavy distrorted doomriffs are alternated with nice melodic clean parts. The band’s only goal seems to be to keep the groove flowing. The music is sometimes psychedelic as well, which suits the band well. Just like the awesome artwork, which shows a blue double trunked elephant (double-eyed as well), carrying a whole walled city on his back, walking with his head in the clouds through a misty mountain landscape. Kinda stange, and so is the music.
Syberia – Seeds of Change
The struggle is hard for a single person, if you don’t want to blend into the mass. That’s the theme of Seeds Of Change. Albumopener Empire Of Opression is haunting, but don’t get fooled by this high-paced song, because this album is more then that. All instruments have their own story to tell and the perfect clear mix helps to make that possible. All in all, Seeds Of Change is a very groovy album. It’s hard to sit still on some tracks, while tracks like Beirut and Shigir just take you away in awesomeness. Syberia has made a lot of progress and raised the bar for themselves to an almost unparalleled level.
The Basement Paintings – Antipodes
Hailing from Saskatoon, these Canadians have released a remarkable album. Hypnotic seems to be the magic word for Antipodes. Tool-esque lengthy riffs are demanding patience, but it is worth it. Thriving bass-lines and original drums might seem to be in the background, but are most of the time the ones to take the lead in a song. This is not an easy-going release, take your time. You’ll be rewarded.
The End Of The Ocean – -aire
When ‘-aire’ was released in January of this year, I immediately knew this was food for this best-of-2019 list. Even though nobody could have known what was to come, this release of The End Of The Ocean had this special thing. It’s rough like a diamond, with it’s beauty hidden inside. No need for polishing, just rub it a little bit. In other words: give it some spins. When Endure has finished and Bravado kicks in, you’ll reckon that the first song was maybe just an intro. It grabs you and lifts you. The next song Jubilant has got that same vibe, it’s keeping you on a high. The End Of The Ocean don’t seem to need the winding road, but are straight-forward in their approach. It’s not that they don’t have their softer songs. In fact they do, like Self or Desire. But most of all the sound is heavy and their approach is much directer than other bands.
The Sun Burns Bright – Longing For A Place,Yet To Be Seen
The Sun Burns Bright, which is the solo-project of Chris Garr, has released his second album within 12 months this January. The album made it to this list, because it is a very fine record. Period. But, I had my doubts. Is it as good as the album from last year? Chris has put a lot of effort in it and had some help from Coastland-members Richard Keefer (drums) and Jason Sissoyev (engineering), as well as Long Hallway-members Joseph Spencer Chamberlain (Upright Bass) and Myles Eberlein (Cello). The road to this recording hasn’t been easy at all, which is noticeable. This fragilty, commitment, strength and weakness shows in this record. If you know the story of Chris, you’ll understand the explanation of this albumtitle. You’ll also understand the choices in his music. Why breaks and peaks come suddenly, without working towards that climax. Life doesn’t work that way. Longing For A Place, Yet To Be Seen is therefore a much more personal album. After all, it takes strength to show your weakness.
Those Amongst Us Are Wolves – Decode.Decay
Mindfuckers Those Amongst Us Are Wolves have release dan album you just can’t compare to anything else. Albumopener Shell Traces (Fall On You). It starts of with six minutes of haunting monotones with someone howling in the back, some tones are added by the bass-guitar, but we’re still waiting… Then chaoitic riffing runs you over, leaving you with some pianoplaying and a skreeking guitar. Now what was that? Where am I? Next up is C4H10FO2P, a rather unconventional name for a song, just like the psych elements in this song. I don’t want to reveal too much here, but if you’re into some obscure psychadelic rockmusic, you should check out Decode.Decay.
Tides of Man – Re:visions
Normally I don’t care much about remastered or remixed releases. But for Re:visions I’d like to make an exception. Tides Of Man took 3 songs from there album Young And Courageous from 2014 and reworked them. It has resulted in a more straight-into-your-face-sound, which makes the songs really stand out more. The new recording gives the songs much more impact.
U137 – Chapter Two
The story behind U137 is a sad one, but when a story ends, a new one begins. U137 used to be Adam Törnblad and Oscar Gulbrandsen and both were members of Moonlit Sailor. They were best friend since the age of 2 and started making music together since they were 12 years of age. The tragic passing of Adam in 2017 changed a lot. Therefore is Chapter Two the start of a new beginning. Oscar achieved to keep the core of U137 and made a marvelous record, which he ofcourse dedicated to his lost friend. Chapter Two is a cinematic post-rock album full of dynamics with a clear production. It has a wide spectrum with great nuances and details. Listening with headphones is preferred.
We Are Impala – Visions
Spanish four-piece We Are Impala infuse their post-rock with some psychedelics. Looking at the albumcover, you would have expected that. But they dose the spacey effects very well, keeping it a rock-album instead of a giant spacetrip.
we.own.the.sky – Home
If you ever wondered what home is, maybe you should check out this album from the Greek band we.own.the.sky. Home can be the building, but it can also be a person you feel connected to, or an object or occasion that brings back memories. It can be an emotion, like your favourite food, music colour or smell. Home is an album that reminds you of several things, is it your Youth, or This Space Between Us? We don’t know, but this album does something with you. Maybe it just leads us home?
When Waves Collide – EP I
French ambient post-rockers When Waves Collide released their debut-EP this year. Mathematically correct, they called it EP I and contains three songs. Actually, it’s two if you don’t consider the intro as a song. These four Parisians deliver some fine post-rock, and add some originality to it. Just keep an eye on When Waves Collide!
My personal Post-Rock Album Top 10
And here is my personal top 10 list of best ‘post-rock and related’ albums from 2019:
Feed Me To The Waves – Intill
Altough Intill is just out since the end of November, it already has nested itself into my regular played albums. Just like their two first records, Feed Me To The Waves has accomplished to create a record that can be compared to the best releases in the genre. This band doesn’t cut back on elements like orchestration, brass, atmosphere, craftmanship or whatsoever. An album which has the calmness and serenity, as well as the distortion and heavyness. Both are very well executed and form almost a perfect contrast to each other. With Intill, Feed Me To The Waves proof to be part of the top of our beloved genre. Still.
Incoma – Far Away From Us
The Ukraine is not a country with a huge amount of post-rock bands, but Incoma is willing to compensate that. While the country is now unwilling torn into the impeachment-procedure of a certain worldleader, the albumtitle itself has nothing to do with the US. Incoma gives us five songs in which they blend post-rock with progressive metal and ambient. All in all not an original recipe, but well done. For fans of Russin Circles, Explosions In The Sky or PG.Lost.
Lost in Kiev – Persona
French post-rockers Lost In Kiev have returned with their long awaited third album, called Persona. A concept record about humanity and robotics. We nowadays create robots to behave like humans, but in what way haven’t we become robots ourselves? As always, the Parisians use samples which they recorded theirselves. Where other bands us speech samples from movies, Lost In Kiev synchronizes their own recordings with video projections on stage where actors interprete the different voices on screen. The band wanted to write shorter songs compared to their first two records, without losing the intensity the band is known for.
Pillars – CAVUM
When the first song of Cavum, Dissolution, was released, I immediately wanted time to speed up. I wanted to hear the rest of the songs as well. Pillars did manage to improve themselves and created a wider spectrum for their music. By exploring beyond the boundries that were set on Of Salt And Sea, the band achieved more freedom, which led to awesome songs. Ranging from heavy to soft and back, but never derailing. These guys sure know how to handle their instruments.
Pray For Sound – Waves
After releasing a totally different album in 2018, at least for the sound that we know Pray For Sound of, the Boston 4 are back with a more regular album. Waiting Room was an album the band wanted to make to step out of their typical approach. On Waves they have returned to their original style. Check out the great compositions like the titletrack, Julia, Spiral or Talus. All of them are great examples of genre-defining songs.
Ranges – Babel
Ranges’ previous album was called The Ascensionist and clearly made quit an impact on the scene. Where The Ascensionist was abouit climbing to the top, Babel takes a different approach: building something yourself to reach the top. Ranges have progressed in order to stay at the top of the genre. A force to be reckoned with. Just like the comparison, Babel is more ambitious and thus maybe needs more time to comprehend. In the myth it is god who tears down the tower, because he doesn’t want men to reach him that way. To prefend them from rebuilding the tower, he gave humanity different languages, so we couldn’t understand each other anymore. Ranges’ instrumental approach though, is a language we all can understand.
Rhone – Leaving State
Just like the Swiss-French river, Rhone’s music sprouts and meanders through the landscape, splitting itself several times, before landing into the great wide sea. The layered structures of the songs takes and gives just like the famous river. It breathes and chokes, before letting go. Just like life, it can be harsh sometimes, but gentle as well. All these different emotions can be felt on Leaving State. All this makes Leaving State an interesting ride down the river of life.
Transmission Zero – S/T
Transmission Zero is from Krakow, Poland and have placed themselves with this titleless album on the frontrow of post-rock. Not with copying the thing that all others do, but by creating their own unique sound. Ofcourse are there some typical post-rock elements, but this threesome put in something extra. Something new. Check out songs like Closed Circuit or Transgression.
We Lost the Sea – Triumph & Disaster
Since Departure Songs made such a huge impact, expectation were skyhigh for Triumph & Disaster. Fortunately, the delivers something way beyond. It’s uncomparable with Departure Songs, but definitifely still We Lost The Sea. The majestic opener says it all and shows no mercy, this is what’s We Lost The Sea is about. Great heavy (guitar)parts fall down to softer (piano)parts and back. We had to wait 4 years, but this was worth the wait. The songs have their own identity, sometimes even their own instruments (Dust and Mother’s Hymne have trumpets), giving the songs that special touch they need to tell their story. Looking forward to see this band at Dunk2020!
Yenisei – The Last Cruise
It’s unbelievable that this is just Yenisei’s debutalbum! Yenisei shows so much maturity. Instead of running along all clichés, this band keeps their patience. Well-thought compositions and arrangements, balanced songs and the best artwork of the year. The title The Last Cruise could tell a story of it’s own, but in combination with the artwork, this story becomes alive. This band managed to write the perfect soundtrack to their own story.