Anathema – Weather Systems – 95%

Not Post-Rock. I don’t know what I could possibly be say about Anathema that hasn’t already been said or written. It’s amazing to me that this band has been around for nearly 20 years and just keeps getting better. When I discovered them in the early 2000’s I was blown away by  “A Natural Disaster” and “A Fine Day to Exit.” I thought the band had reached a pinnacle, but they went on to release “We’re Here Because We’re Here” in 2010 which I consider one of the top 10 albums of the last 50 years. They followed that with “Falling Deeper” in 2011, which was  a revisit to their older songs  but with their new found sound. That’s how we get to Weather Systems. Expectations are high.

We start with a classic Anathema track, Untouchable Part 1. Technical guitar mastery, top notch vocals with bleak lyrics and an always beautiful string arrangement help kick off this album. Untouchable Part 2 is even better than the intro track and harkens back to their last two albums capturing the magic of their last two release. Beautiful piano segments, tremendous vocal performances and guitar work oozing with emotion fill the album. The album retains it’s classic Anathema bleakness through “Lightning Song,” which is a quick contender for my favorite Anathema track of all time. Lee Douglas has such an angelic voice with incredible vocal range, it really adds so much more depth and beauty to the band. I’m so happy her vocals have been a permanent fixture in Anathema’s sound.

I will admit “The Storm Before the Calm” sort of lost as me there for a second since it’s quite unique in comparison to the rest of the album. It has an industrial feel with plenty of drone noise thrown into the mix for the first 6 minutes or so until it settles down back to the Anathema we’ve come to expect. The next track however, “The Beginning and the End” blew me away with its raw emotion and intensity.  The solo at the end is so perfect in correlation with the mood and feel of the track.

This album is everything we’ve come to love and expect from Anathema. Words can’t describe the love I have for this band nor  how powerful their music truly is.  This release should satisfy both old and new Anathema fans alike. This isn’t their best work, but it’s very close. This is a must listen to album of 2012. – 6/26/12

Band Website: http://www.anathema.ws/

Puzzle – Nothing but the rain – 87%

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This is a 3 track 30 minute album from Puzzle, who hail from France. The band describes themselves as “Restful Post-Rock” and I tend to agree. “Nothing but the rain” is a brilliant explorative album that is on the more elegant side of the genre. The band draws comparisons to the likes of Mono, EITS and perhaps The Calm Blue Sea. The three tracks are long and drawn out with none being under 8 minutes. I really enjoy the guitar tones and spacious feel of this album. No one instrument overpowers another and that’s a definite plus in my book. This album flows extraordinarily well and is a powerhouse of a post-rock album that everyone should have in their collection. 6/26/12

Pay what you want at bandcamp: http://voxproject.bandcamp.com/album/nothing-but-the-rain

Physical copy available here: http://voxproject.bigcartel.com

Beef Terminal – Known as the Rat EP – 90%

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Who says good things don’t come from Canada? Beef Terminal come to us from Toronto and have an absolutely solid discography of ambient meets electronic work. I really dig the combination of the two since post-rock and electronic are two of my favorite genres at the moment. Despite only being 20 minutes long, this EP has a very distinctness to it. It has an unforced vintage vibe to it. Sometimes a band tries too hard to recreate a retro sounding album and I’m happy to say that isn’t the case here. The track “Racoons” draws similarities to Riceboy Sleeps. This album is very chill, a great album to relax to. check it! 6/26/12

Pay what you want at bandcamp http://beefterminal.bandcamp.com/album/known-as-the-rat  

Stories from the Lost – For Clouds – 88%

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This album is absolutely great on all fronts. I really dig the way the band incorporates elements of downtempo electronic into the mix. The soundscapes are very spacious and imaginative leading your mind to wander. Stories from the Lost have just an incredibly refined sound that make them one of the more unique bands in the genre. This effort is truly one of the great post-rock releases of 2012 that hopefully will not go overlooked. The mixing is truly a work of art, every sound compliments one another perfectly. This is one you can’t afford to sleep on. 6-19-12

Pay what you want at bandcamp http://storiesfromthelost.bandcamp.com/

Storm Corrosion – Storm Corrosion – 87%

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Storm Corrosion is the brainchild of Opeth frontman Mikael Akerfeldt and Porcupine Tree mastermind Steven Wilson. When these two collaborate brilliant things tend to happen. Both of their influences and styles just bleed through in this eerie effort. Akerfeldt’s latest obsession with 70’s style vintage prog-rock and Wilson’s flare for deep sensual piano passages mesh brilliantly. I personally would have preferred more Akerfeldt vocals on this album, I think his voice is far superior for this type of music. Not to take away from Wilson of course, his singing is great, but Akerfeldt’s deeper voice far better compliments the haunting music. Overall I think this album is very well done. It’s definitely a cross between Opeth’s “Heritage” and Wilson’s “Grace for Drowning” and I’m completely ok with that. This one was well worth the wait. 6-19-12

Band website: http://stormcorrosion.com/

Terraformer – The Sea Shaper – 84%

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Most of the tracks on this 12 track album are short, sweet and to the point. Guitar tones are alive and vibrant and the drums are very airy making for a great sound stage. I feel myself really getting lost in the music here, it’s a very unique form of heavy post-rock. This is a really solid album from front to back. None of the particular tracks stand out from one another but they all have great synergy making this an album you can easily get lost in. Check it out. 6-19-12

Pay what you want at bandcamp: http://terraformer.bandcamp.com/album/the-sea-shaper 

Irreversible – Ashes – 85%

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Here we have a 4 track 35 minute album by Irreversible, straight out of Atlanta. They bring a stoner / doomy vibe to their brand of post-metal. The opening licks of “Prime” are excellent, really great tone, really great vibe. The vocals are a little out of place in my opinion, they are far too traditional of post-metal vocals for the stoner / doomish style of music here. “No Pure Conception” is a far heavier in your face approach that captures the imagination as the line between stoner-rock and post-metal is heavily blurred in a perfect combination of the two. Even though I feel the vocals don’t always work, I find that they don’t distract from just how damn good this album is. Track 3, “The Egregore” brings the volumes down a level but maintains high intensity through a mixture of ambient passages and breakdowns. I feel like this track is really the band’s Coup de grâce, if this track doesn’t win you over as a fan no track will. It has something for everyone and if you don’t like then post-metal just isn’t your thing. The final track, “Ashes” is a lot more mellow but nicely layered. It’s a fitting ending to the album. Overall I really dig this effort. All of the tracks have great synergy with tons of layers of sound to them waiting to be discovered in future listens. 6-14-12

Pay what you want at bandcamp: http://irreversible.bandcamp.com/album/ashes 

Sigur Ros – Valtari – 99%

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Here we go with what is without question my most anticipated album of the year. Sigur Ros is truly a wonder of the world. Their music brings so much happiness and joy to the hearts of so many people with unique musical backgrounds. They’re one of those bands that transcend genres and their music is approachable by anyone who sees music as an art form rather than just entertainment.

Valtari starts off with Ég anda, a piercing 6 minute tune. Jonsi’s first vocals reassure us that his voice is as angelic as it’s ever been. Almost immediately I recognize this album will be nothing like their previous two, it’s a return to the Von and () days, the more ambient, less pop orientated Sigur Ros.

Ekki múkk is just brilliant in every possible way. It’s a haunting, mesmerizing number that really drives home the ambient factor of this album. Jonsi’s vocals rise above beautifully elegant piano work. The mixing on this album is incredibly deep, my ears really don’t know what parts to focus in. I have to give a nod to the mastering here too. This bass focus in this song really stands out and I’m glad they didn’t over do it. There’s just enough bass that it draws focus to each piano note, but not enough that it overpowers the rest of what’s going on behind it. The vinyl scratches throughout this song really puts it over the top.

The album transitions nicely into Varúð, a song that has admittedly grown to become one of my favorite songs ever. It opens with this muddy vintage sound and teases a build up using Jonsi’s beautiful voice before edging back down to a more calm level. This whole track is the embodiment of chill. Jonsi’s voice sounds angelic as as the beat builds up behind the vocal track. This song is everything that a great post-rock track should be. I’ve heard the formula a million times before but the way Sigur Ros does it in their own style lets us all know they’re back to reclaim their rightful spot at the top of this genre. The drums building up to the wall of sound, the eardrum shattering layers blending together so perfectly and then suddenly it’s all gone. Brilliance.

Rembihnútur is really where Jonsi’s side project influences really start to shine through. The early minutes of this track could easily be mistaken for a Riceboy Sleeps track. The bow work is just brilliant, the vocals are crisp and synergize well with the track. I really do with this track was longer as it seemingly ends just as it is hitting it’s stride.

Dauðalogn is a return to the slower, more calm Sigur Ros as more Jonsi vocals take center stage as bow work and ambient sounds take a backseat. The high notes (or rather, higher given that this is Jonsi after all) are truly bliss to the ears. The track transitions well into Varðeldur , as some may know as Lúppulagið , a bonus track from the Inni album/DVD. The song has received a fresh new coat of paint however, as some ambiance has been added and mixing is a bit better as well. The piano is mesmerizing in this song, I could listen to this track on loop for hours.

The title track Valtari has more of a sad vibe to it. I absolutely love the inclusion of what I believe is the Kinderklavier in this song. I just loved seeing it on stage back when I got to see Jonsi in 2010 and to see him use what is essentially a toy piano so predominantly in his music is just a reminder that you don’t have to have the best equipment to produce world class music, you just have to know what you’re doing. Sigur Ros have always been non-traditional in every sense so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised to hear it here.

Fjögur píano, the final track on the album, has a sad vibe to it as well. Maybe it’s because the album is coming to a a close? The last two tracks on this album really drive home the approach the band took with this record. On the grand scale of Sigur albums, I’m pretty sure this album holds steady between () and Takk as my second favorite Sigur Ros album, although it’s a little early to even be saying that. The guys really got everything right on this album. Fans of the more poppy side of Sigur Ros might be a bit disappointed, but perhaps they should learn to appreciate () and Agaetis Byrjun first before coming back to this album. The four year wait between albums was far too long but this album definitely makes up for the lost time. This album is sure to be among my favorites of all time for decades to come. A must have for EVERYONE who appreciates music. This is the top of the top folks. 5-24-12

Band website: http://www.sigur-ros.co.uk/

Crimson Mourn – Bring Your Desires Here – 85%

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Bring Your Desires Here is over 70 minutes of fine post-rock from Mauro Beltran, a 17 year old from Spain who plays under the band Crimson Mourn. Young Mauro has learned well and the fact that he is able to put out an album of this caliber at such a young age has me excited for what the future holds for this young man. That said, the album is beautifully layered and essentially a mixed bag of all sides of post-rock. It’s heavy, it’s ambient, occasionally drifts into shoegaze-ish but never strays far away or loses focus from what it is, which is just a great album. 5-24-12

Pay what you want at bandcamp: http://crimsonmourn.bandcamp.com/

Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster – Exegesis – 87%

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I find it a little bit ironic that a band from the UK is named after something that happened in my backyard. I was a big fan of their 2009 album Collapse so I was pretty happy when this showed up on bandcamp earlier this year. Right away the album is more of that great TNBD we’re use to, the band walks a fine line between post-metal and post-rock. In the title track we get some vocals, this is new. I’m not a huge fan of the vocals to be honest, but this band is just so damn good I can set my feelings aside and really enjoy this album. I feel like the band must have been listening to a lot of tool because there are definitely a lot of similarities to Lateralus and 10,000 Days here, especially in the vocal styling. While I do like the bands musical progression a lot, I’m really curious to see whats in store for them. 5-24-12

Available for about $12 at http://tacomanarrowsbridgedisaster.bandcamp.com/