Sigur Ros – Valtari – 99%

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:

Crimson Mourn – Bring Your Desires Here – 85%

Bring Your Desires Here cover art

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:

Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster – Exegesis – 87%

Exegesis cover art

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

I Am Waiting For You Last Summer – Edge Party – 79%

Edge Party cover art

IWFYLS is a 3 piece from Russia that borders on the edge of electronic ambient and post-rock. They are quirky and experimental and intertwine modern concept with their eccentric creativeness really well. Immediately I’m drawn to the electronic drums which are a bit quick for my personal taste. It becomes really noticeable, distracting from the overall ambiance earlier in the album It’s refreshing to see someone trying something different, but I’m not sure that straightforward electronica-esque drums really work here. The guitar work is every bit as amazing as you’d expect it to be and is really the highlight on the album. I know I’m the only one to complain about this, but the record lacks the polish of a good sound engineer. With my mid level audiophile setup everything really came out in the wash, making me question if there was something wrong among my hi-fi setup before determining it was the recording. I even went so far as to turn on equalization and find a setting that could compliment this album since I listen to all of my music flat. Too many times the guitar work is punchless and the whole thing feels like a bad 128kb .wma rip even though I’ve downloaded it in FLAC.  It’s a shame because had the mastering been better I would have scored this much higher, but it’s a nuisance that can’t be ignored. 4-17-12

Pay what you want at bandcamp:

Labirinto – Kadjwynh – 80%

Kadjwynh cover art

Labirinto, our favorite Brazilian post-rock band’s latest effort Kadjwynh is a 20 minute 4-track EP. The EP bears strong resemblance to Caspian/Collapse Under the Empire style 3rd wave post-rock with a darker, eerier setting. The drums sound spacious and airy, the guitar work is methodical and powering. The sample at the end of the EP is disturbing but fits the atmosphere of this EP perfect. a Great conceptual effort by Labirinto. 4-17-12

Available for $4 at bandcamp:

Judd Madden – Doom Groove – 87%

Doomgroove cover art

I remember checking out this band based just on the cover art of their last album “Drown.” It was a black and white drawing of a bad ass octopus underwater. Doomgroove’s cover is equally as bad ass as now we have the skeleton of a turtle swimming up to the surface. This album is the perfect blend of Post-metal, stoner rock and doom metal. This album is a little more on the stoner/doom side compared to earlier work but it’s also a bit more bluesy as well. I really enjoy the more mellow side of this album where the bass work is more prominent because the bass is especially good here. Overall probably my favorite doom album of all time. I don’t listen to as much as I’d like so I’m not as versed in the ways of doom metal, but if more doom metal was like this I’d listen a whole hell of a lot more! 4-12-12

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Chemtrail – Sounds Like Ghosts EP – 84%

Sounds Like Ghosts EP cover art

Clocking in at almost 25 minutes, Chemtrails latest effort is pretty standard 3rd wave post-rock, heavily influenced by the likes of other 3rd wave giants. According to their bandcamp it’s a collection of songs that were left on the cutting room floor over the last 6 years. It’s very sensual and spacious and the mixing is mostly brilliant but a little loud in some areas. I found it pushing the sound wall in the louder areas as if it were mixed too loud.The final track, an acoustic song called “The King” is brilliant and bumps this EP up a few notches on it’s own. Overall, it’s an enjoyable EP. It doesn’t tread any new ground but it’s definitely worth your listen. 4-12-12

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