Postrockstar’s 2012 Year End Awards

As we write the final chapter of the book of 2012, We leave you with our year end wrap up awards that encompasses everything that our site strives to accentuate within the realm of post-rock. It was a huge year for post-rock that saw the return of two of the genres biggest bands and many new bands emerge and make their names known. I’d like to think of 2012 as a year that really saw the genre explode creativity wise, as what is most commonly referred to as the “third wave” post-rock revival seems to be coming to something of an end. While crescendo-core still remains as popular as ever, a lot of bands have begun branching off in different directions exploring exciting new sounds. Where are we headed in 2013? Who really knows, but Postrockstar is optimistic for the future and can’t wait to start helping our readers discover new music.  All of our decisions were made by a panel of our writers and were discussed at extremely great lengths. These albums stood head and shoulders above the rest in their respective categories and for that we’re endorsing them as the best releases of 2012. Without further ado, the awards…

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Sigur Ros – ‘Valtari’
Review | Buy Album | Facebook
Honorable Mention: Caspian – ‘Waking Season’

“Sigur Ros return from hiatus to reclaim their spot at the top of the post-rock genre. Valtari to me presents the best range of emotion, song structure, raw ability and timelessness showcased in any album released in 2012 and for that it deserves all the praise it has gotten.”  – IamHop

EP OF THE YEAR

The End of the Ocean – ‘In Excelsis’
Review | Buy Album | Facebook
Honorable Mention: EF – ‘Delusions of Grandeur’

“I’ve maintained that if the EP was just two songs longer it would still be among the best albums released this year. The End of the Ocean are a band with unlimited potential and this EP showed true promise for a bright future.” – IamHop

SHOEGAZE ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Whirr – ‘Pipe Dreams’
Review | Buy Album | Facebook

“Carrying a more downtrodden tone than their previous releases (Distressor, and the June 7″), Pipe Dreams cements Whirr as one of the leading bands of the modern shoegaze scene. This is a band that isn’t afraid to push the boundaries of shoegaze a bit (see ‘Formulas and Frequencies’), and this album excels for that.” – ShaneXedge

POST-METAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR

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Amenra – ‘Mass V’
Review | Buy Album | Facebook

“The long awaited newest album from Amenra delivered on all fronts, and with its release, the band stood tall amongst their contemporaries (and even some of their predecessors). With so many great post-metal releases this year, there was a lot of competition, but “Mass V” was the obvious pick for best of the year.” – ShaneXedge

MATH-ROCK ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Mental Architects – ‘Celebrations’
Review | Buy Album | Facebook

“This album is everything that a math-rock album should be in that it doesn’t try to do too much. All of the tracks have great synergy and the energy remains high from start to finish. Most Math-Rock albums tend to peak early and slowly fizzle at maintaining my interest after multiple listens. “Celebrations” just keeps getting better.”IamHop

AMBIENT ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Good Weather For An Airstrike – ‘Underneath the Stars’
Review | Buy Album | Facebook

“Underneath the Stars is an album that allows itself to be discovered on the listener’s own terms. It’s understated; it’s sparse; and it has an expansive atmosphere, so pure and vacuous that your deepest thoughts can’t help but wander into it. This is Good Weather for an Airstrike’s magnum opus — a powerful catalyst for your mind’s own voyage.”Shooter

ELECTRONIC BASED POST-ROCK/AMBIENT ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Watermark High – ‘Slow Motion Clarity’
Review | Buy Album | Facebook

“Many post-rock bands utilize electronics to infuse their music with energy and intrigue. What makes Slow Motion Clarity stand above the rest is the way in which the electronic elements supplement the album’s lush, almost aquatic atmosphere, without ever detracting from the organic nature of the guitars with which they interplay.” – Shooter

DEBUT ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Echotide –  ‘As our Floodlights Gave Way to Dawn’
Review | Buy Album | Facebook

This is one of the most confident realizations of the “one long song” approach to album composition that I’ve ever heard. It has the strange atmosphere of Godspeed You! Black Emperor; the hard edge of Gifts from Enola; the melody of Mono; and the flow of Do Make Say Think. And it’s arguable better than many of those bands’ works. Lose yourself in this.– Shooter

MOST IMPROVED BAND OF THE YEAR

Sunlight Ascending
Review | Buy Album | Facebook

“‘Leaving My Waiting Room’ is a much more focused sounding album when compared to the band’s 2010 release ’You Don’t Belong Here’. It really just seemed like something just clicked for the band while recording this album and they took their music to the next level. This is Sunlight Ascending‘s best work to date and is an album I certainly wouldn’t sleep on.”IamHop

BEST VOCAL PERFORMANCE

Alcest – ‘Les Voyages De L’ame’
Review | Buy Album | Facebook

“Despite the fact that I don’t speak or understand french, I still find the vocals found on Alcest’s ‘Les Voyages De L’ame’ to be utterly breathtaking.  Dynamic range, brilliant harmonies, voices full of emotion and the occasional black-metal shriek made this album absolutely shine brighter than the rest.” – IamHop

BEST USE OF NON-TRADITIONAL OR STRING INSTRUMENTS

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Balmorhea – ‘Stranger’
Review | Buy Album | Facebook

“I’ve always loved Balmorhea for their ability to make unique music not confined by the restraints of a genre. This album solidifies that motif. You can hear the thought and dedication that went into each track and the musicianship at work. They aren’t afraid to change their sound and take chances, and this album proves that effort pays off.”Bryan

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

Fire Spoken By the Buffalo – ‘Air Your Grievance’
Review | Buy Album | Facebook

“Fire Spoken By the Buffalo’s decision to incorporate post-punk screamo vocals into their brand of well-rounded post-rock took “Air Your Grievances” from a once highly anticipated album to a tragic mess in my books. The vocals did the band no real favors and definitely turned away more post-rock fans than just myself.” – IamHop

Staff Picks 2012 – Will Hough’s top 10 albums of 2012

As we conclude our staff picks weeks, we wrap up with a very special guest. As he’s basically a walking encyclopedia full of post-rock knowledge, we asked photographer and friend of the site Will Hough (http://www.willhough.net/) to participate in our staff picks week. Although he refused to rank the albums, he did give us his top 10 favorite albums of the year in no particular order.

Be sure to check out the site on Wednesday when we bring 2012 to a close by posting our big “Year In Review: Postrockstar Awards 2012  !”

Toundra – Toundra II


Líam – MMIX


Maria Isn’t a Virgin Anymore – The Fall Of Public Man

Marriages – Kitsune

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Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend Ascend


Psychojet – The Sea Is Never Full


Powder! Go Away – We don’t know when it has begun, but we know that it will never end


Astralia – Astralia


Rhone – Inter Sidera LP


Maserati – Maserati VII

Staff Picks – Shooter’s top 10 albums and songs of 2012

Having previously written reviews for Sputnikmusic, Shooter is Postrockstar’s lead contributor and has been a welcome addition to the site since he joined on two and a half months ago. From the other side of the pond, the 20-something lists Explosions in the Sky, This Will Destroy You, Mono, Caspian and P.G.Lost as his favorite bands.

1. Echotide – As Our Floodlights Gave Way to Dawn
Echotide’s debut blew me away. This is one of the most confident realisations of the “one long song” approach to album composition that I’ve ever heard. It has the strange atmosphere of Godspeed You! Black Emperor; the hard edge of Gifts from Enola; the melody of Mono; and the flow of Do Make Say Think. And it’s arguable better than many of those bands’ works. Lose yourself in this.

2. Caspian – Waking Season
When Caspian released ‘Live at Old South Church’ earlier this year — featuring the most incredible piece of music I’ve ever heard: a live recording of “Sycamore” — I dreamt of an album that would sport the beautifully intricate and layered sound that Caspian had previously only managed to convey in a live environment. ‘Waking Season’ satisfied that longing.

3. Sigur Ros – Valtari
‘Valtari’ is the closest Sigur Ros has yet come to replicating the beauty of their unmatched masterpiece, ‘( )’. With their latest effort, Sigur Ros has never shown this much confidence in their ability to paint sophisticated soundscapes with an exemplary command of atmosphere.

4. Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson – Small Changes We Hardly Notice
With ‘Small Changes We Hardly Notice’, Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson fully embraced a sound towards which they have been trajecting for the last few years. That is the sound of warm, comforting indie rock with a dense atmospheric backdrop. Despite being a short EP, this already sounds like the perfect culmination of a band’s storied career — one that isn’t yet over (we sincerely hope).

5. Pastoral – Pastoral
Pastoral’s music is built on a fairly simple premise: intertwine a number of pretty guitar melodies and allow them to explore the spaces around each other for a few minutes. But what it achieves is much greater than this. It takes me somewhere that very few bands manage to take me. It takes me back to the joys of my youth. It’s innocent, sincere, elegant and hopeful. If you enjoy Explosions in the Sky but hope for something less overbearing and just as beautiful, download ‘Pastoral’.

6. The Watermark High – Slow Motion Clarity
‘Slow Motion Clarity’ is 20 minutes of calming electronic music drenched in a lush, aquatic atmosphere. It’s rare that a piece of music can be so catchy and groovy without any compromise its heart and beauty. ‘Slow Motion Clarity’ demonstrates the perfect symbiosis of delicate melodies with computerised glitches and beats.

7. Lowercase Noises – Passage
The modern-day master of beauty-in-simplicity has returned. If you haven’t heard of Lowercase Noises before, then I’ve just found you your new Hammock. You’re welcome.

8. Cienega – Viva Bocashi
There’s no justifiable reason why any band’s first proper release should ever be as refined as ‘Viva Bocashi’. This is the sound of an experienced band that is entirely comfortable with the music that it’s making. It’s somewhat straight-forward post-rock, except that every element is so wonderfully-crafted — the songs climbing to glorious heights at the exact moments that they should — that it would be difficult to regard ‘Viva Bocashi’ as anything but one of the premier post-rock releases of 2012.

9. Mono – For My Parents
‘Hymn to the Immortal Wind’ was the epitome of Mono’s brand of epic, emotional post-rock. Rather than trying to top it, Mono instead opted for a change of direction towards a more bombastic, dramatic and orchestral sound. They’ve used strings before, sure, but they’ve never been the centrepiece until now. Grandiose songs like “Legend” and “A Quiet Place (Together We Go)” are evidence that this change was a worthwhile one.

10. Athletics – Who You Are Is Not Enough
‘Who You Are Is Not Enough’ is the sound of a band maturing beyond their years. Athletics’ debut, ‘Why Aren’t I Home?’, was an exciting incitement of emo/post-rock in a post-Moving Mountains world. But it was just a little bit unbalanced, with some songs overstaying their welcome and others not being given enough room to explore. ‘Who You Are Is Not Enough’ corrects and perfects every single aspect of the band’s debut, culminating in an album that is emotional, dramatic and incredibly cohesive.

HONORABLE MENTIONS
Ef – Delusions of Grandeur
Leech – If We Get There One Day Would You Please Open the Gates?
Withyouathome – Our Lives Are All Very Forgettable Events in the Universe
Deer Leap – Here. Home.
Flicker State – Alma Sessions
Rituals – Rituals

Top 10 songs
1. Mono – Legend
2. Caspian – Gone in Bloom and Bough
3. Sigur Ros – Vardeldur
4. *Ancients – Cassiopeia
5. Hammock – Ten Thousand Years Wont Save Your Life
6. Lowercase Noises – Roaring Forties
7. pg.lost – Sheaves
8. Echotide – Embers Glow
9. Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson – Hearts and Consequence
10. Cienega – Erlings

Honorable Mentions
If These Trees Could Talk – Barren Lands of the Modern Dinosaur
Athletics – III
Ef – I Never Felt This Way Before
Lights and Motion – Home
Gates – They See Only Shadows
The Watermark High – Green After So Much Blue, Was Like Music to My Eyes

Staff Picks – IamHop’s top 10 albums of 2012

Well…this is awkward, but I’ll introduce myself anyways. Hi, I’m James! I created postrockstar as a way to help smaller bands gain exposure after constantly seeing nothing but the biggest name bands promoted and posted. I’m from Seattle, in my mid-20’s and work for a .com like just about everyone else in Washington State. I have a strange obsession with Pokemon and my favorite bands are Sigur Ros, Cloudkicker, The End of the Ocean, The American Dollar and Collapse Under the Empire…who all happened to put out albums last year. Weird.

1. Sigur Ros – Valtari

Sigur Ros return from hiatus to reclaim their spot at the top of the post-rock genre. This was a no-brainer pick to me as Sigur’s return to a more nostalgic sound did nothing but please their fans. While Jonsi used the band’s time off very well to further his own career, Sigur Ros was sorely missed in 2010 and 2011. Valtari to me presents the best range of emotion, song structure, raw ability and timelessness showcased in any album released in 2012 and for that it deserves all the praise it has gotten.

2. El Ten Eleven – Transitions

“Transitions” is without question the biggest breakout album of 2012. This california duo could do no wrong in 2012 with one of the most infectiously fun post-rock albums of all time. Witnessing first hand the sound that just two musicians can create together solidified this album for me. El Ten Eleven are poised for a huge run to the top and will be an excellent flag bearer for the post-rock genre.

3. Alcest – Les Voyages De L’ame

Words cannot describe my love for Alcest’s reinvented new sound. The french shoegaze meets post-metal “Les Voyages De L’ame” was a mainstay on my ipod from the moment I heard it. The vocal range is gorgeous and the emotional depth is bottomless.

4. The End of the Ocean – In Excelsis (EP)

A longtime fan of the band, I was more then thrilled by “In Excelsis” . I’ve maintained that if the EP was just two songs longer it would still be among the best albums released this year. The End of the Ocean are a band with unlimited potential and this EP showed true promise for a bright future.

5. Cloudkicker – Fade
No other post-rock artist has accumulated such a spectacular discography as quickly as Ben Sharp has. The tireless guitarist put out yet another masterpiece that felt like a further step forward from my favorite post-rock album of all time, “Beacons”. Once a raw powerhouse, Cloudkicker’s sound saw further refinement and maturity with “Fade”, undoubtedly a welcome change.


6. The American Dollar – Awake in the City
The ambient duo has done it again with “Awake in the City”. To me this is the ultimate relaxation album. While staying true to their electronic roots, the band has also increased the guitar presence found throughout their work. That’s definitely a move I can get behind.

7. Toundra – III
Easily Toundra’s best work to date. “III” is a pure in your face post-metal blitz that still manages to showcase the band’s amazing range with the track “Requiem”. This album stands out to me as a band that is ready to emerge and be a serious contender in the post-metal realm.

8. Collapse Under the Empire – Fragments of a Prayer
While I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I enjoyed 2011’s “Shoulders & Giants”, “Fragments of a Prayer” was still good enough to earn a spot on my top 10 list. With a follow up due in 2013, C.U.T.E just never seem to let off of the gas pedal!

9. If These Trees Could Talk – Red Forest
“Red Forest” is one of those albums that seems to get better with age. The first few listens I enjoyed it, but wasn’t overly thrilled. As the year went on I found myself playing it more and more, getting into it just a tad bit more everytime. Still, it was good enough to leave it’s mark on my top 10 list.


10. Eversham – Eversham
Insanely clever and unique as hell, I discovered this album later in the year and never thought twice about putting it on my list. It’s the sort of album that commands attention and never dulls.

Honorable Mentions:
Caspian – Waking Season
Pan – These are the Things I Love and I Want to Share them with You
Mental Architects – Celebrations
Leech – If We Get There One Day, Would You Please Open The Gates?
Echotide – As Our Floodlights Gave Way to Dawn
Servants of Silence – Weightless Thoughts

Top 5 Songs
1. Sigur Ros – Varua
2. Alcian – The Quick and the Dead
3. Toundra – Requiem
4. Servants of Silence – One Million Things – One Million Thoughts
5. The American Dollar – Friends of Friends

Staff Picks – Zicowood’s top 5 albums of 2012

Joining the site two and a half months ago, Zicowoods plays bass in the band Psychojet and comes to us from Belfast. He previously has written for The Silent Ballet and lists his favorite bands as This Will Destroy You, Mono, Russian Circles, Caspian, PG.Lost and And So I Watch You From Afar

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1. Musette – Drape Me In Velvet
Dreamy arrangements of piano, trumpet, and xylophone adorn heirloom cassettes and reel-to-reels over fifty years old (passed on to him from family members), providing a rustle and crackle on every track. Wistful! Album highlight is “Little Elvis”.

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2. The Best Pessimist – Love Is…
Sergey Lunev provides us with yet more of his trademark piano led ambient anthems on this year’s Love Is… “December 2, 1000” is an album highlight, piano melody and droning bass must be listening to at high volume.

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3. Gultskra Artikler – Abtu Anet
I don’t think it unfair of me to say that Alexey Devyanin is a purveyor of the strange, and this release is no exception; however as anxious a listen this release may be, it is difficult to switch it off before it has finished. And I keep going back to it.

4. Caspian – Waking Season
Not sure how much I can say about this that hasn’t already been said, by everyone. Following Tertia was always going to be difficult, but with Waking Season I wouldn’t argue with anyone who put this top of the pile for 2012.

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5. El Ten Eleven – Transitions
A step out from the post rock that has preceded it, more in the vein of ASIWYFA and The Continous Battle of Order (who are also but a duo).

Staff Picks – Jacob Moss’s top 10 albums of 2012

Jacob Moss joined post-rock about two and a half months ago and is a well accomplished writer who has written a full length book. From Boise, Idaho, he prefers electronic post-rock and lists his favorite bands as Russian Circles, Red Sparowes, GY!BE and 65 Days of Static.

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1. Sigur ros – ‘Valtari’


2. Marriages – ‘Kitsune’

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3. Godspeed you black emperor! – ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!’

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4. Gravenhurst – ‘Ghost in Daylight’

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5. The American dollar – ‘Awake in the City’

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6. The Walkmen – ‘Heaven’

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7. Mogwai – ‘A Wrenched Virile Lore’

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8. Gifts from Enola ‘A Healthy Fear’


9. Pile – ‘Dripping’

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10. Alt- J – ‘An Awesome Wave’

Staff Picks – ShaneXedge’s top 10 albums of 2012

We continue staff picks week with our residential guru of all things loud ShaneXedge. Shane prefers Shoegaze and the heavier side of the Post-Rock and Post-Metal genres and before writing for Postrockstar was a PR writer for several online retailers including ThinkGeek. He is also a founding member of the Post-Rock &Beyond room on Turntable.fm

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1. Amenra – Mass V
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2. Sigur Ros – Valtari


3. Niño Koi – La Pequeña Muerte
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4. Downfall of Gaia – Suffocating In The Swarm Of Cranes
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5. Crippled Black Phoenix – (Mankind) The Crafty Ape

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6. Balmorhea – Stranger

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7. The End Of The Ocean – In Excelsis

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8. Black Clouds – Everything Is Not Going To Be OK
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9. What The Blood Revealed – Harbour Of Devils
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10. Hypomanie – Calm Down, You Weren’t Set On Fire

Honorable Mentions –
Powder! Go Away – We Don’t Know When It Has Begun, But We Know That It Will Never End
Sleepstream – A Waltz With The Seventh Crane
Time Columns – Mana
If These Trees Could Talk – Red Forest
Colaris – Renewal