Roundtable Review: Moonlit Sailor – We Come From Exploding Stars

As we enter the thaw that is the end of the cold frozen months and march forward into those chilly yet bright sunny spring days, we leave winter feeling like it’s been a hell of a ride. The first three months of 2014 has seen the release of some extraordinarily great albums and definitely works that will top year-end lists in the months to go. In our third round table review this year we’ve chosen Moonlit Sailor’s ‘We Come From Exploding Stars’, released February 25th via Deep Elm Records as our featured album. This is the Swedish band’s fourth release and first since 2011’s ‘Colors in Stereo’.  It is also available at a ‘Name Your Price’ basis as Deep Elm has once again became trendsetters in the music world by being one of if not the first major label to offer their entire discography at this pricing point, a decision we all here at Postrockstar applaud. Without further ado, lets see what our staff had to see about the latest effort of Moonlit Sailor!

“Moonlit Sailor have consistently been one of my go to bands when introducing new listeners to the world of Post-rock. They make the genre very accessible with their upbeat songs that aren’t too drawn out nor are they too virtuoso or pretentious. With all due credit to the Swedish 4-piece, the majority of their catalog is incredibly easy to digest, fun to nod your head along with and occasionally pack that extra little bit of charm that can only be created by musicians who truly connect to and through their music.

‘We Come From Exploding Stars’ is yet another feather in the cap for the band and is an all around solid release from front to back. This is a Deep Elm release after all, so there isn’t any filler to be expected on this album, just ten equally quality tracks that create an album that flows wonderfully and create a really fun, relaxed atmosphere. “From Gemini to Lynx” and “Dollar Underwater” both stand out as my favorite songs on the album and are both gleeful romps through familiar territory.

While Moonlit Sailor’s fortay is cheery post-rock — and they do it as well as anyone, a part of me feels that ‘We Come From Exploding Stars’ is trying too hard to capture the special organic feeling I felt when I first heard “Colors in Stereo”. I could be and sure hope I am wrong, but I would like to see each album in a band’s catalog be its own work with its own blend of majestic moments, quirks and nuances instead of trying to capitolize off of a past high. If you feel as though I’m way off base here, simply choose to take this as of me saying I like ‘Colors in Stereo’ a bit more than ‘We Come From Exploding Stars’. Make no mistake however, this is a very good post-rock album from a talented band backed by the best label in the world. ” – James

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“Not much needs to be said about Moonlit Sailor’s latest album; if you’ve heard any of their previous works, you probably already know what it’s going to sound like. Sure as a sailboat will feature on each new album artwork, there’s something secure and expected with the sound of a Moonlit Sailor release. You know it’s going to be bright and pleasant — and it is. You can have faith that each chorus will brim with beauty, optimism and fun. The melodies will once again be as catchy as in a pop song without any sacrifice to their integrity. And you know that it will be the album you’ll want to turn to as the first Sun of summer rises.

Also familiar, though, is the way that the songs progress. Moonlit Sailor have always conformed fairly rigidly to a traditional (though not for post-rock) verse-chorus structure. This is a bonus when the choruses are so sensational (as they mostly are), but it can at times result in verses that are overly long and repetitive, almost crying out for some lyrical substance. If Moonlit Sailor did have a lead singer, they would make the must fun, catchy and dancable pop-rock album since Two Door Cinema Club’s Tourist History. But still I’ll gladly look to their instrumental choruses as goldmines for satiating melodies.” Shooter

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“I came across Moonlit Sailor when I was downloading free albums from Deep Elm Records during their huge ‘name you own price’ sale on bandcamp. It was labeled as post-rock, so I decided to actually pay for something, instead of mooching off of Deep Elm generosity completely. I procrastinated and never got around to clicking play, but when James told us that this month’s roundtable review was Moonlit Sailor, it was the kick in the pants I needed to really sit down and listen to the whole album, beginning to end.

I wish I’d done it earlier.

I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this album. It’s not overly technical to the point where it turns off everyone except the math-rock fans, but it’s not too simple to become boring. Their sense of composition is very similar to Explosions In The Sky at some parts, and one song even reminded me of Set & Setting’s “Fear of Obtainment” piece from their album, ‘Equanimity.’ For the majority of the album, I was thinking “Man, this is perfect as a next step past the gateway bands like Explosions In The Sky and early This Will Destroy You material.”

And I still stand by that thought. It’s very entertaining as a whole, though I’d have difficulty telling you which song is which, because they tended to sound very similar. Whereas, other albums may have the same tonality throughout the album, or the same timbre or whathaveyou, but the pieces still retain their individuality. This isn’t the case for most of this album and I would mark that up as a weak point.

The only other small weak point in the album is the bassist, in my very personal opinion. At times it did seem to stand out and make its own melody or harmony, but other times it seems to be very subdued, nearly invisible. I know it’s a really small thing to hang on, but I think the bass is the true backbone of any band. Without it, you’re completely missing the low end, which makes the music underwhelming, and underwhelming music is bad music.

At the end of the day, I found myself humming bits of it to myself, and hoping there was enough time in the day for me to sit and enjoy this album again, beginning to end.”Foofer

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“Ok, this album is a delight. I had not heard Moonlit Sailor before We Come From Exploding Stars, but I quickly endeavored to grab up their back catalogue, thanks to Deep Elm’s awesome “Name Your Price” promotion. I’m very glad I did, as it was worth it going through the past to get to the present with this fine release.

Moonlit Sailor seems to be more upbeat then the typical third wave “crescendo-core” of their peers. Peers that are the big names in third wave, which is exactly what Moonlit Sailor should be. Melodies are a tad more mysterious. Guitars don’t quite attack so much as chime, chant, and sing. In fact, this is an excellent album for anyone into guitar. Tones are spot on. The lines are deceptively simplistic. I mean, hell, they even used the E-bow well. That’s a hard thing to do because the device lends itself to overindulgence.

This collection of songs is just exceptionally well done. They are emotive but not overwrought. Narrative enough to build mountains of stories in ones mind.
It’s hard to even name just a couple of standouts because everything is so on par. However, I will say that personally “From Gemini to Lynx” is my favorite at the moment. This is for a number of reasons, not least of which is that it reminds me of the music that’s played in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” where the eponymous duo go forward in time briefly to the society that is founded upon their band.
 
Albums this solid and effortless sounding don’t just happen everyday. We’re all the better for enjoying We Come From Exploding Stars. Sail on.”Erich

   

tags: alternative emo indie rock instrumental post-rock postrock punk rock swedish

Garden Party – EP II

Reviewed by Erich

Sometimes it’s possible to fall in love again. I thought it wouldn’t happen after I first heard Slowdive’s ‘Just for a Day’. Then I felt for sure after M83’s ‘Saturdays = Youth’ that it was over, that I would never find that beautiful, perfect mix of ambient and up-tempo. I thought I’d be lost in a sea of repetitious 3rd wave and wannabe soundtracks. I’m so glad I was wrong. I am in love with Garden Party, and I want the whole world to know it.

From the lush and drifting sound clouds of the opening track right through the shoegaze/dreampop, past the jangle and the wizardly intermix, through the whispers and dangling ringing notes, and all the way out the other side of the galaxy enclosed in’EP II’, my heart and mind sang. I drifted gleefully in a playground so well crafted that when the record ended I felt like I was thrown into a cold world unprotected by reverb and shimmer. So I played it again.

This release is so solid that it not only does justice to its influences, it trumps them. We all know that shoegaze and most of it’s non-metallic side branches have been in decline, fed by pretenders and amateurs, making it so diluted that all the power and supple majesty that made it great were in so short a supply that many of us gasped for it, drowning in the unintended silence.

We need not gasp again. Garden Party has replenished the finicky rare air we love, and enriched it.

Musically, this release is just amazing. My only wish is that it was produced slightly more unambiguously. At times there’s a sonic break up, almost like analogue tape saturation, that, if intentional, is very nice, but if manifest because clipping or track overload, is hiding more glimmering musical gold. Aside from that, the mix is well done. It may seem that that would be easy because many parts of this EP are sparse when it comes to harsh dynamics, but the nuances captured at low levels is part of what kept me coming back, to float again thru the ether of EP II.

The warmth, given the media, is astonishing.

This is a must listen if ever I’ve heard one. If I had a physical release of this EP I would cuddle with it.

 

tags: ambient bellingham drone indie math rock math-rock post rock post-rock seattle shoegaze soundscape Seattle

Roundtable Review: Mogwai – Rave Tapes

It’s the end the month which means it’s time for our second Roundtable Review of the year. This month we’re tackling a band who damn near is bordering on legendary post-rock status at this point. Needing no real introduction, this month we’re excited to examine Mogwai’s latest effort “Rave Tapes” , which saw a January 20th release via Rock Action Records (UK) and Sub Pop Records (US). With this being the 8th album in a career that has spanned nearly 20 years, our team took the album with a keen ear and anticipation for what these post-rock giants brought to the genre this time around.

We would love to hear your input and thoughts on ‘Rave Tapes’ so feel free to leave a comment and let us know if you loved it, hated it, or just didn’t care for the release in general.

“I got into Mogwai when a friend handed me a mix tape entitled, “Beginners Guide to Rock Action”. It was the only Mogwai compilation you could ever need and contained only the best tracks from their back catalogue all the way up to Happy Songs for Happy People. That compilation was a sound track to some great times and each one of those tracks was special to me.

I didn’t listen to an actual Mogwai album for some time. In fact it was 2006 when Mr Beast came out. From there I started to explore their back catalogue and found that Beginners Guide To Rock Action was the best of Mogwai and, despite some absolutely killer tracks across all these albums, I had already heard all that the band had to offer.

So I have always been cautious when Mogwai release a new album. I am always convinced that they will disappoint again and again. Not that they cannot write some incredible music, just that each album will, ultimately, be filled with filler tracks. So I was completely surprise when I played Rave Tapes and found their most complete album to date.

The whole thing fits together so well and each track stands on its own merits without standing too far out from the rest. Mogwai can be applauded that each new release brings a little something new to the mix, but never to the detriment of their sound. Rave Tapes is brooding; tracks are mid-tempo short journeys that, with each new listen, display the subtle nuances that show how incredible these guys are at composition.

I’ve heard people shrug this release off as, “too synthy”. Yes there is a lot of synth here, but each instrument has its place and there are still a ton of brilliant guitar melodies to write home about. Overall this album is so full of hooks that your head won’t know what you should be humming by the end of it and there are too many highlights to name them all. If you forced me to reel some off I’d instantly blurt out Remurdered, Deesh, and No Medicine For Regret; but you should really take in this album as a whole.

So the question is: Is this Mogwai’s best album? My answer is emphatically, yes! Simply because of the way it all fits together, unlike most of their previous work. It also has a handful of standout tracks that can stand alongside some of stunning tracks that are packed into their back catalogue.” – TenaciousListening

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“I’m not ashamed to admit that Mogwai’s style of post-rock has never really clicked with me. While I appreciate what they’ve done for the genre, I’ve largely skipped around the majority of their discography to a very select few songs that I do find interesting. To be perfectly honest up until now the only Mogwai release I enjoy front to back is their 2011 4-track EP ‘Earth Division’. With all that being said, I’m pleased to say that ‘Rave Tapes’ has absolutely won me over and is a marvelous album, easily my favorite work to date by the Glasgow rockers.

Everything about this album just free flows so flawlessly save for ‘Blues Hours’, which I feel should have been saved for a future EP. The keys, synths and elements of electronica shine brightly and are complimented with just the right amount of reverb and drone. Drums and beat patterns are infectiously intoxicating and the pacing really helps lament the mood. With each subsequent listen I find myself enjoying the album more and more due to the simplistic beauty of the whole package. There is never too much going on, everything feels spacious and meaningful.

The band isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel here and I’m sure a song like “Remurdered” will piss some post-rock purists off, but you know what, Fuck em! Mogwai has nothing left to prove do they? I love “Remurdered” to death, but then again this is coming from the same guy who’s most listened to release of 2014 is Crystal Method’s latest self titled album, it being my favorite album to work out in the gym to right now. There is a little something for everyone on ‘Rave Tapes’. I hope that this electronic heavy styling is a direction they decide to pursue going forward. This album gets a solid B+ in my book (no, we’re not doing letter grades on this site now).” – James

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“I wonder if Young Team was just a fluke. Mogwai has made some good songs since then — one, maybe two per album — but really, very little of their catalogue holds a candle to the greatness that was achieved on their debut. On ‘Rave Tapes’, most of the songs meander to nowhere, yet not for long enough for them to become hypnotic. “Remurdered” is fun, and “Blues Hour” is very endearing. The rest of the songs fail to leave any memorable imprint though, their hooks ranging from forgettable to tedious. I don’t think I’m a Mogwai hipster who only likes the old stuff because it’s old. Their sound was significantly different in 1997. And perhaps my favourite song of theirs is 2011’s “Drunk and Crazy”, so I’m hardly averse to the new. I just expect more from a group so acclaimed. I wish I had more to say about Rave Tapes, but to me it’s mostly an album of uninspired melodies and insipid beats.” – Shooter

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“When a band like Mogwai puts out a new album, the expectation is always higher. They are one of the big names, that rare post-rock band that you could almost say has made it. Made it to where is a completely different topic. But here we are with a new release from one of the biggest names in the post-rock scene.

This album is consistent, solid, and very forgettable if you aren’t paying attention. The only track that really stands out is Remurdered with it’s epic sounding 80’s vibe like a track off the Drive Soundtrack. Outside of that the tracks stay pretty calm and subdued. They don’t cater to crescendos, but Mogwai never really have. They’ve always been a band with solid songs doing their own thing. Rave Tapes is no different.

The album would be easy to toss aside after a listen because of how subtle it plays out. My biggest gripe is that each track feels like it should weave into the others, but they just don’t. The album feels like it has a loose theme that connects these tracks with a tiny thread. It takes time to appreciate this album, and I feel as though it could have used just a bit more tidying up. A track like Repelish should have been relocated to Bonus Track status, and it would have been nice to see these tracks meld a bit more. However, after a few listens this has become an album to listen to while fixated on other things. It plays well in the background, but doesn’t hold it’s own for sole focus. A solid release by Mogwai that needs just a bit more to stand on its feet.”Bryan

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“Oh Mogwai, how you bring me such joy. Again and again, album after album, you just put a smile on my face. Rave Tapes is no exception. What I think people miss about this band is the inherent humor involved with them. One gets the feeling that the only thing Mogwai takes seriously is the music they make. They’re just taking the piss out of everything else. The music industry, artistic context, and even the post rock genre itself seem to be a good laugh.

From start to finish, Rave Tapes is a solid record. Its more synthy overall then other Mogwai offerings, sure, but not overdone. Written and arranged with the competence one would expect, the analogue sounds really blend nicely with the warm production here.

Listening to Mogwai evolve album-to-album is fascinating and rewarding. There’s always a slightly different slant to things. Sometimes it’s quite subtle. Sometimes you get the feeling it’s just for a lark.

Highlights like “Remurdered,” “Mastercard,” and “No Medicine For Regret” are joined by slightly off kilter beauties like “The Lord Is Out Of Control.” My personal top pick here is the beautiful and darkly hilarious “Repelish.”

After several listens I started to wonder if maybe this whole album was made as a post molly club night come down record. It’s certainly languid and gentle enough.

Mogwai have deservedly earned their notoriety and the respect they’re given in the post musical world. Hell, they’ve come just as close as third wave darlings like Explosions in the Sky at being crossover successes. Rave Tapes is another great chapter in the very long book of Mogwai’s pantheon of enjoyable albums. It’s not the most essential, but it certainly put a smile on my face.”Erich

   

Click here to download Rave Tapes via Itunes

Click here to download Rave Tapes via Mogwai’s official online store

When Icarus Falls – Circles

Reviewed by Erich Heider

It’s fitting to me that this band calls themselves When Icarus Falls. If you remember the Greek myth of Daedalus and Icarus, an imprisoned father and son used wax and feathers to make wings to escape their lofty incarceration. It worked out for dad, but Icarus, in a bit of hubris, flew too close to the sun, melting the wax that held his wings together, and fell into the sea.

So it is with When Icarus Falls. The musical themes are good, and the lyrics very much filled with pathos. Although ambitious and dexterous, Circles seems to be too much of a mouthful for the band to chew smoothly. Somehow, at least to me, it just ends up a little flat.

When I first got this album, I thought what I might have a problem with were the vocals. They’re very black metal. I don’t usually mind this, but the music didn’t seem to accompany it that well. Upon repeated listens, this proved to actually be a strength. I began enjoying the strained yells within the context of the songs. It makes When Icarus Falls stand out, and showcases vocalist Diego Mendiano’s skill in conveying emotion. Even in the yells, he’s subtle.

For such a heavyish album, Circles is very progg-ish. This is where the wax starts to melt. It feels like some of the progressiveness, both musically and thematically, comes at expense to the overall flow and vibe of the ep. This is especially true in the opening and closing tracks of the four songs on this release, Celestial Bodies and Nyx (remixed). Momentum just seems to be shaved down, in a trade of with drama and complexity.

This Lausanne, Swiss five piece is obviously capable of big things.  The production is very well done and the scope feels almost right. The drums are killer. Guitar interplay is tense, and these guys can get pretty heavy. In a laudable feat, the bass is mixed well enough to be audible throughout. Keyboards are central at times, but never over dominate the mix.

Circles just miss the mark a few times, trying to attain a little too much. The result is an enjoyable but uneven ep that lacks staying power. You can’t ever fault anyone for aiming high though, and luckily the band doesn’t pay the price of the titular figure. I’ll be very interested to hear the results when they fly again.

 

tags: metal circles hardcore metal posthardcore postmetal switzerland when icarus falls Switzerland

Erich’s Top Picks of 2013

 Welcome to Staff Picks week here at Postrockstar! This week our writers will be going over their favorite albums of 2013.

Please click the album art to go to the artist’s Bandcamp/Website/Facebook/etc .

Jesu – Everyday I get Closer to the Light from Which I Came

“Yep, something beat out Deafheaven. Justin Broadrick again releases a subtle and powerful dream of an album. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. Best Jesu vocals to date as well.”

Deafheaven – Sunbather

Having luckily gotten introduced to the mighty Deafheaven thru their demo, and thoroughly loving “Roads To Judah”, this was a no brainer for me. What impressed me most about this album was the progression that was made since “Roads.” Sure, they’ve blown up, but this is one of those cases where the critics got it right, though maybe for the wrong reasons. Hipsters come and go, but Sunbather is a black supernova.”

Cloudkicker – Subsume

“Epic, progressive, and, full of integrity, Cloudkicker deserves every bit of praise he/it gets. This rocked my fall and early winter. The fact that it’s free is a bonus too. Excellent free music made well? Wish fulfillment.”

Pelican – Forever Becoming

“Consistently great. Another epic post-metal album. Forever becoming flows so well. Heavy and solid.”

Damascus – Heights

“I was bowled over by the musicianship of this album. Damascus should be exceptionally proud of themselves. A great record from a great band that I hope will become better known this year.”

We.Own.The.Sky – Glass/Nails

“As James mentioned earlier, this is technically an EP. Fuck that. I declare this a full-fledged album. I also declare it nuanced and powerful. It kept me interested thru many, many repeat plays. Super worthy.”

My Bloody Valentine –MBV

“What needs to be said about Kevin Shields and Company? This was worth the 22 or so year wait for me. This picked up right where “Loveless” left off, with some awesome surprises thrown in.  I hope it doesn’t take another generation for a follow up album.”

65daysofstatic – Wild Light

“The left field surprise of my musical year. Delightfully off center and stellar. I’m actually still digesting this fully. This blog teaches me things too!”

Russian Circles – Memorial

“How many amazing albums does Russian Circles have to put out before its understood just how much of a musical powerhouse they are? Another flawless release. The drums are produced so well on this record I could cry.”

RQTN – Passenger

“Nuanced Neo-Classical soundtrack-ish perfection. RQTN seems to take great leaps of progress with each album. “Passenger” is just so smooth.”

The Best of the Rest:

Carcass – Surgical Steel

“Hello, old friend. I’ve missed you. Arguably better then “Heartwork.”

Subrosa – More Constant then the Gods

“Deep, Heavy, and weird. Don’t sleep on SubRosa.”

Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks

“Mr. Reznor and company got creepier during the NIN hiatus.”

Childish Gambino – Because the Internet

“Could this be “post Hip-Hop?” No matter what it’s labeled, it’s smart and emotionally evocative.”

Chvrches – The Bones of What You Believe

“Wow, I like this album. Just the perfect mixture of indie, electronic, and dreampop.”

Clutch – Earth Rocker

“Any sentences written about this album, or Clutch as a whole, for that matter, should include the words “Rock,” “Fucking,” “Roll,” and “Kings,” in them.”

Skinny Puppy – Weapon

“One of my favorite bands ever making another great and complicated statement about the world. I enjoyed the analogue synth and effect touches to bring it back to days of Puppy past.”

Gorguts – Colored Sands

“Do you like guitars, drums, and great songwriting? One of the many metal warriors of the past that have found their way back to the light of day, and, along with Carcass, one of the best.”

Windhand – Soma

“Maybe the next Deafheaven if the “kids” continue on the “blackened sub genre” wagon train. However, Windhand is way better then that last sentence.”

Melt Yourself Down – S/T

“Freaky – Deaky, jazzy, and throbbingly heavy.  Another out of nowhere home runs this year.”

Runners up:

Lesbian – Forestelevision

Bastille – Bad Blood

Sleigh Bells – Bitter Rivals

Kylesa – Ultraviolet

David Bowie – The Next Day

Inter Arma – Sky Burial

2013 Year End Awards

It has been a whirlwind year here at Postrockstar as we put the finishing touches on our first full calendar year reviewing and promoting all things relevant to the world of Post-Rock and instrumental music. This year we were able review 73 albums and promoted 150 other albums, constantly offering our readers fresh new music to feast their ears upon. As you might imagine dissecting and breaking down the ins & outs of 200+ albums for these year end awards was no easy task. The team has been hard at work researching, discussing and sometimes even arguing their picks for these awards right up to the last very weekend before they went live. At the end of it all, we stand firmly behind our picks and believe these are the very best offerings of the year from some of the most talented bands in their respective subgenres. Without further Ado…

Winner : Ef – Ceremonies

“The craftsmanship and attention to detail found on this album was the first thing that grabbed my attention. ‘Ceremonies’ has so many incredibly vibrant moments that picking a favorite song is nearly impossible. There is no filler here, each of the eight tracks are all the same caliber of material that I’ve come to expect from Ef.” – James

Click here to read our full review of ‘Ceremonies’

Runner Up: Lights & Motion – Reanimation

“It’s beautiful, dramatic, powerful, to-the-point, explosive and uplifting. The culmination of everything that post-rock (or a certain school of post-rock) has been trying to achieve for the past decade. It picks your spirits up where all else has failed. It inspires feelings of awe and wonder. It’s music for stargazers. It’s the sound of your first crush and your last love.”Shooter

Click here to read our roundtable review of ‘Reanimation’

 Winner: Deafheaven – Sunbather

“Deafheaven does their thing very, very well, and with “Sunbather“, have undoubtedly released one of the greatest albums of the year. I know, it came out in June with a full 7 months of music yet to be released, but I can say with great certainty that I’ll stand by that statement.”ShaneXedge

Click here to read our review of ‘Sunbather’

Runner Up: Light Bearer – Silver Tongue

“Silver Tongue’, as an album, is not something that is easily digested (nor are any other Light Bearer recordings, really). To me, that makes the mark of a truly great album. It’s not something that’s just going to be blurred background music – it demands your attention, and rewards you greatly for focusing on it.” – ShaneXedge

Click here to read our review of ‘Silver Tongue’

Winner: And So I Watch You From Afar – All Hail Bright Futures

“‘All Hail Bright Futures’ is like a dream pop album on a sugar-high. Aggressive metal elements that were once a distraction are now left by the wayside in the aid of a cohesive pop sound. I feel like this band has finally found its identity.”Shooter

Click here to read our roundtable review of ‘All Hail Bright Futures’

Runner up: Jardin De La Croix – 187 Steps To Cross The Universe

“Fasten your seat belts and secure your headphones tightly to your head because you are in for a hell of a ride. An excellent must-listen to release that is not to be taken lightly. Bands looking to melt faces in 2013 be warned: The bar has been set high.”James

Click here to read our full review of ‘187 Steps To Cross The Universe’

Winner: My Bloody Valentine – M B V

“It’s impossible to have any sort of discussion about shoegaze, as a genre, without talking about My Bloody Valentine, and as such, there were very high expectations and hopes surrounding this album. In my opinion, ‘M B V‘ lives up to the hopes..”ShanexEdge

Click here to read our full review of ‘M B V ‘

Runner up: The Fauns – Lights

“This British five piece take the best inspirational elements from all of the 90s shoegaze/dream pop giants, and churn out a masterpiece of an album (helped in no small part by Alison Garner’s incredible vocals). Though there were other huge, notable shoegaze releases this year, how many other bands released a single mixed by Clint Mansell?!” – ShaneXedge

Click here to download ‘Lights’ on bandcamp

Winner: Caspian – Hymn For The Greatest Generation

The post-rock world’s collective hearts sank for Caspian this past August with the sudden passing of bassist Chris Friedrich. In the wake of tragedy this talented collective of musicians pressed forward, touring and releasing ‘Hymn For The Greatest Generation’ , an EP that simply stood head and shoulders above the rest of the EP’s released in 2013. The acoustic styling of ‘CMF’ won our hearts as a touching tribute to their fallen brother, while the title track is simply Caspian reinventing their sound yet again.

“They never cease to amaze me because they never waver or falter, they don’t even misstep on occasion. Caspian’s career trajectory has been a clear path upward since 2009 and the band has transformed themselves into a pioneer at the forefront of a genre that desperately needs leaders. I never know what to expect from a Caspian release, but you can bet I’m going to listen to it the moment it’s released. ‘Hymn For The Greatest Generation’ is as emotionally charged as they come. You shouldn’t need any convincing why this EP is a must own.” – James

Click here to download ‘Hymn For the Greatest Generation’ on bandcamp

Runner up: Lavinia – Take Shelter EP

“The beginning seduces you, then proceeds to kick you in the balls, and you’re not even halfway through the first song. Lavinia’s EP is just too short, I wish it were an hour long.”Foofer

Click here to download ‘Take Shelter EP’ on bandcamp

Winner: Hammock – Oblivion Hymns

“..Hammock is a band that’s only true descriptor is unique. Of course, words like beautiful, ethereal, majestic, can all be used, but they fail in the most magnificent of ways. They fall short because they are just words. The music, the layers, the use of every instrument is what brings life to those hollow words.  Hammock is what people think of when they desire a soundtrack to their lives.” – TenaciousListening

Click here to read our review of ‘Oblivion Hymns’

Runner up: North Atlantic Drift – Monuments

“North Atlantic Drift’s Monuments is a powerful record that is both spacious, as ambient music is prone to being, and melodious. What wins it for me is you can drift off to this music, but you are compelled to do so with ears pricked lest you miss some of the bigger moments that almost nudge you to make sure you are still listening. The duo has blended beautifully elements of post-rock and electronica to create one of my favourite albums of 2013 and it is easily placed as runner up for the best ambient release this year.” – Bryan

Click here to download ‘Monuments’ on bandcamp

Winner: J.R. Alexander – Moments

“‘Moments‘ in many ways treads upon Alexander’s previous musical ideology except with an added presence of electronica, glitch and downtempo influence. By combining gorgeous string instrument arrangements, elegant piano work and rusticly smooth acoustic guitar work with electronic-inspired beats Alexander has created a downtempo sound that quite frankly has me struggling to find the proper way to describe it.  – James

Click here to read our review of ‘Moments’

Runner up: The Watermark High – Murmurs EP

“While ‘Slow Motion Clarity’ could be considered a more ambient, instrument focused album, ‘Murmurs’ flips the script, giving us a much more glitchy, aggressive side of Watermark High. Straight-forward post-rock fans will likely hate this pick and think that this EP has no place being anywhere near the site. Maybe they’re right, who knows, but if you can’t see the influence or parallels between post-rock and The Watermark High, your missing the entire point of what we’re trying to accomplish with Postrockstar” – James

Click here to download ‘Murmurs’ on bandcamp

Winner: Lights & Motion – Reanimation

“‘Reanimation‘ is an hour plus long magical journey that explores the depths of the soul by seamlessly transitioning between moments of glory, triumph and heartbreak. After dozens of listens I still find myself impressed at the musical mind of Christoffer Franzén (Lights & Motion). That no one particular instrument stands out as clearly being dominant or “better” than the rest speaks volumes to Franzén’s talent.”James

Click here to read our roundtable review of ‘Reanimation’

Runner up: set & setting – Equanimity

“Warmth and delicacy permeate the production values of “Equanimity.” In fact it’s almost sort of intimidating. Nothing is fragile, but everything is very delicate of spirit, like a special memory from a long time ago. Even when set and setting kick into the heavier sections they leave room for breath, which keeps the whole album sounding imbued with life.”Erich

Click here to read our review of ‘Equanimity’

Winner: This Patch of Sky – Heroes & Ghosts

This category is always difficult because there are usually several bands well deserving of this spot and this year was no different. Although proper and well thought out cases were made for those other bands, This Patch of Sky was the voting council’s collective top pick. With ‘Heroes & Ghosts’ we witnessed a transformation through maturity and comfort of a band no longer interested in simply blowing away the listener away with raw power, but rather reward the listener through complex build ups, ranges of emotions and storytelling. The leap in quality from their 2012 effort ‘Newly Risen, How Bright You Shine’ and ‘Heroes & Ghosts’ is unmistakable and the band’s new found direction only excites us for what’s to come from this young Oregon band.

“‘Heroes and Ghosts’ is an impressive step forward for a band who could have chosen to play it safe and continued to carve themselves a nice little niche in the post-rock world. For them to willingly go out of their way to reinvent their sound and further themselves as musicians is a noble undertaking that has earned the band much respect in my book.” – James

Click here to read our review of ‘Heroes & Ghosts’

Winner: EF – Ceremonies

“To say that we’ve been ultra critical of vocals in post-rock on this site would be an understatement. Vocals have the ability to ruin even the best of albums when they don’t fit in and are overbearing or they have the ability to accentuate everything around them and add an incredible amount of depth when used properly and sparingly. The vocals in Ceremonies take the latter route and are absolutely adorable, heartfelt and shine in their limited role. While much of the staff agreed there wasn’t a vocal-centric release quite like Alcest’s ‘Les Voyages de l’Âme’ which took the award this year, the vocals harmonized well enough with the rest of ‘Ceremonies’ that we felt no other album was more deserving.” James

Click here to read our review of ‘Ceremonies’

Runner up: Jesu – Everyday I Get Closer To The Light From Which I Came

“Again this is just another great example of when vocals can bring out the best in everything else around them. No one understands that better than Justin Broadrick and the vocals found within ‘Everyday I Get Closer To The Light From Which I Came’ are very much what we’ve come to love and expect from him. Downtrodden, static-laced and optimistically bleak, Broadrick’s vocals are by no means nothing you haven’t experienced before, but than again, there’s probably nobody else who could do them any better either.” – James

Click here to download ‘Everyday I Get Closer To The Light From Which I came’ on bandcamp

(Despite our best efforts we simply couldn’t pick a winner in this category and after lengthy discussion, it was agreed there would be dual winners for this category. The violin work found on ‘Ascendere’ offers the album an enormous range of depth and is really what sets it apart from the rest of the field by giving it an identity. ‘Ascendere’ is the quintessential example of how just one instrument can drastically alter a band’s entire sound. While on the other hand Ólafur Arnalds’ “For Now I Am Winter” is a testament of true classical beauty and simply in a class of its own)

Winner: Ólafur Arnalds – For Now I Am Winter

“It would have been a grave injustice for us not to give this award to Arnalds as well, who’s latest ‘For Now I Am Winter’ embodies the very essence of this category. At just 27 years of age Arnalds has classical compositions perfected, each one of his works dripping with heartfelt passages, powerful emotion and an array of sounds that just blend perfectly with one another. ‘For Now I Am Winter’ is an important album in the career of the young icelandic virtuoso, showing he capable of much more than neo-classical and ambient pieces by incorporating looping electronics, hypnotic beats and offering a slightly more aggressive side to his work. This album is gorgeous.” – James

Click here to visit Ólafur Arnalds’ website and download ‘For Now I Am Winter’

Winner: Aesthesys – Ascendere

“I tend to think of post-rock with neoclassical influence and/or string instruments as noble and place it on a pedestal much higher than the more modern third-wave stylings of big guitar crescendo and distortion driven tracks. Whenever I review an album like ‘Ascendere’ I expect so much more out of them than a standard album. In that aspect, I think Aesthesys has shined at incorporating these elements into a more traditional post-rock sound. In another light, I feel like their best work is ahead of them and that this album is just a taste of what’s to come from a band who’s potential is as bright as sun on the album cover.”James

Click here to read our review of ‘Ascendere’

Winner: God Is An Astronaut – Origins

“It is unfortunate when a band releases an album that just doesn’t connect with  their fan base and in that respect we have to give this award to God Is An Astronaut for their ‘Origins’ album. Three years removed from ‘Age of the Fifth Sun’, the band opted to leave their dreamy atmospheric sound in the past, pursuing a much different and far less appealing distortion heavy dream pop hybrid sound that left us scratching our heads. GIAA’s contributions to the post-rock realm cannot be ignored and we believe that they are band that deserves the respect and attention from the post-rock fans, but we would like to see them get back to their roots in the future.”James

Click here to download ‘Origins’ on bandcamp

Winner: Arbor Lights – Hatherton Lake

In a new addition to the year end awards we wanted to recognize the artists who’s album covers are as unique and/or beautiful as the music they create. This year there was a whole slew of potential suitors for this award but the Postrockstar staff agreed it was Arbor Lights’ “Hatherton Lake” that appealed most to our liking. The artwork comes to us from Renée Sylvestre, who captures the album’s theme and focus all too well. From the messy water colors, the finely detailed diving suite and the elegant script font, the whole package feels perfect.

“Hatherton Lake is a lake in Walsall (UK). Named after Lord Hathertonits, lore includes a story of a diver, who died in a search for the body of the Mayor of Walsall; who had drowned. With that in mind I can tell you that this track, “The Mayor and the Diver” (an extended version of “Coda” from the band’s self-titled EP) conjures the panic you could associate with seeing the light fade through the ever stilling surface of the lake as you sink, seemingly peacefully, to your death.” – TenaciousListening

Click here to read our review of ‘Hatherton Lake’

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Runner up: EF – Ceremonies

“Ef has once again teamed up with Staffan Larsson to create the album artwork for Ceremonies. Larsson manages to capture the emotional highs and lows of Efs sound through his artwork. The interconnectedness of this artwork to the sound is what makes this stand out to us as the album artwork of the year.” – Bryan

Click here to read our review of ‘Ceremonies’

Winner: set & setting – “Essence of Paradox”

Post-Rock is a genre built on slow build ups, grand finales and tracks that routinely push the 10 minute mark. Not all ‘epic’ songs have to push the double digits mark nor do they have to be a brooding masterpiece of layered crescendos and false finishes. Truth is there are probably close to 50 songs that could easily contend for this award but “Essence of Paradox” by set & setting stood just taller than the rest. This song is a near 14 minute marathon of a track that packs an enormous punch, never slows down, never gives an inch, and continually builds to a finale that is well worth the wait. A true masterpiece.

“The band’s final song was “Essence of Paradox“, their  13 minute long magnum opus that felt like it was never going to end. And none of us wanted it to end either. Louder, faster, harder. Louder, faster, harder. The build up continued as a crowd in awe witnessed a band playing endlessly like the world was crumbling around them. There are few things in this life that are true and pure. Being in the band’s presence as they performed “Essence of Paradox” felt like an honor and a privilege. If set and setting was a drug, I would have overdosed and died with no regrets.”James (on “Essence of Paradox” performed live in Seattle)

Click here to read our review of ‘Equanamity’

Runner up: Cloudkicker – “A weather front was stalled out in the Pacific–like a lonely person, lost in thought, oblivious of time.”

Better known as Cloudkicker, Ben Sharp has consistently reinvented his sound with each new release to his catalog, offering his faithful following new glimpses into the mind of possibly the most complete sounding solo project on the planet. But with 2013’s ‘Subsume’ came something I don’t think any of us could have imagined: a 16 minute destroyer of worlds that completely changes everything the way we view Sharp as a musician. While 2012’s ‘Fade’ did give us one 10+ minute track, “A Weather Front…” just goes to show that Sharp’s Djentbased prog-metal (Post-Djent?) is more than capable of standing toe to toe with epics from the likes of GY!BE, EITS, Sigur Ros, etc.

“Sharp has outdone himself. After looking into Cloudkicker’s back catalogue, it seems he makes a habit of this. This time, however, He’s gone to the pinnacle of this post-metal mountain and basically established post-“djent” as not only a viable subgenre, but something so refined yet spirited that I don’t think Subsume’s legacy will ever be in question.” – Erich

Click here to read our review of ‘Subsume’

Cloudkicker – Subsume

Subsume cover art

Artist Cloudkicker
Album Subsume
Genre Post-Metal | Post-Rock
Buy/DL Bandcamp
Web Cloudkicker Blog
Label
Release 14 September 2013
Rating: Must Listen

Its funny that we split so many things into genres and sub-genres, especially when reviewing something, just to give a better hint as to whether someone might be interested in it.

“Oh, third wave slow core is the best!”

“No way, blackened post-doom all the way!”

Obviously I’m exaggerating here, but my point is that there are some things that are only a few people’s cup of tea, whereas other things tend to lend themselves to a wider audience. We seem to have a specific niche that we champion, if only in our hearts. I don’t find fault it that, but I think sometimes it’s to the detriment of our potential experience.

Ironically, this is sort of how I felt about Cloudkicker for a while. I felt that I was too cool for it.  I was into different stuff, more “core” as it were.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy Ben Sharp’s musical output. It’s certainly not that it was a different sort of music than I prefer, because I love post metal when it’s done well.  It was just something about the whole idea about Cloudkicker I had fabricated in my mind. They were popular and sort of generic, I thought.

Well, I was definitely half right. Since 2007 Sharp has been very consistently building up a very large fan base, while consistently expanding his musical output. In fact, I was surprised when I found out how much of an influence Cloudkicker really had on not only post-whatever music, but on the process of Internet word of mouth “marketing.”

Marketing is in quotes for two reasons. Firstly, I don’t believe Ben ever monetized Cloudkicker music up until Subsume, and, secondly, because I don’t think he goes out of his way to push his music at all.

This is really refreshing to me. The whole idea of “it’s there if you want it, and if you like it tell a friend” distribution is awesome. Add the fact that Cloudkicker is so prolific and consistent, and you’ve got quite the underground powerhouse.

Which is exactly why my more narrow minded side avoided prolonged exposure to this amazing band.

Subsume is a masterpiece.  I haven’t heard an album this strong in quite a while. From nuance to anthemic riff, it declares itself majestic and moving, something not to overlook.

Sharp has outdone himself. After looking into Cloudkicker’s back catalogue, it seems he makes a habit of this. This time, however, He’s gone to the pinnacle of this post-metal mountain and basically established post-“djent” as not only a viable subgenre, but something so refined yet spirited that I don’t think Subsume’s legacy will ever be in question.

From the slow sonic pulse of the buildup that introduces “The warmth of the daytime seemed like a dream now” to the jaunty haunty martially sludge flow of “You could laugh forever but never end up happy” we are taken on a journey that feels universal and personal at the same time. Nowhere does this album feel weak or strained. It is both devastating and empowering.

While not the heaviest post-metal around, Subsume has many thunderous moments, not just in the usual ebb and flow dynamics of the album, but in the excellent production. Cloudkicker has never sounded this open and wide. Drums thunder and slap, Guitars manifest as clouds that rain beauty and shoot thick riff lightening, all while the thunder of the low-end rolls unmolested. I’ve listened to this album on many pieces of equipment, in many environments, and I can’t point out a single missed opportunity in the sound range and mix.

I mentioned that, to my knowledge, Subsume is the first time Cloudkicker has charged for an album. It is most certainly worth the price. So much so, in fact, that I chose to purchase the vinyl. This is something I haven’t done with a reviewed band since Caspian released Waking Season.

This is top-notch music that will most certainly be on my year’s best list, and honestly, if I ever have the fortune of meeting Ben Sharp, I will be thanking him for creating this excellent album.