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.

1. Sigur ros – ‘Valtari’

2. Marriages – ‘Kitsune’
3. Godspeed you black emperor! – ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!’
4. Gravenhurst – ‘Ghost in Daylight’
5. The American dollar – ‘Awake in the City’
6. The Walkmen – ‘Heaven’
7. Mogwai – ‘A Wrenched Virile Lore’
8. Gifts from Enola ‘A Healthy Fear’

9. Pile – ‘Dripping’
10. Alt- J – ‘An Awesome Wave’

Roundtable Review #2 – Godspeed You! Black Emperor – “Alleujah! Don’t Bend Ascend” – 85%

In our latest installment of roundtable review, we tackle the legendary Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s  ‘Alleujah! Don’t Bend Ascend’ , their first album in 10 years. Our writers were highly divided on this album and this will definitely be one of the more controversial installments of the series.

Shooter:  With ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!’, Godspeed You! Black Emperor make 55 minutes feel like 20. This could be a good thing. Time flies when you’re having fun, and there’s certainly no point during ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!‘ at which I am anything less than thoroughly entertained. From the opening sample to the clanging of the pots and pans, “Mladic” is dense and entrancing. The strings are at times jarring and at others elegant, which is nothing less than what you would expect from a Godspeed! song. The Middle-Eastern vibe is subtle but ever-present, giving an impression of how Grails might sound had they reigned in their tempo. It’s a great track, but there’s just not a lot there to justify its duration. The same goes for “We Drift Like Worried Fire.” One shouldn’t expect a creative machine like Godspeed! to keep checking their watches as they craft their songs — that’s fine — however it’s hard to feel entirely satisfied with categorizing this as a complete album as opposed to an extremely long EP. As such, ‘Allelujah! feels like a single, directed idea that, although coherent, exhibits little in the way of variety or exploration. It all sounds great, but there’s just not a lot there. – 79%

Drew  R:  I must confess that GY!BE have passed me by. I have heard several of their albums but they’re not my ‘go-to’ when I’m in the mood for post-rock with politics. Their 10 year absence has done nothing to make their mark on my consciousness, which, with hindsight, is entirely my loss! ‘Allelujah!..’ is heavy on the drone; mesmerizing and hypnotic combined with a lush middle-eastern flavor. ‘Allelujah!..’ combines everything they’ve done before and takes it to another level. The first track ‘Mladic‘, named for the war criminal, starts eerily and builds, weaving in and out of the initial theme. Track number two, composed entirely of violins, cellos and electronic noise utilizes the sawing violins to add spookiness to what is already an uncomfortable feeling album. The third track is where we get our first taste of the more traditional post-rock sound but you have to give it some time before it gets there, swinging in and out, uneasy then hopeful by turns. The album’s closer is entirely drone; drawing a line under the anxiety of the rest of the album. I’m not sure what I was expecting from this album. Seeing as they are one of the genre’s leading lights I should have expected greatness and they have produced an album worthy of their reputation. – 90%

Erich – It seems that this release, being so long coming, was lauded by many people before they ever got a good chance to listen to it.  GY!BE rightly deserves to be held high in the echelon of post-rock heroes, as their contributions to the genre, and music in general, are beyond denial.  That’s why it saddened me to cast my ears upon this abysmal LP.  From the lack of inventiveness and obvious Sonic Youth and Lou Reed rip-off sounds and dynamics to the sub-par production, I was disappointed for most of this record. While there were some good moments, such as the last half of “Mladic” and the ending movement of “We Drift Like Worried Fire,”  I felt for the most part like I was listening to a contrived Anglo Teutonic version of The Master Musicians of Joujouka. While this would have been fine as some stop-gap jam room dickery, it’s not up to par for such a respected and capable band.  This is simply not worthy of the rest of GY!BE’s discography or, frankly, anyone’s money. – 68%

JacobMoss – I’ve followed Godspeed You Black Emperor! ever since the album ‘Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven’. Since then I have listened to just about every album of theirs on repeat. I hear a different sound each time with different cuts, and yet it always remains quintessential existential post-rock. For me, it is GYBE! and different albums by A Silver Mt. Zion which really capture the essence of what post rock is fundamentally all about. The album for the soundtrack ‘Angels of the universe’ by Sigur Ros and Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson captures that as well. Through listening to ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!’ the visual semblances from such intensity is projected in my mind. It becomes great inspiration for an aesthetic pen artist like myself. This is because the rapid extremes of guitar and drum instrumentalism excite the nerves and through tangents help a person cerebrally venture into exciting and intense future understandings of what it means to be alive and truly feel human! It is a Mecca of chaos in a universe so comfortable to exist in. Even in multiplicity of moments it seems to the mind like it will never end. And for that matter, why would you want it to? This immense energy is freedom bursting from the seams inside you, and with each harmonious rhythmic pulse of rock-based schemata you lose yourself in such a debris of the world happening. Changing. Losing control. Lifting.. to a next degree i.e level of perfection! Alas, Godspeed– No one speaks in such a language of exotic beauty! Truly taking the stage with each and every incredible album of built up virtue and suspense. Light some candles, turn off the lights, and visualize. No ticket purchase needed, void where prohibited. 97%

IamHop Godspeed You! Black Emperor essentially paved the way for what the post-rock scene has become today through their dramatic cult rise in the late 90’s. Treading upon rarely crossed musical territories back than, their music helped shape the post-rock genre with every release. And while there are those who will tell you that “Lift your Skinny Fists…” is the greatest post-rock release of all time, I’m not so sure I agree. I think that it’s a monumental album that’s certainly left a lasting legacy in the post-rock realm, but I could never call it the best. And now they’re back with their first album in 10 years, ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!‘ , which features four tracks, two of which that are 20 minutes each in classic GY!BE fashion. “Mladic” is doom and gloom heavily distorted grayness that feels overly dramatic and is a welcome addition to the band’s catalog. “We Drift Like Worried Fire” feels like the polar opposite of “Mladic” as it feels much more colorful and full of life, continuously building up and breaking down in all it’s glory. I feel a certain amount of helplessness trying to explain the magic behind an album like this. It’s really something that must not just be heard, but experienced as well. “Allelujah” is the type of music that speaks directly to my soul. 93%

Available digitally for $8 at Constellation Records

Up Next on Roundtable Review:  The Calm Blue Sea – Arrivals & Departures

Post-Rock Roundtable Review : Caspian – Waking Season – 93%

Waking Season cover art

Postrockstar is proud to present the first installment of Post-Rock Roundtable Reviews. In this series several of our writers will offer their take on one of the more popular current post-rock releases.  This week’s album is the much-anticipated “Waking Season” by Caspian!

Drew: Caspian are certainly one of the luminaries of the genre. Their track ‘The Raven’ from second album ‘Tertia‘ restored my faith not only in post-rock but in music all together. Their previous two albums are must-haves, as far as I’m concerned, and ‘Waking Season’ is the best one yet. In feeling it returns to the unease, insomnia and intensity of the first album, brings in a lot of the triumph from the second and discards a lot of the ambient, ethereal moments. That’s not to say that they’re gone all together! The title track, and album opener, start with a piano refrain building slowly but unstoppable for five minutes until it abruptly cuts off and the second track starts. This digital, on-off, vibe keeps your attention, startling at times and bombastic at others. Stand out tracks are  the folk tinged ‘Hickory ’54’, the glitch inspired ‘Halls of the Summer’ and the face-melting album closer (and what a way to close!) ‘Fire Made Flesh‘. Every note here is played with purpose. The show us just what is possible in Post-Rock; taking elements of electronica, math-rock, drone and folk they combine it all with their trademark sound to create one of the albums of the year.” – 96%

Erich –  “I’m new to Caspian and my take on this album is one of awe.  This masterfully recorded treasure is so emotive and beautiful that I’m kicking myself for not getting into the band earlier. From calm to peak, and everywhere in between, there’s a sense of purpose and hope. “Waking Season” has just jumped into my best of 2012 list.  Understated at times, grand and expansive at others, with all the elements that make post-rock great, but nothing cliché,“Waking Season” is a journey that any fan of post-rock, or music in general, will be glad they took. 93%

Bothra – ” I’ve been a fan of Caspian since You Are A Conductor debuted in 2005.  I’ve always thought of them along the same lines of Mogwai, EITS, TWDY, & ASIWYFA as top-tier talent in the ‘third wave.’ I honestly think Waking Season has strengthened my opinion of them as a band.  In this album, we see a band willing to experiment, branch out and doing it well. They bring in vocals (gasp!), electronics, pianos and much more interesting song structure that this style of music has so desperately needed for a long time. Still, to my ears, it is easily identifiable to be a Caspian album even taking that into account.  Fanboys will claim that the best track is Gone in Bloom and Bough, but I feel like it’s one of the weaker offerings.  They should have renamed that one ‘Myself’ because we hear that word around six hundred and seventy-three times.  I feel that really takes away from the excellent instrumental harmonies that are going on and makes me notice how long the track is.  Caspian keeps its tradition of melding separate songs amazingly well, the progression of Halls of the Summer through Hickory ‘54 is almost seamless – reminiscent of their first EP.  I love it when albums are presented as a whole, rather than the sum of individual songs slapped together.  The closing track Fire Made Flesh is my favorite on the album, it exemplifies the sound of the album and finishes it on a high note. The production on this album should be aspired to by all up and coming post-rock bands on bandcamp.  The huge sound really separates the men from the boys. Overall I think this album will end up as one of the staples of this style of music, possibly showing a trend to incorporate more than the standards that permeate lesser bands’ offerings.  I call it a must buy, and the band is a must see live.  94%

JacobMoss–  “Some days life just seems so right. Others pick up where you leave off and it’s just great to feel alive! This is where “Halls of summer” will leave you to feel on Caspian‘s 2012 release ‘Waking season’. But it doesn’t stop there. In fact, that is the first simple highlight that I noticed about the album. The beginning piano and guitar riffs delicately invite a listening experience into this post rock world, like in the song “Hickory ’54”. The album is full of little additives here and there to improve a chill vibe that the sound of the album brings you. It’s more than something that you can just tell your friends about. One of those things you just have to experience to understand. The sound is actually more a positive feedback from the adventure you began and concluded long ago. It is very reminiscent and intact to have the feel of the climax of a story well told. With the semblances keeping you enjoying it to the extreme of being on the edge of your seat, waiting in curiosity for what comes next. As far as a score would go I would give the album an 86 percentile. The sound was good and imaginative, but I would have liked to see more change ups throughout the entire album. Not that they didn’t include change ups within every song.. I would have just for the sake of producing taken a leap and made the changes in every song more abstract. It would do justice in the very essence of completion, and even pronounce the album that much more. – 86%

Shooter “‘Waking Season’ is Caspian‘s first album since 2009’s ‘Tertia‘ and it also marks the first time that a studio recording has truly captured the potency of this group’s brand of guitar-based post-rock. Caspian‘s music has always been triumphant and enveloping, but with the poor production quality of their previous albums, one had to see the band live to properly experience their ever-present potential. Not anymore. ‘Waking Season’ is Caspian fully realized; a celebration of what can be achieved when four guitars are in synchronous conversation, and we’re just lucky enough to be able to overhear it. The sounds are majestic, and the climbs and falls as organic as ever. ‘Waking Season’ isn’t unique (it’s post-rock, through and through), but what it is, is a near-perfect encapsulation of everything that the genre has been aspiring to for the past decade. The best in post-rock since Mono‘s ‘Hymn to the Immortal Wind?’ Quite possibly.” – 92%

Bryan  “Caspian’s newest is a concoction that every fan of post-rock should listen to. Instead of hiding in the ease of slow build-ups and epic breakdowns, Caspian evolves into more substantial realms. The opening track ushers away the old ideas of post-rock progression with a quite abrupt halt and moves into an album that combines elements of post-rock, ambiance, and even a touch of drone. The drums are pronounced; the riffs flow, and the vocals (you read that right) are used not as a headline, but as an additional instrument. Gone In Bloom and Bough will most likely be pointed to as the album’s defining song with its ambient textures and absorbing rhythm. Don’t miss this album, it is one of the best you’ll hear this year.” 95%

IamHop – At this point I’m not sure what I can tell you that hasn’t already been said about Caspian. Their last release, ‘Tertia‘ produced a plethora of strikingly similar sounding albums from bands desperately seeking musical influence. It really comes as no surprise to me that Caspian opted for a much different direction with ‘Waking Season.’  That’s simply what great and innovative bands do. They don’t follow trends or play it safe. They branch out of the comfort zone and experiment in an attempt to constantly evolve. This is the next big evolution in the sound of the well oiled post-rock machine. ‘Waking Season’ is the culmination of a band that’s been on the cusp of excellence for a long, long time taking that final step to the mountain top. In so many ways I struggle for the right words to explain the sounds of songs like “Porcellous” and “Halls of the Summer.” because this is the type of music that is better experienced than explained. This is perhaps the best hour of post-rock that has ever been engineered inside the studio. There are no technical faults to be found. With some of the richest, deepest distortion and layering I’ve ever heard, an increased presence in electronic and glitchy elements and an album overflowing with colorful and full of life tones, ‘Waking Season’ is truly an unforgettable album that will continue to get better with age. The foundation has been broken and Caspian is yet again at the helm of another revolution. A must listen to album of 2012.  96%

Final Score: 93%

Available on Amazon and Itunes
Free streaming available on bandcamp:

On the next Post-Rock Roundtable:  Godspeed You! Black Emperor – ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!