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Post-rock Essentials

Here's what I would consider to be the essential post-rock records. I feel like it can definitely be nailed down to 30 or so (and much less if I were to put one per artist considering about 1/3 of these albums come from the three same artists), with a few honorable mentions.
32Gregor Samsa
31Explosions In The Sky
The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place

Arguing over the merits of this band is downright silly considering I'm sure all of you have heard "Your Hand In Mine." Say what you want abut post-rock in general or this style of supposedly stale post-rock, but I simply don't see how anyone hears that song as anything less than perfect. It's a shame the band has taken such a sharp downhill turn, since.
30Ghastly City Sleep
Ghastly City Sleep

No matter what they do, this band carries a unmistakable, harrowing moodiness to them that distinguishes them from the rest. With smooth vocals and very pristine chords and arrangements, Ghastly City Sleep deserve a nod for their quiet achievement with their self-titled, even though I prefer the stranger explorations in their next record.
29Yndi Halda
Enjoy Eternal Bliss

Yndi Halda unabashedly indulges in some of the most obvious use of post-rock cliches throughout Enjoy Eternal Bliss, but manages to be endearing and impressive at the same time. The record is so immersive and beautiful it makes you want to forgive Yndi Halda for using the exact same devices that make hundreds of other post-rock bands unlistenably boring.
Sing The Word Hope In Four-Part Harmony

As one of the most technically proficient albums here, Sing The Word Harmony and its guitar-centric approach create a bombastic album that holds your attention throughout its runtime. Heavy on the rock and light on the ambience and atmosphere that defines most of the releases here is what works in Maybeshewill?s favor, and the album is personified by its straightforward, no-bullshit approach.
E Luxo So

Understated and atmospheric, Labradford's penultimate album is a post-rock must-hear not by being dynamic or particularly moving but rather by its precision and sense of carefully-constructed ambiance. The purely-instrumental piece is calming and stoic, but manages to be engaging throughout as well due to interesting melodies that are never over-indulgent (avoiding one of the main pitfalls of this style).
26Mono / Worlds End Girlfriend
Palmless Prayer / Mass Murder Refrain

It's a tad ironic that the list almost begins not only with the style of post-rock I appreciate the least, but with the artist that?s the poster-child for it- Mono. Despite this, this beautifully-crafted split relies on crescendos and the like but does so tastefully. This restraint (assumably brought on by WEG and his masterful use of strings) allots the split an overwhelming sense of sadness and despair, perhaps more-so than any other album on this list, and for that it deserves the accolades.
25World's End Girlfriend
Hurtbreak Wonderland

Though this Japanese guy has gone a little crazy since this release, Hurtbreak Wonderland reaches heights that are undeniably beautiful and serene. It?s bands like this that make me sure I'm not missing anything by un-including Sigur Ros and their boring counterparts, because artists like World's End Girlfriend know how to keep this simplistic style interesting.
24The Ascent Of Everest
How Lonely Sits The City

Something of an anomaly, The Ascent Of Everest may not be the most technically proficient or objectively defensible bands on this list, but they carry with them an undeniable x-factor that makes them essential in my eyes. Light and airy, How Lonely Sits The City is an exercise in serenity and restraint gone right.
Raising Your Voice... Trying to Stop an Echo
22Set Fire To Flames
Sings Reign Rebuilder

Dark atmosphere, quiet moments of ambiance, and an obscured album cover? Sings Reign Rebuilder could have easily been another failed Godspeed clone. Rather, it turns out to be a rather adept Godspeed clone. Calling them a clone sells the music short a little; the projects share a few members, after all. The album succeeds in melding atypical post-rock song structure (devoid of many climaxes) with the emotive feel and near-instrumental prowess of bands like the aforementioned, as well as other Canadian post-rockers. That being said, the album loses some steam in that it?s far too long for its own good.
21Dirty Three
Horse Stories

Dirty Three's best album (others will argue it?s actually Ocean Songs, but screw them) does an amazing job at embodying the more jam-band-esque side of post-rock with its unrehearsed and organic feel. The album flows nicely, and definitely doesn't get too caught up in itself or drag. Also, anything with such lovely use of a string section is simply impossible not to love. This album set some important precedents for later artists like Do Make Say Think that would take this style to new heights.
20The Best Pessimist
To Whom It May Concern
19Jaga Jazzist
What We Must

With Jaga Jazzist, we arrive at the first album on the list that doesn?t conform quite as well to normal post-rock standards. I'd argue that this usually tends to be a positive as opposed to something worth arguing over. From the sprawling, irregular melodies and epic proportions of What We Must, it's easy to hear the fact the band is actually rather large. With strong touches of jazz, electronic, prog rock, and the whimsicalness of Zappa, What We Must is as fully realized and diverse as we?ve ever heard Jaga Jazzist.
18Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas...
17Lights Out Asia
Eyes Like Brontide

Moody and harrowing, Eyes Like Brontide is as resonant as any other here, barring maybe F#A#. The album embodies an interesting combination of post-rock and electronic as well as samples, and it all fits together very coherently.
16Bark Psychosis

An absolute classic of the genre, it'd be an unmistakable slight to place Bark Psychosis any lower. With its gloomy, smooth vocals and wandering guitars, Hex is very much a continuation of the Talk Talk line of post-rock-thought. And while it may not surpass the aforementioned, Hex is still a beautiful and necessary addition to any post-rock list.
15Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra
He Has Left Us Alone...

As full as this list is of Constellation output, there's still bound to be naysayers saying "so and so" was left off. I?d be surprised if that doesn't happen with A Silver Mt. Zion, who have a slew of records that could easily be here. I chose this one, though, because -in the right setting- it has the potential to truly devour a listener like no other. Quiet and almost mechanic, this is the group at their most haunting, and I love it.
People Like People Like You

Post-rock-lite in every sense, Spokes' EP provides what is probably the perfect entry point to the genre. Short, to-the-point, and lovable, Spokes cut the fat off of a bloated genre and still create a mind-blowing piece of art in (the wonderfully titled) People Like People Like You. Though they would later travel territory better left to Arcade Fire, I can always count on this Spokes record to brighten my mood and remind me that post-rock need not be pretentious.
13Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada
12Storm and Stress
Storm and Stress

Normally, when three crazy Canadians get together and act like they're a post-hardcore/math-rock band but instead perform some free jazz, the result would be enticing. Because one of those musicians happens to be Ian Williams (Don Caballero, Battles), the result is downright amazing. Screw his other bands though, Storm and Stress's self-titled is spazzy goodness; and even though it might not be pure post-rock, it definitely is post-rock-ey.

Systems/Layers is probably Rachel's' most full-band approach. So sorrowful, it takes only one listen to "Water From The Same Source" to realize that you've stumbled onto something extremely special. While it may not be as cohesive or entrancing as a whole as the other two Rachel's entries here, Systems/Layers is perhaps more memorable because of the slew of standout tracks.
10Do Make Say Think
Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn

A near-perfect display of organization and composition, this threesome of threesomes is many a favorite of Do Make Say Think fans. Between distortion, jazz-influence, and guitars galore, it's simply amazing that the band keeps so much composure throughout. It also deserves a mention that "Fredericia" is simply one of the greatest tracks ever.
9Youth Pictures Of Florence Henderson
Unnoticeable In A Tiny Town, Invisible In The City
Music For Egon Schiele

The perfect album to be swept away by, Music For Egon Schiele is Rachel's' most straightforward classical and minimalist work. The strings are evocative and whimsical, and carry you far away to another place, another time. In this sense, it?s fitting that the album is a companion piece to a documentary. In my eyes, it surpasses any other film score (based on its own merit, not the film's) and fits in nicely to one of the most illustrious post-rock (using this term loosely) discographies.
7A Bunny's Caravan
Draining Puddles, Retrieving Treasures

In all my subjective honesty, I would probably place this above all the others were I ranking my favorite records here; but in the context of a strictly post-rock list, I can?t in good conscience do so. A Bunny's Caravan exemplifies the sweetness that can come from the melding of other genres into post-rock, and they've ever-so-subtly created one of the most cohesive and appealing albums ever in the dually epic and endearing Draining Puddles, Retrieving Treasures. Between the post-rock and Midwestern emo there?s a quality here that gets pretty close to perfection.
6Do Make Say Think
You, You're A History In Rust

"Organic" best describes this record. Throughout the little puffs of air in-between creaking guitars and sweeping violins you can feel the life that the band breathes into this record. It's a heartwarming feel, the dexterous band at their most human. It might not be the most impressive DMST record compositionally or emotionally, but there's definitely a wholeness to the album that makes it seem like it could be one of post-rock's best overall outputs.
The Sea And The Bells
4Talk Talk
Laughing Stock
2Godspeed You! Black Emperor
F#A# (Infinity)
1Do Make Say Think
Goodbye Enemy Airship the Landlord Is...

I know I won't receive much agreement in what I've placed as the number one most essential post-rock album, but that's okay. I think it highlights one of the genres most important facets- the music's blank-slate-like ability to mean much different things to different listeners. Do Make Say Think's magnus opus highlights this perfectly. It rolls everything I consider emotive, unexpected, engaging, dynamic, and downright amazing into one weird little catastrophic symphony. From the bombastic "When Day Chokes The Night" to the closing title track, Goodbye Enemy Airship The Landlord Is Dead is the epitome of an essential post-rock record.
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