I was just reading my buddy Carter's article on Austin's The Calm Blue Sea over at Ovrld and lamenting the fact that he still hasn't been able to really get into Post Rock. I know, it's one of those dumb genre names that doesn't make any sense, most don't. I could go on at length about genre names and my love/hate relationship with them. Simply put, "Post Rock" stands for "post modern rock" and music under this label can probably be most easily described as instrumental rock. The differences between most Post Rock and say ... a Joe Satriani album is that Post Rock generally features lengthy tracks and eschew the typical "verse-chorus-verse" format of most mainstream rock. Beyond that I've heard as much variation in bands given the Post Rock label as in any other genre.
In my capacity as a self-proclaimed guru of non-mainstream music I have decided to aid poor Carter and others who wish to know more about this genre called Post Rock and so have created a So You Want to Get Into Post Rock? Spotify playlist. This list features several bands and albums that I feel best represent the genre in its many forms:
Album: You, You're a History in Rust
Easily one of my favorite Post Rock albums. Do Make Say Think is a band that seems to be constantly evolving. Often featuring a wide variety of instruments from banjos and horns to pianos and guitars, Do Make Say Think play multi-textured music that describes an undulating landscape of sound complete with serene valleys and challenging peaks. You, You're a History in Rust is in my opinion the most complete showcase of what this group is capable of.
And So I Watch You From Afar might be Ireland's best kept secret. This album is simply too audacious to be a debut, it's too slick, too solid, too fucking brutal. While it has a decidedly more metal edge than most Post Rock and certainly more so than the band's second LP, And So I Watch You From Afar is still very much a Post Rock album and manages to be both epically brutal and quietly grandiose at the same time.
Album: On Little Known Frequencies
Post Rock meets Post Hardcore meets politics. Featuring a brilliant blend of guitars, synthesizers, and often politically charged sound bites, From Monument to Masses always deliver incredibly powerful and moving music. On Little Known Frequencies may be my favorite of their releases thus far and "Beyond God and Elvis" and "An Ounce of Prevention" may be two of the bands best songs ever. The former provided the denouement for my 2009 epic year end mix "Citizen A in the Palace of Endless Waking" and the later prominently features an excerpt from Mario Savio's famous 1964 UC Berkley speech. Moving stuff.
Album: Young Team
Scotland's Mogwai tend to be one of the Post Rock bands that most people (in my day anyway) first got into the genre with and while I've become less interested in them over time, Young Team remains a watershed moment for both the band and the genre. Often seen as progenitors of the loud-quiet-loud sound found in so much Post Rock these days, on Young Team Mogwai show themselves to be true masters of the form and remain an influence in the genre to this day.
Album: Addicts and Drunks
Along with Joan of Arc and Make Believe, Ghosts and Vodka are one of several bands made up of former members of the punk/emo oddity that was Cap'n Jazz. While featuring shorter, mathier songs than most Post Rock, they still manage to fit the requirements in their own unique fashion. From haunting and airy instrumental guitar ballads to more experimental noise jams, Ghosts and Vodka display an impressive range and a lot of talent while still remaining more or less punk in sound and execution.
Album: The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place
There are plenty of decent albums to choose from when it comes to this Austin success story, but The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place has always been my favorite. As a primarily guitar-based group, Explosions in the Sky output a raw, angular sound that still manages to be both serene and soaring when required. The emotion telegraphed by this album is one of the reasons it resonates so much with me and also stands as a testament to one of the genre's core conceit's: the ability to relate to people and move them through rock and roll almost entirely devoid of lyrics.
NOTE: Of course, this is just a primer. There are plenty of other amazing Post Rock acts. These just happen to be a few of my favorites and hopefully a gateway drug for the uninitiated. For further listening see: Godspeed You Black Emperor, Dianogah, Maserati, Beware of Safety, The Octopus Project, and of course the further works of the bands listed above.