Post-rock at its best is an ideal soundtrack for car chases, interstellar combat and nighttime prowls on the Serengeti. The music is composed with rock instruments–guitar, drums, swagger, etc.–but isn't chained to standard verse-chorus-verse structures. Instead, these songs rise and fall with dynamic changes in volume, tone and delay-soaked time signature shifts. Vocals are usually absent, since these artists aren't trying to bludgeon that catchy hook into your skull 346 times in four minutes or less. Here is our list of the 10 Best Post Rock Bands.
Post-rock arguably owes more to Tortoise than any other group, but don't tell them that – the band has swirled through jazz, krautrock, dub and dance music, and chafes under attempts at pigeonholing. "Seneca," the lead track from their fourth album, is a modern classic – be sure to stick around through the two-minute mark, when the fuzzy instrumental freakout locks into a mutant groove.
Balmorhea, "Fake Fealty"
Keeping Austin weird since 2006, Balmorhea began life as a quiet, minimalist sextet built around strings, acoustic guitars and soft, plinking piano parts. Their scope has expanded with each new record, incorporating the odd electric guitar and punchy drum fill on songs like "Fake Fealty," from the band's fourth full-length. (Also, it's pronounced Bal-more-ray, so please correct your friends.)
The Mercury Program, "The Secret to Quiet"
All the Suits Began To Fall Off (EP), 2001
Florida's The Mercury Program scrapes off Tortoise's esoteric and experimental edges, replacing them with a focused and user-friendly sound centered on Tom Reno's guitar and Whit Travisano's vibraphone. "The Secret to Quiet," which is anything but, will make you reconsider what music from Florida can sound like.
Past, Present, Future, 2012
Lite is an instrumental rock foursome from Tokyo, Japan, and like other Japanese imports, the band is known for precision and just the right amount of speed. Often associated with math-rock (post-rock's nerdy cousin), Lite's angular, sharp-edged riffage jumps can jump from moody to megalomaniacal between eyeblinks.
Maserati, "This Is A Sight We Had One Day From The High Mountain"
Inventions For the New Season, 2007
Maserati comes from Georgia, and put out a split EP with The Mercury Program in 2003. The spacey stoned drone of "…High Mountain" is clearly the perfect song for a workout.
The only band on the list to land on a Twilight soundtrack, Battles blew up with the release of Mirrored before personal and personnel issues forced a four-year break between albums. "Atlas," like the rest of Mirrored, is a hodgepodge of prog rock, warped vocals and time-shifting special effects, played with a wink and a smile.
Mogwai, "The Sun Smells Too Loud"
The Hawk Is Howling, 2008
The Scottish monolith that is Mogwai been making dynamic, mostly instrumental music since 1995, and released their most recent album, Rave Tapes, in January. "The Sun Smells Too Loud" brings the warmth, and sounds like summer road trip listening for playful androids.
The Samuel Jackson Five, "Never-Ending Now"
The Samuel Jackson Five, 2012
The Samuel Jackson Five, despite their thoroughly American name, has been exporting post-rock from Oslo, Norway, since 2002. This leadoff track from their self-titled record flirts with samples and synthesizers before building a song around drums and bells, making you forget that the latter usually belongs in sleepy Christmas music.
Russian Circles, "Geneva"
Russian Circles, despite their thoroughly Russian name, is from Chicago and belongs to boutique LA record label Sargent House. The metal-est band on the list, this instrumental trio crafts complex hard rock soundscapes for the cerebral headbanger in your life.
Jaga Jazzist, "Prognissekongen"
One Armed Bandit, 2010
Norway's Jaga Jazzist started out blending jazz and proto-EDM in the 90s, but their advance into post-rock wasn't complete until the release of One Armed Bandit, which included production work by Tortoise's John McEntire. The slow guitar fade-in of "Prognissekongen" feints toward a Tortoise-style dirge before the drums and horns catch fire.