Way back in 2012, our very first Top 20 list was led by Godspeed You! Black Emperor and included albums by Sigur Rós, Caspian and Anoice. 2021 was a strong year for post-rock, and 2022 less so; but we have high hopes for 2023. Some of the biggest bands have kept us waiting: DMST for six years and WEG for seven, so long that people may not recognize their acronyms. In the interim, new bands have stepped up and are redefining the term for a younger generation. Post-rock may be harder than ever to describe, mutating year by year, but it’s not going anywhere.
This is the last part of our Winter Music Preview; be sure to peruse our Upcoming Releases page to stay informed on new announcements and pre-orders!
Our cover image is Lambert’s All This Time on Verve Records.
Rock and Post-Rock
There may be more lyrics than usual on the new Hammock album, described as their “loudest album to date,” but the classic Hammock sound is intact. Perhaps it’s better to say that the album sounds liberating, recorded on the other side of isolation and grief. Those who like to wear their influences on their literal sleeve may also order the bandana, t-shirt, hoodie and jacket. Love in the Void will see the light of day on January 27, fittingly released on the Hammock Music label.
A 90s influence is apparent on Unwed Sailor‘s Mute the Charm, its New Year’s Day release making it one of the first albums of the year. The tracks are catchy, upbeat and pleasantly retro, an aural reflection of Janus, who simultaneously looks forward and back. Those who enjoyed the happier tracks of The Cure may find a new lover to embrace here (Spartan Records). Often the Thinker returns on March 1 with Sincere Insanity, and is currently taking pre-orders for what they hope will be a vinyl release. We can vouch for the band as the single is solid, the last album was spectacular, one of the band members wrote for us once upon a time and there’s a DMST connection! The Royal Arctic Institute impressed us last year with the languid From Catnip to Coma; this year they return with a sequel titled From Coma to Catharsis. In between the two, the band released two holiday singles, one on their own website and the other on Already Dead Tapes, who also hosts both EPs (February 4).
Leipzig’s jeffk is described as “dystopian post-rock.” The band exudes a post-metal influence, with hard riffs and a sense of impending disaster. TAR channels the lyrics of Joni Mitchell (“they paved paradise and put up a parking lot”) but has no sonic resemblance. (Golden Antenna, January 20). Vienna’s Bulbul is similarly heavy, introducing Silence! by quoting John Cage and insisting he is not an influence, while using straight lines as track titles. We’ll let the audience decide (Rock Is Hell, February 28). Given the choice, would you wish to wash your memories away or to preserve them forever? Post-metal band Le temps du loup poses the question in dramatic style, with guitars that swirl and snarl and finally erupt. Leteo is out January 27 on dunk!records.
Classic guitar rock is represented by Florian Hamela, who incorporates a choir and strings for additional flair. ECHOES sounds a bit like an instrumental 38 Special, and is released on January 20. El Supremo‘s Acid Universe looks and sounds like the prog-psych set that it is. In this case, one can judge an album by its cover! The album is released February 24 on Argonauta.
MEM_MODS is funky and Sherwood-esque, with a healthy sampling of horns. Volume 1 is released February 24, preceded by a pair of short DIY videos (Peabody Records). Ici d’ailleurs‘ Mind Travels series begins its tenth year with a collaboration. Geins’t Nait + Scanner + L.Petitgand join forces on the expansive OLA, which claims an industrial pedigree but is hard to pigeonhole, shifting between drums and drone, enhanced by field recordings and occasionally distorted words. If this were physical travel, it would come with a warning (February 3). And perhaps the strangest album of the season comes from PoiL Ueda, its curious nature obvious from the art alone. The self-titled album is a collaboration between the French band and vocalist-satsuma-biwa player Junko Ueda, while the subject matter ranges from naval to spiritual battle (Dur & Doux, March 3).
Folk, Jazz, World
Pacific Walker (formerly known as ODAWAS) calls their brand of music “mycelium folk,” and punctuates the association by putting mushrooms on the cover. Their self-titled album draws from various styles, including throat singing, sampling and drone, while remaining a psychedelic journey (Bluesankt, January 13). The debut album from the Mohammed Zatari Trio features a setup of tar, tabla and oud, with musicians from Syria, Iran and India. Istehlel may sound like world music to some, but to others it will sound like home (Zehra, January 27). Three “divine ragas” are offered by Manish Pingle on Samarpan; the Indian slide guitar player is joined by famed tabla player Uday Kulkharni (Ramble Records, January 6).
Formerly found in our Modern Composition section, Lambert switches to straight-up jazz on All This Time, insisting that he’s been a jazz pianist all along. The album is out March 10 on Verve, already preceded by an accessible string of singles. el espacio entre (the space between) is a perfect name for the new album from Refree, as it lands between genres. Acoustic guitar is the main instrument, bearing hints of folk and modern composition, but then those beats arrive, hinting at a wider arena (Tak:til/Glitterbeat, January 20).
Stephen Ulrich‘s Music from This American Life is just as described, Americana written for the radio show of the same name. The music conjures the open spaces of the American Southwest, although Ulrich and his instrumental trio Big Lazy are from New York. Childish Mind might surprise listeners used to hearing a more electronic palette from Jonathan Bockelmann; these pensive acoustic guitar pieces represent a different side of the artist (Squama, February 17).
The Necks‘s double LP Travel is led by a 17-minute single, proving that the improvisational ensemble has no particular desire to make the pop charts. The amusing irony is that these four tracks are shorter than their usual fare, so one might say that they are ever-so-slowly moving in that direction after all (Northern Spy, February 24). 32 seconds is all one can hear to preview Real Timpani‘s The Great Torre, but the snippet is indicative of the tone: live and electronic, with lead trumpet and a spirit of improvisation (Funclab, February 4). This same spirit inhabits Cicadas Are Sensitive to Parallel Lines, from Iowa City improvisational post-rock duo Moscow Puzzles. As the duo writes, “less is more” (January 23).