A compendium:The Tallest Man on Earth
- Shallow Graves
Superior country-folk from...Sweden. Seriously. And it's really really good. A crackled deep-south voice (I presume it's affected!), stupendous guitar fingerpicking and, crucially, cathcy memorable songs. Great stuff, and a good sign of more to come.
Key track: 'Pistol Dreams'
6/10Steve Von Till
- A Grave Is A Grim Horse
The Neurosis lynchpin's latest solo work is a masterpiece of dark folk, coming across like an even more depressed Mark Lanegan. Excellent choice of covers which von Till absolutely makes his own. The pedal steel weeps, the songs envelope you in their black wonder, and that voice glides over it all like sandpaper. Excellent.
Key track: 'Looking For Dry Land'
- Nude With Boots
More Melvins meets Big Business shenanigans. Not as good as their previous collaboration '(A) Senile Animal', but an average Melvins album is better than most of the stuff you'll hear all year. For me, something was lacking from this release, save for a couple of truly excellent songs, especially the riff heavy 'The Smiling Cobra'.
Key track: 'The Smiling Cobra'
This album has floored me this year. The greatest stoner-pop one is ever likely to hear, and surpasses their previous benchmark self-titled album twofold. Insanely catchy, massively riffy, and flawlessly executed.
Key track: 'Across The Shields'
Post-rock that dares to step away from the pack, and justifies their status as figureheads among genre fans.
Key track: 'Versus'
- A Fondness For Hometown Scars
Not as good as his earlier solo work or his work in Life Of Agony in my opinion, but a really good listen nonetheless. That voice gets me everytime.
Key track: 'In This Life (Wake Up And Smell The Bodies)'
More piano-led gorgeousness from these post-rock cats. This album needs a few more listens to comprehend, but even on preliminary listens it shines like a beacon. The twin vocal harmonies are stunning.
Key track: 'The Adolescent'
Layered and beautiful shoegaze. The songwriting is key here, and sets this band apart from the pack. A brilliant, unexpected release.
Key track: 'Alarmist'
8.5/10Cult of Luna
- Eternal Kingdom
Once more the Swedish progressive metal overlords deliver the goods, adding to their claustrophobic and intense sound with flourishes of trumpet and mariachi. Seriously! A wonderfully dark and very heavy offering, 'Eternal Kingdom' will slowly share its secrets for many months to come.
Key track: 'Ghost Trail'
Fuzzed out instrumental psych-rock, designed to crush craniums and soundtrack a particularly nihilistic bong session. These boys were extremely unfluential on the fledgling 'post-metal' scene, and their sound can be heard in bands from Pelican to Torche. Excellent.
Key track: 'News I'
- Western Sky Ride
I had the great pleasure of reviewing this album for The Silent Ballet. Exquisite southern-fried post-metal, with some truly original vocals. Dark and mysterious, but no less brilliant for it.
Key track: 'Thunderclap Stomps'
- A Warm Wooden Hollow
Simply one of the finest ambient releases I've heard since Loscil's 'Plume'. Droning without being oppressive, and organic enough to be as warm as its title suggests.
Key track: 'Written On Driftwood'
Dark ambient straight out of Toledo, Ohio. The much more restrained and sedate alter-ego of breakcore lunatic Blaerg. Good stuff, if not completely earth-shattering.
Key track: 'Conjunction'
6/10Mouth of the Architect
Entirely in awe of Cult Of Luna's 'Somewhere Along The Highway', but Mota's inventive streak is genuine. Some really good ideas lurk beneath the post-metal rumble.
Key track: 'Hate And Heartache'
- Aphorisms EP
A lack of variation could hamper Red Sparowes forthcoming full-length, but the three tracks on this EP are wonderfully dexterous and enveloping. A nice taster of things to come, the playing is as superb as always.
Key track: 'We Left The Apes To Rot, But Find The Fang Grows Within'
Still as nasty as they want to be, Unearthly Trance return with more filthy, nihilistic blackened sludge. Downright horrible, but in a good way.
Key track: 'Diseased'
- Secrets And Lies
Welsh power-trio Taint remain an undiscovered secret, but their Mastodon-meets-Kyuss stoner metal is as good as anything I've heard from the genre in a long, long time. Riff-heavy, but not lacking in some truly brilliant songwriting.
Key track: 'Goddamn This City'
- Haunt Me When I'm Drowsy
Into an Irish music scene deprived of original content or musical nous comes Halves, coming across like Sigur Ros crossing swords with Gregor Samsa, Radiohead and God Is An Astronaut. Very nice stuff indeed, and the most refreshing sound to emanate from Ireland in some time.
Key track: 'Medals'
5.5/10The Gaslight Anthem
- The '59 Sound
Imagine Green Day singing Bruce Springsteen songs. A breath of fresh air in the tepid world of pop/rock. This album will either disappear into oblivion or make TGA a viable mainstream proposition.
Key track: 'Great Expectations'
- As The Snow Fell
Wickedly inventive ambience from the UK. Already heralded in the IDM scene, Iambic is a great talent, and one to look out for in the future for sure.
Key track: 'Close Of Day'
Typically crushing stuff from this prog-metal lot, but a lot better than their disappointing last release, 'Catch33'. Furious, intense, and riff heavy.
Key track: 'Bleed'
A much easier listen than their 'In The Shadow Of The Black Palm Tree' album. Despite the completely awful filler noise of the second track, contains some flagrant Melvins worship that produces some neat riffs and two fine tracks that bookend the album.
Key track: 'Eveler'
- Mist Through Your Consciousness
It's their debut release, so you can empathise with this French lot for paying homage to their influences so. Echoes of Cult Of Luna, Red Sparowes and Pelican abound, but they ply their trade with a rare talent and aplomb. The next release has potential to be excellent.
Key track: 'Wollemia'
- The Hawk Is Howling
The endlessly progressive Glaswegians return in fine fettle. Coming across like a mix between their Come On Die Young and Mr. Beast albums, THIH displays just why they're so well respected and admired in the post-rock scene. Occasionally spellbinding, always entertaining.
Key track: 'I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead'
- Med Sud i Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust
An album of two halves: The first joyful and exuberant, the second almost unbearably morose, but absolutely compelling and beautiful. A better release than Takk... for me, and some of the songs are among the best things the Icelandic quartet have ever put their name to. 'Ara Batur' remains ridiculously overcooked and OTT, however!
Key track: 'Fljotavik'
- A Collection Of Thoughts
No-one was more surprised than me when Ben released this. A modern classical album that heralds real talent. Looking forward to his next release a lot, although the self-help titles on ACOT are not really my cup of tea.
Key track: 'A Calm Yet Determined Wind'
- The Way Of All Flesh
If only all modern metal was as forward thinking as this. Heavy as a big bag of elephants, but not without its own individual quirks. 'A Sight To Behold' sounds like it could be Timbaland produced death metal!
Key track: 'Toxic Garbage Island'
7/10The American Dollar
- A Memory Stream
Superior post-rock, with Gilmour-esque guitar lines floating over slowly dilating melodies. Lovely stuff, one that places them in the upper echelons of the genre.
Key track: 'Call'
8/10Antony and the Johnsons
- Another World EP
A disappointing release, considering how inspirational his last album was. Bookended by two great songs, but the other three are patchy and frankly odd. Bring on the full length, and more torch songs!
Key track: 'Hope Mountain'
- Pool Of Dark Matter/Light The Lights
Bland and directionless dark ambient. Nothing more needs to be said.
Key track: 'Et In Arcadia Ego'
4/10Lights at Sea
- Lights At Sea EP
The debut effort from these Michigan fellows doesn't push the envelope in any way, confining itself shamelessly to fly under the post-rock flag. But damn, they do a good job of it. The quiet-loud formula is overused, but now and again their melodic bravado will raise the hairs on your arms. Promising.
Key track: '19'
Dark and often gobsmackingly brilliant, Murray Lightburn's latest incarnation of The Dears is less guitar-based than before, leading one magzine to dub Missiles an analogue Kid A. Which is fine by me. One of the surprises of the year, rare heart and soul.
Key track: 'Meltdown In A Major'