~An article by Jordan Volz


25) Tarentel | We Move Through Weather
United States

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Label: Temporar Residence Limited

We Move Through Weather must be Tarentel's most ambitious piece of work yet, for it appears that this San Francisco act aims to capture the spirit of the skies and harness its fluid nature. From open, spacey compositions to thundering, chaotic arrangements, We Move Through Weather takes a snapshot of blue skies, thunderstorms, and everything in between. The fluidity of the album is never compromised as Tarentel transitions smoothly between layers of the atmosphere and commands the elements like a masterful professional. The longer tracks on the album profess an undying interest in sophisticated arrangements and are influenced heavily by natural phenomenon and Mother Nature herself. At times We Move Through Weather does wear the listener's patience thin; sparse instrumentation, combined with an experimental bent and the occasional misfire steadily become unnerving on repeated listens. This might be a desired effect of the album, but it's likely to turn some ears away from the sound. Tarentel demonstrates itself to be progressing naturally years into its already impressive career, but it needs to be careful to keep everything tightly bound together.

Key Tracks: Klankity-Klank; Bump Past, Cut Up Through Windows; A Cloud No Bigger Than a Man's Head


24) Tulsa Drone | No Wake
United States

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Label: Dry County Records

While not providing any sort of "drone" in the traditional sense, No Wake hits hard and often with the bass dulcimer. Tulsa Drone struts into the album like Clint Eastwood in one of those old Western flicks. We're talking about real style here -- the kind that no amount of production can provide. The powerful guitar riffs and silencing drum beats establish the band's authoratative command and there isn't a moment where Tulsa Drone lets this control loose. No Wake is a good example of why force isn't necessary to harness a controlling sound in instrumental music. With a bit of imagination and an excellent approach to song-writing, Tulsa Drone takes over the position of town sheriff without firing a single bullet. What's classier than that? Trumpet accompaniment, that's what. Tulsa Drone takes care of business on No Wake, and with an attitude as sharp as it has, I'm excited to see where this quartet goes on the next record.

Key Tracks: Chiaroscuro; Honch Toro; The Devil Changes Colors


23) Joy Wants Eternity | Must We Smash Your Ears Before You Learn to Listen With Your Eyes EP
United States

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Label: Magnets Large and Small

Although Washington is well known for bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Death Cab for Cutie, it's had a hard time putting an instrumental act on the map, especially as Unwed Sailor keeps receiving mixed reviews. Joy Wants Eternity aims to change that. Must We Smash Your Ears... follows the post-rock mentality of acts like Explosions in the Sky and Mogwai with powerfully sculpted songs of tantalizing emotions and deeply rooted catharsis. With tracks like "Abide! Moment" and "What Fell From the Moon Last Night," Joy Wants Eternity lets the organic richness of the music take over and narrate the story down this rocky road. The scorching effect of the guitar pedals and swift beat of the drums finish the job from there. Unfortunately, a big portion of this band's appeal is the visual component experienced at the live show, which obviously is not translated into the DVD-less EP. However, with enough imagination Must You Smash Your Ears... allows us to create our own visual masterpiece as a fitting accompaniment.

Key Tracks: For We Had No Road; Abide! Moment; What Fell Down from the Moon Last Night


22) Magyar Posse | Kings of Time
Finland

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Label: Verdura Records

My main qualm with Kings of Time is that it almost plays like a case studies of Sigur Ros's Von. Almost. The dark ambiance influence is a strong one on the album, and it's readily apparent where Magyar Posse is drawing its influence from. But let's be honest, in retrospect, Von was pretty boring and I bet 99 out of 100 Sigur Ros fans have barely touched the album since Ágaetis Byrjun came out. Kings of Time may then serve as a "what if?" What if Sigur Ros didn't go down the road that led them to Ágaetis Byrjun? What if Radiohead hadn't taken them on tour and exposed them to the world several times over? What if Magyar Posse picked up were Von left off and took it to the next level? The answer: it is a spectacular experience and everyone should bathe in its radiant glory. Magyar Posse paints a haunting portrait that is filled with swirling atmospherics and exploding finales. No string quartet or brass section is needed; Magyar Posse handle all the tricks themselves. Kings of Time definitely goes down as one of the more bizarre creations of the year, but the question is thus posed: What does this band have in store for the future?

Key Tracks: 2, 3, 7


21) Russian Circles | Russian Circles EP
United States

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Label: Self-Released

Russian Circles is proof that the really determined musicians stop at nothing to fulfill their dreams. As quickly as Dakota-Dakota had bite the dust, Russian Circles was rising from its grave in a burst of flames and the self-titled EP shows that this process has rejuvenated the band and almost immediately brought it to a efflorescent state. While sharing a practice space with the likes of Pelican, Russian Circles may have picked up a thing or two about this so called "post-rock" movement, and how exactly it can be superimposed onto metallic compositions. The four tracks demonstrate an intelligent approach to song writing as the band balances sophisticated metallic breakdowns with a study in patient, melodic segues. The result surely speaks for itself, as it's either one of the most rocking releases a post-rock fan will indulge himself in or one of the most artful releases a metalhead fan will appreciate.

Key Tracks: Carpe; Death Rides a Dead Horse; You Already Did


20) Opion Somnium | Side Projects: Operae Spererae/Opus Somniferous
United States

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Label: Goodnight Moon Music

Hailing from the humble state of New Mexico, Opion Somnium throw around experimental and classical influences like no other band. While the collective's 2002 album, Ascend and Descend With Features in Hand failed to bring them the notoriety it so deserved, the disc of side projects is a much more modern and appealing listen. "Will Our Eyes See a New Day" plays like a collaboration between Sigur Ros and Rachel's as neo-classical movements embrace an ever-present experimental edge where instrumentation is changed so readily it's difficult to keep track of exactly who's playing what. Much of the album follows form, challenging the listener with new sounds that are simultaneously punishing and forgiving; the music sheds a small light of optimism, but it's often lost within all the gloomy subcontext. Although Opion Somnium has shown itself to be quite a thrilling listen in the past, Side Projects: Operae Spererae/Opus Somniferous takes the listener to places the band never ventured before, and that is truly the remarkable sign of a great artist

Key Tracks: Will Our Eyes See a New Day; Farewell Lovely; Remember Me When You Fly Away


19) Grails | Red Light
United States

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Label: Neurot Recordings

Red Light starts off sloppy. "Dargai" is like that time when you were eavesdropping on your parents fighting through the kitchen door and accidentally pushed too hard and fell right on your face in the middle of the room as their accusatory eyes weighed down on your conscious. It begins clumsily and then takes some time to regain its posture and re-establish its presence. This is a taste of the avant-garde and a sign that Grails won't be spoon feeding music to the audience. The reoccurring theme in Red Light is the juxtaposition of "pretty" passages with very refined and controled outbursts of energy. It's a play on the idea that one can't really exist in a pure state without the other, and Grails does a fantastic job extracting both of these approaches are stripping them down to their essentials. Down below all the strings and piano keys and crashing drums there's really a lot of thought powering Red Light.

Key Tracks: Dargai; High and Low; Word Made Flesh


18) Valley of the Giants | Westworld
Canada

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Label: Arts and Crafts

In a land where there are more Godspeed You! Black Emperor side projects than I have fingers (probably), Valley of the Giants is another band to add to the pile..or is it? I've long been desensitized towards the lure of GY!BE side project goodness, but Valley of the Giants remains a solid (and surprisingly accessible) album -- perhaps it the Broken Social Scene and Do Make Say Think influence creeping in. Did you ever play your musically inept friend "Storm" or "Moya" only to have them ask when the song was going to start for the first three minutes and then fall asleep? Hey, why not play them "Westworld" instead? Surely the lovely female vocals will win them over. After that indulge yourself and listen to "Beyond the Valley" and "Back to God's Country", because the band was sure not to forget to take care of its returning fans. Westworld is an album that can both bring in new fans as well as satisfy the old one -- what more can you ask from a post-rock super group?

Key Tracks: Westworld; Beyond the Valley; Back to God's Country


17) Giardini Di Miro | Hits for Broken Hearts and Asses
Italy

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Label: 2nd Rec

Giardini Di Miro is one of the sneakiest instrumental bands around. It puts on the facade of being this really harmonious, pretty instrumental band for half an album, and then when the listener is becoming comfortable with the soothing sounds of Hits for Broken Hearts and Asses the album takes a drastic turn and Giardini Di Miro pulls out a Mogwai Come On Die Young type aggression. "Vintage Lover" marks the beginning of the end for the listener, and "Pearl Harbor" starts the unannounced devastation. By the time "Cittia Di Vetro" finishes it is way too late for this band to turn back and try to convince you it was all an innocent joke, and it's a good thing it doesn't. The album ends, guitars flaring as "Tokyo-ga" echoing down the halls of time. Back in 2004 Italy didn't have a World Cup championship to brag about; Hits for Broken Hearts and Asses was the next best thing.

Key Tracks: Dancemania; Pearl Harbor; Song 4


16) My Education | Five Popes EP
United States

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Label: Thirty Ghosts Records

In retrospect, My Education has had one of the rockier short histories of any instrumental band I've known. Five Popes was a stellar release of that type of shimmering post rock that really tugs at the heart strings. Five mid-length songs with excellent compositions can be really moving when performed by a band with as much talent as My Education. Afterward the band slid into a more formulaic song-writing approach with Italian, yet rebounded in 2006 with Moody Dipper which appears to hint that the band is once and for all abandoning the post-rock sound and staking out its own territory in the instrumental genre. While the future of the band may be uncertain, Five Popes is a remarkable testament to the band's abilities and hopefully we'll see them climbing to the top in the near future.

Key Tracks: Concentration Waltz; Lesson 3; Crime Story


15) Sweek | The Shooting Star's Sigh
Belgium

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Label: Carte Postal Records

Sweek makes a lasting impression with it's debut album, The Shooting Star's Sigh, which picks up where Godspeed You! Black Emperor left off and explores the dark, murky underworld of the instrumental genre with one foot steadily in the experimental realm. Buzzing guitars build up a dense sonic landscape which is then littered with audio samples and repeatedly penetrated with the wails of the violin. Surprisingly, The Shooting Star's Sigh excels in multiple mediums, embracing the complicated compositions found in the longer tracks ("Things Are Bigger Than They Appear", "New James") as well as tightening up the bolts for some short, sweet songs ("Everyone Takes the Plane", "Creutzfeld Jakob"). Not everything falls snugly into the quiet/loud schema and Sweek demonstrates that not only can it recreate the magic other band's have utilized but there's much more to the band's repertoire than meets the eye. This adventurous, yet premeditated, approach makes Sweek one of the top bands to watch.

Key Tracks: Microbacterium Leprae; Everyone Takes the Plane; Things Are Bigger Than They Appear


14) Triosk | Moment Returns
Australia

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Label: The Leaf Label

Before Pivot was enchanting the world with Make Me Love You, a band by the name of Triosk was doing it's best to uphold the experimental jazz reputation of Australia...and succeeding tremendously. Moment Returns is the band's second work, but again sees it in very familiar territory with jazz influences oozing out of every orifice. A music instructor of mine once told me that jazz sought to be a "walk in the park" -- gentle and very easy going at first glance, but upon closer inspection there are surprises and dangers hidden everywhere. I'm not quite sure how much of a blanket statement we can use that as, but Moment Returns does have this quality to it. A casual listen lends itself as "easy listening," but if you sit down and really deconstruct the music it reveals itself to be very volatile and at moments extremely haunting and spooky. And perhaps that is exactly why it's called Moment Returns.

Key Tracks: Love Chariot; Two Twelve; I Am a Beautiful and Unique Snowflake


13) Destroy All Dreamers | A Coeur Leger Sommeil Sanglant
Canada

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Label: Where Are My Records

Destroy All Dreamers's debut album attacks with a mystifyingly strong assault of shoegaze and post-rock credo. A Coeur Leger Sommeil Sanglant relies heavily on pedal effects, but luckily this band knows how to push all the right buttons to piece the album together seamlessly. Warm ambiance accompanies the slow, brooding guitars, and the tracks like "Orage" and "Swirling Colors Sink" slowly wrap the listener into a cocoon of hypnotic instrumental bliss. Fuzzy takes on a new meaning while Destroy all Dreamers launches the most subtle yet deafening (LOUD) guitar attack to date. The band's prior EP was no indication that A Coeur Leger Sommeil Sanglant would be lifting Destroy All Dreamers to such monumental extremes, but we gladly welcome it. Simply put, Destroy All Dreamers is the most promising band to come out of Canada since Godspeed You! Black Emperor. If anyone can breathe some life into a struggling Canadian instrumental scene, I'd put my money on this remarkable quartet.

Key Tracks: Orage; The Sky Was Glorious For a Moment; Swirling Colors Sink


12) Theta Naught | Abacus
United States

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Label: Differential Records

Those hoping that Theta Naught would be conforming to any sort of standards in the instrumental genre were sorely rewarded with Abacus. Theta Naught is an improvisational band, which means its albums are very off the cuff and it's really anyone's guess what will happen when the band gets into of the studio -- and for Theta Naught, it's been known to knock out an album in under a day. Abacus sees the band swallowing it's jazz and avant-garde influences and giving it a good injection of rock. The part that always shocks me about this band is how it manages to get as cinematic as it does in tracks like "Fibonnaci's Pi" without having it planned out way in advance. There's so much to fall in love with about Theta Naught: it's daring improvisational style, the unconventional utilization of the saw, lap steel, and theremin, or how about just the album's different approach to the instrumental genre? Theta Naught is a very welcome addition to the global instrumental genre; we wish there were more like it.

Key Tracks: Protector From the Sea; Fibonnaci's Pie; Algernon


11) The Album Leaf | In a Safe Place
United States

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Label: SubPop Records

While he's not engaged in his duties as Tristeza's guitarist, Jimmy LaValle has been delighting fans over the years with his solo work as The Album Leaf, so much so that he finally decided to dedicate his full attention to the project and gracefully step away from Tristeza. Although LaValle does utilize vocal components in his music, he's always expressed that The Album Leaf is an instrumental project, and sure enough the focus on In A Safe Place by and large is placed upon the various ambient textures and layers of instrumentation. I've always thought The Album Leaf is about as accessible as post-rock gets; LaValle writes short songs that aren't exhausting, his vocals assist in anchoring the music, and the soft undertones of the album really allow it to shine and present itself as an easy, unintimidating listen. We've seen The Album Leaf as a more experimental force in the past, but on In a Safe Place, LaValle boils his music down to the basics and the payoffs are tremendous.

Key Tracks: On Your Way; The Outer Banks; Another Day


10) Foxhole | We the Wintering Tree
United States

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Label: Selah Records

We the Wintering Tree is an album that is carried along mainly by the work of very skilled musicians. Other than Foxhole's use of the trumpet, there's not a whole lot that separates this band from the rest of the crowd, but it's the added touch of amazing musicianship that pushes this album over the top. Sophisticated guitar work and absolutely breathtaking drumming keep the listener's jaw firmly planted on the ground for most of the fifty-three minutes as Foxhole navigates through a healthy variety of compositions. Not many bands present a debut album as clean and dynamic as Foxhole, but We the Wintering Tree is a sign that some of the up and coming bands have much to offer to this genre. Indeed, by the album's conclusion we are certain that this band will return with a much stronger release. Thankfully, the band outdid itself in its triumphant return in 2006's Push/Pull.

Key Tracks: The End of Dying; Dead Rimes Lamentation


9) Tortoise | It's All Around You
United States

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Label: Thrill Jockey

As one of the founding fathers of the post-rock movement, Tortoise surely doesn't get the respect it deserves in the new millennium, as it's often brushed aside for bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mogwai, and Explosions in the Sky, all of whom came years after Tortoise had already been satisfying fans and critics alike with its soothing sounds. At the time of It's All Around You, Tortoise had been playing together for over fourteen years and had released four albums and more smaller releases than I'd know what to do with. What's a band to do at this stage in its career? Revisit its past works and perfect all the missteps. It's All Around You doesn't see the band really pushing it's music in any new directions, as most of the ideas presented in the album can be found in the band's previous works, but Tortoise really goes to painstaking lengths to perfect every little detail and hammer out all the kinks. In many ways you can't help but feel as if the band is directly commenting on all the new instrumental music that foregoes song-writing skills for epic-sounding compositions. Look around, this type of music is all around you...

Key Tracks: The Lithium Shifts; Crest; Salt the Skies


8) International Karate | A Monster in Soul
Australia

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Label: Sensory Projects

At times it's difficult to tell whether or not International Karate is a post-rock band or just a really excellent indie-rock band, but after the labeling qualms are dealt with the band proves itself to be quite worth the trouble. "Lazy for You" opens the band's sophomore album amidst a hypnotic guitar riff and dreamy vocals. This surreal feeling isn't a temporary effect, but rather it lasts the entirety of A Monster in Soul and greatly highlights the band's uncanny ability to write some of the best melodies in the Western Hemisphere. International Karate often pay homage to minimalist compositions. Repetition and reverb go a long way in A Monster in Soul, building up to cathartic passages of vocals, pianos, and wild ambiance. "Aries" caps off A Monster in Soul, leaving very little doubt that International Karate is one of the tops underground bands in the genre.

Key Tracks: Lazy for You; Walk Without Touching the Ground; Aires


7) Tracer AMC | Flux and Form
Ireland

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Label: We Love Records

Although Tracer AMC doesn't receive as much press as some of the other newcomers to the instrumental genre, the band as quietly been making some of the best albums over the past couple of years. Flux and Form, the band's debut album, established the band's style of solid guitar work and a humble disposition. Tracer AMC paces itself throughout the album, careful not to over extend early in the album and then lose steam. As the tracks tick by, Flux and Form does just that -- continually changes itself into new styles and presentations to keep the listener engaged. Some fantastic song-writing guides the album through perilous compositions and Tracer AMC proves that there is no task that it cannot tackle. There are several points on the album where the band threatens to go wild with an emotional discharge, but inevitably patience and restraint win out and Tracer AMC avoid the easy deflation tricks and instead provide something much more satisfying and unique. Flux and Form should serve as a manual to young bands trying to learn how to piece together a wonderful album. Few do it better.

Key Tracks: Some Electric; Blue Thread; Copenhagen


6) Scraps of Tape | Read Between the Lines At All Times
Sweden

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Label: Tenderversion Recordings

Read Between the Lines At All Times was the dark horse album in 2004. Scraps of Tape presented an album of raw energy and emotion, combined it with a leveling assault of guitar rock, and then added one of the most aggressive violins you've ever heard. Not many special effects are employed throughout the course of this band's debut album; for the most part Scraps of Tape rely only on its own talent and skills and leave the pile of pedals at home. This organic richness is so abundant it can be tasted it in every single second of the album as the band glides from track to track and delivers a flavor of post-rock that can only hail from Sweden. TenderVersion Records sure knows how to pick it's roster to a tee, and Scraps of Tape are a beaming example of what Sweden has to offer to this genre.

Key Tracks: Wright is Rong; Fuckers Come to Collect; We Are Many, We Are Tired of Being Few


5) Efterklang | Tripper
Denmark

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Label: The Leaf Label

At the current rate of Efterklang's improvement, its third album is going to tear a hole in the time-space continuum and promptly swallow the earth in one fantastic “gulp.” The band's sophomore album advances the ideas put forth in Springer by light years. What Efterklang has managed to do in Tripper is to smooth out all the components of its experimental debut into a shimmering work of art. Tripper radiates with melodies and harmonies, attacking with a swarm of electronics, post-rock instrumentation, and angelic vocals to invoke a transcendental feeling of bliss. The world hasn't seen a more ethereal album since Agaetis Byrjun, and Efterklang gives the Icelandic band a good run for its money over the course of Tripper by dropping the heavy atmospherics and adopting a more accessible choral sound. Yet, by the time the album has run its course, as a critic I can't help but feel like Efterklang is still holding back. The band hasn't quite revealed all its tricks to us, which means that its third release just might be that time-warping album we've been waiting for.

Key Tracks: Swarming; Collecting Shields; Chapter 6


4) Mono | Walking Clouds and Deep Red Sky, Flags Fluttered and the Sun Shined
Japan

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Label: Temporary Residence Limited

2004 was the year that everything fell into place for Mono. The band benefitted greatly from its signing with Temporary Residence, who was seeing the zenith of its popularity after Explosions in the Sky's The Earth is Not a Cold, Dead Place, as well as the production of it's most mature piece of art, Walking Clouds and Deep Red Sky, Flags Fluttered and the Sun Shined. Although the album sticks pretty closely to formulaic post-rock methods, Walking Clouds... is really one of the closest things to a perfect post-rock album. Mono harnesses the elements like a masterful professional, calling upon thundering exchanges of emotion and passion and performing death defying stunts that are as breathtaking as they are beautiful. Albums like Walking Clouds... are the reason people fall deeply in love with this genre and never look back.

Key Tracks: Mere, Your Pathetique Light; Lost Snow; A Thousand Paper Cranes


3) Hammock | Kenotic
United States

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Label: Hammock Music

For many electronic based artists, Boards of Canada's Music Has a Right to Children is a landmark to the genre, as nearly every track is remarkable. The 21st century has certainly brought its fair share of electronic and computer based projects to the table, and even many of those have attempted to infuse the electronic/synth sound with a post-rock core. Many tried, and many failed. In 2004 Tennessee's Hammock accomplished what many had sought out to do and brought what we all knew would be an incredibly pleasurable sound to our ears. This is music for the heart and soul -- music that seeps into every pore and consumes one’s entire being from start to finish. Undoubtedly, Kenotic will serve as yet another Music Has a Right to Children for a new generation of aspiring artists. It's rare that we see a collection of songs so intricately constructed and well composed as on Kenotic, which is why Hammock is a force to be reckoned with in the instrumental world.

Key Tracks: Blankets of the Night; Wish; What Heaven Allows


2) Silencio | Dead Kings
United States

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Label: Mountain Collective Limited

Dead Kings is the only release of the year that I can even remotely consider placing above The Fall of Math. Silencio certainly does not fall behind 65 Days of Static in skill or creativity, but the main point of divergence is that for the most part Silencio fell under the radar and has remained a cult favorite. Dead Kings is by far one of the most gutsy instrumental releases to be heard for a long time. Firing off equal rounds of icy jazz and fiery metal, Silencio pierces the listeners shell with a soft jazzy facade and then penetrates deeply with volatile guitar riffs. The two forces don't participate in a typical give and take tug of war, but instead they play on each other's strengths and really bring the uniqueness of the music to forefront of the album. While so many other bands around the world fall prey to the attractive post-rock sound, it's always a treat to find bands that stray far from this tempting fruit and give artistic expression a good workout. When it's done as brilliantly as Dead Kings, you start to wish more bands would try approaching the genre from a different starting point.

Key Tracks: 15ifteen; 11leven; 16ixteen


1) 65 Days of Static | The Fall of Math
England

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Label: Monotreme Records

Even if The Fall of Math wasn't a personal favorite of mine and it wasn't one of the more critically acclaimed instrumental releases of the year, I would still have to give it the top spot on this list. Why? I've discussed this album with a countless number of instrumental bands and the consensus is that this is one of those ground-breaking releases that only comes once a decade or so. 65 Days of Static effortlessly combines the post-rock and electronic worlds in a momentous effort that has reshaped the genre in ways that no other band has done. Not only did The Fall of Math effectively blow the door off of the so-called "neo post-rock movement," where bands began discarding the long quiet/loud formula for short, sweet compositions, but it also was the album that broke the dam for the United Kingdom and sent a whole independent musical scene into a frenzy. I don't think anyone could have predicted the impact The Fall of Math would have made in the years immediately following its release, and this is only the beginning for this innovative quartet.

Key Tracks: Retreat! Retreat!; Hole; Aren't We All Running?


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