Staff Picks – Shooter’s top 10 albums and songs of 2012

Having previously written reviews for Sputnikmusic, Shooter is Postrockstar’s lead contributor and has been a welcome addition to the site since he joined on two and a half months ago. From the other side of the pond, the 20-something lists Explosions in the Sky, This Will Destroy You, Mono, Caspian and P.G.Lost as his favorite bands.

1. Echotide – As Our Floodlights Gave Way to Dawn
Echotide’s debut blew me away. This is one of the most confident realisations of the “one long song” approach to album composition that I’ve ever heard. It has the strange atmosphere of Godspeed You! Black Emperor; the hard edge of Gifts from Enola; the melody of Mono; and the flow of Do Make Say Think. And it’s arguable better than many of those bands’ works. Lose yourself in this.

2. Caspian – Waking Season
When Caspian released ‘Live at Old South Church’ earlier this year — featuring the most incredible piece of music I’ve ever heard: a live recording of “Sycamore” — I dreamt of an album that would sport the beautifully intricate and layered sound that Caspian had previously only managed to convey in a live environment. ‘Waking Season’ satisfied that longing.

3. Sigur Ros – Valtari
‘Valtari’ is the closest Sigur Ros has yet come to replicating the beauty of their unmatched masterpiece, ‘( )’. With their latest effort, Sigur Ros has never shown this much confidence in their ability to paint sophisticated soundscapes with an exemplary command of atmosphere.

4. Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson – Small Changes We Hardly Notice
With ‘Small Changes We Hardly Notice’, Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson fully embraced a sound towards which they have been trajecting for the last few years. That is the sound of warm, comforting indie rock with a dense atmospheric backdrop. Despite being a short EP, this already sounds like the perfect culmination of a band’s storied career — one that isn’t yet over (we sincerely hope).

5. Pastoral – Pastoral
Pastoral’s music is built on a fairly simple premise: intertwine a number of pretty guitar melodies and allow them to explore the spaces around each other for a few minutes. But what it achieves is much greater than this. It takes me somewhere that very few bands manage to take me. It takes me back to the joys of my youth. It’s innocent, sincere, elegant and hopeful. If you enjoy Explosions in the Sky but hope for something less overbearing and just as beautiful, download ‘Pastoral’.

6. The Watermark High – Slow Motion Clarity
‘Slow Motion Clarity’ is 20 minutes of calming electronic music drenched in a lush, aquatic atmosphere. It’s rare that a piece of music can be so catchy and groovy without any compromise its heart and beauty. ‘Slow Motion Clarity’ demonstrates the perfect symbiosis of delicate melodies with computerised glitches and beats.

7. Lowercase Noises – Passage
The modern-day master of beauty-in-simplicity has returned. If you haven’t heard of Lowercase Noises before, then I’ve just found you your new Hammock. You’re welcome.

8. Cienega – Viva Bocashi
There’s no justifiable reason why any band’s first proper release should ever be as refined as ‘Viva Bocashi’. This is the sound of an experienced band that is entirely comfortable with the music that it’s making. It’s somewhat straight-forward post-rock, except that every element is so wonderfully-crafted — the songs climbing to glorious heights at the exact moments that they should — that it would be difficult to regard ‘Viva Bocashi’ as anything but one of the premier post-rock releases of 2012.

9. Mono – For My Parents
‘Hymn to the Immortal Wind’ was the epitome of Mono’s brand of epic, emotional post-rock. Rather than trying to top it, Mono instead opted for a change of direction towards a more bombastic, dramatic and orchestral sound. They’ve used strings before, sure, but they’ve never been the centrepiece until now. Grandiose songs like “Legend” and “A Quiet Place (Together We Go)” are evidence that this change was a worthwhile one.

10. Athletics – Who You Are Is Not Enough
‘Who You Are Is Not Enough’ is the sound of a band maturing beyond their years. Athletics’ debut, ‘Why Aren’t I Home?’, was an exciting incitement of emo/post-rock in a post-Moving Mountains world. But it was just a little bit unbalanced, with some songs overstaying their welcome and others not being given enough room to explore. ‘Who You Are Is Not Enough’ corrects and perfects every single aspect of the band’s debut, culminating in an album that is emotional, dramatic and incredibly cohesive.

HONORABLE MENTIONS
Ef – Delusions of Grandeur
Leech – If We Get There One Day Would You Please Open the Gates?
Withyouathome – Our Lives Are All Very Forgettable Events in the Universe
Deer Leap – Here. Home.
Flicker State – Alma Sessions
Rituals – Rituals

Top 10 songs
1. Mono – Legend
2. Caspian – Gone in Bloom and Bough
3. Sigur Ros – Vardeldur
4. *Ancients – Cassiopeia
5. Hammock – Ten Thousand Years Wont Save Your Life
6. Lowercase Noises – Roaring Forties
7. pg.lost – Sheaves
8. Echotide – Embers Glow
9. Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson – Hearts and Consequence
10. Cienega – Erlings

Honorable Mentions
If These Trees Could Talk – Barren Lands of the Modern Dinosaur
Athletics – III
Ef – I Never Felt This Way Before
Lights and Motion – Home
Gates – They See Only Shadows
The Watermark High – Green After So Much Blue, Was Like Music to My Eyes