Genre classification is a dangerous game. Artists get pigeonholed, fans get gatekeepy, and critics seemingly hit up random word generators and slap “-core” on the end of whatever gets spat out. Yet, thanks to our unquenchable desire for organization and Spotify’s unending algorithmic playlists, oddly specific micro-genres are here to stay. Of the oldest, most debated culprits of such genre shenanigans is post-rock — a genre that has your Led Zeppelin-loving dad asking, “Post-rock? What’s wrong with regular rock? Why does something have to come after it?”
Loosely defined as an experimental off-shoot of rock music that focuses more on mood, complex sound textures, and unconventional structures than traditional rock signifiers, the title of post-rock gets applied to an extremely wide breadth of artists. Everything from the classically influenced art-rock of Dirty Three to the avant-pop of Stereolab to the deconstructed indie of Yo La Tengo have been tagged with the term. Hell, according to Wikipedia’s list, even Radiohead qualifies. And this is all without mentioning offshoots like post-metal or blackgaze, who share many of the same qualities as post-rock, further complicating this arbitrary Venn diagram.
And yet, despite imperfect definitions, post-rock persists. As recently as last year, new acts like Black Country, New Road and Caroline have begun to turn heads, and legends of the genre Mogwai even hit number one on the United Kingdom and Scotland charts in 2021 with As the Love Continues.
Such successes, while deserved, are as interesting as they are unlikely. With the absence of lyrics, wild dynamics, unconventional orchestration, and 10-20 minute long songs being staples of the genre, it’s not always an easy scene to get into. By design, post-rock is not exactly the most sociable music. It’s why you might hear Talk Talk’s new wave hit “It’s My Life” at your local bar, but never their nine-minute, slow-burning post-rock classic “The Rainbow.” Don’t let that stop you from requesting it, though.
So, in case you’re in the business of ruining parties, we’ve rounded up 10 of the best albums post-rock has to offer. Check out the full list below.