The post-rock movement as it started in the late 80s dared to break away from the traditional structure of rock. While several post-rock bands were conformist and only post-rock in name, others carved out a niche for themselves. Artists like Talk Talk and Slint been credited with the foundational works while artists like Cul de Sac and Sigur Ros have taken the movement forward.
10 of the Best Post-Rock Songs ever written.
1. Halcyon (Beautiful Days) by MONO
MONO is one of the few post-rock bands which has truly balanced the loud and soft in post-rock. They’ve put the interplay of both types of sound to good use. They know how to ease you into the music. This is a perfect example of that.
Halcyon showcases this duality and the masterful interplay beautifully. When it finally ends, you know you’ve gone through something even though you can’t quite put it into words.
2. 2 Rights Make 1 Wrong by Mogwai
A typical title by the Scotts of Glasgow. The band is still going strong, but they’ve never done another number like 2 Rights Make 1 Wrong. As with other songs on the list, it delivers the unexpected. You may find elements of music which will work even today. Yes, the beat and the bass clearly set it apart from today’s more pulled back melodies. However, Mogwai’s sound seems like a breath of fresh air in a morose world.
The track reads in reverse order. It begins with an electrifying instrumental and transitions to a soft ending. It’s like the ending of a great day out with your pals. The ending, which is performed by a choir of voice ushers is indicative of a quiet close to the day. If you like communing with your creator after a day of debauchery, then this may be the one for you.
It’s one of the best post-rock songs you’ll ever hear.
3. Radio Protector by 65daysofstatic
As the name implies, this track is something you may find blaring on the radio one night. The rhythm in the song and the frantic use of instruments is a trademark of the 65daysofstatic approach. They think of instrumental music as enough to tell a story and more than that, a way to keep things interesting.
The song sounds urgent and vibrant, just like songs on the radio do. You need to listen now or you may miss it. Songs on the radio have a way of going away, so you may never know when your last listen will be.
When you hear Radio Protector for the first time, you’ll think you’re about to hear a ballad. And in a way, you’re right. For this one, you may get to write your own lyrics.
4. Doldrums by Cul de Sac
The Doldrums is a classical term used as a metaphor and even the literal meaning of depression. While it’s a light term like being down in the dumps, it can represent real depression. With Doldrums, Cul de Sac made an early entry into the post-rock world.
They made this experimental debut that showed just how varied they could be. Doldrums blends both rock and ambient textures and surf jams. It creates a fantastic showcase of their talent. It’s a full 9-minute epic song that deserves to be right up there with Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd’s best work.
5. Untitled 8 by Sigur Ros
Untitled 8 is perhaps the one song on their album “()” that should have a title. This heavy number is the perfect climax to an emotionally overloaded evening. They call upon this monster of a number to conclude their sets many a times.
While the rest of the album “()” is a gentle breeze like the calm before the storm, this one is the East Wind. However, it’s an East Wind you can ride into a new world.
Sigur Ros cemented their legacy with “Untitled 8”. Even though certain purists demanded that they not be recognized, this number proved them wrong. It’s without a doubt one of the best post-rock songs ever written.
6. Talk Talk by Talk Talk
If you’ve ever liked listening to post-rock then you need to visit the OGs every once in a while. Talk Talk’s eponymous single is just as great today as it was in 1982. This blend of rock and pop-synth has an endearing quality to it.
Talk Talk starts out like it’s going to throw some rainbow pop at you, but it quickly transforms. The song is about aimless loners as one would know rock from the 80s to be. However, it defies the structure of classic rock and goes its own way right from the beginning. You can’t pigeonhole this song.
7. Good Morning, Captain by Slint
It wouldn’t be a best post-rock song list without Slint. Along with Talk Talk, they are considered the pioneers of the post-rock movement. Spiderland is considered their underrated masterpiece, and Good Morning, Captain is the jewel in the crown.
It is a narrative of destruction. The destruction could be of one’s physical or mental world. The interpretation is up to you. The juxtaposed rhythm and guitars going in and out paint a picture of a world destroyed.
This is what post-rock began as. It was truly the destruction after the storm that was rock. This unique blend of music and vocals has passed. Post-rock is now very different from what it began as. Still, we have this song as a time machine to always remind us.
8. Your Hand In Mine by Explosions in the Sky
Explosions in the Sky are a comfort band to many. Their song “An Old Peasant Like Me” is a personal favorite. However, “Your Hand In Mine” has to take it as their best post-rock number. Like their other songs, it has a delicate beauty to it. Some consider it to be their best song ever. Others consider it to be one of the best songs ever, period.
The melody is particularly powerful and drifts along like a dove in flight. If there was ever a list of perfect songs, this would be on it without a doubt.
9. Untitled #2 by Gregor Samsa
Gregor Samsa, named after the protagonist in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, is one of the most iconic bands in post-rock. This is one of the few selections of this list which includes vocals. The song has become a trademark for the post-rock single out there.
It’s a hushed single which begins almost like an opera, swelling to a crescendo. It swells until it bursts with glorious sound. Blazing through the hype during the post-rock movement’s heydays, this one has stuck around for a long time.
10. The Sad Mafioso by Godspeed You Black Emperor!
The Sad Mafioso first graced me with its presence when I watched 28 Days Later. It was a bone chilling experience when combined with the movie. There are a lot of great riffs in Rock that I can name. However, I can’t name many which are eerie. The Sad Mafioso is a haunting song which conveys dread and was perfectly placed in the movie.
When you consider the name of the band, Godspeed You Black Emperor!, it’s extremely apt that they would compose this.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.