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Dude, What Is Post-Rock?

by Erick Kainen:

Imagine taking an old Nine Inch Nails track mixed with Pink Floyd and Pearl Jam. Then remove the lyrics so it’s just instrumental. Bon Apetit, you have post rock!

"Popcorn? We don't need no stinkin' popcorn"

You have definitely heard this kind of music before if you’ve ever watched a sports movie, or sports documentary. Remember the movie Friday Night Lights with Billy Bob Thornton? The whole soundtrack was done by a post rock band called Explosions in the Sky.

Post-Rock is instrumental based music that tends to be very introspective, mysterious, and captivating. Speaking for myself, I always wondered what music was being played in sports docs that helped to inspire the viewer. There is something about the music that makes you feel like you’re often on a quest, a journey towards a dream, a lofty goal you’ve been aiming for. Post-rock makes me feel like I’m about to do something epic. Who would’ve thought the post-rock band “Caspian” would come from the land of roast beef and parochial townies aka “The North Shore” kehd?


To understand WHY you should listen to this genre of music, I’ll share my own story. The year was 2014. I was in Maine on a cold January weekend with my friends Tim, Sean , and Stephanie. We had hiked up Mt. Kearsarge in NH earlier that day. Feeling good about our accomplishment, we drove from NH to our friend Bill’s cottage around Lake Sebago, Maine. It was a beautiful clear and cold winter day. A fresh blanket of snow made even the most unattractive landscapes appear majestic. The night was promising. Bill had ample space at his cottage, and we were bringing fresh lobsters to boil and a healthy supply of craft beers to watch the AFC / NFC title games. We arrived at the cottage. The stars at night were big and bright as they say…..deep in the heart of MAINE. It looked something like this:

Bill was stoked to see us. Bill is a great guy. He decided long ago that he would rather live away from the rat race and settled in Maine. I’m jealous. He instructed us to the cabin across the road which had a larger stove and pot for boiling water. Spirits were high, but the electricity was not. The power went out due to the cold temperatures and high winds. No electricity? No problem, grab a flashlight. Here we were, walking across the road under beautiful starry skies with a plate of steaming lobsters. I stopped for a moment, enjoyed the silence and looked up at the stars and felt immediately grateful for its’ humbling beauty and solace. We weren’t deterred by cold, lack of electricity, or darkness. Dare I say it felt slightly righteous to embrace our circumstance? It felt like we took a step back in time that night to a simpler time where you accepted that life could throw you things that you couldn’t control, but choose to embrace. Such is the nature of post-rock. If you get lost in the moment, you’ll be amazed at what you find.


Needless to say, the night was great. We stayed up late eating, drinking, reminiscing, and having some laughs over football games, and kitchen counters. Unfortunately, we had to drive back home to ‘reality.’ What is reality? The modern world that we created? Or is reality the simple lifestyle we lived that weekend in January 2014 that harkens back to the way we used to live? Regardless, we still wanted to feel like we were there. On the drive home, Tim put on a band I’d never heard of that would change my life: This will Destroy You. Note: in order to appreciate these tracks, you’ve got to allow yourself to be lost. I recommend playing these songs while you’re studying, working, or just listening passively in the car. The song was called “A three-legged workhorse.”

“Tim, who is this?” I asked. Man, I was ready to start every project I had ever procrastinated in my life. As is the case when I come back from a weekend of hiking, the mood was captured by the cinematic, epic, inspiring music of This Will Destroy You. We listened to the full album the rest of the drive down route 114 south. The 4 of us were in some sort of trance….a happy trance. No words needed to be spoken. (No we weren’t that hungover) We were perfectly contempt to listen to the sound track through the rolling hills of Maine. When I got home, I felt rejuvenated to finish my hockey season strong. We were in the dog days of winter, and as a coach, you sometimes feel the drag of the season. In the coming days, I would create new drills, outline coaching philosophies, apply to new jobs, network, I was a productive member of society.


My friend Brett and I were prepping lesson materials one day at school. He and I are both history teachers. Since we are both prone to Joe Rogan-esque style of conversations about everything and nothing, I put on some music by the band Caspian. Brett goes, “this is really good ‘get shit done’ music.” We proceeded to have a very productive prep period. Why is it that instrumental music, especially instrumental music with the atmospheric effects of post-rock, focus our energies? Even as I write this, I had tried to previously to channel my energies rather unsuccessfully. I put on Caspian and with one cup of coffee began producing. I think post-rock combines the energizing effects of rock or metal and the introspective sounds brought on by synthesizers, and textured sounds. Deftones have been using these tactics for years, and have built a loyal following. For example….

I don’t know man, Chino Moreno has always managed to captivate imaginations and spirits since 1989. Now there was music that focused on solely on the instruments pulling the weight and it was called Post-Rock If you want to feel connected to the divine, or something bigger than you, just listen to “Hickory 54” by Capsian.

This song encapsulates what post-rock is….a good story. It has an introduction, rising action, a climax, falling action, and conclusion. Much like our journey in Maine, the climax CANNOT be appreciated without the rising tempo or progressive instrumentals of the song.

"Woah. I think I just saw God."

Post-Rock has something for everyone. You can find more energetic ballads like the one we just played “Hickory 54” or softer, darker, melodic ballads like “War Prayer” by This Will Destroy You. If you’re looking for an entry point into the genre though, start with the song “Your Hand in Mine” by Explosions in the Sky. The video link is at the top of the article. If you’re looking to slow down, recharge, reconnect, and focus, then post-rock is for you. Enjoy the journey!

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