As we pack our bags for holiday travel and prepare to usher 2019 into oblivion, our staff banded together and took a brief moment to reflect on what truly matter here at Bahamas: ultra-sick math riffs.
Some picks were no surprise, and some even came up several times, but each of them, and many more, served as fantastic reminders of what make end-of-year lists like these so rewarding.
In a year that kept people all around the world on their toes, it’s no wonder the chaotic nature of so many of these records kept us coming back for more. It may have been a tough one for the human race, but in terms of the math rock we managed to release, we certainly had our moments.
25. yvette young – Piano
Trading in noodly guitar licks for piano passages, math rock superstar Yvette Young creates one of the most luscious and indisputably moving math rock EPs of the year. A surprise release that kicked 2019 into life, and one that quickly found a home in many Bandcamp collections.
24. Snooze – Familiaris
Familiaris can be summed up with one word: fluidity. From its beautiful acappella opener to its ethereal finish, the record wanders seamlessly from gentle to fierce, sustained to frenetic, straightforward to downright wacky. This record also boasts some of the finest vocal harmonies in the game.
23. Car Bomb – Mordial
In 2010, Michael Dafferner of Car Bomb released his documentary ‘Why You Do This’, an bleak insight into the harsh realities of a touring band. It appeared to be the bitter swansong for the band, their futile endeavors and their financial losses. Nine years later, a re-energized Car Bomb releases Mordial, one of the most punishing and dissonant records of the year. Despite the pain, something made them thirsty for more.
22. tortuganónima – Imago
Chilean math rock quartet tortuganónima reached for new heights with their sophomore release Imago, incorporating hip-hop, free-jazz and electronica to revitalize their adored guitar-driven math rock sound.
From the unhealthy minds of French Zeuhl-math-prog dabblers PoiL came the wonky and wonderful Sus, a cavalcade of challenging, Python-esque musical excursions that sent its listeners head-first into discombobulation and paranoia.
Nothing topped the charm of Swedish palindromic two-piece Dammit I’m Mad this year. Their self-titled debut brought together the imagination of King Crimson and the adorable zaniness of Deerhoof. We absolutely loved this one.
A surprise release from French instrumental two-piece John Mackay had us double-taking in 2019. Crom featured a mix of unreleased recordings featuring their signature brand of low-to-the-ground 90’s math rock pastiche. A well-rounded and rewarding record.
18. Yoink – Interactome
Brooklyn trio Yoink dropped their second EP Interactome, which was everything to be expected. A wonky experimental rock feast from the ex-members of Noxious Foxes and Feuding Fathers. Picture a cuckoo clock from a deranged clockmaker.
Mahal kita is Filipino-Tagalog for ‘I love you’. In their 2019 release, Hikes offered a story of the maternal bond and its role in our preparation for life’s hurdles. It was a moving record from one of the leaders in the genre.
Six albums deep and still forging a unique sound, LITE‘s 2019 contribution Multiple brought the genre fluidity, the experimentation, and the sonic dynamics that make them a true juggernaut in the instrumental sphere.
2019 saw monumental noise duo Lightning Bolt take to the studios for the seventh time. The result, Sonic Citadel, was an exercise in dizzying guitar fuzz and downright nasty riffs. You can hear the sweat on this thing.
13. Gambo – Au!
Also blitzing the noise spectrum this year was Au!, the killer debut from Mexican instrumental trio Gambo. Teeming with gritty riffs and pedal-stomping folly, the album paved a passage between off-kilter math rock instrumentation and good ol’ rock tropes.
12. standards – Friends
What a year it was for Marcos and Kynwyn of standards, from the relentless touring schedule, to the stunning ‘wall of life’ at the Arctangent Festival. To top it all off, their 2019 offering Friends answered the call of many a math rock aficianado with its catchy guitar melodies and feel-good charm. A state-of-the-art release.
A truly laudable debut from New York trio concrete concrete. Drifter is a record that pulls at heartstrings, offering the coolly off-kilter instrumental play of bands like toe and LITE, but instilling a deeply moving narrative that is uniquely their own.
This Philly trio tapped into the jangly indie rock salad days with their self-titled debut, adding dashes of shoegaze and math rock to the mix. It’s an album that has flair, is rich in crunchy hooks, and pulls no punches. Don’t sleep on this underdog release.
Going above and beyond their 2014 full-length TOGOBAN, French guitar-looping, sample-snapping duo Quadrupede squeezed out more adrenaline for their five-year follow up. Interiors is darker, faster, and meaner.
8. Le Grand – Plastic Jazz
Plastic Jazz took us on a drive through familiar territory but with more torque, more hard turns, and more side roads. Simply put, Le Grand are one of the best math rock engineers in the scene right now. As we said earlier this year “it’s the sweetest fruit in the bowl, but it’s also the densest and pithiest”.
An exceptional debut for Chinese math rock outfit Griffo. Rich in melody and imagination, Neo Eniac created a sonic space that was pleasant and dizzying. A key band to watch in 2020.
6. Delta Sleep – Younger Years
Brighton math rock quartet Delta Sleep rattled the scene this year with their surprise release Younger Years, a heartfelt record that mused on memories, nostalgia, and the fading past. In true DS style, the band won the off-guard hearts of their followers with their unfettered honesty.
5. Shake The Baby Til The Love Comes Out – Growth and Healing Through Bringing Others Down
Shake The Baby absolutely floored the scene with Growth and Healing. The writhing guitar melodies and ricketing percussion created a visceral, often grotesque, soundscape for its unprepared listeners. It was math rock delivered in its most raw and pure form, which hasn’t been achieved to this extent in a long time.
Divisive and riddling, it was hard not to look away from the enigmatic and genre-less black midi. A band that seemingly appeared out of nowhere in 2018, the London band quickly a name for themselves with their experimental and deconstructionist form of rock. Schlagenheim won our hearts not only for its Slint– and Polvo-esque mathy snippets, but its bold and uncompromising exploration of musical space.
3. Body Hound – No Moon
As ‘Spectrum’ roared into life on Body Hound‘s full-length No Moon, we knew the bar had been raised. The monolithic odd-metered hook that serves as the backbone for the track brought power and punishment, and hoisted the listener into the dark and tangled milieu where the ‘Hounds inhabit. This spectacular debut straggles the line between cacophony and well-calculated, labyrinthine madness.
Alarmist had no need to reinvent the wheel. Their warbling jazzy math rock style deserves thorough exploration and picking apart. Sequesterer offers everything that made their 2015 cut Popular Demain so mesmerizing, but sprinkles extra nuances and motifs to the Dubliners’ electro-wonky style that repeated listens become a necessity.
In the Danish trio’s long-awaited follow-up to The Occident, they took their definitive brooding sound and sculpted it to perfection. Of Violence showcases a fully fledged Town Portal, cohesively structured and narrated, and immaculately produced. A profound offering from the arcane abyss they dwell in.