25. Pretend – Bones in the Soil, Rust in the Oil (2009)


With Bones in the Soil, Rust in the Oil, Pretend eschews the upfront, punchy nature of math rock and instead offers sustained and slowly unfurling instrumental passages of interweaving guitars, floating vocals and lightly rolling percussion. The tracks, several of which hit the 10 minute mark, slowly blossom to a lavish display, with each instrument offering its own unique contribution. A must for math rock aficionados. NH

24. Delta Sleep – Ghost City (2018)


An ultimately hopeful album suited to this existential crisis we find ourselves in today, Ghost City saw Delta Sleep truly immerse themselves in subtler songwriting and group singalongs larger and more emotive than ever. It also brought them well-deserved attention, including a number 1 on the Bandcamp Rock charts and tours across Asia and North America. PS

23. The Fall of Troy – Doppelgänger (2005)


2005 was a memorable year for me; right at a big turning point in my life. I had finished high-school and moved out of my parents’ house. My band released their first EP. I was really into The Mars Volta and Horse the Band and anything weird and fast enough to skateboard to. I was on the cusp of becoming a full-blown math rock nerd and Doppelgänger came at me like nothing else. I thought it was tailored especially for me, as have many “math” albums over the years – a Venn diagram of genres that were exactly my jam. The Fall Of Troy certainly set the bar high and it’s albums like this why I mostly still listen to entire records from start to finish. If you can’t pick a favourite track you know you have gold. TM

22. Don Caballero – Don Caballero 2 (1995)


Don Caballero 2 is a true juggernaut of an album. This is the album that truly established Don Caballero as not only a genre defining band, but as an early catalyst forgoing the everyday workingman punk ethos of DIY culture with superb technical ability and dizzying musical complexity. Being true to punk form, the album’s linear notes state, “Don Caballero is rock not jazz, Don Caballero is free from solos.” While the music is free from solos, it’s also free from sticking to most rock conventions, and is a whirlwind of complex and powerful playing coupled with incredibly detailed song structures that push musical playability into the stratosphere. Don Caballero 2 is a seminal album, laying down the groundwork of what instrumental math rock is fully capable of achieving. WC

21. Town Portal – The Occident (2015)


In our review of the record, FB head honcho Nikk described The Occident as feeling “ominous…an area seldom traversed by artists”. It’s a description which stuck with me, really thoughtfully exposing part of The Occident’s brilliance, as a record which occupies its own musical nook, here dark and unexplored (Nikk called this “the unsettling territory Town Portal have intended to musically charter”. We love Nikk). But what does that actually mean? Anxious grooves and anxious melodies, apprehensively treading the line of discord, across thick bass and chiming guitars, drums pounding, nervous polyrhythms. A general sense of glorious, meaty unease. JL

20. Tubelord – Our First American Friends (2009)


A keen indicator of the status of this record was the massive silent disco singalong during one of the first interations of ArcTanGent to ‘Night of the Pencils’. In their short few years together, Tubelord were a key part of a wave of British bands like Colour, Youthmovies and Tangled Hair (and honestly Bloc Party and Biffy Clyro deserve mentions too) bringing an urgency to indie/pop music with changing tempos, moods and time signature changes. PS

19. Clever Girl – No Drum and Bass in the Jazz Room (2010)


No Drum and Bass In The Jazz Room is one of the great enigmas of math rock, an innocuous four track EP by five young guys from Sheffield that shot to success years after its release. No one, no less the band members, could predict Clever Girl‘s sudden rise to cult status, that their vinyl repress eight years later would sell out within weeks. “Someone put us on Youtube and now we have emo 16 year old teenagers in Chile digging us,” the band say. Why were the math rock pundits suddenly swooning? Was it the stranger-than-fiction story that two math rock bands called Clever Girl formed at the same time? Was it simply being an exemplar during the math rock renaissance in the UK? No, it was most likely that fresh, optimised balance of catchy melodies, dreamy saxophone, and off-kilter math rock frolicking that No Drum And Bass flaunts so nicely. Nothing sums up this release better than ‘authentic’. NH

18. Colour – Anthology (2012)


It is widely accepted by top ‘mathrockmaticians’ that the 2005-2010 period was the greatest era of mathy music in the U.K. [citation needed]. Colour were one of a few ear-worthy bands who took math rock motifs and coloured (ahem) them with poppier bits. Anthology is a collection of three EPs and two brand new tracks from the band’s short career that was released on Big Scary Monsters in 2009. Equal parts technical and catchy, mathy and melodic, a truly joyful listen. Top tracks include ‘Shamu’, ‘Unicorns’, and the anthemic ‘Over The Moon’. Towards the end of their life Lewis Reynolds out of Meet Me In St. Louis joined the band on bass and you can hear this on the last few tracks. His driving, roaming bass lines added an extra energy to these final songs. Whilst many of you will know Alan Welsh (Guitar/Vocals) and James Trood (Drums)’s post-Colour project Tangled Hair, for my drug money Colour are the more interesting band. Do yrself a favour. AS

17. Delta Sleep – Twin Galaxies (2015)


Brighton’s Delta Sleep were already a staple in UK math rock through the success of Management EP and their frequent and warm live shows. Twin Galaxies was a coalescence of what made that EP so arresting – morphing riff breakdowns, shout-along choruses, and moments of calm beauty – delivered in a refreshing take on the concept album format that they have since made their own. PS

16. Maps & Atlases – Trees, Swallows, Houses (2007)

fudge tunnel

This is my personal Tap Heaven. Listening to this thing is to be engulfed in a whirlwind of flying fingers. Compliment that with equally frenetic drumming, and quirky crooning and you’ve got yourself one helluva debut record. This EP clocks in at a lean 24 minutes, but packs so much punch and personality it certainly earned it’s place on this list. EB

15. toe – For Long Tomorrow (2009)


Whilst math rock of the Japanese ilk is not uncommon, few bands strike so emphatically as toe. So it stands to reason that they are the only band of the Orient that made the list. Balancing accessible time signatures with syncopated, finger-plucked melodies, For Long Tomorrow presents a tighter, more direct approach to song writing than their 2005 debut, The Book About My Idle Plot on a Vague Anxiety. We are introduced to softly sung vocals in Japanese that accompany layers of uplifting acoustic guitar. The sonic details are intricate and precise, and so this is one of the few albums here that should be experienced as a cohesive whole. (Note: If you’re feeling adventurous, check out Dove – toe’s original hardcore incarnation). LH

14. American Football – American Football (1999)


Inarguably one of the most important albums in math rock, American Football’s first self-titled LP (there are three, as of 2019…) laid out an intricate, inventive and, ultimately, damn pretty blend of emo and indie which, despite little early acclaim, has grown to have enormous influence over math in the last two decades. Mike Kinsella’s voice, recounting earnest reflections on love and youth, washing over meshes of gorgeous interlocking guitar melodies, as conjured here, might be the classic American Football sound but that’s not to overlook the record’s equally excellent jerkier, jazzier moments. Clever and truly beautiful – #believethehype. JL

13. Tera Melos – (untitled album) (2005)


Tera Melos’ debut is not just void of smokes and mirrors, it achieves the very minimum in terms of branding itself. The album is untitled, every track is called ‘Melody’, the artwork is rudimentary at best. If anything, the album felt like a scrapbook, haphazardly plastered together with an air of indifference.

Yet, the fact that the album has made it onto this ‘best of all-time’ list suggests that listeners are quite happy with this level of disregard. After all, the music itself is performed with utmost craft. Untitled was much smoother and jazzier than their punchy and aggressive Alive EP, released in the same year, and portrayed the band as dynamic and forward-thinking musicians. Substance over style. NH

12. Tera Melos – Patagonian Rats (2010)


Patagonian Rats is often labeled as the ‘odd’ Tera Melos album, and maybe for a good reason: catchy pop melodies are to be found all around, while most will be able to sing along without having to worry much about time signatures. Although purists might express criticism – albeit substantiated one – regarding this step away from anything Drugs to The Dear Youth related, this record bears testament to the band’s versatility and sheer talent. Listener beware, this isn’t by any means your regular math pop album, not like anyone would expect “regular” from Nick Reinhart, the man himself. AC

11. Don Caballero – What Burns Never Returns (1998)


Following their sophomore release, Don Caballero 2, Don Cab went on a brief hiatus with members pursuing other projects, and luckily for music fans they returned in 1998 with one of the most definitive musical statements in math rock history with What Burns Never Returns. The opening song, ‘Don Caballero 3’, begins with a bombastic Damon Che drum pattern that explodes into speakers like a thunderclap and sets the stage for the technical onslaught that is about to be unfolded throughout the rest of the album. The playing is precision, the transitions are tight, and the music helped cement math rock as a genre. WC

10. Faraquet – The View from This Tower (2000)


Despite the immediacy of the opening track, the formation of Faraquet actually occurred over many years. When band gained key support slots for Fugazi in the latter part of the 90s, Dischord Records were the guilty party that eventually put Faraquet on the math rock map with this release. However, The View From the Tower initially failed to attract any considerable commercial attention – but in the subsequent years, intelligent and melodious song composition married with very tasteful vocal-work gained the album the cult status it deserves. Front man Devin Ocampo cites staccato saxophone as a major influence in his writing, and this technique married with the rolling drums of Chad Molter is absolutely sublime. LH

9. toe – The Book About My Idle Plot on a Vague Anxiety (2005)


According to last.fm this is my most-listened album of all time. I reckon this is because it’s a record that can suit any mood I’m in. It can reward attentive listening with immaculate production and detailed composition; or it can sit peacefully in the background with it’s serene mood and contemplative pacing. This album also awakened me to the (in my opinion unparalleled) drumming greatness of Kashikura Takashi, who’s beautiful and nuanced drumming carries forward every track here in a way that has been often emulated but not even close to equalled. EB

8. Giraffes? Giraffes! – More Skin With Milk Mouth (2007)


I have distinct memories of playing opener ‘When The Catholic Girls Go Camping, The Nicotine Vampires Rule Supreme’ to my secondary school computing teacher, who I knew loved prog rock, picked for being the most incomprehensible song of this genre I was just discovering (my comfort with rapid time signature changes has evolved since then). Giraffes? Giraffes!‘ pairing of the ridiculous with the melancholic and danceable, and their mobile approach to looping, has won them many fans and co-conspirators. PS

7. Tera Melos – Drugs To The Dear Youth (2007)


When remembering Tera Melos’ 2007 EP Drugs to the Dear Youth, the joy of hearing soon-to-be math rock anthem ’40 Rods to the Hog’s Head’ is understandably the first thing that comes to mind. But what often goes over our heads is that the dreamy, glitchy matrix they explored in songs like ‘The Werewolf and Ben’ and ‘Guy vs DC Sniper’ marked the beginning of a truly visionary career for Nick Reinhardt and co. MW

6. Battles – Mirrored (2007)


Mirrored is a rare example of when an experimental work of art has crossover success in the mainstream. Battles took a lot of the traditional tropes of math rock and flipped them totally around. Mirrored has pulsating drums and rhythms that are dance-able and lacking the pretension of being overly complicated and exist in area of being complex yet subtle. Guitars are there and prominent in the music, but Battles ushered in the use of electronics unabashedly and influenced a new up and coming wave of electronic influenced math rock bands to come in the years after Mirrored was released. For many, Battles and specifically Mirrored is what introduced them to math rock. The songs are as catchy as they are weird and the legacy of Mirrored in the canon of math rock history is undeniable. WC

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