Essential Tunes: Top 5 Math Rock Albums
The easiest way to describe math rock to somebody is, ‘if jazz, indie rock and metal somehow made a baby together, then that baby grew up to be a caffeine-addicted hipster music genius’. If that doesn’t get you intrigued, then how about if I told you that for an extremely niche and unconventional genre of music it is one of the most diverse. This may be because the pre-requisites for being in a math rock band are being highly skilled at your instrument, willing to experiment and wanting to explore all the different possibilities of music. It’s a ‘you either love it or hate it’ kind of genre, so if you like being able to dance or even tap along to your music then this list probably isn’t for you.
5. Piglet – Lava Land EP
Piglet are a 3-piece instrumental band from Chicago that combine twinkly, indie guitar tones with the breakdowns and intensity of drumming that you might expect from a metal outfit - but with a level of virtuosity comparable to jazz music. They released the ‘Lava Land’ EP back in 2005 and split up soon after, but reformed in 2014 to release the ‘Songs’ EP via Kickstarter. This entire EP is great if you are first getting into the genre, as it isn’t extremely jarring but retains a lot of the features that makes Math Rock so distinct amongst other rock sub-genres.
4. Don Caballero – What Burns Never Returns
Don Caballero is an instrumental band from Pittsburgh that was formed in 1991 and is considered to be one of the pioneers in the genre, despite the members not liking being labelled as such. Their ‘lead drumming’ style in which the drummer Damon Che is at the forefront is something to be admired, as it’s very rare that drums take center stage. That’s not to downplay the importance of the rest of the band however, because they are so insanely tight and in sync with each other that it’s equal parts impressive and disorienting.
3. American Football – American Football
Listening to American Football is like nostalgically going back to your teenage years and reliving those feelings of anxiety and being uncomfortable in your own skin or any other heightened emotion you were being over-dramatic about. For some listeners, the highly emotional vocal delivery might be too much but if this music doesn’t make you feel at least a little bit sad then you probably don’t have a heart. It goes without saying that this late 90’s band from Illinois are one of the most effective ‘emo’ bands to ever exist, with the math influence separating them from the crowd even more
2. Hella – Hold Your Horse Is
Hella is an experimental rock duo from Sacramento consisting of famed drummer of Death Grips, Zach Hill with guitarist Spencer Seim. The pair joined forces in 2001, releasing a series of albums that never cease to bend the listeners brain and push the boundaries of experimentation further and further. Seim’s erratic but calculated shredding is a perfect accompaniment to Hill’s unhinged, psychotic drumming, making for one of the most enthralling and experimental bands in the whole ‘Math Rock’ spectrum – and it’s just two people.
1. Slint – Spiderland
Slint’s one-of-a-kind album ‘Spiderland’, made in 1991, is one of those magical moments in music - where the right people with the right influences were in the exact right place at the exact right time. They started out as a more abrasive band, with their 1989 album ‘Tweez’ being more punk influenced, but something must have happened in that two-year gap between releases because ‘Spiderland’ is one of the most emotionally intense rock albums to have ever been made. The reserved, brooding vocals combined with the unsettling melodies and odd time signatures all combine to create one of the most disturbing but powerful listening experiences you can imagine.