This Will Destroy You is perhaps the quintessential instrumental post-rock outfit of the 2000s. They play shimmering, guitar-driven compositions, they lean hard into the loud-soft-loud dynamic, their name is ridiculous, and they put out the most cinematically-sweeping, gut-wrenching work this side of Explosions in the Sky. Unlike Explosions in the Sky, however, their albums sound different from one another.
They are also a band that rejected the post-rock label in the most aggressive terms possible, as prickly former bassist Donovan Jones infamously muttered “fuck post-rock and fuck being called post-rock” in 2010, presumably while chain-smoking unfiltered Camels.
They have seven studio albums and a live album that we’re going to discuss, and a handful of splits, EPs, and rarities/B-side collections that we’re probably going to ignore.
7. New Others Part 2 (2018)
This one is notable for being a surprise release that just sort of appeared on YouTube a week or two after “New Others Part One,” and needless to say, that was a treat for fans any way you slice it. It’s also notable for being the only TWDY record (I double-checked) that starts with a fast, hard-rocking passage and then settles into a slow, ominous, atmospheric dirge. You can almost hear Joey Ramone yelling onetwothreefour before the album kicks off. All of their other records do precisely the opposite. It’s an okay album, but it sounds like a collection of outtakes and B-sides, which, to be honest, it probably originally was anyway.
Play it Again: “Cascade”
Skip It: “Sound of Your Death”
6. Vespertine (2020)
Death metal fans lost their minds when Blood Incantation, on the heels of a breathlessly acclaimed record, turned around in 2022 and made a lengthy EP of straight-up ambient synth music, but TWDY really beat them to the dramatic-genre-shifting punch by dropping their usual doom-drone-metal atmospherics to create this commissioned soundtrack to a Michelin-star rated restaurant in California, also called Vespertine. It’s fine in itself, and good for meditation or background music while you’re working or for putting on as a sort of lullaby to help cranky four-year-olds finally fall the hell asleep already, but it’s so far outside of TWDY’s usual work that it’s almost impossible to give it a legitimate ranking here.
Play it Again: “Kitchen” – There’s a really memorable reverb-soaked guitar figure here that, despite being simple enough that a 10-year-old who just learned “Hot Cross Buns” could probably nail it, is achingly beautiful.
Skip It: “Building” – Yeah, all of the songs are named after different parts of the restaurant, which, whatever. The whole concept is pretentious, what can you do?
5. New Others Part 1
It’s clear that this was recorded in the same session as “New Others Part 2,” but the songwriting is more cohesive and the shifts in dynamics feel more organic. Track likes “Syncage” play with synthesized effects more dramatically than the band has in the past, and even has some abrasive moments that sound like a mid-90s Nine Inch Nails remix, minus all the sadomasochistic “I’m Trent Reznor, woe is me” histrionics. As a whole, this record has a lot of the ambient stuff that would show up in Vespertine, but with enough dynamic range and variety that it still feels more or less like classic TWDY. A solid album.
Play It Again: “Weeping Window” – This is the band at their best, and if you check out the live studio version sponsored by Walrus Audio, you’ll get a nice glimpse at how, despite seeming like a studio band through and through, they can absolutely, well, destroy when they play live.
Skip It: “Melted Jubilee”
4. Young Mountain (2006)
A triumph of a debut. Opener “Quiet” is basically the band’s mission statement, at least for their earliest work, showing off their ability to turn simple, low-key motifs into anthems that you can head-bang to in slow motion. “The World is our _____” is a master class in how to use heavy delay effects on a lead guitar without seeming overly precious, and when the power chords kick in at 2:40, they feel 100% earned, rather than like someone said “Oh, hey, we should probably make it all loud and rockin’ now.” There’s a kind of simplicity to the album as a whole, both in production and songwriting, but it’s still a deeply satisfying record to come back to, and has the bonus feature of sticking the landing perfectly in the final moments of the final track, which just happens to be our “Play it Again” pick.
Play It Again: “There Are Some Remedies Worse than the Disease”
Skip It: “Grandfather Clock” – This track sounds utterly out of place. It doesn’t work with the rest of the record, and doesn’t sound like TWDY at all. It’s not a bad song on its own merits, but music like this has to create a sense of thematic cohesion on each album in order to work, and this one sticks out like the sorest of thumbs.
3. Tunnel Blanket (2011)
This is a really popular album among fans. We wouldn’t so much as raise an eyebrow if someone else were to put it at #1 or #2. Please bear that in mind before you carpet-bomb the comments section. This was a serious shift for the band from guitar-forward post-rock songs that could (and did) score movies and TV like “Moneyball” and “CSI” (not to mention promo segments for the 2010 Winter Olympics), to brooding, dense, doom-inflected drone metal. Opener “Little Smoke” is among their greatest songs, a 12-minute slow-burn monster that starts with seemingly-endless atmospheric synth figures before just sort of tipping over into a raging wall of cacophonous dread that barely seems to crack 30 beats per minute. “Glass Realms” is a preview of their more ambient work to come. There’s nothing skippable here. “Tunnel Blanket” must be experienced as a single work. It’s a thoroughly dark and somber – almost depressive, really – album, with very little reprieve.
Play It Again: “Little Smoke” and “Killed the Lord, Left for the New World”
Skip It: Don’t. Each song needs the ones around it if you want the full experience
Honorable Mention: Live in Reykjavik, Iceland (2013)
Oddly enough, if you’re only going to own one TWDY album, it should probably be this one. It feels less like a live album than a greatest hits collection of their material up to and including “Tunnel Blanket.” The band already sounds atmospheric and reverb-laden in everything they put out, so the live setting doesn’t change much. They play the songs on here totally straight. Even the longer, multi-part ones are pretty indistinguishable from their studio counterparts, which is a little ironic because their live shows around this time were often bogged down in abstract noise experiments; you could barely pick out a riff or melody. Apparently, on the flight to Iceland, they decided to start playing more traditional live sets again, and what results is a simple compilation of most of their best songs at that point, if not so much a capturing of what they usually sounded like live in this era.
2. Self-Titled (2008)
If you’re going to introduce TWDY to someone who’s never heard them, this is the album to insist they start with. Its structure, songwriting, and production are all extremely similar to “Young Mountain,” but with notable improvement in each of those areas. It’s a mix of songs that are darn near catchy – the riff to “Threads,” especially, will stick with you for quite some time – and songs that unfold in waves of abstract noise for what seems like ten minutes at a time. The record is perfectly balanced in every way, a Rosetta Stone of post-rock, and the last album for which they’d be satisfied with that formula before moving into a far more experimental direction.
Play It Again: “Burial on the Presidio Banks” – Big, emotive crescendos might be a well-known commodity in this genre, but the album-finishing fortissimo-fueled madness on this one is as good as it gets.
Skip It: Nothing
1. Another Language (2014)
If “Tunnel Blanket” was essentially a press release announcing “We’re not trying to just be a new version of Explosions in the Sky,” then Another Language announces “But we’re also not going to be pigeonholed into this whole doomgaze thing.” This record finds a happy medium that is beyond simple classification, blending ambient, metal, dream pop, and avant-garde noise into a fully-integrated final product. You simply can’t see or hear the stitches that connect these different genres. It’s fluid and perfectly executed. It’s an overwhelming and deeply beautiful 47-minute experience. This maybe isn’t the best record of theirs to hear before you’re acquainted with their vibe, but once you are so acquainted, it’s the best one, period. Splurge on the vinyl, kick back, and let it wash over you.
Play It Again: Yes
Skip It: No