In a better world, EPs would rule. Full-length albums are great, sure, but our obsession with LPs has resulted in the more quantitative records becoming the more qualitative. It’s so bizarre that EPs are so often used for extra material considered too subpar for full-lengths, which LPs are so often full to the brim with good songs.
There have been plenty of great EPs released in the past – The Descendents’ “Fat” and Pavement’s “Watery, Domestic” are two of my favorites – but, these days, LPs are where you find the really great music. And, as albums get more and more overlong and overstuffed, EPs seem all the more appealing. But, in the past few years, the only EP that I recall making my top ten of its respective year was Azealia Banks’ “1991,” a special case of an EP where every song was fantastic.
This year has had its share of good EPs, however. Here are my thoughts on a few of them, as well as a couple decent ones by bands who can do better.
Annie: “The A&R EP” (Pleasure Matters) The EP is a format that was made for Annie. She’s less major than Robyn but, at her peaks, capable of being just an enchanting. So, while she may not have a masterpiece at the level of “Body Talk” in her, she occasionally releases songs as likable and danceable as “Indestructible.” Here, with the help of Richard X (the “R” in the title), she puts together her finest collection yet. Even the song about Ralph Macchio is fun. The record’s big flaw, however, is its lack of a standout track at the level of “Heartbeat” or – her best of the year – “Tube
Stops and Lonely Hearts.” With one song at that level, I’d probably knock it up to an A MINUS.
Grade: B PLUS
Best Coast: “Fade Away” (Jewel City) One of indie’s most underrated bands, mainly due to the perception that Bethany Cosentino’s songwriting isn’t impressive enough to survive when not hidden behind a heap of noise. Me, I’ve liked everything they’ve released, and this EP doesn’t change that. In fact, I like them more as they continue to step away from the lo-fi sound of their debut and challenge those who say that the lyrics are mere trite. This might not be the greatest thing they’ve released, but it’s easily the most joyous, with seven songs that show the essence of the band. It’s not going to change the minds of the band’s critics but, like Cosentino sang on the last album, she doesn’t want to be what they want her to be, so she’s going to keep doing it her way. Grade: A MINUS
Elizabeth Morris: “Optimism” (self-released) Since Morris’ gorgeous vocals and melodies are largely why I rank both Allo Darlin’ albums among my favorites of this decade, this is definitely for me.
Stripped of her band and left only with light piano and guitar strumming as accompaniment, her melodies are placed front and center even more than usual. Of course, as a self-released EP that’s available for free listening on her Bandcamp page, its songs are obviously not as great as the key songs in the Allo Darlin’ discography. Don’t expect a “Kiss Your Lips” or “Capricornia,” and you’ll have a nice listen – or 10. Grade: A MINUS
Old 97’s: “Old 97’s/Waylon Jennings” (Omnivore) It’s cool that Jennings liked them enough to want to record with them – the man is a legend, after all. That doesn’t change the fact that, when I saw the band play the songs live, Murry Hammond sang them better. The demos that pad out the remainder are okay. Grade: B
Parquet Courts: “Tally All the Things That You Broke” (What’s Your Rupture?) Although it opens with
“You’ve Got Me Wonderin’ Now,” a track as good as anything the band has done so far, this is a little disappointing. Still, it has just enough “Wowee Zowee” weirdness to keep me hoping that they become the next Pavement. Grade: B
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