We kick off our year-end “best of” lists with a discussion of the finest EPs we’ve heard over the past year.
The nature of an “EP” is subject to interpretation these days. However, for our present purposes, if it has between three and eight songs, its an EP. We will be discussing the finest LPs of the year in the coming days, and will conclude the year-end festivities by a look at distinguished works that do not quite fit either category — non-LP singles, multi-artist compilations, tributes, and the like. Call that one “odds and ends.”
Enough chit chat. Let’s get down to business.
10. Baby Scream — Life’s A Trap: Juan Pablo Mazzola continues to revel humorously, and brilliantly, in the bitterly sardonic on this eight-track tale of regret, boredom, disappointment, disgust and (occasional) happiness. Life’s A Trap is somewhat laid back in comparison to Mazzola’s prior efforts, and is perhaps best played at the end of an evening that failed to live up to expectations. Listen and buy here.
9. Matti Jasu and the Loose Train — Gone To The Dogs: Jasu populates this eight-track offering with peaceful easy feelings and pointed guitar work. This duality is best experienced on the yin-yang back-to-back duo of “Race You Down To The Ground,” with its swaying, early-70s Southern California vibe, and “Creature From The Past,” with is serious riffage. Listen and buy here.
8. The Persian Leaps — Your City Underwater: These St. Paul-based noise pop aficionados make their third consecutive appearance on our year-end EP list, as they skillfully blend fuzz and sugar for thirteen minutes of powerful hooks. Listen and buy here.
7. Merry Widows — Password: “Sky And The Sea,” the second track on this five-song outing, may be the finest take on the sound of the The Go-Betweens we’ve ever heard. Password is simply a delight from start to finish, rooted firmly in the classiest guitar pop of the 80s. Listen and buy here.
6. Fascinations Grand Chorus — S/T and Actor/Actress: On these two EPs, this Brooklyn-based duo whip up seven pop confections from some of the finest ingredients of the 60s. Dig the organs, the slinky surf guitar, the girl group vocalizing and a production style that would make Joe Meek quite proud. Listen and buy here.
5. Animal Daydream — Citrus: This Gothenburg, Sweden-based duo makes beautiful, sun-drenched West Coast psych pop with jangling guitars, soaring harmonies and the occasional sing-along melody. Listen and buy here.
4. Stephen’s Shore — Ocean Blue: This Stockholm, Sweden-based band makes beautiful, sun-drenched West Coast psych pop with jangling guitars, soaring harmonies and the occasional sing-along melody. Somehow, the story repeats itself. Ocean Blue, however, ranks higher than Citrus on the strength of the opening forty-five seconds of “If You,” during which you will be transported instantly to the deck of a boat sailing the sunny seas. Listen and buy here.
3. Donny Brown — S/T: On this six-song EP, Brown finds himself in the finest singer-songwriter tradition of the 70s as he pens sharp, incisive lyrics against the backdrop of exquisite arrangements and expert musicianship. Listen and buy here.
2. Cliff Hillis — Love Not War: Hillis is one of the finest contemporary American songwriters. This seven-song EP is everything we have come to expect from him: richly detailed slices of life and love set amid instantly compelling hooks and instrumentation. Sample and buy here.
1. The Above — There Is A Reason: This entire history of the British Invasion, and its immediate aftermath, is encapsulated in this six-song EP that ruled our personal airwaves for quite some time this year. The running twelve-string guitar on “Say You’re Cool” and the drama of the hook-laden “Just Can’t Forget About That Girl” deliver some of the finest rock moments of the past several years. Listen and buy here.