best of 2013: eps

i’ve always been a huge fan of the ep format.  it’s a great way for new artists to produce substantial content to tide fans over until their debut full-length, and it’s also a practical medium for established bands to preview a new sound or musical direction.  2013 saw no shortage from either of those two categories, and i’ve whittled down the contenders to a short list of five eps that made quite the lasting impression on my musical palate.

5. dark furs – dark furs: this ep came to me by way of my own personal inbox, and it’s easily one of my favorite pieces of email that i’ve received this year.  dark furs’ self-titled ep is a whirlwind of slightly morose indie pop, from the crushing, rhythmical opener “concrete corners” all the way through to the self-deprecating finale, “better than me.”  suzanne may’s vocals take center stage throughout the ep, but i’d be remiss to ignore the instrumental works of chad philipps and garrett henritz, whose respective guitar playing and drumming fleshes out the timbral palate defined by may’s voice.  aesthetically, dark furs is an incredibly well-defined outfit in a sea of bands who take a similar approach to crafting music.

listen to and download dark furs here.

4. milo – things that happen at day: where do i even begin with milo?  if you’ve been reading this blog since its inception, or my work over at playground misnomer, you know that i’ve been smitten by his musical trajectory this year.  it’s hard to believe it, but things that happen at day and things that happen at night are almost a year old now, first seeing light on new year’s day of 2013.  the first in the pair of eps is a collaboration between milo and producer riley lake, foreshadowing the more in-depth relationship that would be crafted on cavalcade.  the opening track, “sweet chin music,” opens with a gorgeous bon iver sample and from there it’s milo at his best, rapping about non-sequiturs, philosophy, and his endless quest of self-betterment.  what’s so important about things that happen at day is the frank and stripped-down look inside a young, complex mind.  within that context, “almond milk paradise” makes so much sense.  everyone’s probably levar burton to some extent.

listen to and download things that happen at day here.

3. milo – things that happen at night: honestly, i can’t really rank things that happen at night higher than things that happen at day; their sequential representation here mirrors the sequential nature of the moods of these two fantastic eps.  while day features production from riley lake, night is handled by analog(ue) tape dispenser, who adds an eerie nocturnal quality to supplement milo’s raps.  there’s multiple references to schopenhauer and zarathustra, and milo is still paying homage to smaller characters on the wire.  busdriver’s guest verse is certainly an early highlight of the ep, but milo’s true artistry sinks in during “monologion,” a dark, brooding track with a positively hypnotic hook.  there’s so much happening on night that, although milo intended the two eps to serve as companion pieces, he deserves distinct recognition for his work on each.

listen to and download things that happen at night here.

2. tennis – small sound: after two rapid-fire albums, tennis laid dormant for nearly two years.  i expected them to release their third album in early 2014, but was presently surprised when they tacked on an ep of fresh tunes to tide fans over.  while small sound may have been intended as filler, it’s a fine release that can stand by itself in tennis’ discography.  tennis demonstrated their collective love for 1960s pop on their first two efforts, but that influence is delicately fine-tuned across five tracks; “timothy” is as sunny as anything else in the band’s repertoire, but “cured of youth” and “100 lovers” highlight a solid understanding of r&b instrumentation (haha at pitchfork for thinking that baritone sax was a bassoon) and form.  alaina moore’s voice is still borderline perfection, and i constantly found myself drooling over patrick riley’s guitar lines.  if this is the path tennis is traveling down for their next record, they might just find themselves in one of these articles come next year.

listen to small sound here.

1. dads – pretty good: there’s a lot more to dads than initially meets the eye.  i discovered this fact towards the end of the summer, when pretty good began playing in my headphones multiple times a day.  the new jersey duo gets lumped into the emo revival movement along with other bands like pity sex and the world is a beautiful place and i am no longer afraid to die, but they’re a bit more complex than just a couple of sad bastards.  the emo influence certainly is there; i hear a splash of fellow new jerseyans brand new in both the vocals and the lyrical writing, but dads are as likely to embrace metric shifts as they are angst.  take “my crass patch,” the opening track that slowly grows into an epic explosion of triplet-figure drums over a guitar line still in common time.  the seemingly erratic nature of the instrumental line coming out of that eruption is indicative of dads’ musical tendencies; both “i can be yr deadbeat boyfriend” and “boat rich” are pop-punk gems, but they retain that accessibility while subjecting listeners to metric shifts and sudden tempo changes.  the closer “no we’re not actually” is a slow-burner that eventually melts into something akin to brand new’s the devil and god are raging inside me era, but this just shows that dads can do it all, from epic to poppy and smart to downright tender.

listen to and download pretty good here.

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