I haven’t written about music in some time and was thinking about EPs yesterday.  Here’s a quick run down of my favorite EPs of all time.

It should be noted that I don’t usually buy EPs that are derivative of a greater work.  Often bands will make an EP out of one or two songs on an LP and then add some B sides and two unique songs.  I do own some EPs like this but find it hard to rationalize the purchase–not due to cost, but the time it takes to listen to it and cull through redundancy.  The EPs on this list are unique offerings in that the music stands alone and isn’t included on larger projects for the most part.

arcade epTallest Man on Earth:  Sometimes the Blues is Just a Passing Bird [More of the same excellent song writing and acoustic guitar from Kristian Matsson–The Dreamer stands out here as a song strummed, however at the only live show I’ve seen with him he finished it by playing it on piano as his encore closer.  Fantastic.]

Arcade Fire:  Arcade Fire [Their debut showcases all of the excellence about to come in a growing form.  Screeching vocals and darker music–a rendition of “No Cars Go” quickly shows the contrast between the polish they developed for Neon Bible and this early style.  Arcade Fire is one of the best bands we’ve seen in the last two decades and this does not fall short of that accolade.]

Aesop Rock:  Daylight [A grimy follow up to the Labor Days LP which includes the most famous single, as well as a follow up “Night Light” playing on the same verbiage diametrically opposed to the positivity of the original.  Includes a great instrumental song and other gems of his earlier style, see Nickel Plated Pockets.]

Bon Iver:  Bloodbank [A brief escape from “For Emma” and the then coming self titled work of 2011–Blood Bank mixes earlier lyrical stylings with more stylized vocals that preluded “Bon Iver” – it’s darker and but everything works well.  If you like any of his other work, including Volcano Choir, this is a good pick up.]

Spoon & Bright Eyes:  HOME Split [The only artist to show up twice is Bright Eyes, but both are on splits.  It would be very interesting to see these groups put together a full album.  The whole album is fun and good rock and roll, but the last song – Let the Distance Bring Us Together Again showcases Britt’s voice and a great piano accompaniment]

babylonMountain Goats:  Babylon Springs
[The only EP of Darnielle’s I own currently, it’s an excellent grouping of songs that are fun, introspective, concerning and use different musical stylings than you’d seen from him up to this point.  The entire work is fantastic, Alibi and Sometimes I Still Feel the Bruise stand out.]

Bright Eyes & Neva Dinova:  One Jug of Wine, Two Vessels [The second Bright Eyes appearance, this time with Neva Dinova.  This split is mostly Neva Dinova.  It was originally intended as a complete split of songs, but in the last track you can hear Conor Oberst tell Jake Bellows to “sing it all,” with good reason.  He sounds fantastic.  The lyrics and song structures on this offering transfixed me for some time.  It is not a happy EP, it follows a lot of the music that was coming from these bands at the time, but the song writing and overall mood are engrossing.]

NOFX:  The Decline [A punk masterwork, The Decline is an 18 minute song that spans the catalog of NOFX from a musical perspective, starting with the late 90’s guitars and general political dissent.  It retroactively uses some of the stylings of albums like Heavy Petting Zoo and ends in a long form march along including an amazing trombone/guitar riff.  It’s a journey and easily the most remarkable songs/works on this list–writing it alone is impressive.  It has been performed live, although I’ve only seen the ending (which is awesome!) melded in at the end of a show after Theme From a NOFX Album.  Bottom line, if you like guitars and the punk genre at all, this is a must own.]

Tokyo Police Club:  A Lesson In Crime [A fast paced rock and roll EP with short songs that hook you fast.  Some albums and artists keep you listening over and over, this is one of those offerings.  I bought this and Elephant Shell, their debut LP, at the same time and listened to both over and over and over.  Since that time it seems to me the EP is the better offering of the two, which unfortunately showcases a disturbing trend.  TPC is becoming more and more subdued as they develop their music, from the original offerings to Champ and to the new Forcefield.  For a taste, listen to “Citizens of Tomorrow.”]

headshotsAtmosphere:  Headshots Se7en Series [This is cheating.  I actually purchased the reissue of the Headshots series released in 1999.  It’s technically a conglomerate of separate EPs put out at one time–but it fits here still.  This is Slug’s early work and it’s audacious, funny and genuinely enjoyable hip hop.  There are so many songs that showcase his ability to write and rap uniquely by melding the realities of life with basic beats.  I still love Atmosphere, they will always be heroic in MPLS, but when people say Slug changed the game, I think it’s because of the way he deviated from traditional writing to include blue collar lives and tell stories of growing up in Southside.  He’s a fantastic writer, but also a fun and engaging MC–bound to be one of Minnesota’s long term celebrities like Dylan, Prince and the Replacements.