One nerd’s technicality is another’s perpetual playlist! I feel duty bound to register my protest in behalf of the middle child of the music product family, the EP, because due to either my failing attention span or all those memos and mergers I’m always so busy with, it seems like I turn to this format the most. But you called the EP lovable, so I’m not really disagreeing with you about anything (other than that small heresy of deviating from only constant and effusive praise of Jens Lekman, but I can let that one slide in the interest of “remaining calm”); here are several more good EPs released into the wild this year.
Clams Casino – Rainforest EP (Tri Angle)
Elementary/ elemental kick-and-snare patterns measuring out slow time, echoing, wordless vocal samples, and a precarious infrastructure of bass synths compose this brief collection of meditative, emotional near-instrumentals. The opening track, “Natural,” is my favorite of the five.
The Soft Moon – Total Decay (Captured Tracks)
This was released on Halloween and totally sounds like it. Actually, it sounds like Joy Division playing the Super Bowl halftime show on Mars. I like the way the drums are so repetitive, relentless, and vaguely tribal (basically “Atrocity Exhibition” played twice as fast); and how the vocals are squeezed and squelched through enough crazy filters to qualify as sound effects. I never gave their full-length from last year a fair shake, and I wonder if their oppressive aesthetic would wear on one after a while. It doesn’t matter here: Total Decay performs its claustral, psychedelic maneuvers confidently under 15 minutes.
Beach Fossils – What A Pleasure (Captured Tracks)
The reverb- and synth-heavy production on this release is a bit of a letdown after last year’s perfect and perfectly bare-bones affair Beach Fossils, but it’s hard to protest too much when the guitars are still so pretty and intricate. I saw them live this year and can report that their enthusiastic playing was visceral and irresistible.
Ólöf Arnalds – Ólöf Sings (One Little Indian Records)
Best for last! A collection of four stirring covers, this one knocked me off my feet, coincidentally, the same day that I watched the Arthur Russell documentary Wild Combination. I think this speaks for itself reasonably well:
Arnalds also manages to reverse my “No Neil Diamond!” general rule, at least for the time it takes her to sing “Solitary Man,” and for that I suppose I’m grateful.
To say something about your Maybe Pile, I think the Junior Boys album is the grower of the year, and if it were me I’d also include the LPs from Panda Bear, Lykke Li, John Maus, and Tim Hecker. But hey it’s your list, no one’s forcing you!
Play me out, Arthur Russell!