STAFF LIST: Eli’s Top 5 EP’s of 2018
Posted: by The Editor
Over the next couple weeks, The Alternative will be publishing numerous EOTY staff lists leading up to our site-wide ‘Top 50 Albums of the Year’ article. Why so many lists? Well, we believe in giving as many bands/artists exposure as possible, and with so many great releases in 2018, more lists will cover more ground. Our goal is to help you find something new. Thank you for reading.
It’s strange that in an era of ever-shortening attention spans, the bloated mixtape is considered more favorable than the slim and trim EP. Think of how many full-lengths would jump from “good” to “incredible” if they were sliced in half? For budding artists, the four to six song EP is the perfect size for luring prospective audiences without overwhelming them. And for veteran acts, it’s a great medium for tiding fans over until the next big release.
Here are five EP’s from 2018 that really stuck with Editor Eli Enis:
Plums’ very relevant form of throwback music distills Post Animal, The Lemon Twigs, Ty Segall, and Tame Impala into 15 minutes on their long-awaited return, EP02. It’s four songs of kaleidoscopic funk, whooping psych-pop, and capital-r Rock balladry that blissfully eschews post-2000’s songwriting cues, but basks in the tactility that modern production provides. It sounds nothing like the band’s only other release, 2015’s widely-enjoyed yet poorly aged lo-fi surf EP Jen. And in an industry that often favors bloat over brevity, its short runtime may read as half-baked throwaways to the uninitiated. But for those who just smash “play” on the damn thing, EP02 immediately pulls you into its dense, colorful, and magnificently detailed world of psych-pop wonder.
Turtlenecked’s first of two EP’s this year cherry-picked the finest attributes from a hodgepodge of self-serious groups, and then pieced them into a project that is at once lighthearted and assertive. Songs like “Underwear” and “Milkmaids” add flecks of neon to the exhaustingly monochromatic rose-tint of Porches’ austere synth-pop. “To – Day” and “Friends, Romans, Countryboyz” channel British post-hardcore posse Enter Shikari—who, at their best, are captivatingly absurd and unironically epic—at their most Reading Festival-ready. And the coldest, most industrial moments on the semi-successful experiments “Centrefold” and “Let Me Know” resemble Xiu Xiu when they feel like writing pop songs. High Scores is a decidedly experimental project that’s bookended by two of the most straightforward pop songs in the Turtlenecked repertoire. The genreless purgatory it occupies would yield insufferable pandemonium for most artists. But for Smith, it’s where he’s crafted his most developed material yet.
The people who’ve seen Another Michael perform, or have already fallen in love with their pair of EP’s, are very aware of how peerlessly brilliant they are. The four songs on Land, which Topshelf Records released in August, sound like if an idyllic snowday was set to music. The soft, pitter-pattering percussion falling gently yet persistently; flurries of reverby guitar licks that flutter and accent the brisk sonic airspace; the plunky piano melodies stepping up and down with the intentionality of someone trudging carefully through a snow-covered walkway; and frontman Michael Doherty’s balmy falsetto, melting over the stark instrumentals like warm coffee steam collecting on your glasses. If Andy Shauf, Bon Iver, and Double Double Whammy’s roster set out to make music that sounded like Upstate, NY, it would be Another Michael.
Strange Ranger maintain their stronghold on shadowy, nighttime indie rock on the brief yet far-reaching How It All Went By. The EP from October is their third substantial project in two years, and it sees the band continuing to develop dynamic restraint while also returning to the grittiness of their 2016 full-length debut, Rot Forever. Opener “New Hair” is the spunkiest they’ve sounded in years, while “The Wires” moves even further toward the dusky alt-country they toyed with on last year’s Daymoon. The five-minute “Remember” is the standout, though. The first three-quarters of the song recall the methodical drip of Duster, slogging forward at an almost painfully slow pace. Suddenly, the track trips over and into a chasm of hell, as frontman Isaac Eiger unleashes a throat-searing screamo shriek over smashing drums and a guitar lead pulled from, like, a City of Caterpillar climax. It’s both the heaviest and softest the band’s ever been, and they’ve positioned themselves to succeed at whichever direction they take on LP3.
“In my hood OGs threw pitchforks / now I’m Northside bound doin Pitchfork?” is a bar, a blush, and a synthesis of Open Mike Eagle’s ascension since dropping his 2017 opus Brick Body Kids Still Daydream. The L.A. by Chicago rapper has put out nine albums and seven EP’s since 2007 (at least one project a year), but Brick Body was the one that really caught on and led to his appearance at Pitchfork festival, an NPR Tiny Desk, and praise across the internet. His latest output, What Happens When I Try to Relax, plays like a response to his long-awaited blow-up. The thesis being, as he bluntly tweeted out the day it dropped: “6 songs I’m releasing on my own record label that I’ll put up against any 6 rap songs that came out this year.” And yeah, he pretty much wins in every conceivable category. Lyrics: unmatched wit. Production: neither trendy nor an homage to the old-school, but definitely fresh and well-informed. Flow: like any great podcaster or comedian (he’s both), at once conversational and artful.
Eli Enis | @eli_enis
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