STAFF LIST: Eli’s Top 5 EP’s of 2017
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 2017, more lists will cover more ground. Our goal is to help you find something new. Thank you for reading.
Although established artists often release EP’s to experiment or drop songs that didn’t fit elsewhere, the medium is most important for young acts. It’s the perfect format for introducing yourself to listeners without overwhelming them, and it’s also a manageable number of songs for newborn bands to compile; writing a full-length takes time. Therefore, I find that the best EP’s of each year usually come from underground artists—either local or perhaps regionally known—with the talent of becoming the next generation’s household names.
Here are five EP’s that really struck me this year:
Care is a mantra for Total Yuppies’ second EP in a couple of different ways. Thematically, care is a feeling that frontman Jacob Walsh is trying to chase and shake at the same time. The record is an emotional tug of war between bitterness and apathy as he reckons with the leftover resentment of a failed relationship. Judging by the lyrics, the breakup saw him leaving a part of himself in addition to his partner, and songs like “Move the Rug” and “Best of Me” deal with attempting to soul search within a self that you’re not sure even exists. Perhaps inadvertently, care is also the only reasonable way of describing the band’s approach to making music. For a project this emotionally frenzied, these five songs sound like the product of meticulous concentration. Every strum, tap and intonation is extraordinarily precise, each of Walsh’s yells is perfectly timed, and each pedal effect is thoughtfully placed. Not that Care is even the slightest bit glossy; it’s a fuzzy, unabashedly loud slab of garage rock through and through. But it’s one that was assembled with the type of concern that Walsh feels he’s lacking in his own life.
Yucky Duster strike the perfect balance between twee and taut on Duster’s Lament. The band maintain the funness but move beyond the scrappiness of their 2016 mini-album, dishing out sticky hooks while also pushing the boundaries for what terse power-pop songs can accomplish. Off-kilter rhythms and wiry guitar licks a la Krill and Pile are paired with casually delivered refrains, creating this odd dichotomy where despite their instrumental complexities, the band don’t even sound like they’re trying that hard. That’s not a backhanded compliment, they just exude a premature sense of comfortability and cohesion as a musical unit, a level of confidence and control over their sound that most acts acquire over years. Some never get there, but Yucky Duster already have, and their band’s still in its toddler years. Imagine what’ll happen once they reach pre-k.
Thankfully, despite their slacker-rock stylings and lyrical gripes with the mundane, Snooze defy the implied sleepiness of their moniker on their eponymous debut. The Oakland sextet tear into seven pieces of comfort food rock on Snooze; crunchy riffs and savory melodies that, although low-risk go’s at Weezery power-pop, are as endlessly satisfying as your favorite snack. Unlike his thunderous performances in the horn-laden emo-punk of his other band Just Friends, frontman Sam Kless’s delivery is more timid on these cuts—which is conducive to both his unembellished personal anecdotes and the sleek production. Tracks like “Pink Slip,” “Tattoo” and “MTG” narrate the less-than-glamorous experiences of our adolescence; hoping to get sacked at your shitty job, wishing to show your crush your new tattoo, and the push-pull between boredom and loneliness. The minute-long blaze “Alicia’s House” and the striding “Dumb Ass” are the standouts, both of which retort Kless’s pleas of self-doubt and social anxiety with beaming guitar licks and gooey synth melodies. A nosh like this feels well-deserved at the end of this hellish year.
There’s something brewing in Upstate New York. Jouska, Total Yuppies, Full Body, Big Fred, and of course Prince Daddy & the Hyena have released some of the most promising indie rock of the last two years, and Albany’s Bruiser & Bicycle are now required to be included in that conversation. You’re All Invited is the quartet’s astonishing debut that pulls from the slow builds, acute fingerwork and occasional shoegaziness of their Capital Region elders Jouska, but with the loopy arpeggios of other Tiny Engines acts like floral print and Peaer. Their songs shimmy themselves into narrow grooves that eventually open up into cavernous passageways, displaying a keen understanding of spatial awareness for a fledgling act—one that formed less than a year ago. The abrupt transition between the third and fourth song is a misstep, but the closer/title track features a precocious success at sonic climax, carrying out the song well past the six minute mark and capping it with an explosive, unpredictable reprise of the first line. What few gaffes there are don’t influence the satisfaction You’re All Invited brings upon its completion. Indie labels, beware.
In a year where progress, art, and human decency were made to seem insurmountably small and/or hopeless, Hell Ya sounds like our collective angst being blasted out of a cannon. It’s a messy, reckless effort at materializing sensory overload and unleashing it as triumphantly as possible. It’s a selection of music that sounds like it was born of a necessity to express, not of a run-of-the-mill desire to create. Songs like “Shear” and “Rally” emit an urgency that suggests you’re wasting time, that you need to get up and carry out your desires right this instant. But the EP isn’t an endorsement for the individual. It sounds like a call for unity, for assembly, and for pushing together to topple adversity. By the end of the eight-minute closer, “Work,” you really do feel like you and a crowd of screaming protesters just knocked over a financial headquarters; you feel cleansed by chaos. Writing about these five songs is hard because they don’t affect me the way most songs do, they make me want to rip out my headphones and go defeat some greater evil. They make me want to do something that warrants me screaming “hell ya!” afterwards.
Eli Enis | @eli_enis
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