Friday, December 26, 2008

Best EPs of 2008

I tend to have a love/hate relationship with EPs. On the one hand I always love getting more material from artists that I like, and music on EPs does tend to have more focus than on some LPs, but they do also run the danger of coming across as money grabs. This year saw a boat load of EPs from a bunch of different bands. The Mountain Goats tossed one our way, so did Coldplay, Stars, Final Fantasy, and the Decemberists. It was actually a bit tough to pick just three, but I did manage to do it. Here they are:

3. Senor and the Queen by The Gaslight Anthem

This has been a pretty good year for The Gaslight Anthem. In addition to their second full-length, the spectacular The '59 Sound, they tossed this little gift our way early on in the year. It spans the gap between their debut, Sink or Swim , and the aforementioned The 59 Sound. This EP maintains the raw sound of the group's debut, but, like the follow-up, is chock full of hooks that refuse to not get stuck in your head. It's over in a lightening quick eleven and a half minutes, but it's quite an eleven and a half minutes.

Say I Wont (Recognize) - The Gaslight Anthem

2. Death in the Park EP by Death in the Park

After their monstrously underrated fifth and final album, and a similarly under-attended supporting tour, Hot Rod Circuit called it quits in late 2007. Their frontman Andy Jackson and bassist Joe Ballaro formed this pop-punk quartet early in 2008, and their output is this EP. I was a big fan of Hot Rod Circuit, and always felt they deserved ten times more recognition than they got, so the creation of Death in the Park is good news for me. Musically the EP sounds closer in tone to Hot Rod Circuit's first album for Vagrant Records, Sorry About Tomorrow. Gone is Casey Prestwood's pedal steel, which came to define later HRC releases. However musically similar Death in the Park is to early HRC, the lyrics are the other side of the Sorry About Tomorrow coin. This is a five song EP, and all five songs are love songs. In an era where most pop-punk bands wallow in the melodrama of broken relationships, it is oddly refreshing to hear a band that is as happy as their sound.

Sway - Death In The Park

1. One Day as a Lion by One Day as a Lion

Axl Rose finally got around to releasing Chinese Democracy this year. Fuck Chinese Democracy. For Rage Against the Machine fans this is our Chinese Democracy. This is the album that we've been promised ever since Zach de la Rocha left RATM in 2000. It delivers. It's not lost on anyone that de la Rocha's been keeping busy since his departure from Rage; he's been a guest on a number of tracks, including a pairing with DJ Shadow, but he's never produced the album that he's purported to have been working on until now. And what an album it is. It's only five songs, but they're five songs that are filled with a rage fueled energy not seen since, surprise, the last Rage Against the Machine album. Joining de la Rocha is ex-Mars Volta drummer Jon Theodore. Together the two create the most minimalist of hip-hop albums. Keys, drums, and vocals. The only thing that is disappointing about the EP is that these aren't Rage Against the Machine songs, as the Bush administration has obviously outraged de la Rocha to such an extent that he's tossing out some of his best rhymes ever. "If you fear dying then you're already dead," he says on "If You Fear Dying." It's powerful stuff. Make no mistake, though, this EP challenges its audience. The minimalism isn't exactly the easiest thing to get through, but if you can you won't be disappointed. Zach de la Rocha took eight years to make this album, and it was time well spent.

If You Fear Dying - One Day As A Lion

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