I decided to do something a little experimental this year with my best EP list. When I was comparing very short “full-length” albums to longer albums on my best LP list, I kept wanting to hold the time duration against the shorter album. Also, it seems the difference between EPs and LPs can be a bit arbitrary sometimes, so I decided to just draw a line completely based on album length to split up my best album lists. This list, then, is the best of all albums less than 35 minutes, regardless of what the record is labeled. I’m happy with the end result, as I’m able to really highlight some extremely worthwhile briefer albums and it made the competition on this list a lot tighter. When you really think about it, any classic album this short feels like it is in a different weight class. I want to give an honorable mention to Cynic‘s Traced In Air, Parade‘s Ghosts, and Mount Eerie with Julie Dorion and Fred Squire‘s Lost Wisdom because all three were awesome, but here are the 20 best albums under 35 minutes:
20. …And You Will Know Us By The Trail
Of Dead : Festival Thyme
This little EP was definitely a grower for me, but I have come to really enjoy it. On the strength of the closing track alone this is a must have piece, but the other three tracks highlight almost all of Trail of Dead‘s many dimensions producing at least one crowd pleaser for every sort of TOD fan.
19. High Places : High Places
I only very recently came across this album and it grows on me with every listen. The percussion is very tribal and glitchy and contrasts the female vocalist’s simple, sweet melodies resulting in something that feels atmospheric and dancey at the same time. At first listen it may seem a bit repetitive, but once you emerse yourself in the language of the music, you’ll discover there is a lot of going on.
18. Experimental Dental School : Jane
Doe Loves Me
Experimental Dental School seem to be more Deerhoof than Deerhoof these days in their quest to be as sporadic and proggy as possible. It feels like Fiery Furnaces meets Primus with maybe a touch of Yes. Their newest is totally unpredictable and a ton of fun, pushing the limits of pop music experimentation to their brink.
17. Beck : Modern Guilt
This Danger Mouse produced follow up to the silently triumphant The Information sees Beck continue his stride after getting his groove back post-Guero. Modern Guilt isn’t blazing new territory, but rather an extremely solid collection of songs from one of the best songwriters of the last 15 years.
16. Moscow Olympics : Cut The World
The Philippines’ Moscow Olympics do a particularly beautiful brand of shoegazey dream-pop-rock. Musically this sounds like if The Stills would have went into a post-rock direction after their first album and put the vocals in the background. There isn’t exactly anything new or innovative about what they are doing, but their debut EP stands out entirely for the fact that it just sounds so damn good.
15. Abe Vigoda : Skeleton
At first listen, Abe Vigoda may seem a bit too reminiscent of their fellow LA friends, No Age, but AV‘s tropical flavoured punk has a charm of its own. Their music exudes feelings of good times, and without the usual lack of musicianship that comes with most “fun punk” bands. Skeleton has been one of my favourite end of the year discoveries, so if you missed them this year as well, it’s never too late to jump on the bandwagon.
14. A Armada : Anam Cara
Half of Cinemechanica have teamed up with other Athens superstars to form a post-rock band that is all about taking up the intensity a notch or two. Certainly Explosions In The Sky parallels can easily be found on their debut EP, but I think the most important comparison I would make is that A Armada have the rare ability to make instrumental songs seem monumental. Each song has a personal character that stands out, something missing from almost all the newer bands tackling this genre.
13. Antony & The Johnsons : Another
I’m a latecomer to the mindblowing vocal phenomenon that is Antony Hegart, so I don’t exactly know where this EP rates among his work, but regardless of the context, this is 20 minutes of pure bliss. While many have been hyping the Hercules and Love Affair that he guests on this year, I think he is way more enjoyable sans the disco. What’s even more exciting is that this piece is only a teaser for his upcoming full-length coming in just a few weeks. I can’t wait!
12. The Rosebuds : Life Like
This is another album that had grown on me the more I listen to it, which seems to be the case with all the Rosebuds stuff for me. They have this weird magic like aura around their music that is just irresistible, even if on the surface the music doesn’t seem to be that out of the ordinary. If you haven’t given this North Carolina husband and wife team a try, it is about time you did.
11. Air France : No Way Down
The second release from Swedish group Air France can best be described with the “hook” from “Collapsing at Your Doorstep”: “Sorta like a dream?” “No — better.” No Way Down offers glimpses of The Avalanches‘ Since I left You and The Orb‘s The Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld. This is hands down the best 23 minutes of dance music produced this year. -Anne Reade
10. Oh No Oh My : Dmitrij Dmitrij
This Austin, Texas band’s new EP is a 5 song kaleidoscope of great styles. For example, the opener features heavy, sweeping guitar riffs but then jumps abruptly into a light, upbeat Decemberists-type of tune. The various pieces of this indie-pop-rock album aren’t necessarily very original, but the way it is put together is quite striking. Every single song on this is a masterpiece in itself, so don’t miss this one.
9. Mount Eerie : Black Wooden Ceiling
Of the many Mount Eerie releases of this year, i think this one was the most consistently entertaining. Here Phil Elverum is creating “black metal using natural materials.” The result isn’t exactly black metal, but his usual lo-fi-ness is complimented nicely here with some seriously great electric guitar riffs, and even some older stuff from his discography is reworked. Much of it reminds me of jammier songs from early Built To Spill like “Stab”, and that is a champion of a sound to have.
8. Maps & Atlases : You And Me And The
It is easy to dismiss Maps & Atlases as another Minus The Bear finger-tapping disciple, but their third consecutive short-length release sees them mature into a band that may be wholly more interesting and impressive than MTB. The guitar wankery is sparser and more purposeful, while the percussion take center stage. The album’s almost 18 minutes feels entirely too short because when you’re listening to music this good, time flies.
7. Twin Tigers : Curious Faces/Violet Future
These Athens, Georgia rockers are students of great music, drawing on influences like My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, and Jesus And Mary Chain. But in their debut release, they don’t necessarily wear these influences on their sleeve, instead using them as a jumping off point towards creating their own unique sound that pays homage without feeling like a cheap ripoff. Twin Tigers is poised to become one of the southeast’s hottest bands if they can up the ante after this excellent EP.
6. Crystal Antlers : EP
Crystal Antlers‘ debut, the 25 minute jammer entitled EP, is chalked full of psychedelic goodness. Produced by The Mars Volta‘s keyboardist Ikey Owens, it is rare to listen to an album that is pulling from so many influences at one time while being so perplexing as to pinning down where each element was derived. Every moment of this sounds so familiar, yet the complexity of the hybrid is unlike anything I can remember. Plus, the proggy guitar work is as impressive as any jamming I’ve heard.
5. Animal Collective : Water Curses
Water Curses is consists of leftovers from the Strawberry Jam sessions featuring 4 songs in the weirder part of their spectrum. It serves as one last endeavor in that direction for now as the band is moving into more accessible sounds between Person Pitch and the forthcoming Merriweather Post Pavilion. This EP is pure gold, just like everything else the Collective touches, and you’d be a fool to overlook it.
4. This Piano Plays itself : This Piano Plays
This self-titled debut album from Atlanta’s own This Piano Plays Itself is a remarkable statement from a young band. The gorgeous soundscapes and sensational songwriting produce a near perfect album. This first outing from TPPI is completely self recorded and produced, and the few tiny flaws that can be found on this record come from that side of the equation, but has any artist ever gotten everything right on their first try? What is for sure is this talented 4-piece has enormous potential so expect big things from these guys in the years to come.
3. Slushco : When I Met The Boss Of Nova
As far as doing more with less, I can’t recall an album that is more successful. Nova is just perfect simplicity. The album was created primarily on a $24 Casio keyboard that Slushco‘s Brian Slusher bought off of ebay proving that an amazing record can be created with the most minimal of tools. Slusher takes plastic, synthetic 8-bit sounds and make them feel more human than I’ve heard anyone else do before.
2. No Age : Nouns
While I have been disappointed with No Age‘s live show, there are very few contemporary artists that sound this good on record. My polarized appreciation for each reflects how large a dichotomy exists between their studio work and concerts. On stage, the duo is stripped down and their shortcomings are revealed, but Nouns, much like their previous material, is comprised of thickly layered compositions. Never has something so punk felt so polished, so ethereal, so artful, and just plain beautiful.
1. Women : Women
Even had I considered this on my full length list, it would have been a strong contender for number one. This album epitomizes everything great about modern indie music. It channels the strengths of this decade’s best and brightest, like Deerhunter, No Age, and Animal Collective, without ever feeling like it is stepping on their toes. At times it is experimental and noisy, and at others the pop melodies touch you deep in your soul. I really don’t think there is a more dynamic and all together stunning 30 minutes of music to come out in 2008 than Women.
- Posted by Davy Minor on December 31, 2008 at 5:57 am