Yes, I know, this is even more insane to post this now considering I posted Part 1 back in July. However, two things: one, 2014 was…problematic at times to say the least. Some days, music is all that kept me from jumping out of my office window. Considering I work in a basement office, that would have simply been confusing and messy. Second thing: I am still finding music from all eras that I’ve never heard before. The other day I discovered a fantastic track only to discover it was from 2005. Or there’s the compilation Those Shocking, Shaking Days which consists of badass Indonesian music from the 1970s. So I figure there’s gotta be something in this mix of stuff you haven’t heard. And, if nothing else, hey, it’s an experiment. Read all about it in the first post.
[ad#longpost]And just to quickly recap: for the purposes of this little experiment, I’ve refined the single vs. EP vs. Album distinction slightly further. If it’s got less than three distinct songs on it, it can be a single…unless the title does not exist as a track on the release. Because otherwise, it doesn’t bloody well make sense. It barely makes sense as it stands. Also, there are some releases on here that simply, with more than four tracks, clock in at less than twenty-five minutes…so to put them up against a full-on album doesn’t make any sense either. So. So I’m sure I’m the only one who is trying to draw a distinction this badly. So…let’s just run with it. First, the favorites in alphabetical order, then a Top 5 at the end.
Sara Bareilles – Once Upon Another Time
The Ben Folds-produced EP immediately tries to get my attention by a match being struck (yeah, I’m that much of a Tom Waitsian) and then breaks into gorgeous a cappella vocals that just melts my brain. After that, you get a slow song with country-undertones that doesn’t wear out its welcome in “Stay” and then the drum-driven “Lie to Me.” And on from there…the songs changing themselves up without turning into the female singer-songwriter version of Tool (although that would be pretty badass, come to think of it) and thus they sustain multiple plays quite easily. Very enjoyable. It’s available from Amazon.
Burial – Truant/Rough Sleeper
Qualifying as an EP due to its twenty-five minute-plus running time, the two tracks that make up the title go from the dronish “Truant” to the somewhat spooky and driving “Rough Sleeper.” I so seldom find long-ass tracks that I can listen to repeatedly, but these two definitely qualify. The video posted is one where someone took “Truant” and coupled it with an elevated train journey. Just because. Available from Amazon.
Fanu – Breakbeat Brew
If you’re saying that I’m being partial to this selection due to the coffee-infused title, the fact that Helsinki-based Fanu himself is a self-professed “coffee abuser”…and the Tom Waits samples on two of the five tracks? Well, I’m not going to argue with you on any of those points. But it’s just a series of incredibly tight beats that take you on an intense and at times crazed journey in “About Life and Death” and then builds the drumming around a Waits sample complaining about somebody complaining about his need for a drummer. Oh, and Waits also howls about a monkey. This EP has everything. Available from Fanu’s Bandcamp.
Icona Pop – Iconic
There’s just something about the ridiculous, anarchic and infectious dance nonsense of Icona Pop that I truly enjoy. Not sure why. Probably because it makes a lot of things I wouldn’t find palatable work for me. “I Love It” is kind of like my Bruno Mars selection previously–it’s not high culture and I dig that. Sometimes you just need that. I like the choral beginning of “Ready For the Weekend” and how it descends into pseudo-dubstep noise and then just marches into a club like it owns the place. And the fact that the beginning of “Sun Goes Down” sounds to me like somebody tried to make a smoothie out of 80s guitar rock and turn it into a video game soundtrack. Again, not sure why. But it works for me. It’s available from Amazon.
Christopher Norman and The Reverb Junkie – All the Pretty People
Yes, this is one of the EPs that I struggled to make fit given the constrictions I put on myself. The lead song off of this collaboration between Norman and Michelle Chamuel reduced my hearing substantially considering the number of times I’ve played it. All the tracks have exceptional beats behind them and, well, “Is She Gonna” has strings in it. And you know how I am about strings. You can snag it from their Bandcamp.
Y Niwl – Y Niwl 4
There’s the exception to the rule in this one. It has more than four songs on it–six in all–but the total running time is around fourteen minutes…so it didn’t seem fair to put it up against full-blown albums. And, I mean, come on: surf music from Wales. This is part of the joy of this musical experiment: hell yes, I want to hear Welsh surf music. Brilliant tight little instrumental bombs. Fantastic. Available from their Bandcamp site.
5. Dirty Projectors – About to Die
This was the first time I had heard the simplistically mad sound of Dirty Projectors, which I think I take to because it keeps my fevered brain busy like dubstep does. It’s “sky flowers” from Land of the Dead. The combo of David Longstreth’s unique vocal quality with the female back-up vocalists absolutely delights me. The fact that things like the drum track behind the title track should annoy the shit out of me but it completely works…that delights me too. And honestly, all strings aside (since I am addicted to them, admittedly), if you can listen to the track “While You’re Here” and not get something profound out of it, then seriously, seek help. It’s available from Amazon.
4. The Neighbourhood – I’m Sorry…
Again, we have some slightly complicated instrumentation here, and I just love stuff that sounds big. The opening of “Female Robbery” sounds like the Wendigo crashing through the trees towards the end of Pet Sematary for example, then, hey, it resolves into a indie-rock song. I can dig that. The vocals/music combination reminds me of some other band I greatly enjoy…but I can’t quite put my finger on it. And I appreciate how each section of the song changes up enough so that they don’t get boring. It’s just solid. It’s available from Amazon.
3. Dum Dum Girls – End of Daze
Remember how I said I like big sounds? Heavy and big is fun too. That’s why End of Daze pleases me. It’s, now that I look at it, my favorite rock EP of 2012. Go figure. I love the slow march of “Mine Tonight” with its promise of big guitars and then the delivery of that with a wall of perfect noise. Then “I Got Nothing” reminds me of my favorite tracks by The Long Blondes. And anybody who’s ever been working their way out of a long period of grief (of any flavor) will appreciate IMO “Season in Hell.” This EP has got a bit of rock everything and it’s eminently listenable.
2. Big Black Delta – Betamax
What was I saying about big sound? Oh yeah. Well, Rob turned me onto Big Black Delta early and holy shit, but does it make me happy. “IFUCKINGLOVEYOU” is quite possibly the best love song of the year. No, I’m serious. And the layers and then chorus of “Betamax” are just gorgeous. Gorgeous and loud. This EP places based off of those two tracks alone–they’re sufficient–but I wanted to make sure that I was ranking stuff that I enjoyed thoroughly. And yes, the last two tracks are somewhat less than coherent…but hey, I need background music to work with, and they’re perfect. And this is a lead-in to his 2013 debut full-length. Sweet. It’s available from Amazon.
1. Seven Lions – Seven Lions
After listening through this EP several dozen times, it occurred to me that a New Life Goal would be to create some sort of cinematic something or other that required the prowess of Seven Lions, aka Jeff Montalvo (pictured way up top). It has everything I want. Awesome and ethereal female vocals, sweeping arrangements that then start to grind your brain into a fine powder, and lots and lots of background details that, again, keep my brain busy while I’m trying to actually get things done. Seriously, this has been on repeat since I discovered it at some point last year. And now that I’ve been listening to it again while writing this, I’ll probably be listening to it for a few weeks ongoing. It’s available from Amazon.
Okay, at last. That’s Part 2. Next time, which hopefully won’t take nine months to get to, I’ve got my favorite songs (that weren’t singles) from 2012. And I’m still listening through 2013. So we’ll catch up eventually.