ACRN’s Favorite EPs

With only 28 days (and 29 in each leap year), February seemed like a fitting month to ask our staff about their favorite shortest albums. In other words, we’re talking about our favorite EPs. EPs and demos have the power to make or break careers and complement an artist’s entire discography. Like interludes between acts of a play, EPs give artists a platform to combine conceptualities and experiment with new sounds. Even in the grand scheme of things, we mustn’t overlook the little guys.

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Eli Shively, General Manager: Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate) – Home After Three Months Away

No “emo revival” group captured the sweeping dynamics and endearing melodrama of the genre’s late-90’s peak like Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate) — and although I’m among those who consider their debut LP What It Takes To Move Forward an all-time emo classic, their 2011 EP Home After Three Months Away is the best thing they put out in their ten years as a band. It serves as a perfect midpoint between the raw, verbose What It Takes and the sighing nostalgia of second and final LP You Will Eventually Be Forgotten, one of the final Empire! Empire! releases to sound just as present and urgent in its longing as it does considerate and well-spoken. “Water” and “I Swim Like a Minnow” are what everything the quieter, more intricate end of the emo spectrum should aim to be, combining detailed and poignant lyrical themes with immaculate pacing and texture.

Sam Tornow, Editorial Director: Grouper – Paradise Valley

Despite living in an ever-expanding universe, Grouper’s music chooses to lay claim to the smaller spaces. The underrated experimental artist, Liz Harris, makes ethereal pieces out of tape-loops, which mimic the reticent sounds of empty bedrooms and intimate conversations in the attic. And though Grouper’s popularity, like the universe, has been expanding and a constant rate, she’s always shrunk inward back toward the dark corners.

In the hailstorm of 2016 though, even the calmest of artists were flipped around. Paradise Valley is a two-song EP which makes the familiar, drawn-out sounds drift out like morning fog. Both songs, “Headache” and “I’m Clean Now,” are cathartic, as if Grouper has been hiding a secret this whole time. Even the cover art of a cotton candy colored sky blended with gold rays stands salient amongst the typical black and white photography Harris employs. In eight minutes, Harris whispers as much truth as she has over the past ten full-lengths (which are all gorgeous in their own right), and whether Grouper retreats back to the corner on the next full length or not, seeing Harris under the full light, just once, was enough for me.

Devon Hannan, Features Editor: Sufjan Stevens – All Delighted People

Sufjan Stevens has never been known to play by the rules. In fact, his only EP, All Delighted People shouldn’t even qualify as an EP. Reaching a run time of just under an hour, Sufjan compiles a total of eight tracks, contrary to the three to five seen on a typical EP. What makes this work so fantastic is that it can stand alone as a concept – meaning that he doesn’t make compromises. Packed with full orchestration and beautiful harmonies, the man takes no time to hit you with a frying pan of realization that the world, is indeed, “a very big mess” (“From the Mouth of Gabriel”, “All Delighted People”).

With not-so-subtle nods to one of the greatest folk duos of all time, Simon and Garfunkel, Sufjan combines sweet and substantial songwriting with the incredible instrumentation seen on his sixth studio album, The Age of Adz. From fighting with the abstractions of religion on “From the Mouth of Gabriel” to the motivational and uplifting serenades seen on “Djohariah”, Sufjan makes the point that although the world may seem like an abomination of humanity itself, there is hope – and it lies in the hands of all delighted people.

Daniel Marco, Blogs Editor: My Bloody Valentine – Tremolo

Tremolo is a four-song EP released by Irish shoegaze band, My Bloody Valentine that accompanies their full-length album Loveless (which is freaking fantastic, by the way). The band’s sound at this time was once described as either being “druggy sex or sexy drugs”, and I couldn’t find a better description for Tremolo.

“To Here Knows When”, which MBV pulled from Loveless, kicks off the EP with a steady wave of distortion with lead singer Bilinda Butcher’s high pitched, angelic voice floating over the dissonance.

The next track of note is “Honey Power”, which is easily my favorite MBV song. By far the fastest paced song on the record, “Honey Power” features a quick, crisp drum beat and is probably the only “danceable” track. The song ends with a startlingly beautiful duet between Butcher’s vocals and Kevin Shields’ soft, harmonious guitar chords.

The closing track is “Moon Song”, the only song featuring Shields as the lead vocalist. “Moon Song” closes out the EP in a slow-moving, dreamy haze of reverb-heavy guitar chords and, strangely enough, bongos – but it somehow all works to create a song that sounds like something the Beach Boys would record if they started a shoegaze band in the 90s. If you ever have 18 minutes to spare, I would highly recommend checking out Tremolo. 

Eli Schoop, Copy Editor: goreshit – tomboyish love for daughter

I have to admit, I usually don’t prefer EPs. Maybe it’s that I tend to mythologize the de-facto statement an LP makes, but oftentimes I just find myself wanting more or simply not wanting any. But to write about a short-form release requires a creation perfectly suited to the nuances provided in EPs. This is where goreshit’s tomboyish love for daughter comes in. If you aren’t a fan of anime or haven’t bathed in internet culture throughout your life, you might not appreciate its bizarre brand of mayhem. Yet lolicore scratches a sample-oriented, speed-focused niche so well, you can almost forgive that ugly genre title. At 23 minutes, tomboyish love for daughter never wears its welcome while making every Lucky Star and Azumanga Daioh sample count. It’s a stunning display of weird cultural ethos and sheer ingenuity, gleefully crafted by way of /a/ and 8chan.

Tanner Bidish, Staff Writer: gobbinjr – vom night

Cute, comforting, and honest; vom night is a portrait of young adult anxiety and wonder. Past ACRN guest and the force behind gobbinjr, Emma Witmer relates to her listeners by being effortlessly herself. Sitting on the floor of my dorm, chowing down on a fresh burrito while thinking about a crush, was the exact (and ideal) setting to fall in love with this EP. These six synth-pop jams stole my heart with lyrical hooks like, “No one wants to love someone who’s never been loved before” (“vom night”), and “I feel creepy all the time / ‘cause I like everybody more than they like me” (“firefly”). Even the two-minute loop of “perfect” is catchy and buoyant in the best ways.

vom night is like a close friend who gets it; someone who is calm and understanding. With that being said, being unsure of yourself and your relationships can exert some intense dysphoria on a person. It’s so incredibly relieving to hear that feeling put simply and concisely to sweet tunes. That’s the charm of vom night – it’s refreshing and it’s honest.

Justin Cudahy, Staff Writer: The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour

Being the huge Beatles fan that I am, you could imagine my surprise when I found out that Magical Mystery Tour was originally released as a double EP in the UK, even though the full LP came out 11 days prior in the United States in 1967. I still can’t figure out why, but that won’t stop me from naming this as my favorite EP.

Compared to the LP, the EP lacks songs such as “Hello, Goodbye”, “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “All You Need is Love”, which are easily some of The Beatle’s greatest hits. But even when you take all of those out, you are still left with some great stuff. “The Fool on the Hill”, “Your Mother Should Know”, “Blue Jay Way” and “Flying” make up part of the six-track EP, not to mention the catchy but also confusing “I Am the Walrus”. Every one of these songs has been met with critical acclaim, which I doubt any of the other EPs on this list can attest for.

Marvin Dotiyal, Staff Writer: All Time Low – Put Up or Shut Up

When I began thinking about my favorite EP, the first thing that came to mind was All Time Low’s breakthrough EP, Put Up or Shut Up (although The Devil Wears Prada’s Zombie EP was a close second). There’s always room for nostalgia if we’re talking pop punk, right?

Put Up or Shut Up is a total banger and the perfect teenage soundtrack. It’s one of those records you can play it in its entirety without skipping a single track. Alex Gaskarth’s vocals were at his prime (and so was his hair), and the band was fresh out of high school – writing about typical high school romances, parties and relatable teenage struggles. “Coffee Shop Soundtrack”, “Jasey Rae” and “Running From Lions” are songs I still jam to today. Its combination of catchy choruses and overdramatic, yet clever lyrics are just so memorable and enjoyable to me. The music is indeed formulaic, but it’s so well executed.

Although their debut album, The Party Scene, is my personal favorite and a hidden gem in All Time Low’s discography, this EP captures All Time Low’s ultimate pop-punk sound.

Claire Klodell, Staff Writer: Fox Academy – elsie

“Choking on flowers” is an act I never want to catch myself in, but it is the title of one of my favorite tracks on Fox Academy’s 2015 EP, elsie. The song lyrics read as if they were intended to be a poem. “You remind me of better times / Dusty blinds / This happens all the time”, are smoothly intertwined as the last three lines of the song. These are phrases that if anyone else spoke in a conversation, would be comprehended with utter confusion.

Fox Academy’s elsie boldly places “goodbye my love” as its first track. In the third song, “nosebleed forever”, club-centered lyrics and slow background sounds are seemingly paradoxical, while “Perfect Shirt” poses the question of whether or not the narrator has fallen for a fictional character with the lyrics, “Spend my money at the movies / Every day to see your face”. This EP will make you feel like you’re floating and simultaneously witnessing a breakup you never went through.

Cailynn Beck, Contributor: Joanna Newsom and the Ys Street Band – Joanna Newsom and the Ys Street Band

 Joanna Newsom is my all-time favorite musician, so I had to choose her EP despite the many others that I like. Listening to any Joanna Newsom album always introduces a different sensation and I like the feeling that each of the three tracks on this EP give me. “Clam, Crab, Cockle, Crowie” and “Cosmia” are both stripped down from their respective studio versions, leaving the listener with a warm and earthy folk impression, and “Colleen” is a track that gets a lot of well-deserved critical praise.

Joanna Newsom always finds a way to tie history into her music while creating beautiful imagery with each stroke of the harp. Joanna Newsom takes me to the Renaissance era while still leaving a lingering influence of contemporary problems and feelings. Now, if only she could put her music on Spotify…

Allegra Solomon, Contributor: Saint Motel – My Type

Saint Motel‘s 2014, four-track EP is better than any full-length album that they have ever put out. In fact, I’m sure I’ve played every song on this EP more than anything off of Voyeur or saintmotelevision, combined. My Type stirred up the perfect kind of excitement they needed to get attention for saintmotelevision, an album which ultimately fell short of expectations. Don’t get me wrong, “Move” and “Born Again” are pretty good tracks, but nothing could compare to hearing “My Type” shake Columbus’ tiny A&R Bar, live.

Every time I listen to this EP, I’m instantly taken back to the sunny, blasting-music-with-your-windows-down, adolescent summer that would soon lead up to one of my best years in school. This EP is undoubtedly the band’s best work, and try as they might, the riffs in “Midnight Movies”, the saxophone in “My Type” and blissful vibes of “Cold Cold Man” cannot be replicated or topped.

 

 

 

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