Published Dec 16, 2010Though we like to fool ourselves that the album is here to stay, the slow evolution of music consumption has suggested the inevitable death of the format. Sure, there were some fantastic full-length statements made by musicians across the spectrum in 2010, but an increasing number of artists and decreasing attention spans worldwide make it harder to process 80-minute presentations. That's where the EP has gained strength. Shorter in length and less formal by nature, the EP is a forum for artists to let their hair down and produce work unadulterated by the pressure of the album-length statements. Here are just ten of our favourite EPs from 2010, but god knows there were more stellar releases we could have included.
Head to the next page for Exclaim!'s Top 10 EPs of 2010:
10. Kurt Vile
For Square Shells, prominent psych rock guru Kurt Vile teamed up with veteran indie rock producer John Agnello (Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr.) and assembled seven tracks that work well with his entire canon of work. Strummed acoustic anthems are heightened by reverb-drenched guitar echoes and other expansive instrumentation. Penning top-notch folk rock and psych is Kurt Vile's M.O., and on Square Shells he suggested once again that his well won't dry up for a while.
9. Long Long Long
Halifax quartet Long Long Long feature members of the now-defunct post-hardcore group York Redoubt, and it shows. Despite their best efforts to embrace harmonic, beach-ready guitar pop, the group can't shake their penchant for mathy time signatures, quick switches and busy compositions. The results are fantastic, with each song packing an album's worth of hooks. Shorts is a four-song EP that follows their ten-track self-titled effort, and it's ADD-addled pop music perfect for this impatient era of ours, making Long Long Long one of 2010's best-kept secrets.
8. Babe Rainbow
Serving as the haunting post-dubstep moniker for Vancouver artist and Music Waste organizer Cameron Reed, Babe Rainbow got its proper debut this year via Shaved, which compiled the previously Web-only experiments as he first learned how to produce with Ableton Live. Haunting and off-putting are just some of the words that could apply to these tracks, but they carve out a different niche than the easy witch house genre tag that was so in vogue in 2010. From the staticy creep-fest of opener "Popcommon" to the melancholy title track, this is a unique and at times challenging listen. A cohesive seven-song effort on its own, Shaved also points to an exciting future, suggesting Babe Rainbow has an excellent album buried under the wobbly bass and eerie atmospheres. 7. Slobs
Combining the melodic insinuations of the Germs with a snarling, Stooges-ready guitar tone, Montreal four-piece Slobs might just be the new face of Canadian hardcore. Their six-song demo tape from 2009 was reissued on a seven-inch earlier this year, and it's almost unfair how they sound this good so early on in their career. Sing-alongs like "No Escape" work well with the plodding tempo of "Hope for Nothing," suggesting this band has a killer LP in them. That prospect is bittersweet, however, as their guitarist will likely be pretty busy with his other band, No Joy.
6. Sufjan Stevens
All Delighted People EP
Leave it to Sufjan Stevens to drop a 59-minute record and call it an EP. All Delighted People sees the maximalist pop explorer break his five-year break from studio pop songs to bridge the gap between Illinois and The Age of Adz. Sonically, this album follows the former more closely as the title track's enormous composition collides with the frailty of tracks like "The Owl and the Tanager." Closing out with the 17-minute "Djohariah," All Delighted People was a fitting farewell to the guitar-clad Stevens before he dropped his electronic-heavy Adz experiment.
That We Can Play
(Hippos in Tanks)
When he's not wooing your eardrums with spaced-out synthscapes as the sonic warrior behind Oneohtrix Point Never, electronic guru Daniel Lopatin works with Tigercity's Joel Ford in the unabashedly '80s pop group Games. Their debut EP, That We Can Play, showcases that sound well, hinting at influences of R&B, shimmering radio pop and emotive SNES music via endless synths and cheese-equipped vocals. Complete with a remix from scary witch house outfit Gatekeeper, the record is quintessentially 2010, but it also sounds like it's from the past and the future.
Notes From the Acheron
The "mysterious guy hardcore" genre tag jokingly applied to bands like Sex Vid, Mind Eraser and Hidden World-era Fucked Up reduced the self-serious, noisy hardcore of the mid-2000s to a goofy joke, leaving concern that the serious, noisy side of hardcore punk didn't have space to flourish. Fortunately, bands like Nomos demonstrate that hardcore punk doesn't need to sound like Refused to progress. Notes From the Acheron provides six original tracks of brutal, heavily distorted hardcore punk that's modern without being slick, vintage without sounding like an '80s hardcore cover band. Rounded out by a crushing rendition of Swell Maps' "Vertical Slum," this is the sound of new hardcore. Just don't call it post-hardcore.
3. Ogre You Asshole
Ukarete Iru Hito
Despite the unfortunate band name, Ogre You Asshole deserve much more attention from North America than they've so far received. Since the mid-2000s, the Japanese band have been churning out quality J-pop-influenced indie rock that embraced a love for early Built to Spill and Modest Mouse, as well as sugary Japanese-sung sad-guy vocals. But with the 2010 EP Ukarete Iru Hito (meaning "elated people"), the band seemingly got a new pile of import records, as they dropped their old '90s influences and took on a forward-thinking pop attitude more akin to your TV on the Radios and Animal Collectives. The result is an EP that packs in more sonic ideas than your typical double album, as Ogre You Asshole use and abuse the studio to fill five tracks full of gliding guitar lines, analog synth leads, symphonic strings, kitchen-sink beats and even doo-wop breaks and souled-out R&B grooves. It's no wonder Wolf Parade tapped these guy to open for their North American tour, because this is the some of the best pop to come this side of Shinjuku in years. 2. Flying Lotus
Pattern + Grid World
In the world of electronic music, there was no one hitting all the right spots like Flying Lotus. In addition to the top-notch quality of his grandiose Cosmogramma full-length, FlyLo found time to keep us wowed with Pattern + Grid World. Unlike the vague seriousness of Cosmogramma, however, Pattern + Grid World sticks with the classic EP mandate of showcasing the artist at his most carefree, dishing out seven tracks of unbridled fun and some seriously messed-up beats. In a year where electronic music was plagued with restrictive buzz genres, Pattern + Grid World is further proof that Flying Lotus did whatever he wanted in 2010, and came out on top all around. 1. CFCF
Montreal-based producer CFCF (born Michael Silver) has been crafting electronic music in various forms since he was a kid, but he's only gained major recognition for it in the last two years. In that span of time, he's gone from remix whiz to blog house hero to dance pop maestro. But all CFCF's potential seemed only partially realized on last year's hit-and-miss Continent full-length -- something Silver more than made up for with this year's stellar EP The River. Reportedly based on Werner Herzog's epic Fitzcarraldo (the one where they pull the boat over a mountain in the Amazon), The River turned up the ambience big time, nestling itself in a warm bed of electronic/organic structures and coming off like some modern rework of Brian Eno's best ambient works and Popol Vuh's film scores. Rounded out by bonus remixes from Jacques Renault, Games and Coyote, this is another piece of the puzzle in CFCF's increasingly eccentric discography, only this time it's essential.