Saturday, October 17, 2009

Extended Play

The long, slow death of the single is well documented. You can get in the charts these days by selling a hundred or so copies. I've seriously considered grunting on a record for a couple of minutes, buying up 200 copies myself, and waiting for the radio play to follow. Someone somewhere would probably also decide it was art.

But the industry has responded to the death of the single by breathing life back into an old favourite. The EP is back. Everywhere I look it seems people are releasing EPs. In a lot of cases, they are new, up-and-coming bands for whom the format is a perfect way to get material out there before the album is ready. But for some of the others, and I'm looking at The Pains of Being Pure At Heart and Elvis Perkins here, you wonder if its not just a marketing gimmick, selling what is essentially a single as an EP to boost sales. You don't tend to buy the single if you already have the album, but an EP? Well, that sounds more interesting. Heck, I know it works on me.

Anyway, all I know is that I've bought a ton of EPs of late. Here's the best of 'em.

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - Falling Over (Higher Than The Stars EP, 2009)

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart were one of the most refreshing arrivals of 2009, taking us all back to that old-school indie of our youths (or slightly before). With an early winter tour planned, they obviously felt the need to stick something new out in for the form of the Higher Than The Stars EP. The title track itself has a slightly more stripped down feel than the album, the trademark buzz guitars largely gone, but the rest suggests there is plenty more to come of the sound that made their debut so addictive.

Emmy The Great - Canopes and Drapes (The Edward EP, 2009)

These songs were recorded before Emmy's debut album, "long-lost songs" that Emmy claims were forgotten about until fans kept asking for them at gigs. She even reckons she had to look on the internet to check the lyrics to them. Looking at said lyrics, all I can say is that, given how much we've come to like and respect Emmy, we really hope she wasn't all that upset the day S Club 7 split...

Peggy Sue - Lover Gone (The Lover Gone EP, 2009)

Put this right at the top of the list of albums I can't wait for. I'll let the song explain why. Peggy Sue have been big on the EP format, kickstarting their career with three so far, the Body Parts EP (with Left With Pictures, more of whom below), the First Aid EP, and then this, the Lover Gone EP. All we need now is that album...

Beth Jeans Houghton - Hot Toast (Hot Toast Vol. 1, 2009)

Put this in second place behind Peggy Sue on the hotly anticipated albums list. Newcastle's pop diva (who comes with one of the more, er, inventive biographies of late is in the studio recording right now, apparently, so it shouldn't be too long. In the meantime, the best we have is this five-track EP.

Left With Pictures - Secretly (Secretly EP, 2009)

The debut album from these London folksters is due any time now. If it contains even just a few slices of the delicious hooks that have dominated their singles and this here EP so far, it should be well worth the wait.

Elvis Perkins - Gypsy Davy (The Doomsday EP, 2009)

The Doomsday EP is one that would seem to qualify as just a rebranded single. Where you used to do a CD1 and CD2, here it all is together. Aside from Doomsday itself, everything is essentially a b-side, not least the extended, slowed down version of Doomsday. This is the pick of the other selections and, while good, its not good enough to live on the (rather excellent) album.

Treetop Flyers - Mountain Song (To Bury The Past EP, 2009)

This is a lovely slice of Americana which reminds me of my beloved Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. I'm not sure if you're supposed to be this good at Southern Rock if you're from London, but there you go.

Bon Iver - Beach Baby (Blood Bank EP, 2009)

This strikes me as a more genuine use of an EP by an established artist. While still basking in the success of "For Emma, Forever Ago", Bon Iver used Blood Bank to introduce several new ideas, and to record his first music feating a full backing band.

The Deep Vibration - Oklahoma City Woman Blues (Veracruz EP)

If this five-track EP was designed to pique interest in the Nashville foursome, it worked on me. Of course, I'm not hard to sell on alt-country.

PS - While I'm on, this should be the final apology for it going quiet on here for a while. Starting in the next couple of days, coming in about seven or eight parts, will be a compilation I've been making for a while now, featuring a track for each of the 50 US states. Once that is out of the way, we'll begin counting down towards a very exciting project planned for December - the musical advent calendar. Much more to come on this soon...

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