Monday, January 11, 2010

My Decade in Extended Plays, #50-41

It's Week 2 of PB's "Hey Remember That Thing We Just Did?" month-long adventure in forced nostalgia. This week, we're talking the top 50 EPs. Looking over this list, I see a lot of bands that had potential and either realized it (The Early November, Against Me!) or proceeded to fail early fans as hard as possible (Straylight Run). Either way, though, here are a few mini-albums, filler free and ready to rock.

Top 50 EPs of the First Decade of the New Millenium, #50-41

50. Caution! - Caution EP

Is it self-serving to open this list with an album I wrote? Eh, whatevs. I’ve been in a few bands and self-released a handful of EPs over the years. I have mixed feelings about everything I’ve recorded, but I’m still fairly proud of the first EP I ever released as the drummer for my high school band, Caution!. For a music writer, I have a lousy time discussing my bands. C! strikes me as being in the alt-rock whatever vein. I think you can tell that we listened to a lot of Weezer, Something Corporate, and MxPx, although one passerby once compared us to the Cure, which I’d take as a supreme compliment if I didn’t disagree with it. Somebody else compared us to Simple Plan, though, so eff my life. By the time I got to college, I was pretty sick of these songs, but nowadays I put this EP on every so often and marvel at how young we were. Some of its intentionally funny (“Falling On My Face”), some of it is unintentionally so (“Bleeding From the Inside Out”). But mostly I can say we wrote some pretty good garage rock songs, as I will always be proud of “Clearview,” which has one of the best piano hooks ever so shut up, and “Where You Are,” the very first song we ever wrote.

49. Static Radio NJ - One For the Good Guys

Seven songs in less than 10 minutes. Blink and you’ll miss it Kid Dynamite-style spit takes. I was introduced to Static Radio NJ via my internship with Wonka Vision, and my love only grew from there. These guys are just as good live as on record, and while describing their sound doesn’t take many words – any band Dr. Dan Yemin has been in – they’re still one of my favorite New Jersey punk bands out there today. These tunes are so rambunctious and fun that I always have to smile.

48. Straylight Run - Demo (2003)

The Summer of Screamo came and went, and then its biggest stars started subverting that image. Thursday skewed towards post-hardcore. Brand New started writing about God a lot. As for Taking Back Sunday, well, they never really recovered after guitarist/co-vocalist/songwriter John Nolan and bassist Shaun Cooper split following a falling out. The duo started indie rock act Straylight Run with John’s sister Michelle and Will Noon from Breaking Pangea. They self-released a demo on the Internets in 2003, stoked a cult-like following before even playing a show, and then proceeded to alienate their fan base by being the kind of band that mopes but doesn’t scream. The group’s best song continues to be “Existentialism on Prom Night.” Heard here in embryonic version, it’s packed with LiveJournal one liners like “Sing like you think no one’s listening” and “You would kill for this / Just a little bit.”

47. Kitty Kat Dirt Nap - Kitty Kat Dirt Nap (2003)

Kitty Kat Dirt Nap was an unsung synth-rock band from Philly in the vein of Motion City Soundtrack, the Rentals, and the Reunion Show. They wrote super-catchy tunes like “If I Had a Purse I Would Carry Breathe Mints in It Too.” Buoyed by male/female vox, a fun synth line, and distorted guitar, it was just insanely catchy from verse to chorus to bridge. Another standout was “Theme,” which consisted of the band yelling “One two three four Kitty Kat Dirt Nap!” repeatedly over a surf rock arrangement with explosions in the background.

46. Ted Leo/The Pharmacists - Mo' Living (2007)

A limited edition EP sold with initial pressings of their 2007 album Living With the Living, Mo’ Living adds on five more Celtic punk rockers from Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, six if you count the band fucking around on the untitled 35-second final track. It’s noticeably rougher, both in terms of songwriting (“Living With the Living” is punk as fuck) and recording quality. I like it a lot. The highlight for me is a cover of Chumbawumba’s “Rappaport’s Testament: I Never Gave Up.” It’s a little long, but dang does it shred, which is why I used to close out the first Playlist post on Leo.

45. Ben Folds - Speed Graphic (2003)

Speed Graphic opens with Ben Folds covering the Cure’s “In Between Days,” so right away this EP is a winner. The first of a three-part series, Speed Graphic also boasts a stripped down version of “Give Judy My Notice” – later heard in a more lush arrangement on Songs For Silverman. “Protection” follows with a really jazzy drum/bass combo. “Dog” is a manic romp, while the mellow “Wandering” closes the EP out on a more placid note. While it doesn’t capture the glorious goofiness of his Ben Fold Five years, Speed Graphic covers enough of Folds’ various pop aspects to be a worthwhile purchase.

44. Eisley - Marvelous Things (2003)

I bought Marvelous Things the day after seeing the video from the title track on MTV2’s Subterranean. The song was ethereal, fantastical, even a little spooky, which the video hit on perfectly. I spent the next week or so engrossed in the EP. I’d play it to and from work, while doing chores, while hanging out with friends, etc. It’s on the first mix tape I made for my first car. I’m still pretty into that song. Luckily, the rest of the CD holds up as well. The DuPrees have a knack for matching surreal lyrics with their ambient music, as evidenced by “Memories” – something about how magical nature is or whatever – and “Sea King,” a song about the KING OF THE SEA.

43. Weezer - Christmas CD (2000)

The Nils were an awful time to be a Weezer fan. Well, I mean, a lot of kids, myself included, discovered the wonders of Pinkerton and the “Blue Album,” but the band’s new material sucked. Good God did it suck. Still, though, the new millennium started off promisingly with Christmas CD. A limited edition EP sent to fan club members, the song have been sporadically available for free on Weezer’s official site. Fans get two Weez tunes – “Christmas Celebration” is the sort of stadium rocker would later churn out on the “Green Album.” “Christmas Song,” meanwhile, is slower, more plodding tune in the vein of Pinkerton B-side “Waiting on You”… except, you know, about Christmas or whatever.

42. New Found Glory - Tip of the Iceberg (2008)

It’s funny that NFG and Eisley, given that they were tourmates for a while (and, uh, NFG guitarist/back-up vocalist Chad Gilbert was married to Eisley’s guitarist/singer Sherri DuPree for a few months… awkward?). At the time of its release, I was moderately entertained by Tip of the Iceberg. It didn’t hit me like Nothing Gold Can Stay, but the covers were pretty good. But something happened: I kept playing the CD, way more frequently than I ever expected. A year and a half later, I’m full-on in love with it. I honestly prefer NFG’s version of “Here We Go Again” to Shelter’s original, and the Lifetime and Gorilla Biscuits covers are good too. Hell, I’m even into the goofy/awesome originals like “Dig My Own Grave” and “If You Don’t Love Me.

41. Something Corporate - Audioboxer (2001)

I was a huge Drive-Thru Records fan in high school, and I still maintain that the label’s output from 1999 to 2004 was stellar. One of their big finds was piano rock act Something Corporate, whose 2001 EP Audioboxer is stuffed with live staples – “Hurricane,” “iF yoU C Jordan,” and “Punk Rock Princess” are the first three songs. “Hurricane” in particular still holds up as the best example of the band’s power-pop, although frontman Andrew McMahon went on to greater commercial success with his next project, Jack’s Mannequin. It’s funny that he did so, given just how big SoCo was on the touring circuit.

TOMORROW: Shit ton of EPs from 2009, some MTB, and a mini-concept album about pizza, #40-31.

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