Friday, January 15, 2010

My Decade in Extended Plays 2000-2009, #10-1

Aight, kids, here's the thrilling conclusion to the Top 50 EPs list. These are the EPs that I could listen to 20+ times in a row. All hits and no filler, which is perhaps the EP's greatest strength. In some cases, these are my favorite releases from an artist (Promise Ring, The Measure [SA], Gaslight Anthem). In all case, shit is hot.

The Top 50 Extended Players of the '00s, #10-1

10. Pretty Girls Make Graves - Good Health (2002)

For 27 minutes (40 if you count the similar-sounding Pretty Girls Make Graves EP), Pretty Girls Make Graves sounded like Discount circa Crash Diagnostic. Post-punk guitars clashed with emo melodramatics as frontwoman Andrea Zollo talked about what really mattered: records and significant others. “Speakers Push the Air” specifically talks about the glory of rock and/or roll – “Do you remember when we couldn’t put it away? / Do you remember what the music meant?” “The Get A Way” [note: not a typo] encapsulates all the plans and hopes and schemes of the young, relating the tale of two lovers plotting to hock their parents’ jewelry so they can run away from home. It’s a romantic song about two awful people, which I’ve always found appealing. PGMG would later fall apart thanks to a few line-up shifts, but for a few years, they were one of my favorite underground bands.

9. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2001)

Listening to last year’s It’s Blitz! makes it harder to believe that Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ self-titled EP exists. I mean, it sort of sounds like the same band; at least you can tell that Karen O is the same singer. It’s just everything else that’s different. Drummer Brian Chase provides loose, kinda jazzy percussion while guitarist Nick Zinner distorts the crap out of everything. One of the things I miss from YYY’s is their humor. They never topped the ultimate putdown of “Bang” – “As a fuck, son / You suck” – or the sarcastic noisecore of “Art Star.” Then there’s “Our Time,” a spiritual precursor to megahit “Maps.” Yeah, the band has evolved quite a bit, but they also never topped the concise joys of this New York garage rock treat.

8. Against Me! - "The Acoustic EP" (2001)

Freakin’ eh, do I dig them Against Mes. Believe me, it took a lot of willpower to disqualify all of the New Wave singles (but those B-sides are ridiculously good!). The highest ranking of the AM! EPs is this early, unofficially titled acoustic collection. Like Crime, it’s got a few songs that would show up later in the band’s discography (“Pints of Guinness Make You Strong,” “Those Anarcho Punks are Mysterious”). But I identify more with the songs unique to this release. “We Did It All For Don” is a love letter to the band’s former van, Armageddon, but I’ve always associated it with saying goodbye in general. The chorus goes, “Please tell me why / We couldn’t stay / Don’t let this feeling ever go away / Let this memory forever be inside of me / Through every hour of every day / It’s with the company of these friends / That we drove on through the night / We were carried by the wheels of Armageddon.” Of course, that last line is literal, but it’s always been something I say to psych myself up in troubled times.

7. The Gaslight Anthem - Señor and The Queen (2008)

I just wrote about this for Vinyl Vednesday like an hour ago, but here goes… Señor and the Queen is a rocking mini-concept album about two lovers from yesteryear. There’s courting and heartache and dancing and beachfront views and oaths of fidelity. Also, punk rock. Gotta up dem punx. Except on “Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts.” That one’s a slow ‘n’ pretty ditty about everything but the punx. This is The Gaslight Anthem’s most perfect document.

6. The Early November - For All of This (2002)

Ace Enders has always been an overachiever, which is probably why his band’s debut EP for Drive-Thru Records was 32 minutes long. The guy was only a few years away from dropping a triple-disc, after all. Still, given its length, it’s easy to treat “For All of This” as a full-length. Plus, it features some of the band’s best, most beloved tunes – “Every Night’s Another Story,” “I Want to Hear You Sad,” “Ashala Rock.” It’s emo. It’s frenetic. It’s even a little punk in places, if Enders’ raw vocal take on “Story” is any indication. The Early November burned briefly but brightly in the Nils.

5. The Rentals - The Last Little Life EP (2007)

For a little while there, it looked like The Rentals were in the middle of a second coming. Ringleader Matt Sharp (ex-Weezer, in case you forgot. Shame on you, be tee dub) assembled a stellar lineup and wrote three awesome tunes that downplayed The Rentals’ synth-rock style in favor of something a little more indie rock. He topped it off with some amazing live shows and a reworked, arguably better version of “Sweetness and Tenderness” from Return of The Rentals. Yeah, 2007 was a great year for the formidable but fairly forgotten ’90s act. Then most of the band members left and Sharp recorded the disappointing follow-up, Songs About Time!!. I’ll always have Last Little Life, though. Its songs rank right up there with Weezer and The Rentals’ finest.

4. The Measure [SA] - Songs About People... and Fruit 'N Shit (2008)

“I wanna be the song you never let go.”

Part of me wishes I lived in New Brunswick, N.J. right now, if only because so much awesome punk music is coming out of that area right out. The Measure [SA] has been kicking out solid jams for a few years now, but 2008’s Songs About People feels like the culmination of all those seven-inches. Maybe it’s the presence of Mikey Erg (of, ya know… The Ergs!) on drums/vox. Maybe frontwoman Lauren Measure kicked it up a notch. Or maybe it’s just that “Hello Bastards” is such an insanely catchy song that it obliterates everything in its wake. It’s a two-and-a-half-minute tune about going to a local show long after high school, putting maturity and punk rock into the same context, and realizing that even though you’re older and wise, there’s still something to be said for the music. At 24, I relate to this song a lot. Also, it’s insanely catchy and it has a nice beat and an even better chorus.

3. The Mountain Goats and Kaki King - The Black Pear Tree EP (2008)

John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats is the kind of guy who writes so many great songs that he’s willing to bury a few of them on limited edition, vinyl-only, tour-only splits. Such was the case for The Black Pear Tree EP, a joint effort with guitar virtuoso Kaki King. It’s of course of a highly verbose, emotional nature, with stories that range from high art (“Supergenesis” is about the Fall of Man, as told from the serpent’s perspective) to low (“Thank You Mario But Our Princess is in Another Castle” is about Super Mario Bros., from Toad’s perspective). This is some of the best work from either contributor. The previously mentioned tracks are tops, and I consistently drop everything when King’s somber delivery on the title track plays on shuffle. I’m so stoked to have gotten this and Satanic Messiah on the pair’s “Best Last Night of Your Life Tour.” Moon Colony Bloodbath, meanwhile, was an expensive eBay find…

2. Strike Anywhere - Chorus of One (2001)

A Web site asked me to make a top 100 albums of the decade list for them. Compilations weren’t allowed, but EPs were. My original draft included two EPs: The Promise Ring’s Electric Pink and Strike Anywhere’s Chorus of One. Electric Pink was a key part of my college soundtrack; Chorus of One just as important for my high school years. I’m the kind of music fan that has to snap up everything a band has ever put out once I fall in love with them. Given that Strike Anywhere entered my ears via Change is a Sound circa 2002, I only had one other release to feed my appetite: Chorus of One. Length-wise, it was like another full-length from the then-up-and-coming punk/melodic hardcore Virginia outfit, delivering a much-needed injection of political anthems. “Incendiary” is perhaps the most appropriate SA song title of all time.

1. The Promise Ring - Electric Pink (2000)

My courtship with The Promise Ring was a long process. During their run, I was only aware of Wood/Water, and I can honestly say that I wasn’t ready for it at the time. Age has shown me Wood/Water’s charms, but it wasn’t until college that I realized TPR’s charms. I saw the video for “Emergency! Emergency!”, fell in love, and hit up Jade Tree Records’ Web site for more info. They offered a free download of “Electric Pink,” the title track to an EP I would obsessively search for soon after. “Electric Pink” is so effortlessly catchy, bouncy, and fun. “Strictly Television” follows and rocks a little bit harder. “American Girl” chills out the pace for a bit until the greatest song in the history of the universe [Editor’s Note: This is hyperbole] kicks in: “Make Me a Mixtape.”

“Make Me a Mixtape” encapsulates everything I think about: Music and old relationships. The song’s imagery comes packed with nostalgia factor – frontman Davey von Bohlen corresponds with a friend via mail and asks for him/her to send a mix tape. At no point does AIM, Skype, or MySpace come into play. Also, just like “Hello Bastards,” it’s insanely fun in addition to being relatable.

NEXT WEEK: Faded memories, dead limbs, bad hearing, the Top 30 Shows of the Decade.

1 comment:

michael said...

my dearest cousin joe,

first off, great list. second, the promise ring fucking rules and im glad they are your #1. i personally think "falsetto keeps time" is their best EP but that came out in the 90s so it doesnt fit the requirements. "electric pink" is awesome and is the last good thing they put out. i dont consider "wood/water" a promise ring record, its like a completely different band made it. but to each his own i suppose.