Top 15 EPs of 2018

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In this streaming age of music we’re leaving in now, it’s becoming harder and harder to differentiate an EP from an LP. Nowadays anyone can make a 25 minute album and call it a full-length LP, or even make a five track album and call it a full-length. Just look at the latest criminally short six track “LP” from “Nine Inch Nails,” or the string of Kanye produced seven track albums Mr. West dubbed “full-lengths” this year. Album length has become irrelevant, but to those of us who still hold the idea of the EP near and dear, those short bursts of creativity are still very much important in the music world. They still give us that hope that a full-length album from the artist might be on the horizon, or sometimes, those short but sweet releases are all we need. There were a great deal of EPs released this year, and many of them can’t go by unnoticed. Here are my top 15 EPs of 2018.

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15. Artist: Tyler, The Creator

      EP: Music Inspired by Illumination & Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch 

     Genre: Hip Hop/R&B

 Tyler, The Creator’s creativity has moved into film now with his recent musical contributions to The Grinch movie. To coincide with the release of the film, Tyler dropped an E.P. inspired by the film. It is a fun Christmas filled listen packed with 80’s sounding synths and the tracks never stray away into cheesiness, which is no easy feat considering they’re inspired by a Dr. Seuss story. 

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14. Artist: Femme

       EP: 2.0

      Genre: Electronic/House/Pop

 Laura Bettinson under the “Femme” name has been creating delightful “Indie Pop” for awhile now, and on her new E.P. 2.0 She delves into the world of “House” music while keeping her Pop sensibilities. The result is a solid set of dance ready tracks that emphasize fun and optimism.

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13. Artist: Little Dragon

       EP: Lover Chanting

      Genre: Electronic/Synth Pop

 Little Dragon’s latest LP Season High was a bit of a step back for the band. Much of it seemed phoned in, and lacked the ambition their previous work had filled with colorful synth heavy Pop and just the right amount of odd experimental elements. The band have definitely redeemed themselves though with their new E.P. Lover Chanting. Being three tracks in length, the E.P. gets back to the band’s sense of fun, and is probably their most danceable release to date.

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12. Artist: Wallows

      EP: Spring

      Genre: Indie Rock/Indie Pop

 It’s a bit ironic that the latest E.P. from L.A. based Indie Rock band “Wallows” is titled Spring considering the fact that all the tracks have a nice summery vibe to them. To some this E.P. might be a by the numbers “Indie Rock” release, but to others it’s undeniably addicting. I just can’t resist it.

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11. Artist: Protomartyr and Spray Paint

       EP: Irony Prompts A Party Rat

      Genre: Post-Punk/Indie Rock

 Post-Punk band “Protomartyr” had a busy year. They released a stellar EP, began a tour with “Preoccupations,” and even released a split single with “Preoccupations” where both bands covered each, but a more interesting split single to come out of the band’s work this year is most definitely their split single with the band “Spray Paint.” On this single, “Protomartyr’s” lead singer Joe Casey provided lead vocals for a new “Spray Paint” track, and the lead singer of “Spray Paint” provided lead vocals for a new “Protomartyr” track. It’s a match made in “Post-Punk” heaven, because the chemistry between the two bands is undeniable. 

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10. Artist: Screaming City

       EP: The Vanish

      Genre: Post-Punk/Darkwave/Electronic 

 Visalia, California’s own “Screaming City” released a string of Electronic tinged “Industrial Rock” that spanned three EPs this year, but the biggest gem of the three is without a doubt The Vanish. This release found sole member and multi-instrumentalist Trip Logic going in a heavier guitar-driven direction without sacrificing his Electronic roots. Everything from the lyrical content to the myriad of Experimental elements in the instrumentation that impressively manages to maintain catchiness, this whole E.P. showcases the immense versatility Trip Logic has, and there’s nowhere to go from here but up. 

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9. Artist: Code Orange

    EP: The Hurt Will Go On

    Genre: Metalcore/Industrial Metal

 “Code Orange” are one of those forward thinking bands that make stubborn “Metalcore” traditionalists shout about how “lame” they are for Incorporating outsider genres that aren’t typically explored in “Metalcore,” but guys, put down your Monster energy drink for a minute and admit that the genre has become a bit predictable. “Code Orange” are here to break the stale nature of the genre, and it’s much needed. Following their breakout album Forever, the band dropped a nice E.P. titled The Hurt Will Go On this year, and it’s an impactful reminder that the band are ahead of the game at the moment. Packed with heavy aggression, the “Industrial” and “Nu-Metal” elements the band are known for, and even a Corey Taylor feature, this release has many of us eager to hear another full-length album from the band. Hopefully next year we’ll get what we’re wishing for.

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8. Artist: S. Reidy

    EP: And Here With You, I Am

    Genre: Hip Hop/Alternative Hip Hop

 The fact that an artist like S. Reidy isn’t mentioned when conversations about “Emo Rap” are sparked is ridiculous. The rapper/producer sounds like what “Emo Rap” should sound like. His latest E.P. And Here With You, I Am is far from being one-dimensional. The production consists of simplistic but effective beats, moody acoustic guitars, atmospheric soundscapes, poetic lyrical content, and vocals that evoke the “Emo Rock” spirit. To simply label him “Emo Rap” would not do his music justice, but he’s delivering the moody introspection that other rappers in the game should strive for, and he doesn’t need tattoos on his face to do it.

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7. Artist: Converge

    EP: Beautiful Ruin

   Genre: Metalcore/Hardcore Punk

 Leave it to “Metalcore” legends “Converge” to drop a four track E.P. out of the blue to show the youngsters how it’s done. The band’s recent E.P. Beautiful Ruin is unsparingly monstrous and is among some of the band’s most aggressive work. 

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6. Artist: Childish Gambino

    EP: Summer Pack

   Genre: Soul/R&B/Pop

 We unfortunately didn’t get a new Childish Gambino album this year, but mastermind Donald Glover was definitely not quiet. Following the impactful music video for his single “This Is America” that lead to countless think pieces and theories, Glover dropped a two track E.P. titled Summer Pack. Though the tracks were a lot more laid back and summery on the surface this time around, this didn’t stop fans from formulating theories about how there is an underlying message about climate change and the state of our distractions of social media and celebrity culture. Whatever the message may be, these are fun soulful songs. 

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5. Artist: Chelsey and The Noise

     EP: Blank Frames

   Genre: Industrial/Electronic/EBM

 Who says “Industrial” music and “Pop” music can’t coexist? Hayward, CA based duo “Chelsey and The Noise” proved that “Industrial” can be catchy with their E.P. Blank Frames this year. With hard hitting synth heavy production and Metal infused guitars, the duo incorporate pop sensibilities without giving into the typical predictability “Pop” music is known for. This music is catchy, sexy, dark, and at times sentimental, displaying the immense versatility the two have to offer. 

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4. Artist: Protomartyr

     EP: Consolation

     Genre: Post-Punk/Indie Rock

 “Post-Punk” band “Protomartyr” released quite possibly their best album last year, which most definitely earned them the right to take a break for awhile because one would assume that you would need to take a break after you give your all on an album, but the band aren’t ready to take a break just yet. The band released an impressive E.P. this year titled Consolation and this four track E.P. progressed the band’s sound even further. Incorporating string arrangements and even collaborating with Kelley Deal of “The Breeders,” this release proves that the band work well with other musicians while not completely abandoning their signature sound. Is this the direction they’re heading in? Time will tell, but one thing is for sure, they’re still the leading force in modern “Post-Punk.” 

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3. Artist: HMLTD

    EP: Hate Music Last Time Delete

    Genre: Synth Pop/Post-Punk/New Wave

 “HMLTD” are quite possibly the most exciting band at the moment. You never know what to expect when going into a new track of theirs, and they haven’t even released a full-length album! Following a diverse string of singles that found the band exploring Post-Punk, Synth Pop, Electronic Music, Gothic Rock, Glam Rock, and whatever else the band feels like dabbling in, the band released a new E.P. this year titled Hate Music Last Time Delete, and it is a cohesive effort that sticks to a Synth Pop/New Wave formula. The band have proven that they can perfect just about any genre they pursue, but it’s clear they wanted to give us their own warped version of “Synth Pop” on this E.P. This music is fun and danceable, but the lyrical content deals with important themes such as social network addiction, learning to love yourself, oh, and falling in love with a mannequin. It’s a good time that leaves you begging for more.

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2. Artist: Ravyn Lenae

    EP: Crush

    Genre: R&B/Soul/Alternative R&B

 Among the recent emergence of talented young artists from Chicago such as Noname, Saba, and Mick Jenkins, Ravyn Lenae has been garnering much attention for her beautiful artistry that finds the young singer delivering smooth “R&B” that isn’t afraid to branch out of traditional “R&B” sensibilities. Her latest E.P. Crush is a fitting title, because it’s impossible not to swoon and fall for her gorgeous vocals and attention to Soulful and at times off-kilter production provided by the one and only Steve Lacy. Lenae is one of the youngest artists in the realm of “R&B” at the moment, but her sound exudes immense maturation, and it’s clear she’s on a forward thinking path. Here’s to hoping she blesses us with a full length debut album next year. 

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1. Artist: CMON

    EP: Confusing Mix Of Nations

    Genre: Post-Punk/Synth Pop/New Wave

 There’s no doubt in my mind that L.A. based duo “CMON” (or Confusing Mix Of Nation’s) debut E.P. is the best of 2018, and there’s no doubt in my mind that this is the best E.P. you haven’t heard. Absent from every major streaming service other than their own personal SoundCloud, the band most likely slipped under your radar this year, and that’s unfortunate because their debut five track E.P. is the stuff 80’s Post-Punk/New Wave revivalist dreams are made of. The lush and dreamy guitars, the “House” driven percussion that reflects “New Order’s” heyday, and the subtle but infectious vocals are all promising elements that should put the band on your radar. With very little information about the band online, it’s hard to dig deep into their background, but let’s all hope and pray they continue to release stellar material.

Written By: Steven Sandoval 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Album Review: IDLES – Joy as an Act of Resistance

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Artist: IDLES 

Album: Joy as an Act of Resistance 

Genre: Post-Punk/Punk Rock/Hardcore Punk

Rating: 10/10

 I don’t think anyone expected Bristol Post-Punk band “IDLES” to follow-up last year’s breakthrough album Brutalism so soon, but here we are with a new “IDLES” album titled Joy as an Act of Resistance. Their previous album Brutalism was a groundbreaking release for Punk Rock, and in a genre that has become stagnant and quite predictable, the band brought fresh new life and ideas with a new kind of rebellion against things that even the most hardcore punks wouldn’t rebel against, dragging the genre kicking and screaming to it’s much needed next level. On Joy as an Act of Resistance, the band have pushed the envelope even further. It’s got the same punch as their previous album, with hard hitting instrumentation and lead singer Joe Talbot’s razor sharp vocals and straightforward lyrics that disrupt societal norms, but this time around the band showcases their eclecticism by incorporating some elements of Noise Rock and dark melodies that at times echo Gothic Rock, and even Swans-esque cinematic buildups like on the colossal opening track appropriately titled “Colossus.” Talbot’s lyrics are even more impactful on this album, tackling topics such as classism, toxic masculinity, homophobia, and immigration, and he exposes problematic negatives all while keeping a positive and hopeful attitude, and considering how most aggressive music delves in the negative in a cynical manner, being progressively aggressive in a genuine manner isn’t easy, but “IDLES” make it look easy. This is an album that also isn’t afraid to be vulnerable, like on the personal and haunting track “June” where Talbot expresses his right to be a father despite the tragedy that has befallen him. “Samaritans” is a powerful takedown of toxic masculinity with Talbot shouting “Man up. Sit down. Chin up. Pipe down. Socks up. Don’t cry. Drink up. Just lie. Grow some balls he said.” These are all things men often hear from day one due to the irrational idea that men aren’t allowed to be emotional or sensitive, and on the same track Talbot shouts “I kissed a boy and I liked it!” referencing Katy Perry’s iconic “I kissed a girl and I liked It” lyrics. This is a topic not a whole lot of men are comfortable talking about, but Talbot speaks on it fearlessly and in a way that is extremely thought provoking. This is one of the many topics included on this album, and they’re all passionately expressed equally like the track “Danny Nedelko” which is named after the Ukrainian frontman of the British Punk band “Heavy Lungs,” and this track speaks on how we’re all equal beings regardless of our race or origins. “Scum” finds Talbot owning all the names and labels people throw at him and defending his left leaning beliefs. “This snowflake’s an avalanche” Talbot claims, and you better believe it. This whole album is beyond perfection. It is a groundbreaking release that not only Post-Punk, Punk Rock, or Rock in general needs, but what the whole music world needs. The boys have made an instant classic with important subject matter that everyone needs to hear, and they do it without being too political or preachy. It’s a mirror they hold up to us, and it’s time for us to start thinking and loving.

Written By: Steven Sandoval 

Date: 09/04/18

Tropical Fuck Storm and Liars Announce New Split 7″

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Australian band “Tropical Fuck Storm” released one of the year’s most enthralling and deliciously bizarre albums back in May, and now the band have teamed up with Experimental legends “Liars” to release a split 7″ titled LAMC No. 18, which will be released on September 28th. This will be part of Famous Class’ Less Artists More Condos series, with all proceeds donated to the ACLU. You can listen to the new “Tropical Fuck Storm” track “The Happiest Guy Around,” as well as pre-order the 7″ below:

https://famousclass.bandcamp.com/album/lamc-18

Protomartyr and Spray Paint Announce Collaborative Split Single

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“Protomartyr” and “Spray Paint” have been friends as far back as 2013 when the two bands toured together. It was then where the two bands came up with the idea to collaborate. Now that idea has come to fruition. The two will release a collaborative 7” Single on August 17th titled Irony Prompts The Party Rat. Side A will feature lead singer of “Protomartyr” Joe Casey on vocals while “Spray Paint” provides the instrumentals, and Side B will feature “Spray Paint” on vocals while “Protomartyr” provides the instrumentals. You can pre-order the 7” as well as listen to Side A below:

http://monofonuspress.com/store/protomartyr-spray-paint

E.P. Review: HMLTD – Hate Music Last Time Delete

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Artist: HMLTD 

EP: Hate Music Last Time Delete 

Genre: Synth-Pop/Art Rock/Post-Punk/Glam Rock

 Music fans have unfortunately been subjected to this ridiculous idea that “Rock is dead” from many music publications. Of course, that is completely absurd. The countless “Indie Rock” bands, “Post-Punk” bands, “Metal” bands, and “Garage Rock” bands all continue to breathe life into a vague term like “Rock.” An emerging scene that is completely enthralling and continues to disprove “Rock” naysayers is the South London scene. A scene that consists of up and coming bands such as “Goat Girl,” “Sorry,” “Hotel Lux,” the already revered “Shame,” and a unique as Hell band that goes by the name of “HMLTD.” What separates this band from their contemporaries is their huge ambition to incorporate elements of just about any damn genre that resonates with them, and like many of the greats, this leads to the band being impossible to categorize. This 6 piece band have been at it for a few years now, releasing ambitious single after ambitious single. The band have garnered a huge following of music fans who yearn to hear something new and innovative, but one question remains, and that question is “When the Hell are they going to release a full-length album?!” Well, we still don’t have a full-length, but we have been gifted a new E.P. by the band titled Hate Music Last Time Delete to satisfy our hunger. This E.P. opens with without a doubt the band’s most accessible song yet. Incorporating modern production that leans toward a “Trap” flavor, “Pictures Of You” might sound trendy on the surface with it’s catchiness and dramatic building up of the chorus, but the subject matter is far from friendly. It’s dark, but it is completely relatable in this Internet age we live in that is driven by social media. Lead singer Henry Spychalski sings from the point of view of someone addicted to pleasuring himself to photos of others on social media, and as much as this is a detailing of one’s shameful addiction, it’s also an important commentary on the loss of privacy thanks to everyone’s willingness to post photos of themselves online. Oh yeah, and if this isn’t dark enough for you, there’s also an even more disturbing music video to reflect this dark reality. The following track “Proxy Love” finds the band getting weirder but their attention to “Pop” structure keeps the band from going off into the deep end. This track is zany, it’s odd, it’s glamorous, and it features everything we’ve grown to love about the band from their previous singles. As bizarre as this track is, the “Synth-Pop” dominance and catchy vocal structures present to us how “Pop” music can have substance, and that’s one of the many reasons why this band is brilliant, their attention to catchiness. Their fearlessness to create a catchy chorus even after their descent into musical madness is immensely impressive. The following tracks “Mannequin” and “Apple of My Eye” carry a similar vibe, but this four track E.P. is far from being one-dimensional. The guitar riffs are very reflective of “Post-Punk.” The synth lines are laden with 80’s Glam, and the vocals heavily reflect “Goth” acts such as “Christian Death” or “Virgin Prunes.” The lyrical content doesn’t bombard the listener with hard to decipher metaphors, instead it’s blatantly obvious that these songs deal with self-love, addiction, and even the feeling of being in love with a mannequin and wishing it could do the things a living being can do (I hope Frank Zito was an inspiration.) Just four tracks in length, this E.P. proves that “HMLTD” are without a doubt the most intriguing band at the moment, and this is only the beginning of what may be a fruitful legacy.

Written By: Steven Sandoval 

Date: 07/07/18

 

HMLTD Release New Song “Proxy Love”

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UK band “HMLTD” will release their debut E.P. Hate Music Last Time Delete on July 6th, and following their stunning lead single “Pictures of You,” the band have released another track off the E.P. titled “Proxy Love.” The dance ready “Synth-Pop” heavy track is an infectious anthem about loving yourself, and it is addictive. There is also a fantastic music video to accompany it. You can watch the video below:

E.P. Review: Protomartyr – Consolation

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Artist: Protomartyr 

EP: Consolation

Genre: Post-Punk/Indie Rock/Gothic Rock

 On the heels of their brilliant album Relatives In Descent, Detroit Post-Punk band Protomartyr’s new E.P. Consolation solidifies their leading status in the Post-Punk world. This four track E.P. is just a little over 14 minutes in length, but the band astonishingly displays their growth in that short amount of time. Releasing an E.P. less than a year after a well received full-length album is a daring move considering that these tracks could have sounded like leftovers or a rushed attempt to remain in music nerd conversation, but that’s never been Protomartyr’s bag. In fact, this E.P. takes on a life of it’s own. Though the band is experimenting within the realm of the “Protomartyr” sound, the band still continues to add new life and innovation to their music. The most prominent display of this is on the final two tracks “Wheel of Fortune” and “You Always Win.” The first two tracks “Wait” and “Same Face In A Different Mirror” have all the signature qualities we love about the band. The mesmerizing guitars, the infectious bass grooves that draw from the best elements of Post-Punk or Gothic Rock, the percussion that goes in it’s own direction but somehow fits perfectly with what the rest of the band is doing, and the lyricism that is descriptive but very open for interpretation, it’s all there, but the final tracks offer what might be a glimpse of Protomartyr’s future sound. Kelley Deal of “The Breeders” contributes backing vocals that perfectly set a somber mood, and the incorporation of viola, cello, and bass clarinet add melodic beauty to the beautifully raw instrumentation. Though grandiose in presentation, a track like “Wheel of Fortune” finds the band remaining humble but at the same time putting importance on the lyrical content and vocal delivery. The gruff vocal style of lead singer Joe Casey forces you to pay close attention to the lyrics as he rants and rambles intelligently like a well-read drunk on a bar stool. It’s quite impressive that an E.P. just 14 minutes in length has so much to unpack, and if the band continues to work with other musicians then we’re in for some forward thinking music that can transcend genre trappings.

Written By: Steven Sandoval 

Date: 06/16/18