Short n’ Sweet: 6 EPs from 2016 That We Loved

All too often in year end “best album” lists the almighty (but less lengthy) EP is left by the wayside. Well, EPs happen to be my favorite listening experience. I find when an artist releases an EP, or even a few of them, a year it leaves me wanting even more. You can explore different sonic landscapes across separate, smaller projects. It allows you to space out music across the year if you feel the need to, and as a smaller artist you may want to to keep relevant and on people’s radar…or in the cases of a few of our favorites it allows you the ability to put out music to shop to a label in a nice, small package, pay homage to songs from your favorite artists, collaborate or just get music out into the world faster without planning a larger release, writing 20 songs to whittle down to 12 or investing HUGE budgets into studio, production and release.

We love EPs, we love shorter length projects and 2016 was full of them. For the sake of this list, we are taking “EP” to mean a release from this year of 2-8 tunes, not quite a full length, but a collection of songs released this year (either officially as an EP or not) in short form. Here are a couple of our favorites.

Ron GalloRG3 : Perhaps a precursor for Gallo’s upcoming full length “Heavy Meta”, this quickfire collection of psycha-blues-rock n’ roll hit hard. With hard hitting guitar riffs, lyrics that cut deep into the plight of modern society’s weight holding us down and the singer-songwriter’s unforgettable and incredibly unique vocal holding it all together as the sonic hide glue, three songs could never be quite as heavy as Gallo is able to portray. There is just so much goddamn fervor and energy in his music, but still it maintains this melodic, catchy and infectious feeling that is undeniable. Rock n’ roll never sounded so good.

 


 
Joshua Black Wilkins(2 tracks) : Earlier this year our old pal JBW came out of no where with 2 tracks. Maybe not an “EP” perse, but for the sake of this count, and because we love this dude and his songs, we are throwing it on the list. Wilkins sings his songs with a gravel to his voice that often elicits comparison to Tom Waits, but his style and attitude is one all his own. These two tracks maintained the grit and noir feel of his previous works and were a pleasant and welcome surprise to follow up his prior release “Settling the Dust”. Smokey, grimey and real. An authentic take and style on music that bleeds honesty.

 

Aoife O’ Donovan & Anthony da CostaScarlet Harlot : Both O’ Donovan and da Costa landed on my favorite full length records list this year…and if I was making one, would be on my favorite shows of the year as well. The two emphasize and embody beauty in their voices and songs in a way that no other artists can really hit me. They perform together and its all over. Their release of two Dylan tunes, recorded separately as artists, but together in the fact that they were in the same place doing so, it was engineered by the same gent (Steve Nistor) and released together. The breath a life that is purely their own into these tributes to one of the bests of all time, from two of the modern day bests doing this music thing today.

 

Brian WrightCafe Rooster Sessions Vol 1. : OK, while this was technically released at the end of 2015, Wright released this on December 28th. The typical time that falls right after “year end lists” so we are counting this “borderline EP/LP” 8 track project as a 2016 eligible collection. Wright consistently blows me away as one of the most poignant and strong songwriters writing music today. A measure of how great a songwriter is is typically the respect that they garner from their contemporaries and the praise for Brian as a writer and musician is unending from Nashville and beyond. Cafe Rooster Sessions are relaxed and a bit uninhibited, his voice is calm and collected, a storyteller at heart. Guitars shimmer in and out, sparsity rules supreme and its Wright’s captivating voice and storytelling style that really shine here. Wright’s collection is ever-expanding as his continues to grow his craft (and he had another release The Sneak Ups mid this year as well worth checking out). We can’t wait to hear more from this gent in 2017.

 

 

The Novel IdeasSt. Paul Sessions : A perfect package for “session” projects or straight live recordings is an EP. In the case of The Novel Ideas, the main purpose was to capture the energy of their live performances in a recording and with the St. Paul Sessions, they succeeded and then some. The band is known for warm and rich harmonies, soaring vocals, acrobatic instrumentals and a general sublime beauty to their music that is transcendent. As with many performances, the venue in which you are playing or recording often times seeps into the outcome and the character of the old church that the band set up shop in certainly entrenches itself into the sound here. A timeless quality that is engrained into their sound but with knots and interesting bits that make it as endearing and compelling as charactered old wooden beams.

 

 
The Suitcase JunketDying Star : A similar notion infuses itself into Matt Lorenz’s follow up to 2015’s brilliant “Make Time”, the live element of an EP that made us love the previous entry. To see Lorenz perform live is to be amazed and the final two tracks on Dying Star breath and bleed that sentiment. The collection of 7 tunes continues the mesmerizing and potent percussive base that The Suitcase Junket has become known for. Lorenz’s guitars ring heavy and swampy. His knack for introducing lines and rhythms with his guitar work is beautiful and hearty, a generous amount of overdrive adding to the feeling and vibe of the music. Creating new from the old, giving life to the throw-aways…Lorenz continues to impress.

 

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