Friday, May 11, 2007

Sometimes less is more

One of the things that I miss about the days of vinyl was the careful consideration that artists were forced to use in what songs made the album, and what order. Nowadays, when you can fit 80 minutes on a cd, artists/labels barrage us with a lot of filler and 'bonus tracks.' Thankfully, in the digital age, some of that fat can be separated, but what ever happened to the integrity of the album?

One of the ways to combat this urge to 'fill fill fill' is the EP. This week three fine EPs were released by respected artists (Of Montreal, Deerhunter and Sea Wolf) and another was announced (Two Gallants) that demonstrate the different ways in which an EP helps rectify this problem.

1) Overflow of songs from recording session

EP: Of Montreal - Icons, Abstract Thee

It can be painful to cut songs from an album, but if it doesn't fit into the overall scheme of the release, worry not... the songs can still be released on a companion EP. Of Montreal's Icons, Abstract Thee features a couple tracks that were digital bonus tracks, and while great songs, I understand why they were left off Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?. In the setting of Icons, Abstract Thee, the songs are not straddled with living up to the tracks prior to it and instead serve as a sort of added background to the album's story.

2) Surge of recorded ideas while finishing current record

EP: Deerhunter - Flourescent Grey

Deerhunter's album Cryptograms was actually pieced together from two different recording sessions, and was initially thought to be separate EPs. Fitting then that they record what became the EP Flourescent Grey while mixing Cryptograms. It demonstrates the leaps and bounds this band has made in a short time. Can't wait for the next full length.

3) Introduction of new project/artist/band lineup

Many bands use this one to their advantage. Take some of the songs you've been performing live and test them out with an EP. Bloc Party's Banquet (2004) was a good example of this, as is Tokyo Police Club's A Lesson In Crime. Both served as good introductions to the band, while the band still can still pull a few songs from that EP for their proper full length.

EP: Sea Wolf - Get To The River Before It Runs Too Low
Download: "You're a Wolf"

Likewise, former Irving member Alex Brown Church chose to release an EP to introduce his latest project Sea Wolf, on Dangerbird Records, also home to friends and rehearsal-space-mates Silversun Pickups. Get To The River combines the effortless and catchy choruses of Elliott Smith with the uplifting instrumentation of a Arcade Fire.

4) As a venue for an "acoustic set" / or otherwise experimental release project

Two Gallants have been consistent in putting an acoustic track on each of their previous two albums (see "Crow Jane" from The Throes.) This time, in advance of their third full length release (due in September,) they're releasing a whole EP of acoustic numbers like this.

Download: "Seems Like Home To Me"

Meanwhile, there's Bishop Allen who released an EP a month last year, which sort of falls under this same designation. Sufjan Stevens might consider going the EP route for his 'states project,' that way he could finish all 50 before he's an octegenarian indie rocker.

[Boy... can you tell I mailed this one in? What can I say, it's been a busy week - I could only squeeze in 10 minutes a day the last three days to outline what I wanted to say here.]

In summary, me like-a the EPs because they help protect the integrity of full-length albums. And they don't take up too much of my time... so keep 'em coming!

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