14 of ’14: The Best EP’s of 2014
by Steven Spoerl
Once again, at the top: “best” is year-end shorthand terminology for “most admired” and used to designate personal taste without attempting to be an objective statement. For the purpose of emphasizing subjectivity, I’ll also be abandoning this site’s normally held restrictions on the use of first person. Now, with that out of the way, on to what matters: 2014 was a monumental year for 7″ and EP releases. A few are certainly interchangeable but I did my best to spread them around as best as possible. Unsurprisingly, the EP list still wound up with a wealth of material that dwarfs the 7″ list in comparison. All 14 of these releases meant a great deal to me throughout 2014 and became parts of my life, collectively fighting their way into my memory and subconscious. As always, there was a murderer’s row of titles that couldn’t make such a small list so an extensive auxiliary list has been provided below the top selections. So, enough with the introductory nonsense, here are the best EP’s of 2014.
14. Attendant – Freaking Out
Jon Rybicki (bassist of Radiator Hospital) branched out to create his own project- Attendant- in 2014. Enlisting the help of his bandmates and friends, Rybicki created something unflaggingly powerful in Freaking Out, the project’s seven song debut EP. Rawer and more barbed than any of the associated counterparts, Freaking Out is an unexpected left hook to the jaw for anyone familiar with the pedigrees involved. It’s an extremely impressive solo outing for Rybicki and another strong reminder of the talents residing in Philadelphia.
13. Silence Dogood – Master of Puppets, The Rest Is Silence, Sacred and Profane
Silence Dogood are a band I first became aware of after catching a live set that had me completely enthralled. Ever since then, they’re a band I’ve been keeping tabs on for a myriad of reasons. Blown-out lo-fi EP’s fly out of their camp at a startling pace, loaded with cynical poetry that comes across as deceptively apathetic. They’re prone to veering in unexpected directions and delivering sly turns of phrases at the exact right moment. In 2014 they released three masterfully executed EP’s highlighted by Master of Puppets‘ “Chairman of the Bored“. Don’t make the mistake of passing any of them up.
12. Eugene Quell – A Great Uselessness, Eugene Otto Quell
A name that showed up a few times on this site over the course of 2014 was Eugene Quell, a London-based songwriter who unleashed two of the year’s hardest hitting EP’s. Both Eugene Otto Quell and A Great Uselessness mined an alternative 90’s influence and presented it through Quell’s distinctly unique lens. Neither skimp on fuzz or a well-informed pop sensibility and the cumulative result is stunning. Eight songs in total, each managed to pull me in while unloading an arsenal of blows, each one becoming more appealing than its direct precedent.
11. Lost Boy ? – Wasted
Canned is a release that’s going to prove divisive for list-makers. Released on cassette by the increasingly great Double Double Whammy, it won’t see an official release in any other format until a little further into 2015. Less confusing is the fact that Wasted, the extraordinary EP that led into Canned‘s tape release, is eligible for this year’s lists (and has- rightfully- already made a few). Laced with bandleader Davey Jones’ biting humor and characteristically spiky songwriting, Wasted is another laudable entry in one of contemporary music’s finest catalogs.
10. Green Dreams – Rich Man/Poor Man
Ever since my first listen of Rich Man/Poor Man, I’ve had it kicking around in some spot or another on this list (the year-end process is a continuously recurring project for me). Led by Jesse Amesmith’s willfully unrestrained vocal assault, the band dives into some incredibly vicious territory throughout the EP’s four song run. Best of all is the fact that the flipside of the 7″ copy manages to outstrip an absurdly strong A-side, with “Country Mouse” and “Eye Contact” dipping into a ferocious hybrid of hardcore and noise-punk. Easily one of 2014’s most overlooked releases, Rich Man/Poor Man deserved to be just about everywhere.
9. Kal Marks – Just A Lonely Fart
Was there was a more bleakly arresting EP in 2014 than Kal Marks’ powerful Just A Lonely Fart? If there was, it’s not one I managed to hear. Tackling difficult (and strangely time-sensitive) topics with verve, Kal Marks conjured up a breathtaking career highlight with this release and extended Exploding in Sound’s absurdly continuous winning streak in the process. Every song on Just A Lonely Fart felt deeply personal and suggested that Kal Marks were expanding their identity into something even more raw than what they’d already cultivated with Life Is Murder. All three songs deserved to be considered for “Song of the Year” lists, ensuring Just A Lonely Fart a status as one of 2014’s most extraordinary efforts.
8. Cyberbully Mom Club – Life Long Bad Mood, Hair Piles, Muck, Milo the Dog Sees Color, Amy Locust Whatever, Outdoor Activities
No one had a more staggering run of EP’s in 2014 than Shari Heck, whose Cyberbully Mom Club project managed to somehow release six equally strong collections. Between Life Long Bad Mood, Hair Piles, Muck, Milo the Dog Sees Color, Amy Locust Whatever, and Outdoor Activities, Heck solidified a position as one of 2014’s strongest emerging voices. Unflinchingly honest and unreasonably catchy, Cyberbully Mom Club’s brand of punk-influenced, folk-leaning songwriting makes a strong first impression and only manages to sink deeper with time. Sentimental and gripping, this is one act worth keeping both eyes on all throughout 2015.
7. Priests – Bodies and Control and Money and Power
Brash, bold, and fiercely unapologetic, Priests’ Bodies and Control and Money and Power became one of the most celebrated punk releases of recent memory. Katie Alice Greer’s almost feral presence injects this Don Giovanni-stamped EP with enough adrenaline to revive the legally dead. Scrappy and determined, Priests crafted something that managed to bring some subtly bracing humor to some very serious subjects. Wild-eyed and well informed, Bodies and Control and Money and Power was one of 2014’s best statement releases, refusing to back down from any of its well-placed stances. Add a palpable sense of violence to the whole affair and this EP becomes an outright achievement that’s impossible to ignore.
6. Roomrunner – Separate
One of Baltimore’s more traditionally aggressive bands, Roomrunner, decided to scale things back and introduce a newfound restraint for Separate. Instead of the transition coming off as forced or insincere, the band wound up with a career-best effort (and put another formidable notch in Accidental Guests‘ belt). Like Green Dreams’ Rich Man/Poor Man, Separate managed to find a unique way to burn the bridges between hardcore and noise-punk, throwing in a tantalizingly off-kilter curve that’s somewhat reminiscent of Two Inch Astronaut. Six songs total, Separate never loses sight of its pacing, constantly clawing its way through the minefields of its own design. Explosively memorable, it’s a warning shot from a great band determined to challenge themselves at every turn.
5. Night School – Heart Beat
A supergroup of sorts, it probably shouldn’t be too surprising that Night School’s Heart Beat wound up being one of 2014’s most towering and immersive listening experiences. Taking the majority of its cues from classic shoegaze and the current post-rock landscape, Heart Beat feels massive in scope. Alternately delicate, haunting, and intimidating, Night School have latched onto something immensely appealing and perfected a peculiar dynamic right out of the gate. One of the year’s most pleasant surprises, it was mostly relegated to lingering in the shadows, providing it an oddly fitting home.
4. It Must Be Love – It Must Be Love
One of 2014’s best-kept secrets was this unbelievably great self-titled EP from It Must Be Love, which came across as effortlessly powerful. Unpredictable, strangely graceful, unrelentingly intense, and undeniably gripping, It Must Be Love is the kind of EP most bands can only dream of making. Dynamic, challenging, and- most importantly- ridiculously fun, It Must Be Love have created something that rewards investment and inspires creativity. A complete anomaly among the other titles on this list thanks to its willingness to fearlessly embrace weird experimentalism, the band’s already begun carving out- and perfecting- its own niche. Pavement’s influence echoes throughout It Must Be Love (never more strongly than on the excellent “Mariana) but this territory is all It Must Be Love’s own. Join up or miss out on one hell of a party.
3. Speedy Ortiz – Real Hair
Speedy Ortiz’s “Doomsday” was good enough to land them on the best songs and best splits lists but that wasn’t the only reason that 2014 practically belong to them; Real Hair, the band’s most recent EP, nodded towards a growing confidence that paid sizable dividends. Real Hair‘s also a big reason for why Speedy Ortiz appeared on this site so frequently throughout 2014, as it existed in a very exact space containing enormous coverage appeal. “American Horror”, “Oxygal”, “Everything Bigger”, and “Shine Theory” all would have ranked as individual highlights in respect to the band’s already impressive discography, cementing Real Hair as one of the year’s best releases- and as a bracing reminder that Speedy Ortiz are far from done.
2. Girlpool – Girlpool
In 2014’s last quarter, Girlpool (a young duo made up of Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad) became an increasingly large part of my life and subsequently earned a lot of kind words on this site, cracking both the music videos and splits year-end lists in the past week. Originally self-released on their bandcamp in 2014’s first quarter, it was re-released by Wichita in November after Girlpool earned a staggering amount of support and recognition from their surrounding environment. It’s not difficult to understand why everyone rallied behind Girlpool as they’re perfect representatives for an innumerable amount of things that are important to support. Putting aside those politics, it’s still plainly evident that Girlpool is an outstanding release. All anyone needs to do for proof is look to the jaw-dropping 1-2 combination of the absurdly powerful “Plants and Worms” and the nearly antagonistic free association of “Jane”.
1. Charly Bliss – Soft Serve
No EP became a more deeply ingrained part of my regular routine in 2014 than Charly Bliss’ absurdly strong Soft Serve. Editing sessions, menial tasks, and a seemingly never-ending assortment of functions were soundtracked by this trio of songs for months after I discovered the release (hell, they’re playing in the background now). Since I already covered the exhilaration of “Love Me” in yesterday’s best songs of 2014 post, I’ll be focusing on the ensuing tracks: “Urge to Purge” and “Strings”. “Urge to Purge” nearly dethroned “Love Me” for the position in yesterday’s list because it’s every bit as fiery, every bit as dynamic, and every bit as memorable as Soft Serve‘s incendiary opener. With another heart-stopping vocal turn from Eva Hendricks leading the band’s hyper-charged sugar rush, it’s provided a gripping counterbalance by a compellingly understated vocal turn from guitarist/vocalist Spencer Fox. “Strings” flips the script and allows Fox to showcase his casual charisma as a vocalist, joined by Hendricks’ equally impressive layered backing vocals before too long. It’s a song that proves its worth as it goes, settling in with an explosive back half that seems to suggest Charly Bliss have fireworks to spare. All three songs wield a subtle 50’s pop influence that’s brought into a modern- and borderline post-modern- setting. As a whole, Soft Serve is impossibly easy to love (even the album art’s easily among the year’s best) and demands to be heard. Give into its charms and walk away with an EP worth treasuring.
EP’s from 2014 that deserve to be heard: Allison Crutchfield – Lean In To It | Sonic Avenues – Mistakes | Fleabite – Over It | Beach Slang – Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken, Cheap Thrills On A Dead End Street | Painted Zeros – Svalbard | Diarrhea Planet – Aliens in the Outfield | Connections – 5 Imaginary Boys, Missed | JOYA – 2nd | Sweet John Bloom – Picky | Heart Attack Man – Acid Rain | Adult Mom – Sometimes Bad Happens | Cool Runnings – I Hate It Here | Vagabon – Persian Garden | Static Is A City – Static Is A City | Happyness – Anything I Do Is All Right | Cave People – Older | Kid Wave – Gloom | Big Air – Buds | Slight – townie490 | Terry Malts – Insides | PRINCE – PRINCE II | Cloud Castle Lake – Dandelion | Antarctigo Vespucci – Soulmate Stuff, I’m So Tethered | Youth in Bloom – Shell | Big Mess – You Are My Sunshine | The Honeydips – The Honeydips | Menace Beach – Lowtalker | Hive Bent – Dyatlov | Daily Ritual – Depressed State | Quarterbacks – Sportscenter | Krill – Steve Hears Pile in Molden and Bursts Into Tears | Happy Diving – Happy Diving | Julianna Barwick – Rosabi | Xerox – Xerox | Zero Gain – Slow Thinking | Obedienca – El Àngel Exterminador | Leggy – Cavity Castle | Earth Girls – Wrong Side of History | Neighborhood Brats – Total Dementia | Gorgeous Bully – Nobody Hates You As Much As You Hate Yourself | Teenagers – Fake Television | Happy Hookers for Jesus – Happy Hookers for Jesus | Unfun – Shores of Lake Erie | Primetime – Primetime | Other People – Other People | Today’sHits – Sex Boys | SOAK – Blud | Robot Death Kites – Yuppie Nightmare | Broken Gold – Residency at Hundo Beach | Donovan Wolfington – Scary Stories You Tell In The Dark | Body Betrayal – Soft Cage | School ’94 – Like You | Cross Wires – Your History Defaced | Cayetana – Hot Dad Calendar | Fax Holiday – Big Fear | Moonface – City Wrecker | Bad Canoes – Sisterhood Is Powerful | Alice Boman – Alice Boman II | Big K.R.I.T. – Week of K.R.I.T. | The Dirty Nil – Smite | Twerps – Underlay | Cristina Black – Ides of March | Radical Dads – Cassette Brain | Blotter – Under Armour ’77 | Places to Hide – Wild N Soft | White Reaper – White Reaper | WHIMM – Wm | Black Planet – Female Hysteria | Life Like – Savages | Sick Thoughts – Fat Kid With A 10″ | Condominium – Thug | Anna Calvi – Strange Weather | Guerilla Toss – Smack the Brick | Wimps – Couches | Soft Fangs – Soft Fangs | Grape St – Free Stuff | Sundials – Kick | Autistic Youth – Graves | Pet Sun – Feel Like I’m Going Away | Morning Effort – I Heard You The First Time, It Just Wasn’t Very Funny | September Girls – Veneer | Creepoid – Wet | Fever the Ghost – Crab In Honey | VLMA – Slime | Dirt Dress – Revelations | Synthetic ID – Escapement