Top 5 EPs of the Year

Christopher Willits - Plants and Hearts (Room40)
We have here a 21 and a half minute long guitar drone compisition on a cute lil' 3" CD. It follows the shoegazey atmospherics meets clicks/cuts/edits of last year's Surf Boundaries on Ghostly, and nestles itself among a consistent flow of collaborative works between Willits and other artists / composers (i.e. Taylor Deupree, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Brad Laner). According to the label site, this piece involved Willits experimenting with:
"4hz isochronic pulses and panning at the same frequency, this work encourages the formation of 4hz brainwave patterns associated with states of meditation, deep relaxation, enhanced creativity, light sleep and lucid dreaming."
If this all sounds very sciencey to you, well, maybe it is, but it doesn't sound like it, and that's the important thing. This is a warm, inviting piece that pulses like an aurora Borealis and reminds a great deal of Keith Fullerton Whitman's phenomenal Playthroughs. Chords shift gently from one to the next, resonating in a very clean and whole way. It's as though each chord change corresponds to a slight physical ascension or descension. A really pleasant, calming, and unassuming work.
Mount Eerie - Mount Eerie Pts. 6 & 7 (P.W. Elverum & Sun)
Now I'm talking just about the music here. The gorgeous book in which the gorgeous picture disc containing these songs is housed is great and shouldn't be ignored, but I'm talking 'bout the songs. This release follows the sometimes stark and bare-bones sonics of No Flashlight and returns to chest-thumping grandiosity of the Mount Eerie full-length (back when you could call Phil The Microphones). There are the distorted cymbal and drum crashes that you've come to know and love, the choral vocals, the guitar solos, the harmonium, the themes of self-doubt in the face of nature and the world at large. Everything that makes us like what Phil does. He's not breaking any new ground really, but he doesn't need to. No one else really has quite the same kind of musical vocabulary or maintains such a uncommon narrative universe. So why shouldn't he just continue expanding on his favorite ideas (even though the end of Mount Eerie supposedly involved death and universal revelation)? As long as he keeps improving and shifting his sound by degrees, the continued mining of the Mount Eerie vein should remain worthwhile.
Batfinks - Towards the Pipet (LOAF)

I can't give you much of a backstory (read: any backstory) on the individual behind this release. I can tell you that he released a few EPs on the web label Hippocamp prior to this one, and that's really it. And that he's probably from the UK. Jazzy hollow-body guitar gets flung atop electro squiggles, amen breaks and distorted howls. Dusty, well aged synth arpeggios are paired with a bunny-hopping beat and equally bright hook. A ukulele or something comes up against what sounds like circuit-bent hardware and a children's rhyme picked out of the gutters in Candyland. And it all works! Seriously! There's a definite heavy flavor of post-Aphex Twin programming style here (not to mention a certain shared daffiness with Aphex's more oddball selections), but its contextualized in such a way that it sounds extremely fresh. The only problem is the near-criminal exclusion of the mini-epic "Stages," which is like the 2nd cousin of Max Tundra's classic "Children at Play." This song is on the same previously issued digital EP as 3 of the 4 songs on Towards the Pipet. But this is a pretty minor gripe, and quite the digression. Bottom line: a totally fun update of mid-90s era "IDM" (shudder...can you believe some people still refer to it as that?), well worth tracking down and a standout release among the LOAF label's ever-diversifying catalog.
Deerhunter - Fluorescent Grey (Kranky)
This EP followed hot on the heels of the album Cryptograms, and shares aspects of that album while refining them into a quartet of tracks that pack an efficient wallop. The title track ticks and seethes like a living time bomb before erupting into a cathartic swell of chugging guitars, expansive vocal moans and formidable, steady drums. "Dr. Glass," with some sort of asthmatic-sounding electric organ melody and "Like New," its layered vocals and guitars gentle yet propulsive, form the dreamy center of the release. "Wash Off" brings things to a clattering, bass-driven close, with chanting lyrics about eternal adolescence. The total result of these songs is a brief but powerful reflection on death, youth, aging, and the ways they connect. They stand strongly on their own terms as a fully realized collection, not just the afterthoughts / outtakes of a recording session.
High Places - High Places EP (Ancient Almanac)
A gust of fresh spring air on a sunny day. An Alka-Seltzer for your earholes. A dancing cactus (with sunglasses). The music of High Places is / is like all of these things. Four songs are here and gone in a dazzling nine minutes. A guy (Robert) and a gal (Mary) based in Brooklyn conjure these songs from neo-tribal percussion elements, processed picked electric guitar, gulping electronics, and sweet but not too sweet female vocals about dinosaurs, a duck in a desert, silent clouds, and so on. Precious but intricate, deep enough to listen closely to but light enough to tap / shuffle your feets to, long enough to get a good feel for things but short enough to leave you wishing it was just a little longer. It will be a surefire lift to your day, nay, your very life. A full length is (apparently) in the offing, which is exciting, because this EP is super-promising. You can download a track from it as well as a few other songs at the band's page: myspace.com/hellohighplaces .

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