Friday, February 10, 2012

Eli's Best Extended Plays of 2011

I know, I know.  I'm a bit late to the party, especially considering I wasn't even going to talk about last year's EPs.  But in revisiting some of 2011's best extended play records, I could not sit idle by without telling everyone how exceptional last year was in regards to high quality EPs.  If you haven't picked any of these up, it goes without saying that they come highly recommended, and make for great listens before 2012 really heats up.  So, without furth ado...
Olafur Arnalds - Living Room Songs:

Without a doubt the most affecting release of last year.  I've been a fan of the Icelandic composer for quite some time, and it's been a joy hearing him improve with each release.  Bringing out the keys and strings more than ever, Arnalds creates some of the most beautiful and evocative pieces in his career, all without sacrificing the lovely minimalism he's always displayed.  The EP is painfully gorgeous, and expands upon 2010's ...And They Have Escaped the Weight of Darkness in every possible respect.  This is a record not to be missed.

For Fans Of: minimalist compositions, post-rock, classical

Trophy Scars - Never Born, Never Dead:

If it is at all possible to wear out an MP3, then "Never Dead" is going the way of the dodo at this rate.  I've listened to the track more times than I care to admit, and through all of that, I keep returning.  This comes as no surprise considering the band has always been able to craft some of the most engaging music out there.  Utilizing their typical bluesy post-hardcore sound, Trophy Scars have made a record that as adventerous as it is comfortable.  This is the same band that's given us instant classics such as Bad Luck and Darkness, Oh Hell, albeit in a much more hopefully light.  The record feels more uplifting and bright, something that may come as a surprise to longtime fans.  And while there is no direct ranking in this little EP list, Trophy Scars is definitely the de facto EP you should check out if you haven't already.  Get it, love it, and wear it out just like me.

For Fans Of: post-hardcore, experimental rock, alternative rock

Mogwai - Earth Division:
 Despite my unhealthy love of all things post-rock, I consider myself to be one of Mogwai's biggest detractors.  Oh yes, one of the genre's founding bands is not beyond reproach.  Frankly, they've been on a downward spiral for years now (see everything post-Mr. Beast), so it came as a huge shock when I first heard their latest EP.  It's fresh, beautiful, and a different kind of entity when looking back at the band's discography.  Featuring vocals, strings, and shorter songs, it's a digestible album that doesn't see the band's misplaced ambitions getting the better of them.  The EP is a delectable little recording that gives me hope for Mogwai's future, and is easily one of 2011's best post-rock releases.

For Fans Of: post-rock

Cynic-Carbon - Based Anatomy:
By now the story of Cynic is written in stone.  An offshoot of legendary death metal band, Death, Cynic went on to release a genre defining record only to disappear for 15 years before dropping the land mark Traced in Air.  However, what was so shocking about their 2008 release is even more shocking about their 2011 EP: there's no metal.  Well, almost.  Cynic have stripped away every ounce of death metal save for some great riffs.  And while this may perturb long time fans, the extra emotional weight present on the record is welcome.  The robot vocals are gone as well, and the entire package feels much more personal.  This is the human side of the band we haven't been treated to, and it's well worth checking out.

For Fans Of: Progressive rock/metal, experimental

Circle Takes the Square - Rites of Initiation:
Does everyone remember when Circle Takes the Square said they'd release their unbelievebly anticipated  follow up 2003's As the Roots Undo by December?  You Know, December of 2011?  Well I do.  Thankfully, however, I still have the excellent Rites of Initiation to hold me over till, well, whenever they decide to release the album.  The EP is the first part of said album; a ferocious reminder of why all respects need to be paid to a band who quietly revolutionized the genre almost a decade ago.  It's dark, it's heavy, and it's 100% CTtS.  And really, that's all we truly need.

For Fans Of: emo, hardcore

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