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While Lost At Sea endeavors to write about a great deal of the music it receives, there are hundreds of releases that slip through the cracks - things too strange, too transient or (yes) too bad to earn a full review. EPs, CD singles and 7" records are particularly hard to deal with because there are so many of them - and they are so small - that they often get lost in the shuffle. This sometimes means that deserving music in non-album form is not reaching the people who might enjoy it most.
In an attempt to save give some of this music its due, Lost At Sea has dredged through recently received EPs and singles to weed out a select few and recommend them to readers. Each review below includes a link to an artist or label site, most of which include samples of the artist's music and information about tours and buying the albums.
Kieskagato - EP
Horns have always been one of post-rock's best weapons, because they tap into something so pre-rock. The brass wind instruments never comfortably fit in with most kinds of rock music, but in post-rock they provide not the genteel colors of jazz or the thick body Latin music but rather provide a much-needed lightening, an airing of the sound. The loose singing and bright horn splashes don't belie the thoughtful arrangements and careful progressions of these songs so much as they support them, along with less surprising company like the bending guitar notes in "See You At the Meeting."
Tree Wave - Cabana EP
It's almost better to keep Tree Wave's recording techniques a secret, because they suggest a gimmick sound that the band completely transcends. Yes, this music is programmed on old computer and video game hardware by Dallas duo Tree Wave. The end result, however, is not the choppy, blip-heavy stuff one expects from this kind of exercise, but instead a smooth, thick haze of electro-pop. With singer Lauren Gray's pastel singing, the band's own comparison to Lali Puna is particularly apt. Bedroom electronica pumped through 1980s detritus never sounded so natural, and it rarely sounded so good.
The One AM Radio - On the Shore of the Wide World EP
It seems every month more and more of the EPs that don't quite make the cut for this column are indie rock groups clumsily trying to weld some superficial electronic elements on to their music, whether that means replacing the second guitar with a keyboard to firing the drummer and buying a Linn. The One AM Radio reach the sound much more comfortably by filling this EP with remixes from their last album; rooted in rock-pop structures, the songs gobble up the mellow poptronica of collaborators like hip-hop brain trust Daedelus and techno globetrotter John Tejada for a pleasantly effective listen.
Shearwater - Thieves EP
This is music that is locked indoors without sounding dusty; "slowcore," if it can be applied without prejudice, might be appropriate. It is more of an attempt to fully take advantage of the spaciousness of folk acoustic music than a clumsy attempt to ape it, which is much more typical of contemporaries trying to step backward into the enveloping warmth of 1970s singer-songwriter nostalgia. Shearwater's slow sink into the inky abandon of Leonard Cohen and Mark Kozelek could not be mistaken for a crass appropriation.
The Static Age - Amphibian EP
The title track on this (quite) good three-song EP has those wonderfully displaced keyboard flexes that used to be so common in synth-pop albums of the early '80s, when new wave hadn't fully processed all that new technology. The song is a driving, tight bit of MySpace rock processed through mid-1980s college rock filters and is available in full on the band's site (http://www.thestaticage.com/Audio/TheStaticAge-Amphibian.mp3).
Various Artists - Chuckbeat
This is a compilation, not an EP, but it was tossed in with the EPs, it deserves a mention, and it's sure as hell not going to land a full review. It includes everything from glitchy electronic workouts to fuzzy hardcore to placeholder math-rock workouts to a spoken word piece about an Indian ear-cleaner. The variety stems from what is not just an online label but also an online community of artists who hail from various parts of the United States and Europe. They have put this entire compilation up for free on their site, and it's certainly worth a quick listen even if it's a bit hit or miss and no one is going to enjoy everything on it.
Diamond Nights - Once We Were Diamonds EP
Diamond Nights of Queens, NY sports the poise of, say, your J. Geils Band or your Thin Lizzy and wears the influences well. This is worth noting because a) there are a lot of bands doing that right now and b) there are not a lot of bands doing that well right now. Assuming it wasn't sniped from Jack White's songbook while he was busy becoming famous, "The Girl is Attractive," with its lowbrow gutter strut, certainly tops whatever slime Jet has expunged this week.
The Factory Incident - Redtape
Mission of Burma's shadow has always loomed large for a band that made its name in a few years, largely on the strength of a handful of singles and one hit-or-miss album. Washington D.C. group The Factory Incident applies a stiff, workman-like echo of Burma's sound at a time when music full of corners and angles is fully back in style. The band's lock-groove trot and disaffected vocals make a few of these songs a bit too awkward, but this six-song work is still an overall success.
Colonel Rhodes - This Is Public
The alt-country rock of Colonel Rhodes draws some obvious comparisons to Whiskeytown, particularly with the male-female presence at the front of the band and the string section support deeper in the mix. The band also fits nicely with a recent crop of alt-country artists in the Midwest and near South. The songwriting still needs to develop before the band can separate itself from the tears-and-beer songwriting of both classic inspirations and their contemporaries, but I would be remiss not to mention a band with a chorus like "you're more than just a normal boy / from Normal, Illinois" when I myself lived there for several years.
Louis XIV - Illegal Tender EP
Rating: Rating: 3/10
It's rare for low ratings to appear in this column because there isn't much practical use in pointedly criticizing an artist no one has heard of; obscurity is its own built-in punishment. Louis XIV has received a generous amount of attention for their album and the preceding Illegal Tender EP, and as such, it qualifies as one of the releases with a high enough profile and a low enough value to register here with a 3 rating. The band's clumsy jumble of glam and new rock revolution posturing does little to cover patchy, dull songwriting on this precursor to that album with the butt on the cover.
Erick Bieritz lives in Chicago, where is usually either very hot or very cold. He was the brainchild behind EPMD, where he wrote about EPs and singles for LAS, looking for overlooked or underappreciated non-album releases.
See other articles by Erick Bieritz.
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