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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Top Ten EPs

With only four or five songs per release, EPs are quickly becoming more popular in our modern music age.  This could be due to a number of different reasons:  the steady decline of physical album sales, different buying habits for music lovers or the rising cost of studio time for bands.  At any rate and for whatever reason, musicians and labels are regularly releasing EPs.

When looking at other top ten lists from critics, journalists and music enthusiasts, a common denominator that I find is that critics almost exclusively focus on full length albums.  Not to say that EPs are completely forgotten or ignored in the scope of music journalism, but many times they get lost in the shuffle or subsequently overlooked.  For this post, I want to give all of my attention to the EP.  I want to lay out my top ten EPs of the last ten years.  With this post, some EPs are from independent bands, others are on major labels, some are widely popular and a few of these groups have a small, but dedicated following.

10.  Love Like Gravity – Love Like Gravity (2010)
Top Tracks – Stronger, Adrenaline, Gravity

Coming in at number ten is Love Like Gravity’s self-titled independent EP.  A mixture of grunge and modern rock, this release proved to be a breakout point for the group.  Their hit single, “Stronger,” even managed to land a spot in the Top 15 on the Billboard Christian rock chart.  For true fans of hard rock, Love Like Gravity offers plenty of rock and roll to enjoy.

9.  Apathetic EP – Relient K (2005)
Top Tracks – The Truth, Apathetic Way to Be, In Like a Lion (Always Winter)

With their usual pop style and tongue in cheek lyrics, the Apathetic EP begins perfectly with “The Truth” and “Apathetic Way to Be.”  Both of these songs could easily be described as pop hits.  Immediately after these two gems, the EP takes a much slower turn with three acoustic songs.  Finally, the EP slows down even more with two piano ballads, one of which was inspired by The Chronicles of Narnia.  Serving as a bridge between the Mmhmm days and the future sound of the group, the Apathetic EP was a perfect turning point.  On future albums, Relient K fully committed to their serious and mature pop sound, and this EP proved to be the catalyst for the major transition from their fun, punk rock early days.

8.  I Am Terrified – I Am Terrified (2008)
Top Tracks – Heaven Knocking, Hell Rising, Falling On Everlasting, Velvet Thunder

Released by Gotee Records in 2008, I Am Terrified’s self-titled EP is a proud proclamation of faith.  Inspired by many well-known hymns, I Am Terrified is filled with heart pounding screamo songs mixed with fire and brimstone lyrics.  This short, six song EP is easily summed up by the song, “Falling On Everlasting.”  Lead vocalist, Patrick Schefano, sings, “Go and tell the whole world, it’s alright.”

7.  The Sound The Steel – The Wedding (2008)
Top Tracks – Redeem, Receive, Reveal

Immediately after their second full length album, three members, including lead singer Kevin Kiehn, left the group in 2007.  Much to my surprise, The Wedding released a new EP, The Sound The Steel, only a year after announcing multiple exits from the group.  Slightly different from their earlier full length albums, The Sound The Steel fully embraces an emo style with a tinge of southern rock.  Using catchy hooks and the full range of their new vocalist, Matt Shelton, this EP is an impressive message of Christ and rock and roll.

6.  The Effects of Fashion and Prayer – Sent By Ravens (2008)
Top Tracks – Trailer vs. Tornado, This Awakening, This Battleship Won’t Budge

Before being signed to Tooth and Nail Records in 2009, Sent By Ravens released this hard rock EP in 2008.  Dominated by chugging guitar riffs, blazing drums and anthem after anthem, The Effects of Fashion and Prayer is a hard rock roller coaster ride.  However, the true power of Sent By Ravens comes from vocalist Zach Riner.  Filled with intensity, angst and even a couple of screams, this EP showcases the strength and diversity of Riner’s voice.  With a sound reminiscent of Disciple and Ivoryline, The Effects of Fashion and Prayer is an emotional and powerful hard rock ride.

5.  III.V – Family Force 5 (2012)
Top Tracks – Zombie, Cray Button, Superhero (Acoustic Remix)

Less than a year after the release of III, Family Force 5 graced fans with a new EP, titled III.V.  A continuation of their crunk rock sound, the EP kicks off with two great party anthems: “Zombie” and “Cray Button.”  Infectious and fun, these dance driven hits easily remind me of the early days of Family Force 5.  The three remixes of “Love Addict,” “Kountry Gentleman” and “Fever” are also great additions for loyal Family Force 5 fans.  These remixes are not better than the original versions, but it’s great to hear these songs arranged in a completely new and fresh way.  The EP wraps up with a stripped down, acoustic song called “Superhero.”  It’s definitely different than any song they’ve released in the past, but it’s a fitting and moving finish to a great EP.

4.  The EP – Wavorly (2011)
Top Tracks – Caught in the Middle, One More Try, Carry You

Coming in at number 4 is Wavorly with The EP.  With five brand new songs, including two versions of “One More Try,” the main focus of Wavorly’s sophomore EP is relationships.  Both beautiful and catchy, The EP can easily be labeled as lyrically charged pop rock.  “Caught in the Middle” describes being stuck in a relationship, “One More Try,” sings about the longing to change past mistakes and “Part That Won’t Let Go” expresses the fear that comes with letting go of something you love.  Even though it took four years between their debut album and their sophomore EP, one can still argue that the wait was definitely worth it.

3.  Oh Snap – Philmont (2008)
Top Tracks – The Difference, I Can’t Stand to Fall, Photosynthetic

Straightforward, pop rock is the best description of Philmont’s debut EP on Forefront Records.  The physical copy of Oh Snap features six songs, including their pop hit, “The Difference.”  On their EP, Philmont doesn’t create an overly unique sound or make any huge strides in pop rock.  Instead, they craft a fun, overt Christian EP, which serves as a must have for any pop punk fan. 

2.  Don’t Wake Aislin – Don’t Wake Aislin (2011)
Top Tracks – Through the Oppression of the Wicked, The Moon Keeps Track of the Seasons, To Escape the Tempest and Storm

Don’t Wake Aislin has experienced moderate success in the independent world of Christian rock.  With numerous performances at Cornerstone and tours alongside Sent By Ravens, Children 18:3, The Wedding and We As Human, Don’t Wake Aislin is slowly climbing the Christian rock ranks.  Their self-titled EP, Don’t Wake Aislin, is a mix of alternative rock and female fronted vocals. I know this description could fit many, many other female driven rock bands, but there just seems to be something different and memorable about this group.  With their rock arrangements, the occasional screams from vocalist Deena Jakoub and the grandiose feel of their music, Don’t Wake Aislin’s self-titled EP is a unique and exciting experience.

1.  We Are the Ones – Wolves at the Gate (2011)
Top Tracks – Oh the Depths, Heralds, No Rival

Wolves at the Gate exploded onto the Christian rock scene last year in 2011.  Before they released their independent EP, We Are the Ones, relatively few people had heard of this screamo group.  After a successful release, We Are the Ones eventually led the group to be discovered by Solid State Records.  Not only was this my favorite EP of last year, but it’s also my all-time favorite EP.  The members of Wolves at the Gate do an amazing job of combining their screamo style with passionate lyrics of faith.  “Oh the Depths” could be my favorite worship song of all time, and after many, many spins, “Heralds” still gets me pumped up.  Wolves at the Gate are one of the rising stars in Christian rock, and this independent EP is spectacular.