A FensePost Top 15 List: The Best EPs of 2012

FensePost Top EPs of 2012

While everyone else goes ape sh*t over EPs by Lana Del Rey and Ke$ha, well, we took a different approach and didn’t listen to those artists this year. Instead, last night, I ran through my entire library on iTunes and settled on my top 15 EPs of 2012.

Yeah, as these lists go, I’m sure I’m missing some pretty great ones in here that will leave me slapping my forehead later, but whatevz. It’s all subjective anyway, right?

We begin with New York band Beast Patrol.

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15. Fierce & Grateful EP by Beast Patrol

Fierce & Grateful by Beast PatrolNew York trio Beast Patrol begins our countdown at number 15. The band has had quite the year with their debut EP Fierce & Grateful, having generated substantial hype. This is due to their song “Plaster”, which finds front-woman Vanessa Bley at her best backed by the expert workings of guitarist Robert Granata and backup vocalist/bassist Anthony Marchesi.

Fierce & Grateful blends elements of rock with those of pop. It features a few different styles and sounds, from the 80s-influenced pop of “Plaster” to the power-pop rock of “Rio”. Here’s to hoping they settle on a singular, defining sound with their next release — and that the sound mirrors what they’ve created with the truly phenomenal “Plaster”.

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14. This Summer EP by Caged Animals

This Summer EP by Caged AnimalsThis Summer EP by Brooklyn band Caged Animals is somewhat telltale of what you’ll find within this list: bands that skirt the edges of dream pop. Here, dreamy notes infiltrate the indie pop Caged Animals creates.

This Summer, like many EPs on this list, has a great beat to it while being both somewhat surreal and super upbeat.

Opening track “This Summer I’ll Make It Up To You” made it onto my radio playlist a few times this year, but there’s plenty of merit beyond it. “I Will Take My Own Hand” is the other EP favorite, though close behind is the somewhat odd, mysterious closing track “^ ^ & Away”.

With exception to that closing track, Caged Animals have put together a cohesive sound. Despite the differing closer, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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13. Inca Gold III EP by Inca Gold

Dreamy, psychedelic pop artist Inca Gold continues the trend and adds in another: psychedelic. 2012 was quite the year for all this psych, at least for our top EPs and LPs of the year.

Inca Gold’s four song EP, simply titled Inca Gold III, packs a lot of music into their songs — the EP comes in at just under 20 minutes in length. The London-based four-piece masters a colorful, mind-bending soundscapes with tracks like “Atom” and “Split Waves”.

All songs on Inca Gold III have the ability to blur your vision and send you into a catatonic dream-state, most definitely if your intake is through headphones.

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12. Save Yourself EP by Machine Birds

Save Yourself by Machine BirdsMachine Birds is a female duo from Bergen, Norway who create experimental electronic pop songs. Their debut EP, Save Yourself, came to my attention after I was sent their song “If I” which very quickly became a mainstay on my playlist. That song remains my favorite off the EP, though the title track (stream it below) and their original single, “Time”, are close seconds.

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11. Fill Your Lungs EP by Ending People

Fill Your Lungs by Ending PeopleWe’ve liked Fill Your Lungs by Denver’s Ending People since we first heard it a few months back. Like “Plaster” by Beast Patrol, Ending People drops in a dreamy, dark 80s-style pop sound. Unlike Beast Patrol, they maintain this sound throughout their EP.

Back in October, we dubbed their sound as atmospheric, stating that the EP finds an interesting balance between airy vocals and a swirling echo of guitars, from thick laid back synth notes to all-encompassing guitars while calling Fill Your Lungs a “valiant first effort”.

Listen to “Tiny Little Army” below. And if you have a chance, check out our favorite track off the EP, closing track “Pretender Pt. 1″.

Download: “Tiny Little Army” by Ending People

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10. Merlin’s Magic Music Box EP by Merlin’s Magic Music Box

Merlin's Magic Music Box EPOf all the bands in this list, New Hampshire trio Merlin’s Magic Music Box is perhaps the least known with only 77 “Likes” on Facebook (actually, I hadn’t Liked ‘em yet, so make that 78). But that doesn’t mean much in the indie music world. Known or unknown, the music can be bad and it can be good. Given that MMMB just cracks the top ten, we think it’s the latter.

The band’s self-titled EP came out back in July and the deep vocals have a sound familiar to that of The Fresh & Onlys. The instrumentation, too, has traces of garage and psychedelic rock. Songs like “I Don’t Care” are just flat out catchy, while others like “City In The Sky” drop in some wild harmonica.

I believe that Merlin’s Magic Music Box is a band to watch in 2013.

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9. Wait Up EP by Bogan Via

Wait Up EP by Bogan ViaAfter dozens of listens to “Kanye” by Bogan Via, I finally decided to check out their full EP for Wait Up. This was well over a month ago, and yet another dozen listens to the full EP. Pitting male and female vocals against each other is not unusual, but the vocals of Madeleine Miller and Bret Bender are in themselves unusual in quite the pleasing way. The result is a sound quite unique. Pair that with some very unconventional pop music, focusing on strings and piano but with a bit of a hefty beat.

That’s what you get upon listening to “Wait Up”, the EP’s title and opening track. You’ll get the same throughout the following five tracks. Some feature a heavier emphasis on synths, such as “Kanye” and “Copy And Paste”, giving them an electro-pop vibe. Others, like “Afternoon Wonderland”, take a more stripped-down approach.

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8. Privilege pt. V: Portrait of a Reputation by Parenthetical Girls

Privilege pt. V by Parenthetical GirlsOpposite of Merlin’s Magic Music Box, Parenthetical Girls may be among the more well known artists on this list. They’ve created a big following for their oft bizarre style of experimental pop. Listening to Privilege pt. V, you get a strange dichotomy: on one side, there’s hints of an Of Montreal / Kevin Barnes influence while on the other it’s more like Xiu Xiu / Jamie Stewart.

Given the EPs title, there were four Privilege EPs before this, all of which were released in 2010 or 2011. Despite a rapid-fire of recording and releasing albums, EPs and singles since the band debuted in 2002 (as Swastika Girls), pt. V is their only 2012 release.

Opening track “Portrait of a Reputation” is perhaps the EP topper, though “The Comedienne” is in its own right absolutely incredible with its emotive vocals and encompassing church-hall organ. Check out the appropriately eerie video for closing track “Curtains” below:

Parenthetical Girls: Curtains from Parenthetical Girls on Vimeo.

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7. Buffalo EP by Lowlakes

Lowlakes EPAustralia’s Lowlakes is another band that has been a hype favorite in 2012. With a vocal styling reminiscent (to an extent) of Antony Hegarty and backing instrumentation that would make Explosions in the Sky proud, Lowlakes blend elements of dream pop with post rock. The combination might not sound like one that would work, but boy does it!

Their self-titled EP features four truly phenomenal songs. To boot, they also dropped one of our favorite digital singles of the year with “Cold Company”.

Lowlakes dominates with powerful tracks like “Buffalo” and “Arctic House”, though “Song For Motion” and “Catch The Breeze” are no less amazing. Like the aforementioned Inca Gold III, Lowlakes’ EP is one to listen to via headphones, ideally in the dark while reclined on something soft.

Unlike the aforementioned, this one is a bit of a lovers EP. Enjoy it while you enjoy the company of one you love… yes, in that way.

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6. Mean Tom EP by Teen Mom

Mean Tom by Teen MomIf there’s one thing fans of indie music like, it’s exclusivity. About a month ago, I found that Teen Mom‘s new EP, Mean Tom, was not just stunningly good, it received a limited pressing of only 300 copies, 50 of which are on “coke bottle clear” wax. Upon the discovery, I pre-ordered my copy of the 12″ EP on clear vinyl. In the brief few weeks the EP has been out, the band has already sold out of those, but they do still have copies of the EP on black vinyl available.

Teen Mom is a young band out of Washington DC and all six songs on Mean Tom feature playful, dreamy, often jangly indie pop. Always upbeat in sound, typically melancholy in vocal/lyrical content, Mean Tom is thus both uplifting and thought-provoking. It’s an album for the recluse, an ode to the homebody, a tribute to the hopeless romantic.

“I Wanna Go Out” is the song that caused me to fall in love with this band’s sound, but the EP is full of good songs — equally as great are “You And Me” and “All The Time”.

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5. Old Ghost New Waves EP by The Lovely Bad Things

Old Ghost New Waves by The Lovely Bad ThingsJust cracking the top five is Old Ghost New Waves. by Los Angeles band The Lovely Bad Things. The band kicks things off on a high note with the slightly jangly indie pop track “You Done Messed Up”, then they take it up a notch with the super catchy, infectiously bouncy “I Just Want You To Go Away”. Revisiting this EP, I had to revise my list a few times, bumping The Lovely Bad Things up a few notches. I often forget how great this band is.

My guess is that Old Ghosts New Waves is kicking off a trend for next year — don’t be surprised if several of my top EPs and LPs of 2013 come via limited-issue release on cassette tapes.

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4. Fluttering So Sweetly EP by Gathered Ghosts

Fluttering So Sweetly EP by Gathered GhostsOK, so I kinda know Javier Suarez. And I kinda know Andreanna. Both are acquaintances from my old college radio station, KZUU. Javier is now a member of Craft Spells and Andreanna is the station’s GM. Gathered Ghosts is the solo project for Suarez, created after Yarn Owl parted ways. This EP sees him continuing his affinity for lovable pop while transforming his sound from folk to a new retro-ish synth pop style.

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3. A Good Woman Is Hard To Find EP by PAPA

A Good Woman Is Hard To Find by PAPAComing in at number three, A Good Woman Is Hard To Find is quite possibly my most listened-to EP of 2012. PAPA‘s music has a great swagger to it. Their debut EP did precisely what any debut EP should do: entice the listener to want more. Boy did it! I’ve been raving about this EP all year, and I’ll likely be doing the same for a few more!

PAPA is Darren Weiss and Daniel Presant. Weiss, formerly of Girls, has brought along a few traits from that band. Namely, the phenomenal song-craft, the immensely catchy sounds, and hints of California-style pop. Though I’m not the biggest fan of “Let’s Make You Pregnant” in the song’s name only, I absolutely adore all five songs on this EP.

I know I’m not the only one out there excited to hear what PAPA has in store for 2013!

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2. Gallery EP by Craft Spells

Gallery by Craft SpellsJustin Vallesteros has created one of my most beloved bands from the past few years: Craft Spells. Had I created a best of 2011 list last year (stay tuned for a retrospective), I’m pretty sure 2011′s Idle Labor would have cracked the top 10. Thanks to an absolutely epic opening track, “Still Left With Me”, Craft Spells’ 2012 EP Gallery dials in at number 2 on my list of the best EPs of the year.

With such a powerful opener, the desire to hit “repeat” led to that continual action, and it took a couple months to get to track two and beyond. To be honest, most of the other songs are just as powerful. Craft Spells have dominated in the synth-influenced, jangle pop super-sub-genre, and thanks to yet another great release, I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

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1. Pure Bathing Culture EP by Pure Bathing Culture

Pure Bathing Culture EPIn at number one is a band and EP that shouldn’t be surprising to you if you’re a regular follower of FensePost and/or a regular listener to my Friday night show on KSVR. I’ve been raving about Pure Bathing Culture and their self-titled EP for ages. To say that I love this band would not be true; love is an understatement here. In four songs Pure Bathing Culture has captured not only my ears — it has ensnared my heart. You truly will not hear a better new EP in 2012.

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