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FensePost Top 20: Best EPs of 2009

The Best EPs of 2009

Not surprisingly, this list is filled with EPs by quite a few bands you know and quite a few you probably don’t. Of the ones you don’t know, many are likely from Washington; a quick count leaves me with five bands, or 1/4 of this list. Many of these bands I consider among the most promising artists to surface in 2009. All are worth checking out, and you’ll want to keep an eye on them as we head into 2010.


I titled the above image of my cousin Danny “Over It: 2009”, which is a pretty good summation of the year. It’s been a rough one all around thanks to a shoddy economy, a poor real estate market, and rampant unemployment. But looking back, 2009 was jam-packed with great tunes. And I bought a house, which has been pretty sweet. So, when it comes down to it, 2009 wasn’t half bad.

Here it is, my top 20 EPs of 2009.

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20. The Age Of Anxiety by Virgin Islands

The newest of the EPs on this list is The Age Of Anxiety by Virgin Islands. Following the path of Mike Jaworski’s prior group The Cops, this Seattle band is one to keep an eye on in 2010. They are sure to quickly become a local favorite. Also, this release is a limited print one on 12-inches of vinyl, so snatch it up before it’s too late!

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19. Eering, Creaky EP by The Smile Brigade

With Eering, Creaky EP, Seattle’s The Smile Brigade began to redefine their folk-y sound with pop sensibilities and clever lyrical twists. As they have yet to give us a full LP, The Smile Brigade remains a powerful underground force waiting to be heard beyond the borders of the Pacific Northwest.

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18. Cathedral With No Eyes EP by Railcars

In the vein of Jamie Stewart’s Xiu Xiu, San Francisco’s Railcars is experimental noise pop at its most eccentric and ferocious. Cathedral With No Eyes is the band’s second EP and it finds them solidifying their now signature freak-out noise-pop sound.

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17. Blood Bank EP by Bon Iver

Bon Iver continues Justin Vernon’s pleasantly falsetto folk-pop. A brief four songs, Blood Bank (in my opinion) surpasses For Emma, Forever Ago as the group’s strongest work yet. This EP is a must-have for any collection.

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16. Early Morning Risers EP by Dinosaur Feathers

Unique harmonies often in falsetto with a front-man that sounds like an early Rivers Cuomo and backed by an electro-freak-folk sound not entirely unlike a mellow Animal Collective, Dinosaur Feathers are easily one of today’s most promising new acts.

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15. Tiny Dots by Yarn Owl

Yarn Owl continues to impress with Tiny Dots, featuring an early favorite “Yarn Blues” and introducing some new ones like “This Old Yarn” and “Without You”. 2010 promises more great things from this Pullman-based band; an EP dubbed Stay Warm. If you missed it, we featured an exclusive track from that forthcoming EP and it’s pretty damn good. To demonstrate this band’s greatness, this cassette release of (I believe) 300 recently sold out.

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14. Higher Than The Stars EP by The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart released one of my favorite albums of the year, so it only makes sense that their follow-up EP also be worthy of high praise. “Higher Than The Stars” lacked some of the fuzzy greatness of their self-titled LP, but that title track is just as sweet and sensual as “Young Adult Friction” or “Come Saturday”.

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13. Rainwater Cassette Exchange EP by Deerhunter

As usual, Deerhunter delivers. Five songs of immense impacting delight. This album picks up where Microcastle/Weird Era Cont. left off, or joins in just before it starts (I cannot decide which is more appropriate). Noise is the new pop and noise pop, for Deerhunter, reigns supreme.

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12. Exquisite Corpse EP by Warpaint

These three ladies know how to create a good tune. “Stars” is my favorite shoegaze-y track from 2009, and “Billie Holiday” is close behind. The video for “Stars” is one of my favorites of the year and, with sole exception to “Beetles”, this EP is flawless. Anticipate great things in 2010 from Warpaint.

I took a deeper look at the music video for “Stars” here.

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11. Phantogram EP by Phantogram

Phantogram’s debut EP hits all the right notes. After being discovered this year, the group was signed to Barsuk. Keep an eye out for Phantogram’s debut EP, Eyelid Movies early next year. Think Ratatat (they hail from the same small New York town) with lyrics.

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10. OKAY by Venice Is Sinking

This extended single includes the two of the most appreciated tracks off Venice Is Sinking’s AZAR. “OKAY” is one of my favorite tracks of 2009, and they revisit it and “Ryan’s Song” in the Henslee Sessions. Along with the album version of the title track, the band rounds out the EP with “Compass” and “Give Up”, both covers of the band OKAY.

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9. Dear Furies by Virgin Of The Birds

It had been a few years since Virgin Of The Birds gave us Mixed Choir, but 2009 saw them putting out two EPs. Both are outstanding, but Dear Furies took the cake for me. Jon Rooney’s tracks “Spanish Accusations”, “Baby Let Me Trace You” and “Magic & Sincere” were what did it, though Every Rival has some great tunes as well (“I Loved John” and “Ilona, You Should Still Be My Vampire Attendant”).

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8. Fall Be Kind EP by Animal Collective

Fall Be Kind finds Animal Collective again becoming more accessible to a wider audience. Without the dissonance and grating shrieks of their early work, Animal Collective has tamed and matured, but still carries a ferocious bite.

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7. Life Of Leisure EP by Washed Out

A single session of songs as a band, and that may just be all we get from Washed Out due to settling down. The primary man behind this quite mesmerizing group set out to make music a bit different from what he had before, and the result was one of the year’s best EPs.

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6. Survival Strategies In A Modern World EP by Liechtenstein

There was a void in music after the demise of the short-lived Vancouver, BC group The Organ; that being a Morrissey / The Smiths influenced indie pop girl group. Liechtenstein fills that gap (kinda) and includes lead vocals as deep as those of Katie Sketch. Liechtenstein’s music isn’t nearly as pointed as that by The Organ, but it’s just as good (if not better).

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5. EP by Air Waves

They may be from New York, but Air Waves has that sunny California sound. Their acoustic pop made waves (heh) this year and it’s easy to hear why – these songs are pure and fun and easy to love. “Keys” is a quick favorite, but given time you’ll find a special place in your heart for every song on this EP.

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4. Hollow Home EP by Bagheera

Listening to Hollow Home, I’m reminded of Grizzly Bear. But where it took Grizzly Bear three albums to really make an impact on me (outside a track here and there), Bagheera does it with a single four-song EP. This is an absolute must-hear.

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3. Unfaithful by Charles Leo Gebhardt IV

Like me, this dude sports a big red mustache. Charles Leo Gebhardt IV is, along with The Banyans, Seattle’s best underground artist. Unfaithful proves it with powerful tracks like “Look Out, Look In”, the title track, and “Lake Serene”. Hopefully 2010 will see Gebhardt giving us his debut LP, because I for one cannot wait to hear more.

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2. Heatwave EP by Total Babe

What a great new band! Total Babe gets my vote as one of the most promising bands of the year. These kids are young and filled with promise. For their seemingly super young age, their musical abilities and lyrical crafts are par none. Every song on this EP gets an A+++.

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1. We Swim You Jump EP by We Swim You Jump

This is an easy pick for EP of the year – We Swim You Jump has dominated my playlist since I discovered the band many months ago. There’s not much more to say about this band that I haven’t already. I’ll reiterate: perfect pitches, passionate harmonies, and some of the most mellow yet moving pop you’ll hear from 2009.

hand-picked vinyl recommendations

4 thoughts on “FensePost Top 20: Best EPs of 2009”

  1. very nice stuff i really enjoyed listen,better than radio stuff
    am a singer-songwriter also
    i go under the name “speller littlewing “i have my music on youtube and itunes
    thanx again

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