EPs of the Month: February 2021

From top left: Entretanto by Aukai (album artwork by Gregory Euclide), Cubicle by Lizzie Reid, 0011001 by Frederik Valentin, and Imposter by Miss Grit

The middle child of new releases, EPs are often overlooked in favour of albums and singles. But they can be the perfect format for artists to explore a single mood coherently without spreading it too thin, or to simply strike whilst the iron is hot. Here are the best I found this month.

WARNING: All EPs and their accompanying videos are completely uncensored. A number of them contain bad language that is unsuitable for children, NSFW topics and images, and/or political commentary that may offend some.

Lizzie ReidCubicle (Folk/Singer-Songwriter, Lizzie Reid Under Exclusive License to Seven Four Seven Six)

The skinny: Cubicle is a captivating set of ruminations on heartbreak set to tender folk music from Glasgow. Reid’s lyrics are relatable, exposed, and often strikingly candid (“I could pay tribute to this new found attitude, But I don’t much care for who I’ve become”), painting a picture of the emotionally scorched aftermath left by draining relationships. The doleful, delicate mood is infrequently shattered by unexpected eruptions of guitars and drums (e.g. the second half of Been Thinking About You), their surprising arrival out of leftfield perhaps signifying those unforeseen moments of uncontrollable rage that many of us experience even when we believe that we’re so far down the road to acceptance. The spectacular title track provides a fittingly emotional end to a journey that is emotionally far deeper than one would expect from a mere twenty-one minutes.

Standout tracks: Tribute, Cubicle

For fans of: Angel Olson, Hayley Heynderickx, Daughter

Miss GritImposter (Rock, MISS GRIT)

The skinny: This hugely impressive alt-rock EP was entirely self-produced and lyrically “addresses Miss Grit’s life-long navigation through the racial impostor syndrome she experienced as a half-Korean girl ‘trying to fit into the white space’ of the Michigan suburbs where she grew up.” The fuzz-heavy guitar heroics, quirky synths, and manipulated choir vocals on tracks like Buy The Banter have understandably led to positive comparisons to St. Vincent in other publications. Equally there is a darkness in the ominous synth glitches of opener Don’t Wander and the dramatic vocals of standout track Blonde that recalls the ability of acts like Nine Inch Nails to pair both the dissonant and the anthemic. If you like synths and chunky guitar riffs to coexist in perfect harmony you should definitely check this one out.

Standout tracks: Blonde, Grow Up To

For fans of: St. Vincent, Nine Inch Nails, Royal Blood

Maria BCDevil’s Rain (Alternative, Fear Of Missing Out Records)

The skinny: Devil’s Rain feels otherworldly. The heavily-reverbed guitars and ghostly vocals are too sweet and enchanting to be described as a nightmare, but equally they’re too haunting to fit our usual conceptions of a dream (nowhere more so than during the unsettling beginning to Unmaker). It’s a perfect example of the EP’s potential to cohesively flesh out a single mood beyond an individual track – if it were any longer, the impact would likely be lessened and might even become grating. But as it is it’s a perfect 18 minutes of unearthly songwriting.

Standout tracks: Devil’s Rain, Adelaide

For fans of: Grouper

AukaiEntretanto (Folk/Instrumental, Aukai Music)

The skinny: Entretanto (“In the Meantime”) is a companion EP born from the same creative period as Aukai’s 2020 album Game Trails. However, it is clearly much more than a set of repackaged B sides. On each track the German-born Colorado resident crafts what sounds like an exquisite mini-soundtrack for a particular landscape, from the icy glacier caves of Reverie Krida and Winter Apples to the lush green fields of Cleave. Entretanto is an absolutely heavenly slice of musical escapism from the grind of modern urban life and highly recommended to anyone looking to lose themselves in an enchanting musical world.

Standout tracks: Cleave, Winter Apples

For fans of: (bearing in mind that there are no vocals so any comparisons are strictly on an instrumental level) Fleet Foxes, Simon & Garfunkel, Carrie and Lowell-era Sufjan Stevens

Frederik Valentin0011001 (Electronic, Posh Isolation)

The skinny: Frederik Valentin has had a busy February. 0011001 is one of two related EPs released this month, both dealing with Valentin’s experience of “becoming a father and losing my mother… within one year.” 0011001 certainly captures the “infinite joy and unavoidable beauty of decay” that Valentin has referenced when talking about its release. Opener Hello’s muted organ and solemn vocals (courtesy of Chinah singer Fine Glindvad) create a sombre atmosphere that’s sustained throughout. However, the EPisconstantly sculpting moments of that “unavoidable beauty” amongst all the sorrow. The expressive piano playing is particularly noteworthy throughout, but moments like the string break in Butterfly, the buzzing synth crescendos in Hello, and the outro coda of Blue are all spectacular in their own right. If you’re going through a tough time and want music that comforts by sounding like it’s sharing your despair then this brilliant EP should go on your listening list ASAP.

Standout tracks: Butterfly, Blue (feat. Jeuru)

For fans of: Sophtware Slump-era Grandaddy, The Antlers

© The Baying of Kazak 2021. All rights reserved. All opinions (except those directly attributed to a third party) are the author’s own.

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