You can listen to these EPs at this Spotify playlist
While 2 may be the album that stole the spotlight for Mac DeMarco, it’s on Rock And Roll Night Club that we can see the artist’s strange persona taking form. Billed as an EP but actually longer than 2 if we include “Only You,” it’s the kind of release that will inspire make-out sessions among the weirdos. The songs on Rock And Roll Night Club are undeniably catchy and easy-going, with Mac frequently showcasing his good ear for hooks, but the vocals, which were recorded while he had tonsillitis, are slowed down to the point where they sound more like a sleazy croon than proper singing, and the EP is broken up by radio interludes that feature a DJ with an even eerier, gurgling voice. Combined with cover art that features Mac in drag, it all goes toward an eerie, off-kilter persona for the guy – you can’t really tell what his deal is, but his stories are compelling nonetheless. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I believe some of my fellow weirdos need attending to.
– David Wolfson
With just a sparse four song spread, The Antlers’ splendid Undersea managed to capture more mood and ambiance than most of the many releases of 2012 could hope to approach. Whereas the band’s heralded debut, Hospice, relied so heavily on Peter Silberman’s narrative, Undersea is the result of a concerted effort to use sound and space to weave a more open-ended story. “Endless Ladder,” one of my more cherished tracks of the year, rests comfortably on the same repetitive lyrics — “climbing higher/crawling out” — for a sprawling eight and a half minutes because time is such a centerpiece of the message here. The lyrics and sounds speak directly not just to the present, but to the past and future as well. Silberman’s voice is mostly another rushing wave, paired with soft, steady beats and melodic keyboard fills, used to guide the listener on an experience that can and should vary depending on who that listener is and in what place they are in life. It remains unclear if this is a sign of where The Antlers are going or more of an ode to where they’ve been, especially since these tracks tend to feel like more drawn out expansions of those on Burst Apart, but, in a sense, that disconnect from time, space, and even perception is what makes Undersea such a wondrous little chronicle.
– Andrew Bailey
Hudson Mohawke and Lunice have solid reputations as two of hip-hop’s most forward thinking producers, as both the Scot and Canadian have proven their penchant for physicality and experimentation while blurring the lines between hip-hop and electronic music throughout their solo careers. However, what is so amazing about their debut EP as TNGHT (which they insist is just a side project) is how they both magnify each other’s strengths into songs that can only be described as earth-shattering. TNGHT is seventeen minutes of some of the most insistent beats you are likely to hear this year – the haunting R&B crooners that permeate “Top Floor,” the impending sense of danger brought about by the icy industrial tones of “Bugg’n,” and the menacing horns of “Higher Ground” are set against levels of bass that you can feel vibrating inside you with the right piece of stereo equipment. The sheer amount of consideration that went into making this EP is evident in every snare tap and carefully placed sample, yet there is a sense of adventure and playfulness that shows that the two aren’t taking themselves too seriously. With a sense of effortless mastery, TNGHT is a watershed record that may help shape the direction of hip-hop in the coming years.
– Ryan Lester
Disclosure ruled 2012 and The Face EP is ground zero to their success. Four of the most immaculately constructed and polished dance tracks to bubble out of the UK…well, ever? The brothers Lawrence inject themselves into every conceivable nook and cranny of each track until there’s an almost intrusive sense of cleanliness and dexterity about them. It’s like Disclosure went scouring through the attic of UK dance music, found the battered old molds of classic garage and house, dusted them clean enough to see their own reflections, and used that montage magic on them to build their very own impossibly dimensioned and intricate junglegym. Each little synth vamp and vocal cry becomes a fully physical and tactile and acrobatic exercise–like being thrown into the middle of some atomic-colored, high-flying circus act. Not to mention the vocal features from Sinead Harnett and Ria Richie, which showcase the duo’s ability to write and construct mountainous, honest-to-god pop songs without losing an inch of their floor-oriented edge. The Face‘s tracks ended up on countless DJ mixes this year, and probably in even more sets, and it’s hard to argue against those being the destinations the music on here was intended for, but if you want to hear the four best club tracks of 2012 in one place, this it it.
– Will Ryan
No waffle, no bullshit, let’s just get it out the way early: this ranks amongst the finest extended plays of all time, arguably outstripping even Boards of Canada’s indelible In A Beautiful Place Out in the Country as a body of work that almost renders the entire EP/LP distinction pointless (I should know, having fought tooth and nail to have it included on the album list). Admittedly, a third full-length remains fervently anticipated but Burial has hit a rich vein of form, doubling his entire discography in under two years and releasing some of the best music of his career. While I wouldn’t necessarily agree that he has bettered Untrue, as some are suggesting, Kindred brings a level of progression that was absent from 2011’s still-great Street Halo 12″, and in doing so quashes any notion that the producer is resting on his laurels.
It’s hardly as if Kindred represents a shedding of skin, as it retains almost all the characteristics you would expect to find on a Burial record. The beat on the title track is a familiar middle-ground of garage swing, dubstep lurch, and jungle’s purposeful rhythmic idiosyncrasies set fractionally off-kilter. The atmosphere is typically thick and melancholic, marbled with strands of softly mesmerizing melody; and as ever, ghosts remain in the hardware, faintly audible in both faded vocals and blurred filters. There are genre variances – exemplified by the quasi-euphoric house buzz of “Loner” – and a reinforced weight about the whole thing, especially on the monstrous rumbles that underscore “Kindred.” And he has undoubtedly adopted a more symphonic approach to composition with 31m of material stretched across three tracks. But what’s most striking about the entire package is the density and complexity of the sound itself. Burial’s previous work was hardly bereft of texture or ambience – his ability to portray urban decay with startling accuracy remaining arguably his most celebrated trait – but the attention to detail here is absolutely jaw-dropping, most notably on “Ashtray Wasp.” It sounds as if there is a swirl of detritus sweeping through the arpeggiating synths and coating every minute crack in the groove with a fine layer of dust, subsumed at the seven-minute mark by a harsh fuzz which itself dissipates two minutes later, leaving little else but a residue of vinyl crackle and twinkling bells not too dissimilar to those found on Pantha Du Prince’s This Bliss. The half-hour absolutely flies by, which, coupled with the sheer enormity of the music, makes this of the most replayable records I have ever heard.
Generally speaking, an EP tends to serve one of two purposes: either bank on familiarity by satiating the hunger for more of what we are already partial to, or test the water and establish a new relationship with some hitherto unknown quality. These rules apply to firm favourites and fresh faces alike, which, come list season, results in a scattergraph that more accurately represents the diverse taste of BPM’s thirty-odd contributors than the streamlining of consensus that occurs when voting for full-lengths. There’s plenty of quality to be found across the entire list – that goes without saying – but truthfully it was never in doubt who would finish first. As good as the supporting cast are, only one artist this year was bold enough to not only map a line of best fit but also craft a masterpiece on a purportedly inferior format, further consolidating their reputation as one of this generation’s singular talents, full stop. It’s one thing to push beyond sonic boundaries, but Kindred found William Bevan going one better: challenging the limitations of structure as well.
– Gabriel Szatan
Plugging away since 1999, The National finally hit mainstream success with the release of their 2010 album High Violet. Of course, this entailed their first world tour, but in the new documentary Mistaken For Strangers, it’s only the backdrop for the relationship between lead singer Matt Berninger and his younger brother Tom, who had no idea that these short videos he was shooting would turn into a public document of their troubled, if still loving brotherhood.
We talk with Israeli rockers Vaadat Charigim about some of their favorite records.
We talk with Yvonne Ambree and Jesse Barnes of Take Berlin about some of the records which influenced the recording of their debut EP, Lionize.
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