Ahoy, mateys! It’s another EP round up column. In honour of us being massive geeks with no social life AND the upcoming adaptation of The Hobbit, we’ll classify each EP after an army from Middle Earth. Let’s go, precious!
Speedy Ortiz – Sports EP
The rise of the Slacker Army is heralded by the dissonant notes of Speedy Ortiz and their furious EP, Sports. 5 tracks, with three tracks named after one of them sweaty activities were scoring is the final goal(!). ‘Basketball’ sways between that territory in my head that Helium and Veruca Salt colonised so many moons ago, following a few steps and the moonwalking the rest, strutting their skills. ‘Indoor soccer’ continues to excavate through my subconscious and memories, while still having a fresh edge to balance that stream of consciousness / loud rock monster that is carrying on its back.
My fave track has to be the absolute gem called ‘Curling’, with its easy going pace and reflective notes. “Show me mine and I’ll show you yours” is a great line that opens ‘Silver Spring’, a ditty that has enough chops to follow that magnificent zinger. It’s playful and the loud crunches make the smells of the 90s come back to this dizzy head of mine. What sport is ‘Suck Buddies’? No, wait, don’t tell me, you keep the secret and I’ll keep listening to this track, with its orgasmic ending (check out that guitar freak out – pure joy). Get that flannel hooded sweatshirt from the closet, dust it out. You’ll need it.
This EP is: The Elves of Mirkwood. Ruthless, brash and rather good looking.
Harouki Zombi – Object Petit
Now, this is a strange one. Partly a DJ venture, partly a performance art piece, Harouki Zombi does a few passes with a magic wand and comes up with Object Petit, an EP that manages to tap that retro 80s electronic sound (like in the gloomy remix for ‘Object Petit A’), balance the 90s dance craze in ‘Swamp theme’ (including a bit of bragging & boasting, rapper style!) and still be wonderfully experimental (‘Soldier’s gun’).
‘Vacated Hunters’ is easily my fave track of the bunch (it’s 4 tracks and 2 remixes). ‘Vacated Hunters’ has that ethereal sound, heavily reverberated and with some swell breaks that are grandiose and add a layer of pomp to the track. ‘Object Petit A’ in its normal (term used loosely) is a slightly industrial track with some real tasty moments (I love the French language) and a nifty instrumental exoskeleton. The remixes take two different turns: the ‘Rewards’ remix makes it dancier and friendly to the neon light bustin’ young ones. The ‘Deniallabs’ remix is more industrial (but without the crunching guitars). Strangely satisfying.
This EP is: The Dwarves. Playful, well armed, marching in unison and ready to drop down some moves for the Moria Mix.
Smithereens – Smithereens
Although I still don’t know the release date for the physical copy of this Four Finger Fatality (TM) of an EP, an associate from this site managed to nick a copy (in wax cylinder form – natch!). There’s something punk rock about the sound of Smithereens, but they also seem to drink copiously from the fountain of slacker rock and, heck, some math rock. ‘Vomcano’ is like the beginning of Memento: off-putting, shocking and apparently revealing the ending, but no, it’s just placing a wool on your head (and shaking it violently). ‘Shark!’, a live favourite of mine, starts as a sea shanty talking about Spanish ladies, Boston and downing shots of turpentine-flavoured rum (allegedly). It’s a frantic-paced ditty, equal parts grunge and punk, with a droning ending that rocks the boat*.
‘Milk party’ continues the free fall from the top of the punk rock tree, hitting every single branch on the way down. Not a bad way to go. Slightly Black Flag meets Hum, it pleases me. Yes, I’ve mentioned THE HOLIEST OF SPACE ROCK, Hum. Why? Because ‘Godzilla’, the closing track, makes me think of a more down to Earth version of that Champaign legend of a band. Suddenly, by the end of this track, I realise that the greatest trick that Smithereens pulled was to deftly switch from a punky edge to a more distinct branch of rock. I have no idea what to call this branch of rock, as it certainly has math rock, punk and stoner rock there, so let’s just call it The Sound of Smithereens Drunk Rock & Shanty Roll (TM) and listen to it all over again.
*I’ll walk the plank for that. Sorry.
This EP is: The Goblins and Wargs army. Because bad guys rule! They might be grungy, dirty and bloodthirsty, but they make one heck of a paella.
Repo Men – My Fantasy
“I hate normal people. Normal people spend their lives avoiding tenses situations. A Repo man spends his life getting into tense situations.”
It’s a tense situation indeed to stick to your guns in a world overpopulated by bands being cornered into following what the fickle finger of forum fans want (they don’t seem to know it themselves). Still, Repo Men know their calling: making post punk with a deft bass line and a healthy dose of piano, which gives it a punk lounge sort of vibe. Sure, post punk belongs to the inner workings of a big city, but these Repo Men are more the “Mom & Pop shop” side of town than the “chlorine & borax homogenised chain store” from the other end.
Never mind tangential digs to modern music fandom, this is a collection of 6 tracks, 2 keeping that Repo Men sound intact and still firing on all cylinders (except tambourine). ‘My fantasy’ is a proper opener and ‘Immense blue’ is Repo Men dancing between post punk and some darker sounds, an excellent choice for this tune. Now, two curveballs are pitched by this band. The first one is ‘Daith Ymlaen’, a thoughtful bass & piano piece (although there’s some guitar too). It’s a mournful track, with a slight hint of redemption there.
‘Talking head’s dream’ is an acoustic ditty and seems to follow the saturnine temperament. ‘Lower’ is a quick kick to startle you; Repo Men doing their best so you won’t get lost in what they are offering. Mind you, they gave you a place to stand and catch your breathing and get orientated…and then they pulled the rug with an experimental, ambient track called ‘Who is that man?’, a gorgeous track with a lovely bass line and a very dreamy synth atmosphere. It’s an EP with variety or three singles (with b-sides) packed together in one offering.
This EP is: The Repo Men of Long Lake, of course! Long in the tooth, always ready for the fight!
Gregory & The Hawk – Stone
A couple of lives ago, I met Meredith Godreau in Manchester. Her live show was a billion times more emotional than what you can hear on any of the recordings (who are pretty brutal by themselves – just check Leche). This EP, Stone, might be a home recording, but you know what? It shows you the naked emotions that Gregory & The Hawk weaves out of thin air, either with a well-plucked stringed instrument or by the bittersweet notes her voice delivers.
‘Sediment’ has a fitting title. Like the finest clay and silt mix, it floats in suspension and is carried by a river of emotions. The gorgeous sounds are quite otherworldly and the vocal layering is spine-chilling. I really enjoy the choice of instrumentation; a well used collection of instruments sporting the significance of “freedom” in musical form. ‘Waterworm’ is equally dreamy and warm; a long hug in a your time of need, abruptly interrupted by the vicissitudes of life.
Remember what I said about brutality? ‘Kids in America’ might be a demo, but it’s Gregory & The Hawk at its most brutal. The lyrics are terribly honest and although there are some conflicting emotions, there’s hope in a not too distant horizon. It’s the most stripped down one here but it also is the one that pierces the most layers in this cold reviewer’s heart (it’s 2 degrees when I write this).
‘I’d rather be travelling’ is such a wonderful song, almost as sweet as ‘Wait until I let go’, where the backbone of “no holds barred” lyrical approach is encapsulated by those thoughtful notes. There’s something with ‘Blue Ribbon Waltz’ that strikes a chord. It shouldn’t hit hard, but it does. The reasons are personal, I guess, but suffice to say: it’s a song that shakes up some long lost feelings. “I keep my cool / this is not the time for missin’ you“. Sound advice, thank you very much, I truly needed this EP. It’s a wonderful EP which should rekindle your love to the music of Gregory & The Hawk. Throw some cash at it ‘cuz it’s worth it, like anything created by Gregory & The Hawk.
This EP is: The Great Eagles, soaring over Middle Earth and saving the day, once again.
Pheeew! For a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself. That’s all for this week, see you next week with more EPs and more daft analogies.
Words: Orestes P. Xistos & Sam J. Valdés López