Spring has finally arrived, which means almost three months of spectacular music in 2009 are behind us. Boy, how time flies when The Decemberists, Junior Boys and Mastodon all show up in the same week(ish). But let’s not forget about the shorter, less highfalutin releases. With the change of season comes a new opportunity to check out those EPs that land in our box every week, and this month, we’ve rounded up five that demand your attention.
Throw Me the Statue – Purpleface (Secretly Canadian)
Early last year, the Seattle band (at first just a pseudonym for songwriter Scott Reitherman) Throw Me the Statue released their critically acclaimed album, Moonbeams. We here at Treble saw much promise in the album, but thought they had room to grow. After a year on the road in Europe and America, grow they have, and in all the right directions. Purpleface is the name of Reitherman’s new EP, a collection of four songs that are so well crafted as to trick the listener into thinking it’s a full album. It seems with these songs that Reitherman has found his perfect rhythm, slow, measured and stately. Opener “That’s How You Win” begins with faintly cheesy organ percussion, but quickly layers on further instrumentation that eventually leads into Reitherman’s charming yet disaffected vocals. I was immediately hooked. After a slower, more atmospheric reworking of Moonbeam‘s “Written in Heart Signs, Faintly”, “Honeybee” shimmers with understated instrumentation and percussion that both acts as a beating heart and the crashing of waves against a beach. “Ship” is the most talked about new track, which is as many parts Modest Mouse as Postal Service. “Ship” is whimsical and sober at the same time, which isn’t easy by any means. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so enthusiastic about the promise of one song. Ben Gibbard fans, you have a new hero. – Terrance Terich
Gentleman Reg – The Little Buildings EP (Arts & Crafts)
Gentleman Reg (Reg Vermue) is a veteran of the Canadian indie circuit, having toured with the likes of Stars, Broken Social Scene, Tegan and Sara, Final Fantasy and The Hidden Cameras. He has also released two albums of his own in Canada, 2002’s Make Me Pretty and 2004’s Darby & Joan. Taking a collection of the best tracks from these albums is The Little Buildings EP, a U.S.-only introduction to Gentleman Reg, released by Arts & Crafts as a precursor to Reg’s 2009 full-length wide-release Jet Black.
Little Buildings is a roughly even split of beautifully somber ballads and cutesy, up-tempo pop romps. The fact that there are few frills employed on these songs only solidifies the hominess of the EP as a whole. Opening track “Bundle” is memorable and successor “It’s Not Safe” is Reg’s contribution to the “Short Bus” soundtrack with its constant chorus warning “it’s not safe to be naked/ young or creative anymore.” Of the album’s softer songs, “Untouchable” is Reg at his most emotional and rangy. On “The Boyfriend Song,” Reg laments about his man troubles (and oh-by-the-way, Reg is gay…not that there’s anything wrong with that) in a way that is both unique and relatable. Even with its subtle nod to “man-sized titties, ” it is far-and-away the most upbeat and infectious of the songs on Little Buildings, and Reg’s desire to skip past all the token idiosyncrasies that hinder a relationship is something most can attest to. Another of the standout songs is “You’re So Alone” that, again, has Reg pondering his inner predicament, this time centered on his “attractions to my girlfriends’ boyfriends / there’s a situation that ends / with them being the cutest pair you’ve ever seen,” a seemingly self-settling set of circumstances.
The tracks on Little Buildings are simplistic in composition, half upbeat, half somber, and though guitar-based, the instruments are downplayed in lieu of Reg’s greatest asset—his voice. The warmth and positivity with which he sings are an aural pleasure, and something about his passive tones creates an inherent feeling of comfort. Reg manages to be vocally subdued, yet still sings in a way which remains heartfelt and personal. – Tyler Weir
Suckers – Suckers EP (IAMSOUND)
Suckers isn’t exactly a supergroup, though member Quinn Walker has made a name for himself with his bizarre experimental folk solo material. That said, Suckers are one super group. On their self-titled debut EP, Walker, Brian Aiken, Pan and Austin Fisher cook up a deftly written and executed pop record with elements of African and Caribbean music, not to mention a heaping dose of psychedelic rock. Thanks to production help from Yeasayer’s Anand Wilder, Suckers is a dense sonic stew that finds this exciting new group turning out perfectly crafted pop songs with aurally stunning instrumental enhancements, and hooks that last for days. “Beach Queen” kicks off with electro hand claps and a keyboard melody that give way to a delay-treated guitar hook, managing to sound like a lost ’80s new wave single and a more muscular Vampire Weekend simultaneously. The vocal harmonization and overall trippy vibe in “Afterthoughts & TV” recall Akron/ Family, while “Easy Chairs” has a laid-back, Beach Boys vibe. And while closer “It Gets Your Body Movin'” isn’t exactly danceable, it may certainly move you in a different way, as might the EP’s other tracks. After four tracks, Suckers prove themselves to be a band with infinite potential, and at least four amazing tracks. Something tells me there are more where these came from. – Jeff Terich
Ulterior – Kempers Heads (Killer Pimp)
Having introduced the likes of A Place to Bury Strangers and All the Saints to the world, Killer Pimp has already built up a reputation as the launching point for some of America’s darkest, loudest and generally most kickass rock bands. With the release of Ulterior’s debut EP Kempers Heads, itself a compilation of two 12-inch singles, that reputation isn’t about to change anytime soon. Ulterior’s noisy and horrific sound is similar to that of Strangers or Saints, but a bit more terrifying, combining the three-chord noise pop of The Jesus and Mary Chain with the manic art pop of Suicide. Leadoff track “15” begins simply enough, with a solid groove and distortion a-plenty. But as the song builds toward its harrowing climax, it becomes even more intense than initially suspected. Siren-like synths (perhaps Theremins?) cut through the haze of “Fireships,” while “The Death of Everything” begins with a rapid fire, sinister techno assault, ultimately becoming an unsettling industrial dance throwdown. Likewise, “Weapons” is house music for the criminally deranged. I’m not an avid wearer of fishnets and PVC, but Ulterior rocks hard enough to make me rethink my stance on industrial music. – Jeff Terich
Yuzima – The Cosmonaut (self-released)
Yuzima Philip is an artist whose sound is hard to define. In essence, it’s indie pop—lo-fi production, atmospheric embellishments, folky arrangements and quirky melodies largely define his work. Yet the overall execution is vastly different from other singer-songwriters out there. On “Miami,” for instance, booming drum machine beats echo beneath a twinkling folk-pop tune given even more mystique due to Philip’s spectral, but soulful voice. The Cosmonaut‘s title track follows a similar path, with ambient flourishes adorning an otherwise skeletal acoustic pop tune that’s completely bass-free. The EP’s true highlight is the weird, electronic “Whats In a ?!”, which rounds out this brief release. It’s sparse, like the two songs that precede it, yet its tribal, almost Joy Division-like rhythm and ambient textures work in perfect harmony, creating a short but intriguing sonic treat. With only three tracks, The Cosmonaut breezes by quickly, but its tracks have high replay value, and show a lot of promise. With a bit more polish, Yuzima may well be on his way toward making a fine full-length. – Jeff Terich