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New EPs worth a listen

Allie Tollaksen | Tuesday, November 5, 2013

In recent weeks, the indie music world has been gifted with EPs from both active up-and-comers and groups that have laid low in recent years. Whether these mini-releases were meant to follow up recent full-length albums, transition into a new sound or just remind fans that they’re still around and making music, they have been a refreshing taste of what the alternative scene has to offer. Here’s a look a five recent EP releases from bands to keep on your radar. 


Best Coast – “Fade Away” 

Frontwoman and songwriter Bethany Cosentino and bandmate Bobb Bruno are back at it again with a seven song EP, “Fade Away.” The duo, known as Best Coast, released the EP on Oct. 22, the first since their 2012 full-length album, “The Only Place.” While their last album was largely unimpressive, “Fade Away” brings energy and depth to the band’s discography. The opening song, “This Only Morning,” shows that not only has Beach House recovered from their last album’s misstep, but they have grown as artists and refined their lo-fi, surf rock sound into a powerful set of songs worth a listen. 


Ducktails – “Wish Hotel”

In addition to Beach House, fellow West-Coast native Ducktails put out a five-song EP, “Wish Hotel,” last month after his well-received album “The Flower Lane” released earlier this year. Ducktails is the solo project of Matthew Mondanile of the band Real Estate. But while Real Estate is dedicated to their beachy sound, Ducktails has explored and incorporated electronic music and psychedelic rock into his newest project while still perfecting the beach rock genre. Think of Real Estate crossed with Tame Impala, then add a little Caribou for good measure, and you’ll have “Wish Hotel.”


Widowspeak – “The Swamps”

Yet another West-Coast band, Widowspeak, is a group to look out for. After releasing their second album, “Almanac,” in January, the indie group put out six songs under the name “The Swamps” last month. The band claims “The Swamps” is a transition from their most recent music into a newer sound, and the release is certainly compelling. While the trio has largely exuded a catchy, poppy sound, this EP shows the group’s transition into a darker, more bluesy genre. Complete with sound effects of swamps and filtered guitar, singer Molly Hamilton’s vocals sound better than ever – a promising look at what’s to come. 


Active Child – “Rapor”

A male harpist and former choirboy doesn’t exactly seem like the best candidate for indie rock fame, but that exactly describes Pat Grossi of Active Child. In recent years, Grossi has released two albums and received comparisons to Washed Out and Elite Gymnastics. But in his newest EP, “Rapor,” Grossi has released six disappointing songs that sound far more like bad Depeche Mode than any of the interesting, beautifully orchestrated songs on his previous albums. The EP’s single, “Evening Ceremony,” showed promise, with some clear R&B influence and a James Blake-like sound, but the remaining tracks miss the mark. Even with the help of collaborators like Ellie Goulding and Mikky Ekko, “Rapor” fails to come together and is ultimately difficult to enjoy. 


Unknown Mortal Orchestra – “Blue Record”

If you haven’t checked out Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s second album, “II,” you have another chance with their EP, “Blue Record.” The EP features five acoustic songs, including three covers of songs from their most recent album and two covers of other artists, Beck’s “Puttin it Down” and The Dirty Projectors’ “Swing Lo Magellan.” While the group certainly isn’t known for anything acoustic, the covers somehow work, simultaneously sounding unlike anything else they’ve made while maintaining their cool, psych-rock sound. Yet another reason to love Unknown Mortal Orchestra. 

Contact Allie Tollaksen at atollaks@nd.edu