Here is my highly-subjective, personal list of favorite EPs of 2011.
- Nikki Lane – Gone, Gone, Gone | MP3
Download “Gone, Gone, Gone” (mp3)
Nikki Lane has a voice that belts like Loretta Lynn’s on this debut album of delectable, honky tonk country. This EP was released as a precursor to her full-length album, Walk of Shame, which was also released this year. This shortplayer includes the two best songs from Walk of Shame, “Gone, Gone, Gone” and “Coming Home to You,” but it also includes two great additional tracks – “Western Bound” and “Down to the Wire.”
- Milo Greene – The Hello Sessions | MP3
Download “1957” (mp3)
The Hello Sessions is the debut EP from Milo Greene, a five-piece band that plays supple and acquiescent pop songs. The music has acoustic guitars mixed with the light jangles of electric guitars and a few other instruments. The full sound is rounded out with multi-layered harmonies, making the vocals jump out of the affable music.
- Tom Morello: The Nightwatchman – Union Town | CD Vinyl MP3
The Rage Against the Machine guitarist has been releasing folk music under the name of The Nightwatchman. This is an album of 8 union fighting songs. He travelled to Madison, WI, to support unions during their contentious – and still ongoing – battle with the state’s governor. The final song of this EP was recorded at the Capital Square in Madison on February 21 of this year. There are 3 original songs and 5 classic covers, including “This Land is Your Land” and “Solidarity Forever,” on the album. As Morello declares, “Here’s a soundtrack for our fight.”
- Family Lumber – Look to the Sidelines | MP3
Download “No Worries” (mp3)
After releasing a handful of EPs one full-length album in the past few years, Family Lumber returns with this shortplayer. Michael Tiejen’s vocals and guitar playing give this album a catchy and diverse sound. This is an album that starts strong and builds appeal with each song. The four songs move through some unique styles but always have the deft guitarwork driving them. It sounds as if Built to Spill released a batch of short, Nada Surf-like pop songs.
- Oax – This Distance | CD MP3
Download “Love and Crashing” (mp3)
Download “Liar, Cheat, Jerk” (mp3)
Giorgio Angelini took a break from touring with Bishop Allen and The Rosebuds to work on a master’s degree in architecture from Rice University. While residing in Houston, TX, he recorded this EP, playing all of the instruments of 4 of the 5 songs. The final song of the set, “Sutures,” features Chris Simpson (Mineral, The Gloria Record) on vocals and Jim Eno (Spoon) on drums. The album is 20 minutes of rock songs with just a steady balance of harmony vocals and searing feedback.
- Alcoholic Faith Mission – And the Running with Insanity | MP3
Download “Running with Insanity” (mp3)
Alcoholic Faith Mission creates lush pop on this 5-song album. The songs are layered with sinuous instrumentation, background vocals, and handclaps. This is some of the most appealing music from Alcoholic Faith Mission’s catalog.
- Yukon Blonde – Fire//Water | Vinyl MP3
Download “Fire” (mp3)
Fire//Water is the follow-up to Yukon Blonde’s Polaris-nominated debut and a preview of their upcoming 2012 album. These four songs have lush layers of vocals and classic rock influenced guitar riffs, but these songs don’t sound like classic rock. They jangle through peaks of musical swells, creating aural basins that the band adroitly careens between.
- The Decemberists – Long Live the King | CD Vinyl MP3
Long Live the King is an EP of 6 outtakes from their last full-length album (The King is Dead). The songs all have the lyrical, acoustic-based chamber rock sound that has become the band’s signature. Colin Meloy’s narrative lyrics are, as always, fleshed out with electric pedal steel and guitars, organ, and piano and supported with layered vocals, including Laura Veirs and Annalisa Tornfelt on backing vocals on the first track, “E. Watson.” As the last recording before the band takes a hiatus, this album offers a few nuggets to keep fans a little satisfied.
- Josh Ritter – To the Yet Unknowing World | CD MP3
Download “The Remnant (Wallpaper Remix)” (mp3)
This limited edition EP is a collection of B-sides, demos, and remixes. All the songs have a catchy quality, but the addition of the remixes makes this a diverse collection. The first song of this short player, “Galahad,” is worth the price of admission on its own.