Monday, December 8, 2008

Best-of 2008:: Top 10 Canadian EPs

Truth be told, I've always liked the EP more than the LP. In most cases, 5 or 6 songs is the perfect amount of time for a band to set a mood without belaboring the point. This year, there were tons of terrific EPs, and I'm happy that the list features a complete mismash of styles. Folk, frantic pop, garage, spacey shoegaze, and even pseudo Brit rock. If you are a regular reader of herohill, it goes without saying these probably aren't the biggest names and common picks. These EPs are however, a good cross section of acts that are starting to make an impact on the Canadian scene.

Also - one EP not on this list, that should have been is the debut from Sports. They are holding off on letting people review it before it is released, but it's a terrific collection of songs that will certainly be on next years list.

So without further ado... The best of the best.

1.) Ketch Harbour Wolves - Dead Calm Horizon (review) || MP3:: Animals

"Tyrell's somber vocals are still weary, but it's not from being lost in a sea of people. It's more like being lost at sea, battered by waves and a loneliness and intensity that grows more heightened with every second that passes, leaving you to wonder how you can make it out alive."

Best moment of 2008:
BAND - Being told that Dead Calm Horizon could have been nominated for The Polaris Prize next year.
GENERAL - It's predictable and obvious but too powerful not to acknowledge: Nov. 4th 2008, The United States chooses an African American to be their next President.
Worst moment of 2008:
BAND - Being told that Dead Calm Horizon is not eligible for Polaris because it's a minute and a half too short and realizing that we cut a minute and a half out of an extended version of 'Midnight Dark Water' before the final mixdown.
GENERAL - Black Friday, Nov. 28th 2008, Jdimytai Damour, an overnight worker at a Long Island WalMart is trampled to death by a mob of shoppers trying to capitalize on sale prices.
Resolution for 2009:
Make the follow up to Dead Calm Horizon that exceeds it in every way (including length!) and to sing harmonies like Fleet Foxes.
Favorite Record of 2008:
Sure, it's technically a 2007 album but the specter of Radiohead's 'In Rainbows' has been floating in the mists of our musical consciousness all year long. Otherwise it's a dead heat between Kings of Leon 'Only By the Night' and Fleet Foxes' self titled.


2.) Tusks - Tusks (review) || MP3:: Baby Noise

"Selfishly, I've been holding onto this EP as one to drop on my year-end list that had been undiscovered by the ever increasing number of blogs, but now it seems they are about to blow up. And really, both the band and the label deserve the acclaim, so I hope people shell out the duckets to support Canadian music. This is a must-have."

Best moment of 2008:
The third day after the Tusks EP came out. I remember having a really terrific sandwich that day.
Worst moment of 2008:
The sneaking feeling that the next 3 years will be filled with tummult.
Resolution for 2009:
Two of us are planning to take Ninja training. We also will finish something recorded. Or start it.
Favorite record of 2008:
Tough to choose:
Snailhouse, Lies on the Prize.


3.) Oh No Forest Fires - The War on Geometry (review) || MP3:: Swing and Misdemeanors

"Hopefully that will change with the official DIY release of The War on Geometry. Long story short, it's an invigorating listen. The Toronto band dabbles in so many sounds and styles that trying to pigeon hole their sound with generic descriptors is next to impossible, but I can say that the energy and urgency that the band creates makes the 7-song EP the musical equivalent of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Every song is filled with proggy builds and more starts-and-stops than a relationship in a teenage melodrama, but somehow the band never bites off more than it can chew or more than the listener can take."

Best moment of 2008:
Maaannnn, that's a difficult question. 2008 was full of a bunch of really fun stuff. Hanging out with my brother's band for the past two weeks at my house in Toronto was really great. The few shows we did with So Many Dynamos back in May was a highlight, I wish I got to see those guys more often. Making the record ("The War On Geometry") was obviously really friggin wicked- especially hanging out in Kenny's basement doing vocals, amazing that doing that for 10 hours a day didn't get boring or ever feel like work. Our CD release party was also a blast and a half. And just a whole bunch of little things. Sometimes hanging out with my cat during breakfast feels like it could be the best moment of any given year.
Worst moment of 2008:
I had a couple of moments that if I'd known were coming I might have acted a little differently. Finding out that there were "administrative complications" with my grad school application was incredibly frustrating. The band line-up change back in January really sucked, that was difficult for a bunch of people, for a bunch of reasons- although totally for the best and it worked out great it was dicey at the time.
Resolution for 2009:
To learn how to hold notes when I sing. And to get in shape so when I play a show I don't get a stitch halfway through- I say that every year though. Besides that, I am going to resolve to keep my bathroom cleaner, and to swear less. And to study for the MCAT- like, real hard.
Favorite record of 2008:
I did this off the top of my head, as these are the records that I keep talking about to everybody, they were definitely in my top 10 of the year, I hope I didn't forget anybody obvious.
Lightspeed Champion - Falling Off the Lavender Bridge
Hey Rosetta! - Into Your Lungs (and around in your heart and on through your blood)
Mountain Goats - Heretic Pride
Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer
No Age - Nouns
Chad Van Gaalen - Soft Airplane


4.) Boxer the Horse - The Late Show (review) || MP3:: Jackson Leftfield

"No, instead of relying on muscular, rehashed riffs, the band seems determined to form their own sound and make a name for themselves and when you consider that the band is only about a year old and comes from a province known mostly for Anne of Green Gables, I think they are well on their way."

Best moment of 2008:
Discovering concha y toro's 300 days of sun
Worst moment of 2008:
Andrew breaking Richard's nose in a parking lot after halifax pop explosion and spending the entire night in the hospital drunk
Resolution for 2009 :
Make a new record
Favorite record of 2008:
The Walkmen Me and You


5.) Olivier Jarda - Ghost Fees (review) || MP3:: Ghost Fees

"His melancholic tracks give way to the curiosity of a world traveler. His new compositions are more introspective; solitary and stripped down. Much like Mark Morrisette's (aka Octoberman) tales of travel, Jarda paints vivid images of seemingly insignificant moments he's experienced; the type of encounters a traveler holds tight. A cup of coffee. A chance encounter on the Metro. Two strangers sharing a moment in time."

Best moment of 2008:
Obama's win.
Worst moment of 2008:
Giving back a rented fender strat
Resolution for 2009:
Pay for a haircut, or improve juggling skills, or both.
Favorite record of 2008:
Chad Vangaalen - Soft Airplane


6.) Stacy Lloyd Brown - Automatic (review) || MP3:: Living Rooms
"When you hear the classic Appalachian mountain folk that starts Bloody Pockets, you expect Brown to stick with the rugged, foot stomping jam, but it quickly turns in a sweat soaked, club beat. Without hearing it, you'd guess that the bizarre juxtaposition should never be attempted, but that's the kind of risk/reward that comes from writing music for your own enjoyment. You might alienate fans or, as is the case with this infectious track, completely win over new ones."

Best moment of 2008:
Camping on the Great Dune of Pyla
Worst moment of 2008:
Stephen Harper's re-election.
Resolution for 2009:
Remember to compost
Favorite record of 2008:
Offend Maggie - Deerhoof


7.) Golden Hands Before God - Here (review) || MP3:: Communist Party

"Now that they've finished the recording of their Here EP, they expose a lot more styles and diversity. Sure the dream-like, blissful fuzz is still present and accounted for (like the terrific The Ladder or Interlude), but tracks like Communist Party show that the band is just as eager to melt your face with some classic rock. I had high expectations for this Pop Echo release, and I can honestly say that all were exceeded. Look for this on my Best-of list in at years end."

Best moment of 2008:
Actually it was quite possibly the night we played Halifax Pop Explosion. Not only did we have an absolute killer time playing the Marquee Club that night, we also had an even better time drinking with Rebekah Higgs at the Monotonix show at Gus' Pub after. It was a majestically delicious rock and roll evening that will leave a stain on my rock and roll jeans for years.
Worst moment of 2008:
When our original bass player left in February. He was one of the founding members so it was a bit of a blow. But it made the rest of us dig deep and really decide if this was something we wanted to do and if it was something we were capable of doing and the answer to both was a resounding yes. Now we have Ben - another long time friend of all of us - and we couldn't be closer or happier.
Resolution for 2009:
To get on the road more! It seems a lot of things seemed to Rock Block us last year, some our faults, some not. We really want to push the EP across Canada in 2009 - it was getting strong radio play on College charts in almost every province - plus we plan on starting to record the full length in spring, so we're hoping to travel this great country at least once if not twice in 2009.
Best record of 2008:
I can't speak for the rest of the band, but I can say there were some definite stand outs this year - Bon Iver 'For Emma', Radiohead 'In Rainbows', The Unsettlers' self titled debut, King Khan & The Shrines (even though it was re-issued older singlers), Grand Archives - but I think Fleet Foxes 'Sun Giant' EP/self-titled are tied. This might be due to the absolutely magical performance my girlfriend and I saw of them back in the beginning of the year opening for Blitzen Trapper when they were still relatively unknown and they stole the show. Hell, by the time they'd finished their first song - which I believe was "Sun Giant" - I'd already run to the merch table and bought their EP (which was all that was out at the time) and a shirt. I was that moved.


8. Cam Malcolm - A Little Bit of History (review) || MP3:: Basement Rock

"I guess what I'm trying to say is, 'thank you, Cam Malcolm.'"

Best Moment of 2008:
Driving school buses through northern Ontario on logging roads. Hahahahahha, is that too personal?
Worst Moment of 2008:
Nothing too bad, really. I can't complain.
Resolution for 2009:
Be true to your heart.
Best record of 2008:
Jon McKiel's 'The Nature of Things.' What can I say? Maybe a dark horse choice, but definitely my choice. Stayed on the stereo from the spring, through the summer and into the fall.


9.) My People Sleeping - (review) || MP3:: Time Machine

"I think the highlight of the self-titled EP is Time Machine. The song, a slow moving four minute effort, encapsulates the immense potential of the band. Vivid images are drawn out with beautiful, slow, moving three-part harmonies and terrific strings, but any warmth is stifled by the man versus machine composition the band prefers and as they repeat, "we could go back" over and over again, you start to wonder if you would, even if you could."

Best moment of 2008?
Falling in love with each other in May, forming two couples, and becoming my-people-sleeping-with-each-other.
Worst moment of 2008?
Becoming, temporarily, the Fleetwood Mac of now…being in a little boat and the water was on fire…because we were all sleeping with each other.
Resolution for 2009?
Protecting this fine balance, making sure we hate and love each other viciously and ensuring our album sounds like that.
Best record of 2008?
Tuneyards: “Bird Brains”. Merrill Garbus is the true musical business.


10.) Ghost Bees - Tasseomancy (review) || MP3:: Vampires of the West Coast
"And that's the thing about these girls. They could easily write folk ditties and draw you in with their spare arrangements and quirky vocals, but they constantly push the comfort limits of the listener. The songs are really representations of a different world; one seen only in dreams (or nightmares), but the images are so vivid that they get seared into your brain instantly."

Posted at 8:30 AM by ack :: 6 comments

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At 11:10 AM, Anonymous matthew did sayeth:

Awesome list! I'm going to have a lot more problems doing my EP list than my LP list, since there were just so many amazing EPs this year...

And I feel proud that I was responsible for Ketch Harbour Wolves' best AND worst moments of the year.


At 9:15 PM, Anonymous Smansmith did sayeth:

Holy crap, I am Canadian and I have only heard of half this list (mostly due to herohill). I believe that I must immediately forfeit my universal healthcare...

I am off to do some research on the selections, thanks for the push in the right direction.



At 9:20 AM, Blogger The R.O.B. did sayeth:

Black Hat Brigade? No?

That was probably one of my favourite... anythings of 2008


At 9:42 AM, Blogger ack did sayeth:

To be honest... it was number 11. It came down to Ghost Bees and BHB... both of which I listened to like crazy and enjoyed, but found myself not revisiting lately. Stupid lists... always highlighting things we miss.


At 12:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous did sayeth:

Tusks was tops on my list. Not sure about the sandwich comment...


At 5:26 PM, Blogger Allan did sayeth:


I only know one of these EPs.

I definitely need some work on covering Canadian artists.


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