Today we conclude our 30 Favorite EPs of 2017 with Part 3. This list has a more global feel with more than half coming from Europe. The other noticeable element of each of the ten bands and artists is the incredible songwriting on display.
Nelson Can (DK) – EP3 (via Alcopop! Records)
Bass, drums, singer. That’s Nelson Can, the rhythm-driven, post-punk / goth-rock trio from Copenhagen, who demonstrate that a band can create some of the most thunderous and harrowing music without an electric guitar. Selina Gin (vocals), Maria Juntunen (drums), and Signe SigneSigne (bass) are also breaking other barriers, as these three twenty-somethings prove that women not only can rock like the men but they are more innovative. Nelson Can’s new EP, EP3, exemplifies our long belief that women are making the best rock music today.
From the silent thrillers of “You Are Digging Your Grave” and “Downtown” to the stark anthem “Break Down Your Walls” to the Pat Benatar-inspired dance-rock number “Stonewall Frank“, the Danish trio seamlessly move from foreboding numbers to raucous rockers. The one song in their arsenal that best reveals their creativity is “Miracle”. The EP’s biggest anthem, “Miracle” is a dark, brooding, and pulsating number, and it showcases how the trio can turn something bleak into an exhilarating experience. They are, after all, a one-of-a-kind band with a limitless potential and who delivered a record for the ages. ~~~ Ben
Palm Honey (ENG) – Tucked into the Electronic Wave (self-released)
For the better part of two years, PALM HONEY have been blowing people’s minds with their anthemic psychedelic rock. Since 2015, they have gradually released singles, but then in early 2017 they unexpectedly released their debut EP, Tucked into the Electronic Wave. It was like a belated Christmas present, but no one was complaining. Instead, the record was a cause for celebration because it validated our long-held belief the Reading quartet would one day rise to the levels of Temples and POND.
For instance, “Stick The Knife In” is a melodic, trippy force of sound that slowly intensifies into a piercing hurricane of noise. The dreamier and hazier “Going Normal” is Temples-esque in its delivery, which is perfect for this song about transcendence and renewal. The EP’s bookends, however, are where PALM HONEY really shine. The opener, “Palace”, is a heart-stopping, cross-cutting gem that is part jazz, part psychedelic, and 100% brilliant. At the other end is the multi-dimensional epic, “I Can Try”, which is an eight-minute roller coaster of fuzz and eerie melodies. Any band would be proud about creating such a great EP, but for PALM HONEY this is just the tip of the iceberg. They’ve barely scratched the surface of their potential. ~~~ Ben
Petal (USA) – Comfort (via Run for Cover Records)
Petal’s Kiley Lotz’s ability to craft meaningful songs is unmatched. Her 2015 LP, Shame, is one hell of a record with loud moments as well as those of quiet introspection. This year, she released a short, three-track EP, Comfort. It features mostly just Lotz on vocals and guitar, leaving little to distract one’s attention from her voice and wonderful songwriting. The topics she covers aren’t of the soothing variety, as she addresses mental health, relationships, heartbreak, and vulnerability
The record leads off with “Comfort”, which is absolutely heartwrenching. A gorgeous, intimate version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Silver Springs” follows, and the record comes to a close with “15”. This song seems lyrically innocuous at first, but it builds into a huge whirlwind of crushing sound. Even though it’s only three tracks, Comfort delivers a huge emotional heft. ~~~ Rich
Racing (NZ) – The Bass (self-released)
When the title track to Racing‘s new EP, The Bass, was released earlier this year, there was a feeling that the New Zealand band were on to something spectacular. As the other singles emerged, the talent is absolutely apparent. The Bass blew us away with the multiple elements that made it amazing including compelling vocals, a subtle tropical vibe, and well, plenty of bass.
“The Bass” is a stunning track that proves there are still ways for artists to completely craft a new, innovative sound that crosses multiple genres, from indie rock to electro-rock to even a slice of disco. “Misbehaving” lets us know the band is worthy of being labeled a “guitar-heavy” outfit, as they completely light up the track with their skills. “If Only” brings a fast-paced mix of bass, synth, and guitar that keeps the listener completely enthralled. Meanwhile, “Let It Slip” takes us back to the ’80s and to a time when Tears for Fears or The Cure reigned with their brooding vocals and ample guitar. We do know one thing is for sure – Racing have the potential to break out in a big way and it’s just a matter of time before fans will be scurrying after these four Kiwis. ~~~ Wendy
Rubblebucket (USA) – If U C My Enemies (via Sensation Records)
Rubblebucket are true originals. Their funky, alt-pop approach is one of the most refreshing and interesting sonic aesthetics out there. Their 2017 EP, If U C My Enemies, is no exception. Right from the first seconds of “Donna”, the grooves can not be denied. Accentuated by bursts of saxophone, “Donna” is an infectious dance party in one song. Kalmia Traver’s voice is amazing throughout, too, as it’s inviting and even a bit dreamy at times.
On the title track, Traver leads a song that just begs for a live sing-along. Meanwhile, “Not Cut Out For This” has a great ’80s pop vibe, and it can be considered one of the year’s finest tracks, especially with that rad trumpet solo. The closing song, “Forlornification”, sounds like it could be right off of a Prince record with a kick-ass guitar solo to boot. If U C My Enemies ends with us begging for more, a sign of a great EP. ~~~ Rich
Slothrust (USA) – Show Me How You Want it To Be (via Dangerbird Records)
If you ever wondered what it would sound like if a grunge band covered Britney Spears, look no further. On their latest EP, Show Me How You Want It To Be, Slothrust cover songs like Spears’ “Baby One More Time” and Black Sabbath’s “Electric Funeral”. The result is a fun reinvention of some classic tunes in a true-to-themselves Slothrust style. It avoids the usual pitfalls that make so many cover records forgettable and actually offers something new.
The record kicks off with a badass cover of Marcy Playground’s “Sex & Candy”, a song that is drilled in to every ’90s kid’s head. Hearing Leah Wellbaum sing and shred over the song with the killer rhythm section of bassist Kyle Bann and drummer Will Gorin makes it obvious the band can breathe some new life into these tracks. They absolutely slay a cover of Black Sabbath’s “Electric Funeral” with Wellbaum adding an eerie layer to the track.
For a complete change of pace, the band channels their background as jazz students on a cover of “What a Wonderful World”, which is followed up, almost abruptly by “Baby One More Time”. The cover has an amazing groove, and it is addictive as hell. Their cover of The Turtles’ “Happy Together” feels less than happy, as the song builds to some epic screaming from Wellbaum. The record closes with two wonderful songs – a gorgeous cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” and Sam Cooke’s “Cupid”. Unlike so many other cover records that get too serious, Show Me How You Want It To Be is fun and even a bit quirky and every bit Slothrust. ~~~ Rich
Stereo Honey (ENG) – Monuments (via Beatnik Creative)
The best discoveries are the ones you least expect, which is the case with Stereo Honey. Literally emerging from out of the blue – they entered the indie scene back in February with “Where No One Knows Your Name”, which was a viral hit – the London quartet became one of the year’s biggest surprises. Their combination of brooding, cinematic indie rock and vivid storytelling quickly won people over, including at Clash Magazine, Dork Magazine, and The Independent. While they could have continued to release new singles to build momentum, Stereo Honey opted to release their debut EP, Monuments, which is exactly that – monumental.
Opener “The Bay” is a haunting but gorgeous melancholic number that sees the band guide us into the depths of the sea to find our deliverance. Conversely, “Feels Like Heaven” ravishes the listener with its groovy and sultry R&B-infused tones. The search for self-discovery is heard on the engrossing and dazzling “Through The Dark”. Brooding and hypnotic, the song feels like an intense movie being told through the prism of music.
It is on “Angel”, however, where the band reaches its pinnacle. Beautifully brooding and breathtaking, the song starts like an intimate night out but then grows into an enrapturing drama. Its storyline, too, is dramatic, as it is about “The Angel of the North” statue that resides outside Newcastle – or as the band calls it, “the grim reaper of distracted motorists, a siren luring unwitting drivers to their demise.” If Stereo Honey continues to make such mesmerizing music, we, too, won’t be able to peel away from the allure. ~~~ Ben
Steve Buscemi’s Dreamy Eyes (SWE) – Four Waters (via Rama Lama Records)
Stockholm-based Steve Buscemi’s Dreamy Eyes have one of the best names in the business. They also are one of the indie-pop’s most dreamiest and spellbinding outfits, which is quite an achievement for a band that formed less than two years and only started releasing material this year. Their debut EP, Four Waters, reveals their immense talents. It is also an illustration of the sonic genius of the little band with the great name, who in less than a year continue to leave us speechless.
Four Waters is an incredibly enthralling and lush output, and the EP’s title is the perfect analogy for the multiple phases of an individual’s maturation. It begins with “Dive”, a lush dreamgaze number highlighted by front woman Siri Sjöberg’s heavenly vocals. A beautifully dark and engrossing dreamscape is created on “Always”, which at its most climatic point reaches spellbinding levels. On “What Goes Around”, the band channel their inner The xx to deliver a surprisingly foreboding duet, but the interplay between Sjöberg and guitarist Elias Mahfoud is masterfully executed to reveal two sides of a common experience. It is on “Swim Deep”, though, where the band deliver their most stunning number. The song is an example of how music can simultaneously move and enrapture us. ~~~ Ben
Strange Bones (ENG) – We the Rats (self-released)
We the Rats is heavy with riffs and completely in your face, which is exactly what we’ve come to expect from Blackpool’s Strange Bones. The four-piece band headed off to LA to record this one with the help of Foo Fighter’s Chris Shiflett at the renowned Studio 606. There isn’t a weak song on the EP with all four tracks pulling their weight. They are all angry songs and for those that have seen Strange Bones live will be able to picture the exact point where Bobby Bentham will launch himself head first into the crowd.
The EP is highlighted by “Big Sister is Watching”, which is filled with propaganda-style slurs in a huge dig aimed towards Prime Minister Theresa May. She’s certainly an unpopular lady with the band! With catchy lyrics and backing vocals thrown in from the start this EP is not only perfect for newcomers, but one that the hardcore fans will have blaring in their ears on repeat. ~~~Paul
White Room (ENG) – Eight (via Deltasonic Records)
A record with eight songs usually is considered a long player, but for White Room it is their debut “double EP”, which happens to be called Eight. We can only surmise they did this for two reasons. First, the record largely features previously released material. Second, they’re in the process of finishing their actual debut album that will be filled with brand new songs. We’re hoping anyway that’s the case. In the meantime, Eight provides the perfect entry into the Brighton quintet’s dizzying, neo-psychedelic Wonderland. It truly is the sonic equivalent of the place that the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, and the Red Queen call home.
Anthems are one of White Room’s calling cards, such as the addictive daydream that is “The Blue”, the ’60s sun-drenched psychedelia of “Tomorrow Always Knew”, the cosmic euphoria of “Cable-Built Dreamland”, and the delirious escapade of “Stole the I.V.” The other noticeable trait is the fantasy-like orientation of their songs, where the stories are like screenplays. A Tim Burton vibe filters through “Take Me Away” while “Cannibal Song” could be a dedication to Dr. Hannibal Lecter (from The Silence of the Lambs). Even The Beatles-like “Twisted Celebration” could be about an unusual relationship written for The Twilight Zone.
Weird, wacky, wonderful, and undeniably brilliant, Eight is the start of a special journey for one of the UK’s most promising bands. Unlike many bands, White Room are taking psychedelia to new and exciting places. If we had one complaint, the EP’s title could have been more imaginative. We’ll give them a mulligan on this one. ~~~ Ben
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