Nine EPs I enjoyed from 2020

If nine EPs isn’t enough 2020 music for you, I encourage you to check out my four-part best albums of 2020 overview.

Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires – 2-4-6-8 Motorway

Release date: October 30th
Record label: Don Giovanni Records
Genre: Southern rock, punk rock
Pull track: The Company Man (Acoustic)
Synopsis: No new original songs here, unfortunately, but the titular Tom Robinson Band cover is a like-a-glove fit for the band (they know how to pick ‘em—see also their Swamp Dogg and Primitons covers), and the three acoustic versions of older songs showcase a different side of Bains’ songs than you get from their recent studio releases and the punk rock sermonizing of 2018’s Live at the Nick. Certainly more than enough to keep me satiated while waiting on the next full-length from the best southern band of the past decade. (Bandcamp link)

Beauty Pill – Please Advise

Release date: May 8th
Record label: Northern Spy
Genre: Electronic rock, art pop
Pull track: Prison Song (2004 Chad Demo)
Synopsis: Beauty Pill had a busy 2020 without releasing a full-length album. Their 2010 soundtrack album Sorry You’re Here finally got a digital release, they dropped the non-album single “Instant Night”, and they put this thing out as well. Two additional versions of “Prison Song”, which already appeared on the first Beauty Pill album, seems like overkill, but somehow they both improve upon the original. Of the new material, “The Damndest Thing” is the closest the band gets to recapturing the magic that made 2015’s Beauty Pill Describe Things As They Are such a singular album, but “Pardon Our Dust” is a nice flex as well. (Bandcamp link)

Nerve Estate – NE II

Release date: January 27th
Record label: Self-released
Genre: Power pop, lo-fi rock
Pull track: Previous Lake
Synopsis: I don’t know much about Nerve Estate. They’re from St. Louis, and I know they’re in some way connected to The Astounds, another St. Louis band. Like the first Nerve Estate EP, they plow through three scrappy power pop tunes in nine minutes. Parity’s the game here—really, I had to flip a three-sided coin for the pull track. There’s at least three identifiable hooks in “Previous Lake” which gives it a slight edge. (Bandcamp link)

NNAMDÏ – Black Plight

Release date: July 3rd
Record label: Sooper Records
Genre: Math rock, punk rock
Pull track: Heartless
Synopsis: The ambitious, genre-hopping BRAT will probably (and probably should be) Nnamdi Ogbonnaya’s most-enduring 2020 release, but dirty rockist that I am, I played this one more. Dropped in the middle of the nationwide George Floyd protests, Black Plight directly rages at foundational racial injustice and the poisoned discourse around it (Helpfully explaining that “you can fix a Target but you can’t bring a person back to life” because apparently this is new information to some people) as well as functioning as a fundraiser for two Chicago organizations fighting for justice. You can still give them money by buying the album, mind you. (Bandcamp link)

P22 – Human Snake

Release date: April 3rd
Record label: Post Present Medium
Genre: Post-punk, punk rock
Pull track: The Manger
Synopsis: I’ve seen this listed as both an EP and an album—at 17 minutes (shorter than several others on this list) I’ve decided to roll with the former category. I welcome P22 and/or Post Present Medium to send a cease-and-desist over this. Wordy, spiky, self-destructing and -reconstructing punk rock music. (Bandcamp link)

Brontez Purnell – White Boy Music

Release date: November 13th
Record label: Post Present Medium
Genre: Garage rock, punk rock, Mod revival?
Pull track: Forgive Me, Phillip
Synopsis:  Brontez Purnell’s stated intention with this short three-tracker was to “make a fake mod 80s white boy record”. His realized vision ends up sounding not all that dissimilar from his current band, The Younger Lovers. This is, if you are familiar with the Young Lovers, certainly not a bad thing. The rollercoaster of a pull track might be my favorite song he’s done yet, not that “Leave Me Out of This” or even the Beat Happening cover slouch. Great place to start, although check out Sugar in My Pocket too. (Bandcamp link)

Sleeping Bag and Rozwell Kid – Dreamboats 2: A Real Chill Sequel

Release date: February 7th
Record label: Self-released
Genre: Pop punk, power pop, 90s-alt-rock
Pull track: Back to the Future IV
Synopsis: It’s nice to hear from Rozwell Kid again. This EP is a sequel to 2013’s original Dreamboats collaboration. I’m less than familiar with the Indiana fuzz rockers of Sleeping Bag but they seem to be kindred spirits, and the second Dreamboats has all the hallmarks of a great RK album in half the time. There’s the four minute mile of “Absolutely”, the bass-and-power chord (and kazoo?) glitch-finding of “Letterman”, and of course the liberal pop-culture borrowing and melodic guitar that turn the pull track into another “no, seriously, how did they make this work” anthem. (Bandcamp link)

John Vanderslice – Eeeeeeep!

Release date: August 21st
Record label: Tiny Telephone
Genre: Ambient pop, glitch, do people still use the term “Folktronica”
Pull track: Lure Mice Condemn Erase
Synopsis: Neither the electronic-informed but grounded pop of The Cedars nor the garbled computer viruses of Dollar Hits, this EP feels like the most democratic marriage yet of John Vanderslice’s indie rock hero background and his current digital fascination. “Team Stammer/Savior Machine” floats along in its new duds, while the tender “Song for Jaime Sena” could positively be on Romanian Names. Mr. Vanderslice has already announced his third LP in as many years as of the publication date of this list, but Eeeeeeep! deserves some appreciation before he and we plunge further into the Vanderslice revival. (Bandcamp link)

Yo La Tengo – Sleepless Night

Release date: October 9th
Record label: Matador Records
Genre: Folk rock, indie folk
Pull track: Wasn’t Born to Follow
Synopsis: This is Yo La Tengo at their Fakebook folkie peak. Apparently these mostly-covers aren’t from the same sessions and actually range several years apart, but they all fit together quiet nicely, all having an understated, minimal, driving late at night vibe that nobody else does better. The pull track, originally by the Byrds, is about as upbeat as it gets, the only song with any sort of noticeable percussion, but it (the drums and the song both) is just enough not to distract. (Bandcamp link)

You can follow this Spotify playlist of all 9 EPs if you’d like.

Honorable mentions:

  • Big Baby – Fizzy Cola
  • Gladie – Orange Peels
  • The Human Hearts – Day of the Tiles
  • John Murry – Tilting at Windmills
  • Whelpwisher – Safe Sludge

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