Keeping Track: 20 Essential Emo EPs, Part Two
by Chad Jewett
6.) Fugazi – Furniture
Recorded during the sessions for Fugazi’s last (and, perhaps greatest) LP, The Argument, Furniture operates like a more unruly appendix to the more mannered, more cerebral set of songs that defined the band’s final full-length. If The Argument smoothed away some of the oblique edges and caustic anxiety of Red Medicine and In On The Kill Taker, then Furniture arguably returned to that incendiary angularity, but with added finess. The EP’s title track pairs that wiry explosiveness to the austere grooves of The Argument and balances the two with an especially measured vocal from Ian MacKaye. “Number 5” is a rare instrumental, sounding like Drive Like Jehu after a month of listening to Iggy & The Stooges. Elsewhere, “Hello Morning” finds Fugazi at their most economic, one last brainy flare-up from one of post-hardcore’s most brilliant collectives.
7.) The World Is A Beautiful Place… Formlessness
Humble yet magisterial, earth-bound yet transcendent, Formlessness, the debut EP from Connecticut post-emo collective The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die signaled the endless possibilities for emo and post-hardcore manifest in its current renaissance. Consisting of four shimmering, widescreen pop songs that managed to be both experimental and wholly embracing, Formlessness, The World Is A Beautiful Place’s first EP has quickly joined Some Kind of Cadwallader and I Could Do Whatever If I Wanted as a classic of emo’s modern era. Pairing the delicate guitar needlepoint of American Football to the outsized drama of Explosions In The Sky and the sense of place and proportion that defined The Promise Ring and Braid, Formlessness was a startling, brilliant debut, the kind of album that felt both incredibly new and uncannily familiar.
8.) Football Etc. – First Down EP
Released in 2009, when the crisp, autumnal surfaces of American Football, Rainer Maria, and Christie Front Drive were at their most remote and dusty, Football Etc.’s First Down EP arrived like a revelation, a marvel of new energy reinvigorating warmly remembered sounds. Compellingly mid-fi and homemade, the EP reflected its arts-and-crafts, cardboard cover, the product of three bright, insightful musicians steeped in the golden years of Polyvinyl, Barsuk, and Crank! Records. The band have since built on and complicated the earth-toned conversationalism of First Down (their most recent album, Audible is absolutely wonderful), but there’s still deep charm in the jangling swing of “Touchdown (Dance)”, the twilit melodic punk angst of “Dream Big,” highlights of a short record that managed to recapture the novelistic small-town drama that made the best of emo’s second wave worth saving.
9.) The Get Up Kids – Red Letter Day
Many listeners first heard the The Get Up Kids’ near-flawless Red Letter Day EP as part of a compilation with the earlier Woodson EP (that purple/white/yellow cover is an indelible piece of nostalgia for emo fans around in the late 90s, though the original EP cover, a close-up, earth-toned drawing of a straw of wheat, is even better). But whereas the Woodson half of the EP only hints at the scruffy melodic economy of golden era Get Up Kids, the songs from Red Letter Day (written around the same time as the hall-of-fame masterpiece Something To Write Home About) are amongst the very finest the band ever wrote, and have bronzed into genre classics. Just consider this: in its original vinyl form, the iconic emo-pop highlights “Mass Pike” and “Anne Arbour” – likely the band’s two best songs — constituted Side B of Red Letter Day. There was also the added, nerdy fun of debating the relative merits of the EP version of “Red Letter Day” versus the rendition that showed up on Something To Write Home About.
10.) Empire! Empire! I Was A Lonely Estate – On Time Spent Waiting…
Unabbreviated, Empire! Empire! I Was A Lonely Estate’s 2011 EP is titled On Time Spent Waiting, or Placing the Weight of the World on the Shoulders of Those You Love the Most. It’s an expansive, dramatic title, simultaneously steeped in abstraction and specificity — which is actually a pretty good way of describing the sound of EEIWALE, a band whose narratives (sung in an expressive high tenor by Count Your Lucky Stars co-founder Keith Latinen who started the band with his wife, guitarist Cathy Latinen) and songs wind and ramble, flirt with climax or settle into pleasant, middle-gear spaciousness. Consider the EP’s highlight, “Everything Familiar Has Disappeared! The World Looks Brand-new!”, a clean-burning indie-pop jaunt that splits its time between jangling verses and sudden, Mineral-like bursts, a bright span of translucent emo that manages to outline a complex web of mixed emotions and hurt feelings in less than two minutes, as compact as the EP’s title is sprawling.