Crossfader’s Top EPs of 2017

This is our final list from the End-of-Year onslaught! Here’s the roundup of the five EPs from 2017 we enjoyed the most

EPs Snail Mail

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 5. Snail Mail – HABIT (2017 Re-Release)

Genre: Indie Rock

Favorite Songs: “Thinning,” “Slug”

In a year where women saved (amongst many other things) indie rock, Snail Mail’s vitalness shined through, revealing the essential nature of staying true to yourself. Having only graduated from high school this past year, it’s telling that Lindsey Jordan’s debut EP bursts at the seams, evoking the feeling of a work of music that had been pent-up and unable to escape for years, only to spill in earnest all over HABIT. From the whirring, feel-good guitars on “Thinning” onward, you can tell that Jordan understands how to capture momentary reactions and lasting emotions and make them feel the same, producing a timeless rock record that is as comforting to listen to as it is cry and nod knowingly alongside to. With wisdom and insight and an ability to feel that is beyond her years, not to mention a signing to Matador, Snail Mail exist in a category unto themselves as indie rock’s most exciting new artist. [CJ Simonson]

EPs Injury Reserve

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4. Injury Reserve – DRIVE IT LIKE IT’S STOLEN

Genre: Hardcore Hip Hop

Favorite Tracks: “91 Cadillac DeVille,” “Boom (X3)”

Arizona hip hop wanderers Injury Reserve have spent their careers honing a laser-focused, workmanlike approach to exploring new sounds and textures. Their latest EP, DRIVE IT LIKE IT’S STOLEN, sees the Phoenix journeymen providing their most succinct and sparse calling card yet, a seven-song sonic extension from last year’s phenomenal sophomore release FLOSS. “See You Sweat” continues a fascination with mid-2000s club rap, while the rest of the EP deconstructs that subgenre and its fascination with excess, pushing it into a state of fluid minimalism. Snarling industrial emptiness dominates “Colors,” “North Pole” gives off an appropriately chilling melancholy, and the isolationist banger “91 Cadillac DeVille” feels like the perfect hook-filled cap to this phase of Injury Reserve’s current career. DRIVE IT LIKE IT’S STOLEN is the perfect handoff tape to give a friend to get them into hip hop’s next big thing. [CJ Simonson]

EPs Death Grips

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3. Death Grips – STEROIDS (CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN GABBER MEGAMIX)

Genre: Industrial Hip Hop, Experimental Hip Hop

Favorite Tracks: N/A

I do not think anybody, music journalist or otherwise, should ever speak about what Death Grips “is” or what their music “means” ever again. As such I will only allow myself one last minor, but no less empathetic claim: 2017 refreshingly saw them shut the fuck up and just make music (well, perhaps apart from announcing they were Online), something that was an absolute necessity if their meticulously curated and aggressively obnoxious brand ever had a hope of avoiding implosion. Comparatively quiet this year, I nevertheless find “Electronic Drum Solo Dub Mix (Single Take)” to be one of their best songs of recent memory, and STEROIDS (CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN GABBER MEGAMIX) is just as challenging and unwieldy as its title, descriptors which almost always earn a release top marks in my book. A frenetic, froth-mouthed odyssey making use of effortlessly fluid musical movements and styles, STEROIDS possesses a tangible sense of fun that’s been absent in everything but The I.L.Y.’s. It’s not really hip hop, but then again, Ride and company never really were; instead we have a schizophrenic tour through fast-paced, rave-adjacent electronic noodling, Ride deftly fielding every rhythm that comes his way with abject, twisted flows the only way he can. But while that doesn’t necessarily separate STEROIDS from anything they’ve done in the past, as far as I’m concerned, this is the first release that exhibits a mastery of pacing, knowing precisely when to deploy its ace-in-the-holes to catch you unawares and notably unafraid of just existing in more subdued experiential pockets that don’t serve to overwhelm or pummel. But let’s face it, no matter how many airs I put on, at the end of the day, this is still a Death Grips tape, and the base-level attraction to their unapologetic aggression and energy is still present. I guess without the bells and whistles I’m simply more willing to meet it in the middle again. [Thomas Seraydarian]

EPs The French Press

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2. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – FRENCH PRESS

Genre: Jangle Pop

Favorite Tracks: “French Press,” “Julie’s Place,” “Fountain of Good Fortune”

Considering this EP starts out with a jangly refrain that feels oddly reminiscent of “Take on Me,” this little record ends up really doing something exciting. There certainly was no shortage of great jam sessions this year, but there’s something deeply satisfying about a band that can simply rock as effectively as Rolling Blackouts can. I found myself restarting “French Press” over and over again, relishing the build up to the dueling guitar solo climax every single time. There are a ton of acts trying to do essentially the same thing as Rolling Blackouts right now, but it doesn’t feel as if most of them are doing it quite as well. In a different year, this band would have captured everyone’s attention, simply because they can deliver so effectively. It’s hard to pinpoint what makes their specific formulation work so well; maybe it’s that they’re super tight as a band, maybe it’s lyrics that feel earnest and yearning, whatever it is, this is just damn fine pure rock and roll for your ears. [Carter Moon]

EP Kamasi

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1. Kamasi Washington – HARMONY OF DIFFERENCE (Adam Cash)

Genre: Spiritual Jazz

Tracks: All

HARMONY OF DIFFERENCE is a half-hour of enlightenment. Rather than replicating the sprawl of 2015’s THE EPIC, Washington took the opposite approach, espousing simple, accessible melodies that aren’t meant so much to challenge as to fill the listener with warm, gooey jazz goodness. Where THE EPIC felt like Washington fully exposing his brain, his skill, and his talent to the world, HARMONY is his soul, and it is almost impossibly expressive. The record makes liberal reuse of a simple, bossa nova-flavored melodic line, heard most prominently on “Desire” and “Truth,” that serves as a common thread through HARMONY’s multiple genre stylings, and the chorus-supported climax that “Integrity” and “Truth” build up to together resembles the sweet strains of a humanist heaven, welcoming us and reminding us that we’re all okay. As far as genuine spiritual value, it’s hard to imagine any release this year, regardless of length, genre, or whatever else, coming close to this record. Put it on in some headphones and take a bath, sit in a dark parking lot, whatever you have to do; just make sure to make some time for the remarkable warmth and overwhelming optimism of this record. [Adam Cash]

Crossfader Staff

The good people of Crossfader Magazine.

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