Best of 2011, The EPs: Air Drops, Clam Casino, Giraffage, Supreme Cuts, Wise Blood

Sterfish weighs in on his favorite EPs of last year...
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Each year I do my Favorite Albums list, there are maybe one or two EPs that I like and offhandedly mention. This year, I decided to put these little collections of excellence into the spotlight for the first time. The five EPs below are listed in alphabetical order by artist and are available from your favorite digital music merchant unless otherwise noted.

Air Drops – EP: This debut is a wonderfully realized collection of fun, dreamy electronica/pop. The mellow opener "Desi" features piano and a children's choir combined with some spacey synths. "Champion's Chariot" features an unexpected (yet completely welcome) Indian hip-hop esque breakdown. Well-chosen strings give "Giants of Canaan" an air of epic beauty and you can hear the joy throughout the percussion-heavy "Jejune." Listen to "Champion's Chariot" below and download this seven-song release from Bandcamp.

Clams Casino – Rainforest: The beats of Clams Casino aren't so much beats as miniature soundscapes. This is what makes both his Instrumental Mixtape and Rainforest so enjoyable. Synths mingle with nature sounds, sampled (and often heavily altered) vocals, and other stuff...including a drum or two. This four-song EP is the hip-hop you give to a friend who loves electronica and the electronica you give to a friend who likes cutting-edge hip-hop. Check out an unofficial video for "Gorilla" (featuring footage from a David Copperfield special) below.

Giraffage – Pretty Things: Some EPs are just a warm up before the assault of a full-blown album. This is the case with Pretty Things as Giraffage's debut album Comfort followed just six months later. That doesn't mean this EP isn't worth checking out in its own right. There is a lovely, playful feel to the electronic music found here. A track like "Fnord" has no problem taking a single vocal sample to ridiculous places or incorporating the sound of a soda can opening into the mix. Of the four songs on Pretty Things, only the fun "Waste Yr Time" appears on Comfort. Listen to that track below and download both releases from Bandcamp.

Supreme Cuts – Trouble: When I hear something for the first time, I usually know immediately whether or not I like it. If I don't like something the first time, I don't end up liking it let alone loving it. The music of Supreme Cuts is an exception. The music on this five-song EP is so unlike much else out there that it catches you off-guard. Chopped-up R & B vocals rendered almost unrecognizable yet oddly familiar. Rhythms that call to mind 1980's/1990's R & B, hip-hop, house, and footwork/juke without sounding exactly like any of them. A subtle dark undercurrent that runs throughout but never gets in the way of the sultry. I am eagerly awaiting their full-length album. Check out "Amnesia" below.

 Amnesia by Supreme Cuts 

Wise Blood – These Wings: This artist caught my ear in 2010 with an EP called '+' and caught it again with These Wings. Wise Blood draws on a myriad of influences and puts his own spin on them. "Loud Mouths" contains a old-timey piano sample, Gregorian chants, and a female R & B vocal and doesn't miss a step. What makes this seven-song EP great, however, is the songwriting. There are lines in songs like "The Lion" that make you do a double take. Then, there's something like "Penthouse Suites" that seems to be begging for a cover. Hopefully, we'll get an album in 2012. In the meantime, listen to "Loud Mouths" below.

 Wise Blood - Loud Mouths by Dovecote Records