Features Music 2009: SPB's Top EPs

Music: 2009: SPB's Top EPs

Individual Staff EP Lists

Below are the complete lists by staff writers of their top EPs of the year.

Michael

1. Withdrawal - Unknown Misery (Wendigo)

Withdrawal is hands down the best new band I've heard in hardcore. Withdrawal offers straight up 90's metallic hardcore with a heavy Integrity influence but also faint influences from across the music spectrum. I want noting more than to hear more from this band in 2010.

2. Skin Like Iron - All Human Failings (Independent)

California natives Skin Like Iron continue to impress with their dynamic and experimental songwriting, all within the confines of hardcore punk. If they were around in the early 80's they'd be touring their asses off with Black Flag and we'd have books being written about them.

3. Cave In - Planets Of Old (Hydra Head)

The hiatus of Cave In was a hard pill to swallow but thankfully 2009 brought this shape-shifting musical colossus back to us. Anytime I listen to Planets of Old I grow a huge smile on my face. I can't wait for more material to surface in 2010.

4. Capital - Blind Faith (Iron Pier/Jus a Audial)

After releasing a full-length two years prior Capital returned with a brand new 7" of high octane melodic hardcore. Tommy Corrigan and company might be the best-kept secret in hardcore. With a new LP on the horizon in 2010 I am eagerly sitting on the edge of my seat.

5. Like Wolves - Paths (Independent)

Early in the year I got a 7" containing Like Wolves demo; a record I quite enjoyed. So when their new EP landed at my doorstep I was itching to put it on the turntable. My ears were quite satisfied with what came out of the speakers. I can see this band being quite big in the next year with a solid label and substantial touring.

6. Steel Nation / Crucified - Split (Double or Nothing)

Two stellar hardcore bands from opposite sites of the United States teamed up on this split 7". Crucified continued their visceral full-force metallic hardcore assault with three brand new cuts while Steel Nation showed that lineup changes can be for the best on their new songs. This EP is top tier 90's influenced hardcore.

7. Jesu - Opiate Sun (Caldo Verde)

Justin Broadrick might be the hardest working individual in all of music. He appears to be on an endless quest to release more music than he did in each preceding year. And when it manifests itself in an EP like Opiate Sun I can't help but cheer him on. This is my favorite Jesu release since his debut, Heart Ache.

8. Coalesce - Ox (Relapse)

After releasing a spectacular comeback full-length earlier in the year, the reunited and reinvigorated Coalesce churned out a companion EP. I can't say enough good things about this EP. Can't wait to hear more? now if they would only tour more.

9. Crooked Ways - Crimes Of Passion (Last Anthem)

Scene Point Blank staff writer Jason is not easily impressed with hardcore, especially when it comes to that on the melodic tip - think Reach the Sky and Lifetime. So when he gushes over a band in that style you know it's really good. So head to their Myspace, enjoy, and then pick up a copy of this EP.

10. Transit - Stay Home (Run for Cover)

Stay Home brought back memories of a decade ago, jamming out to New Found Glory and Saves the Day on an everyday basis. This band has gradually improved with each release and their latest EP is something quite special. 2010 is going to be the year they break it wide open. You can quote me.

Campbell

1. The Rival Mob - Raw Life (Lockin' Out)

Boston's Rival Mob is one of the best hardcore bands around right now, playing a fast and nasty NYHC style that hits hard from start to finish. This band remembers what so many others forget: you don't have to invent a new style to get noticed; you just have to play really well within the one you know best.

2. Everyone Everywhere - A Lot Of Weird People Standing Around (Evil Weevil)

This four-song gem boasts a return to the late 90's style of The Get Up Kids and Braid. I've heard plenty of bands that fail in their attempts to recreate that sentiment, but Everyone Everywhere has a hold on something great here. This EP isn't perfect, but I think they will continue to mature with another release under their belts.

3. Cloudkicker - The Map Is Not The Territory (Independent)

This is the second recording from Ohio native BM Sharp, an impressively layered and complex assault of down-tuned guitars and odd time signatures. The lack of vocals adds to the mysterious nature of this one-man experimental extraordinaire, which boasts vigorous and lush soundscapes akin to Meshuggah. It's almost like a metal version of a Final Fantasy soundtrack.

4. End Of A Year - End Of A Year (Deathwish Inc.)

This elusive but surprisingly prolific band doesn't get enough credit for their DC-heavy sound. The five-minute "Walter Miller Jr." is a simple melodic track that might be one of their best, and their distinctively careless demeanor towards musical trends is very refreshing. Be on the lookout for You Are Beneath Me, their recently recorded full-length that should see the light of day soon.

5. Make Do And Mend - Bodies Of Water (Panic)

Wonderful melodic post-hardcore from the Eastcoast, Make Do and Mend bring us another dose of beer-soaked intensity. "Our Own Ebb and Flow" is easily the best song the group has written, and these guys are among the few that execute this style well.

6. Paint It Black - Amnesia (Bridge Nine)

I'm finally comfortable jumping on the Paint It Black bandwagon, with their most recent EP ranging from sinister and heavy to more layered and melodic. "Bliss" is a great crossover track with a heavy DC influence, a direction that I really hope they explore further.

7. Black Breath - Razor To Oblivion (Southern Lord)

This is just plain heavy. Straight up Motörhead mixed with some solid hardcore sensibilities, resulting in an irresistible record that leaves me wanting more every time I put it on. This is where metal and hardcore should always intersect.

8. Gypsy - Relatively Distant (Six Feet Under)

This two-song gem is made up of Knapsack-styled melodies through a Dinosaur Jr. guitar tone, with members of various Pennsylvania hardcore bands. I was expecting this to be a mediocre side project, but this can stand on its own for any fan of this style, and I hope we can hear much more in the future.

9. Crooked Ways - Crimes of Passion (Last Anthem)

Ah, this is the kind of thing Crime in Stereo should have recorded instead of delving into The Troubled Stateside and beyond. There's an obvious dose of Lifetime in there, and plenty of hooks for me to look out for Crooked Ways in the future. As a more recent acquisition, this may prove to better than my initial intrigue would indicate.

10. Crucified / Steel Nation Split (Double or Nothing)

Crucified continues to produce unyielding heavy hardcore in the vein of Ringworm, being one of the only current Northern California bands boosting that style. I wasn't as familiar with Steel Nation but they certainly pull their weight, even after some recent line-up changes.

Jason

1. Black Breath - Razor To Obvilion (Southern Lord)

This is so metal that I wish I had a jean jacket and hung out in parking lots.

2. Higher Giant - The First Five (Creep)

Ernie from Grey Area and Dave from Lifetime. That's right, another insanely catchy melodic hardcore album by the some of the masters of the genre. This 7" is their demo and it already sounds like the band is ready for the big time.

3. Capital - Blind Faith (Iron Pier/Jus a Audial)

Three song platters should be outlawed by hardcore, however there is always an exception. The exception being your name is Capital, you have members of Silent Majority in your band, and you happen to be one the best melodic hardcore bands going. Also throwing on a Dag Nasty cover doesn't hurt.

4. Crooked Ways - Crimes Of Passion (Last Anthem)

Speaking of melodic hardcore (can't you tell I love the stuff?) Here's a band from Colorado that does it just right. Crooked Ways is a mix of Stretch Arm Strong and Ignite. Catchy heartfelt sing-a-longs with just a smidgen of mosh to make the kids do that crazy dance they do.

5. Bane - Dublin 11:58 PM (Hurry Up!)

Free from EVR hardcore stalwart Bane decide to release some 7" releases on various labels all named after the time and place the front cover photo was taken. This is such an awesome undertaking and the best thing is that the songs just rule.

6. Paint It Black - Surrender (Fat Wreck Chords)

The second release by ex-Lifetime's Dan's Paint it Black. The band's goal is to write catchy songs with being melodic and it works. As always, Paint it Black is a fast furious slab of 80's stylied hardcore that will without a doubt get caught in your cranium for weeks to come.

7. Paint It Black - Amnesia (Bridge Nine)

See above.

8. Thought Crusade - It's Our War (Organized Crime)

Chicago's Thought Crusade are another up and coming melodic hardcore act that recalls the halcyon days of No For An Answer, 411, Speak 714 and every other band with Dan Mahony. If bands like Thought Crusade, Remission, No Friends, and Crooked Ways are indication of what 2009 with behold, it's going to be a great year for me.

9. The Bonus Army - Negative Outlooks (Arrest)

A ten song 7' is never anything to scoff at. It's even better when those ten songs are fast pissed of hardcore in the vein of Think I Care. You will be moshing, no doubt about it.

10. Defeater - Lost Ground (Bridge Nine)

I get a lot of crap for liking this band and not liking Modern Life is War. The thing is, Defeater knows how to write great emotional hardcore with splendid drumming. I swear Defeater will the band you loved this year and the band you will hate (but secretly listen to all the time) next year.

Zach

1. The Hope Conspiracy - True Nihilist (Deathwish Inc.)

The Hope Conspiracy returns with quite possibly the best songs of their career. I for one wasn't as impressed with Death Knows Your Name; it's hard to follow up Endnote. Every time I listen to True Nihilist though, I want to circle pit, destroy my apartment, and kick babies in the face. That's what they were aiming for, right?

2. Bane - 6:58 PM Boston (Triple B)

Bane is yet another band who as veterans in the scene, haven't been producing much lately. Basically silent since The Note, I was starting to wonder if they were ever going to release new material. And look what we got. Honestly some of the best songs they've recorded. I mean seriously, was there something in the water this year? It seems that everyone that released multiple EP's this year instead of proper albums have been rejuvenated. Plus, props for creating the most hyped song prior to release, "The Young and the Restless", aka The Dragon song. Kids were losing their shit because Bane was singing a song seemingly about dragons. The hype paid off.

3. Bane - 12:58 AM Rome (Hurry Up!)

The continuation of the EP series Bane did this year, with all songs based on soap opera titles, and artwork consisting of pictures taken all over the globe at the exact same moment. Genius concept, and some of the best hardcore released this year. Bane still has it, and you should have these EPs. (Somehow, I received the 2nd EP from Hurry Up which is based in Ireland, before I received my copy of Los Angeles 3:58pm which is the same songs, just released for the North American kids)

4. Small Brown Bike - Composite Vol. 1 (No Idea)

The Bike returns to active duty and No Idea Records. Picking up basically where The River Bed left off with thoughtful, angular arrangements, but with some regained aggressiveness. I can't wait to hear what comes next. Best surprise of 2009.

5. Get Bent - Dead It (It's Alive)

Why do all these great bands break up before they can get anywhere. Get Bent filled the gap that was left when Latterman and Lock and Key disappeared, and now they have too.

6. Defeater - Lost Ground (Bridge Nine)

Another concept album from Defeater. I'm not quite sure why these guys get compared to Modern Life is War is so much. They've come across as more melodic, faster, and honestly, more thought provoking due to the nature of their releases. I'm so going to get a ton of hate mail now.

7. Paint It Black - Surrender (Fat Wreck Chords)

I really felt that this was the stronger of the two EPs that Dan and the guys released this year. Surrender being my favorite song on either of these. Although I liked New Lexicon. more then others did, I think the idea behind these EPs was spot on. Hardcore is best digested in small concentrated doses. And it certainly did leave us wanting for more.

8. Paint It Black - Amnesia (Bridge Nine)

See above.

9. The Lawrence Arms - Buttsweat And Tears (Fat Wreck Chords)

Chicago's The Lawrence Arms return with more songs about drinking, drinking during snowstorms, basement shows, more drinking, etc. Right in time for the Twin Cities cold, I've been cracking premiums and singing along. Perfect.

10. Ben Nichols - The Last Pale Light In The West (Rebel Group)

I don't know why this got billed as a "mini-album". That's called an EP. Either way, this was Ben from Lucero tackling a concept album, err, EP, based on Cormac McCarthy's book "Blood Meridian". If you caught Ben on the Revival Tour 2008, or one of the 3876 shows Lucero played this year, you probably got to see some of these songs played live. Damn good stuff, but not the most upbeat. I won't ruin the book for you though. Go read it.

Jon

1. Withdrawal - Unknown Misery (Wendigo)

The great white north lost an amazing band when Cursed left the fold but then the Holy Terror appeared in Alberta. With a strong work ethic and a sound that is fairly refined in their own style. Withdrawal let loose with seven songs of Integrity worship; I mean this in the best way. This is an EP worth seeking out collecting and letting yourself delve into while waiting for this band destroy your town and hopefully make a big mark with a new LP.

2. Black Teeth - Ghost Town Anthems (Twelve Gauge)

Hardcore kids talk of missing Modern Life Is War, and why not, they were a great band. Well Black Teeth brought out their second EP and destroyed any other takers in the Modern Life is War sound. With palpable rage, a deep heavy sound anchored by a strong bass presence and literate but not overdone lyrics. This band is going to turn heads. Hopefully hardcore kids give them the chance they deserve.

3. The Effort - From Our Mistakes (Independent)

Boston is like a breeding ground for strong edge bands. It seems every time you turn around there is another hardcore band mulling just outside Boston. This is the one that people should be listening to. Powerful melodic edge with strong messages with every sing-along perfectly placed. These three songs prove that their time touring on the Iconoclasm LP did not go to waste. Every line and every guitar riff seems placed where it should be. Totally worth getting every color and supporting this band when they come through.

4. Cold Cave - Death Comes Close (Matador)

Wes Eisold and Prurient officially have made good on the promise of previous EPs. With the release of Love Comes Close and this companion EP Cold Cave solidified both their sound and the past potential. Wes still has the strength of lyricism and now shows the muscle of his natural voice. Noted that this style of music doesn't require any amazing vocal tricks but he works from the Ian Curtis book and makes the nerve and desperation of the lyrics pop into the listeners mind and psyche.

5. End Of A Year - End of a Year (Deathwish Inc.)

For their Deathwish Inc. debut this band came with a stronger overall sound. It's very easy to make the Revolution Summer comparison in their sound. This band makes the most of those footnotes and expands upon them with a strength that was only hinted at previously. They truly made good after numerous splits. All that's left is the new LP that's been getting hinted at in the New Year. Here's hoping it is on the same level as this 7".

6. Rival Mob - Raw Life (Lockin' Out)

Lockin' Out Records can do no wrong in my book. They continually provide reasons for this. After a stirring demo and about a ton of Internet hype this one hit. It hits hard with the fury of an early NYHC band these eight songs tear through in short time and stay embedded in the listeners skull. With the strength of this EP they have proven themselves and hopefully will continue in this vein for their LP.

7. Integrity - Walpurgisnacht (Magic Bullet)

Holy Terror returns for real. Dwid comes spewing with all the fury that he's known for. With the strength of a more recent backing band and a couple covers they truly made a memorable EP. This should put any copycats in their place. Two new ones and two Septic Death covers make the case that The Blackest Curse will destroy all comers.

8. The Mountain Goats & John Vanderslice - Moon Colony Bloodbath (Cadmean Dawn)

A limited EP only put out on vinyl for a joint tour. Rarely are these sorts of things worth noting as more than collectors items for obsessive fans. Strangely enough the two Johns show the strength of their songwriting and build a joint EP with a consistent storyline throughout. Sure, it is a strange story but when it sung with such strong lyrics and conviction it can't be too strange. Worth every cent if you can still find it on eBay.

9. Parasitic Skies - Embers (Seventh Dagger)

What happens when you name your straight edge hardcore band after the amazing LP by The Swarm? Well you get this. The basics that are held by a 90's metalcore band with the technicality of a more math oriented band. This band is so far beyond anyone else on their label and resides far above most bands that carry the 90's metalcore aesthetic. This is a band to watch. With a strong live show and this EP in tow, it's only a matter of time.

Corey

1. The Lawrence Arms - Buttsweat And Tears (Fat Wreck Chords)

It took way to long for them to put out some new material, but I was very satisfied with this EP and that's not just because I'm a fanboy. These are some of the best songs the band has ever recorded as they continue to sing their usual anthems of apathy, exhaustion and alcoholism. Also nice to have The Lawrence Arms having a mellower sound on a few songs, as that element seemed to be missing on 2006's Oh! Calcutta!. Makes me even more excited for their next record.

2. The Loved Ones - Distractions (Fat Wreck Chords)

This EP shows a lot of potential for The Loved Ones to really take off in the mainstream judging from the two new songs. Very excited to see what the future brings for this band. The Springsteen, Strummer, and Bragg covers are also well done as well, which really made this EP have a lot of staying power for me.

3. The Menzingers - Hold On, Dodge (Red Scare)

This is an all-around solid EP. Four tracks of upbeat punk rock with a Clash feel to it and an acoustic closing track. The Menzingers have recorded some of their catchiest songs ever on this with plenty of sing-a-long lines. Hold On, Dodge has The Menzingers trying new things and testing their boundaries and giving listeners something great to look forward to whenever their next album comes out.

4. Anchor Down - Steel To Dust (Solidarity)

It's a shame that these guys broke up earlier in the month because I really thought they stood out among the many bands playing a similar style. Regardless, this EP contains six memorable anthems full of great lyrics and huge choruses. This EP reminds me a lot of older Alkaline Trio musically, with gruff vocals and lyrics reminiscent to The Bouncing Souls. Difficult for me not to enjoy something like this.

5. Make Do And Mend - Bodies Of Water (Panic)

With these guys and The Golden Age on their roster, I feel that Panic Records can become a big name in hardcore music. Make Do And Mend are a lot more melodic than some of their label mates, but they're up there with some of the best on Panic. Bodies of Water is a great but short EP that showcases their excellent post-hardcore sound.

6. Paint It Black - Amnesia (Bridge Nine)

I felt that Amnesia was the stronger of the two Paint It Black EPs released this year if not solely for the fact that "Salem" and "Bliss" are two of the best songs the band has ever recorded. "Salem" is the standout of the EP with its solemn lyrics and the dark vibe that it gives off. The rest of the EP is Paint It Black doing what they do best, and it ends perfectly with the melodic touch that "Bliss" brings.

7. A Wilhelm Scream - A Wilhelm Scream (Paper + Plastick)

Well, the band can still shred and they can still write a killer melodic hardcore song or two. Nothing much has changed since Career Suicide. It's your decision on whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.

8. Pulley - Time-Insensitive Material (X-Members)

I was pretty bummed when I heard Pulley broke up last year, but was delighted to learn that they reunited and released this new EP earlier this year. Pulley hasn't lost their touch at all as this EP has just about everything you'd expect from a Pulley record. It's a fun listen for those who are into 90's skate punk.

9. Jesu - Opiate Sun (Caldo Verde)

I'm kind of a new Jesu fan, but this is probably my favorite thing that I've heard from them so far. Very relaxing and soothing post-metal EP with some wonderful melodies thrown in. Looking forward to checking out more releases from this band.

10. This Is Hell - Warbirds (Think Fast!)

Left me wanting more and I was expecting more after how great Misfortunes was. This is still a pretty solid EP. The band's guitarists have really stepped up their game, as there's a couple guitar solos on the first couple of tracks. This addition definitely works for them and makes me excited for another album. This EP could have had more substance but there is a lot of signs of promise on it.

Bob

1. Coalesce - Ox (Relapse)

Coalesce shows that they might just be at the top of their game with another strong record and spoils listeners with their second record this year. OX succeeds in many ways, one of the most important which is that this batch of songs sounds just as good and is a great companion to the full-length.

2. Jesu - Opiate Sun (Caldo Verde)

Jesu at possibly their most accessible. One of their better releases and strongest in a while (by that I mean three months), Opiate Sun may or may not be a hint of things to come.

3. Coliseum - Last Wave/True Quiet (Deathwish Inc.)

It is real nice to hear melody creeping back into Coliseum songs. At only two songs, this seven-inch is such a tease and leaves me wanting more of these songs.

4. The Hope Conspiracy - True Nihilist (Deathwish Inc.)

The Hope Conspiracy just continues to drop great music on us since pulling things back together a couple of years back. These three tracks on True Nihilist rip and seethe with the kind of vicious sound that the band is quickly making their own.

5. Bane - Boston 6:58 PM (Triple B)

Is Bane back? This EP and its companions that came out in rapid succession at the end of the year might just show that...a band catching on fire again and rediscovering their passion.

6. Bane - Los Angeles 9:58 PM (6131)

Again, further proof that Bane may have rediscovered their fire...some of their best material since Give Blood.

7. Jesu - Infinity (Avalanche/Daymare)

Infinity is not the most accessible of Jesu releases (far from it), but it does show a successful marriage of many of the different sonic territories that Jesu has traversed during their existence. Easily, this EP is one of the most challenging releases by Justin Broadrick and company.

8. End Of A Year - End Of A Year (Deathwish Inc.)

Such a catchy release, End of a Year know how to write catchy punk songs in the vein of DC style hardcore, and this short EP is a perfect example of how good they are getting.

9. Three Mile Pilot - Planets/Gray Clouds (Temporary Residence Limited)

Yes! The return of Three Mile Pilot is finally upon us. It has been years, and this teaser single is the perfect morsel to whet our appetites.

10. Cave In - Planets Of Old (Hydra Head)

Planets of Old definitely shows Cave In can still write good tunes. It is great to have them back.

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Words by the SPB team on Oct. 16, 2010, 11:05 a.m.

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