2010's Top 10 EPs of 2010

2010 was such a great year for music we had to separate the EPs from full-length albums for our year-end lists. So this is our first ever EP list. We're also still working on our top albums and decided it's too much work to narrow it down to 25 that get mentioned, so we're bumping that list all the way up to 50! It's worth the extra time considering the amount of great music we were given to listen to. I received a lot of help on both of the end of the year lists (EPs and albums) and frankly through out the year with recommendations from our friend Stephen (ST), so shout out to him for helping us out with his input for on these lists.

With that said, we're starting off this week with a top 10 list for EPs. Believe it or not, it was actually really difficult to narrow this list down to just 10. Many of the artists on our top EPs list are artists we expect to have great full-length debuts from in the very near future (Twin Sister, James Blake, Active Child, etc.). Again, you don't have to take these end of the year lists to heart. Some people love them and some people hate them. Regardless, we have fun doing them and it's great way to find out about any great music you may have missed out on earlier this year. Without further ado, 31st/Chi's top 10 favorite EPs from 2010:

10. Class Actress : Journal of Ardency

Brooklyn-based electro-pop trio Class Actress was one of Chris Taylor's (of Grizzly Bear) first signings on his new new label Terrible Records. The upbeat, 80s-pop driven ear candy sound matches the vocals of lead singer Elizabeth Harper's voice perfectly to create a sound that is almost seems as though it could've been featured in Sixteen Candles. With strong vocals, catchy melodies, and beats that keep the foot tapping, Class Actress has a sound accessible to more than just 16 year-old drama queens. (AP)
Class Actress : Careful What You Say

9. Green Trees : Weather Ethics

Green Trees released the first of two EPs this year with Weather Ethics. A personal favorite of ours, Green Trees was started by John Freidel in Lincoln, NE in 2008. Since then, he has added two members to expand the project's sound as well as enhance the experience of their live show. Green Trees' sound has also changed and expanded a great deal since the early days on the Hello? album. The satirical lyrics combined with a catchy noise-pop sound is seemingly the current new direction. John has made it very clear that Green Trees' sound will continue to evolve as the band's interests and influences continue to evolve and transform. It will be interesting to see where Mr. Freidel carries the direction of Green Trees into the near future. We expect great things.(AP)
Green Trees : Hanging Out

8. Tanlines : Settings - EP

Upon initial listen, this music seems to be suited for an all-inclusive resort activity planner. The driving bass, deep/swooping synth, and occasional drum hits can certainly get one ready for water aerobics and sand volleyball. But it is this overall uplifting appeal that make settings an easy listen, especially when you find yourself drooling over a recently viewed sandals commercial. Take a little cruise with the afro beat standout "Real Life". (ST)
Tanlines : Real Life

7. Sufjan Stevens : All Delighted People EP

Sufjan Stevens surprised us all on that fateful day in late August by releasing a new EP with All Delighted People. ADP takes us back to a simpler, early day Sufjan sound, similar to the sound on both Michigan and Seven Swans. Though to say any Sufjan sound is simple is a bit of a stretch and can only be said in comparison to his latest full-length works. In fact, it would've been hard to predict the sound that we would hear from Sufjan two months later on The Age of Adz after listening to this bit. All Delighted People is surely beloved by long-time Sufjan fans as it is a classic thumbprint of his sound with soft lyrical vocals backed by beautiful choral harmonies and of course that oh so familiar banjo. (AP)
Sufjan Stevens : Enchanting Ghost

6. Zola Jesus : Stridulum II

Zola Jesus plays brooding, enigmatic music - the type of Fever Ray inspired dark pads and haunting vocals that set up shop deep in the cavity of your chest and refuse to come out until you feel sufficiently filled. The deep, dark, rich vocals of lead singer Nika Roza Danilova bring the listener into a different dimension of listening. Zola Jesus is from Los Angeles, though one would probably guess somewhere like Gothenburg, Sweden to be more fitting. Songs like "I Can't Stand" have the ability to haunt a listener giving them that desirable 'goosebump effect'. (AP)
Zola Jesus : I Can't Stand

5. Small Black : Small Black - EP

Chillwave is a pretty generic term for the shape music has taken over the last year. Small Black are undoubtedly grouped into this genre, but they bring a little more flavour to the table. Their droning synths provide a form of unorganized bliss that clicks and clacks throughout, literally. Yes, this may be typical chillwave. but small black create a more atmospheric presence than many other chill-wavers. Have a listen to the track "Pleasant Experience" and tell me if it isn't just that. (ST)
Small Black : Pleasant Experience

4. Girls : Broken Dreams Club

It was a year ago around this same time of year that Girls' debut album was collecting all sorts of well-deserved accolades. A year later they have released the Broken Dreams Club EP picking up exactly where they left off. Christopher Owens has an amazing story-telling ability in a manner similar to that of Neil Young or Elliott Smith. Though this should surprise no one considering Owens' past and upbringing, it's still a remarkable talents that still plays as the foundation of Girls' strengths. The bending guitar chords and horns add so much to their growing sound as it is apparent that BDC is an improvement in both songwriting and production. If this EP is a glimpse into the future, it seems as though Girls have a lot more yet to give. (AP)
Girls : Heartbreaker

3. Active Child : Curtis Lane

Pat Grossi has been around music for some time. It is apparent on Grossi's first studio release as Active Child, wherein he accents his vocal range and tremendous harp plucking. Along with these well-practiced talents, Grossi also adds a bit of a dance vibe here and there. Although this trial sounds almost natural, Active Child is at his best when he builds gradually, using his voice and his harp to capture the moment. Note Mr. Grossi's talents on full display here with "I'm In Your Church at Night". (ST)

Active Child : When Your Love is Safe
2. James Blake : CMYK / Klavierwerke - EP

As one of a few fresh faces climbing to perhaps follow in the footsteps of previous recording heavyweights, James Blake is quickly rising to the limelight in the music production world. Blake’s sound incorporates a keen, equal measure of r&b, hip hop, grime, dubstep and electronica. Once mixed together in the proper manner, it all starts to sound – as opposed to a mish-mash of whatever is available to hand – rather quite good. EP CMYK kicks off in nostalgic style as opening title track “CMYK” harks back to old 90s rave-pop – only with more sped-up beats and an overall far less irritating noise. The synth layered over vocal samples, rather than dating the piece, added weight to whole affair and seemed to sweep it into the future. Blake’s second EP (although in no particular order) Klavierwerke leaves no time for introductions as it jumps straight in with title track “Klavierwerke”: a spooky, repetitive groove that rolls on and on. Second track “Tell Her Safe” uses muffled piano and brash gang vocals to seamlessly feed in Blake’s infectious beats and hypnotic melodies. If there is one beef with Blake it may be that his sound is so diverse, we have no idea what to expect on his full-length due in February 2011. That said, his sound has already become identifiable, regardless of which style it is. (AP)
James Blake : CMYK
James Blake : I Only Know (What I Know Now)

1. Twin Sister : Color Your Life - EP

Down-tempo and hush hush wispyness may not sound appealing but I promise you that Twin Sister capture those two traits and more in their wondrous second ep Color Your Life. Andrea Estella narrates in a very gentle and almost strained fashion. All the while, the backing band provides the perfect compliment with gentle builds of repetitive bass and charming keyboards. Volume isn't necessarily a problem for Twin Sister, as it appears to be more a choice than an inadequacy. This band understands their "magical" sound qualities very well and provided us with one some of the more relaxing times this past year. Let Estella "woo" you here with album standout "Lady Daydream". (ST)
Twin Sister : Lady Daydream
Twin Sister : All Around and Away We Go

All Around and Away We Go from Twin Sister on Vimeo.

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