EPs are becoming more popular than ever, and I love the trend: there’s no room for filler on an EP. As a result, a lot of artists brought their A game to the smaller format this year. Here’s to them:
1. Thanks for All Your Patience – Brother Moses. (Review) I spun this one the most often because the easygoing, almost effortless indie-rock vibe gave rise to some seamless, indelible melodies. Clean, tight, clever, and earnest, I gravitated to this one early and often in 2015.
2. On Separation – David Wimbish. (Review) Wimbish, frontman of The Collection, stripped out some of the intricate arrangements of his day job for a more intimate set of portraits that focused in on the lyrics. Elegant, haunting, and beautiful.
3. Loca EP – Valley Shine. (Review) Folk-pop can be a formula these days, but Valley Shine is all about exploding the formula with raw enthusiasm, brash melodies, and surprising pathos.
6. Regards – We are the West. (Review) A wisp of an EP that barely has time to meet you before it’s gone, but oh does it deliver: this Low Anthem-style Americana sounds like a warm blanket around my ears.
7. Joe Kaplow EP – Joe Kaplow. (Review) One of my favorite debuts of the year, as Kaplow showed off his versatility in several different acoustic-based styles. Looking forward to more from Kaplow.
8. Away, Away – B. Snipes. (Review) Another excellent debut that introduces Snipes’ low-slung troubadour singer/songwriter voice to the world, taking the lyrics of Rocky Votolato in a more Americana direction.
I love sonic blankets: songs and records that encourage you to grab a quilt, find a comfy spot, and rest a while. We Are the West‘s Regards is a sonic blanket of the finest order: their relaxing folk tunes create soundscapes similar to those of The Low Anthem at their prettiest. The three songs of this all-too-short release don’t waste time, as opener “Hold On” gives the listener gentle fingerpicking, stand-up bass, a wistful accordion, and sounds of the rain outside the performer’s doors. By the time that distant back-up vocals come in, the idyllic scene has already been fully realized. Everything else is icing.
The rain continues gently in the background of the two following tracks, creating a pleasant through-line that ties the work together. “The Thin Red Line” adds the sounds of frogs croaking in the distance and changes the focus a bit: Brett Hool’s velvety tenor is the central character, with guitar and stand-up bass providing the grounding. More BGVs and a fiddle come in toward the end, but nothing takes the spotlight from Hool. The lead in the closer and title track could be Hool’s voice or guitar, but in my mind it’s the pump organ: there are few instruments more heartbreaking when employed to their best effect, and the pump organ is treated expertly here. The fragile certainty of the pump organ echoes the tensions in Hool’s voice, as he offers up his most dramatic performance. It’s still not what one might consider theatrical, but he emotes.
Regards is just a bit under 15 minutes, but I could stand for much more. The careful construction of sounds here results in songs that hit all the right emotional chords in me. If you’ve got a summer storm headed your way, get Regards, a blanket, and a big window ready. (This is especially grand if you’re in some sort of countryside, but urban spaces work too.) Now that I mention it, I can’t think of much more I want to do right now. Here’s to We Are the West–check them out.
Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.