The Art of the EP: 10 Great Non-Debut Short Releases

How time flies. It’s been over a year and a half since our own Judy Berman commemorated the end of a cold, bleak February by looking at some of her favorite EPs — short albums for a short month, and all that. As she noted at the time, “these minimalist, economical mini-albums have introduced us to countless new acts that couldn’t muster the cash or didn’t have the material to record a full-length [release].” But while most bands record a debut EP and move onto more weighty records as soon as they can, some musicians remain enamored of the shorter format. So to celebrate a month where cracking mid-career EPs seem to be coming thick and fast — there are EPs due out this month from Future of the Left, Brian Eno, and Kurt Vile amongst others — here are some of our favorite non-debut EPs. What are yours?

Radiohead — My Iron Lung

Any recording is a snapshot of where its creators were at a certain point in time, but this EP is particularly fascinating because it seems to embody Radiohead’s past, present, and future in the course of just under half an hour. The past: the acoustic version of “Creep” that was tacked onto the end of the EP (not, we’re guessing, by the band) and stands out like the proverbial sore thumb. The future: the title track, both a huge sonic leap forward and a bitter meditation on, yes, “Creep,” its central metaphor of the iron lung an allusion to how the band’s megahit had come to be as much a prison as a sustaining force. And the present: six largely excellent songs that fall almost exactly into the middle ground between Pablo Honey‘s comparatively conventional alt-rock and The Bends‘ expansive, dynamic sound.