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The extended play format or ‘EP’ nearly expired with the twentieth century, only to be revived of late amid the chaos of a declining commercial music scene. It would now appear many artists see EPs as a cost-effective way to put out a clutch of songs without all the hoopla of a conventional long-player. Personally I’m loving these concentrated splashes of artistic flavour. They can be fun or experimental or just a great couple of songs. Today’s EPs make that point each in their own way, with a unique stylistic stamp.

Studio veteran Joe Dilillo comes out from behind the console to deliver a stunning debut EP on Superhero Star. The five songs here are superbly crafted gems from the Aimee Mann, Jon Brion, and Fountains of Wayne school of pop-singles perfection. “Loser Girl” opens the EP so low-key, slowly building an atmosphere of exquisite musical tension between guitar and vocals. By the time the Aimee Mann keyboards kick in it’s way too late, you’re completely seduced. Backing band The Lickerish Quartet provide astonishing accompaniment on this tune, so subdued and yet strongly present. Title track “Superhero Star” shifts focus, evoking a more Mike Viola-working-with-Adam Schlesinger style. And then things get tender. The guest vocals from A Girl Called Eddy on “Boulevard” are striking, so achingly on display. A Mark Oliver Everett feel here for sure. Both “Mend You Heart” and “I’m Sorry” remind me of Adam Daniel with their combination of melodic sophistication and spare rock and roll simplicity. Superhero Star is so easy to listen to again and again. Hey, I’ve been doing it for weeks! This year’s ‘must have’ EPs list just got a front runner.

America’s hardest-working punky power-pop band The Friends of Cesar Romero return with installment #35 in their Doomed Babe series, Gameboy America. Combining lyrical themes of lost love and gaming disappointment over a relentless rock and roll beat, this latest EP gets it all done in a brisk 7 minutes. But what a ride! Title track “Gameboy America” is seemingly unstoppable, driven by a poppy rock attack that hammers a new waved-up Velvet Underground vibe. “Somebody’s Somebody” is equally intense, defined by a lively lead guitar line and FCR’s trademark compressed vocals. And then there’s “Punching Ian Sharp.” Though just 54 seconds long it’s a pretty neat slice of a wall-of-chords hooky goodness. No need for a reminder here, we’re permanently tuned to The Friends of Cesar Romero station.

Rochester NY’s fabulous retro music scene has space for a bit of late 1970s/early 1980s smooth pop songcraft from Papa Schmapa. The new EP What You Gonna Do aces a melodic AM radio sound I associate with the 1980s Moody Blues on the comeback trail, the Alan Parsons Project in hit mode, or mid-to-late period Wings. EP opener “If I Knew” is so McCartney, with Abbey Road-era psychedelic guitars and a melody straight from Macca’s late 1970s playbook. “I’ve Been There Before” and “Take Me As I Am” remind me of prior work by the band, very much in the Alan Parsons finely-crafted pop style. “You” reflects more 1980s Moody Blues sonic shifts with hints of The Outfield at times. Despite offering just four songs What You Gonna Do is impressive, a slick AM radio-worthy product with a still-beating melodic heart.

If I Knew
I’ve Been There Before

Why not make space in your calendar for extended play-time? Today’s EPs show you how. Just hit play and you get a glimpse of a load of talent without having to commit to a whole LP.