Time is officially ticking away to the end of the year, so as the countdown moves closer to the year’s final moments, those annual year-ender lists are starting to show up. Keeping that in mind, Phil’s Picks has its own year-enders. As is the case in year’s past, this year’s series of lists starts with the smallest releases, the year’s top new EPs. Topping this year’s list of new EPs is none other than Nine Inch Nails’ new EP, Add Violence. This five-song record takes all the best elements of Trent Reznor’s work from With Teeth all the way up to his most recent Nine Inch Nails record, Hesitation Marks both musically and lyrically.
Also included in this year’s list of the year’s top new EPs are independent releases from Paul Johnson & The About Last Nights, Chapel, Light The Way and others. The list, as in years past, includes the year’s Top 10 new EPs as well as five additional honorable mention titles, for a total of 15 records. With all of that having been noted, the following is Phil’s Picks 2017 Top 10 New EPs.
PHIL’S PICKS 2017 TOP 10 NEW EPs
Nine Inch Nails — Add Violence
Paul Johnson & The About Last Nights — Give Up The Ghost
Chapel — Sunday Brunch
The Offering — The Offering
Light The Way — Grace
Sleep Signals — At The End Of The World
Lane Change — Rise
Red Reign — Red Reign
Willamena — Strong Enough To Last
The Major Minor — Different Light
Constructs — Shapes
Denzel Curry — 13
New Kingston — Kingston Fiyah
Vault 1 — Kid
Pig — Prey & Obey
Next up on the calendar for Phil’s Picks is the year’s top new independent albums. That list will be posted some time tomorrow afternoon, so stay tuned. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.
A little more than a month ago, a little band by the name of Paul Johnson & The About Last Nights released its debut EP Give Up The Ghost. The five track record is the type of presentation that shows how easily today’s unsigned band could be tomorrow’s next big mainstream hit. It shows this through the diversity in its musical arrangements and the depth of its collective lyrical content. From the infectious southern rock riffs and happy-go-lucky lyrics of ‘Hollywood’ to the Foo Fighters-esque arrangement and equally playful lyrics of ‘American Story (Adrenaline)’ to the Jimmy Eat World style arrangement and thoughtful lyrics of ‘Burn It Down’ and beyond, this record is a solid start for Paul Johnson & The About Last Nights. It is a record that leaves listeners hoping this band won’t give up the ghost any time soon.
Paul Johnson & The About Last Night’s debut EP Give Up The Ghost is a strong start for the Mississippi-based unsigned rock outfit. That is due to the solid mix of musical genres on which the band touches over the course of the record’s five-song, 18-minute run and its lyrical content. The record’s penultimate song ‘Hollywood’ is just one of the songs included in this record that supports that statement. The song’s guitar-driven musical arrangement is easily likened to arrangements composed by Black Stone Cherry, Buckcherry, The Black Crowes and other similar acts. Band namesake and vocalist Paul Johnson even conjures thoughts of Buckcherry front man Josh Todd (at least in this critic’s ears) through his vocal delivery here. When that is set alongside the amalgam of musical influences evident in the song’s arrangement, it makes the arrangement instantly infectious and certain to be a fan favorite.
The song’s musical arrangement is only one part of what makes it notable. Its lyrical content, like its musical arrangement also conjures thoughts of the aforementioned acts and will put a smile on any listener’s face with its tribute to all of the things that make the south great. That tribute is evident as Johnson sings, “You know I like to see my toes in the sand/You couldn’t drag me away from Dixieland/Kinda got the feeling you won’t/Just take another breath/Don’t/Don’t take me to Hollywood/Keep me in the south where the weather is good/Southern girls doin’ like they should/Don’t take me/Don’t take me to Hollywood.” He goes on to sing in the song’s second verse, “I always see how they like to put us down/Don’t really care for the big town/Kinda got the feeling you won’t/Just take another breath/Don’t/Don’t take me to Hollywood.” Plain and simple, this is a tribute to the band’s home state and region, being that the band is from Hattiesburg, Mississippi. That upbeat, playful tribute, when coupled with the song’s musical arrangement makes the song in whole one of the record’s best offerings if not its best. Collectively, they make this song a clear example of what makes Give Up The Ghost such a standout offering and solid start from Paul Johnson & The About Last Nights. It is only one of the songs that serves to support these statements. ‘American Story (Adrenaline)’ is another song that shows why this record stands out.
‘Hollywood’ with its simple title, lyrical content and musical approach is a clear example of what makes Give Up The Ghost a solid first effort from Paul Johnson & The About Last Nights. It musical arrangement and lyrical alike are both so infectious thanks to their simplicity. As impressive as it is, it is only one of the songs included in this record that makes the EP stand out. ‘American Story (Adrenaline)’ is another example of what makes this record worth hearing. As with ‘Hollywood,’ that is due in part to the song’s musical arrangement. The alignment of the song’s guitar and keyboards couples with Johnson’s vocal delivery to instantly conjure thoughts of Foo Fighters. Drummer Zach Lewis’ time keeping adds to that comparison even more. From start to finish, the song’s arrangement easily keeps listeners engaged. It is only one part of what makes the song so enjoyable. The song’s lyrical content is just as important to note as its musical arrangement.
Unlike the lyrical theme presented in ‘Hollywood,’ this song’s lyrical theme clearly centers on a woman. That is inferred easily in the song’s chorus in which Johnson and his band mates sing, “She’s in love/With a fast car/Burn out…./She’s a new American story…little worry. Deciphering the full extent of the words is difficult without lyrics to which one can refer. However, between this and other elements that can be deciphered, it becomes clear that Johnson and company are singing about a woman. That is especially certified in the song’s final moments as the band sings in unison, “She keeps my fantasies alive” All things considered it is clear that the band is paying tribute to a woman or a certain type of woman. It stands completely apart from the theme of ‘Hollywood’ and the rest of the record’s songs, and is just as upbeat as those other themes. Keeping that in mind, when this tribute is set alongside the song’s equally upbeat musical arrangement, the pairing makes the song in whole stand solidly on its own merits; merits that make the song yet another example of what makes the EP such a surprise. It is not the last of the songs that stands out on the record either. ‘Burn It Down’ is notable, too.
‘Hollywood’ and ‘American Story (Adrenaline)’ both show in their own way that Give Up The Ghost is one of this year’s top new EPs. The songs’ musical arrangements and lyrical themes stand out from one another just as much as they do the record’s other featured songs. As much as they stand out, they are not its only key compositions. ‘Burn It Down’ is one more of the record’s key songs. As with the previously discussed songs, that is due in part to the song’s arrangement. This time around, listeners minds will go to Jimmy Eat World in listening to this arrangement right from the song’s outset. This critic easily could be wrong, but the song’s lyrical content seems like a coming-of-age story of sorts. That is inferred as Johnson sings in the song’s lead verse, “I dropped out of school to find my way/A dirty kid in football games/A loser on the street/Had a hunger for the underneath/A family divorced too much to bear/The misinformed will meet you there/Like the liars and the delphines/Is there nothing left for a kid to believe…the pain of knowing I may never feel better off than where I started.” The story continues in the song’s second verse and ends with a mention of a “21-gun salute to disobey” in the finale. The song’s chorus, in which the song’s subject seemingly looks back on the past in another way, adds even more depth to the song. When this is all considered along with the song’s musical arrangement, the whole of the song’s musical and lyrical content makes fully clear why this song stands out. Collectively, the depth of that musical and lyrical content—and its distinct identity separate from ‘Hollywood,’ ‘American Story (Adrenaline)’ and the record’s other two songs—shows even more why the EP in whole stands out, too. When it is joined with all of the EP’s other offerings, the record in whole proves, once more, why it is one of this year’s top new EPs, an equally solid start for Paul Johnson & The About Last Nights, and a record that will leave listeners hoping the band won’t “give up the ghost” anytime soon.
Give Up The Ghost is a surprisingly impressive first effort from Paul Johnson & The About Last Nights. The record only spans five songs and 18-minutes, but in that run, the record exhibits great musical and lyrical diversity. From start to finish, each song presents its own identity, separate from its counterparts. From fun-loving to truly in-depth, the songs present a wide range of emotions in both music and lyrics. All things considered, the record proves to be one of the year’s best new EPs, and gives hope that the band won’t “give up the ghost” any time soon. More information on Give Up The Ghost is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at: