With everyone looking back lovingly at the year's best albums, the lowly EP can easily get forgotten. That's why I'm taking time out to list a few of my favorite Extended Players of 2008. If these EPs are any indication about the full-lengths to follow, I can bet most of these artists will also be on my best album list in '09.

Tom Gabel - Heart Burns

Tom Gabel Heart Burns (Sire)

Against Me! may be one of the most energetic punk acts out there, but before frontman Tom Gabel was screaming his lungs out in the four-piece incarnation of the band he was performing as a solo acoustic songwriter under the Against Me! name. With his first official release as Tom Gabel, he gets back to his roots and — along with the help of his friends Chuck Ragan, Butch Vig and Matt Skiba — shows that his music is just as effective in a stripped-down setting as it is with a band blazing behind him. In fact, following in the tradition of folk icons like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, the song "Anna Is a Stool Pigeon" — which is about imprisoned environmental activist Eric McDavid—is probably the most vitriolic track Gabel has written to date.

 

Thursday/Envy - Split

Thursday/Envy Split (Temporary Residence Limited)

Reportedly two years in the works, the seven-song split collaboration between New Brunswick, New Jersey's post-hardcore heroes Thursday and the acclaimed Japanese screamo acts Envy sees both bands expanding their creative output. From Thursday's equally driving and dynamic anthem "As He Climbed The Dark Mountain" to Envy's melodic maelstrom "Isolation Of A Light Source," there's never a dull moment on this perfectly matched EP. I recommend picking up a copy of the limited edition LP version, which includes the CD in addition to beautiful, hand-numbered, screenprinted covers that are almost as captivating as the music they commemorate.


Dead To Me - Little Brother

Dead To Me Little Brother (Fat Wreck Chords)

Formed out of the ashes of San Francisco street-punk band One Man Army, Dead To Me have quickly become one of the most celebrated acts in the underground punk scene. In order to tide fans over between albums the band released the EP Little Brother this year, which sees Dead To Me offering five more nearly perfect pop-punk songs. From the upbeat rocker "Arrhythmic Palpitations" to the dub-inflected "Little Brother" (which is reminiscent of a more pop-oriented version of the Clash), Dead To Me prove that they're worth all the fuss.

 Ted Leo And The Pharmacists - Rapid Response

Ted Leo And The Pharmacists Rapid Response (Touch and Go)

With all the talk of how illegal downloading is ruining the music industry, it's sometimes easy to lose site about the advantages of living in the Internet age. Case in point is this four-song digital EP from Ted Leo, which was inspired by the police action at the Republic National Convention. Containing two new tracks — including "Paranoia (Never Enough)," which was written as a direct response to these events — as well as covers of tracks by Amebix and Cock Sparrer, this collection of songs isn't just a healthy offering of political dissent, but also features some of Ted Leo's most impassioned musical offerings to date.

 Bottomless Pit - Congress

Bottomless Pit Congress (Comedy Minus One)

Chicago's Bottomless Pit don't tour much, but that doesn't mean that they aren't hard at work on new material. This four-song follow-up to the band's brilliant debut Hammer Of Gods proves that these ex-members of Silkworm are incapable of writing a bad song. My favorite track is the distortion-drenched rocker "Fish Eyes," which evokes both Pavement and the Meat Puppets and retains Bottomless Pit's characteristic brand of caustic — and sometimes seeming non-sensical — witticisms. If you can snag the LP version of this digital EP I recommend doing so as much for these brilliant songs as for the feline friendly cover art that accompanies them.