The EP is a curious phenomenon in today’s music world. It, and its longer LP counterpart, have by-and-large transitioned from being actual record formats to abstract ideas.
An LP, or album, is a longer project with defined themes or structures that persist throughout its entire duration. An EP, on the other hand, is music for the sake of music – five or so tracks to gift to fans, or hold them over until the next proper release.
In today’s streaming world, these lines are blurrier than ever. All of Chance the Rapper’s releases so far, in all their pageantry and spectacle, are technically EP’s. On the other hand, longer doesn’t necessarily mean more structured — just look at Chris Brown, who released a 40 -track album with no artful sequencing or thematic overtures whatsoever. His example isn’t even music for its own sake, it’s music for Chris Brown’s sake.
This brings us to Tennis’ new release, We Can Die Happy. Though the EP — released on Nov. 10 by the Denver wife/husband duo — is following their 2017 LP from earlier this year and is five tracks long, it’s hardly a throwaway or marked with the haphazardness usually associated with the EP format these days.
For one, it’s remarkably polished. Each song on the project sparkles with the gleam that only proper care can provide. More impressive, though, it’s distinct from their past project both in tone and in song structure.
Yours Conditionally, their LP release of this year, was a somewhat sordid affair — at least for Tennis’ standards. Though heavily melodic through and through, via the statured vocals and keys of Alana Moore and instrumentals of Patrick Riley, there is a tinge of sadness that blots most songs on the album. The album’s a foot-tapper and a mouth-hummer for sure, but only to mix with the emotional substrates present, such as regret or nostalgia.
The verses on the record seem to stretch out, as Moore weaves narratives and emotions together with her deft lyricism.
We Can Die Happy, then, offers a joyous escape from Yours Conditionally — a sugary palate cleanser after a nutritious meal.
It opens with “No Exit,” with glittery synths and Moore singing “I’ve got a little bit left/ I know that I can give a little bit back.” This kind of defiant optimism is one that’s present throughout the entire project, both in Moore’s vocals and in the production.
This energy is maintained over the project but manifested in different ways. Sometimes the duo drives fast, like on “No Exit,” and at other times they slow down and get sentimental, like on “I Miss That Feeling.”
Still, even the slower tracks are marked more by the choruses and Moore’s resonating optimism, rather than the poetically waxing verses of Yours Conditionally. This is especially apparent on the album’s final track, “Building God.”
It begins smoothly with organ-like synths and sea-like guitars. Moore repeats the lines, “I can change, I can change, I can change,” throughout the track, and though her voice is marked by a bit of wist and weariness, it’s also moving forward. Though she has to change, she is also self-assured that she’ll be able to do what she has to do.
This kind of grounded optimism is infectious and welcomed in a time where the slog of daily lives seems ever more strenuous: the sun sets at 4:30 p.m. and abusers like Chris Brown can succeed unabatedly.