When my vinyl habit started gaining steam a few years back, I set a few ground rules that were designed to keep things from spinning out of control, wallet-wise. “Just old stuff” was the first one. I told myself I’d stick to records released in vinyl’s heyday, and I tried for a while, but that notion was doomed from the start. As financially convenient as living in the past — a past I wasn’t even alive to see and hear for myself — would be, it doesn’t make sense. Too many amazing new songs are pressed to vinyl each year, and depriving my turntable of the chance to spin them is just plain cruel. (Nobody puts Pioneer PL-510A in the corner, OK?) Once the floodgates opened, I had to come up with new new-vinyl-buying rules, one of which comes into play when thinking about Pretty & Nice’s new Us You All We EP.
Early on, I decided that EPs were always fair game. The prices of these abbreviated albums typically reflect their relative shortness, easing the sticker shock that can come with picking up a still-shrink-wrapped LP in a record store. Plus, there are all sorts of fringe benefits that come with EPs. They’re often released in smaller quantities, meaning that they’ll retain more of their initial value than their longer-winded cousins. (I think. Keep in mind you’re talking to an English major right now.) They also sometimes come on 10-inch discs, which is kinda fun. My favorite EP perk, though, has to be their fascinating temporality.
In many ways, they act as fleeting historical snapshots. An EP can be a cutting-room-floor-sweeping supplement to a full-length record, giving fans insight into the band’s track list decision-making, or it can be a harbinger of a full-length effort, transforming the first release into an artifact of anticipation. EPs can also mark a significant diversion, either a quick detour on a group’s greater stylistic voyage or a left turn that foreshadows a bigger navigational shift. The crazy thing is that Us You All We embodies so many of these qualities at once.
It’s certainly an artifact of anticipation — the band has said they have “a pile of music” set for release in the coming year. And it marks a turning point in terms of Pretty & Nice personnel, given the departure of Kevin Walsh, the drummer who played on 3 of the 4 songs. But the really crazy thing is how completely the songs themselves embody the EP spirit. None of the 4 tracks surpass the 3-minute mark, matching the brevity of the format they grace (kinda like how the structure of the universe and the structure of brain cells share creepy similarities). And when it comes to diversions, no one detours like Pretty & Nice. Their brand of hyper-musical pop is rife with dissonant chords used as punctuation marks between bigger, more consonant structures. With that in mind, Us You All We takes on the personality of an unforgettable road trip taken with friends — the kind in which the destination is just an hour or two away, but the fun lasts all day because you keep stopping on the side of the road to pee, buy fireworks and browse gas station candy options.
My theory about Us You All We as the quintessential EP isn’t the only reason it deserves your attention; it’s also just completely awesome, and a striking reminder that Pretty & Nice crafts wholly distinctive music that’s rewarding in a way that makes their releases some of the most coveted in my entire record collection (I’ve yet to bring myself to break the seal on my vinyl copy of Get Young). Try out “Capsules” below and click here to snag all 4 of these astonishingly good new tracks on iTunes.