• Brad H

THE TOP 10 EP's OF 2021

...that I have listened to, I swear to god I did my homework and listened to a bunch of extra stuff before writing this. Whatever, anyway what constitutes an EP? I dunno??? Probably length and number of songs combined. Who knows? I usually count it if it's like 20 minutes or less.



There were some really good EP's this year (like every year I know) that deserve as much praise as the big albums. For example here's one:


 

10)

underscores - boneyard aka fearmonger

Genre: Indie-pop, Electronic


Following an album earlier in the year we have underscore's follow-up EP, that expands on the boundary pushing indie-pop on display. This sounds distinctly fresh, a combination of so many styles, including pop-punk, dubstep and emo. It sounds like it should be a mess, but it's a ton of fun. Enjoyably bratty pop-punk style lyrics that are often boosted by an assortment of effects. This is mainly a production showcase, but it's so cool to see just how well most of these tracks work as pop songs. Girls and Boys is the most accessible of the bunch, but there's still so many fun flourishes here. The sudden implementation of Skrillex style brostep is hilarious, but also utilised really well in the beat of a song like Loansharks. Some of the lyrics are funny and honest too, it's a really exciting project and show promise for underscores going forward given the quality and freshness of their music put out in 2021.


wow amazing pick, what's next I wonder..
 

9)

If I Die First - They Drew Blood

Genre: Post-hardcore


If I Die First are producing some extremely gratifying post-hardcore packaged up in EP sized blasts of noise. These guys seem ready to have some crossover appeal with their strong clean vocal melodies and anthemic screaming. Not much to complain about here, it encapsulates most out of what I want out of the post-hardcore genre. Has '00s nostalgic elements while also pushing the sound forward, and I also appreciate that they're full throttle for this entire EP, no slowing down for these boys. Banger after banger.


yeah I guess that's a novel pick. cool dude, now what though. something better I hope..... . .. . . . .
 

8)

Ethel Cain - Inbred

Genre: Dream-pop, Rock


Ethel Cain seems like a star that's just getting started. Combining a powerful Lana Del Rey style singing drawl with a vivid 'small-town America' character and a variety of fresh takles on dream-pop. The shoegaze tinged Michelle Pfeiffer feels like Deftones meets Lana Del Rey, and features a surprisingly great verse and duet from novelty pop punk rapper lil aaron. It's a moody, gothic EP that wallows in a particularly stark narrative surrounding the "Ethel Cain" character. It seems like a fresh take on dream-pop adjacent rock music and even if there's obvious points of influence, the combination here makes for something really cool.


ok ok ok number seven now let's gooo ooOoooo
 

7)

Kero Kero Bonito - Civilisation II

Genre: Synth-pop


A sequel to their 2020 EP Civilisation, Civilisation II is not only an improvement over its predecessor, but contains some of Kero Kero Bonito's strongest work in general. It's only three tracks but each has a lot of value. The Princess and the Clock sounds fantastic and tells a fairy-tale story in a catchy fashion. 21/04/20 is a diary entry as a song, capturing suburban lockdown and painting a vivid and real picture. It captures the mundanity of the pandemic in an honest way, there's a sombreness to the song despite the typically happy-go-lucky performance from Sarah Bonito.


The 7 minute long closer Well Rested ends up the highlight. A great track that again, sounds lush with great production and features an offbeat performance from Sarah Bonito who's acting as a leader of a movement, unsure of the world's future but hopeful regardless. It definitely isn't the sort of song I'd expect the group to pull off so well stemming back to their novelty pop songs that got them their start, but it's welcome for sure.


COOL but what's number 6 please ? ? ?
 

6)

Knocked Loose - A Tear in the Fabric of Life

Genre: Metalcore


Knocked Loose offered an unashamed throwback to the '00s golden age of metalcore with their previous two albums. But perhaps their most interesting release yet comes in the form of this shorter EP. Accompanied by a really cool animated film, this is a set of heavy songs that feel appropriately toned for the current state of the world. While Knocked Loose seem to be at the point in their career where they could easily hop over with a crossover metalcore record, this is arguably some of their heaviest stuff and topically very morbid. This swells to a massive scope, but never feels like it's melodramatic as the genre is often a victim of. With smart production and an assured lyrical performance from vocalist Bryan Garris, who's really going for it here, this slaps hard. For sure a metal release that's interesting and fresh, even ignoring the impressive accompanying visuals (which are very cool).


ok now now now THE 5th BEST EP of 2021 (IN MY opinion) is..... .. .
 

5)

YUKIKA - timeabout,

Genre: K-pop 😳


There was some great k-pop this year, but despite the big efforts of certain groups with insane numbers of members, solo artist YUKIKA had my favourite project. This EP follows up her debut album from last year with more impeccable "city pop", that feels inspired by vintage Japanese music that's finding fashion now due to the YouTube algorithm feeding everyone Mariya Takeuchi's Plastic Love (thanks YouTube). I think this style works great in the bite-sized EP format and makes for a burst of happy and bustling pop music. She's working with spotless production and has an amazing ear for choruses and melodies. It's a non-stop fun ride, which at twenty minutes just feels ideal!


OKAY! What's the FOURTH best ? Funny you should ask! It's...
 

4)

Oliver Francis - Oli FM

Genre: Cloud Rap


I love cloud rap, I love melodic, catchy hip-hop and I think Oliver Francis is super-underrated in that lane of rapping. Self-produced and not really having any single misses in the track-list, this sees Oliver Francis returning to his earlier carefree style of rapping, and clearly not overthinking things much. It's a set of six wall to wall cloud rap heaters, empathising exactly what I want from the sub-genre. While the FM radio schema for the EP isn't really that necessary, it adds a nice laidback flow if you're listening to the whole tape back to back and is unobtrusive as to allow you to return to singles individually. I think this contains some of his very best work yet. It has lush production and effortlessly cool, leisurely rapping with great melodies and hooks for days. It's a really nice listen!


WOW amazing! What about third place?
 

3)

Ecco2k - PXE

Genre: Experimental Pop


Swedish collective Drain Gang are mainly famous for blowing up Bladee's glorious autotune drenched rap/pop music and their proximity to cloud rap legend Yung Lean. HOWEVER, their most low-key member, Ecco2k has started to follow-up on his extreme promise after a fantastic debut album E in 2019, his first official solo project. He returned in 2021 with the brief, but hugely memorable PXE EP, a project wholly written and produced by Ecco.


Accompanied by a stylish audio-visual presentation that takes inspiration from FLCL and generally looks slick as hell, the music matches the vibe and showcases new avenues of experimentation for Ecco2k to embark on. The intro declares this as "Pixie music" and "Brutal Grace" and it sounds suitably otherworldly with its glitch-pop style production. The soft vocals are great as usual, it feels like pop music from an alternate future. The careful balance of harsh and soft sounds makes for a wonderful project, I love it and can't wait to see what Ecco does next!


OK seems legit to me chief! What gets the silver MEDAL?
 

2)

Doss - 4 New Hit Songs

Genre: Electronic


I appreciate the directness and bold honesty on show with this new Doss EP, her first since 2014! How do you live up to a cult EP like Doss' self-titled, well you come back with 4 new hit songs. It's a soundtrack to the happiest club you could imagine, one where all the patrons are people in animal mascot costumes and they only serve fruit juice. There's a hazy vibe to the dance tracks here that set Doss apart from other producers and make her a standout in this year of great music. A song like Look is so bouncy and also a cool anthem for self-confidence. Strawberry has a dream-pop vibe that makes way for a shoegazey beat and catchy melody. Generally this EP just puts a smile on my face and is very re-playable. I enjoy it a lot!


For an artist with only eight released songs over seven years, Doss sure is exciting! No bad songs, eight for eight, perfect record ;) Let's hope we don't wait another seven years for the next set of four! (please...)


OH WOW it's number oneeeee what could it be??
 

1!)

Yves Tumor - The Asymptotical World

Genre: Rock


Last year Yves Tumor shifted gears with their music from experimental leaning electronic weird shit to absolutely unashamedly massive, and amazing glam-rock bangers. This EP expands the world of Yves Tumor further, genre experiments in Cure-esque goth rock, shoegaze and dream pop. It's a move into more accessible music that still feels so out there and creative. The lead single Jackie is one of the most immensely gratifying songs of the year, this track shows you that Yves is superstar material, pushing the glam-rock style to the best extreme. I love the electronic production on Tuck and the menacing Crystal Castles style entrancing vocals. Crushed Velvet is another great track, really good melodies and a cool shoegaze edge. In fact all the songs are GREAT, this is the best EP of the year. Official no take backs!

 
 

Other EP's I liked but don't want to write about (sorry) aka runner's up highly commended etc.


Hippo Campus - Good Dog, Bad Dream

Very cool indie-pop, a nice warm-up for their album next year.


Poppy - EAT (NXT Soundtrack)

Poppy goes harder than ever before with some really good metal tracks.


JPEGMAFIA - EP2!

A solid set of cloud rap leaning tracks from JPEGMAFIA in the lead up to his LP! project that dropped later in the year.


Lexi Liu - 上线了 GONE GOLD

Really well produced and sexy Chinese pop music.


WJSN - UNNATURAL

A really nice k-pop girl group EP. Love the bouncy production and catchiness. A proper blast of good k-pop.


Modern Color - Now, Life is Living You

Shoegaze with a post-hardcore twist. Very solid on the whole.


Lil Peep & Harry Fraud - HIGH FASHION

Super smoothly produced stuff from Harry Fraud featureing the late, great emo-rapper Lil Peep. Always great to hear genuine new stuff from him that hasn't been pillaged by label execs.


8485 - plague town

Has an amazing opener with hangar and the rest of the EP ain't too bad either! Interesting takes on synth-pop with vocaloid-esque singing.


Clarence Clarity - Vanishing Act I: No Nouns

Bonkers pop music, can't complain about how dense the production is here for this brief EP from Mr. Clarity.


Drug Church - Tawny

Enjoyable post-punk adjacent with accessible hooks and great melodies.


BOP - Plexus

BOP - Perehod

Two EP's from Russian producer BOP are pretty cool. Novel sound design and mixes of genres on show.


Sadness - Rain Chamber

Sadness - motionless, watching you

Very cathartic ambient black metal from the Sadness music project. Feels like screams into the void, chilling and very unique. Blackgaze pushed to new limits.


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