Exclaim!'s 25 Best EPs of 2021

BY Exclaim! StaffPublished Dec 10, 2021

Compared to the shut-in slog that was 2020, this past year breezed by relatively quickly. These short and sweet releases took maximum advantage of the change in pace by delivering brief bursts of attention-grabbing music for our overstimulated brains. Whether early efforts by new artists still finding their footing or short-form experiments from established artists designed to tide over eager listeners, all the best EPs of 2021 made the most of their brief runtimes.

Our Extended Play
(Dirty Hit)

A short-form collaboration with Matt Healy and George Daniel from labelmates the 1975, Our Extended Play finds Beatrice Laus honing her already formidable writing chops. Healy and Daniels have a strong, established voice, but there's no mistaking a stream-of-conscious humblebrag like "Last Day on Earth" as coming from anyone but Laus. 
Ian Gormely

Beach Bunny
Blame Game
(Mom + Pop)

This short but sweet EP is a quick follow up to Beach Bunny's debut album, last year's Honeymoon, showing that the band have no plans to slow down. Not only are the melodies super catchy, but the lyrics are smart too. "Guess it's my fault my body's fun to stare at / Sorry my clothes can't keep your hands from grabbing," songwriter and vocalist Lili Trifilio sneers sarcastically in the title track.
Karen K. Tran

The Beaches
Future Lovers

After a year of staying at home and feeling like they were living in "Slow Mo," the Beaches were waiting until the world was ready to see them "Blow Up" and enjoy their "Bad Behaviour." These professional rockers are unapologetic and fun in Future Lovers, with their fast-paced pop-rock and carefree party attitude.
Karen K. Tran

Cuntry Covers Vol. 1
(Sub Pop)

On Cuntry Covers, the husky-voiced Bria nonchalantly revitalizes six tracks from across country music's broad spectrum, creating a project that sounds both illustrious and intimate. Whether Waylon Jennings or Mistress Mary, Bria takes each song and morphs it to her will, advancing the genre in creative new directions.
Myles Tiessen

Cartel Madras
The Serpent & the Tiger
(Royal Mountain)

The Serpent & the Tiger completes rap duo Cartel Madras's Project Goonda EP trilogy. Slowing their flow with a mix of sung and spoken vocals and polishing their first two EPs' chaotic trap beats into low-key house vibes, the Chennai-born/Calgary-based sisters' latest is their most varied release yet, highlighting their established strengths and unveiling new capabilities.
Leslie Ken Chu

Crown Lands
White Buffalo

Geddy Lee once encouraged listeners to "catch the spirit," and fellow CanRockers Crown Lands have done just that on their White Buffalo EP. Lest you think the duo are only about Rush worship, let the title track's confident stomp and the compositional ambition of "The Oracle" open your ears to this exciting pair of prog players.
Calum Slingerland

dad sports
(Grand Jury)

From the ironic band name to the vanity caps run amok, Ottawa's dad sports are a quintessential bedroom pop band, whose songs always seem to come with a wink and a shrug. And yet, the music itself is catchy, pretty and often quite touching — from the confessions of self-doubt on the jangling "nrvs again" to the romantic declarations of "if u want to !" and "gf haircut."
Alex Hudson

Die Alone
Self Fulfilling Prophecy

Die Alone brought old-school hardcore back to Ontario with their debut EP, Self Fulfilling Prophecy, six songs indebted to the genre's New York Minute template. Never too focused on being the smartest band in the room, Die Alone are built to move the dance floor with tough mosh parts, bouncing grooves and some seriously refined 25 ta Life and Madball worship.
Connor Atkinson

nothing is sacred anymore

Little more than a year after her debut album Born Again, Ellis returned with four songs that are already a step up, each as well-crafted and poignant as the next. With a dreamy sound that belongs to the twilight hours and lyrics that cut to the bone, nothing is sacred anymore proves that singer-songwriter Linnea Siggelkow is on a rapidly rising trajectory.
Adam Feibel

Hurt Is Boring

The ultimate insight of Hurt Is Boring is that happiness can be stultifying too, a mature nod to the complexity of life that arrives at the end of this confident debut from Hannah Judge — right after 12 tight minutes of indie electronics and folk punk guitars. It's charmingly authentic bedroom pop with wry humour and real heart. 
Luke Pearson

Home Is Where
I Became Birds

Florida-based band Home Is Where were one of the biggest breakouts of 2021, boldly leading the charge in what's been called emo's fifth wave. I Became Birds merges the eccentric folk stylings of Bob Dylan and Neutral Milk Hotel, the manic frenzy of '90s screamo and the familiar hallmarks of classic emo into a sound that's so bold, brash and self-assured that you can't help but take notice. Even with only six songs in 18 minutes, it feels like a fully realized epic of modern punk.
Adam Feibel

Some Days
(Royal Mountain)

For his Royal Mountain and Captured Tracks debut, Winnipeg's JayWood delivered a collection of groovy, spidery indie-psych-funk alongside the beautifully pensive "Dreams" and an acoustic version of the title track. With heartfelt and hopeful lyrics and a flair for captivating, catchy-yet-complex songwriting, Some Days will leave listeners feeling like its closing lines: "We can pull through anything."
Chris Bryson

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The Static That Carries Over
(House of Wonders)

Julien's Daughter have that thing. It's a certain sparkle, a precision of talent and taste and ambition that belies their youth. The quartet's debut EP — the caustic, glitter-blasted The Static That Carries Over — marries that gravitational pull to an incandescent strain of gritty guitar-pop. Driven by frontperson Emma Murphy's commanding presence, these six songs have a way of making any stage feel just a touch too small; it's hard to imagine that'll be a problem for much longer.  
Kaelen Bell


"Intimidated" is how the competition has felt about Kaytranada for years, and this three-track release ensures things will remain that way for a little while longer. His inimitable sense of rhythm spurs the adventurous melodies of guests H.E.R. and Thundercat, before Mach-Hommy steals the show with myriad flows on "$payforhaiti."
Calum Slingerland

Knocked Loose
A Tear in the Fabric of Life
(Pure Noise)

Knocked Loose may cite the well-worn "wall of sound" production technique as an influence, but this mammoth EP by the Kentucky hardcore band single-handedly breathes new life into a genre that many deemed unsalvageable. The quavering, shimmery breakdown that ends "Forced to Stay," the interpolation of Alabama Sacred Harp Singers (and the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows") and Bryan Garris's absolutely frayed high-pitch vocal performances all find a place in the lumbering thunder of this short but vital EP. 
Anthony Boire

(Ninja Tune)

Inspired by fig trees, Psyconia is another fruitful harvest of rhythm and melody for Machinedrum, furthering creative chemistry with recurring collaborators Angelica Bess and Chrome Sparks, and staking new ground with Deniro Farrar and Jorge Elbrecht. It's a welcome taste of the melodic sense that will further bloom on the producer's 2022 album Elysian as tstewart.
Calum Slingerland

Jensen McRae
Who Hurt You?
(Human Re Sources)

Los Angeles singer-songwriter Jensen McRae is more than a moment. Harnessing the viral momentum of her Phoebe Bridgers-parodying vaccination anthem "Immune," McRae placed it midway through her cloak-and-dagger debut EP — where the folk-pop artist's studied pen and tensile vocals find her confronting her own creation myth at every slant.
Megan LaPierre

Meet Me @ the Altar
Model Citizen
(Fueled by Ramen) 

Amidst pop-punk's recent resurgence with tons of artists dipping into the nostalgic trend, Meet Me @ the Altar stand out with their authentic energy, easycore rhythms, soaring vocals and uplifting lyrics. Model Citizen sees three best friends putting their own unique spin on the classic sounds of a subgenre — and clearly having a blast doing it. 
Yasmine Shemesh 

Octo Octa
She's Calling

As the close to Octo Octa's work exploring "love, queerness, connection and ritual," She's Calling is a joyous dive into house, techno, breakbeat, trance and rave at their most hypnotic, iridescent and shapeshifting. Through clever and cathartic progressions, Octo Octa tells an emotive and spiritual story of discovery and jubilance that journeys inward and manifests outward.
Chris Bryson


A groundswell of fresh talent has been making waves in Vancouver's hip-hop scene over the last two years, and Benita Prado just might be on track to seize the crown. Her debut EP, PRADO MONROE, drips with confidence. Luxurious production, enormous pop hooks and fiery rhymes will make listeners thirst for the club.
Leslie Ken Chu

(Grand Jury Music)

Brooklyn-based singer Samia captures the hazy state of growing up on her four-track EP, Scout. Following her 2020 debut album, The Baby, Samia keeps leaning into the melodrama of her feelings through her lyricism, but here, it's matched with extremely lush instrumentals. Upbeat drums and catchy guitar riffs quickly become an alt-pop moment, as on the track "Show Up."
Heather Taylor-Singh

Tiwa Savage
Water & Garri

When the colourful, rhythm-driven stylings of Afropop become the dominant sound in mainstream hip-hop/R&B (and they soon will), Tiwa Savage's Water & Garri will be one of the projects we look back on as helping to usher in the shift. It's rooted in the regional, but drips with massive global appeal. 
A. Harmony


Skiifall needed just three songs on his debut EP, WOIIYOIE TAPES Vol. 1, to convince the world he's a star. The first two tracks, "My Gully" and "Lost Angeles," are dreamy and nocturnal, while "Bagga Yute" ends the project with a bang. The Montreal rapper's short project represents the best of what Canadian hip-hop has to offer while also proving he's close to perfecting his formula.
Louis Pavlakos

If Orange Was a Place
(Since '93 / RCA Records)

If Orange Was a Place is a sultry series of emotional ballads native to R&B, married with the metronome percussion of Afrobeats that warmly invite listeners to keep time. Following her guest spot on Wizkid's "Essence," Tems candidly sings about the challenges of newfound fame and the strain of success on her relationships. 
Veracia Ankrah 

Yves Tumor
The Asymptotical World

Yves Tumor is one of the few artists in the alternative rock sphere that implements the concept of total artwork within their sound, visuals and performance. The Asymptotical World EP emphasizes their maximalist approach to sound and incorporates elements of glam rock, nu gaze and experimental rock to their vivid soundscapes.
Sun Noor

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