Exclaim!'s 11 Best EPs of 2019
Published Dec 18, 2019As much as people like to talk about how streaming has caused the death of the album, the LP format still reigns supreme. After all, pretty much all of 2019's most hyped artists are the same ones who released the best albums.
That being said, there's still plenty of room for the humble EP — as evidenced by the 11 outstanding releases on this list, which includes stopgap releases from big-name artists (Earl Sweatshirt, Daphni) and promising debuts from up-and-comers (Rapport, Pottery). They might not have generated quite as much hype as their full-length counterparts, but Exclaim!'s 11 Best EPs of 2019 proves that great things sometimes come in small packages.
Wax and Digital
From the serene Slowdive fuzz of the opening title track to the "Just Like Honey"-style slow burn of closer "What Are You Waiting" for, Hamilton four-piece Basement Revolver nod to the classics of shoegaze on Wax and Digital. With different arrangements, however, it's easy to imagine that these sharply written tunes could have sounded great as stripped-down folk or breezy indie rock. Forget genre — good songwriting always rises to the top.
On Space Cadet, Beabadoobee has leapt out of the bedroom and into rock arenas. Only coming six months after second album Loveworm, the five-song collection adds torrential guitar squalls, Pavement worship and empowered anthems to the mix to take Bea Kristi's heartfelt songwriting to new heights. Hardly backwards-facing, her clever songwriting adds new sheen to well-worn sounds and structures. And yet, despite the increase in resources and ambition, Beabadoobee's songs still retain their warmth.
Caribou's Dan Snaith dials up the BPM of Paradise's 1981 track "Sizzlin Hot" ever so slightly for the title track of his latest release as Daphni, giving the Bermudian band's crate digger rarity new life as a dance floor fire starter. More minimal approaches are taken with "If" and "Romeo," their looping melodies bolstered by added drums and strings, before "Just" sandwiches a funk break in between hazy, driving disco with snappy snares and gleaming harps.
Feet of Clay
Earl Sweatshirt's drift towards more abstract styles and sounds continued with the surprise Feet of Clay, a set of vignettes from "the death throes of a crumbling empire" marked by dark sonics, dense lyricism and an occasional glance to a brighter future. At a shorter runtime than last year's Some Rap Songs, he remains no less compelling, admitting on closer "4N," "The quality thorough, ill / It's all I could spill / There's more I could do."
The love that informed Octo Octa's For Lovers EP resulted in some of Maya Bouldry-Morrison's most emotive work to date. Opener "I Need You" eventually quiets for a rare vocal turn from the producer, who tells family, friends and lovers: "Thank you for being there. It means so much to me." "Bodies Meld Together" is built for what is done in the dark, while "Loops for Healing" can do just that for listeners with its reverberating pianos.
New Chance was unstoppable in 2019. She performed one of renowned composer Pauline Oliveros' scores in Toronto City Hall with the Public Recordings collective. This year's X Avant festival found her playing alongside reggae legend Willi Williams. Most recently, her sophomore EP came bursting onto the scene, revelling in dance music's past, present and future. Hardly Working found the producer in top form, honing her already singular vision into a laser-focused collection of dizzying dance floor-friendly bangers. For the rhythmically inclined, it's not to be missed.
Save for her entry in the storied DJ-Kicks comp series, Peggy Gou's lone release of 2019 saw her continue to refine the sounds that took her to new heights the year prior. Moment opens with "Starry Night," its punchy piano built for its titular environment, while the active rhythm section of flipside "Han Pan" underscores myriad melodic flourishes. In a Moment more personal, the EP also marks the inaugural release of Gou's own Gudu Records.
Whoever said there was no room for a sense of humour in post-punk has never listened to Pottery. The jangly Montreal unit filled their energetic live shows with just as many high kicks as they did angular riffs, and they kept the party vibes intact on debut recording No. 1. The band's sense of adventure and excitement keeps them pulling out ideas at a brisk clip, whether on two-minute "Spell" or eight-minute "Lifeline Costume."
In the Dark
Toronto-based singer Maddy Wilde has previously made art-rock in Spiral Beach and shoegaze in Moon King; with her latest project, Rapport, she has fully embraced '80s pop alongside bandmates Kurt Marble and Mike Pereira (Most People). Throw in a dash of classic songwriting, and In the Dark's six tracks are filled with gauzy synth strings ("All the Other Lovers"), clever '60s-style chord changes ("My Goodbyes"), and MIDI robo-funk ("Whatever You Want").
Sanguisugabogg are death metal's latest viral success story. Pornographic Seizures came out less than six months ago and sells out every time Maggot Stomp represses it — with good reason. Their "down-tuned drug death" delivered one of the best demos in years, with its perfect compromise between their label's trademark "caveman shit" and sophistication; call it Dumbilich. Sure, their notoriety was likely helped along by their impossible-to-pronounce (or -spell) moniker, a meme page and the Stranger Things-esque monsters adorning the demo EP's cover and merch alike, but in the end they prove that sometimes larva are meant to rise from under ground.
Epics in minutes: that's the easiest way to describe these four-tracks from Brighton, UK five-piece Squid. Coming courtesy of Speedy Wunderground, the label that brought us Black Midi, Squid offer a similarly genre defying take on guitar rock, touching on everything from post-rock, to post punk and ambient. Singer-drummer Ollie Judge celebrates and laments the mundanity of economic precarity on the two non-instrumental tracks, all in just 23 minutes. Imagine what they could do on an LP.