As our annual rollout of genre-specific album lists for the Best of the Year — which so far has covered the Top 20 Pop & Rock Albums, Top 10 Soul and R&B Albums, Top 10 Metal and Hardcore Albums, Top 10 Folk and Country Albums, Top 10 Hip-Hop Albums and Top Ten Dance and Electronic Albums of 2017 — comes to an end, we're honouring that lesser-recognized-but-not-lesser release form: the EP.
Shorter but often sweeter and more concise, the extended player stayed relevant in 2017; so relevant, in fact that we couldn't pick just ten. Below, find our picks for the 11 best of the year.
Top 11 EPs of 2017:
Cold Dark Place
After delivering their acclaimed Emperor of Sand at the top of the year, Mastodon unearthed some previously unreleased tracks for Cold Dark Place to show how far their influences actually stretch. Recorded during the sessions for the aforementioned Emperor and 2014's Once More 'Round the Sun, the four-track effort is steeped in the Atlanta outfit's progressive and Southern rock influences, highlighted by Brent Hinds' tasteful pedal steel playing.
Those pining for the band's earlier years can moan about heaviness all they like — it shouldn't matter when the writing and arranging are as good as this.
10. Beta Frontiers
We're still waiting for a full-length from them, but in the meantime, Beta Frontiers offered us another excellent extended player in 2017; Heights might even be their best work yet.
Throughout these five songs, the Toronto artist deftly mixes the past and present, evoking Ratatat on hard-hitting opener "Rangor" and previewing pop's future on the soft-hued, Laura Hermiston-aided "Stars Align." The centrepiece, though, is "If I Stayed," Beta Frontiers' yearning second collaboration with DIANA's Carmen Elle. If they keep making EPs like this, maybe we don't need a full-length after all.
9. Nicola Cruz
Cantos de Visión
Though he was born in France, Nicola Cruz's South American heritage plays a crucial part in his captivating approach to electronic music. His style, which he playfully refers to as 'Andes Step,' mixes traditional Andean instruments and Cumbia rhythm in with house elements like sampled and chopped vocals. It's a beguiling sonic bouillabaisse, one captured summarily on this year's four-song Cantos de Visión EP.
The best of Cruz's deeply percussive soundscapes are haunted by vocal snippets that make them feel alive — particularly "Danza de Visión," on which a number of sampled voices seem to converse and spur each other on energetically over a throbbing, hypnotic rhythm.
8. Steve Lacy
Steve Lacy's Demo
While the Internet originators Syd and Matt Martians stepped out from behind their band with solo LPs this year, it was guitarist Steve Lacy that delivered the biggest surprise. Recorded largely using an iPhone, Steve Lacy's Demo is an all-too-brief slice of funk and soul highlighted by the infectious "Dark Red," Lacy's jangly Rickenbacker leading listeners through a creative chord progression.
Lacy then parlayed the buzz behind the release into writing and production credits on Kendrick Lamar's DAMN. — though we still can't wait for a full-length debut of his own.
7. Sam Gellaitry
Twenty-year-old Scottish producer Sam Gellaitry's third release in as many years capped his Escapism EP trilogy in a manner both bigger and brighter than its predecessors. The sweeping orchestration of opener "Jungle Waters" gives way to Gellaitry's powerful employment of tight rhythms and active synths on "Ceremony" and "Midnight Racer," aligning himself firmly with fellow countrymen Rustie and Hudson Mohawke.
Expect the young beatsmith to take his sound and standing in electronic music to even greater heights on his next release.
6. Blue Iverson
When stacked against any of Dean Blunt's recent offerings under his own name or as Babyfather, the enigmatic producer's Hotep is surprisingly… normal. Straightforward, even. Released under the alias Blue Iverson, the eight-track effort places the phrasing and groove of funk and neo-soul paramount, with Blunt's own identifiable production traits at the fore on "Nappytex" and "Brown Grrl." It's a welcome reprieve from his more recent divisive steps into electronics and noise.