Exclaim!'s Best of 2014:

Top 10 EPs

BY Cam Lindsay & Stephen CarlickPublished Dec 16, 2014

As we look in the rear-view at our Top 10 albums lists by genre, we've assembled a list of some of the best extended players to come out this year. Look for our best reissues tomorrow.

To see more of our Year-End Top Tens, head over to our Best of 2014 section.

Top 10 EPs of 2014:

10. Jamie xx
"Girl"/"Sleep Sound"
(Young Turks)

It should have been an uphill battle for UK indie troupe the xx's Jamie xx (née Smith) to prove himself in the world of electronic music; that it wasn't — hell, that he made it look easy — can largely be attributed to his formidable production skill and his love of the art form. After his Gil Scott-Heron remix LP and a 12-inch in 2011, Smith returned in 2014 to gift us "Girl" and "Sleep Sound," two incredible tracks that showcased heretofore hidden talents from his seemingly bottomless arsenal.

"Girl" warps and layers a set of vocals around a shuffling bass line that makes dancing a foregone conclusion; "Sleep Sound" picks up from where Four Tet left off with There Is Love in You, all gently plucked nylon strings and micro-sampled voices. Seriously — what can't he do? (Stephen Carlick)

9. Communions
(Posh Isolation)

Were you one of those confused Iceage fans trying to mosh to their new, slower, Birthday Party-esque album? Do you miss the days of New Brigade? If so, don't wallow in disappointment, because there's hope in fellow Copenhagen comrades Communions. Following in the footsteps of Iceage and Lower, these Danes are even younger and fresher than their predecessors.

What their EP, Cobblestones, lacked in nihilism, it made up for with sunny love songs filtered through the lens of gritty, ashen reverb-heavy punk. And while the lo-fi scuzz on the production helps them fit into their city's scene, it can't conceal the fact that songs like "Seascapes" and the title track are as indebted to '80s UK indie as they are Denmark's new wave of punk. (Cam Lindsay)

8. Shlohmo & Jeremih
No More

At a time when R&B singers are looking further afield for eclectic production help, Chicago crooner Jeremih's choice to work with narcotic, bass-heavy producer Shlohmo isn't actually that much of a departure — the spacious snap of Shlohmo's atmospheric production was already heavily influenced by R&B, so he sounds right at home on No More. Jeremih matches the drowsy sensuality of Shlohmo's production on slow-trap mini-anthem "Fuck You All the Time" with lyrics about perpetual desire and a lingering sense of longing. Elsewhere, the title track, "Bo Peep" and "Let It Go" are propelled by Shlohmo's glacial bass, adding weight to Jeremih's honeyed tenor. (Stephen Carlick)

7. Daniel Caesar
Praise Break

In sharp contrast to the popular R&B bad boy image that's swept the genre stands Toronto youngster Daniel Caesar, who foregoes any posturing in favour of pure songwriting power. Lazy critics have compared Caesar to Frank Ocean, but he's more of a balladeer — half the songs on Praise Break feature just a piano and his voice.

It's that minimal approach that makes Caesar's songs so captivating, as his no-frills approach demonstrates the power of simple, effective songwriting. That's not to say they're pop songs; rather, Caesar is a master of atmosphere and tension, letting syllables and notes linger just long enough that the next piano chord feels like a revelation. That he's already got such a firm grasp on his sound after just two EPs suggests there's more greatness to come from this one. (Stephen Carlick)

6. Panda Bear
Mr Noah

While we waited patiently for Noah Lennox's Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper LP, this four-song EP materialized to sate us. While the Animal Collective member's previous LP, Tomboy, found Lennox toying with dub rhythms and heaps of reverb, Mr. Noah is awash in acid house synth burbles and clean vocals, especially on the hypnotic title track.

Things lighten up on the breezy "Faces in the Crowd" and the dreamlike "Untying the Knot" — both of which recall his breakthrough LP Person Pitch — but even the cooing "This Side of Paradise" features an underlying acidity thanks to subtle synth squelches throughout. If this is the direction the Grim Reaper is headed, we can't wait to hear Panda Bear meet him. (Stephen Carlick)

5. Godflesh
Decline & Fall

How does a prolific workhorse like Justin K. Broadrick return to something as sacred as Godflesh after a 13-year hiatus? By dropping an EP that was just as punishing and perfect as the album that followed three months later. A World Lit Only By Fire may have been the higher profile release of the two, but it was Decline & Fall that first demonstrated in 2014 that Godflesh is as potent as ever.

Written on a custom-made, eight-string guitar made "with the capability to achieve more complex dissonant chords and riffs," Broadrick and G.C. Green show no signs of age here. All those years lightening up for Jesu didn't affect Broadrick's industrialized soul, and had they not released a full-length, Decline & Fall would have been more than enough to satiate the fans. (Cam Lindsay)

4. Yumi Zouma
Yumi Zouma

Few people would argue that Yumi Zouma are leading the way for New Zealand's new wave of synth-pop — that crown would obviously go to the Grammy-winning Lorde. But Yumi Zouma are just getting started. The trio cohabited a house that was lost in Christchurch's 2011 earthquake, but judging by their self-titled EP, the disaster brought out a blithe temperament in the music.

Assembled by file-sharing via email, their disco-pop is simple yet sublime, swathed in a soft-focus haze that comes alive with Kim Pflaum's cucumber-cool vocals. Hints of the late chillwave trend reverberate throughout the four songs, never more than on "The Brae," one of the most striking songs of the year. Dropbox couldn't ask for better publicity than this EP. (Cam Lindsay)

3. Jacques Greene
Phantom Vibrate

Though Montreal producer Jacques Greene has been making this kind of Burial-influenced, emotional house for years now, Phantom Vibrate is hardly a repeat of past work. Rather, it's a refinement — not to mention his best work yet. Throughout its three-song duration, Phantom Vibrate distils Greene's trademark soulful vocal samples to form a haunting, perfect solution that's as ready for headphones as the dance floor.

"No Excuse" starts tentatively, but by its end, broken-glass synth twinkles and the mantra-like vocals, which repeat, "There's really no excuse," have turned the song into a decisive banger. "Time Again (Feel What)" turns group vocals into a swirling haze over crackling dubstep rhythm and a pinging synth line, while "Night Tracking" provides the stripped-down denouement. More cohesive that your average EP, Phantom Vibrate haunts like a warm memory: at turns hazy and crisp, and easy to get lost in. (Stephen Carlick)

2. Ryan Adams

The biggest problem for any one of Ryan Adams' limited releases on his PAX-AM imprint is that few of them will get the attention they deserve. He seems okay with that, but his 1984 seven-inch really warranted far more love than it received. The timing was all off, however, as 1984 preceded the release of his first proper full-length in three years by just a couple of weeks.

While Ryan Adams was arguably his best singer-songwriter album since Easy Tiger, 1984 was a complete left turn. Encapsulating the fury and speed of Hüsker Dü with the ramshackle fun of the Replacements, Adams channelled the punk bands he always praised, and in doing so, made his best record in ages. (Cam Lindsay)

1. Röyksopp & Robyn
Do It Again
(Arts & Crafts)

For fans of both Röyksopp and Robyn, Do It Again killed two birds with one stone. Neither artist had released a full-length in nearly four years, and their previous collaboration, 2009's exceptional "The Girl and the Robot," was plenty of reason to be excited.

That song proved to be little indication of just how vanguard these songs would be. As stellar as the banger of a title track was, the trio demonstrated remarkable synergy through less obvious tracks, like the sprawling trance of "Monument" and the undulating slow jam "Every Little Thing." The disparity the tracks may not have been what some fans expected, but the cumulative effect of each of these opuses made it hard to argue against the adrenalizing power of this Nordic collaboration. (Cam Lindsay)

To see more of the best music of this year, head over to our Best of 2014 section.

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