In this streaming age of music we’re leaving in now, it’s becoming harder and harder to differentiate an EP from an LP. Nowadays anyone can make a 25 minute album and call it a full-length LP, or even make a five track album and call it a full-length. Just look at the latest criminally short six track “LP” from “Nine Inch Nails,” or the string of Kanye produced seven track albums Mr. West dubbed “full-lengths” this year. Album length has become irrelevant, but to those of us who still hold the idea of the EP near and dear, those short bursts of creativity are still very much important in the music world. They still give us that hope that a full-length album from the artist might be on the horizon, or sometimes, those short but sweet releases are all we need. There were a great deal of EPs released this year, and many of them can’t go by unnoticed. Here are my top 15 EPs of 2018.
15. Artist: Tyler, The Creator
EP: Music Inspired by Illumination & Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch
Genre: Hip Hop/R&B
Tyler, The Creator’s creativity has moved into film now with his recent musical contributions to The Grinch movie. To coincide with the release of the film, Tyler dropped an E.P. inspired by the film. It is a fun Christmas filled listen packed with 80’s sounding synths and the tracks never stray away into cheesiness, which is no easy feat considering they’re inspired by a Dr. Seuss story.
14. Artist: Femme
Laura Bettinson under the “Femme” name has been creating delightful “Indie Pop” for awhile now, and on her new E.P. 2.0 She delves into the world of “House” music while keeping her Pop sensibilities. The result is a solid set of dance ready tracks that emphasize fun and optimism.
13. Artist: Little Dragon
EP: Lover Chanting
Genre: Electronic/Synth Pop
Little Dragon’s latest LP Season High was a bit of a step back for the band. Much of it seemed phoned in, and lacked the ambition their previous work had filled with colorful synth heavy Pop and just the right amount of odd experimental elements. The band have definitely redeemed themselves though with their new E.P. Lover Chanting. Being three tracks in length, the E.P. gets back to the band’s sense of fun, and is probably their most danceable release to date.
12. Artist: Wallows
Genre: Indie Rock/Indie Pop
It’s a bit ironic that the latest E.P. from L.A. based Indie Rock band “Wallows” is titled Spring considering the fact that all the tracks have a nice summery vibe to them. To some this E.P. might be a by the numbers “Indie Rock” release, but to others it’s undeniably addicting. I just can’t resist it.
11. Artist: Protomartyr and Spray Paint
EP: Irony Prompts A Party Rat
Genre: Post-Punk/Indie Rock
Post-Punk band “Protomartyr” had a busy year. They released a stellar EP, began a tour with “Preoccupations,” and even released a split single with “Preoccupations” where both bands covered each, but a more interesting split single to come out of the band’s work this year is most definitely their split single with the band “Spray Paint.” On this single, “Protomartyr’s” lead singer Joe Casey provided lead vocals for a new “Spray Paint” track, and the lead singer of “Spray Paint” provided lead vocals for a new “Protomartyr” track. It’s a match made in “Post-Punk” heaven, because the chemistry between the two bands is undeniable.
10. Artist: Screaming City
EP: The Vanish
Visalia, California’s own “Screaming City” released a string of Electronic tinged “Industrial Rock” that spanned three EPs this year, but the biggest gem of the three is without a doubt The Vanish. This release found sole member and multi-instrumentalist Trip Logic going in a heavier guitar-driven direction without sacrificing his Electronic roots. Everything from the lyrical content to the myriad of Experimental elements in the instrumentation that impressively manages to maintain catchiness, this whole E.P. showcases the immense versatility Trip Logic has, and there’s nowhere to go from here but up.
9. Artist: Code Orange
EP: The Hurt Will Go On
Genre: Metalcore/Industrial Metal
“Code Orange” are one of those forward thinking bands that make stubborn “Metalcore” traditionalists shout about how “lame” they are for Incorporating outsider genres that aren’t typically explored in “Metalcore,” but guys, put down your Monster energy drink for a minute and admit that the genre has become a bit predictable. “Code Orange” are here to break the stale nature of the genre, and it’s much needed. Following their breakout album Forever, the band dropped a nice E.P. titled The Hurt Will Go On this year, and it’s an impactful reminder that the band are ahead of the game at the moment. Packed with heavy aggression, the “Industrial” and “Nu-Metal” elements the band are known for, and even a Corey Taylor feature, this release has many of us eager to hear another full-length album from the band. Hopefully next year we’ll get what we’re wishing for.
8. Artist: S. Reidy
EP: And Here With You, I Am
Genre: Hip Hop/Alternative Hip Hop
The fact that an artist like S. Reidy isn’t mentioned when conversations about “Emo Rap” are sparked is ridiculous. The rapper/producer sounds like what “Emo Rap” should sound like. His latest E.P. And Here With You, I Am is far from being one-dimensional. The production consists of simplistic but effective beats, moody acoustic guitars, atmospheric soundscapes, poetic lyrical content, and vocals that evoke the “Emo Rock” spirit. To simply label him “Emo Rap” would not do his music justice, but he’s delivering the moody introspection that other rappers in the game should strive for, and he doesn’t need tattoos on his face to do it.
7. Artist: Converge
EP: Beautiful Ruin
Genre: Metalcore/Hardcore Punk
Leave it to “Metalcore” legends “Converge” to drop a four track E.P. out of the blue to show the youngsters how it’s done. The band’s recent E.P. Beautiful Ruin is unsparingly monstrous and is among some of the band’s most aggressive work.
6. Artist: Childish Gambino
EP: Summer Pack
We unfortunately didn’t get a new Childish Gambino album this year, but mastermind Donald Glover was definitely not quiet. Following the impactful music video for his single “This Is America” that lead to countless think pieces and theories, Glover dropped a two track E.P. titled Summer Pack. Though the tracks were a lot more laid back and summery on the surface this time around, this didn’t stop fans from formulating theories about how there is an underlying message about climate change and the state of our distractions of social media and celebrity culture. Whatever the message may be, these are fun soulful songs.
5. Artist: Chelsey and The Noise
EP: Blank Frames
Who says “Industrial” music and “Pop” music can’t coexist? Hayward, CA based duo “Chelsey and The Noise” proved that “Industrial” can be catchy with their E.P. Blank Frames this year. With hard hitting synth heavy production and Metal infused guitars, the duo incorporate pop sensibilities without giving into the typical predictability “Pop” music is known for. This music is catchy, sexy, dark, and at times sentimental, displaying the immense versatility the two have to offer.
4. Artist: Protomartyr
Genre: Post-Punk/Indie Rock
“Post-Punk” band “Protomartyr” released quite possibly their best album last year, which most definitely earned them the right to take a break for awhile because one would assume that you would need to take a break after you give your all on an album, but the band aren’t ready to take a break just yet. The band released an impressive E.P. this year titled Consolation and this four track E.P. progressed the band’s sound even further. Incorporating string arrangements and even collaborating with Kelley Deal of “The Breeders,” this release proves that the band work well with other musicians while not completely abandoning their signature sound. Is this the direction they’re heading in? Time will tell, but one thing is for sure, they’re still the leading force in modern “Post-Punk.”
3. Artist: HMLTD
EP: Hate Music Last Time Delete
Genre: Synth Pop/Post-Punk/New Wave
“HMLTD” are quite possibly the most exciting band at the moment. You never know what to expect when going into a new track of theirs, and they haven’t even released a full-length album! Following a diverse string of singles that found the band exploring Post-Punk, Synth Pop, Electronic Music, Gothic Rock, Glam Rock, and whatever else the band feels like dabbling in, the band released a new E.P. this year titled Hate Music Last Time Delete, and it is a cohesive effort that sticks to a Synth Pop/New Wave formula. The band have proven that they can perfect just about any genre they pursue, but it’s clear they wanted to give us their own warped version of “Synth Pop” on this E.P. This music is fun and danceable, but the lyrical content deals with important themes such as social network addiction, learning to love yourself, oh, and falling in love with a mannequin. It’s a good time that leaves you begging for more.
2. Artist: Ravyn Lenae
Genre: R&B/Soul/Alternative R&B
Among the recent emergence of talented young artists from Chicago such as Noname, Saba, and Mick Jenkins, Ravyn Lenae has been garnering much attention for her beautiful artistry that finds the young singer delivering smooth “R&B” that isn’t afraid to branch out of traditional “R&B” sensibilities. Her latest E.P. Crush is a fitting title, because it’s impossible not to swoon and fall for her gorgeous vocals and attention to Soulful and at times off-kilter production provided by the one and only Steve Lacy. Lenae is one of the youngest artists in the realm of “R&B” at the moment, but her sound exudes immense maturation, and it’s clear she’s on a forward thinking path. Here’s to hoping she blesses us with a full length debut album next year.
1. Artist: CMON
EP: Confusing Mix Of Nations
Genre: Post-Punk/Synth Pop/New Wave
There’s no doubt in my mind that L.A. based duo “CMON” (or Confusing Mix Of Nation’s) debut E.P. is the best of 2018, and there’s no doubt in my mind that this is the best E.P. you haven’t heard. Absent from every major streaming service other than their own personal SoundCloud, the band most likely slipped under your radar this year, and that’s unfortunate because their debut five track E.P. is the stuff 80’s Post-Punk/New Wave revivalist dreams are made of. The lush and dreamy guitars, the “House” driven percussion that reflects “New Order’s” heyday, and the subtle but infectious vocals are all promising elements that should put the band on your radar. With very little information about the band online, it’s hard to dig deep into their background, but let’s all hope and pray they continue to release stellar material.
Written By: Steven Sandoval