Strike the earth of year-end list country, my friends, for it is that time of year. Coming in pretty early this time is my first entry for 2016, a list of 15 EPs that I really enjoyed. A lot of these EPs were better than many full-lengths that came out this year, which proved for a dang good time when it came to re-visiting all these short-players when it came to making this list. The records on here are fantastic, but a quick shout out to Carly Rae Jepsen, Krill, Massive Attack, Braids, Vince Staples, Chelsea Wolfe & Clipping for putting out good projects this year as well. Onto the start of list month:
15. Amnesia Scanner – AS
Poised to sever boundaries between reality and fantasy, Berlin’s Amnesia Scanner extract excerpts from their absurd Angels Rig Hook project and reframes them into new context: a set of standalone tracks that distort and demean traditional dance music into something a lot uglier, broken and beautiful.
14. Eskimeaux – Year Of The Rabbit
Picking up where they left off in 2015, Eskimeaux supplied 2016 with a succinct set of sensitive DIY pop that asks the big questions (see “WTF”). Classic power pop-leaning backdrops for Gabrielle Smith’s feather-light vocals to drift atop of as always.
13. Nite-Funk – Nite-Funk
The pairing of Nite Jewel and Dâm-Funk is just… *makes Italian spicy meatball gesture* oh it’s so good. Magnifico. The disco realms that Funk brings Nite Jewel into are sublime, but things are still rooted here in the present. But it’s good to look back once and a while, isn’t it? I’m looking at you, ultra low, slithery bass. I like the way you look 2nite.
12. Katie Gately – Color
Alright think about this one: Imogen Heap but like, with a lot more industrial tendencies and no concept of minimalism. Giant pop structures with tons of ideas crammed into each cell, Katie Gately makes sure even the quiet moments on this EP are filled with tension.
11. NOIA – Habits
Succulent bilingual pop from Spain with a lot of sonic artifacts hidden among the synth leads & pristine vocals. Have it be rattling percussion, blips of digital distortion or strains of disembodied voice floating in the background, there’s always something entertaining going on in every phase of a song here.
10. Mikael Seifu – Zelalem
Hypnotic, experimental electronic music from UK-based/Ethiopian-born artist Mikael Seifu. Essential tracks to check out on this thing include the dramatic “How To Save A Life (Vector Of Eternity)” and labyrinthian “The Solipsist.”
9. Sheer Mag – III
Sheer Mag is the 2016 champion of the “Hell Yeah” hook. The “Hell Yeah” hook is a very complicated maneuver. Very few can pull it off. Sheer Mag have been able to pull it off three years in a row on three EPs that have all made it onto my favorite EPs of the year lists. Coincidence? I think not.
8. Forth Wanderers – Slop
Young NJ-based band Forth Wanderers introduces itself to a larger audience with an emotionally ripped batch of four songs, each song bundled with a anxious numbness derived from love, loneliness, confusion & excitement. A riveting set of tracks, tapping into simple cognitive conundrums of the terrible balancing act of happiness and sadness.
7. Holy Ghost! – Crime Cutz
Damn! These grooves make me want to slap my own booty more than I already do. To look into the hidden camera and give a seductive wink to the audience at home. The world is my catwalk to Holy Ghost! and everyone is getting into the glamour of it all, whether they know it or not.
6. Hoops – Hoops
After gaining a cult following outside of their native Bloomington, IN with a series of tape releases, the Hoops boys signed to Fat Possum & put out a hi(gher)-fi EP that’ll just put ya up on cloud nine. This thing is so dreamy and so sweet, you’ll be thinkin’ like dang bro how the heck did I get this dang relaxed? Hoops. Ball don’t lie.
5. Mt. Si – Limits
Superhumanoids! Classixx! Kisses! With their powers combined, they form: Mt. Si, the most powerful synth pop supergroup 2016 has ever seen! Plenty of -y words come into play here on Limits: fizzy, dreamy, glittery, groovy, dancey, uhhh good-y. Yeah I’m cool. Just four solid, catchy pop tunes, each with a killer hook. Dreamy pop lovers, don’t miss this.
4. Kelsey Lu – Church
Zen at every angle. Meditative like an early morning or like the quick moment before the sun sets. Gorgeous vocals stand tall among a shifting setting of cello, keys and harp. A proud protagonist that is dealing with her own personal demons as much as she is helping us fight ours. Cannot wait to hear what she follows this up with.
3. serpentwithfeet – blisters
Gorgeous, dramatic vocals over the booming, orchestral backdrop provided by The Haxan Cloak has made for a charmingly unique set of songs that defy expectations and labels. The songs usually lack a traditional structure, letting serpentwithfeet traverse his tales with a sense of grace that’s all his own. Don’t miss seeing him live either – he’s got this innate skill for improvising and engaging the crowd that/s just a treat to experience. It’s inevitable that he’ll be picked up by someone big soon.
2. Cole M.G.N. – Cole M.G.N.
Sounds like Godzilla slam dunking a basketball over a melting Empire State Building. Sounds like a drop-top car from the 80s with broken speakers driving really slow down a palm-tree lined street, but all the trees are on fire. Sounds like how blended sports drink of terrible chopped & screwed remixes would taste. Sounds like it could be the soundtrack to a 2016 Toxic Avenger movie (Does that exist already? Someone get Troma on the phone). Sounds like it could have been the soundtrack to a bunch of anime Vines, had Vine not shut the heck down (RIP). Sounds like the feeling of being able to see around corners. Sounds like non-ironic Spongebob airbrush shirts from the mall. Sounds like Ted Cruz’s worst nightmare. This dude has a Grammy by the way, isn’t that awesome?
1. Kedr Livanskiy – January Sun
This held true as my favorite EP throughout the whole year. Bleary, intoxicating synth pop from Russia, courtesy of Kedr Livanskiy, AKA Yana Kedrina. As biting as the bleakest winter. Lo-fi and homespun, with formless sound blowing around sterile beats. Parts sound like early Aphex Twin, but with dreamy Russian echoing over it. There’s nothing out there like it. Made from the bedroom but made for the warehouse, the basement, the alley, any dark space where covert movement takes place. A record for a hot space inside while watching a cold space outside, a perfect winter record. Seriously, once winter starts picking up in 2017, put this on during a snowstorm and find out how perfect it fits.