It’s time to celebrate the music of 2021, Warm Visions style. I ain’t celebrating 2021 as a year though, because somehow it was worse than 2020. Thankfully the music was quite alright and it got us through some tough times, so yeah, let’s keep it at that.
I always put out my list of favorite EPs first and this year has got some huge ones. From 90s-referencing slowcore + shoegaze, to electrifying house and techno, to a 60s Californian time capsule, to whatever music Kero Kero Bonito makes, we’ve got a nice display of different sounds and projects for you to introduce yourself to. I’ve listened to A LOT of EPs over the last few days to reacquaint myself with some of this year’s wares, and the amount I was able to blow through in an hour was awesome. It’ll be easy for you to get through the whole list! They’re short! Just dip in and enjoy.
NYC-based group Älägator enter into the hall of current bands faithfully recreating the dreamy slowcore shoegaze sprawl sound of the late 90s, only their twist in the formula is writing entirely in Finnish. Not saying that like it’s a gimmick – I commend them for doing something different and offering some lyrical variance outside of everyday English music. Full of dreamy soundscapes, echoing instrumentals and soothing vocals, this is a perfect salve for year-end malaise, an accompaniment to the early-setting sun and barren tree branches silhouettes against a deep purple sky.
The Asymptotical World is an interesting release, as it continues to profile Yves Tumor’s expedition into alien glam portals from beyond, emerging with some of their best songs yet. On the other hand though, I gotta say some of their worst songs are on here too. The first two tracks are pure gold, and although some interesting guest features later in the track list somewhat offset these early moments of brilliance, you cannot deny the songwriting power of YT. Would love to see them delve deeper into new sounds after this, but I’ll keep jamming on this no problem as long as the songs are this good.
Led by Lily Konigsberg and Nate Amos, superduo My Idea bake up bite-size delights of perfect alt pop, throwing in a heaping cup of healthy sonic experimentation for good measure. Both members put out music of their own this year (see Nate’s other project Water From Your Eyes, along with Lily’s solo work + Palberta), so if you enjoyed that then you’re cheating yourself for not listening to this.
The first of two 2021 EPs from the UK-via-Aussie producer establishes Logic as one of the voices in electronic music to look out for in the future. Bringing in a host of influences and styles to a rather invigorating blend of house, these songs have kept me company on many, many runs this year and haven’t gotten stale yet.
Drink this hearty love potion, stewed with wayward slide guitar, gentle 12-string acoustic guitar, chiming piano, alternating vocal leads, string sections and more homebrewed country-breeze goodness and you’ll instantly develop a sparkling affinity for 1960s California. Supremely arranged and crafted with care, Sylvie profiles a specific era of sound with such devotion that it’s easy to start believing that it was pulled from some record nerd’s MCM-furnished back room collection.
Not reinventing the wheel by any means, but damn do Julie make a satisfying strain of grungy, fuzzy rock. Plenty of airy, dreamy vocals coasting atop of real crunchy, pounding guitars. Two bands that come to mind are Nothing and Pity Sex so if you want to go back to 2014 but, uh, also the 90s, jump right in.
Land of Talk enraptured me with their 2020 LP, which is by far my favorite thing they’ve ever done, so it was no wonder that I think their follow-up EP is good. Smoldering, guitar-driven alternative rock with expert control over dynamics, hoping to grant power to communities that have been pushed down for too long. Land of Talk continue to be one of the premier songwriters and arrangers in the game right now. Massive respect to Land of Talk.
KKB remain super charming on their newest EP, which sees the band imagine a dream world resembling our own but still grounded in the hurdles we all have had to jump over the last two years. They also embark on their longest song to date… and nail it?? Over seven minutes of KKB in one portion. You can do it! Plenty of chintzy electronics and sound effects to provide a video gamey backdrop for Sarah Bonito’s idiosyncratic vocals. Consistent quality from the trio. Thank goodness.
Rising producer/DJ/star Anz brings all the posi vibes, channeling the best of dance music from multiple eras to craft the soundtrack to a constantly-morphing, on fire party. “You Could Be” is also one of the best songs of the year, so it’s hard to fault this project on anything. I will let Anz be the soundtrack to my party any day.
Skateboarding down a subway tunnel where the curved walls are bright, touchscreen LCD displays broadcasting Vtuber rhythm game let’s play footage.
To be honest, I didn’t have a list of my favorite EPs made until a week or two before I published this. I only had one entry: Doss’ 4 New Hit Songs. This EP was among my most listened-to projects for the whole year and would have ranked incredibly high in my Top 50 Albums if I were including EPs. I was a fan of her 2014 debut EP, but Doss reaches euphoric new highs while deepening her sound across these four tracks, all of which stand out from each other, providing the listener a tasting menu of delights depending on their mood. There’s a reason that two different tracks were included on Pitchfork’s Best Songs of 2021.
Going deeper, the Hit Songs here are scientifically engineered to plug directly into the pleasure center of the brain, injecting dreamy trance, sugar-dripping electronics akin, and even shoegaze to produce a high unlike any other this year. Not only are the sounds themselves satisfying, but the way they’re presented really gets me. I gotta double down on my “Warm Visions” description – it really feels like the sound is curling, wobbling and bending around the listener to be present at all angles. Like grinding down an underground pipe that’s lined with bright LCD displays. Honestly all I really need to say is that it’s brought me a lot of joy in this hellish year, and I thank Doss a lot for returning and gifting us this.