Before we get to the standard best albums of 2016, we thought we’d give some rightfully deserved attention to the cracking EP’s that we’ve been blessed with this year. As with a lot of the acts we’ve championed this year, the World hasn’t quite been ready for the greatness that will no doubt be their full-length LP (that’s 2017’s job), but when their EPs have been as great as these have been, we’re more than happy to wait a bit longer…
15. Charli XCX – Vroom Vroom
She’s never been afraid to wear her musical passions for the world to see, and as of late CHARLI XCX has been very into bubblegum electronica. Think of everything that makes artists like PC Music or GIRLI so wrong, and yet so, so right and let go of your inhibitions, throw in a triple shot of every reason that makes Charli one to watch and there you have the VROOM VROOM EP. Songs such as ‘Paradise’ (featuring PC Music’s Hannah Diamond) are as audible offensive with their hyper Eurotrash synths, weird woops and drum and bass beats as they are intriguing. Elsewhere, things are more accessible – if aggressive; ‘Trophy’ is a clattering, thumping dancehall smash whilst ‘Vroom Vroom’ itself is simultaneously full-throttle yet shallowly hollow – which is no doubt the entire point of this EP – but ‘Secret (Shh)’ is perhaps most neutrally enjoyable, it’s slick chorus underpinning the murky production and evoking thoughts of a shamelessly pop FKA Twigs. She may flit between fads like a rogue Madonna but underneath it all, it is Charli XCX’s personality that permeates every inch of her work that prevents her musical experiments – like the oddball Vroom Vroom – from spontaneously combusting.
14. Clean Cut Kid – We Used To Be In Love
A firm Born Music favourite throughout 2016, this EP is a joyous affair masking truly sincere heartache. The instant, sugary rush of the opening title track is a red herring as its buoyancy guides the helpless callings of lead vocalist Mike Halls who wails ‘We Used to Be In Love’. The genius within this EP is the quartet’s ability to create stadium-sized euphoria with an honest emotion acting as the immovable foundations. Their choice of cover, ‘Loud Places’ from Jamie and Romy XX exists in a similar vein and on paper, should not work, yet it’s an unexpected flourish to end a strong four-song suite.
13. The Magic Gang – The Second EP From
A classy name to reflect some very classy guys, The Magic Gang’s second EP The Second EP From is fronted by their absolute indie banger ‘All This Way’ and saw with it ‘Only Waiting’ make quite an impact to possibly contend with its soothing lovelorn aftereffects. The main winning point of this EP was the proof, cemented once and for all that the Brighton lads are more than capable of consistently releasing top notch tracks, this leads us to believe that when they get around to that full length LP, it’ll be quite the event.
12. Basecamp – In Stone
Over previous releases, Nashville trio BASECAMP have continuously sought to expand on their electro-soul sound. On 2016’s In Stone EP, they have achieved just that, seamlessly merging elements of both genres to create something that feels fresh yet wholly familiar. Tracks such as ‘Ghostown’ are mournfully subtle with refined beats and clicks, whilst ‘Reap’ develops from moodily glitch slow burner into atmospheric and throbbing electronica. Elsewhere, lead single and title track ‘In Stone’ similarly takes its time to develop, albeit more dramatically, suddenly flipping from layered claps to frenetic drum and bass reminiscent tempos and pulsing synths, all whilst vocalist Aaron Miller smoothly croons words of loss and longing. Hopefully, they re-emerge with an album sooner rather than later.
11. Strong Asian Mothers – Lynx Africa
Cashing in on influences galore, from the likes of hip-hop, electronica, R&B and more, this is anything but boring. There’s tonnes of energy from start to finish, it doesn’t even dip throughout the ‘Megabucket’ finalé, which is mostly instrumental, yet at first listen you wouldn’t even notice from the majestic layers that hold their own. Both ‘Out of Love’ and ‘The More That I’ see the talent that is so easily understandable during their live performances transfered with what seems like ease onto record and ‘Stay Down’ shows a slightly slower and more controlled side to them, yet never once loosens it’s tight grip on your attention.
Cash + David are another male/female duo dismissing harmony for something wholly more creative. The pair have been on our radar for a while and now signed to Columbia Records they are realising their creative vision while creating defiantly off-centre electro pop. Treating us in 2016 to eight original tracks in the Side I and Side II EPs, it’s the former that engrossed us most. The Jagwar Ma style synth minimalism of ‘Alright Now’ facing the pure and direct pop of ‘When You’re Lonely’ is a masterclass in what an EP should be. It acts as a tantalising taster for the debut LP hopefully arriving next year and continues to identify as Cash + David as an act with fizzing, startling creativity and more importantly, potential.
9. MUNA – Loudspeaker
Over the course of 2016, MUNA have emerged from being a faceless yet intriguing act into one of the most hotly tipped bands of 2017, with their buzz gracing the pages of taste-making publications such as Noisey, Stereogum and Pitchfork – and it’s not without good reason. Their delectable brand of dark pop practically glitters with 80s nostalgia. Listening to EP Loudspeaker is reminiscent of flicking through the pages of your sister’s diary; these songs are frankly confessional and all the more captivating for it. They are also proudly pop, from the rippling hooks and shameless riffs to the aching vocals and massive choruses; it is a euphorically joyous trip that one must indulge in again. Despite being packed full of heartache, MUNA’s first outing is a rather blissful listen.
8. Dagny – Ultraviolet
Norway’s Dagny has been steadily rising all throughout this year, her delightfully infectious pop songs able to put a smile on even the most miserable of faces and this was epitomised in her Ultraviolet EP. Each track unique in its own right, yet equally as tremendous, ‘Ultraviolet’ and ‘Backbeat’ are easily the two highlights of the album in terms of energy, but ‘Fight Sleep’ and ‘Too Young’ really hone in on their relatability… and then there’s ‘Fool’s Gold’ with BØRNS, which provides us with an incredibly representation of how pop has developed into something glorious over the past year. More please.
7. Holy Ghost! – Crime Cutz
Taught and funky, retro yet futuristic – what more could you want from an electronic artist eh? Luckily HOLY GHOST succinctly crams all that and more into the space of a single track, so when there are four of them as on this year’s Crime Cutz EP, we are well and truly spoiled. There is no room for filler or fodder, and despite the tracks averaging five minutes long this EP is a surprisingly lean beast. Opener and title track ‘Crime Cutz’ will have you twitching to throw your best shapes to its unabashedly ~funky~ rhythm before it slides seamlessly into the bassy groove and stomp of ‘Stereotype’. It’s as if Daft Punk and LCD Soundsystem we’re caught in a three-way with Tame Impala whilst listening to Thriller, but as music, Crime Cutz is one of those instances where the less said about it really is the better; just put your dancing shoes on, oil your joints and boogie the night away.
6. Ardyn – Over The River
Harmonising female/male duos appear to be the plait du jour following the exemplary breakout success of Londoners Oh Wonder. Although many attempt to recreate the band’s intimate, romantic style, Gloucestershire duo Ardyn are crafting out a path all of their own. Katy Pearson takes a striking lead on ‘The Valley’ as her twin brother Rob concentrates on his masterful production style, driving this track to aptly large soundscapes. A real feeling of intent is present across four tracks, a pair creating completely from original and personal inspiration without input from external forces. There are tones of Aurora in the dramatic ‘Shadow Light’, Haim-hooks in ‘The Valley’ and an unstoppable Florence-like anthemic quality to ‘Over The River’. Ardyn are a band assured to have a blistering 2017.
5. Black Honey – Headspin
Recorded in a barn in Normandy over the short space of a fortnight, Black Honey’s second EP Headspin, sees them take the cinematic Pulp Fiction styled sound that they had built for themselves since their debut EP release back in 2014, polish it and slip it smoothly out to the public. Putting a varied collection of tracks together that sees the frontrunner ‘All My Pride’ take centre stage to grab attention, before slowing down to see one of the best sides of vocalist Izzy B. Phillips in ‘Headspin’, a track that we defy you not to get completely transported over to Black Honey’s immersive world. ‘On Your Time’ and ‘Mocking Swing’ are the underdogs of the EP, the ones that take a few listens for you to truly discover the beauty of them… but, no one said the best things in life were easy.
4. Sløtface – Sponge State
Although Sløtface have recently released the rambunctious Empire Records EP, it was the scorching Sponge State from earlier in 2016 that really set them apart from their peers. Grunge pop has been a firm, recognisable sound of the year with bands such as Estrons and INHEAVEN indulging in the downright dirty. This Norwegian four piece most successfully embody the notion of art born from frustration. The grey skies of their homeland inspire hopeless lyrics about gigging to unimpressed masses, messy teen encounters and pretentious publications. Mix these with gigantic choral hooks and immediate riffs, they understand the importance for these slacker anthems to be accessible to the despondent masses.
3. Blaenavon – Let’s Pray
Along with Palace, BLAENAVON are one of few young bands that produce music a lot more mature than their years would betray. Their most recent outing Let’s Pray effectively amps up the feverish anticipation for their forthcoming debut album by showcasing precisely what makes the trio so brilliant. Singer and lyricist Ben Gregory has a talent for penning lines infused with gothic sentiment (he has past stated that he has a love for such literature) and delivering them in an emotively wrenching manner, and these tracks themselves contain expansive soundscapes that range from crashing whorls of noise to delicate piano numbers which are near painful in their fragility. A lesser band would see such fastidiously crafted songs run away with them, but the composure of the band reins ambitious compositions – such as ‘I Will Be The World’ – into line time and again.
2. Anteros – Breakfast
Released fairly recently in September, Anteros’ EP Breakfast has shown us the consistent, excellent quality bittersweet pop songs that Anteros can seemingly conjure up with ease. Refreshingly all about falling out of love, rather than in, the juxtaposition of the subject matter with energetic, upbeat, positive melodies is a genius move that we predict will see them go far in the next year. Possibly one of the only bands to be able to have a track name as their band name and not seem ridiculously cheesy, they blew us away with an EP where each song is a complete banger in its own right. We could not be more excited to watch their trajectory continuously rise next year and we defy anyone not to feel the same after listening to this EP.
1. WHITE – Cuts That Don’t Bleed
As soon as the potent funk of ‘Private Lies’ cut through the dreariness 2016, we were hooked on this EP. Leo Condie’s vocal seems to stumble between the flamboyance of Robert Smith and the caterwauling of the Cocteau Twins. After releasing two ready-made indie anthems in ‘Living Fiction’ and ‘Future Pleasures’ earlier in the year, choosing not to include either within this EP was a bold move. Fortunately, the strength of its contents means you hardly miss these bonafide bangers, attention is enthralled in the spangly Bowie-esq arrangement of ‘Recreational TV’ and White Lies theatrics of ‘I Liked You Better When You Needed Me Pt I & II’.