As the art of the full album has waned in power the last few years with the advent of streaming and a focus on singles, the short-form album, or EP, has made a reemergence. Often acting almost as a collection of singles released over a number of months, it has given bands and artists more freedom to release music in a more timely manner and more frequently than they are often able to with a full-length album.
And often, these short bursts of new music are just as powerful and more palatable than a lengthy album. There were a number of great EPs in 2021, and the below are our top five of the year.
Top Five EPs of 2021
- Eve 6 – Grim Value
No one really expected 90’s alternative rock stars Eve 6 to make any kind of resurgence in the year 2021 (or ever), but thanks to frontman Max Collins’ becoming an anointed cultural critic on Twitter, the group returned to the cultural conversation just in time for them to drop their first new music in years. Thankfully, the songs on Grim Value showed that the band was rejuvenated outside of the social media sphere as well. From the Ramones-esque macabre love song “I Wanna Bite Your Face” to the strangely addictive Stooges proto-punk ripper “Black Nova”, the band found a dirty new energy that made this EP their best music in over a decade.
2. Counting Crows – Butter Miracle Suite One
Much like Eve 6, it had been a while since anyone had heard from the Counting Crows. The beloved 90’s alternative band, led by Adam Durtiz, hadn’t released a full album since 2014, but absence clearly makes the heart grow fonder in cases like this, as the group was welcomed back to the live stage as they toured this last summer, and used the opportunity to live-debut their stunning new EP. Conceived as part one of a suite, with the four songs connecting together seamlessly, it’s a risk that pays off for the band. Almost a rock opera, songs like “Elevator Boots” find Durtiz’s lyrics returning to form, while “Angel of 14th Street” is down-right elegiac. Closer “Bobby and the Rat-Kings” barrages with a Springsteenian shuffle and stadium guitars. All I can say is bring on suite two!
3. Imogen Clark – Bastards
Australian songwriter Imogen Clark first came to my attention with her excellent 2020 single “My Own Worst Enemy”, and since then, she has become a consistent presence in my Spotify playlist. As she began releasing tracks for her latest EP Bastards, it became very clear that Clark had all the hooks and pop knack of artists like Taylor Swift, with a bit more of a rock streak. Opener “Forget About London” is a pop gem with Clark’s fluttery vocal swooning over an 80’s drum beat. There are also upbeat rockers like “Casualty” and “Bastards”, and a moving duet with the great Colin Hay, “First Class Man”. The songwriting is simply top notch and if there’s any justice, Clark will get discovered by the Swiftees and rise to fame on this side of the world.
4. Near Beer – Sleeping is for Suckers
Joey Siara has been carrying the torch for bands like The Replacements and Pavement for years, previously with his group The Henry Clay People, and now with his latest band Near Beer. The songs here are crunchy, high-energy nugget of rock n’ roll spirit, with lyrics that sneak up on you with their cleverness and snarky appeal. First single “The Alarmist” is all crunchy guitars, a pogo beat and shout-along hooks (lines like “He was an Asshole-in-Chief. And if I say he’s an asshole, he came gunning for me” purely embody the punk spirit and indie awkwardness that makes Siara’s lyrics so endearing). The storytelling in songs like “Some Party” calls back to the best of the 90’s indie rock songwriters; detailed to a tee, yet relatable. As Siara sings “There will always be some party that we missed”, you will think back to any past event you couldn’t attend with regret. Not listening to this EP should give you the same regret, so don’t miss this six song party.
5. Little Hurt – Every Second
When The Mowglis‘ Colin Dieden decided he needed a new solo project to release many of the things going on in his head and life, Little Hurt was born. And with this project, Dieden has managed to masterfully express the pains of anxiety, depression and general mental health struggles through incredibly catchy pop rock music. The jaunty, mariachi-inflected single “Alaska” turns the feeling of wanting to escape from life into a pop singalong, while “As Good as it Gets” is a synth-filled, jubilant anthem about accepting your life being a mess. The struggles of life have never sounded so good.
Dive into these wonderful EPs in our Top EPs of 2021 Playlist!