2019 In Review

25 Great EPs From 2019

In 2018 we pondered the state of the EP and the increasingly diverse ways that artists are categorizing what they release — i.e., the rise of the “project.” But if our list of great EPs from last year, and now 2019’s crop, are any indication, the EP format is just as strong as ever. The artform of the short release will surely continue to morph as physical media becomes less and less prevalent, but it’s clear there’s still something potent about a musician having a constrained number of songs to make an impression.

If there’s one thing that ties the releases on this list together, it’s that a lot of them come from newer artists. The EP remains a proving ground for young bands. In fact there’s quite a bit of overlap with our Best New Bands list from earlier this year. An EP is still probably the best way to get a proper introduction to a fresh face, the purest distillation of their artistic intentions, whatever they might be. But this year’s 25 EPs aren’t just limited to new artists — we also have rappers putting in some of their best work, established acts offering up stopgap releases, punk bands burning with intensity over only a handful of tracks, and much more.

As in the last few years, our 25 Great EPs list is intended as an addendum to Stereogum’s 50 Best Albums Of 2019 list, in order to celebrate this year’s shorter releases and highlight a larger pool of music. We collectively voted on these as a staff, though I (hello, it’s James, again) wrote about all of them and made the final decisions about what to include and exclude, which means that the results probably trend toward my tastes a bit more than a true consensus list might. That also means that the EPs list is not meant to be exhaustive and definitive — because of their very nature, EPs sometimes slip through the cracks. We welcome your picks in the comments below.

So read on for Stereogum’s list of 25 Great EPs From 2019, which are presented alphabetically. You can also listen to a playlist of the selections on Spotify.

Andy Stott – It Should Be Us (Modern Love)

Andy Stott’s proper albums tend to build toward moments of exquisite beauty, but there’s little beauty to be found on It Should Be Us. The Manchester producer’s EPs often find him pushing in darker directions — his last pair of EPs, Passed Me By and We Stay Together, came out eight whole years ago — and this double EP is filled with sweaty and misshapen club songs. Stott’s looping beats feel worn and degraded, but there’s a release to be found in the scuzziness, swallowed up by a cavernous and dark dance floor.
HEAR IT: Spotify | Apple Music

Benny The Butcher – The Plugs I Met (Black Soprano)

Benny The Butcher might have grown up 400 miles northwest of New York City, but those skyscrapers still loom large over his music. The Plugs I Met is a flex, a way for the Buffalo rapper to declare that he’s arrived. It boasts verses from Pusha T, Black Thought, and Jadakiss as examples of Benny’s ascension. He uses the EP’s final track to rap about the transition from making money drug-slinging to making money from rapping full-time. “Six figures, legal money, that ain’t bad/ Three-time felon, now I run a business,” the song punctuated by interludes from girlfriend India that reflect on Benny’s dangerous past and promising future.
HEAR IT: Spotify | Apple Music

Body Type – EP2 (Inertia / Partisan)

Body Type’s second EP sounds a step removed from the snarling attitude that the Sydney band exhibited on its debut EP from last year. They gravitate toward more confident hooks, even amid a greater sense of atmosphere. Everything about Body Type on EP2 sounds bigger, their soaring rock songs built around fuzzy harmonies and barreling energy. On “Stingray,” they sing about an animal that has no spine but is still eager to shock — an apt analogy from a band whose music goes from placid to incisive on the turn of a dime, like a stingray lying in wait for its prey.
HEAR IT: Spotify | Apple Music | Bandcamp

Broken Social Scene – Let’s Try The After, Vol. 1 (Arts + Crafts)

Thankfully Broken Social Scene are still doing their thing. This year, they followed up the 2017 comeback album Hug Of Thunder with a pair of EPs called Let’s Try The After. It’s the first volume of the two that really shines, five new songs of all-encompassing light from the Canadian collective. Highlights include “All I Want,” a groovy song that has an Eastern squiggle, and “Boyfriends,” which explodes into a blistering cannonball of swallowed-up screaming. BSS are still finding new ways to tweak old formulas, and that’s worth celebrating.
HEAR IT: Spotify | Apple Music

Caracara – Better (Memory Music)

Caracara’s EP serves as a showcase for its title track. “Better” is the sort of six-minute song that more than justifies its runtime, a bleary build-up and a scorching breakdown that enlists fellow Philadelphian Mannequin Pussy’s Marisa Dabice on vocals. “I think that there’s always been an intersection between post-rock and hardcore, but what I’m not seeing as much as I want to see is that type of music but with a greater attention paid to sung vocals and lyrics,” the band’s Will Lindsay said in an interview with us earlier this year, and Better finds Caracara toeing that line, both ends leading to a massive oblivion.
HEAR IT: Spotify | Apple Music | Bandcamp

Channel Tres – Black Moses (GODMODE)

Every song on Channel Tres’ Black Moses has something vital to say: about the nature of black brilliance, about what it means to be held up as a pillar of a community, about the sanctity of losing yourself in the club. The Compton-based musician surrounds these messages with undeniable dance music — smooth grooves and billowing-cloud production and twitchy turns that get a room moving just as much as they engage the mind.
HEAR IT: Spotify | Apple Music | Bandcamp

Charlotte Gainsbourg – Take 2 (Because Music)

Take 2 was released at the very end of last year, a victory lap after Charlotte Gainsbourg’s accomplished full-length Rest. The French singer and actress is a little looser here — there’s a live cover of Kanye West’s “Runaway” — and she finds new ground to mine with producer SebastiAn, with whom she worked on Rest. The standout is “Bombs Away,” a campy, cinematic synth-pop song that channels World War II anxieties: “Another animal gets drowned in the Seine/ Enemies, enemies will never be friends,” Gainsbourg intones over a thumping beat.
HEAR IT: Spotify | Apple Music

Christelle Bofale – Swim Team (Father/Daughter)

Christelle Bofale makes music about the constant struggle to stay afloat. Her debut EP is fittingly called Swim Team, and the songs sound like Bofale is learning how to sufficiently butterfly stroke her way through life. They are filled with watery guitar tones, and Bofale’s voice is magnificent, like rocks skipping across an open pond. It’s an aqueous release to represent a malleable time in a person’s life, that period in early adulthood when you’re just starting to become a real person. “Moving on, it ain’t easy,” she sings on one track. “Getting on, it ain’t clear to me.”
HEAR IT: Spotify | Apple Music | Bandcamp

Dry Cleaning – Boundary Road Snacks And Drinks (It’s OK)

Florence Shaw is at the center of Dry Cleaning’s slow and methodical post-punk. She’s an exciting new vocalist because of the way that she manages to not sound excited at all. Shaw delivers wry observations with all the enthusiasm of a grocery list, her numbed words extending to the ways we try to practice self-care, binge-watch television, scroll through social media, and fall in love. Boundary Road Snacks And Drinks swallows Shaw’s voice right up into a series of moody and textured songs that get at how rote life can sometimes be.
HEAR IT: Spotify | Apple Music | Bandcamp

Earl Sweatshirt – Feet Of Clay (Tan Cressida)

Earl Sweatshirt continues his descent into the dissociative drawl that he adopted on last year’s Some Rap Songs. The tracks on Feet Of Clay are not traditionally structured — they are an outpouring of words, abstracted memories rapped over hypnotic crate-digger beats. Thebe Kgositsile is stuck in the muck, heady and insular, opening up this claustrophobic project only for fellow heady and insular rappers Mach-Hommy and Mavi. The result is a dizzying swirl of interiority, a collection of mumbles that asks more questions than it answers.
HEAR IT: Spotify | Apple Music

Guerilla Toss – What Would The Odd Do? (NNA Tapes)

Two years ago, Guerilla Toss leader Kassie Carlson underwent open-heart surgery to remove a blood clot that had formed as a result of opiate addiction. What Would The Odd Do? is where Carlson and the rest of the band confront that near-brush with death. It’s one of the most concise and overpowering examples of the chaotically beautiful psych-dance sound that Guerilla Toss have been perfecting over the last few years, expertly constructed songs about the struggle to get clean and the wonder of seeing every day life through sober eyes.
HEAR IT: Spotify | Apple Music | Bandcamp

Haircut – Sensation (Beach Impediment)

With only seven minutes spread out over four tracks, the Richmond hardcore band Haircut unleash a riotous frenzy. The group is fronted by Juliana, an imposing figure who growls through these headbangers in both Spanish and English. She sings about never having enough time, about being overstimulated. “Sensation, that’s what you want!” she yells on the title track. “Sensation, spilling guts!” It’s a thrashing punk song that feels like getting bashed in the teeth and asking for more.
HEAR IT: Spotify | Apple Music | Bandcamp

Inclination – When Fear Turns To Confidence (Pure Noise)

The Louisville band Inclination make massive hardcore that reaches levels of metal intensity. They even make being straight edge sound good. “As long as I breathe, I will be fucking poison free,” they insists on one track. On another: “A drug-free proclamation/ My straight edge inclination.” Their conviction bleeds into the songs on When Fear Turns To Confidence, which is filled with whisper breakdowns that erupt into grizzled screams and then morph into gang vocal chants that are blistering and absolutely epic.
HEAR IT: Spotify | Apple Music | Bandcamp

Judy And The Jerks – Music For Donuts (Thrilling Living)

You’d expect something called Music For Donuts to be candy-coated confection, but Judy And The Jerks opts for a more puckering side of sweetness. The Hattiesburg band plays fast, loose, melodic punk. Here, they have odes to butter, lard, and gum — all food items that stick to your sides going down. Music For Donuts has the energy of a marathon, but that marathon takes place on a treadmill, after you’ve eaten too much candy and you’re a slobbering mess.
HEAR IT: Bandcamp

Kate Teague – Kate Teague (Muscle Beach)

Kate Teague’s songs are dreamy and narrative, threading interpersonal connections throughout the cosmos. The Oxford, Mississippi musician has a classic folky voice, but that voice is surprisingly malleable. On her debut EP, she adapts to a disco shimmer on “Good To You” and bristles up on “Sweetheart,” where Teague insists, “I can frown if I want to/ Don’t call me a sweetheart.” She’s most in her element when she’s languishing in rootsy malaise, when her voice is able to spread out and take hold through dusty, mournful coos.
HEAR IT: Spotify | Apple Music | Bandcamp

Knife Wife – Family Party (Sister Polygon)

Calling Family Party an EP at 10 tracks is probably a bit of a stretch, but that’s what Knife Wife have designated it, so let’s roll with that. The Washington, DC trio trades in dark twisted punk music, songs that feel like they’re rotting from the inside. The family party of its title is no party I’d want to go to — it’s the sort where all of the buried resentments make you deeply uncomfortable. But Knife Wife treat that discomfort with a sing-songy snarl, opting to confront that darkness instead of shy away from it.
HEAR IT: Spotify | Apple Music | Bandcamp

NOIA – Crisàlida (Cascine)

For the last couple years, Gisela Fulla-Silvestre has been making electronic music under the name NOIA. Her second EP, Crisàlida, is about feeling suffocated by a city — in her case New York — and her music is an attempt to ease that suffering by taking it out on the dance floor. On the constantly moving “Ciudad del Humo,” she frantically looks for an escape; on the angelic “Ausencias” she pivots around the haunting question “Do I want you or do I want to be you?” All of the soul-searching takes place in icily deconstructed songs that center around Fulla-Silvestre’s voice and talent for building a chilly but inviting atmosphere.
HEAR IT: Spotify | Apple Music | Bandcamp

Portrayal Of Guilt – Suffering Is A Gift (Closed Casket Activities)

Suffering Is A Gift opens with two minutes of static and what sounds like a siren calling ships into port away from the sharp rocks, and then it explodes into fiery mayhem. The Texas hardcore band doesn’t let up for 10 whole minutes, building on last year’s Let Pain Be Your Guide by somehow becoming even more brutal, more unrelenting, more cathartically brilliant.
HEAR IT: Spotify | Apple Music | Bandcamp

Post Pink – No Problem, Probably (Self-released)

Post Pink embrace the doom-and-gloom. Across eight tracks, the Baltimore band is concerned with empty spaces and how to fill them adequately, but it’s like trying to hold water in your hands. Or as they put it on the opening track: “Eating air to feel full/ Breathe your air back into me, but there’s a hole in my lungs that won’t contain it.” The songs are wiry and tense, but they leave equal space for cutting barbs and warm melodies, delivered with a razor-sharp sincerity.
HEAR IT: Spotify | Apple Music | Bandcamp

Pottery – No. 1 (Partisan)

The best moment on Pottery’s first EP comes on “Hank Williams,” a jangly freight train of a song that invites you to imagine Hank Williams doing speed for the first time, and proceeds to do a pretty damn good job of conjuring up what that might sound like. The Montreal band’s No. 1 channels twangy and clanking post-punk into tunes that feel like they’re constantly building themselves up and breaking themselves down, a swirling in-between.
HEAR IT: Spotify | Apple Music | Bandcamp

Sheena, Anika And Augusta – Simple Pleasures (Asian Man)

Move over, Boygenius, there’s a new super trio in town. Lemuria’s Sheena Ozella, Chumped and Katie Ellen’s Anika Pyle, and Cayetana and Gladie’s Augusta Koch make up the group that’s fittingly called Sheena, Anika, And Augusta. Their first foray into music together is a good deal softer than their emo-punk bonafides might suggest. They opt for a folky minimalism here to allow their three impeccable voices to take center stage, they sing in rounds with a bare-faced emotional honesty. “For Billy,” which closes Simple Pleasures, is reminiscent of Mountain Man, all three of them commiserating over a shared pain: “I cry so many tears I could flow down.”
HEAR IT: Spotify | Apple Music | Bandcamp

Slow Pulp – Big Day (Self-released)

Big Day’s standout track “High” captures the sluggish inability to move that comes with getting galactically stoned. “I just think I’m too high,” Emily Massey sings, “My limbs are feeling lazy/ Why wouldn’t they work with me?/ And now I can’t seem to focus my eyes/ Won’t let me see.” The Madison, Wisconsin-based band writes songs about bad situations that you can’t get out of, and they translate that trapped-in feeling through songs that are dense with fuzz, mimicking the feeling that we’re never getting out alive.
HEAR IT: Spotify | Apple Music | Bandcamp

Squid – Town Centre (Speedy Wunderground)

Town Centre is a testament to the versatility of this young Brighton band. Squid’s debut EP opens with an extended discordant simmer that builds to the expertly prickly “Match Bet,” which escalates to Louis Borlase’s screaming command of “Come and fix me up!” That’s followed by the 7-minute “The Cleaner,” a post-punk howler about the invisible labor that goes on all around us, and they end on the spacey, brassy “Rodeo.” Each track has a distinctive flavor, and altogether it’s quite a ride.
HEAR IT: Spotify | Apple Music

Thyla – What’s On Your Mind (REX)

The Thyla that exist on What’s On Your Mind already sound like a thing of the past, if the UK band’s forthcoming follow-up EP is any indication. They’re a band that has, so far, thrived in the short-form, which gives them the ability to pick up and drop sonic identities at will. They’re constantly shifting, but one thing that ties all their songs together is a bashing wall of sound — whether they’re engaging with shoegaze or grunge or melodic ’90s rock, they nail it every time. What’s On Your Mind is filled with songs that climb sky-high, with towering hooks and songs that just won’t quit being relentlessly catchy.
HEAR IT: Spotify | Apple Music

Tørsö – Build And Break (Revelation)

“I don’t need more time to self-reflect/ All I do is lose self-respect,” Mae howls on a song off Tørsö’s latest missile Build And Break. The Bay Area punks have been putting out hard, fast, and obliterating music for a few years now, and this four-track collection is full of quick hits that leave you reeling so you don’t have to reflect on all the ways that the world is beating you down. “Drag me out into the cold,” she sings on that same song. “Bury me in the snow/ Never dig myself out.”
HEAR IT: Spotify | Apple Music | Bandcamp

Listen to a Spotify playlist featuring selections from these EPs here.