Whether they are launch-pad debuts or consolidatory returns, from hotly-tipped dearies or left-field gems – we just had to circle back on our favourite EP’s of this year.
Serving up easily-digestible clumps of tracks in 20 minute doses, the Extended Play, or ‘EP’ has, for some time now, become the first (and often second) major pillar of conquest for the dreamful budding artiste. They offer the scope to showcase multifaceted visions in a way a single simply cannot, while remaining free from the financial burdens of an album which most small bands and labels are increasingly unable to shoulder. As a result, they offer an invaluable platform upon which musical communities may gladly build their audience and ambitions.
In a testament to the rich artistry cultivated by the UK‘s ever-resilient underground circuit, 2022 has spoiled us for dazzling, intriguing, and devastating ‘Extended Plays’, many of which we have featured and critiqued on this very site. Whether they are launch-pad debuts or consolidatory returns, from hotly-tipped dearies or left-field gems, the past 12 months have highlighted, amidst everything dismal, that there’s a future for us here, noisy and bright, with fuck-yeah, shit-kicking music, at least.
And so, as we become subject to the litany of Album of the Year lists spraying our feeds with their considered retrospections, it’s high time we imperilled you with a list of our own.
In some particular order, here are our favourite, and maybe even the best, EPs of 2022.
Opus Kink ‘Til The Stream Runs Dry’ (Nice Swan
Opus Kink’s debut EP descended upon us in remarkable condition. Comprehensively realised and ambitiously constructed, its bulging 7-song sequence fizzed with ideas and inventions.. Errant, instrumentals vyed with dramatic showpiece statements like ‘Til, the Stream Runs Dry” or the ‘St. Paul of the Tarantula’, each executed with that tremulous jazz-punk impetuosity that has seen their notoriety skyrocket.
“The sextet’s collection of seven tracks will keep your ears finely attuned and your attention firmly grasped as potent brass sections meet barbed guitar lines, rhythmic drums and driving bass grooves – vocals snarling their way through to the forefront of the chaos.” (Otis Hayes)
Speedboat – Better Men (Moshi Moshi)
There’s an alternate universe, I have no doubt where Speedboat are the biggest 80s pop band in the universe. In this wondrous place, civilisations everywhere fawn over their devilish, synth-pop brewings of bubblegum fantasy with leftfield eccentricities. In that alternate universe, and this one too Speedboat’s sophomore EP was a joy to behold Buzzing with effervescent New Wave spark, Sweetened and chintzy crooning ballads, Better Men was as sharp a release as it was refreshingly fun.
“‘Better Men’ is exactly as it sounds, markedly mature, well thought out and refined like a beautifully artisanal meal” ” (Alexandra Dominica)
Mandrake Handshake – The Triple Point of Water (Glasshouse)
Always pushing their sound, always testing the listener and never resting on their already beautifully complex back catalogue, Oxford/ London collective Mandrake Handshake continue to be a breath of fresh air in the ‘new band’ landscape (basically anyone who hasn’t yet released an album). Their November EP ‘The Triple Point Of Water’ is an outrageously complete listen, instantly admirable yet blooming further with each additional listen. It teases us into a rabbit hole of progressive psychedelia, combative and ethereal within it’s changing sonic tides.
Ellie Bleach – No Elegant Way to Sell-out (Sad Club)
There’s not much left for me to say about this EP, No really, check out our extensive fangirling interview with Ellie from back in October. What I will say is that even after countless listens, it remains so full of life, always throwing up some new avenue of meaning and play. The songs evolve timeless rock ballad styles and brings to them a singular intelligence and humour. ‘Doing Really Well Thanks’ is a flawless 4-and-a-half minutes and still faces strong competition for Song of the EP.
Keg – Girders (Alcopop!)
Manic and unhinged, bristling with urgency, Keg’s second EP blustered us through one wild post-punking adventure. Like riding in the backseat with Kerouac’s Dean Moriaty – all bulging eyeballs, screw-neck jaws, and speed limit aversion – “Girders” high-octane, blitz approach brought us barre-lloads of excitement. The trombone slides, the sharp-witted lyrics delivered in throat-ripping yelps; those synthesisers chirping, those guitars abounding… what a wonderful, stomach-churning ride!
Krush Puppies – Love Kills The Demons (Holm Front)
Plunging into Psychedelia, pondering into shoegaze, or launching into a rattle-shackle rock ‘n’ roll fever, Krush Puppies served up an exquisite concoction for their debut EP. The bong-ripping fuzz solos of “Throw Me On The Fire” or “Why” and its tides of emotional rawness were just two parts of an immersive release that betrayed a quartet brimming with invention, infused with magic and hair-curling spook.
English Teacher- Polyawkward (Nice Swan)
The Leeds’ quartet’s debut EP justified their billing as one of the UK’s buzziest ‘guitar bands’. Crunching through all manner of indie-rock groove – from the buoyant, to the intricate, to the blood-rushingly exhilarating – “Polyawkward” came varnished in confidence and cool. From the swirling cadences of the titular opener, to the insatiable hooks of “Good Grief”, capping all of “Polyawkward”’s achievement was Lily Fontaine’s deft lyrical turns, laced with humour and heartful poignancy.
“‘Polyawkward’ feels like the starting point of an exciting and adventurous musical career for this group, with one or two songs that already feel like future classics of their catalogue.” (Lloyd Bolton)
Mewn – Such As This (Simonie Records)
As adept at tightly plaited folk-adjacent pop as at gargantuan heart-squishing slow-core, The second EP from Manchester’s Mewn offered one enigmatic blend of touching, twilit sweets. “Swell” with it’s gently swung 70s grandeur; “A Crematorium” with its sinister spoken word; “Two Days” with it’s angelic, hooky melodic sweeps – “Such as This” encompassed so much that is delicate and pure, remaining intently focused all the while.
Tapir! – Act 1, “The Pilgrim” (My Life Is Big)
Promising something stranger, and more enchanting than anything else we’ve ever known, Tapir!”s folkish tales dazzled on delighted “Act 1′. Pregnant with the possibility of adventure, evocative soundscaping and gossamer songwriting hallmarked Tapir!’s colourful ambitions. And, thankfully, As the title of the EP implies, more chapters of this endearing saga seem destined to follow….
“Tapir! are the connection between our world and another that is a little greener, a little stranger… Act I is Tapir! sounding entirely itself, and in its beguiling brevity, it has me reaching to start it again as soon as it finishes.”(Lloyd Bolton)
Platonica Erotica – Platonica Erotica (Slow Dance)
Creeping, witching, like the sparkle of a star in black city sky, Platonica Erotica’s debut haunted and consoled in equal quantities. With the glass-stained translucence of “Opened Up”, the Grunge cataclysms of “King Of New York”, or the fractured mists of “I Want to Be Every man I Meet”, each tune was moulded to its own definition, contained in it’s own idiosyncrasy of texture and instrumentation, cosseted in it’s own pristine version bleakness.
“‘Platonica Erotica’ is a world to get lost in, various but whole.” (Lloyd Bolton)
For Breakfast – Trapped in the Big Room (Glasshouse)
Whether it’s the infernal vortices of “Nervous Boundaries”, or the gremlin funfair that bookends the voyaging “Heavy Horse Museum”,, For Breakfast have singularly crafted their own mystifying world hexed with phantasms and uncanny dimensionalities. Vast and dungeonous in its sonic appeal, yet emboldened by a sense of epic romanticism, ‘Trapped in the Big Room’ was one of 2022’s quietly brilliant jewels; guitars, flutes, saxophones sparking everywhere, in amazing formations.
“‘Trapped in the Big Room’ is unshakable in its diversity and energy, a pilgrimage of sound and genre boundaries, For Breakfast soundtrack the circle of life – a parallel universe where feeling and emotion are paramount.” (Karl Johnson)
Listen to all these too:
Kyoto Kyoto – Mirror Flexing Jaw
The Queen’s Head – The Queen’s Head
Wooze – The Magnificent Eleven
Langkamer – Red Thread Route
Deadletter – Heat!
Fraulein – A Small Taste
Park Motive – Duust
Dog Unit – Turn Right and Right Again
Blood Wizard – Imaginary House
Maripool – It all comes at Once
C Turtle – This is Not Karate
Kierst – Thud