My Top 15 EP’s of 2020
The time has come, for us to commence list week!
It’s a surprise to nobody at this point that 2020 has been a pretty wild ride of a year for many reasons (most of which have had a somewhat negative impact on everybody’s lives).
One aspect of this year, that most certainly hasn’t let us down, is indeed the unrelenting surge of new musical releases. Listeners like myself are truly so honoured to have been blessed by all of the amazing musical material we’ve received.
In a time where the majority of people who have relied on making a living with their music have arguably had it the worst this year, with the closure of venues and cancellations of festivals, many have gone above and beyond to show us that true creativity doesn’t sit quietly.
And while, like every other year, the amazing albums and singles have been plentiful. But what we are covering in this article, is something that was notably more abundant in the year of 2020, and that would of course be EPs.
With the creation of EP’s conventionally taking the place of what would otherwise be the creative process for live shows this year, listeners were treated to quite a few of them. I discovered more EPs in 2020 than any other year, with the vast majority of them being very enjoyable projects.
This has led me to cover 15 of my personal favourite EPs of 2020. But before that a few EP’s that won’t be on this ranking;
The first is JPEGMAFIA’s newest EP, titled EP!, which came out extremely recently. At the point that I discovered it, it unfortunately felt too late to include it at that point. But let it be known that it sounded like an extremely solid project.
The second is Bring Me The Horizon’s POST HUMAN: SURVIVAL HORROR, which has really blurred the line between EP and album. I felt that it would be borderline unfair to pair a project like that with the other EPs, so if you want to know how I feel about that project, you can find it on my Top 50 Albums list.
And with those disclaimers out of the way, let’s not waste any more time, and dive into what I feel were the strongest 15 EP’s of 2020.
#15 — Connor Adams — Devil of the Night
One of the most obvious reasons behind why there were more EPs coming my way than any other year before, was my involvement in the UK-based indie music chart that is Indie Top 39, who focus less on the typical indie genre that you might be familiar with, but instead on independent and upcoming artist.
With that being said, many of these independent artists have released debut or sophomore EPs in 2020. An example of an artist who has released their second project, would be none other than indie pop-rock artist Connor Adams.
With influences that spread from current pop artists like Ed Sheeran and Harry Styles, to more seasoned rock band like Foo Fighters and Stereophonics, Connor Adams blends both pop and rock in a completely unique way. Fusing the accessible qualities of his pop influences with the loud and gritty energy of his rock inspirations, the sounds that are found on Devil of the Night are spectacularly unique.
#14 — Crossfaith — SPECIES
Crossfaith have definitely shown to have created some brilliant EPs before, namely with projects like the ZION EP and the deluxe edition of FREEDOM. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the Japanese metalcore band have crafted another great EP with SPECIES.
Crossfaith undoubtedly do what they do best on this EP, and that is binging the sheer force of their energy to the table. The fact that Crossfaith was among the very last bands that I saw live before the lockdown in March, only boosts the sentimental quality of SPECIES.
This EP did its job of keeping my interest in Crossfaith renewed, and it did so in brilliant fashion, with its sense of familiarity, and staying true to their older material. it is a project that I reckon long-time Crossfaith fans will love.
#13 — emma miller — Set Me Down
Another example of an EP that I discovered over my time working for Indie Top 39, Set Me Down was not only brought to us by an incredibly talented independent artist, but also a fellow teammate.
On top of this, Set Me Down felt like the most memorable among quite a few amazing EP’s, which I had reviewed on behalf of the music chart.
There’s just something about the intricacy and delicate care that goes into each of the songs on this EP, and the feelings that are evoked by this level of care, that really allow Set Me Down to be a very special experience indeed.
I found myself being completely soothed by the heavenly sounds that encompass what is emma millers first independent EP, and it truly speaks volumes in terms of how much thought has been put into this brilliant project.
#12 — UNX — Three Eleven
2020 has been a bit of a turning point for me, in regards to taking YouTube creators seriously as musicians, and this is partially thanks to the debut EP from TGF member Romell Henry, who for this project undergoes the alias of UNX.
Three Eleven serves as a brilliant showcase of a sound that seems to stay very true to Romell as a person, as he does phenomenally well to add his personality to this project.
But what impressed me most about this EP, especially considering its musical realm of hip-hop, is just now natural the delivery of UNX’s bars feel. Normally with a debut project, there would be a slight abundance in rough edges, but Three Eleven is a smooth as they come.
#11 — LibraLibra — Hail Mary
With the appeal of EPs across the year, LibraLibra’s is a very unique case. Prior to release of Hail Mary, the debut EP from LibraLibra, they had been a band that I had most fondly remembered for their supporting set for the live show at Brighton’s Hope & Ruin, headlined by indie-rock band Thyla.
So with that being said, it should come as no surprise that Hail Mary effortlessly re-invoked that sense of live intimacy that I affiliated with the band. It also reminded me of the colorful, and spellbindingly dynamic energy the band have clearly championed.
The highlight of this amazing EP comes with its closer “Listerine”, an immensely powerful slow ballad that gives off shades of Kate Bush.
When all is said and done, I am fully on board the LibraLibra train, and want to see them play live once more as soon as I possibly can.
#10 — Ric Wilson & Terrace Martin — They Call Me Disco
I must say that I am very thankful for that musically dry week that led me to browse Album Of The Year’s new releases page. If not for that, I probably would’ve never discovered this amazing EP.
From the very get-go Ric Wilson and Terrace Martin’s collaborative project was stylistically right up my alley, with its colourful and jazzy production.
They Call Me Disco is nothing short of a completely fun project, and in the warmer days of May, this EP was released at the perfect time. Furthermore, it shares that sense of warmth musically, and even has a good nostalgic sense at many points.
For those who hadn’t been aware of this project until now, go and give it a listen if you want a downright enjoyable, and masterfully upbeat experience.
#9— jimbo — Jimbo’s House Party
It seems weird to rank this EP higher than UNX’s Three Eleven, as I initially saw them as clear equals, but as time went on I just felt that, while both EP’s are still great, that Jimbo’s House Party ultimately had the more lasting effect, perhaps because it has been out for longer.
To add some context, Jimbo’s House Party is an EP that came from the mind of another TGF member, that being Jay Swingler. And once again, it is another case of a project with tonnes of personality injected into it. The quirkiness that this EP carries is unmistakably Jay, and if you’ve been watching the TGF videos, you’ll hopefully be able to make that connection too.
The consistency of this EP’s noisy, bass-boosted aesthetic is definitely noteworthy. And with this project being released amongst some of the warmest days of the year, the timing of this project had given it a very good opportunity for me to look back on the EP more sentimentally.
#8— Little Simz — Drop 6
After last year’s absolute masterpiece of an album that was Little Simz’s GREY Area, I was very excited to get into the UK Rapper’s new EP Drop 6. However, my main concern going into it was the possibility that it might come off as the bottom of GREY Area’s barrel. But thankfully, it didn’t feel like that in the slightest.
On Drop 6, Little Simz continues to bring a diverse range of tunes, ranging from those with an awesomely gritty energy, like on “might bang, might not”, to those with a more atmospheric vibe like “where’s my lighter”.
It only serves as a continuation of just how talented of a wordsmith Little Simz is, and along with the slightly more lo-fi and homely feel throughout the EP’s production, all qualities come together to make a pretty amazing EP.
#7 — Alfie Templeman — Happiness in Liquid Form
As far as EPs go, very few of them captured that summer feeling quite like this project from Alfie Templeman.
Following my listen-through of Templeman’s 2019 debut album Don’t Go Wasting Time, I was definitely faithful that he could once again bring that colourful and wholesome energy through this new EP.
Happiness in Liquid Form perfectly captures those vibes, and with this EP being released in the warmth of July, this project and the time of year went absolutely hand-in-hand.
As a result, Happiness in Liquid Form feels carries a great deal of sentiment along with its warm and colourful atmosphere.
#6 — Dua Saleh — ROSETTA
This isn’t the first time that Dua Saleh has released an EP that I have enjoyed. With their 2019 debut EP Nūr, I was instantly able to get a sense of their musical uniqueness and experimental engagement.
And even with Nūr being as good of an EP as it was, Dua Saleh’s musical depth has rapidly increased towards the release of ROSETTA, an EP which carries even more uniqueness and depth.
It’s tricky to pinpoint a specific genre when writing about ROSETTA, but that’s exactly what makes Dua Saleh such an exciting artist. Along with the later released track ‘angel rock’, and their feature on “Bloodrush”, Dua Saleh has undoubtedly made themself known in 2020.
#5 — Lynks — Smash Hits. Vol. 1
I think the first time I was made aware of Lynks, was through some kind of event notification for one of their shows in Bristol. And putting this together with the moment I stumbled across this debut EP, I knew that it would make for an interesting listen.
Lynks really gets their personality across flawlessly, through the quirky, colourful, and above all fun aesthetic of Smash Hits. Vol 1. With a versatile range of relevant subjects covered throughout the project, Lynks goes through the narrative of each track by injecting their sense of wit lyrically, and this made Smash Hits. Vol 1 an EP that my attention was on completely.
Independently crafted and released (under the self-made label of LynksCorp), this EP absolutely oozes with that sense of independence that really allows the artist’s versatility and talent shine through. And looking back on this EP, I am in awe that such an expertly thought out project came from the mind of just one person.
#4 — Black Sky Research — One
Despite being the final EP that I had reviewed this year, the debut project from Black Sky Research impressed me enough for it to swiftly climb up the ranks.
There was a highly nostalgic sense of epicness that I gathered from Black Sky Research’s debut single “Light up the Sky”, which most certainly feels apparent on the entirety of One. I also really respect the bands attempt of creating as linked of a narrative as they could on a five-track project, and it definitely gave One that extra edge which allowed me to appreciate it even more.
To round things off, I feel that the kind of mood, that becomes more and more empowering as the EP progresses, feels like a project which, in a sentimental sense, bridges the end of 2020, and the prospect of 2021 very nicely.
#3 — Tkay Maidza — Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2
I can easily recall just how hot of a day it was when I first listened to Tkay Maidza’s Last Year Was Weird, Vol.2. And with as colourful of a production as the album cover may suggest, I felt that this EP was a perfect musical representation of that summer high-point.
But as consistently vibrant as the production behind this EP was, it was also very versatile in the range of moods that it offered. From serene and atmospheric tunes like “24k”, to gritty bangers like “Awake”, Last Year Was Weird, Vol.2 carried an exceptional bunch of tunes.
While the aforementioned Happiness in Liquid Form felt like a very representative EP for the summer, this project feels like just as much of a representative, if not more so.
#2 — Sundara Karma — Kill Me
Another entry which arrived a bit later in the year with the majority of EPs on this list, Sundara Karma’s Kill Me quickly established itself not only as a fantastic EP, but a completely unique musical avenue that Sundara Karma have decided to venture into.
While their 2019 album Ulfilas’ Alphabet was indeed one of the more memorable and enjoyable projects of last year, it now feels like the primarily indie sound that embellished that project has been worked upon this year, to instead create a far more experimental aesthetic, which feels very unique to Sundara Karma.
Said aesthetic on Kill Me feels incredibly wondrous and fantasy-like, with the best tracks on this project carrying a near-infinite amount of musical depth. The project felt euphoric almost the entire time I had listened to Kill Me.
I would absolutely love to see this new and exciting sound pursued on an album-sized project, and cannot wait to see where Sundara Karma go next.
#1 — Obongjayar — Which Way is Forward?
Even since I heard Obongjayar’s single “Never Change” at the end of 2018, I had been eagerly waiting for a full body of musical work from the Nigerian soul artist. It wouldn’t be until February of this year, that we finally got to see this project come to life. So with that being said, Which Way is Forward? was most certainly a project that was highly anticipated by myself.
And I am thrilled to say that Which Way is Forward? validates every high expectation I had towards it. The uplifting, soulful, and upbeat energy that shines brightly through this EP, filled me with a grand sense of motivation. This kind of feeling is one of the purest forms of why listening to music is such a healthy and essential thing, and Which Way is Forward? absolutely champions this.
One thing I also love about Obongjayar in general, is that his style of soul is unconventional, in comparison to the typical soul you might expect. Getting that same soul feeling across through a more rustic production, inspired by a mixture of African soul and Afrobeat. That being said, the authentic feel of Obongjayar’s music is absolutely unrivalled in my opinion.
So Which Way is Forward? leaves me with an answer to that rhetorical question, and that is that for Obongjayar, the only way is forward.
And that wraps up my favourite EPs of 2020. If there are any other EPs that you’d consider your favourite of the year that weren’t on the list, feel free to let me know, or better still, create a list of your own. Trust me, it’s a very satisfying exercise.
Stay tuned for more lists coming this week, including my top 50 albums and top 100 singles, and thank you for reading.