From ‘SHE IS COMING’ To ‘Self Portrait’: The 20 Best EPs Of 2019
While the rise of streaming has had an overwhelmingly negative impact on albums, the opposite is true for EPs. Abbreviated offerings are all the rage — largely due to their versatility. You can use them as a dumping ground for singles or as a stepping stone to something bigger. There’s also a lot less risk involved. Nobody expects an EP to set the charts on fire, which means artists can experiment without worrying about commercial expectations. And, if things go well, you can always add a couple of songs and call it an album.
Last year brought us a steady stream of great EPs. Some introduced news artists to the world (think Griff’s The Mirror Talk), while others reacquainted us with old favorites (Låpsley’s These Elements). And then, there were projects that were tantalizingly close to being an album. Julia Michael’s dual EPs would have made one of 2019’s best LPs, while Sasha Sloan’s Self Portrait was a couple of tracks from being a stellar debut. Dive into my list of 2019’s best Extended Plays below.
20. Wicked Lips — Iggy Azalea
Say what you like about Iggy Azalea, but she keeps on churning out bops. Wicked Lips, an independently-released 4-song set, boasted a couple of notable hip-hop/pop hybrids — namely the Alice Charter-assisted “Lola” (that “Mambo Italiano” sample works a treat) and “The Girls” featuring Brazilian bombshell Pabllo Vittar.
19. Rough Trade Session — Weyes Blood
An indie darling on the rise. Weyes Blood casually dropped one of the best albums of 2019 with the sublime Titanic Rising and then rounded out the year by gifting fans a live EP. Rough Trade Session offers a fascinating glimpse of the singer/songwriter’s live show, particularly the strength of her voice.
18. SuperM — SuperM
Comprised of members of hugely popular acts, SuperM can be thought of as The Avengers of K-Pop. Expectations were high for the man band’s debut and their self-titled EP more or less lived up to expectations with worldwide hit “Jopping” and quality deep cuts like “I Can’t Stand The Rain” and “2 Fast.”
17. Fire On Marzz — BENEE
New Zealand’s BENEE was a real overachiever in 2019, blessing us with not one but two stellar EPs. While both deserve your full attention, my pick is the hugely eclectic Fire On Marzz. The 20-year-old covers everything from slinky R&B (“Soaked”) to euphoric pop (“Glitter”) and whatever genre the demented “Evil Spider” belongs to.
16. The Mirror Talk — Griff
The UK churns out talented newcomers at an alarming rate, but Griff stands out as one of the most original. The teenager finds the sweet spot between alt-R&B and pop on The Mirror Talk, serving perfectly calibrated breakup anthems (“Didn’t Break It Enough” and “Sound Of Your Voice”) and uplifting pep talks.
15. Angel With Tattoos — Skylar Grey
Love is one hell of a drug. Skylar Grey found The One and wrote a whole EP (or building album — more songs will be added) about him. Impressively, Angel With Tattoos never becomes too sappy. Instead, it finds the singer/songwriter delving into matters of the heart with rare honesty and vulnerability.
14. Fancy You — TWICE
Do K-Pop artists ever sleep? The genre’s biggest names are extremely prolific, which is particularly true of TWICE. The girl group released two albums and two EPs in 2019, blessing our ears with non-stop bops. It’s hard to pick a favorite project but Fancy You gets my vote. Bangers like “Fancy” and “Girls Like Us” were undeniable.
13. Do You Feel Me? — Oliver Tree
From the bowl haircut to the stilts and questionable fashion, everything about Oliver Tree is kind of wrong. That is, except for the music. His winning brand of grungy alt-rock is perfectly showcased on Do You Feel Me? — an EP that houses veritable anthems like “Miracle Man” and “Alien Boy.”
12. Kate Teague — Kate Teague
That voice. Oxford, Mississippi’s Kate Teague delivers a master class in songwriting on her fuzzy, alt-leaning debut EP. This is a snapshot of an artist perfecting their sound and paving their own lane. Every song is great, but “Gilly,” “In Our Element” and “Sweetheart” are the best examples of her immense talent.
11. Season 1 — Nasty Cherry
Put together by Charli XCX, Nasty Cherry is an alt-pop girl band (for want of a better description) with attitude to burn. From the swagger of “Win” to the tongue-in-cheek naughtiness of “Music With Your Dad,” Season 1 is bursting with fucks-free bangers and sing-along bops. Now, how about that album?
10. Velvet: Side A — Adam Lambert
You can add Adam Lambert to the increasingly long list of artists flourishing outside the label framework. The freedom of being independent allowed The Glamorous One to experiment without constraint. As such, Velvet: Side A is Adam’s most eclectic offering to date, dabbling in everything from ’70s funk to power ballads.
9. You Ruined New York City For Me — FLETCHER
FLETCHER stomped on our emotions in 2019, feeding us home truths and relatable tales of woe on You Ruined New York City For Me. As the title suggests, this EP documents a soul-destroying, heart-shattering breakup. Whether she’s trying to forget (“Undrunk”) or coming to her senses (“If You’re Gonna Lie”), there’s a song on here for every shitty emotion.
8. Mood Swing — CYN
It’s time to give CYN her things. And by things, I mean a breakthrough radio hit. The rising star’s 2019 EP, Mood Swing, was jam-packed with suitable candidates. “Holy Roller,” a euphoric anthem about falling in love, ranked as one of my favorite songs of 2019, while “I’ll Still Have Me” is an unusually bruising ballad.
7. Chapter 2 — girl in red
Norway’s girl in red specializes in fuzzy, lo-fi bedroom-pop songs about the fleeting emotions and everyday occurrences. Which made the surprisingly dark nature of Chapter 2 something of a surprise. From the self-explanatory “i need to be alone.” to the macabre “dead girl in the pool.,” this was a dark and dreamy revelation.
6. SHE IS COMING — Miley Cyrus
The first of a trilogy of EPs that never eventuated, SHE IS COMING found Miley Cyrus revisiting the fiery, hip-hop/pop sound of Bangerz. While the six-song set has one obvious misfire (i.e. “Cattitude), the good far outweighs the bad. “Mother’s Daughter” was one of the most slept-on songs of 2019, while “Unholy” and “The Most” are worthy additions to Miley’s discography.
5. These Elements — Låpsley
For a while there, I thought pop had lost Låpsley. The British singer/songwriter arrived in a blaze of glory in 2016 with her critically acclaimed debut LP, Long Way Home, and then disappeared for three years. She returned late last year with the gorgeous “My Love Was Like The Rain” and an equally sublime EP called These Elements. Welcome back!
4. Que Quiénes Somos — CNCO
Latin boy band CNCO kept their (collective) foot on the gas in 2019. The quintet gave us an English-language bop, multiple collaborations and an EP filled with perfectly-calibrated Latin fare. There isn’t a dull moment on Que Quiénes Somos, which delivered bangers like “De Cero” and “Pegao.”
3. The Kids Are Coming — Tones And I
Tones And I was arguably the breakout star of 2019 thanks to the global success of “Dance Monkey.” But don’t dismiss the Aussie as a one hit wonder. Her debut EP, The Kids Are Coming, is full of potential hits including the heartfelt “Never Seen The Rain” and ruthlessly catchy “Jimmy.” She’s definitely One To Watch in 2020.
2. Self Portrait — Sasha Sloan
The Queen of the EP. Sasha Sloan topped last year’s countdown with Sad Girl and Loser, and almost did it again with Self Portrait. This is a brutally honest collection of songs that pays no heed to radio demands or production trends. Which is what makes songs like the blasphemous “Thank God” and gloomy “Dancing With Your Ghost” so refreshing. Hopefully 2020 is the year Sasha blesses us with an album.
1. Inner Monologue Parts 1 & 2 — Julia Michaels
Between recording features, writing songs for other artists and chipping away at her own blossoming music career, Julia Michaels is arguably the busiest woman in pop. Which makes the consistent greatness of her output all the more outrageous. She gave us two EPs in 2019, Inner Monologue Parts 1 & 2, which are overflowing with unforgettable pop anthems like the Niall Horan-assisted “What A Time” and (my favorite) “Happy.” Put these two EPs together in a playlist to listen to the best album not released in 2019.