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Best EPs Of 2018

It wasn’t easy, but we did it. The best EPs of 2018, according of course to the Playlistplay team. Here’s what came out in 2018 that we particularly loved.

Amira Wang,
Rap Game Ragu

I may be biased since we went to high school together… but even without knowing Amira, Rap Game Ragu would still be on this list. Amira released “Let The Beat Go” on SoundCloud earlier this year and I knew from my first listen that the talent she has for writing catchy hooks and clever bars was so natural. Every song from the EP is on my workout playlist. No Kansas City rapper has had this strong of a debut since… ever. “Nxt Up”, the intro track on the record, sets the tone for the entire EP. The song reminds me of Jay-Z’s “Beach Is Better” or Cardi’s “Get Up 10”. Just knocking from start to finish. Amira is my bitch period.

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-Lucas Carpenter, Photographer

boygenius,
boygenius

The lovechild of three of this century’s most gifted and stirring songwriters, boygenius is a blend of voices. Earlier this year, Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus announced that they’d be collaborating on the six-song EP and touring across the country together as the supergroup that we all need but arguably do not deserve. The trio trade-off vocal refrains and echo one another’s words in an ethereal embrace. The words and melodies are timeless, and I imagine myself spinning this record in my old-age, finding it as transcendental as I do today.

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-Anna Selle, Staff Photographer

bristletongue
femme florale

Nestled sweetly between contemporary emo revival and post-rock, bristletongue’s vulnerable ‘femme florale’ confesses with nonpareil emotional maturity. Four intentional compositions backboned by frontperson L Morgan’s hypnotic, honest poetics and apparitional vocal melodies unravel and sting between walls of sound. “Must I be wanted to be worth anything?”. Delivered not as a hysteric recount, but instead a wounded, brooding tension that succumbs and boils over. It’s unsurprising bristletongue has earned the praise of emo deity Julien Baker, as well as a fixture on Stereogum’s 40 Best New Bands Of 2018; and this is only the beginning.

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-Kevin Briody, Curator

Dermot Kennedy
Mike Dean Presents: Dermot Kennedy

According to Spotify, Dermot Kennedy was my most played artist this year. I could have told you that. The Irish vocalist has been establishing himself as a powerhouse artist, and Mike Dean Presents: Dermot Kennedy is a testament to that. Blending poetic lyricism with his commanding voice, and pairing his rapper-like cadence with hip-hop inspired percussion, Kennedy lies at a unique intersection of style.

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-Savanna Howland, Editor-In-Chief

Haux
Something To Remember

Slow and sexy is the name of Haux’s game. This six-track down-tempo release exudes an energy of restlessness and wanderlust. Masterfully layered production provide a sound structure for Haux’s hushed and dreamy vocals. Any track could be plucked out and placed into a movie; this EP is very cinematic.

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-Stevie Ervay, Editor

Lily Kershaw
Work Tapes

One of the most magical things in the music world is showing up to a show, not knowing the opener, and being absolutely floored by their performance. That’s exactly what happened with Lily Kershaw when we saw her open up for Joshua Radin in San Francisco. Work Tapes is a quick 3 songs of whisper-soft lyrics and quiet guitar accompaniment that leaves you wanting more. Luckily, Kershaw also put out her sophomore album Los Angeles this year – so go listen to that as soon as you finish this EP.

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-Nick Howland, Creative Director

Michael Cera Palin
I Don’t Know How To Explain It

Initially I was drawn to the band known as Michael Cera Palin by what else than the name. I was immediately enamored with the band, thanks to their cover of Sheryl Crow’s “If It Makes You Happy”; rekindling my love for punk covers of pop music. After the shock that Sheryl Crow might be an emo icon, I was quickly brought back to my senses through the piercing crunch and bounce of MCP’s delicious basslines, and left with stinging refrains of heartbreak I imagine would be plastered across my AIM bio if this was 2007. Sadly, as of November 2018 the band has announced an indefinite hiatus, but if this is in fact the last we hear from the band in this form, then the final verse of I Don’t Know How to Explain It serves as a fitting and familiar realization:

“Coming to find I can’t get out of my head // But maybe all of this is better unsaid”.

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-Austin Ratzki, Contributor

Off Road Minivan
Spiral Gaze EP

The very first sounds from this short, but sonically expansive, post-rock EP grabbed me immediately. The intensely rich tone and resonating delay of the guitar set a solid example for what the four tracks will embody. Heavy riffs, loud crescendos, and layers of vocals blend seamlessly together to create a massive sound from the New York quintet. Frontman Ryan Tuck O’Leary’s emotional delivery can be heard vividly through each song. Find some good headphones and dive into this EP.

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-Stevie Ervay, Editor

Old News
Castro

Loud and rowdy right out of the gate, Old News tears through Castro faster than you want them to. The Wichita, KS DIY quartet blend that classic midwest emo sound with elements of jazz and mathy influences. Tasteful horns, jaunty guitar lines, perfectly peppy beats, and a bass that won’t sit still are rife throughout the four tracks. And then, in what seems like the blink of an eye, the EP is over, and you’re left wanting more.

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-Stevie Ervay, Editor

Pageant Boys
Dark Room

Dark and brooding is a mood well suited for Kansas City’s Pageant Boys. Whirring and wobbling synths build lush, yet arguably minimalistic, soundscapes, a vehicle for Pageant Boys’ buttery vocals to shine through. Shockingly honest and stern lyricism adds a layer intrigue into each of the five songs on Darkroom.

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-Stevie Ervay, Editor

Philip Daniel ft. Shawn Williams
This Tree Is Made For Climbing

Sofar Sounds touts music discovery, and I can ensure that it’s one of the best ways to find and connect with new artists. New artists like Philip Daniel, a pianist and composer from Lincoln, NE. When Daniel played a short 25 minute set for a crowd of dead-silent folks in Kansas City, we all felt a little something. I’m not going to pretend I know how to eloquently talk about classical music, but I can tell you this: This Tree Is Made For Climbing (Daniel’s release with violinist Shawn Williams) takes me down a rabbit hole of introspection, calms my nerves, and occupies my otherwise busy head. Take an honest listen, even if you don’t think classical compositions are you thing.

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-Stevie Ervay, Editor

Qveen Herby
EP 3

To some of you, her voice might be one you recognize. Qveen Herby emerged in 2017 from the ashes of Karmin, the pop duo who were an overnight success from their YouTube covers. This EP is a perfect mix of pop melodies, R&B production, and pure fire trap-esque beats. Years and years of songwriting and producing their own songs definitely pays off with EP 3, with each song being a total different mood you can bop to in the car. Trust me.

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-Lucas Carpenter, Photographer

The Regrettes
Attention Seeker

I would be amiss if I didn’t include The Regrettes’ howling, garage-y brand of rock on this list. Their spunky Attention Seeker scoops some healthy heapings of thumping guitars, shout-worthy choruses, and just some dang fun atmosphere over lyrics about love and the like. It sometimes feels like a modern rendition of the Grease soundtrack on speed, but that might just be me.

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-Nick Howland, Creative Director

Selfish Things
Vertical Love

My first encounter with Selfish Things was a small club show. The sporadically filled room was quickly brought together as frontman Alex Biro hopped off stage and made it his mission to get in everyone’s face; not in a macho “this is pop punk!” way, but with a soft and calculated approach. Selfish Things make pop punk, but there are some extra layers in the songs that are not so common. The notable vocal-fry in his voice, the (sometimes) gentle piano lines, the chorus of children: take a listen to this EP, and check out the piano renditions on Vertical Love // Reimagined right after.

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-Stevie Ervay, Editor

Vancouver Sleep Clinic
Therapy Phase 02

Vancouver Sleep Clinic’s smooth mix of dark electro R&B is perfectly showcased in the 2018 EP Therapy Phase 02. I’ve fallen deeply in love with this EP, its sweeping melodies, heart wrenching lyrics, and a dynamic vocal register that is somehow even more impressive in his live shows. If you are looking for me and I appear to be lost, I’m likely laying on the floor with my eyes closed and Vancouver Sleep Clinic in my earbuds.

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-Savanna Howland, Editor-In-Chief

Wallows
Spring EP

One moment it’s melancholic power pop, then a nostalgic tune from generations past, and finally a fever pitch of surf-psych rockabilly. However you describe Wallows’ sound on their debut EP Spring, the common denominator will likely be “infectious”. The trio of LA childhood friends create melodic tapestries that, even in the dead of winter, can whisk you away to the beaches of Hawaii. The EP’s underlying theme presents itself within the chorus of the billowing opener “Ground” that focuses on the familiar aching desire to grow up out of your youth only to worry that you may have rushed it too much, leaving you only to “watch the moments as they’re leaving”. Conversely, Wallows has left it’s listeners with relatable moments through their catchy hooks plastered across a vast soundscape that you can’t help but revisit over and over again.

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-Austin Ratzki, Contributor

The Way Way Back
Something That Makes You Feel Alive

Holy shit nostalgia. The Way Way Back’s debut EP takes the bands-that-sound-like-your-youth as inspiration and use then to create the pop punk songs of your summer. Along with the catchy instrumentation, the lyrics are endearingly nerdy, deeply sentimental, and wildly well crafted. Also if you like Capri Sun and confetti cannons, you should probably see this band live.

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-Nick Howland, Creative Director

Xavier Dunn
Isic Tutor

You’ve seen his name on numerous creative musical projects, but Xavier Dunn is much more than his credits as collaborator, producer, and writer. His solo music shows a sultry and introspective side, but Dunn is sure not to take himself too seriously. Not only is he one of my personal favorite Instagram follows, he also released one of my most loved EPs this year, Isic Tutor. Expect warm electronic soundscapes, spacious sonic detail, and flowery falsetto embellishment.

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-Savanna Howland, Editor-In-Chief

Yoke Lore
Absolutes

Yoke Lore makes the music you want your life to sound like. Expertly placed electronic beats, the most uniquely used banjo I’ve ever seen (I would have never guessed the strings were a banjo until I saw him live), and perfectly atmospheric drums make some of the most engaging music being created in the indie scene right now. It sounds like an indie film that makes you feel everything and leaves you looking at life through a rosier perspective.

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-Nick Howland, Creative Director

Yuno
Moodie

At the top of the year, Yuno was producing tracks in his bedroom/studio in Jacksonville, FL and building indie cred as a singer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist. By February, he was signing a contract with Subpop Records that led to the production and distribution of his debut EP, Moodie. In a plane all of his own, Yuno takes full control of his creative process – from songwriting to video production to album art. Moodie is a multi-layered piece of art, finding a home in the contemporary landscape of genre-defying musicality. Yuno croons in emotional release over reggae-influenced synth melodies and home-baked beats, drawing in distorted guitar hooks for good measure.

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-Anna Selle, Staff Photographer