Close to 300 EPs crossed our desks this year (who’s counting really) and while they came in all shapes, they proved there’s an art to the extended play. The EP is no longer a medium for rough cuts and spontaneous offshoots as it’s become a platform for experimentation – pushing boundaries, exploiting sounds, and flirting with influences that float about. This year, more than any other, artists found a way to play with running times and electronic/hip-hop’s elite took advantage with 2 Chainz, Chrome Sparks, Jacques Greene, and Panda Bear releasing faves. We picked out THE BEST 10 EPS OF 2014 and as you’ll notice below, services/apps like Spotify definitely deserve some love.
We’re already deep in December so stay tuned for our Best Mixtapes and Top 50 Albums lists.
BLACK ATLASS – Young Bloods [FOOL’S GOLD] The Internet needs to stop sleeping on Alex Fleming. The 20-year-old more commonly known as Black Atlass has transformed into a musician that inspires – dealing a cut of vindictive R&B that deserves an A$AP Ferg verse or two. Young Bloods in essence is just a mature step forward and one that stings with Prince tendencies (we went there) and a splash of 808s & Heartbreaks. And with a proper LP on its way, the best has yet to come [Watch: “Blossom”].
ELLIPHANT – Look Like You Love It [TEN MUSIC GROUP] Sweden’s Ellinor Olovsdotter actually dropped two EPs in 2014 – one of which found her cracking heads with fellow popster MØ – but Look Like You Love It reigns supreme. The seven-track effort is a rush of stylings that flexes Diplo-ed radio tunes (“All Or Nothing”), Skrillex bombs (“Only Getting Younger”), and Halfway Tree vibes (“Everything 4 U”) that stress her dexterity. Elliphant’s rowdy and provocative, but she’s an intrepid pop ruffian [Watch: “Revolusion”].
EVIAN CHRIST – Waterfall [TRI ANGLE] Evian Christ isn’t for everyone, but in a way he’s essentially a carbon copy of pre-Internet Radiohead. The Tri Angle producer crushes on “big-stage EDM” yet it’s his love for the design and construction of sonics that makes Waterfall a trip. He’s as meticulous as a LEGO builder and we can’t wait to see his 4000-piece Death Star [Listen: “Waterfall”].
JAMES BLAKE – 200 Press [1-800-DINOSAUR] Better late than never: James Blake’s new double 7″ was released this past week via his label, 1-800-Dinosaur, and in short, it’s a four-track piece of ecstasy. “200 Pressure” smooths out the grooves of an industrial beat; “Building It Still” swirls around an enticing yet rough demo cut; and the EP title track finds Blake sampling Andre 3000’s verse from Devin The Dude’s “What A Job”. With a new LP in sight, this is as good as it gets [Listen: “200 Press”].
MAJOR LAZER – Apocalypse Soon [MAD DECENT] Truth be told – Diplo, Jillionaire, and Walshy Fire don’t get enough credit. While 2013’s Free The Universe exploited the false limitations genres have, their new Major Lazer effort ups the stylistic twists. One minute Pharrell’s spitting patois, the next Sean Paul’s rockin’ dutty bass, and right in the thick of it is a soca riddim that’s ideal for Caribs under the sun. It’s a short run, but it’s a preview of the Major’s plans for 2015 [Watch: “Sound Bang” (ft. Machel Montano)].
RYN WEAVER – Promises [INTERSCOPE] Call her an overnight success or a CMJ darling – Ryn Weaver isn’t disappearing anytime soon. Her debut EP stands for months of hard work – not to mention couch-surfing, the odd restaurant gig, and other co-writes – and it shows as everything from “Stay Low” to “Sail On” has its own voice. “OctaHate” is undoubtedly Promises‘ standout cut, but take this into consideration – it’s just one example of what she can do alongside a few stars [Watch: “OctaHate”].
SHLOHMO & JEREMIH – No More [WEDIDIT] The material on No More isn’t entirely new, but let’s be real: every critic would have this on their year-end list if it rounded out to ten tracks. Shlohmo & Jeremih really do no wrong on their first project and everything they touch – “Dope”, “Let It Go”, the Chance The Rapper collab “The End” – is solid R&B gold [Watch: “Bo Peep (Do U Right)”].
SPOOKY BLACK – Leaving [SELF-RELEASED] For all we know, Spooky Black could be Jamiroquai’s long lost son. The St. Paul native has been pretty quiet about almost everything yet it’s clear he’s an incredibly sad teenager that can sing his ass off. His Leaving EP is a natural push forward from Black Silk and it hovers around his ability to make “interlude music” sound so serene while aiming for the modern heart: “Run my fingers through your hair/ Making sure you’re really there” [Watch: “Idle”].
VINCE STAPLES – Hell Can Wait [DEF JAM] It’s no Shyne Coldchain Vol. 2, but Vince’s Hell Can Wait EP is a trip. In seven tracks, the Long Beach MC strips West Coast rap of its flashy gimmicks just to expose how much of it is a hustle – bangin’ sets and runnin’ pockets because “Bobby Johnson ain’t my OG, this ain’t no movie bro”. Throw in Staples’ surreal lyricism and his ear for curveball beats (“Feeling The Love”), and you have a classic that’s waiting to be unwrapped like some McD’s [Watch: “Blue Suede”].
WHIRR & NOTHING – Whirr / Nothing Split [RUN FOR COVER] If you’re in the mood to buy a 7-inch, grab this one. Please. Just do it for Dino Jr. Whirr & Nothing’s combined four-track effort is a stronger high than their respective 2014 records and it’s because they flesh out their tendencies and let everything fly at a cathartic volume. If Whirr aren’t grooving up the stratosphere, then Nothing are grounding you with ear candy- showing what two skillful bands can do when the noise feels just right [Watch: “Chloroform”].