Exclaim!'s Best of 2014: Top 10 EPs
Published Dec 16, 2014As we look in the rear-view at our Top 10 albums lists by genre, we've assembled a list of some of the best extended players to come out this year. Look for our best reissues tomorrow.
To see more of our Year-End Top Tens, head over to our Best of 2014 section.
Top 10 EPs of 2014:
10. Jamie xx
It should have been an uphill battle for UK indie troupe the xx's Jamie xx (née Smith) to prove himself in the world of electronic music; that it wasn't — hell, that he made it look easy — can largely be attributed to his formidable production skill and his love of the art form. After his Gil Scott-Heron remix LP and a 12-inch in 2011, Smith returned in 2014 to gift us "Girl" and "Sleep Sound," two incredible tracks that showcased heretofore hidden talents from his seemingly bottomless arsenal.
"Girl" warps and layers a set of vocals around a shuffling bass line that makes dancing a foregone conclusion; "Sleep Sound" picks up from where Four Tet left off with There Is Love in You, all gently plucked nylon strings and micro-sampled voices. Seriously — what can't he do? (Stephen Carlick)
Were you one of those confused Iceage fans trying to mosh to their new, slower, Birthday Party-esque album? Do you miss the days of New Brigade? If so, don't wallow in disappointment, because there's hope in fellow Copenhagen comrades Communions. Following in the footsteps of Iceage and Lower, these Danes are even younger and fresher than their predecessors.
What their EP, Cobblestones, lacked in nihilism, it made up for with sunny love songs filtered through the lens of gritty, ashen reverb-heavy punk. And while the lo-fi scuzz on the production helps them fit into their city's scene, it can't conceal the fact that songs like "Seascapes" and the title track are as indebted to '80s UK indie as they are Denmark's new wave of punk. (Cam Lindsay)
8. Shlohmo & Jeremih
At a time when R&B singers are looking further afield for eclectic production help, Chicago crooner Jeremih's choice to work with narcotic, bass-heavy producer Shlohmo isn't actually that much of a departure — the spacious snap of Shlohmo's atmospheric production was already heavily influenced by R&B, so he sounds right at home on No More. Jeremih matches the drowsy sensuality of Shlohmo's production on slow-trap mini-anthem "Fuck You All the Time" with lyrics about perpetual desire and a lingering sense of longing. Elsewhere, the title track, "Bo Peep" and "Let It Go" are propelled by Shlohmo's glacial bass, adding weight to Jeremih's honeyed tenor. (Stephen Carlick)
7. Daniel Caesar
In sharp contrast to the popular R&B bad boy image that's swept the genre stands Toronto youngster Daniel Caesar, who foregoes any posturing in favour of pure songwriting power. Lazy critics have compared Caesar to Frank Ocean, but he's more of a balladeer — half the songs on Praise Break feature just a piano and his voice.
It's that minimal approach that makes Caesar's songs so captivating, as his no-frills approach demonstrates the power of simple, effective songwriting. That's not to say they're pop songs; rather, Caesar is a master of atmosphere and tension, letting syllables and notes linger just long enough that the next piano chord feels like a revelation. That he's already got such a firm grasp on his sound after just two EPs suggests there's more greatness to come from this one. (Stephen Carlick)
6. Panda Bear
While we waited patiently for Noah Lennox's Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper LP, this four-song EP materialized to sate us. While the Animal Collective member's previous LP, Tomboy, found Lennox toying with dub rhythms and heaps of reverb, Mr. Noah is awash in acid house synth burbles and clean vocals, especially on the hypnotic title track.
Things lighten up on the breezy "Faces in the Crowd" and the dreamlike "Untying the Knot" — both of which recall his breakthrough LP Person Pitch — but even the cooing "This Side of Paradise" features an underlying acidity thanks to subtle synth squelches throughout. If this is the direction the Grim Reaper is headed, we can't wait to hear Panda Bear meet him. (Stephen Carlick)