We continue our countdown of our Favorite EPs of 2016. The ten listed below reflect the diversity and richness of today’s music, where the creativity and invention expand all genres and embraced across the world. There are familiar names on the list and a handful of “new” artists who broke out this year. One thing they all have in common – they are innovators and great storytellers.
If you missed the first ten from yesterday’s list, you can read it here.
Grapell – Love Chamber (Sweden)
When thinking about Grapell, three names come immediately to mind: Sade, Chris Isaak, and Rhye. This eclectic mix of artists explains everything you need to know about the Swedish duo’s music. Sexy. Cool. Titillating. These words also describe their four-song EP, Love Chamber. The record is like an endless love affair, whose highest points are erotic while its most solemn notes are dreamlike. Songs like “Some Places” and “Arrow” exemplify Emil Erstrand and Nils Nygårdh’s steamy soundscapes. It is on “Every Time…” where the two reach cinematic levels. This masterpiece could only be matched by a full orchestra and a vocalist who commands your attention, yet it is two artists who have perfected their craft. Two artists whose EP will have you losing yourself with each song. ~~ Ben
Hazel English – Never Going Home (Australia / USA)
With Never Going Home, Hazel English may have released 2016’s most addictive EP. Musically, each song on this short EP brings something different to the table. Some are synth-laden while others are guided by some stirring guitar work. But what keeps you hooked are English’s personal stories, which center around the themes of growth, change, frustration, and isolation. She doesn’t tell her stories solely through an acoustic prism, but rather there is flow and range in the EP. The upbeat tracks like “Never Going Home” and “It’s Not Real” offer the illusion that everything is fine when they are not. The slower numbers, like “Make it Better” and the dreamy “I’m Fine”, have an unsuspecting optimism despite their more contemplative sound. The constant in Never Going Home is Hazel English’s voice, which has a wonderful, inviting quality that keeps welcoming the listener back. ~~ Rich
Heron Oblivion – Heron Oblivion (USA)
Rising like a phoenix from the dumpster fire of 2016 is the self-titled EP from San Francisco indie-psych rockers Heron Oblivion. Still a relatively new band, you’d never know they’ve been together just two years. Their chemistry rivals that of multi-decade veteran groups, and nowhere is that more evident that on the first two tracks of this stunning album. From the deceptively mellow opener (“Beneath Fields”) they segue into the blistering assault of “Oriar” with unexpected intensity. This band we described in January as having “straight out of Woodstock authenticity” created one of our most-played EPs. It impressed us from day one and remained in heavy rotation for the duration of 2016. ~~ Hollie
Jesse Mac Cormack – After the Glow (Canada)
Jesse Mac Cormack has established a name for himself within the Montreal and broader Canadian music scene as a master of all trades and a sonic chameleon. Such labels, however, do not do the artist justice because what he is an inventor of sound. Through his fusion of rock, pop, New Wave, R&B, alt-folk, jazz, and blues, he is creating soundscapes not heard before. His 2016 EP, After the Glow, represents Mac Cormack at his creative zenith. From the stripped down, traditional leanings of “Death Row”, the intense grooves of “Addict”, and the cinematic title track, Mac Cormack’s genius is awe-inspiring. His masterpiece, though, is the enrapturing and heart-pounding “Repeat”, a song that is the definition of a musical mosaic and among the year’s most exhilarating numbers. The entire album, for that matter, is not just an incredible listen but a transcendent experience to be re-lived over and over again. ~~ Ben
La Sera – Queens (USA)
We’re so lucky and grateful that La Sera took a bit of time out of their crazy 2016 schedule to put out the fantastic EP Queens this year. Committed La Sera fans will rejoice in the five great songs, each possessing the raw energy that the duo brings to their live shows. Those not as familiar with La Sera will get to hear not only the total versatility in Katy Goodman’s voice, but also the range of guitarist Todd Wisenbaker.
The title and opening track “Queens” is a total ear-worm of a power pop song. The last song on the EP is a crowd-pleasing cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”. In between, “Magic In Your Eyes”, “Shadow of Your Love (Slight Return)”, and “I Need An Angel” provide more endearing and heart-warming songs, making them the perfect balance between the two bookends. For old and new fans, Queens is the perfect sampler to whet our appetites into a new full-course serving of music arrives, which hopefully will be in the new year. ~~ Jeanette
Lady Lamb – Tender Warriors Club (USA)
Lady Lamb‘s first two proper records were full band occasions for the most part. While songs like “You Are The Apple” and “Spat Out Spit” are some of the finest songs in Aly Spaltro’s catalog, early fans of Lady Lamb were entranced by her solo recordings in the back of a DVD rental store in Maine. Tender Warriors Club was not quite recorded in a DVD store, but it was recorded in rural Sweden and involved just Spaltro and guitar for the most part. The result is one of the year’s most emotional and intimate releases.
“Heaven Bent” opens the record in such a huge way, building slowly until developing into a monster of a song. “Atalaia” has this brooding feel to it, brought on by the way Spaltro plays her guitar, an occasional foreign sound, and this prolonged silence after the track. “See You” is about as upbeat of a track you will get from Spaltro. “Tangles” is an old Lady Lamb track that’s finally found a home, and it fits the intimacy of the whole record. Spaltro set out to prove that tenderness, sensitivity, and the expression of such qualities can be strengths, and she’s created an album that proves this. ~~ Rich
Massive Attack – Ritual Spirit (England)
Massive Attack are bona fide legends at this point in their career. As they approach their third decade together, their creative output remains inventive and fresh. While their music is rarely described as bright, there is no denying their talent, even on this four-song EP. Ritual Spirit captures the darker, almost sinister, dystopian pulse that is Massive Attack’s trademark. Even the haunting title track – released just two weeks after Bowie’s death – continues to offer a therapeutic release with each listen. The long intro shares the hypnotic allure of “Teardrop”, but it’s the icy-cool vocals from British artist/producer Azekel that send shivers up your spine. Massive Attack’s collaboration with other artists (Tricky is back on this EP along with Roots Manuva and Scottish band Young Fathers) enhances an already dazzling product. They remain ever-relevant players in the genre they helped define. ~~ Hollie
Melody’s Echo Chamber – From Pink They Fell Into Blue (France)
Melody Prochet – a.k.a. Melody’s Echo Chamber – was probably the most exciting psychedelic-pop gem to arise back in 2012, when her self-titled debut record was released. Kevin Parker helped her produce her debut album after she opening up for Tame Impala back in 2010 as My Bee’s Garden during their European tour. For her latest EP, From Pink They Fell Into Blue, she offered four previously, unreleased demos, which proved she was not a one-hit wonder. Instead, the record validated why she is an international star. Hearing Prochet’s angelic vocals again set against dreamy psych-pop vibes was not only pleasing but enthralling ~~Wendy
Molly Parden – With Me in the Summer (USA)
Molly Parden is one of those accidental finds, discovered when she was touring with Sam Outlaw. At just a single listen to her With Me in the Summer EP, instant gratification – even love – emerged. She has a soft quality to her voice that could easily put her into stardom. And if her beautiful voice doesn’t grab you, she is skilled on the guitar and can write some great, biting lyrics. She not just another country artist. She is an underrated artist with the talent to walk alongside Margo Price, Courtney Marie Andrews, and Kacey Musgraves as country music’s next generation of great singer-songwriters. ~~ Zac
Muteboy – Smiles (Always on, Bluejays) (USA)
If you raised your children on Pink Floyd, Neil Young, and The Beatles, you might just get a musician like Muteboy. Otherwise known as Jeff DiLorenzo, formerly in The KickDrums and The Promise Hero, Muteboy is an artist whose provenance sets the bar pretty high. Smiles (Always On, Blue Jays) is nine-and-a-half minutes of musical contrast. One of a series of releases consisting of 2-3 songs together on one track, it exemplifies a contemporary distribution strategy that cunningly maximizes iTunes’ 10-minutes limit on songs, as well as appealing the the Millenial generation of singles downloaders. But is it an EP? That’s the debate that we had here at The Revue, but whatever your view, it appealed to our ears enough to make it into our Favourites list for 2016. You can pick up more of Muteboy’s music at his Bandcamp site. ~~ Flo
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