Extended players do not get the same attention as long players since creating 8 to 12 songs is more challenging that writing 4 to 6. However, artists have little room for error on an EP, which means every track must be great. There is neither the time nor the space to have an instrumental filler or a throwaway tune. The 20 mini-albums that comprise our Favorite 20 EPS of 2022 list meet this criterion – every track is memorable.

As usual, the list is in alphabetical order. The playlist, meanwhile, contains two songs from each EP in order to better highlight the greatness of its author.

 

Abbie Ozard – Water Based Lullabies

Electric, upbeat, a little weird, and beautifully captivating, these adjectives describe Abbie Ozard‘s Water Based LullabiesOzard creates wonderfully inviting vibes right from the start with “Pisces”, as the faint and distant info comes onto full focus. A fantastic bass line and some warm synth set the tone . There are then some loud moments, like on “Candy Blue”, and catchy pop vibes with clever wordplay, as featured on the infectious “Rose Tinted”. This latter track is also a great example of what makes Ozard a great songwriter, as she takes youthful frustrations and turns them into an empowering anthem.

Ozard brings the record to a close with an absolute stunner, “Norway”, which starts with some piano before giving way to a pristine acoustic guitar and some chirping birds. It’s a stunning and disarming end to a record that provides everything from the strange to the heart-wrenching.

Water Based Lullabies is out on House Anxiety and can be purchased directly on Bandcamp.

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Bambara – Love on My Mind

Bambara are a rarity in music today – a band who create concept records. LPs and EPs are the Brooklyn band’s anthologies, through which they tell their unsettling tales. Like some of history’s best literary and artist works, a series is often called for, which Reid Bateh (vocals, guitar), Blaze Bateh (drums), and William Brookshire (bass) deliver with Love On My Mind.

The EP is a follow-up to the band’s dark, heavy, and astounding Stay, which was one of 2020’s finest. On Love On My Mind, the Brooklyn outfit similarly unleash a stark, harrowing, and cinematic record. Like the finest horror films or suspense novels, there is gloom (opener “Slither in the Rain”), seduction (“Point and Shoot”), chaos (“Mystic Love”), and torment (“Little Wars”). But the main reason to stay for the entire show is to hear Reid’s Edgar Allan Poe-esque songwriting, as he vividly and eerily captures the doomed fate of one misguided man.

Love on My Mind is on Wharf Cat Records. Purchase it on the label’s store or Bandcamp.

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Bleach Lab – If You Only Feel It Once

Bleach Lab have mastered the art of the EP. A year ago, they released not one but two outstanding mini-records, A Calm Sense of Surrounding and Nothing Feels Real, and the two outputs made our final list. The dream-pop foursome complete the trilogy with If You Only Feel I Once.

The EP features plenty of breathtaking moments, such as the gorgeous, six-minute serenade of “If You Only Feel It Once” to the touching intimacy of “Take It Slow” and “Pale Shade of Blue”. Jenna Kyle (vocals), Josh Longman (bass), Frank Wates (guitar), and Kieran Weston (drums), however, also show another side to their craft, increasing the euphoria and catharsis on “I Could Be Your Safe Place” and the slow-building centerpiece, “Obviously”. Unlike the London collective’s first two EPs, this one feels like a stepping stone, where Bleach Lab are about to take off and reach even grandeur heights with their dream-pop. To become this generation’s  The Sundays.

If You Only Feel It Once is out on Nettwerk Music Group. It is available at these links and on Bandcamp.

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Charlotte Spiral – All This Time, Asleep

Figure skating is a sport of beauty and grace. Its top performers walk a tightrope between triumph and heartbreak every time they skate out on the ice. This dynamic is what led Amy Spencer and Avi Barath to name their project Charlotte Spiral, after the figure skating pose of the same name. There’s an undeniable beauty in every song on All This Time, AsleepFrom the dreamscapes and lush accompaniments on the title track to the immense pairing of Spencer’s voice over piano on “Roots”, the duo produce a sound that is nothing short of stunning. With each beautiful instrumentation comes a vocal track that pushes towards the edge of disaster, especially hearing the impact words have on the pair when writing about themselves on “Tomorrow”. Meanwhile, hearing the duo nail their landing on “Walls” is one of the most incredible moments on any release this year. 

All This Time, Asleep is available on Bandcamp

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The Clockworks – The Clockworks

Already a band with plenty to say, The Clockworks found more inspiration with their move from their hometown of Galway, Ireland to bustling London. While a change in scenery usually leads to the over-romanticization of the new city, James McGregor (vocals, guitar), Sean Connelly (guitar), Damian Greaney (drums), and Tom Freeman (bass) looked into the UK capital’s cracks and observed the struggles of its working class. In their usual fashion, they share these tales with blistering effect. “Endgame” is a thunderous rocker, “Money (I Don’t Want)” is jittery post-punk, while a steely anxiety underpins “Feels So Real”. The quartet do surprise with “The Temper”, significantly slowing the tempo while amplifying the intimacy. But even in this tepid place, McGregor’s words strike hard and leave a lasting mark, reminding us that the grass is not always greener on the other side.

The Clockworks is out on It’s Creation Baby

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Dead Pony – War Boys

Many great bands have from Glasgow – Mogwai, Belle and Sebastian, Franz Ferdinand, Primal Scream, and Simple Minds – and Dead Pony are well-positioned to join them with their blistering EP, War Boys. Anna Shields (rhythm guitar, lead vocals), Liam Adams (bass), and Aidan McAllister (drums) unleash six propulsive songs that intend to blow the minds of everyone and anyone that listens. There is more to the mini-record than the sonic explosion of “Bullet Farm”, “Zero”, and “War Boys” or the gritty fury of “All Dress Up for Nothing”. All the tracks attacked the things that cause the world to move backwards – misogynists, war hawks, ghosters, you name it. The EP may be a full-frontal assault on the senses, but it also is immensely intelligent and extremely relevant. These traits will have Dead Pony soon mentioned alongside the aforementioned greats.

War Boys is out on LAB Records. Get it on Bandcamp.

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Divorce – Get Mean

One of the best bands to arrive in 2022 are Divorce, who cannot be pigeonholed. Their debut EP, Get Mean, showcased the quartet’s eclectic range, and, consequently, the mini-album sounded more like an NPR program than an actual record. This also indicates how masterfully each song was delivered. The band’s debut single, “Services”, which opens the record, is a cathartic folk-rocker while “Pretty” is a jittery, infectious art-punk tune with an awesome climax. On “Checking Out”, the Nottingham band turn to rapturous country-western rock.

It is on “That Hill”, however, where Tiger Cohen-Towell (vocals, bass), Felix Mackenzie-Barrow (vocals, guitar), Adam Peter Smith (guitar), and Kasper Sandstrøm’s (drums) potential comes out. Akin to the slow-building catharsis of Big Thief, Divorce reveal they can simultaneously captivate and rock out. If they continue down this path, they could very well be celebrated in the same vain as the Brooklyn indie giants.

Get Mean is out on Hand in Hive. Pick it up on Bandcamp and at these links

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Fazerdaze – Break!

Five years ago, Amelia Murray’s project Fazerdaze  seemed to be on the cusp of superstardom. The New Zealander then took an unannounced and unexpected hiatus. When Murray returned this year with the Break! EP, her dream-pop origins were set aside and a more assertive Fazerdaze emerged. And it was awesome. A grittier, edgier tone musically and lyrically is heard on the record’s opener, “Break”, on which Murray sounds like a young Liz Phair. A Courtney Love-like brashness echoes on the grungy “Come Apart”, which features a super-catchy chorus, while Veruca Salt-esque grungegaze comes through on “Overthink It”. There is more, however, to the record. On the sultry “Winter”, Murray turns to lo-fi R&B. Disco-punk, meanwhile, spins on the ridiculously addictive “Thick of the Honey”.

While it’s easy to get lost in the five ear-worms, the songs also offer hints as to why Murray took a break. From heartbreak to taking care of her mental health to the unforgiving nature of the music industry, Murray opens up for everyone to see and hear. This is why she’s one of Aotearoa’s finest artists, and her next chapter should yield more acclaim.

Break! is out on Section1 and Flying Nun Records. It is available on Bandcamp and these links.

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Gillian Stone – Spirit Photographs

There is no record on this list quite like Gillian Stone‘s Spirit Photographs. It’s incredible how much ground Stone covers in just five tracks. The EP starts out with an otherworldly sound on “June”, which beautifully marries Stone’s lush harmonies with some incredible layers of strings. “Amends” blurs genre lines with mostly just Stone’s voice and guitar, creating something surreal and ethereal in the process. Perhaps no song captures the Toronto-based artist’s musical spirit as much as “Raven’s Song”, which has a bone-chilling quality that makes it feel so unlike any other.

“Solitude” is another complex, unpredictable track that plays dangerously close to an eruption but never quite explodes. “The Throne” closes the record in a big way, building slowly from its intense opening moments to the gigantic sound at the end. There’s so much to get lost in among these five tracks, which make Spirit Photographs utterly captivating.

Spirit Photographs can be purchased on Bandcamp.

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Housewife – You’ll Be Forgiven

A name change can be liberating because it marks the start of something new and fresh. For Brighid Fry (she/her) and Pascale Padilla (they/she), they retired their old moniker Moscow Apartment in favor of Housewife. One thing did not change for these two young Torontonians (they’re barely out of their teens): they continue to write extremely thoughtful and insightful stories while creating immersive alt-pop as demonstrated on You’ll Be Forgiven.

The EP is filled with contrasts. A lush intimacy emerges from “Patrick Bateman”, which discusses how society tends to put bad people on pedestals. The bopping “You’re Not the Worst”, though, has an American Psycho-like tone in its lyrics, as Fry sings about ripping away the scars and people who keep one down. Blissful, escapist dreamgaze filters through “Bones (God Like You)”, but the pair describe how they’ve endlessly sought affirmation and redemption. Even at their poppiest, “Stuck”, Housewife openly and honestly share how they can be their own worst enemy. However, for fans of the band, the EP demonstrates why they are more like our best friend, offering words to make us realize we are not the only ones battling with these feelings.

You’ll Be Forgiven is out on Hazel Street Records and The Orchard. Get it on Bandcamp.

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Human Barbie – no worries

Christopher Leopold’s music as Human Barbie is late ’80s and early ’90s shoegaze and dream-pop resurrected. His new EP, no worries, will appeal to anyone with a fondness for the genre, but the Californian also adds new dimensions to the sound. There’s the low-key guitar led title track, “no worries”, that feels kinda like a bizarro-world Real Estate. Then there’s the bubbling “wait”,  which reminds us to take in as much as we can in the moment. Leopold finds a way to break up the short EP with a little synth and guitar interlude before launching into the back half of the EP. This half includes “empty”,  a stirring, hazy track that is perhaps the EP’s most impactful, especially when paired with the album closer, “one taste”, which is Leopold singing with just guitar. After 20 minutes of these lush, intricate songs, it draws to a close with some sparse clarity. 

no worries is out on Poor Man Records. Get it on Bandcamp.

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Jobber – Hell in a Cell

If you dig just under the surface of both mediums, there’s a lot in common between music and professional wrestling. On their debut EP, Hell in a Cell, Kate Meizner, (vocals, guitar), Michael Julius (guitar), Maggie Toth (bass), and Mike Falcone (drums) merge these two worlds with their project Jobber.

The name “Jobber” comes from the pro wrestling term for someone who is a career loser, someone who shows up simply to be a stepping stone for a bigger star. That’s something that resonates far beyond the “sport”, whether it’s clerks at a store or the workers who keep our trains running. There’s always someone looking to get a leg up based on the work of the little guy, whose contributions are integral but usually mocked and unnoticed. The EP’s title track, “Hell in a Cell”, for instance, may be influenced by Mick Foley’s 20-foot drop from a steel cage. However, it is a huge statement about the exploitation of workers. The record’s intro even features Foley reprising his Mankind character and cutting a promo on the band. There are songs about redemption and songs inspired by the huge theatrical entrances of wrestlers. Between the record’s sound and message, Hell In A Cell, is a lot more ECW than Wrestlemania.

Hell in a Cell is out on Exploding in Sound and available on Bandcamp.

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Kate Bollinger – Look at it in the Light

Kate Bollinger is a true throwback. Everything about Look at it in the Light makes it feel like each of these songs would fill a smoky ’70s lounge perfectly. There’s the poppy warmth of “Yards/Gardens”, while a George Harrison-style guitar adds a ton of charm to the EP’s title track. “Who Am I But Someone” is a fantastic ride as well, going from some Steely Dan rock to more surf-rock sounds. Akin to many of the musicians from fifty years ago, Bollinger’s songwriting shines, offering touching stories and messages meant to lift people at of their doldrums, such as on the gorgeous title track.

While many artists and bands are attempting to recapture the ’80s and ’90s, Bollinger blends so many sounds from an underappreciated era. Hopefully, it’s a catalyst for more artists to explore such an overlooked decade and sound. And maybe one day, we’ll talk about how Kate Bollinger’s Look at it in the Light as spearheading a revival of her own.

Look at it in the Light is out on Ghostly. Purchase or stream it at these links and on Bandcamp.

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NewDad – Banshee

The hallmark of a great record is that the listener remembers every one of its songs even when listened to again months later. And NewDad‘s sophomore EP, Banshee, is just that – an unforgettable achievement. While the Irish quartet have made a name for themselves as one of the finest dream-pop bands around in just a little over two years, their newest record takes the genre to new stratospheres.

From the jangly “Say It” to the shoegaze bomb, “Spring”, Julie Dawson, Áindle O’Beirn, Sean O’Dowd, and Fiachra Parslow reveal that dream-pop can put a pep in one’s step. The EP, of course, features euphoric dazzlers, particularly in the ’90s-drenched “Ladybird”. On the record’s title track, however, is where the outfit shines. It sounds like the perfect collaboration between Hope Sandoval and Swervedriver, and together they create magic. The source of the song’s power, however, lies in Dawson’s lyrics, as she sings about the images that perpetually occupy another person’s mind. Like the mini-album, this track is unforgettable. This band is unforgettable.

Banshee is out on Fair Youth Records. It can be purchased and streamed here as well as directly on Bandcamp

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RVBY MY DEAR – RVBY MY DEAR (Rich)

Gabbi Coenen’s first release as RVBY MY DEAR since putting the project on hiatus in 2019 is spellbinding. At just over 17 minutes, Coenen packs a ton into such a small package on RVBY MY DEAR. There’s the gorgeous harmonies and synth paired with jangly guitar on the record’s first track, “Black Moon”, which occasionally hints at a more sinister sound. There’s the huge sound of “Lose My Mind” and its intricate percussion underscoring Coenen’s immense vocal performance. Further drama is added to this cinematic record by the synth-driven “Don’t Ask Me” and the dark moments of  “Over It”. The EP is tied up with the glitchy percussion and a haunting combination of strings, piano, and harmonies on “Lullaby”. The intense and diverse instrumentals are a perfect way to underscore the equally intense and powerful lyrics that make RVBY MY DEAR way more than just a pretty record. 

RVBY MY DEAR‘s self-titled EP is out on Spirit House Records. Get it on Bandcamp.

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Slaney Bay – A Life Worth Living

Few bands make a first impression like Caitlin Whitley (vocals, guitar), William Nicola-Thompson (guitar), and Joel Martin (bass) of Slaney Bay. The first track from A Life Worth Living, “I Could Love You Better”, just hooks deep into you and doesn’t let go due to  its infectious guitar leads and Whitley’s dreamy vocal. That continues with the expansive “Hot Glue” and the reverbed masterpiece “Take Your Time”. Each track brings more and more depth to Slaney Bay’s sound, and by the time they reach the EP’s penultimate track, “LS6”, they’ve added synth and a dab of drum machine to their sound.

Even with the added layers, the record never loses the dreamy and captivating qualities that made the opening moments so attractive. A Life Worth Living comes to a close with a powerful closer, “What If?”, a slow build that once again reveals Slaney Bay’s expansive sound. At just over 15 minutes, they take listeners on an incredible ride and show such a range of sound that many artists fail to do over multiple full-lengths. 

A Life Worth Living is available on Bandcamp.

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Sunflower Thieves – Someone To Be There For

Some albums require one’s undivided attention, where all the noise must be shut out, including the voices of those we love. Sunflower Thieves‘ debut EP, Someone To Be There For, is one such record. The mini-album is stunning and reminiscent of the dreamy intimacy of Azure Ray, where each song causes paralysis.

It starts with the gorgeous harmonies of Amy Illingworth and Lily Sturt-Bolshaw, who, like Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor 21 years ago, were made to sing together. The breathtaking moments start immediately with the lovely, hushed opener “Sirens” and continue to the ultimate track, the sea breeze-like “Grown Out of You”. Within this environment, the lyrics of the longtime friends from Leeds penetrate more deeply, as they tell tales of lost, loneliness, and perservance. They also sang about a traumatic event on “Lichtenberg Figures”, which is one of the year’s best songs due to its ethereal delivery and soul-ripping lyrics. This song, like the record, will silence all who are listening, and this trait applies only to the truly remarkable records.

Someone To Be There For is available on Bandcamp. Go get it.

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Trophy Wife — Voyeur

A few seconds only are needed to realize that Trophy Wife‘s third EP, Voyeur, is going to be unforgettable. It’s not the sobering, delayed guitar and methodical bass drum that open the record’s first track, “Ask Me Anything”. Nor is it how the song opens up and becomes, at first, a melodic dream before giving way to an eruptive climax. Rather, McKenzie Iazzetta’s words signal that the mini-album will not tread in safe, predictable places. Through the initial lush layers, she emotionally sings, “Will you come and ask how I am, so I can lie to you? / When I bury my stomach underneath the floor boards, so I can settle my guilt.” From there, the EP traverses places that are far from safe.

For another four songs, Iazzetta astounds, building on the themes of purpose, independence, and trust. On “Linoleum”, Trophy Wife’s sound is even bolder, akin to Epic-era Sharon Van Etten. “Baby’s Breath” is dreamy yet urgent, but Iazzetta’s voice is defiant as she emphatically states she will no longer endure the bruising. “Enough”, on which Iazzetta describes her permanent emotional scars, teeters the boundaries of full-on indie-rocker and rabbit-hole dreaminess. The ultimate track, “Leech”, is a slow-building epic that climaxes with a primal scream, which to this day still pierces our ears. That still has us screaming to hear more from this talented 22-year old artist.

Voyeur is available for purchase on Bandcamp.

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Wallice – 90s American Superstar

Wallice Hana Watanabe has all of the things needed to be the next big pop star. It feels like she’s well on her way as well, breaking out from being a DIY artist with a cult following to now releasing 90s American Superstar on Dirty Hit. It’s easy for an artist to try to clean up their sound as they grow, but sometimes it creates a sterilized sound. Right out of the gate with “Little League”, Wallice shows that’s not the case here at all, with some frenetic drumming, fuzzy electronics and those same relatable lyrics. The record’s title track is an absolute blast, from its wonderful guitar churning underneath to the shout-outs to ’90s movies and pop culture.

That creative and smart lyricism continues on “Rich Wallice”, a track where Wallice simply demands more money. Then the energy is ramped up infinitely with “John Wayne”, which is a roaring and intense rocker. While much of the record is drenched in humor and infectious pop rock, Wallice closes the record with “Funeral”, a track in which she sings about her own funeral and the fact she wants to be celebrated when she’s gone with a big dance party. 90s American Superstar is just a really fun ride and one that’s instantly relatable.

90s American Superstar is out on Dirty Hit. Pick it up on Bandcamp.

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Work Wife – Quitting Season

Releasing a record in December often results in it being overlooked since most tastemakers will have completed their year-end lists. It takes a special compilation to get noticed, and Work Wife‘s debut EP, Quitting Season, is certainly that and more. At the heart of this melodic indie-rock record are Meredith Lampe and her superb songwriting. The warm, dreamy, and twangy “Apathy” reveals Lampe’s constant battle with anxiety. “Too Young to Understand” is melancholic heart-ripper, on which the Pacific Northwest native tenderly describes watching her mother gradually weaken. The lush “Brian Eno” is drenched in memory and how two people slowly get separated. On “December Summer”, Work Wife surprises. Lush yet urgent at first, Lampe eventually roars, representing her realization that what was once true no longer is. One truth, however, cannot be denied – Lampe’s first record is one that should not nor cannot be overlooked.

Quitting Season is out on Born Losers Records. Purchase it on Bandcamp.

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