The EP seems to have made a comeback in 2016, with more and more artists choosing to bypass the full-length LP format in favor of the shorter EP. I can only assume that recording costs and wanting to give fans better quality releases are the main reasons behind this. At the same time, there is the simple fact that artists don’t always have enough songs that are good enough to be released on a full-length album. The return of the EP as a favored format has been most prominent in the alternative local scene with more artists using the format to give fans little snippets of what their style is like, especially if they are starting out. They can then use this as a springboard for future releases, including possible albums.
With this, I thought it would be a good idea to list my ten favorite EPs of 2016. Nine of which were released by New Zealand artists.
Bailey Wiley – S.O.M.M.
Soul Queen Bailey Wiley dropped her second EP this year after teasing new songs in 2015. “Still On My Mind” is a perfect mix of smooth soul and hip-hop beats, and saw her dominate the local live scene all year. Her voice is one of the best going around New Zealand at the moment and she is definitely one to watch out for in 2017.
The Beths – Warm Blood
The offshoot of jazzman Sal Valentine, The Beths make summery indie pop, and their debut EP “Warm Blood” was one of the best local indie releases of the year. The songs on “Warm Blood” have dominated the airwaves on alternative radio, while they have played countless gigs around Auckland making them a staple of the live scene.
Dbldbl – Power Chuck
Liam from HEAVY regrouped this year as a solo act Dbldbl, and released a solid EP “Power Chuck”. The production is great and his tendency for quirky rap shines through strongly. Having seen him live since becoming Dbldbl, I can confirm he is a great performer and these songs translate well to the live setting. It will be interesting to see if he takes this project further.
Haz’ Beats –E5
The Home Brew and Team Dynamite DJ and production wizard released an EP under his own name this year and it was very, very good. The beats were on point and overall it gave off this laid-back vibe that will be perfect for summer listening.
Kip McGrath/Polyester – Sour Grapes
Although they now go by the name Polyester, Kip McGrath released one of the best collections of indie guitar pop songs I have heard in a long time. The chiming guitars and sweet melodies of these wonderfully crafted songs hark back to the likes of the Smiths and the Chills but retain an authenticity about them. I am very much looking forward to seeing what Polyester do next.
Molly + The Chromatics – Straight Lines
Molly + The Chromatics are a four piece Auckland band who play a very authentic style of R&B and soul. Led by singer Molly Rowlandson, the group put out their debut EP “Straight Lines” and it is a more than acceptable first up effort. Molly has the vocal chops, while the rest of the band are serious players. Another one to watch out for in 2017 as the soul-revival hits first gear in New Zealand.
Raiza Biza – Day & Night EP
Raiza Biza is one of the most talented rappers in the country at the moment. He has grown his reputation predominantly on the Auckland live circuit within the alternative hip-hop community, and after two albums this EP sees him at his creative best. The slickness of his production and his raw vocals should see him reach a wider audience, especially if he continues to release material of this quality.
Seanh Presents – SADEVILLAIN EP
This could arguably go down as the cleverest release of 2016. Produced and mixed by a young Portsmouth producer by the name of Seanh, this outstanding mash-up of Sade and MF Doom is sexy as hell. It has the listener transfixed from the first beat, while the seamlessness of the production means for all intents and purposes this could be a lost Sade album. So, so good in so many ways that I am surprised a Sade/Doom mix of this quality has not been done before.
Soft Hair – Soft Hair
Although this is technically an album, it’s length means I am calling it a de facto EP. This is the first release out of the collaboration between Connan Mockasin and LA Priest and it is a beauty. From the trippy pop of “Relaxed Lizard” and “Lying Has To Stop” to the experimentation of “A Good Sign”, Mockasin and Priest gave the listener a very eclectic first up effort. The well made music videos that came out with the release also injected a bit of shock value to the songs if they weren’t slightly shocking already. Whether this project is a one-off or not, you can’t deny that Conan Mockasin ever fails to let the listener down in terms of releasing interesting and unsuspecting collections of songs.
Yukon Era – Consume & Scratch EP
One of the leading lights in alternative rock in New Zealand, Yukon Era have shown with their second EP “Consume & Scratch” that they intend to be around for a long time. The guys are still only teenagers, but already they are selling out gigs around Auckland, storming the alternative airwaves, and playing Laneway in January. This is quality rock in an age where quality rock is often hard to come by.