Best Of 2012: Best EPs

Artwork by Francesca Bonifacio

Artwork by Francesca Bonifacio

As great of a year as 2012 was for albums – we had some truly spectacular ones only make an honorable mention – some of us here at LBYB would argue that it’s been an even better year for EPs. On top of some incredible new bands that burst onto the scene last year with stellar debut EPs (just look at our top four), some older bands (and even a Grizzly Bear member gone solo) have also put out some interesting ideas in short-form.

The order here wasn’t unanimous, and we could have argued for days on end as to what EPs were better than others, but eventually between the Editorial staff we managed to come to a consensus as to what the best of the year was. Really though, we think you should check out every EP on this list, because we can vouch for each one. There were many others that could have, and maybe should have, made the cut, but we had to stop somewhere.

Be sure to check back the rest of the week as we unveil the best songs of 2012 tomorrow, and our Ones To Watch for 2013 on Friday!

Listen Before You Buy’s Best EPs of 2012

1. The Neighbourhood – I’m Sorry…

The Neighbourhood I'm Sorry EP image artwork coverMuch of the most commendable music of the year combined the old with the new – but none did it better than The Neighbourhood. I’m Sorry… pairs Kinks-era classic rock with Sade-inspired R&B, modern hip-hop production, and nostalgic Americana imagery in a similar vein to that of Lana Del Rey. With their debut EP, the five piece creates what is sure to be a timeless classic with mass appeal. – Melissa Scheinberg

2. HAIM – Forever

Haim-Forever EPAt a mere three songs, HAIM’s Forever EP manages to pack more of a punch of rock & roll than most bands can muster in a lifetime. The HAIM sisters’ R&B-infused (“Go Slow”), Fleetwood Mac-inspired (“Forever”) rock is what led them to the honor of being named the coveted BBC’s Sound Of 2013. And then there’s Danielle, Este, and Alana’s mastery of their instrument that could only be compared to the shredding of Carrie Brownstein and Kelley Deal. HAIM has single-handedly restored my faith in girl power. – Melissa Scheinberg

3. Rhye – Open

Rhye - Open EPArguably the biggest musical news of 2012 was that the singing half of Rhye was not a girl, but Mike Milosh. That’s not going to stop the Sade comparisons, even if it does put a slightly unusual spin on them. Open is a rare gem; a record that talks about sex without ever sounding sleazy. Instead, it’s sensuous and surprisingly humane. When the only complaint people have been voicing about an EP is that they want more, more, more, you know you’ve done something right. The production by Robin Hannibal (what a year he’s had) is flattering and understated, and features just enough sexy brass hooks to set the tone. – David Rutherford

4. AlunaGeorge – You Know You Like It

AlunaGeorge, Just A Touch, You Know You Like It,London-based electro-R&B duo, AlunaGeorge, are responsible for the best vocalist/producer collaboration since Aaliyah and Timbaland. Though only three tracks long, You Know You Like It provides some of the catchiest pop hooks of the year and offers more quality replay than many of 2012’s albums. Between George Reid’s slick production and Aluna Francis’ fresh take on R&B, AlunaGeorge have an incredible chemistry that isn’t present in similar projects. If this EP is any indication, their debut will be absolutely packed with bangers.  – Cameron Deuel

5. Burial – Kindred

Burial - Kindred EPKindred is the strongest release from Burial since 2007′s Untrue, and possibly all time. His masterful dominance over flowing, grainy constructions of sound is never short of breathtaking, and Kindred is an EP (albeit almost album length) that simply keeps taking my breath away every time I listen. As with almost any genre, one artist can be picked out as the leader of it, and in the case of future garage, it’s undoubtedly Burial. - Kaelin Bougneit

6. MS MR – Candy Bar Creep Show

MS-MR-Candy-Bar-Creep-ShowWe raved and raved about MS MR quite a lot last year, most of which was spawned from the excellence of their debut EP Candy Bar Creep Show. Brooding, atmospheric, emotive, and melodic, the EP spewed out saccharine vocals and themes of love that you wouldn’t necessarily associate with the more dimly-lit side of indie-pop music. In their four-song EP there’s possibly more potential in this band than any other on the list, and if their debut album fails to catapult the band into stardom then I’ll eat a thousand babies. – Franky B

7. TNGHT – TNGHT

TNGHT EPTrap’s existence as a genre is just as surprising as it is unsurprising. Though the general sound of an 808 drum kit and low-and-slow tempos aren’t anything new to music (it’s been a hip-hop staple for decades), it’s surprising how well trap latched on with EDM audiences, with trap now being called, for better or worse, the “new dubstep.” Deep bass, 808 sequencing, squealing synths, and chopped and screwed vocal samples are a trademark of the sound, and TNGHT, an intercontinental collaboration between Hudson Mohawke and Lunice, have perfected it, offering their debut EP as a template for the genre. Bass-quakes and ass-shakes are simply required. - Kaelin Bougneit

8. The Antlers – Undersea

The Antlers - Undersea The Antlers have mastered the calm serenity of bedroom pop that doesn’t dissolve into boring repetition.  In fact, Undersea feels like a slow descent through the Mariana Trench, mysterious and vast, with each track swirling with repetition and intrigue. The Antlers are backed by a muted jungle of distant noises, which only makes their underwater theme feel more succinct. Of course, they also provide some of the sweetest, echoing vocals of 2012 to complement their tranquility. – Cameron Deuel

9. Solange – True

Solange True EPSolange voiced some very strong opinions on Twitter the other day about music blogs writing about R&B without really understanding the culture of it. I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I do, but I will say that True pretty great. We all know how good “Losing You” is, but beyond that spectacular opening track there’s a lot more grooves to be had. “Lovers In the Parking Lot”, for instance, reminds you why you loved ’90s R&B, and I’m not really sure what “Don’t Let Me Down” is doing other that make me want to dance, but that can be said of everything here. If heartbreak sounds this good for Solange, part of me hopes she goes through a rough patch again. – Jorge Mir

10. Twigs – EP

Twigs - EPTwigs made a lot of noise in 2012 without making much noise. Initial tasters “Hide” and “Ache” had certainly whetted appetites, and the release of Twigs in December did not disappoint. Her voice never makes it above a whisper, but the message is loud and clear: she can write outstanding vocal hooks, and she is not afraid to use them. Couple that with understated production of the James Blake and Jamie xx variety, and you end up with an EP that punches well above its decibels. Similarly to AlunaGeorge, this feels less like where British music is at, and more like where it’s about to head. It’s a direction we should all be very happy with. – David Rutherford

11. St. Lucia – St. Lucia EP

St Lucia - St Lucia EPFor anyone who doesn’t know, there’s an EDM subgenre of house called “big room house”. If there were a pop subgenre called “big room pop”, St. Lucia’s self-titles EP would be just that, as those six tracks can only be described as massive 80′s-style synth-pop jams. The Brooklyn-via-Johannesburg musician shows his versatility by creating both traditional vocal-led tracks (“All Eyes On You”) as well as booming drum-led tracks, dripping with synthesizer (“We Got It Wrong”). If this EP and the fact he’s signed to Neon Gold is any indication, St. Lucia’s forthcoming full-length is bound to be just massive. – Melissa Scheinberg

12. Pacific Air – Long Live KO KO

Pacific Air Long Live KO KO album cover artwork EP October 16 Float There’s absolutely nothing revolutionary about Pacific Air’s debut EP and yet I can’t help but have listened to it fifteen times in two and half months, or more than once a week, and that’s not counting the twenty-five listens I’ve given to the original EP the band released when they were still KO KO. Aside from “Float” – which a series of hooks strung together in one of the year’s best songs – there’s a lot to love in these four songs. Whether it’s the Latin jive of “Roses” or the great build on “So Strange” there’s so much that’s kept me coming back so many times, and it’s all thanks to duo’s ability to write pop that doesn’t wear thin on repetition. – Jorge Mir

13. s / s / s – Beak & Claw

s / s / s  - Beak & ClawInitially, I hated this EP, and I gave it a scathing review that said as much. To me, it seemed like three wonderful artists all treading on each others’ ground, generating a useless mess of sound – I couldn’t have been more wrong. What Beak & Claw is is a blank canvas for experimentation of the most diverse sort, with only the most odd and obscure ideas floating to the surface, all creating a picture that can only be understood when one stands back and observes from afar. Sufjan Stevens, producer Son Lux, and rapper Serengeti, have created a work of art meant to be misunderstood, but only the right listeners will get it, and given enough time, of course. - Kaelin Bougneit

14. Daniel Rossen – Silent Hour / Golden Mile

Daniel Rossen - Silent Hour/Golden MileI’m not sure everyone was completely aware of Daniel Rossen’s sheer songwriting abilities. Sure, he’s recognizable from being part of Grizzly Bear and Department of Eagles, but Rossen’s solo material hadn’t seen a proper release until this EP. Rossen’s musical idiosyncrasies are subtle; some slide-guitar here, a healthy amount of banjo there, but Silent Hour/Golden Mile is really a formidable reintroduction as a vocalist. Usually when a band member steps away for a solo project, their main audience comes from a sub-sect of their main group, but Rossen’s appeal is much larger than that. He seems to create for himself, releasing one-off demos every so often, but Silent Hour/Golden Mile pushes him to achieve his personal best. - Cameron Deuel

15. Wild Belle – It’s Too Late

Wild Belle - It's Too Late EPAs someone who considers herself anything but a purist, it’s nice to see a bit of originality in the recent trend of genre fusion. For their EP, Wild Belle manages to approach unchartered territory by blending traditional indie pop with elements of reggae by means of vocalist Natalie’s sun-kissed vocals, the constant reggae-styles guitar upstroke, and the summery saxophone lines. The entirety of It’s Too Late makes you wonder how the brother-sister duo is not from Jamaica (they’re actually from Chicago), while the standout title track proves that they’re potential is only skyrocketing. – Melissa Scheinberg

16. Joywave – Koda Vista

Joywave - Koda Vista EPDespite seeing their name pop up a few times in 2011, I never really took the time to listen to Joywave until last year, when I decided to play their 77777 mixtape and was completely hooked. While Koda Vista doesn’t quite live up to it, it does a fantastic job of presenting a band that have a lot of confidence in themselves and their sound.  “Who Do You Like?” and “Golden State” not only see the band rocking out on guitar, but they’re two of the band’s best songs to date. The R&B tinged “Anemone” is another standout, but overall it’s all high-quality stuff that’s got me very excited for what’s next. – Jorge Mir

17. Disclosure – The Face

Disclosure - The Face EPMusic is in a fragile state nowadays; critics consistently declare originality to be dead, and artists can only create based on what’s been done before. Disclosure aren’t interested in doing what’s already been done; they’re interested in tearing it apart and rebuilding it piece by piece. Sexy, chopped vocals form addictive melodies, percussion flies in every direction, bubbly, airy synthesizers and seething bass provide sharp contrast. It’s the best of every popular electronic genre of the past 40 years -disco, vocal pop, house, trance- all thrown into a blender and rearranged by genius hands into a mural of sonic brilliance (it also features a high “dance your ass off” factor). - Kaelin Bougneit

18. Icona Pop – Iconic

Icona Pop - Iconic EPIn a year very much dominated by pop, Icona Pop were perhaps its most bombastic expression. Spearheaded by “I Love It” – the best “f*ck him” anthem of the year - Iconic helped the Swedish (where else?) duo claim their place as rightful owners of the crossover pop. Their eyes firmly set on mainstream dominance, smart production tips have meant that there’s more here than fist-pumping bangers. We’re yet to see how the duo’s anthems will work on a full-length (their debut album is only available in Sweden), but in the span of an EP it’s “Top Rated”. – Jorge Mir

19. Daughter – The Wild Youth

Daughter- The Wild Youth EPThough Daughter originally started as Elena Tonra’s solo songwriting moniker, the band recently became a trio. Although, the new members don’t keep Tonra’s voice from ruminating sadly through fragile lyrics about lost love and accidentally getting drunk. Daughter’s best quality is their simplicity and attention to lyrics, which always hold more weight given the lightness of their music. The Wild Youth is their second EP to date and it continues a trend of thoughtful introversion that is sure to bleed into their full-length later this year. – Cameron Deuel