So this is a new little thing for us but by request we have put together a shortlist of our favourite EPs of 2019. Enjoy xoxo Sweet Peach – Sheer Existence (Ryan Wilkinson) With track titles like ‘what if we kissed at the kia summer sales event?’ and ‘Everyone Needs a Song Called Untitled’, one could be forgiven for assuming […]
So this is a new little thing for us but by request we have put together a shortlist of our favourite EPs of 2019. Enjoy xoxo
Sweet Peach – Sheer Existence (Ryan Wilkinson)
With track titles like ‘what if we kissed at the kia summer sales event?’ and ‘Everyone Needs a Song Called Untitled’, one could be forgiven for assuming that Sweet Peach are yet another twinkly emo band. One would be wrong. Hailing from College Park, MD, frontperson Yvette Naomi Meyers uses the alt-grunge band’s debut EP, Sheer Existence, to sing about their experiences in gender transition and the reasons they don’t drive rather than focusing on girls who don’t love them back or exes who said mean things to them in high school.
As Meyers breaks up clean vocals with screams and shouts to drive home the frustration behind lines like “I’m just bad luck and I still ruin everything I ever touch / I fuck it all up every time”, crunchy power chords lay the groundwork for contrastingly bright, bouncy lead riffs. The four tracks are sonically similar, but moving through the EP the listener can tell that each was written with purpose and control, with no two having much in common beyond guitar tone and mastering.
Above all else, their willingness to honestly confront their sadness without moping has helped launch Sweet Peach into the East Coast scene, and it’s the same openness that makes Sheer Existence an EP not to miss.
Niiice. – Never Better (Ryan Wilkinson)
Following their 2018 debut LP Try To Stay Positive, Niiice. have honed their grunge-meets-emo sound to perfection on this year’s EP, Never Better. While many three-piece bands in similar circles make do with twinkling open-tuned guitars, Niiice. manages a surprisingly full sound between heavily distorted bass lines and oftentimes deceptively simple guitar licks.
With a reputation as a ‘weed emo’ band heavily established, long-time listeners may have been surprised that the EP’s only overt reference to the herb was in the third track title, ‘Blunt Force Marijuana.’ Luckily for us, the heavy lyrics full of self-doubt, self-destruction and substance abuse that the band has come to be known for are in full force here, as evidenced in the last verse of ‘Haterade:’ “I swear I’m trying / please don’t remind me / who I was or why I’ll never be worth it”.
Along with a second release this year – a split with their fellow Minnesotans in Gully Boys – Never Better showcases a band that has found where their power lies and is taking full advantage of that discovery to build themselves a solid foundation from which to launch. Like most Niiice. fans, you’ll come for the irresistible hooks and fun Twitter presence, and stay to see just exactly what they’ll do next.
Two-Point Conversion – Two-Point Conversion (Ryan Wilkinson)
With a Twitter bio claiming ‘Halo 2 Mathpop’ for a genre and a sprinkling of Super Smash Bros. samples, I don’t have to tell you that Two-Point Conversion writes a fun EP. Originally meant to be half of a split with Toledo, OH band Equipment, the duo’s debut takes a large step from the music frontperson Jordi Perbtani released under the name Foxwood last year without losing the heart that earned them a place in the Florida DIY scene.
Only three tracks long, the self-titled EP nonetheless packs a punch, chock-full of lyrics like “like my old best friends / I won’t call you back” or the simple hook from opening track ‘Ampharos’, “why am I so lonesome?” The relatable but gutting lines and twinkling riffs put them solidly in the emo crowd, but the skill with which they write and perform them helps this particular duo stand a head above the rest.
The EP’s third track is particularly special – an acoustic throwback to the band’s days as Foxwood, it’s soft and slow and peppered with the Super Smash Bros. samples mentioned above. While that sounds strange, and it can be on first listen, the samples add a nostalgic quality that invites the listener to an intimate emotional space – one almost feels like they grew up with the writer and subject of the song, playing video games after school. It’s these unique qualities that make Two-Point Conversion an EP – and a band – to check out.
Chamberlain – Some Other Sky (Rob Mair)
Some Other Sky is, in old parlance, a single more than an EP, but it’s so damn good, I don’t care. Chamberlain are one of those bands that exist in a permanent state of semi-hiatus, but in 2019 they came back with their first new material in almost a decade and returned to these shores for their first UK shows in 20 years.
But, as a return, Some Other Sky is far better than it has any right to be – it might even be Chamberlain’s best work, period. Epic, Americana-tinged, and packed full of over-the-top emotion, it’s a five-and-a-half-minute fist-in-the-air anthem and was one of the highlights of their UK run. I think it’s such a triumph because it squarely plays to the crowd. It’s got all classic Chamberlain lyrical tropes – stars, skies, hope, loss and more – and is all the better for it; if you’re ten years gone, why not return with something that’s gonna hit the sweet spot and give the fans what they want?
Lucy Dacus – 2019 (Kristy Diaz)
I mean, this EP is literally called 2019, so it truly would be remiss not to include it on an end-of-year list. Very clever, Lucy. It helps that she has been one of my standout artists this year; I’ve been falling seriously hard for her whole back catalogue and each of the singles that have drip-fed throughout the year, culminating in this EP.
I’ve danced dramatically around my house to ‘La Vie En Rose’, my French GCSE absolutely failing me but the language fits beautifully with the unique richness of Dacus’ vocals. Exploring body image and mother-daughter relationships, ‘My Mother & I’ – with its intricate, rolling guitar line – showcases Dacus’ aptitude for writing delicate observations. ‘Forever Half Mast’ sounds deceptively warm; a country track that forgoes patriotism for deeply critical thoughts about the USA as she sings, “we’re in a state of disarray united by our darkest days”.
The EP finishes with three covers: a fresh, indie-rock take on Springsteen’s iconic ‘Dancing In The Dark’ that would have been a questionable choice for almost anyone else; a contrastingly haunting rework of ‘In The Air Tonight’ and, just in time for the festive season, an incredibly fun version of ‘Last Christmas’. As a collection of singles, 2019 is full of variety and surprise and, hopefully, sets the scene for a new full-length in the near future. My fingers remain crossed.
Signals Midwest – PIN (Danny Miller)
Signals Midwest is a band that has perpetually flown under the radar despite consistently releasing excellent records for the better part of the past decade. Their experimental tendencies were streamlined on their last full-length, 2016’s At This Age, which featured shorter tracks and more traditional song structures than their two prior records. On their 2019 EP, PIN, they manage to strike the perfect balance between the two ends of this spectrum.
The band continues to push themselves, with frequent shifts in dynamics and tempos, extended dueling guitar sequences, and their first track with only piano and vocals. However, the EP also contains the two best and most straightforward pop-punk songs in their entire catalog. ‘Sanctuary City’ features some of the strongest lyrics and hooks they’ve ever written, but the true highlight here is ‘Your New Old Apartment.’ Originally released as a solo acoustic track by singer Max Stern, the song has been reworked into an uptempo, full-band ripper featuring Deanna Belos from Sincere Engineer. This pairing proves to be pure gold, with Belos complementing Stern perfectly and energizing the entire album.
While the band is less prolific than they once were, PIN shows that they still have plenty left in the tank as they continue to improve and hone their songwriting skills. And with more than ten years together as a band, it’s nice to see they still have a few surprises for us as well.