Delving into a given year’s finest EPs often feels like gazing into a crystal ball for a brief glimpse of the future. It’s with releases such as these that many up and coming artists first make their mark on the world and become the name on people’s lips. It’s often here that the brightest stars of tomorrow are forged, and so this list in particular is one of our favourite ways to sing the praises of the wealth of talented new artists on the scene, alongside outstanding projects from old favourites.
10. Emilia Tarrant – Honeymoon Phase
Emilia’s songwriting on this releases shows wisdom and maturity beyond her years. With a charming and thoughtful openness to her lyricism, it often touches on the harrying feelings of uncertainty that follow us day to day in a way that will hit close to home for many of us after this past year.
9. Holly Humberstone – The Walls Are Way Too Thin
From the mournful melancholy of ‘Haunted House’ and the slow burning ‘Friendly Fire’, to the buoyant synthpop arrangements of ‘Scarlett’ and the title track, this record really sees Holly expand her sound. Every fresh approach she strides toward lands with utmost grace, and the EP as a whole manages a superb balance between light and dark.
8. Crown Lands – White Buffalo
This electrifying Canadian duo really upped their game this year. White Buffalo sees them at their most progressive, ambitious and inventive. The complex Eastern-inspired instrumental ‘Inner Light’, and the vast and varied 13 minute epic ‘The Oracle’, in particular offering a tantalising taster of the band’s new direction.
7. Tiny Castle – National Gallery
Hot on the heels of last year’s stellar debut Perspectives, Brisbane band Tiny Castle deliver another winner with National Gallery. With a driving rhythm section, bright synth melodies, rock solid riffs and captivating hooks, it’s more of the band doing what they do best. Consistency is king, and these guys deliver every time.
6. Keaton Henson – Fragments
Fragile and plaintive folk from a perennial Belwood favourite. Fragments is a beautifully back-to-basics release which, beyond simply being a collection of haunting tracks, is home to a collaboration with Julien Baker that I’ve always dreamed of, but never thought would actually come to pass. ‘Marionette’ is all I’d hoped it would be and more, and makes the perfect centrepiece to a stunning EP.
5. The Greatest Endangered Thing – And You, And Me
Gothic mystique, uplifting indie folk and an idyllic country twang all await you on this latest project from dynamic duo Samuel Taylor and Rebecca Van Cleave. A gorgeous reminder to embrace the slow lane, savour the little things that instil beauty in the everyday, and cherish those connections that we so often take for granted.
4. Jenny Kern – I Never Thought That You Were Listening
One of the most cinematic releases of the year, and the one that perhaps best captures 2021 as a whole, the spellbinding synthscapes on Jenny Kern’s debut EP are just exquisitely crafted. Contained within we find wistful lyricism that reflects on the need to be patient and forgiving with yourself when so much about the world, and our place in it, feels hazy and uncertain.
3. Griff – One Foot In Front Of The Other
Filled with some of the year’s biggest bops, it’s the release that rightfully propelled Griff into becoming one of the UK’s biggest and most exciting new stars. With a Midas touch for memorable hooks, a knack for crafting engaging arrangements and a charming candour and relatability to her lyricism, Griff manages to nail the gold standard of pop on her first outing.
2. Billie Flynn – Hey Stranger
There’s a hypnotic quality to Billie’s hushed vocals that compels you to shut out the rest of the world so you can just get completely absorbed in every last elegant and ethereal detail. As tranquil and rejuvenating as the morning sun rising above a still shoreline, this arresting EP is an absolute delight, placing this Cornish singer/songwriter to the top of my list of ones to watch.
1. Zach Wood & Hollan – Cowgirland
The gorgeous harmonies, the bittersweet hazy atmosphere, its endearing DIY charm; everything about Cowgirland makes this enchanting collaboration feel like a match made in heaven. Somehow the EP feels like a once in a lifetime roadtrip with a dear friend – across majestic mountainsides and through sprawling pine forests – given form in music. Every step of the adventure builds upon the last to make this release feel greater than the sum of its parts