Just like the many ambitious and spectacular albums that came out in 2021, there were plenty of EPs that also deserved the spotlight. EP, or extended play, is a short or half-length music album that typically contains more tracks than a single but fewer tracks than an album. Items were counted as EPs if they included more than one song, up to seven songs, or were labeled as an EP on Spotify or Apple Music. After listening to 365 EPs in 2021, here are 21 worth listening to in the new year.
“STELLA & STEVE (2019)” by BENEE (6,418,389 monthly listeners)
“Supalonely” has over half a billion streams on Spotify, and it shouldn’t be a surprise as BENEE has carved out a modern indie-pop scene that is infectious and unique. This entire EP is worth a listen, as well as her debut EP “FIRE ON MARZZ” with tracks like “Glitter” and “Soaked.”
“S.O.M.E. (2021)” by DAISY (117,154 monthly listeners)
Finding a good band isn’t easy, so finding DAISY this year was truly a gift. The indie and alt-rock quartet create energetic love music that feels true to an unaltered studio sound. Lead singer DAISY’S WORLD is a brilliant vocalist and truly shines on tracks like “We’re Alright” and “Eastside,” so make sure you jump on the DAISY train as they hit indie superstardom.
“tape_01 (2020)” by dvr (149,756 monthly listeners)
After listening to dvr’s “thru the city” 50 times in one-sitting, listening to this 2020 project gave a different side to the bedroom pop upcoming artist. “Lonely” is a steady hit that is groovy and perfect for dvr’s laid-back voice. Having released music for only two years, dvr is bound to get bigger and better beyond the 2020 and 2021 quiet hits.
“Somewhere In-Between (2021)” by Eloise (917,016 monthly listeners)
Eloise’s 2019 EP “This Thing Called Living” was a delightful introduction to sultry soul about love and emotion in the very best kind of way. On this new project, Eloise makes leaps and bounds to deliver easy listening grooves and multi-layered instrumentation perfect for a calm soul-filled evening. Listen to “Hungover” and “Intertwined” for a taste of Eloise.
“Nerve (2020)” by FELIVAND (170,254 monthly listeners)
If you’re looking for warmth and soul this winter, FELIVAND’s EP does a spectacular job at delivering just that. “Ebb & Flow” represents her dark-hued sound well, so give it a listen for something somber and organic.
“Girl Eat Sun (2020)” by Hope Tala (1,245,327 monthly listeners)
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West London’s Hope Tala brings a sound that is distinctly herself, which is the best compliment I can give as an avid fan of her music. Her voice brings calm and solidity to her complex alt-R&B tracks “Cherries” and “Crazy,” but the entire EP is worth listening to if you haven’t come across Hope Tala yet.
“Dirty Mile EP (2020)” by Isaac Waddington (247,110 monthly listeners)
Easy-listening, jazz-inspired artists are hard to come by, which is why Isaac Waddington’s 13-minute EP is worth listening to on rarity alone. Layered with piano runs and steady grooves, “Ordinary Days” and “Other Way” are the top tracks you should hear from this soulful musician.
“Weekend Love (2021)” by Jafunk (373,628 monthly listeners)
Modern funk doesn’t get better than Jafunk’s three-piece project. Each hit is determined to get you up and dancing, so make sure you have space to groove to “Weekend Love,” “You Got Me” and “Skate with Me.”
“CIRCLES (2021)” by KALI (147,612 monthly listeners)
KALI's debut EP is remarkable bedroom pop for such a young artist. I’m reminded of the early days of Clairo with songs like “Lucy” and Wallows with “Too Tired.” Keep a lookout for KALI this year and beyond – you’ll thank me later.
“Nostalgia (2019)” by Michael Seyer (352,352 monthly listeners)
My late night playlist has gotten better because of the soft-spoken indie music Michael Seyer has released since 2016. His tracks are easy to listen to and are perfect for relaxing. “I Can’t Dance” is a great entry point to his music, and his more recent album release “A Good Fool” keeps this sound going if this is the kind of music you like.
“Heat Lightning (2021)” by Mitski (8,550,527 monthly listeners)
Mitski is not new to the spotlight, having released popular projects since 2012’s “Lush.” She keeps up her 80s-driven indie sound with her recent releases, led by the instant classic “The Only Heartbreaker.” It’s on President Obama’s 2021 songs of the year for a reason, so get listening to Mitski if you haven’t already.
“Tradition (2019)” by Monsune (672,427 monthly listeners)
Breathtaking from start to finish, Monsune’s lone EP is packed with belting hit after hit. Songs like “1998” and “CLOUD'' are a fiery mix of R&B, bedroom pop, and alt-rock – a must-listen EP in my book.
“in good company (2021)” by NNAVY (117,996 monthly listeners);
Finding NNAVY’s album “Blue” was a pleasant surprise this year with stellar R&B tracks and sultry vocals, but “in good company” surprised me even more with how NNAVY keeps up the soulful energy she brought in the past. Fans of Daniel Caesar and Tom Misch will love listening to “Drowning” and “Run Away,” if not the entire EP.
“A PawPaw Rod EP (2021)” by PawPaw Rod (878,029 monthly listeners)
PawPaw Rod debuted in 2020 with an instant classic “HIT EM WHERE IT HURTS” and rose astronomically over 2021. “Lemonhaze” and “Thin Lines” mix rap and soul in refreshing ways similar to established genre giants like Steve Lacy and The Internet.
“Bright Lights, Red Eyes (2021)” by Ruel (6,460,318 monthly listeners)
Ruel has been a huge hit prior to 2021, with a feature on Omar Apollo’s “Want U Around” in 2020 and popular album “Free Time” with the viral signal “Painkiller” in 2019. This EP sees Ruel open with sad yet upbeats anthems like “as long as you care” and despair-filled ballads like “say it over.” Both demonstrate Ruel’s range and talent as one of the best pop singers who has so much more in store.
“Dead Boys – EP (2018)” by Sam Fender (5,608,469 monthly listeners)
Sam Fender has had a revolutionary couple of years, and it’s due to his candid lyricism and electric rock anthems that he is still on the rise. This debut EP features some of his darkest songs to date like “Dead Boys” and “Spice,” yet the energy they both possess carries forward into his two subsequent albums, “Hypersonic Missiles” and “Seventeen Going Under.”
“I Could Be Loved (2018)” by Sipprell (14,115 monthly listeners)
Sipprell is truly a hidden gem. With a remarkable and soothing voice, Sipprell stakes her own path in the R&B scene with multi-instrumental songs like “Better” that make you wonder why she hasn’t reached the heights she deserves yet.
“Company (2020)” by Suzuki Saint (20,611 monthly listeners)
Suzuki Saint is another songwriter deserving of more attention with the few songs released in the past two years. Songs like “Sunday” and “Company” are simple yet moving, and with a debut EP supposedly on the horizon, Suzuki Saint should
“If Orange Was A Place (2021)” by Tems (6,213,584 monthly listeners)
While Tems is known best for her features in Wizkid’s “Essence” and Drake’s “Fountains,” her new EP builds upon her own neo-soul from her 2020 album “For Broken Ears.” This entire EP is worth a listen, but “Crazy Tings” and “Found” showcase her addicting sound and her unique R&B fusion that’ll be craved by fans for years to come.
“Bel•li (2021)” by Uma (54,396 monthly listeners)
For those interested in a softer sound, Uma is a wonderful indie-folk artist that takes experimentation and journey seriously. Tracks like “Mockingbird” and “Astronaut” give a full idea of Uma’s sound, and I’d recommend listening to the more recent EP, “The Moth and the Dove” if this is the kind of sound you crave
“Does it Make You Feel Good? (2020)” by Joesef (1,792,863 monthly listeners)
My favorite EP this year goes to Joesef’s “Does it Make You Feel Good?,” which combines chilled vocals with unbeatable, catchy grooves. Each song on this EP is worth listening to, though try out “The Sun Is Up Forever” and “Think That I Don’t Need Your Love” if you’re extremely hesitant to commit to this 20-minute EP. If you like what you hear, I can’t recommend enough Joesef’s 2019 debut EP “Play Me Something Nice” and acoustic rerelease project “Late to the Party.”
This group of EPs were bold and passionate, and most come from artists who have found a unique sound that is only going to get better and stronger. There were also other EPs that were spectacular, which goes to show how much music we’re all missing out on. After 365 EPs, I’ve learned how important these smaller projects are for the entire music industry. They are opportunities for artists to create snippets of sounds to test the waters and experiment with new directions. These shorter projects are also less of a commitment to listen to, which was much appreciated after a years-worth of listening to artist after artist.
Monthly listeners were taken from Spotify. If you’re interested in the 365 EPs I listened to this year, feel free to look here.