There’s a lot of discussion in the blogging world about the pros and cons of the annual end of year run-down. Many have grown tired of the competitive nature existing in something as subjective as art, and made the point that no record is more worthy of your ears than any other. We don’t disagree, we don’t claim this list is an exhaustive summary of the best record anyone put out this year, there’s of course an awful lot of them which we haven’t heard, or haven’t given a great chance. We offer this not as a conclusion, but as a jumping off point, a chance to highlight some of the records we enjoyed this year, in the hope you’ll find something new and something that you love as much as we do.
So without further ado, let the traditional listing of records we liked begin, starting today with twenty of our favourite EPs. A collection showcasing some of the newest and most exciting bands 2019 had to offer.
20. Black Sea Dahu – No Fire In The Sand [Mouthwatering Records]
19. Maripool – I See Everything I Know Nothing [Self-Released]
18. Secret Power – Secret Power EP [For The Sake Of Tapes]
17. Benjamin Spike Saunders – Tonsil Wife EP [Leisure Records]
16. FELL – For The Pickling [Lost Map]
15. Rebecka Reinhard – Valentine Road [Breakfast Records]
14. Lande Hekt – Gigantic Disappointment [Self-Released]
13. The Weird Years – The Weird Years EP [Self-Released]
12. Holy Now – It Will All End In Tears [Lazy Octopus Records]
11. Fanclub – All The Same EP [Friendly Reminder]
10. Panic Pocket – Never Going To Happen [Reckless Yes]
We’ve championed Panic Pocket pretty much since the time they formed to play First Timers Fest back in 2017. Formed by London based BFFs Sophie and Natalie, following the release of a pair of singles, the DIY popsters signed to the increasingly vital Reckless Yes label, and back in April released their debut EP, Never Going To Happen.
There’s a charming simplicity to Panic Pocket’s songwriting, yet its none the less difficult to pin-down; just as you think you’ve got them pegged as DIY bedroom-posters, you’ll get hit with the perfection of a Rosettes-like harmony, for every moment of sensitive reflection, there’s a sassy put-down that’s as hilarious as it is cutting. Across the four tracks, nobody is safe from Panic Pocket’s glare, from terrible bosses to society’s expectations that we’ll all be happy with two kids and a house in the suburbs. Perhaps more than anyone else this year, Panic Pocket were the reflection of modern London living, crap jobs, online dating and finding a way despite it all to laugh, love and follow your dreams, as big as music or as small as eating pizza in your pants.
9. Wojtek The Bear – Old Names For New Shapes [Scottish Fiction]
Part EP, part four-track singles compilation, Old Names For New Shapes was a collection of various tracks that Glasgow quintet Wojtek The Bear released across 2019. It was a fitting summary for a great year for the band, which saw them catch the ear of many, including Belle & Sebastian who, quite literally, brought them on board for The Boaty Weekender.
As you’d perhaps expect for a collection of stand-alone tracks. Old Names For New Shapes has a certain exploratory quality to the songwriting, yet what surprises is how well the tracks fall into a collective whole. There’s a lyrical thread throughout, one of growing older, falling in and out of love, and generally feeling a bit lost in the world around you. Across the four tracks, Wojtek The Bear asked questions about humanity, from the self-doubt that comes with meeting fascinating new people, to the potentially toxic effect of smart-phones on our interactions with others.
8. Ghum – The Coldest Fire [Everything Sucks Music]
The breakout success of London-based multi-national post-punk goth wonders Ghum has been one of the year’s most pleasing stories. One minute they were playing one of our gig nights, the next they were near omnipresent on 6Music thanks to break-out single, Get Out. The track was lifted from their outstanding second EP, The Coldest Fire, released back in June on Everything Sucks (and recently repressed on orange vinyl, get them while you can!) Ghum’s success in 2019 was just reward for a band who’ve shown themselves to be one of the capital’s most captivating live acts.
The band wear enough black to draw comparison with the likes of Siouxsie And The Banshees, yet Ghum’s take on angular post-punk is equally delightfully modern, vocalist Laura Guerrero Lora channeling the spirit of Savages’ Jenny Beth as her bandmates create waves of angular intensity. The aforementioned Get Up was the most obvious single, yet all four tracks on The Coldest Fire stood out. 1000 Men has the intensity of early PJ Harvey as it seems to summon up an army of warrior women, while closing track In My Head felt somewhere between a love song and a tale of purest obsession. Best of all was the opening track, Saturn, a slice of purest goth, far more infectious than it’s dark lyrical content should allow. In 2019 Ghum made an awful lot of waves, and most excitingly of all they’re only just getting started.
7. Ducks Unlimited – Get Bleak [Bobo Integral]
The latest arrivals to our EP of the year race, Toronto jangle-pop quartet Ducks Unlimited’s EP, Get Bleak, only arrived at the end of November. So late in the year was it, that we only just talked about it last week, so we won’t ramble on too long about it. That said we’re very confident it’s a record that we won’t just love now, but will continue to discover new joys in over the months ahead.
6. Crake – Dear Natalie [Self-Released]
Hailing from Leeds, Crake are an alt-folk quarter, who’s music is, in their owns, “perpetually Autmnal”. They first emerged back in 2017, and back in June, keeping up a tradition of releasing one EP a year, they shared their latest offering, Dear Natalie. The release capped off a rather brilliant summer for the band, which also saw them tour with Big Thief at the behest of guitarist Buck Meek.
Dear Natalie was just three songs long, and released on the rather unusual medium of Tarot Cards, yet it was an EP that punched far above its humble beginnings. The collection was resplendent with wistful dreamy acoustic passages, yet particularly on the centre-piece Sea Pink, also wasn’t afraid of getting loud, lo-fi and delightfully scuzzy. Either side of that were two slices of wistful heartache; opening track Glycerin, with its steady percussion and bassy rumble, created a hazy fog of emotion, from which the twin vocals seemed to be trying to escape, as if wading through thick black treacle, “and if you see I’m struggling, then cast me out a line”. The most delicate moment is saved to last with the gorgeous Oil, a hypnotic cycle of acoustic guitar punctuated with an unusually punchy and complex drum beat; like so much of what Crake do so well, it feels at once comforting and quietly ambitious. It definitely didn’t shout the loudest, yet Dear Natalie arguably lingered the longest, a record still blossoming with every repeat listen.
5. Dry Cleaning – Sweet Princess EP [It’s OK]
Like so many of our favourite bands, Dry Cleaning formed when a series of friends had a chat at a party and the embryonic idea for a band was formed. In the London quartets case that was back in 2017, and they spent the following two years honing their sound ready to unleash it on the world. They emerged in 2019 with not one, but two EPs, our favourite of which was Sweet Princess, released in August, and causing quite the stir across the internet.
The band started life making instrumentals, before they recruited a vocalist, Florence Shaw, who’d never actually sung before. The result is an almost unique style all of their own, Florence sing-speaks her stream of consciousness lyrics atop a backing that is angular, streamlined and deceptively simple. Across its six tracks, Sweet Princess prods at the media and advertising, offering slogans and phrases that initially seem meaningless, yet pieced together like a collage start to make some sort of sense. The record starts with the frenetic Goodnight, part homage to a cat, part collection of random youtube comments, from there it slides into the Life Without Buildings-like New Job, and the Duchess Of Sussex tribute The Magic of Meghan, barely pausing for breath. Weirdest, and quite possible best of all is Phone Scam, a recollection of an interaction with someone trying to borrow your phone for potentially nefarious reasons, set largely to a really wonderful bass-line and little else. The angular art-punk influenced sound was all the rage in 2019, and nobody delivered with as much intrigue and individuality than Dry Cleaning.
4. Molly Linen – Outside EP [Lost Map]
Listening to Outside, the new EP from Molly Linen is like twenty minutes of pure escapism. When the world feels so fast paced and chaotic, Molly’s easy vocals and hazy instrumentation makes the whole thing stop spinning, a gentle sigh of a record in which to get lost and switch off. Even more remarkably this mature, seasoned songwriting appeared on the Shropshire-born, Glasgow-based musicians debut album, released through the Lost Map label back in October, and drew comparisons with the likes of Cat Power, Nick Drake and Ultimate Painting.
The EP slinks in on the lurching When They Didn’t Care, a slither of cyclical guitar patterns and prominent bassy pulse, topped off with an effortlessly wonderful vocal line. Elsewhere, the title track strips things back with a touch of early Warpaint, Soft As Love takes up back to 60s psych-folk, while the brilliant closing track, Away, is a perfect amalgam of folk-tinged vocals and warm modern production. Arguably more akin to her Shropshire upbringing than her current Glasgow home, Outside found beauty in the personal, the rural and the world around its creator, and frankly we all needed a bit of that this year.
3. Foundlings – Foundling EP [Last Night From Glasgow]
Splitting their time between Brighton and South-East London, Foundlings were one of a series of bands who reminded us all of the joys of the classic indie-pop sound across 2019. With guitars set to maximum jangly-goodness, clattering drums and bright, powerful vocals, the band cemented their place as one of our favourite new acts to emerge this year with the release of their self-titled debut EP on the brilliant Last Night From Glasgow label.
The EP, impressed on a number levels, not least the way in which it gently pushed the band’s sound, from Enemies’ wide-screen dream-pop, to the noisier, darker Busan with its gunshot snare drums and post-punk rumblings. Across the release, Foundlings showed they can combine an array of influences with ease, to create a sound that managed to conjure up the glory days of late-80’s indie while simultaneously sounding forward thinking and exciting. Foundlings left us wanting to hear a whole lot more.
2. L I P S – L I P S EP [Sunday Records]
Discovering that Cornwall was a hot-bed of new guitar-led music was one of the more wonderful, if slightly surprising, revelations of the year. At the forefront of that were Falmouth-based quarter L I P S, and their self-titled EP that emerged back in April on the Chicago-based indie-pop label, Sunday Records.
The EP showcased a collection of starry-eyed collisions of shoegaze and low-key dream-pop. At the forefront of all the tracks was quite possibly our favourite vocal performance of the year, throughout the record Rachel Antis shone out, with her otherworldly vocals, fragile and shimmering, marking her out as a natural heir to Harriet Wheeler or Elizabeth Fraser. Thankfully there was also plenty of musical substance beneath, we have a particular fondness for the easy guitar runs on Walls and the woozy atmospherics of closing track Alma, yet each track had something intriguing to offer while still hanging together as a cohesive whole. A hugely impressive record, that accompanied one of the best live shows we saw all year, L I P S came from the South-West and blew us away, a timely reminder there’s always great music to be discovered if you open your ears and never stop searching for it.
1. Soot Sprite – Sharp Tongue [Special Subject Records]
What makes Sharp Tongue, the debut EP from Exeter-trio Soot Sprite the worthy winner of our EP of the year? For starters there’s the simple fact that whenever we listened to it, we found ourselves instantly reaching for the play button just one more time, or maybe one more, honest this will be the last time, or maybe the next time. Wherever we went, it was a collection of tracks that was rarely far from our ears.
Released in October on Specialist Subject (quite possibly our record label of the year if we gave out such an award), Sharp Tongue was a flawlessly wonderful sounding record that beneath it’s gorgeous outer coating seemed to possess an equally captivating lyrical depth. Much of the record seemed to ruminate on the human condition, as Elise Cook, in her rich silky vocal style, reflected on toxic friendship, self-esteem and the pursuit of your a creative lifestyle.
Across five tracks, Sharp Tongue was an EP that packed in a huge variety of sounds, from the slow-moving brilliance of Vs. Self to the infectious jangle of Day Job, where Soot Sprite urged us all to jack in the job and follow our dreams. Perhaps our favourite moment on the EP though, was the one that sounded possibly least like Soot Sprite as we know them, the record’s centre piece, Dust. Atop a plaintive piano line, Elise’s vocal seemed to carry the weight of the world with it, as she sings, “you can’t hear me now, because now you’re dust, now that you’ve stopped, wish you weren’t dust, wish you weren’t lost”. On this wonderfully human record, Soot Sprite seemed to hit every emotion, they offered hope and despair, self-doubt and personal growth, and in doing so they created something rather magical.
If you enjoyed our favourite EPs, you’ll love our favourite albums, check out part 1 HERE.