EPs Of The Year 2022

20. Veronica Everheart – Cherry Picked [Self-Released]

19. Kathleen Frances – Through The Blue [Self-Released]

18. Ciel – Not In The Sun, Nor In The Dark [JAZZ Life]

17. Wy – Something Amazing [Rama Lama Records]

16. Raavi – It Grows On Trees [Beauty Fool Records]

15. Marjorie – Doesn’t Exist [Whatever’s Clever]

14. Babehoven – Sunk [Double Double Whammy]

13. Squirrel Flower – Planet EP [Polyvinyl / Full Time Hobby]

12. nudista – Halfway Here [Sad Club Records]

11. Kitty Perrin – Stick It Out [Self-Released]

10. Marathoner – Marathoner [Self-Released]

Although actually recorded back in February 2020, when Marathoner’s self-titled EP arrived back in March it was definitely worth the wait. Fronted by Brooklyn-based, Minnesota-native, Andy Cook, a fabulous solo artist in his own right, Marathoner came together at Zoo School Studio in Northern Wisconsin pre-pandemic. Two years on the band hoped they had made something that would still resonate now, as Andy explains, “so much changed. It’s honestly pretty wild to think back on it all, and my hope is that the EP captures both the sound and intent of then, as well as holding relevance today”.

It may only have been four tracks long, yet Marathoner’s debut was certainly not afraid to experiment, from the urgent opening number, Didn’t Think, which felt like The Walkmen or Juan De Fuca, through to the retro flourish of Irregular Heartbeat, a song of faded American Glamour that wouldn’t sound out of place on an episode of Better Caul Saul. The closing track Adolescence in 2020, a song about refusing to grow up, had a soundtrack that fittingly took me back to the grimy indie-dancefloors of the early noughties as it yearned for easy youthful romance, “I like you if you like me back”. Perhaps best of all was Let It Go, where stompy percussion booms around arpeggiated guitars and Andy’s vocals take on an affected swagger, betrayed by the acceptance of the lyric, “small chance, we both know, I still hate it when it’s time to go”. If Marathoner were worried this record had missed its moment then they shouldn’t have been, this was a fine record worthy of your attention whatever year it is.

9. Holiday Ghosts – Credit Note [Fatcat Records]

Photo by Johnny Griffiths

Back in 2021, South Coast garagey, jangly rock’n’rollers, Holiday Ghosts marked their arrival in Brighton with the excellent North Street Air, a record of duff landlords, social commentary and failed political systems, that seems to only get more and more relevant with every passing week. Settling into their current four-piece lineup, the band decamped to North Wales in January to work on a record to capture their newfound live confidence, a condensed record of, “chasing more punky, and rock n roll sounds”. The result was the thrillingly energetic clatter of their EP, Credit Note, released via Fatcat Records back in the heart of the summer.

While musically channelling something raw and urgent, lyrically Credit Note seemed to pick up where North Street Air left off, take the title track, it’s full of dead-pan rage at a political system that offers nothing in return but more of the same, “I want to be a painter, but art’s extinct”. Elsewhere they sounded as fast and heavy as they ever have on The Stooges-like Plain Dumb, while Born Survivor saw them take The Ramones for a ride with Jonathan Richman. They were already a rough diamond, yet this was the sound of Holiday Ghosts stripping back the layers still further, cutting the excess fat and getting right to the bits that really matter. As Credit Note fades out on the glorious instrumental outro of Bright Lights Big City, it is pretty clear Holiday Ghosts have never sounded better.

8. Flamango Bay – The Fool [0800-MOSHI-MOSHI]

A trio of high school friends from LA I picked Flamango Bay out as one of my 22 for 2022 back in January, and the band were kind enough to prove my point with the release of their fabulous debut EP, The Fool. Released via 0800-MOSHI-MOSHI, The Fool was inspired by the tarot card of the same name and follows the band on a narrative arc from youthful naivety through to the harsh lessons of life that come clattering down on you as adulthood strikes.

Musically, the record was something of a treasure trove, borrowing equally from the modern-surf sounds of Vampire Weekend, the bedroom-pop perfection of Soccer Mommy and the artistic flourish of Mitski. Opening track Emeralds In The Sky set the scene with a bounding Peaness-like drum-beat and tumbling guitar melodies, and lyrical musings on the lasting attraction of people who are no good for us, “I think I’m fine with these rose tint glasses on, don’t want to take them off”. Elsewhere LA added a swampy bass line to the never-ending sunshine of the California climate, while Lucky Star delivered a potent blend of jangling guitars and wanting something so much you’ll put your faith in blind luck, “dandelion make a wish, making money getting rich, ladybugs and evil eyes, take your pick and roll the dice”. The best is saved to last on the emotional wonder of Fishing For The Sun, it charts vocalist Ikaika Gunderson’s struggles with finding their identity while serving as a love letter to the supportive embrace of the Bay Area music scene which allowed them to explore the feelings they may have continued to repress without it. A fabulous first step from this hugely talented bunch, from despair to delusion, The Fool was a fitting summary of life in 2022 and sounded all the more exciting for it.

7. Slaney Bay – A Life Worth Living [Self-Released]

Photo by Henry Ager

One of a number of releases that arrived late to the EP party, Slaney Bay only released A Life Worth Living at the start of November, yet it wasted no time in making quite the impression. A trio of Childhood friends from South-West London, the band had already made quite the splash in their home town with supports slots for the likes of Bleach Lab and Sinead O’Brien, yet it was when they shared their, “coming-of-age diary” of an EP that they cemented their place as a band well worth keeping an eye on.

Five tracks of gloriously jangling dream-pop, A Life Worth Living set out its stalls early with the majestic opening track, I Could Love You Better where Caitlin Whitley’s crystalline vocals shared a tale of the risk-and-reward of opening your heart atop a Joy Formidable-like backing of crashing drums and rapidly chiming guitars. Elsewhere LS6, named after the postcode of Leeds’ student enclave, charted a coming-of-age tale, torn between embracing the speed of an ever-changing life without wanting to forget the youth you’ve left behind, “it’s funny how you have the space to grow, I left myself at home”. They even found room in the closing track What If? to sound like the middle ground of All Saints and The Sundays, and frankly if that’s where pop music is headed then I’m more than here for it. Bittersweet growing up set to a backing of melodious guitars and plenty of reverb might not be the newest thing in the world, yet when it sounds this blissful, frankly who cares?

6. Elanor Moss – Citrus [Self-Released]

Photo by Mon Levchenkova – https://www.monlev.com/

A daughter of Yorkshire, Elanor Moss has had a pretty special year. What started with the rather understated release of the Citrus EP, ended with her winning fans in Guy Garvey and Gideon Coe, and decamping to Brooklyn to work on its follow-up, which should be with us next month. While that might seem like a fairly monumental rise, one listen to the beautiful and ambitious Citrus EP and you won’t be surprised in the slightest.

The record opens with the scene-setting Sober, a song Elanor explains is about, “how hard it is to get sober from a toxic relationship”. The track finds Elanor’s swooping vocal accompanied by a gorgeous slow-motion instrumental flourish, as she’s adorned by electronic pips, swells of slide guitar and woozy woodwinds, creaking under the weight of the heavy lyrical content, “I want to drink until I’m too drunk to think”. After the powerful opening, Lunar is a beautifully deft next move, playing out like the morning after the night before as it recalls Marissa Nadler or Julien Baker. The records’ centre piece, Soundings, plummets to the depths of a rapidly emptying whisky jar, before sauntering out on a swooping waltz, while the title track pairs graphic scenes of an abusive relationship with a contrastingly warm musical backing. While there’s a heaviness to Citrus, it is by no means hopeless, Elanor has spoken of these songs as, “reflections from the other side”, tracks inspired by the past looking forward to the brightness the future has waiting if you’re ready to embrace it.

5. Langkamer – Red Thread Route [Breakfast Records]

Photo by AJ Stark

Another band making a late break up to the upper echelons of the year’s finest EPs was Bristol-quartet, Langkamer, with the excellent Red Thread Route. The record was the follow-up to their acclaimed 2021 album, West Country, a record the band subsequently toured relentlessly with dates across the UK and Europe, supporting the likes of The Wave Pictures and Willy J Healey, along with a string of increasingly high-profile festival slots. That experience was a huge influence on Red Thread Route, a collection of tracks written on the road and attempting to capture the feeling of a life in motion, both the good and the bad. “The restlessness of the human condition is satiated at least in part by travel“, explained singer/drummer Josh Jarman, “but being in transit isn’t a quick fix, and sometimes your problems can loom on the road up ahead. And the further you go the closer they get. The more ominous they can seem.

Musically, Red Thread Router was something of a gentle evolution for Langkamer, infusing their trademark indie-country sound with even greater urgency, whether it’s the Savage Mansion-like strut of the opening track Balsedreef or the Pavement-like fuzz of Hamlet. Langkamer are unashamed disciples of guitar-music past and present and here they seemed to set out to showcase the full array of influences, Running The Reds sounded like Teleman with woodwind and, surprisingly, psychedelia banjos, while So Long Little Rock slowed everything down to show they can do touching and write a song that wouldn’t sound out of place on Lou Reed’s Transformer. A love song to the open road, from a band who don’t seem to spend much time off it, Red Thread Route feels like the start of Langkamer’s journey, and who knows where it might end?

4. Paolo Ruiu – Low [Self-Released]

A second-generation Sardinian-Brit raised in the London suburbs, Paolo Ruiu first came to the world’s attention as one-half of the critically lauded duo Young Romance. With the band’s touring plans curtailed, Paolo set about working on something completely different, the darkened textures and hushed experimentation of his debut solo EP, Low. The record, released back in January, was written and recorded in Ruiu’s home studio on a desk used by Pink Floyd and a Tascam 424 cassette recorder. Low is a celebration of analogue recording, featuring elements of 70’s psychedelia, lo-fi indie and vocals smothered with delightful waves of echo.

For a record recorded in a home studio, one of the remarkable aspects of Low is just how much texture Paolo manages to infuse his music with. Take the fabulous title track, stripped to its bones it is little more than a galloping drum beat and a rhythmic guitar line, yet it’s coated in a warm blanket of production, the vocals given a fuzzy sheen as the guitars nod to early The War On Drugs. Grow pushes it even further, glistening like the middle ground of Tame Impala and The Cure. For fears of contradicting myself, one of the finest moments actually comes when Paolo strips things back on the EP’s centrepiece, Bones, here a processed bass line seems to take the lead, allowing the relatively high-end tones of Paolo’s vocal to really shine, the whole thing taking on a woozy luxurious quality, like sliding your head beneath the water of a warm sonic bath. The record comes to a close on Others, which brings in a processed beat and brings the synths to the fore in the surprisingly effective middle-ground of Midlake-like psych-folk and ravey bedroom electronica. Creative and experimental, Paolo Ruiu’s music showcases everything good about DIY music, Others feels like a hidden gem waiting for people to discover just how bright it shines.

3. h.pruz – again, there [Oof Records]

Photo by Felix Walworth

Hailing from Brooklyn, h.pruz is the recording moniker of singer-songwriter Hannah Pruzinsky. For their debut EP, again, there, released at the start of November via Oof Records, Hannah stepped out of their home city, the record largely written away from Brooklyn, whether spending time in the Carolinas, visiting their Pennsylvania hometown, or taking hiking excursions in upstate New York. Working remotely with Asheville-based blog regular Colin Miller, Hannah recorded the EP in their New York apartment during the height of the Covid pandemic, which they spent working between two Brooklyn emergency rooms in their role as a medical practitioner.

Described by Hannah as a record of cycles, again, there charted the ebbs and flows that come with existence, the way friendships, self-confidence and the passing of time itself seem to change throughout our lives. The record opens with old car, nodding to the solo work of Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker, it’s a gorgeous blurring of fluttering guitars and Hannah’s delicate as spiders-web vocals, “it’s not aligned, this isn’t love so don’t you dare slow down”. Elsewhere, trailhead took on a touch of Iron & Wine, while the majestic penultimate track meeting wouldn’t have sounded out of place in the brief freak-folk boom of the late noughties. Hannah spoke of the record as being about arriving at the crossroads, escaping the cycles that drag them back to old habits and finding a multitude of roads opening up in front of them, for h.pruz the musical world is ready and waiting to be explored.

2. Divorce – Get Mean [Hand in Hive]

Photo by Alice Ashley

One of 2022’s breakout bands, Nottingham’s Divorce never actually set out to write an EP, only realising on finishing their final track The Hill, that their string of singles, “were part of the same beast”. The resultant EP, Get Mean, was something of a withering summary of life in 2022 Britain, a collection of songs bound together by a “tiredness for this life in all its monotony and glass ceilings”.

The opening track, and the band’s debut single, Services, is something of a call-to-arms, Tiger Cohen-Towell taking lead-vocal duties as she narrates a fictional road trip from the rushing excess of adolescence to the weight of early adulthood under the strains of late capitalism. Musically, across just four tracks Divorce showcased everything that’s got people buzzing about their potential, from the angular clatter of Pretty to the dramatic country-tinged murder ballad, Checking Out, which flipped the genre on its head with an irrationally violent female lead, who doesn’t hesitate to justify her wildest actions. The record closes on That Hill, “a commitment to pursuing our dreams”, set to a musical backing that starts with a gentle orchestral flourish before taking a turn towards almost prog-like excess. Get Mean is a record dripping with ambition, the sound of a band with everything it takes to make 2023 the year the world notices just how exciting they could be.

1. Carpet – Maldon Salt / Men Like Us [Self-Released]

Back in 2021, Carpet, the musical project of Leeds-based musician and producer Rob Slater, appeared at number two in this list with his self-titled debut EP only pipped by Dan Wriggins’ superb offering Mr Chill. That record was the result of years of quietly recording in spare moments between producing other bands at his own Greenmount Studio. After the success of his debut, and while keeping himself busy with a host of other projects, Rob quickly got back to working on Carpet material. The result is the fabulous Maldon Salt / Men Like Us, four tracks of thoughtful muted beauty, an unrushed insight into his musical vision.

The record opens with the half-title track Men Like Us, “a mocking glance at his own masculine tropes”, that plays on the stereotype of strong silent men, initially stating, “loneliness wasn’t meant for men like us”, before slowly opening up his truer feelings as doubts creep in and his bandmates gather around him in a warm vocal embrace, “is there no romance in true sadness? Is there no sadness in true romance?” From there the EP slides into the first single lifted from it, the Bill Ryder-Jones-like brilliance of Atrophy. The track initially finds Rob in a self-admonishing mood, “I fell from my pedestal just the other day, it’s only right”, before, spurred on by a bright-piano line, he takes on a more accepting tone, “maybe this is all gonna solve, something we don’t know at all, maybe all this dust is golden”, before the whole thing drifts way into a haze of strings that slowly fade to black.

The second half of the EP begins with the second title track, Maldon Salt, which brings in a gorgeous flourish of Hammond organ, its natural bombast beautifully contrasting the song’s unshowy nature, as the guitars slow everything down around Rob’s muted vocal pronouncement, “I’m clean but I don’t matter”. Gone far too soon, the record at least has a fabulous send-off, in the piano-led Please Come Back (Time And Space), which nods to early Perfume Genius, as atop ringing chords, Rob worries about his legacy, singing, “when I die, scatter my secrets like ashes, I don’t want people to think I just was wasting my time”. Listening to Carpet, I’m often struck by how honest Rob’s music feels, there’s almost no sense of expectation about it, as if he’s making these records without a thought for how they’ll be received. These songs are expression in its purest form, an artist making music because that’s what he does, and while that Glastonbury headline slot or Platinum Disk will almost certainly never be on the cards, just by being true to his own musical vision, Carpet is already a star my eyes.

Check back later week for my run down of my favourite albums of 2022!

3 thoughts on “EPs Of The Year 2022

  1. Thank you for continuing to provide an excellent view of great new music. The loving dedication and quality never falters. I have found so much new music over the years that may otherwise have passed me by.
    Truly appreciated.

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