Extended Plays commonly referred to as EPs are best described as longer than a single (one track) but shorter than an album (compilation of many tracks). Albums can also be referred to as Long Plays (LPs). On average, an EP consists of 4 to 6 tracks, unlike LPs that have from 8 Tracks upwards. There is however no specific standard; Kelly Rowland’s last EP has just three tracks, while Ed Sheeran’s last EP has 15 tracks. But most usually have a maximum of 5 songs. I hate EPs where all the tracks are remix versions of just one song, seriously what’s the idea?
Why EPs? For one, they are cheaper and easier to produce compared to LPs. New artists use it as a promotional tool to build their fan base before their debut album release. Also, established artists use it to stay relevant between major album releases. Others use it as a means for artistic freedom. EPs come in handy when an artist wants to experiment with their sound.
EPs are not judged critically as full-length albums, hence the free hand given to artists by their record labels over the control of the material on their EPs. I love EPs because they show the true artist. There is rarely the issue of overproduction that overshadows the authenticity of the songs. EPs allow artists to express themselves freely.
Most songs on EPs eventually find their way to LPs (I’m not a big fan of this, especially when half the songs on the album are from a previously released EP).
Like I previously mentioned in my last post, EPs got to me more at the beginning of 2020 than full-length albums. I have made a countdown of my favourite EPs from the first half of 2020 (January to June) starting from my favourite –
1. The End of Everything – Noah Cyrus
The first single off this EP – ‘I was so high that I saw Jesus’ got my interest piqued. I was expecting a full album release, especially as she had dropped three promotional singles that were not on her first EP.
The End of Everything EP shows the vulnerable side of Noah and had me appreciating her even more than I did when I heard her Make Me (Cry) song she did with Labrinth back in 2017.
My favourite track on the EP is ‘Ghost’. This song mirrors me, especially those moments when I feel lost.
‘And when you’re looking in the mirror
Demons may be closer than they may appear
You can even cry and sit, and stare
When trying to run away, I’m tryna run away‘
2. Things I wanted to Tell You – Kina
I have probably played the first single off this EP – ‘Get you the moon’ a million times between when I first heard it last year and now. The song gets to me every time and warms me up, even though there is no particular person I attach to it.
Tiktok made the second track – ‘Can we kiss forever?’ popular. The EP feels like a too little too late letter to an ex-lover you didn’t let them know just how much they truly meant to you while you guys were together. Kina’s voice is filled with regret, flowing well with the mellow pop production on the songs as he lets his honest feelings know.
3. Joel Adams – Joel Adams
This was a lucky download. I was drawn by the loneliness expressed on the album art. It was love at first listen. I felt every word, especially on my favourite track ‘Slipping off the edge’. The darkness in the song feels so comforting mostly because it says everything I feel when life gets overwhelming. He sings – ‘I don’t want to see no doctor/Just so he can sit down there smiling/Pretending that they know my history/Like he has any idea’.
The verses and chorus hit even darker than these lines, however, these lines are part of how I feel about therapy. The whole idea of opening up to a stranger to psychoanalyse me doesn’t fully sit well with me.
4. Made Up Lost Time – Kevin Garrett
Another lucky download. The dark album art drew me in. Asides the beautiful songwriting, I love the mellow pop production on the EP. It makes for an easy and calm listen. The songs are centered around Kevin navigating his personal growth with his lover. It’s about him trying to grow from his old self to a new person he hopes his lover still loves. My favourite tracks are ‘Tell you how I’m feeling’, ‘Factor in’ and ‘Can’t come back now’.
I relate so well to the lyrics of ‘Can’t come back now’ – “I swear we can’t fix something we cannot figure out/but I know it, you know it…when it all settles down/but we can’t come back now”
5. Winter Hurts – Jacob Whitesides
From his first EP to the last album, Jacob has gotten better. On this EP, his growth can’t be missed. This is his most mature effort yet. My stand out track is ‘God took a bow’ which is about someone he is deeply in love with and is in awe of how much magic they make while together.
When I first saw the song title, I thought it would be one of those controversial songs about God, but turns out he was appreciating his lovers perfect looks, such that God took his time creating her. You know how when you’ve performed excellently, a panel of judges tells you to take a bow as you have nothing else to prove.
The EP is made up of stripped-back pop ballads with minimal production, giving his vocals a solemn feel.
6. In Between Minds – Rhys Lewis
I can’t exactly remember how I came across this EP or Rhys Lewis, but my strong guess is, I heard the first track ‘Hold on to happiness’ on one of the Apple music playlists I saved.
This is a stripped-down EP which gives a calming feel on the listeners. The EP is centered on hope and loss. I love the gentleness of the EP and how the songs quietly transition.
On ‘Better than Today’ he sings over minimal production (as with most of the tracks)– ‘Times get tough/But I don’t give up/’Cause I know I’m not alone/’Cause we’re all reaching for something/We’re all craving change/Hopin’ tomorrow is better than today’.
The way he stretches his voice on the bridge of this track, carrying the emotions in each word, breaks me and gets me all up in my feelings. This song saves me every time.
7. Hold It Together – Jp Saxe
I discovered Jp Saxe one evening when I stumbled on a video of him and some other artists singing ‘If the world was ending’ through one the video conferencing apps on youtube. I had to go check out the original track which features Julia Michaels. Next thing, I was hooked on the entire EP. ‘If the world was ending’ is the most popular track on the EP, but other songs like ‘Explain you’ and ‘Hold it together’ are just as good.
I love the mellow sound of the EP and also the great lyrical content. This is the kind of EP you listen to while drifting to sleep, thinking of love lost.
8. Cape Elizabeth – Noah Kahan
I’m no stranger to Noah. I’m familiar with his previous EP – Hurt Somebody and full-length album – Busyhead. Cape Elizabeth EP has Noah delivering an outstanding acoustic folk album. Impressively, the EP was written and produced in one week, during the wake of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year.
The songs are about life, uncertainties, and reassurance. This EP helped calm me a lot of times when life felt overwhelming and confusing during the peak of the lockdown period.
9. Bubble – Ant Saunders
A debut EP from the 19year old who found fame with ‘Yellow hearts’ after the song went viral, thanks to TikTok. The song’s large streaming numbers earned him a top 20 spot on Billboard Hot 100. Interesting how this track was initially released independently on his graduation day last year. The success of the song earned him a record deal and led to the release of his first EP – Bubble.
This is an impressive debut from him, mostly as the EP in its entirety was written, recorded, and produced by him. The EP is a feel-good mix of pop and R&B with a bit of retro vibe. My favourites are ‘Yellow hearts’ and ‘u know it’s real’.
10. Watching You – Robinson
This is another artist I discovered on one of the Apple music playlists I listen to. The EP is about heartbreak. The four-track EP feels like a build-up to the last track ‘Watching you’, which is the core of the EP and also its title track. To watch the one you love move on and love someone else, has got to be one of the hardest things to deal with.
On ‘Watching you’ she sings – ‘I’m too tired to pretend last night didn’t hurt/When you called me a friend/And it wouldn’t be the first time you made cry/You don’t even know why/And I’m watching you as you watch her’.
My favourite tracks are ‘Lie to me’ and ‘Watching you’.
11. Self Portrait – Sasha Sloan (Released 2019)
Though released last year, I came across the EP first half of this year. The lyrics are very relatable and helped me navigate the feelings I was processing. Like the EP title goes (Self Portrait), the songs are introspective. From struggles with anxiety, depression, uncertainties, and not fitting with societal standards, each song deals with issues almost everyone can resonate with.
On the opening track – ‘Thoughts’ she sings
Sometimes, I just can’t control my thoughts
No medication’s ever made them stop
All I think about is everything I’m not
Instead of everything I got
Yeah, I swear to God I’m trying, but I don’t know how to be
How to be a good friend to the voice inside my head that’s telling me I’m okay’
The songs have minimal production, allowing her vocals center stage. The lyrics are dark, honest, and vulnerable, carrying so much weight we all feel in our daily lives.
The darkest song on the EP is ‘Too sad to cry’ which is about depression and feeling helpless, she sings – ‘I’m not suicidal/But sometimes the lines get all blurry/Yeah, I cut my hair/Closed the blinds/Played Hallelujah like two dozen times/And yesterday I tried to pray/bt I didn’t know what to say/I’m too sad to cry’.
12. Waiting for Departure – Adam Agin
While cleaning out my bookshelf recently, I came across a DVD compilation of rock songs my then girlfriend in the University gave to me. One song that came to mind was Adam Agin’s Please don’t leave quite yet. I reached for my phone to check him out on Apple music. I saw he had an EP out this year already. The first two tracks on the EP are such a pleasant warm delight.
Due to how good the EP was, I found myself listening to his entire discography on Apple music which turned out to be worth it.
13. all the things I never said – Tate McRae
I got to know about Tate McRae when I heard her single – ‘You broke me first’ on one of my saved Apple Music playlists. Though this single is not included in her debut EP (released after the EP), it led me to the EP.
Two out of the five tracks on the EP (‘Stupid’ and ‘Tear myself apart’) were co-written with Billie Eilish.
The EP reminds me of certain issues I dealt with when I was a teenager. Tate was able to channel her teenage struggles, both personal and those arising from interactions with her friends and her environment into a decent pop EP.