The 25 Best EPs of 2021 (So Far)

Featuring Mannequin Pussy, Kero Kero Bonito, Turnstile and more

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The 25 Best EPs of 2021 (So Far)

EPs tend to be treated like the less-consequential younger siblings of full-length albums, as if there’s some kind of direct connection between track quantity and track quality. Don’t be fooled: Some bands do their best work on a small scale, and few great albums are ever as incisive as a great EP, one that can knock the wind out of you in less time than it takes to circle the block. That’s not to mention that EPs have taken on a new importance in the COVID era, allowing artists to maintain their visibility and keep their fans engaged in the short-term with briefer new releases while they’re unable to tour, but have all the time in the world to write and record. Some of these EPs are introductions, while others are recalibrations—the first steps in exciting new directions between artistic statements made on a larger scale—but all are worth your time. Scroll on for (and listen along to) Paste’s Music’s top 25 EPs of the year so far.

Listen to Paste’s Best EPs of 2021 (So Far) playlist on Spotify here.

Angel Du$t: Bigger House

The surprise June EP from Baltimore, Maryland’s Angel Du$t includes two new singles, “Love Is the Greatest” (feat. Los Angeles producer/musician Shlohmo) and “All the Way Dumb,” as well as three tracks from the band’s 2020 EP LIL HOUSE, “Turn Off The Guitar,” “Lil House” and “Never Ending Game,” and remixes of that last track by Panda Bear and Lunice. Angel Du$t vocalist/guitarist Justice Tripp describes the band’s new EP, produced by Rob Schnapf (Kurt Vile, Elliott Smith), as “pimp and chill at the same time,” which is hard to argue with: Though the band is frequently associated with hardcore punk, Bigger House’s new songs are hooky pop-rock strummers first and foremost, punctuated with just enough synth accents, horns and spiky electric riffs to keep you on your toes as a listener. The full-length follow-up to 2019’s Pretty Buff looms larger by the minute. —Scott Russell

Body Meat: Year of the Orc

Body Meat, the stage name of Philadelphia-based musician Christopher Taylor, is overwhelming in the best way. Year of the Orc is a thesis statement for his purpose as he bends the limits of listenable and unlistenable, jolting the listener through glitchy interpretations of pop music. There is something for everyone, notably the recognizable trap sirens and hi-hats that make this EP sound like a grotesque I Spy puzzle that slowly sheds its layers with each listen. —Jade Gomez

Doss: 4 New Hit Songs

Doss’ first solo record in about seven years is dubbed 4 New Hit Songs, and that title is the straight-up truth. The electro-pop producer doesn’t miss for a second on the EP, delivering bubbly banger after banger with her high-pitched vocals and bright dance beats. Each track is steeped in feel-good energy, culminating with the euphoric ode to Eurodance that is “On Your Mind.” Doss said on Twitter that “Putting this EP out is like meeting with an old friend you haven’t seen in a while,” and this reunion is a more-than-welcome moment of pure happiness. —Carli Scolforo

Enumclaw: Jimbo Demo

“I’m just not for everybody / It’s hard to accept,” Enumclaw vocalist and guitarist Aramis Johnson sings on “Fast N All,” the first single from the Tacoma, Washington, quartet’s debut release. It’s a fair assessment: One of the first things you notice about Jimbo Demo is Johnson’s voice, nasal and raw, which may turn off listeners who mistake a feature for a bug. That unvarnished authenticity is what Enumclaw are all about, and it only amplifies their honest, emotional songwriting (“I’m not the person that I wanna be,” Johnson insists on “Cinderella”). Instrumentally, the band—which also features Nathan Cornell, Ladaniel Gipson and post-Jimbo Demo addition Eli Edwards, Johnson’s brother—craft a sound that’s equal parts grunge and shoegaze, fusing the former’s casually distorted disaffection with the latter’s dreamy, effects-augmented melodies. There’s nothing more exciting than a band than can bottle lightning while retaining so much room to grow. —Scott Russell

Francis of Delirium: Wading

Francis of Delirium’s EP Wading consists of three previously released singles and one new track in “I Think I’m Losing.” Taken as a whole, the collection of releases by Vancouver teen Jana Bahrich and Seattle drummer/producer Chris Hewett brings as much heart as it does edge. Bahrich’s range of vocal stylings are on full display, from more mild-mannered indie melodies to half-spoken poetic verses and powerful, emo-infused belts. Paired with grungy, fuzzy guitar, drums and choral harmonies, the duo pack a serious punch. The EP’s new song “I Think I’m Losing” is a stunning, dynamic ballad that pulls all these elements together and finishes Wading with a bang. —Carli Scolforo

heka: (a)

Francesca Brierley’s new EP as heka, the plainly titled (a), may be unassuming, but it snakes its way inside your psyche pretty quickly. These four lo-fi tracks contain a mesmerizing calm and an emotional frankness that stares you in the face and wrestles with the aftermath of pain. Though the EP’s ambient textures delight and heal, the central frameworks of heka’s songs are always constructed to thrive on their own. The opening track “(a) mask” rests on somber, folky melodies that would be just as arresting via soft, a cappella hum, even when her voice swerves towards misty auto-tune intonations.Through light hisses, pronounced echos, what sound like castanets and other instrumental flutters, her compassionate vocal performance absolutely steals the show on “(a) dab,” a grisly tale about an unhealthy romance spiraling out of control. Though not without unexpected sonic treasures, the magic of (a) rests on Brierley’s full-hearted belief in the powerful simplicity of her songs. —Lizzie Manno

Hey, ily!: Internet Breath

Recalling his motivation for forming Hey, ily!, Billings, Montana, musician Caleb Haynes has said that he set out “to make something that’s familiar yet super crazy and all over the place at the same time.” That describes his project’s breakout EP Internet Breath perfectly: The record is nostalgic and innovative in equal measure, drawing inspiration from videogames via chiptune and “Nintendocore” sounds, which it then sets alongside emo, synth-pop, shoegaze and hardcore punk. It sounds impossible on paper, but Hey, ily! pulls it off, cranking up the hooks and irresistible energy on tracks like “Don’t Talk About It (Your Weird Complex)” and “Projection Joins the Battle!” in particular. At six tracks and just 17 minutes, Internet Breath is an invigorating listen that will lock up even the shortest attention span. —Scott Russell

India Jordan: Watch Out!

On their energetic and raucous Watch Out! EP, London producer India Jordan further hones their talent for writing beats that feel like they contain a limitless amount of energy. Engineered to give each track space to breathe and to anticipate Jordan’s often surprising and thrilling sonic choices, the producer delivers five tracks that are sure to electrify the newly opened dance floors they were undoubtedly designed to inhabit. Jordan’s arrangements cause the songs to resist passivity, with grooves that feel practically like forces of nature. Described by Jordan as being “about movement,” Watch Out! feels confident and secure in itself —eaturing samples from the world around the producer, reconfigured into complex and thunderous rhythms that you can’t help but dance to. —Jason Friedman

Kero Kero Bonito: Civilisation II

Few things bring me as much joy as seeing Kero Kero Bonito slowly evolve from a happy-go-lucky electro-pop band to a slightly scarier, still happy-go-lucky electro-pop band that sings about impending doom and environmental degradation at the hands of human greed. Pieced together with vintage equipment, their April EP Civilisation II feels like a comforting experiment in the wake of an apocalypse, scavenging through the junk for something to create with as a means of communication. The three tracks encompass art-pop at its finest, traversing deeper philosophies and myths without sounding forced. —Jade Gomez

kezia: claire

If Megan Thee Stallion doesn’t release an album this summer, then I nominate kezia as 2021’s Hot Girl Summer representative. The 21-year-old Tanzanian-American musician’s debut EP claire is a skillful love letter to early-’00s R&B and indie rock alike. Kezia frequently flips the switch, alternating between their sultry croon and magnetic raps over minimalist guitar-studded beats and punchy 808s. Claire is a powerful reclamation of sexuality, Black womanhood and love in a compact, effective package. —Jade Gomez

Lauren Auder: 5 Songs for the Dysphoric

London-based singer/songwriter Lauren Auder’s third EP 5 Songs for the Dysphoric became appointment listening for us as soon as we heard “Heathen,” which we praised as “utterly mesmerizing, blending dark dance-pop and noise-rock sounds, with only Auder’s deep baritone vocals to guide you through the haze,” while highlighting it as one of the best new songs released that week. Both the Clams Casino- (Vince Staples, Lil B) and Dviance-produced “Heathen” and the rest of 5 Songs for the Dysphoric find Auder finding herself, expanding her creative orbit to include collaborators like rising-star soul singer Celeste, as well as producers/co-writers Danny L. Harle (Charli XCX, Clairo) and Tobias Jesso Jr. (HAIM, King Princess), and releasing new material for the first time after coming out as a trans woman. “I think part of the reason the past two EPs were made in such an insular way was that I needed to discover myself and get to the point where I felt confident in my artistic voice,” Auder says of her 2018 Who Carry’s You and 2020 two caves in EPs. “By the time I made this EP I felt comfortable enough to let in some exterior influences, without being afraid that it would no longer sound like me.” —Scott Russell

LSDXOXO: Dedicated 2 Disrespect

LSDXOXO’s Dedicated 2 Disrespect brings the club to a digital space that can be carried in your pocket or blasted on Bluetooth speakers as the world approaches less-restrictive social gatherings. LSD’s debut on XL Recordings is a succinct one, collapsing classic techno, house and Ghettotech into a four-track history lesson. It is a love letter to Black queer dance music, and LSD is the perfect person to write it. —Jade Gomez

Mannequin Pussy: Perfect

Following 2019’s sentimental powerhouse Patience, Mannequin Pussy returned with their new EP Perfect in May. Toeing a similar line between punk and anthemic rock, Perfect edges the band closer to stadium-rock territory while sacrificing none of the lyrical and emotional potency they’ve delivered in the past. If anything, Perfect finds the band doubling down on the intensity, the passion and the ambition they’ve demonstrated previously, further cementing them as a titanic voice in modern rock. —Jason Friedman

Milly: Wish Goes On

Los Angeles-based quartet Milly shared their second EP in April via Dangerbird Records, following their 2019 debut Our First Four Songs, which Paste hailed as one of that year’s best EPs. Wish Goes On’s five tracks include October 2020’s “Star Thistle Blossom” and February 2021’s “Denial.” Milly make gauzy slowcore that vacillates between guitar-rock crunch and emotive dream pop, and on Wish Goes On, they do with it a noticeable new cohesion, as principal songwriter and guitarist Brendan Dyer is now joined by Spencer Light on guitar, Yarden Erez on bass and Zach Capitti Fenton on drums. Their new songs reckon with change, assuming perspectives both collective (“Star Spangled Banner”) and individual (“Denial”), and changing themselves, shifting instrumental gears with newfound fluidity. Ultimately, Wish Goes On is about finding a flicker of hope to light the way, like when Dyer sings on the EP’s closer, “When her birds fly free / This life goes on / Could it be all you want?” —Scott Russell

Sam Gellaitry: IV

On his new IV EP, Sam Gellaitry, known primarily for producing room-shaking quasi-trap beats a la fellow Scottish producer Hudson Mohawke, steps in front of the mic and crafts some of the most unique and exciting bedroom-pop tracks of the year so far. “Games,” a standout from the EP, finds the producer using his voice as an integral sonic element. Marrying his crooning falsetto with a swirling prog-rock guitar arpeggio, Gellaitry unveils a singular sonic canvas, one that builds up to a raucous and exhilarating conclusion. “Duo,” a catchy and dynamic pop song constructed from piano chords and a walking bass line, feels as massive as the artist’s earlier work, but is made substantially richer by Gellaitry’s vocals and the emotional core they unveil. Delivering four songs brimming with ideas that find the producer fundamentally altering the already-distinct style he built his reputation on, the result is arguably the most successful and interesting entry of his career. —Jason Friedman

SeeYouSpaceCowboy / If I Die First: A Sure Disaster

Sasscore is an underrepresented pocket of screamo, combating the machismo of abrasive vocals in favor of flamboyant, expressive singing that is juxtaposed against harsh textures. SeeYouSpaceCowboy have further built on that with their own multi-layered mathcore and metalcore twist, creating something dynamic, exciting, and nostalgic for simpler times with knee-high Converse and fingerless gloves. In collaboration with fellow newcomers If I Die First, comprising post-hardcore veteran Travis Richter (From First to Last) and emo rappers Lil Lotus and Lil Zubin, amongst a slew of other members across the music spectrum, the two bands perfect the art of the split release. A Sure Disaster pays homage to 2000s metalcore without succumbing to its many flaws, proving the genre has some life left in it. SeeYouSpaceCowboy’s humor and self-awareness shines on their side, and vocalist Connie Sgarbossa’s effortless screams meshing into her clean vocals are simply exhilarating over jittery breakdowns that sound as menacing as they are joyful. Meanwhile, If I Die First’s side shows the band are very much students of Myspace-era metal and all of its in-betweens, with choruses that feel good to belt out in a pit or in the shower, two vocalists, and an ear for the more melodic side of the genre. Together, the two groups come together for “bloodstainedeyes,” a rare instance of collaboration in the genre that is the most impressive track on the EP. It both builds up and breaks down the sounds and genres the two evoke throughout A Sure Disaster, using their own creative liberties to create sheer panic over shrieking guitars and clean/harsh vocals. A Sure Disaster is rewriting history, paying loving homage to a misunderstood genre and reinvigorating the spark for fans old and new. —Jade Gomez


Skullcrusher: Storm In Summer

Tim Kreider once wrote, “If we want the rewards of being loved, we must submit to the mortifying ordeal of being known.” Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Helen Ballentine only just released her self-titled debut as Skullcrusher last year—one of 2020’s best EPs, if you ask us—but she’s already grappled with that give and take, struggling with Skullcrusher’s success. Now as then, Ballentine’s music lives up to her moniker by virtue of its devastating emotional honesty, which left her feeling exposed after realizing her debut’s intimate songwriting was being parsed by total strangers. “How did I end up here with my old lines on your page? / Sometimes I wish I’d kept them safe / Far away from your gaze,” she sings on her Storm In Summer EP’s title track, later wondering, “If I step into this storm / Is it warm? / Will I find my place?” Ballentine’s songwriting remains deeply personal, but her journey is universal, couched in beautiful music that will kill you softly. —Scott Russell

Soul Glo: Dis N*gga, Vol. 2

Philadelphia’s own Soul Glo are excellent manufacturers of complete chaos born out of rightful fury. Following their excellent Songs to Yeet at the Sun EP, which arrived shortly after the outcome of the 2020 election, the group followed up with DisN*gga, Vol. 1, a raucous exploration of industrial rap and hardcore punk. The second installment, DisN*gga Vol. 2 arrives a few months later, shortly after Juneteenth, abandoning all melody in favor of pure, unadulterated viciousness. Vocalist Pierce Jordan’s shrieks cut through the madness like a knife, wearing their ’90s screamo influences on their sleeve with a more powerful, complex approach born out of frustration with tokenization and racism within hardcore punk scenes to make Soul Glo one of the most vital bands around. —Jade Gomez

Sour Widows: Crossing Over

Bay Area bedroom-rock trio Sour Widows (Maia Sinaiko, Susanna Thomson and Max Edelman) released their debut self-titled EP in 2020, earning acclaim for their dynamic blend of sharp rock riffs and hushed vocal melodies (think Adrianne Lenker fronting Duster), which they control with the ease and ambition of a much more established band. They planned to keep touring, then start work on recording their first full-length album live in a studio … until COVID rendered all of that impossible. “2020 was going to be a big year for us and we had a lot of new material we were lining up to record in the studio,” Sinaiko told Paste in March. “There was a period of devastation we went through that a lot of bands have felt and continue to feel. But we decided to pare down our initial vision and focus on material we felt we could confidently record ourselves from our various homes, which was exactly the right choice.” The result was the band’s second EP, Crossing Over, out now on Exploding in Sound Records. Sour Widows rose to the occasion and then some—each of the EP’s four tracks is an emotional and instrumental journey, sweeping, yet carefully crafted for maximum resonance. It might as well be called Arriving. —Scott Russell

Status/Non-Status: 1, 2, 3, 4, 500 Years

As of this year, the band formerly known as WHOOP-Szo are releasing music as Status/Non-Status, a reference to bandleader Adam Sturgeon’s identity as a non-status Indigenous person. Their 2019 album Warrior Down was a gnarled, melodic affair that grappled with the modern realities of colonialism, and it was long-listed for the Polaris Prize the following year. Now with a new EP 1, 2, 3, 4, 500 Years, their first project as Status/Non-Status, they sound just as mercurial as before. One minute they’re playing a gentle acoustic song with pretty, multi-tracked vocals (“Find a Home”) and the next, they’re breaking into a frightful, heady jam that bares its sharp teeth (“Genocidio”). With illuminating, passionate storytelling and a sonic curiosity that blurs the line between grunge, psych, folk and noise, Sturgeon impresses yet again. —Lizzie Manno

Thank You Thank You: Next to Nothing

At a certain time and a certain place within the history of indie music, Philadelphia’s Thank You Thank You (aka songwriter Tyler Bussey) would have been catapulted to relative stardom off the strength of his debut EP Next to Nothing. Sensitive and tender folk instrumentals are expanded by dynamic instrumentation that includes synths, violins and often experimental spoken-word samples, which pair gorgeously with Bussey’s smooth voice and introspective lyricism. Single and standout track “KP” wields a thoughtfulness reminiscent of artists like Band of Horses or Granddaddy, brimming with an anxious optimism that makes the track feel alive. Next to Nothing finds an ambitious songwriter showcasing a tremendous talent for crafting vibrant and expansive, yet subdued songs. —Jason Friedman

Tkay Maidza: Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 3

When it comes to Zimbabwe-born, Australia-bred rising star Tkay Maidza, talent is never the question; it’s where exactly that talent is going to take her. For her 2016 debut Tkay, it took her to a major label, but what should have been a coming-out party was actually a gut check: Would the big industry machine propel her to dizzying heights, or weigh her down to the point of paralysis? Rather than waiting around to find out, Maidza teamed with producer Dan Farber to make her next move her best move, opting not for a second album, but for an EP trilogy titled Last Year Was Weird in recognition of her star turn’s false start. The third and final volume suggests Maidza has found peace in going her own way: “Money will come and will go / Too many queens on the throne,” she raps in sing-song on sweetly subdued opener “Eden,” like a stone in the river, allowing the industry to flow around her. The artist is equal parts vulnerable and versatile here: “So Cold” is a delicately floating funk tune about not falling in love, “Syrup” and “Kim” (feat. Yung Baby Tate) are braggadocious rap bangers, and the slinky, intimate “Cashmere” is a heartbreak jam in which she likens herself to that fine eponymous fabric. Maidza has better years ahead. —Scott Russell

Turnstile: TURNSTILE LOVE CONNECTION

Earlier this month, genre-bending hardcore band Turnstile surprise-released their new TURNSTILE LOVE CONNECTION EP, featuring four tracks and stretching only eight minutes. Featuring last month’s “MYSTERY,” the new EP finds the Baltimore rockers further experimenting with dazzling electronic textures, ambient space and brutally catchy hooks. The addition of this beauty is not at the expense of their biting, punk energy, with the band sounding more explosive than ever on the EP’s title track, shortened down to just “T.L.C.” Striking this balance between the severe and the serene makes the TURNSTILE LOVE CONNECTION EP feel alive and invigorating. —Jason Friedman

Yard Act: Dark Days

Yard Act is not a typical post-punk band, instead serving as the disruptors of the conventions of genre and sound. The band possesses a uniquely English sense of humor that is both awkward and incredibly complex, with delivery that would make even the most disconnected outsiders chuckle. Dark Days is the band’s latest offering, embracing discord and dissonance as frontman James Smith airs out his grievances as matter-of-factly as possible. Yard Act is exciting as they are efficient and as sexy as they are awkward, existing as musical contradictions that turn everything audiences expect from music on its own head. —Jade Gomez

Yves Tumor: The Asymptotical World

The only and only Yves Tumor surprise-released a new EP, The Asymptotical World, July 15 via Warp Records. The six-track offering follows (and features) “Jackie,” one of Paste’s top June tracks, and is the artist’s first record since their 2020 standout album Heaven to a Tortured Mind. The Asymptotical World was co-produced and engineered by longstanding Tumor collaborator Yves Rothman, and arrives ahead of Tumor’s 2021 and 2022 tour of the U.S., U.K. and Europe. Like “Jackie” before it, the EP finds Tumor blending psych-rock, neo-soul, post-punk and synth-pop sounds into a musical kaleidoscope with the force of a vortex. London/Berlin industrial dance duo NAKED are featured on “Tuck,” but it’s “Secrecy Is Incredibly Important To The Both of Them” that stands out most—its drums race like a heart near bursting, punctuated by dark-wave guitars as Tumor questions, “How can I miss you if you won’t go away?” —Scott Russell