GigList's Top 10 EPs of 2020

On the first of our 'end of year' roundups, we've tackled Extended Plays. Here's the best of 'em:
Posted: 15 December 2020 Words: GigList Team Photos: Zac Mahrouche

As the 'end of year' think-pieces and best of's begin to infest your feeds, we thought we'd offer our two pennies' worth. Deserving of as much praise as albums (in which our Top 20 Albums of 2020 feature will follow later this week), there's been a glut of superb EPs this year also. Starting from the top, here's the ten best of 2020: 

10. Alfa Mist - On My Ones

London-born multi-instrumentalist Alfa Mist, usually the creative force behind grander jazz/hip-hop crossover excursions, dropped the collaborators for pensive EP On My Ones. As the title suggests, it’s solely Mist demonstrating his virtuosity on piano, an instrument he only began to practice at 17 - a remarkable feat in itself. By removing the complexity and frenzy of ensemble projects these delicate compositions are given space to breathe and ruminate, proving there’s potency in clarity, especially when the piano is concerned.

- Tom Curtis-Horsfall

9. Little Simz - Drop 6

This follow up to the series of AGE 101: DROP releases that first introduced us to the immense talent of Little Simz back in 2014/2015 arrived with Simbi still riding the wave of richly deserved success and support that followed her critically acclaimed third album GREY Area, released in early 2019.

Although Inflo is not on production duties this time round, Drop 6 definitely retains some the same sonic feel of that album, thanks in no small part to the live instrumentation and production style on tracks like ‘might bang, might not’ and ‘one life, might live’. But it doesn’t feel like we’re just hearing offcuts from GREY Area, with some elements harking back to the previous Drop projects, and others further highlighting Little Simz’ versatility, ensuring that this project only adds to her growing reputation as one of the UK’s finest hip-hop talents.

- James Kilpin

8. Routine - All Other Things 

Written and recorded throughout the first US lockdown, Routine’s debut EP (the collaborative project of item Jay Som and Chastity Belt’s Annie Truscott) plays out like a telepathic conversation between the couple, a shared daydream where they’re holding hands and idolly cloud-watching beneath a mid-Western sky. Without a sniff of the self-doubt present in the bulk of Jay Som’s prior work, And Other Things emphasises the couple’s contentment in watching the world go by, together.

- Tom Curtis-Horsfall

7. Remi Wolf - I’m Allergic To Dogs!

If bonkers, maximalist pop á la M.I.A or Charli XCX wets your whistle, then meet Remi Wolf. Her second EP I’m Allergic To Dogs! somehow blows a hit of hype in your face like a smoke ring from a nerf gun. Though a Polo & Pan remix of ‘Hello Hello Hello’ made it onto a recent iPhone advert, belters ‘Photo ID’ and ‘Disco Man’ are the real standouts.

- John Bell

6. King Hannah - Tell Me Your Mind and I’ll Tell You Mine

Liverpudlian duo King Hannah's debut EP relates more to the likes of Cat Power, Mazzy Star, and The War On Drugs than their city's famous sons, despite lyrics that draw from the every-man mundanities like moving house. Concocting moody, cinematic soundscapes tailor-made for the desert highway, they're partial to stretching out tracks towards the 7-minute mark, ideal for those long lonesome nighttime drives. Which, sadly, may be one of the only freedoms given the restrictions at present, so making the most of the M1 whilst blaring this out is highly recommended. 

- Tom Curtis-Horsfall

5. Dirty Projectors – Windows Open

Windows Open was the first in a string of five EPs released over the course of 2020 by Dave Longstreth and the latest iteration of an often changing Dirty Projectors lineup, with each release seeing a different member taking to the spotlight with lead vocals. Varying from bossa nova (Super Joãoto sleek, bouncy pop (Flight Tower), each EP had its own character and deserves a spot on this list in its own right, but it’s the breadth of Maia Friedman’s vocals on the first instalment that makes the cut, cascading upward from whispery, Billie Holliday-esque croons on “Looking For Life” to the blissful heights of ‘Overlord’. The rustic, twangy texture of the whole thing is akin to the band’s 2012 masterpiece Swing Lo Magellan, too.

- John Bell 

4. Khruangbin & Leon Bridges - Texas Sun

This was the partnership we didn’t know we needed until it happened. The slow, soulful lava lamp funk of Khruangbin is such an obviously perfect accompaniment to Leon Bridges’ dulcet, southern twang, especially when matched with Mark Speer’s own sharp, twangy guitar on the title track. Though only twenty minutes long, it’s hypnotic structure renders time a little useless, anyway, and can easily be left on repeat for hours without much notice.

- John Bell

3. Mildlife - Automatic

With monoliths popping up all over the shop, I’d hedge a bet that if it’s not a cringe marketing campaign for a new banking app, then it’s surely the end of the world as we know it. With Automatic, laidback sci-fi lounge jazz (?) troupe Mildlife provided the requisite soundtrack to apathetically accept the inevitable apocalypse whilst frolicking poolside. Grab an Isaac Asimov novel, a pina colada, press play, and prepare for liftoff.

- Tom Curtis-Horsfall

2. Flock Of Dimes - Like So Much Desire

Jenn Wasner somehow still maintains an underrated status in spite of the quality of everything she touches, be it for other artists such as Bon Iver and Sylvan Esso, or in her own work as one half of Wye Oak and her solo project Flock of Dimes. Like So Much Desire arrived back in June, then, with a sense of ‘If you know, you know’, and if you did know, then well done you. A truly glorious EP that condensed all the shimmering catharsis of a full-length into five songs, maybe most effectively on its title track; put it on and try not to stand up with your arms spread wide like Andy Dufresne in the rain.

- John Bell

1. Sinead O Brien - Drowning in Blessings

For this year’s top spot, we couldn’t look any further than Irish fashion designer-come-poet Sinead O Brien. Injecting sartorial elegance and alienation into the ever-swelling wave of Sprechgesang artists, Drowning in Blessings saw O Brien evoke two iconic punk-poets with the surname Smith - Patti and Mark E - dissecting metropolitan scenarios with her voyeuristic, fractured observations and non-sequiturs.

The gloomy, languid instrumentation punctuates her peculiarly infectious intonations, particularly for the EP’s standout single ‘Most Modern Painting’, a delivery that’s almost impossible not to try and impersonate.

Reevaluating our places in the world and readjusting to new kinds of social interaction as seamlessly as possible this year, O Brien painted a personal and wholly relatable picture throughout Drowning in Blessings: “Only I see it this way, because I am astray” she declares on closer ‘Strangers in Danger’, a fish-out-of-water feeling we’ve all become privy to of late. 

- Tom Curtis-Horsfall

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