Album of the Year, this… Song of the Year, that… But there’s a few bands this year who nailed that elusive beast, the Extended Play. Our favourites range from three tracks and ten minutes all the way to majestic mini-album epics. We had film noir, we had comic book, we had explosion, we had serenity. The art of condensing your art into a bitesize but brilliant creation is in many ways just as challenging as creating a whole long record, so here’s the ones that impressed us the most. (And a playlist with a few honourable mentions).
Sadness & Complete Disappointment – Fun.
BSP Flavours of 2021 Sadness & Complete Disappointment’s offering Fun. started the year on the right tone way back at the beginning – when all we were feeling was a lot of suitably gloomy vibes. Across four tracks, they cut across the cross-section between nihilism, desolation, and ethereal melancholy, all communicated with force. The combination of vocalist Esme Baker’s angelic tones and the bite of the instrumentals creates a perfect storm – and a very intense twelve minutes.
Highlights: Oh, Rapture, Survivor’s Guilt
snake eyes – the lovehate mixtape
Who doesn’t love a mixtape? Embracing a laid-back, slouchy, indie brit-pop feel, snake eyes are the embodiment of grit-pop. Tracks veer between meditative and overwhelming walls of sound, all delivered with a boy-next-door kind of charm. The recording feels raw in a uniquely familiar way; listening to snake eyes feels like listening to your mates’ band play in your basement. This feel is, of course, complimented by the plethora of fly-on-the-wall recordings inbetween tracks, capturing moments of small talks, dog howls and phone calls. It’s perfectly unpolished in a way that is sure to charm just about any listener.
Highlights: happy pills, scuttlebug
Meet Me @ The Altar – Model Citizen
Hype can be a blessing and a curse – while it’s great to support a newer band before they’ve released much music, there is also then the mighty pressure to deliver. Fuelled By Ramen signees Meet Me @ The Altar, luckily, did not crumble under this pressure. Model Citizen is a bright, joyful dose of pop-punk, implementing well-loved sounds of the past with a fresh-faced air of enthusiasm. While the EP does at times feel rather safe, that by no means takes away from those infectiously fun hooks and breakdowns. We can’t wait to see how this band grows!
Highlights: Brighter Days (Are Before Us), Never Gonna Change
Real Friends – Torn In Two
Carrying on after the loss of a vocalist can be a real challenge – especially when distinct vocals can sometimes be what sets one band apart from the rest. Luckily Real Friends found the perfect new vocalist in the form of Cody Muraro. Torn in Two is exactly the sound one would expect from Real Friends – delivering introspective, heartfelt lyricisms with a backbone of infectious pop-punk. Nervous Wreck is a true highlight of the album, capturing a sound so familiar that you can’t help but feel immediately comforted by its anthemic flow. More stripped-back track Teeth also highlights Muraro’s talents – a brave choice, to entirely place his voice under the magnifying glass, but one that highlights just how talented Muraro is in his own right.
Highlights: Teeth, Nervous Wreck
Creeper – American Noir
After the success and acclaim on their 2020 opera Sex, Death, and the Infinite Void, Creeper had a lot of expectations to meet. And they did so by reinventing themselves over again. In their new vestments, Creeper appear as the western-gothic classic rock dream they’d hinted at before but never quite committed to, and it’s a sight to behold. Clear highlights Midnight and fan-favourite Ghosts Over Calvary are sheer excellence, blustering through their drama with energy before giving way to more narrative offerings. There’s a lot of swell here, but only a couple of true peaks, as high as they may be – but there’s still definitely the sense of exploratory buzz that’s characterised Creeper from the very beginning.
Highlights: Ghosts Over Calvary, Midnight
Salem – Salem II
Will Gould’s choice to reignite Creeper’s earlier punk-heavy charm through side-project Salem is one of the most blessed gifts we have ever received. Truly. Salem’s debut was given a solid 10/10, and Salem II, while not as polished as the previous release, was still an absolute lesson in biting, thorned and horny punk rock. Stand-out track DRACULADS is a masterful dose of horror-punk tinged might – and that gentle, stripped back section slowly building up to an echoing, mystifying vocal performance from Gould? Absolutely breath-taking. All we have to say is… William, It was really something.
Highlights: DRACULADS, William, It Was Really Something
Crawlers – Crawlers EP
Liverpool’s Crawlers have had a sensational year, squished into the last few months – thanks to the power they pack into their four-track debut EP. Star track Come Over (Again) is their most striking cut, and the buzz it’s generated on TikTok speaks for itself (Kim K got involved, which is obviously the hallmark of the pinnacle of alternative music). Seriously, though, there are few lines released this year that deliver a more painstaking blow to the heart than the choked “TAKE HER NAME OUT OF YOUR MOUTH. YOU DON’T DESERVE TO MOURN.” And for that alone, Crawlers deserve this recognition. But for those who are delving deeper than TikTok, the eponymous EP yields the utterly delicious grit of MONROE, the sexy groove of Breathe, the cool of Statues.
Highlights: Come Over (Again), MONROE
Drug Church – Tawny
Drug Church have an oddly comforting sound – as harsh instrumentals cascade around you, there is something so grounding about Patrick Kindlon’s vocal delivery. Tawny is no different delivering post-hardcore with that signature charm; despite a constantly shifting sense of chaos echoing round each track, Tawny is sharp yet never too dark. Tawny is the perfect balance of comfortingly pessimistic soundscapes and a healthy dose of solid, introspective lyrical themes.
Highlights: Bliss Out, Tawny
Hot Milk have been at a simmer for a few years now, but in 2021 they’ve finally reached the point of boiling over – and what a release it is. I JUST WANNA KNOW WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I’M DEAD’s opening track, the one that gives its name to the EP, was a watershed moment for the band. Their heaviest cut, released just before they were one of the first bands to play at the seminal Download Pilot, set the pace for the rest of the year with not only their greatest breakdown, but their best chorus, their most anthemic moments, their most spot-on songwriting… And the EP followed suit.
Highlights: I JUST WANNA KNOW WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I’M DEAD, The Good Life
Tokky Horror – I’ve Found The Answers And Now I Want More
In Tokky Horror’s words, they’re ‘not making electronic music any better, just making punk music worse.’ We’re inclined to disagree, however – Tokky Horror’s fusion of punk and transcendental, chaotic electronica, is exactly what makes them so exciting. Their sound wavers between Depeche Mode, to Pendulum, to DJ Hazard, to Siouxsie and the Banshees… At times it feels like listening to a Nintendo 64 soundtrack on acid. Tokky Horror are a smorgasbord of delectable sounds – coming together to form something that is both unnerving and absolutely exhilarating. When listening to them, you can’t help but envision the chaos of a Tokky Horror live show – and that’s exactly why we love this EP so much. From start to finish it’s like being in the thick of a sweaty moshpit, claustrophobic yet gloriously freeing. It may not be clean-cut punk, but this is something that would absolutely kickstart a punk crowd into movement.
Highlights: Eden On Acid, Girlracer
K.Flay – Inside Voices
Inside Voices is as short and sharp as a four letter word. K.Flay’s need to vocalise the ‘inside voices’ results in this EP being a gloriously unhinged masterpiece, a sense of urgent honesty captured on every track. This urgency is also reflected within K.Flay’s application of genre – Inside Voices is a formidable fusion of pop-rock, rap and hip-hop. Good Girl thrives in its poppy, elated soundscapes, while My Name Isn’t Katherine is unmistakeably hip-hop, with a glorious flow. With features from Tom Morello and Travis Barker, it’s clear that K.Flay’s musical abilities span far and wide – when popping on a K.Flay release, it’s guaranteed that you’ll find something for you.
Highlights: Four Letter Words, Dating My Dad (ft. Travis Barker)
Against The Current – fever
Releasing an EP called fever, in the current climate (in every sense of the word) is definitely a charged move. But ATC channel all the intensity, all the necessity of the word into their first release since 2018, and it’s a good one. Having leaned heavily into the pop side of pop-rock on Past Lives, fever sees the trio turn back up the grit at moments (anthemic opener that won’t save us, the ferocious riffs of weapon), as well as hark back to the bright-eyed sparkle of their earliest, most clean-cut music (burn it down, which finds itself a smiley high point). Chrissy Costanza’s crystal-clear vocals deliver tons of emotion throughout an EP that, although not as specific as things she sings about on her albums, feels like one of ATC’s most intimate releases. Particularly in the quieter moments where the riffs and the noise falls away, instead building more atmospheric soundscapes, fever feels like the calm before the storm of ATC’s comeback – never captured anywhere better than closer lullaby, which blends hazy electro-pop with the most soaring chorus on the record.
Highlights: burn it down, again&again
Out of Love – Funny Feeling
Summer-y punk tunes just can’t let you down. Out Of Love’s Funny Feeling EP is like a blast of sunshine slapping you in the face, filled-to-the-brim with charming choruses and a strong sense of nostalgia. Stand-out track Dog Daze is proof of how serotonin-inducing this EP can be; a daze in itself, the track captures the sensation of hopelessly childlike, unconditional love flawlessly. Even when delving into insecurities, there is still a sense of unbridled optimism rooted in the bright guitars, soaring vocals and crashing drums. Pop this EP on if you’re ever having a bad day, and we promise that funny feeling will be shoved aside in no time.
Highlights: Play Pretend, Dog Daze
Delilah Bon – Ready To Kill
Delilah Bon, the latest project of punk powerhouse Lauren Tate, also of Hands Off Gretel fame, was a smash (we’ll save our words on that for albums of the year). But the key feature of everything Delilah does is that it’s for fun. It’s entertainment, it’s drama, it’s got a twinkle in its eye that says it’s there to be enjoyed – and that’s why Delilah’s Halloween EP is so perfect, and so her. She told us earlier this year it’s been in the works since last year and just couldn’t come out quite in time for 2020, so to have it this year to sink our teeth into is a wait that’s proven well worth it. It’s not as sonically intense as Delilah Bon (LP), leaning instead into a gothic reiteration of Delilah’s hip-hop side rather than drawing so much on her punky roots, but this just allows for a razor-sharp lens to be trained on her terrifying storytelling. She smirks through graphic lyrics about cannibalism, curling up in a coffin, all sorts of spooks and ghouls and scary situations, all bolstered out by a haunted house worth of sound effects above the swaggering, eerily calm beats. It’s a film noir of an EP, and it does what it’s set out to do to a T – plus, the best part? In every breath and every beat, you can hear how much creativity Delilah poured into it.
Highlights: Cannibal Summer, Clown
Static Dress – Prologue…Static Dress have titled it. It’s the preceding part of a much larger whole, and you get the idea that that’s what 2021 has been to Static Dress, so it’s fitting that they’ve closed off the year with such a captivating release. The EP comes alongside a comic book, and features unsettling periods of dial tones and background noise as well as knife-edge hardcore excellence on the ‘actual’ tracks, elaborately introducing us to the world Static Dress’s art is part of. Honestly, they could get by pretty comfortably if they just released their more conventional fragments, which already blends gritted-teeth poetry and ironclad hardcore better than most. But that’s not the point of Static Dress – they’re here to make their listeners work for it, and to annihilate the lazy, short-attention-span, disposable trajectory much of the industry is on in its tracks. They’re continuing on from Prologue… with a severe sense of intention.
Highlights: sober exit(s), vague.
Knocked Loose – A Tear In The Fabric Of Life
Knocked Loose’s A Tear In The Fabric Of Life was one of those EPs this year. A surprise release that blazed through every corner of every genre label they’ve ever been slapped with, leaving a resounding response of stunned silence before universal, astounded assent. As opener Where Light Divides The Holler painfully drags us through its hushed, minute-long intro, Knocked Loose allow us a minute to collect ourselves before blowing our minds with an onslaught of their most brutal riffs. Even more jarring is the story Knocked Loose are weaving – a car crash rips up everything our persona knows, and we’re forced with matchsticks propping our eyelids open to watch his world fall apart. A Tear In The Fabric Of Life is aural pain, desolate and howling and absolutely on the nose and done to perfection – but with a sense of nonchalance that somehow underpins it too. Knocked Loose only need to rear their heads briefly to give us their very best material yet with no fanfare at all.
Highlights: Forced To Stay, Where Light Divides The Holler
Saint Agnes – Vampire
Horror punk is alive and thriving – and, if you don’t believe us, look no further than Saint Agnes. Vampire is an irresistible beast, coated with a sharp sheen of darkness and injected with a vicious hint of trash-metal. Vocally, Kitty A. Austen is also absolutely outstanding; her chilling voice lures you into the depths of the EP, a modern-day siren. Opening track Repent is dominated by Austen’s painfully-cool bravado, her powerful presence almost commanding the instruments to follow her lead. The cover of Grinderman’s No Pussy Blues is also otherworldly – having a female vocalist highlights the predatory nature of the original, while further emphasising Austen’s mesmerising and frightfully ferocious power. An absolutely unmissable release.
Highlights: Repent, This World Ain’t Big Enough
Bob Vylan – We Live Here
Bob Vylan‘s We Live Here is gut-wrenching; gruelling, punk-fuelled breakdowns amplify the raw dissection of a lifetime’s worth of persecution, capturing Britain at its most vile. Every quip is filled with poison, every line a fresh example of racism or classism, constantly building in a way that churns your insides. To say that “this country’s in dire need of a fucking spanking” would be an understatement, and this EP is proof of that. With a feature from Fever 333’s Jason Aalon Butler, it’s fair to say that Bob Vylan are the UK’s grime-punk equivalent – truly utilising their music to speak for those who otherwise are not heard. Bob Vylan are loud, brash and won’t be silenced – and that’s exactly what makes them so vital. We Live Here is undoubtedly one of the most important releases of this year.
Highlights: We Live Here, I Heard You Want Your Country Back
Boston Manor – DESPERATE TIMES DESPERATE PLEASURES
Another band who unleashed a surprise EP this year: Boston Manor. Cutting loose from the classic album cycle, after the built-up pressure following the wild success of GLUE, on which they challenged themselves more than ever, Boston Manor spent the process of getting to DESPERATE TIMES DESPERATE PLEASURES challenging themselves just as much, but differently. The challenge of DESPERATE TIMES DESPERATE PLEASURES wasn’t about meeting expectations or selling records, but about rediscovering their core – a process you can hear audibly across the EP’s five tracks. Carbon Mono proved its chops as the best of classic BM bangerhood; Algorithm and I Don’t Like People (& They Don’t Like Me) surge down a more restrained, elastic path without losing the intensity and confrontational sonic qualities Boston Manor have reached previously. DESPERATE TIMES DESPERATE PLEASURES is the band revived and steady, and more assertive and focused than ever.
Highlights: Algorithm, Let The Right One In
Death Blooms – Fuck Everything
Our favourite EP of the year is a personal choice – but it couldn’t be a more deserving one. A collection of Death Blooms’s most angry, betrayed, disenchanted material ever (a bold assumption based off the content that made it on to debut album Life Is Pain, but stay tuned for our AOTY list for more on that) – it was exactly what we needed, and it was. Bloody. Good. The raw catharsis of bellowing “FUCK WHAT YOU THINK, FUCK EVERYTHING” is second to none, Death Blooms laughing at themselves and us in their on-the-nose messaging, and backing it all up with utterly brutal riffs that are as ferocious as any we’ve ever heard. And throwing ourselves into Gore after sprinting through the crowds at Download Pilot with a beer in each hand for our first mosh pit in 18 months? Beyond EPs and albums, Death Blooms made our top 5 moments of the year too.
Highlights: Gore, Fuck Everything
Here’s a playlist with everything on here, plus a few honourable mentions!