EPs are these little gems that bands leak out to tantalize listeners before a full-length is let out into the world. Sometimes the songs are just compact. They simply make sense together and more would destroy the cogency. Other times, the EP is a glimpse into a full-length which might include some of the tracks or all of them on a future release. The following is a glimpse into these brief releases that enhance our musical lives. 25 of the top EPs for 2017 are listed here and I hope that readers will go ahead and support the bands as they build toward future projects. In a year packed with so many incredible albums, let’s not forget these tiny gems of wonder. Enjoy!
1. Landing: Taeppe (Self Release, 2017)
Landing impressed in 2016 with the release of two beautiful full-lengths in Complekt and Third Sight. This rather wonderful bounty, however, was not to be found in 2017. Instead, Landing released a small, cassette EP spanning only 3 tracks called Taeppe (pronounced “tape”). Being a long time Landing fan, I find in Taeppe my three favorite tracks from the band’s long and storied catalog. This is gorgeous, layered, fog induced dreampop like no other. “Page After Page”, “Tape”, and “Together” are in the category of some of my favorite tracks of all time at this point. Well done Landing. Well done.
2. The Beremy Jets: Backup Friend (Self Release/Somewherecold Records, 2017)
The Beremy Jets sit on that louder, more aggressive side of shoegaze. Walls of swirling guitars are central to TBJ’s style. What some might not know is that this is a one-person effort. Paul Saarnak is the sole multi-instrumentalist behind this project and it’s brilliant. Released in February, Backup Friend E.P. is four tracks that just leave the listener wanting more. Frankly, it’s why Somewherecold Records re-released it along with the 2016 E.P. Alchemy Attack on limited cassette. One listen and you will be sold!
3. Oxy: Self-Titled (Self Release, 2017)
One of my favorite surprises of 2017 was encountering the brilliance of Oxy. I can’t remember how I stumbled upon this EP but I’m sure glad I did. Glistening guitars float under dreamy vocals as guitar melodies playfully dance in and out of the mix. There is something incredibly special going on here. This self-titled, four song E.P. is too short and leaves me wanting so much more, which should be the exact purpose of an E.P. Hopefully we will get a full-length from this fabulous band in 2018.
4. Curelight Wounds: Constant Mind (Self Release, 2017)
Steve Schwadron is the multi-instrumentalist mastermind behind this punk-gaze project. Constant Mind is unforgiving, relentless, and driving in all the right ways. Four songs that will rip your face off as fuzzed out guitars and bass accompany gritty, slightly fuzzed out vocals. Curelight Wounds has quickly become a favorite here at Somewherecold and this second E.P. certainly sealed the deal. All four tracks are short, but they explode, leaving a lasting impression on the listener. I cannot wait for Schwadron to produce a full-length. Perhaps 2018 will be the year he is able to bless us all with one!
5. Danxia: Learn to Swim (Self Release, 2017)
Dreamy, longform dreampop is central to Danxia’s compositions. Gorgeous and flowing, Learn to Swim is five songs that range from over eight minutes in length to about three and half minutes, which is the rare exception to their breaking of the brief pop form. Emma Bate-Nilsson’s vocals enchant with guitars working their blissful magic. The rhythm section in this band is also incredibly adept, creating swells, playing with emotive moments, and really accenting each track perfectly.
6. Glaze: Wasted Mind (Self Release, 2017)
Glaze is an San Marco, Texas based three piece that has the shimmer down. Wasted Mind is four tracks of blistering shoegaze that is energetic, bouncy, and addictive. Reverb drenched vocals sit slightly back in the mix as gleaming high hat and cymbals paint aural walls of sound alongside the guitars. Glaze goes big and they do it so incredibly well on this four track EP.
7. Surf Rock is Dead: We Have No Friends? (Self Release, 2017)
I’m sure that this beauty of an E.P. has garnered Surf Rock is Dead some friends… or at least a gaggle of fans. We Have No Friends? is rife with melodic exquisiteness and cascading, melodic guitar hooks. Sometimes pensive and subdued and sometimes explosive and energetic, We Have No Friends? reaches the heights of a dreampop anthem, if there is such a thing, with the listener begging for far more.
8. The Age of Colored Lizards: Summer Rain (Sotron Records, 2017)
The Age of Colored Lizards return with another tantalizing set of 60’s pop infused shoegazey music wonders. Four tracks in total, Summer Rain channels their clearly Jesus and the Mary Chain influenced poppy tightness with dollops of fuzz and a mix of depressing brightness. This is what pop music should sound like and I cannot wait to hear what the band releases in 2018.
9. 93millionmilesfromthesun: Victory is Ours (WhiteLightRecordings, 2017)
93millionmilesfromthesun is a band which I consider a force of nature. A central player in the new-gaze scene, they channel so much of the older guard in their music and make it their own. Victory is Ours is four songs that really highlight the band at its best. They play with texture in a way that is subtle but entirely effective. When one listens closely, one can hear slightly static filled edges on “When the Light Has Gone” while the title track, “Victory is Ours”, is effusive with that growl we all love. If you are a shoegaze fan and this band isn’t on your radar, it should be.
10. Visiting Diplomats: Big Swell (Self Release, 2017)
Rounding out our top ten is Visiting Diplomats. Hailing from green and rainy Portland, the band really breaths unique life into the dreampop genre. Part of this has to do with Sarah Van Horn’s dreamy, angelic vocals. She really does have a magical tonal quality about her voice and the guitars, bass and drums really create a wonderful environment for her vocals to become a powerful enchantment. Big Swell is only three songs, but these three songs are dreampop perfection. This one has been has been on repeat in Somewherecold Studios for some time.
11. Blushing: Tether (Self Release, 2017)
I was lucky enough to get to see Blushing’s first live performance, and, I have to tell you, they are the real deal. Tether is a four-track wonder with ethereal moments that harken back to Slowdive and the Cocteau Twins. This Austin base band really does fit well with the Austin shoegaze scene and has quickly become a favorite of mine. This debut is a strong indication of the band’s potential and I cannot wait to hear so much more.
12. Ulrich Schnauss: For Nothing (Just Publishing, 2017)
Ulrich Schnauss has been one of my favorite artists for a very long time. A brilliant composure as well as an incredible producer, he always comes to the table with beautifully written and produced compositions. For Nothing is no different. Expansive and emotive, For Nothing contains a new track called “Water Under the Bridge”, a new version of “No Further Ahead Than Today”, and two brilliant remixes. While I generally avoid placing remix heavy EPs in lists like this in favor of ones with all new tracks, these remixes really do shine and impress.
13. Venn: Self-Titled (Self Release, 2017)
Well, the Self-Titled Venn EP from the Washington D.C. based band really came out of left field and impressed. This is one talented group of people crafting epic, catchy, and what may prove to be brilliantly timeless tunes. The ST EP is only four tracks but every one of them is strong and forecasts a set of expectations about future releases. I can’t wait to hear what 2018 brings from this band.
14. Violent Dreams: Scared of the Dark (Self-Release, 2017)
Violent Dreams hails from Liverpool and creates a pensive, careful dreampop that floats the listener into fantasy soundscapes. Use of volume and subtle tones dot the aural scenes on Scared of the Dark. As the title of the EP suggests, there is a vulnerability in these tracks and a slow-core sensibility that really embraces a glacial guitar sound. Violent Dreams also seems to find a way to create a lushness in their music in spite of the stripped-down nature of their compositions. If this is any indication of what is to come, their debut full-length will be epic.
15. Colour of Spring: Self-Titled (House of Love Records, 2017)
Colour of Spring crafts soaring dreampop moments mixed with delicate, stripped down moments that whisper brilliance. The opener “Love” treats what might be considered a cliché topic in music with a fine touch with vocals tinged in reverb and the ebbs and flows of the track moving from stripped down moments to soaring guitar walls. “Echoes” really stands out as a brilliant track with the guitar hook being an earworm. Hopefully we will get a debut full-length from the band soon.
16. VIM: Ukiyo (Self Release, 2017)
I’ve been waiting all year to see something more substantial come from the Australian band VIM. Since they had leaked a few demo singles a while back, I was hoping to hear something like a full-length or an EP and they snuck one in before the year ended. As far as the tracks on Ukiyo, I was not disappointed. The EP has five tight dreampop tracks that have all the wonderful character of their earlier tracks with “Down” and “Enigma” returning. Give it a listen and grab a limited cassette. Here’s hoping we get a full-length debut sooner rather than later.
17. Swimming Tapes: Blue EP (Hand in Hive, 2017)
Swimming Tapes’ Blue has a dreamy, bedside sort of feel. Throwing back to the best of 70’s pop and 60’s pop structures, Swimming Tapes skirts the edge of dreampop with their reverb tinged guitar lines. Haling from London, the band really exudes all that is great about dreampop with gorgeous vocals and a brilliant use of rhythm. If you dig the band Hoops, you will certainly love Swimming Tapes.
18. Lazy Legs: Chain of Pink (Wild Patterns, 2017)
Lazy Legs, another Chicago, well former Chicago, stalwart, released the lovely Chain of Pink EP this year. This is a swirly gazey affair with a patience to it that really strikes the listener as a hook that pulls you along through the sonic journey. Deep, recessed vocals cast a spell as hazy, indistinct guitars crackle and fuzz while at the same time soaring. Everything Lazy Legs does is magic.
19. Is Bliss: The Honeycomb Explosion (Club AC30, 2017)
Is Bliss come out you with bright guitars underscored with pounding psych-rock sensibilities. This is psych-gaze at its finest, with swirling guitars awash in hazy, drugged out 70’s structures. This shouldn’t shock anyone given the band’s name. “Into a Dream” even features sitar types tones and lines that give it that throwback feel. Give this psych-gaze band whirl. You won’t be disappointed.
20. Dream Rimmy: Heavy (Self Release, 2017)
There is an incredible shoegaze/dreampop scene erupting in Australia and Dream Rimmy is part of it. Hailing from Perth, they produce hazy gazey dreampop with touches of 80’s synth fabulousness. Ali Flintoff brings an innocence to the vocals which sit slightly back in the mix and take part in the swirling pop confection. Heavy is five tracks that mix a slightly dappled 80’s nostalgia with that 90’s dreampop/shoegaze feel.
21. No Joy: Creep (Grey Market, 2017)
Creep is the four song EP from the Montreal based band No Joy. Creep and Drool Sucker (a 7”) have been the newest offerings from the band since the brilliant More Faithful album. From the radio-ready “Hellhole” to the frenetic “Tearing Apart the Dark”, the band proves to be masters at moving in and out of genres and keeping the listener on their toes. Blasting from the metal moments of “Tearing Apart the Dark” to the dreampop beauty of “Califone”, No Joy once again have crafted three brilliant tracks on Creep.
22. daysee: Splash (Self Release, 2017)
Daysee are a brilliant lo-fi, dreampop band that mixes the dizzy swirl of fuzz and brightness with deeply embedded, almost ghostlike vocals. “Dust Bunny” kicks off the six song EP with these really high end, squealing guitars that are sitting on a bed of fuzz as the vocals drift on into a sea of aural wonder. Daysee doesn’t shy away from experimentation either. They play with textures, sound qualities, and tempos throughout their tracks and it demonstrates their versatility. This is another Chicago band people and, as I’ve said before, there must be something in the water given all these amazing bands in the windy city.
23. Kindling/Kestrals Split (Self Release, 2017)
Well, I’m not sure if a split is technically considered an EP, but I’m going to consider it to be one here. Kindling hails from Easthampton Massachusetts while Kestrals hails from Halifax Nova Scotia. Kindling swim in the shogazey genre with two radio-ready tracks here. Kestrals channels a bit of surf-rock in their music with fuzzy guitars and, sometimes, a touch of that 90’s alt-rock one might find in bands like Weezer. This is a split with four solid tracks that should not be missed!
24. The Cherry Wave: Close EP (Self Release, 2017)
Hailing from Glasgow, The Cherry Wave bring a raw element to their shoegaze sound with an underlying punk sensibility. In a way, this is the second punk-gaze EP on the list. Close is four tracks that explode out of the speakers, leaking angst through whirring guitars and in your face vocals. If you want some aggression in your shoegaze, here it is. Close four perfectly tight and killer tracks ready for you to blast at number 11 on the volume knob.
25. The Raft: Coming Up for Air EP (Self Release, 2017
The Raft hail from Neston, England and bring to the table a 60’s infused dreampop that is just glorious. Their sound reminds me a bit of Pas/cal mixed with touches of Slowdive. It’s a powerful blend in the hands of The Raft and the Coming Up for Air EP really showcases their strengths over the course of four tracks. This is one of three EPs the band released this year and I highly recommend grabbing them all.