More voluminous than a single, but not as hefty as an album, EPs are the wild cards of recorded music. They often seem to come from out of nowhere, dropping without warning and containing not just leftover songs that didn’t make it onto an LP, but material that is often a distinct addition to an artist’s catalog. This year saw many such audible treats.
These are our top 20 EPs of 2014.
20. Walker & Royce Sister (Moda Black)
The name Walker & Royce is synonymous with blistering, bass-heavy house grooves. In September, the New York City-based duo swung another strut-heavy release on Moda Black, as Sam and Gavin struck dancefloors with their weighty one-two punch EP, Sister. The title track is a tasty slice of throbbing sub bass custom-made for club glory with its sly transitions and brain-slanting synths. On the flip, “Do Not Disturb” knocks like it owns the place with its tight percussive programming and sleek textures. Bold and extremely well put together, Walker & Royce’s two-track effort will fit in like fam. —Sam Yu
19. Kove Murmurtations (MTA Records)
Catering equally to four-four and broken beat crowds, Kove serves up a well-balanced diet of house and drum & bass with his Murmurtations EP. Like a madman on a mission, Kove bravely breaks out a four-track release with alternating tempos and styles. He sets the floor with the twangy, twerk-ready tune “Drop” before teaming up with Dimension to craft the melodic, romantically withdrawn “Feel Love Again.” Quickly shifting gears, he gets down to bassline business with the heady warehouse cut “VCO” until he evens up the score again with the emotionally charged smooth-roller “Still High.” Kove pulls off the unthinkable here with a genre-splitting EP built for all manner of dancefloors. —Sam Yu
18. Com Truise Wave 1 (Ghostly International)
After almost two years away from the scene, Wave 1 marked Seth Haley’s triumphant return as his hyperactive and hyper-nostalgic alter ego Com Truise. Showing off his signature blend of ‘80s computer beats, pop breakdowns, and ultra-precise synth rhythms, Haley’s interstellar EP gave us just the hypersonic love affair our ears were looking for.
On top of all that, Wave 1 marks the start of a new chapter for Com Truise. In an interview with Dazed Digital, Haley revealed that it is the first installment in a series of releases about “the world’s first Synthetic Astronaut on this journey to a planet—each release represents the next stage in his journey.” We can’t wait to hear where this space-faring wanderer ends up next. —James Rogers
17. Pretty Lights The Hidden Shades (8 Minutes 20 Seconds Records)
Ironically, one of the best albums of 2014 started out as merely extras. Pretty Lights’ A Color Map of the Sun was released in 2013 to many accolades, and the Colorado producer unveiled an album of extras in the form of The Hidden Shades this year. Released first on two vinyl discs for Record Store Day, The Hidden Shades contains four B-sides and remixes, including “Lost and Found” and “New Moon Same Dark.”
Pretty Lights’ process in recording the music is genius in itself: Instead of sampling from existing material, he went into the studio with live musicians and singers, pressed the recordings to vinyl, then sampled from that to create an entirely new offering. The result is a soulful, poignant, sexy groove. With all songs written, composed, sampled, chopped and arranged by Pretty Lights, A Color Map and the subsequent Hidden Shades bring that organic energy to electronic music for extensive depth and beauty. —Deanna Rilling
16. Panama Always (Future Classic)
The Sydney trio blazes a trail of indie dance excellence on their sophomore EP. Their debut It’s Not Over led with the particularly effective, ’80s-drenched record “We Have Love” the year prior—though Always is a slightly more subdued and moody effort, with the strength of the vocal harmonies moved even more into the forefront. Lead record “Always” has a particularly mellow appeal; the piano twinkles in the opening, building to a rather dramatic rush of the chorus.
“How We Feel,” on the other hand, embraces a more whimsical vibe, contrasting some killer singer-songwriting with some particularly well-produced beats. For those who were after more of a dancefloor vibe, all of the originals were remixed by fellow crossover acts like disco favorite Classixx. It’s a charming sign of hopefully even better things to come when the Panama boys finally deliver their debut album. —Angus Thomas Paterson
15. Pilo & Sinden Night Visions (Boysnoize Records)
What happens when you take a quickly rising newcomer and pair them with a longstanding master of the electronic music world? You end up with the insane alchemy that is Pilo & Sinden’s Night Visions EP. At a time when the trend is surging back through sounds of the past to re-inspire the present, the integration of retro styles is often surprisingly harder to pull off than artists initially might think. And with today’s bigger-is-better mentality, it’s even more difficult to peel back the layers and create music from a more minimal perspective. This EP not only manages to slay both points across the boards, but it also stands out against a large quantity of 2014 releases in general.
What you get here is cold, bare-boned warehouse techno that not only harkens back to the glory days between Detroit and Berlin, but also could punish any big room with a hands-up fury. Four tracks in total, this EP covers a lot of ground. “Heat Visions” and “Infrared” are minimal and misty tracks peppered with tech house, angular synths and well-deep kicks. Meanwhile, “Thermal” bridges the gap between proper techno and retro-electro with a massive sound and gunfire-driving sensibility. But the standout track is clearly “Night Vision,” which steps from the fold as a dance-inducing, sneer-fueled romp through retro-electro breaks and has surely demanded a number of rewinds on the decks. A solid step forward for both producers, the EP has the added triumph of having its home on the Boysnoize label. —Denman Anderson
14. Audio Nil by Mouth (RAM Records)
If there was any fear of Audio going pop after his move from Virus to RAM, those fears were quickly put to rest as he unleashed a blistering four-track EP of anabolic proportions. From the chest-crushing “Nil by Mouth” to the sci-fi illness that is “Ultron,” Audio proved he continues to be at the top of his game. While he seemed to ease up from the breathtaking breakbeat workouts and growling basslines of the first two cuts on “Break It,” he quickly hit the switch and charged ahead to the dark and brooding “Gotham,” which cascades in an onslaught of neck-snapping beats sure to have the kids bouncing off the walls and begging for more. These are essential cuts for those who like it dark. —Chris Muniz
13. Giraffage No Reason (Fool’s Gold Records)
In 2014, San Francisco trap-house DJ and producer Charlie Yin, aka Giraffage, toured with Porter Robinson, signed to A-Trak’s Fool’s Gold label, and released one of the dreamiest electronic R&B EPs, No Reason. “Hello” opens it with a pitched-and-pinched hook and a glitter bomb of effusive synthesizers, iPhone pings, dial tones and busy signals. “Tell Me” picks up the tempo with a lighthouse intro before dropping into one of Yin’s signature bi-pitched duets. “Chocolate” borders on Trevor Horn “Moments in Love” sweetness, “Anxiety” seesaws between warm tones and featherweight beat-boxing, and “Be With You” sputters and twirls into Janet Jackson slow-jam bliss. Eschewing samples for original beats gives the EP a tonal uniformity, as do the rising/falling, building/dropping patterns; but it’s Giraffage’s knack for creating and arranging such bright and airy sounds so precisely that makes them addictive. —Jorge Hernandez
12. Zeds Dead Somewhere Else (Mad Decent)
Canadian bass producers Zeds Dead teamed up with the Mad Decent camp to release one of the most cohesive EPs of 2014. DC and Hooks explore different tempos and sound spaces, leaving nary a dull moment throughout the eight-song effort, which delivers some of the smoothest low-end of the year. At points, the duo’s hip-hop and rap-infused sound overshadows their trademark bass output, but it’s all a step toward mainstream dance music glory. Enlisting an eclectic range of guests including Perry Farrell, Twin Shadow, Big Gigantic and Bright Lights, Somewhere Else is a similarly diverse body of work that showcases the versatility of their appeal and builds anticipation for their next move. —Daniel Kohn
11. Jimmy Edgar Saline (Ultramajic)
Jimmy Edgar has been strutting his pimped-out, spaced-out techno funk since he was in his teens back in the MySpace days. In the past dozen years, the randy fashion photographer and occult aficionado has mutated his sound from experimental glitch to cosmic ghetto tech to rude boy house for one prestigious label after another. After pumping out albums and EPs for Warp (2005’s Colorstrip), !K7 (2010’s XXX) and Hotflush (2012’s Majenta), Edgar launched his own multipurpose label Ultramajic in 2013.
Since then, Edgar has released three element-themed EPs, including this year’s Saline, featuring recently deceased Rashad on the juke jam “Walk Show.” While Rashad’s presence makes “Walk Show” an eye-catcher, the galactic, percolating tech-house numbers “Who’s Watching” and “Decalcify” are the bigger earworms. Edgar tightened his panoramic focus on Saline, and the result was one of his most cohesive EPs. —Jorge Hernandez
10. Hudson Mohawke Chimes (Warp)
When Hudson Mohawke dropped “Chimes” back in September, it begged for a hip-hop remix. That came one month later care of Pusha T, Future, Travi$ Scott and French Montana. Still, the rap rework just couldn’t keep up. The original was just that strong, and it turns out the rap remix, though perfect in delivery, was a tad unnecessary. While the power of the title track drives the release, the Chimes EP isn’t solely dependent on it. Hud Mo gets goofy and weird on “Brainwave,” the sonic representation of what an actual cerebral impulse sounds like. “King Kong Beaver” brings back the ruckus with a lil’ less grit and street chutzpah, but it still knocks. Hard. Chimes, though short in length, is a battle cry, a marching drum cadence into a fiery urban apocalypse, with Hudson Mohawke as the Mad Max bandleader. —John Ochoa
09. Baauer ß (LuckyMe Records)
If it took touring the world—and visiting the temples and monasteries that the Wu-Tang Clan only alluded to in their rhymes—for Baauer to create his Lucky Me-released EP ß, then so be it. A year after “Harlem Shake”-ing YouTube and pop culture into submission, he returned with a largely Asian-themed group of tracks that left many in awe. Of course, the standout here is “One Touch,” which takes trapped-out rap post-teens Rae Sremmurd and UK pop stars AlunaGeorge and succeeds in a lane where likely only Mike WiLL or K-pop hit-maker Teddy Park have yet dared to tread. Progressive yet timely at the same time, it reset trap’s expectation for the future. —Marcus Dowling
08. Zhu The Nightday (Mind of a Genius)
Occupying the space directly between M83 and Disclosure, with a massive helping of smoke and mirrors, allowed Zhu to go from never-heard to underground-dominant producer in 2014. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that The Nightday is an incredible EP, too. That hallowed space that allows for funk, soul, house and pop to commingle is powerful for certain, and taking six tracks to dive in and flesh out the energy there, the EP is a winner. “Faded” is the one with all of the remixes, but “Cocaine Model” sounds like the Weeknd took The-Dream to Ibiza for a weekend bender… in the best way possible. —Marcus Dowling
07. Sluggers Voyager (Main Course)
Sluggers’ music is like that secret DJ weapon that you love so much, you use it all the time in sets; not too many people know about it, but it is so damn good. When the Miami-based collective appeared on the scene a year ago with an EP for Nest HQ—and soon thereafter with a follow-up release on Fool’s Gold—they caught the attention of many wanting to hear more hybrid dance music. With the perfect mix of techno, tech house, booty and bassline productions, Sluggers have pushed out a new type of fusion sound.
Their Voyager EP, released by Main Course, reveals just how much the duo have perfected their craft in 2014. The first track, “Particles,” starts it off strong with a heavy dose of techno ready for playtime at any vibing warehouse rave. With its rolling, techy bassline, flawless percussion, and perfect use of that beloved siren sound, the record has been a DJ favorite played out in sets from coast to coast. “Contact” is a throwback to the unique Sluggers sound, riding on amazing percussions and a clutch vocal sample throughout the track. The EP closes with “Horizon,” a booty-bass delight that will have anyone ready to hit the dancefloor hard. Coming off a top EP for this year, it will be very exciting to see where this talented Miami duo goes in 2015. —Joe Wiseman
06. Anna Lunoe All Out (Ultra Music)
Although she’d been quietly lurking under the radar, 2014 was the year Anna Lunoe finally captured attention beyond those in the know. An Australian currently residing in Los Angeles, Lunoe played some of the biggest festivals in 2014 and released her All Out EP in September on Ultra Records to great acclaim. Between seductive vocals, luscious, synth-powered beats as catchy as they are original, and a keen sense of confidence that isn’t brash as much as it is bold, the dizzying sounds emanating from the DJ’s fingertips showcase a talent that has only begun to be tapped. Seamlessly blending house and bass, All Out will likely be remembered as the platform from which Lunoe jumped to international stardom. —Daniel Kohn
05. Maceo Plex Conjure One (Ellum)
The two alter egos of Eric Estornel seem to be slowly merging together. Maetrik, the brash, more techno older brother to Maceo Plex, appears to rubbing off on the producer this year. Maceo Plex’s illustrious career was built on releases on imprints like Crosstown Rebels, Get Physical and Visionquest, but ever since the launch of his label Ellum, the producer’s sound has become more deviant. While his sound is still deep, his basslines are more sinister and his drums more manic, as evidenced by Conjure One, which is as guttural as it is beautiful. And it is this fine line, which Maceo skates so easily, that places the producer in an elite class shared by few. —Troy Kurtz
04. Galantis Galantis (Big Beat)
Composed of production super duo Christian “Bloodshy” Karlsson (of Miike Snow and Grammy-winning production team Bloodshy & Avant) and Linus Eklöw (Style of Eye), Galantis define the ultimate level of electronic music production. They’ve got it figured out. When producers are hammering out recycled club bangers and fleeting festival anthems, Galantis are writing timeless songs. And therein lies the key separating them from the rest of the electronic tundra: Galantis are songwriters first and foremost, as best exemplified in their debut EP. Where “Smile” carries the zest of a big-room electro track, it’s light-years beyond and in its own league via the rare vocal pop, verse-chorus-structured song arc. Sure, “Smile” is the main hook, but its hand-in-hand couplet “You” demonstrates just how far they are willing and able to take things. Galantis is carrying the torch for the next class of electronic music, and this EP is the light. —John Ochoa
03. Shlohmo & Jeremih No More (WeDidIt Records/Def Jam Recordings)
L.A. producer Shlohmo and Chicago vocalist Jeremih nearly broke the internet when they released their slow-as-molasses, DTF anthem “Bo Peep” in the spring of 2013. The anticipation for their collaborative EP No More was thus high, and damn, did it deliver when it dropped this past July. An extension of the dark, sexed-up vibe of its lead single, the EP saw Jeremih lay his smooth falsetto all over Shlohmo’s characteristically sparse, sludgy and deceptively complex beats and dropping lyrics that would make your crush blush. Released for free and to great acclaim, the six-song EP showcased why Shlohmo has become one of the breakout stars of the WeDidIt crew and why Jeremih has become one of the most in-demand voices in R&B. —Katie Bain
02. Pryda Mija / Origins / Backdraft / Axis (Pryda Recordings)
A high point in a year that was all Eric Prydz, Mija / Origins / Backdraft / Axis was the progressive house EP that we truly needed. Shooting straight to the top of the Beatport charts, Pryda reminded us all why we fell in love with progressive house in the first place. Proving once again that electronic music should be a marathon and not a sprint, the four-track EP takes us on a journey that explores the darker side of house. “Origins” sees Pryda show his techno side, while “Axis” is an ode to the song that made him famous, “Pjanoo.” My favorite cut is “Backdraft,” which opens up with a simple prog house baseline that sounds a bit influenced by his partner in crime this year, deadmau5. Perfect for the main stage or an underground lair at five in the morning, the EP never loses steam, all while keeping the signature groove that has made Prydz famous over the years. —Kevin Camps
01. Dusky Love Taking Over (17 Steps)
As deep house continued its reign over the past year, there has been no better duo dominating the dancefloor then Dusky. Nick Harriman and Alfie Granger-Howell’s first release on their own label, 17 Steps, could not have been more of a tech house dream. “Love Taking Over” transcends warehouse spaces and thrives in even the most commercial environment. The title track is the heaviest of the three, relying on a sub-heavy groove with quality, cut-up vocals. “Inta” builds into a big-room sound via classic house piano notes, and it is probably the most accessible of the bunch. “Expectations” is a garage-infused cut that sees the duo returning to what made them blow up in the first place. And with their new single “Yoohoo” currently sitting cush at number one on the Beatport charts, the British duo only look to be doing even bigger things in 2015. —Kevin Camps