Best of 2021: EPs of the Year – SB19, ITZY, ATARASHII GAKKO, SEVENTEEN, Blush, WOODZ, and more

Best of 2021: EPs of the Year – SB19, ITZY, ATARASHII GAKKO, SEVENTEEN, Blush, WOODZ, and more

Ah, EPs—while they're short, they pack a punch.

Unlike albums, they stay around just long enough to absorb you into an entrancing world of music just to leave you always wanting more. From a concept record by DPR IAN to power-packed tracks from SB19 to a sentimental debut from Carpet Golf to a coming-of-age soundtrack from beabadoobee, 2021 has seen countless top-tier EPs.

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So, next up on our Best of 2021 series, the Bandwagon team brings you our favourite EPs of the year. 


Pagsibol - SB19

BANDWAGON TV

SB19’s 2021 EP, Pagsibol, is proof that the Filipino pop group is out to take over the world. It’s charged with the kind of electricity that can shock listeners with their next-level capabilities. If you haven’t seen them in action (digitally or onstage), Pagsibol is a great entry point for new fans who are interested in getting in the zone. - Kara Bodegon-Hikino, Staff Writer

ATTACCA - SEVENTEEN

I first started diving into SEVENTEEN's extensive discography earlier this year - starting with my midyear pick, their Japanese single 'Not Alone'. I've been going slowly through their releases throughout the year, discovering gems here and there, but I'd have to say that ATTACCA is their strongest record to date. Serving as the final release of their POWER OF LOVE project, ATTACCA shows how far the members have grown as performers, but also as songwriters and producers.

While one of the best-selling act's main strengths is their impressive synchronized choreography and stunning stage presence, their performances for this mini-album also highlight the group's vocal prowess. They may be divided into different units of specialisation - hip-hop, vocal, and performance - but every single member of SEVENTEEN has stellar vocals - just watch this live band performance of 'Rock With You'. - Camille Castillo, Editorial Director

GUESS WHO - ITZY

Out of my 36,044 hours of listening to Spotify this year, I’d like to bet that my playtime of ITZY’s mini-album GUESS WHO contributed a large percentage of that. From a casual listener, I turned into this pathetic creature that attempted to dance to ‘In the morning’, ‘Sorry Not Sorry’, and ‘KIDDING ME’ only to end up becoming an even more pathetic creature with bruised knees and shins. No regrets.- Kara Bodegon-Hikino, Staff Writer

BEST OF 2021: COLLABORATIONS OF THE YEAR

true colors - mxmtoon

Life Is Strange has always had the nicest compilation of folk-pop/rock songs to soundtrack its games, so they really went toward the right direction when they recruited mxmtoon for their latest title. Besides being the singing voice for Alex Chen on Life Is Strange: True Colors, mxmtoon also delivered four brilliant songs I can’t get enough of. Plus, her take of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ is possibly one of the best ones I’ve heard (and there have been many), and she truly makes it her own. -Kara Bodegon-Hikino, Staff Writer

Only Lovers Left - WOODZ

At a time where talk is afloat about the narrative value of an album, WOODZ comes in to remind us it doesn’t take eleven songs to tell a story. In his third mini-album, he takes listeners through the different stages of romantic love, from its hopeful and euphoric beginning, to the excruciating pain of having to face its sudden demise. This way, WOODZ is able to shift through various sounds – a testament to his determination to challenge every musical genre – and weave them into a journey of complicated but definite feelings. He’s spoken about working on Only Lovers Left as if it were a movie. If that’s the case, then the result is a cinematic masterpiece. It’s his most cohesive work yet. - Ginny Palma, Contributing Editor

BEST OF 2021: SONGS OF THE YEAR

SOMO:FUME - JAY B

 

I’m a ‘Just Right’-era GOT7 fan so if there was one release I was looking forward to all year, it was this (along with all the other GOT7 solo releases). In terms of individual sound, JAY B’s has always been the one I’ve gravitated towards because of his preference for R&B. In that sense, SOMO:FUME definitely lived up to my expectations.

While it’s explicitly risk-free with most of the tracks featuring collaborations, the EP deviates from the GOT7 sound we all know and love and steps into something completely his own. And, when you’re establishing yourself as a soloist, that’s exactly what you need to do. - Franchesca Judine Basbas, Staff Writer

D-day - HOODY

 HOODY described D-day as a collection of songs to make each day feel a little special and honestly, it was exactly that. 

The EP didn’t have anything too outlandish or flashy because realistically, most of our days don’t feel anything like that. Instead, it boasts a sense of excitement against an easygoing and calm sonic palette. It’s a melodious representation of real-life: optimistic yet realistic and melancholic yet positive.  - Franchesca Judine Basbas, Staff Writer

SNACKTIME - ATARASHII GAKKO!

It’s my favourite chaotic Japanese quartet! 

ATARASHII GAKKO’s first major release under 88rising is everything you’d expect it to be and much more: immensely captivating, sonically all over the place, and weird but all in the best way possible. 

Featuring more genre combinations that I could count – from punk rock to disco-technique, SNACKTIME was a mish-mash of a lot of things but it never felt too much. It’s venturing into a world far outside of what you’d expect from a Japanese girl group and I’m 100% here for it. - Franchesca Judine Basbas, Staff Writer

Effluvatorium Du Jour— Stench Collector 

Stench Collector certainly lives up to their name with their putrescent debut EP Effluvatorium Du Jour. Straight from the bile-filled depths of the death metal necropolis are five Lovecraftian-inspired tracks: namely, the spine-tingling introductory ‘Welcome to the Effluvatorium,’ the pulverising ‘Gutworm,’ ‘Bile Container’ that is filled with murky riffs, the effervescent ‘Eye Sock Maggots,’ and the creeping slow-burn of ‘Carrion Cellar.’ A convergence of emetic visuals and olfactory miasma, the two-piece band expands upon everything that is sickeningly good about the intensely visceral, no-holds-barred genre. While this isn’t perfect, the malodorous stench emanating from Stench Collector’s EP is rather distinctive and since I’ve already caught a whiff of what they can do, I will certainly be looking out for their forthcoming releases. - Ynez Wahab, Writer

fleur - brb.

It’s been a while since I’ve been on a real summer vacation, you know the ones where all you do is lay by the beach and watch the waves hit the shore, but fleur took me right there.

Reminiscent of mojitos and beautiful sunsets, the EP is a great transition from the sad boy vibes of their album, relationshit to the golden-hued “hot girl summer” we all deserve: sultry, fun, and carefree. - Franchesca Judine Basbas, Staff Writer

Blush - Blush

This might be a biased pick as I play for this band now but I wasn’t part of the writing or recording process of this EP so I’d say I’m allowed to sing its praises. It’s no secret that bands are disappearing, while waves of bedroom artists who create music alone with computers emerge so I must say every time I hear real instruments, it’s a breath of fresh air. The members of Blush are talented songwriters, already proven with their CVs from Cosmic Child, Sobs, Forests, and Hauste. The production on this - I felt was something missing in rock/pop music here for a while - LOUDNESS. The blend of that wall of sound with Sofie Peters’ dainty vocals just fits so well and I can imagine it’s something Singaporean shoegaze fans have been missing for a while. The length of this EP is also perfect for a brand new band and really leaves you longing for more. - Nicholas Wong, Events Manager

Our Extended Play - beabadoobee

Our Extended Play is something straight out of an early 2000s coming-of-age film, abundant with that nostalgic guitar pop-rock sound with a tinge of grunge. Made in collaboration with The 1975’s Matt Healy and George Daniel, the four-track record is simple and that’s what makes it so enjoyable. 

It narrates the experience of the messy and confusing transition from teenager to adult against the sonic iconographies of the 90s and early 2000s. While it’s stories we’ve all probably heard before, the EP is rooted in a foundation of sincerity and authenticity that you can’t really go wrong with. - Franchesca Judine Basbas, Staff Writer

MITO - DPR IAN

DPR IAN has always been the creative visionary, having previously put together some of the most beautiful visuals for Dream Perfect Regime. But, you see that artistry and creativity are in full force in Moodswings In This Order (MITO)

Channelling a more vulnerable and raw alter ego, DPR IAN bares his inner psyche and soul into his debut EP – a concept album that’s so beautifully executed. Across 8 tracks, you hear (and see in the EP’s various visuals) the singer battle with his loud and manic alter ego. And while the themes tend to be heavy, MITO is surprisingly an easy listen, encased in vibe-y contemporary R&B. 

My favourite is obviously ‘No Blueberries’ featuring CL and DPR LIVE. - Franchesca Judine Basbas, Staff Writer

brent ii - Jeremy Zucker & Chelsea Cutler

I’ve always been a fond listener of Jeremy Zucker and Chelsea Cutler, both as individuals and collaborators. brent ii carried me through 2021, it was hopeful, it was dreamy, and just beautifully written. When listened to in order, it feels like you’re reading a book with chapters being unveiled one by one with each song. The EP is a raw and emotional journey that showcases the rollercoaster pandemic life with its ever-changing rules and there’s a song for every aspect of your life. 

MY personal favourite would have to be ‘parent song’, which brought me to tears on the first listen because it’s exactly how I felt going through this long-distance relationship with my parents, which is not something everyone talks about. - Rachel Yap, Digital Media and Projects Manager 

Not As Good A Fisherman As Brock Lesnar Is A Man - Carpet Golf

Not As Good A Fisherman As Brock Lesnar Is A Man is Carpet Golf’s debut EP. It is the band’s (made up of members from Subsonic Eye and Charm) response to dealing with male vulnerability, growing up, and confronting the ideas of masculinity all at once. It is embedded in emo mawkishness, interlaced with profound (and at times, playful) lyrics, all backdropped with instrumentation reminiscent of midwest emo and early pop-punk.

The opening line: “Think too hard / Too easy to be overjoyed / I feel like exploding / I’m unsure if it’s unjust / To not want to die / When everything’s alright,” from the track ‘Jimmy’ proves that the quartet is ready to address their catastrophizing thoughts. While ‘Brock Lesnar’ goes: “Brock, I wish I was you / Don’t get me wrong / I like being me but sometimes / I want to be a big meatball,” showcasing their outright playfulness.

Not As Good A FIsherman As Brock Lesnar Is a Man is, and I’ve said and written this many times before: deserves more than just “golf claps”. At first, I was skeptical - how could six one minute tracks make for substantial listening? But within the first listen, I was hooked. The next thing I knew, I had the EP on repeat for an hour straight; that’s listening to the entirety of it 10 times in one sitting. And even then, I wasn’t satisfied. I listened to it over and over again. It’s one of those bodies of work that you’ll never tire of. If you haven’t listened to it yet, what are you waiting for? - Sabiq Rafid, Writer

Zaman Edan— Sial

 

Singaporean hardcore band Sial presents a perpetual Zaman Edan with their latest 7” EP. Translating to ‘the age of craziness’ in English, the experimental two-track offering is a bleak response to the current circumstances in which we live, courtesy of the global pandemic. The juxtaposition of side A (‘Kita Dilahirkan Untuk Melawan’) and B (‘Kita Dilahirkan Untuk Mati’) which essentially means ‘You are born to fight’ and ‘You are born to die’ respectively, is intentional, and speaks volumes of the desolate world in which we inhabit at the present moment. Although there are only two tracks on Zaman Edan, the sheer velocity of Siti’s caterwauling vocals on top of the solid percussion, combined with the scathing guitar and bass tones are enough for me to proclaim this as one of my top hardcore EPs of 2021. - Ynez Wahab, Writer

Queendom - Red Velvet

Beyond their well-played lead singles, I’ve never really done a full deep dive into Red Velvet’s body of work; but with Queendom serving as their long-awaited return, you couldn’t help but pay attention. 

Sweet and explosive, the six-track record features a great balance between the group’s ‘Red’ and ‘Velvet’ sides. It’s simple in nature but that's the beauty of it. - Franchesca Judine Basbas, Staff Writer


This is the fourth part of Bandwagon's Best of 2021 lists. Watch out as we unveil our music videos, virtual concerts, and stories from this year.