In Singapore, EPs have almost been the default choice for artists to package their music. While the album format is still thriving, the EP allows musicians to craft more succinct statements. And with the release of several notable EPs in Singapore this year, this has never been truer.
Here are the Singapore EPs that we loved the most in 2016.
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#15 — Geniuses & Thieves | Gentle Bones
Undoubtedly one of the landmark releases in Singapore pop history, just based on the accolades alone. On the strength of this EP, Gentle Bones sold-out the Esplanade Concert Hall twice over, performed in front of over 30,000 people in South Korea, and continued to perform on huge festival stages around the world.
We’d say that Geniuses & Thieves has reaped plenty of rewards in 2016. As for the music itself, his take on alt-R&B and pop isn’t just slick — it's commercially transcendent and universally resonant.
#14 — Coven | Of Methodist
A sophomore effort from one of Singapore's most promising and intriguing singer-producers, Coven is a thought-provoking and socially-conscious collection of ballads that belies Of Methodist’s tender age.
Anchored by singles such as 'Ghost Lager', 'Bloodless' and 'Witch In The Veins', this “direct sequel” to his debut EP Pvlgrim presents us a fuller-bodied and matured progression of his art — balancing the ugliness and beauty of the human condition.
#13 — Forever Loved, Never Forgotten | Exhibitors
Exhibitors aren’t just turning heads in the local hardcore scene with their latest release, Forever Loved, Never Forgotten is a standout Singaporean EP regardless of genre.
This long-gestating sophomore album is a gripping five-track document that showcases the melodic hardcore quintet at the height of their powers. Center-pieced by 'Oath', featuring Gerard from fellow Singaporean post-hardcore band Kaji, this EP is muscular, emotive and cathartic.
#12 — Arcade | Disco Hue
What Disco Hue achieved with Arcade is something that appears to be so effortless, but dig deeper and you'll realize that the band's craft is undeniable.
Their affinity for 80s-inspired synths may be something that isn't destined to last for long, but their precise songwriting and talent — especially for musicians their age — signals something even greater. But as it is right now, with breakout singles like 'I'll Be Waiting' and 'Gotta Find You', Arcade is immensely enjoyable.
#11 — FAUXE & Friends | Fauxe
A fun and vibrant EP crafted to celebrate FAUXE’s birthday, this release works in the same way that his incredible Beat Tape trilogy worked last year. It's immediate and it's joyful.
Made with some of the producer’s closest friends — namely Timmy Autumn, singer ERI and the Mediocre Haircut Crew rappers — the EP is a six-track freeform exercise that beautifully goes from alt-R&B to hip-hop to left-field electronica. Meanwhile, the music also comes along with a vérité short film that follows FAUXE and his aforementioned friends casually hanging out in the heartlands.
#10 — Bedroom Sessions EP | Subsonic Eye
Dream pop band Subsonic Eye have yet to release a proper album, but the work they’ve put out so far have been consistently enjoyable. Their Bedroom Sessions EP, however, is wonderfully rough around the edges.
Ultimately, its lo-fi quality, off-key harmonies and unmistakable melodies sum up to be a very unique and endearing EP, and another reason why Subsonic Eye will be a band to watch as 2017 approaches.
#9 — Coming Down | Linus Hablot
One thing that’s immediate about Linus Hablot’s debut EP is the pastoral, almost scholarly approach he has towards songwriting. He’s brimming with soul but reluctant to show off.
While the production through the four tracks that make up Coming Down is effectively unconventional, his songs shine through with plenty of clarity and brevity to keep many hooked.
#8 — Dubsmash | Kiat
2016 has been an extremely busy year for Syndicate head honcho Kiat. With three amazing releases, ranging from a full-length album on his own label to an inspired EP on German imprint Defrostica, it's inspiring to see the veteran producer having a banner year.
That being said, we’d argue that his latest EP on Phyla is easily the best amongst this body of work. This is “Singapore’s drum & bass godfather” doing what he does best — resulting in three absolutely stunning dub-influenced D&B cuts, alongside a great breakbeat remix of ‘Katong’ by Diphasic.
#7 — Rose | et aliae
Made up of elegantly arranged instrumentals and ambient pop, et aliae’s gorgeous electronic EP on transatlantic NYC-UK label Cascine is both exquisite and experimental.
Reflecting a wide variety of influences ranging from Johann Sebastian Bach and Chopin (the producer is also a classically trained pianist) to Ana Caprix and Aaliyah, Rose is a set of nocturnal jams twinkling with polyphonic textures and future-pop influences. Do look out for a spectacular collaboration with renowned R&B and indietronica vocalist D∆WN — whose 2016 album Redemption has been making the rounds on lists as well — on ‘Sober’.
#6 — Sun Seeker | Sphaeras & Odradek
This one is technically a cheat because 1) it’s a split-album and 2) Odradek are Brazilian. But it's so good that we had to list it somewhere, and we compromised by counting only the songs Sphaeras were involved in, which in our reality, counts as an EP.
Now that the qualifier is out of the way, Sun Seeker is awe-inspiringly dense and intense. Indeed, this labyrinth of styles and time signatures is never too maximalist to be compelling. Standout piece 'My Wish Is Your Command', featuring weish, is exactly the kind of cerebral and emotional journey we revelled in.
#5 — ISLAND-01 | Yllis
Yllis deconstructs pop in ISLAND-01 in a way unlike anything we’ve heard this year. Digging deeper into the electronic underground for a breathtaking sonic palette, ISLAND-01 is a dystopian, fractured, and intensely focused EP that still manages to be strikingly intimate.
He mentions in his track-by-track guide of the EP that “there's a feeling that Asia has a very real voice in the global cultural conversation today.” Not only is ISLAND-01 a standout release in forward-thinking Asian pop music, it’s also an amazing start for an artist who could very well be a part of that conversation.
#4 — Paris 12 | Linying
There’s no doubt 2016 was Linying’s year, but the release of Paris 12 showed she could back up the immense hype. It’s a well-crafted piece of work that, for all its melodic subtleties, allows Linying to paint vivid stories that don’t expect you to fill in the blanks.
While Paris 12 already features her popular singles ‘Sticky Leaves’ and ‘Alpine’, she was able to craft this five-track record with the consistency and finesse that has also made her live shows a thoroughly unique experience.
#3 — Demo 2016 | C.S.O
Despite being a four-track demo, C.S.O.’s Demo 2016 is a classic example of harnessing well-worn hardcore punk tropes to your ultimate advantage. Demo 2016 strikes hard and fast, and its terse five-minute runtime leaves you in the cold, ultimately begging for more. It's fantastic.
#2 — Devil's Advocate | Losing End
In the tradition of Nails, Xibalba and Forced Order, Losing End cut out the fat and leave aside the gnarliest riffs and breakdowns. There isn’t much to mull over here — just crunchy, visceral metallic punk music that serves as a touchstone for the band's apocalyptic capabilities. It just so happens that these songs fall in place seamlessly to form a terrifyingly vicious EP.
#1 — Exodus | Yllis
Absurdly fresh and way ahead of the curve, Yllis is by far the most revolutionary Singaporean producer at work today. While his first EP of the year, ISLAND-01, was a breathtakingly alien take on post-Internet pop, his second — entitled Exodus — is where he truly makes his mark.
Released via Beijing’s Do Hits, this is a groundbreaking, Sinogrime masterpiece exploring the sounds of human immigration, culture clash and what that means in terms of pop culture. But as globalized as it gets sonically and conceptually, it’s still melodically grounded by Yllis’ cultural and historical roots as a Chinese Singaporean.