Is it just me, or have more EPs been released in 2020 than usual? Maybe it’s a pandemic thing. Artists trying to fill the absence of touring by releasing something, even if it’s only a handful of songs. You can’t rush or force the creative process, and there’s no rule book that says you need to be productive when there’s nothing better to do. If the world can shut down, then you can too. Not everyone can be Taylor Swift and give us TWO LPs in less than eight months. Let’s just be grateful to the artists who felt inspired enough to give us something in 2020, whether it was a song, an EP, an album, or a combination of b-sides and remixes.
One trend I didn’t anticipate from this past year involved artists releasing multiple clusters of songs at once and eventually combining them into a full length album. For example, Paramore’s Hayley Williams gave us her first solo LP Petals For Armor in May, but back in February we got the Petals For Amor I EP and in April we got the Petals For Armor II EP, which comprised the first 10 tracks from the album. Similarly, Jordana released an EP titled Something To Say at the end of July, followed it up with a second EP titled To You in December, but also combined the two to create the Something To Say To You album. Given the way they were released it’s tough to classify those types of things as standalone EPs or actual albums, but for the sake of clarity I’ve decided the final product should be the only thing that qualifies for year-end lists. On the flip side of that, Dirty Projectors gave us FIVE EPs in 2020 and technically didn’t combine them into an album but rather assembled a compilation titled 5EPs, so those each count separately. If you’re confused, just go with the flow!
There’s a fair amount of weird or off-putting stuff on this Top 25 EPs of 2020 list, and that’s partly by design. One of the things I love most about EPs are how they give artists free reign to experiment without the pressure that comes with a traditional LP. You can play around with song structure and sounds that might not otherwise fit with your current or perceived aesthetic. You can respond to current events in the world without having to write 10 songs on the same topic. For new artists, an EP can be an opportunity to introduce yourself to the world and start to build a fan base. I’m very excited about a few of the artists that gave us their debut EPs in 2020, as evidenced by their inclusion on this list. Chances are you won’t like everything here, but I sincerely hope you discover something new to enjoy and that it expands your consciousness to some degree. There’s a little something for every kind of taste, along with some love for Chicago artists as well. If you’re unfamiliar with any of this music, dig in, sample a song or two, and decide whether or not you want to explore even more.