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50-31 | 30-11 | EPs 10-1

15. The Wonder Years – Burst and Decay

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While not necessarily offering much in new material, The Wonder Years manage to affirm their intentions with this emotionally wrought collection of beautifully arranged acoustic renditions of previous material. Dan Campbell’s vocals ring as self-assured and vibrant as ever, and the band’s instrumentation adds many more colors to the pallet already established by the track listing. The production is intimate and the emotional tension is high on Burst and Decay, and The Wonder Years managed to create a nice batch of acoustic arrangements that arguably outshine their original renditions. –ianblxdsoe

14. Charli XCX – Number 1 Angel

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Baseball is my favorite sport, so when it comes to the end of the year and evaluating its yield, I like the idea of tidying up my thoughts in terms of individual contributions. For a team sport, baseball’s modern era permits (nay, encourages) an insane degree of focus on individual performance and contributions (and there is a litany of statistics to this effect). It’s a weird analogue to draw, for sure, but it is super clear to me that Charli XCX is the 2017 MVP. Like DAMN, talk about output… there were the twin mixtapes (this one, as well as Pop2, both of which were surprise releases and caught those expecting a proper follow-up to 2014’s Sucker completely off guard); there was the outstandingly weird single “Boys”, purportedly the first single off her next LP, as well as the cameo-stuffed music video (which she directed); there were songs written for Blondie and Camila Cabello; there was the trove of unreleased material that surfaced in the form of World Album; and lastly, there were the features (including, among others, on tracks for Mura Masa and Yasutaka Nakata), the variety of which represent a sort of theme in her career: she is someone with pure vision and ingenuity, and (presumably) a treat to work with for other like-minded artists.

A quick glance at the features, writers, and producers who worked with her on these mixtapes instantly cements this.Number 1 Angel, allegedly born of boredom (“I just got bored and made a load of songs, so I decided to put them out”), ended up one of the strongest pop offerings of 2017 precisely because it is the oppo of boring — it’s too damn weird and was too darn unexpected to be boring. Something of a continuation of the direction she took on last year’s Vroom Vroom EP, Number 1 Angel was my favorite thing from Charli’s 2017 because it is so clear that she is flexing on pop music. It really is awesome to see someone whose craft is so rooted to pop appeal actively changing the discourse and having fun while doing it. Listen to “3AM (Pull Up)”. Listen to “ILY2”. Fuck it — listen to all of it! –theacademy

13. Zao – Pyrrhic Victory

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Now, I could be accused of cheapening the pyrrhic portion of the band’s chosen album title by labeling this EP an out-and-out victory for Zao, but given the commendable performance of these metalcore stalwarts, it seems I’m compelled to do just that. Their grizzly, gurgling take on the aforementioned genre remains characteristic for the majority of this EP and impresses again and again, though not without its fair share of effective deviations. The stirring addition of clean vocals to highlight track “Clawing, Clawing, Never Cutting Through” and the handful of extended melody-driven excursions sprinkled across this release ensure there’s more than enough variety to keep listeners engaged with what’s on offer. Zao command a soundscape of suitably dejected dissonance which is expressed in their almost solely chiaroscuro artistry, and only occasionally punctuated by the vibrancy of something excitable. While getting bogged down in murky grooves and gravely vocals preoccupies most of Pyrrhic Victory‘s dwarfish runtime, frequent sluggish indulgences bring the mood down even further; before long, the band cruelly tear away any semblance of blissful machinations on the listener’s part and the overbearing atmosphere is reinstated once more. So, while this neat collection of tracks demonstrates a fitting mood for its foremost descriptor, its success in doing so proves to be a decisive achievement for Zao and provides, for me at least, much stronger evidence for the latter half of its title. –ScuroFantasma

12. David Bowie – No Plan

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No Plan is the coda of Blackstar, fitting in nicely with its jazzy, experimental approach. There are also touches of Heathen and Outside that can be heard in these three new tracks. Outside comes to mind particularly in the grooving “Killing A Little Time”, with Bowie singing with spite for the heaviest track of the Blackstar/No Plan sessions. “When I Met You” is far different, being a cathartic, emotional track that sees Bowie singing about how life can turn around by meeting a truly special person. The philosophical lyrics of “No Plan” fit nicely with the moody, strange, and beautiful instrumentation. The saxophone and ambient synths at the end bring to mind a more downtempo response to the incredible musical climaxes of Blackstar highlights “Lazarus” and “I Can’t Give Everything Away.” This EP is brief, running at just under 20 minutes, but it explores an impressive spectrum of emotions. It serves as an excellent addition of material to listen to alongside Blackstar, with Bowie sounding as free as ever in the final song, “When I Met You”: “When I met you, I was too insane. Could not trust a thing, I was off my head. I was filled with truth. It was not god’s truth, before I met you.” RIP David Bowie. –TalonsOfFire

11. END (NJ) – From the Unforgiving Arms of God

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As far as newcomers turning heads goes, END induce double-takes exclusively of the neck-snapping variety. This New Jersey supergroup steamrolled into 2017 with punishing brevity, debuting a diminutive six track EP partial to throwing its weight around like a belligerent sumo yokozuna. Combining a rock-solid hardcore foundation with spidery melodies and a respectable reverence for concussive rhythms, this chimera of a quartet pulled itself together from myriad destructive sources and holds nothing back upon unification. If track titles such as “Chewing Glass” and “Necessary Death” don’t immediately clue you in, these gentlemen pack a fucking punch, and they’re already launching a collective haymaker by the time you’ve worked up the courage to look past the disfigured spectre haunting the cover art and timidly press play. From the Unforgiving Arms of God asserts that END are not to be trifled with lightly, and if the future holds a full-length in a similar vein, expect masochists and breakdown aficionados alike to count among the delighted. –ScuroFantasma

10. Death Grips – Steroids (Crouching Tiger Hidden Gabber Megamix)

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Steroid (Crouching Tiger Hidden Gabber Megamix) sounds, unsurprisingly, like Death Grips on steroids (i.e., maniacal rapping over gabber influenced digital-hardcore). One of their strangest forays yet, Steroids combines the non-stop fury of tracks like “Hot Head” and the digital vividness of The Money Store, resulting in songs that propel you headfirst along a fragmented digital highway. This high-speed gabber approach is almost grind-y at points with its constant clattering percussion. Other cuts take an airier, yet no less malevolent approach; “Black Body” is soft and lush yet urgent, a striking testament to Grips’ versatility as purveyors of confusing, unexpected tone changes. –Mort.

9. Kamasi Washington – Harmony of Difference

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Kamasi Washington finds himself in an interesting, though not necessarily enviable position these days. Talk of “setting the bar too high” with following up 2015’s The Epic came as a shock to nobody, but still begged the question as to where exactly one would go from something like that. Harmony of Difference is beautiful; its lush production complements Kamasi’s traditional compositions nicely and serves as a nice continuation of what the man had going with The Epic. But with the emergence of American trumpeter Christian Scott’s jazz-fusion concoction capturing imaginations with his own monolithic offering this year, these traditional compositions can easily be redefined as old, or even boring. While jazz newbies like myself can find a lot to vibe to with this EP, Kamasi Washington will need reach into his bag of tricks to strike oil twice with whatever he decides to do next. Lord knows he has the skills to do so. –Calc

8. Mastodon – Cold Dark Place

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It’s been a hell of a year for Mastodon. Not only did they release one of 2017’s best metal albums, but they surprised fans with a cheeky little EP just 6 months after Emperor of SandCold Dark Place is a 4-track EP containing three leftovers from the Once More ‘Round the Sun sessions and the song “Toe to Toes”, which comes from the Emperor of Sand sessions. While on paper it reads as though Cold Dark Place is a Frankenstein’s monster of unwanted tracks, with a high probability of being a vapid, lacklustre waste of time, it’s actually a really cohesive and well-constructed EP. The bulk of these songs showcase the band’s keen ear for great vocal melodies – continuing the practice of having all of Mastodon’s singers contributing dynamically to make a really engaging and varied listen in such a short space of time – utilised perfectly with the EP’s gloomy, psychedelic production, which gels harmoniously with the sorrow-fueled instrumentals and macabre tinged vocal performances. This thing really sets itself apart and becomes its own entity, feeling far from a quick cash-in, and that’s what makes Cold Dark Place such a surprise. With the exception of “Toe to Toes”, a tonal imbalance with what the OMRTS session tracks offered, it’s hard to believe these tracks came from the band’s archive of unused material. These are top-tier offerings, and if you’re someone who normally gives EPs a miss, you really owe it to yourself, and the band, to give it a spin. It won’t disappoint. –DrGonzo1937

7. Denzel Curry – 13

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As crazy and fervent as Denzel usually is, 13 sees the south Florida rapper filtering out the raspy bouts of desperate energy, opting for restraint within his chaotic triplets. Although experimental and brave, “Heartless” proves to be the odd one out within the quintet of tracks as it boldly faces R&B trap in a manner only Denzel could pull off. That being said, the other four tracks are the main attractions on this EP, all featuring robotically industrial beats that catalyze a skittish, trance-like state. Denzel follows this motif, spilling the dark corners of his mind in a consistently catatonic state, yet never slowing down to take a breath. Plus, a Lil Ugly Mane feature never hurts when your project is eclipsed on the dormant side of your inner fears, making “Zeltron 6 Billion” an appropriate close to an almost instantaneous blip of manufactured energy. If this is any sign of what is to come, Curry’s next record will be an early contender for 2018 album of the year. –Conmaniac

6. Nine Inch Nails – Add Violence

[Official Site] // [Spotify] // [Facebook]

5. The Dear Hunter – All Is As All Should Be

[Official Site] // [Spotify] // [Facebook]

There are no more superlatives I can throw onto Casey and Co. without annoying my own self anymore. The Dear Hunter’s formula has been and continues to be impervious to today’s constantly changing trends and tastes. And while it is strange to hear the group in an EP format (it’s been 7 years since the group’s last proper EP), The Dear Hunter use the format the way it should be used: to try something out. With All Is As All Should Be, the group solicited 6 friends of the band for lyrical themes and musical vibes and wrote 6 songs based on each. It’s a novel approach for sure, and unsurprisingly, the results are exemplary. Being an EP, the opulent grandiosity that always aids the enjoyment of a Dear Hunter album is absent, but the magic is channeled with effortless ease. Everything from the ’80s influenced “Blame Paradise” to “Beyond the Pale”, which sounds like a song cut from the White EP, is realized wonderfully. Now with only the sixth and final Act remaining, is All Is As All Should Be a taste of the Dear Hunter’s future in some convoluted far-fetched way? Maybe. But personally, it really doesn’t matter — that future is as bright as ever. –Calc

4. Rina Sawayama – Rina

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A rising force in pop, Rina Sawayama’s debut is the much-obliged reprieve in a year dominated by a multitude of tensions, many of which undoubtedly affected the way our world will function for years to come. Sawayama’s Rina is shockingly sweet, indulgently nostalgic, and doubles down on glitz and glamour to compliment Sawayama’s revolving door of topics. A remarkable slice of future pop excess, “Cyber Stockholm Syndrome” convincingly proves anyone who believed pop music to be at a dead-end creatively to be wrong, portraying Sawayama in a society enamored with self-preservation, emotional refuge, and the rise of a digital world – one much like our own reality. When she isn’t digging deep for personal introspection, Sawayama knowingly crafts true blue bops that are as fun as any regular old song on the radio and as compelling as any conceptual work. For a lack of a better word, Sawayama is a pop maestro; one we never knew existed, but by god did we ever need her more than we do right now. Rife with exhilarating banger after banger, and permeated with oft-foxy and tasteful vocals amidst a futuristic sheen of synths to back the talent behind this record, Rina is the beginning of the ascension of a new pop queen to the throne, an ascension to one well deserving of the title. –Frippertronics

3. City of Caterpillar – Driving Spain up a Wall

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To even call Driving Spain Up A Wall a 2017 release feels like a misnomer. The two tracks on the EP weren’t so much released in 2017 as they were excavated from the long-eroded soil of the early 2000s and displayed as an artifact from a time that feels increasingly distant. Yet the fact that Driving Spain Up a Wall landed so high on this list (not to mention the success of their recent tours) demonstrates that City of Caterpillar’s particular blend of post-rock and emotional hardcore still resonates fifteen years after the release of their lone album. Both tracks follow a familiar trajectory — slow build that transitions from minimalist to dense, followed by an explosion of frantic hardcore — but City of Caterpillar, as they do best, make each track uniquely captivating within that framework. “Driving Spain Up A Wall” crescendos to a triumphant release before accelerating into a swift groove, while “As the Curtains Dim (Little White Lie)” is more dissonant, decrepit, and cacophonous. It remains to be seen whether City of Caterpillar’s reunion will ever result in actually new music, but if they record anything like Driving Spain Up A Wall, it will be welcomed with open arms. –hesperus

2. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell Live

[Official Site] // [Spotify] // [Label Facebook]

In 2015, Sufjan Stevens released his finest work to date and one of the best albums of the decade. Carrie & Lowell is an intimate, yet airy album with deeply personal lyrical themes. In typically unpredictable fashion, Stevens released a live performance of the album in its entirety, with some major changes. The beautiful singing of touring instrumentalist Dawn Landes elevates many of the tracks, as well as numerous instrumental touches not found on the original album. What makes Carrie & Lowell Live such an incredible experience is how the stripped down compositions are amplified in a massive way, particularly in “All of Me Wants All of You”. Coming in early in the track listing, it is the first song that blows away expectations after the quieter first three tracks (that stick more traditionally to the spirit of Carrie & Lowell). The live version of “All I Want…” builds tremendously, with a consistent electronic beat serving as the foundation while the track slowly builds as it goes along. Instrumental layers patiently intensify, with a synthesizer solo serving as the roaring crescendo of an amazing interpretation of one of the original album’s highlights. Loud moments come into play in the instrumental outro of “Drawn to the Blood” and the 13-minute coda of “Blue Bucket of Gold” as well, but Carrie & Lowell Live is rampant with dynamic changes and beautiful arrangements throughout; it holds up to the emotional resonance of Carrie & Lowell while adding more dimensions to it, being one of the greatest live albums in some time. –TalonsOfFire

1. Converge – I Can Tell You About Pain

[Official Site] // [Spotify] // [Facebook]

“I Can Tell You About Pain” is a great track. It’s Converge excelling at being Converge, balancing calculated technicality with unhinged intensity as only Converge can do. It certainly didn’t hurt the reputation of the EP that bears its name, but especially considering that it also appears on The Dusk In Us this year, I think I can safely say that it’s not the reason that EP made it to number one on this list. That honor goes to the B-side, “Eve”.

“Eve” is, simply put, the best song that Converge have recorded in over a decade. It takes cues from the most inventive moments of the band’s recent career (e.g. the maelstrom drumming of “Glacial Pace” and “All We Love We Leave Behind”, the darkly melodic choir of “Wretched World”), experiments with new tricks like a spacey guitar tone that recalls the band’s old friends Cave In, adds a heaping spoonful of Converge’s signature raw emotion, and compiles it all into a stunningly varied seven-and-a-half-minute song that shifts smoothly between starkly different tones without ever slowing down. It’s such a great song that it took that ridiculous run-on sentence to adequately describe. It’s such a great song that it made The Dusk In Us, which easily holds its own next to Axe to Fall and All We Love We Leave Behind, feel almost disappointing. It’s such a great song that it gives me hope that maybe, just maybe, Converge will one day release another masterpiece like Jane Doe — or, if “Eve” is any indication, completely unlike Jane Doe–hesperus

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Jom
01.12.18
For those of you new to the site: it's a common trope to tease posting 10-1 on Thursday but actually wait until Friday. 10-1 will go live around 5PM London time (and I have all the blurbs this time!). Also, for those of you who might be curious: this is a combination of staff plus contributor plus user votes, so be sure to spread your shit-talking around to everybody, eh?

FourthReich
01.12.18
MY WHOLE FUCKING LIFE

Frippertronics
01.12.18
AT LAST

neekafat
01.12.18
Y

Dewinged
01.12.18
My eyes... my eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeyes!!

Wait 2 is an EP?

Jom
01.12.18
Sorry, should have clarified: in the OP when ballots were submitted, we grouped EPs, live albums, and compilations together. This way, mixtapes would have fallen under this category, and this is how academy was able to ensure Charli XCX appeared somewhere in the year-end features :)

theacademy
01.12.18
;)

neekafat
01.12.18
S Q U I S H

SandwichBubble
01.12.18
Whoever did the resized album art for the Staff list needs to be brought back and paid.

SandwichBubble
01.12.18
https://imgur.com/a/THrmP

XingKing
01.12.18
This is actually a staff list I can get behind. Very nice choices.

Mort.
01.12.18
who needs conclusions bruh just stop reading lmao

PistolPete
01.12.18
A "pre-studio album hype" EP as #1....*rolls eyes* I would've expected no different though

Jom
01.12.18
Thanks for saving the day (and everyone else's pixels), SandwichBubble!

Relinquished
01.12.18
u dudes gave #1 to a single

AsleepInTheBack
01.12.18
lots of great stuff on here, and great write ups.

theacademy
01.12.18
"u dudes gave #1 to a single"

for the record anything wrong with the list is the users' and contribs' fault :DD

TalonsOfFire
01.12.18
Looks great. Really happy that I could write blurbs for two of my top favorite artists.

ianblxdsoe
01.12.18
thanks for having me!! extremely honored even though contrary to popular belief i don’t like the wonder years as much as everyone thinks lmao

ianblxdsoe
01.12.18
wish that injury reserve ep made it though :(

onionbubs
01.12.18
wish mccafferty made it

eve is the best converge song since you fail me tho so cant complain

ZombieToyDuck
01.12.18
wish mccafferty made it [2]

Vada Wave's EP and also Paul White's EP were dope too

TalonsOfFire
01.12.18
I wish Tame Impala and Ulver made it

brainmelter
01.14.18
4 is 1

Frivolous
01.14.18
4 is 1

cor22222
01.16.18
Like 8, 6 and 1 but wheres the new Perturbator?

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