Entertainment,  Reviews

Jon ALi Presents: The Top 20 EP’s of 2015

Ladies and gents, we have (almost) reached the end of 2015!

If your year was anything like mine, than it was amazing, terrifying, life-changing, sexual, and very E•MO•TIONal. Being a 25-year-old gay man living in New York City is no easy task y’all, but like a certain elusive chanteuse, I’ve manged to make it through the rain… Anyway!!!

We’re not here to talk about mi vida, we’re here to talk music in 2015! First up, I’m counting down my favorite EP’s of the year. So, without further ado, here’s the list:

Honorable Mentions: Mathieu BlueHere, Duke DumountBlase Boys Club, ShuraWhite Light, MKTOBad Girls, VeriteSentiment, Jimmy NapesThe Making of Me, Kita AlexanderLike You Want To, Alina BarazUrban Flora, SLOSLO, ElliphantOne More, and ChainsmokersBouquet.

20. RØMANSOverthinking, Pt.1. After spending the last year working with some of today’s biggest music acts – From Disclosure, Mary J. Blige, John Legend, Naughty Boy, AlunaGeorge and many more – this rising multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter and producer finally broke free on his own an delivered a soulful and eclectic body of work truly deserving of praise. I can’t wait to hear what RØMANS does next!

BUY RØMANS’ Overthinking, Pt.1 EP on iTunes now!

19. ASTRHomecoming. With their 2015 output, two-person constellation – Zoe Anna on vocals and Adam Pallin handling production – delivered six immensely addictive electo-pop gems, all of them excellent in their own way. Everything from the soldiering midtempo anthem “Get So High” to the chic house pulsations of “Activate Me” to the hypnotic “Bleeding Love” to the atmospheric feel of the brooding “Invincible” plays like a complete soundtrack to a epic, hazy daydream of forgotten memories. It’s simply fantastic!

BUY ASTR’s Homecoming EP on iTunes now!

18. Francesco YatesFrancesco Yates. This adorable 20-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter stole my heart ever since he dropped “Call” back in 2014, and he only continued to do so throughout 2015 with his fantastic self-titled debut – a refreshingly mature and sophisticated collection of songs that effortlessly infused elements of funk, disco and contemporary R&B with Francesco‘s full-bodied vocal skills. The boy is simply packed with talent, I can’t get enough.

BUY Francesco Yates’ debut self-titled Francesco Yates EP on iTunes now!

17. GraceMemo. I got the chance to see this talented 18-year-old songstress, who’s originally from Brisbane, earlier this year at a private showcase in Webster Hall’s The Studio. I hadn’t heard a thing about her up until that point, so I wasn’t really expecting to be blown away… but there I was, indeed, blown away. With her debut EP, Memo, Grace tackles the expected topics of love and loss but she does it with a ease and a sense of maturity that is way beyond her years. This is non-forced, classic soul with some fresh pop sensibility – MAJOR WIN!

BUY Grace’s debut Memo EP on iTunes now!

16. Brayton BowmanHere Now/The Update EP. It’s genuinely hard to really define this Philadelphia-bred, NYC-based singer-songwriter’s sound: It’s an eclectic-but-seamless mix of electronica, disco, bits of House, R&B and pop that thoroughly feels fresh. Currently unsigned, Brayton managed to release not one, but two outstanding EP’s this year with February’s Here Now and August’s The Update. Pay attention labels – BRAYTON IS IT!

BUY Brayton Bowman’s Here Now EP and The Update EP on iTunes now!

15. Bonnie McKeeBombastic. Time and time again, she’s proven herself to be one of the best songwriters in the game. And this year, Bonnie made her grand return to the pop star side of things with the release of her very own stellar 4-track EP, Bombastic!

The collection, produced by Sean Walsh, is the very essence of pop at its finest: Strong songcraft, powerful melodies and infectious vocals, from the sexy hard-edged, electro stomper “I Want It All” to the thoroughly brilliant title track “Bombastic” to the nostalgic, 80’s synth-soaked “Wasted Youth,” which basically plays out like the sophisticated older sister to her very own “Teenage Dream.” Bonnie just gets it – WIN!

BUY Bonnie McKee’s brand new Bombastic EP on iTunes now!

14. AnnieEndless Vacation. Without warning, Underrated Norwegian Queen Annie graciously returned to us in 2015 with one of the year’s best pop releases, a 4-track EP of Richard X-produced perfections, titled Endless Vacation. If the names Richard X and Annie do nothing to sell you on this special pop creation then just have a look at the album artwork. I mean, it doesn’t get any better than that. ANNIE IS ALWAYS A WIN.

BUY Annie’s Endless Vacation EP on iTunes now!

13. Bebe RexhaI Don’t Wanna Grow Up. She may not be a household name yet, but chances are you’ve already heard Bebe‘s hit songs. The talented 25-year-old singer-songwriter has been straight up killin’ it for years, and in 2015, she truly came through with her debut EP, I Don’t Wanna Grow Up. The 5-track set is an excellent piece of work, from the brooding synth-soaked title track “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up” to the thoroughly major “I’m Gonna Show You Crazy” to her explosive lead single “I Can’t Stop Drinking About You.” Bebe is the real deal.

BUY Bebe Rexha’s debut I Don’t Wanna Grow Up EP on iTunes now!

12. DNCESWAAY. DNCE, the brand new dance-pop foursome – fronted by actor/singer/former Jonas Brother/DJ/fashionisto/professional heartthrob Joe Jonas – could’ve turned out to be a total disaster, but it turns out that this former JoBro has finally found his true niche. SWAAY — from the chic club pulsations of “Pay My Rent” to the strutting, hand-clapping funkiness of “Toothbrush” to the warm synth pulsations of the dreamy and romantic “Jinx” — played like a complete soundtrack for the end of summer and I was instantly hooked.

Bring on the album!

BUY DNCE’s debut SWAAY EP featuring “Cake By The Ocean” on iTunes now!

11. Aaron PfeifferNightcall. Aaron Pfeiffer, a name you’ll want to keep your eye on as we move into 2016, confidently cemented his sound in 2015 with his debut EP, Nightcall, after spending the last 4 years hustling hard, writing and performing all over New York City. The 3-track set, crafted alongside Los Angeles-based producers Justin Portis and Eric Denniston, is the perfect introduction to Aaron‘s genuinely soulful chops.

BUY Aaron Pfeiffer’s debut Nightcall EP on iTunes now!

10. Hailee SteinfeldHAIZ. The 18-year-old actress-turned-singer got us all grooving in the latter half of summer with her self-empowerment smash “Love Myself,” which was later followed by her accompanying debut HAIZ EP – a perfectly listenable, age-appropriate collection of pop that neither breaks boundaries nor plays it too safe, allowing Hailee to flaunt her versatility as a new pop starlet. I look forward to a proper full-length debut LP in 2016 from Princess Hailee.

BUY Hailee Steinfeld’s debut Haiz EP on iTunes now!

9. DayaDaya. Earlier this year, I called this self-titled debut The Most Impressive EP By A Rising (16-Year-Old) Pop Star You All NEED To Hear, and I completely stand by that statement. At just 16-years-old, Daya seems to know exactly the artist she wants to be and its showcased in every single one of these tracks – from the stomping kiss-off anthem “Thirsty” to the thoroughly dreamy “U12” (my personal favorite) to “Back To Me,” a gorgeous piano-driven ballad. I can’t say enough good things about Daya, she’s here to stay.

BUY Daya’s self-titled debut EP on iTunes now!

8. MNEKSmall Talk. My favorite British belter, MNEK is not only a massively talented writer and producer, he also happens to be an insanely talented/underrated solo superstar. Therefore it should come to no surprise that his long-awaited debut, the Small Talk EP, turned out to be a killer package with several addictive choooonn’s of his very own. The whole set is bursting with MNEK‘s ability to effortlessly integrate his soulful voice into forward-thinking, genre-bending productions – He is simply outstanding. Win! WIN! W I N!

BUY MNEK’s debut Small Talk EP on iTunes now!

7. Allie XCollXtion I. It’s been just about over a year since Allie X popped onto the scene with the release of her stellar singles “Catch,” “Prime” and “Bitch“. Since then, the Toronto-born songstress has built-up noteworthy praise in the blogosphere thanks to her debut EP, CollXtion I, a sleek and sophisticated CollXtion of songs that perfectly showcase her distinctive sound of electro-driven dream-pop, her provocative song-craft and wholly original persona. It’s not everyday we get a visionary like Allie X, I look forward to more and more.

BUY Allie X’s debut EP, CollXtion I (Deluxe Version) on iTunes now!

6. Zara LarssonUncover. After years of conquering the charts in Sweden, my favorite little diva to emerge from Scandinavia, Zara Larsson, finally made her U.S mark in 2015 with the stateside release of her debut EP, Uncover! The 6-track set comes packed with newly re-worked versions of a bunch of her smashes, all of which just happen to be my favorite Zara cuts – from the feel-good, ’80’s-inspired “Wanna Be Your Baby” to the Rihanna-esque R&B-flavored “Never Gonna Die” to the insanely catchy “Rooftop.” Zara has all the potential, and with Uncover she more than proves why she deserves to be a member of the elite Swedish pop stars we have all come to revere. LOOK OUT 2016!!

BUY Zara Larsson’s debut U.S. EP Uncover on iTunes NOW!

5. Grace MitchellRaceday. Just one year after breaking out with her shining 2014 debut Design, Grace Mitchell came running back strong with a major label debut and 5 more fantastic pop gems on her impressive Raceday EP. It served as a superb reintroduction and assured collection of songs that took us deeper into the world of the rising songstress, all while proving that she has much more to offer than initially showcased.

BUY Grace Mitchell’s Raceday EP on iTunes now!

4. LauvLost In The Light. Ari Leff aka Lauv may not have made the biggest noise this year but he certainly captured my attention. His debut Lost In The Light EP, which dropped in September, is an impressive and poetic collection of electro-pop numbers full of introspective feelings and soaring pop melodies, with a surprising sleek sophistication well beyond his years. Mind you, he also wrote and produced all the songs himself with the exception of standouts “The Other” and “Reforget,” which were both co-written by Michael Matosic.

GET FAMILIAR – Lauv is destined for big things!

BUY Lauv’s debut Lost In The Light EP on iTunes now!

3. KelelaHallucinogen. After amassing her self-released 2013 debut mixtape, Cut 4 Me, as well as gaining much praise, Kelela finally proved she had much more up her sleeve with the release of Hallucinogen – a savvy, self-assured, and sensual body of work from an artist that is clearly taking her time to develop her identity and sound. Though she proudly wears her influences—Janet Jackson, Aaliyah, The Weeknd, FKA Twigs—on her sleeve, Kelela‘s many strengths outweigh any possible charges of imitation, and her willingness to experiment, make unexpected choices, and take risks is what truly makes her standout amongst the rest.

BUY Kelela’s Hallucinogen EP on iTunes now!

2. Kylie MinogueKylie + Garibay. The second collaborative output with dance producer Fernando Garibay proved to be another winner for our beloved Aussie Queen, Kylie Minogue. This time around, the new material was a bit more carefree and attainable, sitting comfortably in between the futuristic electro-pop vibes of their previous set and the more mainstream stuff of Kylie‘s signature sound, providing the perfect new additions to her ever-growing flawless catalog. Kylie just gets it (always).

Kylie Minogue and Fernando Garibay’s Kylie + Garibay EP on iTunes now!

1. ZHUGenesis Series. After over a year of relative silence, this mysterious producer returned at last with his best work yet, The Genesis Series. Featuring thrilling collaborations with the likes of AlunaGeorge (“Automatic“), A-Trak (“As Crazy As It Is“), Gallant (“Testarossa Music“), Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (“Hold Up, Wait A Minute“), Daniel Johns (“Modern Conversation“) and many more, the set came packed with fantastic and innovative club bangers designed masterfully for windows down, volume up, late-night drives and after hours dancefloors. It’s pulling from all types of dance-world spectrum’s but together, it totally works. Forever impressed.

BUY ZHU’s Genesis Series EP on iTunes now!


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