Hope you’re all rested from stuffing your face with cookies and eggnog over the weekend, because it’s time to get back to JonALi’sBlog: BEST OF 2016!
Last week, I worked my way through my Top 50 Albums Of 2016 and my Top 20 Music Videos Of 2016. And now, it’s time for y’all to get into my Top 15 EP’s Of 2016. For those unfamiliar, please let me educate you: An EP (short for extended play) is a musical recording that contains more tracks than a single (typically 4-8), but is usually unqualified as an album or LP. Got that? K, so without further ado, here’s the list:
Honorable Mentions: Lola Blanc – The Magic EP, Alex Newell – Power EP, Greyson Chance – Somewhere Over My Head EP, Dagny – Ultraviolet, ALMA – Dye My Hair EP, SLO – Atone EP, VARA – Break Down The Walls EP, Chloe x Halle – Sugar Symphony, Maty Noyes – Noyes Complaint, Shift K3Y – NIT3 TALES, Elephante – I Am the Elephante, Hey Violet – Brand New Moves EP, FRANKIE – Dreamstate, Jordan Fisher – Jordan Fisher EP, Lizzo – Coconut Oil, and Grace VanderWaal – Perfectly Imperfect EP.
15. SG Lewis – Yours EP: On his second major release, young London-based producer SG Lewis takes his love for soul, spacey atmospherics and groovy four-on-the-floor drum kicks and turns up the volume a few notches. The 4-track collection is very much a tease, but without a doubt, a wonderfully impressive continuation of his immersive exploration of club-culture. Highlights: “Holding Back” (feat. Gallant) and “Meant To Be.”
14. Nikki Flores – XII XV EP: Nikki Flores may or may not be a face or name you recognize, but chances are you’ve already heard her songs. Over the past decade, the 25-year-old singer-songstress has been straight up killin’ it, having co-pennned tracks for some of music’s biggest names – including Demi Lovato (“Got Dynamite”), Christina Aguilera (“Empty Words”), Cher Lloyd (“Blind My Love”) and JoJo (“Save My Soul” and “Mad Love”) – all while still carving out her own solo musical career with a number of high quality solo tracks. Her newest output titled XII XV, is a poetic 6-track journey built around Nikki‘s full-bodied vocals, beautiful melodies and chilly future-R&B that details the heartbreak and betrayal of a failed relationship. The EP proves that Nikki is an undeniable force in her own right, a true STUNNER from start to finish! Highlights: “Say It,” “How To Love Her” and “After All.”
13. Jess Kent – My Name Is Jess Kent: This rising UK-born, Australian-raised singer-rapper-producer generated much buzz with her infectious 2015 single, “Get Down,” but it wasn’t until 2016 that she truly proved that she and her genre-blurring music matched the hype. My Name Is Jess Kent is an exciting, relevant and unhinged listen from start to finish. It’s dance. It’s electro. It’s hip-hop. It’s reggae. It’s pop. It’s a lil’ bit of everything and I am all about it. Highlights: “The Sweet Spot” and “Get Down.”
12. FLETCHER – Finding Fletcher: Anthems on anthems on anthems. For real: this is sophisticated pop at its very best: Strong songcraft, intricate production, powerful melodies and captivatingly pure vocals, from the stomping coming-of-age anthem “Princess” to the thoroughly melodic and dreamy “Over My Head” (my personal favorite) to “Live Young Die Free,” an ANTHEM of the highest order. I can’t say enough good things about the debut effort from this New Jersey-bred up-and-comer. At just 22-years-old, FLETCHER seems to know exactly the artist she wants to be and its showcased in every single one of these tracks. Highlights: “Princess,” “Over My Head” and “Wasted Youth.”
11. Rebecca & Fiona – Party Hard EP: Stunning Swedish twosome formally reintroduce themselves on Party Hard: A wonderfully strange 6-track collection of songs that are vastly more mature and experimental in production than anything we’ve heard from them before. A very promising taste of what we can expect from their upcoming third full-length. Highlights: “Shotgun,” “Drugstore Lovin‘” and “Sayonara.”
10. Bridgit Mendler – Nemesis: This past September, Bridgit returned to the music side of things with the unexpectedly fantastic “Atlantis” featuring Kaiydo. The track saw the young songstress stray far away from her giddy, pop-rock roots for a super minimal, super hazy urban-meets-indie pop vibe, thus confirming that things are going to be a bit different from now on. Different indeed, the 3-tracks accompanying “Atlantis” on Nemesis continue to unravel Bridgit‘s newfound experimental alt-pop exploration effortlessly. Finally she’s found her niche! Highlights: “Atlantis” and “Do You Miss Me At All.”
9. Charli XCX – Vroom Vroom EP: In celebration of launching her very own brand new label – Vroom Vroom Recordings, English pop queen Charli XCX presented us with her SOPHIE-produced Vroom Vroom EP. It’s her most explosive and ridiculous act or rebellion yet, that also doubles as a very satisfying teaser to her upcoming third studio album (due out in the spring of 2017). Fasten up those seat-belts, LET’S RIDE!
8. Tom Aspaul – LEFT EP: After spending the last few years working with some of JonALi’sBlog‘s favorites – Little Boots (“Working Girl”), Karen Harding (“Those Girls”), Alex Newell (“Shame”) and AlunaGeorge (“Mediator”) – this talented UK singer-songwriter properly branched out on his own in 2016 and delivered a soulful, ’90’s-nodding eclectic body of work truly deserving of praise. There’s not a single dud in this appetizer ladies and gents! Highlights: “Burnt Out” and “Never Complaining.”
7. Leo Kalyan – Outside In: On the follow-up to last year’s fantastic Silver Linings EP, London-based Leo Kalyan returns more introspective and more confident than ever before. Outside In is a breakthrough in Leo‘s skills as a songwriter, offering listeners a revealing, raw and emotional look inside his own psyche, all while supplying a substantial amount of infectious forward-thinking production value in the process. Irresistible earworm “Together” should be enough to convince you that he is worth every second of your time. Highlights: “Together,” “Silhouette” and “F****d Up.”
6. Kiiara – Low Kii Savage: Kiiara has already established herself as a certifiable pop-princess-on-the-rise over the last year thanks to her breakout hit “Gold,” which reached the Top 10 at Top 40 radio and has over 328 million streams and over 51 million video views. Low Kii Savage, her debut mini-collection – produced by Felix Snow – includes smooth and slinky cuts like her smash “Gold,” all backed by moody late night R&B beats, atmospheric electronica and soft melodic vocals recalling all sorts of Ellie Goulding, Lorde, Tove Lo, Lights, and even a bit of Selena Gomez. She may lack some “star” charm, but Kiiara let the music speak for itself in 2016 and it truly paid off – she’s got the receipts! Highlights: “Gold,” “Feels” and “Hang up tha Phone.”
5. Parson James – The Temple: It’s been almost two years since Parson James popped onto the scene with the release of his worldwide Kygo smash “Stole The Show.” Since then, our favorite big-voiced, big-hearted soul-pop sensation has built-up noteworthy praise in the popsphere thanks to his debut EP, The Temple, a wickedly powerful and sophisticated mini-collection of songs that perfectly showcase his distinctive sound of soaring gospel-pop, his empowering song-craft and wholly daring persona. It’s not everyday we get a male powerhouse like Parson, the man is destined for greatness. Start paying attention now folks! Highlights: “Temple,” “Sinner Like You” and “Waiting Game.”
4. Sinead Harnett – Sinead Harnett EP: We’ve yet to receive a full body of work from this gorgeous British songstress, but at least she’s consistent with the EP releases. On her latest self-titled output, Sinead Harnett managed to deliver a more than worthy follow-up to her critically acclaimed 2014 debut, N.O.W. This time around, the soulful diva took on a more refined and ambitious sound, enlisting Snakehips and GRADES to complement her strengths. The EP is a mini-set brimming with smooth R&B grooves, intimate electronica, and a whole lot of soul. Highlights: “If You Let Me,” “Rather Be With You” and “Say What You Mean.”
3. Sofi Tukker – Soft Animals: In a year when pop radio became increasingly defined by Justin Bieber-like dance music trends, the debut output by New York-based duo Sofi Tukker – Tucker Halpern and Sophie Hawley-Weld – was refreshing for the way it steered way left with its surprising and unexpected melting pot of influences. Soft Animals is an instantly danceable collection of exotic, jungle-pop songs with many well-executed nods towards Brazilian instruments, poets and to the national language, Portuguese. They’re pulling from all types of dance-world spectrum’s, and yet, it totally works. Their potential seems limitless, I look forward to hearing more from this oddball duo. Highlights: “Drinkee,” “Awoo” (feat. Betta Lemme) and “Hey Lion.”
2. Terror Jr – Bop City: If you’re a fan of Kiiara or Kylie Jenner, you’ve already become very familiar with this mysterious “dream pop supergroup” because of their feature in Kylie‘s Glosses video, which is soundtrack-ed by their debut single “3 Strikes” – a hypnotic, snappy Kiiara-like bop produced by Felix Snow and Campa (aka David Benjamin Singer-Vine, formerly of The Cataracs), the team behind Kiiara‘s debut Low Kii Savage. Shocker, I know. Felix and Campa are 2/3 of this project, alongside a mysterious girl named “Lisa.”
While Kylie Jenner may be their claim to fame, the intriguing group didn’t let the rumor define them. They put the music first! Further proof? Bop City: A 8-track cohesive, sparse and bouncy 22-minute trip following in the same vein as their smooth and slinky debut, designed masterfully for a sexy romp with your fu*k buddy or a windows down, volume up, sunny mid-day drive with your bestie. Highlights: “3 Strikes,” “Pray,” “Say So” and “Sugar.”
1. Carly Rae Jepsen – E•MO•TION: Side B: As we know, Carly Rae Jepsen – perhaps better known around these parts as Carly Slay Jepsen – is Queen in the art form that is ’80’s-influenced pop greatness, we know this: From the stuff included on her underrated 2012 album Kiss to anything off of her flaw-free 2015 album E•MO•TION, which scored the #1 spot on my Top 50 Albums of 2015.
She’s more than proven herself capable of supplying undeniably catchy and earnest ear-worms time and time again. We love her for it… That is why it’s no surprise that some of E•MO•TION‘s leftovers (E•MO•TION: Side B) are, magnificent and arguably even better than what made the final LP. Only a true queen would be able to release a Side B version of her already fantastic album, and still manage to remain a top contender one year later.
Carly is Queen of Everything. The End.