The 100 Best EPs of All Time
October 19, 2018 | by No Recess! Staff
Albums are too damn long, and they keep getting longer. The ability to cherry-pick favorites, which became easier with CDs and then too easy with iTunes and streaming, has turned the focus away from quality control and towards cramming as much work as possible into a record. What used to be called a double album is now the norm.
The EP is undervalued. Concise and stripped-down, it’s a format that knows its limitations, there for new artists who want to experiment and get themselves out there, and for established acts to release leftover material. EPs were at their best in the late ‘70s to early ‘90s, peak eras for punk and alternative rock, when anybody could pick up a guitar but most only had the patience for a few songs. It was a good time, and for some acts, it’s never gone away.
So here are NO RECESS’ 100 favorite EPs of all time, honoring a fast, short, and pure type of record that deserves more respect. Give them all a listen. It won’t take too long. – Melody Danielle Rice
User Guide: Click on album images to open a new window and listen.
100. s/s/s, Beak & Claw (Anticon, 2012)
On this impossibly beautiful mystery text, three gifted semi-stars definable by their relative introversion find untold joys in community. This suits the ostensible concept, a series of scenes reminding us that before America went full dystopia, the strictures and expectations the recession dismantled led to a period of pink-cloud hope for a wave of millennials and their wide-open minds. The music sounds like the waking dream the best of those times felt like, and the allusive lyrics attain the scope of a movie — and with room for a bonus, “Octomom,” in which a tabloid target is transformed into an empathy lesson. – Ryan Maffei
99. Drake, So Far Gone (OVO, 2009)
On the most influential rap EP of the last 10 years, a pair of unknown, former child actors in Toronto stirred up their feelings with some icy synths and spare 808s to cook up a sound that defined a generation. Drake and 40’s luxurious, 300-thread count performative sorrow immediately stood them apart from the rigid mainstream rap world of the time. Of course, better days were ahead (really, only half of these songs are keepers), but there’s only one chance to make a first impression. And So Far Gone left a hell of an imprint. – Dan Alvarez
98. The Paranoid Style, Rock and Roll Just Can’t Recall (Battle Worldwide, 2015) Their 2016 full-length debut Rolling Disclosure is a must-listen, but these lobbyists/critics-turned-garage-rockers work best in the EP format, because when humanity is totally fucked — as husband-wife duo Elizabeth Nelson and Timothy Bracy clearly believe we are — why bother lengthening anything? This is their best work thus far, politically savvy enough to be cynical, optimistic enough to believe their audience can keep up with them, and with tunes like these, it’s worth trying. They recently re-released it with three new songs, ‘cause they have more great songs than they know what to do with. – Melody Danielle Rice
97. Wussy, Duo (Shake It, 2014)
As they near veteranhood — a mantle ex-Ass Pony Chuck Cleaver started this group wearing ironically — Wussy may have felt a few zephyrs of the respect they’ve spent so long earning. But they also still face a destiny as rock ‘n’ roll’s (these days we don’t need guitars like we once did) best best-kept secret. Here, the three musicians who round out their thunderous sound step aside and let the songwriters do their thing, and it’s the usual disarming monsoon of bitter tears, magic words, and beyond-belief chemistry. – Ryan Maffei
96. Tool, Opiate (Zoo Entertainment, 1992)
Preceding Tool's first full-length release, Opiate is pure, raw power and absent of opuses — and the title a nod to Karl Marx's "religions ... is the opiate of the masses." These guys weren't to big on religion and many of these tracks feel just as relevant today. – Jocelyn Hoppa
95. Dum Dum Girls, He Gets Me High (Sub Pop, 2011)
Giddy rock ‘n' roll leather jacket love songs, especially the shockingly great Smiths cover. Dee Dee's harmonies feel born of supernatural passion and late night drives on foggy nights. – C.M. Crockford
94. Slayer, Haunting the Chapel (Metal Blade, 1984)
Slayer’s been cranking out breakneck thrash longer than I’ve been breathing, but what’s most impressive about going back to their hastily produced second project is how fully-formed they arrived. Aside from the production (the phrase, “recorded on a toaster” comes to mind), it’s tough to argue the disc’s four tempestuous tracks would sound out of place on any of the legendary LPs that followed thereafter. It’s no surprise that these tracks continue to pop up on their set lists more than 30 years down the road. – Dan Alvarez
93. Neko Case, Canadian Amp (Lady Pilot, 2001)
Over a decade before she took a torch to the gender binary with “Man,” country’s least compromising siren was turning a no-BS eye to the often too-real war between the sexes with dagger-like incisiveness. Nominally a celebration of Canadian songwriters, it’s not always an indictment or subversion of the male mess — she makes time to hail Neil Young and Hank Williams as brothers. But by the time she gets to poor Ellen Smith’s fate, you know she’s making no bones about the full, bloody potential of patriarchal cruelty — and you’re increasingly concerned what fully appropriate revenge she might be cooking up. – Ryan Maffei
92. Modern Baseball, Mobo Presents: The Perfect Cast EP (Lame-O, 2015) Don’t let the goofy name* or the sprightly pop-punk melodies fool you, few groups have written more incisively about mental health in recent years than the Philly foursome. This six-track project sees twin frontmen Brendan Lukens and Jake Ewald explore loss, depression, friendship, and addiction with honesty and empathy that belies their years. On leadoff track “The Waterboy Returns,” Lukens expresses concern about a drifting friend with a care and generosity that is hard to find and indicative of why their music has meant so much to so many people. – Dan Alvarez
*The album title is a literal “Goofy Movie” reference