Sometimes a rough span of 20 minutes can shift a listener’s outlook on music; sometimes artistry is best expressed in abbreviation. Whether their desire to create is rooted in activism, passion, or an even greater concept, five noteworthy artists communicated memorable statements through the EP’s they released. Here are the Top 5 EP’s of 2020 as decided by the Caliber TV Staff and Discord Server.
HONARABLE MENTION: AVOID – ‘The Burner’
“If you remember the statement circulating metalcore Twitter, then you know AVOID kicks ass; if you don’t, give ‘The Burner’ a listen. “Flashbang!” begins with a recording of the band introducing one of their live performances and explodes into beatdown drum patterns, aggressive screams, and a tone that exaggerates the song’s power. Futuristic synths, obvious hooks, and a bridge that throws a curveball of sonic juxtaposition make “Song About James” the most memorable track on ‘The Burner’. AVOID channels an aura of craziness and intensity into their music with precision and purpose— and more importantly— without making it trite.
5. System Of A Down – ‘Protect The Land / Genocidal Humanoidz’
Something monumental for heavy music occurred when Armenian-American nu-metal outfit System Of A Down reunited in the name of selfless activism. ‘Protect The Land / Genocidal Humanoidz’ creates a discourse on the escalation of Nagorno-Karabakh, or Artsakh’s, territorial dispute tragically overlooked by many sources of media. Sparking nostalgia with the band’s trademark sound, “Protect The Land” questions how anyone can stand their ground in the face of perpetrators when humankind binds itself to comfort, as “Genocidal Humanoidz” calls listeners to awareness, vehemently declaring the Armenian people’s refusal to surrender their fight.
4. Dead Lakes – ‘New Language’
Discovery, introspection, and dissolution empower the themes resonating throughout ‘New Language’’s ambient soundscape. Something indescribable about the delicate balance of somberness and passion in Sumner Peterson’s voice and Dead Lakes’ genre fluidity demonstrate the band’s importance in revitalising the new generation of post-hardcore.
Songwriter and producer Erik Ron lends his signature skillset to embellish the EP’s undeniable standout tracks and best-written choruses, “Paradise” and “SMS Happiness”. The former burns with sentiment; it’s not just about knowing where the hooks are, and ‘New Language’ creates depths as it progresses. “SMS Happiness”’ and “New Language”’s respective lyrical deliberations are equally mature as they are genuine, extending relatability to listeners with honest reflection and portrayal of self. Assuming the future of alternative music will flourish under innovation, Dead Lakes rightfully claim a place at its forefront.
3. Eskimo Callboy – ‘MMXX’
To German metalcore outfit Eskimo Callboy, having fun without reservation resides in the fundaments of their creativity. Tracing back to the band’s roots, ‘MMXX’ takes an unconventional, extravagant, and electronically-charged approach to embodying their core values. “Hypa Hypa” brings an ode to the 80’s metalcore disco anthem that dubbed itself Song of the Summer for many upon release, while catchy synths fuel “Hate/Love”’s wavering emotion and “MC Thunder II” slams its danceable and stomping instrumental cadence in listeners’ faces. Overall, ‘MMXX’ is humorous, peculiar, heavy, and the culprit for anyone who can’t stop dancing like a ninja.
2. Outline In Color – ‘Imposter Syndrome’
Outline In Color prove their ability to weave a patchwork of dark pop, R&B, and hard-hitting rock on ‘Imposter Syndrome’— an EP that deliberately shape shifts the band’s sound as it runs its course. Ambient opener “Breaking The Silence” reels listeners in and leads into “Alibi”, the song that starts off small and ascends to a chorus backed by a subtly regal choir. Rock anthem “Punishment” is arguably where ‘Imposter Syndrome’ reaches its climax, with RIVALS vocalist Kalie Wolfe lending her voice to furnish the song’s bilateral perspective. After a listen, it’s evident Outline In Color have matured their sound and discovered their sound is best represented through versatility.
1. NOT A TOY – ‘NOT A TOY’
The alternative music industry has been in dire need of a revolution for a long time, and using creation as a playground seems like a pompous move for a new act in the genre. For Denver quartet, NOT A TOY, transforming how listeners perceive a musical project is one part of their vastly extensive muse. NOT A TOY’s desire to redefine artistry yield the band’s respectively self-titled EP, a body of work that’s idiosyncratic down to its core.
‘NOT A TOY’ is an indescribable cocktail of sound— the guitar on “J Cash” assumes a country twang complemented by underlying enormous dark synths, ballad “Watch Me” fuses dark pop with indie rock, and a soft-spoken cadence carried throughout the EP attests to the fact there’s just as much substance as there is experimentation. Lyrics like “if we talked about our feelings and never bottled it in, I would never write a song, just read my journal and cringe” off “Quit Quitting” make it clear how passion is deeply anchored in the heart of the band’s music.
The sheer lack of confinement to one genre or specific sound on NOT A TOY provides optimistic foresight into the future of music, triggering speculation that maybe constraints will finally be broken, maybe listeners will start taking music for what it is, and maybe artists and listeners alike will embrace creativity and presentation in tandem as a more abstracted concept. The best EP of 2020’s message is clear: do whatever you want, and do it with confidence.