2012 has been a good year for music. I know I found some songs and albums that will be with me for years. More importantly, however, I discovered some young artists whose careers I will follow. A lot of these EPs and mixtapes are debuts for artists. These are, perhaps, the first glances at the future of music. Check it out.
Hit continue reading to see the lists and hear a sample from each EP and mixtape.
Best EPs of 2012:
5. Terence Ryan, Skeleton
Terence Ryan is the definition of talent. I mean, all of his material is written, recorded, produced, and engineered himself. While this DIY attitude may not be so incredible in this growing climate of indie artists, the quality of his music is. His debut Skeleton EP was released in January, so it’s pretty remarkable it has stuck with us through the plethora of good music this year. The seven songs featured in the EP contain a unified, unique style and point-of-view, which is exceptional for a young artist. Let it be clear: this isn’t party music. This is food for thought music that tries to answer the question: how does it feel to lose everything?
4. The Griswolds, Heart of a Lion
Lately, I’ve been re-watching Freaks and Geeks, and for some reason, I can see Heart of the Lion soundtracking moments of that show (especially “Red Tuxedo”). Maybe it’s because the two are similar—lighthearted and fun one second and sweet and poignant the next. So, um, in conclusion, you should watch Freaks and Geeks on Netflix, while listening to this EP.
3. Hoodie Allen, All American
This year Hoodie Allen made a statement with All American. A completely independent artist making the Top 10 in the Billboard charts is pretty much unheard of. This impressive feat gained Hoodie a mob of new fans and made his job of interacting with them through social media a bit more challenging. But Hoodie’s dedication paid off, and All American truly is one of the most fun listens of the year. If I had a dime for all the times my friends and I made a memory with All American in background, I’d have $1.10 (at least!).
2. The Neighbourhood, I’m Sorry…
The Neighbourhood really owned 2012. Not only did they storm onto the scene with two of our favorite singles in recent memory (“Female Robbery” and “Sweater Weather”), they crafted one of the darkest, moodiest, tragically beautiful EPs of the year. The newly formed band was not satisfied riding the wave of their two singles. Instead, they created three great in-between pieces that moved I’m Sorry… from an average work to a cohesive project, and we love them for it. Look for a big 2013 from these guys.
1. Mikey Mike, Chainsaw Love
“Look I’m clearly not the most articulate person in the world. Let’s be honest you are a terrible listener, but I think you’re fucking crazy and I like the shit out of you” is the first thing Mikey Mike says at the end of the first song of his debut EP and kind of sums up the whole thing right there. Chainsaw Love is the most raw and honest depiction of a relationship gone wrong all year. It’s self-aware and clever and a really brave thing to release for all the world to hear. After producing a song (“Jump”) on Rihanna’s new album Unapologetic, expect big things in the future from Mikey Mike.
Honorable Mentions: ANTHM, Haim, Leonard Friend, T0W3RS, Ludovin, Ghost Beach
Best Mixtapes of 2012:
5. Rockie Fresh, Driving 88
Rockie Fresh won me over this year with Driving 88. It samples some of my favorite things: Back to the Future, SBTRKT, and Oliver Tank. Do you know who else liked this mixtape? Rick Ross. He recently signed Rockie to his MMG imprint, so there’s that, too.
4. Childish Gambino, R O Y A L T Y
Childish Gambino’s commercial debut Camp created a divide in his fan base with some fans loving it and others hating the serious tone, saying Gambino should stop trying to be a relevant rapper and instead make fun songs like those on last year’s EP. Focusing on that criticism, Donald took to hip-hop’s biggest radio stations and dropped bars, really trying to prove his dedication to the art. With Royalty, Childish got some of rap’s biggest names to come through with verses and for the most part, held his own with them. People also can’t forget the solo tracks (“We Ain’t Them” and “Shoulda Known,” especially) were some of the best rap songs of the year.
3. Shadows on Stars, Shadows on Stars
With their self-titled debut, Shadows on Stars created something so perfect and unique you can’t help but wonder how they did it. Who influenced this? This is a mesh of genres and attitudes that make a cohesive project. Oh, and you know that annoying, unforgivable thing bloggers do where they say projects “grow” on you, and you’re like “What does that mean? Be more specific. Do I just force myself to listen to this horrible mess until it one day makes sense to me?” Um, while this by no means is a horrible mess, it kind of does grow on you. I find myself liking more and more everyday.
2. Dylan Owen, Keep Your Friends Close
I don’t think there’s a mixtape (well really, it’s an extra long EP) in recent history that I could relate to more than Dylan Owen’s Keep Your Friends Close. I download A LOT of music, so occasionally gems get lost in the mix. That said I do make an effort to keep my favorites in rotation, so every month or so I blast KYFC. Every time I do this, I find something new to like about it, whether that’s a clever line or the whole spoken part at the end of “Ithaca Is Gorgeous.” This tape was especially helpful as I transitioned into college. It taught me to keep my friends close even though it’s hard when they’re far away.
1. Chance The Rapper, #10Day
On “22 Offs” Chance uses the “off” sound 22 (actually it’s a few more than that) times. During these 20-something times, Chance explains how he got his #10Day suspension. This is probably the best example of why Chance is one of my favorite rappers out right now. His style of rap that heavily relies on assonance seems like a rap technical challenge, but his verses are also loaded with meaning. He seems to focus on both storytelling and flow, which is crucial for a young rapper (Also, his unique voice doesn’t hurt). I don’t think I’m anticipating a project more than next year’s Acid Rap. In the meantime, I’m keeping #10Day in rotation.
Honorable Mentions: Loui The ZU, Logic, G-Eazy, Bastille, Dieter Schaaf, Kids These Days