So before I announce the Top 5 albums in the AdemWithAnE.com Top 25 Albums of 2012 list, I thought we’d take a look at what I felt were easily the greatest Extended Play releases of the year.
A lot of albums made an impact in 2012, but it was the E.P. which really came back with a vengeance; more artists vying for the short, precise and to-the-point artform of the E.P. over full length records. People like Kate Nash, for example, delivered solid extended play’s in 2012 but in a year when the EP has obviously made an enormous comeback, there wasn’t room for solid – only spectacular. So here are the five most spectacular Extended Players of 2012.
Better luck next year, Havana Brown.
01. KATY B “Danger”
British choralist Katy B’s 2011 debut album “On A Mission” harboured a few instant hits but was, primarily, a bit of a mixed bag. Although it still remains a decent listen there are a number of turkeys that can’t be avoided, let alone excused. But with the emergence of 2012’s stunning “Danger E.P.” (an E.P. that is – quite extraordinarily – still being offered as a free download via B’s website), Katy has not only teamed up with some of the hottest producers and vocalists the world has to offer for this four-track masterpiece, she’s also managed to retain 100% of herself and her own musical agenda – everything from the razor-sharp lyrics to the way Katy shoehorns this total dub throwback to the 1990’s and manages to also interweave that into the sounds of her guest producers.
Opening track “Aaliyah” plays as a tribute to the work of the late pop star, whilst a hypnotic club-house beat that’s been lifted right out of 1991 thumps along in the background. Jessie Ware takes on the role as guest vocalist on “Aaliyah” as well, a song which pays more homage to the singer via lyrics than it actually does via its production. Aaliyah never sounded this rooted into the world of house and Timbaland – the late singer’s original producer – hasn’t sounded this fresh or relevant in well over four years.
“Got Paid’ sees B teaming up with Wiley and Zinc for a clusterfuck of drum ‘n bass beats and dubstep tidings. To call this the E.P’s only low-point is somewhat insulting to the song itself – the worst song on “Danger” still remains better and contains more creativitey than a number of people’s feature-length albums in 2012. Australia’s own Iggy Azalea takes a rap feature on the Diplo produced “Light As A Feather”, marrying Diplo’s signature clunky-synths and basslines with Katy’s smooth-as-silk voice. Iggy’s rap is inspired and perhaps the least offensive of all of her work – there’s this maddening blend of Ke$ha’s white-girl-trash-rap and Azealia Banks’ hard-hitting, sailor-mouthed potty-storm that really make the song a highlight, but – once again – it’s Katy B herself who takes ownership of the songs greatest moments.
Production appears from Jacques Green on E.P. closer and title track “Danger”, which is by far the most “On A Mission” sounding track here. Thick percussion over a very slow-paced synth, with Katy singing “Yeah you passed my love to the left-hand side – smoked it right down to the roach, so I might as well put it out.” This dark-bass ballad caps off this beautiful E.P. nicely, keeping her old sound in-check but also making sure she’s taking a few steps into the future.
As a whole, “Danger” is a prime example that not only has Katy sharpened her wits since the last time we saw her, she is also now ready to play ball.
02. FLORRIE “Late”
British dominance in the Top 2 – would you expect any less?
The Brits do pop better than most and Florrie, who just so happens to be Xenomania’s in-house drummer and fellow songwriter, delivered the cream in 2012 with her third Extended Play release, “Late.” Easily the best of her three packaged releases, this Xenomania produced romp into pop perfection remains one of the year’s biggest hallmarks.
Opening track “Shot You Down” is nothing short of a revelation, with its psychotically repetitive hook over one of the strongest, most exciting musical build-ups of 2012. The sheer disco-rave brilliance of “Every Inch” – complete with one of the most deceiving and simultaneously rewarding intros of the year – and career hallmark “To The End” (co-written alongside Xenomania and Norway’s Annie), the latter which takes Florrie into a league of pop legend and is probably one of the Top 5 Songs of the Year. The “Late” EP is evidence enough that whilst Girls Aloud have been on hiatus, Xenomania have been crafting their finest with this incredible one-woman show.
Surely 2013 is the year of The Florrie Debut Album™, amirite or am I right?
03. SOLANGE KNOWLES “True”
Remember when I met Solange at Summadayze a few years ago, and I was so drunk that I said “Hello Sunlounge” but it was so loud with the DJ playing before her screaming over the festival PA system that “Beyonce from DESTINY’S CHILD’s sister is DJing up next!!!!” that she couldn’t hear me? Needless to say, I got my photo (thank you) and about ten minutes later, Solange got moved to another stage. I’ll let you fill in the gaps.
Sunlounge Knowles, sister to Beyonce but let’s not mention that ever, surprised us all during the tail-end of 2012 with this magnificent extended-play venture. It’s hard to narrow down ‘the best moments’ from something as blissful as this, but you really can’t go past first single, the haunting “Losing You”, a song that not only snatches Beyonce’s over-bleached skin-weave but then goes to use the CD inlays from unsold copies of “4” to wipe the floor with. “Some Things Never Seem To Fucking Work” is a more aware mid-to-late 1980′s Clive Davis dream – and that middle-8! That rap! “Locked In Closets” seems to be an incredibly classy way of bringing soul and melody back to urban-pop – this is some Montell realness right here.
“Lovers In The Parking Lot” is almost completely amazing and is only let down by its distractingly repetitive chorus, but all is forgiven pretty quickly with the mind-blowing triple-threat finale of “Don’t Let Me Down”, “Look Good With Trouble” and the ‘Verdine Version’ of “Bad Girls”, which just so happens to be the sexiest Solange has sounded on record.
The E.P. is a sign of things to come and was produced by Dev Hynes, who is currently working with Solange on her upcoming feature-length album, due later this year.
04. PURPLE CRUSH “MadonnaWannabe”
LA’s Purple Crush are one of America’s best kept secrets. Independent Pop at its finest, it was hard work trying to decide which of their two E.P. releases in 2012 was actually the best. Their most recent, the “Bitch EP”, remains a highlight and consistent go-to on the iPod, but it was the MadonnaWannabe project which was dearest to my heart.
The project that saw the duo not only take on some of Madonna’s most loved songs (“Physical Attraction”, “Live To Tell”), but also produce two original songs: the EP’s title track “MadonnaWannabe” and the incredibly popular “Reductive (Look It Up)”, which samples that infamous Madonna interview. The great thing about “Reductive” is how much of a banging club tune it is. You could (and people have, trust me) play that to a packed nightclub (you’ll probably get an even better reaction if it’s a nightclub full of gays) and have everybody pulling shapes in no time.
Independent pop like Purple Crush are, often at times, exactly the kind of acts where Commercial pop borrow ideas from. This brilliant duo are just as exciting live as they are on disc; so do a bit of YouTubing and let’s hope we get them out here soon for an Australian Tour.
05. AZEALIA BANKS “1991”
There’s been an interesting backlash with Azealia. A lot of people I’ve spoken to loved “212″ but seem to have gotten lost with the rest of this EP and the subsequent mixtape that followed, the incredible “Fantasea.” After the enormous success of last year’s “212”, Banks came at 2012 in full force with not only that free mixtape, but also this confronting and 1990’s jack-housing EP.
Hearing Azealia say “I’ma ruin you, cunt” in “212” remains one of the best moments in pop of all time, as is hearing Banks name-drop Madonna very cleverly in the funky-as-hell title track “1991.” “Van Vogue” sounds like Azealia teaming up Technasia (an amazing Techno duo hailing from Hong Kong and France that I’ve been following since I was a teenager – they’re very, very bloody good), and the bonkers “Liquorice” seems to live in the same Techno-ballpark, proving that gurlfriend has well and truly been doing her homework.
All of these acts, songwriters and producers that have been borrowing from 1990′s dance, club and rave music over the last two years haven’t quite nailed the old-school definition of Tech-House or Techno quite the way Banks has. But not only has she done that she’s also delivered something extremely fresh to lay on the table. This is, to me, what Azealia represents with her 1990′s throwbacks. She’s a little bit New York House, she’s a lot Detroit Techno, but she’s also a foul-mouthed city girl with a razor-sharp tongue, cutthroat talent as a rapper and the owner of a recordable set of pipes.
What Azealia does with her sound is that she finds this incredibly happy medium where the world of Techno from Yesteryear can flourish amongst urban-stylings and rap-culture of today. What Azealia does with her sound – at least for now – is perhaps where a lot of us thought Nicki Minaj was headed for around the “Monster”-verse era. Don’t get me wrong – I am here for Nicki, I’m just also very happy that somebody like Azealia has finally joined this crazy game of chess we call the Pop Charts, because 2012 would not be the same without the musical peaks she’s bestowed upon us.