The 36 Best EPs of 2023

The Best EPs of 2023!
The Best EPs of 2023!
Aphex Twin Arcy Drive ash tuesday Berlioz Boyish Charli Adams d4vd Dweller Eden Rain Elif Dame eundohee Girl Scout Iration Jasmine Jethwa Jlin Jo Hill JPEGMAFIA Danny Brown Juice Kelsea Ballerini Marc Segui Matilda Mann milk. Palace Pearl Rebecca Lappa Roseburg Royel Otis Scowl Sofia Machray Spiritbox Turnstile Victoria Bigelow WOODZ YONAKA YUKIKA Zach Bryan

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From all of us here at Atwood Magazine, we wish you a happy and healthy new year!

2023 has been an inspiring year for music. Living legends have further solidified their legacies, whilst fresh faces have become new favorites.

Atwood Magazine has always had at its core the mission to celebrate music of all genres, and this year we continued our goal to be a space of inclusivity and representation by consciously highlighting art and artists from around the world. The year in music was made all the more exciting because of the broad range of music we featured and focused on – from those familiar names in the Top 40, to creatives in the most underground, indie, and alternative of circles.

For so many of these artists, music is more than a mere means of self-expression; it is a vessel full of awesome potential. In recent years, it has felt increasingly important to acknowledge and elevate those who use their art as a voice for the disenfranchised; the oppressed; the underrepresented; and the underprivileged. This year, we continue to recognize those who speak for more than just themselves, while at the same time indulging in the familiar, timeless themes of love, loss, hope, connection, courage, change, and the never-ending pursuit of happiness.

As the year comes to a close, our staff took a step back to honor the songs, albums, EPsconcerts, and artist discoveries that had the greatest impact on our lives. Without further ado, Atwood Magazine is proud to present our curated list of 2023’s EPs of the Year, in alphabetical order by artist.

From d4vd’s highly anticipated debut EP Petals to Thorns, Kelsea Ballerini’s vulnerable and empowered Rolling Up The Welcome Mat, and Zach Bryan’s fantastic surprise Boys of Faith, to EPs by Jo Hill, Matilda Mann, Palace, Victoria Bigelow, YONAKA, and more, these are our favorites – the EPs that influenced us the most. Please join us in celebrating 2023’s contributions to the music world!

Mitch Mosk, Editor-in-Chief

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Atwood Magazine

Atwood’s 2023 Music of the Year 



The 2023 EPs of the Year

Click on the artist’s name to skip right to their entry!

Aphex Twin Arcy Drive ash tuesday Berlioz Boyish Charli Adams d4vd Dweller Eden Rain Elif Dame eundohee Girl Scout Iration Jasmine Jethwa Jlin Jo Hill JPEGMAFIA Danny Brown Juice Kelsea Ballerini Marc Segui Matilda Mann milk. Palace Pearl Rebecca Lappa Roseburg Royel Otis Scowl Sofia Machray Spiritbox Turnstile Victoria Bigelow WOODZ YONAKA YUKIKA Zach Bryan

Atwood Magazine's 2023 EPs of the Year

There’s no arguing that Richard D. James is one of the most genius IDM producers this generation has to see – make the slightest reference to him to a certain subsect of music lovers and a diverse, indescribable array of feelings, sounds, energies, and atmospheres is conjured.

No project the same as the last, Aphex Twin’s latest Blackbox Life Recorder 21f EP is a just-under-15-minute-long collection of earworms with drum ‘n’ bass beats and hazy atmospheres. The lines between analogue and digital blur, evoking not only curiosity and comfort, but a sense of technological nostalgia (as oxymoronic as that might sound). Sentimental and stunning, artful and autonomous, as with most Aphex Twin projects, Blackbox Life Recorder 21f brings something new with each listen, making looping come close to second nature. – Isabella Le

It’s hard to believe the hype some days, especially when a band bursts onto the scene with as much fervor as Arcy Drive. And yet, if a an elbow-to-elbow packed, buzzing December show at low-slung, tastemaking Brooklyn rock club Baby’s All Right is to be believed, the band is every bit as good as advertised. And that’s certainly the case with only a full EP to its credit (in terms of released songs, at least). Beach Plum is energetic, at times with a bit of sheen and at times with a bit of grit — not unlike Cage the Elephant or Grand Jury labelmates Hippo Campus.Of course, it’s only a sign of things to come — very good, very fun, very loud things to come, indeed. – Beau Hayhoe

Big Sky put ash tuesday on my musical radar. With only 15 minutes and 4 songs, she quickly establishes herself with her ability to combine diaristic lyrics with pop-rock melodies, creating her own twist on tales of relationships gone wrong. The unique and catchy melodies of the EP grow with each listen, ultimately becoming earworms in the best sense of the term. Her angsty vocal delivery, vacillating between high and low notes, and tongue-in-cheek lyrics come to a head in the end in “Fasting” when the instrumentation mimics her lyrical commentary. Big Sky, ash tuesday’s first EP release, only left me wanting for more. I, for one, am extremely excited to see where her sound will take her next. – Claire Meyer

Taking social media by storm while maintaining an elusive persona – promoting his jazz house fusion with the accompaniment of vintage, animated French New Wave films – London producer Jasper Attlee, who maintains the artist pseudonym “Berlioz,” has re-introduced jazz in a fresh, swanky way. It’s probably considered “unorthodox” to pair a jazz trio (saxophonist Sam Miles, bassist Jihad Darwish and pianist Robin Phillips) with steadily deep house beats, but through his unconventional style Berlioz has simultaneously rejuvenated the mesmerization jazz carries through his 2023 EP Jazz is for ordinary people. The composition is sophisticated and unique, extremely inviting and funky, with exclusive charm lying behind the combination of saxophone solos and groovy beats.

Music is constantly evolving as artists experiment with genre fusion, and jazz is for ordinary people quite literally outlines Berlioz’s successful mission in re-establishing jazz as a worthy listen for “ordinary people” who might falsely characterize the genre as outdated and unexciting. “Jazz house” might not necessarily turn younger generations’ eyes towards Davis, Coltrane or Ellington immediately, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. – Miles Campbell

There’s nowhere to run to and nowhere to hide on Boyish’s Little Demon Boy. Scars are front and center; old wounds are open and still bleeding; traumas are exposed for all to see, hear, and feel. Pain becomes beauty throughout this achingly raw and hauntingly intimate EP, but – just as in life – it takes the long way to get there: “I never wanted to need you; live long enough and you’ll die from anything.” “Don’t be such a mess, just kill your pain… heaven, hell, it’s all the same.” “I don’t feel alive, I feel so pretty and plastic and worthless.” “I’m so scared of living but I never stop trying, it’s complicated… Want someone to save me, ’cause I don’t wanna do it.” Each line reads like a diary entry pulled from our darkest days, and yet there’s something undeniably triumphant about these songs; a glimmer of light, love, energy, and empowerment shining through the turmoil.

Little Demon Boy is, without a doubt, two souls’ dark and vulnerable fever dream, but it’s also their bold and beautiful cathartic release: A set of six soul-stirring songs reckoning with, and ultimately owning our damage, finding strength in the cracks of our full and fractured lives. Boyish’s third EP in three years is their most powerful offering to date, finding the duo of India Shore and Claire Altendahl spilling their souls with spellbinding force and learned finesse. – Mitch Mosk

Charli Adams truly has nothing to be scared of. Written and recorded at a crossroads in her own life, the singer/songwriter’s latest EP is both the end of one era and the beginning of a new one. Achingly intimate, unfiltered, and in-your-face, nothing to be scared of is a hard-hitting record of inner connection, confrontation, closure, and change; a set of deeply empathetic and introspective songs about learning how to make peace with the conflict in your life and within you yourself. Life is long and often turbulent, and Charli Adams’ six new songs serve as the perfect accompaniment to that universal rocky road.

Beautifully vulnerable, unapologetically alternative, and irresistibly catchy, the follow-up to Charli Adams’ breathtaking debut album Bullseye sees the Los Angeles by-way-of Alabama artist collaborating with producer and songwriter Andy Seltzer (Maggie Rogers, Samia, Del Water Gap), baring her soul six times over through songs that dive ever deeper into the rawest parts of her humanity – her evolving psyche, her distinctive sensitivities, the relationship between her past and present selves, and more. Memories from an ever more distant childhood coalesce with snapshots of young adult coming into her own with increasing confidence and the resolve to be her own woman – to chart her own course not just in music, but in life.

All six of this EP’s songs are worth diving into, as each highlights a different side of Adams’ identity, bathed in a seductive, stunning sonic glaze. “everything she wanted” is essentially a grunge song about how Adams’ younger self would be jealous of the person she’s become now – and Adams goes one step further, to essentially forgive her past self for feeling that way. “cry over everything” is a breathtaking ’90s rock anthem (a la Goo Goo Dolls and Smashing Pumpkins) about Adams’ tendency to weep spontaneously, regularly, and often; its lyrics find her embracing this unique quirk.

The EP’s lead single “na na na song” is a standout of alternative excellence. It’s equal parts light and heavy, impassioned and exposed – an achingly raw alternative anthem, and about as close to “euphoria” as Charli Adams’ songwriting can get. She is brutally honest and unfiltered as she lets herself lean into the warmth and comfort, the safety and security, the connection, and the sense of home and belonging we get from being together with the one we love.

In “high achiever,” Adams explores how her goal in life isn’t to be rich or successful or a high achiever, but rather, to connect with those around her on a deep and meaningful level. And in the EP’s soul-stirring finale “I’ve got it from here,” Adams sings directly to her mother about their own mother-daughter relationship, the generational traumas and transmission they’ve experienced, their love, and their unbreakable bond.

Charli Adams is blossoming in real time, and nothing to be scared of is the soundtrack to her growth story. – Mitch Mosk

Passion and artistry seeps out of and engulfs d4vd’s first EP, Petals to Thorns. Released on May 26, the roughly half-hour EP is filled with gorgeous and smooth vocals, poetic lyricism and cinematic feeling instrumentals. With themes pertaining to unrequited love and mental health, d4vd does not fail to capture such topics in thoughtful yet creatively captivating ways. What is super awe-inspiring about this entire project however, is how it came to life. When introducing Petals to Thorns via socials, d4vd wrote how every track was made on his iPhone with Bandlab in his sister’s closet.

“Here With Me” and “Romantic Homicide” took off on social media and introduced d4vd to the world, but his other seven songs will tug on your emotions, send chills through your body and entrance you in every way. Each song is so raw and authentic as d4vd tells stories of how it feels to fall in love, the struggle of feeling worthless and even complete heartache; situations any person can relate to. What’s even more intriguing, is how not one song on the EP sticks to a particular genre or sound, giving such variety to the nine-track piece. “Sleep Well” has such effortless riffs, while “The Bridge” plays with song composition through repetition and build up. If you want to get completely lost in a musical realm that makes your soul unfold, listen to Petals to Thorns. – Lauren Turner

Canada’s Dweller literally introduced themselves less than two months ago – and their self-titled debut EP is only two and a half weeks old at the time of writing! – and that’s all it took for them to become a new favorite and artist-to-watch. A group driven by emotive songwriting and vulnerability, friendship and human connection, artistic freedom, trust, and mutual respect, Dweller let their music speak for itself. The four-piece of Toronto-based Georgia Harmer (vocals/synth) and Julian Psihogios (drums) and Winnipeg-based Kris Ulrich (guitar) and Dylan MacDonald (AKA Field Guide, bass) make breathtakingly intimate indie folk that sends shivers down the spine.

Dweller is the perfect accompaniment to late-night ruminations on life’s big questions; the band’s cathartic and confessional songwriting implores us to dive deep, lean into the unknown, and find out footing even when there isn’t a ledge to stand on. Debut single (and opening track) “Leave This Home” is proves an affecting, memorable, and beautiful introduction, followed by the equally aching “Hollow,” the moody, brooding “The Lookout,” and the smoldering “Another Life.”

They’re all familiar faces – each a seasoned artist in their own right – but in Dweller they have created something altogether fresh, unfiltered, authentic, and exciting. – Mitch Mosk

The image of Eden Rain sitting in her bedroom feels incredibly apropos for her second collection of songs; that she’s also studying herself in a compact mirror is the icing on the cake. The British singer/songwriter’s sophomore EP – released just six months after her debut – is a stunning, sweetly melodic, and achingly vulnerable set of songs diving into her psyche, her emotions, and her very being. Rain holds the metaphorical mirror up to herself in But I’m Alright Now, an intimate and unfiltered set of sonic diary entries full of raw passion, spirited energy, and uncompromising authenticity.

Simply put, these songs make introspection fun. They’re light, yet dark; tender, yet full of rough spots and edges that remind us of life’s complexity, its brutality, and its unpredictability. The real world is not (and will never be) a set of perfectly-timed, lightly edited Instagram posts; there’s no Photoshop for our emotions, and across five glistening, emotionally charged enchantments, Eden Rain dares us to dig as deep as we can – to dwell in our own warm, wondrous depths, and join her on a journey of breathtaking, soul-stirring self-reflection. – Mitch Mosk

For many, music is a form of therapy, providing a much needed outlet. For Amsterdam artist Elif Dame, that couldn’t be any truer. This year she unveiled her EP, Securely Detached, which is a step by step documentation of her journey and battles with her mental health. Having suffered for years, the artist decided to start taking back her own life, and putting herself first.

Thematically, the EP touches on a vast array of mental health issues, from suicide and addiction, to unhealthy relationships, manic episodes and self-sabotage. Dame does not hold back, opening up about some of the most vulnerable times in her life. But with each song it becomes clear that she is letting go, detaching from the negative things and people in her life and accepting change. “Killing It” featuring GANZ marks a particularly poignant moment for the artist, as she begins to feel the benefits of medication. Her powerful story is accompanied by 11 alt, R&B tracks in total, all narrated by her mesmeric soulful vocals. Celestial synths, vibey beats and cascading piano melodies create the foundations for Dame to speak her truths. Securely Detached is a truly healing experience for both Dame and her listeners. – Joe Beer

There’s something to be said about the power of music to influence our mood: A sad song can break us down, just as a happy one can build us back up again – and that’s exactly what South Korean singer/songwriter eundohee had in mind when writing and recording her new EP. A cathartic, visceral record of awakening and inner reckoning, Kookaburra lifts us up through achingly intimate and spirited indie folk music full of heart, hope, and raw, unfiltered emotion.

Released in May via Beeline Records, Kookaburra is a hauntingly beautiful, intentional, and invigorating exhale from an artist quickly finding her voice in the alternative space. It’s also an enchanting, entrancing introduction for those unfamiliar with South Korea’s eundohee, whose music bridges indie folk / indie rock divide. Arriving two long years after her debut album Unforeseen, Kookaburra marks an artistic evolution and expansion as eundohee delves deeper into her own psyche and past experiences than ever before, using her music not only as a vehicle for sonic expression, but as a vessel for therapeutic release as well.

It takes a delicate touch to evoke the sense of wonder, vulnerability, and longing that radiates throughout eundohee’s music. She sets a powerful scene with the EP’s glistening opener “Nothing Lasts Forever,” and delivers tender melodies and rich, radiant harmonies on the aptly-titled (and equally stirring) finale “Surrender.” The journey from one to the other is one of emotional and musical movement: How can one not smile while listening to the sweeter sounds of “She & I”? “Hummingbird” is a moody indie folk whisper that fills the room with the weight of a shout; eundohee aches with raw, heartfelt, and exposed emotion as she compares herself to these finger-sized flying phenomena, asking, “Can I be a hummingbird? I’ll do my best anyway,” in a chorus that feels as soft as it is stunning.

But the record’s true highlight, in my opinion, is its captivating middle track, “Ah Ha Ha” – a hushed indie rock fever dream that’s half-sarcastic, half-confessional, and fully intoxicating. The South Korean singer/songwriter leans into the deep end of life, pulling herself out of her own slump by sheer force of will and a little musical magic. Brimming with beautiful self-reflections and unapologetic about mental health, Kookaburra invites us to join eundohee and dwell in our own depths. – Mitch Mosk

It took less than a year for Girl Scout to become one of my favorite indie rock bands, thanks in large part to the release of not one, but two EPs in a seven-month span. 2023. I’ve dedicated this space to Granny Music, the second of the two releases, but the truth is that Girl Scout really deserve to be here twice, because February’s Real Life Human Garbage was, is, and remains an instant standout and easy favorite.

Half a year isn’t that long, but it’s all the time the Swedish indie rock band – already a two-time Atwood Editor’s Pick – needed to make one helluva follow-up. Girl Scout’s fire burns bolder and brighter than ever on Granny Music, a sonically and emotionally charged five-track EP that hits hard and leaves a lasting mark. Aching from the inside out with raw passion, heated lyrics, and an infectious, soul-stirring energy, Granny Music builds upon the promise of Girl Scout’s debut EP, ensuring their rightful place as an artist-to-watch in 2024 and beyond!

Released September 27 via MADE Records, Granny Music is unapologetic, uncompromising, and utterly irresistible – a breathtakingly dynamic, dramatic set of songs that feels at once tender and tough, catchy and cathartic, loud and soft. You’ll get no Thin Mints, Samoas, Tagalongs or Do-si-dos from these Girl Scouts – but what they lack in sweet treats, they make up for in – well – sweet treats: An unforgettable indie rock rollercoaster of sound awaits all those who lend this band twenty minutes of their time, and give Granny Music the proverbial spin.

The journey from the intoxicating, attitude-packed “Monster” to the achingly visceral “Mothers & Fathers” is filled with sparkling moments of connection, upheaval, and cinematic release. The EP’s runaway hit thus far, “Millionaire” is a vulnerable and beautifully expressive reflection on childhood innocence (and the loss thereof). Elsewhere, “Boy in Blue” is as churning as it is disarming: Searing guitars and unrelenting drums pack a seismic punch on a song that’s as unstoppable as it is undeniably strong – a welcome assault on the ears and soul alike.

And then there’s “Bruises,” perhaps Girl Scout’s best song of all ten released to date. An impassioned emotional declaration of love and affection ready to light up stadiums and hearts alike, the gentle giant aches with raw feeling as Jansson spills her soul through bittersweet lyrics full of pain and yearning.

From declaring themselves monsters to ruminating on the impacts of a happy marriage versus divorce on the kids, Girls Scout certainly cast a wide net with their sophomore EP – coming up for air with five magnificent songs I’ve been playing all (half)year long. They’ve been given the same “shooting star” status that Wet Leg got in 2021, and for good reason: Girl Scout’s star is rising fast as lightning. True to themselves and to absolutely no one else, the Swedish indie rock band are in a league of their own, and I can’t wait for all the head-turning musical adventures yet to come. Until then, I’ll be unashamedly playing Granny Music – and Real Life Human Garbage – on repeat. – Mitch Mosk

This one is a bit of a cheat, since Iration followed up on this EP by putting a full-length album, Daytrippin, featuring all of the tracks from that earlier release, only a month later. However, I still remember how impressed I was by everything I heard on LAST NIGHT when it came out this past September, and it helped to build up my excitement for the IRL Tour, which I gleefully caught at the House of Blues in Boston in November.

Iration are one of the bands I am most thankful to have discovered through writing for Atwood — as I did when I covered them during the Time of COVID in 2020 — and it was great to see them build upon their already-impressive catalogue in 2023. The LAST NIGHT EP was their initial step in that direction, so I’m happy to include it in this list of the EPs from the year that I’ll remember best. – Josh Weiner

Achingly vulnerable and beautifully raw, Jasmine Jethwa’s sophomore EP is the product of a heart and soul exposed. It’s a record that dwells in the smoldering depths of intimacy and memory; a record that burns with the pain, tension, and turmoil of heartache and change; a record that asks the age-old question, is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all? – and gets a few different answers, depending on the mood of the moment. An emotionally charged outpouring of radiant passion and tender, soul-stirring sound, Same Streets But I Don’t See You Around finds 24-year-old Jethwa rising to meet her own moment, creating a space of connection and catharsis through five breathtaking, empowering, and honest songs. – Mitch Mosk

IDM mastermind Jlin delivers their most heterogenous project yet on the atmospheric Perspective. Expertly crafted songs display layers of dizzying polyrhythms shimmering over dark, industrial bass. There’s a tangible sense of mystery surrounding the project, the instrumentals sounding crisp and synthetic without losing Jlin’s organic sense of musicality. Glitchy juke cuts “Obscure” and “Derivative” nicely contrast with thought provoking cuts like “Fourth Perspective” to create a wholistic listening experience. All merit aside, Perspective is another fun, energetic effort from one of the best electronic musicians in the game. – Jake Fewx

Jo Hill wants you to shout her songs at the top of your lungs. A “small town queen” from the English countryside, Hill is a big personality making music that feels larger-than-life. Her latest release is ready to be the soundtrack to the summer: A passion-fueled indie pop fever dream, Cinematic Baby is a hard-hitting and deeply vulnerable record of our endless days and sleepless nights. Euphoric and aching in all the right ways, it’s a catchy and cathartic sonic roller-coaster – and it just may house your favorite new tunes.

Released June 16 via Parlophone Records, Cinematic Baby is a truly electric work of art. Jo Hill’s sophomore EP arrived just half a year after her debut EP Down at The Res first introduced the Cheddar-born, London-based singer/songwriter to the world, and sees Hill coming into her own with a singular, emotionally-charged voice and equally savage sonics. Her dynamic, pop-savvy music is a bold, beautiful cacophony of raw feeling and fervor mixed into one: As uncompromising as they are relentless, Cinematic Baby‘s five songs prove to be an instantly memorable experience, showcasing Hill’s artistic depth, her stylistic range, and her unfiltered, soul-stirring vocal talents.

As for highlights, I’d be remiss not to mention the EP’s lead single (and Atwood Editor’s Pick) “Off the 45”: A feverish eruption of raw energy and heated emotion, “Off the 45” is a seismic reckoning channeled through some of the most searing music you’ve ever heard. Hill (gracefully) loses her cool in a flash of stunning indie rock as she revs her engines and blasts off into the night at full steam. It’s as exhilarating as it is achingly visceral – a cathartic, rousing anthem for all of us who need to let loose our inner tension and turmoil:

Don’t leave…
Or I’ll be driving off the 45
Out of my mind
And I’ll take it to the edge tonight
Run the red lights
Hit up a couple slutty guys for the last time
Anything to make you mine
Anything to change your mind
Or I’ll be driving off the 45

With Cinematic Baby, Jo Hill has effectively herself as a standout, one-of-a-kind voice making emotionally-driven feel-good music the world needs now more than ever. Bridging the intimate and the universal, Hill’s songs tap a sweet spot of sun-kissed rhapsody, and from the very first moments of the vivid, visceral “Wild West Country” to those final breaths of her soulful, heart-on-sleeve “The Circle,” Cinematic Baby proves an unparalleled force of passion, energy, emotion, and raw, vulnerable humanity. – Mitch Mosk

Jpegmafia and Danny Brown fans have enjoyed an embarrassment of abundance over the past few years. Jpegmafia topped his excellent fourth studio album LP! (2021) with more eccentric and jaw-dropping production on his collaboration album with Danny Brown SCARING THE HOES, the title being a reference to the music likely being off-putting to those who can’t handle the avant-garde. Danny Brown has been documenting his musical journey (and recent stint in rehab) on his podcast and releasing his most personal album to date with Quaranta, which came out in November.

The two are a perfect match, with Jpegmafia’s unorthodox production and Danny Brown’s high-pitched unconventional flow. It is clear the two enjoyed working together, two oddities in the rap game, as their abundant tracklist suggests. Additionally, the two released a self-made documentary on YouTube chronicling their creative process, went on tour together, and then went on to release an additional EP, SCARING THE HOES: DLC PACK. The EP has a similar feel to the album, but who doesn’t like more of a good thing? – Eric Schuster

 

I became a fast fan of Juice when I first interviewed them for Atwood in 2023. My fandom grew even further when I saw them perform fantastic set at Boston Calling in May. And finally, this exuberant EP of their live performances at the Audiotree Studio in Chicago really seals the deal for me. You’re not going to find many bands that can interchangeably sing, rap, and play the guitar, drums, saxophone and more, so it’s definitely worth savoring such a multi-talented group as Juice the moment you come across them. – Josh Weiner

It goes without saying that Kelsea Ballerini captured lightening in a bottle with her Rolling Up The Welcome Mat EP release. While a lot of outside factors surrounded this EP, the reason for its success has nothing to do with those things and everything to do with the music, the lyrics, and the artist who was brave enough to write them.

The best music comes from complete and utter honesty and vulnerability. When there is nothing to hold back, magic is made. That is what Ballerini did with Rolling Up The Welcome Mat. The response to these songs was so extreme and in our opinion so immensely deserved. Ballerini only continues to climb – we can’t wait to hear what she does next. – Kelly McCafferty

Marc Seguí’s AAAAAA comes after a year and a half of singles following his debut album Pinta y Colorea. The EP features a decidedly more “roquero” style than we’d heard from Seguí while still showcasing his ability to sing and paint a picture with his lyrics. The project was a way for Seguí to express and put to rest darker times and hopefully help others who have felt the same. The tension and eventual release of frustration push and pull each other throughout the album, with moments of reflection juxtaposed with unbridled guitar riffs and harsher vocals.

AAAAAA wrestles themes of being pulled into the inferno, being neck deep in the darkness and looking for your place even though it feels like nothing can make you happy. While it might seem like a dark and twisty album of self-wallowing, the EP emerges as a cohesive project that demonstrates how struggling can lead to creation, and ultimately play a part in who we will become. – Alex Killian

There’s a soothing warmth radiating throughout Matilda Mann’s latest record. It’s the soft touch, tender and triumphant, of an artist in tune with herself – perhaps for the very first time. Gentle guitars and soul-stirring vocals coalesce with a dazzling array of instruments to create a world of wonder – one in which Mann tells stories big and small, all near to her heart and plunging into the depths of her singular human experience. Stunningly intimate and achingly vulnerable, You Look Like You Can’t Swim is a brutally honest, raw record of cathartic connection, reflection, and reckoning. Inner peace may still be a ways away, but Matilda Mann has found her own calm and comforting reverie.

Released July 14, 2023 via Arista Records, You Look Like You Can’t Swim is a breathtaking tempest that, at under fourteen minutes in length, is come and gone far too soon. The fourth EP from London’s Matilda Mann – one of Atwood Magazine‘s artists to watch – highlights the young singer/songwriter’s rapid growth over the past three years since her debut. Sporting enchanting string arrangements and unapologetically honest songwriting, these five newest songs find her at her most relaxed: Mann wears her heart on her sleeve much like she’s always done, exploring the deepest parts of her soul and candidly pouring herself out in the process.

From its serene opener “The Day That I Met You” to the titular final track, You Look Like You Can’t Swim proves a wondrous escape as well as an intimate indulgence. Highlights – if you can really pick highlights on such a tight, short set – include the moving, heartbreak-fueled “If Only,” the powerfully poetic, inward-looking “You Look Like You Can’t Swim,” and the EP’s love-soaked anthem, “In Plain Sight” – a hushed and heartfelt wash of sweetly stunning indie folk that’s at once warm and utterly wondrous. Mann sings alongside atmospheric acoustic guitars, her voice a soul-stirring whisper full of raw, unfiltered passion. It’s a moment of dreamy, delicate bliss, dwelling in the euphoria of love and how truly magical and special it really is – and Mann is the dreamweaver, carefully crafting a wondrous soul-stirring experience for all.

Whether you’re looking for solace, in need of your own cathartic release, or just in need of you next favorite singer/songwriter, Matilda Mann is a voice on the rise – and for good reason. Her music aches with the kind of invisible intensity you have to hear and feel in order to understand. She gives every performance her all, spilling thoughts and feelings into visceral music that moves in time with our own beating hearts. – Mitch Mosk

“Forgot the meaning of humanity – I got it back on a FaceTime call,” Mark McKenna sings, fully charged and hot on the mic at the start of milk.’s third EP. His voice is urgent, conveying the strain of an invisible ache that’s come to feel all too commonplace; it’s a feeling we all know only too well. “It’s something brittle like vanity,” he continues. “Look at all of us together being self involved. There’s a virtual world and we’re living in it.

So begins 3, the EP., milk.’s most ambitious and enthralling record to date: A cinematic set of shiver-inducing indie pop songs dwelling in the deep end of the emotional pool, the Irish band’s latest effort is a spellbinding fever dream leaning into life’s big questions – reckoning with identity, existence, self-actualization and survival in a disconnect world. Delivered through milk.’s charismatic and increasingly recognizable indie rock veneer, 3, the EP. hits hard and leaves an instant, lasting mark.

From craving “Human Contact” and navigating identity crises (“I Think I Lost My Number Can I Have Yours?”) to exploring how our identities change depending on our environment (as one might feel in a big city like “London”), and the ways in which we exist in the virtual world (“It’s The Internets World We’re Just Living In It”), milk. leave few stones unturned as they expose their innermost selves, challenging our preconceived notions of life, presence, and being, all in the hopes of finding something of substance in the ephemeral, disconnected world of the 2020s.

3, the EP. is a vibrant and strikingly cohesive seven-track set that, while perfect for fans of The 1975, The xx, The Japanese House, and Holly Humberstone, stands out on its own merits as well. milk. are carving themselves a healthy niche within the indie music realm, making an impact through their distinct sound as well as their hard-hitting songwriting. – Mitch Mosk

The second of two EPs released by London-based band Palace released in full on December 5th, Part II: Nightmares and Ice Cream is a revelation. The collection includes three songs: “Rabid Dog”, “Make You Proud”, and “Nightmares and Ice Cream.” It is hauntingly beautiful, reflecting upon love and loss and emotional healing. The EP is a quick listen, but it has the emotional density of a much longer album. Thoughts and feelings often left unexpressed are explored in depth, causing self-reflection in listeners and encouraging personal growth.

The raw and honest quality of the lyrics make the EP a real stand out this year. The titular track is perhaps the strongest of the lot, abstract and deeply emotional. It encompasses the cross-section between the negative and positive emotions felt when moving on from a failed relationship, emphasizing the importance of feeling and accepting emotions of all kinds. The lyrics are poetic and honest, a refreshing dose of vulnerability in an often-filtered world. – Audrey Connelly

British artist PEARL dropped her debut EP, WHERE I GO this year, introducing listeners into her magical world. Since its release, I’ve been locked into this ethereal, verdant place she has created, refusing to ever leave. The four-track release focuses on the theme of acceptance, as PEARL reflects on moments in her life, navigates her emotions and steps forward into her next chapter. If you like artists such as Sylvan Esso, Maggie Rogers and BANKS, then I’m certain you’ll love this. As PEARL traverses realms of indie pop, alt pop and synth pop, the songwriter and producer concocts a spellbinding fusion of iridescent synths, rhythmic pulsations and angelic, haunting vocals reminiscent of Sigrid. “Words” showcases her stunning falsetto voice, which glides over layered harmonies and whimsical instrumentation, resulting in a bewitching ambience. – Joe Beer

Among the memories from 2023 I will cherish the most in the long run are my two trips to Canada in February and November— especially the former, in which I got to immerse myself in the beautiful snowy landscapes of Parc de la Mauricie, Parc Jacques Cartier, the giant Montmorency waterfall, and more. I am very much in favor of anything that can transport me back to said settings in my mind, and one work which definitely qualifies as such is the Tales of a Taurus EP by Rebecca Lappa, which is full of lyricism inspired by the wintery landscape of Canada— albeit in the author’s native province of Alberta, rather than Quebec, where I ventured myself. On top of that, it helps that Rebecca Lappa is a beautiful vocalist and has strong power-pop production resources. She puts them to fabulous use throughout Tales of a Taurus and the results shine beautifully. – Josh Weiner

We’ve all felt that desperate desire to start fresh and have a second go at things and for Utah based indie alt/rock band Roseburg they did exactly that. Their new EP, 2 in a Million, narrates having the opportunity for another chance. Specifically for Roseburg it was a second chance for the band, after things had been rocky for a couple of years. The uplifting and inspiring EP touches on the hurdles they overcame and the importance of grabbing life by its horns. For any fellow musicians out there, this EP will include many relatable tales, from dealing with writer’s block, to struggling with dynamics and relationships within the band but most importantly fighting to make it work and never giving up hope. “Obliviamos” is representative of the band’s determination to make it through together. The rock track comes to life through jangly guitars, resolute piano and driving percussion, as they chant, “we know we’re going to find our way.” The entire EP offers an optimistic and motivating energy, with Roseburg proving that we can do anything we put our minds to. – Joe Beer

Listening to Sofa Kings, it’s clear Royel Otis are having the time of their lives. The Australian duo of childhood friends Royel Maddell and Otis Pavlovic spend their third EP in alternating states of revelry and reverie, indulging in sun-soaked alt-pop anthems in one moment and sweetly stirring balladry the next. All the while, they dwell in a dynamic and dazzling dreamland of their own creation – a world of sonic wonder built on passion, freedom, and trust. A soothing, stunning, feel-good record, Sofa Kings balances raw emotion with radiant energy to create a roller-coaster whose highs and lows are worth the thrill.

Released March 31 via House Anxiety / Ourness, Sofa Kings is the expansive, enchanting third EP from Royel Otis. The Sydney-based duo have been dazzling audiences around the globe for the better part of the past two years, winning over hearts, minds, and ears with 2021’s soaring Campus EP, which was followed by 2022’s dynamic Bar & Grill EP. With every successive release, the pair have come out of their shell a little more, and Sofa Kings is without a doubt the band’s most intimate, open, and honest offering yet, if not simply their finest work to date. Produced alongside Chris Collins, the seven-track EP mixes fun with feelings to make for an easygoing, yet equally evocative and visceral adventure.

Every moment of Sofa Kings is euphoric. The dreamily sun-soaked title track “Sofa King” balances infatuation and euphoria with brutal honesty and raw self-reflection; it’s a radiant love song – one filled with sweet, buoyant bliss, heart-on-sleeve charm, a dash of cheeky wit, and a touch self-empowerment. “I Wanna Dance With You” is pure, unbridled, upbeat ecstasy: A smile-inducing rock n’ roller full of sprightly, dreamy guitars, charming lyrics, and an insanely catchy hook ready to brighten even the dreariest of days. Royel Otis invite their audience to join them in the heat of the moment as they throw caution to the wind, put their hearts on their sleeves, and say how they really feel.

Whether you’re going Kokomo for “Going Kokomo” or sipping on the “Kool Aid,” Royel Otis’ third EP is a fantastic, uplifting funhouse ready to meet listeners where they are: If you want to dance, dance! If you want to get deep in your emotions, get deep in your emotions! And if you’re a Sofa King too, then don’t bother getting up off the couch; let the music come to you. – Mitch Mosk

The Santa Cruz hardcore punk rockers have hit a sweet spot on their third EP, straddling multiple lines between punk, screamo, and alt rock. Released April 7 via Flatspot Records, Psychic Dance Routine is a very quick listen, clocking in at just over 10 minutes, but it’s plenty of time to (re)introduce the band as frontrunners on their scene as they aim for the rafters and way beyond. Thematically, Psychic Dance Routine runs through ideas of missed communications, the repercussions of the digital age on our interpersonal relationships, and the increased pressures of fame for a band on the rise while still trying to honor their classic hardcore punk roots.

The title track is one of my favorite songs of the year. It’s an endlessly-catchy, wonderfully hypnotic respite from the churning and charging production of the remainder of the EP’s tracks, and demonstrates that Scowl can do a lot more than mosh and screech (though, make no mistake, they do that incredibly well.) The beginning riff remains on an endless loop in my head. It’s a more typical alt rock song, and illustrates a new perspective on vocalist Kat Moss’ writing skills; she aimed to write the lyrics incorporating a third-person perspective, and this gives “Psychic Dance Routine” some interesting variety and a slow-burn intensity. Moss scours the tracks with cleans and screams that are equally enticing and abrasive, if not very slightly dissonant in some spots, but the dichotomy between those sounds hedges up to the ambition that Scowl wants to maintain moving forward. – Kendall Graham

We’ve tried so hard to separate ourselves from nature, but the truth is that we humans have more in common with meadows and bees than we do concrete and steel. We are as strong as waterfalls and as fragile as flower petals, and in her debut EP, Sofia Machray makes a concerted effort to reclaim that natural part of her identity; that piece of her soul that’s forever bound to Earth. A tender tempest full of dreamy, radiant indie rock and raw vulnerability, Language of Flowers aches with breathtaking beauty as Machray unveils moments of intimacy, reflection, and rediscovery. And while this record is, on the surface, a compelling introduction to one of New Zealand’s brightest new singer/songwriters, deep down it’s a vessel of connection, facilitating the inextricable, but often forgotten bond between our hearts, our minds, and our souls.

Independently released July 21, 2023, Language of Flowers is a cathartic, cinematic eruption from the depths of a soul in motion. Turbulence and serenity intertwine on a record that blends diaristic songwriting with stormy sonics as Machray charts the turbulence of her early 20s, in all its splendor and suffering, charm and churn. Reminiscent of artists like Angie McMahon, Matilda Mann, and Alaska Reid, the Pо̄neke, New Zealand-based indie rock singer/songwriter steps unapologetically into the spotlight with her heart on her sleeve. Her six new songs are carefully textured, achingly evocative, and irresistibly dynamic – with her own soul-stirring vocals serving as a beacon between her inner world, and our own. Highlights range from the liberating coming-of-age anthem “Petals in the Rain” to the visceral, heated outpouring “Foundations” and the cinematic “Crumbs.”

A gorgeous soundtrack perfect for dreamers and over-thinkers alike, Language of Flowers is a bold, sweetly captivating enchantment – and the perfect introduction to all the warmth and wonder that Sofia Machray has to offer. – Mitch Mosk

Spiritbox have cemented themselves as virtuosos within the metal and progressive metal genres. They’ve come out at the top of their game with recently-released The Fear of Fear EP, out November 3 from Rise Records/Pale Chord, and at the top is clearly where they plan on staying. “Jaded,” the second track on The Fear of Fear, has earned the Canadian outfit their first GRAMMY nomination, for Best Metal Performance at the upcoming 66th Annual Awards Ceremony. Inside this track, too much self-examination has left us tired and feeling shameful of falling into an inevitable state of oblivion. We’re confronting our own perceptions of our self-images, reassessing them to ascertain what’s really real and what can be done away with. These themes, of self-assessment, of confronting limitations, of things being mirrored back to us, and of the precarious connections between life and death, are prevalent inside The Fear of Fear. Sonically, Spiritbox sound at once at their heaviest and their most accessible. There’s simultaneous dissonance and harmony; there’s chugging and churning and there’s groove and great melody.

And then there’s vocalist Courtney LaPlante’s gorgeous cleans and bombastic, earth-shattering growls and screams, easily one of the most endearing parts of Spiritbox as a band. She’s able to slide between her voices beautifully and effortlessly (when I first started listening to them, I thought one of the other members was singing alongside her.) Across The Fear of Fear, we’re subjected to an unrelenting game of no surrender with multiple facets of ourselves, and while the shadow work is unrelenting, there are slivers of hope visible within the chaos. Spiritbox has also recently collaborated with Megan Thee Stallion on a remix of the rapper’s newest single “Cobra,” and it’s been a huge success in earning both acts lots of crossover attention and appeal. Many of Meg’s fans are getting their first introduction to the band, and vice versa, which is exactly the kind of response you’d want to receive with this effort. With this remix, fans of both have gotten an early holiday gift. – Kendall Graham

New Heart Design feels as if you are on a trip through space and looking out into the unknown. Created in collaboration between Turnstile and BADBADNOTGOOD, this reimagining of Turnstile’s songs from their fourth album Glow On invites listeners to their alternate universe. A must listen to from the EP is the reimagined “Alien Love Call” with lyrics revolving around loneliness emphasized by the repeat of the melancholy line ‘Can’t be the only one’ featuring the Blood Orange. The introspective jazz undertones from BADBADNOTGOOD’s styling provides a softer look at some of the Glow On’s best songs. – Jaclyn Kelly

Ill never open myself up like this again,” Victoria Bigelow sings in a moment of raw reckoning, her heart bruised and soul exposed to the world. And yet, we know she will, because she always does. The beautifully devastating title track off the singer/songwriter’s latest EP is achingly bare and brutally honest, which makes it the quintessential Victoria Bigelow song: Intimate, vulnerable, and breathtaking.

And if “Song for No One” is all those things in shortform, then Songs for No One Vol. 1 is all of them in longform: A soul-stirring and cinematic EP full of tenderness, turbulence, and tragedy, Bigelow’s latest collection sends shivers down the spine as grief, depression, anxiety, and all of our invisible specters are brought to life through five cathartic, confessional, all-consuming songs.

Released August 25 via Immortal Records, Songs for No One Vol. 1 is a heartrending seduction of intense, unfiltered melancholia. Bigelow’s fourth EP sees the three-time Atwood Magazine Editor’s Pick at her most intimate and unabridged as she sings of isolation, loss, and longing; love and heartbreak; despair, desire, and bittersweet hope – all of which is channeled through a lens that, despite the record’s yellow artwork, comes to us in shades of dreamy, forlorn blue.

Born in the desert, Songs For No One Vol. 1 resonates with an intense, beautiful stillness. Dwelling in her depths is Bigelow’s de facto state; expressing those depths in song is her preferred method of emotional release.

The EP opens with the emotional wreckage of “Oblivion,” a beautifully brutal track originally released in September of last year. Channeling Bigelow’s pain into redemption, it proves a fitting introduction to the overall record – aching with intimate intensity, heart-on-sleeve passion, and unabating drive. Like a musical-emotional scar, it bleeds through captivating melodies and haunting vocal lines that send shivers down the spine: “I was dancing around the room in the dark ‘til you wrecked my soul,” Bigelow sings, her lilt soft and (bitter)sweet. “You split me right in two. Now I’m dancing, my head in my hands, ‘cause I met you.” This is exactly the kind of gut-wrenching, soul-stirring songwriting we’ve come to cherish over the past few years.

The record’s title track follows with a captivating outpouring of love and grief. “Song for No One” is a dreamy and raw reckoning; taking cues from “the desert and Mazzy Star,” Victoria Bigelow’s art is at once intimate and cinematic, impressively minimalist and yet drenched in the ethereal stuff that makes dreams feel like dreams.

The EP’s final three tracks continue the musical and emotional onslaught. Full of both pain and love, “Panic Room” is a visceral, churning ballad that exorcises Bigelow’s inner demons by exposing them to the – all whilst the narrator’s loving partner devotedly sticks with them, by their side through the storm. “Low” is a throwback – it’s the first song Bigelow ever released, back in 2019 – and its themes of self-doubt and fearing loneliness fit perfectly in the scope of this EP. “Age of the Internet (Nudes)” is a soul-crushing musical doomscroll reflecting on how Bigelow “let the internet and social media destroy me.” It’s the sound of her spinning out, and aching in all the best and worst ways imaginable – making it the perfect conclusion to this breathtaking, heartbreaking endeavor.

Despite their weight, these five brutally intimate tracks fill our lives with light. There’s a cathartic comfort to Songs for No One that, as Bigelow has said herself, really does make them songs for everyone. Out of her emotional anguish, Victoria Bigelow has once again created true blue beauty. – Mitch Mosk

After years as a K-Pop idol and appearance on the Korean rap survival show “Show Me the Money,” WOODZ broke the mold by pivoting his sound. His solo work started heavily RnB and pop, but as he grew as an artist WOODZ started incorporating rock and alternative elements into his music. OO-LI is an embodiment of his versatility and his impeccable musical capabilities across genre. This genre-defying EP brought elements of RnB, pop, rock, alternative and more. Each track’s production has a guitar base and is paired with his honey-like vocals. Shown best during his most recent tour, where he is accompanied by a live band. “Drowning” and “Busted” are prime examples of how his voice perfectly mixes with heavy guitar creating a hard-hitting track with soft moments to carry the emotion of his lyricism. Taking everything into consideration, OO-LI stands as one of the best releases to come out of K-Pop in 2023. – Freya Rinaldi

YONAKA really lets us into a place where we can share our souls, and be invited into an environment of kindred spirits on their most recent EP, Welcome To My House. Released in late July via Lava Records, it’s an electrifying adventure in which the band shakes off certain levels of darkness in declaring a new era of self-assurance. This EP is a sprightly, ball-of-fire dirge to previous versions of yourself that would sit demurely and take crap from anyone. Expectations and self-imposed restrictions are shirked here, in stark favor of wading through your own emotions and experiences to find a new sense of happiness and fulfillment. The punchy but brief record bares innards with no holds barred. The overarching theme is one of freedom: from social stipulations, from criticism, from boredom, and from the inner standards we hold ourselves to.

Much of vocalist Theresa Jarvis’ writing across Welcome To My House deals heavily in taking power back for oneself, and her vocal style bounces effortlessly between earnest and pleading, and fiery and punky, though always evocative. There’s a wonderfully enticing mix of devil-may-care attitude and a desire for settling into something of your own that’s reliable and familiar. Whether it’s the arena-sized chorus of “PANIC,” the emphatically imploring rock ballad “Give Me My Halo,” the unbridled emancipation of “By The Time You’re Reading This,” or the sneering and cynical “Hands Off My Money” and “Welcome To My House,” YONAKA always finds a way to be smart and sassy without sacrificing the earworm qualities that have made the Brighton-based band a standout among their peers. On Welcome To My House, the free-spiritedness we seek can’t only be found in the darkness, and it’s that light that we must make ourselves where that spirit will finally emerge. – Kendall Graham

She hasn’t been in music too long, but from 2019 until now, YUKIKA has indefinitely made her mark in the hearts of thousands with her nostalgic pop vibes and refreshing musical presence. To say that I’m upset it took me until her last release ever to get into her music would be a massive understatement.

With effervescent synths and groovy guitars, YUKIKA effortlessly captures the essence of ‘90s city-pop and disco in her latest (and final) EP, Time-Lapse, released December 1, 2023. Though the future is uncertain, the singer has departed on a high note, leaving fans with a project that will well stand the test of time. Many say it’s better late than never when it comes to finding something you love, and with YUKIKA’s music gracefully walking the tightrope between the sounds of today and yesterday, I’ll stay loving long after late. – Isabella Le

As one of the most prolific songwriters working today, Zach Bryan couldn’t rest on the laurels of his self-titled album. About a month after dropping his long-awaited fourth album, Bryan revealed he had five more bangers up his sleeve (plus songs that featured fellow rising troubadour Noah Kahan and indie folk legend Justin Vernon of Bon Iver). Since Bryan has never been shy about loading up his records with as many songs as possible (See: American Heartbreak’s 34 songs and 2-hour runtime), so it seems that lightning struck again after releasing his self-titled record.

While Bryan doesn’t deviate too far from his typical themes (heartbreak, nostalgia for family, depression), Boys of Faith does act as a strong sampler of what he has to offer. From the country-rock opener “Nine Ball” to the isolationist folk ballad in the title track to the anthemic “Deep Satin,” Zach Bryan distills his skills to five fantastic songs, as a delicious treat after his great self-titled record. – James Crowley



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