10 alternative EPs that pack the same punch as an album
From Charli XCX's ‘Pop 2’ to Nine Inch Nails' ‘Broken,’ you’ll be aching to hear more once it’s over.April 20, 2022
For most fans of music, EPs aren’t as special as full-length releases. They are often considered odds and ends in between records rather than their own thing. On that rare occasion, though, EPs give us a completely different experience than what we thought we would get, packing the punch of an album in a little amount of time. With these selections, you’ll be aching to hear more once it’s over. Below are the 10 greatest EPs in alternative music.
R.E.M. – Chronic Town (1982)
Before R.E.M. had an album out, they already had their sound down to a science. In just a couple of tracks, this is exactly the kind of slacker tunes that would build the alt-rock empire, such as “Gardening At Night” being a test run for Murmur. For a project that has a gargoyle on the cover, this is a lot more chipper than you’d think.
Cocteau Twins – Echoes In A Shallow Bay (1985)
This is classic Cocteau Twins material where post-punk dominated and the emotional resonance was turned way up. Billy Howerdel originally considered Elizabeth Fraser to front A Perfect Circle, and this kind of smoky crooning would have fit the bill nicely. You might not be able to understand much of the lyrics, but songs this potent don’t need words to make you feel something.
Charli XCX – Pop 2 (2017)
This is the moment when Charli XCX officially entered the realm of hyperpop. After working off the steam left over from songs like “Boom Clap,” this is where she turned a corner, working with artists such as Dorian Electra to craft something entirely different. This is basically ground zero for the new Charli, with most of her later albums expanding upon what this release did. Charli may have shed her old pop skin, but if this is what we have to look forward to, we don’t need to worry about a damn thing.
blink-182 – Dogs Eating Dogs (2012)
Considering how much time Tom DeLonge spent working in the studio on Neighborhoods, it’s a miracle we got another release before he left the band for a second time. Aside from a few B-sides, this is a good look at what an extension of Neighborhoods could have been, bringing in more electronics and even having Yelawolf on the track “Pretty Little Girl.” Because the new blink are capturing their old sound these days, this is what a more mature version of the band could have sounded like with the classic lineup still intact.
My Bloody Valentine – You Made Me Realise (1988)
The long road to Loveless wasn’t going to be easy for My Bloody Valentine. After the lackluster reception of their first demo recordings, this is where things started to click. The band achieved a much more blown-out sound from Kevin Shields’ guitar that nearly drowns out the rest of the members in the process. Their shoegaze sound wasn’t there just yet, but this was a sign of epic things to come.
Lorde – The Love Club (2013)
We should count ourselves lucky if we can accomplish half of what Lorde did before she was out of her teens. Before releasing one of the greatest pop debuts ever, though, there was already genius on here, being home to the original version of “Royals” along with deep cuts such as “Biting Down.” Bonus points for the special editions that include a version of “Swingin Party” by the Replacements. Lorde was ahead of her time in many ways, but she also knew how to pay tribute to the ones who laid the groundwork for her.
Linkin Park and Jay-Z – Collision Course (2004)
For anyone who thinks that hip-hop and rock can’t co-exist, listen to this EP. While it may have only been a mashup for any lesser artist, both Jay-Z and Mike Shinoda put their all into the production, bringing in new takes of Linkin Park songs to fit under Jay’s Black Album bars. As much as “Numb/Encore” hit close to the heart back in the day, though, you haven’t lived until you’ve heard “99 Problems” mixed with “Points Of Authority.” Half rock, half hip-hop, 100% badass.
Nine Inch Nails – Broken (1992)
Even those who are versed in industrial music still probably aren’t ready for an EP like this. Recorded in the infamous Sharon Tate house prior to making The Downward Spiral, this is the sound of Trent Reznor going hard behind the board, which earned him two Grammys in the process. The real chaos came later, but this is a first look at Mr. Self Destruct. Things were bleak, and it was only going to get darker from here.
Paramore – The Singles Club (2011)
Even with all of their amazing records, this EP might be the greatest showcase of how much Paramore can do with little. Aside from the song “Monster,” which was made for the Transformers soundtrack, every other track is a snapshot of the band’s prowess, only with a bit more cynicism in the lyrics. In three tracks, Paramore go from emo bangers to thoughtful songs to heartbreaking cuts. There are still some bands that can’t make that happen on a full album, let alone three tracks.
Alice In Chains – Jar Of Flies (1994)
On first listen to Dirt by Alice In Chains, you can hear the band undergoing real pain as they try to make sense of their addictions. If that was the pain, then Jar Of Flies was the sadness that comes afterward. And that raw emotion clearly resonated, with Jar Of Flies being nominated for two Grammys for “I Stay Away.”