Having already looked back on the best albums and best debut albums of 2022 (so far, of course), now it’s time to give the humble EP and mixtape formats their moment in the sun. This year we’ve already been blessed with top-quality mixtapes from Brighton to Bradford, as well as EP releases from some of the most promising new names in indie, drum’n’bass and electronic music.
In no particular order, then, here’s our rundown of the best EPs and mixtapes of 2022… so far!
Words: Sam Moore, Thomas Smith, Sophie Williams
ArrDee – ‘Pier Pressure’ mixtape
Who: Brighton rapper ArrDee recently told NME that he is “trying to build a legacy”. A bold statement perhaps, but if Riley Davies keeps on releasing more records like March’s ‘Pier Pressure’, his concise and carefree coming-of-age mixtape, then there’s no reason why he can’t go on to become one of UK rap’s biggest names.
What NME said: “ArrDee plasters the record with radio-friendly drill beats, quality rhymes and nightclub belters befitting of his character, ensuring that ‘Pier Pressure’ provides a clear snapshot of a rapper very much on the rise.”
Key track: ‘War’ SM
Bad Boy Chiller Crew – ‘Disrespectful’ mixtape
Who: When NME met Yorkshire’s most chaotic sons back in October, they told us that “as long as Adele or Ed Sheeran aren’t playing about, we could get a Number One album”. Even if the latter did eventually pip the Bradford trio to the top spot in March, BBCC’s thrilling debut mixtape ‘Disrespectful’ still had both the huge personality and bangers to go all the way. An ambitious yet vital showcase of where the future of UK bassline rap is heading.
What NME said: “‘Disrespectful’ feels delirious and exultant, like getting caught in a thick fog of multi-coloured smoke bombs in a festival field, with your feet barely touching the ground.”
Key track: ‘BMW’ SW
Central Cee – ‘23’ mixtape
Who: The number of rising artists who started the pandemic as unknowns, but have since emerged as stars, appears to be growing all the time. Few of those artists, though, have the stats to back it up quite like west London’s Central Cee. While the rapper’s 2021 debut mixtape ‘Wild West’ landed at Number Two when it was released, he went one better with March’s immersive follow-up ’23’.
What NME said: “On ‘23’ you sense he’s relishing this opportunity to have fun and simply enjoy what he’s making; the next step, providing that he continues to push himself and mix it up, could be a game-changer.”
Key track: ‘Obsessed With You’ TS
Dora Jar – ‘Comfortably In Pain’ EP
Who: The New York-based artist’s sound spans bedroom pop, folk and alt-rock, and often throws up thrilling results (such as you’ll find on her ‘Comfortably In Pain’ EP). Billie Eilish has been suitably impressed, having invited Dora to support her on her recent US arena tour.
What NME said: “‘Comfortably In Pain’ offers a welcome barrage of ideas and sounds, fleshed out in a way that her previous releases, 2021’s ‘Three Songs’ and ‘Digital Meadow’ EPs, struggled to be.”
Key track: ‘Scab Song’ TS
English Teacher – ‘Polyawkward’ EP
Who: The Leeds quartet have been working towards achieving their breakout moment for years, and their sights are set higher still. Their debut EP ‘Polyawkward’ marked one of their many triumphs of the past few months, which have included playing at Glastonbury and supporting Yeah Yeah Yeahs on tour. The real thrill of ‘Polyawkward’, though, is in hearing English Teacher tailor their art-punk sound to suit their commanding attitude, going all-in on their strong sense of self-belief.
What NME said: “It’s purposefully silly and breezy: the sound of a young, rising band at their loosest and funniest, rolling with life’s punches while laughing every step of the way.”
Key track: ‘Yorkshire Tapas’ SW
Island of Love – ‘Songs of Love’ EP
Who: Earlier this year, Third Man Records – Jack White’s increasingly eclectic record label – set up shop in Soho and celebrated their London imprint’s first signing, Island of Love. The London group initially impressed the label’s co-founder Ben Swank so much that he offered them a record deal less than 30 seconds after they got off stage following a gig.
What NME said: “Armed with a strong musical and personal bond, Island Of Love’s excitement to learn and develop together is intoxicating.”
Key track: ‘Songs of Love’ TS
Nia Archives – ‘Forbidden Feelingz’ EP
Who: The NME Award-winning Bradford-born, Leeds-raised producer and DJ has emerged this year as a new hero of drum’n’bass. Nia Archives’ ‘Forbidden Feelingz’ EP offers big beats, heaps of self-love and a moving sample of the US poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou, making for an exhilarating six-track record.
What NME said: “On her second EP, Nia Archives proves that not only is she a leader for a new generation of drum‘n’bass ravers, but it cements her place as an elite producer.”
Key track: ‘18 & Over’ SM
Sad Night Dynamite – ‘Volume II’ mixtape
Who: The Glastonbury duo (yup, the very same) have been waiting patiently for the return of music festivals since the pandemic first hit, meaning their that their debut performance at Worthy Farm last month felt like something of a full-circle moment. Cuts from April’s ‘Volume II’, their second otherworldly mixtape, dominate their current setlist and promise even bigger things to come from Archie Blagden and Josh Greacen.
What NME said: “With ‘Volume II’ having been warmly received by fans and with the world now fully open to them, Sad Night Dynamite are primed to attack their first summer of shows with full force, and to move their creativity into a new space once again.”
Key track: ‘Demon’ SM
SIPHO. – ‘She Might Bleed’ EP
Who: The Birmingham artist, who is signed to Dirty Hit, told NME last year that he is “cosmic-minded when it comes to my career, as I know that things had to line up in a special way for me to get here”. The universe can keep doing its thing if it means that SIPHO. keeps producing releases as special as ‘She Might Bleed’, a powerful, theatrical and tender work from an artist well worth keeping a keen eye on.
What NME said: “At the core of everything on this six-track collection is SIPHO.’s voice. He wields his not-so-secret weapon as a powerful and versatile tool, comfortable expressing emotional turmoil as it is wearing a zero-fucks scowl.”
Key track: ‘Beady Eyes’ TS
Sprints – ‘A Modern Job’ EP
Who: The Dublin-based four-piece’s second EP arrived back in March, further justifying the buzz surrounding Ireland’s latest guitar heroes. Vocalist Karla Chubb leads the charge, delivering such devastating lines as: “I swear to god I’m the only fucker in this place who isn’t doing fine / And I’m not fine, I’m not fine, I’m not fine.”
What NME said: “Sprints haven’t given up on the rage or the fuzz; it’s music that doesn’t want to shout at the horrors of the outside world, but instead try to create space to breathe within it.”
Key track: ‘How Does The Story Go?’ SM
Surya Sen – ‘At What Cost?’ mixtape
Who: The debut mixtape from Londoner Surya Sen feels like an homage to the deep house sounds he’s unearthed in recent years as he’s become more and more involved with the underground and nightlife scenes of his home city. Sen possesses an ability to craft massive club anthems with deeply personal and political references, as evidenced by this lively and spirited project.
What NME said: “The deftness with which he balances the desire to reclaim the city’s nightlife scene, while speaking to the history of colonialism and the effects it has on South Asians today is remarkable; this is one of strongest and most versatile mixtapes to arrive out of London in the last few years.”
Key track: ‘Buccho Ni Ba Bhai (Grindin’)’ SW
Yunè Pinku – ‘Bluff’ EP
Who: The Malaysian-Irish producer and songwriter has an ear for a club banger – take ‘Bluff”s opening salvo of ‘DC Rot’ and ‘Laylo’, for example – but her music isn’t all about mindless bass drops. There’s a real craft and originality to Pinku’s take on electronic music, from her introspective lyrics to her layered vocal harmonies. “It’s the idea of making stuff that doesn’t fit into one particular genre, but then it’s also something that I would listen to myself,” she told NME back in March about her creative process.
What NME said: “Equally suited to clubs and dinner parties, ‘Bluff’ brings a refreshing relatability to the dance world, perfectly encapsulating, as Yuné’ says, ‘the things that you can’t really seem to explain or you don’t feel like you can justify feeling’.”
Key track: ‘DC Rot’ SM