Music Features

Merry-Go-Round’s Top EPs of 2023

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As we continue our 2023 coverage, we want to highlight some great EPs released this year. Below are our favorite shorter-form releases, from Double Wish’s Californian shoegaze to Astra King’s endearing indie pop. Check out these EPs (as well as some honorable mentions) and be sure to dive into our unfolding year-end coverage.

Honorable Mentions:

crushed – EXTRA LIFE

Izzy Heltai – MOSTLY MYSELF AGAIN

James Ivy – EVERYTHING PERFECT

Ritual Club – RUNNING LOW

Smiling Broadly – S/T

tofusmell – HUMOR 

Double Wish - LIGHT SPLIT SPARKLE art5. Double Wish – LIGHT SPLIT SPARKLE

Genre: Shoegaze, Pop

LIGHT SPLIT SPARKLE was a highlight early in the year, an early signal that 2023 would be a solid year of music. The opening track, “Know It All,” kicks things into gear with a sense of urgency and a catchy-as-Hell falsetto chorus. “Sugary Plum” is all chill vibes over tranquil guitar noodling, and “Meadows” is a sweet ditty that’ll worm its way into your brain through your ears. Double Wish’s ability to seamlessly fuse genres results in a collection of reflective and danceable tracks. LIGHT SPLIT SPARKLE is a testament to the duo’s creative prowess and knack for pushing musical boundaries. [Jack Probst]

Astra King - FIRST LOVE art

4. Astra King – FIRST LOVE

Genre: Bedroom Pop

I recently came across the term “utopian scholastic,” which describes a ‘90s design style known for its use of bright primary colors, late-20th century technology, and stock images (often of plants or animals, typically placed in semi-surreal visual contexts—think I-Spy puzzles, Zoobooks, and old children’s encyclopedias). The cover art for Astra King’s FIRST LOVE EP is a prime example of this type of colorful nostalgia, and takes a similar approach to songwriting. These four wide-eyed, heart-skipping bedroom pop songs approach the titular topic with curiosity and childlike wonder. [Grace Robins-Somerville]

NewJeans - GET UP art

3. NewJeans – GET UP

Genre: K-Pop, Jungle

No girl group has taken over 2023 like NewJeans, their soft, intimate style making them one of the biggest K-Pop groups today—a far cry from the maximalist K-Pop of the last decade. GET UP establishes them as one of fifth-wave K-Pop’s most important figures, its warm breakbeats and laidback energy producing some of this year’s catchiest songs. Not one of its six tracks feel undercooked, their short runtimes and pristine production are all that’s needed to pull you in. These 12 minutes are all NewJeans needs to display their dominance of today’s K-Pop scene, and they’re showing no signs of stopping. [Lurien Zitterkopf]

Perfect Actress EP art

2. Perfect Actress – S/T

Genre: Punk, Alt-Rock

Forget chords, lyrics, or even burger-themed aesthetics; the mark of a great band is their inherent cool factor. And though seemingly quite young themselves, Sydney’s own Perfect Actress are a very cool band. It’s not all just sweet glasses and Lindsay Lohan references; the band’s four-track, self-titled EP from June feels like the perfect snapshot of punk in 2023. Which is to say, there’s earnest dissections of social issues (like sex positivity on “Leather”) married with more universal themes (see “(It’s All Just) Too Much”). Or, the way the band balances some clear technical prowess with slacker vibes just to come off all the more engaging and relatable. Even the way the band carry themselves via the medium of recorded sound just feels quite inescapably hip. Perfect Actress have never tried to be cool—they just resonate that magic with endless honesty and creative curiosity. [Chris Coplan]

Spiral XP - IT’S BEEN A WHILE art

1. Spiral XP – IT’S BEEN A WHILE

Genre: Jangle Pop

If you scroll down to the bottom of Spiral XP’s page on Spotify and click into the “About” section, you’ll find that Spiral XP is “a band that loves Cinnabon.” That’s it, and that’s all there needs to be. Who doesn’t love stopping off at the mall food court for a Classic Roll or perhaps a frosty Chillatta®? Why, IT’S BEEN A WHILE is a lot like a container of CinnaSweeties™: bite-sized, packed with flavor, and goes down great with a glass of milk. Another blink-and-you-missed-it EP from early in the year, Spiral XP seamlessly blend jangly hooks reminiscent of late-’80s indie pop, the psychedelic buzz of shoegaze, and ethereal dream pop, creating one delicious dessert. (I shouldn’t have written this on an empty stomach.) [Jack Probst]

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