10 Best Indian EPs of 2021
Sparkling debuts and long-anticipated releases delivered on their promises this year
10. Enkore – Dhalta Chaand
Still counted among the seasoned hip-hop artists to rise from Mumbai, it seems like Enkore took a minute to catch his breath following his knockout 2018 record Bombay Soul. A few collaborations in between, Enkore was kind of invisible but he didn’t let another prolific year of Indian hip-hop pass him by without bearing his bilingual rap flourishes. On Dhalta Chaand, Enkore rages like he missed it (“Hey Bhagwaan”) and invites rapper Yashraj to share the mic (and perspectives about struggle) on the title track and offers a (mostly) unfiltered take on mental health (“Heal AF”). – A.T.
9. Ferry Tales – Long Time, No Sea
Mumbai pop-rock band Ferry Tales — comprising vocalist-guitarist Akshay Dakhane, drummer Nilay Singh, guitarist Nischal Chaubey, bassist Raghukul Mathur and keyboardist Nishant Nair — show off their pop sensibilities and playful yet laidback sonic approach on their six-track sophomore EP titled Long Time, No Sea. The whole EP is filled with dexterous moments, some flavorful guitar parts, stellar songwriting as well as blissful and mellifluous vocal melodies. Long Time, No Sea features straight-up pop tracks (“Lies” and “Sneak”), relaxed arrangements (“Home” and “Medicine”) and heavier elements (“Strong” and “Infinite Love”). – D.B.
8. Sandunes – Nowhere to Stand
There’s plenty of emotion that can be felt wholeheartedly on Mumbai-bred producer Sanaya Ardeshir aka Sandunes’ 2021 four-track EP Nowhere to Stand’s dreamy opening track “A Little While.” The song features her frequent collaborator composer/singer-songwriter Sohrab Nicholson aka Landslands. On the effervescent and bold “Shadow,” Sandunes enlists Hudson Valley-based musician Nandi Rose aka Half Waif on vocals, while Indo-American artist Sid Sriram steps in on vocal duties for the record’s title track. The EP closes with the pensive “Ghosts” in which the producer calls upon singer-songwriter Ramya Pothuri’s elegant voice. Lyrically, Nowhere to Stand covers themes of uncertainty, wistfulness and longing, while sonically, Sandunes has explored plenty of electro-pop soundscapes on the record. – D.B.
7. Kayoben – Asrar
Mumbai duo Kayoben, which includes singer-songwriter and harpist Nush Lewis and electronic artist Shadaab Kadri aka Riatsu have delivered a robust body of work as part of their three-track debut EP Asrar. The record — which includes the songs “Between Lines,” “Hold On” and “Slow Down” — on a whole is quite immersive while also featuring a variety of sonic elements that span from ambient sections to percussive beats. Lewis’ poignant vocals blend in perfectly as Riatsu’s elegant production ventures into a meditative space and also adopts a more groove-oriented approach. — D.B.
6. RANJ, Clifr, Issamood – 593, Vol. 1
Quarantined together and fighting the dreaded virus, Bengaluru friends Ranjani Ramadoss aka RANJ, Chilpher Christopher aka Clifr, and Samudra Dasgupta aka Issamood somehow concocted a pop/rap sound that’s meant for the clubs. From shooting the breeze on “Attached” to the bass-heavy conversations around relationships on “Schoolbus” (with rapper Tintin throwing a curveball), the trio push plenty of boundaries with playful glee. “£ Me” offers love-making funk grooves with RANJ channeling a bit of Janelle Monae, and they travel a few decades back in time for the slinky R&B cut “Come Thru.” It’s a dream team, this one. – A.T.
5. Bipul Chettri – Samaya
Kalimpong, Darjeeling-origin, New Delhi-based songsmith Bipul Chettri crafts a patient, adorned and sagacious EP with Samaya. Singing in Nepali, flittering acoustic guitar melodies form the bed for Chettri’s journeying stories. Through the lens of love, loss and everything in between, Chettri pulls apart the elements with Dylanesque flair (“Katai Uslai”), contemplative steadiness (“Samsara”) and his own acclaimed style (“Samaya”). Knowing he can be a good example, “Naya Din” exudes brightness in the face of the pandemic and there’s pastoral brilliance in the lilt of “Bhaans Ghari.” If the difficult times do return, Samaya is balm for the soul. – A.T.
4. .DOE – .DOE
Mumbai outfit .DOE — comprising drummer and producer Rohan Ramanna, guitarist Amandeep Singh and vocalist Divya L. — showcase plenty of musicality on their debut three-track eponymous EP. The record includes the astounding “Don’t Care,” the dreamy “Nothing Gold” and the ethereal “Amnesia Haze” and is a magnificent juxtaposition of hip-hop beats, jazz harmonies and R&B vocals that make for a splendid listen. — D.B.
3. Tekina – From Toons to Tunes
A few years in the works, the smooth, jazz-hop informed EP from Mumbai composer-producer and vocalist Tekina aka Aniket Mangrulkar arrived just when the world needed a good dose of nostalgia mixed with existential thoughts. Joined by vocalist Warsha Easwar, producer Shannon George, bassist Ishaan Krishna and saxophonist Jarryd Rodriguez, Tekina traverse “the summer that’s got away” on “Toons to Tunes” and revel in philosophical turns of phrase (“Am I living this moment or is the moment living me?” Easwar sings on “Claiming Me”). There’s joy too (“I Feel One,” “Age with Grace”), which is just the kind of wisdom we can do with in 2021. — A.T.
2. Irfana x Taslina – Ko-Lab
If hip-hop in India ever needed more havoc, among the newer artists who made a big leap this year were Irfana Hameed and producer Taslina Nazar. The Kodaikanal-raised childhood friends teamed up with artists like Kalla Sha, singer-songwriter RANI and beatsmith Doc Awes for an ass-kicking of lethal proportions. In the course of four tracks, Irfana lists down the ways to mobilize action and anarchy (“First things first, destroy the state” on “MOB”), introspects with gems from RANI on “Gospel” (The latter sings, “Some people can’t tell true love from applause”), and flaunts dominance like a boss on “Zig Zag” (“Imma Booty call your bitch with a pigeon/fuck a phone”) and spins a powerful three verses about resistance and counting herself among the chosen few on “Program.” – A.T.
1. The F16s – Is It Time to Eat the Rich Yet?
Chennai indie band The F16s’ five-track EP Is It Time to Eat the Rich Yet? comes dazzling with jumpy guitar work, tons of groove as well as synths galore from members Joshua Fernandez, Sashank Manohar, Abhinav Krishnaswamy and Harshan Radhakrishnan. There’s also a lot to enjoy thanks to frontman Fernandez’s vocal textures as well as the harmonies plastered across the record. While the EP leans more towards a laidback sound, The F16s do manage to amp things up and get a bit heavier in sections. – D.B.