These days an EP can work as effectively as an introduction to a staggering new talent as it works as a vehicle for an establish band to get out loose-ends, lightly polished ideas, or gems that just don't fit on other albums. Here's to the EPs that dared to be more than glorified singles, the EP's where the B-sides are as vital and ear-catching as their more attractive and famous siblings. Below you'll find the 13 14 EPs that stood out to us in 2013.
Special Consideration: Burial - Rival Dealer
[Burial's Rival Dealer was released 10 days after the deadline for this list - but it is still a 2013 EP, so we decided to make a special amendment, considering how fucking great it is.]
Rival Dealer a triumph of the EP format, one that challenges the critical practice of assigning more weight to the full-length. Burial’s EPs have increasingly felt less like stopgaps and more like the final product, the real deal. Rival Dealer is only three tracks long but it’s as rich as many LPs. In fact, it's one of the best releases of the year, period.
01 FKA twigs - EP2
That an artist with so few tracks to her name could generate even one song that's so distinctive as to be unforgettable is astounding; that her entire second EP has such a distinctive, cohesive sound that’s considerably more than the sum of its fascinating parts suggests FKA twigs is an artist who is just getting started.
02 MØ - Bikini Daze
While MØ could have slapped together a solid EP from the already excellent cuts in her repertoire, she ambitiously went rogue on Bikini Daze. The result is a record that stands at the crossroads between assurance and insecurity. In the hands of lesser artists, this dichotomy would be an obstacle to surmount, but for MØ the disparate strands of her identity combine like a binary chemical cocktail and ignite into something dangerously and delicately sublime.
03 DJ Rashad - Rollin'
Rollin' represents something of a breakthrough in the world of Footwork, the dense and often impenetrable sub genre of the increasingly commercially mined Chicago House. DJ Rashad, a veteran in his own right, explores the boundaries of Footwork with Burial-esque vocal samples and UK bass' skittering beats while never completely banishing them. The result is a masterwork of production that demands several intense listens on a decent pair of cans.
04 Lorde - The Love Club
"Royals" really happened didn't it? Lorde's name is on the lips of every hipster, teenage girl and soccer mom out there. It's her world, we're just living in it. Her Love Club EP - not to mention her Fall full-length debut - is a burst of originality in a pop landscape full of mindless hooks and dubstep anthems. The EP's five songs operate within a perfectly balanced yin-and-yang of coolness and warmth, as the ghostly, sparse, robotic beats are paired with Lorde’s bubbly, smooth, inviting vocals. “Be a part of the love club,” she tells us with a smile, “everything will glow for you.”
05 Perfect Pussy - I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling
2013's boldest punk record was, in fact, an unassuming four-track debut EP from a Syracuse band called Perfect Pussy. Don't be fooled into thinking the title - "I have lost all desire for feeling" - is showboat-y dramatics; Perfect Pussy have the fury, the angst and the kinda beautiful, kinda fucked-up lyrics to back it up.
06 Wild Nothing - Empty Estate
Tying together Wild Nothing's wonderful 2010 debut, Gemini and his more polished 2012 follow-up, Nocturne, was great little EP called Golden Haze. Wild Nothing rinses and repeats this tactic with this year's Empty Estate, the EP meant to tide fans over until he releases his third full-length LP. And boy does it. Not everyone loved Nocturne's polished aesthetic, but Empty Estate gives us some perspective, and better yet, it introduces some new, interesting/awkward ideas from Wild Nothing that ought to make for a new album worth waiting for.
07 The Flaming Lips - Peace Sword
So the Flaming Lips are basically our generation's Pink Floyd, right?
08 BANKS - London
Though Banks is from Los Angeles, her debut EP is called London. It's fitting though; her music has much more in common with the dim, turbulent, microprocessed pop that’s currently being turned out by the likes of FKA Twigs, London Grammar and Jamie Woon (who chips in on production duties here) than with anything west of the Atlantic. Backstopped by reliably intimate music, her fervid lyrics mostly deal with abuse, loss and obsession. These songs catch your ear like pop music, but they stick with you for entirely different reasons.
09 Sampha - Dual
He'll always have a job singing a hook for any number of hot future garage acts coming out of the UK right now - or even Drake - but Sampha is even more compelling, more lovely on his own.
10 Annie - A&R
Of all the great musical marriages of 2013 (shouts to Daft Punk, Nile Rodgers & Pharrell's triad), Annie & Richard X's union was the most understated, if not underrated. These two consistently bring out the best in each other; they are electropop's Phil & Ronnie. This is never more apparent than on the fantastic A&R EP. In 20 minutes the duo fire off five songs of flawless, nostalgic, bittersweet pop music.
11 Grizzly Bear - Shield: B-Sides
If you walk in expecting less than the world, this glimpse into the busy minds of an uncommonly thorough group of artists is never less than enjoyable, if not totally essential.
12 Madlib & Freddie Gibbs - Deeper
Dear Madlib and Freddie, please release an full-length already.
13 Haerts - Hemiplegia
At the intersection of Beach House and Young Galaxy in terms of songcraft and elegiac vocals that veer into rallying cries, Haerts' debut EP, Hemiplegia encompasses this dichotomy and explores it in four tracks, each an experiment in the conflicting, spellbinding effect that dream pop exhibits when done well.