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.
Listen to Rival Dealer, Burial’s surprise EP. At first blush it sounds like one of the best things the shadowy producer has done – just listen to the glorious centerpiece “Hiders.” We’re sure it’s fucking with everyone’s year-end list; I know it has us re-thinking ours.
The long-awaited sophomor album from TDE rapper ScHoolboy Q – OxyMoron – finally has a release date to go along with the various teaser tracks he shared in 2013. The album will finally be out February 25.
We don’t have an official tracklist yet, but must assume dope 2013 cuts like “Man of the Year,” “Banger (MOSHPIT)” and the Kendrick Lamar-assisted “Collard Greens” will all be featured on the LP. Revisit them below:
Tokyo Police Club definitely took their time following up their 2010 album Champ, but it looks like we will finally get to hear a new LP from the Canadian rock group in early 2014. Cue the soaring, 9-minute first single “Argentina (Parts I, II, III).” Welcome to post-Modern Vampires poppy indie rock, folks.
Blood Orange’sCupid Deluxe hasn’t been around that long, but Dev Hynes is already sharing some of the tracks that ended up on the cutting room floor. First up is “West Drive (Profit Vocal Dub)” featuring Friends’ Samantha Urbani. Hynes says that “West Drive” is “one of roughly a million cuts that didn’t make it onto the album,” and we can only hope he’ll share all of them.
Mancunian magicians NO CEREMONY/// release the latest double A-side single AWAYFROMHERE/ WARSONGS, pulled from their shimmering electro-sheened self-titled debut album. “AWAYFROMHERE” is their most stripped back offering to date, eschewing their love of synths to marry guest vocals from Irish singer James Vincent McMorrow with melancholic twinkling piano and mournful fretwork. “WARSONGS” sees heart-piercing synths swirl around lead singer Victora’s wistful vocals, continuing the album’s central theme of the search for – and fleeting nature of – that thing we call love.
NO CEREMONY///‘s debut album, a sophisticated electro-pop cocktail of exhilaration and heartbreak, is out now.
Earlier today, Flying Lotus shared a zip of “ideas+drafts+loops”, among them this nutso, but clearly incomplete remix of Kanye West’s furious “Black Skinhead.” Check it out below (via) and download FlyLo’s“ideas+drafts+loops”.
Flying Lotus – ideas+drafts+loops.zip Tracklist: About That Time Adventure Sound feat. The Underachievers An XBOX Killed My Dog Aqua Teen 24 Between Villains Chasing Apples Colemans Groove feat. Andreya Triana and Niki Randa Coswered draft Flotus DJ Mehdi – Mapei Ideas 1 Mix Hide Me feat. Shabazz Palaces Little Hours feat. Baths Meadow Man 2 Oatmeal Face Osaka Trade Puppet Talk Stonecutters Such a Square The Diddler The In Between The Kill feat. Niki Randa Black Skinhead Remix feat. Thundercat Tree Tunnels Wake Me
It’s a cold blustery night in Amsterdam as I race to legendary local nightspot Paradiso to speak to London Grammar. The band – Hannah Reid, Dot Major and Dan Rothman – are the reason that Saturday night tickets to the London Calling festival sold out days ago. The bi-annual weekender is well-known for attracting future musical titans… The Libertines, Blur and Franz Ferdinand – they all cut their teeth at the event before etching their names into the rock ‘n’ roll book of fame.
It’s been an extraordinary year for the art-rock trio. Their debut album If You Wait - a deeply emotive LP that perfectly marries understated electronica to sublime vocals – crashed into the UK charts at #2. As if that’s not enough for a band that released their debut EP in February, they also featured on Disclosure’s #1 UK album Settle, and headlined a sell-out homecoming show at Electric Brixton after touring the US.
Their amiable tour manager Sweeney sees me into their dressing room. He’s battling through a bout of food poisoning, but only has positive things to say about the band despite his malaise. Dot arrives next, bleary-eyed (he’s been out at fiery Amsterdam nightclub Trouw the night before) but still impossibly fresh-faced, looking not too dissimilar to Julian Casablancas in his prime – but more on that below. Twenty minutes later Hannah and Dan arrive. They look even younger in the flesh: beautiful, outgoing, and eager to talk about their debut – one of PMA’s albums of the year. After a brief chat about Amsterdam’s (in)famous Red Light District I switch on my dictaphone and we’re off…
Benji: Well hello London Grammar. Thanks for taking the time to speak to us. We’re massive fans of you over at PMA. As I said before to Dot, we not only think If You Wait is one of the best debut albums of the year, but we think it’s one of the best albums of the year – period. So it’s great to be able to sit down with you and discuss the album in more detail.
Well, first off, we heard you’re big fans of The National – perhaps you can help us settle a long-running debate over at PMA about what is the best track off their last album, Trouble Will Find Me?
Hannah: [without hesitation] ‘I Need My Girl’!
Dan: Is that on the new one? [Hannah confirms it is]. I would say ‘Sea Of Love.’ It’s a great album. We played Jules Holland with them on Tuesday and for us it was amazing just getting to meet them. Their dressing room was next to ours so we had a chat with them. They really were great.
Benji: The first time I saw them perform I was surprised by how charismatic their frontman Matt is, considering how introverted and depressingly dark some of the lyrics are to the songs…
Hannah: That’s the thing, when he’s performing he goes absolutely mental! And to speak to, well they are all really, really sweet gentlemen.
Dan: And when Matt’s performing, even when he’s going crazy, he’s also still introverted. It’s great to see. He pulls the mic down to my height even though he is over six feet tall.
Dot: Yeah it’s strange to see. You see a lot of people going nuts at a festival but it was weird to see in the TV studio. It looked really cool though.
Benji: They’re in Amsterdam soon; I can’t wait to see them.
Benji: Getting on to your album, there’s some really interesting interplay between the vocals and the instrumentation. The way that you craft space is brought up a lot. How did it work when you were writing the LP, given that there are three of you, and you all have a different part to play? Can you talk us through how you bring things together during the song-writing process?
Hannah: Well first off, thank-you. We basically write our own parts and play around with it. Dot might, for example, write a piano piece and have some production ideas for a track, and then we combine that with Dan’s guitars, and then I will add my vocal part over it.
Dan: Yeah it tends to happen in different ways. And sometimes things can just come from a jam. We wrote a lot of it just from setting up in my garage in Hendon and going from there, and then adding production later.
Benji: You had a raft of heavy-hitters who were involved in producing and mastering the album – Tom Coyne, Tim Bran, Roy Kerr – they are all listed as being involved at some stage … Dot, you’re also listed as producer – how much of the band’s direct influence are we hearing on the final product?
Dot: What was good about the guys we ended up working with is that they really did allow us to do our own thing. They helped fill in certain areas but the longer we worked on it the more confident we became with our own work. We also revisited a lot of tracks in the run-up to the album coming out. ‘Strong’ for example, it didn’t sound right for a long time, but once we’d figured out the right aesthetics for ‘Hey Now’ then we went back to earlier tracks and used what we’d learned, to make things aesthetically similar.
Benji: Well the final product sounds great. In terms of the themes that are represented on the album, the lyrics touch on heartbreak, loneliness, anguish – they’re intensely melancholic at times. What are the key themes you wanted to signify on the album… and, given how young you all are, what experiences did they come from?
Hannah: [pauses for quite a while as if she’s thinking about it deeply]. I… I don’t know. There are some songs that are about heartbreak in a traditional sense, in terms of the end of a relationship and the heartbreak that comes with that ending. And then there’s the general heartbreak that comes with youth, in not understanding, in the human condition. [laughs ] I always feel really lame saying that…
Benji: Ok then let’s move away from the melancholic stuff for a minute! Dot, how often do you get told that you look like Julian Casablancas?
Dot: From The Strokes? I’ve actually never heard that!
Hannah: I don’t see that!
Dan: I see that. You have so many lookalikes though! The main ones are Harry Styles, Frankie Cocozza, there’s Farris from The Horrors. There’s obviously a recurring theme with the hair. I think – with glasses on – Dot’s biggest lookalike is Sam Duckworth from Get Cape Wear Cape Fly!
Benji: My friend came down to see you guys in Chicago and he agreed with me; he thought you looked like Julian Casablancas – but with crazier hair…
Dan: Julian Casablancas. You should take that. He’s fucking cool!
Benji: Ok well back to the melancholy… You have these deep plaintive moments on the album. Are you melancholic people in day-to-day life?
Dan: [laughs] How do we come across now?
Benji: Not like that at all! Very upbeat…
Hannah: I think it’s kind of like we were talking about with The National. I would say that their lyrics are much darker than ours, but you meet Matt and he looks like the most pleasant and content man you could see. I think I’d put it down to me being a deep thinker and wanting to explore that side of things that are on my mind.
Dan: Also, when we were writing the record… we were in a much darker frame of mind. We were going through various pressures, some of which specifically impacted Hannah in terms of her lyricism. And Hannah’s voice projects a certain melancholy. So when Dot and I saw that in her voice and her lyrics we just went with that in terms of the music, and we really liked the direction the sound took, and the effect it had on people.
Benji: When you say “the effect it had on people”… Your music does elicit a very strong emotional response when people listen to it. The first time I heard the line in ‘Wasting My Young Years’ that says “I heard it takes some time to get things right”, it really resonated with me. It’s so often a thought process that people – young and old – use to justify staying in a relationship that is not working. And that line captures that perfectly. Are you deliberately trying to provoke an emotional response with people?
Hannah: It’s never deliberate. When we were writing the album we couldn’t imagine how it would make people feel. Especially with the lyrics, they just came out – almost like a stream of consciousness at times. So the deliberate intent was never there, it’s just now we see people and they tell us these songs have really had an impact on them.
Benji: Thinking about the future… I believe you’ve been booked to play Isle of Wight 2014?
Dan: [laughs] Have we? I went to that festival when I was younger, it’s a cool festival. I’d love to play there… But I’m not certain if we’ve been booked to play there yet. I think it was on a list of suggested festivals but nothing’s been set in stone yet.
Benji: Well what can we expect from you guys for the rest of the year and then in 2014?
Hannah: Sounds like we need to find out! Things get booked in and we don’t find out immediately.
Dan: We’re going to Australia at the end of the year. We’ll be touring Europe after this gig tonight. We’ll be doing a UK tour, then we have another American tour, then I think we head back to Europe. It’s pretty crazy. We’ll definitely be doing some festivals next year and hopefully we will get a chance to write some new music too.
Benji: Great! So we will see some new music at some point?
Hannah: We have a 4 week window to write some music so yes, hopefully.
Benji: You’re constantly on the road at the moment, and 2013 has such a great year for music. Are there any bands you can recommend to our readers to check out, besides The National…!
Dot: We do get to listen to other stuff. I love the Jon Hopkins album [John Hopkins: Immunity]. It’s really good.
Dan: We’ve just been given an album by John Wizards [John Wizards:John Wizards] which we’re liking at the moment.
Benji: Ok I hope you’re not tired of talking about this…You had what’s being called “the snub” for the Mercury Award. What did you think about that given that your album has been so critically acclaimed? Was there any annoyance?
Hannah: Well I think we actually submitted the album on the last day so there was only ever a longshot that we would have been in with a means to get on the list. We were disappointed, but not annoyed.
Dan: The media played it up a lot! We were made favourites to win it before we’d even been nominated, which is crazy. It’s unbelievable really that we’ve probably had more press from being apparently favourites to win and then not being nominated, than we would if we had just actually won it!
Dot: The main article on BBC News mentioning James Blake winning even mentioned us not getting nominated. That’s crazy.
We’re interrupted then – the band needs to prepare for the live show. We say our goodbyes and, after securing a promise from the band to create a mix of a track for PMA (watch this space!), I leave them to get ready for their performance.
They play a short but emotive set at Paradiso, and it’s a testament to the hypnotic power of Hannah’s otherworldly vocals that she transfixes the crowd despite problematic issues with the venue’s sound. I shouldn’t be surprised, of course – it’s just another incredible chapter in the ever-impressive narrative arc of the London Grammar story.
London Grammar released “Nightcall” – the latest single from their debut album If You Wait – earlier this week. Here is the video:
With Acid Rap, Chance the Rapper topped our Best Mixtapes of 2013 list, and he’s currently within the Top 5 in the building Readers list. Beyond that his excellent mixtape has earned him a spot on tour with Eminem and Kendrick Lamar, and in-studio collaborations with Bieber, Weezy, James Blake and Childish Gambino. It’s not even particularly shocking to hear Acid Rap being compared to College Dropout anymore. In other words, Chance the Rapper is at a pivotal moment in his career where he can either drop a channel ORANGE, or a good kid, m.A.A.d. city, or he can become the next Big Sean. We’re excited to see how this unfolds in 2014.
Until then, it’s pretty interesting to see how Chance cultivated his ebullient madhouse flow. Thanks to some crafty redditors, we can now listen to and download two early mixtapes from our MC du jour. These two tapes, Good Enough and Back to School Pack were recorded circa 2009 when Chance was all of 16 years old. After you burn through these, check out last year’s #10Day, the tape that started it all.
Katy B has been sharing tracks off her new album, Little Red for weeks now, but we finally have a release date and a track list for the LP. Mark your iCals, B’s 12-track sophomoric effort will be out on February 3. As expected, the album will include previously heard jams “5AM,” “Crying For No Reason,” “I Like You” and “What Love Is Made Of.” Also included is the late 2012 duet with Jessie Ware, “Aaliyah.”