Its sleeve might be crassly drawn, like a page torn from a Daniel Johnston cookbook, but the songwriting on Melbourne marvel Courtney Barnett’s tender ‘How to Carve…’ is immaculately formed. The follow-up to 2012’s ‘I’ve Got a Friend Called Emily Ferris’, one listen leaves you in little doubt – Courtney’s star is on the rise.
‘Peace Sword’ was a beguiling psych-rock curio, even by the perenially weird Flaming Lips’ standards. Lit up by tales of intergalactic warfare, this 37-minute six-tracker – longer than many albums, but still technically an EP – was a stunning return to form for a band whose powers were thought to be on the wane.
The Fall’s ‘Remainderer’ EP “sounds like someone’s brought Elvis back to life – maggots and all,” wrote NME’s Kevin EG Perry on its release in November. A ‘bridging point’ between May’s ‘Re-Mit’ and next year’s scheduled 31st studio album, it suggested a band whose creative juices simply refuse to stop flowing.
“Who are you people, and what have you done with The Vaccines?” wrote NME’s Emily Mackay on the release of ‘Melody Calling’, such was the departure taken on the group’s August review. With shades of Teenage Fanclub and Big Star, the four tracks here found Justin Young and co embrace their more tuneful side.
Mysterious London solo star FKA Twigs might have spent her career to date hiding in the shadows – her identity remains under wraps, while her videos are shadowy affairs casting little light on what she looks like – but it’s certainly not out of a lack of confidence. ‘EP2’ was a bold, daring spin on trip-hop, featuring production from the esteemed likes of Kanye collaborator Arca.
LA pop newcomer Banks’ debut EP was released to coincide with a worldwide arena tour support slot for The Weeknd. Full of smoky synths and sex-dripped vocals, the songs on ‘London’ certainly owed a debt to Abel Tesfaye’s hedonistic R&B futurism. There’ll be plenty of people watching in 2014 for her next move.
In June the Pixies announced that Kim Deal had left. Two weeks later ‘Bagboy’ came out. Then on September 3 came the first new extended Pixies release for 22 years, ‘EP1’. No, it wasn’t as good as ‘Come On Pilgrim’. But yes, ‘Indie Cindy’, ‘What Goes Boom’ and ‘Andro Queen’ all sounded like a mighty machine cranking back into action.
The Orwells released two excellent EPs in 2013, but ‘Other Voices’ edged its way onto this list at the expense of ‘Who Needs You’ by virtue of its Dave Sitek-produced title-track. Almost puppyish in its enthusiasm for the early-noughties garage rock they were weaned on, it was arguably the best thing they’d ever done.
The North London quartet’s first proper release after the singles ‘Fluffy’ and ‘Bros’ did little to answer questions about where Wolf Alice were headed. But, as it flitted from intricate and delicate on ’90 Mile Beach’ to the rumble of ‘She’ via the bounce ‘Nosedive’, ‘Blush’ presented a number of intriguing options.
On their second EP, ‘Devil Fruit’, Radkey unleashed their anger across four tracks of Misfits-worthy punk. Not even relatives were safe from the Missouri trio’s vitriol, and they took aim at their grandad on the scathing ‘Little Man’. Everything else was a furious outpouring that proved the teenagers were not to be messed with.
As a snapshot of where a band are at a particular point in their career, an EP doesn’t always require cohesion to be successful – sometimes it’s just as important that it brims with possibilities for the album that will eventually follow. That was certainly the case with ‘Tally All The Things That You Broke’, a release that bolstered Parquet Courts’ reputation as one of 2013’s best young bands.