Some of the most exciting music of any given year comes in the form of an EP. Young artists use it as they figure out their voice or to make a big first impression; for more established acts, it can serve as a playground of ideas between studio albums. It’s a format that inspires fluidity and whose boundaries are fluid, which is why you often have to go with an artist’s definition – the only reason we can include Kurt Vile’s new 52-minute project on this list. Some EPs work best as addendums to a bigger project, while others stand perfectly on their own. Regardless of runtime or popularity, though, we believe these ones are worth your time. Following our list of the best albums and best album covers of the year, here are the 25 best EPs of 2023.
25. Beach House, Become
The five songs on Become clearly belong in the same universe as the duo’s 2022 album Once Twice Melody. They’re all lifted from the same sessions, and at one point, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally felt like they created their own little world. “To us, they are all kind of scuzzy and spacious, and live in the spirit realm,” they wrote, which, typical sonic signifiers aside, seems like the only relevant precondition for being included in the Beach House canon. They work their magic in the exact ways you expect them to, but they also manage to wander far from the easily identifiable. The group rolled out Once Twice Melody in four chapters over several months, and as a late addition to the saga, Become does not offer further context or clarity. It doesn’t fold these chapters into any kind of neat story, not does it venture beyong the musical experimental the sprawling LP already showcased, but it provides an opportunity to step back into it and take pleasure in that old, placeless yearning.
24. Heartworms, A Comforting Notion
The music on Heartworms’ debut EP, A Comforting Notion, produced by Dan Carey, is as reliably dark and propulsive as anything you’d expect to come out through his Speedy Wunderground label. But it’s JoJo Orme’s commanding presence as a vocalist, wiring her voice through anxious talk-singing to theatrical shouts, that turns it into something uniquely spine-chilling and doomful. The London-based musician – who volunteers at The Royal Air Force Museum in Hendon and lets her fascination with military history seep into her art – oscillates between dejection and despair as she lays out her dystopian vision, but her songs flirt with instead of truly veering into hopelessness; tension piles up as her words tumble forth, but she snaps out at just the right time. On the closing track, ’24 Hours’, Orme imagines herself a child again, “Excited to wake up and do a little/ While the sun goes up/ Believing teeth became money/ And money became a souvenir.” Much of A Comforting Notion is about freeing yourself from it, even if it means running through different planes of reality.
23. Searows, End of the World
As its title suggests, and not unlike Searows’ 2022 debut album Guard Dog, End of the World stares down feelings that could, one way or another, be called catastrophic anxiety; but as the Kentucky-born, Oregon-raised singer-songwriter Alec Duckart gives them the space to unfold, the songs reveal themselves as products of not just constant worry, but change. He names a song ‘Funny’, even though it’s the heaviest, most vulnerable song here, then follows it up with the title track, which actually has quite a bit of warmth and levity to it. “I buried my teeth in everything good/ And it didn’t save me like I thought it would,” Duckart sings on ‘I Can and I Will’, and by the time the thought cycles back, it’s mostly just an echo. There’s a lot more of them to get through, and he can’t wait to dig in.
22. Saya Gray, QWERTY
At just 17 minutes, Saya Gray’s QWERTY keeps turning its head for new ideas. Drum breaks, guitar riffs, field recordings, and distorted vocal samples all dot the Canadian-Japanese artist’s idiosyncratic sound, which seems to cringe at the formation of any conventional pattern and therefore moves at a manic, unpredictable pace. This makes the follow-up to Gray’s debut LP 19MASTERS as jarring and bewildering as it is engrossing, relishing the pleasures of discovery rather than familiarity as it parses through not only various sound combinations but senasations, voices, identities. Delightfully, Gray’s brand of avant-pop displays no aversion to flashes of theatricality, whether in the form of guitar solos (performed by her brother Lucian) or the thrash metal riff that bursts out at the end of ‘..2 2 CENTIPEDES’, echoing Feist’s Mastodon-sampling ‘A Man is Not His Song’. Yet it’s not all about surprise: Gray’s music tends to match the underlying sentiment, especially in the grief-stricken ‘ANNIE, I SING FOR..’, which hangs onto a certain song structure for as long it takes to at least honour the feeling.
21. Scowl, Psychic Dance Routine
Scowl’s brand of hardcore is relentless, colourful, and exhilarating, and Psychic Dance Routine does not fall short of capturing the qualities that made the Santa Cruz band’s 2021 debut LP Where the Flowers Grow so compelling. But the four-track collection is more of an evolution than a condensed version of their already dynamic sound, offsetting their grittier sensibilities with a cleaner, infectious approach on songs like the title track and ‘Opening Night’. More than a pure balancing act, though, the juxtaposition serves to amplify the raw, explosive energy that makes the band stand out, not to mention vocalist Kat Moss’ impressive ability to command all of it. As they gear up for LP2, Psychic Dance Routine doesn’t give the impression of a group torn between two paths but one more than capable of splitting the difference, as they prove as early as on the opening track, ‘Shot Down’, which keeps shifting gears with an ease that feels totally natural to Scowl.
20. Nia Archives, Sunrise Bang Ur Head Against Tha Wall
On Nia Archives’ second EP and the follow-up to last year’s acclaimed Forbidden Feelingz, shuffling instrumentation provides both a backdrop and the antidote to feeling stagnant and defeated while a rush of possibilities flow ahead of you. The Bradford-born, London-based producer is uniquely gifted at pairing drum n’ bass breakbeats with tender, introspective lyrics, and Sunrise Bang Ur Head Against Tha Wall makes the best out of that juxtaposition. After the explosive opener ‘Baianá’, which fuses jungle with a sample of the Brazilian choir Barbatuques, the EP coasts more on the vulnerability and stylings of neo-soul, whether in ‘No Need 2 Be Sorry, Call Me?’, an affecting duet with Maverick Sabre, or the pleading ‘So Tell Me…’. If it all seems to flash by a little too fast, the atmospheric closing track captures the early morning hours where it all comes into focus – the hurt, the laughter, the little snapshots that float up your mind as the sun rises.
19. Vines, Birthday Party
Before recording music as Vines, Cassie Wieland mostly composed music for others to play in a classical music context, but the new project allowed her to experiment with vocal processing and lyric-based writing in a new way, at first through stark, slowed-down renditions of songs like MGMT’s ‘Kids’ and Bo Burnham’s ‘All Eyes on Me’. Her debut collection, Birthday Party, spans seven original tracks and closes out with a cover of Modest Mouse’s ‘The World at Large’. The line “My thoughts were so loud I couldn’t hear my mouth” is a fitting conclusion for an intimate yet hypnotically expansive collection, which swells around small, isolated phrases that resonate in an instant but whose meaning grows with each added texture and haunting repetition. Co-produced with Mike Tierney, Birthday Party offers access to an internal world that’s richer and warmer than the loneliness that pervades it, and in doing so, manages to bring it outward.
18. One Step Closer, Songs for the Willow
The hooks on One Step Closer’s Songs for the Willow are so anthemic they sound reflective of a band living the dream, eager to capitalize on the success of its debut album. But the EP’s immediacy, as well as its use of clean vocals, sheds light on the conflict at its core: trying to reconcile their love of touring with the problems it’s caused as they went on the road in support of 2021’s This Place You Know. It may be brief at just short of 10 minutes, but that amounts to a pretty long goodbye, which is what these songs are always at the cusp or in the midst of. The Wilkes-Barre band’s excellent grasp of hardcore seems responsible for their dynamic range as much as frontman Ryan Savitski’s desperate yearning for catharsis, clinging to another forever with each melodic turn. “Here comes the sound of loss,” he screams on ‘Dark Blue’, and it sounds like a crowd of voices, echoing the words back.
17. Kurt Vile, Back to Beach Moon
It’s so easy to cozy up to Kurt Vile’s Back to Moon Beach EP that you might not even realize it runs longer than some of his full-lengh LPs. “An EP by no one’s definition but Vile’s,” as a press release puts it – and hence why it’s included on this list – the 52-minute collection finds the singer-songwriter very much in his comfort zone, drifting through songs that are delightfully unprecious and earnest yet often treated with nuance that belies their presentation. Given that it includes covers of Wilco’s ‘Passenger Side’ and Bob Dylan’s ‘Must Be Santa’ (featuring vocals by Kurt’s daughters Awilda and Delphine Vile), it could have been a throwaway collection that overstays its welcome, particularly given its sometimes disgruntled tone. But it never feels quite aimless, and it doesn’t embrace cynicism so much as it dumps it in favour over a simpler, cheerfully self-aware worldview. “These recycled riffs ain’t goin’ anywhere anytime soon,” Vile declares on the title track, and if you’ve reached that point, you’re probably glad for it.
16. Aphex Twin, Blackbox Life Recorder 21f / in a room7 F760
As Richard D. James’ first collection of original material in five years, Blackbox Life Recorder 21f / in a room7 F760 was a release equal parts comforting and exciting for most Aphex Twin fans – a fact the enigmatic producer anticipated by imbuing the music with strangely menacing and melancholy qualities. Even by electronic music standards, the precise moods of these three tracks – plus a ‘Parallax Mix’ of ‘Blackbox Life Recorder 22’ – are hard to parse and mutable, especially as James subtly tweaks his formula with breakbeats, ambient tones, and fragments of melody that don’t so much interact in a space as destabilize it. It’s cavernous and propulsive yet resists contextualization, even within the Aphex Twin universe. Though it may feel longer than it is, you’re left wanting to dive back in to catch any clue you might have missed.
15. Lowertown, Skin of My Teeth
Skin of My Teeth is Lowertown’s first independent release since 2019’s Friends, which led to the duo being signing a deal with Dirty Hit while they were still teenagers. Earlier this year, Olivia Osby and Avsha Weinberg announced they’d parted ways with the label – which last released their debut LP I Love to Lie as well as 2021’s The Gaping Mouth EP – but the new four-track effort hardly feels like a reset. With some of the songs dating back to the recording of those releases, The Gaping Mouth is haunted by the themes of isolation and illness that have marked Lowertown’s music in the past – the opening track revolves around the mantra “I love to lie” – which is counterbalanced by the warm chemistry between Osby and Weinberg in captivating ways. Instrumentally eerie even when it tries to pick itself up or strip things down, Skin of My Teeth ultimately homes in on the vulnerability of Osby’s lyricism more than her tangled poetry: “Sometimes I hide in the trees/ It’s nice trying not to be seen/ I think one day everyone I know will forget about me,” she sings over and over on ‘Obscurity’, with the comfort of slowly realizing she’s not the only one.
14. Spirit of the Beehive, i’m so lucky
Over three LPs, Spirit of the Beehive have developed a reputation for making dense, cryptic sound collages, but i’m so lucky is more fascinating for experimenting with something approaching sentimentality rather than genre. The band started working on the EP after the dissolution of a decade-long relationship between members Zack Schwartz and bassist Rivka Ravede, and instead of packing as many ideas as possible in 11 minutes, they make space for intense emotion; chaos, as manifested in the aftermath of a breakup, is the subject of these songs more than in their formal expression. Though the lyrics can still be elusive and the production heady, they make way for some of the group’s most affecting and serene music yet, marrying the poetic with the plainspoken: “Don’t dissolve in the water with your hand stretched out to find her,” it concludes, “In the stillness I’ll remember how you held me when we were together.”
13. Yaya Bey, Exodus the North Star
For the majority of Exodus the North Star, Yaya Bey sounds liberated and blissfully in love. It’s both a sharp contrast and a wonderful companion to her excellent 2022 album Remember Your North Star, keeping her fusion of hip-hop-, neo-soul, and reggae while dusting off the heaviness that marked the LP. “Sunshine won’t last all of my days, but I’ll be sunshine all of my days,” she sings on ‘Ascendent (mother fxcker)’, the fortitude of her voice sparkling against the sparse, mellow, at times lo-fi instrumentation. The only track that isn’t all sunshine is ‘munerah’, a complicated study of relationship dynamics that finds Bey flexing her abilities as a performer as she switches between rapping and singing. But the EP dazzles with each jolt of affirmation it offers: “Yes, yes, yes,” she exclaims on ‘when saturn returns’, “Whatever you have for more/ I’ll take it gladly.”
12. Wishy, Paradise
“This funny feeling gets me higher than all my longing,” Nina Pitchkites sings on the opening title track of Wishy’s debut EP Paradise (out the day this list is up). Coasting on shoegaze, dream pop, and alt-rock as much as they do, of course the band – which Pitchkites leads alongside fellow Indiana songwriter Kevin Krauter – sing about longing, the kind that can easily be mistaken for nostalgia. But their songs rush out for a certain feeling – funny, yes, but also thrilling, fuzzy, and complex – more than any set of aesthetic and emotional signifiers. Far from just a warm blanket of sounds, Paradise is breezy yet dynamic, elevated by the interplay between Pitchkites and Krauter’s musical sensibilities – they trade vocal and songwriting duties throughout – and hypnotic, hazy melodies. ‘Blank Time’, woozy and wonderfully percussive, offers a peek into what happens when they step out of their comfort zone of gauzy, whirling instrumentation I don’t know exactly what it’s about, but I get the feeling.
11. Yunè Pinku, BABYLON IX
On the follow-up to last year’s Bluff EP, Yunè Pinku confidently takes her rapturous, kinetic dance music in a more textural and otherwordly direction. The Malaysian-Irish artist has said she makes music for “introverted ravers,” which means it’s also an opportunity to let her imagination run wild – here, by drawing inspiration from ancient Celtic myths and Hindu stories while transferring rave culture into space. She suffuses BABYLON IX with intricate drum programming, atmospheric production, and emotionally rich lyrics that add dimensionality to what many will find a blissfully nostalgic sound. “I’m not digital/ I’m just feeling,” she professes on highlight ‘Night Light’, lest you mistake her occasionally deadpan vocals for anything robotic, while the synths on ‘Blush Cut’ sparkle amidst stark yet blurry confessions. ‘Fai Fighter’ opens, out of nowhere, with a scream and ends the project on a euphoric high note, getting lost in a disaffected trance that mirrors, for at least a moment, real catharsis.
10. Hemlocke Springs, going…going…GONE!
The magic of Hemlocke Springs’ debut EP makes itself evident pretty quickly: every song soars up from its bedroom pop origins into something infectious, theatrical, and otherworldly. The project of 24-year-old R&B singer/songwriter Naomi Udu, who made waves after posting her music to Soundcloud and TikTok while studying for a master’s degree at Dartmouth, Springs possesses an ability to capture modern-day neuroticism while invoking both the timeless yearning of ’80s synth-pop and the fantastical ambition of an artist like SPELLLING, suggesting she could make her own version of The Turning Wheel if she put her mind to it. But going…going…GONE! is more immersed in Springs’ own messy reality than fairy tales, the hooks catchy and endearing until they start to sound more like spells: “I just want love/ I’ll take anyone/ I need your attention/ In this frail dimension of a brain.” On ‘enkee1’, she once again rides out in search of love, but there’s a different kind of earnestness to it as the music, bubbly and vibrant, urges her to keep moving. Then, for a moment, it transcends.
9. BAMBII, INFINITY CLUB
If you were a fan of BAMBII’s nocturnal production on Kelela’s latest album Raven, the Toronto DJ’s debut EP isn’t one to miss. INFINITY CLUB is a showcase not only for Kirsten Azan’s multi-faceted production but for her commitment to carving out a space for community – she’s known for founding the biannual club night Jerk as an ode to her Caribbean heritage – bringing together influences from dancehall, hip-hop, jungle, and R&B. It’s spacious, sultry, and deliciously playful – thanks in no small part to its range of guests, from Lady Lykez’s mischievous verses on ‘WICKED GYAL’ to ‘Sydney’s Interlude’, where MC Sydanie’s vocals glide with the alluring fluidity BAMBII masters throughout the EP. Even in its darker moments, the project – which opens with a chorus of voices intoning “You are now entering the infinity club” in different languages – doesn’t lose sight of its central goal, inviting us into a world that feels universal but wholly her own.
8. Angel Olsen, Forever Means
Big Time was an album of great warmth, personal reckoning, and self-actualization for Angel Olsen, who delivered her songs with more self-assurance than even some of her most lavish, imposing work. Collecting material from the album sessions, the four songs on Forever Means assert that there’s no full stop to that journey, whose only natural conclusion is to embrace the beauty of uncertainty. Despite the seemingly mournful tone of songs like the title track, Olsen has a way of imbuing quiet revelations like “Forever means saying what’s on your mind” with radiant profundity, and the relatively low stakes of an outtakes EP allows her to linger in them, too. Though they encapsulate the haunting, intimate grandeur of Olsen’s music, they are less straightforward than some of the songs on Big Time, not so much outstretching its world as providing another precious look into it – a reminder that only by keeping your eyes peeled and your heart open can you ever adapt to, and learn to love, changes both big and small.
7. Jlin, Perspective
As a body of work, Perspective really stretches the idea of its title. The project is based on the collaborative experimentation between Jerrilynn Patton, the luminary producer known as Jlin, and the Grammy Award-winning Third Coast Percussion; their compositions earned a nomination for the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for music, and the EP feeds the Third Coast’s acoustic versions back into her electronic music world, which now hinges less and less on the vocabulary of footwork and IDM. The integration of more organic percussion and drums does nothing to diminish the depth, intricacy, and impact of Jlin’s music – if anything, being able to peer into it through different angles only makes their beauty more tangible. Given how much these compositions seem designed to challenge and subvert, you might be surprised by how much they end up moving you, particularly the minimal closer ‘Duality’, which might be one of the prettiest tracks in Jlin’s catalog.
6. Daneshevskaya, Long Is the Tunnel
Long Is the Tunnel, Anna Beckerman’s latest effort as Daneshevskaya, was co-produced by Ruben Radlauer of Model/Actriz, Hayden Ticehurst, and Artur Szerejko, and features contributions from Lewis Evans (of Black Country, New Road), Maddy Leshner, and Finnegan Shanahan. Both playfully enchanting and hauntingly poignant, its seven tracks toe the line between traditional and patchwork songwriting, blending memories, diary entries, and dreamy images in ways that hold a mirror up to her own life, those around her, and beyond. They’re haunted by the past but possess a childlike curiosity that seems to drive them down unpredictable paths, artfully arranged but pure in its emotional expression. You may not be able to pin it down to a single thing, but Beckerman holds battling emotions at once, hoping you get closer to the truth somewhere in the middle.
4. Ice Spice, Like..?
Since the release of her Like..? EP in January, Ice Spice has become one of the world’s biggest young stars; it’s hard to believe it was only this year we got her first collection of tracks. On top of a placement on the Barbie soundtrack, a Taylor Swift collab, and several Grammy nods, the Bronx rapper has capitalized on the EP’s success with two expanded editions, but the original version – six tracks clocking in at 13 minutes – is a delight to revisit. Her take on drill, cooked up with producer RIOTUSA, is level-headed and captivating, boasting hooks and clever wordplay but mostly resting on Ice Spice’s smooth, sardonic delivery; her bluntness serves the format perfectly. Like..? is the definition of a promising debut, showcasing the spontaneous approach and charisma of an artist still finding her voice; that it’s still pretty remarkable only makes the prospect of a debut full-length all the more enticing.
4. boygenius, the rest
The songs on the rest, like the voices of boygenius, are often tangled up. Phoebe Bridgers uses that exact phrase on ‘Voyager’, relaying the intimate language of a chaotic relationship that echoes the one she longed to escape on boygenius’ 2018 self-titled EP. When she first played the song at a London show in July 2022, more than a year before its boygenius live debut, it was a solitary affair, floating somewhere in the Punisher universe and unadorned by the presence of her close friends Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus. Months after the release of boygenius’ debut full-length the record and near the end of their triumphant tour in support of the LP, the context of boygenius – an indie rock supergroup reaching and self-consciously navigating new levels of success – is both unignorable and empowering. The chemistry is more important still. They don’t sing about each other as much, but they look and lean towards each other in powerfully incremental ways – not using music as a means of decorating or documenting time so much as attesting to that they’ve spent together.
3. Hand Habits, Sugar the Bruise
The songs of Sugar the Bruise often have simple beginnings, leaning on the intimate vulnerability that has marked Hand Habits’ work in the past. But working with collaborators including co-producers Luke Temple, Phillip Weinrobe, and Jeremy Harris, and inspired by their month-long stint as a songwriting instructor at School of Song, Meg Duffy utilizes the EP/mini-album format to embody the fluidity of art, how its structures constantly itch for transformation. The drum beat that opens ‘Something Wrong’ is jarring for how almost industrial it is, but Duffy softens the anxiety of an uncertain friendship with tenderly affecting instrumentation and lyrics; closer ‘The Bust of Nefertiti’ takes a different path entirely, gradually trading acoustic guitars for a house beat. “This life can be hard/ It takes a toll on your nerves/ I know that you tried to stay ahead of the curve,” Duffy sings on ‘Andy in Stereo’, which itself moves from a ballad to a waltz, addressing a fellow musician who’s always on the road. There’s so many forms this life can take, they seem to suggest, so long as you don’t let it hold you down.
2. crushed, extra life
It only takes a moment to register the pulse of every song on crushed’s extra life EP, but there’s so much to enjoy in its swirling haze. Shoegaze and dreampop are touchstones in the duo’s sound, but they’re lovingly embedded in such a way that allows them to zero in on the details that hang in the murk and melancholy that pervades them. And while moodiness and bliss hang side by side, crushed’s use of samples and field recordings flesh out the environments these vast emotions take shape in – vast yet specific to Bre Morell’s songwriting, which cruises through the bleeding edges of experience, carrying the weight of longing yet somehow radiant with it. It’s always at the cusp of an ending and a beginning, and they know how to bask in its gentle glow – the not knowing, getting lost – and when something bright and new comes along, they know to embrace it. “Been wandering lost for years on end/ But when you look at me, I am home again,” Morell sings on ‘milksugar’, where fireworks mingle with guitar feedback – again, though it’s probably never felt like this kind of heaven before.
1. NewJeans, Get Up
Minji, Hanni, Danielle, Haerin burst onto the scene last year with the first NewJeans EP: four sleek, irresistible pop songs that earned a spot on our 2022 best EPs list. Their second EP, Get Up, is even better, cementing their status as one of the most exciting K-pop acts around. Effortlessly blending club music and R&B stylings, it finds the group working with Artist Spotlight alumnus Erika de Casier on many of the tracks, further fleshing out the quiet confidence and playful, sparkling intimacy that sets them apart from their contemporaries. The singles are packed with infectious hooks, but its 12 minutes are also some of the most subtly intricate and pared-back pop music this year had to offer; even given the group’s meteoric rise, it’s a little surprising the project peaked atop the Billboard 200 albums chart. Closer ‘ASAP’ hints toward a euphoric release, but the understated finale only makes you want to dive right back in. The takeaway is simple: The clock’s ticking fast, so don’t waste a minute; there’s sweetness all around.