Extended Plays (EPs) can be a great way to introduce fans to a new artist or hold fans over until a full project is ready for release. Most of my favorite EPs from 2012 were from established artists, who wanted to silence hungry fans until they were ready to release their LPs (Sara Bareilles took her time releasing The Blessed Unrest and was rewarded with an Album of the Year Grammy nomination!), but this year my favorite EPs are from a batch of soulful newcomers.
All four EPs feature solid vocals and songwriting, but my favorite EP stands out because of its cohesiveness and production value.
1. I reviewed Sevyn Streeter’s Call Me Crazy, But… last week when it was released and I have since decided it is my favorite EP from this year. Not only does the project take listeners through every stage of a tumultuous relationship, but it is a solid release overall, from its production to it’s lyrical content and vocals. From the 90s reminiscent “Come On Over” to the brazen “B.A.N.S. (B*tch A** N*gga Sh*t),” Call me Crazy, But… is a cohesive effort that proves Streeter has what it takes to come from behind the scenes and make it as a solo artist.
2. Fans have been waiting since 2011 for Jhene Aiko to make her Def Jam debut, but the singer still isn’t ready to release Souled Out. Aiko surprised fans a few months ago by announcing that she would release an EP before the end of the year. Sail Out features previously released personal tracks “3:16” and “Comfort Inn Ending,” along with new songs like “The Worst.” Honestly, of all the EPs listed Sail Out is the project that feels the most complete. Aiko’s strength, much like Streeter’s, is her ability to tell a vivid story and include all of the devastating details. It is her openness that draws fans to her music.
3. YouTube sensation Tori Kelly released a five song EP Foreward this year under Capitol Records, with the help of new manager Scooter Braun. The singer’s first single “Dear No One” isn’t exactly new (the song was featured on Kelly’s self-titled EP last year), but it was the perfect way to introduce her to a larger audience. The soulful, guitar-driven project showcases the young artist’s vocal and writing talents over understated productions. Kelly isn’t necessarily a “new artist,” but this year is the first time many people are hearing the songbird’s name. Hopefully 2014 brings even more success for her. She definitely deserves it.
4. Sam Smith has one of the best male voices I’ve heard in a while. Don’t believe me? Just listen to the acoustic version of the singer’s Disclosure collaboration “Latch.” Although the singer just released the first single from his debut album last week, he has been churning out soulful gems all year. He combined three of his solo releases, along with a live track of a new song “I Told You Now,” and released them together as Nirvana. On one hand, I’m just glad Smith allowed us to indulge in his talent this year, but on the other hand this EP was such a tease and I need more ASAP.