Best Music 2013: Our 10 Favorite EPs/Mixtapes Of The Year

By: Idolator Staff / December 12, 2013

Exactly a year ago, we declared 2012 the Year of the EP, and the trendlet is going strong through another four seasons. Because while big-ticket pop albums left us feeling empty for the past 12 months, 2013 boasted a wealth of small treasures in the form of expertly crafted EPs and mixtapes.

Our 10 favorites from 2013 comprise stunning new singers arriving on the scene fully formed, a pair of unorthodox young rappers marking their territory, the effortless return of Norwegian pop darling Annie and the reemergence of Cassie. A large chunk of the list is made up of debuts, but all 10 entries were statement releases that found the artist establishing or bolstering an identity.

Below, in no particular order, find the 10 best EPs and mixtapes of the year, as chosen by Idolator’s five editors. 

Annie – The A&R EP

Annie The A&R EP Cover
What an exquisite late summer treat Annie and Richard X‘s The A&R EP turned out to be. This collaborative effort’s five early ’90s house-leaning tracks proved that sometimes you don’t have to shoot for overblown art in order to achieve catchy pop. From the bouncy “Back Together” to the whimsical “Hold On” to the dreamy “Ralph Macchio,” The A&R EP is neat, tidy and utterly perfect. If only all releases were this good. — ROBBIE DAW

BANKS – London EP

banks london ep artwork
In many ways, 2013 was a big win for fans of alt-R&B. One of the most intriguing acts leading the movement? BANKS, an L.A.-based singer-songwriter with an affinity for downtempo beats. Her London EP is an exquisite thing, showcasing BANKS’ featherlight vocals on heartbreaking, moody cuts like “This Is What It Feels Like” and “Waiting Game.” It earned her an opening spot on The Weeknd’s tour, plenty of critical acclaim and a solid launching pad for her upcoming debut LP in 2014. — BRADLEY STERN

Travi$ Scott – Owl Pharaoh mixtape

travis scott owl pharaoh
Travi$ Scott was recruited to work on Yeezus, and when you hear this warped hip-hop acid trip, you can see why. He’s a master of tension, juxtaposing his flow — always suave as hell and a breath away from breaking out into a weed-addled giggle —  with the Tyler-approved pitched-down voice and serrated, jittery beats. One listen to the “Uptown”-“Hell Of A Night” combo and it’s clear Scott aims to lead the coming wave of art-rap, shuffling the expansiveness of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, the demonic hedonism of Yeezus and the sad-rap of Kid Cudi in real time. — CARL WILLIOTT

Betty Who – The Movement EP

Betty Who The Movement EP
I’ve written about this EP so many times this year that I almost expected to run out of things to say, but if ever there were a release worth championing again and again and again, it’s this one. It vaulted Australian songstress Who onto countless Ones To Watch In 2014 lists and caused a viral sensation with lead single “Somebody Loves You,” and it’s still one of the most polished, irresistible debuts I’ve ever heard. From “Somebody” to the gorgeously glitchy “You’re In Love” and the perfectly longing “Right Here,” as well as perennial fan favorite “High Society,” it’s a pop EP that’s free of flaws. — SAM LANSKY

Jhene Aiko – Sail Out EP

JHENE AIKO SAIL OUT

Jhene Aiko has long been the best-kept secret in R&B. Her subtle, jazz-tinged vocals featured on hits by Big Sean and Drake in 2013 but she finally showcased the full extent of her daunting talent on the much-praised debut EP Sail Out. The Def Jam diva’s incisive lyrics offer a fresh perspective on staple R&B themes like heartbreak, weed and cheating. “Please don’t take this personal but you ain’t shit and you weren’t special until I made you so,” she hisses over sparse beats on “The Worst.” That’s restrained in comparison to the exasperated, vulnerable smackdown she gives her man on “Comfort Inn Ending (Freestyle).” 2014 is Jhene’s for the taking. — MIKE WASS

Say Lou Lou – Better In The Dark EP

say lou lou better in the dark
The debut EP from Swedish-Australian sister duo Say Lou Lou earns its place on this list with ease, even though it only contains two original songs — but when those two songs are better than almost anything released this year, does it even matter? Between the lush title track and its deliriously heartbreaking B-side “Beloved,” this is peerless pop magic, the kind of thing that all the mediocre divas only wish they could have released this year. The three remixes that pad out the EP are all great, of course, but you’ll never hear them: you’ll be too busy listening to the first two songs on repeat. — SAM LANSKY

Sevyn Streeter — Call Me Crazy, But… EP

sevyn streeter ep
Sevyn Streeter finally got her due in 2013. After more than a decade of false starts in two separate girl bands, followed by a career detour as R&B’s go-to songwriter, the 27-year-old finally landed a well-deserved hit with the Chris Brown-assisted slow jam “It Won’t Stop.” That deceptively catchy groove is the perfect calling card for debut EP Call Me Crazy, But… — a seven-song set brimming with sharp lyrics, smooth vocals and on-point production. Highlights include the sprawling, genre-hopping title track (this needs to be a single) and shimmery, emotion-drenched balled “Shattered.” — MIKE WASS

Kitty – D.A.I.S.Y. Rage mixtape

kitty daisy rage ep
You need to know three things about Kitty‘s latest mixtape. 1) girl can rap, 2) girl picks some off-the-wall beats and 3) girl’s lyrics are sneaky smart. D.A.I.S.Y. Rage is where Kitty proved herself to be more than just a meme, more than a snarky Jezebel headline, so if you’re dismissing the Internet rapper because she has the voice of a Rainbow Brite fangirl, well, you’re missing the point. I don’t know if rap has ever sounded this unassuming and girly — as in, the unfiltered work of a young female — and that’s the point. That’s the appeal. D.A.I.S.Y. Rage demonstrated Kitty’s legit hip-hop chops and, by merely existing, it demonstrates the jarringly fast rate of expansion the genre is currently undergoing. — CARL WILLIOTT

Cassie – RockAByeBaby mixtape

Cassie RockaByeBaby
It’d been ages since we last received a full, non-leaked body of work from Bad Boy diva Cassie (seven years, to be exact), which made 2013’s RockAByeBaby mixtape all the more sweet. The gritty, well-crafted set saw Cassie flaunting her bad bitch status (no really, there’s even a song called “Bad Bitches”) around frequent samples from ’91 cult classic New Jack City, with productions by Mike WiLL Made It and Rob Holladay, remixes of cuts from Kendrick Lamar and Tyga and tons of features — from Ester Dean to Wiz Khalifa. Between the spacey, tripping vibes of “Numb” to the all-out explicitness of “Do My Dance,” the mixtape brought something fresh and forward-thinking to the scene that many of pop’s hardest hitters didn’t. Cassie might not care all that much about committing to music-making, but when she does, she does it well. — BRADLEY STERN

John Newman – Love Me Again EP

john newman love me again

John Newman is already shaping up to be quite the chart-topping supernova in his home country of England, where the Adele-like crooner’s debut LP Tribute has already been released. Stateside, we’ve had to make due with the scrap that is this EP, which features the British singles “Love Me Again” and “Cheating,” plus two other tracks from Tribute. The standout is “Gold Dust,” a soulful, string-laden wall of sound that has Newman’s astonishing vocals operating on all cylinders while backed by an equally powerful choir. Keep an eye out for this guy in our neck of the woods in 2014. — ROBBIE DAW

Which EPs and mixtapes were your favorites this year? Let us know below, or by hitting us up on Facebook and Twitter!