2023 was a pretty darn good year for music, at least for the genres I like…

I’ve spent a lot of time listening to my top 15 over the last month or two, in order to decide on the final order, and I’ve pretty much considered moving each one to the top slot at one moment or another. All of these albums have really special moments on them — whether it’s the right mix of noise and pop, well crafted songs, or amazing lyrics. It was very hard to pick the final order.

Given the breadth of genres on this list, you are guaranteed to find something you like — there’s singer-songwriter, indie pop, shoegaze, hardcore, emo, alt-country, hip hop, R&B, 90’s nostalgia, and on and on. If you like one or more of those, I highly recommend just throwing the album playlist on shuffle and getting a sampling of all these records.

My fave album from 2023 is Girl With Fish by feeble little horse, a band from Pittsburgh, PA. Girl With Fish is their sophomore release, following the 2021 debut album, Hayday. Both albums were released on Saddle Creek records, home of Bright Eyes, Big Thief, Cursive, Hop Along, Tomberlin, Spirit of the Beehive, and many others.

I was put on to feeble little horse when Saddle Creek re-released Hayday in 2022. Their new album builds off that release and showcases a band who are locked in creatively. They layer noise pop with shoegaze, complete with melodic hooks and glitchy elements that keep you on your toes.

Lyrically there are gems, like this on the opener Freak:

I can look you in the eye, I’ll cheer for you ’cause I’m on your side
How can you be satisfied? She’s five foot one and you’re six foot five
Maybe you’re not my type, but you can score when it’s overtime

And the double entendres on Steamroller:

Steamroller, you fuck like you’re eating
Your smile’s like lines in the concrete
Threw the towel in, I’m tired of baking
I’m the only one who sees me naked

Wet bed sheets she bled from the pressure
Plastic catholic priest watched from the dresser
Wet the flour and whisk it together
Add a finger pinch just for good measure

The whole package of 11 songs finish in under 30 minutes, so there are no wasted moments or throw away parts. It’s equal parts beauty and chaos…

I absolutely love bands that expand on and experiment with their influences to create something new and fresh. That’s a common thread with most of the albums listed below. I do hope you give each of them a chance to win you over!

2023 Favorites – Top 35

  1. feeble little horseGirl With Fish (Listen)
    FFO: lo-fi noise pop, shoegaze, glitchy indie rock

  2. Truth ClubRunning From the Chase (Listen)
    FFO: slacker indie rock, slowcore

  3. FiddleheadDeath is Nothing to Us (Listen)
    FFO: DC hardcore, post-hardcore

  4. Yves TumorPraise a Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume (Listen)
    FFO: alternative rock, neo-psychedelia, post punk, glam, industrial

  5. boygeniusthe record (Listen)
    FFO: singer-songwriter, indie folk, supergroups (Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus)

  6. Hotline TNTCartwheel (Listen)
    FFO: indie rock, indie pop, shoegaze

  7. MitskiThe Land is Inhospitable and So Are We (Listen)
    FFO: singer-songwriter, folk rock, art pop

  8. Home is WhereThe Whaler (Listen)
    FFO: fifth wave emo, post hardcore

  9. Ian SweetSucker (Listen)
    FFO: indie pop

  10. Pip BlomBobbie (Listen)
    FFO: indie rock, indie pop

  11. WednesdayRat Saw God (Listen)
    FFO: shoegaze, country, indie rock

  12. Sun JuneBad Dream Jaguar (Listen)
    FFO: indie folk, indie pop

  13. Open CityHands in the Honey Jar (Listen)
    FFO: hardcore

  14. Squirrel FlowerTomorrow’s Fire (Listen)
    FFO: indie folk

  15. New PagansMaking Circles of Our Own (Listen)
    FFO: post punk, indie rock, alternative rock

  16. ClaudSupermodels (Listen)
    FFO: bedroom pop, indie pop, singer songwriter

  17. Wiki, Tony Seltzer14k Figaro (Listen)
    FFO: alternative hip hop, lyricists

  18. Militarie GunLife Under the Gun (Listen)
    FFO: melodic post hardcore

  19. Sufjan StevensJavelin (Listen)
    FFO: indie folk, baroque pop, folktronica

  20. Kerosene HeightsSoutheast of Somewhere (Listen)
    FFO: midwest emo

  21. Cherry GlazerrI Don’t Want You Anymore (Listen)
    FFO: girl fronted 90’s alternative, indie rock, noise pop, grunge

  22. Indigo De SouzaAll of This Will End (Listen)
    FFO: indie rock, alternative rock

  23. MIKE, Alchemist, WikiFaith is a Rock (Listen)
    FFO: alternative hip hop, lyricists

  24. Hannah GeorgasI’d Be Lying If I Said I Didn’t Care (Listen)
    FFO: indie pop

  25. Olivia RodrigoGUTS (Listen)
    FFO: pop music, guilty pleasures

  26. RatboysThe Window (Listen)
    FFO: indie rock, indie folk, post-country

  27. Slow PulpYard (Listen)
    FFO: indie rock, bedroom pop

  28. Hannah JadaguAperture (Listen)
    FFO: bedroom pop, indie pop

  29. Buck MeekHaunted Mountain (Listen)
    FFO: folk, alt-folk

  30. FeistMultitudes (Listen)
    FFO: indie pop, folk, baroque pop

  31. SamphaLahai (Listen)
    FFO: soul, R&B

  32. MIKEBurning Desire (Listen)
    FFO: alternative hip hop, lyricists

  33. Jason Isbell and the 400 UnitWeathervanes (Listen)
    FFO: alt-country, Americana, folk

  34. Navy BlueWays of Knowing (Listen)
    FFO: alternative hip hop, lyricists

  35. Jamila WoodsWater Made Us (Listen)
    FFO: R&B, neo soul, hip hop

Find all of these albums on my finalists playlist, over on Apple Music and Spotify.

And for a wider selection of songs, check out my favorite songs from 2023 playlist on Apple Music. LOTS of good music in 2023. (Almost 10 hours of music on that list!)

If you want even MORE music, I also keep a music diary (of sorts), where each day I add a meaningful song to my song-a-day playlist. It could be a song I listened to during the day, a song from a new band I “discovered” that day, a song to represent something that i did (like going to a concert), or a song that was meaningful for other reasons (like my mom’s favorite song; she passed away in 2022.)

What I like best about this is re-listening to the playlist on long car trips – the memories come flooding back when each song plays. It’s pretty awesome.

Anyway, here’s my song-a-day playlist for 2023.

The Best Of… Live

Here’s a sampling of some live performance from the artists mentioned above:

Feeble Little Horse

Pip Blom

Hotline TNT


Yves Tumor


Tech Tips: Keep track of your top albums and get a better Wrapped

For many people, the end of the year means sharing your Spotify Wrapped or Replay from Apple Music. For me, I use Last.fm to track my music listening, so I don’t pay much attention to my report from Apple Music. (Here’s my 2022 report.)

Last.fm is available all the time AND has much more info about artists, albums, and your listening habits/interests than Apple Music or Spotify will ever put out, so it’s worth using if you really like music.

Beyond that, it’s easy to set up and use. I don’t use Spotify and longer, but you used to be able to log in to Last.fm via your profile to automatically connect and sync your listens. For Apple Music users, I highly recommend using an app like Albums or Marvis Pro as your player, as those two have Last.fm functionality built in, as well as extra power user features.

I use Albums as my default player. I really like the album focus of the app (it pushes you to listen to full albums, just as you would assume based on the app name.) It also has great features like a release calendar (based on your library artists), easy access collections, and pre-built “intelligent” collections like “Today in History”, collections of albums grouped by different times in your life, collections of albums you loved in the past and haven’t listened to in a while, and many more. If you are a Last.fm user you can even import your historical data to help build those intelligent collections.

At the album level, you can find the digital equivalent of liner notes (release date, record label, genre, editor notes from Apple Music, and everyone who wrote and performed on the album), as well as a dedicated stats tab for the particular album.

Albums also has an easy-to-use tagging system which I use to build my Best of 2023 lists and track new releases. For 2023, I built out a few collections:

  • A collection for new releases

  • A collection for new releases that have not been listened to yet

  • A collection that pulls in albums tagged with only ‘Best of 2023’

  • Then finally, in November a collection based on albums tagged with only ‘2023 Finalist’

This gives me quick access to all new releases, ones I haven’t listened to yet, and then easily categorize albums for my end of year list.

Overall, it’s an amazing app that I highly recommend.

Favorite Concert from 2023

I love live music, so I keep a log of the bands I’ve seen over the years, filling in dates as I see flyers and other internet clues. Hundreds of bands now, going back to the mid 90s.

I only went to ten shows this year, but they all made an impact. Particularly the Lovejoy / Good Kid / Crywank show in Toronto with two of my kids. I even wrote a blog post about it.

In terms of best live performance, Manchester Orchestra was my favorite live band of the year. Hands down one of the best live (or otherwise) bands going now.

Thanks for Reading

That’s it for issue #3. If you aren’t subscribed, what are you waiting for?

And, please, tell your friends!

Thanks for reading.
– Jason and Chris

Record giveaway to newsletter subscribers this February

I am a patient boy.

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