I feel like I may have been a little lazy this with my listening habits this year, and didn't branch out as much as I typically try to. 2023 was a big comfort-music year of pop-punk, emo, and hardcore for me with occasional branches out for albums like Jane Remover's second hyperpop record and Zach Bryan's eponymous country record. I'd like to make more time for the albums that wound up on the lists of proper music nerds, but until then, these are the 2023 releases that were most on my radar.
It's always a pleasure putting together a playlist that can somehow flow from Nicki Minaj to Cattle Decapitation.
(Also, just a quick note on what a pleasant surprise it was to hear the big nod to Biggie's "Notorious Thugs" (which opens with the line, "Armed and dangerous") on Nicki's "Barbie Dangerous," which uses the same melody and flow.)
- blink-182 – ONE MORE TIME
I can't imagine any other album going at the top of my list this year. Jason Tate (AbsolutePunk.net founder) wrote about his feelings about blink-182 after the release of this record, which is a nicer version of what I wrote after the release of NINE.
- Fiddlehead – Death Is Nothing To Us
This band continues to 100% be my jam. Pat Flynn is just one of those people I want to be friends with so bad. I place him up there with Henry Rollins as a sort of humble, punk-rock philosopher archetype. Track down any of his interviews or podcast appearances, and I think you'll get what I'm saying.
- Trophy Eyes – Suicide and Sunshine
A record of the band processing the suicide of their friend Sean Kennedy, the bassist of I Killed The Prom Queen. Albums processing suicides always hit me so goddam hard—I wrote about For Those I Love's debut record in my 2021 list, and resonated with The Yacht Club's 2019 record "The Last Words That You Said To Me Have Kept Me Here And Safe." This one is going right to the list, with lyrics like in the track "Sean"—"The first thing that I thought of when I heard that you had killed yourself / Was how stupid I'm about to look with my foot inside of my mouth. / 'Cause the last thing that I said when you were still around / Was 'you do this for attention or you'd have killed yourself by now'"
- Spanish Love Songs – No Joy
Spanish Love Songs continues to be the quintessential voice of millennial despair. Everything sucks and everybody is sad, and this is another record articulating the grief and gravity of scraping by in an economic system that's afforded my generation's working class no wealth, no healthcare, no secure housing, an epidemic of loneliness, and no hopes or prospects of things improving. It's bleak, but man, is it relatable.
"Oh, you had me there for a second. I start to believe that we could make it. It's just like life to come and teach me a lesson, and every time, I swear I forget it. I whistle while I work, but the work is gone, so let the clean-up crew just come eat me alive."
- Jane Remover – Census Designated
I'm late to the Jane Remover party, and not usually in the loop when new hyperpop records come out, but I loved this so much, as well as Jane's 2021 record, Frailty.
- Tinashe – BB/Ang3l
I've enjoyed Tinashe's music for years, but this one may be her best yet.
- boygenius – the record
It feels impossible to not have this on the list.
- nothing,nowhere. – VOID ETERNAL
nothing,nowhere. took a few years for me to warm up to, but he was my most-listened-to artist of the year. I usually reach for 2018's ruiner or 2017's Reaper, but Joe's catalog is getting so big and so diverse that it's become almost too easy to find a nothing,nowhere. album I'm in the mood for.
- Heart Attack Man – Freak of Nature
My favorite record from this band so far.
- Hot Mulligan – Why Would I Watch
I had an opportunity to see them in my town last winter with The Wonder Years and Carly Cosgrove, and I skipped it out of COVID caution, and I still kind of regret it. I love this band.
- Svalbard – The Weight of the Mask
Another dreamy metal release from this underrated English band that I typically loop in with bands like Rolo Tomassi and Deafheaven.
- Kelsea Ballerini – Rolling Up The Welcome Mat
This record is a ride. A tight 15 minutes concisely encapsulating an imploding marriage from the first cracks to the final crumbles, with a (For Good) edition of the album featuring a bonus track articulating the awkward shuffle of remembering how to date when again when something new shows the first signs of developing.
More Year-End Playlists:
Bonus: Favorite TV Shows
I don't talk about TV a whole lot, and this is largely a music-focused post, but I at least wanted a footnote to talk about how incredible The Bear is. I watched both seasons of this show this past year and its quality is unbelievable. I didn't get to it for a while because the name didn't strike me, and neither did the premise, but I kept hearing people rave about it, and just try it, okay?
The second season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds was great, too. It's such a wonderfully accessible show to get into the Star Trek universe; I highly recommend dipping your toes in.