Thursday 21 December 2023

My Top 20 Favourite Tracks of 2023

2023 seemed like a pretty mediocre year for music on the surface. But looking back, it actually had its fair share of bops.

This year brought us Barbenheimer, X and the rise of Skynet ChatGPT. The music industry felt pretty overshadowed for the most part. But despite its lack of big moments, there were still many great tracks being released. Below are some of my personal favourites.

Don't forget to also check out my worst tracks of the year. As always, I'll be doing a list of favourite albums too, but don't expect that to be published any time before January.  

20. ‘Conceited’ – Lola Young

I can’t get enough of these vocals. As one YouTube commenter noted, they’re like a mix of Adele, Amy Winehouse and Alex Turner from the Arctic Monkeys. The beat is also pretty eccentric and I love the noisy rock passage towards the end.    

19. ‘The World’s Biggest Paving Slab’ – English Teacher

As much as I like the spoken word approach of post-punk acts like Dry Cleaning, it’s great to hear a UK post-punk song with a euphoric soaring chorus like this. The moody start-stop guitar riff in this track is also addictive.

18. ‘High Relief’ – Void Comp

This indie/electronic track from Canadian artist Void Comp (who I interviewed earlier this year) won me over with its frosty layered synths and faraway sighed-out vocals. The way the synths swoop from speaker to speaker is hypnotic.

17. ‘Top Dog’ – Magdalena Bay                       

‘Top Dog’ is the type of cute and catchy pop song that ought to be getting radio play. I guess the contrast of masculine tough-talking lyrics and girly vocals is too odd for some listeners, but it’s this contrast that I think makes this song so unique. The early-00s-internet-inspired video is awesome too.  

16. ‘Younger & Dumber’ – Indigo De Souza

I’m usually not a fan of these types of sad country-flavoured ballads. But the pain in De Souza’s vocals feels so raw that this track blew me away. It’s a fantastic encapsulation of heartbreak and the lost feeling of no longer being able to return to your life before.

15. ‘Everybody’s Safe Until’ – Paris Texas

2023 was the year that artists finally cracked the rap-rock formula. The dark groaned hook, playful rap verses and moody driving guitars all gel magnificently. Paris Texas (who are in fact from LA) are definitely a duo to watch.

14. ‘Faster’ – Icona Pop

How many people have been caught speeding while playing this track? From start to finish, this house banger from Swedish duo Icona Pop doesn’t lose momentum, sounding like a fusion of Azealia Banks, Disclosure and early Martin Garrix.

13. ‘Don’t Be A Fascist’ – Tantrum Zentrum

Vaat Dafuq’s vocals may be some of the most entertainingly unhinged that I’ve ever heard in a post-punk song (and I’ve featured A LOT of unhinged post-punk bands on this blog). The title meanwhile offers some good advice: don’t be a fascist.  

12. ‘No More Lies’ – Thundercat & Tame Impala

‘No More Lies’ is such a well-balanced blend of Thundercat and Tame Impala’s respective sounds (two artists who have both previously had a SOTY on this blog). Their falsettos pair so well and the psychedelic chords are gorgeous.

11. ‘Time’ – Elizabeth Shepherd

Inspired by lockdown, ‘Time’ is indeed a song about time – specifically time passing by too fast. The way in which the bustling jazz instrumentation builds up is so thrilling, and the eerie looping of the line ‘years may go by’ is a cool creative touch.

10. ‘Dumbest Girl Alive’ – 100 Gecs

Featuring the THX deep note, Papa-Roach-esque guitar riffs and lines like ‘put emojis on my grave’, ‘Dumbest Girl Alive’ will either be one of the most stupid or stupendous songs you hear this year (and in case you hadn’t figured, I’m in the latter camp).

9. ‘Colorhead’ – Baba&Co

This five minute instrumental from Dehli-based musician Abhiruk Patowary is a blast. It weaves in jazzy pianos and sax, Persian ouds and kemences and even some prog metal distorted guitars towards the end.

8. ‘Bad idea right’ – Olivia Rodrigo

I was reluctant at first to support another Disney channel industry plant. But Rodrigo has proved she’s a cut above the rest with this post-punk bop – the riffs are infectious and the vocals feel so energetic and playful.

7. ‘Flexorcist’ – The Voidz

Julian Casablanca’s side project, The Voidz, wowed me this year with this wonderfully weird synthpop epic featuring autotuned vocals and a brief moment of guitar shredding towards the end. It’s like a strange hybrid of The Human League, T-Pain and Van Halen.

6. ‘Kingdom Hearts Key’ – JPEGMAFIA & Danny Brown ft. Redveil

Rappers JPEGMAFIA, Danny Brown and Redveil each have such distinctive voices and would make a great supertrio. It also helps that the beat here is insane – the sampling is heavenly, and the purposefully delayed way in which the drums kick in makes each verse hit hard.

5. ‘The Stars Will Leave Their Stage’ – The Murder Capital

I love it when a riff is so warped with effects that you can’t even tell if it’s a guitar or a synth (turns out it’s actually a guitar). The Dublin post-punk band’s frontman, James McGovern, also has such a commanding clear voice that really shines on this track.

4. ‘Funkfest’ – grouptherapy

‘Funkfest’ is an amalgamation of a few different genres (funk ironically not being one of them). In fact, it’s another prime example of rap-rock finally being done right in 2023. The poppy chorus from Jadagrace spices up the track nicely too, and the beat switch-up at the end adds another exciting layer.

3. ‘Hardwired’ – MSPAINT

MSPAINT make video-game-flavoured hardcore with guitars swapped out for synths. They’ve got a knack for catchy songs, but ‘Hardwired’ may be the ultimate display of catchiness, sporting a hook that will literally become ‘hardwired to your brain’.  

2. ‘Six Pack’ – Shame

With its fast-paced psychedelic groovy riff and swaggering post-punk vocals, ‘Six Pack’ is such an intense and exhilarating track  – and proof that rock is far from dead in 2023.  The animated video featuring Napoleon working out rocks too. 

1. ‘I’m The President’ – Knower

It’s hard to know where to start with this song as there’s so much fantastic stuff going on here. In fact, I think it’s better to just listen/watch and take it in for yourself. The way the song is arranged, the amount of talent poured into it and the amount of fun everyone is having makes this such a riveting experience. Plus, this track gets extra points for the hilarious editing in the video. For me, this is peak music.