Overall, I have to say, I found more interesting music in 2023 than the year before. Actually quite a lot of it. However, not all music I found was released in 2023 so that kinda makes the list a tad narrower. I have found myself drifting away from genre’s that I was listening to before like dreampop, janglepop and sophistipop and noticed I (re)found a need for beats and dash more soul/jazz. There’s a tendency towards triphop, vaporwave, indiejazz, urban and mainly experimental stuff that defies genre. Just some “real” creativeness I guess, mostly by young people reinventing older influences or just creating a whole new genre by themselves. The latter certainly applies to King Krule and Tirzah.
I compiled a very small list of my top albums of 2023 to share. For inspiration.
King Krule – Space Heavy: I didn’t think this man could get any better but he did. On “Space Heavy” you can hear the maturing of a great musician /songwriter and playing around with other influences than the usual. Space Heavy is introspective, but with more emphasis on Space than Heavy. I hear more joy, more beauty, less anguish. Even in its darkest moments it finds peace. With the dreampoppy/ dubby “Seagirl”, a collaboration between Archie and American/Indian singer Raveena Aurora, a classic indie favourite was born. Utter gorgeousness. Other favs are “Space Heavy” and “From The Swamp“.
Draag – Dark Fire Heresy: This band is getting better and better, and if they are a “shoegaze” band, they certainly are the best, and most progressive one around. Draag does not stick to formula’s: guitars are dominant but heavy use is being made of electronica and beats. Not only do the people in this band know what they are doing but their craftmanship does not diminish the emotion that their music is charged with. Unlike in most shoegaze, vocals are not withheld here. Highlights are Learning To Live With It, Good Era Doom, Midnight Paradise and Sin Eating.
George Clanton – Ooh Rap I Ya: When I found the I Been Young video, I seriously couldn’t decide whether it was from 1991 or not, it captures the sound and aesthetics from the 90’s that cleverly well! But then, it isn’t just a very good dupe. The king of Vapor Wave tends to do things that are unexpected and throw you off balance. There is something delightfully uncanny about his productions. Other than that it’s all magic and euphoric soundscapes with warm synth-chord-progressions, underpinned by 90’s triphop/rave beats, served with humour. Irresistible! He got me hooked! Highlights are I Been Young, Justify Your Life and You Hold the Key and I Found It.
Tirzah – Trip9love...??? : I discovered Tirzah playing in a charity shop in Notting Hill last summer where they played her colab with Mura Masa called “Today”. I was listening subconsciouly to her voice and it took me some time to decide whether I liked it or not, because I couldn’t place it. But I couldn’t draw myself away from her either, and walked up to the counter to ask who it was. And this is exactly why, I think, she belongs here as she is totally unique. One moment you think she does jazzy indie chanteuse, then suddenly she will sound soulful, or come up with her unique middle-eastern adlibs. All this combined with a charming, strong British accent. The music is sober triphop on this last album: beats over moody piano, dissonance and glitches where Tirzah’s hypnotic voice is, and remains the protagonist of her introspective poetic lyrics. Captivating! Highlights are: Their Love, No Limit and He Made.
The Hepburns – Only The Hours: Not because I was involved, but because this album is simply amongst the best albums released in 2023 and deserves a spot here. This album was finished in 2018 and frozen until it saw the light this year. Inspired by Cavalcanti’s “Rien Que les Heurs” film from 1926, this album is drenched in cynicism and melancholy, often edging on eerie. The songs are a full spectrum of snapshots from a 60s nouvelle vague movie. Matt Jones is simply one of the best songwriters out there! Highlights are On The Parcels, Roy, Drinking Tea In Cars and Heading For The City.