Ranking music is hard. It’s not a competitive sport and yet at the end of each year we make it so. And when music is your thing and every band is your favourite it’s doubly hard to choose one record over another.  When thinking about this list I really struggled to narrow it down to just ten, let alone rank the final list. Two of my favourite SONGS of the year (Tarot Cards by Saturdays At Your Place and Hyperventilate by Flight Mode) aren’t represented as they’re from EPs, one of which won’t actually be released until 2024. And some of my favourite “new” records were reissues, mostly from Numero (Pot Boiler, Duster, Native Nod, Everyone Asked About You). And Captain Jazz arrived just too late and anyway I still can’t decide what I think about THAT cover. 

So, with that in mind, and with honourable mentions to those that didn’t make the cut (Lambrini Girls, Fucked Up, boygenius, Gel, Parker, Elliott Green and Really Big, Really Clever – I still love you!!) here are ten albums I enjoyed this year…   

Shit Present – What Still Gets Me (Specialist Subject)

Seven years after their last record Shit Present’s return was as triumphant as it was long awaited. This is the sound of a band taking their time and honing their sound, delivering self-assured emo-pop-punk banger after self-assured emo-pop-punk banger, while singing about anxiety, self-doubt, misogyny and depression. That trick of sharply written downbeat words over punch-the-air uplifting music is one I’ll never tire of. The guitars buzz along beautifully while Iona’s voice sounds incredible – rich and resonant and at times thoroughly pissed off. I’d been waiting a long time for this record and it’s everything I’d hoped for. 

Thank You I’m Sorry – Growing In Strange Places (Count Your Lucky Stars)

Begun as a solo project by singer Colleen Dow, TYIS first came to my attention with 2020’s I’m Glad We’re Friends, a record that absolutely charmed the socks off me with it’s heart-on-sleeve emotional and confessional lyrics, and which firmly established Colleen as one of my favourite singers and songwriters. Lyrically Growing In Strange places continues in the same beautiful, funny, heart-breaking vein, while musically it’s all over the place but in a good way. Fearlessly creative doesn’t begin to cover it. Yes there are still indiemo songs but they now have samples and bits of synth where samples and bits of synth don’t normally go, Brain Empty is an autotuned synth pop smash and Head Climbing could be Bikini Kill. A wonderful, messy, crazy joy.  

Star Funeral – In The Dark (Count Your Lucky Stars)

Star Funeral’s debut is a gorgeous, hazy, emo-tinged album written and recorded entirely (drums apart) by Nikki Esposito. The guitars chime with a warm shoegaze-y fuzz while Esposito sings about loneliness and alienation. It’s a heady brew and one I’m completely sold on. In The Dark (the song) is amazing – the kind you get lost in and wake up weeks later. I’d love to see these songs played live – I feel like it’d be the kind of show you “come to” at the end having zoned out completely (that’s the best kind of show, right?). Nikki, if you see this, come to the UK!!

Beetlehead – Everyone Gets To Come Back (Self-released)

How can a band with barely any shows to their name, who didn’t exist in any public way prior to September, end up releasing one of the albums of the year? Beetlehead seem to have bypassed the usual routes that young bands follow to grow and to find their sound, arriving seemingly fully formed with an absolute belting album of shouty and impassioned post-hardcore with a shoegaze tinge. Dorset’s Title Fight anyone?  

Loma Prieta –  Last (Deathwish)

And from a band that’s less than 6 months old to one that formed in 2005. Almost two decades and six albums in, Loma Prieta show no signs of slowing down (unless the album title is a hint). While there has been a definite shift to a somewhat more accessible sound over the last couple of records it’s all relative and Loma still pummel harder than most. Indeed, for me it’s the contrast between melody and dissonance, light and dark, beauty and the beast that makes this such a compelling record. There are moments of real ghostly beauty here, not least on the almost 6 minute penultimate track Glare, and while previous records could be almost suffocating in their intensity, Last at least allows you to catch your breath before smashing you in the face.

awakebutstillinbed – Chaos Takes The Wheel And I Am A Passenger (Tiny Engines)

awakebutstillinbed have grown a lot since 2018’s What People Call Low Self Esteem Is Really Just Seeing Yourself The Way Other People See You.  What were once roughly hewn gems are now fully realised epics with many songs 5 or 6 minutes long. The production is better, the arrangements fuller and Shannon’s voice has never sounded so good. First single Airport is an absolute belter of a pop song while Streamline has the feel of tweemo heroes Everyone Asked About You. There are twinkly bits and screamy bits and everything in between and the whole thing hangs together so well that it’s almost hour long running time absolutely flies by. And they’re at Trees next year – I cannot wait!!

Home Is Where – The Whaler (Wax Bodega)

An album of emo-folk-psych-punk-pop anyone? How about a CONCEPT album of emo-folk-psych-punk-pop? Cos that’s pretty much what the Whaler is – imagine The Hotelier re-making On Her Satanic Majesty’s Request with the help of Woody Guthrie while Orchid look on and you’re halfway there. But there is so much fizzing energy to this record that it’s impossible not to swept along with the righteous anger that permeates much of the vividly grotesque lyrics. Singer Brandon’s vocals range from a country croon to a desperate scream and she’s even listed as providing “tantrums” rather than vocals on the sleeve notes. In a world where so much music is simply recycling the past this is a unique and vital record and I fully expect us to look back on it in years to come the way we do Home, Like No Place Is There or I Could Do Whatever I Wanted If I Wanted.

Mouse – Under The Light Of The Air Conditioner (Kitty)

So, having praised the Home Is Where record for sounding like no one else on earth I’m now going to praise the Mouse record for sounding like everyone else on earth, or at least every alt rock band I loved in the 90s. It’s a smorgasbord of guitar sounds from shoegaze to slowcore, indie rock to noise rock and I absolutely love it. It’s as if every band I loved as a teenager got together to make a record just for me. New things are nice but so too are warm familiar comforting things that hit every button you got and still somehow sound fresh. Thanks Mouse.

Fiddlehead – Death Is Nothing To Us (Run For Cover)

I loved the previous two Fiddlehead records, and their live show is as good as anyone’s, so I had VERY high expectations for this. Safe to say, it did not disappoint. The third part of their ongoing meditation on friendship, grief and loss, it’s every bit as good as Between The Richness and Springtime And Blind. Singer Pat Flynn remains one of hardcore’s most engaging and thoughtful lyricists and a reassuring presence in an uncertain world. Indeed, everything’s going to hell and we’re all going to die but with Fiddlehead providing the soundtrack I’ve at least got SOMETHING I can believe in.  

Wednesday – Rat Saw God (Dead Oceans)

I thought Wednesday’s previous record, 2022’s Twin Plagues, was terrific but Rat Saw God surpasses even that, and I’m pretty sure each and every song on it has been my favourite at some point. Karly Hartzman’s voice is as amazing as ever, spinning tales of smalltown American life, while the sheer variety of musical styles, from indie rock (Quarry) to shoegaze (Hot Rotten Grass Smell), country (Chosen To Deserve) and all points in between makes it impossible to get tired of the record and keeps you coming back for more. The interplay between MJ Lenderman’s guitar and Xandy Chelmis’ lap steel allied to those funny, smart and affecting stories is sooo good. And in Bull Believer Wednesday have produced a frankly astonishing song. A full eight and a half minutes of at turns beautiful melody and harsh noise culminating in a raging scream that when performed live leaves Karly’s voice so utterly shredded that she is unable to continue. This was probably the record I played most this year so I guess that makes it my favourite? Either way, it’s an incredible record and one I know I’ll be coming back to for years to come. 


AOTY 2023

10 – Other Half – Soft Action (BSM Records)

09 – John – A Life Diagrammatic (Brace Yourself Records)

08 – Jim Lockey & Solemen Sun – Colour (Self Release)

07 – Beetlehead – Everyone Gets To Come Back (Self Relese)

06 – RBRC – RBRC (Beth Shalom Records)

05 – Wilswood Buoys – A New Beginning (Self Release)

04 – Tom Jenkins – It Comes In The Morning (Xtra Mile)

03 – Carsick – Drunk Hymns (Alcopop!)

02 – James and the Cold Gun – ST (Self Release)

01 – Parker – Never Let This Go (self Release)

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