The 100 Best Songs of 2023

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best songs of 2023

Choosing the 100 best songs of the year is always harder than it is with albums. For starters, there’s just so much more to choose from; if we operate from a starting point of 100 albums that we loved, that means the pool of songs to choose from numbers over 1,000, and well, that’s a lot. This year, it came together a little easier than usual, if only because our number one was locked in and rock solid. The same is true of our album of the year, which you’ll find out soon. As for the other 99, it took some review sessions, personal recommendations, a shared playlist or two, but we ended up with an eclectic list that spans from indie rock to electronic, metal to R&B, and everything in between—including two songs named after cicadas, somehow. Enjoy our list of the 100 best songs of 2023.

Blurbs written by: Adam Blyweiss (AB), Adam P. Newton (APN), Casey Burke (CB), Colin Dempsey (CD), Ed Brown (EB), Elliot Burr (EBu), Emily Reily (ER), Forrest James (FJ), Joshua Seawell (JS), Jeff Terich (JT), Jeff Yerger (JY), Konstantin Rega (KR), Liam Green (LG), Langdon Hickman (LH), Noah Sparkes (NS), Sean Fennell (SF), Tyler Dunston (TD), Virginia Croft (VC), Wil Lewellyn (WL)


100. King Krule – “Seaforth”

Space Heavy highlight “Seaforth” finds Archy Marshall and kin on a longing expedition of faith, dreams, trains, and walls on this classically atmospheric King Krule cut. – PP

Listen: King Krule – “Seaforth”

best songs of 2023 - Conway the Machine

99. Conway the Machine – “Quarters”

Blunt, expertly-crafted gangster rap from one of Griselda’s best wordsmiths; deviant, immediate, gripping. – NS

Listen: Conway the Machine – “Quarters”

International Anthem

98. Jeremiah Chiu – “Seawater Swell”

A meditative moment of reflective beauty in an unplanned set of on-the-spot compositions, Jeremiah Chiu’s “Seawater Swell” is blissful, aqueous synthtopia—a fluttering soundtrack to basking in wonder. – JT

Listen: Jeremiah Chiu – “Seawater Swell”

Fiddlehead Death Means Nothing to Us review
Run for Cover

97. Fiddlehead – “Sullenboy”

Chunky, catchy instrumentals bolster the melodic barks of hardcore royalty Pat Flynn, whose “I feel the fear I will repeat” chorus line stands as one of the emo supergroup’s most evocative centrepieces. – EBu

Listen: Fiddlehead – “Sullenboy”

jaimie branch fly or die world war review
International Anthem

96. jaimie branch – “borealis dancing”

“borealis dancing” opens with the late jaimie branch’s trumpet and Lester St. Louis’s cello going back and forth in glorious riffage over infectious grooves—it’s a defiantly joyful dance that closes with a calming, mournful drone. – TD

Listen: jaimie branch – “borealis dancing”

best songs of 2023 - Amaarae

95. Amaarae – “Angels In Tibet”

“Angels in Tibet” exudes sprezzatura, reminding everyone how hard it is to sound this effortless; the range of Amaarae’s vocal performance alone, in which she manages to sound at once off the cuff and tightly controlled, is extraordinary. – TD

Listen: Amaraae – “Angels In Tibet”


94. Superviolet – “Big Songbirds Don’t Cry”

Golden-hour finger-picking serves as the engine for this intimate highlight of former Sidekicks frontman Steven Ciolek’s debut as Superviolet. – SF

Listen: Superviolet – “Big Songbirds Don’t Cry”

best songs of 2023 - Screaming Females
Don Giovanni

93. Screaming Females – “Brass Bell”

Screaming Females know how to write a good riff, and “Brass Bell” sounds like their most monstrous yet. – JY

Listen: Screaming Females – “Brass Bell”

best songs of 2023 - Kaytramine
Venice Music

92. Kaytramine – “4EVA” (feat. Pharrell Williams)

Smooth vocal flows backed by Pharrell’s effortless, signature four-beat formula, Kaytramine’s “4EVA” (a product of rapper Aminé and Kaytranada) is yacht rock for hip-hop aficionados, enhanced by liquid synths and an electronic horn section that moves in and out of consciousness just as easily. – ER

Listen: Kaytramine – “4EVA”

Romy Mid Air review

91. Romy – “Loveher”

The lead single from relentlessly club-ready Mid Air is a coming-out story with poignancy and hesitancy (“It’s not that I’m not proud in the company of strangers/It’s just some things are for us”), helping Romy complete the trifecta of members of The xx delivering banger solo content. – AB 

Listen: Romy – “Loveher”

Nourished by Time Erotic Probiotic
Scenic Route

90. Nourished by Time – “Shed That Fear”

“Shed That Fear” melts the late 80s/early 90s R&B tropes Nourished By Time adores into a seamless, invigorating plea to the soul—please, live your life, for your own sake. – CD

Listen: Nourished by Time – “Shed That Fear”

best songs of 2023 - MIKE

89. MIKE – “African Sex Freak Fantasy”

Easily one of the hardest cuts from Burning Desire, “African Sex Freak Fantasy” finds MIKE operating with unfuckwithable confidence, blocking numbers and focusing on the green. – PP

Listen: MIKE – “African Sex Freak Fantasy”

L'Rain I Killed Your Dog review
Mexican Summer

88. L’Rain – “5 to 8 Hours a Day (WWwaG)”

A psychedelic daydream wrapped in breezy repeating arpeggios, “5 to 8 Hours a Day” gradually escalates into intensifying transcendence, as trumpet, pedal steel and sputtering beats draw it into higher orbit. – JT

Listen: L’Rain – “5 to 8 Hours a Day (WWwaG)”

Saddle Creek

87. Indigo De Souza – “Losing”

One of De Souza’s most impressive skills is how well she walks the line between defiant and defeated, a talent on full display on the devastating “Losing”. – SF

Listen: Indigo De Souza – “Losing”

Tyler Childers Rustin' in the Rain review
Hickman Holler

86. Tyler Childers – “Phone Calls and Emails”

Childers proves he’s as adept a humorist as he is a storyteller with this pedal steel-driven honky-tonk lament about the perils of having your calls screened. – LG

Listen: Tyler Childers – “Phone Calls and Emails”

best songs of 2023 - James Holden
Border Community

85. James Holden – “Continuous Revolution”

With “Continuous Revolution”, James Holden’s dense, overlapping arpeggios and fine-tuned modular synth textures convalesce into a dizzyingly beautiful kind of trance music, pushing each other to ever greater heights, eventually reaching for transcendence. – NS

Listen: James Holden – “Continuous Revolution”

Chai Chai review
Sub Pop

84. CHAI – “I Can’t Organizeeee”

On “I Can’t Organizeeee,” Japanese quartet CHAI mixes city pop with Pet Shop Boys synths, bouncy bubblegum hooks and infectious, light-as-air lyrics. Sung in both English and Japanese, it’s an unexpectedly bright rock song with a nerdy mindset—examining life’s minutiae and endless stream of papers and bills while renouncing all sentimentality with the line “They know that I’ll throw it out in three days.” – ER

Listen: CHAI – “I Can’t Organizeeee”


83. Olivia Rodrigo – “bad idea right?”

Fun, punky, and captivatingly conversational, this song might well be about a bad idea—but it makes it all sound so damn fun that you’ll be dying to pry open old wounds and get back in touch with your objectively terrible ex just so you’ll be able to sing the lyrics with the appropriate level of gusto. – EB

Listen: Olivia Rodrigo – “bad idea right?”

Gel Only Constant review

82. GEL – “Honed Blade”

The leadoff track from New Jersey hardcore troupe GEL’s debut album Only Constant is one motherfucker of a pit starter, all razor-sharp power chords and feral barks. – JT

Listen: GEL – “Honed Blade”


81. Lonnie Holley – “I Am a Part of the Wonder” (feat. Moor Mother)

A prayerful reflection on life, less entreating than it is resounding, this is a recitation full of hope not as a question but rather a fact of life. – FJ

Listen: Lonnie Holley – “I Am a Part of the Wonder”

Panda Bear reset in dub review

80. Panda Bear and Sonic Boom – “Edge of the Edge Dub”

Now that we’ve seen these indie darlings secure the bag from Honda, let’s recognize the year’s first successfully remixed version of their joyous Reset highlight, which finds Adrian Sherwood’s Reset in Dub soundsystem hovering oh so close to pop. – AB

Listen: Panda Bear – “Edge of the Edge Dub”

Best new releases Julie Byrne

79. Julie Byrne – “Lightning Comes Up from the Ground”

A gentle and powerful meditation on grief on an album that finds the singer/songwriter grappling with loss, “Lightning Comes Up from the Ground” aches with a desire left unreciprocated through untimely tragedy. – JT

Listen: Julie Byrne – “Lightning Comes Up from the Ground”


78. Parannoul – “We Shine at Night”

A heartfelt song about friendship and nostalgia, about moments you know won’t last forever but which feel eternal nonetheless—the way this song unfolds over its six-minute runtime is spectacular, wave-like, crescendo atop crescendo. – TD

Listen: Parannoul – “We Shine at Night”

King Gizzard Petrodragonic Apocalypse review

77. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – “Dragon”

“Dragon” is an off-kilter cannonball, slowing down for no one, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard delivering their diabolical brand of epic, conceptual thrash metal. – VC

Listen: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – “Dragon”

Metal Blade

76. Harm’s Way – “Undertow” (feat. King Woman)

King Woman’s light touch on this song’s verses contrast beautifully with the band’s punishing chorus and industrial-tinged instrumental, all reminding us that we’re going to hell in a bucket and suggesting we just enjoy the ride. – AB

Listen: Harm’s Way – “Undertow”

Water from your eyes everyone's crushed reviews

75. Water From Your Eyes – “Barley”

Rachel Brown sets dadaist chants (“1-2-3-4/I/count/mountains“) against a hypnotic, psychedelic backing in this infectiously oblique art-pop groove. – JT

Listen: Water from Your Eyes – “Barley”


74. NewJeans – “New Jeans”

NewJeans’ eponymous track can convert any would-be K-pop cynic into a curious genre neophyte with its unstrained vocal delivery and UK garage production, distinguishing the new group as an understated option for those unaccustomed to K-pop’s grandiose tendencies. – CD

Listen: NewJeans – “New Jeans”

Irreversible Entanglements Protect Your Light review

73. Irreversible Entanglements – “Root<=>Branch”

A dynamic dance between agony and ecstasy, Irreversible Entanglements pay tribute to late friend and contemporary jaimie branch with a stunning sequence of shifting movements, guided by Moor Mother’s invitation, “Let’s get free.” – JT

Listen: Irreversible Entanglements – “Root<=>Branch”

best albums of 2023 so far Andy Shauf norm

72. Andy Shauf – “Wasted on You”

A charming, string and synth blended melody add a quirky character to Andy Shauf’s reflection on love and time. – VC

Listen: Andy Shauf – “Wasted on You”

armand hammer we buy

71. billy woods and Kenny Segal – “Soft Landing”

“Soft Landing” is stream-of-consciousness internal monologue from 20,000 feet, over a round of daiquiris, bills due and the stress of an irritated partner dissolving into a layer of clouds. – JT

Listen: billy woods and Kenny Segal -“Soft Landing”

Mexican Summer

70. Mega Bog – “Cactus People”

Erin Birgy wraps meditations on trauma and isolation in a bright and dramatic flash of neon in the powerful, anthemic opener from this year’s excellent End of Everything. – JT

Listen: Mega Bog – “Cactus People”

Foo Fighters But Here We Are review

69. Foo Fighters – “Under You”

If you had told me at the beginning of this year that Foo Fighters would produce not only their second best record of all time but a truly great prog-tinged hard rock/grunge record—peaking with this emotionally vulnerable standout—I would have laughed in your face, but alas, they did. – LH

Listen: Foo Fighters – “Under You”

McKinley Dixon Beloved Paradise Jazz
City Slang

68. McKinley Dixon – “Run, Run, Run”

The lush and ebullient arrangement of “Run, Run, Run” belies Dixon’s inherently painful ruminations on trauma, and it’s that very contradiction that so accurately sums up the impossible project of nostalgia. – FJ

Listen: McKinley Dixon – “Run, Run, Run”


67. Gia Margaret – “Cicadas”

The sound of chirping insects forms the backdrop to the gorgeous and stark standout from Romantic Piano, a sweet instrumental lullaby that evokes the feeling of watching the sun slowly disappear over the horizon on an autumn evening. – JT

Listen: Gia Margaret – “Cicadas”


66. Radiator Hospital – “I Can Handle It”

Short and sweet, Radiator Hospital only need one and a half minutes to deliver us a near-perfect indie-pop song, marrying a lo-fi influence with a nod to a ‘60s-style bubblegum pop sound to tell the timeless story of a cute but precarious will-they-won’t-they relationship (though, if they won’t, he can totally handle it). – EB

Listen: Radiator Hospital – “I Can Handle It”


65. The Smile – “Bending Hectic”

The first song released from The Smile’s sophomore album finds the trio of Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood and Tom Skinner loosening up, stretching out and embracing a slow-build of an art-pop stunner befitting Yorke and Greenwood’s other band. – JT

Listen: The Smile – “Bending Hectic”

best songs of 2023 - Loraine James

64. Loraine James – “I DM U”

One of the standout tracks on her sublime Gentle Confrontations, Loraine James conjures an absolute gem that features hard-hitting jazz drumming and floating, spaced-out synths that burst with a melodic grace. – APN

Listen: Loraine James – “I DM U”

best songs of 2023 - Actress
Ninja Tune

63. Actress – “Game Over (e 1)”

The closest that Darren Cunningham gets to pop is still beyond an arm’s reach, the soft twinkle of piano and echo-laden vocals of “Game Over” feeling like haunted after images—a delicately beautiful moment slowly fading into the ether. – JT

Listen: Actress – “Game Over (e 1)”

Bar Italia new album Tracey Denim

62. bar italia – “Changer”

Stitching together lo-fi third-generation Madchester through gauzy cascades of psychedelia, bar italia evoke a UK indie past through an intersection of influences that only make sense in the here and now. – JT

Listen: bar italia – “Changer”

AJJ Disposable Everything review

61. AJJ – “Disposable Everything”

A deceptively pleasant swooping and swirling of guitar and violin belies the bleak message of the title track from AJJ’s most recent album—a dire warning about the consequences of consumerism on the environment, made all the more horrifying for its frank delivery that refuses to indulge in AJJ’s trademark gruesome theatrics. – EB

Listen: AJJ – “Disposable Everything”

best songs of 2023 - Mannequin Pussy

60. Mannequin Pussy – “I Got Heaven”

A scathing indictment of religious fundamentalism that splits the difference between soaring pop hooks and snarling punk rock, “I Got Heaven” is Mannequin Pussy at their ferocious yet tender best. – JT

Listen: Mannequin Pussy – “I Got Heaven”

Aphex twin blackbox life recorder review

59. Aphex Twin – “In a Room F760”

A rare moment of dopamine-rush dance music from Richard D. James, “In a Room F760” leans heavy on the cowbell and kickdrum in a journey through warbly surrealist IDM ecstasy. – JT

Listen: Aphex Twin – “In a Room F760”

Fucked Up One Day review

58. Fucked Up – “Cicada”

The Canadian group’s charming salute to inspirational late friends from the punk rock underground, performed by guitarist Mike Haliechuk as part of their whole-album-in-a-day project. – EBu

Listen: Fucked Up – “Cicada”


57. Ratboys – “It’s Alive”

Julia Steiner exorcises feelings of personal stagnation in stunning relief, watching the outside world go by through sweetly twangy dream-country verses and crunchy power pop choruses. – JT

Listen: Ratboys – “It’s Alive”

Bully Lucky For You review
Sub Pop

56. Bully – “Hard to Love”

Temporarily trading her grunge bona fides for maraca-shaking Madchester groove, Alicia Bognanno fights through negative thoughts and unlearns her worst feelings via a danceable affirmation that the judgment of others is no way to measure self worth. – JT

Listen: Bully – “Hard to Love”

best songs of 2023 - boygenius

55. boygenius – “True Blue”

Lucy Dacus takes over on the smooth sailing of “True Blue,” which hovers with a more relaxed melody submersing the listener into its floating drift into this sonic daydream. – WL

Listen: boygenius – “True Blue”

best songs of 2023 - Slowdive
Dead Oceans

54. Slowdive – “kisses”

Neither meandering nor bruising, “kisses” is an unpretentious dose of dream pop from the shoegaze heroes’ second comeback record, smooth and crystal water-clear. – CB

Listen: Slowdive – “kisses”

Peter Gabriel Panopticom
Real World

53. Peter Gabriel – “Panopticom”

Since his last album Up, the legendary Peter Gabriel has been teasing the existence of a new album he called i/o, and finally this year, he returned with a year’s worth of new music, starting with “Panopticom,” one of his best songs to date. – JY

Listen: Peter Gabriel – “Panopticom”

Ninja Tune

52. Sofia Kourtesis – “How Music Makes You Feel Better”

The title of Peruvian producer Sofia Kourtesis’ “How Music Makes You Feel Better” is a self-fulfilling prophecy, just under five minutes of gorgeously layered, pulsing, urgent dance music that places joy and ecstasy above all. – JT

Listen: Sofia Kourtesis – “How Music Makes You Feel Better”


51. Four Tet – “Three Drums”

The latest single from producer Kieran Hebden is a gorgeous eight-minute crescendo: a straight cymbal backbeat urges radiant synths to flare and smolder into sampled embers. – CB

Listen: Four Tet – “Three Drums”

Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter SAVED! review
Perpetual Flame Ministries

50. Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter – “ALL MY FRIENDS ARE GOING TO HELL”

The first single of SAVED!, Kristin Hayter’s first post-Lingua Ignota LP, proves she’s lost none of her ability to fascinate, challenge and terrify. “ALL MY FRIENDS ARE GOING TO HELL” is sonically bare—grim, minor-key prepared piano alternated with a cappella verses—and cuts bone-deep. The song’s testimonial-hymn structure and unvarnished warnings are equally interpretable as dead serious and satirical (and probably many other things). But when Reverend Hayter—in the best vocal shape of her life—decrees “Silence may let you to sit for a spell, but when you die, YOU ARE GOING TO HELL,” let’s just say you may find yourself wondering about anything ugly on the ledger of your life thus far. – LG

Listen: Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter – “ALL MY FRIENDS ARE GOING TO HELL”

best songs of 2023 - Lean Beef Patty

49. JPEGMAFIA & Danny Brown – “Lean Beef Patty”

When Diddy’s “I Need a Girl (Pt. 2)” was released in 2002, it was yet another silky contribution to hip-hop’s “bling” era. Although the era’s impact remains, rap has come a long way since then, welcoming experimental outsiders like JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown into its ranks. On “Lean Beaf Patty,” Peggy samples Diddy’s 2002 hit, contorting it into frenzied chipmunk vocals. At a certain point the hyper-sped- up sample even becomes a kind of indecipherable background noise. The smooth, ultra-commercial sound of the era is subsumed into JPEG’s wild, feverish, postmodern nightmare of a beat. It’s left-field amphetamine rap, a world away from its source material, emphatically dismissing the naysayers. – NS

Listen: JPEGMAFIA & Danny Brown – “Lean Beef Patty”

best songs of 2023 - Shy Boy

48. Carly Rae Jepsen – “Shy Boy”

“Shy Boy” has been a work in progress since well before “Call Me Maybe.” Originally written in 2010, Carly Rae Jepsen’s infectious dancefloor disco-funk jam beckoning a hesitant someone onto the dancefloor and then later one of her shows and—hey, let’s just see where this thing goes—never quite took shape the way she envisioned it, always a word or a phrase off. It’s hard to imagine a groove this intoxicating ever being anything less than perfect, a flirtatious no-strings-attached confection too effortless to be stuck at the drawing board. A long journey, perhaps, but an undeniable payoff. – JT

Listen: Carly Rae Jepsen – “Shy Boy”

best songs of 2023 - Jamila Woods

47. Jamila Woods – “Tiny Garden” (feat. duendita)

“Tiny Garden,” the first single from Jamila Woods’ Water Made Us, is less concerned with big, romantic ideas than a more intimate, everyday kind of affirmation. Featuring guest vocalist duendita and backed with a buoyant production of pianos, synths and a light-touch electronic pulse, “Tiny Garden” is a reflection of not losing oneself in the moment, and accepting a new and growing love as something to be cultivated rather than ignited: “It’s not gonna be a big production/It’s not butterflies or fireworks/Said it’s gonna be a tiny garden/But I’ll feed it every day.” It’s a warm and nourishing sentiment, a gorgeous song that gently sends an invitation to cast aside those least constructive impulses. – JT

Listen: Jamila Woods – “Tiny Garden”

Buzzin’ Fly

46. Everything But the Girl – “Nothing Left to Lose”

As the opening track for Fuse, the first album from Everything But the Girl in 24 years, “Nothing Left to Lose” is a kick in the teeth from the very first notes. Readily apparent from the first note that Tracey Thorn’s voice sounds as great as ever, it’s likewise a reminder of Ben Watt’s ability to construct a perfect pop tune. Thorn’s alto has simple improved with age, and her lovely range continues to astound. At its core, this is a vintage ‘80s sophisti-pop torch ballad, but Watt upgrades the effect with high-end contemporary dance orchestration. While the strength of the arrangement rests in a sonorous synth pulse and bass root note, it’s the inclusion of a powerful breakbeat-inspired rhythm in kick, snare, and hi-hat that takes the song to a new level. Thus, we have a vintage New Wave pop song that’s informed by the last decade-plus of trends in European electro. – APN

Listen: Everything But the Girl – “Nothing Left to Lose”


45. PinkPantheress & Ice Spice – “Boy’s a Liar Pt. 2”

Y2K dance pop phenom PinkPantheress scored overseas success in 2022 before doubling down with Bronx drill sensation Ice Spice for this year’s chart-topping “Boy’s a Liar Pt. 2.” While an undeniable hit in its first iteration, “Pt. 2” capitalizes on Spice’s infectious delivery in the track’s dramatically sparse back half. The rapper’s verse turns something excellent into something perfect, all while PinkPantheress and Mura Masa’s bubblegum production sticks Jersey club and chiptune under the track’s massive hook. The producers keep things short and sweet, just over two minutes, and the track itself is such effective pop music. “Boy’s a Liar Pt. 2” is a hard-to-hate hit grounded in PinkPantheress’ early aughts aesthetic. – PP

Listen: PinkPantheress & Ice Spice – “Boy’s a Liar Pt. 2”

Titanic Vidrio review
Tin Angel/Unheard of Hope

44. Titanic – “Hotel Elizabeth”

Hotel Elizabeth is a historic property in Slovakia, an ornate work of architecture just beneath a medieval castle. It’s also a place where you can lay your head in the Philippines, France, Greece or Colorado, and while there’s no clear indication of which Hotel Elizabeth this standout song from Mexico City duo Titanic is referring to, it feels more like a strange sanctuary of their own making. Mabe Fratti’s voice coolly glides over a walking upright bassline, as Jarrett Gilgore provides a more impassioned contrast via his powerful saxophone playing. It feels luxurious, even a little dangerous, a scene from a noir film hotel bar with no fixed address. – JT

Listen: Titanic – “Hotel Elizabeth”

Angel Olsen new EP Forever Means

43. Angel Olsen – “Nothing’s Free”

Like its three companions on the Forever Means EP, “Nothing’s Free” began its life as a contender for the final tracklist of Angel Olsen’s bright and beautiful, country-drenched LP Big Time. The final form of “Nothing’s Free,” however, manifests as a late-night jazz lament—complete with climactic solos on the saxophone and what sounds like a B3 Hammond organ. Olsen’s hushed confessional perfectly evokes the forlorn vulnerability of someone convinced the deep love they feel for another will only injure them in the end. – LG

Listen: Angel Olsen – “Nothing’s Free”


42. Baby Keem & Kendrick Lamar – “The Hillbillies”

It’s nice to hear Kendrick Lamar having fun. But that’s just one thing this surprise loosie has going for it. We get club-curious Bon Iver-sampling production, goofy self-aggrandizement (“They sardines and I’m big fish, eat caviar when I’m depressed”), and a palpable chemistry between cousins Kendrick and Baby Keem as they trade bars about women, designer clothing, buying land in Europe, and staying “immersed in the PlayStation.” There’s a lot going on in the world that’s worth brooding about. But sometimes there’s nothing for it except to throw on an ode to getting silly. Kendrick and Keem have gifted us one of the year’s best. – CB

Listen: Baby Keem & Kendrick Lamar – “The Hillbillies”

Serfs Half Eaten by Dogs review
Trouble in Mind

41. The Serfs – “Club Deuce”

The Serfs’ earlier minimal-wave synth bangers didn’t discourage bodily movement, but “Club Deuce” openly and unabashedly embraces it. Synth arpeggios flash and cascade like glitter falling from the ceiling, with an unambiguously big and booming beat pulses beneath, as the Cincinnati trio fully completes their transition from Movement to Technique. “Moving to my surroundings is my dopamine pleasure,” sings Andie Luman in a state of ecstatic detachment, serving only to emphasize just how effective this kind of hedonic intoxication truly is. – JT

Listen: The Serfs – “Club Deuce”

Third Man

40. Hotline TNT – “Protocol”

Guitarist, songwriter and hopeless romantic Will Anderson (aka Flip Sandy) isn’t wrong when he claims “Protocol,” which opens Hotline TNT’s dramatic new album, Cartwheel, is its “statement song.” This dreamy mix of shoegaze and alt-rock begins with an innocent-sounding acoustic strum, slowly simmers with distortion, then explodes with a swell of blast beats and Anderson’s pleading, trailing voice. The song hits everything right—from the woozy guitar lick to the endlessly infectious melody to the way Anderson insists that pretending to admit it’s all his fault will save a relationship—the one that only he seems to be working at. “Protocol” grabs hold of the heartbreaking side effects of love and does not let go. – ER

Listen: Hotline TNT – “Protocol”

best songs of 2023 - Killer Mike
Loma Vista

39. Killer Mike – “Don’t Let the Devil” (feat. El-P, thankugoodsir)

Killer Mike isn’t doing anything revolutionary on “Don’t Let the Devil,” but rather what he’s been doing for over 20 years since he first debuted on Outkast’s Stankonia, namely making boisterous, joyously anarchic rap. Here, Mike is predictably deviant, committing various misdeeds before watching gleefully as the world burns, a darkly comic nihilism adeptly matched by El-P’s maniacal verse on the back half. Indeed, El-P’s final line might be one of the clearer encapsulations of the duo’s overarching credo: “Goddamn, the game, it ain’t fair, thoughts and prayers, shut the fuck up, put your hands in the air, Run The Jewels.” – NS

Listen: Killer Mike – “Don’t Let the Devil”

Tomb Mold The Enduring Spirit review
20 Buck Spin

38. Tomb Mold – “Will of Whispers”

“Will of Whispers” is ecstatic. It is every genre you want to listen to playing all at once. It fits every mood. It is only six minutes long and accomplishes what an entire album should. It is simultaneously joyful and heavy, snaking its way between death metal, prog rock, and dream pop with ease. For as much as death metal is angry, it’s also gleefully satisfied. Tomb Mold evolve that wonder into outright beauty, one of kinship with our spirit and the world around us. It’s a feeling that’s foreign to death metal, especially metal that’s still this heavy and clearly enamored with its roots, but it can only be provided by death metal, whose crunchiness tickles the primordial caveman subconscious nerve in our brains and excites us. – CD

Listen: Tomb Mold – “Will of Whispers”

Secretly Canadian

37. Faye Webster – “But Not Kiss”

Faye Webster’s ability to blend a heartbroken country influence with harsher rock elements shines on “But Not Kiss,” a back-and-forth ballad finding the Atlanta singer/songwriter warring with her head and her heart, track thrashing between quiet vocals and all encompassing instrumentals. A dignified piano line plunks throughout, resembling the wants Webster wants to break away from, as she sings “I hope you’re okay but I won’t ask / If you’re in a good place I won’t mess with that / But I’m here when you need I always have.” Webster’s dreamy rock is refined to the essentials here, each instrumental produced with a crystalline sound, resembling the clarity Webster has found for herself. – VC

Listen: Faye Webster – “But Not Kiss”

Jlin Perspective review
Planet Mu

36. Jlin – “Fourth Perspective”

I will always be a sucker for moody minor-key electro, and Jlin is a top-notch practitioner. As the best cut on her 2023 EP, Perspective, “Fourth Perspective” is a delightfully eerie tune that would fit in perfectly at Goth Night at your favorite underground electronic club. A creepy xylophone sample roots the tune from the get-go, even as it slowly gives space for simmering hi-hats and disjointed synth arpeggios. A clattering assemblage of snare claps, tom roll, and finger snaps sets things further off kilter. Once the syncopated cymbal crashes start mixing with a chest-rumbling bass drone, it’s unclear whether the best course of action is to dance or flee into the night. Packed with surreal, spectral energy, it sounds like a slice of the Twin Peaks soundtrack crafted by UK club kids who listen to both Bauhaus and Burial. – APN

Listen: Jlin – “Fourth Perspective”

Jeff Rosenstock Hellmode review

35. Jeff Rosenstock – “3 SUMMERS”

“3 SUMMERS” is the closing track on Jeff Rosenstock’s whirlwind of an album HELLMODE, which—given that it’s essentially a series of untrammelled freakouts about pretty much everything—means it’s got a hell of a lot of loose ends to tie up. Thankfully, the 7-minute punk-epic finds Rosenstock more than up to the challenge. “I want the warmest breeze to blow / I want the banks and schools to close / I want the universe to glow / Until it’s too bright for our eyes,” Rosenstock offers as his ambitious manifesto—it by no means undermines the despair present in some of the previous 10 tracks, but “3 SUMMERS” nonetheless comes as close to optimism as an album like HELLMODE might dare, carrying the message that there are still glints of happiness to be found in our turbulent world if we can just be bold enough to look for them. – EB

Listen: Jeff Rosenstock – “3 SUMMERS”

34. Armand Hammer – “Trauma Mic” (feat. Pink Siifu)

Armand Hammer songs can take a few listens to fully process, but from DJ Haram’s opening metallic industrial-clang rhythms, “Trauma Mic” arrives like a shock to the system. Less a moment of subtle contemplation than open confrontation, “Trauma Mic” plugs an aux cord into the anxieties that cause sleepless nights and uncomfortable conversations and blows it out through ample distortion and soundsystem-destroying bass. “Calling all motherfuckers who don’t keep they word,” shouts Pink Siifu at the outset, delivering a warning to overinflated egos and antagonists, giving way to Elucid and billy woods’ grievances (“Who needs to think when your mouth just run?“, “Brother dropped a project every month/Got the nerve to ask if I peeped it“). Armand Hammer look the void square in the eye and dare to ask, “Fuck you know?” – JT

Listen: Armand Hammer – “Trauma Mic”

best songs of 2023 - The Menzingers

33. The Menzingers – “Hope Is a Dangerous Little Thing”

“Hope Is a Dangerous Little Thing” finds Philly punk vets The Menzingers reaching a  new level of songwriting with heaping conviction poured into the voice of Greg Barnett. He retains both the quiver of nervous vibrato and more of a punk snarl to punch out the song’s accents. There is a more accessible current to their approach, which makes sense considering the album was mixed by Jon Low who has raised his hourly rate working on Taylor Swift albums. Despite this, they retain the desperate lyrical honesty despite the more pop-punk feel of this song’s chorus. – WL

Listen: The Menzingers – “Hope Is a Dangerous Little Thing”

Earl Sweatshirt The Caliphate
Tan Cressida

32. Earl Sweatshirt and the Alchemist – “Caliphate” (feat. Vince Staples)

Earl Sweatshirt and The Alchemist’s Voir Dire is one of the L.A. rapper’s most accessible, even relaxed releases, mostly free of the darkness and intensity that’s crept up in some of the most compelling moments of his past albums—Treble’s Casey Burke even described it as “breezy.” “The Caliphate,” originally a bonus track that ended up on the proper tracklist from the album, is an exception lyrically, if not musically. It’s slow moving and sedate, enough to lay plain Earl and Vince Staples’ depictions of flying bullets and the threat of death lurking. Which you’d think would harsh this intoxicating standout’s buzz, but it all feels so effortless, two of the best in the game making it look so easy. – JT

Listen: Earl Sweatshirt and The Alchemist – “The Caliphate”

best songs of 2023 - HEALTH
Loma Vista


HEALTH’s flirty but non-committal relationship with metal has been frustrating in the best way. They’ve teetered close enough to taste it, but only jumped in when collaborating with a group that can supplement beefiness like Full of Hell or Lamb of God. It was only a matter of time until they released their own metal song. They finally embraced their fate with “CHILDREN OF SORROW,” proving the anticipation was well-warranted. While the thrash riff that drives the track wants you to believe it’s as macho as some metal purports to be, HEALTH are still HEALTH; synthetic, stylized, and smooth. Their best tracks wrapped nihilism in euphoria. Through its new denim battle jacket adorned with band patches, “CHILDREN OF SORROW” successfully inverts that formula. – CD

Listen: HEALTH – “Children of Sorrow”

MJ Lenderman Knockin'

30. MJ Lenderman – “Knockin'”

Has anyone in years had his legend grow as quickly and seamlessly as Jake “MJ” Lenderman? Just two years ago he was releasing EPs and albums straight to Bandcamp with little fanfare while splitting duties between his solo work and his similarly under-the-radar band Wednesday. Now, both Wednesday and Lenderman are at the forefront of a wave of rip-roaring alt-country taking indie rock by storm, and “Knockin’” is perfectly illustrative as to what makes him such a magnetic force. Wry, inventive, and visceral, “Knockin’” is one of the best songs he’s released. – SF

Listen: MJ Lenderman – “Knockin'”

mandy indiana i've seen a way review
Fire Talk

29. Mandy, Indiana – “Peach Fuzz”

The high-pitched yelp that Valentine Caulfield lets out 30 seconds into “Peach Fuzz” is the first indication that actual humans are creating this thrumming, rhythmic din. Which instruments are actually involved in that cacophonous rush of sound is harder to parse, but that’s hardly the point—this is pure physical feeling, the rush of being swallowed by sound and feeling your bones vibrate and ripple. “Peach Fuzz” is noise rock, industrial/EBM and house refashioned into something less defined by aesthetics than sheer power, amplified by Valentine’s unambiguous call to action, understood in any language: “Ce n’est pas une révolte, c’est une révolution!” – JT

Listen: Mandy, Indiana – “Peach Fuzz”

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit Weathervanes review

28. Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – “King of Oklahoma”

Jason Isbell wrote “King of Oklahoma” while in the middle of filming his parts for Killers of the Flower Moon. Perhaps something about working on a film like that seeped into his songwriting, as “King of Oklahoma” feels like a motion picture. Isbell is a master at painting a picture with his words, and on this song, he sings about real people down on their luck, struggling with addiction and yearning for those mornings you used to have with a loved one who now hates what you’ve become. It’s gut wrenching and soaring, the way the best Isbell songs can be. – JY

Listen: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – “King of Oklahoma”

best songs of 2023 - Algiers

27. Algiers – “Irreversible Damage”

Placed near the front of their latest album Shook, “Irreversible Damage” sounds like Algiers spending just under 5 minutes paying homage to every Black contemporary they can conjure from metal, indie-rock, mad rap adjacents, and soul revivalists. Lots of the band’s music has felt like a sociopolitical warning but this song is more direct than most—“You should be screaming out and ringing/Like the alarm that you ignore”—and if you aren’t Run the Jewels or getting them for a guest spot, you could do worse than Zack de la Rocha spitting abstract bars and Matt Tong channeling his Bloc Party drum and drum-machine days to help drive the point fucking home. – AB

Listen: Algiers – “Irreversible Damage”

best songs of 2023 - Peggy Gou

26. Peggy Gou – “(It Goes Like) Nanana”

It doesn’t seem possible to forget how the chorus to Korean-born, Berlin-based producer Peggy Gou’s too-catchy-for-its-own-good house anthem goes, but in case you need a refresher, the hint is in the song’s title: “Nanananana/Nanananana.” Repeat as many times as you need to—at glamorous nightclubs, on the beach in Ibiza, in the shower, walking your dog, driving to work, making a pot of coffee. It’s a feeling that you can’t erase. – JT

Listen: Peggy Gou – “(It Goes Like) Nanana

best new releases slaughter beach dog

25. Slaughter Beach, Dog – “Engine”

It would be easy to overstate the stakes of the quiet little triumph that “Engine” represents. Certainly the song feels like some kind of pinnacle for Jake Ewald’s songwriting, and at the very least clearly the result of a lifelong dedication. His mixture of metaphor and less than straightforward recollection mirrors a masterfully delicate balance between guitar effects and natural percussion. The song is soft and understated and most of all prolonged, overflowing far beyond the stories Ewald has to tell, allowing us to luxuriate in the journey itself. – FJ

Listen: Slaughter Beach, Dog – “Engine”

best songs of 2023 - Lana del Rey

24. Lana Del Rey – “A&W”

Within a hazy and smokey atmosphere, Lana Del Rey spins a track that could have come out of Joni Mitchell’s early oeuvre. It is not necessarily the prettiest song, but it is hypnotic in its whispery vocals and pared-down backing instrumentals. The first half begins as folk ballad, but the second half plays with a new, for her, type of musical expression, inspired by trap and trip-hop. Speaking through a more personal voice, Del Rey shows she isn’t afraid of showing her vulnerability, as well as her ever-changing identity, her idea of self. – KR

Listen: Lana Del Rey – “A&W”


23. Sampha – “Spirit 2.0”

The neo-soul image of what we thought the future of hip-hop was going to be in the early 2010s and now, a decade later, knew it should have been too. A hybrid of classic backpacker motifs with the ethereal electronic edge that marked so much of those great predecessors to what we now know as cloud rap and the like, “Spirit 2.0” is as delightful as it is frustrating, showcasing a Fisher-esque lost future, a snapshot of the arthouse direction pop rap could have gone in had Drake and Kanye not… uh, yeah. Still, for keeping the spirit alive, Sampha does wonders, having so often been a key figure in that era of work anyway. Cleared of all the noise, presented by his lonesome, he proves he still has everything we loved about that period in spades. – LH

Listen: Sampha – “Spirit 2.0”


22. Yaeji – “For Granted”

Yaeji’s bedroom electronica has always trended toward a soft focus, with occasional technicolor explosions of groove and joy. This continued with her first proper album With a Hammer, an expression of frustrations with political and pandemic drama as well as the reserved nature of her Korean culture. “For Granted” is one of those lights on this album’s horizon, and in it you can hear distant sonic and thematic echoes of Nine Inch Nails’ “The Perfect Drug.” Yaeji writes and sings about constant disbelief in a great relationship so it borders on imposter syndrome, as her hyperpop slowly bubbles and builds to a drum ’n’ bass climax. – AB

Listen: Yaeji – “For Granted”


21. Paramore – “Running Out of Time”

Most of us go through life doing our best to minimize regrets, but when time is a luxury that you just don’t have, they start to stack up before you know it. Hayley Williams wanted to bring flowers to her neighbor, send a condolences card, even just wake up a little earlier—but the snooze button was right there. A lighthearted but self-deprecating critique of a life chaotically lived, “Running Out of Time” is as much Off the Wall as Solid Gold, a glittery groove that underscores Williams’ tempus fuck it shrug. – JT

Listen: Paramore – “Running Out of Time”

Sub Pop

20. Debby Friday – “So Hard to Tell”

“I know you, I know you so very well,” sings Polaris Prize-winning artist Debby Friday on “So Hard to Tell,” the standout single from her dark, abrasive and hypercharged album GOOD LUCK. But here she sings with sympathy, gentleness, even sweetness—peeling away the sandpaper synths and industrial thrum for something brighter and less confrontational. Amid the pop melody and soaring vocal performance, it’s not immediately clear to whom her counsel is directed, but she gives it away in the second verse: “Lady Friday, all you do is rebel.” A moment of kindness shared with a younger version of herself, “So Hard to Tell” soothes rather than scolds, understanding the impulses and anger of youth while recognizing that they’ll grow softer and more forgiving with time. – JT

Listen: Debby Friday – “So Hard to Tell”

yves tumor praise a lord review

19. Fever Ray – “Shiver”

Music has the unique power to warp our perception of time. Karin Dreijer, with all the witty allure they are known for, decided to escort us back to when they, alongside brother Olof, reigned supreme as synth-pop’s obscure overlords—and aren’t we thankful. “Shiver” reunites the long missed backbone of The Knife, slow-building to an almost excruciating degree of sensual tension (fitting for a Fever Ray project), with bouncy trampoline bass synths slithered over by enchanting snaky motifs and glossed by Karin’s cartoonish, piercing interjections. It’s great to know these siblings haven’t ever been too far away from our ears, just operating in the shadows before unleashing this deranged, delectable thing. – EBu

Listen: Fever Ray – “Shiver”

best albums of 2023 so far Arooj Aftab Vijay Iyer Shahzad Ismaily

18. Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer & Shahzad Ismaily – “To Remain/To Return”

Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer, and Shahzad Ismaily first performed together in 2018. Four years later, Aftab would describe the trio’s collaborations as “improvised innovation,” and that the musicians seek to become “resonant bodies” onstage. Since their first performance, the group’s shapeshifting musical correspondence has only deepened with each player’s unspoken understanding of one another. “To Remain/To Return,” the stunning opener from this year’s Love in Exile, follows suit. The song begins with an oscillating beacon, a tone-setting precursor for Aftab’s transcendent vocals. What follows is Love In Exile, a record best heard in full, and one that captures a rare synthesis of three generational talents operating in remarkably ideal collaborative circumstances. – PP

Listen: Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer and Shahzad Ismaily – “To Remain/To Return”

Bully Lucky For You review
Sub Pop

17. Bully – “All I Do”

It is a perfect testament to Alicia Bognanno’s exceptional talents as a songwriter that, with only two chords (and the two notes that constitute the sort-of-but-not-even-really-a-riff that trundles away alongside them), she has managed to create one of the most dazzlingly brilliant rock songs of the year. The rudimentary spirit of punk collides with a truly cathartic burst of emotion to create a vibrant release of all the anger, nihilism, confusion, and—most importantly—joy that comes from recognizing yourself having become stuck in a rut, and making the choice to push past the difficulties and onto something better. – EB

Listen: Bully – “All I Do”

best songs of 2023 - Yves Tumor

16. Yves Tumor – “Echolalia”

Yves Tumor’s approach to music feels both rooted in a texturally abrasive and emotional sound, the two opposites batting at each other especially on “Echolalia.” Its lyrics focus on a want for love and pain, as Tumor sings, “You know that you’re making me uncomfortable… You look so magical / I don’t know how to act when I’m on my own / The way I’m thinking, is this unnatural?” The track is heightened by echoing bass and percussion, creating an almost claustrophobic mood. Yves Tumor offers a brash, cathartic approach to dancing yourself clean, the track’s jerking beat driving to a freeing close. – VC

Listen: Yves Tumor – “Echolalia”

Perpetual Novice

15. Caroline Polachek – “Blood and Butter”

The eighth track from Caroline Polachek’s Desire, I Want to Turn Into You delivers graciously on the album’s promise of escape—circling us slowly with splendor and romance, transporting us to somewhere like an afternoon beach walk with “sun… in our eyes.” Polachek inhabits the silly sprite and the infatuated lover, waxing poetic about her need to be closer to her partner than their new tattoo. The writing and warm instrumentation feel classic, invoking ’90s singer-songwriters like Imogen Heap and Dido, and deeply original, distinguished as always by Polachek’s boundless creativity, here deployed toward a shocking bagpipe solo and lyrical pairings that are vivid but ultimately only suggestive: blood and butter, holy water and skies of fire, that “mythicological” and “Wikipediated.” – JPS

Listen: Caroline Polachek – “Blood and Butter”

best songs of 2023 - boygenius

14. boygenius – “$20”

What’s the value of $20? What can it really get you? To boygenius, 20 bucks sounds like freedom. A song about girls fixing up old T-Birds, and running—from the past, from domesticity, from bad relationships, from what life expects of them—forms the basis of “$20,” one of boygenius’ best songs off The Record. The theme of driving said muscle cars—once a dominion only for boys—for fun and for escape (“just makin’ it run,”) parallels the cathartic rebelliousness that Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers articulate so well. “$20” upends gender norms and puts into words how close women teeter on the edge between breaking down and breaking through. – ER

Listen: boygenius – “$20”

best songs of 2023 - Vampire Empire

13. Big Thief – “Vampire Empire”

Prior to 2023, “Vampire Empire” was a thing of legend for the most devout of Big Thief fans, a live favorite that had yet to be put to tape. This meant that the song had no definitive version, per se, until the band decided to release it as a single alongside “Born For Loving You,” existing only in shoddy video recordings and, eventually, on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. Though some were disappointed that the single version didn’t capture the frenzy of their live performance, “Vampire Empire” is nonetheless yet another example of songwriter Adrienne Lenker and her band doing it better than nearly anyone in the business.  – SF

Listen: Big Thief – “Vampire Empire”

Mitski the Land is inhospitable review
Dead Oceans

12. Mitski – “Heaven”

Though Mitski takes on the idea of love as being in heaven, she does so in a way that never feels lazy or sentimental. From her latest album, The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We, this standout maintains her dreamy sound, but in less of an upbeat manner. There is a layer of intimacy that lends a maturity and rewards the listener who has followed the singer/songwriter’s musical journey. Crafted in a more country-folk-rock vein, “Heaven” never gets too twangy with strings and pedal steel; it is a nice meeting of different styles that would not be as unique or spellbinding if any of those elements were removed. – KR

Listen: Mitski – “Heaven” 

Loma Vista

11. Militarie Gun – “Do It Faster”

After flexing his aggressive powerviolence muscle throughout the last decade, Ian Shelton saves his most accessible straight-to-the-gut feels for Militaire Gun to wildly successful effect. In lesser hands, “Do It Faster,” a testament to lethargic everyman types, could fit snugly into a knockabout alt-rock soundtrack for a teen movie or a Tony Hawk Pro Skater remake. But Shelton’s whipsmart gravelly hooks are matched by joyous, instantly gratifying chord changes that could only be jointly concocted by Drug Church riff machine Nick Cogan, with the band’s infectious demeanour characterising every lean inch of this sub-two minute opener to debut record Life Under the Gun. – EBu

Listen: Militarie Gun – “Do It Faster”


10. Kelela – “Contact”

“Contact” arrives halfway through Kelela’s Raven, but there’s nothing middle of the road about it—this isn’t a stop along the way, but rather the beginning of a journey and its climax at the same time. Juxtaposing celestial ambience against urgent jungle rhythms, “Contact” is electronic music at its most physical, reveling in the pure sensation of a room full of bodies (“Oh, it’s a sauna/here, if you wanna“), the impact of the music itself (“The bass in my body, I’m sinking, it’s so wide“) and the anticipation of what happens later (“I’ll give you a taste if you wanna“). A lot of dance music is concerned with what is happening within the moment, but “Contact” is the rare song that lets you feel it. – JT

Listen: Kelela – “Contact”

best songs of 2023 - Jessie Ware

9. Jessie Ware – “Begin Again”

The full-on embrace of disco and funk that Jessie Ware began with 2020’s What’s Your Pleasure? continued this year on That! Feels Good!, and “Begin Again” is a perfect example of the artistic dividends this direction has yielded. In her inimitable voice, Ware tells a poignant relationship story in a song that somehow sounds like a party throughout: You’ll absolutely want to live in the piano-and-horns breakdown after the first chorus. – LG

Listen: Jessie Ware – “Begin Again”

Sufjan Stevens Javelin review
Asthmatic Kitty

8. Sufjan Stevens – “So You Are Tired”

A simple crystal of a song in an album grandiloquent suites, still no sharper a javelin to pierce the aching heart fresh with loss. The primary driver here is a simple duet of piano and voice, accompanied by sound design that serves to enhance rather than distract. While other pieces on this record might better showcase Sufjan as his progressive pop peak, this one offers a brilliant and incisive look at how he structures songs, the way he bounces key melodies between instrumentation and voice, which offers us a keener understanding of how and why those bigger, more complex pieces hold together so well. Because make no mistake: he’s not just an emotional songwriter, he’s also a brilliant composer and arranger. – LH

Listen: Sufjan Stevens – “So You Are Tired”

best songs of 2023 - Black Earth WI

7. Ratboys – “Black Earth, WI”

It’s appropriate that the first taste of Ratboys’ excellent new album The Window feels exactly like a breath of fresh air. Released in the Spring before the album was announced, “Black Earth, WI” is a loose guitar jam that stretches and erupts in euphoria, a true show-stopper that sounds like nothing else in their catalogue. They sound refreshed and at ease, offering a stellar tease for great things to come. When we last heard from Ratboys, they yearned to go outside. “Black Earth, WI” is what it feels like when you get there. – JY

Listen: Ratboys – “Black Earth, WI”

anohni my back was a bridge for you to cross review
Secretly Canadian

6. ANOHNI and the Johnsons – “Sliver of Ice”

Inspired by some of the last words Lou Reed shared with her, about the transformative power of the simplest of experiences (here, ice melting on one’s tongue), “A Sliver of Ice” stands out on an album full of stirring, powerful vocal performances. The vocal delivery combined with the repetition and variation of the vocal melody sends the listener into a kind of orbit. The energy builds slowly and is quietly released, exhaled in a refrain circling its way toward oblivion. The way ANOHNI sings “I love you so much more” has been orbiting in my head for months. – TD

Listen: ANOHNI and the Johnsons – “Sliver of Ice”

best songs of 2023 - Hotline TNT
Third Man

5. Hotline TNT – “I Thought You’d Change”

Within the fuzz cascades of Hotline TNT’s standout single “I Thought You’d Change,” Will Anderson’s lyrics arrive in brief flashes of lucidity within a hazy landscape of ambiguity (“A kiss would make it real…“, “There’s a part of me that still feels weird…“). Total lyrical clarity’s never been the point of shoegaze, though, and “I Thought You’d Change” opts for feeling over explicit details, tugging on heartstrings through grungy alt-rock riffs and layers of bittersweet melody in ways words never could. In a song that feels so perfectly formed that you’d swear you could have heard this before, Hotline TNT make emotional ache feel strangely comforting. – JT

Listen: Hotline TNT – “I Thought You’d Change”

Armand Hammer We Buy Diabetic Test Strips review
Fat Possum

4. Armand Hammer – “The Gods Must Be Crazy”

El-P is operating on another plane as a producer on “The Gods Must Be Crazy.” Filtered, heavily chopped-up vocal samples swirl through the mix interlocking with propulsive drums. Growling bass synths cut through the maelstrom like bandsaws. Despite the hyper-modern maximalism, billy woods and ELUCID are unfazed, picking their way effortlessly through the beat, unleashing quotable after quotable, woods mining a familiar dark humor (“Henry Kissinger my album’s only feature” is among his funniest lines), ELUCID indulging in typically referential, mythic imagery (six-headed brides, beasts and harlots, third and fourth eyes, etc.). It’s dizzying stuff from hip-hop’s most consistently rewarding duo. – NS

Listen: Armand Hammer – “The Gods Must Be Crazy”

Mitski the Land is inhospitable review
Dead Oceans

3. Mitski – “Bug Like an Angel”

The first song of Mitski’s seventh album is an invitation. A simply strummed guitar sets the tone immediately, and the sudden swell of the chorus doubles down on it, beckoning us towards the quietly epic yet to unfold. Heart on her sleeve, Mitski delivers both opening and closing arguments in a single verse. The central simile in the song title is pleasantly on the nose: those seemingly small, everyday heartbreaks, each anthill of a mountain that we climb, are of biblical proportion in their own way and worthy of every last tear.  – FJ

Listen: Mitski – “Bug Like an Angel”

armand hammer we buy

2. billy woods and Kenny Segal – “Soundcheck” (feat. Quelle Chris)

I will not be at soundcheck,” billy woods declares, and lists instead a litany of other places you’re likely to find him before a show. This might be the most straightforward song woods has ever released, but that doesn’t mean we’ll ever figure him out. “I’m from where bottles got smashed over your head, I’m tense” is the closest we get to an explanation for his habitual pre-show absence. Meanwhile, he and Quelle Chris trade playful verses stuffed with a literary realist’s observations about getting your kicks on the road where you can, punctuated with a resigned hook: “Every victory pyrrhic.” Not this one. – CB

Listen: billy woods and Kenny Segal – “Soundcheck”

best albums of 2023 so far Wednesday
Dead Oceans

1. Wednesday – “Chosen to Deserve”

On Wednesday’s excellent Rat Saw God, singer/songwriter Karly Hartzman “wanted to tell a bunch of Greensboro stories,” reflecting some weird and wild things that she came to recognize as being highly specific to that southern city in particular. That radius narrows to her own teenage years in “Chosen to Deserve,” a Homeric epic of debauchery and questionable choices delivered as a soliloquy to a partner for the sake of letting him know what he’s getting into; “We always started by tellin’ our best stories first,” she sings, “So now that it’s been awhile, I’ll get around to tellin’ you all my worst.”

Against a roaring southern rock riff and an undercurrent of gorgeous pedal steel, Hartzman recounts time spent binge drinking, friends overdosing on Benadryl, skipping school and having sex in SUVs. Some of it’s youthful indiscretion, but none of it is particularly glamorous, which makes what is ultimately a sweet and painfully honest song all the more affecting; after she sings the final chorus (“‘Cause I’m the girl that you were chosen to deserve“) and that riff comes back in, it feels like fireworks going off on a warm summer night and the kind of buzz that you never want to end. It’s a love song that’s charmingly, willfully unromantic, casting aside the dramatic overtures in favor of something real. – JT

Listen: Wednesday – “Chosen to Deserve”

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