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Micah's Best of 2023

It's officially December! While some might point and say, "Hey! There's still a whole month of music to review!", the notes app I've been putting together all week is pulling me in a different direction. What I termed "the worst year for music since I started caring about it" about 4 months into this year ended up providing some pretty great projects to dance to in both a packed crowd and alone in my dorm room. I guess not the worst year after all. Here's some stuff I liked.

Before I begin, a quick shoutout to the skramz artists I really enjoyed who released projects this year! If that's your thing, check these out!

Versera, onewaymirror, Clay Birds, Stumik Bug, Catalyst..., Knumeras, Party Hats, herlovebeheadsdaisies, seahorsechoke, widowdusk (R.I.P!), ihuntmonsters, bright little stars

poorly wrote suicide note, Cicadahead, gingerbee

All of the projects released by these amazing artists are worth your time and support!

Now onto my top 15!

15. Squid - O Monolith

Squid had my favorite project of 2021 with Bright Green Field, a record that I believed showed immense strength and perfect post-punk grooves. This album is a little bit more of the same, with some key differences. Songs like "The Blades" and "Undergrowth" give a fun, danceable beat while pieces like "Siphon Song" include some left-field vocal choices. A pretty great, energetic album from a band that I just know has just one perfect album in them.

14. Slaughter Beach, Dog - Crying, Laughing, Waving, Smiling

A fun acoustic style album, I think it's time we admit that maybe Slaughter Beach, Dog is putting out more great content than Modern Baseball would be putting out at this point. (Though I'm still itching for that MoBo reunion like a lot of other people.) This new record is absolutely fantastic, the instrumentation is diverse, and the songs are perfect fall weather music. Excited to maybe see these folks live in January!

13. boygenius - The Record

More on here because of an excellent live show I saw with some very good friends in June, The Record is a testament to how great each individual member of boygenius is when it comes to writing and preforming, and how great they work as a team. While no song reaches as high as some of the highlights off the first EP ("Ketchum, ID", I love you), songs like "True Blue", "$20", and "Satanist" showcase this bands knack for great songwriting and come pretty close to that high watermark.

12. TV Girl - Grapes Upon the Vine

Forget the hate, what TV Girl brings here is nothing short of their strongest work yet. For a band to hit it so big with TikTok, to fly in the face of that and make an album with gospel influence and no clear single, released with a suprise drop is one hundred percent amazing. There's no clear "Lovers Rock" or "Not Allowed" on here, and I think this record is all the better for it (though I would have appreciated a thematic continuation on "Birds Don't Sing", my personal favorite TV Girl song). Highlights include "99.5", the title track, and "Heaven Over our Heads"!

11. Harrison Gordon - The Yuppies are Winning

Central IL represent! Known to me as one of the frontpeople of Chuck's Papas, a fun indie rock band that provided me with one of the best nights of my life this May at a Bloomington-Normal coffee shop, this record came across my radar only after I moved away from that town for college (figures). Harrison has a real knack for songwriting, especially about smoking cigarettes and reminiscing on childhood nostalgia. Highlights are the title track, "Cigs inside", and "The Next Great American Spirit Strikes Again!", the clear emo masterpiece of this year. Can't wait to hopefully catch a show when I'm back home for break!

10. Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter - SAVED!

Off the wall, intense, fantastic, SAVED! is hymnal southern gospel that hardly relents from an artist who never fails to disappoint. Most intense song choice of the year could go to the "speaking in tongues" section at the end of "How Can I Keep From Singing?", a 3 minute section of nothing but Kristin letting loose on a microphone. If you're in the right headspace for this, nothing but raw and tense emotions are on display here.

9. Wednesday - Rat Saw God

Some of the most blistering indie rock of the year that sometimes comes to a dense, noisy, climactic head on excellent songs like "Bull Believer". The pedal steel on "Chosen To Deserve" makes me believe there's still bands making cool instrumental choices in their albums. (And the lyrics never fail to entertain! This song has one of the coolest and funniest topics I've heard a band write about). Excited to see where this band goes next!

8. Jeromes Dream - The Gray In Between

Some of the most heavy and intense screamo of this year. I went into work one day this May, heard this playing over the speakers, and immediately put myself down for a copy. A fantastic return to form from a foundational band from the early screamo scene. An intense, pummeling sound that leaves my heart very full. Crank this one high and wake up the neighbors.

7. Parannoul - After the Night (Live)

Providing a kicked up intensity to the superb 2021 originals (especially Beautiful World and White Ceiling, my favorite song of that year) along with new arrangements of songs from a fantastic studio album this year, this live album showcases Parannoul's knack for heavy, layered arrangements. And shoutout to Asian Glow on the bass! This album wraps up with a blistering 40 minute rendition of Into The Endless Night, what I would easily call the "Fishmans 98.12.28 Long Season" of 2023.

6. awakebutstillinbed - chaos takes the wheel and i am a passenger

A record I've reviewed before from a band that never fails to put their best foot forward. I still connect heavily with the lyrics, just an amazing album that never lets up on the strong songwriting. Themes on the album are more clear to me now, and I couldn't love them more New favorites on the album include scramble suit and adapt!

5. Hotline TNT - Cartwheel

Another review I've done before (check my previous posts for more elaboration on how great this album is!) for an album I keep returning to. Excited to see them this week! Some of the best riffs of the year on here, superb drumming (all done in GarageBand!) and sun-soaked vocals. Check out History Channel for my favorite shoegaze song of the year.

4. Black Country, New Road - Live at Bush Hall

Despite the departure of a lead vocalist from an incredible album that placed them high on year end lists last year, Ants From Up There, the remaining members of Black Country, New Road showed that they still have the power to write some of the strongest songs in the industry. The highlights on here like I Will Always Love You, Turbines/Pigs, and Dancers stand up to highlights on their last two albums. Currently deciding who to move forward with as a concrete lead singer, all three vocalists on this album make a strong case for why it should be them. I almost wish I could receive all of the music from all three timelines where they each go with a different choice. An incredibly great album that shows the amazing potential this band still has for strong songwriting, excited to see what they do next!

3. feeble little horse - Girl with Fish

Fuzzed out, blissful noise rock with some awesome writing and riffs. Some incredible choices for song structure on this, a Kimya Dawson style tune will turn into harsh screaming and noise in the blink of an eye. Just plain fun! Some moments remind me of Alex G, the lead single Tin Man has an almost Modest Mouse quality to the guitar work, and the metaphors related to baking in Steamroller never fail to make me smile. Just a plain good time!

2. Sufjan Stevens - Javelin

In a move that I would term "emotionally devastating enough to make me cry in the middle of the library", Sufjan Stevens, my personal favorite artist ever announced this album with a message dedicating it to his late partner, who passed away earlier this year. This also served as a sort of coming out for Sufjan, an artist who had much speculation around his identity since introducing queer themes on his early albums. The music on this album is steady, sad, and dense, and an easy soundtrack to turn on if you just need a good cry. This album blends the slow and death-filled writing of Carrie and Lowell with the harsh electronic production I love from The Age of Adz. All in all, some of Sufjan's best writing, and another high watermark in an artist with the strongest discography in music.

Before we get to my favorite album of the year, here's some honorable mentions!


Jessie Ware - That! Feels! Good!

George Clanton - Ooh Rap I Yah

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - PetroDraconic Apocalypse

Sprain - The Lamb as Effigy

Mitski - The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We

Model/Acrtiz - Dogsbody

Yves Tumor - Praise a Lord Who Chews but Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds)

Sadness / abriction - sadness // abriction

PinkPantheress - Heaven knows

Lana Del Rey - Did you know that there's a tunnel under Ocean Blvd

Paramore - This Is Why

AJJ - Disposable Everything

Lil Yachty - Let's Start Here

Avenade - Our Raging God Unknown to Us

Drumroll please...

1. Home Is Where - The Whaler

Both times I had the pleasure of watching Home Is Where preform live were some of the best nights of my life. Seeing queer joy expressed on the stage in that manner meant more to me than I could explain. And that's not even mentioning the absolutely amazing compositions on this project. The opener on this album, "Skin Meadow", is one of the most searing, intense and fantastic songs of this year. The way the horns and singing saw blend at the climax of the song is positively amazing. The album continues on as a sort of concept album revolving around 9/11, whales, Dale Earnhardt, and the mortifying ordeal of growing old and facing death. The best moments on this remind me of the blistering compositions of Neutral Milk Hotel mixed with the riffs and vocals of my favorite emo bands like Cap'n Jazz and Christie Front Drive. Also the last 2 songs have a perfect transition involving sleigh bells. A wonderful wonderful album, my personal favorite of this year.

That's everything I really loved from this year! If you think I'm clearly missing any albums, or have a recommendation, leave a comment below and I'll check it out! Thanks for reading!

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