From the rise of AI sound, trending musical theater to pop singer pipeline (as highlighted by Cat Zhang of Pitchfork), the comeback of shoegaze, and the Pavement and Sufjan Stevens musical, there is a lot to discuss about the music scene in 2023. Luckily, the SoCC is here to keep you in the loop with some of the best album releases of the year.
Dive into the favorites our DJs and writers are raving about for 2023.
~ Marina Malin
Space Heavy by King Krule
This is Archy Marshall’s fourth LP, and his most mature release to date. Rather than wallowing in sorrow and letting his troubles and emotions take control of him like on The Ooz and Man Alive, Space Heavy sees a matured Archy confront his problems head-on. He explores the many definitions and implications of space through his crumbling relationship with his partner, as they break up and resign to co-parenting their daughter. The album flows flawlessly, ranging from slower, lamenting tracks like “Empty Stomach Space Cadet” to loud dissonant tracks like “Pink Shell.” Space Heavy showcases Archy’s ability to expertly paint feelings of anger, frustration, and disappointment using a myriad of colors. The album’s mix of warm and chilling hues make it a comforting companion as we head into the throes of winter.
Favorite Tracks: “If Only It Was Warmth,” “Seaforth,” “Seagirl,” and “That Is My Life, That Is Yours”
~ Issa Nasatir
the whaler by Home is Where
the whaler is not an album for the function – it’s a Bob Dylan and Jean Baudrilliard inspired folk-screamo album that is rife with guttural screams and categorically unpleasant noises, as well as harmonicas and singing saws. The Whaler was billed as a concept album about living within a world that feels like it’s always getting worse. The album confronts the realities of living under the dreggs of contemporary capitalism and demands to recenter identity, resistance, and joy. One of my favorite tracks is aptly titled “everyday feels like 9/11,” the next song is called “9/12,” a track about finding normalcy in mass catastrophe. Catchy track titles aside – the whaler is an important album! Home is Where is fronted by two trans women who, until this year, were based out of Palm Coast, Florida. Tilly (she/her, guitar) was forced to relocate after experiencing continued transmisogynistic violence – a facet of the continued rise of fascism in America. the whaler is produced from a context of ongoing, increasing political violence and the doomerism of the 21st century, and defiantly utilizes art-making-as-resistance to make an album that, once you get past the screaming (if that’s not your thing), is one of the most exciting and inventive contributions from this year, politically and sonically! Good stuff!
~ Tim Smith
10,000 gecs by 100 gecs
A truly glorious melting pot of genre-defining hyperpop and flavors such as ska or nu metal or pop punk or whatever you want to call the strange amalgamation of influences that find their way into this record. I will admit, I listened to over 2,000 minutes of 100 gecs this year, thanks to this release. There are simply no skips. “The Most Wanted Person In The United States” has a groove that scratches an itch deep in my brain and I still don’t really understand why, “Doritos & Fritos” has a killer bassline, and “One Million Dollars” is a masterpiece of all that is hyperpop and electronic. Once again, Dylan and Laura outdid themselves with creative and nuanced production, allowing for my ears to pick out new juicy moments in every listen, of which there have been many. It’s heavy (see the end of “Billy Knows Jamie”, probably my favorite moment of the record), it’s rambunctious (“Frog On The Floor”), it’s 100 gecs so it’s kind of like eating sugary sour candy that hurts your teeth (“mememe”), and, most of all, it’s just really cool music. In combination with its 2000s era influences and references, the genius of 10,000 gecs feels, to me, extremely definitive: perhaps of the state of forward thinking music now, or where music is going, or maybe just the year 2023 because it is, in fact, the album of the year.
~ Sadie Almgren
Fronzoli by Psychedelic Porn Crumpets
Fronzoli is a new innovative addition to the Psychedelic Porn Crumpets already impressive discography. This fuzzy, energetic psychedelic rock album introduces a new, more “math-rock” style to the Porn Crumpets arsenal, with a good mix of explosive and more mellow tracks throughout. The two most compelling songs (in my opinion), “Pillhouse (Papa Moonshine)” and “Mr & Mrs misanthrope” close out this dynamic album in style.
~ Jim Sellars
Girl with Fish by feeble little horse
Unpredictable, unapologetic, and exploding with youthful energy, Girl with Fish is a quest for individualism. In just under thirty minutes, this album is an eleven-step hero’s journey that rejects our innate understanding of time and tempo. It seamlessly incorporates breakbeats, DIY aesthetic, fuzzy textures, bursts of adrenaline vocals, clever twists and turns and a sometimes fragmented yet powerful force of unidentifiable sound, inflicting temporal dissonance.
Girl with Fish is a manifestation of what it means to create from a place of no constraints –claiming for themselves, their own creative liberation. The sequencing takes you through a dynamic sonic reality, introducing unique elements, layering and combinations beyond imagination. We grow blind trust on it to cradle us through the aggressive yells of “Pocket” to the gentle Florist-like “Healing”.
feeble little horse draws from a palette of slacker rock, noise pop, shoegaze, hyperpop and twee pop undertones to create this sonic collage reminiscent of GORP. Girl with Fish leaves my auditory taste buds sedated by its unpredictable remnants, fostering a desperate and dependent relationship -an experience parallel to the indulgence in GORP. Girl with Fish is a musical journey that both challenges and captivates, offering a sonic experience that lingers past its idiosyncratic fade-out.
Favorite Tracks: “Freak,” “Sweet,” and “Pocket”
~ Marina Malin
the record by boygenius
I know I know it’s basic but I couldn’t help it. This album was just truly incredible. I’ve been listening to boygenius, a band composed of Phoebe Bridgers, Julien baker, and Lucy dacus, since their first EP, which is also a masterpiece. To see this finally come together was amazing. The record has several songs with lyrics dedicated to one another and their strong friendship, which I love because it’s not all mushy love crap. Phoebe is the soul, Julien the heart, and Lucy the brains of the operation. Phoebe brings slow, sad, and thought provoking melodies, while also fabricating the hit single “Not Strong Enough” with a pop rock sound similar to Kyoto in her sophomore album Punisher. Julien brings an edge, a place to manifest all the energy the various emotions of the record bring you by echoing her belts, or at least attempting to. She still crawls back in to the sound that kicked off her career, and created their friendship. This is the sound of despair and, well… mental health struggles. This is seen in her hit “Cool About It”. Lucy is a selfless genius, by producing the kitchen hum along as the album opener to throw wit at sexism in our society, and has the rest of her songs based on friendship, or more importantly, her friendship with these amazing people. This whole album tackles with LGBTQ+ and gender inequality, while also discussing the joys of friendship and the domino depression seen when any of these three struggle mentally. Luckily, if you listen to this album from start to finish, songs like “$20” and “Anti-Curse” will lift your spirits from these heavy topics that still do need to be discussed.
~ Ruben Margolis
KAYTRAMINÉ by KAYTRAMINÉ, Aminé, and KAYTRANDA
The main reasoning behind this choice is being from Portland, which means I really have to support the city’s best musical export since Elliott Smith. Although not necessarily following in the same musical vein as Smith, this album equally wows. KAYTRAMINÉ, the first in hopefully a long-standing collaboration between Portland rapper Aminé and producer KAYTRANADA, is an explosive, bright, and at times messy project that should be enjoyed in either the Sig Chi basement or on a beach somewhere in Southern Florida. A drink of some sort should probably be involved too- hopefully frozen and/or colorful. This is an essential summer album, as its May release date would suggest. Tracks like “4EVA” and “Westside” will have you ready to, per the album cover, lay outside with some slippers on. My personal favorite line is when he mentions a French 75, then continues the line in French. I had no idea “comment tu t’appelles, je m’appelle Aminé” could be transformed into such a bar. The album may not be as durable during the long and sad winter months as this year’s other major successes (boygenius), but as in life one cannot always be happy- yet we embrace the times where we can. For the hopefully consistent moments when that sunny and joyous feeling emerges, I would suggest KAYTRAMINÉ.
~ Theo Tannahill
Suntub by ML Buch
Have been on this one since late October. Multifaceted and an engaging listen!
~ Connor Rogers
Sundial by Noname
Since Room 25, Noname’s hadn’t released an album in a minute, fostering fear among her fan base that she would never drop again; however, for this one, I would have waited another 5 years. Embracing bell hooks’ love ethic of honesty, Sundial engages in debates and Noname’s own contradictions surrounding capitalism, romance, self-image, colonialism, and liberation. Intricate, humorous, provocative flows partnered with addictive, jazzy beats that cradle the listener like a lover on a Saturday night bring to light the humanity, complicity, and optimism of radical Noname, encouraging the listener to acknowledge their own complexity and positionality: “Same day the airstrikes strike down Iran / I ran into the house with a blunt in my hand, let’s smoke… Why complacency float the boat the most?” Every time I listen to this album, I find myself obsessed and challenged in a new way by her meticulous bars—all I can say is you MUST listen. AND, after you listen to this project and begin craving more of Noname’s genius, make sure to watch her Tiny Desk concert with NPR and keep up with her book club (@nonamereads on Instagram).
~ Mackenzie Wagner
Girl with Fish by feeble little horse
Girl with Fish by feeble little horse has definitively been one of my favorite musical discoveries of this year. Woven with glitzy instrumentals and a fuzzy, noise-pop aura, this album is reminiscent of grainy camera footage after radiation exposure in the best way possible. Coming in at less than thirty minutes, this album takes the listener on a brief but exhilarating ride through shoegaze-esque tracks, with intermittent detours through powerfully unpredictable tracks such as “Steamroller” and “Pocket,” before dropping you off at the end feeling like you’ve just been through the spin cycle of a particularly electric washing machine. My most listened to track is definitely “Freak,” though I really don’t think this album has any skips. Would definitely recommend a listen!
~ Caroline Woods
Art Life by Richard Houghten and Wowflower
Art Life by Richard Houghten and Wowflower is infectious in its tranquil sound. Throughout the album, a melodic groove is curated as skillful guitar picking, drumming and, at moments, euphoric electronic notes fill the ears and soul. Though the artists maintain a distinct style, each song varies in sound. You can delve into this album at any moment, although highly recommended while traveling solo or climbing trees. The absence of lyrics has zero consequence on the album and instead, accentuates the sound created. This aspect of the album is something personal that I treasure as it gives me space to feel the music without guideline. Of the 29 minute album, the most notable (my favorite :p) few minutes are from songs “2:00am Flower” and “Cloud Door”.
~ Sophie Effron
The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We by Mitski
Mitski’s new album ranging from country to orchestral pop expresses love in a radical way, meaning to express love is what we have despite living in an inhospitable world full of painful contradictions. Each of her albums takes me in a journey of melancholy and appreciation and the The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We is not the exception.
~ Jose Rodriguez Poggio
Everyone’s Crushed by Water From Your Eyes
Some of the music I end up loving the most is music I have to bend my head around to listen to. Everyone’s Crushed is one of the most mind boggling lineups on an album I’ve ever heard — and achingly beautiful. It’s punk-funk-art pop mixed with a car alarm?? It feels like someone probed my subconscious, shook it up, and tossed it out. It’s busy, groovy (at times), and electric! This album has expanded my capacity to love music and challenged my notion of how I listen to music. Give it a go!
~ Sadie Fleig