|2K23 Blud Judgements
I reached 2023 ratings on the final day of 2023. To commemorate this milestone, the following are 23 of the choicest cuts I listened to last year. This ain't no AOTY list — I spent most of 2023 attempting to expand my palate, and the bulk of what flowed into my ears emanated from earlier eras. List is in ascending order of my perceived quality.
Bagong Plaka Lumang Kanta Vol. 2
1982 // Original Pinoy Music
Stumbled across this while hunting down the sample that propels the Lupe Fiasco classic "Kick, Push." It's strongly reminiscent of the Streisand/Minnelli strand of traditional diva pop and a silky smooth if unchallenging listen.
2015 // Electro-Industrial
Essentially four versions of one song (Lamborghini being Petrol's primordial form), but it's mutant synth pop. The 1985 studio version of Petrol is a standout.
2022 // Hip-Hop
Conscious hip-hop from Clear Soul Forces' top cosplayer. Devout anime fans will catch more of the references than I, but "Seto Kaiba / Blue Eyes Writer" is an all-time bar
Clair de Lune
1974 // Proto Synthpop
Tomita is far too overlooked as a pioneer of the synth scene. He took the instrument to stratospheric (for the mid-70s) heights through a capable use of effects, most notably the creation of a polyphonic sound without polyphonic synthesizers (!). You can scoop your jaws off the floor now.
Songs for the French
2009 // Oxnoise
Frontman Eugene S. Robinson released his memoirs recently which spurred my interest in this overlooked EP. I won't reveal his secrets other than to express how adorable it is that Robinson is quite proud of the following line, judging by how often it pops up unchanged in the book — "I looked at her with a look I'd later call the Dracula look, or some version of what anthropologists call "the copulatory gaze."
2023 // Folk Pop
I want to call this TikTok trash but the harmonies are saccharine as sweet potato pie and sustain a craving with basically the same efficacy
The Risk Of Hyperbole - Vol.2 - Object
2023 // Soundscape
The middle installment of a trilogy composed by Jack Prest is gorgeous and haunting enough to justify the use of those words which are far too often bandied about in ambient music reviews. If you can name five ambient records with guided improvisation better than this one, you need serious help.
Come with Fierce Grace
2023 // Nu Jazz
Ostensibly a tenor saxophone wankfest of a record, this record's thwacking percussion lends it a welcome rawness and humanity often missing from the work of certain jazz virtuosos — think the worst excesses of Jaco Pastorius. The tracks tend to begin in medias res, which strips away most of the remaining artifice.
|Teenage Jesus and the Jerks
2015 // No Wave
No wave legend Lydia Lunch is a force for ugly in the best possible way. This collection of cuts is what I imagine NYC in the late 70s to have looked like — replete with lurching characters, danger on most corners, ravaged by Robert Moses' slum-clearing efforts and general disregard for anyone below the upper-middle class. I highly recommend this record for first dates and for when you take over the aux at a kickback
2018 // Rawk
Gatvey Matvelev are two Russian expats living in Japan. They play music that best be described as Anthony Bourdain Theme Song — sorta grungey, sorta skramzy, all cheesy attitude. Easy on the ears, though.
|The Reds, Pinks and Purples
The Town That Cursed Your Name
2023 // Indie Pop
I may have left the Bay Area but I still bump every new Donaldson project. His music is metronomically consistent — in sound, in quality, in yearnful lyrics, in album covers depicting facades of homes in the Sunset or Richmond neighborhoods. Sing me to sweet, sweet death my Glenn.
2009 // Math Rock
I lost my affinity for cute instrumental math rock around the time of my second shrooms trip, but this stuff hits the spot hard. Not wanky, fantastic tone, pleasant chord progressions and repetition.
2018 // Ambient Noise Wall
Whatever the frick ambient noise wall is you need more of Shum in your life. Repetitive, yes, but this album is not nearly as dense or harsh as you might expect from its terrifying genre tag.
1973 // Jazz
Of a similar era to Isao Tomita's entry on this list, Layers is a similarly seminal example of the powers of the synth. This record's long, tall, and handsome synth chords make me swoon, but I wish I could have been a be-sideburned troglodyte discovering Les McCann for the first time in '73. Would have shot the Mingus right out between my unshaved buttocks like some kind of Moog enema.
Led by Ancient Light
2023 // Modern Classical (with wubs)
KOAN Sound are known for bass-busting bungers, but their focus shifted from sound design to orchestral narrative with this stellar LP. I was lucky enough to catch a live show towards the end of '23 where they played the whole thing in full — a sea change from their halfway-to-brostep catalogue to be sure, but one of the most successful maturity moments I've seen from an electronic act.
Where Is There
2007 // Chamber Jazz
Greg Cohen's on this record, so you should check it out. Once you get over your celebrity shock, Morelenbaum's cello and Ruocco's clarinet will induce an onset of, um, chamber jazz sepsis. Idk
1980 // Post-Punk
Combines all of those classic post-punk tropes — manic rhythms, dissonance, freakish danceability — with a highly memorable vocal performance courtesy of Linder Sterling.
|Fire On Fire
5 Song EP
2008 // Art-Punk-Prog
This work is like if Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman came back to life, did a heaping dose of psychedelics, and scampered off to the woods to make weird bluegrass-style art punk
|Mahlathini & the Mahotella Queens
Music Inferno: The Indestructible Beat Tour 1988-
2023 // Mbaqanga
A recent release and excellent point of entry to the Mbaqanga royalty's work. It's a rollicking good time, a blend of South African traditional stylings and American blues. Just about the happiest, most joyous stuff you could throw on after blasting Teenage Jesus and the Jerks at the function
2023 // Jazz
Jazz so straitlaced they forgot to add the drummer. A mixture of originals and jazz standards, you will be hard-pressed to find a jazz trio playing more in tune with another than this new trio. Expect big things
Djamil Inédits 84-85
1985 // Mbalax
When it comes to Senegal, you'd be hard pressed to find a non-footballer more globally renowned than N'Dour. This record captures the tenor at the peak of his powers and can't be missed, both for N'Dour's striking vocal performance and for its funky fricking basslines
|Lawrence Butch Morris
Dust to Dust
1991 // Conducted Improv
In what must be a Sput record, we have a second conducted improv record on this list. This record captures the best of that confusingly named genre: a mesmerizing performance where Morris conducts a large group of musicians, shaping the structure the way he sees fit, repeating phrases at his whims, initiating new melodies, and generally wreaking havoc. It's a unique, highly rewarding listen.
Cave of Forgotten Dreams
2011 // Soundtrack
All that needs to be said about this record is that it costs $232 on Amazon. Not that I would pay that much for it but Amazon's prestigious algorithm clearly figures that some audiophile would.