2023: the year i was able to start listening to music again

Not that I couldn’t listen to new music at ALL in 2020-22, but my scope was extremely limited & reflected my emotional landscape – Green-House, Cate Le Bon, Grouper, and Samantha Crain were stuck on repeat in my little world. Friends released great records that I had to file away for future unraveling. So yeah, while I still wasn't much in the mood to be yelled at by white dudes (John Hastie/ Chris Williams/ Scott Evans the exceptions to the rule) I found myself dizzily absorbing new Art this year. This isn’t a best-of list, and there were plenty of other releases that I enjoyed, but these are some of the works that wormed their way in. Please don’t be hurt if your work isn’t listed here. I’m probably a fan, I’m just very tired and take horrible notes throughout the year.

New Music, in alphabetical order by artist:

  • Arms & Armour | The Winds EP – Creepy Cleveland draws you in and makes you coffee while you watch ‘Synecdoche, New York’ and try to remember how to sleep.
  • courtney barnett | End Of The Day (music from the film Anonymous Club) – This enchanting overlapping collection of instrumental improvisations makes me want to don a blue robe and shuffle through the Dandenong Ranges of eastern Melbourne.
  • Jon Batiste | ‘Butterfly’live on Colbert I actually cried more watching the interview but wow this song. Sometimes I think Jon’s joy might be enough to save all of us.  
  • Beauty Pill | Abandonware – A dissected view through the curtain of 2017’s masterpiece, ‘Beauty Pill Describes Things As They Are.’  Chard Clark’s attention to detail and ability to communicate through sound is uniquely moving and I’m really glad he chose to share this collection.
  • Big Blood | First Aid Kit – Found out about this longtime east-coast family music factory through Ran Prieur’s thought/feeling-provoking site. I’ll be exploring the Big Blood back catalog for some time, but their song ‘1000 Times’ from this year’s album carried me away... like some lost home-recorded Girl Group classic or something. Makes me want to flip a table and shake my butt and play guitar so loud that they can hear me resonating out in Maine. Pretty sure Quinnissa was THIRTEEN when she recorded the vocals. Unreal.  
  • Maigin Blank | Fears – Floating in an isolation tank on the moon, Maigin's voice lights the way to the next room. Which is the last room. Which is the woods.
  • Coed Pageant | MV ’07 – Coed quietly put up several exploratory digital singles/ EPs this year, but I think ‘MV ’07’ hit me hardest. I’m a sucker for songs that reference N.Carolina. New EP coming in February ’24 and I am here for it, all of it.
  • Davey Bones | A Quiet Place To Hide – All Bayliss all the time forever. Pat can also yell at me. It’s worth it.
  • Michael Harold Doty | dubious contract – A savory collection of sweet pop gems. Get out on the dance floor and let us celebrate this wonderful human!
  • emily | quickening // everything – I contributed minimally to both of these releases from my life-partner/ best friend, but I’m including them anyway because they are extraordinary alchemical albums. ‘quickening’ is the heavier trip here, with ‘everything’ bringing some light for winter solstice. Both (and all of emily’s releases) are well worth your time and/or money.
    *emily also contributed to the gothtastic (I’m sorry) Babes With Blades’ ‘The Duchess of Malfi’ soundtrack. Such a moody and gratifying collection of alternate universe monoliths by the coolest of the cool.
  • Huge Shark | He Dared Me – Big fans of Valerie's voice in this house. Nice bonus treat to see that Paraquat & Gary Gahan came to the party. I somehow missed that Huge Shark also released an album titled ‘Everything’ this year, which I am now rectifying!
  • Chance Jones | Normandie – Joshua Burge writes classic L.A. songs that haven’t forgotten they are Michigan songs. Very happy that he is making music again.
  • Kalamazoo, Michigan – Speaking of MI, something Weird & Wonder(land)ful is going on in Kzoo, and not just because Garth calls it home these days. Endless waves of joy and howling. Will Franki Hand dig us out of this black hole? Is Isaac Turner the sober R.Pollard of experimental cactus core? Only time with tell. 2023 saw a ton of excellent releases from Kalamazoo & I guarantee this list doesn’t even scratch the surface: Basic Comfort, handturner, this Headband Henny JAM, Kalamazoo Drone Society, The Krelboynes, Majority Haircut (Kzoo freaks record an album on a cell phone w/ Beth McDonald & Suzanne Erin), New Standards Men (mostly a Denver affair, but Ike-involved so it stands), Wowza... WOWZA. No new releases from Petrillo or Future Living this year, but omg their sets at PRF Campout were supernatural. And hey, I was able to cry in the park when ru hensley debuted their new project, Sir Whatever. Nothing posted on the Sir Whatever bandcamp yet, but trust me you are gonna wanna FOLLOW so you know when the songs are ready. Ok, I better move on...
  • Leonids | Everybody Knew – Don’t break yr teeth on the Toronto power-pop. Do it, I will dare (you).
  • Maple Stave | Arguments – Powerful band of Nice Dudes (which now includes Nice Dude/New Dad Tall Chris) at the height of their powers. Recorded by Thee Scott Evans at Electrical Audio with Carl Saff finalizing and contributions from Dixie Jacobs & Hastie. This is the way.
  • Beth McDonald | the new moon’s out of the way – I never quite understand what is HAPPENING when I listen to Beth music, and that is one of my favorite things about it. Shame Beth is such a COLD-BLOODED PUNK.
  • Medicine Singers, Lee Ranaldo & Yonatan Gat | Honor Song – Just put on some phones or crank up the good speakers. And make sure to also watch the live video.   
  • miscellaneous owl | little fires 
    You are more than just your body, that's just a place to live
    Don't forgive yourself, there's nothing to forgive
    Talk to yourself the way you would talk to a friend
    You're not quite there yet, but you're trying, you're trying
  • Brittany Lee Moffitt | Guests – Incredible songs, sung & played with heart, and lovingly rendered. We don’t deserve Brittany.
  • Bill Orcutt Guitar Quartet – Tiny Desk Concert – I love 2022’s ‘Music For Four Guitars,’ but this live set from April ’23 with Wendy Eisenberg, Ava Mendoza and Shane Parish playing the parts of the Other Three Guitars tore my head off. As an aside, this sounds amazing with c.barnett’s ‘End Of The Day’ playing in another tab.
  • rebel noire and the accomplices | UNARMED – A force of nature, a real-time evolution. If you can catch them live you should catch them live.
  • Maurice Rickard | Laodica – If my math is correct, Maurice will be completing his 194th (!) consecutive live Monday solo performance as snwv this week. I am consistently inspired by the way Maurice shows up in the world and by the music he makes. It always centers me in the moment, and that is a special gift. In addition to his many contemplative & slowly unfolding snwv offerings this year, Maurice also released 2 albums of intertwining guitar pieces under his own name. ‘Laodica’ particularly took me. Don’t sleep on snwv.
  • Tarek Sabbar | No One Will Care As Much As You – Dance music for the end of the world. Maybe the most beautiful lathe cut I’ve seen (bonus props to Repeater Press).
  • Sanchez Agency | GL Perry – Have we got somethin' for you. It is Never Too Late.
  • Secret Millionaire | Caviar Dreams – Who is she? How did this movie get to be so smooth? Do I live here now? Ecso + Eli = yes please.
  • Spanned Canyons | Snowload EP – Sometimes an ominous world in the headphones makes one (me) feel better about the ominous world outside. I am for Spanned Canyons.
  • Joanna Sternberg | I’ve Got Me – Stumbled on this heart-breaker of an album when MattSweeney (who assisted with the recording) posted about it on theheavyjams IG and wow wow wow. I’m not even gonna try to put it into words, but Joanna has The Songs.
  • Vacancy Chain | Count The Stars – A total ripper, more heart than I can handle. 3 beautiful people leaning into each other till we all fall down. Maybe my favorite driving album from 2023.
  • Naomi Yang | Never Be A Punching Bag For Nobody (Original Soundtrack) – I have yet to see the actual film, but this soundtrack is so graceful and cinematic that I almost don’t want to break the spell. I will watch it eventually, I promise.

I’ve been overwhelmingly inspired this past year and have been fortunate in so many ways, one being the time/ safety/ and capacity to make new music, often with incredible collaborators.
In brief: 

  • I mentioned the 2 emily collections from this year that I was able to contribute to upthread, but we also threw down with Garth on a version of The Cranberries’ ‘daffodil lament’ and in June emily and I joined forces with Coed Pageant on the Pixies ‘wave of mutilation,’ both for the PRF Monthly Tribute Series.
  • Speaking of The Garth... while we didn’t have any new rutabega releases in 2023, we were able to play a few outdoor shows in support of ‘leading up to’ and those shows were all very meaningful for me. We also recorded a new song — ‘we start over’ — for Jon Solomon’s 35th Annual Holiday Marathon Radio Show, with emily and our friends Billie Howard (viola & violin) and Gary Gahan (tenor sax).  
  • I had slowly been working on some quiet gentle songs with my good friend Jared, and in November we were able to finally release this forestlike album. It’s been over 10 years since we have released any music together, so this was huge for me. This album is all us, except the song ‘let’s get bent’ which includes some tasty lap steel from John Barlow.
  • Michael Harold Doty and I have been cooking up something special that will hopefully see the light of day in 2024. As far as 2023, I added some harmonies & nylon guitar to this lovely MHD tune, and we hooked up for several PRF Tributes this year including a chill version of the Beach Boys’ ‘surfer grrrl.’
  • Maurice Rickard and I joined forces for ‘avoid cross foxes’ from my solo release ‘kettle.’ Also from that pool, Mr. King and his robot friends made a video for ‘chonky went harpooning.’ Oh hey, I also got to record the WSLP intro jingle for Mr. King’s incredible Sleep Baseball series. Dang!
  • There is now a patsy presents bandcamp page and the first release was MISC.TAPE Vol. -1 – Junior, Dinosaur — an outgrowth of the PRF Tributes to Dinosaur Jr. This release included a solo tune I wrote for Lou & Adelle Barlow, as well as collabs with Jared, Doty, emily + Vacancy Chain, and a repurposing of a 2011 ‘feel the pain’ that emily & I recorded with our buddy Dustin Philipson.
  • I’ve mentioned the PRF Monthly Tributes several times already, but it really is an incredible part of an incredible community, and I am consistently blown away by the creativity and kindness that springs out of the PRF. A bright spot for me in 2023 was getting to know/ learn from/ collaborate with/ and love Bil Hooper. I’ve admired Bil’s work & ears for a while and was thrilled when he took some time out of his busy life to teach me some new tricks. We ended up collaborating on the Pixies ‘Silver,’ and late in the year had a thrilling (to me at least!) run with our friends Margie Criner (you must check out Margie’s miniatures!) and Gary Gahan with the new virtual band we’ve been calling Parades. We joined forces for tributes to Edwyn Collins (with some lovely piano from Sam Eddington) and Echo & the Bunnymen, but I’m especially partial to our version of The Flaming Lips’ ‘Feeling Yourself Disintegrate.’  

Phew, that was a LOT! Thanks for reading/ listening/ caring. May our 2024 be calm & bright.


pig & pic by emily <3

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