🎹 Music for this post is the music for this post.
This year was saw a vast improvement in the music landscape. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that we are done with people’s “lockdown” albums, and people are writing and performing music together more often, bringing music back to pre-pandemic levels, for which I am grateful. There are a few things in this list that I noticed didn’t make any of this year’s more popular “best of” lists, which pleases me, and I hope you find joy discovering them here. Beyond that, this year saw me appreciating new music from performers who arguably peaked in the past.
1. Gord Downie & Bob Rock – Lustre Parfait
I live a few hours away from Kingston, ON, where Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip were formed and worshiped in a way that, were they a U.S. act, would have seen them become world-famous. To hear something this fresh-sounding, 6 years after Gord’s death was, to me, the musical event of 2023. If you are not familiar with The Hip’s work, consider this to be an entry point to the past, where, I promise, you will find much to love.
2. Peter Gabriel – i/o
I’m unabashedly a Genesis fan, and, separately, a Peter Gabriel fan. Here, we have a 73-year-old artist releasing an album that is as good as anything he released in his past, which is an accomplishment even the Rolling Stones couldn’t quite achieve this year. What a gift, and a delight.
3. Nation of Language – Strange Discipline
A youthful act with an appreciation for the past that brought many smiles to my ears this year. If Mozart was a student of Haydn, then Nation of Language ares students of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark in precisely the same way. We are lucky to have a fresh take on this music from the past. A simple joy of 2023.
4. Young Fathers – Heavy Heavy
Young Fathers take hip-hop and make it a true ensemble act, with an interplay, passion, and musicality that I wish more U.S. hip-hop acts would attempt. This is wonderful, daring music, full of texture, creativity, passion, and message. I’ve loved every one of their albums, and this one is no exception.
5. Yo La Tengo – This Stupid World
Here we have another band on this list that’s been around for 40 years, but this time, arguably at the very top of their game. Brilliantly performed and recorded, this is grand, creative, and as current-sounding as any young act today. On top of that, I don’t think anybody can make a Telecaster (undoubtedly my favorite guitar) sound the way that Ira Kaplan can.
6. Low Cut Connie – Art Dealers
This is, possibly, the most under-noticed and under-rated album of the year. A great piece in the Low Cut Connie canon, this album got more play time in my earbuds and stereo in the last three weeks of this year than I expected. While I like to let an album settle for a few months to appreciate its impact and perspective, I am sure this belongs with the others on this list. Great stuff, and a great sound to bridge us to what is, hopefully, a grand year of music in 2024.