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2023 YEAR IN REVIEW: Final Lists and Our Favorite Things

Known fact: without lists, the internet as we know it would collapse. The entire infrastructure is held up, like all humans and animals, by a skeleton. That skeleton relies on someone ranking every song by Fall Out Boy from worst to best. So today, we contribute some final lists to the cause before we sign off on the paperwork that allows 2023 to end.

Favorite EPs

Favorite Cover Songs

20 More Excellent Albums Not on Our Top 50 List

Our Favorite Album Titles

A Mixtape With Our Favorite Song Titles of the Year

Our Favorite Americana Albums

Our Favorite New Vinyl Acquisitions of 2023


Our Annual List of the Pickled Priest's Favorite Things and Final Thoughts for 2023


An abbreviated list for an abbreviated format


Dolenz Sings R.E.M.

(7a Records)

I'm tacking this onto the end of my EP list because I'm pleased it exists, not because I'll listen to it very often. Clearly, if "Shiny Happy People" was written back in the late-60s, the Monkees would've crushed it and it would now be yet another timeless classic from an already amazing Greatest Hits album. Here, 50+ years after the fact, it's given a pretty endearing performance by Mickey, even though it ranks with our least favorite R.E.M. songs of all-time. The best of this bunch is "Radio Free Europe" because it's just so odd to hear a former Monkee singing these impenetrable lyrics. I actually found myself grinning ear-to-ear during this one. "Man On the Moon" and "Leaving New York" are just meh, but at least he knows the whole catalog! Next up, Pavement?



(Sub Pop)

Recent Sub Pop signing, Sweden’s Waterbaby (aka Kendra Egerbladh, whose last name sounds like an Ikea product, perhaps an end table), registered immediately on my radar this year. Her well-written press kit promised “rhapsodic, technopastoral crush songs” and that's exactly what we got. Her songs more than live up to that description and Foam was the perfect afternoon dalliance, nothing too heavy, but full of tiny moments of reserved joy, delivered in a pleasing, effortless cadence over simple melodies that sink in immediately.


The High Life


Worth hearing for “Blue” alone, a touching "love is love" song that is positively gorgeous. Like an effortless blue wave coming in from the ocean, you can get completely caught up in its subtle force.


Flying High


The Alchemist was busy as always this year—I'm happily not in charge of keeping track of his output—but Flying High was right up there with his collaboration with Larry June on The Great Escape as his best work of 2023. A pleasing little breeze of an EP made for kicking back on the beach.


Versions of You


L.A.'s Rocket put out their debut EP, Versions of You, this year, but it looks like more tracks could be added later so maybe it matures into a full-length. The more the better for this promising 90s-alt-rock-inspired group who already seems to have their shit down pat. Check out "On Your Heels," "Sugarcoated," and "Future Memory." If those don't work for you move on to the next fucking Foo Fighters album and call it a year.




Death Cab was in the zone in 2002, deep into the Transatlanticism sessions, so some of Chris Walla's finished side experiments got put on the shelf. Revisiting them 20 years later all of them are damn good, and to leave them unreleased would've been a shame. Problem solved!


You're Welcome

(Big Scary Monsters)

These dynamic punk ladies from Brighton released a venom-spitting dragon this year, complete with a steaming shit on the cover. If you want angst on fire, inquire within. At least three standards present: "Boys in the Band," "Lads Lads Lads," and the instant anthem, "Help Me I'm Gay." All this, and a takedown of pub brawling soccer toughs to boot. Sign me up.


This House is Made of Corners


This tight Chicago band brings a high level of polish and sophistication to their music, complemented by a singer who channels the Morrissey/Orville Peck vibe with aplomb mainly because he seems to have no other choice. He just sounds that way. Great start, let's see what happens next.




The Antlers have created some of the most fragile and breathtaking pop songs of the last fifteen years. From "I Don't Want Love" (2011) to last year's brilliant "Solstice," and many spots prior and in between, I save a special storage locker for their songs that I'll keep to myself, thank you. Peter Silberman (songwriter and singer) and Michael Lerner (drums) make these chest-tightening songs soar with understated beauty and open-hearted vulnerability. It's enough to carry you away.


Unpopular Parts of a Pig


Not a formal EP, per se, but it's four songs released at once, so we're counting it because we need these freaks back in our lives. They'll be on an album to be named later, too, if you want to wait. I have no such willpower when it comes to indulging my madness.


A Comforting Notion

(Permanent Creeps)

As the saying goes, if you still have hope, all is already lost. Or something to that effect. One-woman show JoJo Orme seems to live by that mantra as she sings with an intangible gothic creepiness to which I'm mysteriously attracted. Sometimes it's better to close all the blinds, light some candles, and wallow in the bleak reality that in this life you're basically chained to the wall in a dungeon waiting to break free. It's only an EP, so you won't be down there long.


Memory Dust


Not surprised we didn't get another Spoon record year, but the band still let some choice cuts trickle out of the production mill, including the three songs on this EP. The leadoff track, "Sugar Babies," made our Best Songs of 2023 mixtapes and the pretty "Silver Girl" (an homage to "Bridge Over Troubled Water" perhaps?) was also a gem. Even the Bo Diddley cover, "She's Fine, She's Mine" is well done. No wrong can seemingly be done at this point.


Murder, Oral Sex, and Cigarettes


Glenn Donaldson is shitting out new material like he's following pre-colonoscopy protocols or something, so much so it's hard to keep on top of it all. Everything I've heard is worthy, but there's something special about this EP (his seventh this year in addition to the full-length LP, The Town That Cursed Your Name!) that has totally won me over. A bit of a miserablist, part Morrissey, part Lucksmiths, he hits my sweet spot on those days when I'm about to swirl down an open drain and need a hand to pull me out.


4D Country


I spent some time with their full-length, 3D Country, this year and was partially impressed, partially nonplussed. Suspicious even. It depended on the track, really, but now that I've heard their subsequent EP, 4D Country, I'm a buyer. The best song on the LP, the title track "3D Country" is expanded here as "4D Country," and it works even better with more space to fly its freak flag. The rest of songs I dig as well. They seem to be evolving at a fast rate and I love how invested and unhinged they can sound when they build up a lather.


The Architect


Incapable of releasing something that isn't challenging and/or interesting, Dawn Richard's The Architect is three tracks, wildly different but equally great, including the brag-intensive "Babe Ruth" which features the line "I knock the shit out of the park every time / Call me Babe Ruth" and it doesn't sound so much as ego-stroking as much as the truth, Ruth.




I put Outofbody on my Top 50 list in 2022, but this bunch of gems that didn't make that LP or were finished later are even better. Every single one I like, keeping power-pop savant James Goodson's track record golden.



(Red Book)

Hard to believe this Harrisburg, VA, band is a power duo with all the sound they produce, but they released a promising debut record earlier this year, Sunburned, and have now released some additional songs on this EP that didn't quite fit the dynamic of that album. Cleverly titled Aloe (get it?), these songs are calmer and more soothing than the harder-rocking LP, and I'll likely end up playing it just as much as it shows another side of a band to watch very closely.




One of America's most slept-on bands ironically goes by the name the Americans. You cannot make this shit up. Their last album, Stand True, was a Pickled Priest Top 50 list-maker in 2022, and a few stray songs have now been released on this stellar EP. They are all high quality, bringing a ragged bar-band feel to their romantic woes in convincing fashion. This is classic American rock 'n' roll. No need to make the Americans great again—they've always been this great.


If you dare make short shorts, we love short shorts! (29:59 run time or less)




Stunning low-key jazz from pianist Steve Okonski, most known as the keyboard player for Durand Jones & the Indications. This is a short album that I wish was much longer because by the time you really starting getting deep into its subtle brilliance, it's over. (29:23)


Hunca Munca

(Graveface Records & Curiosities)

I'm not sure Minnesota-based Haley Bonar is getting enough benefit from dropping her last name, but all I know is that the splendid Hunca Munca dropped with little fanfare this year and it deserves much more attention. (29:52)


Call of the Knife

(Neon Taste)

Vancouver-based Chain Whip's careening new LP, Call of the Knife, is a fierce, Jack the Ripper-type album that's as razor sharp and menacing as the sinister cover shown above. Thirteen rippers in under 20:00. You just can't fake this kind of nasty. (19:53)


What's on TV?

(Total Punk)

Sydney's Tee Vee Repairmann (sic) keeps his rock 'n' roll low-fi with a high-snot quotient. The prolific mastermind behind this DIY set of miniature garage-punk rippers is Ishka Edmeades, who has the X-factor needed to separate him from a slag heap of similarly-inclined wannabes. Every song is short and sharp with a memorable hook to bite on. Think a more Ramones-y Tony Molina and you'll get close to approximating what's going down here. Twelve songs, 24-minutes, Xeroxed album cover, hand-drawn cassette label, the whole bit. No remote needed, the show's pretty much over before you know it. (24:16)


I Thought I Was Better Than You


Stop by the pub, grab a stool next to Baxter, enjoy his psycho-babble patter for a couple pints, and be on your merry way. Not so hard, innit? (27:31)


Super Snõõper

(Third Man)

The Snõōpers' new record, Super Snõōper, which packs sixteen blistering songs into 24-minutes, doesn't sit still at all. The band is not very interested in stretching out even though three of the songs on the album are titled "Stretching" (1:09), "Stretching 2," (0:36) and "Stretching 3" (0:48). A quick tally of the proceeds: five songs under a minute and nine 2-minutes and under. I love their desire to get in and get out with some hard, fast anything-goes thrills, but I've gotta say that as much as I love what this band is doing, I really love how they end with an extended 5-minute ripper. Finally, we hear what this band has threatened for the whole record. The full fucking stretch. (24:16)


Spiritual Healers, Defence Lawyers

(Lulus Sonic Disc Club)

Australia strikes again! Sydney's Eternal Dust, a band that knows how to make their guitars shimmer in the heat and their voices echo like they were recorded in a canyon, has given us a full record effort that works best when you are fully in the throws of an LSD trip, preferably in the middle of the desert. I can't recommend this approach highly enough. Headphones mandatory, too. (29:41)


Killer Kin

(Dead Beat)

Clocking in at under thirty revolutions, but you're still gonna be put on the chain for the duration just to be sure you don't get away without getting yo ass whipped. Killer Kin, from the seedy side of New Haven, CT, are the kind of gang that brings a flamethrower to light your birthday candles and a blowtorch to toast your morning bagel. It's overkill, full-throttle, in-the-red, on-two-wheels, garage-burning skank-roll like the Pickled Priest used to drink from a firehose back in the day. It's been too long. It's about time some band treated us how we deserve to be treated. (28:42)



(Feel It Records)

Our #48 album of 2023 featured on our Top 50 List. (26:03)


City Lights

(Youth Riot)

Tied for our #42 album of 2023 featured on our Top 50 List. (26:35)



(Cornelius Chapel)

Tied for our #42 album of 2023 featured on our Top 50 List. (26:56)


JID 018

(Jazz is Dead)

Our #38 album of 2023 featured on our Top 50 List. (27:52)


Dead Meat

(Trouble in Mind)

Our #1 album of 2023 featured on our Top 50 List. They also have the distinction of being the shortest Pickled Priest #1 album selection in our history. So you know this stuff is amazing. (26:02)


Length matters (8:00 to qualify)

Life's a long song

If you wait then your plate I will fill

-Jethro Tull, "Life is a Long Song"

15 LONDON BREW | "London Brew, Part 2 - Trainlines" (15:48)

Everything you love about the incestuous London jazz scene in a little under 16 amazing minutes.


The new album from this trio takes some time to digest, but the rewards for your undivided attention are worth the effort. Take your time, stay off your goddamned phone, and focus. You're in the presence of musical genius.

13 PURLING HISS | "Shining Gilded Boulevard" (8:55)

Philly's Purling Hiss, and their leader Mike Polizze, are, along with like-minded players like J Mascis and Ty Segall, keeping the riffs scuzzy and loud every day of the week. This song double-stacks the guitar riffs on top of real rock songs with discernible melodies. A welcome combination.

12 WATER DAMAGE | "Fuck This: Reel 11" (18:54)

I chose this over the other song on Water Damage's Two Songs because the other is slightly less dire and foreboding and we can't have that now, can we? If "Reel 11" regularly finds its way onto your car stereo, better check a map, you may be heading for the edge of the world.

11 MISHA PANFILOV SOUND COMBO | "Vertical" (8:20)

This prolific Estonian composer isn't afraid to work in any genre—jazz, rock, psyche, funk, what have you—and his album, Atlântico, was recorded in the archipelago of Madeira, which sounds pretty impressive to me even though I have no fucking idea where or what that is. So why not see what all this amounts to then?

10 CORY HANSON | "Driving Through Heaven" (10:29)

Cory Hanson's Western Cum was a strong guitar record for you old-school Guitar Center freaks to feast upon and "Driving Through Heaven" gives Cory plenty of room to flex his chops, which he does in abundance here. Lap it up.

09 THE NECKS | "Signal" (20:50)

"Signal" was recording during one of the band's "warm up" sessions before the "real" recording began. The fact they record everything they do tells us they're very aware that brilliance can come when you least expect it so you'd better be prepared. Recommendation: immerse yourself in this groove and ride it for the full 20-minutes. You'll be surprised how fast the time goes when you're up to your neck in this repetitive, hypnotic "practice" session.

08 PAUL SIMON | "Seven Psalms" (33:02)

Not as brilliant as some are claiming, but his ambition is admirable and much of this half-hour epic is truly interesting, often delightful. Insightful, too, as albums from octogenarians tend to be.

07 THE CLIENTELE | "Fables of the Silverlink" (8:29)

They knew it was the album's best song, so they put it first in the running order. A bold move, but one die-hard Clientele fans will eat up like manna from heaven.

06 SUNWATCHERS | "Foams" (9:49)

Most of the songs on Music Is Victory Over Time, while great, are a little too short for me, so this extended jam is right up my alley. Staying out in the sun too long, in this case, is a good thing.

05 CORINNE BAILEY RAE | "Put It Down" (8:29)

Corinne delivered some depth charges on Black Rainbows, but what made the record work so well is that they co-mingled with songs like this that allowed the listener to luxuriate and recover in an audio chaise so to speak.

04 MESHELL NDEGEOCELLO | "Virgo" (8:35)

"Virgo" is a centerpiece track ny design, a vital and thrilling artistic statement that grounds itself in some of the legendary tenets of Blue Note Records while taking advantage of the modern bent the current label offers artists now.

03 YARD ACT | "The Trench Coat Museum" (8:12)

Our #30 song of the year for good reason.

02 JAIMIE BRANCH | "Burning Grey" (9:11)

The more Jaimie Branch the better, so take this or the 9:07 "Baba Louie" and fly as instructed.

01 RATBOYS | "Black Earth, WI" (8:34)

A rare feat for Ratboys this year. Both our #1 song of the year ("Morning Zoo") and the #1 Long Song of the Year with "Black Earth, WI," which contains a heaping portion of what makes Ratboys special and adds in an amazing guitar solo that brilliantly leads right back into the song's chorus. An exhilaratingly long drive—a rarity on the blue highways of Wisconsin.


ARTIST | "Song" (Original Artist)

20 MOLLY TUTTLE & BILLY STRINGS | "Listen to the Radio" (Nanci Griffith)

Nothing beats a Nanci Griffith original in all cases, of course, so the best you can do is justice to the original version. This pretty take on one of Nanci's best known songs (from her Storms album) does a mighty fine job of not overdoing it. Molly Tuttle has proven one of our best modern song interpreters and she understands that a great song always does most of the heavy lifting.

19 SUNNY WAR | "Baby Bitch" (Ween)

I love that Sunny War, whose songs can be quietly intense at times, tapped this Ween song on her new album. She makes it her own, proving miraculously that there is room for two versions of a Ween song in this world, something not thought possible before.

18 TREVOR HORN FT. LADY BLACKBIRD | "Slave to the Rhythm" (Grace Jones)

If anyone can pull off a Grace Jones cover, it's the similarly eccentric and magnetic Lady Blackbird. Her collab with Trevor Horn here hits the proverbial spot, acknowledging the supremacy of the original, while finding a new track for the song to follow.

17 AMANDA SHIRES & BOBBIE NELSON | "Always On My Mind" (Willie Nelson)

The new Amanda Shires/Bobby Nelson album, Loving You, contains some pretty abused material to cover at this point ("Summertime,"Dream a Little Dream," and, Jesus H. Christ, "Over the Rainbow"), but for the most part they pull off the songs because while musicianship and singing count, discerning taste reigns supreme when plowing over-farmed soil. Thankfully, Bobbie knows her brother's iconic song in-and-out and you can feel that in her playing. She makes it sound fresh again. Amanda, an old soul herself, has a voice to suit the song, making yet another essential version possible.

16 THE WEDDING PRESENT | "A Song from Under the Floorboards" (Magazine)

The Wedding Present take some of the edge and quirk out of this Magazine original and boil it down to a rock song. While, in theory, that doesn't sound like a winning idea, it still works splendidly.

15 PERE UBU | "Worried Man Blues" (The Carter Family et al)

The weirdest cover of 2023 is, no shock, from Pere Ubu and their bizarre leader/mad scientist Dave Thomas. It's barely even a cover with the artistic license taken, but if you like things off-kilter and creepy, try this out. It's unlike anything else you'll hear today, or this year for that matter.

14 ROCKET 808 | "21st Century Boy" (Sigue Sigue Sputnik)

Appreciate the unexpected source material, in this case Sigue Sigue Sputnik's ham-fisted gaze in the future, with its bleeps and blurps turned into a hazy Suicide-esque street song with a little Cramps slapback thrown in for good measure. I like the 21st century better this way. Is it too late to change course?

13 THE's | "Batman Theme" (Neal Hefti)

It's good to have these garage girls back again with a new single after a protracted absence, but on the B-side of their decent single, "You May Dream," is this cool, fuzzed-up cover of the original Batman theme. Holy I-forgot-the-A-side-already, Batman!

12 FASTBACKS | "Outer Space" (The Muffs)

On the flip-side of the fabulous yet unexpected Fastbacks reunion single this year was a real sweet and restrained cover of the Muffs' "Outer Space," in belated tribute to their dearly-departed friend, Kim Shattuck, who passed back in 2019. What a nice little surprise this was!

11 NATHANIEL RATELIFF & THE NIGHT SWEATS | "Tightrope" (Leon Russell)

A perfect band to cover Leon Russell for the recent A Song for Leon tribute record dedicated to the late legendary songwriter and performer. Their version of "Tight Rope" has just the right level of swagger and groove to do the man justice.

10 UPPER WILDS | "Books About UFOs" (Hüsker Dü)

There's no topping the Hüsker Dü original from New Day Rising sung by Grant Hart and Upper Wilds knows that. That doesn't stop them from wielding their awesome buzzing guitars and they were wise slow the tempo down a half-step, allowing the song to breathe a little in the process. A nice homage from a band that has celebrated the joys of outer space their entire career.

09 FONTAINES D.C. | "'Cello Song" (Nick Drake)

Having Grian Chatten and his band cover this Nick Drake song for The Endless Coloured Ways tribute album this year seems like a no-brainer, but after hearing Chatten's brooding solo album, Chaos For the Fly, it became compulsory. A natural pairing.

08 THE FEELIES | "Rock & Roll" (The Velvet Underground)

The Feelies love for VU is well established, so this isn't a major stretch for them. They kill it, of course. A whole live album, Some Kinda Love, was dedicated to their heroes and features many highlights throughout. A real labor of love and respect. It's no surprise that their take "Rock & Roll" is fabulous; it brings out the greatness of both bands simultaneously.

07 THE ROLLING STONES | "Rolling Stone Blues" (Muddy Waters)

In retrospect, the last song on the Stones previous album, "I Can't Quit You Baby" (from Blue & Lonesome), was telling. They weren't ready to leave us just yet. I've gotta think ending their career with a cover of Muddy's "Rolling Stone Blues" (title slightly altered for obvious reasons) is officially the ultimate way to wrap up a 60+ year career with a curtain call. Will that be it? With just Keith and Mick, it seems like a well-played final salvo. If you didn't know another album will probably come along someday and ruin this perfect ending it would be even better. I don't know if they are capable of quitting us, baby.

06 SPOON | "I Can't Give Everything Away" (David Bowie)

Spoon do more than justice to Bowie's last song from his last album (Blackstar) here, almost bringing a tear to my eye when I first heard it.

05 JULIANA HATFIELD | "Sweet is the Night" (ELO)

I like Juliana, but I wish her well-intentioned tribute albums produced more interesting covers. She's now taken on my beloved Olivia Newton-John and followed that with a Police tribute. Never annoying, never great. That's almost worse than failing miserably trying something radical. Now she takes an even bigger risk with ELO, a band known for their massive productions. Could stripping Jeff Lynne's giant songs down to their underwear be a good idea? Very possible. Well, again, mixed results. I do like her indie-pop take on "Sweet is the Night" though. She turns in a "sweet" performance here that I will add to my ongoing favorite covers list.

04 AL GREEN | "Perfect Day" (Lou Reed)

There's absolutely no better person to send us out into the new year with a blessing than Rev. Al Green, the divine minister of love and happiness and one of the finest living examples we have for appreciating every single God-given (or so he thinks) moment of every day. His cover of Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" was bestowed on us unworthy souls this year, his first new song release in five years no less, and it converts what is generally known as a blissful heroin-influenced song into a vehicle for pure, clear-minded joy. Take me to church!

03 KURT VILE | "Constant Repeat" (Charli XCX)

02 JOHN FRANCIS FLYNN | "Mole in the Ground" (Bascom Lamar Lunsford)

01 SNOOPER | "Unable" (Suburban Lawns)


Note: List in random order


The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons


The Hives, dormant for too long, returned in the nick of time this year to save us all from our own rampant self importance. I didn't even know I missed them until they were back. Nobody bashes out fun rock and roll with the conviction of this band of Swedish meatballs. They ignite in a blaze of glory, complete with awesome matching suits I wish I could pull off but can't, to remind us all that rock & roll should be a fucking blast!




A band updating late-60s/early-70's Turkish psychedelic instrumentals with a modern flair is a mixtape makers wet dream come true and sure enough, this is just the right sound when you need to inject something completely different into the mix to cleanse the palate. Make no mistake, this isn't a novelty act, just a group that sounds unlike anything out there at the moment.


Music is Victory Over Time

(Trouble in Mind)

Our ultra-hip accountant, Hayden Cookiebaker III, turned us on to this LP after we'd already made our 2023 list with this ringing endorsement I'm posting without his permission (his #2 record of 2023, btw)...

Sunwatchers are a New York-based outfit specializing in heavy instrumentals that combine jazz, krautrock, Red-era Fripp, and the skronky sax of "L.A. Blues." It’s quite a trip and one that I have been addicted to in the few weeks I’ve had it in my possession. There are many solos of the guitar and saxophone variety and many that are capable of melting both mind and face. The best part about it is that they stay locked in the groove throughout the 37-minute running time. If there is such a thing as accessible free jazz I think this is it.



(Abraxan Hymns)

This is the kind of hard rock I love: great vocals, great production, chugging riffs, and intelligent yet demented lyrics. Secret weapon: Gina Gleason on vox and gtr. I don't always rock this hard, but when I do I do it with Baroness.



(Stones Throw)

Eddie Chacon was part of a duo that had a one-hit wonder in the early 90s, but the less said about that song the better—it's nothing special. So, in normal situations, that's all he wrote. But sometimes the fates have other plans for people and in 2020 he returned to record a solo album gaining him some serious second-act critical acclaim in the process. This year, he made a follow up album of laid-back R&B and it's laced with some subtle grooves perfect for a hammock chill-out session. No wonder he hooked up with alt-rap label Stones Throw. Sundown was recorded in an exotic location (Ibiza) so it has a sultry island rhythm running throughout as Eddie contemplates how many sundowns he has left.



(Mama Bird Recording Co.)

One of those well-crafted under-the-radar pop albums modern people seem to ignore in favor of industry-sanctioned mega stars, but there's everything you really need here, with enough tolerable quirk and genuine charm to satisfy even the most brainwashed pop-culture shithead. Almost every song an earworm.


Why Does the Earth Give Us People To Love?


It's often said that songwriters are musical poets, which is a fair claim, but in this particular case that's more true than usual. Kara was named America's Youth Poet Laureate in 2019, the very same honor given to 2021 Presidential Inauguration celebrity Amanda Gorman. Now that Kara has moved toward a music career, you'd expect her lyrics to be, to paraphrase Van Morrison, a poetic champion composing. And that's just what we get.

Her poetic muse remains intact, thankfully. Her economy of words also leaves a pleasing amount of white space for deceptively simple melodies to sidle up next to her rich, textured voice—a voice that can command a room even at its most hushed tones. She conveys a lot with a little, just enough for you to want to hear her songs again and again. Poetry in motion, if you will.




The best vocalists on the planet list had better include Cécile McLorin Salvant or I'm calling bullshit. There's literally nothing she can't do. Jazz, Broadway, blues, soul, standards, originals, a Kate Bush cover, and now a whole record in (mostly) French for her latest album, Mélusine. It may be my favorite record of hers to date. Not something I will play repeatedly, but mad respect to a blessed genius.


First Two Pages of Frankenstein


As previously noted, I love the National, but wish they'd mix up their sound a bit more. There's no denying the overall quality and consistency found on this brilliantly-titled record and they picked the right year for a Tay-Tay cameo. It's all more of the same, but always done well.


Congo Guitar

(Hive Mind)

Vumbi's Congo Guitar is an oddly entrancing listen. It won't blow you out of the water, but you will find the pocket if you let his laid-back guitar-playing guide you there. This is an easy one to skip on by, I know, but at least give it a try.


Brothers and Sisters


I will now sell zero copies of Steve Mason's new album, Brothers & Sisters. I hope that's not true, but if you're not yet a fan of Mason, who is best known for being the co-founder and singer of Scotland sound merchants, the Beta Band, you may never be. That's a shame because although the trendspotters who certified The Three EPs compilation as supremely cool back when it was released in 1998 have long since moved on, Mason has continued making fabulous music with the same hypnotic, throbbing, laid-back grooves that made him famous.


I Am Not There Anymore


I’ve spent more than my fair share of time trying to find a way into the Clientele discography and I’ve finally found my entry point. I Am Not There Anymore, picked up based on early returns claiming more stylistic variety and experimentation, delivers on that intriguing promise. It’s overly long, so it didn't make our Top 50, but there are moments of brilliance throughout. You've just gotta put in the time.



(Memphis Industries)

The bassist for This Is The Kit, who made our #19 album this year, is Rozi Plain, who made a sleeper record of her own this year that mostly flew under the radar. Like the songs of TITK leader Kate Stables, Plain's songs slowly get under your skin thanks so some truly sneaky, laid-back hooks. A perfect afternoon porch listen and not plain at all once you let it have its way with you.



(Ma Case)

There's an art to establishing your "web presence" and Moonlight Benjamin's seems like it was tailor-made to reel me in like the big, lazy, largemouth bass that I am.

Garage blues rock by a punky voodoo queen from Haïti.

The Caribbean Patti Smith. Singer, blues & rock woman, real voodoo priestess.

A Pickled Priestess? You're damn right we're game. I'm pleased to report truth in advertising here. Not just a well-written press kit, which is often the case. In fact, it might be a bit of an understatement, believe it or not. To say the least, her new album, Wayo, is not your usual "blues and rock" fare. Moonlight Benjamin—yes, her real name apparently—is of Haitian descent, now living in France, and her music comes off as a cultural melting pot of the kind you might find emanating from the backrues of New Orleans. It's a gumbo of sorts, mixed with some shrunken skulls and boiling pots of voodoo charms, and one thing that's for certain is a wicked spell this way comes. Maybe not an everyday carry, but something you should keep in the closet for just the right moments.


Formal Growth in the Desert


Ho-hum, another excellent Protomartyr record. Some immediate band classics here to add to an already ridiculous dream setlist. When I'm in the mood for Protomartyr, I like to get deep into their underworld. This adds kindling to an already raging sewer fire.



(Thirty Tigers)

Let's shelve the debate over whether or not light needs to be literate at all and focus on this band from Harrisonburg, Virginia, whose sound is so much bigger than a duo should be able to generate on their own. This is alternative classic rock, a new genre perhaps. They are not fully there yet, but if this ain't promise for the future, I don't know what is. May your early work be this consistently thrilling.


The Omnichord Real Book

(Blue Note)

She was a highly-respected, serious artist before, but she's on Blue Note Records now, so the shit had to be next level this time. And she mostly delivered. In this case, with The Omnichord Real Book, a 70-minute-plus declaration of creative freedom that never settles on one style for long. Few labels, on signing alone, seem to elevate their artists to a higher plane than the revered jazz label and lately they've been pushing the borders of what a Blue Note artist can be and sound like thanks to current President, and musical chameleon in his own right, Don Was. Adding Ndegeocello to their roster was a brilliant move and she proves more than up to the challenge. Glad to have her back again doing original material. A Pickled Priest favorite!


Several Songs About Fire

(Rough Trade)

Sympathy for Life, Parquet Courts' 2021 album, was our #1 Album of the Year, and we basically said it was one of those "definitive New York albums." Well, that band's Andrew Savage made his first solo album this year, and ironically, the theme is getting the fuck out of New York! How times have changed! The album is an acquired taste, which I've now acquired, featuring Andrew speak-singing his lyrics most of the time in his distinct head-cold kind of way, but lo and behold this one slowly won me over and continues to do so.


Natural Disaster


Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino went off on her own this year and cut the very pleasing solo record, Natural Disaster, a fitting title for the California-based artist, especially lately unfortunately. It took me a while, but I soon realized this record mostly works because Cosentino has such a warm, inviting presence, somewhere between the LA polish of Sheryl Crow and later-period Liz Phair. There’s undeniable pop charm throughout with just the right amount of playfulness (If I’m dead, then why do I feel alive? / I didn’t even cry when I left myself behind). It’s not meant to be anything more than an open-air record for driving down Highway 1, so this could be the easy-listening pop record you've been looking for.


Drag on Gerard

(Drag City)

Guitars in abundance. And real songs. Nothing to hiss at. Let alone purling hiss at, whatever that means.


Trouble on Big Beat Street

(Cherry Red)

Pere Ubu threatened to call it quits with The Long Goodbye in 2019, but they are healthy and thankfully back at it again in 2023, almost 50 years after forming back in 1975. They are still an incredibly weird acquired taste to be sure, so don't be surprised if you're not into this, but if you are, let's hang out. Your ears are apparently fucked like mine. I don't want to explain why I like this band so much, an affection that has grown stronger as they release album after album. Band leader David Thomas sings like he's caught in a bear trap and his band of misfits indulges his every demented whim with relish. They shouldn't exist in this world and I love every minute of it as a result. Will you?


From Albums We Own Only, Ranked in Order of Preference

15 GINA BIRCH | I Play My Bass Loud

I wish everyone had Gina Birch as a neighbor. We'd all be better off and the block parties would be so much more fun.

14 MYA BYRNE | Rhinestone Tomboy

Somewhere Glen Campbell is smiling. Or seething.

13 ETERNAL DUST | Spiritual Healers, Defence Lawyers

British spelling aside, this is pretty much all you need these days to get by.

12 KARA JACKSON | Why Does the Earth Give Us People to Love?

One of the more interesting questions posed in 2023. I'm not sure the Earth is the culprit, though.

11 BAXTER DURY | I Thought I Was Better Than You

The assumption of every smooth talking slimeball. Only this time that slimeball is pretty amusing.

10 CROCODILES | Upside Down in Heaven

Are you sure you're in the right place?

09 ALBERT HAMMOND JR | Melodies on Hiatus

A rare use of self-deprecation in album titling.

08 CHAIN WHIP | Call of the Knife

Why not Call of the Chain, I wonder?

07 KENDRA MORRIS | I Am What I'm Waiting For

What we should all believe.

06 YOUTH LAGOON | Heaven is a Junkyard

So, is Fred Sanford God, then?

05 GUIDED BY VOICES | Welshpool Frillies

Robert Pollard hasn't been the same since the Welshpool Frillies were relegated.

04 YUSSEF DAYES | Black Classical Music

If only my elementary school went to see this every December my life would've changed for the better.

03 THE HIVES | The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons

Good news, Randy is a fictional character.

02 SUNNY WAR | Anarchist Gospel

"I am an antichrist!" doesn't normally go over well in a hymnal.

01 THE NATIONAL | First Two Pages of Frankenstein

I wonder how many of our short-attention-span youth read the first two pages of Mary Shelley's classic and moved on?

Nice try...

THE UNI BOYS | Buy This Now!

The first rule of rock 'n' roll is to never sound desperate. In power-pop, you can never be desperate enough.


Song quality optional, but encouraged


01 "Basement Spaceman" | Mike Adams at His Honest Weight

02 "Flummoxed by the Snafu" | The Cheater Slicks

03 "Once Upon a Poolside" | The National

04 "Re-Decapitated" | Chain Whip

05 "Radioactive Pigeons" | Guided By Voices

06 "Satan's Hamster" | Pere Ubu

07 "Teddy Bear Venom" | Eternal Dust

08 "Cussin' Christians" | Country Westerns

09 "Suicide Thighs" | Haley

10 "Frog on the Floor" | 100 Gecs

11 "Persuasion Architecture" | Cory Hanson

12 "Pontius Pilate's Home Movies" | The New Pornographers

13 "The Trench Coat Museum" | Yard Act


14 "Bewitched Reruns" | Kristin Hersh

15 "Venus Modularistic Riff" | Tobor Experiment

16 "Bloodstains in the Boardroom" | The Hell

17 "Female Brain" | Margaret Glaspy

18 "Downtown Fred" | Albert Hammond Jr.

19 "Moss Covered Boondoggle" | Pere Ubu

20 "Ballad of a Homeschooled Girl" | Olivia Rodrigo

21 "Unpopular Parts of a Pig" | Mclusky

22 "Mississippi Saxophones" | Mortal Prophets

23 "The Mona Lisa's Packing, Leaving Later Tonight" | Sparks

24 "Sinatra Drive Breakdown" | Yo La Tengo

25 "Bogus Operandi" | The Hives

26 "Vampire Empire" | Big Thief


Yes, you may call them Americana if you must (whatever that is)


Anarchist Gospel

(New West)

A new kind of Americana from Sunny War just when we needed it.


Loving You

(Silver Knife/ATO)

An inspired pairing of vocalist and pianist revisiting classic songs. It could go wrong, but didn't.




The One Eighties are Autumn Brand and Daniel Cook. Mindfields works because they've written some really good songs. That's how it works, especially in Americana, where songwriting is king/queen. Autumn has a classic Americana voice with just the right lilt at just the right moments. There are so many albums like this, but few have the staying power of this one.


In the Air


She grew up in Kansas City with the last name St. Louis, moved to L.A. where her Laurel Canyon sound seemed a perfect match for her new surroundings, but then tired of the L.A. grind and recorded her superb new album, In the Air, in upstate New York. The girl gets around. With all those miles under her belt, she has clearly found her musical identity it seems. The word "natural" comes to mind when considering her music. If the record was an object, it would be a cup of hot coffee. If the record was a time, it would be early morning. If it was a place, it would be a front porch.



(Southeastern/Thirty Tigers)

Every Isbell album is essential. This one isn't comparatively top-tier to my ears, but it's far better than most others can achieve on their best days.



(Loma Vista)

I will always want to hear Margo Price's music, but when you tell me she went to the desert to take shrooms and write songs then that's the album I really want to hear. It's great, but I wish it was even weirder.


Nothing's Gonna Stand in My Way Again


Quietly releasing some of the best Americana albums time after time. How is she not a household name by now?


Valley of Heart's Delight

(Fluff & Gravy/Loose Music)

Margo Cilker was born and raised in Santa Clara before moving to the Pacific Northwest later in life. So it makes sense that her brand of Americana brings a West Coast sensibility to her songs. She's a gifted songwriter, which makes her writing perspective a breath of fresh ocean air.


Every Acre


North Carolina's H.C. McEntire (ex-Mount Moriah) got my attention with her 2018 debut, Lionheart, but she's secured it with Every Acre, a front-to-back stunner that delivers on past promise and then some. She's got the pen of a poet, which means you may never fully understand the motivation behind her word choices, but you will still get all the information you need to emotionally connect. Which is the gift that separates the amateur wordsmith from the published poet. That said, the thing that really pleases me about Every Acre is that the music is given equal consideration to the words. This is not poetry set to music, these are songs first and foremost.


Time Ain't Accidental

(Mexican Summer)

Jess is one of the best at her craft and her new album has the requisite new classics front-loaded. A few songs on the second half missed the mark for me, which dropped her off the Top 50 list, but her best songs more than make up for that small quibble.



(Milk & Scissors)

The long running duo of Brett (music) and Rennie (lyrics) Sparks is approaching their 30th year putting out music. They seem to be in no danger of losing their creative magic, in fact this is one of their best albums ever which is saying something.


Blood Red Moon



Siren Songs

(Grand Phony)


I Am What I'm Waiting For

(Karma Chief)


Music Man

(Bloodshot/Kill Rock Stars)


Believe it or not, our record collection got better once again (unranked)


Tim: Let It Bleed Edition


The best record of 2023 if all categories were included together is this reissue of the Replacements Tim, here expanded and overhauled as the Let It Bleed Edition. The main attraction is a revelatory new mix by Ed Stasium included on vinyl and CD, so it technically qualifies for this list (even though 4 CDs are also included). The Stasium mix is definitive, the new standard going forward, and what we were all waiting for but didn't know it. Hear it for yourself for the very first time. This is my most played record of 2023. Worth every penny for this new look at one of Pickled Priest's all-time favorite records.


International Pop Overthrow

(Mercury/Back Groove)

I finally caught up with Out of Time: The Material Issue Story, a documentary about this dynamic yet short-lived Chicago band. It was inspiring and heartbreaking of course (especially the part where legendary producer Mike Chapman breaks down in tears talking about singer Jim Ellison's suicide), beginning with the tale of a driven kid who knew he was a rock star from an early age and then became one, but then couldn't handle it when things didn't work out as he expected them to in his mind. The music remains, of course, and this reissue of their raw, homemade debut sounds as great as ever and reminds me of the times I saw them on their home turf in Chicago. They still rank with the best live bands I've seen and you can even feel that same electricity in this "studio" album.


Teenage Symphonies to God

(Creation/Back Groove)

Thanks to Back Groove Records for not only reissuing Material Issue's debut, but also bringing Velvet Crush's Teenage Symphonies to God back to vinyl again. It's another touchstone of my power-pop-loving era which has been running non-stop since approximately 1977. If you don't know this one, get to know it, for it lives up to its Brian Wilson-inspired title.


Live in Brooklyn 2011

(Silver Current)

An amazing sounding live recording from 2011, supposedly their last show ever, but not really. Last in the US, yes. This is a great gig packed with lesser-played material (heavy on the Bad Moon Rising) and it feels like you're in the front row on a beautiful night in NYC. But I don't need to tell you about all this, do I? If you're remotely interested, you have it already.


The Keyboard King at Studio One

(Soul Jazz)

This is why they make records on vinyl. To hear Jackie Mittoo in his element laying down legendary keyboard grooves that span decades, from his early days after forming the Skatalites in the 60s to later-period tracks from the early-80s, all of them head-bobbing gems to put on a loop forever and a day.


...An Don't the Kids Just Love It


This reissue of the TV Personalities debut from 1980 is a raw, minimalist pop gem that anticipated lo-fi indie music by a full decade. And the songs hold up, almost feeding off the low-budget production. The ramshackle material now sounds pretty cool in perspective. A charming, occasionally daffy affair that hits the spot when you don't want or need things too complicated.


Stop Making Sense (Deluxe Edition)


I'll buy this every time it's reissued, reformatted, or remastered. This is the best I've heard it sound to date, making it worth the price tag.


Citta' '93

(Temporal Drift)

Whenever I get an unexpected windfall, I like to buy a record I might not ordinarily purchase. Playing with found money takes the sting away if it doesn't work out. So, when I got a $50 Amazon gift card for doing nothing special at work, I converted it into this cult classic three-record live set by Les Rallizes Dénudés, perhaps the ultimate Japanese cult band of all-time. With no official albums to their credit, only bootlegs whose mere mention causes record store clerks to orgasm in their pants, any new material from the band is celebrated with an almost sarcastic level of adulation. So, needless to say, I jumped at the chance to join their ranks. And guess what? The hype is deserved. A pretty amazing archival document, even if it isn't from their original incarnation in the 70s. The reformed group recorded this album live in 1993, and I've gotta say, when I sat back and let this wall of noise rain over me, some of it pretty rawly recorded, it approximated a transformation. It clearly predates a lot of the noise and shoegaze bands of the 90s and there's a definite elation that comes from being in the middle of a six-sided noise blitz like this one. Not for everyone, of course, but a boutique item for those who like to push themselves to the outer fringes of rock and roll. Am I describing you?




This amazing record eluded me until this year I'm sad to report. I've had it on my list for years, but it never popped onto my radar screen until it was finally reissued. A great acquisition that sounds fantastic to weary ears, with enough funky reggae grooves, groovy afrobeat, horn-infused soul, jazzy guitar, a little rock & roll, and even some swami-level flute playing if you have time. These different influences don't stay in their lane either, often blending into each other along the way. This is one helluva debut record. You don't get to this level so fast if you haven't played with each other for a long time prior. Consider it essential within the greater funk universe.


Índia (50th Anniversary Edition)

(Mr Bongo)

I'm slowly but surely amassing some of the so-called classic Brazilian records. I've got a long way to go, but getting Gal Costa's revered Índia from 1973 is a no-brainer. This sweet 50th anniversary package does the LP justice, sounding very much like it deserves its classic status in Brazilian music history.


23 for 2023 Edition

01 June

The black pearl of Pickled Priest's offices for the last 12 years passed away on January 30th after years of being our therapist/muse, listening to records in our office from her easychair perch conveniently located next to our iMac. She was the purest soul you'd ever want to meet, admittedly socially awkward (as her tag warned), joyfully uncoordinated, and full of anxiety, but her heart was where she was blessed the most. It had to be double the size of other dogs. How else to explain the deep impact she had on everyone who ever spent time around her. Her absence is a huge hole that can never be refilled.

02 1964: Eyes of the Storm by Paul McCartney

What a wonderful, albeit pricey, photo book. Photos taken from the perspective of Paul McCartney. Truly a one-of-a-kind experience if there ever was one. This is different from most photo books because he's not a professional photographer and his photos were mainly taken for personal use. Hence, you don't see a lot of McCartney (duh) in the book, but you do see what caught his attention during one of the most significant periods in music history. The shots all contribute to the bigger picture even when you don't know who or what the image is in the frame.

03 Beatles enamel pins

In a Beatlemania frenzy after perusing Paul's photo book, I saw these enamel pins on Etsy and snapped them up. If they produced these in the early-60s, they would've sold about three-trillion of them.

04 Snoop on the Shelf

I do love me some shelf fodder, so nabbing a Snoop-on-a-Shelf was a no-brainer for the Pickled Priest office, especially with the holidays imminent. I think all Santas should convert from red to purple and in lieu of baked cookies he should just get completely baked as he samples weed in each house on his schedule (My first stop is in Bogotá!). The presents would definitely be worth opening, that's for sure! I wonder how much red tape they had to go through to get the rights to use a Lakers jersey alongside a huge spliff? Snoop can be very persuasive. He even got people to believe he was giving up smoking hash this year, while actually promoting a smokeless fire pit product instead. Marketing genius!

05 John Cooper Clarke tour

A highlight of my year was spending a night with legendary British poet and musician John Cooper Clarke for an evening of humor and poetry, usually both at the same time. Most of his ad-libs seemed spontaneous, yet everything was side-splittingly amusing. A true gift.

06 Nick Cave solo tour

Best concert of 2023. Nick Cave "Solo" (with Colin Greenwood of Radiohead on bass, so not totally solo) at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago for my birthday. The show only confirmed what fans already know. Cave is one of the best live performers on the planet, able to captivate a large audience in any format. A few thousand people present and you could hear a pin drop during a perfectly balanced set list of favorites and lesser-known songs. He had the place in the palm of his hand.

07 Cassette documentary

Not a great documentary, and it was released in 2016, so I'm late to the party here, but it does have some super endearing moments with the original inventors of the format (now very old) recounting the process of developing the cassette tape alternative to reel-to-reel. Also, you get Henry Rollins picking out random tapes from his wall of cassettes which is pretty cool, too. More importantly, it inspired the purchase featured next on this list.

08 We Are Rewind portable cassette player in orange

I had a shit ton of old cassettes and mixtapes in my basement and no way to play them. My old cassette deck crapped out years ago. So, making Pickled Priest readers "fictional" mixtapes regularly, I felt like a fraud in some ways. I rectified that disconnect this year with a new portable cassette player from French company We Are Rewind. No longer in need of a durable, light player, I found their heavy, aluminum version of the classic Walkman the perfect solution. It sounds great, it has Bluetooth capability, and better yet, it comes in orange, my favorite color. Aesthetically pleasing on all levels, it's been a blast to haul up my old mixtapes and see if they still hold up. Unsurprisingly, they do.

09 Annual Juggalos photo shoot

The pandemic caused a lot of events to be cancelled, but there was no greater casualty (well...) than the annual Gathering of the Juggalos, a yearly event put on by the Insane Clown Posse. I've never attended, but that doesn't mean I am not fully invested in the annual photo spread that accompanies the event. And no, I don't like it because it makes me feel superior to the people pictured or because I can make fun of this sub-culture of musical nutjobs. I truly just love that everyone has a place to go where they can do almost anything and not be judged. Well, that's wrong, they do get judged (nudity prevalent and voted upon), but only by their peers and fellow ICP fans. There's a lot more pictures where these two "tame" examples came from here.

10 Estrus Book

I wrote about Estrus Records two months ago in an Album Art post, referencing a new coffee table book (or weed-cleaning table book if you like) about the label in the process. It's such a cool book, I wanted to hype it again. It's beautifully assembled with love and a visual feast for the rock 'n' roll senses. If you have any love for garage or punk rock, this is essential. Stories, photos, interviews, nostalgia, and more, all from the source of some of the last quarter-century's most high-octane, flame-throwing records.

11 The Elephant Six Recording Co. documentary

If you didn't know better, you might assume while watching this documentary about The Elephant 6 Recording Company that it was all a put-on, made up as some modern indie-rock take on Spinal Tap. But the people and bands are all real, which makes this borderline ridiculous/inspiring tale all the more amazing. The cast of characters includes a little of everything, from the chatterbox producer to the hermitic genius and everything in between. It was an anything-goes atmosphere with no experiment dismissed outright which also produced some of the most interesting music of the alternative 1990s. No matter how your rate the Collective's musical output this is a doc worth watching. It makes me wonder if such a thing could ever happen again. I sure hope so.

12 Wattstax '72: Soul'd Out, The Complete Wattstax Collection

13 Written in Their Soul: The Stax Songwriter Demos

A great year for Staxophiles! Two amazing collections of music, the first being a 12-CD Wattstax '72 set with every minute of "The Black Woodstock" documented, even the stage announcements and a whole lotta Jess Jackson. Hearing the whole affair soup-to-nuts is a joy, the next best thing to being there. Added in are some really cool post-show side gigs, too, never heard before; a major bonus. The second release is a newly found treasure trove of Stax songwriter demos compiled on Written in Their Soul, which gives us all a peak behind the curtain at the songwriting engine running full-time in Memphis during the heyday of the label. Many of these tracks need to be heard to be believed, great in their own right. Names like Bettye Crutcher, Homer Banks, and Mack Rice come up again and again here, and soon an alternate storyline emerges about Stax. The catalog is loaded with legends, but they all needed material. This puts heroes like Isaac Hayes, William Bell, and Eddie Floyd next to these behind-the-scenes songwriters that kept Soulsville humming 24/7. What an amazing find!

14 Gerry Cinnamon Live at Hampden Park, Scotland

I wasn't at this concert, but I wish I had been. Gerry Cinnamon is a Scottish folk singer who is a sensation in his homeland with a level of adoration similar to Springsteen's in Jersey. He's a solo act, man and guitar, and he operates 100% independently of any record label or management structure. He sings about his home and its people, telling their stories in simple, robust, singalong songs and you can feel a mutual affection in the atmosphere as this album, Live at Hampden Park (a soccer venue in Scotland), unfolds. How the crowd sings along with every song with Gerry eating it up is heartwarming and infectious. Even if his music isn't for you, this is the sound of music doing what it was made to do...bring people together. I've included a vid below that captures the energy of the event, but whole thing is worth a listen/watch.

15 Sony ear-buds

I'm done with my AirPods Pro. Sorry, Apple. They just don't cut it for me. Neither do Bose pods. I've moved on to an old friend, Sony, for my new headphones, and these noise cancelling bad boys dominate anything Apple has produced. And they're better than Bose, too. So quit playing their elitist game of Monopoly and get better sound now. Your music deserves it and so do your ears.

16 Jolabokaflod

Jolabokaflod is an Icelandic tradition and it translates as "Christmas book flood." It's a holiday tradition there, started during WW II when paper was the only available commodity, where people give each other books for Christmas, something they can settle in with and read during the long, icy winter (it's right there in the name, after all). I love this idea and I've been doing a form of it unknowingly for years. Once the year-end record list posts are done, I spend a couple months reading to catch up on some books I've missed while listening to copious amounts of music at year-end. My first slated book is Claire Dederer's Monsters: A Fan's Dilemma, which discusses the fine line between art and atrocious behavior. I particularly look forward to the Michael Jackson chapter. So get some books, or get others some books, and hunker down with a cup of coffee, hot chocolate, or Jeppson's Malört. It's gonna be a long winter for some of you.

17 Shitty Barn

A new favorite music venue is The Shitty Barn in Spring Green, Wisconsin. A literal shitty barn with a small capacity (250-300?) in a small town, right next to a street of typical suburban cookie-cutter houses. Unassuming to say the least. But they book really good bands—JD McPherson on the night I attended—like the Handsome Family, Margo Cilker, Joshua Hedley, Jess Williamson, and the Sadies this year alone! This is music at its most pure in a charming atmosphere and not a fucking cover band in sight.

18 Plaid Room Records

My favorite record store to mail order from is Plaid Room Records in Loveland, OH, a store affiliated with Colemine Records, one of my favorite indie labels. So it makes sense the record store would be great, too. Plaid Room does it right. Before they sell anything, they tell you if anything has even the smallest amount of damage and then discount it, they ship in a crush-proof package with bubble rap neatly surrounding your record, too. All this and a thank you postcard and sticker to boot. If you're lucky you'll get one with the store's dog on it. Everything about this place pleases me, all the way down to their cool merch. This is how you build loyalty.

19 Jeff Tweedy ripping on Bon Jovi in his new book, World Within a Song

"Bon Jovi possesses the type of arrogance that compels one to swing for the fences every time one steps to the plate (microphone). Every song is angling to be a world-changing anthem. It's completely alien to me. So I reflexively reject everything Bon Jovi does. In fact, I hate it so much I'd like to retract my previous words advocating for allowing everyone to like what they like and despise what they despise. I was wrong. This song ["Wanted Dead or Alive"] sucks and you should not like it." (Dutton)

20 Record Store Dreams

You know you're a music addict when you start having record store dreams, where you walk into a record store and it's filled with records you've never seen before by artists you love. Live sets and bootlegs and whatnot! When you wake up you realize that all those records don't exist at all, but only in your imagination. What blows me away is that the mind has the capability of creating cover art for all these fictional records. How does it do that, I wonder? Actually, don't tell me. I like it better not knowing.

21 RIP: A quick acknowledgement of some tough deaths from 2023

Sixto Rodriguez: The Sugar Man

Andy Rourke: Not just another Smith

Tom Verlaine: We'll never hear "Marquee Moon" live again

Tina Turner: A force of nature on stage

Robbie Robertson: There for everything

Rudolph Isley: Founding father of soul...and funk

Shane MacGowan: Not surprisingly, his body gave up

Richard Davis: Astral Weeks/"Meeting Across the River" and much more

John Kezdy: Effigies frontman

Nobody compares

22 Otis

When June, our office lab, passed in January, we took a long time to get a new dog because it was such a profound loss. When Otis entered our lives about five months later, we didn't expect him to make the same impact. That would be too much pressure on a new family member. But make an impact he did, and in an immediate way. He was walking zen, so calm we started calling him Agent Oatbran right away, assuming he must be a member of the canine CIA or Secret Service, always on a Top Secret case in the neighborhood. Very little could phase him or change his expression. His innate sense of peace was exactly what we needed at exactly the right time. He could nap with the best of them, but he was also a walking fanatic, springing up from a deep snore when a trip outside was offered. Shortly after people met him, they wanted him to stay at their house for the weekend. Everyone wanted a piece of this canine toaster oven, a short stack chunk who appreciated finally having a comfortable home of his own after years of uncertainty. We were good for him, but he was far more impactful on us. As I wrote earlier in our Songs of the Year feature (Blonde Redhead), Otis passed away from a seizure less than six months after he arrived to change our lives. It wasn't fair and we didn't see it coming, but he died after finally finding his forever home. For that, we're grateful, but this one was as shocking as it was painful. He died way too early, just like the inspiration for his name, Otis Redding. Hopefully, he's somewhere working on a new case right now, looking for the culprit, stubbornly pursuing every clue before his next nap on the couch.

23 Our readers!

Thanks as always to every reader, whether you loved what we wrote or hated it, we're thankful for your time and hope you've found some new music here or just got reminded of some of your old favorites. Cheers from the Priest.



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