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2023 YEAR IN REVIEW: Our Annual Mixtapes Ft. Our Favorite Songs of the Year, Pt. 1 (Songs 104-053)

Here we are again, lamenting our addiction to making mixtapes of our favorite songs every year. We used to make only one, but that wasn't enough, so we expanded to two. Now, we're up to four! And get this, we still have tons of great songs on the cutting room floor! So here are the songs that we selected to make our Top 104 Songs of 2023 list. Believe it or not, an arduous, painful task that will please no one completely, us included. As always, we only pick one song per artist so it flows like a real mixtape. As a courtesy, this is also a countdown, with our favorite songs from #104 to #1 spread out over the four tape. This post contains the first half of the bounty. A second will follow immediately thereafter. Get your ears on, here we go...


SIDE A 104 KURT VILE | "Constant Repeat"

Blurb: When Kurt Vile posed with his two daughters (the fabulously-named Awilda and Delphine) on the cover of his 2022 LP, (Watch My Moves), it made me wonder what their day-to-day lives must be like growing up with such a creative father. Even at a young age, they already exhibited some charming individuality—hip thrift store outfits, a pink wig, striped knee socks, etc. It's not surprising that they would be encouraged to think outside the box, especially since their father is a guy who operates exclusively in that headspace. The picture made me want to follow their future path as a curious observer to see how their lives turn out in the end. So, consider me delighted that the trio released a one-off single earlier this year, a sweet cover of Charli XCX's "Constant Repeat," that is beyond endearing. I imagine it was originally made without commercial intent—just a family of Charli fans goofing around in dad's home studio—but their version works exactly because of that casual approach. I guarantee it'll make you smile every time you hear it.

Moment of Conversion: Daughters' background vox.

Additional Note: Vile and daughters have since released a new Christmas track on Kurt's new EP, Back to Moon Beach, titled "Must Be Santa, that's also charming, if a bit more predictable.

103 K. FLAY | "Irish Goodbye"

Blurb: In the spirit of the title, I'll just leave this song hanging here with absolutely no explanation.

Moment of Conversion: "In the blink of an eye..." at 2:23.

102 IAN HUNTER | "Bed of Roses"


When I was 30, I was over the hill / Fifty years later I can still kill 'em all.

-Ian Hunter, "This is What I'm Here For"

Turns out Ian ain't wrong. He's still got it. Not only did he release a full-throttle rock 'n' roll album this year at age 83 he's also cranked out an A-level classic rock song in the process with "Bed of Roses." I'm not sure how he did it, but having a little help from his friends didn't hurt. On "Bed of Roses" alone, old reliable Ringo Starr is on drums and a fiery Mike Campbell of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers is on guitar. But cameos mean nothing if the song isn't there and "Bed of Roses" proves that age means surprisingly little in music anymore. The songwriting is sharp, his voice is able albeit weathered, and the instrumental support is predictably rock solid.

Moment of Conversion: Three vets recounting the early days of the Star Club Hamburg brings the early, not-so-innocent years of rock 'n' roll back to life.

101 RON SEXSMITH | "Diamond Wave"

Blurb: I don't know if something can be more endearing and charming (and delusional if you're a pessimist like me) than the animated video accompanying the release of Ron Sexsmith's song "Diamond Wave" from his 16th (!!) album, The Vivian Line. Suffice it to say, if you know anyone who has recently got, or is getting engaged to be married soon, this song and its delightful video are absolutely compulsory. And for the rest of us wily, stone-hearted veterans, if this doesn't melt your heart a little, you're either too far gone or approaching/immersed in divorce proceedings currently.

Moment of Conversion: The vid.

100 THE HANDSOME FAMILY | "Good Night"

Blurb: What's the perfect way to end a concert? Opinions vary, but the Handsome Family, known for their dark yet hauntingly beautiful folk songs, have written their perennial set closer with "Good Night," thereby eliminating that difficult setlist decision for now and for all eternity.

Moment of Conversion: I like how they build a post-show announcement right into the lyrics: The crossroads are empty / Satan snores in his bunk / We'll be out by the merch table / After we pack our junk.


Blurb: Montreal's Population II is a noisy post-punk band with psych overtones that sing in French, although your enjoyment of this particular song won't be diminished if you don't feel compelled to let Google translate them for you. This is more of a soundtrack song, meant to enhance on-screen action, perhaps for an indie film to be named later. It's got a weird sound fingerprint that uses a swirling blend of organs, synths, and guitars that reminds me a little of a band like Clinic that also created their own little bizarro, instantly identifiable, world within the crowded musical universe. Pop II's new album, Électrons libres du québec, has more where this came from if you're intrigued.

Moment of Conversion: False ending at 2:38 builds to extended fade/freak-out.

098 BIG FREEDIA | "Life Lessons"

Blurb: In our album write up for out Top 50 list, we focused on Big Freedia's bold and beautiful persona, but that doesn’t mean the lyrical content isn’t just as important. Here Freedia relishes the “life lessons” that her/his (he doesn’t care what pronoun you use) mother provided during Freedia's formative years and it's a sweet homage indeed.

Moment of Conversion: Among the lessons taught...

Keep on trying for that better luck

Stay out of trouble, we ain't acting up

Keep it humble, we ain't acting tough

And if your cup is empty, God'll fill it up

097 JOHN FRANCIS FLYNN | "Mole in the Ground"

Blurb: This song appeals to my introverted nature, I'm hesitant to report. I like the idea of a mole in the ground, hidden from humanity, creating personal space by hand, and biding time in a private world of its own creation until it's time to emerge. As it turns out, I didn't need to move a muscle to hear this song. I've had a version of it in my "collection" for some time as part of Harry Smith's legendary Anthology of American Folk Music box set. The version included in that comp dates back to 1928, performed by Bascom Lamar Lunsford with just his voice and banjo. While great, Flynn's 2023 version is another story entirely, a complete reinvention. Flynn updates the song by adding electronic treatments, ramping up the urgency, and enhancing the song's foreboding darkness. New layers of unsettling nuance are added, bringing new life to an old song. This is how you remake a song.

Moment of Conversion: The hypnotic heaviness of the vocal throughout.

096 BAXTER DURY | "Celebrate Me"

Blurb: Baxter Dury, a British bohemian born and raised (his father is Ian Dury of "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll" fame), is among the finest purveyors of quick-witted, often insightful, commonly ridiculous, nocturnal pitter-patter. On his new record, I Thought I Was Better Than You, the barfly poet is generally on the attack throughout with what he glibly calls "faux confrontational" songs. It's not for everyone, perhaps, but if you're looking for a leisure-suited, breakfast imposter and honey sucker, Baxter is your man. To make it go down more smoothly, he splices a peepsie refrain into "Celebrate Me" sung by what sounds like a 12-year-old schoolgirl (but is actually Madelaine Hart) to add some contrasting flavor to this semi-ludicrous creation.

Moment of Conversion: If you love a good non-sequitur like me, then a line like, "Lick my forehead you white bread eating cockroach" will hit the bullseye like a sharp dart in an English pub.

095 100 GECS | "Frog on the Floor"

Blurb: Almost every mixtape benefits from a little levity to release accumulated tension. Enter "Frog on the Floor," one of many such moments from 100 Gecs latest album, 10,000 Gecs. The title is self-explanatory: frog loose at party inevitably becomes life of said party mainly because he doesn't quite understand what he's doing and why he's being entertaining. Wackiness ensues.

Moment of Conversion: The moment of inter-species understanding: Give him some space, he's still working it out /Give him some space, he doesn't know what people think about.

094 OSEES | "Goon"

Blurb: What would we do without John Dwyer and his twisted mind? I don't know, and don't need to know, what this song is about, but it's a total blast and the video features a bodybuilder lifting about 500 pounds with his pecker, so there's that. Perhaps, Dwyer's explanation of the song will confuse you more if that's possible,

["Goon" is]... “a pop record for tired times, sugared with bits of shatterproof glass to put more crack in your strap.”

Moment of Conversion: The off-kilter cadence of the demented lyrics.

093 ALEX LAHEY | "Shit Talkin'"

Blurb: There was some real good stuff on the new Alex Lahey album, The Answer is Always Yes, and the title refreshingly brings a positive approach to life, especially post-pandemic. More people should say yes to more things, now more than ever. I am not one of those people, however. Despite that, I love this catchy little throwaway about visiting with friends and then assuming they're ripping you apart during the car ride home so they can feel a little better about their own pathetic lives for a while. It's a totally mean-spirited romp with a wonderful singalong chorus to which we can all relate.

Moment of Conversion: The chorus is a blast. Especially because we all do it. Even you. Admit it.

092 HAMISH HAWK | "Angel Numbers"

Blurb: The title track from Hamish Hawk's new album, Angel Numbers, has perhaps been best described (not by me) as "Morrissey without the xenophobia." I also hear the rainy-day pop of fellow Scots Del Amitri in these songs at other times. The perfect choice for a melancholy fall afternoon playlist.

Moment of Conversion: Divorce, death, suicide, debt, alcoholism...all made tolerable by our amiable host.


091 THE CORAL | "North Wind"

Blurb: You can feel the ambiance of an old American Western blowing through the Coral's new album, Sea of Mirrors. "North Wind" gallops into that hot, dry scenery perfectly, with a vocal that reminds me of 1970's-era Neil Diamond.

Moment of Conversion: I said it reminded me of Neil Diamond, so what more can one want?

090 HA HA TONKA | "Try Your Life on for Size"

Blurb: The Tonk has a history of helping us reconsider our lives. From songs like "The Past Has Arms" to "Rewrite Our Lives" to "Staring at the End of Our Lives" to "Lessons," their catalog is populated with moments of simple yet profound insights. So from the band that told us "a glimpse of brilliance is better than a long look at mediocrity" comes another shiny diamond that informs us that it's not too late to change our lives, in fact nothing is stopping us from doing just that again and again until we find the one that fits.

Moment of Conversion: Be kind to yourself, and comfortable in your skin.

089 TRAPPER SCHOEPP | "In Returning"

Blurb: "In Returning," the sublime song of the sea buried on side two of Trapper Schoepp's Top 50 Pickled Priest album, Siren Songs, ends the album in breathtaking fashion. It's about the pull of the sea (literal here, but also works as metaphor) and how our world may change before the voyage ends:

It's not the leaving that worries me

It's what I will find in returning

I imagine it's not dissimilar to a musician going on the road for a long tour, a place where some are more comfortable than they are existing in "normal" society. With simple piano accompaniment, Schoepp inhabits the song and I always find myself hanging on his every word. It reminded me of a similar gulp moment from Looking Glass's hit from 1972, "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)," that hinges on the line, He made it clear he couldn't stay / No harbor was his home. What is it about the wild blue yonder that captivates people so? Personally, I would've chosen Brandy over the sea, and that's not even because there's not enough Dramamine in the world to keep me on a raging sea for more than an afternoon cruise. "In Returning" might not be the obvious song choice from Siren Songs, but it's the one that I find myself returning to again and again.

Moment of Conversion: The realization in chorus.

088 THE ONE EIGHTIES | "Mindfields"

Blurb: If you stumbled into a One Eighties gig while passing through their hometown of Raleigh, NC, you'd likely be smitten enough to charge the merch table for a CD, LP, or a maybe a t-shirt. You've had that feeling of unexpected discovery, I'm sure. The One Eighties are Autumn Brand and Daniel Cook and they shut down their last band during the pandemic and, you guessed it, did a 180 and went into a new direction musically. Good move. The songs on their new record, Mindfields, are really good. Autumn has a classic Americana voice, with just the right lilt at just the right moments, and the songs exceed expectations with little embellishments here and there that elevate their material enough to make you think they could be one lucky break away from some notoriety. "Minefields," which has a haunting echo added, has an entrancing vibe, which helps as you navigate a complicated relationship vicariously through her. I have been coming back to it hear the song again and again this year. They've completely won me over.

Moment of Conversion: Quiet drama.

087 SNOOPER | "Unable"

Blurb: While this whole Snooper record totally rips, I find myself drawn to the sõōper short, sõōper effective, cover of the Suburban Lawns' "Unable," which to me sounds like an underrated punk classic. Lead singer Blair Tramel positively brings it on this track and the same goes for everything else on Snõōpers' new record, Super Snõōper, which packs sixteen blistering songs into 24-minutes.

Moment of Conversion: Equal presence of vocals, drums, and guitars in mix = 92 second thrill ride

086 THE HIVES | "Crash Into the Weekend"

Blurb: Only the Hives could pull off a line like, "I'll hit the weekend like a cake shot out of a gun," and get away with it. That's why we love them. Pickled Priest's banner treats music and humor as equals, so how can this song not make one of our year-end mixtapes? The Hives, dormant for too long, are back in the nick of time to save us all from our own rampant self seriousness. I didn't even know that I missed them until they were back. Nobody bashes out fun rock and roll with the conviction of this band of Swedish meatballs. I'm ashamed I'd forgotten that. But in a blaze of glory, complete with awesome matching suits I wish I could pull off but can't, they've returned to remind you that rock & roll can be a fucking blast, and not just on the weekends.

Moment of Conversion: One vivid image is all it took: shooting a cake out of a gun

085 PURLING HISS | "Yer All in My Dreams"

Blurb: "Yer All In My Dreams" is a double-stack of guitar riffs built into and around a real rock song with a discernible melody. It's the best thing on Drag on Girard, which has enough guitars to allay fears of a complete K-Pop takeover.

Moment of Conversion: Dinosaur Jr-esque guitars.

084 MOTORBIKE | "Motorbike"

Blurb: I do love a band whose name is also the title of the album and is also the title of a song on the album (i.e Black Sabbath's "Black Sabbath" from their Black Sabbath album). Album opener (of course), "Motorbike," is now the band's de facto theme song that they will surely be opening their sets with for as long as they can hold the band together. It's a nothing short of a mission statement.

Moment of Conversion: For the same reason I love TV show theme songs, I love band theme songs. Why aren't there more of them, we ask?

083 MCLUSKY | "Unpopular Parts of a Pig"

Blurb: There are a just a handful of lead singers who sound like they are legitimately insane. And I don’t mean method acting insane like Jack Nicholson. Plenty of singers get into the zone onstage when the band kicks in, but that authentic, uncontrollable, unhinged state of being is rare indeed. Offhand, David Yow of the Jesus Lizard comes to mind. He comes off like an escaped hyena high on crystal meth, unconcerned for his own safety, and in no way in control of his own actions. Mclusky’s Andrew Falkous is another such character, seemingly unable to premeditate his actions or manage his tangents in any way shape or form. It’s no wonder his band imploded prematurely in 2004. Conditions like this are unstable by design. But may wonders never cease, they’re back in 2023, still alive!, likely realizing nobody in the group has done anything quite as good since. The main question for me is an obvious one: Is Falkous still the same lead singer he was two decades earlier and can the band keep up with him if he is? The answer is a resounding YES! based on their new single “Unpopular Parts of a Pig.” Falkous, like all real nutjobs, thankfully hasn’t got his meds quite right yet, sounding every bit of his old, lunatic self, and I guarantee you won’t hear another song quite like it this year.

Moment of Conversion: Falkous's vocal is pretty much the moment on every Mclusky song.

082 WEDNESDAY | "Chosen to Deserve"

Blurb: Nearly every song on Wednesday's Rat Saw God has a lyrical moment I adore. It's not always wry humor that wins me over, although present all over the record, sometimes it's just a simple observation. From watching Formula One on TV (which I've become addicted to myself although I'm sick of Max Verstappen's mug right now) to watching a gas pump TV blare in the dark to nobody in particular (more evidence of our overly-entertained society), there's a sharp observational eye behind the lyrics to these songs. "Chosen to Deserve," a love story so depressing it's almost sweet, is my choice for my year-end mix mainly because it has the biggest guitar riff, which I've gotta think is a perfectly good reason in Wednesday's skewed worldview.

Moment of Conversion: The riff.

081 CMAT | "Can't Make Up My Mind"

Blurb: CMAT's new record is a cracker, but I got it a touch late and I'm still gulping it down. I love her songs and her sense of humor, plus her pipes are really dynamic on the album, impulsive and unbridled in a Maria McKee-esque kind of way, which gives her songs a pleasing unpredictability.

Moment of Conversion: Like a teenage Frankenstein / My head's a mess / But from the neck down / I'm fine

080 STEVE MASON | "Let It Go"

Blurb: 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 (including, famously, John Cusack in High Fidelity) have long since moved on, Mason has continued making fabulous music with the same hypnotic, throbbing, laid-back grooves that made him famous. He hasn't lost a step either although his platform is admittedly not as novel sounding as it once was. That said, Mason is still creatively restless and he's delivered some of his most rhythmically challenging grooves ever for his new record. "Let It Go" is a headphone marvel, bringing back that old Beta Band stoned head bob, but also sounding distinctly modern, too.

Moment of Conversion: Sound bed one of Mason's best grooves ever.


Blurb: Best Coast, hopefully only on hiatus, is the best source for a Bethany Cosentino fix. She and co-conspirator Bobb Bruno have a organic chemistry and the music they made together captured the Left Coast aesthetic perfectly—a veritable California Tourist Bureau set to music. Well, band status unknown, Bethany 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 Costentino 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 a convertible record for driving down Highway 1. Could it use some more emotional or lyrical heft or a sharper edge? Perhaps. “My Own City” gets pretty close to satisfying that unreasonable demand.

Moment of Conversion: The chorus as usual.



078 MARIA WILMAN | "Full Circle"

Blurb: Hard pick: which Maria Wilman song makes the year-end mixtape? I got lazy and stuck with my mid-year choice, "Full Circle," because it's the first song you'll hear from the 53-year-old's debut and there's nothing quite like a first impression. It took me aback, to be honest, and introduced me to a fine artist finally getting her chance and making the most of it. No wonder she called her album Dark Horse, because the odds of an album being this good under the circumstances are not worth the wager in most cases. "Full Circle" is her de facto calling card, but the rest of the record is worth calling upon, too.

Moment of Conversion: When Maria shadows her own vocal.

077 SLOW PULP | "Doubt"

Blurb: Always room for another local Chicago band at Pickled Priest and Slow Pulp put together a lo-fi collection of fuzzy little pop songs this year that tumbled out with seemingly no effort, but we all know it takes a lot of skill to sound this casual and cool.

Moment of Conversion: do-do-do-do-do-do-do doubt... it's official, you can "do do do do do" just about anything and get away with it


Blurb: This is another in a long tradition of touring songs; tales of musicians moving from one city to the next, living in hotels, not quite comfortable within their ever-changing surroundings. Not quite Bob Seger's "Turn the Page" or CCR's "Lodi" (I could go on), but "FaceTime" is similar in concept. One key difference: technology. While Seger and Fogerty would've been forced to a feed coins into a phone booth at a truck stop to connect with home, Billy Woods has FaceTime when he needs a spiritual lift only a familiar face can provide. However, he also admits that he's a road dog, almost thriving on the isolation at times. So a FaceTime call is declined... strangely I feel right at home on my own. Ouch. Add in a cool cameo from Future Islands frontman Samuel T. Herring, a man accustomed to pulling off lyrics others would balk at, and you have a perfect track the next time you need a break from the constraints of home.

Moment of Conversion: The vibe is animal pelts, chunky rings, clunky shoes, lots of ink / Dudes who order everybody's drink...

075 NONAME | "Namesake"

Blurb: If you're like me, sometimes you take notice of a song for the itty bittiest of reasons. In this case literally. The first lyrics of Noname's word waterfall, "Namesake," reference the "Itty Bitty Titty Committee," something my 9-year-old pals and I used to trot out gleefully during recess back in the 70s. We thought it was hysterical when we first heard it and used it at every ham-fisted opportunity. So that's all it took to get me hooked on her latest record which has more great lyrics than the pan can handle. She gets on such a roll here that nobody is safe from her lyrical digs, including royalty like Rihanna, Kendrick, Beyoncé, and Jay-Z for playing the Super Bowl. To be fair, she even takes a shot at herself for her own hypocrisy (playing Coachella after complaining about the festival's lack of diversity). It all goes down smoothly because she has such a wicked sense of humor and a natural, laid-back flow, but if you so desire there's pointed lyrical fodder to chew on, too. The best of both words.

Moment of Conversion: Lyrics tumble out like New Edition circa "Cool It Now." Dig it.

074 KARA JACKSON | "No Fun/Party"

Blurb: The heartbreak of my Top 50 list was not having Kara Jackson on it. She deserved it and I apologize to her here. Her album was, in my opinion, a touch too long and had a few lulls, but the highs were high enough to pick up the slack elsewhere. My first notice of her poetic talent was this number from early in the record. She's famously an acknowledged poet laureat, but not all poetry is musical. Kara, on the other hand, is an example of an artist whose words almost sing from the page even without a voice. Here we don't have to worry about that. She's got a singular singing voice as well.

Moment of Conversion: I like hanging on her every well-placed word.

073 JASON ISBELL & THE 400 UNIT | "Death Wish"

Blurb: Every Isbell record has a few classics and "Death Wish" is clearly one of them from Weathervanes, a song where every individual line is equally considered amounting to a brilliant whole. What else is new?

Moment of Conversion: Talk about an opening line: Did you ever love a woman with a death wish? You ain't goin' anywhere after that.

072 THE NATIONAL | "Once Upon a Poolside"

Blurb: The National didn't make our album list mainly because many of their albums sound the same, although theirs is admittedly a great sound. I touted "Eucalyptus" earlier this year, a great song, but as time passes I moved over to "Once Upon A Poolside" as my favorite not because it's a great title (on an album with a great title), but because its quality stands out from the band's growing pack of similarly-styled "medium" songs.

Moment of Conversion: I can't keep talking, I can't stop shaking / I can't keep track of everything I'm taking

071 TONY ALLEN & ADRIAN YOUNGE | "Don't Believe the Dancers"

Blurb: I would've titled this "Don't Believe the Drummers," but that's just me. What can I say other than if you have another opportunity to hear Tony Allen on drums, take it. Don't ask questions. Just take it.

Moment of Conversion: Take a guess. If you didn't say "the drums" perhaps you should start the song again.

070 WIMPS | "Fits"

Blurb: This band of Seattle DIY true believers made one of the hidden gems of 2023 with City Lights, a record loaded with little indie-rock lapdogs just begging you to adopt them and bring them home. Don't let the name fool you. This isn't twee pop, rather smart nuggets of self-made punk like "Fits" which sounds like an adrenalin shot for a basement mosh pit.

Moment of Conversion: If you've got the "fits" it had better sound like you do. And it does.

069 THE WHIFFS | "Tired of Romance"

Blurb: Power pop is back! Granted, it has never gone away, at least in certain perpetually optimistic subcultures around the world, but every now and then the genre gets a big enough boost where some popular acceptance seems imminent. Of course, we all know deep down in our hearts that we are delusional, but let us all retain some hope for another International Pop Overthrow. It's been far too long. There are no shortage of power-pop-loving websites and bands out there, even a new print magazine titled Remember the Lightning* (after the great 20/20 song from 1979) that debuted this Spring, complete with a feature story on Kansas City guitar-pop gods, the Whiffs, on the cover. In nifty caricature, I may add. They deserve the notoriety, too, as proven by "Tired of Romance" and a dozen other pure pop gems on their new record, Scratch 'N' Sniff (which made our Top 50 list!). It's a real killer of a song that can stand alongside any power-pop era classic.

Moment of Conversion: Strokes-esque ennui.

*Issue 2 featured another swell power-pop band, The Uni Boys, from SoCal, who have released another worthy album, Buy This Album!, on Curation Records. And there have been plenty of other good power pop bands and songs this year, too, but I can't list them all.

068 BAR ITALIA | "Nurse!"

Blurb: Buzz band Bar Italia is another trendy London band whose name hints at a different origin story even though they simply cribbed it from Pulp's now rightfully deified Different Class album, which couldn't be more British if it tried. Their LP, Tracey Denim, may have been a bit overhyped, but nonetheless, "Nurse!" is evidence of their potential, delivering all the pros and cons of hanging at a pretentious London nightclub through a hazy, inhibition-free 2:00 AM lens. The music just sounds cooler at that time of the night, people seem as interesting as they make themselves out to be, and most importantly, the drugs start working. It almost makes the artifice worth the trouble. On "Nurse!" Jezmi Fehmi and Sam Fenton trade disaffected boy/girl vocals that track with that physiological downshift you feel when you realize you've crossed over from youthful elation ("Haven't felt this way since you were 21") to feeling sick and tired, vomiting through your nose into a dustbin.

Moment of Conversion: The vocal downshift for the chorus.

067 BILLY NOMATES | "Spite"

Blurb: If Taylor Swift wrote "The Man" in an English pub after breaking up with Travis Kelce this is what it might've sounded like. It's an inspired, inebriated rant, in no way pathetic like you might expect a jealous ex to sound. Instead it's bold and brash and locked onto an emotional bullseye like an ace dart thrower. You want one chance in this life to nail a takedown like this. May yours be as satisfying as this one.

Moment of Conversion: Don't you act like I ain't the fucking man!

066 THE BLIPS | "She Still Shouts"

Blurb: 26-minutes is a magical length for an album, at least this year. Just enough to make you want more but too little to make you want less. Genius. The Blips delivered nine songs, all great, all worthy, but I'm always a little extra fired up when it's time for "She Still Shouts" because it's a little bit power-pop, a little bit rock 'n' roll. It has the perfect combo of bratty vocals, slashing riffs, and sneaky medodies that the Priest feasts upon. This band was great the first time around, but they're back Again (no exclamation point; they ain't showboats) and they sound better than ever.

Moment of Conversion: Opening one-channel guitar riffing


065 ROGÊ | "Eu Gosta Dela"

Blurb: In honor of Brazilian music legend Astrud Gilberto, of "The Girl From Ipanema" fame (the singer, not the subject), who passed away this June, I present a song that would surely make her smile with delight. It's a simple samba that could become another beach café staple that we'll be humming along with for decades to come. It's by Roger José Cury, aka Rogê (inexplicably pronounced 'haw-zheh'), and his new album, Curyman, is being touted by those in the know (me not included in that group) as a new Brazilian classic. It's hard to argue with such a claim at this point as this record is absolutely brilliant. The kind of record the Girl From Ipanema might've listened to on her headphones as she made her daily stroll to the shore.

Moment of Conversion: Street-busker vibe.

064 THE ROLLING STONES | "Get Close"

Blurb: Hackney Diamonds? Yeah, it's good. The whole thing is worthy. Is it needed? Will you play it in two years? I don't know. The songs sure sound great while being decidedly generic lyrically, but it doesn't matter when your singer is an oversexualized shrunken apple with a resilient voice and your lead guitarist's a stumbling, amiable ghost with an endless supply of riffage. That's what you're paying for. "Get Close" is the song that jumped out at me on first listen and we'll see how it goes from there.

Moment of Conversion: Some time in May, 1964


Blurb: "I Saw" is a call to arms. An anthem, if you will. It begins with a beat that always reminds me of the beginning of "Lido Shuffle" by Boz Scaggs (I can't help it at this point, it's stuck in my brain) and then turns into a battlefield motivational speech by an inspired warrior that strangely devolves into a bizarre set of images that'll make you, and everyone else perhaps, forget what they're fighting for. No matter, cool song nonetheless.

Moment of Conversion: We love a good call to arms, even if there's some self-doubt coursing through it...

I want your shield

I want your weapon

Give me that bulletproof vest

And don't forget I'm not susceptible to your nonsense

062 KILLER KIN | "On the Chain"

Blurb: Few bring the raunchy, revved-up rock as convincingly as Killer Kin. They bark out lyrics like dogs in heat as they shoot riffs at you like they're blasting propane tanks off the top of a fence with 12-gauge shotguns. It sounds like that to me, at least. Every year, I call one song "My Annual Clock Cleaning," and this year here it tis. Kept on a chain for public safety reasons.

Moment of Conversion: "Chain! Chain! Chain! Chain!

061 SLOWDIVE | "Shanty"

Blurb: Everything is Alive requires an immersive listen and "Shanty" is its entry point. But make no mistake, you've really gotta stay for the duration to get the full experience.

Moment of Conversion: Ladies and gentlemen, we are floating in space

060 KRISTIN HERSH | "Dandelion"

Blurb: Kristin Hersh, leader of indie-rock legends, Throwing Muses, was back this year and "Dandelion," was the first single. The Muses last album, Sun Racket from 2020, was one of their best ever and made our Top 50 list that year, with Hersh in great songwriting and singing form. In fact, her voice has gained just the perfect layer of patina with age and her wrecked poetry seems strangely fitting for the bleak times we've lived through recently. There's something beautiful about this haunting tale and the ominous haze that hovers over the whole track is captivating.

Moment of Conversion: Instant atmosphere from the opening seconds.

059 CALIFONE | "The Habsburg Jaw"

Blurb: "The Habsburg Jaw" is a great song that also helps you learn something that you likely wouldn't have learned otherwise. As it turns out, the Habsburgs were a German-Austrian ruling family who, to consolidate their power, often married internally. Such inbreeding apparently caused a downstream effect of physical abnormalities, like bulbous lower lips, long noses, and a jutting jawline known, you got it, as the "Habsburg jaw" (see video still above). Thanks for the lesson, Tim! The song tells you none of this of course—I had to do my own research on the side—but it's just the kind of found information I relish.

Moment of Conversion: History lesson.

058 JENNY LEWIS | "Apples and Oranges"

Blurb: Not a smashing Jenny Lewis record this year IMHO, but there's always some juicy fruit to squeeze in every bushel and fittingly I was drawn to "Apples and Oranges," an airy breakup song that features some vacuous, mind-blowing rebound sex that feels like sunshine and blue skies for a while, but ends up revealing some looming dark clouds on the horizon. But who cares when you're living in the moment anyway? I love the line, To be truthful / It's been fruitful / To live like a kid. Ain't nothing wrong with allowing yourself a break from serious pursuits now and then and I'd avoid doing so forever if I could. Jenny has a knack for bringing her fresh songwriting perspective to any situation no matter how routine and this time it's good to hear her having a little fun for a short while at least.

Moment of Conversion: Backing vocals every other line of the pre-chorus.

057 MARGO CILKER | "Keep it On a Burner"

Blurb: A California girl by birth, 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. I've grabbed a chunk of her lyrics from the great “Keep It on a Burner,” from her new album Valley of Heart’s Desire, to illustrate my point:

I got sidewalks, I got sunburned, I got books I haven’t read

I got neighbors telling neighbors they’ll bе burning up when they're dеad

I got wasted, I got waylaid, I got stuck in Lodi again

I’ve got time now, I've got know-how, I've got only to write the end

I appreciate the clever concept, not to mention the CCR reference, and there’s all kinds of similar moments all over the record, a real-life, low-key sleeper of a record well worth seeking out.

Moment of Conversion: Horn intro.

056 KENDRA MORRIS | "When I Go to Space"

Blurb: "When I Go to Space" is the perfect way to introduce yourself to Kendra Morris's off-beat retro music. It has a cool sound, a great vocal, clever lyrics, and it's a complete breath of fresh air just when we needed one. And I'm not going to say something like she was just what I was waiting for no matter how tempting it may be to end with such an obvious, cheeky final sentence.

Moment of Conversion: When, not if.

055 ALTIN GÜN | "Su Siziyor"

Blurb: A band updating late-60s/eary-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. When they hit on one of their many exotic grooves, as they do on the almost Bollywood-esque "Su Suziyor," the results are original and thrilling in equal doses.

Moment of Conversion: We do love us some vibraslap (0:09)

054 SPOON | "Sugar Babies"

Blurb: No new Spoon record in 2023, but the band is still letting some choice cuts trickle out of the production mill. Earlier this year they dropped an excellent cover of David Bowie's, "I Can't Give Everything Away," (from Blackstar) on what would've been his 75th birthday. Later, we got a sweet three-song EP titled Memory Dust (featuring songs included on the Japanese version of their 2022 LP, Lucifer on the Sofa) to keep the momentum going. The leadoff track, "Sugar Babies," was immediately dragged onto my 'Best of Spoon' playlist after the first listen and so was the pretty "Silver Girl" (an homage to "Bridge Over Troubled Water" perhaps?) Even the Bo Diddley cover, "She's Fine, She's Mine" is well done. But it's "Sugar Babies" that simmers and pops the most. While Britt Daniel delivers yet another great vocal, what puts this cut over the top for me is everything but the vocal. Daniel's wordless grunts that track behind the chorus throughout. The subtle little synth/horn line mid-song. The unhurried downshift at 3:33 that prepares you for a fadeout that doesn't come until minutes later. The church organ at 4:36. Only a confident band could pull all this off and still make it sound almost effortless and intuitive.

Moment of Conversion: The beginning, when it sounds like they're fucking around in the studio and then suddenly just lock into the opening groove like it's nothin'.

053 THE CLIENTELE | "Blue Over Blue"

Blurb: I’ve spent more than my fair share of time trying to find a way into the Clientele discography and I’ve found most of it pleasant yet underwhelming. That said, I must admit that I’m beginning to be converted thanks to a last second impulse buy during a record store binge this past summer (I make that sound like a rarity, but it is not). I Am Not There Anymore, picked up based on early returns claiming more stylistic variety and experimentation, delivers on that intriguing promise. Ever have a band like that? One you kinda like, but wish they would add something else to it to push you over the top? Well, they’ve done just that on their new record. It’s overly long, yes, but when you only put out one record every 6-8 years, that tends to happen. “Blue Over Blue” is a pastoral ballad with a superb chorus. One of those songs that might not be the record’s greatest moment (“Fables of the Silverlink”), but it is the most mixtape worthy.

Moment of Conversion: Unexpected pretty chorus


You're halfway there, people, but we don't live on a fucking prayer here. We live on records, and by the grace of the Pickled Priest, the top 52 songs of the year are next.


The Priest


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