By Su Waddy, BA Politics and International Relations
2023 has gifted us with an incredible year in music, continuing to diversify across genres. Among a lineup of blockbusters from established big names that we already know and love, this year has also introduced us to an exciting cohort of promising talents. The industry has seen a new vibrancy to nostalgia as well as a re-inviting of nostalgia to the contemporary. To mirror the commotion and the repose of a great year in music, I’ll be sharing some of my favourite remarkable listens that will certainly yield a good time.
7. the record, Boygenius
Boygenius, as a three-piece band holding incredible songwriters in the current game (Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker), has hardly run unnoticed this year. Their charm lies within the diversity of their individual music, and ‘the record’ is a near-perfect concoction of all their sounds. It is nothing short of their wit and confessional lyricism that gives this ‘record’ the extra edge to the average indie-rock sound. A favourite track on this is ‘Letter to an Old Poet’, as it continues a narrative from a previous track on their first EP together, encapsulating the cyclical.
6. Like..?, Ice Spice
Reflecting upon this year inarguably requires a reminder of American rapper Ice Spice’s immense speed in gaining traction both as an artist and as an internet personality. From the viral track, ‘Munch (Feelin’ U)’, to collaborating with massive names in the industry, like Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift, Spice is the perfect new embodiment of how social media, more specifically TikTok, has shifted the music industry. I personally am not the best versed in the rap genre, but it has been nothing short of impressive that she has managed to create the ‘Ice Spice’ sound and found her footing in the game in so little time.
5. “Shadow Kingdom”, Bob Dylan
Comprising 13 fresh renditions of songs from the initial phase of Dylan’s career, and even featuring a novel instrumental piece titled ‘Sierra’s Theme’, this album is a great appraisal of the classic ‘sounding fresh again’. The universal acclaim of Dylan’s song crafting was revisited and remembered. It is, in the simplest, a treasure accessorised by an unrestricted, flowing instrumental blend, and a great way to say ‘still got it, never lost it’. Everybody has listened to a Dylan song at some point in life realistically; he has almost an endless number of songs. He truly is the father of ‘familiarity’ in music.
4. Volcano, Jungle
British electronic band Jungle explores an entirely new plane of genres with this record and goes as far as capturing one of the most progressive styles in music we have seen in a while. The energy on this album is titular – wild and explosive – whilst also not shying away from its soul and disco influences. What an amazing way to entice the musical palette! Upon hearing their track ‘Dominoes’, for the first time, I was immediately hooked. You could argue it is both easy and difficult on the ears, which is the perfect new direction for music – to create fusions from what we know, and what could be.
3. Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume, Yves Tumor
Yves Tumor is definitely one of the most promising artists emerging in recent years, altering and aggravating the boundaries of contemporary art and culture. Expanding upon the atmospheric tone of The Asymptotical World EP, the mysterious artist delves into the challenges of a deeply consuming relationship. Goth rock could possibly never be the same again. The fuzz in the synth bass, the campy horror shrieks, and the drawn-out guitars did not fail to demand attention. ‘Heaven Surrounds Us like a Hood’ and ‘In Spite of War’ are amongst my go-to listens.
2. I Inside the Old Year Dying, PJ Harvey
PJ Harvey has been kicking it since the 90s and remains one of my favourite songwriters of today. Earlier this year, she released her new album which she describes as “a resting space, a solace, a comfort, a balm—which feels timely for the times we’re in.” There is an intense poetic air to the lyricism featuring references to biblical imagery and Shakespeare. The folk instruments sound hallucinatory, entirely bewitching. Somewhat reminiscent of Elvis Presley’s ‘Love Me Tender’, Harvey’s track ‘August’ has to be my top pick on the album. She never disappoints.
1 Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd, Lana del Rey
Ranking this album, where it is, is possibly the most shared opinion in music this year. Lana Del Rey is known to be one of the biggest influences in the alternative music scene, popularly loved for her world-building and her cinematic nostalgic sound. However, here she deviates from the style of her previous works, as this album is arguably her most conversational, and honest. It includes influences of hip hop, gospel, and folk, accompanied by the production of Del Rey herself, Mike Hermosa, and Jack Antonoff, amongst others. Despite the attention to detail sonically, it is perhaps her best in terms of emotionality and truth. A timeless look into her as a person and an artist with tracks like ‘Fingertips’ and ‘Grandfather please stand on the shoulders of my father while he’s deep-sea fishing’, the stripped-back instrumentation and dangerously personal lyrics reflect the rawness and transparency of this record.