Another year gone and another year of great music. In fact there has been so much brilliant bits of media associated with music I have decided to put together ‘My Crème De La Crème of 2023’. Everything I think you should check out while the iron is still just about hot. I’ll be covering films, TV, albums, singles and everything in between so cosy up as we look back on the past 12 months…
Let’s start with the artists and more specifically the tracks that have blew me away last year. As a songwriter I am always on the look out for new music, often found scouring the Spotify Discover section late at night. This year three artists have peaked my interest.
Durry are a brother/sister duo who first caught my eye at the tail end of 2022. Since then they have gone on to release their debut album Suburban Legend in September 2023. This is a band that just hit the right note at the right time to connect with me. With a indie-rock style evolved right out of the pop-punk scene of my youth, their melodies, self deprecating lyrics, homegrown DIY spirit and mustard yellow spark clicked perfectly. Highlights of Suburban Legend include ‘I’m Fine (No Really), ‘Mall Rat’, ‘Who’s Laughing Now’ and my personal favourite ‘Coming Of Age’. All touch on aspects of that crisis we feel in our early 20’s to mid 30’s (or even beyond) where we don’t quite know where we’ve been, what we’re doing or where we’re going. Suburban Legend is truly an excellent album perfect for anyone who grew up in the 90’s and early 00’s.
Despite constantly trying to keep my ear on the pulse, I’m not a huge frequenter of the pop music scene. However every once in a while something falls into my path that is different and a delight. That description fits KiNG MALA perfectly. She is an alt-pop artist based out of Los Angeles who popped up in my reels in the lead up to the release of her single ‘never wanna know’. Immediately I was hooked by the offbeat ascending baseline and only further drawn in by the rhythmic spoken word style of the first verse. It felt like a fresh take on the genre that elevated well to an incredibly catchy pop chorus. Throughout the year she continued to drop quality tracks culminating in her latest EP Spilt Milk, that asa consequence I began listening to her back catalogue as well. Favourite tracks of mine include ‘sloppy’, ‘bug’ and ‘i hope you know what you’re doing’. On top she carries a distinctive visual style that your eyes are drawn to the screen. Probably the biggest surprise of the year, KiNG MALA is out doing her own thing and that’s the best sign I look for when discovering new artists.
Talking of reels and TikTok’s I imagine you may have seen my next pick Lawrence appear on your socials as well. The pop-soul group headed up by Gracie and Clyde Lawrence (children of Marc Lawrence, famous for directing Hugh Grant’s Music and Lyrics) have been blowing minds across the internet with their incredible live acoustic-ish videos. With a flexibility often not afforded in recorded versions, the live videos showcase their multi-genre soulfulness, outstanding lead vocals and musical abilities, crafting layered harmonies and ear worm motifs. I insist you go check out their acoustic-ish sessions on YouTube, particularly ‘i’m confident that i’m insecure’ and ‘23’ and if you like what you hear, discover more of their sounds on all the relevant platforms.
Stepping away from singles and albums into the visual landscape of TV, one of my favourite shows of the last few years dropped on Amazon Prime in March; Daisy Jones & The Six. Adapted from the book of the same name by Taylor Jenkins-Reid and starring Riley Keogh and Sam Claflin the series is a wonderful walk through the world of songwriting, stardom and the musky haze of the 1970’s music scene. Granted clearly a pastiche of Fleetwood Mac and at times can feel a little soapy, it may not be for everyone. However, there are some beautiful moments dotted throughout to keep you hooked. It also really captures the essence of collaborating with other musicians and knowing when you have something magic in your hands. Most importantly above all, the soundtrack absolutely hits the nail on the head. Every track and musical performance feels genuine, so much so the album passes as something that could have been released in the 70’s. The standout tracks for me are ‘Look At Us Now’, ‘Two Against Three’ and ‘By Myself’ but honestly the whole soundtrack stands up on its own. If you’re looking for a devilishly good watch to wrap yourself up in during the cold January nights, this is worth checking out.
Before I talk about my final choice of 2023, I wanted to briefly touch upon other great musical highlights of the year I couldn’t quite fit into this online journal. Firstly Hozier made a triumphant return to the charts with a groovy new album that’s been on repeat for a few months now. If I were to choose one track from the record, it would go to ‘All Things End’ which I almost instantly fell in love with. Nothing But Thieves came out of nowhere and released a rip roaring new album that took my by surprise. I’d been aware of their music in the past however it never really grabbed my attention until now. With fresh thunderous riffs and Killers inspired dance elements, ‘Dead Club City’ is a record definitely worth a listen. A band to watch for the future that emerged on the digital music scene this year was The Last Dinner Party. Infectious aesthetics and melancholy melodies put them apart from many others breaking out at the moment. I’ll be fascinated to see this grass roots band grow and could be a future favourite. Finally who can forget the needle drops in Emerald Fennell’s latest film Saltburn. The coming of age psychological drama is probably my favourite film of the year and helped a long way by the excellent music choices. I’ve never been happier seeing Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s ‘Murder On The Dancefloor‘ getting the international recognition it so rightfully deserves.
Finishing up my 2023 Crème De La Crème is a bit of live music. Last year felt like a return to form for touring, while there is still a struggle for independent venues, the gigs I went to felt very much alive. However one gig in particular was exceptional and that was the Manchester date of Victoria Canal’s debut UK headline tour. I have never been to a live performance where the audience and artist felt so in tune. We all huddled together and sat down on the floor in the beautiful Deaf Institute’s Lodge and hung on every note that was played. It was such an intimate and wonderful evening I won’t forget, all constructed by Canal herself who were we all in awe of. If you get a chance to see her live in the future I wholeheartedly recommend it.
That was my very best of 2023, and I’m sure 2024 holds even more on the horizon. What were your musical highlights of the past year or maybe what are you looking forward to that is coming up, I’d love to know. Follow me on Instagram and Facebook to share your thoughts with me…