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Hi, I'm Hunter, I DJ Storm Surge of Reverb on Mondays from 4-6pm. That show is all surf music, but this list is explicitly not!

2023 was a kind of weird one for me, musically. A lot of things I looked forward to hearing didn't really do much for me. Halfway through the year I was struggling to think of any that really stood out. And a lot of the bands on this list are bands that have been around forever. It's not that I didn't listen to more, that's just kinda how it turned out. Anyway, here are a bunch of records released this year that made an impression on me, in no order at all.

The Far Sound - The Far Sound

Music is great. I love sci-fi, particular aliens and other planets. Yet all the movies, TV shows, and video games I've played have never transported me to a place like this. A strange world, grand and mysterious, but unthreatening and lush. Musically, this takes advantage of the strangeness of pedal steel and synth, while also the comfort of a lightly-plucked banjo. My 2021 list included the record Gems and Minerals by Golden Brown which evoked something very similar, but this is a bit more melodic and I guess curated than the ambient take on that record. And despite its extra-terrestrial nature, I can't shake the feeling that it shares DNA with Friends of Dean Martinez, whose catalog I've worn down to exhaustion.

Goat - Medicine

When I first heard Goat's Commune and subsequently World Music I was blown away by their unhinged psychedelic fervor. But does that get old? Then they release Requiem, a much more subdued, acoustic take, and it fell completely flat with me. Then comes Oh Death just last year, which was a return to form that... felt like paint-by-numbers Goat. Why do I even bother? Because then they show up with Medicine, which feels somewhere in-between everything they've done, and it feels just right. Stated as a tribute to Swedish psychedelic groups that came before them, Medicine feels much less theatrical (not necessarily a bad thing for them), and more a work of practiced psychedelic musicians, giving their songs space and meaning.

The Free Music - Free Music (Part 1)

The Habibi Funk label has had a big year putting out a lot of stuff that's at least interesting if not great. This one is both. Great disco beat with the sort of horn section that makes you want to run a marathon, and some fantastic wailing on guitar. A Libyan artist whose work was all self-released to cassette, he was imprisoned two years for not "singing praises of Gaddafi" and then as part of his release agreement made an album praising Gaddafi. Apparently there are several volumes worth of music just as worthy as this compilation, so maybe we'll see them on this list again.

Sick Boss - Businessless

Released towards the end of this year when every megacorp seems to be shaking off hundreds of employees, this crunching, smoke-spewing record feels satirically apt. Being instrumental, that characterization is mostly driven by the band and album name, but regardless I found the industrial, jazzy noise of this album to be satisfyingly rude.

Bixiga 70 - Vapor

While Daptone Records' most prominent artist was Sharon Jones, there were a few artists whose impact was, I believe, understated. In this case I'm referring to Antibalas' role in a bump in afrobeat popularity, and Budos Band's redefining of a modern instrumental funk record. As with any trend, however, you either die as public interest fades, or mutate into something new. Budos, for instance, embraced the sound of Sabbath (and weirdly, so did Brownout). Bixiga 70 were always a bit different, stirring some Brazilian elements into into their Afro/Budo sound, but it feels as if they've been swimming in mutating ooze from the start, morphing into something more and more unexpected and undefinable, while staying surprisingly capable and biological, embracing electronic sounds in equal measure as celebrating the analog. I don't know what they are, but they keep the strength and triumph that Budos brought, the bridled energy of Afrobeat, and throw in.... something else.

Cable Ties - All Her Plans

To say that this sounds like Corin Tucker fronting Fugazi with flashes of Gang of Four sounds lazy. It's the punk equivalent of saying something like "If Kurt Cobain fronted The Beatles". But what's impressive here is how effective and genuine it all is. They may have graduated with top marks in punk school, but they understand the material and use it effectively rather than just studied regurgitation. Those vocal talents are impressive, but more impressive is how they can have simple lines like "I just want everything to change" hit with serious impact.

Woods - Perennial

I'm a pretty casual woods fan. Not counting their Dungen collaboration (which I listened to as a Dungen fan), the way that I knew them was as a falsetto bedroomy freak-folk twee kinda thing. Here, they've gone wide-open, with a sort of ambient americana sound that was absolutely perfect when I first heard it driving through rural Montana. I'm stunned at how a group that used to be VERY vocally-focused has such thoughtful and intricate instrumental arrangements, with a few tracks foregoing vocals entirely. They never get completely lost in the weeds though, and stay melodically very tuneful, sometimes even a little noisy. As far as I'm concerned they can ditch the experimentation and stay right here with this sound.

Baby Jesus - Rock & Roll Music

Dumb band name, afterthought album title, album full of garage punk loudness that only asks two brain cells of you, but that sort of thing usually takes a bit more care to pull off correctly. These are full-grown, well-written songs with guitar licks that scream well past your dermis and into your bones. Sometimes reminiscent of similarly smarter-than-they-present Black Lips' earlier records, but much more ready to party. Just listen to 5 seconds of "These Days", and if you're not onboard then I'm sorry.


Floating Action - Glacial Speed

Lo-fi and feel-good, easy and unserious in a way that's reminiscent of Beck, but most importantly the sort of record you can and very well might sing along to before you've even heard it once.

The New Pornographers - Continue as a Guest

23 years since their debut LP, having shed one of their core members long ago, I really didn't think we'd still be here still releasing enjoyable material. This is strikingly slow compared to their high voltage pop in their early 2000's output, perhaps weighed down by much more dense arrangements, but they can write a hook at any speed. Is this the place to start with New Pornographers? My word, no! But I don't think it's the place to end.

Film School - Field

I can appreciate a shoegaze record that just cranks up the noise and whispers inaudibly and rides on that, but it sure is nice to have actual well-written melodies too. Film School's gazings are claustrophic and dizzying while remaining dreamy. I was hoping that Slowdive would be on this list, but there are times on this record when you can pretend this *is* Slowdive.

Bloodshot Bill - Psyche-o-Billy

Bloodshot Bill has been around for a good while, but he only came into my world a few years ago, and with every new record I've heard since then I'm more convinced that he's a genius. His ability to swing between dumbass humor and genuine tunefulness evokes Bo Diddley, like when he builds a song around a doo-wop-styled vocal bassline of "I'm a Ding Dong". His Silly-billy sounds crass and inebriated, but if it's all accidental then lightning somehow has been striking consistently in this spot for 17 LPs.

Charif Megarbane - Marzipan

Another one on the Habibi Funk label! Charif has dubbed his music "Lebrary", the "leb" being Lebanese. It's hard to sum this up, as every track's got plenty of layers to it and rhythms playing off of each other, but it's funky, strange, dangerous and enchanting all at once. Should be a no-brainer for somebody with a few records put out by Sublime Frequencies.

Melody Fields - 1901 and 1991

I don't endorse putting out two LPs within a month of each other. Not even King Gizzard. But they're both great, unfortunately, so here they are. 1901 has that warm and fuzzy psychedelic mush to it that you feel like you can put in front of a Floyd-loving boomer and not scare them away. Or just tell somebody else that it's Brian Jonestown Massacre. 1991's title is a little more clear, with a bit more nod to some of music emerging from that time: Primal Scream, Ride, Catherine Wheel etc.

Deerhoof - Miracle-Level

Years ago I tweeted that I seem to enjoy every other Deerhoof album, and that The Magic (new at the time) was one that I did like. It wasn't the hugest compliment, but they retweeted it anyway! Well here I am again, with another Deerhoof that works for me after the last one fell flat. While I think they're very capable of writing a great melody, I feel like this is heading back towards their disjointed noisy affairs like Apple O'. It still sounds a little, well, older (see New Pornographers review), but it's no less enjoyable.

Penza Penza - Electricolorized

Every year something with Misha Panfilov finds its way on here. Penza Penza's fantastic debut sat somewhere between garage rock and funk, while Electrocolorized absorbs a bit more of Panfilov's psychedelic library tendencies for something much more loose and groovy. It's still outrageously weird and electric, full of fuzzy distortion and lo-fi instrumental screams.

The Counterfeit - 14 Killer Bullets from the Spaghetti West (Vol. 2)

The Counterfeit do covers of Spaghetti Western film themes, and they do it about as well as you can ask. They sound huge and energetic, and the subtle emotional nuances to their playing had me forgetting I wasn't listening to an original score. The selections are fantastic, including two of my lesser-known favorites ("Find a Man" and "Until the Last Shot"). Listen to this, enjoy it, then go and listen to the originals.

Marnie Stern - Comeback Kid

Seeing a new Marnie Stern record feels like seeing an old college friend. She's actually released a few records since her debut In Advance of a Broken Arm, but I didn't know that, and just seeing that name again brings me back to being a college radio music director in the mid-oughts, back when noisy spazz-punk was a pretty hot thing to be. Part of the claim-to-fame of that record was having Zach Hill on board, who since then has propelled to unexpected heights with Death Grips, but even at the time was at the forefront with his band Hella. He's not on this one, and I think that's absolutely fine: this record feels free of the competitive technical showcase that that scene demanded (though it's still VERY frantically fast and technically impressive), and is instead just a bit more wild and fun.

Explosions in the Sky - End

Explosions in the Sky came to represent instrumental post-rock, and as fatigue with the style set in they came to embody the "crescendo-core" complaint. End is a reminder of why they were at the top of that trend: they hit big feels and big sounds with a surprisingly basic setup and accessible arrangements. In a genre where "cinematic" is thrown around a lot, they strike me as Spielbergs: not as high-brow or understated as their veteran peers (GY!BE, Mogwai), but reliably effective. End is a surprisingly unsurprising record: it sits pretty comfortably next to "The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place", but I like that. I fondly remember the first time I heard this band, huddled up to my monitor in an unlit room, feeling like I was somewhere else entirely, and I'm happy to revisit that.

Misha Panfilov - Atl​â​ntico

I've already given Misha Panfilov a nod in this list, but I feel like this shouldn't get a snub just because he's appeared once. This is more of his wheelhouse lately, dreamy jazzy library stuff, but moments of bossa-nova and bluegrass pickin' show him continuing to challenge himself.

秘部痺れHIBUSHIBIRE - Magical Metamorphosis Third Eye

The last track is 20 minutes long and titled "Ayahuasca Witch Abduction". If you hear that and think "fuck yeah", then get in here, otherwise feel free to move along.


A few more that I didn't have much to say about, but like enough to mention

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