1300 Abby Holliday Ai Tomioka Akira Galaxy Anna Graves Arcy Drive Asha Imuno Balming Tiger Beauty Pill Bekah Bossard Cayo Coco Cosial d4vd eundohee Girl Scout Hannah Jadagu Ibibio Sound Machine Ice Spice Jazmin Bean Jo Hill Klwn Cat/Unruly Lizzy McAlpine milk. Mitch Rowland Momma Morat Moses Sumney Rum Jungle Sarah Kinsley Seafoam Walls Searows Subtle Orange underscores Winten
From all of us here at Atwood Magazine, we wish you a happy and healthy new year!
2023 has been an inspiring year for music. Living legends have further solidified their legacies, whilst fresh faces have become new favorites.
Atwood Magazine has always had at its core the mission to celebrate music of all genres, and this year we continued our goal to be a space of inclusivity and representation by consciously highlighting art and artists from around the world. The year in music was made all the more exciting because of the broad range of music we featured and focused on – from those familiar names in the Top 40, to creatives in the most underground, indie, and alternative of circles.
For so many of these artists, music is more than a mere means of self-expression; it is a vessel full of awesome potential. In recent years, it has felt increasingly important to acknowledge and elevate those who use their art as a voice for the disenfranchised; the oppressed; the underrepresented; and the underprivileged. This year, we continue to recognize those who speak for more than just themselves, while at the same time indulging in the familiar, timeless themes of love, loss, hope, connection, courage, change, and the never-ending pursuit of happiness.
As the year comes to a close, our staff took a step back to honor the songs, albums, EPs, concerts, and artist discoveries that had the greatest impact on our lives. Without further ado, Atwood Magazine is proud to present our curated list of 2023’s Artist Discoveries of the Year, in alphabetical order by artist.
From Ice Spice and Lizzy McAlpine to Abby Holliday, Akira Galaxy, d4vd, eundohee, Girl Scout, Hannah Jadagu, Mitch Rowland, Sarah Kinsley, and so many more fresh faces, these are our favorites – the new (to us) acts whose music and artistry influenced us the most. Please join us in celebrating 2023’s contributions to the music world!
Mitch Mosk, Editor-in-Chief
Click on the artist’s name to skip right to their entry!
1300 Abby Holliday Ai Tomioka Akira Galaxy Anna Graves Arcy Drive Asha Imuno Balming Tiger Beauty Pill Bekah Bossard Cayo Coco Cosial d4vd eundohee Girl Scout Hannah Jadagu Ibibio Sound Machine Ice Spice Jazmin Bean Jo Hill Klwn Cat / Unruly Lizzy McAlpine milk. Mitch Rowland Momma Morat Moses Sumney Rum Jungle Sarah Kinsley Seafoam Walls Searows Subtle Orange underscores Winten
1300 (pronounced one three hundred) is a five-piece Korean-Australian rap group based out of Sydney. Comprised of gayo, rako, DALI HART, pokari.sweat and Nerdie, the collective subverts from the typical rap group ideologies and incorporates hyperpop sounds and a refreshing take on hip-hop. Nerdie and pokari.sweat produces for the group, DALI HART and rako focuses on the vocal and dance aspect while gayo is their main rapper. This group broke into the scene in 2021 and has taken Australia by storm. Their impact is starting to travel and their latest release this year “Lalaland.” This track has a darker color than their previous work. Between the English and Korean lyrics, they paint the picture of the dystopian world we live in and the anxiety the modern day can bring. Their sound is noisy, busy yet put together and sets them apart from their counterparts. The 1300 was an essential addition to my playlists in 2023 and is a group to watch in the upcoming year.
I discovered Abby Holliday, one of Atwood’s 2023 artists to watch, when another favorite, Lizzy McAlpine, posted “Ohio Laundry Room” on her Instagram story. From the first listen of this sad but perfect song, I was hooked. Holliday’s unique sound is nothing short of alluring. With layered vocals, cutting lyrics, and two stunning albums released over the past two years, this artist is one we are so happy we’ve been introduced to, and we cannot wait to hear what she has in store for 2024!
Ai Tomioka is the embodiment of easy to listen J-Pop. The Japanese singer blew up this year with her track “Good bye-bye.” The talks about unrequited love through her soft vocals and simple melody. The artist has grown her social media presence in the last two years, gaining fans from many different countries. Her most popular song charted higher in Korea and Taiwan than in her home country of Japan. As a lover of indie pop, her music fits right into the category of songs that I play throughout the day. Her songs are perfect for the background of your showers, cooking and other random daily activities to provide a soft and warm backing track. Her social media numbers continue to rise and she is garnering attention across the globe.
After randomly coming across a series of covers that Akira did and posted on Instagram back in 2020, I was instantly hooked on her vocal tone and approach towards music, which celebrates all that is eclectic, lush, and hypnotically dreampop. All this to say, I have been patiently waiting for her to release her own music for a while now, and to my delight and surprise she released three songs this year- two of which are original and one is a cover of a song by Massive Attack – each one is precisely crafted and completely Akira Galaxy.
Between her stunning vocals, incredibly shot videos, production that just sends you into a tailspin of wonder as you are hurled into a beautifully set world, and intricate lyrical prowess – Galaxy is one that I think everyone should keep an ear open for as she continues to make her mark on music. If her releases of this year have anything to say about what we can expect from her debut EP that is set to release at the top of the coming year, I’d say we are all in for a treat.
Anna Graves is a singer-songwriter from Minnesota who came onto the scene this year with two songs, “Easy For You” and “In The Wild” that are captivating in their storytelling and in the imagery that they evoke. Signed to Lava Records (an Island Records subsidiary), her voice is young but full of soul, and recalls singer-songwriter greats like Tori Amos and Tracy Chapman.
“Easy For You” is a smooth, supple ode to releasing feelings of the past in order to move forward with a clean slate, while “In The Wild” brings forth imagery of barren backwoods and forests with something scintillating hidden just beneath the surface, itching to be released; it presents a firebrand kind of skepticism, in stark contrast to a realist’s perspective on optimism. These acoustic gems reflect Anna’s process of finding creative inspiration while outdoors in fresh air. They sound primed and ready to be listened to around a campfire, or in a truck bed on a warm night watching the fireflies, or just on a leisurely cruise down the backroads. Anna’s potential is limitless, and these songs are clear indicators of that. She has a relatability and sensitivity in her writing that is bound to connect with countless audiences. She is a singer-songwriter worth keeping a pulse on; I am very much looking forward for her future releases.
Make no mistake, Arcy Drive are going to be the band you hear on your radio, in your headphones, on your TV and on a festival stage near you in no time at all. The energetic group of barely 22-year-olds have burst onto the scene, selling out 500-capacity rooms and drawing crowds far from its home confines of Long Island. First, they did it with no proper EP to their credit and then, well, Beach Plum came out and the band took off like a rocket ship. That run includes sold-out shows at the hallowed Bowery Ballroom in New York City and a long-awaited return to the Big Apple with a late December show at Baby’s All Right. The crowd was hooked on every word, every note — and soon enough, we’d wager, you’ll feel the same way.
LA based genre fusion savant Asha Imuno should be on your radar. Releasing three outstanding tracks this year – “FLORIDA WATER,” “DID I CALL AT A BAD TIME,” and “PUSHING BUTTONS” – Imuno is paving a thrilling path for his upcoming album Pins and Needles with each track he has released overflowing with celestial harmonies, euphoric beats and an intoxicating flow. An effortless fusion of hip hop and R&B is created in each and every Asha Imuno track that leaves you wanting more. With each release Imuno reveals a fresh and innovative take on what R&B fusion can be.
Balming Tiger refuse to label themselves into any one genre. That’s just as well, because from the beginning of their debut record January Never Dies, you’re assaulted with sporadic jazz trumpets, ice-cold rap verses and midnight soul breakdowns. And that’s just the first song! The complexity and range of their sound unfurls with each track, and by the end it’s like an entire music festival condensed into 45 minutes. One thing you can say with confidence about Balming Tiger, however, is that they’re a lot of fun.
A musical collective of anything up to a dozen members at a time, Balming Tiger were formed in Seoul in 2018, but more recently came to prominence after their single, Sexy Nukim, featuring RM of the ubiquitous K-Pop group BTS, gained them global attention. Since then they’ve been in the studio and come out with the long-anticipated January Never Dies. Such a range of styles can only come from a true collective spirit, and while there’s a trio of musicians at the centre of it all, it’s clear that many creative minds come together to produce the crazy and varied sound of Balming Tiger.
I will openly admit I am taking liberties with the very idea of a “new artist” by talking about Chad Clark’s project Beauty Pill, but thanks in part to the anthology of their material from the early 2000s, Blue Period, as well as a limited edition reissue of the group’s second full-length, Describes Things As They Are, originally released in 2015, Beauty Pill was a “new to me” artist that I discovered this year. Clark, a legend in the Washington D.C. punk and post-punk scene from the 1990s and into the 2000s for his engineering work, formed Beauty Pill after the dissolution of the other, somewhat similarly minded outfit, Smart Went Crazy.
The lore about Clark, himself, and his ongoing health issues has sidelined Beauty Pill as an active project for a number of years, but thanks to both reissues, this year, he, and the band, are getting the attention they deserve. Both collections are so diverse they sound like they were recorded by two, totally different bands. At times moody and dissonant, at times shimmering and dreamy, at times dizzying, unpredictable, and rollicking, the band’s intelligence and dynamicism are something to behold.
Exeter’s Bekah Bossard was my very first “artist-to-watch” discovery this year, and so it feels only fitting that they would grace this special year-end list, some nine months later. The American-British singer/songwriter has a penchant for the intimate, the vulnerable, and all-consuming: Their music blankets the ears, smothering our souls with breathtakingly bold instrumental work and spine-chilling lyrics.
They debuted their music project earlier this year with the glistening and gut-wrenching song, “What You Wanted,” which they wrote about their coming out experience, the rejection they faced in response, and how they had to come to terms with their inability to change those people’s minds. I then fell headfirst for the beautifully intimate and achingly raw “Four Walls,” an ode to their own anxiety and depression, as well as a nod to those who were there for them in their darkest moments.
Some months (and several singles) later, and October saw the release of Bossard’s shiver-inducing debut EP Alone With My Own Thoughts, which – as the title suggests – sees them dwelling in a heavy headspace as they build a truly breathtaking foundation. From the tender turmoil of “The One” to the visceral, unrelenting ache of “Stranger to Myself” – a song with the power to stop time and turn a loud room silent – Alone With My Own Thoughts is a head-turning introduction to everything there is to love about Bekah Bossard, a truly limitless artist I can’t wait to hear more from in the years to come!
Cayo Coco is unlike any other artist I know. This enigmatic musician is intriguingly ambiguous, yet comfortingly familiar, delivering songs which strike a chord with listeners from all walks of life. The man behind this musical project is Los Angeles based multi-instrumentalist and producer Lumen Loraine. Originally from Indiana, Loraine set out to tell his own stories of healing and inner-exploration in the hopes to encourage others to let go and embark on a journey of self-discovery. His thought-provoking messages are encompassed within his new album, Cosmic Healing, where 11 indie/alt songs will simultaneously be our new favorite playlist additions and guide us through the ups and downs of life. “Haunt” delves deep into cosmic questioning, as Loraine highlights the importance of turning a blind eye to all the nuances that mean so little in the grander scheme of things. Listening to Cayo Coco is like free therapy!
There’s an intimacy and an immediacy to Cosial’s music; from the five tracks featured on this past spring’s soul-stirring Sports EP, to July’s stunning, confessional standalone single “In View,” everything Cece Fallow touches aches with an entrancing warmth and tenderness, as if she’s pouring the contents of her soul into each note and every line. The Manchester, UK-based 19-year-old’s brand of indie pop is charming, unrelenting, and unfiltered: Every second feels at once catchy and cathartic as Fallow channels her own teenage angst, raw emotion, and heart-on-sleeve passion into a charming, churning eruption of beautiful sound. Cosial is without a doubt an artist worth paying special attention to from here on out – so pour out a “Pity Drink,” write something in “Pool Chalk,” get your hands dirty in the “Mud,” and listen to Cosial “today.”
Singer/songwriter d4vd is taking over charts, TikTok and all of my playlists. The 18-year-old from Houston, Texas started his career unexpectedly when his gaming videos for Fortnite on YouTube constantly got flagged for copyright infringement. When his mother suggested he make his own music, he began recording on BandLab in his sister’s walk-in closet. It’s in that very closet where his first EP Petals to Thorns was created. Since then, d4vd released a second EP The Lost Petals, has been on a sold-out tour, accompanied SZA on her tour and his songs “Romantic Homicide” and “Here With Me,” became chart hits.
d4vd’s music takes on a variety of genres and themes. As he writes about relatable topics such as love and heartache, his music is something that many people can connect to. When talking about Petals to Thorns in an interview with GQ, d4vd said, “I place the tracks in order from the love songs to the heartbreak. It’s like looking at a rose at face value. I’m looking at those beautiful petals, but I’m going to pick it up and get stabbed. I want you to listen to it, feel super happy in the beginning, and then in the middle of it, there’s a switch. It leaves you reflective, like you’re looking at your hand and wondering how such a beautiful thing could hurt you.” That’s what’s so intriguing and the beautiful thing about d4vd and his music: his thoughtfulness and authenticity perforating through mesmerizing artistry. From a sonically diverse discography to the character arcs made in his music videos, he thinks of it all and creates a world full of deep emotion to get lost in.
There’s something to be said about the power of music to influence our mood: A sad song can break us down, just as a happy one can build us back up again – and that’s exactly what South Korean singer/songwriter eundohee had in mind when writing and recording her new EP. A cathartic, visceral record of awakening and inner reckoning, Kookaburra lifts us up through achingly intimate and spirited indie folk music full of heart, hope, and raw, unfiltered emotion.
Released in May via Beeline Records, Kookaburra is a hauntingly beautiful, intentional, and invigorating exhale from an artist quickly finding her voice in the alternative space. It’s also an enchanting, entrancing introduction for those unfamiliar with South Korea’s eundohee, whose music bridges indie folk / indie rock divide. Arriving two long years after her debut album Unforeseen, Kookaburra marks an artistic evolution and expansion as eundohee delves deeper into her own psyche and past experiences than ever before, using her music not only as a vehicle for sonic expression, but as a vessel for therapeutic release as well.
It takes a delicate touch to evoke the sense of wonder, vulnerability, and longing that radiates throughout eundohee’s music. She sets a powerful scene with the EP’s glistening opener “Nothing Lasts Forever,” and delivers tender melodies and rich, radiant harmonies on the aptly-titled (and equally stirring) finale “Surrender.” The journey from one to the other is one of emotional and musical movement: How can one not smile while listening to the sweeter sounds of “She & I”? “Hummingbird” is a moody indie folk whisper that fills the room with the weight of a shout; eundohee aches with raw, heartfelt, and exposed emotion as she compares herself to these finger-sized flying phenomena, asking, “Can I be a hummingbird? I’ll do my best anyway,” in a chorus that feels as soft as it is stunning.
But the record’s true highlight, in my opinion, is its captivating middle track, “Ah Ha Ha” – a hushed indie rock fever dream that’s half-sarcastic, half-confessional, and fully intoxicating. The South Korean singer/songwriter leans into the deep end of life, pulling herself out of her own slump by sheer force of will and a little musical magic. Brimming with beautiful self-reflections and unapologetic about mental health, Kookaburra invites us to join eundohee and dwell in our own depths. I’m honored to have been introduced to this striking, seductive talent this year.
It took less than a year for Girl Scout to become one of my favorite indie rock bands, thanks in large part to the release of not one, but two EPs in a seven-month span. 2023. February’s Real Life Human Garbage and September’s Granny Music are both instant standouts and easy favorites, not to mention the perfect introduction.
Half a year isn’t that long, but it’s all the time the Swedish indie rock band – already a two-time Atwood Editor’s Pick – needed to make one helluva follow-up. Girl Scout’s fire burns bolder and brighter than ever on Granny Music, a sonically and emotionally charged five-track EP that hits hard and leaves a lasting mark. Aching from the inside out with raw passion, heated lyrics, and an infectious, soul-stirring energy, Granny Music builds upon the promise of Girl Scout’s debut EP, ensuring their rightful place as a top artist discovery of 2023, an artist-to-watch in 2024, and beyond!
Released September 27 via MADE Records, Granny Music is unapologetic, uncompromising, and utterly irresistible – a breathtakingly dynamic, dramatic set of songs that feels at once tender and tough, catchy and cathartic, loud and soft. You’ll get no Thin Mints, Samoas, Tagalongs or Do-si-dos from these Girl Scouts – but what they lack in sweet treats, they make up for in – well – sweet treats: An unforgettable indie rock rollercoaster of sound awaits all those who lend this band twenty minutes of their time, and give Granny Music the proverbial spin.
The journey from the intoxicating, attitude-packed “Monster” to the achingly visceral “Mothers & Fathers” is filled with sparkling moments of connection, upheaval, and cinematic release. The EP’s runaway hit thus far, “Millionaire” is a vulnerable and beautifully expressive reflection on childhood innocence (and the loss thereof). Elsewhere, “Boy in Blue” is as churning as it is disarming: Searing guitars and unrelenting drums pack a seismic punch on a song that’s as unstoppable as it is undeniably strong – a welcome assault on the ears and soul alike.
And then there’s “Bruises,” perhaps Girl Scout’s best song of all ten released to date. An impassioned emotional declaration of love and affection ready to light up stadiums and hearts alike, the gentle giant aches with raw feeling as Jansson spills her soul through bittersweet lyrics full of pain and yearning.
From declaring themselves monsters to ruminating on the impacts of a happy marriage versus divorce on the kids, Girl Scout certainly cast a wide net with their sophomore EP – coming up for air with five magnificent songs I’ve been playing all (half)year long. They’ve been given the same “shooting star” status that Wet Leg got in 2021, and for good reason: Girl Scout’s star is rising fast as lightning. True to themselves and to absolutely no one else, the Swedish indie rock band are in a league of their own, and I can’t wait for all the head-turning musical adventures yet to come. Until then, I’ll be unashamedly playing Granny Music – and Real Life Human Garbage – on repeat.
It’s always a welcoming feeling when you readily and immediately connect with an artist on multiple levels. This happened for me over the course of this year with Hannah Jadagu, a 20-year old musician based in New York and originally from Texas (also featured as one of Atwood Magazine’s 2023 Artists to Watch!) Her style of indie rock recalls much of the music I listened to in some of my formative years, and she brings a perspective that’s very accessible and candid while also holding intriguing complexities, both lyrically and musically, that lend well to repeat listening for comprehension. This is a great combination for a musician to have, as there are always new mysteries to uncover. It’s been so refreshing to watch the trajectory of her career, especially since her debut album, Aperture, came out in May (via Sub Pop Records).
There are very cool musical choices within this album that render it kind of genreless in the best way (ambiance, reverb, distortion, choral arrangements) particularly on “Warning Sign,” which deals with the impending dissolution of a friendship or relationship. There’s a walking-on-eggshells feeling underscoring the jazzy beat and guitars, and the warbling synths in the production. Lyrically, there’s unabashed confessionalism, reserved coyness, and personal discoveries that feel like they’ve been made in real time. She builds off the momentum of her very successful 2021 EP What Is Going On? by adding richer production and textural choices to the music. There’s at once a sweetness and sageness to Hannah’s voice. Aperture brings the sound of a songwriter and musician unearthing her personal power during the pivotal, sometimes chaotic time period of your 20s. With this particular mix of choices and effort (and effortlessness!) Hannah Jadagu is definitely poised to take the music world by storm in the years to come.
Ibibio Sound Machine are a London-based electronic afro-funk band fronted by the magnetic London-born Nigerian singer Eno Williams. I was lucky enough to discover them at a festival last summer (TODAYS Festival in Turin), and they haven’t left my dancing playlists since. Their energy is just too much. It’s perfect. It’s a fascinating blend of synth pop, disco, post punk, tribal rhythms and electro-funk. Once you start listening to them you never stop, you literally get hypnotized, and you can’t do anything but dance. Truly a shame to have discovered them only now since they have been in business for almost 10 years, but better late than never for sure! Not knowing about them at all for all my life would have been a horrible crime.
In the style of Lil Wayne throughout much of the ’00s (definitely on the right track, in other words!), Ice Spice managed to become one of the most relevant and talked-about rappers in a year that she didn’t even release a full-length album in. Other ways she made her way to the top include: putting out a poppin’ EP, Like..? at the top of the calendar; scoring a number of guest verses alongside bigger stars throughout the year, most notably Taylor Swift on the “Karma” remix and Nicki Minaj on “Barbie World”; and closing out 2023 by joining Doja Cat as the opening act of the latter’s Scarlet Tour. Given all of this momentum, it’ll be exciting to see Ice Spice keep the success going strong in the near future, and the rap community will be waiting with open arms once her debut LP finally arrives!
thout a doubt one of 2024’s most striking artists to watch, Jazmin Bean defies genre – and definition: The London-based multidisciplinary singer/songwriter and makeup artist has emerged over the past three years with irresistible melodies and emotionally charged performances that, like Billie Eilish did with her own debut album in 2019, bridge the alternative/pop gap with unapologetic fervor and undeniable grace.
This summer saw the release of the stunning pop-punk eruption “Piggie” and the spellbinding fever dream “Favourite Toy,” which were followed by October’s brutally honest and breathtakingly vulnerable single “Terrified.” “It’s an inner reckoning and a raw embrace all at once,” I wrote of the single earlier this fall. “A cinematic and smoldering alternative anthem to love’s breathtaking beauty.” An emotionally charged eruption of ’90s-era Britpop warmth, “Terrified” is scary good; deep in our bones, we know love is terrifying, and yet it takes a special voice to capture the shock, and the true weight, of that terror. 20-year-old Jazmin Bean is that voice, spilling their soul through visceral, unfiltered, no-holds-barred lyrics and a dynamic, deeply emotive and instantly memorable vocal performance that hits hard and leaves a lasting mark.
And I’m terrified stream running down my leg in sunshine
and I want to tell you how I think you’re oh so sublime
want to have you to myself, but it’s not easy as pie
but to say I’m not terrified would be big f’ing lie
And I’m scowling at the sun while you’re fishing out my smile
And to hold you for forever would be all worth the while
I’ve been killed before but maybe just maybe it’s this time
I could live without being terrified all the f’ing time
Signed to Interscope Records in the US and Island Records in the UK, Bean is sure to make a massive impact in 2024 with their forthcoming debut album Traumatic Livelihood, due out in February.
Jo Hill wants you to shout her songs at the top of your lungs. A “small town queen” from the English countryside, Hill is a big personality making music that feels larger-than-life. Her latest release was the soundtrack to my summer, and now it’s keeping me warm in the winter months: A passion-fueled indie pop fever dream, Cinematic Baby is a hard-hitting and deeply vulnerable record of our endless days and sleepless nights. Euphoric and aching in all the right ways, it’s a catchy and cathartic sonic roller-coaster – and it just may house your favorite new tunes, too!
Released June 16 via Parlophone Records, Cinematic Baby is a truly electric work of art. Jo Hill’s sophomore EP arrived just half a year after her debut EP Down at The Res first introduced the Cheddar-born, London-based singer/songwriter to the world, and sees Hill coming into her own with a singular, emotionally-charged voice and equally savage sonics. Her dynamic, pop-savvy music is a bold, beautiful cacophony of raw feeling and fervor mixed into one: As uncompromising as they are relentless, Cinematic Baby‘s five songs prove to be an instantly memorable experience, showcasing Hill’s artistic depth, her stylistic range, and her unfiltered, soul-stirring vocal talents.
As for highlights, I’d be remiss not to mention the EP’s lead single (and Atwood Editor’s Pick) “Off the 45”: A feverish eruption of raw energy and heated emotion, “Off the 45” is a seismic reckoning channeled through some of the most searing music you’ve ever heard. Hill (gracefully) loses her cool in a flash of stunning indie rock as she revs her engines and blasts off into the night at full steam. It’s as exhilarating as it is achingly visceral – a cathartic, rousing anthem for all of us who need to let loose our inner tension and turmoil:
Or I’ll be driving off the 45
Out of my mind
And I’ll take it to the edge tonight
Run the red lights
Hit up a couple slutty guys for the last time
Anything to make you mine
Anything to change your mind
Or I’ll be driving off the 45
With Cinematic Baby, Jo Hill has effectively established herself as a standout, one-of-a-kind voice making emotionally-driven feel-good music the world needs now more than ever. Bridging the intimate and the universal, Hill’s songs tap a sweet spot of sun-kissed rhapsody, and from the very first moments of the vivid, visceral “Wild West Country” to those final breaths of her soulful, heart-on-sleeve “The Circle,” Cinematic Baby proves an unparalleled force of passion, energy, emotion, and raw, vulnerable humanity. I love everything she’s done thus far, and I cannot wait to hear what Hill comes up with next!
Picked up on a whim because I liked the look of the artwork, Klwn Cat (producer) and Unruly (MC) came out with Don’t Go Outside this spring, a darkly conscious album that verges on the progressive at times. The mid-section run gives out some easy hooks to tie everything together, but otherwise it’s a challenging, moody set of soundscapes. Unruly’s style, though he is barely imprinted on the scene, is already fine-tuned, and the confidence in his own delivery is evident throughout. He raps at a constant, unperturbed level, letting his words stand proud at the top of the mix.
Fans of MF DOOM’s Vaudeville Villain/Venomous Villain era will find Don’t Go Outside instantly familiar; it has the same blackened, malevolent quality, with hood-up, in-the-shadows storytelling. It’s fierce and subtle all at once. Both Klwn Cat and Unruly have been involved in other projects over the past few years, but this is their first full-length together, and hopefully not the last. These guys offer something a little more considered than the alternative hip hop zeitgeist, and anyone who likes the harder side of the scene will do well to follow their progress.
Singer/songwriter Lizzy McAlpine was first introduced to the world when she released her album Give Me A Minute in 2020. The about 44-minute record was absolutely beautiful, filled with such relatable and creative storytelling and bonded by vocals as smooth as honey. So it was no surprise that when she released her second album five seconds flat in 2022, the world fell even more in love with McAlpine’s music. But this year, she’s gone to new heights within her career and has established her space within the industry.
“Ceilings,” a song off five seconds flat, became a TikTok phenomenon in the beginning of 2023 as people recorded themselves to the dreamlike lyrics. They start off by walking slowly to the camera lip syncing, “You kiss me in your car and it feels like the start of a movie I’ve seen before.” Then, as the beat picks up and McAlpine sings, “But it’s not real/ And you don’t exist/ And I can’t recall the last time I was kissed,” they turn around and take off in a dramatic sprint. This led to the song’s placement on top charts, and on July 25, the track turned platinum. McAlpine’s smooth and blissful voice was also featured on multiple projects this year. She released “You Could Start A Cult” with Niall Horan and “Call Your Mom” with Noah Kahan. She co-wrote “Hold On” for an Apple TV+ series titled “Dear Edward,” she went on tour and she played festivals such as bleached. 2023 seems to be just the beginning for the upcoming artist.
“Forgot the meaning of humanity – I got it back on a FaceTime call,” Mark McKenna sings, fully charged and hot on the mic at the start of milk.’s third EP. His voice is urgent, conveying the strain of an invisible ache that’s come to feel all too commonplace; it’s a feeling we all know only too well. “It’s something brittle like vanity,” he continues. “Look at all of us together being self involved. There’s a virtual world and we’re living in it.“
So begins 3, the EP., milk.’s most ambitious and enthralling record to date: A cinematic set of shiver-inducing indie pop songs dwelling in the deep end of the emotional pool, the Irish band’s latest effort is a spellbinding fever dream leaning into life’s big questions – reckoning with identity, existence, self-actualization and survival in a disconnect world. Delivered through milk.’s charismatic and increasingly recognizable indie rock veneer, 3, the EP. hits hard and leaves an instant, lasting mark.
milk. debuted in 2019 and have two additional EPs under their belt, which makes me relatively late to the party on them –and I’m admittedly still discovering new favorite songs from their back catalog – but I’m I’ve discovered them when I did; 3, the EP. is less than a month old, but the stunning record made it onto my Best EPs of the Year list as well.
From craving “Human Contact” and navigating identity crises (“I Think I Lost My Number Can I Have Yours?”) to exploring how our identities change depending on our environment (as one might feel in a big city like “London”), and the ways in which we exist in the virtual world (“It’s The Internets World We’re Just Living In It”), milk. leave few stones unturned as they expose their innermost selves, challenging our preconceived notions of life, presence, and being, all in the hopes of finding something of substance in the ephemeral, disconnected world of the 2020s.
3, the EP. is a vibrant and strikingly cohesive seven-track set that, while perfect for fans of The 1975, The xx, The Japanese House, and Holly Humberstone, stands out on its own merits as well. milk. are carving themselves a healthy niche within the indie music realm, making an impact through their distinct sound as well as their hard-hitting songwriting. I don’t care if it’s 4, the EP. or a full length album; I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is more milk.!
You’ve more than likely heard the name Mitch Rowland, but if you haven’t, I’ll fill you in, he has masterfully played the guitar in Harry Styles’ band for several years now as well as worked on various tracks with Styles on each of his albums. This year, though, Rowland set out on his own and released his first solo debut album called ‘Come June.’ It comes as no surprise that the album is one to behold as every bit of it displays a keen sense of balance and pure love for music, but it still must be said. Without a doubt, as time ticks on into the new year and years to come, I will be continuing to wholeheartedly follow Mitch’s career wherever it takes him next.
“From Nirvana and Veruca Salt to Pavement and Liz Phair,” Brooklyn-based rock trio Momma do it all – and they do it flawlessly.
The band has been around for a while, with three records under their belt since releasing their first single in 2018. Supporting acts from Foals and Alex G to Death Cab for Cutie, Momma have made significant personal and career milestones in 2023. I actually found out about them through my Discover Weekly on Spotify very recently, as their latest single, “Sunday,” led me tumbling down the rabbit hole, that ultimately became the pipeline to my obsession with the rest of their discography. With their Household Name dream, unfettered rock ‘n’ roll essence, and undeniable musical talent, I can say with confidence that the band is on their way to selling out shows of their own and ascending the alternative charts – I swear on my Momma!
I love how international my coverage for Atwood has managed to be over the years, and I happily managed to extend into South America when I was pitched Morat, a folk/rock group from Bogotá who had just put out a new album, SI AYER FUERA HOY, and were now on an international tour promoting it. Discovering the wonderful energy and musical craftmanship embedded into SI AYER FUERA HOY was exhilerating; seeing it all in live format when the Columbian band performed at Big Night Live in Boston this past February was even more so. Ten months later, I can still confidently say that Morat was one of the musical discoveries of 2023 for which I am most thankful.
It’s very embarrassing to say that I discovered one of my top artists of this year (hell, maybe closer to the last five) through HBO’s “The Idol,” but Moses Sumney certainly makes that easy to forget.
The Ghanaian-American singer/songwriter makes music a spiritual experience – one that is not solely abstract, but one felt all through your physicality, sending chills down spines and goosebumps up arms. Sumney’s emotional range is translated vocally and instrumentally, employing harps, synths, flutes, and trap beats to make something entirely unique, cinematic and sensual, bold and breathtaking. His hypnotic, soulful timbre, shy but powerful, is more than just a vessel for his musicality, it expresses emotions words alone fail to communicate (and that’s not even accounting for his lyricism/songwriting ability, which, by the way, is nothing short of poetic). Visionary and artistic, visually, musically, and otherwise, Moses Sumney takes the cake for my Artist Discovery of the Year.
Australia is home to a ton of great bands, but one that caught my eye this year are Newcastle based, Rum Jungle. With the delivery of their seven-track EP, Hold Me In the Water, this sun-doused band are making sure that everyone knows who they are. A heady blend of surf rock and alt pop, their smile-inducing sound is addictive and charming. The four-piece instantly connect to their listeners through relatable lyrics which don’t shy away from both the highs and lows in life. Letting you into their world, you feel as if you know them, or at least want to know them, as the Rum Jungle lads seem like they know how to have fun. Rum Jungle are all about having fun and that’s exactly what they want their music to encompass.
“I wanna be the king of your heart,” Sarah Kinsley belts out in her track, “The King” — rest assured, she has been the ruler for quite some time now. This rising artist never fails to charm us with her whimsical melodies and dedication to putting out authentic art. After her track, “The King,” saw virality on TikTok, audiences began enthusiastically picking up what she was putting down. A couple of words come to mind when thinking of Kinsley’s sound: ethereal, atmospheric, mind altering, hypnotic — need I go on?
A classic renaissance woman, Kinsley wears many hats when it comes to her career — like sewing a monster suit for her “Lovegod” music video and self-producing her discography. Kinsley’s sincerity and passion rings clear throughout her every endeavor; she proudly wears her heart on her sleeve as she presents the deepest parts of herself to those willing to listen. And boy oh boy, do we love to listen.
My first exposure to Seafoam Walls took place at the Unknown Mortal Orchestra show at the coveted 9:30 Club in Washington DC. I couldn’t even get past the first song of their set without doing a deep dive, mainly stemming from confusion as to how there hadn’t been more buzz afforded toward the Miami-based quartet. Self categorized as “Caribbean Jazzgaze,” the band focuses on a healthy concoction of psychedelic guitar, synthy drum pad lines and an earnest, spellbinding vocal performance by project founder Jayan Bertrand. And don’t take my word for it – Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore placed the band’s debut album XVi on his 2021 Daydream Library Series label, resulting in attention from Afropunk, Spin, and Pitchfork. Placing the finishing touches on their second album, the group’s exclusivity in its pioneer movement of fusing shoegaze, jazz, psychedelia and sounds of the Caribbean open the door for full-fledged experimentation, unpredictability, and chilled out groove. Seafoam Walls are unequivocally different and will continue to capitalize upon their entrancing tone and restless nature.
Poignant, haunting and profoundly honest, Searows’ Alec Duckart possesses a unique gift for making the mundane intensely profound. Featuring earthy and grounded instrumentals to resonant vocals each of Searows’ release are a delicate exploration reckoning with one’s self and their surroundings relationships. Searows never fails to creates an immersive soundscape that envelops the listener into his enthralling world. Releasing his sophomore LP, End of The World this year, Searows creates an enchanting and emotionally charged soundscape that will leave you gasping for air. Standout tracks like “I have more than enough” and “Collector” deliver a raw sincerity and soulfulness that leaves listeners in awe.
California-based indie band Subtle Orange is teetering on the edge of breaking through the DIY scene; and not a matter of if, but when. They have all the right pieces, starting with a uniquely dynamic lead vocalist in Dane Schumacher – whose tenor range features the captivating ability of casually jumping between octaves while dancing around tempo and key changes, shunning the seemingly outdated 4-chord, chorus pedal saturated style of surf indie. The chemistry between Schumacher and the rest of the band is foundationally sound; blossoming friendship from a young age has translated into vibrant live performances, most notably playing sold out shows at The Echo and The Moroccan Lounge (opening gigs for The Moss and Teenage Priest). Their sound is a combination of bright and refreshing guitar melodies, head-bobbing drum lines and vocals showcasing intricate harmonies and layers, fusing vintage 60’s rock with surf pop. I’m certainly intrigued to see how 2024 will play out for these young, talented fellows.
underscores is getting a deserved pop after theneedledrop (Anthony Fantano), Slant, and a few other publications reviewed her newest project. At only 23 years of age, the future is bright for April Harper Grey. It is next to impossible to release a record that sounds like nothing else these days but underscores achieved that on her 2023 album, Wallsocket. The closest comparison would be 100 Gecs (who also released a phenomenal hyperpop album this year) or Jane Remover, but Wallsocket is unique in its cohesiveness and thematic explorations from top to bottom.
Hyperpop is the type of music that people over a certain age might listen to and think that the new generation has lost it, but the genre is this generation’s response to growing up in an internet culture, where boundaries between genres no longer exist and young adults have been exposed to all the world’s issues from a young age. Grey’s influences, unsurprisingly, range from Sky Ferreira to Jason Isbell to Imogen Heap. If you are looking for something shocking, sonically explorative, but also well thought out and soothing give Wallsocket a chance.
Achingly intimate and beautifully raw, Winten’s debut album is a soul-stirring embrace of vulnerability and all those things that make us human: Our propensity to grow and to change; our ability to empathize and connect deeply with others, as well as ourselves; and our inevitable gravitation toward love, in its many warm and wondrous forms. Born out of the endless push-and-pull between fragility and inner strength, fracture and wholeness, Waving to My Girl is a breathtakingly bold, brutally honest indie pop record of unfiltered reflection and real-time reckoning. Winten finds her voice as a beacon of simultaneous upheaval and empowerment, crafting a tender and at times turbulent sonic space that feels cathartic and comforting even as she pours her demons out in song.
Independently released August 18, Waving to My Girl is a visceral and vulnerable masterpiece: An enchanting full-length debut from one of Naarm / Melbourne’s most promising new artists to watch, who has consistently charmed our ears and moved our hearts over the past year. A multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter, photographer, and filmmaker, Bridgette Winten has steadily introduced herself to the world through diary-like lyrics and impassioned, heart-on-sleeve performances that promise to leave audiences winded and spellbound.
Waving to My Girl is cinematic in scope, yet intimate by nature – its songs exposing the human behind the curtain. A radiant anthem full of passion, weight, and emotional fervor, “Waving to My Girl” is without a doubt one of the highlights on this album – and there are several worth mentioning, from the hushed and heartfelt ballad “Holidays” (which Winten describes as a “twin to ‘Anything You Like’”) and the sonically charged, Western warmth-infused “Fireworks & Lemon Pie,” to the stunning, penultimate piano instrumental “Mic Test/Peach,” the liberation and self-empowerment anthem “Bad Ones,” and the sonically heavy, achingly cathartic finale, “Freckled Like an Orchid.”
With grace, vulnerability, and hard won effortlessness, Waving to My Girl hypnotizes the ears and seizes our hearts. From end to end, Winten’s debut album truly is a masterpiece of intimate, unfiltered songwriting, and visceral performance – and I’m honored to have stumbled upon her music, and become her fan this year.