Atwood Magazine’s 2023 Songs of the Year

Atwood Magazine's 2023 Songs of the Year
Atwood Magazine's 2023 Songs of the Year
Abby Holliday Angie McMahon Asake BAILEN Beatenberg Becky Hill, Chase & Status Big Thief Billy Woods Blink-182 Boldy James boygenius Broken Record Charli Adams Chris Stapleton d4vd Danny Dwyer, Billy Lemos David Kushner Del Water Gap Depeche Mode Donna Missal Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors Dua Lipa Dylan Gossett Earthquake Lights Emei Glassio ft. Beauty Queen Gregory Alan Isakov Holly Humberstone Hozier Indigo De Souza Jelly Roll with Lainey Wilson Jo Hill Josephine Network Joy Oladokun JPEGMAFIA & Danny Brown Jungle Kali Uchis Kara Jackson Karol G & Shakira Kelela KIANA Knower Labrinth Little Fuss Mac DeMarco Maisie Peters Margo Cilker Misogi ft. No Rome MisterWives Mitski NCT DOJAEJUNG Noah Kahan Olive Louise Omar Apollo OTNES Party Nails Peggy Gou PVRIS Rainbow Kitten Surprise RiTcH The Rolling Stones Sabrina Carpenter Skrillex, Bibi Bourelly Stephen Sanchez Sufjan Stevens Sydney Sprague Taylor Swift The Aces The Alchemist and Earl Sweatshirt feat. MIKE The Armed The Beaches The Beatles The Gaslight Anthem The Japanese House The National The Staves The Warning Tinlicker ft. Tom Smith Troye Sivan wave to earth Wednesday Zach Bryan

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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, EPsconcerts, 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 Songs of the Year, in alphabetical order by artist.

Featuring songs by Hozier, Mitski, Noah Kahan, Holly Humberstone, boygenius, KAROL G & Shakira, Maisie Peters, Charli Adams, Dua Lipa, Kali Uchis, The Rolling Stones, Joy Oladokun, BAILEN, d4vd, The Japanese House, Labrinth, Big Thief, The Gaslight Anthem, Del Water Gap, The Beatles, and so many more, these are our favorites – the tracks that influenced and inspired us the most. Please join us in celebrating 2023’s contributions to the music world!

Mitch Mosk, Editor-in-Chief

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,Atwood Magazine

Atwood’s 2023 Music of the Year 



2023’s Best Songs of the Year

Click on the artist’s name to skip right to their song’s entry!

Abby Holliday, Angie McMahon, Asake, BAILEN, Beatenberg, Becky Hill, Chase & Status, Big Thief, Billy Woods, Blink-182, Boldy James, boygenius, Broken Record, Charli Adams, Chris Stapleton, d4vd, Danny Dwyer, Billy Lemos, David Kushner, Del Water Gap, Depeche Mode, Donna Missal, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, Dua Lipa, Dylan Gossett, Earthquake Lights, Emei, Glassio, Beauty Queen, Gregory Alan Isakov, Holly Humberstone, Hozier, Indigo De Souza, Jelly Roll with Lainey Wilson, Jo Hill, Josephine Network, Joy Oladokun, JPEGMAFIA & Danny Brown, Jungle, Kali Uchis, Kara Jackson, Karol G & Shakira, Kelela, KIANA, Knower, Labrinth, Little Fuss, Mac DeMarco, Maisie Peters, Margo Cilker, Misogi ft. No Rome, MisterWives, Mitski, NCT DOJAEJUNG, Noah Kahan, Olive Louise, Omar Apollo, OTNES, Party Nails, Peggy Gou, PVRIS, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, RiTcH, The Rolling Stones, Sabrina Carpenter, Skrillex, Bibi Bourelly, Stephen Sanchez, Sufjan Stevens, Sydney Sprague, Taylor Swift, The Aces, The Alchemist and Earl Sweatshirt feat. MIKE, The Armed, The Beaches, The Beatles, The Gaslight Anthem, The Japanese House, The National, The Staves, The Warning, Tinlicker, Troye Sivan, wave to earth, Wednesday, Zach Bryan

Atwood Magazine's 2023 EPs of the Year

I‘ve been dwelling in the beauty and volatility of Abby Holliday’s “Ohio Laundry Room” since January, and I’m happy to say it continues hit as hard now as it did eleven months ago. One of several vibrant and visceral highlights off the Nashville-based singer/songwriter’s sophomore album I’M OK NO I’M NOT (released in April), “Ohio Laundry Room” is a dramatic and unrelenting reckoning with grief and mourning. Wave after wave of raw emotion crashes over the ears in one soul-stirring indie rock cataclysm as Holliday erupts in a fever dream full of tender, cherished memories and radiant sound, enshrining special moments she shared together with her late grandmother, whose passing precipitated this song.

Weekly candy drop-offs
All hopped up for our mom
You’re leaving out the back door
Drop the dogs food on the floor
Help me with my homework
Just in time for summer
Every day at the pool
You said we might as well live here
If I were you I would have said the same thing
If I were you I would have said the same thing

Anyone who’s known such tremendous loss can surely feel the love, pain, and cathartic closure at the core of this gentle giant of a song. Once we know it, grief never fully leaves us – but it does subside, and the waves come less and less frequently over time. “Ohio Laundry Room” evokes the best and the worst of that reeling – the immediate aftermath, when we’re still processing all of our emotions and in our most volatile, turbulent state. In this song, we feel death’s shadow – but we also feel life’s resounding glow.

I’ve fallen just as hard for more recent Holliday releases like the album’s “IDK WHAT I WANT” and the deeper cut “Noise,” but this song will forever resonate on a different level – in a more meaningful and bone-chilling way. Fragile, heartbreaking, cacophonous, and cleansing, “Ohio Laundry Room” is an achingly beautiful, instantly irresistible tempest: A cathartic and captivating upheaval dressed in enchanting, soaring, invigorating sonics. – Mitch Mosk

The tempestuous finale to Angie McMahon’s breathtaking sophomore album still sends shivers down my spine, all these weeks later. A fiery, cathartic upheaval of inner reckoning, confrontation, clarity, and cleansing, “Making It Through” roars through the wreckage of a damaged soul and a life in turmoil. McMahon holds nothing back as she soars high and sweeps low in five immersive minutes of emotionally charged unrest, channeling her pain into some of the most moving indie folk music I’ve ever heard.

I didn’t know then
That out of ash and destruction
The ground will grow things
I was trying so hard to stay still
Terrified that I’d kill something

Released in November, McMahon’s sophomore album Light, Dark, Light Again – a name pulled from the final moments of “Making It Through” – is the musical recreation (as well as the result) of the Australian artist’s own redemption arc: Thirteen beautifully vulnerable and soul-stirring tracks see McMahon in the midst of her own crash and burn as she delves into her own darkness, only to slowly find her way back out into the light. “I know now, at the end of the ending, that just making it through is the lesson,” she sings in the chorus of “Making It Through” – a lesson learned the long and hard way.

I froze like the whole world was ending
Exposed hole in my own panic pretending
I know now that we needed that ending
You were never gonna stay
Just making it through is okay

We don’t just learn self-compassion, self-love, and self-acceptance overnight. These things take time and reflection to become true parts of our being, and in “Making It Through” I feel as though McMahon has powerfully, poetically condensed a journey that can take some people a lifetime into one unparalleled experience.

I froze like the whole world was ending, exposed, holding my own panic, pretending, and I know now that we needed the ending,” she sings, I imagine, to a now-ex partner. “You were never gonna stay. Just making it through is okay.” Fractured, yet whole; fragile, yet strong, McMahon shines even in her hardest moments – yet it’s what happens next, in the song’s closing minutes, that has me forever mesmerized:

Time is supposed to run out, time is supposed to
Sun is supposed to go down, sun is supposed to
Like your mood, like your power, like your battery
Rise, fall, rise, life, death, life again
Sky, ground, sky, day, night, day again
Rise, fall, rise, life, death, life again
Sky, ground, sky
Light, dark, light again, light, dark, light again

“After riding the wave, I arrived at this euphoric place of relief and gratitude, and that’s what the end of the song feels like,” McMahon told me in our conversation earlier this year. This is what it’s all been leading to: Out of the turmoil comes a stunning sense of self-love, liberation, and empowerment. Light, dark, light again. We make it through – whatever pain we’re enduring – in the end, and that, in and of itself, is a true, resounding miracle worth appreciating, if not celebrating.

Putting her faith in vulnerability, Angie McMahon has made a timeless record of self-examination, self-acceptance, and self-love that ultimately explores what it means to be human. Or as she herself describes, “You can lose people and be messy, and the most important thing is just going forward, and being gentle with yourself. If you can surrender, that’s the hardest bit, and you’ll be okay.” – Mitch Mosk

Basquiat” was a fan favorite off Asake’s sophomore album Work of Art for its self-assured groove and complex, catchy flow. The Nigerian-born artist never shies away from his culture, bringing Afrofusion beats and influences into his work. He also glides so seamlessly between English, Yoruba and Pidgin English the change is almost indetectable. While “Basquiat” may come across as a self-celebratory endeavor (indeed, Asake proclaims himself the work of art alluded to in the album’s title), is it so wrong to celebrate your hard work and wins? Regardless, the track has undeniable energy and excellent production highlighted by shakers, drums, and horns that add depth and sense of place. All this to say, if you ask me, Basquiat definitely would’ve loved “Basquiat.” – Alex Killian

This was a tough choice: Tired Hearts, BAILEN’s long-awaited sophomore album, is one of my favorite albums of the year, and while I’ve played its songs countless times on repeat, they all feel as fresh as they did the first time I heard them. From the urgency and raw determination of “Nothing Left to Give” to the radiant, spirited anthems “Here We Are Again” and “Call It Like It Is,” to the breathtakingly dreamy, vividly dramatic title track “Tired Hearts” and the hauntingly beautiful “BRCA (Nothing Takes Me Down),” Tired Hearts is one of those albums you can’t put down once you start it: BAILEN excel in revelrous and brooding, loud and soft moments – and their latest record is a truly soul-stirring journey of life’s highs and lows.

Each of the aforementioned songs has been my highlight at some point this year, but the sleeper hit, at least for me, is “These Bones,” a gentle song that hits hard not through sonic force, but rather through warm harmony and vulnerable, poetic lyricism. Experiencing this song live in concert, at the band’s jam-packed hometown show earlier this year at Le Poisson Rouge, enshrined its place as my No. 1. Achingly intimate and brutally raw, the trio of siblings Julia, Daniel, and David Bailen wear their hearts on their sleeves as they sing about the pain of loss and the healing process:

The soul drunk and the body wasted
We were sleeping there on the bathroom floor
Flattered in dreams, deceived in waking, we were
Dragging our feet through the morning wars
Look around I see the fractured frame
What’s left to hold up the heart and the brain
Like shattered glass and cracking stones, you say
You find you’re broken but you’re not alone

BAILEN’s chorus sends shivers down the spine every time I hear it. A this too shall pass-type beacon of wisdom, empathy, and caring, the song’s climax is the musical equivalent of a big bear hug – the kind that squeezes the air out of you, and with it all those burdens that have been weighing you down.

These bones will heal on their own
They’ll heal on their own
Just givе it time
These bonеs they’re broken and bent
They’ll meet and they’ll mend
Back together again

Tired Hearts is a record reckoning with inner and outer turmoil; one confronting the turbulence in our immediate lives and the friction we’ve experienced at a national level. Passionate, heartfelt declarations about women’s rights and empowerment share a space with songs of healing and songs of hope as BAILEN navigate their late 20s, in the 2020s.

BAILEN channel their pain and darkness into beauty on the smoldering “These Bones” and twelve other magical tracks (give “BRCA” a listen too) that light the way through life’s inevitable hardships. While I’ve long adored this band for the balance they strike between indie pop and folk music, with Tired Hearts, they have solidified themselves as one of my true all-time favorites. I hope others get as much meaning, joy, love, and healing from these songs as I have over the past year. Tired Hearts – especially “These Bones” – is truly on another level. – Mitch Mosk

For years, Beatenberg’s dreamy ballad “When I Fall Asleep” was exclusively experienced live at Beatenberg’s live shows. Now, Matthew Field’s virtuosic fingerpicking and crystalline voice can bring us all into a sweet hypnagogic state whenever we want as the third single of their forthcoming album, “The Great Fire of Beatenberg”. In Beatenberg’s characteristic style, the lyrics sway between poetic abstractions (“This lofty language will not behave”) and lucid confessions of yearning (“When I fall asleep…will you follow me?”), all while effortlessly entwined by bright looping guitar melodies. For anyone searching for a “language of longing,” “When I Fall Asleep” will have you dreaming of love, warm sun, and gently waving jacaranda branches. – Kate Millar

Disconnect” is a rasping drum ‘n’ bass festival tub thumper which was unleashed in the US during the summer of 2023. British electro duo Chase & Status tag-team with the irrepressible Becky Hill to spawn an anarchic, filthy dance track which was being performed to live crowds long before its anticipated release was finally rubber stamped.

Hill declared herself more excited than ever to release a track from the genre, while extolling the virtues of the electronic duo who mixed it – realising a decade-plus long dream in the process of joining forces. The result is one of the most pulsating, underrated singles of the year, and one which carries the ideal duration to endure its vigour without ever threatening to get monotonous. – Dom Kureen

Gut-wrenching, evocative and nothing short of breathtaking Big Thief’s “Vampire Empire” had me stunned from the moment I heard it on The Stephen Colbert Show and has stuck with me ever since. Big Thief creates a dynamic, percussion driven soundscape that highlights the warbling harmonies and twanging guitar tones presented in “Vampire Empire.” As per usual Adrianne Lenker is shattering hearts with her anguish-filled lyricism. Telling the harrowing tale of a souring relationship Lenker opens the track by setting an immediate ominous tone “Watching TV tired, bleeding on the bed/ The milk has just expired, all the leaves are dead” before her gentile demeanor turns into her raspy and fiery vocals ring out “I wanted to be your woman/ I wanted to be your man/ I wanted to be the one that you could understand.”

The lyric that had the Internet in shambles for weeks is the same one that has me returning to this song time and time again, Lenker spits out:

Well, I walked into your dagger for the last time (in a row)
It’s like trying to start a fire with matches in the snow
Where you can’t seem to hold me, can’t seem to let me go
So I can’t find surrender, and I can’t keep control
You turn me inside out and then you want the outside in
You spin me all around, then you ask me not to spin.

For lovers of harrowing music and singer-songwriter excellence I recommend you listen to this track followed by the rest of Big Thief’s discography. – Minna Abdel-Gawad

Billy Woods has quietly had a seminal 2023. His flagship project Armand Hammer released their most esoteric record to date a few months back, but earlier in the year he dropped an arguably better piece – Maps, produced by Kenny Segal, an ambivalent screed of stories and observances on touring. FaceTime is the album’s centrepiece, a dusty laid back number that sits down gently next to you. It doesn’t ask for much aside from at least 50% of your attention, and as it drifts out the speakers, one of rap’s most energised talents begins to offer his minimalist prose.

Woods delivers his lines with a sigh, with the weary acceptance of someone who isn’t in control of the situation and doesn’t want to be there. He describes a party in the next room, by his own account a fun time with interesting people, but something he’s not on board with. Instead he’s fighting by proxy with his partner, someone likely several time zones away, and letting the thought of them play on his mind while he should really be enjoying himself. FaceTime buries itself in the limited stochastic nature of arguing through SMS and Whatsapp, an all-too familiar feeling in 2023. – Adam Davidson

As I noted in my review, Blink-182’s newest album featured an appropirate balance of remarkably thoughtful and introspective numbers along with uttely wild and raucous tracks in which these 50-something-year-olds pretend to be roughly half their age and have a uproarious time while they’re at it. While there’s plenty to like and appreciate about both categories, in the end it seems to me that the latter won over me more (not too surprisingly, perhaps). As a result, it makes sense that “Dance With Me”— an ode to having fun “doing it all night long” while yelling “olé, olé, olé, olé!” the whole while— has emerged as my favorite songs from this album and one that I’m happy to promote as one of the most energetic and enthusiastic singles that I came across all year long. “This song is making me beg for more!” Tom DeLonge hollers. Can’t say I disagree. – Josh Weiner

Calling Boldy James prolific would undersell just how hard the forty-one-year old rapper has grinded. Since signing with Griselda in 2020, the Detroit native has whipped up a whopping 10 albums. All that momentum could’ve been lost this January, when a car accident put Boldy in the hospital. But even a broken vertebrae couldn’t stop him from extending his hot streak with Indiana Jones.

Boldly still talks a big game. He chops rhymes just like his dope: with oily, vacuum-sealed precision. But instead of hopping on another one of The Alchemist’s eerie soul samples, “Electric Blue” marches to a different beat. From his backpack, RichGains digs out a bassline that thumps like a faded memory of the EDM boom.

I never thought Boldy James could cut it as a party rapper, but this is a reminder that he can flip anything into cold hard cash. “Pick your drug of choice, I can sell it all,” he gloats over an electric guitar that screeches like a getaway car. – Will Yarbrough

Was there a band that drew more hype and acclaim across 2023 — from the cover of Rolling Stone to sold-out stages worldwide — than boygenius? The supergroup trio of Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus hardly needs an introduction — each is an indie superstar, after all — but something about the band’s long-awaited debut LP (aptly titled the record) felt different. While the group’s excellent debut LP touched on everything that makes each performer great individually — the quiet restraint and grief of Phoebe, Julien’s cutting vocals, Lucy’s thoughtful lyricism and measured singing — here was a chance to deliver on all cylinders. And “True Blue” aptly showcases everything that’s won over so many boygenius fans. It’s at once soaring and emotive, it plays to each singer’s strengths wonderfully, and it’s just catchy as heck. You might also say it took some of the pressure off the trio — expectations were surely high for this LP, and they delivered. Count on boygenius to keep delivering. – Beau Hayhoe

The Rawring ’20s are in full swing, though scenesters can’t decide whether emo is undergoing yet another revival. As for Broken Record, it’s hard to tell where exactly they fall. Heck, based on their affinity for inventing new subgenres, the band aren’t quite sure themselves.

I’m not sold on Power Goth™, but “Stadium Emo” comes closer to the highs these Denver nuggets reach on Nothing Moves Me. Broken Record take a chip off the same old block of post-hardcore crunch as Rival Schools, but “Blueprinting” traces back to the grungier ripples of emo’s second wave. Even the twinkles are shrouded by a depressive fog.

Like most emo, “Blueprinting” outlines the wreckage of a breakup. But Broken Record don’t sound like a broken record (sorry). Instead of lashing out, Lauren Beecher realizes that wallowing in a pool of self-pity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. “Find the strength to get up and leave”, she repeats, willing herself to get out of bed. Her voice still sags with sweet melancholy underneath weighted blankets of distortion, but in the afterglow of a craning guitar solo, you can make out a shred of hope. – Will Yarbrough

Charli Adams and I actually had a good looooong laugh about how, for a few months of the year, “na na na song” was my Spotify “default” – and what I mean by that is, every time a playlist or album I was listening to ended, the algorithm would serve me Adams’ song as a recommended for you-type follow-up. Never has machine learning been more spot-on in its delivery; by the time 2023 closes, I’ll have listened to “na na na song” more than 400 times, which translates to more hours of my life than I’m comfortable sharing in this forum.

Adams’ first song “back” following the release of her 2021 debut album Bullseye, “na na na song” is a charming, cathartic, sonically and emotionally charged embrace of love. Equal parts light and heavy, impassioned and exposed, the lead single off her nothing to be scared of EP (released in August) is captivating and cathartic – an achingly raw alternative anthem that comes as close to “euphoria” as I imagine Charli Adams’ songwriting can get. She’s brutally honest and unfiltered as she lets herself lean into the warmth and comfort, the safety and security, the connection, and the sense of home and belonging we get from being together with the one we love:

Saw you, now I see it in color
Storming so we run for the covers
Oh my god, you remind me of home when you talk like that
Queen bed at the mountain motel
Playing cards and show and tell
You know and I know, yeah, we talk like that
When everything was going black
You came in like a soft early morning
Blue as the way it’s been going
I’m just riding along
And you all the words to my favorite songs
And we go na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na
Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na

“na na na song” is the anthem of a weary heart and soul on the mend. It’s the perfect blend of inner reckoning and reverie: “I know when you go, you always come right back,” Adams sings, “And I’m just getting used to that.” She’s learning to let love in, in real time, and she’s taken us along for that ride. This mix of euphoria and emotional churn was ultimately the release I needed in 2023. – Mitch Mosk

After Chris Stapleton released his groundbreaking album Starting Over in 2020, fans have been eagerly waiting on and itching for the artist to deliver a new one. This year, fans finally got what they had been hoping for. On July 21, Stapleton let the world know new music was on the way with the release of “White Horse” – the first single off his new album Higher. From stunning guitar cranks and riffs to the pounding beat of drums, all backed up with great storytelling and Stapleton’s distinctive vocals, this track includes everything you’d want in a country song. It is the epitome of country music. “If you want a cowboy on a white horse/ Ridin’ off into the sunset/ If that’s the kind of love you wanna wait for/ Hold on tight, girl, I ain’t there yet/ No, I ain’t there yet,” he sings so effortlessly with the rasp we’ve all come to know and love Stapleton for. With hints of twang and its country-rock rhythm guiding the way, the track is made for singing and dancing along to.

Stapleton did it again with this song and his whole new album. Higher was released on November 10, with “White Horse” being one of 13 songs. “White Horse” peaked on the Billboard charts. It was No. 12 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and No.5 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs. – Lauren Turner

After achieving TikTok virality, not once, but twice, teen artist d4vd continues to carve out his own space in popular music. Among the heartbreak anthems and ballads of yearning on his 2023 EP Petals to Thorns, the existential crisis that is “WORTHLESS” is the track that allows d4vd to truly let it all out. Taking influence from alternative, rock, and rap d4vd has meshed genres to fit his aesthetic and raw style of lyricism. Like pop music it’s catchy, but no one said it’s happy, and that’s okay. The simple three-chord guitar progression is amplified and compressed to achieve the anxiety and urgency d4vd seeks to convey. In combination with his gritty, if at times grim songwriting, “WORTHLESS” showcases how well d4vd can capture the teen angst of today. – Sofia Sar

A perfect song to get the day rolling. It is an upbeat remix to a song about someone celebrating a friend deciding not to end things. The song begins with a gentle acoustic strumming and Danny Dwyer half-rapping/half-singing the lyrics, “Call my crying from your bathroom / I can’t hear you through your asthma / Try to keep you on the phone / Bad month turned into a bad year / I’m so happy that you’re still here / Just know that you are not alone.” It is an uplifting opening stanza that is both hopeful and tragic—hopeful because the person did not go through with their act, tragic because they were considering it in the first place. The honesty with which it is written and performed is what makes the song so inspiring.

Billy Lemos’s remix is perfect, turning the emotional acoustic original version into a more jubilant record. Danny Dwyer is likely singing this song about a close friend allowing the feeling he is pouring into the track to shine through. We can only hope the two of them put together a longer project one day because the chemistry that Danny Dwyer and Billy Lemos have is beautiful. – Eric Schuster

Daylight” became a highly anticipated song in early 2023, when David Kushner began teasing it on social media. It gained traction fast through its audio usage on TikTok and Reels. So when the hauntingly beautiful single was finally released on April 14, it took off almost immediately. It opened at No. 48 on the Billboard Hot 100 (April 29), has now become platinum and opened up a whole new side to Kushner’s career.

Kushner’s raspy and deep vocals are completely captivating as he tells the story of an internal battle that lurks in darkness. The piano-infused ballad begins its storytelling in an eerie state with this acceptance of darkness and ill fate. But as the song progresses and picks up its tempo, its tone changes from a heavy somber to an utter desperation. The lyrics match this simultaneously, moving from acceptance to denial. He ends up pleading, “Tellin’ myself it’s the last time/ Can you spare any mercy that you might find/ If I’m down on my knees again?/ Deep down, way down, Lord, I try/ Try to follow your light, but it’s nighttime/ Please don’t leave me in the end.” But this is exactly what makes this song so intensely beautiful, it’s a battle between caving to the darkness and letting the light come in. The juxtaposition between loving and hating it at the same time. Kushner captures its emotion and meaning through this bone chilling ideality and alluring movement. Overall making it an artistic masterpiece. – Lauren Turner

Del Water Gap’s S. Holden Jaffe has shown himself to be a musical and lyrical genius on more than one occasion, and “Coping on Unemployment” was one of this year’s musical masterpieces. The second single off this September’s sophomore album I Miss You Already + I Haven’t Left Yet (following the equally stunning “All We Ever Do Is Talk”), “Coping on Unemployment” aches from the inside out as Jaffe navigates post-Covid life in his mid-twenties. He’s described it as a song “about the liminal space between sex and commitment” – an intimate inner reckoning with mental health, self-doubt, fear of permanence, and struggles with maintaining healthy, meaningful relationships.

It’s a slow burn, coping on unemployment
Crackin’ her fingers often
I ask her what we’re doin’
She tries to change the subject
Saying, “I’m scared of turnin’
Into a parody of myself”

“It’s about how hard it is to just give in and allow yourself to belong to someone when you’re constantly terrified of becoming a parody of yourself,” he shared earlier this year. “This song is about sleeping late, f*-ing, listening to indie music… the life that happens between life, when you’re waiting for real life to happen. This song is about how drugs and sobriety change the way we make art, and how our culture puts the artist’s suffering on a pedestal. I used to worry that if I got sober or medicated I wouldn’t be a good artist anymore.”

How many of us are still figuring out who we are? “Coping on Unemployment” forever sends shivers down my spine, first when Jaffe twists himself inside out singing, “And it’s hard to give yourself over to somethin’” – a bold, breathtaking declaration shouted out into a cold, dark universe – and second when he shouts, “You need to get some help.” One can’t help but feel like he’s cold-staring himself in the mirror throughout this song, saying aloud the secrets he’d prefer to keep to himself. – Mitch Mosk

And now I’m afraid to throw you in a different light
I’m waiting on the moment when we get it right
You’re sleepin’ all alone, I’m sittin’ up at night
I’m so in my head, I’m so in my head
It’s hard to give yourself over
And it’s hard to give yourself over to somethin’…

As we have lived with Depeche Mode’s “Ghosts Again” over the last number of months this is the most poignantly rendered song this year that is a searing eulogy of loss while also creating an empowering space of existential renewal within our own mortal coils. Dwell deeply within the joyful implications of this song and find new ways to think about your being in this world. Depeche Mode have proven to us again that they remain at the top of their art in creating spellbinding electronica through the song “Ghosts Again” on their remarkable 2023 album, Memento Mori. – David Buyze

Donna Missal is a chameleon of a pop artist. Each album cycle, she adapts her extraordinarily captivating voice to perfectly suit whichever style of popular music that’s recently colored the landscape. This time around, she’s made use of electronic and hyperpop styles to suit her creative needs on her 2023 album, Revel, released June 16 via Frank Records. It was recorded and released during a particularly difficult period in Missal’s life, but you’d never know it here. There’s a strength and resilience, a purposeful stepping, well, into one’s purpose, intentionally giving yourself occasional moments to regard how remarkably strong you’ve become, and how surreptitiously you’ve changed until it happens to hit you very quickly one day.

This doesn’t mean that you automatically become freed of your struggle. The second track on Revel, “God Complex” puts these ideas on full display, dealing with a singer caught in a power struggle with a lover. Each tries to outperform the other in underhanded matters of the heart, all the while hiding behind deceitful placations and fake niceties. The jabs cut quick and hard, but are slightly balmed by the seductive production, creating a ceaseless cycle of give and take that leaves the listener reeling. When Missal’s voice hits a wispy falsetto at the chorus, and the synths charge up to maximum effect, it’s the crux of the fight between these parties, until they quiver and slink back into hiding, hotly anticipating the warning bell of the next round. – Kendall Graham

After the release of their EP Strangers No More, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors finish off the year with the sentimental and bittersweet “Way Back When.” With a deep recognition for family and community, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors express many songs of gratitude and change through the seasons. “Way Back When” is a father’s love note to his son–the privilege of witnessing boyjood to manhood while always remembering that joyful child yet letting him go too. The song finishes in an emotional manner, “Pretty soon you’ll be older than me/ And I’ll be a part of history/I hope you’ll carry the best of me/From way back when.” A ballad of bittersweet musings. Drew Holcomb paint this feeling beautifully with distant piano and strings that complement the lyricism. “Way Back When” takes us through the seasons too, reminding us to appreciate the ones we love, spend time with them, and always carry them with us even when they’re gone. – Lauren Hicks

It was tough to go a third straight year with no new Dua Lipa album (although there are thankfully signs that there won’t be a fourth one), but what made it easier was that at least a handful of excellent new singles of hers did see the light of day. There was both “Houdini” and— even more prominently, given its presence in the all-conquering Barbie movie – “Dance The Night,” one of her most “guaranteed to get the party going” singles ever (and she’s got a quite a few!) It’s unlikely that I’ll ever be able to resist getting transported back to Summer 2023 the moment that I hear that inescapable opening line, “Baby, you can find me under the lights, diamonds under my eyes….” come on, and what better criteria for inclusion in a Best Songs of the Year list than a track that immediately makes you recall a period of said year? Please keep the hits coming in 2024, Dua! – Josh Weiner

Texas born and raised, Dylan Gossett poses humble roots for the singer-songwriting sing. His first release of the year, “Coal,” is a beautiful portrayal of his ability to write with an insightful play on words. Gossett’s chorus asks the question “And they say pressure makes diamonds, how the hell am I still coal?” The song explores themes of the challenges of life and transforming through them. Gossett brings us to stripped music both in performance and expression. As Gossett sits with his guitar, he sings in an almost conversational manner. A man telling his story, exploring his pain, and telling a tale we can all relate to. With an ability to connect with his listeners, Gossett is definitely an artist to look out for among the singer-songwriter community. – Lauren Hicks

NYC rock band Earthquake Lights give us something a little different to usual with their track “Silhouette.” Tinged with a Jazz-esque style, the unique track features a 5/4 time signature and is accompanied by a soaring string arrangement which brings to mind the likes of an epic film score. Inspired by Serge Gainsbourg and David Bowie, this powerful concoction results in an intoxicating listening experience. Earthquake Lights never disappoint and “Silhouette” is the perfect example of their ability to craft truly thought-provoking anthems. For this song in particular, the band raises the question, “What’s the connection between music and space?” as they touch on the curious natures of human beings and our constant desire for more. – Joe Beer

Cynical” by thrilling alt-pop artist Emei is a discovery of 2023 that is not to be missed. The catchy, clicking backdrop paired with piercingly haunting vocals makes this the ultimate infectious eerie piece. We all can relate to having those moments of self-doubt and self-deprivation, making the track one that is easy to connect to. If you are a fan of artists such as Billie Eilish, Lorde and Halsey then Emei is the girl for you. Her dark vocal tone/sonics and engaging lyrics allows for raw releases that cut us to our core. “Cynical” is definitely one of those. – Chloe Robinson

There’s a lesson to be learned from Glassio and Beauty Queen’s song, but I’m still here getting lost in the sound of glistening guitars and hypnotic vocals; of radiant rhythms and warm melodies coalescing into one. Soothing, smoldering, and utterly seductive, “A Friend Like You” is an intoxicating indie pop fever dream: A catchy and cathartic soundtrack to cutting ties, ready to be blasted on late night drives with the car top down.

Tom, tom, now what do you want?
Let’s meet up at your favorite spot
Cut the punchline
I never had a friend like you
Stand by to watch you breathe
Hide the fire on a two-way street
The joke is up now
I never had a friend like you
Never had a friend like you

This is what Friday nights were meant to feel like: Free-spirited and full of possibility. Released in September, “A Friend Like You” was Glassio’s first single since his sophomore album See You Shine came out last May – and what a way to come back strong: A collaboration with fellow LA-based indie pop artist Beauty Queen (the moniker for Katie Iannitello), “A Friend Like You” is dreamy, brooding bliss. Glassio – née Sam Rad – describes it as “a love song to a best friend who ends up destroying your life.” I call it pure musical enchantment.

“A Friend Like You” is (candidly) one of the catchiest tunes I’ve ever heard. Its gentle beat and psych-pop sonics, combined with Glassio and Beauty Queen’s lush, layered voices, create an immersive, full-bodied listening experience. I thought I might feel differently, so many months later; and yet, here I am, still vibing out to this musical happy pill: Its relaxed groove settles and stirs the soul as you sing along to Glassio and Beauty Queen’s radiant reverie. – Mitch Mosk

From seeds to songs, Gregory Alan Isakov is a true folk farmer – and on his sixth studio album, the Colorado-based singer/songwriter cultivates a record full of beautiful, poetic reflections and intimate observations on life in motion and life on pause. Released in August, Appaloosa Bones is an eleven-track set of tender, raw ballads about human connection and the strength of the human spirit. These songs are soft, yet heavy; stirring, yet cinematic – and nowhere does that ring truer that in “Watchman,” a song that feels as if it’s both of the land and of the heart.

Our love was untested, never rested, slipping through our city fingers,” Isakov sings tenderly. “Always dressed up, but never picked up, watch every headlight cruising past our door.” His beautiful poetry is bested only by his emotive performance which sends shivers down the spine:

Oh oh oh, who’s gonna pick us up?
Oh oh oh, the night is starting to ache
Oh oh oh, who’s holding the reins?

Smoldering, cinematic, hushed, and haunting, “Watchman” is a song of strength; of devotion and dedication. Whether it’s the seeds he nurtures out of the Earth, or the love he shows those closest to him, Gregory Alan Isakov is a protector – a watchman – and this is his promise. – Mitch Mosk

And that sonar satellite that sings to us in Universe
We’re just hard stone but so easily broken
Like crumbling ruins off the coast of Spain
Oh oh oh, I’ll keep watch tonight
Oh oh oh, when the coyote come
Oh oh oh, I’ll be your watchman
Oh oh oh, while they’re just flashes

An English singer/songwriter well on her way to becoming a globally renowned superstar, Holly Humberstone was and is my most listened to artist of the year – and for good reason: Beyond the slew of stunning singles she released throughout the summer and early autumn, her debut album is a bold and breathtaking, 10-out-of-10 masterpiece. Humberstone’s unique brand of melancholia has never felt more rejuvenating than it does on Paint My Bedroom Black, released in October – and while I could spend hours diving into every nook and cranny of this record, I limited myself to two of its sublime highlights.

A song so dreamy that it later got its own MUNA remake, “Into Your Room” dwells in the brutal (and yet somehow, euphoric) depths of a beautiful, endless heartache. Exposed and vulnerable, Humberstone erupts with both passion and pain as she sings what is at once a love-soaked anthem and a lovesick ballad. Those intimate feelings we so often keep to ourselves explode into the world alongside a buoyant and brooding sonic soundscape comprised of warm, dramatic synths, and cool, pulsing beats. Think “Human Nature”-style Michael Jackson and “Follow You Follow Me”-era Genesis: This song is a mood in itself – an escape and an indulgence, unapologetically uplifting and brutally heartbreaking at the same time, just like the love that seems to be slipping from Humberstone’s grasp if she can’t catch it now:

I will run after your moving car
And I will follow you
Hmm, you’re my northern star
So don’t drive away (don’t you leave it like that, no)
You don’t know how much I need you
Yeah I feel the weight (when you leave me so sad, no)
it’s crushing me; I hate to think how bad I treated you
So maybe, take me into your room
Without you my soul is eternally doomed
You’re the centre of this universe
My sorry revolves around you
No I can’t do without you

And then there’s the all-consuming “Cocoon,” an upbeat, dynamic anthem that has become a part of my daily routine. Humberstone sings from a dark place of paralyzing anxiety, calling out to a friend for help – but it’s more than this relatable theme that resonates for me personally; this song is pure melodic brilliance, rising from softly sweet and tender verses to heated, churning, and charged choruses that ache, all from a simple, yet undeniably heavy line: “I’m just going through something, uh-huh.”

Are you free tonight to help pass the evening?
We’ll drink our body weight
‘Til we forget our feelings
I’ll be swimming in the pools of your fragrance
When you’re in proximity, I’m totally weightless
Now I’ve become a taxidermy version of myself
The laundry’s piling up
The plants are dying on the shelf (Ooh-ooh-oh)
You said you’d give me both your kidneys
If I cried for help
Like, Jesus Christ, calm down!

Holly Humberstone fills her record with moments of raw reflection, inner reckoning, and radiant release. Ultimately, Paint My Bedroom Black is a celebration of her raw humanity – dwelling not so much in the darkness, but rather in the fullness of life itself. “Into Your Room” and “Cocoon” are the two songs I chose to recognize as 2023’s songs of the year, but the truth is that this entire album stands out on a musical, lyrical, and emotional level. Trust me on this one and just give it a listen. – Mitch Mosk

(Soon, I’ll) Break out this cocoon
And take the car out for the night
We’ll play cassettes
Share cigarettes out in the half-light
Maybe, I’ll blossom into something twice as bright
Lie-de-die, lie-de-die, lie-de-die
I’m just going through something

In Italian literature, Paolo and Francesca’s from “La Divina Commedia” is perhaps the most romanticized tale ever. Two young lovers gone to hell because of their feelings, forced to remain in an overwhelming hurricane for eternity. Yet, is this really a punishment? In Dante’s masterpiece, the two are described as miserable, in the moving work of art “Francesca,” Hozier speaks of the perfect epilogue to a love cursed by God, blessed by the stars. If the lovers’ lives have been a storm since they were born, how could they be frightened by a hurricane that binds them together? It’s all here, it’s all a matter of perspective. And in any case, even the most heinous of sorrows would be worth the most sincere of loves. “Francesca” is one of the most romantic songs ever really, in my opinion. – Dimitra Gurduiala

I would still be surprised I could find you,
darlin’, in any life
If I could hold you for a minute (Da-ah, darlin’)
I would do it again
I would not change it each time
Heaven is not fit to house a love like you and I

Indigo De Souza had a big year, releasing her LP All of This Will End which granted her a solid footing in the indie scene. “Smog,” a high-energy dance track, was released as a single. While the track is very upbeat, the lyrics stand in stark contrast, detailing De Souza’s insecurities and anxieties and the banality of day-to-day life. Influenced by the pandemic and enduring isolation, the song is about escapism; finding the fun parts of life when things may seem otherwise bleak. De Souza released a self-directed music video along with the song that captures the feeling of loneliness we all experienced when faced with isolation. Catchy, innovative, and insightful, this song was a real stand out amongst many strong releases this year.

2023 was the year of Jelly Roll! The upcoming country artist absolutely smashed it this year with his music. He released his album Whitsitt Chapel on June 2, and it was one song in particular off that album that really captured Jelly Roll’s success, a full-circle moment – “Save Me (With Lainey Wilson).” The song originally released back in 2020, but with the addition of Wilson was re-released as track No. 9 on the album. The pair debuted it at the ACM Awards on May 11 – and off it went on the charts!

Somebody save me, me from myself/ I’ve spent so long living in Hell/ They say my lifestyle is bad for my health/ It’s the only thing that seems to help,” Jelly Roll sings with such beautifully gritty vocals that portray deep emotion and heartache. If Jelly Roll is known for anything, it’s his truthfulness and transparency in his music. He is so raw and real when it comes to life and the challenges it throws our way, and he captures it in such a way that makes people feel seen and heard. So it’s no surprise that “Save Me (With Lainey Wilson)” had the success it did, because when you make a track with that much realness to it, people will connect. Between its authenticity and gorgeously paced tempo, this track deserves all the recognition it is receiving. “Save Me (With Lainey Wilson)” made the top 10 of country radio, won awards such as “Collaboration Song of 2023” at the People’s Choice Awards and peaked at No. 19 on Billboard’s Hot 100. – Lauren Turner

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:

Don’t leave…
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 solidified 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, with Cinematic Baby proving an unparalleled force of passion, energy, emotion, and raw, vulnerable humanity. I love everything Hill has done thus far, but for me, “Off the 45” will forever be an invigorating, electrifying energy boost. – Mitch Mosk

It’s 2023 and cowboys are absolutely in. Of course, no cowboy hoedown is complete without a catchy melody to two-step and twirl to; rest assured Josephine Network’s “Howdy Girl” absolutely gets folks up and dancing. Dreamy pedal steel slides take the lead on this ditty, with Josephine’s voice — the perfect blend between sweet and sassy — playfully beckoning someone to join in on the fun: “Hey darling / Hey girl / Hey honey / Lovely girl.” Imbued with the jovial spirit of the wild west, Josephine Network’s “Howdy Girl” makes way for the untethered spirit of the cowboy to live on. – Sophie Severs

A gorgeous, glistening song built around a few tender acoustic guitars, softly smoldering horns, and Joy Oladokun’s golden, emotionally charged voice, “Changes” is at once wistful and hopeful: A heart-on-sleeve confessional that feels more cathartic than it does embroiled. “I hate change, but I’ve come of age, think I’m finally finding my way,” the Nashville-based singer/songwriter proclaims at the start, her words resonating with profound warmth and sincerity. “Danced with chaos, every occasion, looks me up every day. Even when I’m tired and low there is gold in this river that is carrying me home.” Here she leans inward for meaning and strength to guide her in her worst moments; in spite of the world’s often unbearable weight, she’s always got a reason to persevere and carry on; to seek the light in the darkness – a notion she further explores in the song’s second verse, where she drops this poignant, breathtaking rhetorical question: “What it’s like to hope again and again, knowing that heartache’s gonna be there ’til the end?

For all its soul-stirring, tear-jerking wonder, “Changes” is a comforting song of staying power, belief in oneself, and belief in one’s causes. Oladokun hits her high in a catchy and cathartic singalong chorus that aches as it shines:

Newspaper says the world’s on fire
People yelling and the water’s rising
It’s easy to feel kinda anxious
Yeah, we’ve thought it was the end of time
We’re still holding on and we’re still trying
Life’s always been a little dangerous
But I don’t wanna stay the samе, so
I’m tryna keep up with the changes

This world will eat you up and spit you out if you’re not careful. It’s far easier to get lost than it is to be found, but that’s also why a song like this, that nakedly recognizes just how hard life can be, can resonate so deeply for so many people. Oladokun calls her third album Proof of Life a collection of “helpful anthems,” and “Changes” is the proof-point of that statement. She sings not just for herself, but for all of us. A beautifully raw song of strength and self-determination, “Changes” is an anthem for the every day – and Joy Oladokun is, without a doubt, the voice of a generation. – Mitch Mosk

The term “experimental music” often comes with the connotation of being weird, obnoxious, or noisy. But with a title like SCARING THE HOES, it is clear rappers JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown are looking to unapologetically embrace this stigma and set the hip hop world ablaze. “Fentanyl Tester” is a thrill ride of a track which finds the duo spitting high-energy flows about drugs and internet humor over a frenetic, blood-pumping instrumental. Absurd blasts of digital bass meet glitched out vocal snippets of none other than Kelis’ “Milkshake” which, as uncanny as it sounds, is weirdly euphoric. “Weirdo rap, I’m the numero ace,” Peggy brags as he and Danny put on a masterclass in creativity on one of the most wickedly exciting tracks in recent memory. ‘STH’ once again finds these artists elevating the genre to a new, unheard of dimension which left the music world terrified in their wake. – Jake Fewx

I’ve seen a lot of uproarious fans decry the lack of a GRAMMY nomination for Jungle’s most recent album, Volcano, released late this past Summer. Only knowing a handful of tracks from their very first album, and being a fan only peripherally, I was curious to see why they felt so strongly that the London-based electronic music project ought to have been included for Best Electronic Album (as I’m always curious about who is considered to have been snubbed by the Recording Academy.) I gave Volcano a try, and got stuck about halfway through on “Back on 74,” which I’ve now listened to, not joking, probably over 200 times.

“Back on 74” is a simple, short and sweet, but ridiculously catchy romp filled with jangly guitars and billowy, soulful harmonies that underscore the group’s desire to integrate their love for soul music. The central falsetto croons so perfectly, it’s hypnotic. In researching the artist who sang the part (Lydia Kitto, one of Jungle’s touring vocalists) I happened to notice an article mentioning how viral the music video’s choreography has become on TikTok (I’m not a TikTok user, forgive me, so I had no idea.) But that notion of soulfulness runs even further through the perfectly stylized dance moves brought to life by choreographer Shay Latukolan. It’s clear that “Back on 74” has resonated with a huge audience, and I’ve even seen it pop up as the background song on many different content creators’ videos. This song sounds as if ‘60s jangle pop and ‘70s funk had an electro-pop love child. My life (and impending seasonal depression) has been made all the better for it. – Kendall Graham

Kali Uchis immerses us into the world of telenovelas with her single “Te Mata.” The song is rooted in bolero, a Cuban genre characterized by a slower tempo and lyrics that highlight melancholy romance. As she reflects on a breakup and how much it kills her ex to see her happy, we’re enveloped in a lush soundscape of Latin strings and guitar. Her voice shines throughout the track, and shows her ability to tell a story and truly capture the complex emotions we can’t always put into words. She sings with defiance, power, and at times, levity, to encapsulate the essence of a situation that compels you to dance and sing along with her. As the first single off her upcoming album Orquídeas, “Te Mata” is a promising sign of what’s to come. – Alex Killian

2023 was the year of Kara Jackson. Her debut album, Why Does the Earth Give Us People to Love, earned praise from numerous outlets and artists, including Best New Music from Pitchfork. The title song is a 6 minute and 15 second reflection on grief, friendship, and the unanswered question, why does the earth give us people to love? More importantly, it’s dedicated to Jackson’s late best friend, Maya. 
“why does the earth give us people to love?” is a wonderfully put together song rooted in folk traditions of repetition and storytelling. Its familiar, yet ominous melody makes room for the lyrics, inviting listeners to listen for the umpteenth time. When I first heard it, I listened to it more than 15 times myself, crying and thinking about my own loss. It’s no wonder people continue to gravitate towards it. Jackson is an undeniable force and this song is evidence of loved ones watching over her and speaking through her. – Nia Robinson

Even without Shakira at her side, Karol G used “TQG” as a means of entering the arena with astounding force and energy when she used it as the opening song on her Mañana Será Bonito Tour, which I was fortunate to catch at GIllette Stadium this past September. With Shakira at her side, “TQG” makes major history in its studio form as the first pairing of hitherto the two most successful Colombian pop stars ever on the same track. Both singers make the most of this special occasion by incinerating their ex-flames’ hopes of getting back together, on the grounds that “yo errores no repito.” Add a hard-hitting reggaeton beat by Ovy on the Drums, and you have something muy especial on your hands with this track, for sure. – Josh Weiner

Eerie, steamy, and instantly iconic, “Contact” is a smash hit for R&B singer Kelela, whose album Raven largely relied on atmospheric, slowed-down ambient pop tracks. “Contact”, which arrived in January 2023, is an energetic but not frenetic vision of a night out: “The bass in my body, I’m sinking, it’s so wide / Time is surreal, now I’m floating in outer space,” she sings. Over a breakbeat perfect for her breathy singing, she describes rides on the 405, steamy saunas, and getting faded at 2.a.m. It’s chill but propulsive, and the kind of song where you’d be fine listening to it for all of eternity. – Sam Franzini

Toronto R&B artist KIANA has been on our radar a while now since her 2021 EP, if we turn to strangers. Her new single “secrets” however is up there with some of her strongest work to date. The sultry track sees KIANA entering a dark 80’s pop realm, adding new flavors to her R&B, soul roots. This fresh change is exciting to hear, as it demonstrates that there are no limitations to her talents. “secrets” is a total vibe, featuring animated instrumentation and a move-inducing beat which sets the backdrop for KIANA’s strong vocals which ooze with attitude. The Canadian artist sings about a toxic love that she tries to keep hidden to avoid other people’s opinions. – Joe Beer

Progressive Jazz duo Knower have returned after a six year hiatus without missing a fast, energy-laced drum beat. “Nightmare” finds the band delivering everything we have come to love from their trademark brand of synth-funk. Drummer Louis Cole’s lightning quick, air tight grooves that are infectious as they are precise. Genevieve Artadi’s sweet, indie-esque vocals deliver one of the catchiest melodies of the year. Playing alongside a cast of jazz fusion heavyweights, Knower delivers something that is catchy, quirky, head-bobbing fun; a must listen track and will no doubt impress music fans of any denomination. – Jake Fewx

Fans of the HBO drama Euphoria left Season 2 eagerly seeking answers to the questions left by the cliffhanger ending… but also asking whether we would ever receive the full version of Labrinth’s “Never Felt So Alone.” Almost as central to the show as the emotionally heavy storylines and trippy visuals is the mind-numbing score composed by Labrinth. Notably excluded from Season 2’s official soundtrack, “Never Felt So Alone” was finally released as a single in anticipation of Labrinth’s 2023 album End & Begins.

And it was well worth the wait. Not only did Labrinth deliver a fully fleshed-out composition produced to perfection, but featured surprise vocals from Billie Eilish. In the collaboration that no one knew they needed, Labrinth’s electronic dissociating production balances effortlessly with Eilish’s delicately soft vocals. Together the pair formed an entirely new connotation to the song separate from Euphoria’s characters. So until we get Season 3 in 2025, we can at least imagine possible plot points through the music of Labrinth. – Sofia Sar

Little Fuss is a Boston indie pop band with a fun raw sound. This song from their 2023 EP, Lovely Distraction, paints the picture of the realization that their pure intentions are under-appreciated in a relationship. Lead singer, Olivia Martinez’s vocals pairs well with the guitar heavy production. “What’s It Matter to You” is fun and has an undertone of sass as she professes that she’s been lying about being in love for awhile into the relationship. This track was a 2023 must-listen with its easy listening nature and hypnotizing melody. – Freya Rinaldi

I’d be remiss not to tip my hat to none other than the king of indie himself after his quiet 2023 release of One Wayne G, featuring 199 tracks largely identified solely with number titles. In classic Mac DeMarco fashion, One Wayne G is a “no thank you” to the industry’s textbook lessons on how and when a record should be released. Instead, DeMarco seemingly offers all the recorded jingles on his hard drive – some completed, some not; some silly and jangly, some more introspective; some with lyrics and vocals but most without. I get it, 199 songs are overwhelming and DeMarco is essentially daring the “album reviewers” of the world to disregard the project. What really differentiates “201806” from “2019724?” I can hear his whimsical chuckle just through my attempted understanding of the project. I’m highlighting “20200817 Proud True Toyota” not simply because it serves as one of the few tracks that features DeMarco’s silky lo-fi voice and self-described “jizz jazz” swirly guitar licks, but also due to my genuine admiration for such an artist to release a tune dedicated to the love for his renowned Toyota. Never change, Mac. – Miles Campbell 

The final track, “History of Man,” is the most powerful track on Maisie Peters’ incredible sophomore album The Good Witch and in our opinion, one of the few songs out there that is perfect. It’s hard to believe at 23 Peters’ has so poetically captured the plague of heartbreak and love and the innate and inevitable differences between men and women.

Women’s hearts are lethal weapons
Did you hold mine and feel threatened?

It’s strange that this all-too-common phenomenon hasn’t been put into a song for us until now, but we’re glad it was Peters that did it, because she did it flawlessly.

Americana might pigeonhole some folks, but Margo Cilker isn’t an easy one to tie down. While happily settled with her rancher hubby in the Washington boonies, Cilker had a decade of touring under her belt buckle before she released a debut album. Her follow-up still trades tales from dusty, lowland trails, but Valley of Heart’s Delight harkens back to her family’s roots in Santa Clara, California, a wellspring of childhood memories that’s been paved over by Silicon Valley’s suburban sprawl.

Cilker’s more stripped-down songs reckon with all that’s lost to time and history. But “Keep It On a Burner” takes stock of everything she has to be grateful for: postcards, unread books, a helping hand. Even the lean times are savored like home cooking. “I got wasted, I got waylaid, I got stuck in Lodi again”, she sings, bursting with gratitude as her sister chimes in on the harmony.

Cilker has her own in-house band to thank for imbibing the shaggy camaraderie of Music from Big Pink. Potbellied horns, ragtime piano and a Telecaster that slides like polished cowboy boots all waltz behind a sturdy backbeat. Still, it’s her voice — sweet and smooth as brandy — that stirs the drink. After the year we’ve had, so many of us are running on empty. Thankfully, this is the kind of song that can fill your soul. – Will Yarbrough 

Emirates-born, London raised artist, Misogi is known for his soft alternative indie sounds while breaking genres in every release. He is a playlist necessity for lovers of artist like 100 Gecs and Master Peace. Paired with his soft vocals, alongside No Rome, this song has an alluring and addictive feel to it. The song features a dream pop vibe with glitchy priduction. His genre-defying production shines on this track featuring 808s and church bell noises. “SHOEGAZING” is a prime example of Misogi’s work in 2023 and was one of the best song discoveries of the year. – Freya Rinaldi

The unapologetic, emotionally charged title track to MisterWives’ fourth album hits as hard now as it did the first time I heard it: “I’m up in the nosebleeds, I’m watching the show, I’m getting some déjà vu, an old episode,” Mandy Lee sings, her voice a searing beacon of white-hot passion. “I’m up in the nosebleeds and down the seat, I see a thousand faces that look just like me.”

Gritty overdriven guitars, thunderous drums, heated bass thwumps, and Lee’s hot-on-the-mic performance all coalesce on “Nosebleeds” as the the New York City indie pop band deliver some of their boldest, brashest work to date – holding nothing back in a song about being on the outside look in. It was a striking return for MisterWives as the band prepared to release July’s Nosebleeds, a record that burns with the same intensity as the song.

I was blind to the warning signs
Spilling blood, you were drinking wine
Conjure way to the finish line
Told me I was D.O.A
All the wreckage inside my head
A consequence of the words you said
It’s 2020 in the retrospect
So I turn the other way

“Being kept high up in the nosebleeds and on the outside of where you want to be has been a recurring dynamic in my life,” Lee told Atwood Magazine earlier this year, “especially in an industry that has profited off moving the goalpost or cutting ties if you don’t conform to how they see fit.” It’s easy to understand and relate to Lee’s plight; who hasn’t been on the outside at some point in their lives? “Nosebleeds” is in so many ways an underdog anthem of resilience, perseverance, and staying power; a dynamic promise to keep fighting for your dreams, no matter who or what stands in your way. – Mitch Mosk

I’m up in the nosebleeds, I’m watching the show
I’m getting some déjà vu, an old episode
I’m up in the nosebleeds and down the seat
I see a thousand faces that look just like me
Wonder what it might be like
Just for one night
I didn’t care what they all think
Wonder what it might be like
Just for one night
I didn’t care what they all think

Who knew a song inspired by a cumbersome trip to the grocery store would capture the hearts of millions? Though, if anyone can produce something beautiful out of seemingly nothing, it would be the one and only Mitski. “My Love All Mine” is a blushy, atmospheric ballad, teeming with this unshakeable, soul encompassing feeling of love for another. Mitski makes the often elusive sensation of love tangible, crooning, “My baby, here on earth / Showed me what my heart was worth / So, when it comes to be my turn / Could you shine it down here for her?” While nothing in the world might truly belong to us, Mitski affirms that the one thing we will always own is the love we feel for another. – Sophie Severs

Three members of the popular K-Pop group NCT stunned the K-Pop world when they made a new unit. Comprised of Kim Doyoung, Jeong Jaehyun and Kim Jungwoo, this unit was destined to shine vocally from the jump. NCT DOJAEJUNG is made of arguably some of NCT’s best vocalists. At the announcement of the unit, many fans expected a ballad-filled EP with lots of belting, but their title track surprised everyone and took a turn for the better. The track is RnB centric with a groovy production, giving the song a ’90s feel.

Leading straight into the song with soft honey vocals and a switch up at the hook, “Perfume” boasts as an easy listening track that gives you goosebumps as the song progresses. The production is quite simple, leaving room for the three vocalist to do what they do best. The simplistic concept of being drawn to someone’s scent is illustrated through the lyrics and addicting choreography. It takes you through the entire emotion, starting with being allured by someone, going through the relationship, then the ending where you’re left to pick up the pieces. “Perfume” is not only one of NCT’s best releases of the year but is contestably the best title track release to grace K-Pop in 2023. – Freya Rinaldi

The beauty and brilliance of Noah Kahan’s Stick Season album, to me, lies in how confessional, confrontational, and conversational his songs are – often all at once. His diaristic lyricism is honest and vulnerable, and his vocal performances are equally as intimate and impassioned, conveying achingly raw emotions, desires, hopes, and dreams with endearing charm and the open-hearted charisma of a close friend. That remarkable quality only intensified on 2023’s seven-track addendum, We’ll All Be Here Forever, an extended version of the record that saw Kahan dwelling boldly in his most brutal and darkest depths.

I’m rememberin’ I promised to forget you now
But it’s rainin’, and I’m callin’ drunk
And my medicine is drownin’ your perspective out
So I ain’t takin’ any fault
Am I honest still? Am I half the man I used to be?
I doubt it, forget about it, whatever
It’s all the same, anyways
I ain’t proud of all the punches that I’ve thrown
In the name of someone I no longer know
For the shame of being young, drunk, and alone
Traffic lights and a transmitter radio
I don’t like that when they threw me in the car
I gave your name as my emergency phone call
Honey, it rang and rang, even the cops
thought you were wrong for hangin’ up

I dial drunk, I’ll die a drunk, I’ll die for you

As this record is my most-streamed of any in 2023, I’ve chosen to recognize and honor two of its songs, starting with the track that helped make Noah Kahan a household name this year. After all, it was the runaway success of “Dial Drunk,” and the Post Malone collab that followed just a month later, that kickstarted the Vermont singer/songwriter’s journey to superstardom. Rip-roaring and sonically charged from the second it starts, “Dial Drunk” is an urgent folk rock fever dream: A drunken upheaval full of heartache, longing, existential crisis and inner drama: “I’m untetherin’ from the parts of me you’d recognize,” Kahan declares, “From charmin’ to alarmin’ in seconds. I’ll be bedridden, I’ll let the pain metastasize, but that’s mornin’, I’ll forget it… And the dial tone is all I have.

Oof.

And then there’s “You’re Gonna Go Far,” the beautifully bittersweet, teary-eyed love letter from a person who stays behind, to someone who’s leaving their hometown. The namesake for Stick Season (We’ll All Be Here Forever), “You’re Gonna Go Far” has long resonated with me, not only as someone who left his hometown and his loved ones behind at 17 in pursuit of his own dreams, but also as someone who knows what it feels like when your family members have your back – they’re rooting for you, no matter how far away you are from them. For me, those people were my grandparents – my grandmother was essentially like a third parent to me, an ever-present part of my childhood. She continued that support into my young adulthood, and while she’s now gone from this Earth, I hear her spirit (channeled through the loving lyrics of “You’re Gonna Go Far,” a heartwarming and poignant song full of unconditional love.

2023 truly has been the year of Noah Kahan. These songs – together with the entire We’ll All Be Here Forever album – will not only define this particular year for me, but also hold a near and dear place in my heart for years and years to come. – Mitch Mosk

So, pack up your car, put a hand on your heart
Say whatever you feel, be wherever you are
We ain’t angry at you, love
You’re the greatest thing we’ve lost
The birds will still sing
Your folks will still fight
The boards will still creak
The leaves will still die
We ain’t angry at you, love
We’ll be waiting for you, love
And we’ll all be here forever
And we’ll all be here forever

Olive Louise is one of those rare talents that is so special and unique. Her light and emotive style of music possesses a gentle sophistication that you are instantly drawn to. There is an angelic beauty to every piece she concocts that is almost otherworldly. “Swallow The Ocean” is a tender track touching on the idea of pushing someone away due to fear of heartbreak. It emits that dreamy quality Louise so carefully crafts. “Special” is another recent track also radiating with a soft, textured wistfulness. The song’s haunting vocals and dark, airy backdrop make it a captivating listen. Most of us at times have felt a bit nervous and out of place. She captures that feeling seamlessly. If you have not had a chance to check out Louise’s music, she is definitely someone to keep on your radar. – Chloe Robinson

Omar Apollo constantly manages to tug at our heartstrings with each strum of his guitar and pluck of his bass and “3 Boys” is no exception. From the reverbed guitar intro in the first five seconds, Apollo immediately transports us to his place of isolation and despair. In attempts to move on Apollo can’t help but conclude that his void of loneliness can only be filled by one person. Through cries and pleas, Apollo articulates the frustration of getting over someone, and just as aggravating, when it’s easy for them to move on. A true master of word choice, Apollo finds all the right lyrics to sing and imagery to paint to bring us along into his spiral of longing as he croons: Three boys would work if I wasn’t so tethered to you. – Sofia Sar

Intimate, bold, and beautifully vulnerable, OTNES’ SHOW THEM WHAT’S INSIDE! is a cathartic and captivating indie pop record of raw humanity. Singer/songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Emily Otnes is exposed like never before as she shines a radiant warm light on her innermost depths, sharing the most authentic version of herself yet in twelve songs that ache for real, deep connection. The result is one of this year’s most exciting and exhilarating debuts – an endlessly enthralling record that never fails to take our breath away. Make no mistake: This is one of my albums of the year – and its sleeper hit is without a doubt the emotive, ethereal, and enchanting love song, “REDWOOD DUST.”

Redwood dust on your glasses, ain’t that the sweetest?” she sings in soft hushed tones. “I’ve got some feelings from all of the splinters on your fingers, love when they linger…” Her poetry is touching and her voice is an emotional lighthouse, but it’s the lush cinematic pop glow she builds around herself – through glistening, layered keyboards and fuzzy production effects – that makes “REDWOOD DUST” such an immersive, all-consuming success. Tenderly singing alongside a breathtaking atmospheric world of warmth and wonder, OTNES channels her love out into the world, and for a moment, we, too, are engulfed by that gentle, vulnerable beauty. – Mitch Mosk

Let’s face it. Hopelessly longing for someone sucks. But oh boy, is it addictive. Party Nails (AKA Elana Carroll) taps into this sentiment with “Someway Somehow.” The track begins with a slow instrumental thrum, backed by a percussive beat closely resembling that of a human heart. Steadily gaining pace, the dam bursts at the 2 minute mark, giving way to a torrential stream of sound where Carroll pledges unending love; extending every ounce of affection that she has toward this loved one. She even goes so far as to grant explicit permission for this person to hurt her, belting out, “Cause if you / really wanted to / you could leave me blue / and I wouldn’t blame you / cause I did it to you / once or twice before.” Party Nails leaves us entangled in the complexity of love and longing, but not in a hurry to find the way out by any means. – Sophie Severs

When Peggy Gou dropped “(It Goes Like) Nanana – Edit” in the middle of June, she knew exactly what she was doing. The track pays homage to Eurodance and techno of the 1990s and 2000s, most notably ATB’s “9 PM (Till I Come)” and ATC’s “Around the World (La La La La La).” Vibey synths and a bouncy beat give off a feeling of careless pleasure and an easygoing summer mood. This song was on every (good) summer playlist and the soundtrack for plenty of daytime parties for a reason. Beyond the fact that it’s a sunshine banger, “(It Goes Like) Nanana – Edit” is a testament to Peggy Gou’s ability to write and produce tracks that truly speak to a time, place, and feeling. And who doesn’t want to bask a little longer in those fleeting moments of dancefloor euphoria, when all you cared about was the beat and the vibe? – Alex Killian

To quote myself back in February, “Just as lyrically impactful as it is sonically infectious, [‘GODDESS’ by PVRIS] is equal parts social commentary and explosive dance track.”

And, my words still stand! Who doesn’t love a catchy song with an underlying sociopolitical message? PVRIS has been the patron saint of queer femme representation in the alt-emo scene since the early 2010s; “GODDESS,” off her latest album EVERGREEN, cements her position as such. A bombastic, empowering reckoning, PVRIS’ Lynn Gunn calls the song, “a celebration of femininity, all shapes and forms, and a cathartic, guttural scream.” Fusing elements of hyperpop and rock, raw emotion, electricity, and energy underpin the lyrics and PVRIS’ vocals, as she vacillates between grunts, screams, ooh’s, and la-la-la’s – precisely, the encapsulation of the feminine experience. – Isabella Le

Drop Stop Roll” was Rainbow Kitten Surprise’s only release of 2023, but it surely made its mark. Steady and almost meditative, the song is a relaxing listen. It is an incredibly blanched and satisfying listen. Their iconic harmonies are once again featured on the track, which is truly a feast for the ears. While the song may sound light and even carefree, the topics tackled in the lyrics are anything but. The song deals with the concept of getting lost in the party and drug scene and losing oneself in the process. Impulsive actions and their consequences, perhaps fueled by growing fame, are dissected and examined. The song encourages taking a step back from the lifestyle for one’s health and wellbeing – released soon before the band announced the cancellation of their 2023 tour. Once again, as with all of Rainbow Kitten Surpise’s catalog, this song cannot be placed within a single genre. Aspects of pop, rock, indie, and funk all intermingle on this track. All in all, it is definitely one of the strongest releases of 2023. – Audrey Connelly

RiTcH is an artist like no other. The creativity that this Brit beholds is inspiring, as he leaves his signature on everything he puts his mind to. From the music itself, to the artwork and videos, he has established a strong USP that sucks listeners deep into his world. His single “Big Dream” is an example of this, with the artwork including a hidden 3D image, and the music video taking you on an infinite zoom journey, packed full of hidden easter eggs that link back to his life, his music and hints to future releases. “Big Dream” is a fast-paced track narrating a relationship that is destined for demise. Despite what may seem a somber topic, the track is a fun and playful release, bursting with energy. This is another great song to listen to for an instant mood-booster. – Joe Beer

Blues piano and classic twang, the Rolling Stones take us on another round with “Sweet Sounds of Heaven.” Featuring Lady Gaga’s power vocals with an earthy gravitas with Stevie Wonder on the keys–the piece is the perfect balance of a time capsule and message for the future. The song is uniquely written with gospel commentary: “Bless the Father, bless the Son/ Hear the sound of the drums /As it echoes through the valley” which then leads into an altruistic nature: “Let no woman or child/Go hungry tonight.” The song climaxes in instrumentals until it is Gaga and Jagger in a vocal conversation, almost like one is trying to outdo the other until their voices blend in discordant unison. The song dies down with distant talking and builds back up to wordless expression where the artists go back and forth again. The piece is a beautiful balance of instrumentals and powerhouse vocals that capture the essence of the music perfectly. The Stones are still kicking–and their latest music is a reminder that timeless expression is never truly lost–only transformed. – Lauren Hicks

Real pop is alive and well! Former Disney star turned pop princess, Sabrina Carpenter, has had a breakthrough year; with the release of the deluxe version of her album emails i can’t send, opening for Taylor Swift’s international leg of The Eras Tour and her viral choreography to this track Carpenter has a magnetic star power. Whilst I think every track of emails i can’t send re: is worth a listen “Feather” is an undeniable bop. The track features a catchy kick beat, lilting vibrato, twinkling synth and satirical lyrics about the modern dating sphere like “It feels so good/ Not carin’ where you are tonight/ And it feels so good/ Not pretendin’ to like the wine you like” and “I feel so much lighter like a feather with you off my mind/ Floatin’ through the memories like whatever, you’re a waste of time/ Your signals are mixed/ You act like a bitch/ You fit every stereotype/ “Send a pic.” Carpenter has been creating catchy tune after catchy tune whilst simultaneously proving herself to be a stellar performer all year and I can’t wait to see what she has for us next. For lovers of this hit who want to hear more I would guide you to “Read Your Mind” or “Fast Times.” – Minna Abdel-Gawad

Skrillex really did something when he decided to close Don’t Get Too Close with “Painting Rainbows.” Its position on the album caps off the feature-heavy LP with uplifting, diverse, and clean verses from Bibi Bourelly. Her easy flow between singing and rapping adds depth to the world created by Skrillex and co-producer Deputy’s colorful keys, immersive synths, and bopping drums. Undoubtedly an infectious track with brightness and strength, it was my top track of 2023 and still holds a place on my most visited playlists. “Painting Rainbows” may not be what people expect from Skrillex, but that’s exactly why it deserves credit. It’s a track that exemplifies the synergy between production and lyricism when done right, and done right it was. – Alex Killian

A globe-trotting troubadour and one of Atwood Magazine‘s 2023 artists to watch, Stephen Sanchez came into this year with plenty of eyes on him, eager and hungry to see how he would follow his smash hit “Until I Found You.” He didn’t disappoint: Released on January 25th, the cinematic and dreamy “Evangeline” offered dulcet romance manifest in beautiful, sweetly soaring balladry. To this day “Evangeline” remains in regular rotation as one of my favorite songs, capturing the lust, the longing, the innocence, the fantasy, and the magic of young romance through a radiant, evocative soundtrack dripping with nostalgic hues and golden tones. Sanchez is a modern-day crooner; he’s affirmed as much in our conversations together, in his live performances, and on his breathtaking, love-soaked debut album, Angel Face (released in September).

Baby, give it all
It’d give it all just to make you mine
and if you need a minute
Honey, I’ll give you all my time, all the time
Do you need the sandman
or a phone call to Mr. Jones?
I’ll put your dreams sleep
with rattling bones, bones, bones

“Evangeline” ostensibly served as the album’s lead single, breathing heart-on-sleeve romance into the world through an elegant and enchanting sonic pallet full of ’50s and ’60s influence. The song hasn’t even been out a year, and yet just like “Until I Found You,” it already feels like a timeless classic. I’ll be singing these lines for years and years to come:

So, don’t go to sleep, don’t rest your head
I’ll be the pillow, and I’ll be the bed
Holding you dreams as you lie to rest
Evangeline, Evangeline

“Evangeline” is effortless – an instantly irresistible fountain of love, conveying those universally relatable intimate emotions that so easily consume the heart and soul. At the core of this gut-wrenching song lies Sanchez’s dynamic voice – a resounding beacon of intense energy and inspiration that takes us back, reminding us what it was like to love for the very first time.

Because that’s what this song is: A soundtrack to falling in love. And what does the world need now? – Mitch Mosk

Listening to this song is a punch in the gut, each time it is a little less painful than the last but the underlying discomfort does not go away. It describes grief perfectly, from the broken voice to the heartbreaking lyrics. Masterful then is the contrast between the almost whispered, reassuring opening part, the classic feeling of comfort you want to feel at such a time. It’s like a tender hug from someone you love. And then comes the loud part, the breakdown, as if it’s a rebellion against what is happening. It’s a collective call for help and need to let it all out, it perfectly expresses all that anger and kindred feelings you feel when you lose someone you didn’t want to lose, and who didn’t deserve to go so soon. It is a painful and incredibly difficult farewell to accept. “Goodbye Evergreen” leaves you with a lump in your throat that just won’t go away. The anger slowly blows off, leaving room for grief again. What is left at this point? Only love, only the memory of the good that was there, and it doesn’t hint at going away. It is powerful, it is devastating. It is heartbreaking. We are forever grateful for this great little masterpiece, Sufjan. – Dimitra Gurduiala

I‘m fine, you’re fine, it’s fine,” Sydney Sprague declares in the sprightly, spirited “smiley face.” “And I waste my time thinking ‘could have,’ ‘should have,’ ‘good,’ ‘bad.’ I need to get my head right.” With an infectious strut, sweltering guitar riffs, and lyrics as dynamic as they are catchy, the lead single off Sprague’s sophomore album somebody in hell loves you (released in September) is a relentless eruption: The anthem of an endlessly anxious mind.

And I smile in my sleep
It’s the only time I get what I need
I love that for me

Everything about this song is memorable, which is why it hasn’t left my head since May. From the soaring, searing post-chorus jangle rock melodies to Sprague’s own emotive voice, “smiley face” may not be happy go lucky, but it’s got me alllllll smiles. – Mitch Mosk

Seems like a long way down
When you’re overthrown
Baby, do you love me now?
You hesitated
And if you’re gonna come back around
You’re on your own
Baby, do you love me now?
You hesitated
I smile in my sleep

2023 might have been a landmark year for Taylor Swift, but her best moment might have arrived in the form of a small song tacked on the end of her re-recordings (I say this as if the song didn’t reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100). “Is It Over Now?” one of the promised vault tracks that come at the end of every Taylor’s Version, is perfectly in line with what the 1989 era was all about: big hooks, vibrant lyrics, and emotion that somehow Swift condenses into a pop song. Unlike the phony “Slut!”, the previous label choice for a single that was clearly writtten anywhere from one year to three months ago. But fans demanded a recount as “Is It Over Now?” is better in every way. Written about the aftermath of her and Harry Styles’ relationship, it has some of the must cutting (“You search in every model’s bed for something greater”) and astonishing (“Oh lord, I think about jumping off of very tall somethings”) lyricism of her career. It’s one that’ll be remembered long after the song plays, and long after her re-recording process has finished — there’s a good chance it’ll be the best to be salvaged from the vault. – Sam Franzini

The Aces are one of the indie rock and pop world’s brightest voices, with three critically acclaimed studio albums to their name and a passion that is as unfiltered as it is unmatched. I’ve Loved You For So Long, third and most recent LP (released in June), is an ode to their special shared connection, as a well as a powerful reflection on past and present mental health struggles, queerness (three of The Aces’ four members identify as queer), and growing up in their conservative, religious hometown of Provo, Utah – something they’ve come to wear with pride, and consider to be their “superpower.”

It’s a record that delves deep and holds nothing back as The Aces explore who they once were, who they are now, and who they have been for one another over the years – and that starts with the irresistible opening title track, an intimate and cinematic celebration of the camaraderie these four best friends / bandmates share:

I’ve loved you for so long
Oh, I’d forgotten how it feels
Feelings come back strong
You’re taking me back, babe,
to where it all started
Wearing your hair up in your
New York apartment, I swear
I’ve loved you for so long
I’d do it again…

The Aces shove as much love as they can into three minutes’ time, soaring through sweet, stunning musical hoops as together they build an enchanting world of warmth that glows with the brightest energy possible. It’s the perfect entrance to such a triumphant, liberating, and cathartic album, and true display of love’s purest form. I’ve Loved You For So Long finds Cristal and Alisa Ramirez, Katie Henderson, and McKenna Petty unapologetically owning their truths while making some of the catchiest, and the most meaningful, music of their career. This track sets the tone of all that’s to come, beckoning us to dive deeper – both into the music, and into ourselves – as we revel in the beauty of human connection. – Mitch Mosk

Take a look at those names in the song title. Three artists that have worked together so many times and for so long they must have spare keys to one anothers houses. Some combinations just make sense, and this trio of legendary underground hip-hop super-luminaries have pumped out some pure gold over the last decade. The apparent laziness of Earl’s delivery belies a verse which covers references to his proudly diverse background, the restless bloodstained history of Africa, and a nod to a jazz great, while MIKE prefers to sit back and reflect on his hard work finally bearing fruit after a recent surge in popularity.

Sentry” allows a chopped-up vocal loop to play throughout as the two MCs exchange thoughtful and pacey stanzas, their speed of delivery contrasting the steady rhythm. MIKE and Earl are both known for their gravelly baritone styles, so there’s not much in terms of vocal contrast here, but that adds to the hypnotic flow. The underground scene is all about cutting the crap and letting the words speak for themselves – “Sentry” is one of the genre’s quickest wins in that regard. It all sounds so effortless, a symptom of the remarkable talent and continued success of these artists. Adam Davidson

One of the most mysterious and ridiculous bands took the chaotic nature of their previous albums and molded it into their most accessible release yet. While The Armed have always had a pop sensible to their records, they leaned into those to make a postmodern stadium rock record that feels like the perfect continuation of 2021’s Ultrapop. While the pulverizing nature of those songs is missed (for the most part), the band’s single “Everything’s Glitter” sums up their mission of deconstructing consumerism and celebrity with the same type of glee that their earlier work did.

While they mock the idea of seeking fame and idol worship (“Am I a caricature? Just a little between God and clown”), they also do a great job of cashing in on that dystopian consumerism in a tongue-in-cheek manner (“This ain’t the same f*-ing thing you’ve been sold before”). While Perfect Saviors may let more people in on the world of The Armed, it does give them the ideal springboard to jump off into something even more ridiculous for their next project. Refract. – James Crowley

This was another very tough decision, because The Beaches’ Blame My Ex – the long-awaited, hotly-anticipated follow-up to 2017’s debut album Late Show – has been on regular repeat ever since its release in mid-September. From the moment Blame My Ex begins, The Beaches make it known that their breakup record (as they lovingly call it) isn’t going to wallow in self-pity – and indeed, you won’t find any cries for help or woe is me’s across these ten songs.

Out of inner reckoning and reeling, tension and turmoil, the Canadian rock band create a soaring, cinematic world in which empowerment and liberation reign supreme. They lean into life’s rawest emotions, channeling turbulence into catharsis with unfiltered energy, stunning passion, and unapologetic alt-rock grace. The result is a deeply human collection of songs that ache, energize, uplift, and inspire: Sonically and emotionally charged, Blame My Ex is a bold, brazen, and breathtaking album spanning our lowest lows and our highest highs.

And of course, that means there were plenty of great songs to choose from: From the rousing, raw singalong “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Paranoid” and the rip-roaring, beachy “Me & Me” – a truly breathtaking song in all the best ways – to the visceral upheaval “Everything Is Boring,” the intimate, introspective, and exposed “Shower Beer,” and more, Blame My Ex is as fun as it is full of feeling.

Done being the sad girl
I’m done dating rockstars
From now on only actors
Tall boys in the Raptors
I’ll become an a***ole
Disguised as a bad girl
In my button-up shirt
A natural disaster
Hey!Y ou could be my baby, baby, baby
You could be my baby boy, dear lady
You could be my baby, baby, maybe, oh oh…

But for me, one song reigns supreme: The album opener and title(-ish) track, “Blame Brett” is and remains an instantly memorable, unapologetic, and irreverent standout. It’s more than just the relentless high-energy intensity of the song, or the fact that the whole three-minute experience feels like one massive, irresistible singalong; it’s all that and so much more. I once read that The Beatles would write choruses for their songs, then make those the verses and write an even catchier chorus. That’s what it feels like The Beaches did here: Tight, turbulent, and utterly impassioned, “Blame Brett” keeps the punches coming from start to finish as the band deliver a bold and beautiful barrage pop and punk-fueled fervor.

I’m sorry in advance
I’m only gonna treat you bad
I’m probably gonna let you down
I’m probably gonna sleep around
So sorry in advance
Before you take off your pants
I wouldn’t let me near your friends
I wouldn’t let me near your dad
But don’t blame me, blame Brett
Blame my ex, blame my ex, blame my ex
Don’t blame me, blame Brett
Blame my ex, blame my ex, blame my ex

The fact that I still catch myself singing this song so many months later is all the proof I need to know that “Blame Brett” is one of this year’s best songs. – Mitch Mosk

Over 30 years since the final studio collaboration between McCartney, Harrison, and Starr, and four decades after John Lennon’s death, the Beatles virtually reunite for one final swan song. Powered by Peter Jackson’s MAL de-mixing technology and buoyed by the sprightly rhythm section of McCartney/Starr, Now and Then serves as a bittersweet coda to the band’s catalog.

Originating as a lovelorn demo in 1978, the 2023 version of “Now and Then” is contextualized as a love letter from John to Paul answered in the future. The song is replete with sweeping strings arranged by Giles Martin, wonderfully idiosyncratic rhythm guitar licks recorded by Harrison in 1995, and the unmistakable drum and bass fills of the two surviving Beatles, with John Lennon’s vocal front and center as trademark descending melodies cascade through the mix. It’s certainly a thrill to hear this poignant late addition to one of the most essential songbooks in the history of popular music. – Aidan Moyer

With this year marking The Gaslight Anthem’s long-awaited return, the band had plenty of songs that had the type of fist-pumping heartland punk that long-time fans have come to love, but History Books’ most captivating moments came in the haunting back-half. “Michigan, 1975” is much more subdued than most of the hits that TGA has grown to be known for, but it perfectly depicts depression as a means for pushing people away better than they have in the past.

Where tracks like “Positive Charge” and “History Books” seemed to tease the triumphant return of a much-beloved band (complete with a Bruce Springsteen feature), the back half of the record revealed a band looking to dig deeper. This isn’t a reunion done to just relive the glory of their original stretch of albums, it’s a group that has more to say, now just older and wiser. – James Crowley

The Japanese House’s Amber Bain has been one of my favorite artists (and vocalists) for quite some time, but something about “Sunshine Baby” just hit me differently – deeper – and no, it has nothing to do with the presence of The 1975’s vocalist, Matty Healy. Achingly ambient and radiating with a warm, gentle glow, the third single taken off The Japanese House’s sophomore album In the End It Always Does (released June 30) is a dreamy and lush indulgence of heartrending melancholia.

I don’t know what’s right anymore,” Bain relents in her chorus. “I don’t wanna fight anymore. Sitting in the back seat driving with my sunshine baby, well I’ve gone a little crazy, surely someone’s gonna save me now…” It’s a poignant admission, an intimate surrender, and a cathartic release all in one.

I wanna be a part of it, I want to sing along
The feeling when the wind screen
wipers line up with the song
Perform my stupid rituals
Everything is cyclical
hold on to this feeling
’cause you won’t feel it for long
You won’t feel it for long
I don’t know what’s right anymore
I don’t wanna fight anymore
Sitting in the back seat driving with my sunshine baby
well I’ve gone a little crazy
surely someone’s gonna save me now

The heart wants what it wants, even if it can’t have it – and as she finds herself in the throes of bittersweet nostalgia, The Japanese House does what she’s always done best by bringing us into the room next to her, to feel what she feels as intensely and immediately, as she experiences a flood of emotions in real time. Thanks to a heavy, pulsing beat, a deluge of radiant vocal harmonies, and Amber Bain’s own breathtakingly emotive delivery, “Sunshine Baby” aches in all the right (and maybe some of the wrong) ways; moody, brooding, and beautiful, it’s an enveloping soundtrack to that act of embracing our scars and our ghosts, and dwelling in the comfort of our past even when it hurts us to do so. – Mitch Mosk

I miss my dog and I miss falling in love
I miss the feeling that you get
when someone fits just like a glove
I can’t help but question
Maybe this just isn’t helping
To be putting off the end
cause in the end, it always does
In the end it always does
I don’t know what’s right anymore
I don’t wanna fight anymore
Sitting in the back seat driving with my sunshine baby
well I’ve gone a little crazy surely someone’s gonna save me

With each passing year, The National give its legion of fans more and more to love — or more and more to debate, it seems. The world-beating, festival headlining band of “sad dads,” routed via Brooklyn from Ohio and now scattered across the globe — produce gorgeous records with achingly beautiful lyrics, often enlisting the help of the biggest indie luminaries on the planet. And yet, there’s something charming, refreshing and memorable about a song like “Deep End,” one of the strongest tracks off the second 2023 LP, Laugh Track, with a title that references the seemingly titular character of its first album of 2023 (that’s First Two Pages of Frankenstein). The propulsive track calls to mind, say, 2010’s “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” and represents some of the best of The National. It’s just the band in a room, playing soaring, searing guitar alongside rich drumming from Bryan Devendorf — just the way it used to be years ago. It might sound overly simple on the surface, but it’s a hard-hitting track that shows The National — masters of moody ballads aplenty — still have plenty of juice in the tank. – Beau Hayhoe

I didn’t think this song would hit me as hard as it’s hit me, but what can I say? I’m a sucker for breathtaking music, and The Staves always deliver. “Unencumbered and fast as lightning,” The Staves offer a refreshing twist on their familiar folk sound in “All Now,” the ultimate cinematic slow burn. The more I’ve listened to it – to the passion in their voices; to the raw heat of those synths, and the unrelenting urgency in the drums – the deeper I’ve fallen in love with this new era of the Staveley-Taylor sisters’ band.

The second single and title track off The Staves’ forthcoming fourth studio album All Now (due out March 22, 2024 via Nonesuch) – their first LP since cofounding sister Emily announced an indefinite break from the band, in large part to focus on her own growing family (she still contributes vocals on a handful of tracks) – sees remaining sisters Jessica and Camilla Staveley-Taylor surging ahead with an almost palpable electric energy as they continue to unpack and process the human experience through beautiful music.

Both “All Now” and its predecessor, September’s “You Held It All,” find their strength through thought-provoking lyrics and slow, dynamic build-ups – that gradual growth of a song from soft whispers to rousing shouts. Working together with legendary producer John Congleton, who also produced 2021’s critically acclaimed Good Woman, The Staves once again showcase the depth of their artistry alongside a longstanding commitment to continuous artistic evolution on “All Now.” The smoldering song burns bright with sonic heat and emotional depth as the band build up toward a cathartic fever pitch, boldly singing: “It’s all now, is it it exciting? We can stick it to the man and come out fighting…

It’s all now, isn’t it exciting?
We can stick it to the man
And come out fighting
Unencumbered, fast as lightning
I can act like I’m fine, I can put it in writing
It’s all now, isn’t it exciting?
Isn’t it exciting? Isn’t it exciting?
Isn’t it? Isn’t it?

Intimate, unfiltered, and emotionally charged, “All Now” is breathtakingly visceral – a brutally honest eruption. The song builds slowly up from the Staveley-Taylor sisters’ rich, harmonizing vocals and pulsing synth pads, adding drums and searing electric guitars along the way as The Staves come to a climactic, cathartic crescendo.

Their raw passion is infectious and irresistible, and the end result is like a rallying cry for the disillusioned: A song that hits harder and harder the more we listen to it, inspiring and rejuvenating us as we, quite ironically, chant at the top of our lungs, “It’s all now, isn’t it exciting?!” When it comes to The Staves, it really is all now – and I’m very excited. – Mitch Mosk

This is the sound of a band making their first mainstream radio crossover. It’s the sound of rippling, shocking synergy with a wattage high enough to light up entire stadiums. It’s the sound of three sisters hitting their stride, amping up their powerful momentum into an electric series of moments that signal that there’s nowhere to go but up for The Warning. Busy on a tour circuit over the past year that’s literally circled the globe, and in support of such artists as Muse, Royal Blood, Three Days Grace, and Guns ‘N Roses, The Warning only had time to release one song this year, but that’s only heightened the anticipation for what will come next year. “MORE” is a simmering, raucous slice of alt rock that sees the band branching out sonically from their more traditional classic rock roots.

Released in May from Lava Records, “MORE” arrived as a fun, high-tempo jaunt perfect for summertime. The song is a lyrical push and pull between two people fighting against hot-headed desires they know are wrong, but can’t escape the trap of heading into a fight from which they know no winner will emerge. The song’s breezy energy and high-octane riffs underscore The Warning’s commanding musical presence. They demonstrate a mastery of their instruments that belies their young ages, only between 18 and 23. The cascading harmonies and riffs are slightly reminiscent of Muse, with whom they spent a lot of time on the road, but it expands their sonic landscape in a way that retains the sisters’ vision for originality. A quick third-act drop just ramps up the excitement even further, making this gateway song into their discography perfectly designed to entice the listener into hearing more of what makes The Warning so impressive so early on in their career. – Kendall Graham

In the late fall of 2023 we have been graced with the Dutch electronic artist Tinlicker’s mesmerizing collab with Editors’ Tom Smith on the timely song ‘This Life’ which was released on Black Friday 2023. This is a haunting anthem which is so highly poignant to deeply inhabit given the current gravitas of global conflict amidst the personal struggles in our own lives. The tenor and vitality of Tom Smith’s unmistakable voice enables us to understand the conveyance of language and meaning in new ways that ultimately lead us to redefine how we perceive others and our own selves within the fragility of this one certain life.

This is a song to carry with you into the new year as we reflect within the raging chaos in our world, and in sensing how the connections in our own lives are so very significant in shaping one’s intimate awareness of consciousness. The song “This Life” is a late 2023 release that is undoubtedly one of the best this year in folding these intersections between our internal and external worlds, hopefully making each one of us heard in more profound ways in this life. “Did anyone hear our laughter? Did anyone count our steps? The world is our own search party Dangerously close to the edge.” – David Buyze

Honey” is pop euphoria. Ascending vocals lead the song into a chorus filled with call-to-action: “Give me the courage to say all the shit I mean. Give me a song to rock your body, a lucid dream.” What Troye Sivan wants you to do, though, is come out to the dance floor and experience the re-ignition and reinvention of what love feels like. While making his latest album, Sivan immersed himself in the queer party scene and found a communal beauty in nightclubs and one night stands. “Honey” is the thesis of his last five years, with Sivan declaring that he “sees love in every space” and “sex in every city, every town.” Over an entrancing house beat that warps and drives the track forward, the song is not only a career highlight for Sivan but a dance-pop masterpiece to rock your body. – Brendan Le

wave to earth is one of those artists whose (seemingly) overnight popularity was a bittersweet moment for me – it’s as if it was yesterday when “seasons” had less than 500,000 streams on Spotify. Despite my melancholy, every bit of success they’ve gained over the last three years was well-earned, and truth be told, long overdue.

Off their latest album 0.1 flaws and all., wave to earth’s “peach eyes” is an optimistic, sun-soaked track perfect for afternoons spent sleeping in and breezy bike rides down the beach. Blending surf rock, indie, and R&B with lo-fi influences, the track rides the wave of nostalgia, yet its charm lies in the modern textures and mellow lyrics. Familiar in all the best possible ways, “peach eyes” is both a warm cup of tea on a rainy day and an ice-cold lemonade in July. I mean, how much clearer can it get when the first line is, “Peach eyes and blue skies, I’ll be with you on your ride?” – Isabella Le

Although the band is largely punk rock on Rat Saw God, particularly with references to the current political climate on “Bull Believer,” Wednesday pays homage to their North Carolina, backroads-y country roots with “Chosen to Deserve.” It’s a Karly Hartzman original that earned the #8 spot on Pitchfork’s “100 Best Songs of 2023” list.

Mostly, “Chosen to Deserve” is a retrospective glimpse into small town life. Someone overdosing on Benadryl… nights spent sneaking into a neighborhood pool, then waking up early to teach at Sunday School. Adolescent years are far from perfect, as the artist laments, “We always started by tellin’ all our best stories first / So now that it’s been awhile, I’ll get around / To tellin’ you all my worst.” Still, these insanely specific moments feel relatable and personal — almost endearing. If you don’t like country music, “Chosen to Deserve” might change your mind. – Julia Dzurillay

Zach Bryan began his ascent to super-stardom while he was still in the Navy. Once he was honorably discharged he put together two of the best projects of the 2020s so far. 2022’s American Heartbreak is a 2-hour album full of undulating records that showcase his capabilities, from a traditional rendition of “You Are My Sunshine” to a lovely ode to his late mother on “She’s Alright.” Bryan honed in and narrowed his focus on the self-titled album he released this year.

East Side of Sorrow” is a perfect introduction to the artist if you haven’t gotten around to listening to him. This song is not a single off the project, likely due to its heavy subject matter, but it is an excellent showcasing of Bryan’s talent. “East Side of Sorrow” gives great exposition into what has made Bryan into the soulful artist he is today. The first verse is about the friends he “lost in the August heat” while in the military. The second verse is about losing his mother to cancer. And the chorus is a triumphant exclamation that “the sun’s gonna rise tomorrow somewhere on the east side of sorrow, don’t give it a reason to follow, let it be, then let it go.” – Eric Schuster



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