The Best of 2023: Early Cut

Still a few weeks left in December, but I got impatient and burned myself an early cut of my annual year-end mix. The impatience seems justified, as there's an awful lot of great music in 2023. While I have double-CD annual mixes dating back to 1966 (no, I didn't make the mix as a baby, but eventually circled back and built out the catalog), the last two years I just stuck with single-CD versions. 2023, though, is definitely gonna take 160 minutes (especially once I make the usual belated discoveries after the critics start posting their year-end lists).

As usual, my single-CD highlights reel sticks largely with the catchier, more upbeat stuff; I'll pick up some of the ballads and Americana and dream pop on the longer version.

Lots of fizzy-sounding indie bands I've gotten into in recent years (guitar rock is not dead!)--Crocodiles, Worriers, Golden Apples, Tough Age, Wednesday, Slow Pulp, Ratboys, etc. But also a few long-timers--who'd have imagined we'd have two 80s Paisley Underground bands making strong resurgences (the Long Ryders & Rain Parade); a terrific later-period Yo La Tengo album; Brix Smith with some of her best work since her early days with the Fall; etc. And nice to see women-helmed acts comprising the majority of the mix.

A few things here I just picked up recently: John P. Strohm (co-founder of the Blake Babies who's played with the Lemonheads and plenty of other acts) has a great new solo album out, Something to Look Forward To, which sounds like a cross between Brian Wilson and Fountains of Wayne's softer side; and just discovered Wurld Series, a lo-fi act that should appeal to Guided by Voices fans. And a bunch more.