Best of 2023: Staff Picks

Best of 2023: Staff Picks

Remember when we looked at the year end critic's picks in order to make holiday shopping lists? Now they're mostly a way to make sure we didn't miss anything big. Either way -- here's what we fell in love with, and we're asking for your favorites in our Best of 2023 Listener Poll.

Scroll down for: Corny O'Connell | Alisa Ali | Dennis Elsas | Eric Holland | Darren DeVivo | Russ Borris | Delphine Blue | Paul Cavalconte | John Platt | Kara Manning | Benham Jones | Janet Bardini | Sam Sumpter

Corny O'Connell

Top 10 Songs (alphabetical)

  • beabadoobee and Laufey, "A Night to Remember"
  • Black Pumas, "More Than a Love Song"
  • Everything But the Girl, "Nothing Left to Lose"
  • Jungle, "Back on 74"
  • Elle King, "Jersey Giant"
  • The Last Dinner Party, "Nothing Matters"
  • Laufey, "From the Start"
  • Natalie Merchant, "Tower of Babel"
  • Dawn Richard, "Bubblegum"
  • Kae Tempest, "Nice Idea"

Top 10 Albums (alphabetical)

  • Abraham Alexander, SEA/SONS
  • Black Pumas, Chronicles of a Diamond
  • boygenius, the record
  • Margaret Glaspy, Echo the Diamond
  • Rhiannon Giddens, You're the One
  • Jaimee Harris, Boomerang Town
  • Jungle, Volcano
  • Elle King, Come Get Your Wife
  • Arlo Parks, My Soft Machine
  • Raye, My 21st Century Blues

Music Discovery:

Alisa Ali

Top 10 Songs

  1. Obongjayer, "Just Cool"
  2. Girl and Girl, "Dance Now"
  3. White Reaper, "Pages"
  4. Pachyman, "Trago Coqueto"
  5. Manchester Orchestra, "The Way"
  6. Caroline Polachek, "Welcome To My Island"
  7. The Japanese House, "Boyhood"
  8. Doja Cat, "Paint the Town Red"
  9. Thundercat & Tame Impala, "No More Lies"
  10. Jorja Smith, "Try Me"

Top 10 Albums

  1. Sufjan Stevens, Javelin
  2. The Japanese House, In The End It Always Does
  3. Manchester Orchestra, The Valley of Vision
  4. Bully, Lucky For You
  5. Raye, My 21st Century Blues
  6. boygenius, The Record
  7. Blondshell, Blondshell
  8. The National, Laugh Track
  9. Yo La Tengo, This Stupid World
  10. Abraham Alexander, Sea/Sons

Music Discovery:
Pan Arcadia - One of my fave "NY Slice" artists this year

Dennis Elsas

Top 10 Songs (alphabetical)

  • The Beatles, "Now and Then"
  • Rolling Stones, "Angry"
  • Big Thief, "Born for Loving You"
  • Lana Del Ray, "Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd"
  • Green Day, "The American Dream is Killing Me"
  • boygenius, "Not Strong Enough"
  • Bleachers, "Modern Girl"
  • Josh Ritter, "For Your Soul"
  • Samia, "Honey"
  • Jamila Woods, "Tiny Garden"

Top 10 Albums (alphabetical)

  • The Rolling Stones, Hackney Diamonds
  • Lucinda Williams, Stories from a Rock n Roll Heart
  • Stephen Sanchez, Angel Face
  • Low Cut Connie, Art Dealers
  • Black Pumas, Chronicles of a Diamond
  • Jenny Lewis, Joy'All
  • Peter Gabriel, I/O
  • Rhiannon Giddens, You're the One
  • Margaret Glaspy, Echo the Diamond
  • Foo Fighters, But Here We Are

Music Discovery:

Eric Holland

Top 10 Songs

  1. The Gaslight Anthem, "Positive Charge"
  2. Brittany Howard, "What Now"
  3. Genesis Owusu, "Tied Up!"
  4. Big Thief, "Born for Loving You"
  5. Margo Price feat Sharon Van Etten, "Radio"
  6. Margaret Glaspy, "Act Natural"
  7. Devon Gilfillian, "Love You Anyway"
  8. The Hold Steady, "Sideways Skull"
  9. Squirrel Flower, "Alley Light"
  10. Josh Ritter, "For Your Soul"

Top 10 Albums

  1. Algiers, Shook
  2. boygenius, The Record
  3. The National, First Two Pages of Frankenstein
  4. Black Pumas, Chronicles of a Diamond
  5. Allison Russell, The Returner
  6. Abraham Alexander, SEA/SONS
  7. Low Cut Connie, Art Dealers
  8. Bully, Lucky For You
  9. Rhiannon Giddens, You're The One
  10. Rodrigo y Gabriela, In Between Thoughts... A New World

Music Discovery:
Hannah Jadagu

Darren DeVivo

Top Songs

  1. The Beatles, "Now And Then"
  2. Big Thief, "Born For Loving You"
  3. Blur, "Barbaric"
  4. boygenius, "Not Strong Enough"
  5. Future Islands, "The Tower"
  6. James Mastro, "Right Words, Wrong Song"
  7. Raye, "Worth It"
  8. The Revivalists, "Good Old Days"
  9. Semisonic, "The Rope"
  10. Slowdive, "Kisses"
  11. Ringo Starr, "Rewind Forward"
  12. Thee Sacred Souls, "Running Way"
  13. Wednesday, "Chosen To Deserve"
  14. The Weeklings, "Brian Jones"
  15. Wilco, "Evicted"

Top Albums

  1. Beirut, Hadsel - Written and performed by Zach Condon, frontman of Beirut. Named for the Norwegian island where Condon conceived it.
  2. Bethany Cosentino, Natural Disaster - Bethany Cosentino, half of Best Coast, goes solo for the first time.
  3. Bob Dylan, Shadow Kingdom - Featuring music from the 2021 film, "Shadow Kingdom: The Early Songs of Bob Dylan." New interpretations of 13 older Dylan songs, plus one new instrumental.
  4. The Gaslight Anthem, History Books - Their first album in nine years.
  5. Ian Hunter, Defiance Part 1 - At 84 years old, there's no stopping Ian Hunter! His first album in seven years features a massive group of special guests who all contribute to the defiance.
  6. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Weathervanes - Another winner from Jason and his band, which features his wife, Amanda Shires. The album's songs were written while Jason was filming Martin Scorsese's "Killers of the Flower Moon."
  7. Mary Lee Kortes, Will Anybody Know That I Was Here? The Songs Of Beulah Rowley - Kortes's first solo album after five albums fronting Mary Lee's Corvette. Produced by the late Hal Willner, the album is based on the fictional biography of a depression-era singer and songwriter from the Midwest.
  8. Laufey, Bewitched - The second studio album from the Reykjavík, Iceland artist.
  9. Pat Metheny, Dream Box - Pat Metheny's brilliance as a guitarist and composer never disappoints.
  10. Graham Nash, Now - Nash, 81, sings and writes beautifully.
  11. Graham Parker and the Goldtops, Last Chance To Learn The Twist - Parker is like a really cool uncle and any new music is like a visit from him during the holidays! This is the second album with his current band, the Goldtops.
  12. Pretenders, Relentless - Follows 2020's Hate For Sale, Pretenders' return to form.
  13. Rain Parade, Last Rays Of A Dying Sun - The band was part of the Paisley Underground scene in '80s Los Angeles. Their 1985 album Crashing Dream resonated loudly with me; the song "Depending On You" was a big "hit" on WFUV. Thirty-eight years later, they've released their long-awaited followup.
  14. The Rolling Stones, Hackney Diamonds - The band's first album after the 2021 death of Charlie Watts is their first since 2016's Blue & Lonesome and all-original music since 2005's A Bigger Bang.
  15. John Scofield, Uncle John's Band - A diverse collection of covers featuring bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Bill Stewart.
  16. Paul Simon, Seven Psalms - A seven-part acoustic song cycle inspired by the Book of Psalms. It's gorgeous, and unlike anything Simon's done in the past.
  17. Slow Pulp, Yard - Wisconsin-bred, Chicago-based Slow Pulp's second album.
  18. Soft Machine, Other Doors - Formed in 1966, part of Canterbury's psychedelic music scene. They transitioned to instrumental progressive rock and  jazz fusion by the early 1970s with many lineup changes over the years; they are currently anchored by guitarist John Etheridge, who joined in 1975.
  19. Roger Waters, The Dark Side Of The Moon Redux - Reimagined and complete overhaul of the iconic Pink Floyd album, 50 years later. Waters concieved the album concept and wrote the lyrics when he was 29; now he reevaluates and recreates the work with the eyes of a 79-year-old man.
  20. Yes, Mirror To The Sky - The first album from Yes following the death of longtime drummer Alan White. Jay Schellen took over on drums, joining Steve Howe, Geoffrey Downes, Billy Sherwood and Jon Davison. The album was produced by Steve Howe.

Music Discoveries (a three way tie!):
Laufey, Raye, and Slow Pulp

Russ Borris

Top 10 Songs (alphabetical)

  • Allison Russell, "Stay Right Here"
  • Brittany Howard, "What Now"
  • Colter Wall, "Evangelina"
  • IDLES, "Dancer"
  • MUNA, "One That Got Away"
  • Pachyman, "Trago Coqueto"
  • Sleaford Mods feat. Florence Shaw, "Force 10 From Navarone"
  • Squirrel Flower, "Alley Light"
  • The Last Dinner Party, "Nothing Matters"
  • White Reaper, "Pages"

Top 10 Albums (alphabetical)

  • Bully, Lucky For You
  • Depeche Mode, Memento Mori
  • Foo Fighters, But Here We Are
  • Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Weathervanes
  • Killer Mike, Michael
  • Manchester Orchestra, The Valley of Vision
  • Margo Price, Strays
  • PJ Harvey, I Inside the Old Year Dying
  • Sparks, The Girl is Crying in Her Latte
  • The Gaslight Anthem, History Books

Music Discovery:
The Last Dinner Party

Delphine Blue

Top 15 Songs

  1. PJ Harvey, "A Child's Question, August" - Polly is back. And still great. Thank heavens.
  2. U.S. Girls, "Bless This Mess" - Title track of the 2023 release
  3. Sleaford Mods feat. Florence Shaw, "Force 10 From Navarone"
  4. Lil Yachty, "We Saw the Sun!" - I did not expect to love this band
  5. Danielle Ponder, "Roll The Credits" - Her voice. Period.
  6. Lael Neale, "I Am the River" - Enchanting, poetic lyrics coupled with a sparse singing style
  7. DEBBY FRIDAY, "So Hard to Tell" - I'm glad she uses all caps to spell her name. I feel all caps about her.
  8. Young Fathers, "I Saw" - From Scotland, they met as teens
  9. Lucinda Williams, "New York Comeback" - A beautiful New York comeback after her 2020 stroke. Input on the song from Jesse Malin and The Boss.
  10. Barry Can't Swim, "Sonder" - Not only my favorite on his new LP, it's his too.
  11. Say She She, "Silver" - The title track from the silvery-voiced trio's sophomore LP
  12. Black Pumas, "More Than A Love Song" - For a moment it seemed like they were done and then BOOM!
  13. Dan Tyminski, "Never Comin' Home" - The man of constant sorrow from his LP, God Fearing Heathen
  14. Thee Sacred Souls, "Can I Call You Rose" - Extra-sweet soul
  15. The Beatles, "Now and Then" - What can I say? I love it.
  16. Bush Tetras, "Tout est Meilleur"

Top 11 Albums

  1. PJ Harvey, I Inside The Old Year Dying
  2. U.S. Girls, Bless This Mess
  3. Lael Neale, Star Eaters Delight
  4. Cat Power, Cat Power Sings Dylan: The 1966 Royal Albert Hall Concert
  5. Dry Cleaning, Swampy EP
  6. Vince Clarke, Songs of Silence
  7. Jaimie Branch, Fly Or Die Fly Or Die Fly Or Die (World War)
  8. Everything But the Girl, Fuse
  9. Blonde Redhead, Sit Down for Dinner
  10. Jalen Ngonda, Come Around And Love Me
  11. Meshell Ndegeocello, The Omnichord Real Book

Music Discoveries:
Pachyman and Joe P

    Paul Cavalconte

    Top 10 Songs

    1. Laufey, "From The Start"
    2. Cold War Kids, "Run Away With Me"
    3. The Last Dinner Party, "Nothing Matters"
    4. Big Thief, "Vampire Empire"
    5. Rolling Stones with Lady Gaga, "Sweet Sound Of Heaven"
    6. Stephen Sanchez, "Be More"
    7. Margo Price, "Radio"
    8. The Revivalists, "Good Old Days"
    9. White Reaper, "Pages"
    10. Jaime Wyatt, "World Worth Keeping"

    Top 10 Albums

    1. Natalie Merchant, Keep Your Courage
    2. The Rolling Stones, Hackney Diamonds
    3. Allison Russell, The Returner
    4. Abraham Alexander, SEA/SONS
    5. Tyler Childers, Linger Awhile
    6. Laufey, Bewitched
    7. boygenius, The Record
    8. Jenny Lewis, Joy'All
    9. Low Cut Connie, Art Dealers
    10. Rhiannon Giddens, You're The One

    Music Discovery:

    John Platt

    Top 10 Songs (alphabetical)

    • Iris DeMent, "Workin' on a World"
    • Joan Osborne, "Great American Cities"
    • Josh Ritter, "Strong Swimmer"
    • Laufey, "From the Start"
    • Milk Carton Kids, "North Country Ride"
    • Natalie Merchant, "Come On, Aphrodite"
    • Raye Zaragoza, "Joy Revolution"
    • Robinson & Rohe, "Whwere I'm Coming From"
    • Sam Robbins, "Hard to Hate"
    • The Scooches, "Open a Door"
    • And also, boygenius, "Cool About It," Chris Pierce, "45 Jukebox," Greg Greenway, "Build a Bridge," Molly utle, "Alice in the Bluegrass," Samara Joy, "Can't Get Out of This Mood," Wilco, "Evicted"

    Top 10 Albums (alphabetical)

    • Allison Russell, The Returner
    • Ellis Paul, 55
    • Iris DeMent, Workin' on a World
    • Jaimee Harris, Boomerang Town
    • Joan Osborne, Nobody Owns You
    • Milk Carton Kids, I Only See the Moon
    • Rhiannon Giddens, You're the One
    • The Kennedys, Headwinds
    • Vance Gilbert, The Mother of Troubles
    • Various Artists, More Than a Whisper: Celebrating the Music of Nanci Griffith
    • Honorable Mention: Alice Howe, Circumstance, Eliza Gilkyson, Home, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Weathervanes, Joni Mitchell, At Newport, Mark Erelli, Lay Your Darkness Down, Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway, City of Gold, Roger Street Friedman, Love Hope Trust, Rufus Wainwright, Folkcracy, Samara Joy, Linger Awhile, Tom Paxton & John McCutcheon, Together

    Music Discovery:
    Sam Robbins - Based on Falcon Ridge, Kerrville & NERFA, the "It" folkie of 2023 with his appealing stage presence and infectious James Taylor-like tunes

    Kara Manning

    Top Songs:

    1. English Teacher, “The World’s Biggest Paving Slab" and "Mastermind Specialism"
    2. Divorce, “Birds” (and Heady Metal EP)
    3. Underworld, “Denver Luna” and “and the colour red”
    4. Raye, “Ice Cream Man”
    5. The Last Dinner Party, “Nothing Matters” and “Sinner”
    6. HotWax, “Treasure” (and A Thousand Times EP)
    7. Model/Actriz, “Crossing Guard”
    8. Jalen Ngonda, "Come Around and Love Me"
    9. yunè pinku, “killing bee”
    10. Whitelands, “Setting Sun”
    11. Jacana People x Antony Szmierek "Twist Forever"
    12. deary, "Fairground"
    13. Phoenix feat. Clairo, "After Midnight"
    14. Emma Tricca, "Autumn's Fiery Tongue"
    15. Fräulein, “Brand New"
    16. Tommy Lefroy, “Worst Case Kid”
    17. Kevin Drew "Out in the Fields"
    18. Jolie Laide, "Pacific Coast Highway"
    19. Dutch Mustard, "Beauty"
    20. NewDad, “In My Head”
    21. Kiltro, "Guanaco"
    22. Water From Your Eyes, "True Life"
    23. Unknown Mortal Orchestra, "Meshuggah"

    Top Albums:

    1. Sofia Kourtesis, Madres
    2. Young Fathers, Heavy Heavy
    3. Cleo Sol, Heaven and Gold (two albums)
    4. Blur, The Ballad of Darren
    5. Corinne Bailey Rae, Black Rainbows
    6. Laufey, Bewitched
    7. Black Country, New Road, Live at Bush Hall
    8. boygenius, The Record
    9. Slowdive, everything is alive
    10. The Japanese House, In the End It Always Does
    11. Bombay Bicycle Club, My Big Day
    12. Romy, Mid Air
    13. Priya Ragu, Santhosam
    14. Everything But the Girl, Fuse
    15. mui zyu, Rotten Bun for an Eggless Century
    16. Nabihah Iqbal, Dreamer
    17. Abraham Alexander, SEA/SONS
    18. Barry Can’t Swim, When Will We Land
    19. Mandy, Indiana, i’ve seen a way
    20. Jessie Ware, That! Feels Good!
    21. Alfa Mist, Variables
    22. Julie Byrne, The Greater Wings

    Music Discoveries:
    HotWax, deary, Jalen Ngonda, Slow Fiction, and Gretel Hänlyn

    Best Video:
    Palehound, “My Evil"

    Shrewdest Sample:
    Paul Russell, "Lil Boo Thing" (The Emotions)

    Benham Jones

    Top 10 Songs (alphabetical, not including songs on Top Albums)

    • Animal Collective, "Defeat"
    • Big Thief, "Vampire Empire"
    • Chappell Roan, "Red Wine Supernova"
    • Genesis Owusu, "Leaving the Light"
    • Gracie Abrams, "I Know It Won't Work"
    • Margo Price + Sharon Van Etten, "Radio"
    • Olivia Rodrigo, "Vampire"
    • Sampha, "Spirit 2.0"
    • Sofia Kourtesis, "Madres"
    • Wednesday, "Chosen to Deserve"

    Top 10 Albums (alphabetical)

    • Andrè 3000, New Blue Sun
    • boygenius, The Record
    • Buck Meek, Haunted Mountain
    • Caroline Polachek, Desire, I want to Turn Into You
    • Jeff Rosenstock, HELLMODE
    • Lana Del Rey, Did You Know There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd
    • Mitski, This Land is Inhospitable and So Are We
    • PJ Harvey, I Inside the Old Year Dying
    • Sufjan Stevens, Javelin
    • Wilco, Cousin

    Music Discovery:
    Pop Music Fever Dream

    Janet Bardini

    Top 10 Songs

    • The Beatles, "Now and Then"
    • The Rolling Stones, "Angry"
    • The National, "Eucalyptus"
    • Depeche Mode, "Ghosts Again"
    • Stephen Sanchez, "Evangeline"
    • boygenius, "Not Strong Enough"
    • Beck & Phoenix, "Odyssey"
    • Cuco, "Best Disaster"
    • Joe P, "Don't Wanna Love You"
    • beebadoobee feat. Clairo, "Glue Song"

    Top 10 Albums

    • boygenius, The Record
    • Depeche Mode, Memento Mori
    • Margo Price, Strays
    • Samara Joy, Linger Away
    • The National, First Two Pages of Frankenstein
    • The Rolling Stones, Hackney Diamonds
    • Arlo Parks, My Soft Machine
    • Blur, The Ballad of Darren
    • Genesis Owusu, Struggler
    • Stephen Sanchez, Angel Face

    Music Discovery:
    Samara Joy — Best vocals of the year!

    Sam Sumpter

    Top Songs:

    1. Blur, "The Narcissist"
    2. Mary Shelley, “Goin’ to the Beach”
    3. Karma Brigade, “SOUND OF HOPE”
    4. Speedrun, “L’Appel du Vide”
    5. Obleek, “Whirlygig”
    6. Go Home, “Tara Dreams in Spanish”
    7. boygenius, “Not Strong Enough”
    8. Margaret Glaspy, “Irish Goodbye”
    9. Junebug, "Mary"
    10. Beck and Phoenix, "Odyssey"

    Top Albums:

    1. Blur, The Ballad of Darren
    2. HNRY FLWR, Visions of the Daytime Moon
    3. Wetsuit, Sugar, I’m Tired
    4. Cold War Kids, Cold War Kids
    5. Two-Man Giant Squid, Intro to Basement
    6. Buck Meek, Haunted Mountain
    7. The Thing, Here's The Thing
    8. Sharkswimmer, Serenity
    9. Purr, Who Is Afraid Of Blue?
    10. wakelee, Wakelee

    Music Discovery:
    Julia Jacklin

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