(1) Wednesday - “Bath County”
We are now more than sixty days into 2023 and, for my money, Wednesday have released the two best songs of the year. “Bath County” is so good it’s infuriating. They build to a perfect chorus (“Every daughter of God …”) within the first minute and then they never go back to it. Any other band would repeat that hook six more times, but Wednesday has too many other ideas they need to cram into three minutes and ten seconds, and they all work. I cannot stress this enough: May 29. Upstairs at Paradiso. Ten euros.
(2) Indigo De Souza - “Younger & Dumber”
The other absolute knockout song from this month (with a great video to match). De Souza’s new album Any Shape You Take comes out April 28. This is the last track, and it feels like a last track. It feels like you’ve gone somewhere with her. From a pure songwriting perspective, this is a pretty straightforward country ballad. It starts there, and it ends there. But in between … wow. If I had to argue for a non-Wednesday song as a too-early Song of the Year candidate, it’s this one.
(3) boygenius - “Not Strong Enough”
Wrote those first two blurbs before I heard “Not Strong Enough,” and I’m not going to go back and revise them so, hey, let’s get repetitive, here’s another Song of the Year candidate. It is exactly what I asked for last month: a boygenius song that doesn’t seem like it could/should just be a solo song for one of its members. Phoebe leads it off, Julien gets the best line (“Drag racing through the canyon / Singing ‘Boys Don't Cry’”), Lucy brings it home (leading on a final chorus that is still very much a collaborative effort). I didn’t think there was any way they could live up to the astronomical expectations for this record, but … maybe they will?
(4) Jessie Ware - “Pearls”
It’s so good. It really is. I just hate that it starts with the “la la la” bit. I don’t mind when that comes back later. I just don’t want to start with it. Also, a British woman whispering “excuse me” belongs to Wet Leg now. They own that. So it’s 95% perfect. That’s still pretty good.
(5) Caroline Polachek - “Smoke”
I only went to one concert in the month of February, which is disappointing, but what can you do? That one show, though, was anything but disappointing. Let me be the millionth person to tell you that Polachek is a star, and an electric performer. “Smoke” is the last song in her encore, and it lives up to that placement.
(6) Dim Wizard - “Ride The Vibe”
Supergroups! This is the guy from Bad Moves, the guy from The Sidekicks, Jeff Rosenstock, and Sarah Tudzin singing a song about Kevin Morby. I’m sure it’s a logistical nightmare to put together a collaboration like this, which is too bad, because I would like about twenty more of them.
(7) 100 Gecs - “Hollywood Baby”
By far the dumbest song on this list, and yet it leaves me with a huge grin on my face every time I hear it. I can say with 100% certainty that (a) The Singles Jukebox would have reviewed this, (b) I would have given it a , (c) the next highest score would have been a  at best, and (d) multiple very smart people would have given it a . I don’t care. It’s great.
(8) Meet Me @ The Altar - “Kool”
The last time I fell in love with a Meet Me @ The Altar song, I pitched the idea of selling t-shirts that said “FEFE DOBSON DIED FOR YOUR SINS.” Sadly never got around to that. And, now that I think about it, Fefe’s more of a John the Baptist figure in this analogy, isn’t she? Anyway, this new one is a lot of fun.
(9) Snow Ellet - “Whiskey and Soda Pop”
Parents, if you don’t teach your kids about The All-American Rejects, who will? (Sarah Tudzin, that’s who.)
(10) Militarie Gun - “Do It Faster”
It’s so cool to see these Covid-isolation bedroom-recording projects turn into real live bands. Militarie Gun is the project of Ian Shelton, who has been in other bands forever, so it's not like he just discovered some hidden talent while locked in his house, but this is a different thing. This didn’t exist before. And now it does. Nice.
(11) Bully - “Lose You” (feat. Soccer Mommy)
Just a perfect collaboration because it gives Bully a little bit of a pop sheen and Soccer Mommy a little bit of an aggressive edge, which they both benefit from. I’d like to restate my above request for more supergroups - these two could do an album together.
(12) Hannah Jagadu - “What You Did”
Caught my attention a bit with 2021’s What Is Going On? EP, but “What You Did” is a huge step up in every way - it’s bigger, louder, it demands your attention. Excited to see what’s next.
(13) The So So Glos - “Everywhere Is War” (feat. Conor Oberst)
Not at all what I was expecting as a comeback single from The So So Glos, who you remember (you totally remember them, just humor me) as a garage rock band in the Titus Andronicus vein (“Son Of An American” made my 100 Songs for 2013 list a decade ago). Oberst’s involvement makes sense, as this sounds like a Digital Ash outtake with Deseparecidos lyrics over it, and those are two of my favorite Oberst incarnations, so yeah, I’m in.
(14) Carlie Hanson - “LSE to LAX”
I will never be objective about Carlie Hanson. Is this song good? I have no idea. Did I ever think I would see the La Crosse, Wisconsin, airport code in a song title on Spotify’s New Music Friday? NO I DID NOT. Finally, a pop star who probably has opinions about Rudy’s Drive In.
(15) Little Simz - “Heart On Fire”
(16) Parannoul - “Polaris”
Here’s one final plea from me for you to check out the whole of After The Magic, still my favorite album of 2023.
(17) The Hold Steady - “Sixers”
Likely the last new THS single before I see them in London next weekend, I reserve the right to revisit my initial “good not great” reaction after I see them perform it live.
(18) LIES - “Resurrection”
Side project of the Kinsella brothers, who are (individually or collectively) the artists behind at least four critically acclaimed projects (American Football, Owen, Cap’n Jazz, and Joan of Arc) that I know nothing about. I think it’s funny to imagine me running into one of them someday and having nothing to say but, “oh yeah, you’re the guy from LIES.”
(19) Worriers - “Prepared to Forget”
Slowly coming around on the idea of a more laid-back Worriers, these new songs are good.
(20) Manchester Orchestra - “Capital Karma”
Their new album The Valley of Vision “doubles as an album and virtual reality film” and the director says that “experiencing the film in its intended 180-degree, 3D VR format feels like downloading a dream into your head” and … no. No thank you. That all sounds terrible. I don’t want your weird metaverse album. I just want good songs and, thankfully, this is a good song.
(21) Susanne Sundfør - “Alyosha”
Norwegian grandeur to see us through the end of the winter.
(22) Sløtface - “Nose”
Brassy Norwegian punk for basically the same purpose.
(23) Tyla - “Been Thinking”
Politely putting this one in a drawer labeled “Just Wait Until You Hear It At BOPS.”
(24) Sidney Gish - “Filming School”
The whole world is waiting for a new Rihanna album (feels unlikely). The cool kids are waiting for a new Frank Ocean album (I guess it’s possible). Middle-aged indie rock nerds are waiting for a new Wrens album (never gonna happen). And a small, vocal band of terminally online music obsessives are waiting for a new Sidney Gish album. And I get it. 2017’s No Dogs Allowed is such a fun, quirky record. She’s a charming live performer. And, honestly, what else is she doing? “Filming School” is a one-off for the Sub Pop Singles series, so it’s unclear if it is a sign of more to come, but I know I’d be into that.
(25) Janelle Monáe - “Float”
Two data points make a trend so, between this and Rihanna’s Super Bowl performance, 2023’s next big thing is putting absolutely no effort into something and yet somehow still coming off like the coolest person in the world. It’s not easy, but if you can do it, the upside is huge.