GL.23.08: Jem Stirling
GL.23.09: Max Einstein
GL.23.10: Tony Schoenberg
GL.23.11: Gina Uriarte
Soundtrack of 2023
2023 has been a wild ride. At the end of last year, I bought into a business (pet shops) and it's been a non-stop rollercoaster since – closing, moving, reopening stores, and figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Mistakes were made and lessons were learned. I’ve been busy, but made efforts to rebuild my social life, tried to balance the demands of entrepreneurship with spending time with family and friends, making this a year of growth, challenges, and in the end, worth the struggle. And now, as 2023 comes to an end, I find myself in a good position to start things off strong in the new year.
Now, my Soundtrack of 2023; my musical diary for the year. In the past, I had a habit of listening to single tracks. But in 2023 I was much more about the full albums. There were so many great releases this year, and I forced myself to pick just one track from each for this list. Not gonna lie, it hurt. The "best" track on an album wasn’t always my favourite, so the choices were hard to make. I'll be second-guessing my choices for weeks, for sure.
RAYE - “Worth It.”
RAYE kinda came out of nowhere for me. I remember her getting featured on dance tracks like “BED” by David Guetta. But when she started releasing her own singles last year, I think we all collectively started recognising her as a major talent. Her album My 21st Century Blues kicked off my music vibe for the year in early February, and it's a great mashup of styles with something for everyone.
METTE - “MAMA’S EYES”
I don’t remember how I was put on to METTE this year, but I’m happy I found my way to this fun, upbeat and soulful dance EP. And a dance album makes sense for her as she apparently had quite a successful career as a dancer before this project; her talents were previously featured in the music video for N.E.R.D. and Rihanna’s song “Lemon.” She’s clearly very talented and I’m curious to follow her career in the future. If you like this song, check out her songs “VAN GOGH” or “FOR THE PEOPLE” as I had a difficult time choosing between those three for this list.
SZA - “Nobody Gets Me”
In December last year, SZA released her second album SOS, and even though this didn’t come out in 2023 I imagine we’re all agreed on its eligibility. “Nobody Gets Me” very quickly emerged as my favourite from the (quite long, 23 track) album among other top contenders such as “Kill Bill” or “Snooze.” Even though Ctrl was far better (and I will die on that hill), I think this album cements SZA as one of the major artists of our time - pathological lying and all (google that if you don’t already know, it’s wild).
The Japanese House - “Boyhood”
This track is the first of many under my now favourite genre of music that I will here on be referred to as Lesbian Pop-Rock or LPR. You’ll know it when you hear it, and if you’re listening to this list then you’ll hear it a lot.
But getting back on track; this year, The Japanese House, aka Amber Bain, dropped her second album In the End it Always Does, and it's great from start to finish. Choosing which song to include on this list was a Battle Royale situation. She was my top artist this year according to Spotify, likely because I played this album on repeat in the shop. And her song “Clean” was actually on my second ever end-of-the-year playlist back in 2015. She’s developed a lot as an artist since then. If you like this song, please give this album a listen.
boygenius - “Not Strong Enough”
Boygenius’ second album the record is just about perfect. No skips. And I’m just in love with Julien Baker aka the small one. Choosing just one song from this album was almost impossible, and in fact this is the only artist on this list that I considered breaking that rule for. But in the end I had to go with “Not Strong Enough” because I loved it first and it really defined a period of time this year. But honourable mentions to “Cool About It” which was my choice for the list up until the very end - and my personal favourite, “We’re In Love.” And honourable mention to their rendition of “The Parting Glass” which is incredible for a number of reasons.
Romy - “Enjoy Your Life”
I first heard about Romy last year from being featured in “Lights” and “Strong” by Fred Again.., and from that I thought I knew what to expect from her. But her album Mid Air is mostly disco/dance-pop - and also super gay.
Ok, I wanted to know a little more about her so I did a quick search and…. I didn’t even realise until this moment that she was the female member of the XX, this being her first solo project. I love this write up element of this list because of moments like this - doing a little research appreciating an artist on a completely different level because of it.
Kylie Minogue - “Hold On To Now”
I am in awe of this woman; 36 years in the industry and just keeps topping herself. Her music ages with and stays true to her audience. Her latest album release Tension is packed with hits, but for me “Hold On To Now” has made it to my top 5 Kylie songs of all time. Amazing.
Donna Missal - “Flicker”
Vocal powerhouse Donna Missal is back with her third album Revel, and as a dedicated fan, this marks her third appearance on my end-of-the-year list. The album is filled with great tracks like "Move Me" and "Out of Me," showcasing her incredible talent. Each of Donna Missal’s albums is different from the next, and Revel is no exception. And I genuinely appreciate this new direction. But if you want a taste of her true vocal ability, give "Keep Lying" a listen – it’s an absolute favourite of mine.
Kim Petras - “Minute”
Kim Petras has been a consistent feature on my list since 2018, but there's a chance this might be the last time. She’s had a hard couple of years, having faced a bit of a music-jail situation; held back from releasing new music by her label until the success of "Unholy" with Sam Smith. Since then, she has released two albums in quick succession. Feed the Beast feels disconnected; like a collection of songs from various projects packed into one album. Tracks like "Claws," "Revelations," and the title track "Feed the Beast" seemed meant for Turn Off the Light Vol. 3, a promise that was never fulfilled. Although I didn’t think much of this album in general, "Minute" stood out from the first listen as one of my all time favourites from her. So you never know, maybe you’ll see her here again next year.
Caroline Polachek - “Smoke”
Desire, I Want to Turn Into You was another top album this year and another very difficult decision. Every track is great, and I really like to listen to it as a whole. Ultimately it was between “Smoke” and “I Believe” for this list, but it could have been any number of them.
Amaarae - “Angels in Tibet”
Amaarae's Fountain Baby is hands down one of the coolest pop albums of the year, with staying power and impact, I think, similar to SZA's Ctrl. “Angels in Tibet” was my favourite, and it’s a bit of a detour from my usual taste and other songs on this list, but that's exactly why you should take me seriously when I say - listen to this album. But don’t expect every song to sound like this one, it’s all over the place.
Bad Bunny - “WHERE SHE GOES”
I’m gonna be honest, I never really got into Bad Bunny the way so many other people did. I read a review that this song was a bit him ‘selling out’, but if that’s the case I think he should. Love it. And is that a vogue beat? Are he and Kendal just each other’s beards? Is this just wishful thinking? I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.
Christine and the Queens - “To be honest”
Another alumni of my lists, Christine and the Queens was back this year and can do no wrong.
Jessie Ware - “Begin Again”
Jessie Ware’s latest album was one that I had to really work hard to pick which song to include. “Pearls” was the immediate front-runner, and “Freak Me Now” was a contender, but to me “Begin Again” felt a bit more of a departure for her on an album that didn’t really bring anything new and felt very much in the same place as her previous release What’s Your Pleasure?
Slayyyter - “Miss Belladonna”
I realise I’ve said this a few times, but Slayyyter’s whole album STARFUCKER is worth listening to. It’s great pop music and honestly, a big improvement from her debut album a couple years ago.
Carly Rae Jepsen - “Psychedelic Switch”
I can always count on Carly to bring us something good every time.
SG Lewis - “Something About Your Love”
Almost forgot this album came out this year. I was originally put onto it because of the Tove Lo feature that was released the previous year, but this whole album is a vibe. This song reminds me quite a lot of “Digital Love” by Daft Punk in the best possible way.
Troye Sivan - “One Of Your Girls”
Troye really killed it this year, and there are a lot of top contenders to include on this list. But for me “One Of Your Girls” was IT for me, and that video is amazing. I will say though, the song is “Nightcall” by Kavinsky crossed with “Night Changes” by OneDirection.
The Aces - “Always Get This Way”
I’ve featured The Aces on my 2020 list, and this year they released their third album and have moved in a slightly different direction and into the previously mentioned LPR space. If you like MUNA and want something to hold you over until their next release, I’d recommend checking out this album from the Aces titled I’ve Loved You For So Long.
Chappell Roan - “Red Wine Supernova”
Give Dillon all the points, he saw Chappell Roan coming a mile away, and I doubted. But this girl is a STAR. There were several releases leading up to her album The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess that I heard randomly and loved and didn’t realise were hers. And picking only one song of hers to feature was difficult!
MUNA - “One That Got Away”
MUNA released exactly one song this year and of course it’s on this list. Love them. They’ve been on my list almost every year since 2017.
The Veronicas - “Perfect”
My favourite Aussie twins are back with new music! They’ve been releasing music fairly consistently for almost 20 years, but they’ll never outgrow “Untouched” and neither will I.
LU KALA - “Hotter Now”
I have no idea how I stumbled on this song, and I don’t have a clue who this girl is. But this song is so fun and always gets me happy and moving.
Cristina Hart - “Rewind”
Another artist I had never heard of before stumbling onto this song. I haven’t listened to any of her other music, but I’ve been playing this song a lot back to back with the previous track, and they never fail to get me dancing.
Sigrid - “The Hype”
Scandinavians making great pop music; if you like it, check out her song “Borderline” also released this year.
Griff - “19th Hour”
Griff was on my list back in 2021, and I said before to pay attention. She didn’t release any music since then until August this year, and has since released 3 more songs - all great. Also check out “Vertigo”.
Stephen Sanchez - “Be More”
Such a great voice, I’m a sucker for a good falsetto. And serves to start winding things down for this list. From here out it’s chill vibes.
Mitski - “My Love Mine All Mine”
Honestly I heard it on TikTok first, but I quickly had it on repeat. So soothing.
1017 ALYX 9SM & Ethel Cain - “Famous Last Words (An Ode to Eaters)”
My Ethel Cain obsession is still going strong this year, even though she only dropped one track, and it features an artist with a name that looks like a default wifi password. Ethel Cain is writing more music about cannibalism - should we be worried? And should I find it as soothing as I do? (The song, not cannibalism).
Thanks everyone for following along!
I hope you enjoyed my picks and maybe found some new things to listen to. I hope you all have a great holiday season and wish you success and happiness in the new year.