Brian Feeney

The Music of 2023

I listened to 1,869 tracks released in 2023. I liked 837 of those. 237 were rated best of the year. Only 47 of them made it into my Favorites list. In the last few years, fewer and fewer new tracks seem to resonate with me. I'm becoming more discerning, and I'm aging out of the music made by the young, as naturally happens. I try really hard to keep up with The Youths, yet music made by those in their early twenties continues to reflect the lives of people in their early twenties. I'm almost 43. So it goes.

In 2023, I ended up connected mostly with the records from artists who were already among my favorites. I really dug a lot of jazz and blues from the last year, but those rarely land in my Favorites list. I'm still a pop and rock guy, at heart, I guess. It's kind of bananas how many records were released this year by my favorite musicians: Gorillaz, Blur, Animal Collective, Yo La Tengo, Wilco, Margo Price, The New Pornographers, Youth Lagoon, Belle & Sebastian, Bongeziwe Mabandla, Deerhoof, Feist, The Go! Team, two from The National, four (4!) from Robert Pollard. Not all of them ended up favorites for the year, but that's still quite a list.

My listening habits have evolved in one way, I've noticed. I've been listening a little more to songwriting, specifically. That's taken me back to country music and the catalog of older songs I had once ignored. Spent more time with records from the 60s and 70s. Payed more attention to lyrics than I traditionally had before. Lots of singles from lots of artists, but plenty of The Band, Lucinda Williams, Willie Nelson, George Jones, and the Staple Singers. I can see myself growing further down this route as time passes.

2023 was also a year I listened to a lot of Robert Pollard. I finished my trek through the full 2,500 songs of his I have access to. I have been a fan of him and Guided By Voices for 25 years now, but his music has really been hitting the spot for me, lately. Straightforward rock. Unpretentious. Made with love and playfulness. Famously prolific, he put out four records this year. His music simply speaks to me, and this year I fully embraced that. He's so good.

I made a few wonderful music discoveries this year: Sparks (which I'll probably write more about at some point), Mandy Indiana, Zach Bryan, Charley Crockett. And a few rediscoveries after closer listens: Fruit Bats, The Staple Singers, The Band. Maybe it's safe to say that my music listening habits deepened this year, rather than expanded. I'm continuing to appreciate stuff in new ways. Fewer surprises as I get older. But that doesn't mean there isn't more to learn.

That's where I am as we go into 2024. I plan to focus less on new music by new artists, and instead spend more quality time with the music I know I love.

Here are my favorite albums of 2023:

  • Blur - The Ballad of Darren
  • Gorillaz - Cracker Island
  • The National - First Two Pages of Frankenstein
  • Fatoumata Diawara - London Ko
  • Guided By Voices - Nowhere To Go But Up
  • Zach Bryan - Zach Bryan

And the Honorable Mentions:

  • New Pornographers - Continue as a Guest
  • The Arcs - Electrophonic Chronic
  • Youth Lagoon - Heaven Is A Junkyard
  • The National - Laugh Track
  • Yo La Tengo - This Stupid World
  • Sparks - The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte
  • Feeble Little Horse - Girl With Fish
  • Fruit Bats - A River Running To Your Heart
  • Lonnie Holley - Oh Me Oh My

Here are a couple playlists on Apple Music, if you're interested.

Favorite Tracks for 2023. Changed the rules for this year's playlist. It's all 47 of my faves, not just one track per artist.

Music I discovered/rediscovered in 2023

January 19, 2024