Rose Eden’s Picks: Best Albums of 2023

For my best albums of 2023, I’m doing things a little differently: a year-end list that covers all genres. Why? Some of you may know me for my festival coverage for New Noise, through which I was able to watch and discover some incredible bands, DJs, and other artists whom I normally wouldn’t be able to acknowledge on this platform. This list took me more than a month to narrow down and all of December to write, as I carefully considered each artist both for the quality of the records they put out on an individual level and how they compare with other releases from artists within their own genres.

Consider it to be sort of like the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, where the pups aren’t judged against each other so much as they are against their own breed’s standard. Whichever pup is the most excellent according to however it is they’re supposed to be, prevails. That said, I picked a top five albums overall, then listed the rest in alphabetical order. Since this is a yearly roundup, I’ve included both full-length studio albums and EPs based on their own individual merit.

With no further ado, my picks for best album of 2023:

Best Album of 2023: InhalerCuts & Bruises

My pick for album of the year is Cuts & Bruises, the near-flawless album from Inhaler, the four-piece outfit from Dublin, Ireland, who also gave one of the best live performances I’ve seen in 2023 at Outside Lands festival in San Francisco over the summer. Nowadays, the concept of Britpop is an antiquated one, and when we think of the genre, we’re harkened back to the glory days of Manchester back in the 1990s and early 2000s, but rarely have any contemporary bands to reference.

Inhaler, however, are bringing the subculture back to life with their twinkling guitars, earnest, crooning vocals, and phenomenally catchy melodies, with each and every song on their album standing alone as a mini, stick to your ribs sort of masterpiece preluding the new generation of rock bands in stepping forward from the U.K. in 2023 and beyond.

Vocalist Elijah Hewson sounds an eerily lot like a young Bono, and fans of The Smiths, Joy Division, Pulp, The Charlatans, and The Stone Roses would love all the intelligently inspired nuances sprinkled into each track, giving a nostalgic feeling to their music with a fresh new modern-day appeal.

I simply cannot get enough of this record; it has all the makings of a classic album from a band who, although forming back in 2012, didn’t release a full length LP until 2021. The wait has paid off, apparently, as this is a near-perfect album from an Irish rock band who have captured the hearts of many worldwide, with a cult-like following in Europe that’s quickly catching on here in the States. I, for one, am extremely keen to see what 2024 brings them, as the massive success of this past year is giving them the major momentum they need to quickly step into the big leagues in the not so distant future.

Runner Up: TitleholderWhat Better Time

Just when I thought I had ultimately given up on the ska punk genre as a whole, what an utter delight it was to discover New Jersey’s Titleholder earlier this year. Their album What Better Time shows an immense amount of maturity, precision, and sharp, clean, musicianship influenced by classic bands like Less Than Jake, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and Reel Big Fish, (but with 100% less cheesiness) with the fresh appeal and polished presentation comparable to the likes of The Interrupters that harkens you back to the glory days of the early to mid-90’s SoCal ska scene.

The lyrics shine especially on this album, with sentimentally worded songs and highly relatable modern day lyrical themes all laced together by a frontman with clear cut vocal talent, reminding me of a young Dicky Barrett but without all that abrasive-sounding the grovel in his voice. In my opinion, he sings even better than Dicky Barrett, and is one of the best technical singers in ska punk in terms of range and vocal annunciation since Bradley Nowell of Sublime.

This album is a fresh presentation of classic ska punk, highly influenced by all the nostalgia of the classic bands we grew up listening to reworked in a way that is enjoyable for everyone who loves ska. Thank you, Titleholder, for helping me remember how much I love ska punk. This album is one that’s sure to be a classic in punk rock circles for many years to come. 

3. Rina SawayamaHold the Girl: Reloaded

I can’t think of a single pop vocalist as underrated as Rina Sawayama is right now. From crooning, heart wrenching, soulful ballads, to energetic, EDM-laced tracks that could pack any dance floor, to rap rock inspired tracks laced with macho electric guitar riffs, to the quirky, high energy, and experimental dance songs destined to define the next generation pop stars, Hold the Girl: Reloaded is one of the most diverse and comprehensive albums that 2023 has to offer. All welded together with Sawayama’s remarkable vocal ability and impeccably refined taste.

You can hear everyone from Shania Twain to Linkin’ Park to Lady Gaga and Carlos Santana influenced throughout the album, one I was lucky enough to catch a stunning live performance of back in the fall of this year. Quite frankly, her set at Portola Festival in San Francisco was one of the best 50 minutes I’ve spent on anything all year long. A fierce performer and talented dancer with a natural knack for comedic timing and banter, I could see her holding her own in a Las Vegas-style residency. Hold the Girl: Reloaded hold’s it’s own as an astonishing display of the Londoner’s unique capacity to be an all around superstar, and one of the next big contenders on the pop circuit in the not too distant future. Keep your eye on Rina, she’s destined to be one of the greats.

4. Kaleena ZandersRumble in the Disco EP

Kaleena Zanders strikes again, this time with an EP just released at the top of December 2023 that is hands-down one of the most bold, diverse, mature, and inspirational collection of songs that she’s released thus far in her career. Each song on Rumble in the Disco uniquely shines with its own standalone appeal combined with deliberate, intentionally produced tracks that demonstrate her incredible repertoire as an artist—one that is quite frankly as broad and vast as the Grand Canyon.

Taking an inaugural foray into hip-hop, we get to hear Zanders flow a little for the very first time with single “Nightmares,” which then leads the listener on a whirlwind journey into the soulful, gospel-inspired vocal house tracks we’ve come to know and love her for, all taken to an undeniably fierce new level by producer AC Slater. With some performers, its beyond apparent that their real only competition is themselves, and Zanders is a perfect example of an artist who is constantly exhibiting growth by consistently challenging herself to release music that is up-leveled from the last project she released.

With compelling, inspirational lyrics and creative, attention grabbing signature beats that have a pan sort of appeal to any lover of dance music, each individual track on Rumble in the Disco is a hands down masterpiece, with the DJ-singer-producer-rapper’s ability to meld the influences of some of early dance music’s greatest hits with her own modern day take on EDM that is hands down a glimpse into the direction of where electronic music is headed in the not too distant future. Zanders is positioned to lead the way for an entire new generation of both DJs and solo dance music vocalists alike.

5. Teddy SwimsI’ve Tried Everything But Therapy

Not since Amy Winehouse, in my opinion, has an artist positively captivated audiences across several different genres the way that R&B and soul singer Teddy Swims has in the past year. His velvety smooth voice, powerhouse vocals, and superstar stage presence has given him the best year he’s had as a recording artist so far in 2023, transforming him from a rough around the edges country boy who used to more resemble a Sound Cloud rapper, into a polished and sophisticated recording artist known for his dapper style, and superstar collaborations.

Kicking off with emotional ballad “Some Things I’ll Never Know,” then going into the very Mark Ronson-esque “Lose Control,” reminding me more of “Back to Black” than anything that Usher or Justin Timberlake would ever release, the album is an impactful mix of R&B, northern soul, piano ballads, and southern gospel style tracks.

Lyrically, Swims sings mostly of broken hearts, redemption, and regrets, but you’d never know it with the panache and swagger that permeates from the Georgia boy who once fronted a hardcore band in his teenage years. Much like his song “Goodbye’s Been Good to You,” maturity looks extremely good on Swims, who has collaborated with everyone from EDM superstars Illenium and Armand von Burren to country music darling Maren Morris.

All the tracks positively slap with a balanced mixture of up tempo finger snappers and emotional, sentimental, crying all night into your into your pillow-style ballads. This is a timeless album with classic references for an incredibly talented man with the sincerest form of pure, genuine talent. Teddy Swims is truly one of the best recording artists of this entire decade well on his way to being one of the greatest soul singers our generation will ever see. I see him as a superstar, with this record being just a tiny glimpse into what he’s truly capable of, and hands down one of the best albums I’ve heard all year long.

Baby TateBaby Tate Presents: Sexploration the Musical EP

Don’t y’all be sleepin’ on Mz. Yung Baby Tate, (now known simply as Baby Tate) whom some folks know from the Love and Hip Hop reality TV franchise, but is also an artist who I’ve kept an eye on since around 2017 or so after I caught a snippet of her in the background of an Instagram story my friend was casually filming from the wings at a concert in San Francisco because of her flamboyant, anime-style stage outfit.

“Who is that?” I asked, because her star appeal was obvious to me, even that early on. Known for her sassy, cheeky, provocative lyrics all performed with a bratty vocality that any die hard Nicki Minaj, Trina, or Lil’ Kim fan would love, Baby Tate is also an accomplished singer who can belt out slower songs in the way that early SWV or Monica would send shivers down your spine for years after the fact.

This EP is absolute FIRE—showcasing her diverse range and in your face personality in all the best ways. When this young lady finally drops a full length album, she’s going to be a force to be reckoned with. I could easily see her starring in her own reality show or Moesha-style sitcom with her all around hilarious personality and talent being both undeniable, and unforgettable.

Bloc PartyThe High Life EP

My GOD was I so thrilled to see that Bloc Party had both released new music and was back on the road again this year, as they are, in my opinion, one of the most underrated Brit Pop groups of all time. The High Life EP is a “boutique” collection of just four tracks, each standing on it’s own recognizance with a panache, luster, and sense of timelessness reflective of their constant evolution as a band. No one track resembles the one previous, yet were each written and produced with such a perfected sort of intentionality it’s hard to deny that the band is back—and in a big way, with single “Blue” standing out as one of the best queer love ballads that I personally have ever heard.

Burna Boy I Told Them…

“Is this the motha fuckin’ thanks I get? For making my people proud every chance I get.” And Burna Boy has indeed made us all proud by setting the festival scene on fire this year with performances from I Told Them… an utterly transcendent mix of hip hop, afro beat, reggaeton, R&B, world beat, and soul, all whirled together with a baffling amount of his own personal swagger.

A darling on the fashion scene, he is as beloved by conceptual designers such as Robert Wun and Jean Paul Gautier on the red carpet as he is by his devoted fans, who bought out every available seat at his sold out concert at O2 arena in London earlier this year. With a fan appeal that spans anywhere from Lenny Kravitz to Bad Bunny, I Told Them… is the sort of album that grows on you over time, with each highly nuanced track resonating deeply within the listener—the sort that you play from beginning to end, in order, over and over again on regular rotation. A highlight on the album is a collaboration with superstar J. Cole, and RZA steps in mid album for a voice over as a demarcation point of sorts, breaking up an album that is as conceptual as it is innovative—a must listen for every true lover of music in 2024.

Carly Rae JepsenThe Loveliest Time

In a year when all anyone could talk about was Taylor Swift, I always had the same reply: Carly Rae Jepsen. As an immediate follow up to 2022’s The Loneliest Time, CRJ made a comeback in a big way this year to the delight of her diehard fans, releasing an album equal parts pop, EDM, and disco translating into the most mature collection of both individually well produced tracks and skillfully refined songwriting of her career to date.

Mismanaged by her record label early on following her post Canadian Idol success, had just a few different, yet crucial decisions been made, her career would have taken on a completely different trajectory. This manifested into hiatuses between recordings leaving her fans wondering where she went, but she never stopped writing music which is evident in the most eponymous collection of songs she’s released to date. Finally, Carly Rae Jepsen has released a record that reflects the true creative essence with a sort of lighthearted yet earnest sincerity that has reinvented her as an artist in the best possible ways, and we all love to see it.

After her most successful touring year yet, Carly Rae Jepsen is officially back and a veritable ray of sunshine onstage when she performs. It’s hard not to fall in love with her wholesome energy, gigantic smile, pixie-like vibes, and eternally youthful spirit. She is, dare I say, a perfect pop star, and has finally released an album full of risk taking songs, bravely pulling from the many influences she personally loves to present the strongest album of her entire career that’s distinctly from Carly Rae, with love, to all of us.

DJ DieselGorilla Warfare

If you told me that I would ever have former basketball legend SHAQ aka Shaquille O’Neil aka DJ Diesel on a year end, best of list I’d tell you to go slap your mama after you got your head examined but—I kid you not—this album is banging. Although I am a fan of EDM as a genre, the bass head segment of the scene is one that never quite appealed to me in terms of just putting on an album and listening to it straight through.

The release of Gorilla Warfare, however, has utterly humbled me as both an album reviewer and a music journalist because this record is undeniably good. There’s nothing that compares to seeing DJ Diesel perform live, as his set lists are excellent with his unique sense of creativity shining through when he utilizes all his favorite top 40 hit songs, DJ Wuki style, into his set lists adding a further dimension of fun and energy into each show. Furthermore, when SHAQ gets on the mic at a rave and tells you to put your hands up-you put your hands up. Way up.

Markedly, this album stands firmly on it’s own as each track permeates with an eclectic mix of infectious, energy infused, fun-filled dance music that’s hard not to like, and one of the entries on my year end list that’s surprised me the most.

FluorescentsSober Lullabies EP

Wowowowow are this humble pop punk outfit out of Chicago a major contender to do BIG things in 2024. I was minding my own business scrolling though TikTok a handful of months back and stumbled across a clip of a self produced music video fronted by a singer with a remarkable voice that caused me to stop scrolling and really start paying full attention to them.

Just three tracks long, this EP was actually released as a “single” on Spotify but as a reviewer I personally think that Fluorescents should stop being so humble because these songs rival any of the releases from bigger bands on major labels I’ve heard in the entirety of 2023.

Crisp, clean, sharp, pop punk with a vocalist who can really sang-sing, if you know what I mean, these guys are ones to watch in the next year as I could see them with a big boy record deal very soon. Why they aren’t already out on the road supporting bands like The Lawrence Arms or Joyce Manor I don’t know, but they’d do outrageously well on the festival circuit with a polished presentation and outstanding musicality filled with infectious energy and ambitious talent that should make the entire pop punk community proud to have them as the fresh new faces of what’s to come in the future of the genre.

Franklin JonasSewer Rat EP

Franklin Jonas. My goodness. My, my, my, what have we here with Franklin, the youngest and probably the least well known of all of the Jonas Brothers, and in my opinion, probably the most impressive of them all. I caught him live on a fluke while he was touring with The Unlikely Candidates over the summer and I was taken aback by his sheer talent and comical, energy filled stage show packed with stunts, props, costumes and funny skits before I was ever even informed of who he actually was.

The Sewer Rat EP positively sparkles as it’s what seems like as much of a musical art project as it is a solo release, combining emo/melodic punk, rock, R&B, doo-wop, and pop with emotion filled lyrical content that reads more like the journal entries of an enigmatic kid just trying to figure out who he really is outside of the shadow of his family name.

With vocal abilities that remind me a lot of beloved solo artist Shawn Mendes, Jonas’ talent is undeniable as is his penchant for experimental creativity that makes for one hell of a stage show; not to mention an excellent record that was one of the best things I didn’t even know I was going to discover in all of 2023.

GorillazCracker Island

The Gorillaz don’t release albums often, but when they do, they’re nearly impossible not to devour over and over again until you know each track like the back of your hand. With impressive collaborations with artists like Thundercat, Stevie Nicks, Bad Bunny, and Beck, the album undulates among all the classic British Grime, illusive, folk laced, idiosyncratic jams, and pulsating, visually driven EDM they’ve come to be known for over the years, with some of the most vulnerable lyrical content I’ve heard from them to date.

It’s almost a full-circle moment from 2005’s release of Demon Days, the album they’re best known for. They’ve gone back to their roots in a sense with an updated version of the sound that has endeared themselves to their fanbase the most with a bold quirkiness and experimentalism that brings to mind The Flaming Lips, and how they make their music not just about a sound or a band, but an entire encapsulating experience that draws in all the senses at once.

Grade 2Self Titled

At this point, its possible to recognize a Grade 2 track within the first few seconds of hearing one. For three lads who are all under the age of 30 years old, it’s hard to believe that these proteges of Rancid and the Hellcat Records establishment have grown so significantly within a span of five years of so, but anyone whose been following their career since before the pandemic would agree that they are one of the best contemporary oi/street punk outfits on the touring circuit today. Additionally, their bovver-laced tunes are brimming with all the warm promise and obvious potential it takes to make it in the long run within both the highly competitive music industry, and festival circuits.

Co-vocalist Sid Ryan’s phenomenal talent on the bass leads the way for this band from the very small community of the Isle of Wright in the UK; it’s mind blowing to think that he both sings and plays the bass at the same time once you comprehend the speed and skill level he has whilst performing live. I’m unsure if this group would be the same if any one of the members was interchanged or replaced with someone else, which is a part of what makes this band so special.

This self titled album is a massive effort for Grade 2, and while my best of list lacks a huge amount of punk bands on it this year, they are surely one of the standout groups of 2023, both on tour and with this brilliant self titled record. If there are any true predecessors for Matt, Tim, Brandon, and Lars, then Sid, Jack, and Jacob are surely the ones to fit those very large boots to fill in the not so distant future.

The HivesThe Death of Randy Fitzsimmmons

The Hives are back in a big way with their first album since 2007 and it is a masterpiece, filled to the brim of all the high energy, Scandinavian garage-y pop rock that fires off like a Roman candle, seamlessly translating into their energy packed live shows. Nowadays, it seems like all the boys who used to aspire to be indie rock stars want to be Sound Cloud rappers at best, but The Hives hold true to their legacy with a comeback album of such quality it’s almost impossible not to like and a staple on my playlist this past year.

If this is a sign of a rock band revival in 2024, then the touring music circuit should pay close attention to this band who has done a stellar job of not only branding themselves over the years, but also honing a signature sound that’s nearly impossible to replicate. One thing for sure is, I certainly hope we all won’t have to wait another 17 years to hear more new music from The Hives.

InitiateCerebral Circus

The only hardcore band to make my list this year is Initiate, and boy what a year they’ve had. Cerebral Circus is jam packed with raw emotion, powerful guitar riffs, and crashing breakdowns, all lead by the brilliance of stand out vocalist Crystal Pak.

A mashup of several different genres, Initiate has an aggressive energy permeating from each track, harkening back to the early 2000’s when the hardcore scene was full of bands with a deliberate intentionality on individuality with an experimental focus on pulling from a wide assortment of influences in order to hone their own personal brands.

This album has impactful lyrical content, with songs that play tribute to lost loved ones, failed ambitions, and weighty mental health issues all tied together with groovy, riffy breakdowns that push the boundaries of what modern hardcore music is considered to be, not to mention a bright glimpse into the future of this ever evolving genre.

Kali UchisRed Moon in Venus

Columbian bombshell Kali Uchis has had her best year yet with the phenomenal success of Red Moon in Venus, her steamy, smoldering take on R&B and lowrider soul, heavily influenced by jazz, doo-wop and mid century Latin/Caribbean music.

But don’t get me wrong, this young lady is far more than the stylish, femme-fatale stage ensembles and sex appeal she oozes onstage, reminding me a lot of a slick combination Amy Winehouse, Billie Holiday, and Selena with her velvety smooth vocals positively intoxicating her listeners and a smooth, kitten-like, soubrette-soprano range melting into the dreamy and soulful arrangements of each track.

This album sort of reminds me of what a Latina Lana del Rey in her Born to Die era would put out if she was way more confident and way less depressed all the time. It’s hard not to get into the mood while listening to this album, as Uchis purrs her way through each track with a delicate sort of intimacy that gives every live show the feel of a small club performance, despite her basically completely selling out a beyond successful stadium tour schedule in the summer and fall of 2023. Her new album, Orquideas, set to release January 12, 2024, is said to be one of the most anticipated releases of the new year.

Lil YachtyLet’s Start Here

I can’t lie because Lil’ Boat ska Lil’ Yachty was one of the performers I was looking forward to seeing the most at this year’s Outside Lands Festival, and boy was I surprised when he took to the stage with not just a full band backing him up, but an all-female band at that, dressed just like Ice T’s punk band Body Count. I was even more surprised when most of his set list sounded more like a hard rock show than a hip hop set, and that’s because his latest album, Let’s Start Here, is his take on a psychedelic rock record.

Once I was able to really give it a full listen, however, I understood the title of the studio length LP, as it seemingly marks a whole new chapter, perhaps even a whole new beginning for the rapper who has never neatly fit within the rap genre. Lil Yachty is known for his experimental hip hop, just as you think you’ve wrapped your head around his last single he totally switches up his style, but has never forayed into an entirely new genre before now.

Switching off between singing and the slow, mumbly flow he’s become known for, Let’s Start Here both transcends and defies any of all expectations of him, as it seems as he was influenced as much by early Kanye West as he was by The Beatles and Led Zeppelin on an album that absolutely grows on you and becomes even more nuanced and complex with each listen over time. You hear something you didn’t notice previously every time you give it a listen.

If this is the direction that Yachty, and hip hop is moving towards in 2024, then it is indeed a brave new world for him in years to come as he paves the way for artists to go beyond not only what sells, but far beyond what’s expected of them. And in his case, this is only the tip of the iceberg of what he’s truly capable of as an artist, not to mention his capacity as a producer for other artists in the future. A collaboration with artists like Willow or Kenny Hoopla would be a mind-blowingly incredible manifestation for not only them, but us all.

ParamoreThis is Why

Paramore have come a mighty far from their early pop-punk and emo days, and the release of their double Grammy-nominated album This is Why is proof of the maturity and constant evolution this band has displayed since they first started playing music together in middle school as 13 and 14 year olds.

This album is much more of a post punk and dance punk album than anything else, with tinges of bedroom pop and the eerily haunting vocals of the more down tempo tracks woven into the math-y, technical guitar riffs, intense, in-your-face breakdowns, and intelligently looped hooks that transcend far beyond the three-chord, verse-chorus-verse, standard templates that a lot of the bands who consider Paramore to be their major influences are churning out.

The songs dip from the high energy of “Running Out of Time,” to the more hardcore influenced and aggressive “This is Why,” (the track they opened most of their tours gigs this year with) to the more spooky, emotional ballads like “Big Man Little Dignity” that have basically come to be expected out of Williams and co. by now. But singles like “Cest Comme Ca,” for example, remind me a lot more of bands like Bloc Party or even The Talking Heads than anything you’d hear at We Were Young Fest, proving that you never really know what to expect next out of this band except that it will probably be really, really, fucking good. This album has a timeless sort of appeal for many generation of hard rock music fans for years to come and one of the best overall albums they’ve released on many levels to date.

Scowl Psychotic Dance Routine EP

It seems like no matter where you looked in the punk scene in 2023 there was one band name you just couldn’t escape: Scowl. Fronted by punk rock pin up Kat Moss with partner and six-stringer Malachi Davis at the helm, the Santa Cruz, CA based outfit are redefining West Coast hardcore punk on their own terms after a whirlwind year on tour, including opening slots for the Circle Jerks, Turnstile, and at the illustrious Coachella music festival.

Pushing the envelope of what modern day hardcore music both sounds and looks like, Scowl came out the gates this year with something to prove, with Psychotic Dance Routine proving to being a chaotic masterpiece reckoning of anarcho youth culture with glimpses into the legit singing chops that Moss has in some of the EP’s quieter moments.

With lyrical themes swirling around politics, activism, and the cop hating, tension fueled angst that’s more commonly expected within the genre, there is no other band as truly, authentically unique as they are on the touring circuit right now, or who has their disarming amount of momentum. This record is fast, aggressive, and angry despite their more marketable looks and image, and despite the pandemic putting a damper on their last studio length album release, they certainly know how to create and maintain a buzz around them—like that one time they played a Sonic fast food drive through parking lot that quickly went viral all over social media. I’m excited to see what 2024 has in store for Scowl, and even more excited to see what they have in store for us.

Sophie Meierscrawl__space EP

The femme core riot grrrl sounds of the 90’s have been back in a big way in 2023, and while most folks were raving about bands like Wednesday all year long, Epitaph Records’ pixie like cyber punk recording artist Sophie Meiers has mostly flown under the radar, and I’m unsure why.

With her own haunting, ethereal, otherworldly take on indie rock, Meiers is an enigmatic breath of fresh air with her breathy, whispery vocals and lo-fi guitar sounds, all sewn together by jangling, catchy melodies and a voice that reminds me a lot of The Cardigans’ lead singer Nina Perrson.

Don’t sleep on Ms. Meiers, however, as her extremely versatile dark wave-influenced music is like eating a bowl full of candy on a dark and stormy day, leaving the listener in a sort of a sugar coma induced state of bliss craving more. The EP undulates among post punk to bedroom pop with her excellent, Lana del Rey-style pop vocals.

The broadly influenced range this young lady has is obvious, as is her creative prowess and marked ability to twist and combine several different genres into her own signature, sculptural sound is intriguingly unique. I hope to see her on tour more next year, she’d be amazing opening from anyone from Alvvays to Ashnikko, and something tells me that this is really just the beginning from this enigmatic artist from Durango, CO.

Venus and the FlytrapsScaredy Pants EP

Just a handful of artists impressed me so dang much with just a couple or few songs it was impossible to not include them on my end of year best of list, and Nashville’s Venus and the Flytraps were hard to ignore this year. With all the hype around the riot grrrl revival, and bands like Alvvays and Wednesday positively dominating both the festival circuits and editorial online spaces alike, this four piece band was one I caught on a fluke at Outside Lands Festival back in August.

While I was standing in line at a food booth, I noticed a larger than normal early day crowd at one of the smaller, side stages and saw 3 femmes with radiant energy bouncing around in front, fluked by a flailing, happy go lucky drummer supporting them in the background. Upon closer inspection, these indie rock darlings completely blew me away with their take on grunge rock infused dream pop, with a look that reminded me of a softer version of bands like Hole and Babes in Toyland.

A mastery in refinement and restraint, this EP has just two tracks on it, but both songs are utter perfection with infectious bass lines and punchy kick drums that meld wonderfully with fuzzy lo-fi guitars and layered vocals that make me reminiscent of 90’s acts like Luscious Jackson, The Breeders, and K’s Choice. Keep your eye on this band, I see big things to come for them as they continue to mature and develop their sound as they are highly underrated for now—but not for long.

Victoria MonetJaguar II

The year before last was all about Summer Walker, last year SZA took the R&B industry crown, and in 2024, there is one artist whose name I want you to keep on your mind: Victoria Monet. Admittedly, I’m always rooting for a home town gal, and the triple threat singer, dancer, actress from Sacramento, CA, is about to have the best year of her life.

Victoria Monet has the Swagger of Beyonce, the look and fitness of Ciara, and a voice that reminds me of somewhere between Toni Braxton and SZA. Her single “Blame It On My Mama” went overwhelmingly viral on social media earlier this year; it seems like you couldn’t open up TikTok or IG reels without hearing the song spliced into content featuring fashion, beauty, and all things bad bitch-related.

Jaguar II is a superlative album packed full of R&B and hip hop drenched soul with help from superstar producers like Babyface. With a precise attention to detail and the sort of groovy, funky, sexy throw back rhythms that make you want to get up and move—or sit down and smoke out while you chill and enjoy the music.

This is a comprehensive album with each track giving its own unique personality and quality that stands out among an industry full of female recording artists who are almost more well known for their personal life drama than they are their actual music. The success of this album has been a long time coming for Monet, who proves that taking the long road while working hard to carve out a place for yourself in an almost impossible industry to get ahead in while keeping your reputation clean and your integrity high can truly lead to success.

I see her doing very well at the Grammy Awards this year, and if she keeps it up, she has both the stamina and the talent to make it in the both long run and even (as I predict) the film industry, with her polymath-like ability to excel at nearly anything she puts her mind to.

Walker & RoyceJust What the World Needs EP

EDM DJ tag-team duo Walker and Royce have put out a metric ton of great dance music throughout 2023 with several singles and a noteworthy end of year, two part mini album released in early December. I couldn’t finish this list, however, without giving their Just What the World Needs EP a well deserved nod because it truly encapsulates the sound that has sent them skyrocketing into popularity over the past couple of years.

With artists like Dom Dolla and the aforementioned Kaleena Zanders doing sensationally well recently, helping to redefine what was formerly referred to as “oonce-oonce” music into a fully revived genre brimming with copious range of variety with the support of labels like Dirty Bird Records and Empire Dance. Walker & Royce has carved out a sound that is equal parts distinct and unique, not to mention easily recognizable sight unseen on a packed dance floor, a feat  that even some of EDM’s top DJs struggle to pull off.

They have a knack for collaboration, working with the likes of Diplo, VNSSA, and Barney Bones in 2023, with the unique ability to use looping vocal tracks layered over infectious dance beats that are hard to ignore and impossible to duplicate. As a matter of fact, I really like all the singles they’ve released over the past year, but when lined up side to side, this EP shines the brightest in terms of overall creativity and originality. Any fan of EDM or dance music in general should pay close attention to this duo in 2024, or even better, catch one of their fire live sets that’ll have you both dancing for hours and dousing yourself with water until the wee hours of the night.

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