Bobby Forand’s Best of 2023

Every year, I tell myself that I will take good notes throughout the year, which will make my “Best Of” list easy to create. Life seems to always get in the way, and I find myself every year scrambling to remember all the great music that graced my ears. Maybe this year will be different, but probably not.

I have been listening to many of the bands on this list since I first got into punk rock back in the 1990s. It’s cool to see that these bands are still creating great music in my ears.

Here are 10 albums I especially enjoyed in 2023.

The Bouncing Souls – Ten Stories High: This album came out at a time when I really needed something happy and uplifting to listen to. I’d listen to the first three singles multiple times daily until the album was finally released on March 24. The rest of the album is just as good. Due to personal experiences, this may be the most meaningful Bouncing Souls album in my collection.

Brave the Sea – Lady Death: Much more than a niche band, Brave the Sea write well-crafted punk songs that are instantly memorable and easy to sing along to. Their brand of nautical punk is catchy as hell. They branch out on a few songs, with great results.

Diesel Boy – Gets OldThis album, their first in over 20 years, doesn’t miss a beat. Though a bit wiser, the songs have the same amount of fast-paced punk rock angst that will bring (older) listeners back to their early days of melodic punk rock.

Frenzal Rhomb – The Cup of Pestilence: I don’t know how this band flew under my radar most of my life, but I’m glad that they’re in my collection now. This is the Fat Wreck Chords style done right. While I love The Chats, Frenzal Rhomb are the Australian punk band that everyone should be talking about right now.

The Gaslight Anthem – Positive ChargeI’m not sure if this is considered a comeback album, but it’s great hearing their rejuvenated sound and energy. The songs are classics that, though a little more mature, still sound like the band everyone fell hard for over 15 years ago. Thank you for the new songs that helped me get through the last couple months of the year.

The Hold Steady – The Price of ProgressI’ve been highly anticipating this album since “Sideways Skull,” the first single, debuted in January. The following singles were even better, and I’m blown away with each listen. The songwriting and especially the storytelling are top-notch. This is their best album since Stay Positive.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – WeathervanesThis is nothing more than a great rock ‘n’ roll record with little bits of everything tossed in there. Isbell and company are some of the best in the business. Hopefully, this brings them to Chris Stapleton levels.

Paint it Black – Famine: I am so glad Paint it Black are back and are sounding better than ever! They have been one of my favorite hardcore bands since their inception, and Famine only adds to their pedigree. The landscape of hardcore music has changed since their last release, but Paint it Black still fit right in.

Rancid – Tomorrow Never ComesThis album is fast, fierce, and hits hard. The best comparison is Rancid 2000, which is a huge plus in my eyes. This is their most focused album in years. It definitely sounds like they listened through their discography before starting the writing process.

Ren – Sick BoiRen mainly falls under the hip-hop umbrella, but he covers a variety of styles with storytelling that is mind-blowing. I’ve been hooked on his music since someone posted a link to “Hi Ren” earlier this year. He may be one of the most important contemporary songwriters, especially with lyrics that are focused on mental health. Jump on the Ren train now.

Here are eleven bonus albums that are also worthy of your time:

Atmosphere – So Many Other Realities Exist Simultaneously 

The Brokedowns – Maximum Khaki

Cheap City – Ten Years Without Rami Holding

Codefendents – This is a Crime Wave

Dave Hause – Drive it Likes It’s Stolen

The Dirty Nil – Free Rein to Passions

Lucero – Should’ve Learned by Now

McCrakins – Wake the Fun Up!

The Menzingers –Some of it Was True

NF – Hope

Structure Sounds – Light Up Your Sorrow

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