Music of 2023 – January


Opening the door to the new year also means opening the floodgates of the stress from how many albums I feel I missed out on during 2022 (although there were likely not many). This acts as a rest for media and means I can start out by listening to whatever until other stuff starts climbing the charts. Because of that, in January, I came up with some material from my own arsenal, yet still including a few acclaimed projects. Out of the 50 or so I’ve heard, here’s the best.

dreamglow on SpotifyLet’s start off STRONG. As mentioned in my previous article, the Artist from Seoul, South Korea who calls himself Asian Glow is my favorite of all time (I also happen to be his #1 listener in the world but that’s beside the point). Of course, I’ll jump to anything released by him immediately, and that came in the form of dreamglow, another collaborative project between him and Brazillian experimentalist sonhos tomam conta. They have worked together previously as well on another album (which happens to be my favorite of all time (listen to it) but that’s also beside the point), titled Downfall of the Neon Youth. This album had alternating tracks produced by each collaborator, both of them and also another artist from Seoul, Parannoul. On dreamglow, their styles have come together to now have elements of both artists on each and every song. Track 1 titled voices in delirium gives us an early taste of an improvised style from sonhos, much more screamo oriented than before. Lo and behold, only 42 seconds in, Asian Glow delivers beautiful vocals, a great contrast between the two. The whole project has outstanding singing and a VERY spacey sound to it with a lot of reverb.  This is a giant step up for both artists, and I hope to see them continue this blackgaze style into the future. 9.6/10

Black Butta on SpotifyI also made the discovery this month that the queen of drag, RuPaul has a music career? Either way, I gave his brand-new album Black Butta a listen and I’ve got to say, I was pleasantly surprised. It has a truly great blend of generic pop, while also staying true to a style he has pioneered himself. I was skeptical after hearing the first song (strangely titled A.S.M.R. Lover) as it didn’t draw me in at all, however track 2 titled Cake & Candy was MUCH better, and I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t have it on repeat this month. Courage to Love is a banger as well. I will say, I didn’t thoroughly enjoy everything that this album had to offer, as it most definitely has its share of dull moments, but overall, it was unique for sure and I had a fun time with it. 7.3/10

EVERY LOSER on SpotifyAn artist who I’ve only heard a few select songs by in the past also came through with a great album right at the start of the year. Iggy Pop has been consistently releasing music since the 1970s. That’s absolutely wild. His new project titled Every Loser is amazing, leading me to now want to check out more from him in the future. This guy is older than my grandpa and manages to stay on the grind. Every Loser is most definitely inspired by original punk music (which was a genre pioneered by THIS guy!). It has elements very similar to things I’ve heard from bands like Arctic Monkeys and The Strokes, which intrigues me as it seems his style has evolved as the rock genre has over time. Iggy (real name James) has an incredibly deep voice, which really adds a lot to many tracks. Morning Show is a great example of this. I can look past the repetitive nature of it because of how soothing it happens to be. Another thing about this album is that the mood changes constantly. On the final track, titled The Regency, everything is so much more upbeat than before, probably due to the angry lyrics (**** the regency!! **** the regency!!). I hope to go deeper into this guy’s discography soon. 9.3/10

M by Park Zero (Album, Power Noise): Reviews, Ratings, Credits, Song list -  Rate Your MusicHere’s an album I will not recommend to ANYONE reading this. M by Park Zero. I can easily start by saying this is LOUD. If you have your volume at a usual amount before listening to this, you are going to want to lower it quickly. This whole project sounds like it would create a sonic blast out of any speaker it’s played from. The intro to the album is long, but once the drop hits, everything goes crazy. It uses these deafening vocal samples, like on track 2, Strangelove, there is a chopped-up, repeating line which just says “HE DOES HAVE HE DOES HAVE A TICK”. I seriously can’t put my finger on how this is enjoyable to me, but apparently, it is to others as well, since the reviews have been positive. There are a lot of different genres in play here, all of which are blown out of proportion.  The most prevalent one is simply EDM and club, but there are also other ones like breakbeats especially on track 1 appropriately titled The Jungle. 7.1/10

drought | Guitar Fight from Fooly CoolyMidwest-emo adjacent band Guitar Fight From Fooly Cooly whom I’ve been following closely after finding out about them last year released a great EP out of nowhere, titled Drought. While brief, it’s loud and exciting, and packs in a punch with the four songs it comes with. Stylistically different from other projects they’ve released like Soak and Alpha, Omega, Murphy, this project is more aligned with their predacessor Title Fight, having upbeat and fast guitars and almost angry-like vocals. I think it’s highlighted by the songs Pyramid and Wooden Cross, the latter of which begins with a metal sound, before shortly transitioning to one of the best midwest emo performances I’ve heard, complete with many guitar riffs and insane drumming. It works out well, and I’d hope to see something in this style more full fledged in the future. 8.2/10

Lil Yachty: Let's Start Here. Album Review | PitchforkNext, one release I think will be at the top of a lot of people’s lists for 2023 was Lil Yachty‘s shot from the dark project aptly titled, Let’s Start Here. A few months after making the song Poland, which was generally received well as a short joke-inspired rap song, Lil Yachty comes out of nowhere with THIS project, something nobody would have expected. He hasn’t commented too much on it yet, seeing as it’s brand new, but the idea behind the album is observable. Take the cover art for example, which has an AI-generated room of executives laughing hard about something. It’s generally believed this represents the idea that after creating something way out of his usual genre like this, some people might laugh at the idea. The title also reflects the project as a whole, potentially a door for Yachty to begin something anew. The music itself takes heavy inspiration from progressive and heavy psychedelic bands like Pink Floyd, as well as solo acts like Tame Impala and Jeff Buckley. As soon as you hear the first song, the BLACK seminole, you will hear parallels to songs such as The Great Gig in the Sky by Pink Floyd. One complaint I’ve heard a lot online is that his voice doesn’t match this style of music well, which if you are looking at it from a standpoint of what the history of the genre has been, would be correct. However, I think that’s one of the reasons this album shines so much since it really takes a hatchet to a lot of barriers in his way. Yachty retains the heavily autotuned sound he’s known for, which in my opinion works great. I couldn’t pick any stand-out songs because they all work together so well. Definitely one to listen to if you are interested in branching out your music taste. 9.5/10

Have a Nice Life - Voids (2023 Remaster) - Reviews - Album of The YearOne release I’ll touch on briefly is Voids (2023 Remaster) by all-time depressing band Have A Nice Life. Nothing in this compilation is really following a pattern, with every song being a demo of another song from a previously released project (plus a few new ones). Some of these demos are fantastic, such as the one for Defenestration Song, one of my favorites from the band. I think it easily compares to the quality of the finished version, if not even better. The raw sound really works out well. Applying this to a song like Earthmover which is produced in a way insanely out of the ordinary, you get a crazy contrast with instruments I was surprised to hear after having listened to Eathmover so many times. They give it a strange bit-crushed, chiptune drum pattern, which by all means is wild, but does work out pleasantly. It’s much clearer and easier to understand as well, a problem with the original. The new song, Sisyphus, released as a single a week before the entire project, is a great new addition to their discography. 7.7/10 (only because of the same songs)

Butcher House by Sematary (Mixtape, Horrorcore): Reviews, Ratings, Credits,  Song list - Rate Your MusicYet another project I’m not sure I’d recommend to anyone has to be Butcher House, new mixtape from witch-house/trap artist Sematary. Unfortunately, some moments on this tape shine much more than others. Overall it is pretty great, and is more aligned with 2022 releases from members of the same collective. The lyrical content is significantly more violent than past tapes (surprisingly). Songs like Burn A Cop Car have some one-liners that belong behind an R rating (I’m sure you can guess by the song title). The track In Tha Field Where I Found U is produced by probably the best member of the collective, and includes a sample of a hillbilly-type melody that leads up to a pretty decent drop. Hallowed Be My Wrist features Goth Money member Sickboyrari (AKA Black Kray), who delivers a barely legible verse, somehow remaining pretty good. The rest of the song besides the chorus happens to be nothing more than okay, unfortunately. Buckshot’s verse on the track Suffer is fantastic, providing a brand new, lifeless yet murderous delivery. The mixtape ends off with a more melodic song, which is received with mixed feelings. I think it’s alright, but I’m not sure if it exactly successfully combines the genres it’s trying to. This mixtape is 100% front-loaded meaning the first half is notably better. Other songs that are great include Babayaga and Smokin Out Da Grave. 9.1/10

Stream DC The Don | Listen to SACRED HEART (+) playlist online for free on  SoundCloudDC The Don‘s new project is in my opinion a step up from his last in terms of production. SACRED HEART (+) stays overall the same stylistically with previous projects, but instead with better quality. The album starts off great with SRT, with an ethereal sound and grand horns combined with a great vocal performance. Unfortunately, the rest of the album does lack in having a unique sound to it. Some songs do stand out though, like BEYOND GLOBAL, more fast paced than a lot of other songs. Good addition to his other projects as well. 8.5/10

p.rosa - Burned Car Highway Light Volcanic - Reviews - Album of The YearLikely the most interesting project I’ve heard from January is Burned Car Highway Light Volcanic, put together by Panda Rosa. I’d be lying if I said I knew what genre this is. Rate Your Music labels it as Neo-Psychedelia and Experimental Rock. I’d guess this is what it feels like to have a bad trip, but so vivid that it intrigues you in a way where you want to know more about what you’re observing. The voices played through this album, whether loud or very subtle, add to the ambiance suprisingly well. A lot of the vocals are cut up and seem random at times, almost giving them a schizophrenic feel. The primary vocals provided by Panda Rosa themself are spacey with a ton of reverb. This band consists of 6 members, which you would never guess from how it sounds. This project is VERY reminescent of Korean experimentalist Mid-Air Thief (which is far from accessible yet far more than this). Every track adds to the art project that this whole thing really seems to be. 9.2/10

Seeking the Sources of Streams | Cicada | FLAUMy search for a great AND playful instrumental album ends this January with 棲居在溪源之上 (Seeking the Sources of Streams) by Taiwanese group Cicada. I absolutely love their biography on spotify, which states “It’s named after Cicada because people are aware of cicada’s existence by their sound instead of forms”. After lurking on Rate Your Music for a good portion of my time I’ve listened to enough ambient projects instead of an instrumental one full of raw talent. This album combines a few instruments, notably the piano, violin, guitar, and a few different percussion instruments. Another string instrument is also used, with a sound similar to that of a Domra. Nothing short of beautiful, this is an amazing listen if you’re looking for something with a sound to make you cry without a single lyric. 8 minute track, On the Way to the Glacial Cirque nearly got me. 9.4/10

Ryuichi Sakamoto: 12 Album Review | Pitchfork12, by Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto is close to what I outlined as tired of hearing in the previous review, but this is pretty good and deserves a mention. Leagues more ambient than the last, this album is made with the use of nothing more than a piano and maybe some extra drone effects to give it a constant sound. The piano itself is put together in a very non-conformative way, where the notes are sporadic and almost suprising. I feel like this could definitely bore some people, but it’s very useful background music while doing anything where you’re going to be relaxed for a while. Or in my case, I just listen to it while doing nothing because I have a problem, but I digress. You’ll notice every track is titled very similarly with only numbers. Check this out if you appreciate composers experimenting with sound. 7.8/10

The Blissful Sounds of Miracula by Oedipus Apartment Complex (Album,  Progressive Electronic): Reviews, Ratings, Credits, Song list - Rate Your  MusicThis article is leaning more RYMcore than I would have hoped (if you’re nerdy enough to know what that means), so let’s keep it going! The Blissful Sounds of Miracula brought to us by oedipus apartment complex is another ambient-leaning project, but this time with electronica. It’s easy to make a progressively electronic album like this one, but it’s hard to make it good. One component that nearly always works it to have a progressive change of the sound over each and every track, which is accomplished greatly. Track Maybe does this well, which builds up over its course to quite actually nothing. By nothing, I mean a release of that sound. I love it, it’s great. 8.1/10

개화 (Blossom) | ParannoulI’ll try to save the best for last with these, and waisting no time the best is very easily After The Magic by Korean shoegaze artist Parannoul. His 2021 album To See the Next Part of the Dream was critically acclaimed by many, and continues to be with this one, receiving great reviews from many sources, such as Pitchfork, notably. Don’t let the first song Polaris trick you, it’s acoustic sound almost had me fooled, thinking he was changing up his sound to a more basic one. It becomes obvious quickly the pounding drums and INSANE instrumentals retain their glory. The melodies this guy creates are actually out of this world. He really comes out of his shell with his vocal performance on this album as well, which was a small issue on the last one. Of course the production improves as well. It does have a different sound than TSTNPOTD, less condenced. It works out well, and I hope to see further improvisations in the near future. Tracks like Insomnia and We Shine at Night were previously released, and are just as great combined with the rest here. None of the other songs stand out too much from one another, as it’s all a masterpiece. Please, please, please give this a listen. Easy 9.8/10