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Favorite Releases of 2023

Here’s Some of What I Listened to the Most in 2023

Music is my life, hence I like to keep Spotify playlists of my favorite releases each year. These were my favorites from 2023.

Home Front - Games of Power (La Vida Es Un Mus)

2023 was the year when synthpunk came back to the forefront for a lot of folks. Home Front were one of the bands leading that charge. It’s a great mix of live instrumentation, programmed drums, and keyboards. It’s a little bit New Order, a little bit Blitz, and a little bit of that melodic Spanish punk that is so great these days. “End Transmission” is a straight-up Joy Division homage. Favorite track: “Nation”

Militarie Gun - Life Under the Gun (Loma Vista)

Some people say that Militarie Gun remind them of a hardcore version of Seaweed, others say Modest Mouse. You certainly hear those influences in some of the guitar riffs (the beginning of “Very High” will make you think you’re listening to some outtake from Spanaway). I’m really enjoying what this band is doing these days and their live shows are always a blast. Favorite track: “Seizure of Assets”

MSPAINT - Post-American (Convulse)

The first of many Convulse Records releases on this list, and the other band really bringing synthpunk back in 2023. This is essentially an updated take on bands like The Screamers or Black Randy & the Metro Squad. Live drums, live bass, distorted synths, and barked vocals espousing a great outlook on life — a recipe for a great time. Favorite track: “Acid”

Gumm - Slogan Machine (Convulse)

I can’t put my finger on who this band reminds me of, but I dig it. I think Convulse’s description pretty much nails it, so I’m just going to quote that here. “Slogan Machine is a record clearly grounded in Revolution Summer material that remains inventive. It’s melodic, but it’s also deceptively heavy. Lyrically, the record tackles social decay and alienation - punctuating decades of increased distrust and unease.” Favorite track: “Give You Back Your Youth”

Paint It Black - Famine (Revelation)

Paint It Black are back with their first new recording in 10 years and they remain as vital and relevant as ever. Dan’s got a great intensity to his vocals and the band goes off in some interesting directions on this one, that I think come off pretty successfully. “Exploitation Period” opens with some distorted bass and the rest of the band builds and you think the fast part is gonna rip in, but then it’s just bass, vocals, a hint of guitar noise, and the occasional sparse hip-hop vocal sample. Then about two minutes in, the band comes back to finish out the song. It’s unique and it works well. Favorite track: “The Unreasonable Silence”

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - Weathervanes (Southeastern)

Let’s get away from the hardcore punk for a minute and chill out with some Americana that, as my friend Lucas says, “will bum the fucking shit out of you”. The majority of this album was clearly written during the pandemic. Songs of isolation and going stir crazy, alongside songs of dealing with the trauma of mass shootings, opioid addiction, and growing up in racist surroundings, and just generally having a hard time getting along in this world. But it’s god-damned beautiful. This is easily the album I listened to the most in 2023. Favorite track: “Strawberry Woman”

Mil-Spec - Marathon (Lockin’ Out)

I didn’t listen to this album enough in 2023, but every time I did, I wish I’d listened more. Just solid, straight-forward hardcore with a touch of melody coming out of the tradition of bands like Have Heart, The First Step, Verbal Assault, and Turning Point, along with a touch of mid-80s DC hardcore. Revolver put it well when they said it sounds like a cross between Revelation Records and Revolution Summer. Favorite song: “The Days Don’t End”

Katarsi - s/t (Discos Enfermos)

Remember that melodic Spanish punk I mentioned earlier? This Basque band is a great example of that. And another band embracing synths in 2023. The lyrics are in Euskara, but thankfully they have Spanish and English translations on their Bandcamp page. They kind of remind me of Danish bands like No Hope for the Kids and Gorilla Angreb, or that Ottawa scene of bands like Sedatives. Catchy, but dark. Favorite track: “Final”

Destiny Bond - Be My Vengeance (Convulse)

Destiny Bond stomp! Perfect straight-forward hardcore/punk from this Denver band. I’ve seen them compared to bands like The Flex, The Repos, The Rival Mob, (early) Fucked Up, The Faith, and Dag Nasty. All fit to a degree. It doesn’t sounds like any of those bands exaclty, but you can definitely pick out those influences. Favorite track: “The Glow”

Chain Whip - Call of the Knife (Neon Taste)

When it comes to raging hardcore punk, this is exactly how I like it. The whole thing just rips at 100mph from start to finish, with just a hint of melody in the guitars. It’s bands like Chain Whip keeping going what labels like Grave Mistake, No Way, and Deranged brought back in the mid-2000s.

Tyler Childers - Rustin’ in the Rain (Hickman Holler)

I like Tyler Childers because you can tell he’s just making the music he wants to make at the moment, regardless of what he’s done before or anyone’s expectations. The first song is kind of a honky tonk stomper, then he goes into an old-timey Hank William kind of song, and then into a kind-of pseudo-gospel song with a bible verse spoken over the beginning. Throughout the 8-song album he covers all sorts of realms within the Country genre. If you’re interested in bawling your eyes out, I highly recommend the video for “In Your Love”. Favorite song: “In Your Love”

The Menzingers - Some of It Was True (Epitaph)

At this point the Menzingers are just a really solid band that have found their niche and just continue writing and recording solid catchy melodic punk songs with a heavy dose of Americana. For me, they peaked with After the Party, which was a perfect record with wonderful story telling. This one, like 2019’a Hello Exile, doesn’t quite excite me the way everything up to After the Party did, but it’s still a solid record with some pretty great songs. Favorite track: “There’s No Place In This World For Me”

Samiam - Stowaway (Pure Noise)

Similar to The Menzingers, Samiam are another band that peaked many albums ago (with 1997’s You Are Freaking Me Out, if you ask me), but continue to put out solid records. This one pretty much picks up where Trips left off. Solid catchy melodic punk songs with some of the best vocal melodies in the game. Favorite track: “Crystallized”

The Reds, Pinks & Purples - The Town That Cursed Your Name (Slumberland)

I hadn’t heard of this band until they crossed my path in early 2023 thanks to some passing recommendation on a Discord server, but they’ve been around since 2018. This is a great album of jangly indie pop with a heavy dose of melancholy. It’s like a cross between The Smiths and The Field Mice. (AI suggested that last bit and I thought it was spot on.) Just knowing that Slumberland released this album should give you a good idea of the vibe of it. Whether intentional or not, there’s a subtle dose of Socialist, or at least anti-Capitalist, doctrine in the lyrics to a lot of these songs about working crappy jobs just to live a life you enjoy, and other things we do to create a life we value, which brings a smile to my face. Favorite track: “Life in the Void”

Wreckage - Our Time (Scheme Hardcore)

Back to the hardcore to round out the detailed reviews. This band owes A LOT to Turning Point and I’m sure they would not be offended by me saying that. It’s essentially It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn cosplay, but it’s done really well. There’s also a solid nod to Outspoken. That should really be all I need to write for you to know if you’ll dig it or not. Favorite track: “Our Time”

Other records I really enjoyed in 2023:

  • Gel - Only Constant (Convulse)
  • Czarface - Czartificial Intelligence (Silver Age)
  • Calling Hours - Say Less (Revelation)
  • Spiritual Cramp - s/t (Blue Grape)
  • Andy Place & the Coolheads - Feels Like a Dream (Black Water)
  • Street Sweeper - s/t (Legless)
  • One Step Closer - Songs for the Willow (Run for Cover)
  • The Hope Conspiracy - Confusion/Chaos/Misery (Deathwish)
  • State Drugs - Parade of Red Flags (Snappy Little Numbers)
  • Polarview - Inventory (Strange View)
  • Tim Hause - TIM (Blood Harmony)

Clearly Convulse Records wins label of the year. Denver hardcore rules.

Here’s my Spotify playlist of everything I liked that was released in 2023: