Top Albums of 2023 | Michael Koehler

Photo of Slowdive by Ingrid Pop

Slowdive | everything is alive (Dead Oceans)

In my opinion, this is the best album Slowdive has ever put out and that is saying something as so many hold Souvlaki and Pygmalion in such high regard, myself included. This is the work of a band that took the template for the genre they are known for and threw it out the window and expanded and evolved not only their own sound, but the concept of what shoegaze is or can be. I cannot wait to see how this album translates to a live setting when I see them in 2024 with the pleasant surprise announcement of a show at the Pageant.

Pale Blue Eyes | This House (Full Time Hobby)

For me, this hits all the right buttons and was like a warm synth-filled security blanket through a lot of 2023. It’s part shoegaze, part krautrock, part dream pop. Closing track “Underwater” is my personal fave and is a thick and gorgeous way to close the album.

Cory Hanson | Western Cum (Drag City)

Incredible album, horrible title. Primarily known for his work in psychedelic/noise outfit Wand, Cory takes a different approach to music on this solo record than what Wand is known for. Part southern rock, part power pop, part mid-‘70s-era guitar rock. Penultimate song “Driving Through Heaven” is a journey that I never want to get off.

Kylie Minogue | Tension (BMG)

It’s Kylie, she is a force of nature and all should bow before her. This is an expertly crafted, laser focused, and at times hypnotic dancefloor masterclass. She also seems extra horny on main, which only adds to the tension and buildup on several of the songs. This album combined with 2020’s Disco are an incredible late career resurgence, and both are the best things she has done since 2002’s Fever.

Inhaler | Cuts & Bruises (Polydor)

Let get this out of the way, this is Bono’s son. Even though his voice sounds eerily at times like his dad’s, Inhaler is nothing like U2 and Elijah Hewson is not his dad. (It should also be said, I’m probably way too old to be a fan of them.) Cuts & Bruises continues with what Inhaler started on their 2021 debut, which has zero right to be as fun of a listen as it is. It is a bit nosier than the debut, but in this case that helps it out. It’s just as enjoyable and sounds more self-assured. Funny bit: my wife and I had tickets to see them in London when we were there on vacation. Camden is an interesting place and was just rammed with people that day. And the median age of the kids waiting outside the venue was way younger than me. In fact, I think I have jeans older than a lot of them, which is why I feel I’m probably too old to enjoy the band, but I do. We ended up skipping the show as it was our last night of a two-week trip where we walked close to 200 miles before hiking and walking through cities. Exhaustion took the wheel.

CVC | Get Real (self-released)

A wonderful blend of pop and rock that takes its influences straight out of the mid-to-late ‘70s and proudly displays them. While nothing here is original, it’s all done exceptionally well and while listening, you are immediately taken back to a time and place that is long gone. Hopefully subsequent releases they do start to bring in more originality and rely less on the past. But for now, this is a wonderful selection to bliss out to.

Sleaford Mods | UK Grim (Rough Trade)

I’m fully aware that Sleaford Mods are not going to be everyone’s (or most people’s) cup of tea. The vocals are abrasive, the beats and other noises jarring at times. That is part of the reason I love them. But their lyrics are what drew me to them years ago. Very anti-Tory, anti-austerity England they paint pictures of modern life and how fake things are at times, and just how bleak the world is. Primary lyrist and lead vocalist Jason Williamson does not faff about with letting you know just how he feels no matter how caustic he is. Tremendous stuff.

Gaz Coombes | Turn the Car Around (Hot Fruit/Virgin)

Just an incredible suite of songs and the best thing Gaz has done since Supergrass’ Life on Other Plants. That is saying a lot as his previous two solo efforts were very good, particularly Matador. | Michael Koehler

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