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Listen Up, Nerds: The 13 Best Songs of 2023

Listen Up, Nerds: The 13 Best Songs of 2023

It’s that time of year. It’s List Szn as you might be aware. The following 13 songs are my favorite 13 songs of the year. There were a ton of honorable mentions because it takes a lot to whittle it down to 13 but I’d be remiss to not mention Nuovo Testamento’s remix of Scowl’s “Psychic Dance Routine” or RxkNephew’s “Tory Lanez Should’ve Shot His Barber Shop Up” as the two most honorable of honorable mentions. I think those songs are great, and they’re two of my most-played songs this year, but everything here is a cut above those. You know the drill: Ranked from 13 to 1, my fav individual songs of the year, personal bias absolutely in effect because this is my list. Playlists linked at the bottom of the page.

billy woods - “NYC Tapwater”

On a record about touring, the most compelling billy woods song is a song about home.

Greg Mendez - “Clearer Picture (of You)”

Mendez’s record is stacked with songs of love and life lost to addiction, an heir to Elliott Smith in the truest sense. Maybe the most heart-wrenching song of all is a song about the way someone you love treats the people they don’t love.

Mil-Spec - “The Days Don’t End”

On the year’s best punk record, Mil-Spec reflect on a new world with new priorities in life after quarantine. We’re never alone and we don’t care.

Veeze - “GOMD”

Veeze has long been my fav of the new Detroit rap scene so Ganger was on repeat in the house this year. “GOMD” and “Not A Drill” are both easy picks for this list but I’m going with “GOMD,” a funnier and more stylish look at Veeze’s approach to Detroit rap, where he rides on the beat and flips back and forth from saying your mom will have to create a GoFundMe for your funeral to calling himself 7 Mile Road’s version of Justin Timberlake. 

Gouge Away - “Idealized”

Slowly but surely, Gouge Away’s music has revealed itself to be the best of its ilk. With time, we see other bands sully their discography with pushes to pop and appeals to critics, but Gouge Away’s resilience to stay true to their sound and never run out of that feeling is a comfort not often found in this genre. On “Idealized,” their first new track since 2020’s outstanding “Consider,” the band rip back into form, barking and growling from the inside of a fence with a “Beware of dog” sign on it. 

forever ☆ - “Your Angel Speaks”

Who else is even making music like this? There are a few bands leaning into shoegaze with breakbeats but nobody is making distorted walls of sound like forever ☆. The hypnotic vocals sandwiched between ear-splitting guitars and breakbeats may make you think it’s not mixed well, but the opposite is true. It’s a sonic Rothko piece, an engrossing wall of music that asks you to sink in and let it enfold you.

Diztort - “Diztorted World”

“This diztorted world doesn’t give a fuck about me, or you,” goes the eponymous line from this song, and it doesn’t. After years of silence, Diztort returns with a heavy new album that feels dark and oppressive but rewarding if you make it out alive, the way I assume spelunkers feel. The lead-off track is a new classic from the California cult-favorites. It is unrelenting and percussive the way that all of their music tends to be, and it just beats you over the head until that line in the beginning before finally giving out, but then it’s on to the next song, another new cave, another hell.

9Million - “Sun Spots”

What’s there to say about a grungegaze track about burning out your corneas staring at the sun? This is the kind of music I live for.

Oneohtrix Point Never - “The Body Trail”

Log on. Log into google docs. Decide on favorite songs of 2023. Enter “‘Krumville’ by oneohtrix point never.” Type paragraph about how Krumville Road is near where opn recorded this album. How the song is about him, talking about him. Realize that’s the point after some google searches. Remember that “The Body Trail” is the better song from this record. Think about the AI-generated voice clips. The chopping and clipping. The way it sounds is how jpg artifacts look. It sounds the way it feels to bite into a brownie and hit a chopped walnut inside of it, a sudden shift of texture that isn’t unwelcome. A radio coming in and out of reception on a highway as your car goes from streetlight to streetlight, mile marker to mile marker. The body trail. The Body Trail. “The Body Trail.”

Taking Meds - “Life Support”

Other songs on this record are funnier but none are as perfectly encapsulating for this band as “Life Support.” Frontman Skylar Sarkis jokes about the climb up to the top of rock-stardom over a J Robbins-inspired song where the band really gets to shine at the bridge. I think “Just talked to a guy who thinks my band’s called ‘Taking Bets’” is the funniest line of the year and I don’t think Sarkis’ humor is anything to be discounted. It’s rare that a band this good can also make you laugh, and that just adds to the good time that is “Life Support.”

crushed - “respawn”

If you didn’t know any better, you’d think this was a ‘90s pop song, but a b-side to something more popular. crushed’s whole EP is made of these tracks preserved in amber from a ‘90s era we didn’t get, inspired by trip-hop and shoegaze like America’s long-lost answer to Cocteau Twins. “Respawn” is a massive closer. It’s the kind of song that comes around a few decades like a comet, but we can bear witness this time around because we know it’s here.

Gumm - “Give You Back Your Youth”

Gumm’s fantastic Slogan Machine LP is chock-full of sing-along moments, which is somehow rare as bands in their sphere search for crossover success. Other bands trim and tinker with every last detail to make themselves acceptable for the masses and yet, on “Give You Back Your Youth,” Gumm deliver a stadium-style punk song that sacrifices nothing. It’s the kind of song that rejuvenates and inspires, it makes me think about my youth. It reminds me of hours spent in front of a TV playing Burnout 3 and how much sicker that game would be if “Give You Back Your Youth” was on the soundtrack.

Bully - “How Will I Know”

There are songs that make me ask, “How did you come up with this?” and there are songs that make me ask, “How did no one else come up with this before you?” The theme of my listening this year, and this list itself, seems to be music that somehow never existed before this year. “How Will I Know” is another one of those songs. It’s a bouncy, peppy alt-rock song that feels like I’d heard it a million times on the radio from the first time I heard it. It’s ingenious. It’s just brilliant. In a perfect and just world, this would be the number one song on the Billboard charts and I’d be sick of it because I’d hear it on every radio out of every car that passes my apartment. I’d hear it out at bars, I’d hear bad covers of it on tiktok. This is the kind of song that feels like home, the kind of song that made me fall in love with music when I was a kid. I love it to death and it’s my favorite song of the year.

Playlists: Apple Music | Spotify

Thanks for reading. Next week, as promised, entries 20-10 of the best albums of the year for paying subscribers.