Best Music of 2023

UPDATE: Here are some playlists with a selection of great songs from the year. Why not check them out?

Ah, the annual music post. Since I hardly post here anymore, it shouldn’t be so hard, but this post is always the hardest thing to write each year. Yet, when I finish, I’m always very pleased that I’ve said a few things about the music that I enjoyed the most during the past year. Especially right now, when the world seems to be in flames all around us, it’s comforting and even inspiring to know that great music is still being made. Music is such an essential part of my life and my identity, and sharing this post with you (no matter how few of you there might be or where you are in the world) is always worthwhile. So strap in. As always, this will be long.

As always, lists are bunk, especially ranked lists. This year, I’ve decided to just rank my Top Ten, and then include a batch of unranked releases that are still worthy of your time and attention. I hope my post will point you in some new directions, and bring you some of the joy that music brings to me. Here’s a YouTube playlist with a whole bunch of songs from this year’s batch.

Here we go (asterisks indicate an artist with Canadian bona fides and a bold L means I’ve seen the band live in 2023):

1. Mo TroperTroper Sings Brion – This just came out in November and crashed my Top Ten quite aggressively. I’ve been a fan of Mo’s since discovering his album covering The BeatlesRevolver and his 2021 album Dilettante. He’s a bit of a power pop legend and also produces, including Bory‘s debut record, Who’s A Good Boy?, which came out too late for consideration on this year’s list (but which sounds pretty great!). I love the idea of one songwriter paying tribute to another, and the album art goes even further, with its echoes of Harry Nilsson’s 1970 record Nilsson Sings Newman, on which he paid tribute to the songs of the great Randy Newman. Jon Brion is a songwriter with whom I had only a passing familiarity. I know him from his soundtrack work, especially on Paul Thomas Anderson’s film Magnolia (1998). He’s actually a bit of a power pop icon, with one album released under his own name (2000’s Meaningless) and another as part of power pop supergroup The Grays (Ro Sham Bo, from 1994). He played a lot of shows at Los Angeles’ club Largo, and many of the songs on Troper’s album were played live there or recorded as demos (available with a diligent internet search), but never officially released. Troper certainly delivers, with amazing versions of such future classics as “Citgo Sign,” “Love of My Life (So Far),” and “Not Ready Yet.” Mo Troper is emerging as not just an important artist in his own right, but as someone who is a champion for great power pop songwriting, both old and new.

2. Display HomesWhat If You’re Right and They’re Wrong? – A very sad story here. Sydney-based Australian band finally release their debut album, but their guitarist dies suddenly. Darrell Beveridge was also a comedian and a food blogger, and his loss means we probably won’t hear any more from this incredibly talented band.

3. Flyying ColoursYou Never Know – These Australian shoegazers have been on my radar since their previous release, 2021’s Fantasy Country, and this one surpasses that great album. Might be a longshot, but one can always hope for a North American tour.

4. *BuddieAgitatorBuddie frontman Daniel Forrest moved from Philadelphia to Vancouver sometime after the pandemic abated, and now we can claim him as a Canadian. This record ranges from rock to power pop, but always oozes sincerity and great songwriting. I’m hoping his newfound Canadian residency means the band will visit Toronto in 2024.

5. DeeperCareful! – I found Deeper around 2021 and enjoyed their 2020 release Auto-Pain and so you could say I was looking forward to this new one, which does not disappoint. Post-punk hooks aplenty, from a strong Chicago scene which also includes bands like Stuck, whose 2023 album Freak Frequency landed on the “unranked” list.

6. Yves TumorPraise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds) – Never underestimate the power of surprise. Yves Tumor came out of nowhere (at least for me) and knocked me out with a surprising sound reminiscent of TV on the Radio. There’s not much out there right now that sounds like this, challenging and yet filled with hooks.

7. Nation of Language (L)Strange Disciple – I was very impressed the first time I saw Nation of Language play live, and even more impressed to see them headlining a show at the Phoenix here in Toronto just a few weeks ago. I think it’s because they bring a real emotional warmth to music that can at first listen seem kind of cold and detached. Their fully committed live performances certainly lifted their 2023 album Strange Disciple firmly into my Top Ten. If you get a chance to see this band performing live in your town, definitely take it!

8. TV PartyPsychic Driving – Hailing from Ventura, California, TV Party is notable for the distinctive sound of frontman Jesse Brinkenhoff’s vocals, which seem teleported from the early days of punk. Give these guys a listen!

9. En Attendant AnaPrincipia – I really loved this French band’s previous record Juillet which came out in 2020, and at first was a bit underwhelmed with this much anticipated follow up. But as I spent more time with it, it crept (back) into my Top Ten. A highlight is the longer song “Wonder.” Will 2024 bring them to Toronto? I’m crossing my fingers.

10. Hamish HawkAngel Numbers – Another surprise. Not sure how I found Hamish Hawk, but this Scottish singer has a unique vocal style and a way with words. “Angel Numbers” refers to the strange sequences of repeated numbers that sometimes pop up in our everyday lives, and to which we somehow want to ascribe deeper meaning. Hamish’s presence on my top ten seems kind of like a strange coincidence, but don’t ignore it. Check out his song “Think of Us Kissing” for a start.

Mo Troper - Troper Sings Brion
Display Homes - What If You're Right and They're Wrong?Flyying Colours - You Never Know
Buddie - AgitatorDeeper - Careful!Yves Tumor - Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Betweeen Worlds)
Nation of Language - Strange DiscipleTV Party - Psychic DrivingEn Attendant Ana - PrincipiaHamish Hawk - Angel Numbers

Here are a bunch more worthy releases, all unranked. As in the Top Ten above, Canadian bands get an asterisk and a bold L means I’ve seen the band live in 2023.

Unranked But Worthy

  • RockyRocky
  • Public InterestSpiritual Pollution
  • StuckFreak Frequency
  • Pearly DropsA Little Disaster
  • The TubsDead Meat
  • Public BodyBig Mess
  • Bully (L)Lucky For You
  • MotorbikeMotorbike
  • CrocodilesUpside Down in Heaven
  • OnyonLast Days on Earth
  • SnooperSuper Snooper
  • Echo LadiesLilies
  • Model/ActrizDogsbody
  • Uni BoysBuy This Now!
  • Erik NervousImmaturity
  • Hotline TNTCartwheel
  • Beach FossilsBunny
  • RatboysThe Window
  • Sweeping Promises (L)Good Living is Coming for You
  • *Tough AgeWaiting Here
  • Spiritual CrampSpiritual Cramp
  • *Home FrontGames of Power
  • *Vanity MirrorPuff
  • White ReaperAsking for a Ride
  • feeble little horseGirl With Fish
  • The Lemon TwigsEverything Harmony
  • Lewsberg (L)Out and About
  • The WhiffsScratch ‘n’ Sniff
  • Hard Copy12 Shots of Nature


  1. Wombo (L)Slab (EP)
  2. Gym TonicSanitary Situations (EP)
  3. Cel RayCellular Raymond (EP)
  4. Cel RayPiss Park (EP)
  5. LightheadedGood Good Great! (EP)
  6. LifeguardDressed in Trenches (EP)
  7. *Natural Light2023.I (EP)
  8. *LavoroLavoro (EP)

Best Reissues

  • The Exploding HeartsGuitar Romantic

As always, music helped me through this year’s highs and lows, reinforcing my belief that music is as essential to my life as food, oxygen, and love.

Just for fun, here are some of my previous lists:

How about you? What were some of your favourites?

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