Top 30 Albums of 2023
Super high energy poppy punk rock from Sydney, Australia. If this record doesn't make you smile, you are beyond saving.
Sacramento's legendary power pop group finally releases the album that was postponed by the pandemic. Of course it's magnificent.
The long-awaited debut album from this post-Humpers, post-Lovesores supergroup is everything you would have hoped for and more. This is what they call rock 'n' roll, kids!
High School, a San Francisco-based band that existed from 2005 to 2007, finally sees the release of its debut album. A perfect mix of poppy punk, power pop, and straight-up rock 'n' roll featuring songs about love, school, and love at school.
J. Waylon delivers the goods with 15 more tracks of powerful punky pop straight out of the garage. Worth checking out for the song titles alone!
Does the world need a pop-punk record about death, grief, love, and obsession with an adaption of an Edgar Allan Poe poem as its emotional core? Um, yeah! The Young Hasselhoffs, longtime mainstays of the pop-punk scene, are literally making the best music of their lives a quarter-century into their existence.
An absolute banger of ferocious pub punk rock 'n' roll from down under.
Nothing more and nothing less than a perfect pop-punk album.
38 years into its career, Northern Sweden's Psychotic Youth still sets the standard for power-pop-surf-punk.
On their second album, JEM Records recording artists The Midnight Callers wear their love for glam rock and '70s power pop on their sleeves. The future is bright for rock 'n' roll!
This Canadian alt-rock/punk duo delivers an album packed with passionate, intelligent, and powerful rock anthems.
There was no sophomore slump for Green Bay, Wisconsin's premiere new wave punk rock band!
Imagine the 1977 Ramones if they'd done an album for Rip Off Records.
Super-catchy old school punk rock 'n' roll from Australia. Energy off the charts and hooks for days!
Best album yet from the masters of contemporary new wave.
Power pop by the book, and it's a book I'd read any day of the year.
2023's best pure punk rock album. Dark and ferocious garage punk played with hardcore intensity. Joel Jett is the man!
Geoff Palmer is back with ten more stellar tracks that blur the lines between pop-punk and power pop. Possibly his best album!
10. Juniper - She Steals Candy
Teenage singer Juniper teams with her father Michael Shelley and a whole slew of talented friends to deliver a sophomore album full of timeless yet contemporary pop songs.
9. Duncan Reid and the Big Heads - And It's Goodbye from Him
Duncan Reid, a legend of power pop/punk music, closes his recording career with one of the best albums he's ever been a part of.
The long-awaited proper debut album from the beloved musician, artist, music reviewer, and intergalactic pop influencer Poppy Robbie is a master work in songwriting and storytelling.
6. Civic - Taken by Force
An 11-track Aussie punk rager that can stand toe-to-toe with the best of The Saints and Radio Birdman.
5. Rich Ragany & The Digressions - What We Do (To Not Let Go)
Rich Rags continues to show why he's one of our greatest modern-day songwriters. Backed by the remarkable Digressions, he delivers an epic rock record that's packed with anthems that will touch your heart and stir your soul.
4. Brad Marino - Grin and Bear It
If I'm doing a year-end favorite LPs list, and Brad Marino had an album out, you'll always find him near the top.
3. The Shang Hi Los - Aces Eights & Heartbreaks
I was eagerly awaiting this album for a couple years, and it did not disappoint. Nine tracks, and it's nothing but hits! Jen D'Angora and Dan Kopko as a songwriting and singing tandem are hard to beat.
2. Kurt Baker - Rock 'N' Roll Club
While still a classic power pop rock 'n' roll album in spirit, Kurt Baker's fifth solo album finds him broadening his musical style and embracing his maturity as an artist. I might rank "Anchors Up" as his finest song ever. This is Baker's fourth album to make my year-end top ten list and the third to make my top two!
1. The Exbats - Song Machine
I led my review of this album by saying, "It's official: The Exbats are the best band in the world." That's how good it is. Daughter/dad songwriting duo Inez and Kenny McLain continue to take the influence of 1960s and '70s pop music and create something that feels genuinely new and exciting as we sit on the doorstep of 2024. How can I not love an album that reminds me of The Shangri-Las, The Carpenters, and Ramones all at once? In a just world, this would be a multi-million seller. Song Machine more than lives up to its title.
Top 20 EPs of 2023
Back with their first new recordings in 16 years, Milwaukee's punk-pop sensations pick right up like they were never gone.
On this all-covers EP, Mike pays tribute to some of his favorite songs (by Imperial Teen, All Girl Summer Fun Band, Television Personalities, and Camera Obscura) which have influenced him as a songwriter. I love it when bands do records like these!
From Düsseldorf, Germany, The Naggs debut with five stellar tracks of garagey power pop rock 'n' roll.
First release in four years from Spain's beloved girl group/power pop revivalists does not disappoint!
A mini-album of stripped-down tunes from everyone's favorite Florida-based lo-fi pop art minimalist poetic glam punk rock n' roll duo, cut live in the studio. An expanded full-length version with some extra odds and sods is available from Sioux Records.
Unreleased for three and a half decades, this first and final release from The Matweeds is an unearthed treasure of 1980s Boston garage/punk.
One of the bands that helped define modern-day poppy garage punk is back and still on top of its game.
Killer split featuring the New England/New Brunswick punk rock supergroup The Vains and the UK's kings of pound shop rock. This record is one half Black Flag meets Samoans meets Johnny Thunders, one half quintessential budget punk, and one whole totally awesome.
Do you know your Civil Rats? Philly trio plays the catchiest and most fun brand of garage-punk that you could ever hope to hear.
J. Waylon released so many great EPs this year that it's hard to single out a best one. Spiral Eye Roll is the pick here, but you should buy 'em all!
One of the best songwriters in modern-day rock ‘n’ roll finally makes a solo record, and of course it rules!
Now down to a trio, this long-running Plymouth, Massachusetts outfit continues to put the power in the pop.
On her second solo release, the Minneapolis music legend has never sounded better. Great tunes, and that voice is something else!
Three more tracks of ass-kicking Midwestern punk rock 'n' roll goodness from one of the best bands out there.
This was the record I was most eagerly awaiting in 2023, and it did not let me down. Five exhilarating tracks that will remind you why you fell in love with punk rock way back when. My god, that rhythm section!
Top 25 Singles of 2023
Kevin and Hillary are back with more of their brilliant dark new wave/synth-punk/retro-futuristic pop.
An anthem for our times from my favorite band to write about. I'd write about them again tomorrow if I could.
"S'Cool Days" is a blistering cover of Canadian glam rocker Stanley Frank’s 1977 classic; "Past Discrepancies" is a Grade-A TJ Cabot original. Essential low-budget garage punk rock ‘n’ roll from the Maritimes!
An epic rocker love song that will get your heart racing.
Power pop meets Motown meets summertime vibes on this feelgood earworm featuring Jeff Beam on guitar.
Another perfect single from Boston’s finest mod-punk power pop trio.
As part of the I-94 Recordings Detroit covers series, the mighty Bellrays deliver a modernized and urgent rendition of The Temptations’ timeless classic. This is an absolutely essential purchase, and vinyl copies remain in stock over at the I-94 web site!
The Dogmatics, I’m thrilled to say, still sound like The Dogmatics!
The second 7" from this Tokyo-based punk rock super group is pure fire.
A true double A-side affair from Tuscons’s garage-punk pop sensations.
A smashing double A-side of quintessential Aussie punk!
One thing I find very underrated about Vista Blue are Mike's lyrics. I heard "Coming Out Swinging" and suspected that the band had pulled a John Fogerty and written a song about baseball that was actually a song about them. Yet if you choose to believe that this song predicted LSU's 2023 championship baseball season, there is plenty of evidence to support such an inference. Mike's lyrics are so skillfully-written that one could argue that both interpretations are equally valid. That "new ace" referenced in the song is probably Paul Skenes, but alternatively it could be Richard Bates or Classic Pat!
"Jump right in/The water's fine"
That’s right: it’s the legendary Fastbacks with their first new recordings in over 20 years! The Muffs cover on the B-side will give you chills.
Germany’s beloved power pop punk rock ‘n’ rollers treat us to a "dousing hot-cold-shower which sums up the blazing, man-made destruction we all live in." An absolute anthem!
Wyatt Funderburk’s first new solo recordings in a decade are a preview of his forthcoming album. Pop music doesn’t get any more beautiful than this.
Part of teen singer Juniper’s appeal is that she loves '60s and '70s pop but also loves contemporary popular music. Written by her dad Michael Shelley after Juniper played him some Harry Styles songs, "I Was Thinking About You" typifies why Juniper is such a breath of fresh air in the indie rock scene.
The most exciting new band of 2022 follows up its instant classic debut EP with a perfect power pop single.
The LDG's second appearance on this list. Is this now the best band on Rum Bar Records? Signs point to yes!
Stef is Dublin-born singer/songwriter Stefan Murphy. The Sleevens are Ryan Sweeney (Cheap Time, Sweet Time Records) on drums, Eli Steele (Sweet Knives) on guitar, and Jamie Mechan on bass. Together they’ve delivered an extraordinary debut single of '70s punk-inspired pub rock ‘n’ roll with lyrics that will fill your heart with hope and joy. Now known simply as The Sleevens, the band will be releasing a full album on Dirtnap Records in early 2024. In a very different vein, Murphy has a new solo album out on Sweet Time.
2023 Song of the Year
Leave it to me to proclaim a six-minute track as the best song of the entire year. As if I haven't already demanded enough of your time! "Robert Pollard Trading Card Collection" is the literal and figurative centerpiece of Poppy Robbie's excellent debut album Neighborhood Beautification Commission. Inspired by Robbie's actual Robert Pollard trading card collection, the song reflects on what an amazing twist of fate it was that Robert Pollard went from being an elite athlete (good enough to pitch a college no-hitter) to being one of the most influential and beloved musicians of his time. Think of all the incredible music the world may have lost if Pollard had been good enough to pitch professionally. And imagine what you could still become if you only had the time.
Master Class Album of the Year
I give this award every year to the best album by a band/artist that's 25 years or more into its recording career. Psychotic Youth are nearing 40 years as a band and have treated us to a vintage effort in the somewhat ironically-titled Happy Songs. The band's classic lineup is on board for this release, and Jörgen's songwriting is in peak form. If you want to hear punk-inspired power pop by the book, it's time to check in with one of the bands that wrote that book!
Best Debut Release of 2023
Jamie, Vera, and Lynn absolutely crushed it on their first release — delivering five smash hits that leave us wanting more. If you love rock 'n' roll, you'll be right there with me awaiting a full album!
Best Compilation Album of 2023 (single artist)
If you've been living in a cave since 2018 (and who could blame you if you have!), Triple Platinum will give you a perfect summation of the story so far of the world's premiere power pop group. The album features four cuts from each of the band's three albums — including all-new, full-band recordings of four essential tracks from 2018's Just a Regular Summer, which was a de facto Matt Speedway solo album. I love the track selection, and I love hearing those early Speedways songs as "proper" Speedways songs!
Best Compilation Album of 2023 (Various artists)
It's rare for me to make note of a tribute album at year's end. But this was no ordinary tribute album. What comes through in JEM Records Celebrates Ray Davies is the tremendous love for the source material and the exceptional talent on the JEM roster. When you're paying tribute to arguably the single greatest songwriter in 20th Century popular music, your first mission is to not screw the songs up. The JEM bands went well beyond that and produced an album that honors all this classic material while also casting it in a new light.
2023 Record Label of the Year
Yeah, I know: I could probably give this one to Rum Bar every year. What's pretty incredible to me is that Lou released three of my top 13 singles, four of my top twenty EPs, and two of my top four albums — and that doesn't even scratch the surface of all the killer music he put out this year! Rum Bar becomes my first-ever two-time heavyweight champion of record labels. Hail to the king!