Bad Copy


Steve’s Favorite Records of 2023

Well, here we are at the end of another year. 2023 has been a crazy one. Much like previous years, 2023 brought up a ton of music to listen to – some good, some pretty mediocre. Putting this year’s list together was quite the experience. Trying to decide which albums stood apart from the others took some pains but in the end, the following is what I decided were my 20 favorite records of 2023. Enjoy!

20. Death Pill – Death Pill
Starting off this year’s best albums of the year list is the first entry of albums coming from a hardcore punk band, of which there are several. This one comes to us from Death Pill, a band based out of Kiev, Ukraine. Released in October via New Heavy Sounds, this debut from the hardcore/riot grrl trio is a wild ride and 23 minutes of untamed fury. Sometimes just as much death metal as it is punk rock, the band sounds like a band that is very angry. As one might expect coming from a band whose country is embroiled in a war. The music is not necessarily as catchy as I usually like to listen but the album really grabbed me the first time I listened to it and every time after that. My favorite tracks include “Miss Revolt,” “Die for Vietnam,” “It’s a Joke,” and the closing track “Would You Marry Me.”

19. Yard – Slow Pulp
The first entry from a band that I had not previously heard about, Yard was released in September via Anti Records. Slow Pulp are an indie rock quartet based out of Chicago, Illinois (although I have also seen some mentions of them being from Madison, Wisconsin). I really like the laid back, 90s alt-rock sound of this album. My favorite songs on the album include “Gone 2” and “Cramps.”

18. Cheap Grills – Sincere Engineer
The newest release from Sincere Engineer, Cheap Grills was released in September via Hopeless Records. On Cheap Grills, Deanna Belos and company deliver mix of emo and indie with hints of melodic punk embedded with self-introspective lyrics and feel like they came out of somebody’s diary. Favorites from Cheap Grills include “Anemia.”

17. Stop the World – NOT
The band NOT is admittedly the band that was put together because ALL stopped putting out records. The band was formed by singer Davey Warsop, previously of the bands Beat Union, Suedehead, and Sharp/Shock. This debut album consists of 14 tracks with great hooks that pay tribute to ALL. My favorite tracks are “Alien,” “Stop the World,” “Sorry Sometimes,” and “Unfuck the World.”

16. Psychic Dance Routine – Scowl
Psychic Dance Routine is another entry from a band that I had never heard of previously. It is also another entry on this year’s list from a hardcore band. More so than have ever been on a previous end of year list. Anyway, Scowl is a hardcore band based out of Santa Cruz, California. Psychic Dance Routine was an EP released in April via Flatspot Records. Clocking in at a whopping ten minutes, Scowl doesn’t waste any time. Vocalist Kat Moss does a fine job switching back and forth between gritty, snarly vocals and sweet clean vocals, giving this band both a ferocious and melodic sound. My favorites from the EP are “Shot Down,” “Opening Night,” and “Psychic Dance Routine.”

15. Essential – The Bollweevils
Chicago natives The Bollweevils dropped their first new material since 2009s Heavyweight. Essential was released in May via Red Scare Industries. The album opens with a powerful re-introduction to the band in “Predisposition” and continues to chug along with 9 more tracks guaranteed to remind you of classic pop-punk in the Windy City tradition. Favorites from Essential include “Predisposition,” “Bottomless Pit,” “Our Glass,” and “Linement and Tonic.”

14. Special Edition – Galactic Empire
Rarely does an instrumental album make it to one of my best albums of the year list but this one was just phenomenal. For those reading this that don’t know me, I am a Star Wars geek. This Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania=based metal band took a bunch of Star Wars songs and turned them into metal songs. Pure magic. You can’t go wrong. They took the music originally composed by John Williams, Ludwig Goransson, et al., and gives it an amazing twist. This album would be great for metal fans and Star Wars fans alike. Some might think it is a bit gimmicky but who cares? It is fun as hell to listen to! Special Edition was released in May via Pure Noise Records. My favorites from the album include “The Imperial Suite,” “The Mandalorian,” “Obi Wan Kenobi,” “The Book of Boba Fett,” and “Victory Celebration.”

13. No JoySpanish Love Songs
2020’s Brave Faces Everyone appeared at #12 on that year’s best of list. I was definitely looking forward to this album when I heard about its release. However, if you were also looking forward to this album and expecting another Brave Faces Everyone, you might be disappointed. No Joy was released in August via Pure Noise Records. This is definitely not a retread of previous works. They take what they have done in the past and build, well, something else. This one is not as poppy as previous efforts but still full of terrific melodies, touching on some new wave influences at time. My favorites from No Joy are “Haunted,” “Clean Up Crew,” and “Pendulum.”

12. Sick Sad World Survival Guide – Pity Party
Technically, part of me feels like this album shouldn’t even be included on my best new releases of the year list because the album actually consists mostly of re-recordings of songs that were originally released on their 2016 LP Gnarbage. However, considering I had never heard of that album and had never heard of this band until this year, I’m going to allow it. Pity Party is from Oakland, California and Sick Sad World Survival Guide was released in August via SBAM Records. In addition to previously released songs, the EP also includes a new track called “Ionize My Enemies” and an amazing cover of the Britney Spears “Toxic.” Favorites of mine from this one include “Suicide Handbook,” “Gnarbage,” “Ionize My Enemies,” and “Toxic.”

11. Skinwalker – Grassface
Sucker for dual vocals here. Chicago-based Grassface is made up of members of Canadian Rifle, This Is My Fist, and Sorespot. The dual vocals complement each other very well. Skinwalker was released in April via Salinas Records. I just wish there were more than 7 songs on this release. Some favorites on Skinwalker are “Banchee,” “Come & Get It,” “Non-Existent Place,” and “I Don’t Know Why I Love You.”

10. Trash Life – Fat Heaven
Another one from band I was previously unaware of comes from a trio based out of Brooklyn, New York. Fat Heaven cranks out 10 melodic pop-punk gems with Trash Life. Trash Life was released in February via Sell The Heart Records. Favorites include “Quarter Life Crisis,” “I Am Trash,” “Doomsday,” “Tarantula,” and “Suburban Nightmare.”

9. Drive It Like It’s Stolen – Dave Hause
It should come as no surprise to those that regularly read my end of year albums list that a new Dave Hause album has shown up. I like this album but, at first, it really didn’t grab me the way that his previous albums have. Drive It Like It’s Stolen is Dave’s 6th solo LP and while it seemed like there were fewer “stand out” tracks on this one, the album as a whole is what Dave doing what Dave does best. Dave is quite frankly one of the best singer-songwriters to hit the scene in the last decade. This one from the Philadelphia native was released in April via his own Blood Harmony label. Favorites on this one include “Pedal Down,” “Damn Personal,” “chainsaweyes,” “lashingout,” and “Hazard Lights.”

8. The Good Ship Lollipop – Venomous Concept
My first reaction to this album was simply ‘What the fuck is this?!?’ Venomous Concept is a hardcore punk band formed in 2003 by members of Brutal Truth and Napalm Death. How I had not heard of this band before I have no idea but this one had me hooked from the first listen. The Good Ship Lollipop, their 5th studio album, was released in February via Extrinsic Records. Not surprisingly, there are some grindcore elements to several of the songs. Full of killer guitar riffs, gang vocals, and solid rhythms, The Good Ship Lollipop is an album that at times remind me of Poison Idea and Negative Approach, while at other times reminds me of The Killing Joke or even late Ramones. My favorite songs from this one are “The Good Ship Lollipop,” “Can’t Lose,” “Fractured,” “Voices,” “Clinical,” and “Flowers Bloom.”

7. Only Constant – GEL
GEL marks another hardcore punk entry on this year’s list. GEL is from New Jersey and Only Constant is their full length debut. Clocking in at 17 minutes, Only Constant was released in March via Convulse Records. The album consists of fast tempos indicative of the genre that often shift within the songs and have a simple energy to them that is straightforward at times and infectious throughout. The album tears through with its energy, only taking a break halfway through with interlude “Calling Card.” My favorite tracks from Only Constant were “Honed Blade,” “Attainable,” “Composure,” “The Way Out,” and “Worn Down.”

6. Breathe – Melonball
Catchy as hell skate punk band from Nuremberg, Germany released their debut full length, Breathe, in March via Thousand Island Records. Musically, this is a very strong debut with melodic vocals and bursting with enthusiasm. Favorite tracks are “Sicker,” “Whatever,” “Lost,” “Sinking,” and an amazing cover of the 1985 Outfield hit “Your Love.”

5. Cerebral Circus – Initiate
One more hardcore punk entry on this list comes from Southern California’s Initiate. Cerebral Circus was released in April via Triple B Records. Vocalist Crystal Oak could very well be one of the (if not the) best vocalist of the genre, combining brutality and melody that give the album a sound that is both impassioned and accessible. The drummer and bass player hold down the rhythm section nicely while guitarists Riley and Jack scream throughout the album. This is a brilliant hardcore album. The tunes that I really dug a lot on Cerebral Circus are “Waste Your Life,” “Alone at the Bottom,” “Amend,” “Your Only Means,” and the perfect closing track “Transparency.”

4. First Sighting – Blood Star
This one might be a little off the beaten path for an album that would normally show up on one of my best of the year lists. Blood Star has more in common with bands such as Judas Priest or Iron Maiden than those of the typical punk and punk adjacent artists that appear. It must of had something to do with the 80s nostalgia that really grabbed me about this music. Classic heavy metal with a bit of a modern twist. Comprised of members of Salt Lake City based power metal band Visigoth, the band has been clearly influenced by the aforementioned bands as well as Dio and those influences shine through perfectly on First Sighting. The album was released in April via Shadow Kingdom Records. My favorite tracks from First Sighting were “All For Nothing,” “Fearless Priestess,” “No One Wins,” “Going Home,” and “Cold Moon.”

3. Armer L’harmonie – Airstream Futures
Chicago’s Airstream Futures is no stranger to my best albums of the year list. In 2017, they were #6 with Spirale Infernale and in 2020 they were #7 with Le Feu Et Le Sable. This one was released in February via Rad Girlfriend Records. Armer L’harmonie is the band’s 3rd full length and their first with Rad Girlfriend. This band comfortably fits the wall of guitar sound of Jeff Dean and the robust vocal talents of Devon Carson together while the rhythm section of drummer Mike Soucy and bassist Katie Carpowicz ties it all together. Airstream Futures is a perfect mix of emo, indie rock and melodic punk and this album proves it yet once again. For fans of Chicago punk, don’t expect the typical Chicago sound. These folks have a noise that is hard to put in a box. My favorite tracks from the album are “Hell Is Other People,” “Bury Mary,” “A Man Named Jonathan,” “Wonderland,” “Intravenous,” “Controlling the Burn,” “Kick in the Head,” and “Blood No Bones.”

2. Some Of It Was True – The Menzingers
This Scranton, Pennsylvania is another band that is no stranger to my end of year lists. However, it has been a while since they’ve popped up on one, the last time being in 2017 with their After the Party LP. Some Of It Was True, their 7th studio album, was released in October via Epitaph Records. The Menzingers are a band that have made public their growing up throughout their recorded history and this album is no exception. This band is just absolutely brilliant at writing quality songs. The band, especially on this record, touches on Americana without taking a full plunge into it. I believe that this band will continue entertaining us with their amazing lyrics and strong melodies. Favorite songs from this album include “Hope is a Dangerous Little Thing,” “There’s No Place in This World For Me,” “Come on Heartache,” “Ultraviolet,” “Try,” and “High Low.”

1. What Still Gets Me – Shit Present
Shit Present is a trio based out of Exeter, United Kingdom. While I am fairly certain that, prior to this year, I knew who the band was, nothing about them really stood out to me and I didn’t really pay much attention to them. It was very difficult to not pay attention to them this year because What Still Gets Me is an absolutely outstanding piece of work. Released in May via Specialist Subject Records, the album is thirteen tracks of catchy as fuck emotional excellence. Lyrically, the album touches on struggling with sanity and mental health in general, something, I’m sure we can all relate to these days. Vocalist/guitarist Iona Cairns is quite easily one of the best the genre has going for it, whatever that genre may be. Shit Present is part indie rock, part power pop, part emo but whatever genre they are, What Still Gets Me is the most engaging album of 2023. There isn’t a bad song on this album but if I had to pick my favorites, they would be “Cram the Page,” “Voice in Your Head,” “Unraveling,” “Fuck It,” “Beyond Tonight,” “Too Into It,” and “Talking About the Rain.”

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