Sunday 24 December 2023

2023: 23 Highlights (pt.4)

The last post of 2023 - and it's a final summary of my 23 fave records of the year, starting off with some great EPs, including a couple of debuts.

Hallan - 'The Noise Of A Firing Gun'
Second EP from a band I'd never even heard of until Steve Lamacq played this brilliant track on his 6Music show. Definitely worth checking them out, they have some very good, powerful tracks in their small canon, full of cutting, cynical and often scathing lyrics about modern society, culture and politics. The Unwomanly Face Of War is inspired by the real-life stories detailed in the book of the same name by Nobel award-winning author Svetlana Alexievich.


Heartworms - 'A Comforting Notion'
Lambrini Girls - 'You're Welcome'

Both of these were mentioned back in my short run of posts in the summer, so here's a different track from each. Both EPs are debuts and show a lot of promise.


Micky Dolenz - 'Dolenz Sings R.E.M.'
Now this is one that will probably surprise you as much as it surprised me. I normally steer well clear of things like this, but I'd read good things about it so gave it a go. And who would have thought that a 78-year-old former member of a band who were made up for a TV show in the 60s could, in 2023, have made an EP of songs by my favourite band of all time and, in a couple of cases, actually make them sound better? Shiny Happy People is nowhere near as excruciatingly sickly as the original, and Leaving New York makes me wish R.E.M. had made all of 'Around The Sun' as vaguely listenable as this. But this version of Radio Free Europe tops the lot - classic American power-pop with a touch of psych thrown in! Bonkers but brilliant. (Oh, and the sleeve depicts Dolenz outside Wuxtry Records, the very store where Peter Buck and Michael Stipe first met. Nice touch.)


And a few more albums to round things off. To be fair, I could have included a few more (H. Hawkline, Shame, even the Tolhurst/Budgie/Lee collaboration etc.), but that would take it over the 23 which kind of defeats the point of having 23 for '23. What a silly rule to make...

SHONEN KNIFE - 'Our Best Place'
I mean, you know what to expect. You can't be disappointed with a Shonen Knife record. A shame though that my favourite track (Ocean Sunfish) isn't on YouTube to post here, but hey, this will do nicely.

THERAPY? - 'Cold Hard Fire'
Continuing their recent string of excellent albums, the Northern Irish trio delivered their 16th set of short sharp shocks, trimmed of fat and filler, and as riffy, angry and blunt as ever.

BIG BLISS - 'Vital Return'
Not sure how Big Bliss passed me by before now, but their second album sounds exactly like the sort of thing I should've picked up on, evoking classic 80s US 'college bands' like a certain Athens, GA. quartet...

It's been ELEVEN years since Jenny's last studio album, and this year she released two! The first comprised instrumental ambient pieces, while 'Avalanche' was more akin to what us fans love about her.

SQUID - 'O Monolith'
A Squid record is never less than interesting. Their second full-length continues that tradition. "We were keen for things surrounding this album not to make too much sense," they tell us. Box ticked!

EASY STAR ALL-STARS - 'Ziggy Stardub'
What's that? A classic Bowie record done reggae-style? Count me in! The latest in the Easy Star All-Stars' series of iconic album remakes featuring a host of special guest vocalists, and it's one of the best.

As for what 2024 holds? Well the debut album from Sprints is out in January which is hugely exciting - make sure you buy it! A new Idles album is also just around the corner, and Grandaddy have new stuff coming out too! But, if this track is anything to go by, the new Nadine Shah record due in February could already be a contender for album of the year. I mean, this is just FUCKING BRILLIANT!


And that's it. You haven't heard much from me this year. Be prepared to hear even less of me in 2024. But there will be an announcement in February so stay tuned. Cheers all.


  1. Lots of stuff I didn't know in your list, thanks Robster. Happy Christmas.

  2. Thanks for the highlights, Robster, lots I've enjoyed and plenty I've yet to hear. As ever, it's the quality not the quantity, and there's been lots to enjoy this year.

    Wishing you all the best for the festive period and New Year. See you in '24!

  3. Thanks for so many great recommendations, Rob. Budgetary restraints kept me down to just a couple of purchases - the Mickey Dolenz EP and the Coach Party album. Happy new year and the rest of it!!!!!