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Talking Music Instead of Daily Politics - Top Songs from 2023 So Far
There are some awesome songs so far this year.
This is a music site and will remain a music site. I wanted to talk a little bit about how I ended up back talking about music instead of some other topic when I launched this site. It occurs to me, especially this last few weeks, as the political news started to creep into my consciousness again with the Trump indictment and a few elections across the Midwest. The barrage of incremental political news is precisely what I couldn't handle anymore and was part of the impetus for me leaning back into music hard.
If you're like me, you've probably found yourself getting caught up in the endless stream of political news on social media and TV over the past five years. I used to be obsessed with every little detail, but I've realized that it wasn't doing me any favors.
The truth is, as just one person in this big country, my influence on politics is pretty small. Sure, I can have conversations with friends and family, but ultimately, my most important action is casting my vote. All those online debates? Mostly just wasted energy.
Now, I get that some might say my ability to step back from daily politics is a privilege. As a middle-aged white guy, I'm not facing the same challenges others might be. But I think my perspective also helps me see how little control we really have in the grand scheme of things.
Instead of obsessing over politics, I've decided to focus on what makes me happy, like spending time with family and friends, exercising, playing music, and enjoying nature (when Cleveland's weather allows, of course!). It's also why I wanted to start writing about music and my life. Even when I'm uncovering things that make me uncomfortable from my past, I feel like it's therapeutic to exorcise the demons.
And you know what? My life feels more balanced and fulfilling.
That's not to say I've given up on my political beliefs or my civic duties. I just choose to prioritize my time and energy differently. I still stay informed and participate in the democratic process, but without getting bogged down in the day-to-day drama.
So, if you're feeling overwhelmed by politics, consider taking a step back and focusing on what truly matters in your life. You might just find that you can still make a difference without letting it consume you.
Now, let's talk about some music. Feel Free to Subscribe to the Playlist on Spotify as well. I’m going to go track by track for you below.
“Blood in the Milk” by Fireworks
Fireworks is a band that was on hiatus for a while. They were part of that early 2000s wave of emo-punk bands. They were fairly popular, but probably not so much so that they could all easily make music their careers. After nine years, they released a new album, Higher Lonely Power which I love. My favorite song on that one is easily “Blood in the Milk.” Imagine writing a chorus so awesome and catchy that I’ll be driving around singing, “Blood in the milk and pesticides on the honey!”
“Shining Star” by Kill Strings
Kill Strings are a European alternative rock band. They’re a two-member band that tours as a three-piece band from what I can tell by their socials. I think their album is decent. It probably wouldn’t make a year-end top five or anything like that, but damn it if they didn’t write some solid songs. “Shining Star” is a little bit cheesy and melodramatic, but the soft verse, loud chorus thing is a cliche because it’s awesome when executed well.
“It’s Always Cloudy in Kalamazoo” by Saturdays at Your Place
I somehow caught onto a thread on Twitter about Michigan rock bands. The next two tracks on my playlist came from that conversation. I love these two records and these two songs. First up is Saturdays at Your Place. I could have picked many songs off of this record, but I picked this one for the last minute. I love how the song breaks into a driving mass chorus singing “I don’t want to go home yet! I don’t want to go home!” It’s perfect.
“Twenty Three” by Seaholm
Seaholm is another Michigan band with a really solid album. I also could have chosen multiple songs for the playlist, but I ended up with “Twenty Three.” I love the way the melody interacts with the bass line in the lead-up to the chorus. I love how the vocals bleed from singing to guttural yelling as it amps up energy. I can just imagine them electrifying a crowd in small clubs and bars.
“High Hopes” by Sweet Pill
Another emo band, this time from Philly? Maybe New Jersey? I’ve seen both mentioned online. I don’t even remember how I heard about this band, but I like their album Where the Heart Is. I love the vocal harmonies in this song between lead singer Zayna Youssef and whichever one of her male bandmates is singing with her.
“Bozo” by White Reaper
White Reaper is one of the more hyped album releases of the year. I came into it not expecting to like it, but I loved it. It’s very alternative / punk / garage-sounding to me. The singing is great. They actually do guitar solos, which feels antiquated in the best way. “Bozo” is a 2:35 banger. I love the bridge the most where they sing “I don’t think I know how much it means, how much it means to you!” Great song. Great album.
“Running in Place At the Edge of the Map” by Runner
I love the music from Runner. The soundscapes are really nice, but everything sounds organic. It’s soft and pretty. As I’ve said here many times, I’m not much of a lyrics guy, but I think these lyrics are particularly bad. The fact that I LOVE this album and this song goes to show just how great I think the music is to make up for lyrics like these.
Stuck on the couch
Slow sinking down
The room's getting quiet
There's dust in my mouth
I fucked up the rice
I cooked it too long
The TV's alight
The moment's dissolved
And honestly, the rough lyrics might be the point. In the interlude he says,
And I know, I know
I know, I know
Was I better then
When I sang 'bout my dog with my friends?
Can I understand
What's curving away from my hands?
Just listen to it. It’s gorgeous and awesome. “Wasting the day, Painting the scene, stuck on the ceiling.”
“Spillt” by SPACESHIPS (Featuring Holy Fawn vocalist Ryan)
This came up on Spotify for me because I am a fan of Holy Fawn and their record from last year. A post-gaze / dream metal band from Indiana wisely got Holy Fawn vocalist Ryan Osterman to sing on their song. It’s phenomenal. The production is totally different than Hum, but musically it kind of reminds me of that. Vocally not so much. Vocally it sounds like Stabbing Westward until the screechy growling vocals of Holy Fawn come in and blow the roof off the joint. Completely epic.
“Broken Lips” by Loviet
I discovered Loviet because I follow the band members of NOW, NOW on Instagram. Bradley Hale and KC Dalager are NOW, NOW and at some point they shared this record that they produced and engineered. Loviet describes herself as “Nirvana meets Coyote Ugly” and that’s probably about right. She has a wonderful, deep buttery voice in the verses. But the way she uses her gigantic vocal range is impressive. As the song amps up, she really goes for it and the results are awesome. She makes you wait for it though. The whole first half of the song is just verse, but at about 2:25 she starts showing you just how great she is as a singer. And it only goes bigger and bigger from there.
“Crawl II” by Slow Joy
I discovered Slow Joy on Instagram. There was a video of him playing this song and I new in a few seconds that I loved it. The more I listened the more I could hear that this was likely a home-based project. Some of the vocals feel a little rough from the production side of things, but that doesn’t bother me that much. I love hearing upstart bands and musicians even with a few small warts in their early material. He has an album coming out soon that I’m now anticipating in a big way.
“The Summoning” by Sleep Token
British rock band that hides their identity behind masks and is both melodic, dramatic, and really heavy. This one is a metal / rock odyssey. I am going to save words on this one because there’s almost no way I won’t end up writing a whole lot more about this band before the end of the year. They’ve released five songs from a forthcoming album and all five of them are absolute killers. The magic is in the contrast though. It’s not heavy for heavy’s sake. It gets melodic and funky and jammy too.
“Smile Like You Mean It” (Killers Cover) by Spanish Love Songs
Spanish Love Songs are releasing covers for a little bit while they gin up excitement for a new album. Here’s the thing. This cover is just a note for note cover of the original until the last section of chorus where SLS ramps it up to eleven. It’s totally worth it to make it to that point as the band delivers an edgy finish to a classic song.
“Circling the Drain” by Microwave
Microwave is kind of an art rock band from Atlanta. Maybe it’s alternative. Maybe it’s indie or post-hardcore too? I don’t know, but I have grown to love this band. I fell in love with their album from 2019 Death is a Warm Blanket because of the song “Pull” above all else. Anyway, as I continue to follow their career, I continually love the music. They’ve got a single out for the song “Ferrari” and “Circling the Drain” is the second track. It’s great.
“Waltzer” by October Drift
Not much to say about this one either. Just a good alternative rock song. Sounds like there’s a tiny bit of new-wave influence bleeding through.
“Drain” by Softcult
This one was a recommendation on one of my favorite podcasts Grumpy Old Geeks. It’s shoegaze with female vocals. It’s all the things I love about shoegaze music. The guitars sound bigger than a Grateful Dead stage setup. This is the lead track on a six-song EP called See You In the Dark and I think the whole thing is worth listening to, but this is an obvious highlight.
“Rear View” by Manchester Orchestra
My favorite band of the past five years released an EP and this is the last song on it. It has weird musical references to material from the past two albums, but it doesn’t hurt the songs any to be self-referential. As I keep adding music to the playlist, I keep pulling this one to the end because I always want it to finish my playlist this year no matter how long it gets. This song feels like it marks the end of an era for the band and helped me a lot in the past few weeks as I’ve dealt with the loss of my friend and any other of life’s trials and tribulations.
I also reacted to those things by jumping at the chance to go see Manchester Orchestra a few times on their summer tour as they’re heading out with Jimmy Eat World. I’m even planning to go see the date when they play Red Rocks in Colorado. It’s been a lifelong dream to go to a show at Red Rocks, and I can’t think of a better band to do it with than Manchester Orchestra. I also love Jimmy Eat World, so it’s just a scoop of ice cream on top of the chocolate cake. It’s almost too rich, ya know?
Anyway, thanks as always for indulging me with my music talk. It’s a wonderful outlet for me and much healthier than many of the alternatives that I’ve gotten caught up in in the past.