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Bill Cummings’s Albums of the Year 2023 – Part One

Happy New Year! Today, I offer you the first part of my albums of the 2023 rundown; these are the albums I have loved in the past year! Support the artists in whatever way you can.

Susanne Sundfør  –  blómi

Five years removed from Music for People In Trouble, Norwegian artist Susanne Sundfør reconnects with the deep roots of her mythology on the exquisitely drawn and soul-bearing blómi, “to be in bloom” in Norse. A masterclass in wonderful songwriting, but also a heartfelt love letter to her young daughter, a missive to a precious new life entering an unstable world, that pairs Sundfør ’s glorious voice with a tapestry of soulful, piano-led songs that strips it all back to the source of family, community and the dawn of civilisation. There’s the delicious soul of ‘fare thee well’, the jazzy sway of title track ‘blomi‘ with its flights of brass, that offers a haunting and yet comforting hand in times of distress, she says: “A lot of us are yearning to have local communities again because everything has become so globalised and digitised. Socialising is through screens, and I think that’s detrimental to our health. We’re a very social species and that’s how we evolved. We’re dependent on each other and I don’t think a screen can replace physical contact with a human being.” The stunning and timeless melodic peaks of the epic ‘alyosha’ is a standout as it radiates upon the light of hope. Its tenderness is a cry for humanity. It’s another triumph from Sundfør, it’s an extraordinary piece of work.



Body Type – Expired Candy

Body Type say their new album Expired Candy is “filled with hope, love, and danger, dancing with delicious uncertainty.”  Aussie girl gang Body Type live up to their promises because Expired Candy is a riot of garage punk rock delivered with a sly grin; a pointed arrow to the heart.

Forged in lockdown it consumes the chaos of a world swirling with division, break ups and breakdowns, populists and narcissists, and delivers an attitude, crammed with heart, intellect and hooky tunes! Big tunes like life-affirming opener ‘Holding On’ is a soaring, hook-laden track, smeared in hopeful, knowing melodies and sprinkled with jousting, joyous life-affirming choruses, where the protagonist’s longing and messy “monsoon” emotions are kept afloat by friends and aphorisms passed down by family members.  Also ‘Weekend’ that’s bittersweet garage-pop jumps head first into a juddering rhythm and sing-along melody that’s almost Broadway-worthy.

‘Miss The World’ is a centrepiece, a razor-sharp garage-pop anthem born of the COVID pandemic, with scurrying Batman-theme-like guitars and pummeling drums, laced with lead vocalist and guitarist, Sophie McComish’s urgent vocals, that are both an insidiously hooky lament and a spitting ball of frustration, swirling with the tumult of isolation, claustrophobia and the absurdity of our society and culture, raging at the “unquestioning compliance and the ascent of tyrants, told through pre-teen anarchists, bichon frises, and a drum beat based on a Gwen Stefani song.” For fans of the BreedersCourtney Barnett and Sleater-Kinney, Expired Candy is quite frankly unstoppable, the ace soundtrack to hanging by our fingernails.


Blondshell – Blondshell

Los Angeles singer/songwriter Blondshell (aka Sabrina Teitelbaum) self-titled debut album, produced by Yves Rothman, is a testament to growing, empowerment in the face of injustice, heartbreak, and a yearning to escape. It’s unique for an album in this era in that every track is a winner. Labelled grunge by some, that does this record a disservice, this intricate tapestry of guitars, pianos and shifting percussion plays with dynamics of production. Pulling back then hitting you full force with crushing anthems forged with candid lyrics that are honest, brutally so. See the fantastic lead single ‘Joiner‘, which encapsulates the feeling of lying in the gutter and staring at the stars. From chugging verses and bittersweet vocals of the verses colliding into a galloping hook-laden chorus, “You’ve been running around with trash, sleeping in bars with a gun in your back/asking can I be someone else?” Teitelbaum sings as a couple join hands and cling on for dear life hoping for more than another day of descent. A rollicking tune with elements of Sharon Van Etten or The Replacements, but has an infectious sound all of its own and gives a peek into her world. ‘Kiss City’ pairs bruised vocals with tender instrumentals, before launching into a spiralling sing-along, yet its themes are screamed by Teitelbaum as she exposes her vulnerability (‘I think my kink is when you tell me that you think I’m pretty”) as she vocalises her fear of not being seen at all and being compared to other women – all the things that come up when you don’t trust the person you’re with. Or the stunning and simmering revenge fantasy ‘Salad’ that crashes into a thunderous moment of self-empowerment. Like a chapter ripped from her scorched diary, Blondshell’s debut is littered with superlative anthems that show the scope of her songwriting and sound, turning trauma into a triumph, Blondshell is an artist to be reckoned with.

Billy Woods – Maps

Is it a road map, a travelogue, a sprawling concept album, or one of the above? Maps is the new album from NYC rapper Billy Woods and LA producer Kenny Segal, their first full collaboration since 2019’s Hiding Places. Woods delivers iridescent testaments that are intricate, poignant and painfully prescient riding a tapestry of woozy stripped-back hip hop decorated with samples, jazz-sewn instrumentation and underpinned by chunky bass and a constant beat like the continuation of a life that waits for no man. ‘Soft landing’ is an astounding contemplation of stumbling lysergic beats, decorated by hazy guitar strums and riddled with streams of consciousness flow and fragments of singalong, as a form of beat poetry that tackles the contradiction of taking off from the life you knew, police incarceration and meditating on mental struggles, and the tensions of the America below. It is an album about trying to find your way home, after making your home wherever you lay your head. The brooding ‘Year Zero’ consumes the chaos injustice, police shootings and gang warfare of a broken America, burrowing into existential depths that most hip-hop albums fear to tread down. These bars are so intricately and tightly packed and rhythmic that you discover on each listen, there’s a poeticism gleaming through each stanza delivered with irony, surreal bursts and intensely personal revelations, bristling with the trauma and tragedy of life and growing up amidst the tumult. Maps to the heart of our fractured worlds. Fantastic.

L E M F R E C K –  Blood, Sweat & Fears

  Newport-born artist L E M F R E C K’s excellent debut album Blood, Sweat & Fears out on Noctown, is his best and most ambitious body of work to date. Confessional, engrossing and immersive, it captures his experiences of growing up in Wales whilst paying homage to his roots and community. The things that drive him are the three pillars that make up the album: Community (Blood) his Energy (Sweat) and the things that scare him (Fears) all tracks from Vol. 1 and 2, alongside eight new songs. Newport-raised, now London-based artist, L E M F R E C K, was nominated for the Welsh Music Prize for his excellent debut 2021 album the Pursuit, and he’s built upon that with a series of singles and superb, personality-filled live performances including at Swn festival where I saw him last year.

L E M F R E C K’s music skirts the lines of hip-hop, dub and grime, influences grooves and gospel, carrying with it his unmistakable stamp and unique voice fired by his own experiences and the poverty and injustice in his community. There’s an intensity and laser-focused detail, at the core of his delivery, naturally shifting from flow to singing. Blurring genres seamlessly, his songs informed by his roots as a Newport gospel session artist, his time as a producer for the Pirate grime scene in Bristol and Wales, to the present day where he’s immersed himself in South London’s flourishing music scene.


Lael Neale – Star Eaters Delight 

Forged in isolation, Star Eaters Delight is a vehicle for returning, not just to civilization, but to celebration. A record concerned with binaries – country vs. city, humanity vs. technology, solitude vs. relationship – the intention is to heal our divisions and realise what matters most. The album is her second for Sub Pop and sketches wider vistas in her sonic collaboration with producer and accompanist Guy Blakeslee, Neale’s is a voice that has known pain and experienced it but still holds onto self-compassion. The palette is more cinematic, still sparse yet riven with more detail. The trademark omnichord is still there on the excellent opening track. ‘I Am The River’ has a minimal beat and tremulous guitar notes that splatter patterns across a canvas are like Suicide if they were given a wider palette. Framing Neale’s wonderful vocal, her melodic stream of consciousness reminds one of Patti Smith. It is at once personal and universal with a gifted warmth enhanced by a nagging omnichord, hoisted to new heights on the back of a repeated “ba ba da da da do na um” refrain that flows right through you. It’s bloody fantastic. With her exquisitely drawn, character-laden songs, and a voice of experience, Lael Neale is opening a fascinating window on her world, a world that craves human touch, longs for nature’s beauty and her spiritual quest to hold onto sovereignty over her own mind. Lael still has a flip phone and there were no screens involved in the creation of her new record, Star Eaters Delight. In a time when our devices are constantly flooding us with information. Neale offers “not because I don’t like things, but because I value freedom more.” We are in awe of your power Lael.

Bethan Lloyd – Metamorphosis

Bethan Lloyd released her excellent debut album Metamorphosis earlier this year. She is a Welsh artist whose roots are deep. Her sonic exploration has taken her from training as a classical singer, immersing herself in Berlin’s experimental music scene, to learning with magicians, masters and the ancient teachings of the natural world.  Producing alongside Jet Pack Dog bandmate and master of noise, Isaac Ray. It’s a soundscape that is rooted in a forgotten past and folklore but also has adventurous electronic sounds. The album explores the cosmos and the dark euphoria within it, the themes of mind control and diluted society and asks a question about where we are heading as a collective. This project delves into the philosophy of animism, guiding humanity back from its abusive relationship with nature. On the positively transcendental ‘No Umbilical’ she offers a mantra entwined with swooping choral lines and cut-up electro-pop tapestries that body pop. It has pleasing elements of early Bjork as she clambers across European terrains to connect with a deeper force. ‘Cutting Circuits’ is a deeply emotive swirling electro-pop song that fuses Lloyd’s folk-influenced, pagan-like refrains that gradually creep from personal and enveloping to swooping awestruck call to the heavens, underpinned by an intricate and pulsing tapestry of shadowy electronic sounds.

SPARKLING – We Are here to make you feel

SPARKLING released their refreshing debut LP We Are Here To Make You Feel at the tail end of the year.  Building on their experience touring with Metronomy, it’s a record replete with rambunctious choruses, danceable rhythms, big bright synths that spin like Catherine wheels, and jousting vocals. Inventive and wearing its heart on its sleeve, the title track is a riot of impassioned devotion and instruction, it’s an empowering jolt, riven with playful synths and big chant-along choruses, somewhere between the bright pop hooks of Junior Senior and the synth-pop moments of OMD. A life-affirming pick me up! SPARKLING’s multi-linguality and experience of living and playing in different European countries remain key to their identity. The album itself was recorded across several different terrains and locations – mostly in Germany, Belgium, France and England.

Janelle Monae – The Age Of Pleasure

Before the release of the sensual and sun-dappled The Age of Pleasure’ Janelle Monáe told Zane Lowe, that the songs “were written from such an honest space” and how Monae “had an opportunity to evolve and grow and to tap into the things that bring [them] pleasure”. From future afrobeats to disco, and reggae-flecked pop songs stamped with Janelle’s experiences as a pansexual woman, The Age of Pleasure is Monae at her most liberated and personal. Float’ has been stuck on my playlist for months, there’s a confidence and fun about this brassy groove and her effortless switch between confident boasting bars and an alluring chorus, that was clearly forged at house parties.  ‘Float’ has been stuck on my playlist for months, there’s a confidence and fun about this brassy groove and her effortless switch between confident boasting bars and an alluring chorus, that was clearly forged at house parties. ‘Lipstick Lover’ bounces on a reggae and dubby tip that heralds the carnal pleasures of summer. ‘Waterslide’ is perhaps the best song here, its easy sway radiates with an exultant melody of self-love pouring through every bar.  By exploring her pleasure she has gifted us a window into her world, it’s exciting where she will journey next.

Lanterns on the lake – Versions of Us 

The nine songs of Versions Of Us are epic existential meditations examining life’s possibilities, facing the hand we’ve been dealt and the question of whether we can change our individual and collective destinies. The fate and shifting moments of chance turned this record into the version you hear now, tapping into these themes itself. Wilde’s vocals are a revelation, throughout she invests each swelling piece with urgency and boldness. ‘The Likes of Us’ documents the state of Broken Britain (“Oblivion howls for these gutted streets / Boarded shops cower in defeat”) but sublimates observations into a mantra of resolve (“I won’t let this spark die in me”). It’s a triumph of hope through struggle, of seizing the moment as it grasps onto a flickering light at the end of a dark tunnel. It is their best work yet.

Laurence-Anne – Oniromancie  

One of the sleeper records of 2023 comes from Laurence-Anne and her third studio album Oniromancie out on Bonsound (Corridor, Flore Laurentienne). These evocative, immersive and atmospheric songs with a distinct sound, are a tapestry of hypnotic melodies sung in English, French and Spanish framed in rippling alt-pop textures sewn together with elements of dream pop, synth pop and electronica. It dives deep into the nocturnal world, moving seamlessly between sweet dreams and paralysing nightmares. The singer-songwriter describes her attempts to tame fear in the dream realm, a volatile environment that can go from serene to frightening in a matter of seconds. The beguiling opening track ‘Fantome’ is a haunting soundscape underpinned by sinewy basslines and an intoxicating melody,  it has 80s elements French torch songs and maybe a touch of Beach House.  ‘Polymorphe’, finds Anne’s elliptical vocal melodies carried on the shoulders of elegant percussion, and lush synth arrangements unfurling into a heart-warming chorus. The oscillating ‘Politess’ unveils a darker sound that is more akin to darkwave than dream pop, propelled by hypnotic rhythms, tumbling percussion and arpeggio synths comparable to the likes of Poliça or Melody’s Echo Chamber. Laurence-Anne is crafting a beguiling world of dreams, you want to explore.

Islet – Soft Fascination

Islet returned this year with Soft Fascination self-produced and with the instrumentals recorded live with few overdubs, the effect is arrow straight and plugs directly, into your heart. Recorded & mixed by Joy Stacey and mastered by Katie Tavini, this is a record of now. Distilling down their experimental alt-pop sound to a playful essence. These lucid works bend stretch and pull in delightful yet challenging directions. Opening track ‘Euphoria’ is a rush of Emma’s inventive, chanted vocal refrains, swathed in spinning, ethereal atmospheric keys and underpinned by sprawling rhythmic shifts, It is a trip in the vast vista of their imaginations that burrows deep into elements of psych, krautrock and dream pop. Islet are sonic adventurers whom we want to follow into the unknown.

Veeze – Ganger

29-year-old Detroit rapper Veeze released one of the most unique hip-hop records of 2023 with Ganger, the long-awaited follow-up to his 2019 debut mixtape. You’ve heard of mumble rap, well the inventive instrumentals and vocal tics of Veeze are more like croak rap. There’s a dichotomy at the heart of his fascinatingly intricate work there’s the relatable kid who likes to have fun with his song drops on his socials. There’s also the fiery ambitious wordsmith who offers  “I need the quickest way to get up to a meal ticket,”. the third verse of the sublime ‘Unreleased Leak‘.  As he stumbles through the vista of gangland, his insecurities, are coated in sampled strings and lo-fi beats that stagger along the pavement. An inventive and refreshing new voice who isn’t afraid to show you his human vulnerability alongside his genius. 

dust – et cetra etc

Australian alt-punk dust have released their fantastic new single ‘Joy (Guilt)’ via Brooklyn-based Kanine Records, off their debut EP et cetera etc. Skeletal post-punk fired by an irresistible scorched and laconic spoken word delivery from dual-vocalist Gabriel Stove as, ‘Joy ( Guilt )’ gallops across the Australian outback, with echoes of Birthday Party and Fontaines DC, meditating on the themes of mortality, family and social commentary with a hypnotic look inward that reflects the catharsis of aimless driving. Unstoppable. Formed against the backdrop of the pandemic in 2020, the project of Awabakal land/ Newcastle-based dual guitarist-vocalists Gabriel Stove and Justin Teale, bassist Liam Smith, guitarist and saxophonist Adam Ridgway, and drummer Kye Cherry.

Cloth – Secret Measure 

Glasgow-based twin-sibling duo Cloth (Rachael and Paul Swinton) released their new album Secret Measure at the start of 2023. Their first full-length release on Rock Action Records (Mogwai, Arab Strap, The Twilight Sad) and possesses a melodic intimacy and an ability to craft organic songs ripe with sparse textures and a heart. The sublime, hypnotic lead single ‘Pigeon’‘ finds vocalist Rachael’s hushed and evocative vocals wrapping their arms preciously around a tapestry of guitars, synth textures, and clipped percussive sweeps.

Sweeping promises – Good Living Is Coming for you

Kansas-based duo Sweeping Promises made up of Lira Mondal and Caufield Schnug who met after a chance meeting in Arkansas, have released a second album, ‘Good Living Is Coming For You’, on Feel It Records in North America and Sub Pop for the rest of the world. Crammed with pointy-edged guitars and quick-fire, minimalist art punk, these tightly packed anthemic gems are riven with punchy twists and turns: Mondal’s visceral vocals – captured live – bounce off the walls and wrestle with existential themes. Each song was recorded semi-live in their bedroom studio retaining a scuffed-up grit and imperfect character. If you are a fan of early Sonic Youth, Blondie, Young Marble Giants and the B-52s you will find much to admire here. Each track on the record is delivered with relentless energy and ultimately reflects being thrust into a severely unpredictable world.

La Féline – Tarbes 

La Féline‘s new album Tarbes is a look back to the small city at the foot of the Pyrénées where Agnès Gayraud grew up. Sung in French, it’s a more melancholic and spacious record than her previous releases. Sonically combines folk-influenced instrumentation, French pop and synth textures to create a sound of her own. The sparse disco beads, and intimate bedroom pop of ‘Dancing’ has echoes of early Goldfrapp, while more loose-limbed swirling grooves and intoxicating melodies are present on ‘Une ville moyenne’. For fans of Jane Weaver, Melody’s Echo Chamber and Stereolab the album is rather charming, worthy of your attention.

Film School – Field 

Los Angeles / The Bay area band Film School released their new album Field at the end of August on Felte Records! It was described as “11 songs of immersive shoegaze indebted tunes, that don’t fall into the pedal worship dirges with no sonic personality. Their production is so easy to get lost in, with hints of dub, krautrock synth work and Martin Hannett-ish post-punk flourishes, it’s just a feast of sound. I can’t imagine anyone who’s stoked on the current blooming of shoegaze couldn’t find a lot too low here. It doesn’t easily sit within those confines with a lot of influences swirling around but this is psychedelic music in the truest sense. “

The opening track and first single ‘Tape Rewind’ is one of the most awe-inspiring songs I’ve heard this year this swirling, cloud of dream rock, is sewn with beautifully layered boy/girl vocals that plunge deep, amidst an imperious storm of crushing fuzz riffs and propulsive percussion, ethereal yet has an explosive edge as the outro hits you wave upon hit you by the solar plexus it’s the sound of the planet rebelling at the ravages man has wrought upon it. With nods to My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Boom, it has a crunching more immersive edge, it’s a stunningly epic song from an impressive album. 

Margaret Glaspy – Echo the diamond

Margaret Glaspy released her album, Echo The Diamond, in the summer.  With sea-sawing percussion, and weaving, serrated edge guitar riffs that tether to Glaspy’s wonderful vocal ‘Act Natural’ burst at the seams with the thrill of infatuation, channelling wonder and wide-eyed bewilderment into her lyrics from the first verse (“Are you a paradise bird?/’Cause violet shines bright in both your eyes/That can’t be natural”). “‘Act Natural’ is about trying to play it cool when you meet someone remarkable,” shares Glaspy. “I wrote it in the afternoon in the back of a tour bus and the riff came separately when I got home. It is one of my favourite songs on the record to play live.”

  Echo The Diamond is the third full-length from Margaret Glaspy. It was produced by Glaspy with co-production from her partner, guitarist/composer Julian Lage and is the follow-up to 2020’s Devotion  This time around, Glaspy worked with drummer/percussionist David King of The Bad Plus and bassist Chris Morrissey (Andrew BirdLuciusBen Kweller), recording at Reservoir Studios in Manhattan with experimental spontaneity and loose arrangements, grit and personality, Glaspy’s peerless songwriting hits you directly in the heart.

Lunar Bird – Lunar Bird

Formed in Italy in 2017 by singer-synth player Rob Musillami and bass player-visual artist Eliseo Di Malto, the art pop collective Lunar Bird moved to Cardiff and released the EP ‘Daydreamer’ in 2018. Announced with several singles, Lunar Bird’s eponymous debut album enters you into a world of ethereal emotion and shimmering synth soundscapes.

With an intoxicating gloss, of dabbing keys and translucent melodies, ‘Venilia’ is an absolute delight, that captures the dying embers of summer freedom and hope, with a spirit that guides you to dance towards the shore. This glistening percussive gem is stamped with warm analogue synth stomps and shrouded in the orchestral waves of Giuseppe Magagnino. While Roberta Musillami’s vocals are both seductive and hypnotic, surfing the elliptical tides of the Franco psych-pop of the likes of Charlotte Gainsbourg or Melody’s Echo Chamber and the kaleidoscopic sun-kissed melodies of mid-period Goldfrapp. ‘A Crow’ (feat. Giorgio Tuma) spirals with lucid melodies and chiming synths. While CreatureS’ is gorgeous, fluttering in the arms of lucid synth lines and stately percussion, the opening bars nod the head at the recently passed Julee Cruise‘s Twin Peaks theme ‘Falling’. Before unfurling through sinewy keyboards that sound like organs, swirling dreamy backdrops and Roberta’s enveloping big-hearted vocals, that bear more than a passing resemblance to Kate Bush, invested with the feeling of being on the outside looking in, this is a wonderful self-empowered hymn for the outcast.

I talk more about my albums of the year on our last podcast of the year here:

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.