The Best of Q2 2023: Staff Favorites

It’s mid-July, we’ve passed the Summer Solstice, the days are getting shorter, and another 3 months of new music has gone by. Here are some staff picks of the best new music released between April and June this year.

Nathaniel Fitzgerald


-Spotlights

Spotlights – Alchemy For the Dead

Spotlights has felt like one of the best kept secrets of the heavy music underground for the last several years. But with Alchemy For the Dead, the secret might be out. The album continues their unique take on shoegaze, sludge medal, and post rock but with elements of industrial, trip hop, and lots of 90s alt-rock worship. Recommended Track: “The Alchemist” 

Widower – Alone as a God

Between a global pandemic, lineup changes, and a canceled record deal, Massachusetts post rock/doomgaze HarborLights could have imploded. Instead, they rose from the ashes as Widower and released an album full of brutal catharsis while retaining a gorgeous sense of melody. Recommended Track: “Athena”

Portrayal of Guilt – Devil Music

Metal has had a fascination with classical music almost since its inception, but nothing has ever mixed the two quite like this. Devil Music offers the same five songs in two different versions: a conventional black metal fury on one side and chamber arrangements on the other, replacing the guitars and drums with cello, horns, and timpani. The first half is one if the best metal releases of the year on its own, so the symphonic side takes it even higher.  Recommended Track: “Burning Hand”

Braids – Euphoric Recall

The Montreal art rockers return with a creative blend of avant garde sonic experimentation and pop craft. It’s equal parts cerebral and immediate, unfolding with repeated listens into ever shifting shapes. Recommended Track: “Supernova”

Boris & Uniform – Brand New Disease

You never know what you’re gonna get with Boris. On this collaboration with industrial punks Uniform, they are as noisy and ugly and primal as ever, eschewing their typical drone and atmospheric tendencies in favor of blistering thrash punk. It’s a 36 minute onslaught of delicious, delicious noise.  Recommended Track: “No”

Sigur Ros – ATTA

The legendary Icelandic post rock outfit returns with their first album in ten years. ATTA is a subdued collection of anthems for the end of the world, aided by a massive orchestra and Jonsi’s ethereal voice. It might seem like a wash of nothingness at first blush, but give it a careful listen and there is a bleakness here that most doom metal bands wish they could achieve. Recommended Track: “Klettur”

Phil Hawkins


-Vagabonds

Off Road Minivan-May This Keep You Safe From Harm

When Off Road Minivan released their initial EP and subsequent LP, I was not a fan. For whatever reason the track “Vampire” grated on me. However, with their follow up LP I found myself captivated from start to finish. It is haunting and brooding in its lyrical themes while also being light and uplifting in musical tone. Recommended Tracks: “Basement,” “Pity Sex” & “The Breakdown”

Vagabonds-The Pasture & The Willow

Ever since the release of Liminal Space back in 2020 Vagabonds has been on my radar and I have anxiously awaited the follow up. The Pasture & The Willow embraces more of an indie rock sound than the shoegaze laden sound of its predecessor, but keeps just enough of the familiarity intact that allows the listener to fully see the progression in an audibly tangible way. Recommended Tracks: “Conjure” & “A Quiet Truth”

Anberlin-Convinced

Convinced is the second EP by Anberlin since they announced their return back in 2019. Serving as a follow up/continuation to 2022’s Silverline it showcases the band taking an almost visceral approach as they produce what might be some of their heaviest elements since their earlier days. While the run time is abruptly short it still manages to embrace the space it shapes without wasting any of it. Recommended Tracks: “Lacerate” & “Animals”

Casey Gallenberger


Adjy

Adjy – June Songs Vol. I

This mysterious collective has emerged again with a more accessible set of hits, rounded out with lyrics concerning time loops, extraterrestrial encounters, entropic phenomena, and more.  Recommended Track: “June Song”

Maggie Miles – The Lack Thereof

I don’t typically enjoy music recommended to me, so color me very impressed by this album. In fact, I ended up seeing Maggie twice in one week. While the record hasn’t been marked as Christian (and even such a notion is increasingly-complex), it is nonetheless an earnest wrestling with identity, God, and well-being. It’s catchy, but there’s a lot of lyrical gold as well. It’s a surprise, to be sure, but a welcome one.  Recommended Track: “Indecent”

Hotel of the Laughing Tree – Faraway Friends

The boys are back after an extended lull, and they don’t hold anything back. The three multi-instrumentalists make due sans drummer and across multiple states, and the result is a polished and professional offering that treads the lines between past and present. Round it out with AJ Estrada’s incredible artwork and Hotel proves they’re back and as strong as ever.  Recommended Track: “Keep ‘Em Coming”

Ray Cobra


-Soft Kill

Drain-Living Proof

This was a most anticipated release for me and it did not disappoint in the least bit. Drain has avoided the dreadful sophomore slump with this release. Living Proof picks up where California Cursed left off. It has the same intensity and brutality. If they were not mentioned among this new wave of Hardcore bands, they should be after this album.
Recommended Track: “Living Proof”

Billy Woods x Kenny Segal-Maps

Billy Woods is the best thing going in hip-hop right now and this release further cements his place. This is a collaborative album with producer Kenny Segal. This is not the first time these two have worked together and it shows. Billy Woods continues to stand out here, his delivery is next to none. And the work of Kenny Segal compliments Billy Woods so well. This is the best hip-hop album thus far this year and I expect it to show up on
lots of year-end lists in December. Recommended Track: “Year Zero”

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit-Weathervanes

Jason Isbell very well might be the best songwriter in all of music. With every album I tell myself there is no way it will be close to the last one and every time he proves me wrong, however, this album may end up being his legacy by the time it’s all said and done. He and his band have completely changed the game, again. While he has always written from the heart and about his world, he took it to a different place here, I didn’t think it was possible.
Recommended Track: “Cast Iron Skillet”

Soft Kill-Metta World Peace

This was a surprise release from the Chicago based post-punk/darkwave/punk project. When people ask me about newer post-punk/goth acts, this is one of the first acts I always mention. They are one the best doing at the moment and this album shows just that. It’s broody and happy at the same time. It’s just a fun, dark, good time. And Tobias Graves’s vocals are just downright dreamy.
Recommended Track: “Molly”

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