THE BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2023: THE READERS' CHOICES

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THE BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2023: THE READERS' CHOICES

Following Elsewhere posting its choices for the Best of Elsewhere 2023; The Editor's Picks and The Year in Reissue (And Such) we invited Elsewhere readers to tell us what they were impressed by this year. . . . because we only chose from what we had written about, and a lot went past us.

Here is what people told us . . . and where Elsewhere had reviewed the album we have highlighted it with a link to our original review. (Some people's choices were also in our Best Of lists)

Thanks to everyone who made the time, you have given us all some suggestions for holiday season listening.

Here is what people said. Looks like I've got some catchin' up to do.

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Pedro the Swift from Australia offers

The Mary Wallopers - Irish Rock N Roll: the heir apparent to Shane MacGowan and the Pogues. From County Louth they've been getting reviews on the European festival circuit. Coming this way next year...catch them if you dare!

Bures Band - Birds Nest: a local release (Perth, WA), a touch of Americana, folk, rock and blues this debut album captures the easy amble, touchy twang and multi part harmony of 70s country rock effortlessly. Nice!

Loads more, very hard to limit to two but honourable mentions: Alison Russell - The Returner; Rhiannon Giddens - You're The One; Gina Birch - I Play My Bass Loud; Yves Tumor - Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simple, Hot Between Worlds)

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Blair offered these substantial suggestions

Cut Worms - Cut Worms - the most ridiculous band name in popular music , this self -titled (!) effort is the third by New York native Max Clarke. Initially drawn in via the Spotify algorithm via "Ballad of the Texas King" which echoes classic Jeff Tweedy with descending bassline , pedal steel and general pop overtones , the full album reveals Beach Boys "Caroline No" type production "Take it and Smile (complete with harmonicas in the background) , early Lennon/McCartney ("Let's Go Out on the Town") and even the Velvets Loaded ("Too Bad"). My album of the year

The Hypnogogue -The Church . The Church in 2023 without either guitar "god" Marty Willson Piper or Peter Koppes should not work but somehow Steve Kilbey has managed to present the classic Church sound paired with his signature, oblique, lyrics across 12 wonderful tracks. No stranger to citing Glam rock as an influence (as opposed to  psychedelic Floyd-like sonics  that are frequently paired with this band ) what is apparent is how much David Bowie/Mick Ronson is infused in the tracks. The surprise return of 2023

Spectral Lines - Josh Ritter . Wouldn't have crossed the radar if not for being championed by the WERS college station out of Boston, which I listen to A LOT. The lead single "For Your Soul channels Jeff Lynne & ELO but don't let that out you off. There is a depth of mature songwriting and layered production across vocals that at times embody Leonard Cohen spoken word through to Neil Young type yearning. A great album

Flying Wig - Devendra Banhart - alerted by a review in "The Times" , gather this has the same producer as the latest Wilco album but sonically is very different . Think late Roxy Music & Avalon, in fact the outstanding 'Fireflies" is the great lost Roxy track. Lush & layered (swampy guitars, fretless bass) with understated vocals the dreamy hit in my world this year

Instead of a 5th album , have to list a couple of disappointments - Jenny Lewis ("Joy'all")  was let down by a dip in songwriting and unimaginative production by Dave Cobb (supposedly the "go to" guy) while The Rolling Stones Inc ("Hackney Diamonds") has become Mick'n'Ronnie which is a terrible place to be ( I went scrambling back to supposedly the weakest of the golden run (70's up to "Tattoo You" ) of Stones Mach III. Emotional Rescue , found the Keith & Charlie show and immediately felt better.

Best Reads : "Deliver Me From Nowhere" - Dan Zanes (Springsteen's "Nebraska" tail/tale), "Don't Tell Anybody the Secrets I told You" - Lucinda Williams (so honest, at times uncomfortable but utterly compelling)

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Michael chose an album we hadn't been aware of and a band we know well

The eponymous titled 'Rory Gallagher' 50th anniversary reissue. It is already a great album but has been remastered and comes with an additional album of different takes. Great album.

Any album by Kitty, Daisy and Lewis. They are my most favourite band that I became aware of this year, so much so, I have bought all of their albums. A UK family band, with Mum on double bass and Dad even lends a hand in the background too.

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Ross has a fascinating selection

Overall I have to elicit a disappointment with the ’23 cadre. When you get so long in the tooth you don’t have any left to get long with, well it sometimes starts to sound all a bit try-hard; the field ploughed so regularly the crops are compromised. 

Anyhow…

Cacti from Billy Nomates started the year in a considerably feisty manner.

Witty, ironic young women seemed to be a theme for me as evinced by Caroline Polacheck (Desire I Want To Turn Into You) and the awesome Maple Glider (I Get Into Trouble) who turns her sexuality into a vicious weapon.

R&B legend Eddie Chacon came out of hiding with the nicely trippy Sundown. Old bones can still groove when its Gorillaz (especially on Cracker Island featuring Thundercat).

Lloyd Cole showed that even old paddocks can catch treasure in the furrows with the lovely On Pain.

And speaking of old, Beverly Glenn-Copeland stole all hearts around here on The Ones Ahead, particularly Harbour of which there is a wondrous eye watering live version on YT.

The Nancy Griffith tribute album More Than A Whisper was a highlight for me and led to a lot of rabbit holing in that well ploughed field. I am not a particular fan of Iris Dement but her version of Banks Of The Ponchartrain is excoriating

Maybe not so boring after all!

Once again I am unable to contain myself except, I did refrain from mentioning Jalen Ngoda, Buck Meek, Abraham Alexander, Holly Arrowsmith, A Savage (Dylan for the next millennia perhaps), BlackieBlueBird and the Gravel Yard wherein the tortured soul of Christopher Denny (think a god-bothering David Surkamp with a banjo) now resides.

My Griffith rabbit hole led me to some fascinating stuff, the Townes Van Zandt tribute concert in particular. There are many great live renditions of There’s A Light Beyond These Woods but I found one with a captivating backing singer that made me dig further. Her name is Denice Franke and she’s got quite a neat little discography. For some reason she has captured my heart. I guess that’s why I keep searching.

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Tom suggests

Sparklehorse – Bird Machine.  Some more fine music from Mark Linkous, posthumously released.

Alica Walter – Right Noise. A release from Big Ego Records, who have some mighty fine releases, this one a highlight.  Alica has a fantastic voice and a feel reminiscent of some classic 70’s female singers.

Office Dog – Spiel.  Another fine Kane Strang release.  They put on a great show at the Others Way.

The Sundae Painters – Sundae Painters.  Nice to see some of our musical stalwarts getting together and having a great time.

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Keith says

We overlap with Blur, Yo La Tengo, Lankum and Young Fathers (my number one), so let's add:

Hamish Hawk - Angel Numbers: Two in a row for this singer-songwriter in my end of year lists. We can fully let go of Morrissey now when Hamish is on this kind of form.

Everything But The Girl - Fuse : I don't quite know how they can consistently be this good for so long. Moving with the times, rooted in club culture, songs that mean something.

The Lilac Time - Dance Till All The Stars Come Down: Too many people have said to me "There's a new Lilac Time album? I haven't listened to them for ages." There is, and you should be listening to them (him) now.

Margo Cilker - Valley of Heart's Delight: That high and lonesome sound. 'I Remember Carolina' will give you more than a smile or two.

Peter Gabriel – i/o: Which took the man years to make and was worth waiting for. The Bright Mix is the one.

And a late entry!

Jenni Muldaur and Teddy Thompson Sing the Classic Country Duets: They've got famous parents! They sing tunes by George and Tammy, Conway and Loretta, and Porter and Dolly! And they sing them very well indeed!

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David comes in with

Rolling Stones, Hackney Diamonds,  Can’t go past their best album since Tattoo You

Van Morrison:  Moving on Skiffle: The Man back to his early days, great variations on old classics.

Tedeschi Trucks Band: Best of Europe 22.  I discovered them in 2023 – best heard live

The Chills: Kaleidoscope World – Endorsed by a fascinating doco on Martin Phillipps. “The Triumph And The Tragedy Of Martin Phillipps”. What could have been…..

Norah Jones: Playing Along. Podcasts mixed with some great music, first thought ohh this will be rubbish then listened to Mavis Staples poddy – wow. Worth the journey to Spotify to listen.

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Jimmy is pithy, just sharing the one that hit him hardest

Mandy, Indiana - I’ve Seen A Way
Beautifully melodic industrial noise. In many ways a modern take on Neu’s Negativland. Can’t stopped playing it. Every listen brings something new 

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Ralf tells us

Momentum’ from Agitation Free, an unexpected comeback from one of the great psychedelic Krautrock Bands of the 70. This album really packs a punch!

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Clive offers

Veronica Swift's self titled album. Wow, one minute she is Ella and then suddenly she is Janis

Black Pumas, Chronicles of a Diamond. Different from the first record,but almost as good.

Jaime Wyatt, Feel Good. Straight up great country rock, she comes out in a couple of ways.

Jimmy Buffett, Equal Stain on all Parts. His Last Record Album (I had to get Little Feat in there somewhere). We are going to miss him.

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Derek goes local

The Knids - With A Hard "K". The sort of garage band mash up of big guitars and '80s synth grooves that seems to have gone out of fashion. Proclaiming themselves proudly "Lo-fi" there are three singers and it's all slightly silly but strangely wonderful.


Grant Haua - Mana Blues. This is Grant Haua's 4th album since signing with French blues label Dixie Frog two years ago. He rivals Alien Weaponry with a Maori Wars song, proves his guitar hero chops, does a killer Led-Zep-style take on 'Time Of Dying' and strays cooly into Robert Cray soul territory. Grant is the full package. 'Aches' and 'Bad Mofo' are my two favourite rip-it-up tunes of the year.

...and one from the UK:

Lloyd Cole - On Pain. It took a while to adapt to Lloyd Cole's now-electronica backing. But, wow! Every beautiful three-dimensional keyboard note in its right place, overarching intelligent lyrics and a deadpan sense of humour. Song Of The Year - 'The Idiot', a brilliant ode to David and Iggy. The chorus of "let's move to Berlin" with sweet backing vocals chanting "stop being drug addicts" gets me every time.

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David says

I listened to more reggae than anything in 2023. Top choice-Ladders by The Loving Paupers- smart, modern reggae with smooth buttery vocals and thought provoking lyrics. No sophomore slump here. 
Next- Ziggy Stardub by The Easy AllStars. Great reinvention of this Bowie classic. There were many great reggae compilations that came out this year.
Last but not reggae is Santa Maria’s Dome by Denim Dan. Take a trip through this guys life with Lloyd Cole, Robert Forster, Cat Stevens and Gordon Lightfoot. A real keeper of an album! 

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And finally . . . take a big breath because Chris in Germany – self-styled KiwiMusic – has  neatly sidestepped our instructions and provided this lengthy list of just about every New Zealand album released (most of which we've written about) noting Vera Ellen’s “Ideal Home Noise” was his personal top album of 2023.

I've put an * by those he considers his top picks (the brackets are release dates, I can't be bothered going through and taking them all out)


Top albums 2023 – New Zealand

Albi & The Wolves - Light After The Dark (13/10)

Blair Parkes - Breezy (17/04)

Bryony Matthews - We‘re All The Same (28/04)

Clementine Valentine - The Coim That Broke The Fountain Floor (25/08)

* Erny Belle - Not Your Cupid (10/11)

Fat Freddy‘s Drop - Blackbird Returns (29/09)

* French For Rabbits - In the End I Won't Be Coming Home EP  (24/11)

Georgia Gets By - Fish Bird Baby Boy EP (06/10)

Graeme Jefferies - Canary In A Coalmine (18/06)

Grayson Gilmour - Holding Patterns (03/11)

Guardian Singles - Feed Me To The Doves (26/05)

Ingrid & The Ministers - Boofhead (21/04)

* Jazmine Mary - Dog (02/06)

Jonathan Bree - Pre-Code Hollywood (12/05)

Jen Cloher - I Am The River, The River Is Me (03/03)

Kimbra - A Reckoning (27/01)

Lucy Munro - Lost In Imperfections (28/07)

Luke Thompson - Infatuater (02/11)

Maisey Rika - Hinamarama (11/12)

Mali Mali - Spirit Tide (31/03)

Maxine Funke - River Said (28/04)

* Mermaidens - Mermaidens (03/11)

No Broadcast - The Common Thread (08/05)

Office Dog - Spiel (15/09)

Pickle Darling - Laundromat (16/06) 

Polly Hill & Samara Alofa - Aquaries (17/11)

Ringlets - Ringlets (xx/xx)

* Soft Plastics - Saturn Return (31/03)

Surf Friends - Sonic Waves (17/03)

Tami Neilson - Kingmaker (Live with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra) (14/07)

Terrible Sons - The Raft Is Not The Shore (28/04)

* Tiny Ruins - Ceremony (28/04)

Veils, The - And Out Of The Void Came Love (03/03)

* Vera Ellen - Ideal Home Noise (31/03)

* Violet Hirst - Donegal (07/08)

Yumi Zouma - EP IV (06/12) 

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Top albums 2023 - International 

Ahnoni & The Johnson - My Back Was A Bridge For You To Cross (07/07)

Anna B Savage - in|FLUX (17/02)

Belle And Sebastian - Late Developers (13/01) 

Boygenius - The Record (04/04)

Cleo Sol - Gold (29/09)

Cat Power - Sings Dylan: The 1966 Royal Albert Hall Concert (10/11)

Deuce - Wild Type (28/04)

Feist – Multitudes (14/04)

* Hope - Navel (27/10)

* JFDR - Museum (28/04)

Joni Mitchell - At Newport 2022 (28/07)

Lael Neale - Star Eaters Delight (21/04)

Lana Del Rey - Did You Know That There's A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd (24/03)

Mitski - The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We (15/08)

National, The - First Two Pages Of Frankenstein (28/04)

National, The - Laugh Track (18/09)

* PJ Harvey - I Inside The Old Year Dying (07/07)

Pop Filter - CONO (01/12)

* Robert Forster - The Candle And The Flame (03/02)

* Sigur Rós - Átta (16/06)

Slowdive - Everything Is Alive (01/09)

Snowy Band - Lipreader (21/04)

Sofia Kourtesis - Madres (27/10)

Umme Block - State of Limbo (27/01)

V.A. The Endless Coloured Ways: The Songs Of Nick Drake (07/07)

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. . . whew!

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Pedro the Swift - Dec 20, 2023

That’s my holiday listening sorted!

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