The Alt’s Top Releases of 2023 (page 3)


PAGE 1 (#55 – #31) – PAGE 2 (#30 – #11) – PAGE 3 (#10 – #1 + Award Winners)

10) Star 99 – Bitch Unlimited

Star 99 will make you think of a lot of other artists: The Beths, Speedy Ortiz, Rozwell Kid, even the jangle of the Gin Blossoms. That is not to say that they are derivative, just that for such a young band they have the spunk and songsmithing skills of a band further along in their career. My favorite moments on Bitch Unlimited are when they lean into their snottiness, like in “Vegas”: “School starts again in September / And no one’s allowed into my ROOM!” Honestly, half of this album could have been on the Daria soundtrack, and that makes it a winner to me. – Jami Fowler

9) 100 Gecs – 10,000 Gecs

100 gecs: 10,000 gecs Album Review | Pitchfork

100 Gecs’ 10,000 Gecs is… a lot. This is a good thing. Maximalist in most occasions, the record rips through listeners: hyper, almost uber-pop vocals on “757” and frenetic fun on “I Got My Tooth Removed” showcase a previously unknown range. “Dumbest Girl Alive,” one of my favorite songs of the year, begins with a THX bong rip sound effect. There’s so much going on here that at times it is tough to keep up: that’s exactly how 100 Gecs would have envisioned it. Mission Accomplished. – Hanson Egerland

8) Fiddlehead – Death Is Nothing to Us

Fiddlehead have been filling in the space between emo and hardcore that the vacuum of Title Fight’s absence left behind, especially with their 2021 release Between the Richness. Where Richness had a bit softer or duller delivery, the group’s newest LP, Death Is Nothing to Us, leans harder into the breakage-style vocals and hardcore influence of their origins, like the Out of the Bloom EP from 2014. The choruses are all hooks, the guitar tones are washy in the right places and crisp in the others. The thematic work on this album is also harder than previous releases, as it examines how to live when you sometimes don’t want to. There’s pain and harsh realities we face every day, but Fiddlehead vocalist/lyricist Patrick Flynn dichotomizes the urges to live and die in a beautiful way to prove that if you truly live, then death means nothing. – Luc Ferrara

7) Ratboys – The Window

Though Ratboys have been refining their approach to twangy indie rock for over a decade, The Window feels like the record they have been trying to make since forming. As a Chicagoan who has seen the band so much, there has been a significant chasm between Ratboys, the live band and the studio band. But as soon as the opener “Making Noise for the Ones You Love” kicks in, something feels different. You can feel that change prominently in a song like “Crossed,” which shows a different universe where Ratboys could write Coneheads-style egg punk. The uptempo sections are broken up with the much more familiar twang that Ratboys is known for. The title track “The Window” is imbued with a sense of loss, whereas “Black Earth, WI” may be the most joyous song, with Dave Sagan showing off some of his lead guitar chops. It all makes for one of the most textured indie rock records of the year. – Hugo Reyes

6) Lana Del Rey Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd

Lana Del Rey: Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd Album Review | Pitchfork

If 2019’s Norman Fucking Rockwell! was Lana Del Rey’s Slouching Toward Bethlehem, then Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd is her The White Album: keeping the storyteller grit intact, but cranking the California dreaming (and nightmaring) up about 1000%. Yes, I am comparing Lana Del Rey albums to Joan Didion books. No, you cannot stop me. After all, both of these ladies are adept at mythologizing and mutilating the vibes of the Golden State in the same breath, and both of them love having deep thoughts in random hotel rooms. Did you know… is a piano-glazed reverie that takes us from imaginary marathons in Long Beach to the basic bitch-infested Beverly Center, from Rosemead to the Ramada, as Lana’s thespian vocals inhabit characters of various levels of desperation. Pairing seedy lyrics with angelic instrumentation like they’re mere peanut butter and jelly, Lana is a woman on the verge of a nervous breakthrough, and Jack Antonoff’s production, which tends toward the cloying elsewhere, has found its perfect complement here. – Molly Mary O’Brien

5) Chappell Roan – The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess

Chappell Roan

What’s it like to move out of your home town and grow into your most confident, liberated self? Quoted as being an album she wrote for her high school self, Chappell Roan’s debut album, The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess, explores exactly that. Breaking out of the guarded folk sound she established in her first EP, this album is the exact opposite—high energy pop hits that chronicle her trading Missouri for California and coming into her queer identity in the process. The bass-driven track “After Midnights” channels The Fame Monster era Lady Gaga while slower, somber moments like “Coffee” and “Kaledescope” put the spotlight on her range and control. Her songwriting mirrors her dynamic voice, never straying away from the pain and sadness that comes with the intensity and excitement of new experiences. Reflected in her recent headlining shows with drag queens as the openers and inclusive, safe spaces that may not exist in those cities outside of that moment, it’s a level of confidence and freedom that any young queer person can aspire to reach—and an album I wish my high school self had too. – Lindsy Carrasquillo

4) Jeff Rosenstock – HELLMODE

Jeff Rosenstock is a virtuoso when it comes to making punk anthems that make you want to shout along, and that hasn’t changed on HELLMODE. What has shifted a bit (and what always does on any Jeff album) is in what direction he is shouting. There is environmental dread mixed with fury against racism on “Soft Living” (“What’s it gonna take / to guide the brush fires to eradicate / every single trace of these / scumfuck white supremacist shitlords?”). There’s anger towards possibly his own mental health in “LIKED U BETTER” (“Driving me insane / why are you hardwired to my brain / while I just skip along and tell myself I’m fine”). But it’s not all shouting: there’s more prettiness on this album than all the other albums combined, with “Graveyard Song,” “Life Admin,” and “HEALMODE” all sparkling even with the darkness of doubt, guilt, and anxiety mixed in. Jeff and the rest of us are trying our best to grow, and I’ll be in the pit when he and his killer band come to my town screaming along to the most helpful advice in this album: “You gotta cool it with the doubt!” – Jami Fowler

3) MSPAINT – Post-American

Rage Against the Machine haven’t released music in a long time, and this year they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Yet there’s still that question: what will they do next? At their induction speech, only guitarist Tom Morello showed up to accept the award, and in his speech he said, “If you’re bummed out you didn’t get to see Rage Against the Machine, then form your own band, and let’s hear what you have to say. If you’re a human being, stand up for your planet before it’s too late.” MSPAINT is one of those bands. Powerfully political with something intelligent to say, catchy as hell, and doing something different enough to matter and be exciting. This isn’t to say that MSPAINT are in any way a Rage cover band, they are very different and forging their own path. Coming out of the Mississippi music scene, they have amalgamated a musical style that, while it may have a dash of Rage, is equally drawing from the political hardcore bands of old, and an experimental project you’d be likely to hear in a Brooklyn warehouse. The combination works, and combined with their well thought political stances and addictive hooks, they have created a real contender for Album of the Year. – Henderson Cole

2) Wednesday – Rat Saw God

Rat Saw God, the newest full length record, from the band Wednesday, is a screeching, fuzzy, distorted lens into the memories associated with a home and its people. It’s somehow both muffled and blaring, desperate and exuberant in its honesty about relationships, shame, and the eagerness of observation.  Rat Saw God moonlights as a bunch of sonnets to the South, and in particular, the western section of North Carolina where the band originated—where the gutted gas stations, churches on every corner, dilapidated dives, drug abuse, and all the last-call regulars all have a story to tell. It pays homage to the syrupy days of being young and the fuckery that comes with that, with a wise-enough distance to reflect in ways that are vast and sustainable, while not being stuck in the past. This is an experienced record from a band, who while still youthful and fresh, are already showing the lessons learned from prior LPs, hundreds of tour dates around the world, and a life truly lived.  – Ryleigh Wann

1) Bully – Lucky for You

Alicia Bognanno, the songwriter, vocalist, and guitarist known as Bully, is a powerhouse talent. Not only can she shred on guitar, write a killer hook, scream out a verse, and revive the spirits of grunge past with howling live performances, but she’s also a trained producer who interned with the legendary Steve Albini. Albini, known for his honesty, had this to say about her, “If everybody worked as hard as Alicia then everybody’s records would be Number One hits.” As the Albini work would predict, Bully has been open about her 90’s radio rock influences from day one, and her successful reimagination of that strain of alt rock has been an enjoyment from her 1st album Feels Like (a nominee for our Best Debut Award in 2015). Since then, she continued to grow in her skills, and her next 2 LPs, Losing in 2017, and Sugeregg in 2020, both also landed on our year end lists, making this new LP Bully’s 4th Alt year end list appearance. But a Bully record has never quite taken hold with enough of the staff to establish itself as a true AOTY contender. That is until Lucky For You this year. 

From the day it was released, Lucky For You was being jammed by almost everyone on our team. Of course these tracks rock, but there’s also something relatable and relevant to Alicia’s songwriting on this record in particular. This may be due to the fact that the protagonist within her songs is often unwell, unhealthy, upset, confused, and/or clearly in the wrong. These are not a set of tracks describing the nobel life of a monk. This is sex, drugs, and rock n roll, but delivered in a way that doesn’t glorify the mistakes or excess, but instead presents them as a part of life. Sheryl Crow was clearly one of the greatest rock songwriters of the 90’s, but at the time she was limited by sexism and never quite got her due despite some massive successes. But cream rises to the top, and a testament to her talent is the fact that Sheryl’s songs are covered endlessly even to this day 25+ years later. That is the stratosphere that Bully is headed towards. These aren’t just great songs, at their best, they are art that will stand the test of time. Can’t wait to hear bands in 2050 covering “Days Move Slow”, it’ll still be a hit then. – Henderson Cole


The 2023 AOTY Winner Is: Bully – Lucky For You

The 2023 Most Underrated Winner Is: Taking Meds – Dial M for Meds

The 2023 Best Non-LP Winner Is: Dazy – OTHERBODY

The 2023 Best Debut Winner Is: Star 99 – Bitch Unlimited

The 2023 Fan Vote AOTY Is: Equipment – Alt. Account


PAGE 1 (#55 – #31) – PAGE 2 (#30 – #11) – PAGE 3 (#10 – #1 + Award Winners)

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