The Alt’s Best Records of 2023 So Far

Posted: by The Editor

2023 has been full of great new music, so without a doubt, there’s definitely some awesome releases you’ve missed already. Don’t worry though, our staff put together a list of over 30 of our favorite releases of 2023 so far! Take a listen and find some gems. And if there’s anything we forgot, message us and let us know so we can keep it in mind for the year end list and awards!

But before you soak up this sweet list, take a second to consider throwing a couple dollars to your friendly neighborhood music blog. The Alt is 100% DIY and funded by our supporters on Patreon. Without your help there’s no way we can continue. It’s getting so hard for any independent media to survive. So, if you have the funds, sign up on Patreon and we will thank you with even more great music on our site, not to mention that Patreon supporters also get perks and benefits including free tee shirts, discounts, and extra content.

And if you can’t afford Patreon, we totally understand. There are plenty of free ways you can help us out including by sharing this list on social media and telling your friends and family about our site. I’m not saying you should sign up everyone you know for our new email  newsletter, but it couldn’t hurt.

Thanks again for all your help and we hope you love our list!

– The Alt Staff


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100 gecs – 10,000 gecs

From the minute the THX Deep Note rears its eerie head only to get bisected by a DJ-rewind sound then morph into a Sum 41-style pop punk guitar riff, I was in love with 10,000 Gecs. With almost four years and one major label deal between the Gecs’ debut album 1000 Gecs and their second album, it was impossible to predict how their sound might evolve. And what did we get? Musical chaos (lyrics about a frog doing a kegstand, a ska song about getting your tooth removed) encased in an indestructible pop chassis. 100 Gecs will make it in Hollywood, baby. – Molly Mary O’Brien

Blonde Maze – Another Color

If you’re a fan of EDM, indie electronic, or ambient (and even if you don’t really listen to those genres), Blonde Maze’s EP Another Color is worth checking out. It offers 7 tracks that you can easily listen to whenever, wherever. How often do you listen to a release where that statement is applicable? Delivering songs with touching lyrics, powerful emotions, and stunning instrumentals, Another Color is one EP you’ll find yourself listening to often once you start. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul. Trust me. – Jazmin Lemus

Blondshell – Blondshell

One of my most highly anticipated drops of the year, Blondshell’s self-titled debut album is a masterclass in how to become an unforgettable new face in indie music. Pumped full of the heat that made ‘90s alt-rock so mesmerizing mixed with cooler pop undertones, the record flitters through the modern nostalgia that seems to be pinned to young adults. Her reflective yet disheveled vocals help to bring confessional moments such as late night self-deprecation, unsavory dating experiences, and dark humor to life without sacrificing earwormy hooks or melodic powerhouses to do so. It is in Blondshell’s ability to seamlessly balance such a charged sonic atmosphere beside evocative lyricism that makes this self-titled album one of the best and most interesting debuts I’ve heard in a long time. – Hope Ankney

Boygenius – The Record

There’s something about stripping it all back and focusing on simplicity that makes The Record such a strong outing for Boygenius. Taking a straightforward approach with three of the top indie/folk voices in music right now (Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers), the project allows all of them to shine in the way they all do best—through the candor of their vocals and the touchy confessions of their lyricism. Without the pressure that seems to plague other collaborated groups, the trio withstands the unfounded competition to outshine one another. Instead, their blended voices are the highlight of each song, building power through their harmonies as the listener wades through a sonic landscape that transitions through beauty and self-reflection to insecurities and the intrusive thoughts that bumble through your mind. Everything feels like an anecdotal moment that’s scribbled in a journal hidden under the bed. Many people have tried to create albums that have that same lived-in feel, but no one seamlessly executes emotions inked to page like Boygenius does with every release. – Hope Ankney

Bully – Lucky for You

Flashing back to the ‘90s for musical influence has been all the rage the past couple of years. Yet while the market has become oversaturated with bands that lose their voice in the monotonous wave of that era’s nostalgia, Alicia Bognanno’s project Bully makes the sound feel refreshing. This is especially true for their recent record, Lucky For You–the fourth studio album shows Bognanno at her best as she effortlessly spins the glitter of ‘90s alt-rock into modern gold, adapting the era to her style. Mix that sonic talent with her deeply personal lyricism and one’s got 10 songs that act as a love letter to Bully’s artistic identity over the years. They’re at their best here, and it’s in Lucky For You’s charismatic punk flares, sparkly rock harmonies, and tenacious songwriting that makes this record a hard one to put down. – Hope Ankney 

Buddie – Agitator

Buddie is a band that has mastered the kind of indie rock that lives both in the ‘90s and the present. Agitator, their sophomore album, is wiry and propulsive and fit to share the stage with the likes of Built to Spill. The songs are full of righteous anger about the selfishness of imperialist nations (“Class Warfare”) but also personal themes, like friendship and growing as a person (“We’ll Never Break”). One of my favorite songs is the uplifting “Labyrinth,” about changing our perspective of what a good life is, and with its sunny harmonies, bouncy bass, fuzzy guitars, and clattering drums, it is a perfect microcosm of Buddie’s addictive sound. I will be playing this album all year long and beyond. – Jami Fowler

Caroline Polachek – Desire, I Want to Turn Into You

Caroline Polachek’s Desire, I Want to Turn Into You is an absolute unit of a pop album. It’s hard to imagine an album that makes me feel so sad-girl sexy began during the early seasons of the pandemic, a time when I felt more like an inebriated gargoyle. If past me could have only known! This album is maximalist and weird, but Polachek herself is a perfectionist (and perhaps maximalist and weird, her makeup on this tour is fabulous) and it shows in things like her album structure and live performances. She is a meticulous musician and the expansive care given to this album is apparent. Desire, I Want to Turn Into You is a massive, weeping love poem that I can’t stop reading. I want “Bunny Is a Rider” to be a QR code on my tombstone. – Ryleigh Wann

Elliott Green – everything i lack

A record that ebbs and flows with the lonely piano or acoustic giving way to rushes of noise or cinematic swellings of strings at moments when the hushed meditations can’t be maintained anymore, Elliott Green’s everything i lack is packed with stunner after stunner. With its Halloween imagery that matches its haunting instrumentals, “Referee” is one of the best songs of the year, but so is “Consolation” — the very next track on the record — featuring a devotional-like organ sneaking in as Green admits, “I can live without your sympathy / don’t think I can without another drink.” Julien Baker’s Sprained Ankle is a useful (if somewhat obvious or shallow) reference point for newcomers not only in terms of style, but also in the quality of these songs. Green’s songwriting is packed with so many cutting images and revelations that make her an artist who should absolutely be on the radar of anyone who has a go-to playlist of sad songs. – Aaron Eisenreich

Frog Legs – It’s Been a Hard Year

Musically, Frog Legs’ It’s Been a Hard Year is folk punk done about as precisely as it can be. The acoustic playing is packed with energy and pushes the pace for the tracks, the tasteful additions from the mandolin are perfectly in service of the songs, and the occasional intrusions from electric guitars range from adding an extra punch on tunes like “Motorcycle!” to introducing a neon-lit ‘80s vibe on “Moth Song.” But, like the best folk punk, It’s Been a Hard Year is all about the lyrics, and the group’s in-the-pocket playing is only to create a canvas for vocalist Nano’s portrait of America as a grotesque nation. They wonder if there’s“romance in the fact that politicians want us dead,” lament the realization that “the future’s predetermined and it wants to fuck with you / it’s just hard to face the fact that there is nothing we can do,” and sit with the thought that they’re “a short power trip away from the slaughterhouse” and “livestock in America’s eyes.” Every song is great here, but “End of an Era” and “Chess St.” stand out as revelatory of the magic Frog Legs is capable of. – Aaron Eisenreich

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Foo Fighters – But Here We Are

It’s an unreasonable fan who wants an artist to continue to produce their first album (or their best album, which isn’t always the same) over and over again. And yet, Foo Fighters, while remaining a perfectly serviceable mainstream rock band over the past two decades, have struggled to recapture the magic that made 1995’s Foo Fighters so promising and 1997’s The Colour and the Shape so iconic. Until now. It’s too early to anoint the band’s 11th outing, But Here We Are, an all-time great rock album. But it’s already an all-time great Foos one. Anthemic opener “Rescued” recaptures the simple yet unmistakable formula for a hit song the band found on Shape: memorable melodies and catchy hooks. And penultimate track “The Teacher,” clocking in at 10:04, is not only the band’s longest song to date but also its most ambitious. In a very high-profile way, life hasn’t been particularly generous to Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters lately. But in the grand tradition of rock ’n’ roll, they’ve produced something lasting in the midst of their sorrow. – Michelle Bruton

Gia Margaret – Romantic Piano

Gia Margaret’s Romantic Piano might not be my favorite album of 2023 come December, but I’m willing to bet it’ll be my most-played. It’s one of the most thoroughly pleasant albums I’ve heard all year, a gorgeous, patient collection of instrumental pieces that waft over you. There’s a lot of piano, yes, but there’s burbling electronics, too, and sometimes drum machines, and sometimes guitar. It’s incredibly spare, but it demands attention nonetheless—the comparatively robust “La langue de l’amitié” introduces various elements so subtly you’ll barely notice it ends an entirely different song than it began, and the drone of the titular cicadas in “Cicadas” functions as its own sort of beat. Many instrumental albums seek serenity, but Romantic Piano creates it. – Zac Djamoos

Greg Mendez – Greg Mendez

The stunning self-titled LP by Greg Mendez is exceptionally human. When “Maria” dropped as a single, I played it about 100 times in that first week and used it as a placeholder for a deeper ache. After sitting with this album as a whole, the opening line of “Maria” – “Every time you say you want to know me / I get anxious” – seems almost effortless in doing the very thing of sharing an entire narrative within a brief song. The album has a speaker who is both subject and storyteller, and other favorites like “Shark’s Mouth” and “Cop Caller” have the tender lyricism and sound to make you feel held while feeling deeply, shockingly alone. This album is the messy parts of addiction and heartbreak in a way that feels hopeful — it’s proof of survival. – Ryleigh Wann

Heavenward – Pyrophonics

The self-released debut album from Los Angeles based project Heavenward is quickly gaining momentum in the alternative rock world–for good reason. It’s an energetic and mesmerizing introduction that delivers a fresh spin on what used to be recognized as alternative rock in the early 2000s. In recent years, newer rock bands have been reclaiming a heavier style that’s indebted to bands such as Deftones, Hum, or Failure, but Heavenward have successfully built upon those influences while leaning heavily into creating catchier melodies that are guaranteed to get stuck in your head days after listening. Pyrophonics is the perfect album to kick off summer with, but will be a strong album of the year contender for many as it is certainly at the top of my list. – Loan Pham

The Hold Steady – The Price of Progress

The Hold Steady opened up 2023 with their ninth studio album. The Price of Progress captures the uncertainty and apathy listeners felt during the 2020 Covid lockdown. The band opens the record with a soon-to-be classic in “Grand Junction”, fits a Lebron James name-drop towards the middle of the record in “Sixers,” and closes out with an anthem for streakers at sporting events in “Flyover Halftime.” The Hold Steady continues to grow alongside the characters they write about and their fanbase lovingly known as The Unified Scene.  – Chris Lepore

Initiate – Cerebral Circus

It was hard to know what to expect from Initiate after they dropped “The Surface” as the second single from Cerebral Circus. “Alone at the Bottom,” the first cut, was as heavy as ever, with a bit more melody in Crystal Pak’s shrieks, but “The Surface” features straight-up cleaning vocals in its chorus, a first for the band. Where Before Long and Lavender showed Initiate to be a capable hardcore band, Cerebral Circus pushes them so much farther — and, fear not, it’s even heavier than their previous work. “Your Own Means” and “No Burden of Guilt” veer toward metallic hardcore, and the brutal “Firestarter” incorporates thrash riffs. At the same time, like many of their peers, Initiate does bring the more melodic elements of their sound to the fore on occasion; unlike many of their peers, though, they serve to accentuate the more aggressive moments. The lead riff in “Amends” is pure stargazing space rock, and closer “Transparency” pulls from post-rock under an entrancing spoken word performance from Pak before the song explodes with a ferocious solo. Pak’s delivery and lyricism are a key part of what makes Cerebral Circus one of the best hardcore records of the year so far, too — she sounds furious and vulnerable at once, and her songwriting steers clear of typical hardcore cliches. There’s a lot of Touché Amoré in Initiate, and hopefully they’ll follow a similar path. “There’s so much more / past the surface,” Pak sings on “The Surface” — and indeed there is. – Zac Djamoos

Jeromes Dream – The Gray in Between

Jeromes Dream are criminally underrated in my opinion. The screamo band have consistently revised and honed in their sound over the years, and The Gray in Between is no exception. Their heavy and fast rhythm section gets cut up by their vocalist’s brash screams; however, the band doesn’t adhere to heaviness all throughout the record – they break it up with some interesting tracks that allow for the listener to breathe through the experience. Jeromes Dream clearly know what they’re doing with their sound, and I’m all for it. – Sarah Knoll

Kara Jackson – Why Does the Earth Give Us People to Love?

An open-hearted epic that blends folk, country, and blues influences, Kara Jackson’s debut album blossoms with a ragged vulnerability. Her voice is languid, visceral, and world-weary, winding its way around delicately wavering instrumental arrangements and musings on love, loss, heartbreak, and respect. This is not an album that you can sit on the surface of – it’s one that you’ve gotta sink deep into, “like a spoon drowns in a stew.” To say that Jackson makes full use of her words would be an understatement; the 2019-2020 National Youth Poet Laureate stretches and molds syllables like clay, bending them into emotionally precise, idiosyncratic images. She likens inconsiderate exes to “coyotes in culottes clawin’ for coffee in open-toed shoes,” wonders what she missed out on by skipping “the parties you’ve painted in bed,” and incurs the emotional, spiritual, and financial costs of grief: “Why does the earth make us pay for the dirt? / Are you saying the dead pay the bills?” Love and death are two sides of the same coin on Why Does the Earth Give Us People to Love? – one that Jackson flips with every turn of phrase. “Isn’t that just love, a will to destruct?” is the question she begs on “no fun/party” (and arguably, throughout the entire record). She gives herself no choice but to put her whole heart on the line, and the result is as grounded as it is transcendent. To see Jackson embrace her lowest of lows only makes her victories sweeter. To paraphrase the realization of self-worth that concludes “dickhead blues,” Kara Jackson is pretty top notch. – Grace Robbins-Somerville

Keep – Happy in Here

The lush sophomore album Happy in Here from Richmond, VA’s shoegaze/alternative rock band Keep is a pensive atmospheric transit between dream space and reality. It’s a somber portrait of futility laced with despondent lamentations, fuzzed out melodies, and dark reverberating tones that have stuck with me since its release earlier this year in February. The first single off the album, “Dasani Daydream,” remains one of its strongest songs with gorgeous shimmering notes that swirl throughout as the last lines “Still living a lie, but you try, you try” ring out in a hauntingly earnest fashion, and later tracks such as “Everything” and “Start to Wonder” are engrossing pieces that vie for attention. Overall it’s a solid follow-up album that shows no sign of the dreaded “sophomore slump” and more people should know about it. – Loan Pham

Kicksie – Slouch

Kicksie has written some of the best pop rock songs of 2023 on Slouch. The young band put out bangers in the form of semi-autotuned lo-fi Carly Rae Jepsen-esque poppy indie rock. Whether it’s a breakup song – “Struck down in battle but at least I fought, right? / Harvest my body and leave it to rot, right?” – or an anthem about stealing a dude’s girlfriend – “I’m the girl your boyfriend is worried about / see it in his eyes every time we hang out. / we both know who’s winning, we can fight if you want to” – Kicksie’s music is fun, and lyrically and instrumentally interesting. It draws comparison to the early Soccer Mommy EPs, and I think Kicksie could have a similar rise soon based purely on Kicksie’s ability to write absolute gems. This is one of those underrated records that Best So Far lists are built for, so let’s see if we can start a movement. – Henderson Cole

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

If you could put Lana Del Rey’s growth as a singer and songwriter over the years in chart form, it’d look like…I don’t know, like what capitalism wants you to believe it is. She just keeps getting better and better. Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd has her pondering her future over blurry piano on “Fingertips,” portraying an “American whore” killing time in a Ramada in between affairs on “A&W” and embodying California Girl Lifestyle (even though she grew up in upstate New York) on “Peppers” and “Taco Truck x VB.” Equal parts confessional and cryptic, the album is a delicious ride from front to back. – Molly Mary O’Brien

McKinley Dixon – Beloved! Paradise! Jazz?!

Richmond rapper McKinley Dixon’s vibrant fourth LP is interactive in every sense of the word. Beloved! Paradise! Jazz?! isn’t just indebted to the late Toni Morrison (whom Dixon has called “the greatest rapper ever”) and named for her trilogy of landmark novels — it’s an ongoing conversation with her, a celebration of Morrison’s legacy where she’s the guest of honor. The rest of the guest list is pretty stacked as well, including multi-genre and multi-lingual star of Richmond’s local scene Angelica Garcia, subtly brilliant Boston folk singer-songwriter Anjimile, and poet/essayist/modern literary hero Hanif Abdurraqib – who kicks off the album with a reading from Jazz, letting Morrison’s visions unfold over a skittering free jazz instrumental. A dense and deeply communal album, Beloved! Paradise! Jazz?! churns with a triumphant energy even when it’s dogged with hardship – whether it’s the in-depth dissection of gun violence and police brutality delivered through the dissonantly upbeat hooks of “Run, Run, Run”; Dixon’s warm, intimate ode to the people that raised him on  “Live! From the Kitchen Table”; or the bombastic, big-band eulogy, “Tyler Forever,” which commemorates the life of a fallen friend with a parade of horns and some of Dixon’s most clever bars to date (the shoutouts to Slipknot and Babymetal alone are enough to cement it as one of the best rap tracks of 2023). After 2021’s breathtaking For My Mama and Anyone Who Look Like Her and a feature on the closing track of Soul Glo’s Diaspora Problems, Dixon shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Beloved! Paradise! Jazz?! is an essential addition to the jazz-rap canon, a literary instant classic as much as a musical one, and a soon-to-be timeless celebration of Black artistry and resilience solidifying McKinley Dixon as one of the most compelling storytellers of his generation. – Grace Robbins-Somerville

Militarie Gun – Life Under the Gun

Militarie Gun started as a way for Ian Shelton to create music that wouldn’t fit with his grind-adjacent metallic hardcore band Regional Justice Center, and each successive Militarie Gun project has gotten farther and farther from hardcore. Its apotheosis is debut LP Life Under the Gun, a brisk, bouncy power pop record that never loses the energy of the band’s earlier, heavier material. On “Very High,” Shelton suggests a way to cope with depression; through all of Life Under the Gun, the band provides another.  – Zac Djamoos

MSPAINT – Post-American

It’s hard to get someone to listen to MSPAINT, because when described the band seem too strange to be good. Yet, I come here to tell you, they are good. The Mississippi band deliver semi-political Black Flag type lyrics in the form of hardcore vocalist yells over a blasting band. Their topics include a song cheering on post-apocalyptical life (“Go out to the wasted wasteland Yes! / Where no one will profit / Wasted wasteland yes!”) and a reminder that the lack of fear is a powerful thing (“We’re not scared anymore / And this mindset is a titan of hope”). But Post-American doesn’t sound like hardcore really – this sounds more like Turnstile or even Death Grips or Rage Against the Machine. It’s a combo that only works because the lyrics are on point. If you are going to scream 20 short lines per song, they better be thoughtful. Luckily, these are some of the better lyrics of 2023, and capture life in America better than most: “What purpose do cages serve?”.- Henderson Cole

Never Ending Game – Outcry

Though we are only halfway through the year, I do not see anything topping Outcry for hardcore album of the year. The first time I heard “Goin’ Thru Some Things,” I was so moved that I started tearing up. I know how ridiculous that sounds, but it is true. But even beyond that one tidbit, Never Ending Game can package everything I could want from a heavy hardcore record. If I want to grin at the absurdity of “Tank on E,” I can do that. If I want to swing my arms walking down the street during “Hate Today, Die Tomorrow,” I can do that. But there’s an emotional weight to every word vocalist Mike Petroski utters. He uses the tropes of the more ignorant side of hardcore to express something personal that many people can relate to. – Hugo Reyes

The New Pornographers – Continue as a Guest

The New Pornographers have a stellar discography of lush power pop and clever but ambiguous lyrics. Continue as a Guest is their ninth album (I had to count twice even though I have all of them), and it is maybe their most personal to date. The themes of isolation and world-weariness are relatable. But, flowing out of the flourishing sound of the full, multi-talented band and AC Newman’s melody prowess, the dark themes seem to glow with a strange but beautiful light. Also, the track “Angelcover” is a groovy banger, one of my fave tracks of the year. – Jami Fowler

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Noah Kahan – We’ll All Be Here Forever

The We’ll All Be Here Forever EP is the deluxe edition to Noah Kahan’s pensive and raconteur-ing album Stick Season released last year. Known for his raw storytelling and folk sensibilities, the EP acts in the same way its predecessor did by prying open one’s chest by the end of its runtime. For those of us who also have a complicated relationship with our hometowns, We’ll All Be Here Forever makes sure we’re not only seen but listened to with tracks like “Paul Revere,” “You’re Gonna Go Far,” and the voice note tacked onto “View Between Villages.” The EP is reflective. It’s weepy. It’s strong. It’s catchy. It’s damn good. – Hope Ankney

Origami Angel – The Brightest Days

A record I’ve already publicly gushed over and listened to well over a hundred times in the past month or so, Origami Angel’s The Brightest Days is an exuberant celebration of their unique and explosive sound. The duo make the most of the mixtape formula, using it as a way to throw in any idea they want without ever overcrowding the record’s 22 minutes. “Kobayashi Maru (My Very Own),” for example, starts as maybe the most breakneck Gami song yet, but instead of shredding through, they flip it to a laid-back ska feel for the second verse, making the tune an instant classic amongst the band’s already impressive discography. Equally jaw-dropping is the closer “Few and Far Between,” a tune that almost feels spiritual in its musical exorcism of the evil infesting Washington, D. C. As usual, both Ryland Heagy and Pat Doherty are playing off their heads on The Brightest Days, but with an extra familiarity that maybe comes from the past few years of heavy touring. Here, they play off each other perfectly, tightening things up when necessary, but always able to flip to a goofy, loose turn at any moment without ever losing the link they’ve created between their mind-bending guitar and drum work. More simply put, the kings have found their thrones. – Aaron Eisenreich

Pile – All Fiction

Pile writes ambitious rock records in a way that almost seems impossible these days. Any creator has to wonder when adding the 1000th intricate element to an album if anyone is even going to notice, but Pile knows that their fans have come to expect that level of workmanship and they are going for it. Every song has a desired emotion and lyrics about the sludgery of life that are (as usual for Pile) completely relatable. They just write guitar solos and shredding hooks better than almost anyone, and over the last decade of records they have completely solidified their sound. All Fiction may not have the biggest hit for a Pile record, but it’s another very solid addition to their catalog that I will revisit many times. – Henderson Cole

Queens of the Stone Age – In Times New Roman…

Just as it has for Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters, life has been especially difficult recently for Queens of the Stone Age frontman Joshua Homme, and that has found its way into his new music with the band, of which he is the only permanent member. Also like Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age’s new album, In Times New Roman…, is its best since the high-water mark of the mid-aughts. The self-produced album isn’t without its faults. Homme’s lyrics often cross the line into venting, and the album is uneven, struggling at first to find its footing. But when it does, in the back half, it reminds you why Queens of the Stone Age has a permanent place among rock’s pacesetters. “What the Peephole Say” opens with a distorted riff that is so undeniably Queens of the Stone Age it would sound at home on 2002’s hit-laden Songs for the Deaf. Hooks also abound on “Negative Space” and “Emotion Sickness,” which will make any longtime fan feel at home – Michelle Bruton

Raised on TV – Strangers in Pictures

If you’re a fan of Bloc Party, The Strokes, or Silversun Pickups, then Raised on TV is the band to learn about in 2023 should you not know about them already. The L.A. based indie rockers released their new album, Strangers in Pictures in April via Sell The Heart Records. Delivering ten surf-rock inspired guitar songs that embrace the sun-soaked weather of L.A., Raised on TV has given us a summer soundtrack. “Around the Sun” truly is the perfect opening track. – Jazmin Lemus


Sleep Token – Take Me Back to Eden

Sleep Token’s sophomore album Take Me Back to Eden infuses metal, pop, and synth-wave. The band’s mysteriousness helped to create a sense of mystique and lure on this record. The undertones of religion intertwined with the gnarliness of their instrumentals make for a unique sonic experience. Their single “The Summoning” alone leaves listeners hungry for more. Take Me Back to Eden is quite an ambitious record, but Sleep Token have undoubtedly pulled off what could be described as a stepping stone not just for their sound, but also the direction of metal. – Sarah Knoll

Superviolet – Infinite Spring

As the debut from the songwriter of a beloved band, Superviolet’s Infinite Spring could have just been a record that sounded like “acoustic Sidekicks,” and fans probably would have been happy with the scraps (it has been five years since the group’s all-timer Happiness Hours, after all). Luckily, Infinite Spring is so much more than that, with Steve Ciolek and company creating a cozy, yet energizing sound that emerges largely from the contrast of the crisp acoustic and blaring electric guitars that underlie Ciolek’s clever storytelling. Far from a rainy day mix, the tunes on Infinite Spring are a fount of rejuvenation, truly matching the album title and artwork with their notions of rebirth and emerging from melancholia. Opener “Angels on the Ground” is like a reanimating jolt, and the ballads like “Big Songbirds Don’t Cry” and “Dream Dating” are wonderfully hypnotic, but it’s the breathtaking four-song run that closes out the record so clearly highlights Ciolek’s casually brilliant songwriting. – Aaron Eisenreich

Wednesday – Rat Saw God

In many ways, Wednesday’s Rat Saw God is a great equalizer. This is in part due to frontwoman Karly Hartzman’s vocal delivery: she’ll describe a pile of trash on the side of the road with the same matter-of-fact deadpan that she uses to tell you about a drug bust that happened down the street from her. A silly anecdote about setting off model rockets gets casually tossed into a shit-shooting conversation along with the news of an estranged bastard child. Falling asleep to Formula One races and confessing adolescent dalliances with prescription drug abuse and semi-public sex are the pinnacle of romantic expression, much like how a roadtrip to Dollywood is a holy journey and the lifesaving power of naloxone is the closest thing we have to resurrection. Much like the recent releases from Home Is Where, Lonnie Holley, and Ethel Cain, Rat Saw God is an essential piece of the current Southern Gothic renaissance happening in indie music. Wednesday aren’t just wearing their Southern Rock influences on their sleeves, they’re stitching them into something entirely new (“Chosen to Deserve” might as well be the dirtbag daughter of Drive By Truckers’ “Let There Be Rock,” tweaked to reflect post-Y2K youth culture and presented as the love song of a retired delinquent). The Asheville band’s mythology is wrapped in a halo of shoegaze distortion, bedazzled with rhinestones, and stained with cheap beer, motor oil, and all sorts of bodily fluids. Like a car crash next to a sex shop with a Biblical name, a reckoning with death during a game of Mortal Kombat, or a realization about “the darkest time of my life” prompted by an “amazing idiot” messing around with a chainsaw and a yellowjacket hive, Rat Saw God captures moments that are as sacred as they are stupid (and vice versa). Dirtbags and dumbasses rejoice– gather around your backyard bonfires, crack open a couple cold ones, and throw some Wednesday on the stereo – ’cause baby, it’s the year of the rat. – Grace Robbins-Someville

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