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Last Xmas, I gave you my....Xmas CD 2023!

In the last 16 years, I have regularly used the season of goodwill to inflict my musical taste on unwitting victims, too polite to tell me to bugger off (...well, most of them...). This year is no exception, so here is the latest incarnation. Like Dr Who and The Fall, they are always different, always the same...


As documented elsewhere on this blog, there's no Xmas music - my 1990 xmas job in Woolworths toy department ensures I am allergic to Xmas songs...


There are, however, clear rules:

1. Tracks must be released that year

or

2. Tracks must be discovered that year

or

3. Tracks must have some personal or cultural significance.

All of the CDs I used to make are now playlists on Spotify (you can find the previous 15 to date here) - if you find you have a spare 24 hours to fill, there are worse ways to spend the time...



So, here's this year's virtual CD - it's a double, if it were a physical thing, 41 songs that have tickled my fancy in 2023. Enjoy the playlist and all the best to you and yours for 2024!



1. The Narcissist - Blur

My favourite song of 2023, an understated, sophisticated comeback for the Britpoppers. If Oasis came back, they could never sound as confident, as classy as this.


2. Ghosts Again - Depeche Mode

Their Brooklyn gig this year was one of the best I saw, can't wait to see them in 2024 at the O2. This co-write with Richard Butler from The Psychedelic Furs is another understated come back single that grows and grows on you. Check out the review of that Brooklyn gig here - Every Gig Counts In Large Amounts - Depeche Mode, Barclays Center, Brooklyn, 21 October 2023,



3. Willows - Will Butler + Sister Squares

With the various allegations hanging over Arcade Fire, I no longer feel that comfortable seeing them live. So, seeing Will Butler, who left the band in 2022, at the ICA this year was a great alternative. His solo albums are all fantastic and this latest collaboration with Sister Squares is particularly good.



4. Feel Loop (Lizard Dream)- Gaz Coombes

The ex-Supergrasser seems more comfortable in his solo artist career. This was my favourite track from this year's Turn The Car Around, his 4th album.


5. She's A Fighter - Robert Forster

Off to see Robert, the ex-Go-Between, in 2024. This song, I think, is about his wife, who beat cancer in 2022. She, and their sons, play on this. It's a family affair.


6. Love & Flowers - Les Imprimés

My least read post of 2023 was my review of this album, which is a shame, as it's great (the album, rather than the review which is here - Les Imprimés - Reverie).


7. Come On In (Les Imprimés Remix) - Lady Wray

Fabulous modern soul.



8. Sadie - Durand Jones

Saw Durand twice in 2023, his debut solo album, Wait 'Til I Get Over, is superb, detailing the Southern Black experience in his Louisiana hometown and infused with his experience of coming out as bisexual.


9. Glory - Gabriels

Gutted I failed to see them at Somerset House, but the album exudes style and grace, and proves last year's Love & Hate In A Different Time was no one off.


10. Strung Out Johnny - Iggy Pop

Iggy Pop has been making records since 1969. Wow. His latest album is as relevant and cool as anything I have heard this year.



11. Elvis In The Army - A. Savage

Parquet Courts frontman making super cool pop, less psychedelic, more engaging.


12. Room At The Top - Galen & Paul

Paul Simonon from The Clash and Galen Ayers, daughter of Kevin. Far from Clash style punk rock, this is gentle, acoustic, summer pop.


13. Claire's Not Real - The Clientele

On our first trip together to New York in 2016, me and Mrs JO'B discovered that she was in fact a mannequin (see picture below). The Clientele continue to warn me in 2023....



14. Evicted - Wilco

Wilco channelling George Harrison at his finest.



15. The Last Rotation Of Earth - BC Camplight

After years in the wilderness, a broken heart gave BC Camplight inspiration to write the album of his career. Well worth checking out, it's inventive, catchy, just brilliant,


16. Constant Curve - A Certain Ratio

Peers of Joy Division, survivors of Factory Records and some 46 years into their career, they made their finest album, 1982. Three of the original members are in the band, bolstered by some new, younger singers. They are still funky as fuck.



17. kisses - Slowdive

I hated Slowdive back in the day, but this album has made me re-evaluate that opinion. It's one of my favourite albums of the year. Looking forward to finally seeing them live in 2024 with Nick.


18. Tropic Morning News - The National

Two albums released in 2023, so there is a wealth of songs I could have chosen from this year, but this is my favourite.


19. The People Say - Steve Mason

Ex-Beta Band member makes yet another cracking solo album, featuring Pakistani singer Javed Bashir, gospel-blues shuffles, trippy pop and this rousing call to arms.


20. Pale Blue Sky - Leah Weller

Daughter of Paul Weller and DC Lee, she's all style, not much Council, Very cool soul-folk.



21. Psychos - Jenny Lewis

The former Rilo Kiley singer continues a run of superb solo albums. Psychos is the tale of a small-town misfit who finds redemption in rock’n’roll. It's got a summery Fleetwood Mac-esque feel.


22. There's A World - Sufjan Stevens

A Neil Young cover, from his most famous album, Harvest, was a brave choice. It's not his most known song, but Sufjan's version is stripped down, less overblown than the original. I love it.


23. Take It Through The Night - Far From Saints

Kelly from Stereophonics drops the band's heavier rock sound for something more country, more Americna, more intimate, more fun. Kelly met Patty Lynn and Dwight Baker of the American band The Wind and The Wave on tour,


24. Fairlies - Grian Chatten

Fontaines DC frontman adopts a more soulful, folky sound - less aggressive, even a bit Bacharach in places.


25. Popcorn - Warhaus (feat Sylvie Kreusch)

Maarten Devoldere, one of the two frontmen in brilliant Belgian art-rockers Balthazar, has a fabulous sideline with Warhaus. This single, featuring his girlfriend Sylvie Kreusch (who we saw in Antwerp in June), is a cracker. As Maarten says, "If you're making popcorn, put the lid on" is my way of saying songs don't need any explanation by the artist, just add salt or sugar to your liking and enjoy!"


26. 'Cello Song - Fontaines D.C.

Nick Drake reimagined, this rocks.



27. All Now - The Staves

The Staves are the Staveley-Taylor sisters, Emily, Jessica and Camilla (though Emily has now quit live performance, since she gave birth). Beautiful harmonies, lovely folk music, they are superb. This track from their next album, due out in 2024, is a bit more pop, a bit more electronic and a good shift in direction.


28. Happy Ending - Hifi Sean & David McAlmont

Having come to fame with Bernard Butler back in the nineties with Yes, McAlmont's career has never quite achieved what his truly unique and fabulous voice deserves. This album snuck out with little acclaim, but it's great. Hifi Sean is in fact Sean from The Soup Dragons. The album is chilled, orchestrated, symphonic pop with McAlmont's incredible falsetto given freedom to do what it does best.


29. It's Alright - Teenage Fanclub

On their classic single The Concept, it's opening line announced "She wears denim wherever she goes, says she's gonna get some records by the Status Quo...". How prescient. These days Teenage Fanclub are the indie Quo, all the songs sound very similar indeed. But they still have a place in my record collection, and every album still has a couple of standouts, even if they could be from any of their albums. It's Alright is this album's standout.


30. The Presence - Emma Anderson

Emma from Lush finally makes her solo album and it's better than anything you could have expected. Many of these songs were orginally intended for Lush's comeback album, but they only lasted a tour and 4-track EP, before old tensions came back to the fore.


With support from producer Robin Guthrie (ex-Cocteau Twin) and Richard Oakes (Suede), the album, Pearlies, is great and The Presence is its most Lush-esque standout. Dream-pop perfection,



31. Old Man - Albert Hammond Jr

Old Man is exactly the same as most of his songs, but the lack of variation is made up for by his enthusiasm and pop sensibility. The Strokes, his day job, could learn from some of his solo albums.



32. Ciao Ciao Bambino - Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band

The ex-Shack main-man is back with yet another Love-inspired piece of sixties pop.


33. Water Underground - Real Estate

Water Underground is the lead single from the band’s forthcoming sixth studio LP ‘Daniel’ - their music is shimmering, jangly guitar pop and this bodes well for their next outing.


34. Harakeke - Jen Cloher

Her latest album, I Am The River, The River Is Me, is an exploration of their Māori heritage. The songs are sung in English and te reo Māori. But it also touches her queerness, relationships and heritage. It's at times joyous, contemplative, beautiful.



35. Love In Constant Spectacle - Jane Weaver

More psychedelic electronic pop from La Weaver - Mrs JO'B still can't stand her, sadly.


36. Topless Mother - Nadine Shah

Seeing Nadine support Depeche Mode in January. She's part Norwegian, part Pakistani, mixing the theatrical style of Siouxsie Sioux and PJ Harvey. She's had a difficult year with some struggles with her mental health, but it's great to see her back and using this to create great new music - she says “It’s a song about a counsellor I worked with that I couldn’t get along with"; it's inspired by a series of “comically tense” exchanges between the pair, leading to the counsellor bursting into tears when she felt she wasn’t getting anywhere with her patient.


37. Not Strong Enough - boygenius

Indie meets folk meets rock, by the indie supergroup.


38. Not Tonight - Pip Boom

From their 3rd album Bobbie, opening track Not Tonight is splendid. Their sound has grown exponentially over their three albums. Producer Dave McCracken has also produced Jay-Z and Faithless and this album has a much grander sound.


39. Rug Busters - Personal Trainer

Having got the album last year, Mrs JO'B and I have seen these quirky Dutch indie-rockers play live four times this year - each she has been joyous, raucous, huge fun. This bears more than a passing resemblance to Low Rider by War.



40. Evidence - Lo Moon

We saw Lo Moon play a cracking gig in November at The Lexington (Lo Moon - The Lexington, London , 14 November 2023). Their sound is The Blue Nile meets Talk Talk meets Krautrock and this song is a 7 minute epic.


41. A Pair Of Brown Eyes - The Pogues

That Shane MacGowan lived to 65 is frankly unbelievable. But he leaves behind a lyrical legacy that's up there with the best. A Pair Of Brown Eyes features a soldier who endured the horrors of war by focusing on the brown eyes of his loved one. He really was a poet, not just a wild drinker and punk rocker. Travel well Shane.


Stay safe, belated merry xmas and all the best for a music-fueled 2024, x

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