Sunday, December 31, 2023

Steve McLean’s favourite music of 2023

I once again listened to hundreds of new records in 2023 and I’d say that it had the most that I really liked — if not loved — since 2019.

There was a healthy amount of alternative and more traditional leaning country music, rockabilly, ska and surf along with the power pop and indie rock records that make up the majority of the titles found below.

After all was said and done, the Waco Brothers’ The Men That God Forgot was my favourite by a pretty decent margin and the group was a two-time winner as its Doomed To Repeat topped my list of favourite compilations, live albums and reissues.

Yes, the Waco Brothers are friends of mine, but their previous albums and records from various other Jon Langford and Deano Schlabowske projects never ranked that high, so I think they were legitimately excellent releases. Doomed To Repeat features several songs that I’ve enjoyed live over the years and, since it’s been a few years since I’ve seen the band, I hope I get a chance to do it again in 2024.

On the live front, a recent trend continued where I didn’t go see a lot of touring bands and instead hit club shows by local artists and musician friends. I’ll see if that changes in the new year but, aside from Frank Turner’s four-day Lost Evenings festival in September, I have a hunch that it likely won’t.

Below you’ll see my favourite 30 albums in order. I’ve also included: my favourite EPs; my favourite compilations, live albums and reissues; and my favourite concerts.

Thanks to everyone who continues to make music or is involved with bringing it to people either in recorded or live formats. Your efforts are much appreciated.

With that, here are the recordings and performances that did the most for me in 2023.

My favourite 10 albums

1. Waco Brothers - The Men That God Forgot
2. Lowest of the Low - Welcome to the Plunderdome
3. Brian Setzer - The Devil Always Collects
4. Jesse Ray and The Carolina Catfish - Sick-N-Tired
5. The Exbats - Song Machine
6. Lucky 757 - Rockabilly Revival
7. Who Is She? - Goddess Energy
8. The Barnestormers - The Barnestormers
9. The Nude Party - Rides On
10. Mustard Plug - Where Did All My Friends Go?


The next 10 albums

11. Glen Matlock - Consequences Coming
12. Shorty’s Swingin’ Coconuts - Surf Shack Shindig
13. Raygun Cowboys - Fortune and Glory, Pleasure and Pain
14. Geoff Palmer - An Otherwise Negative Situation
15. The Reseters - Give Me A Blue Beat
16. Metal Marty - Greatest Hits
17. Joe Keithley - Stand
18. Rhoda Dakar  - Version Girl
19. Kitty and The Rooster - Ain’t Pussyfootin’ Around
20. The Baseball Project - Grand Salami Time!


The next 10 albums

21. Olivia Jean - Raving Ghost
22. NOBRO - Set Your Pussy Free
23. Morgan and the Organ Donors - M.O.D.S.
24. Neil Brogan - Yrs Truly,
25. Ma’am - Rules 2 Ramblin’
26. Daddy Long Legs - Street Sermons
27. The Magnetics - Cocktails and Fairy Tales
28. The Tripwires - Are Knife, Fork, Spoon and Plate in Good Party Tape
29. Gringo Star - On and On and Gone
30. Spiritual Cramp - Spiritual Cramp


My favourite EPs

1. Mento Buru - East Bakersfield Christmas II
2. Cinema Hearts - I Want You
3. The Photocopies - Amateur Dramatics
4. Ichi-Bons - Ich-I-Bon #1
5. The Rellies - Monkey EP
6. Space Cadet - Suede Originals
7. Dead Billionaires - Disaster Preparedness Coloring Book


My favourite compilations, live albums and reissues

1. Waco Brothers - Doomed To Repeat
2. The Courettes - Boom! Dynamite
3. Charley Crockett - Live from the Ryman
4. The Len Price 3 - Chinese Burn
5. Mark Malibu and The Wasagas - Haunted Hotrod Beach Party
6. The Jesus and Mary Chain - Sunset 666
7. Headcat - Live in Berlin!
8. Full Time Men - Part Time Job
9. Shooter Jennings and The Werewolves of Los Angeles - Do Zevon
10. The Masonics - Outside Looking In
11. Various artists - Jem Records Celebrates Ray Davies
12. Johnny’s Uncalled Four - The Lost Album
13. The Yellow Melodies - Sunshine Pop
14. Billy Bragg - The Roaring Forty (1983-2023) Deluxe Edition
15. Jonathan Postal - All The Boys On St. Marks Place
16. Alex Chilton - Live in Anvers

My favourite concerts (chronological order)

John Borra Band, The Black Pearls - Jan. 7, The Cameron House, Toronto
The Dick Ellis Revival - Jan. 13, Grossman’s Tavern, Toronto
Jacques and The Valdanes, Gregory Childs & Heart Lung, Nickola Magnolia - Jan. 21, The Dakota Tavern, Toronto
Frankie Foo and the YoYo Smugglers - Jan. 27, Grossman’s Tavern, Toronto
The ARC Sound - Jan. 28, The Artful Dodger, Toronto
Bob Marley birthday tribute with Reggaddiction, Lazo & Exodus - Feb. 11, Lee’s Palace, Toronto

Golden Country Classics - Feb. 15, The Cameron House, Toronto
Captain Ronzo and Heide, Dr. Ex and the Break-Ups, Hekla - Feb. 17, Otto’s Shrunken Head Tiki Bar & Lounge, Manhattan
Racket Squad, The Piggies - Feb. 18, Harefield Road, Brooklyn
The Pepperbot Bats, The Hipp Pipps - Feb. 19, Otto’s Shrunken Head Tiki Bar & Lounge, Manhattan
Martian Awareness Ball - March 17, Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto
Johnny and The Jive Bombers, The Mercenaries, Jacques and The Valdanes - March 18, Handlebar, Toronto
Heino - March 20, The Shameful Tiki Room, Toronto
Staig and Billings - March 22, DROM Taberna, Toronto
Brett Newski - March 31, Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto
Frankie Foo and the YoYo Smugglers - March 31, Grossman’s Tavern, Toronto
Matt Smith’s Nervous System, Roger Bryan and The Orphans - April 8, Revolution Gallery, Buffalo
Breanna Barbara, The Nude Party - April 12, Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto
John Borra Band - April 1, The Cameron House, Toronto
Parkdale Rebels - April 20, The Mezz, Toronto
The Interrupters, Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls - May 3, History, Toronto
The Swinging Pussycats, Mark Malibu & The Wasagas - June 9, The Dakota Tavern, Toronto
Eyelids - June 11, Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto
Donna Trenholm’s birthday party with multiple musicians - June 17, Taco Taco, Toronto
Trombone Charlotte’s Tiger Band - June 23, The Painted Lady, Toronto
The Enchanters, U.I.C. - June 30, The Monarch Tavern, Toronto
Thelonious Hank - July 21, Grossman’s Tavern, Toronto
Sound One - Aug. 11, Grossman’s Tavern, Toronto
Mark Malibu & The Wasagas, Heino, DJ Swankenstein - Aug. 23, The Shameful Tiki Room, Toronto
John Cooper Clarke - Sept. 6, Lee’s Palace, Toronto
Kiwi Jr. - Sept. 9, Taste of The Junction Festival, Toronto
Spamalot - Sept. 21, Avon Theatre, Stratford
Reggaddiction - Sept. 23, Trinity Bellwoods Park, Toronto
The ARC Sound - Sept. 30, The Artful Dodger, Toronto
The James Clark Institute, The Jukeez, Mark Malibu & The Wasagas - Oct. 7, The Monarch Tavern, Toronto
Crocky’s Starband - Nov. 3, The Cameron House, Toronto
Golden Country Classics - Nov. 8, The Cameron House, Toronto
Mariel Buckley - Nov. 8, Rivoli, Toronto
Vox Confidential, Blue Demons, Luau Or Die - Nov. 12, See-Scape, Toronto
The Fills - Nov. 18, Sauce on The Danforth, Toronto
Doghouse Rose, The Penske File, Raygun Cowboys, Pkew Pkew Pkew - Nov. 25, Lee’s Palace, Toronto
Blind Decision, Lonely Fans - Dec. 1, Sneaky Dee’s, Toronto
Communism - Dec. 15, The Cameron House, Toronto
Irie Vibes - Dec. 15, DROM Taberna, Toronto
Christian and The Sinners, The Dorkies, Songs The Crampus Taught Us - Dec. 20, Linsmore Tavern, Toronto
The Sadies - Dec. 31, Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (anticipated)