March 1, 2024

Writer: Alyssa Borton

Music has defined some of the most integral years of my life.  Top 40s from the early 2000’s transports me back to my childhood, watching music videos in my best friend’s living room; the twanging drone of country radio will always remind me of the backseat of my dad’s truck, trees rushing past through a smudged window.  I’m sure we’ve all experienced the influx of memories and nostalgia when you hear a song you used to love.  Music is more than just sounds: it’s connection.  It connects us with people, and it connects us through time.  

2023 has undoubtedly been an abundant year for music. I’m sure looking back on this year’s musical contributions in the future will bring the same sense of fondness as we hold for albums of the past.  So, in preparation for a new year of music and memories, let’s take a look at some of my favourite releases of 2023!

Hozier- Unreal Unearth

Unreal Unearth is Andrew Hozier Byrne’s third studio album, and it does not disappoint.  Hozier draws upon both his Irish roots and Dante’s famous Divine Comedy in this captivating concept album. Depicting Dante’s descent through the nine circles of hell, Unreal Unearth captures the agony of heartbreak with captivating lyricism and Hozier’s signature soulful, folksy voice.  Hozier has never been shy about standing up for what he believes in.  Much of his inspiration is drawn from African American musical pioneers; the influence of jazz and blues is clear throughout this album. The leading single, Eat Your Young, is defiant and confrontational, criticizing the greed and violence that permeates society; Butchered Tongue speaks to the vulnerability and loneliness of cultural erasure. Tracks such as Francesca and I, Carrion take on a more introspective, romantic tone, integrating stories such as that of Icarus, the boy that flew too close to the sun.  Ultimately, I found Unreal, Unearth to be vast and deeply moving.  It’s the perfect album to pair with a hot cup of coffee on a cold morning.

boygenius- the record

Supergroup boygenius, consisting of artists Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, and Julien Baker, made an unexpected return with the creation of the record.  Released five years following their first collaborative project, an EP self-titled boygenius, this album solidified the three as not only an official band, but as creative masterminds. Where the 2018 EP holds a mournful, heartbroken tone, the record speaks more to a sense of healing.  From head-banging indie-rock hits to poetically wistful ballads, this album truly does it all.  Bridger, Dacus, and Baker’s individual components are unique and apparent, yet they manage to intertwine harmoniously, creating a captivating landscape of lyric and sound. Their close friendship is clear upon listening, and I think the tonal shift from their previous project is a testament to their growth as both artists and friends. I was lucky enough to see the boys in concert this July, and hearing Letter To An Old Poet live was quite possibly the best moment of my life. Named second best album of the year by Rolling Stone magazine, it is clear that the record has made its mark on musical history, and on me. 

Dominic Fike- Sunburn

Sunburn will forever hold a special place in my heart.  It explores themes of family, relationships, and identity, peeling back the layers of Fike’s life through acoustic guitar, riveting vocals, and genre-bending sound.  As suggested by the title of this album, too much of a good thing can hurt–Sunburn encapsulates this, examining the sacrifices that accompanied Fike’s rise to stardom.  Sunburn has a song for every possible emotion on the spectrum, and yet they all share the same addictive, incredibly danceable quality.  If you enjoyed the soundtrack of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, take a look at this album; Mona Lisa, the album’s seventh track, was featured in the film, and deservedly so.  Ultimately, Sunburn is achingly real, but also SO much fun.  With inspiration from icons such as Weezer and Eminem, and a high-energy pop-punk feel, Sunburn is an album I’ll be dancing to for a long time.

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Alyssa Borton

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