The Best Music Howie Heard in 2023

In random order:

Black Milk, “Everybody Good?” (2023) – “Everybody Good?” was the first I heard of Black Milk, and after it knocked my socks off I started going backward through his discography to see when he got so amazing. The answer? Allllll the way back at the start. RIYL/FFO Q-Tip, Lupe Fiasco

billy woods & Kenny Segal, “Maps” (2023) – Five minutes in (“Soundcheck”), I knew this was my AOTY, and I never really doubted it in the months after. And when you get to “Hangman” and “Baby Steps”?? Whoooo! RIYL/FFO Madlib, Boldy James, Armand Hammer, Open Mike Eagle

Sines of Exquisite Pleasure, “Modular Systems” (1982) – Aptly named, these long-overlooked synthesizer and piano jams helped center me many times this year. RIYL/FFO Abul Mogard, Alessandro Cortini

Aesop Rock, “Integrated Tech Solutions” (2023) – Endless, generous brilliant bangers from the dean of rap studies. RIYL/FFO MF DOOM, Del the Funky Homosapien

Secret Machines, “The Moth, The Lizard, And The Secret Machines” (2023) – The rare “lost” album that lives up to its legend, “The Moth…” is a fantastic yin to the yang of the band’s poppier later work. RIYL/FFO Spiritualized, Slowdive

Stik Figa, “Pookey: Stik Figa Finds Himself​.​.​.” (2023) – Impossible to truly pick one of Stik’s three incredible albums from this year, but this is the one that feels most like just hanging out with the man, which I love. RIYL/FFO Oddisee, Little Brother

Curren$y and The Alchemist, “Continuance” (2022) – Huge shoutout to whoever turned me on to Curren$y this year. I think it was LeftE Grove on Twitter but was never able to track down the exchange. Doesn’t matter, this knocks. RIYL/FFO Pusha T, Talib Kweli

The Hold Steady, “The Price Of Progress” (2023) – A full-band Finn solo outing in the best possible sense, “Sideways Skull” even conjures Boys And Girls In America energy. RIYL/FFO Wilco, The Replacements

Ryuichi Sakamoto, “12” (2023) – How can so few notes sound so singular? Despite the familar palette there is no mistaking this old master’s final set for anyone else. RIYL/FFO Pauline Oliveros, Tangerine Dream

Bully, “Lucky For You” (2023) – Alicia’s been chasing the energy of “Feels Like” since whatever happened with the band happend, and she finally caught it, bringing some new producting tricks along for the ride. RIYL/FFO The Breeders, Speedy Ortiz

The Hold Steady, “Heaven Is Whenever 2021” (2023) – Yeah, this re-imagining of the first Franz-less LP is that good; it recasts the first record of the slight mid-career unevenness into the last record of their classic period. RIYL/FFO Wilco, The Replacements

LUVCRAF, “The Skinwalker” (2023) – A very re-listenable set of weird rippers, AKA exactly one of the things I want from local mad scientist Dr. Daniel G. RIYL/FFO Aphex Twin

Tim Hecker, “No Highs” (2023) – Beautifully unsettling; a masterfully executed summation of ideas explored throughout Hecker’s long exploration of experimental and ambient music. RIYL/FFO Fennesz, Keith Fullerton Whitman

The National, “Laugh Track” (2023) – The fellas finally unbutton their shirts a button or two and get loose, thereby making their best record in a decade. RIYL/FFO The National

Osees, “Intercepted Message” (2023) – I don’t know, a record of Dwyer’s just finally really connected with me. RIYL/FFO Ty Segall, Jay Reatard

noname, “Sundial” (2023) – I love a free mind doing their thing and letting it all hang out. Helps that the beats bang, too. RIYL/FFO Georgia Anne Muldrow, Lauryn Hill, Chance The Rapper

Sparklehorse, “Bird Machine” (2023) – Lovingly towed into safe harbor by family and bandmates in the wake of Mark’s 2010 death by suicide, this set strips Sparklehorse back a bit to let the songs shine through. RIYL/FFO Grandaddy, The Flaming Lips

Slowdive, “everything is alive” (2023) – I never really connected with a Slowdive record until this one, where they summon vibes intimately unique and comforting. RIYL/FFO Ride, HUM

Here are 24 more records I loved:

Andre 3000, “New Blue Sun” (2023)
Armand Hammer, “We Buy Diabetic Test Strips” (2023)
Crimson, “Complete” (2023)
Crosses, “Goodnight, God Bless, I Love U, Delete.” (2023)
Demos, “Hell’s Angles” (2023)
Feist, “Multitudes” (2023)
Foo Fighters, “But Here We Are” (2023)
Giniss, “POOH” (2023)
Heidi Lynne Gluck, “Migrate or Die” (2023)
Howling Giant, “Glass Future” (2023)
Janelle Monae, “The Age of Pleasure” (2023)
Jerry Chapman, “east” (2023)
Jessie Ware, “That! Feels Good!” (2023)
Loscil & Lawrence English, “Colours of Air” (2023)
Mensa Deathsquad, “Personal Book Of Spells” (2023)
Mike Doughty & Andrew Livingston, “Ghost of Vroom 3” (2023)
Sam Cooke, “Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963” (1963)
Scores, “Vol. 2” (2023)
Selvedge, “Capacity” (2023)
Stik Figa & Leonard Dstroy, “Jewell Ave John 2” (2023)
Stik Figa & The Expert, “Ritual” (2023)
Strategy, “Graffiti In Space” (2023)
Tiffany Gouché, “The Found Album” (2023)
Til Willis & Erratic Cowboy, “Grinding Of The Stars” (2023)