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The Time Has Come for the Very Last New Music Playlists of 2023

Let's catch up on some songs I missed earlier in the year.

10:08 AM CST on December 13, 2023

Provided; YouTube|

Ber: Tyla

As 2023 winds down and best-of lists proliferate, I can't help think about all the tracks I didn't get to write about here this year. So I'm using this final playlist roundup as a chance to catch up. And then next week, I'll prune and tinker with the playlists to present my favorite tracks of 2023 overall.

Local Picks

Ber, “Slutphase”

A northern MN drama kid settles in the Cities after a stint broadening her mind and honing her popcraft overseas, her husky voice and unsparing wit both ideal for this banger (if you’ll excuse the term here) about screwing your way beyond a breakup. “Everybody needs a slutphase while they’re young and hot,” she sings and maybe half-believes. 

Dad Bod, “Milkdrinker”

You think you know where this is headed at first: moody femme voice, spare guitar arpeggio, moderate tempo. Then it digs in. Then it explodes. A band to watch.

Dark Bunny, “BLANKSLATE”

“If I were you I’d swear I’d hate me,” Emily Youel declares, exuding dance-pop confidence whether electrostrings slice in the background, fuzz-out synths punch alongside her, or the beat gets unexpectedly busy.. 

Good Morning Bedlam, “All My Friends”

Wild Balkan horns elevate the theatrical drama of Isaak and Tori Elker beyond studied folk into something far more frenzied.

Gully Boys, “Optimist”

Did I skip this in March because I felt like I write too much about this band? If so, silly reason! Brasher guitars than ever and a chorus that breaks the song open to reveal Paramorey goodness. 

Lizea Harper, “Gullible” 

The instrumentation is delicate, like a digital rendering of a lightly plucked harp, and then the beat kicks in like a slap from reality, as Harper sings about the near-universal experience of loving and sacrificing for someone who’s not worth it. 

Libianca, “People”

This Cameroon-raised Voice contestant isn't just going places—she's already been there. She performed this track—light and gorgeous, with Afrobeats touches percolating underneath, at the BET Awards Pre-Show earlier this year.

Moise, “Paranoia”

The highlight from Moise's new We Survived the Storm Vol. 2 EP for me, showcasing both his gruff midrange and searching falsetto over a guitar stab that’d have you watching your back too. 

Proper-T, “Background Smooth”

This Astralblak member gives you a beat to nod your head to as his filtered vocals drop wisdom. Too good to stay in the background.  

Run Westy Run, “Milkway’s Mainframe”

The fellas behind (what I’ll tentatively call) the local comeback album of the year (until I check to make sure I’m not forgetting someone) rock along with the carefree swagger much younger bands sweat to achieve.

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2Sb53cKND6jNJWO0034fS2?si=cb05a874328c46b7

Non-Local Picks

Bambii feat. Lady Lykez, “Wicked Gyal”

This scenemaking Toronto DJ whips a beat across your speaker channels as patois-slinging North London rapper Lady Lykez promises “anything goes,” and I’m reminded of crossover grime’s early aughts glory days.

Kara Jackson, “Dickhead Blues”

Kara Jackson may be a poet but concision is not her forte. Too often, her celebrated debut full-length Why Does the Earth Give Us People to Love? mistakes excess for abundance. But she’s at her most direct here, telling men who “make a vacation out of you” that “I am no longer amused by losers who find themselves losing me” and concluding “I’m not as worthless as I once thought. I am pretty top-notch.” 

Kaliii, “Area Codes”

The rapper who brought “Do a Bitch” to TikTok understands the power of playing it cool. She riffs off Luda’s “I got hoes/In diff’rent area codes” (“some of ‘em bros”) over a beat so minimal it’s barely there.

Sexyy Red, “Skeeyee” 

I mean, of course. The best phrase to shout in some irritating chump’s grill since Soulja Boy’s “Yahhh!” lo all those many years ago. 

Skrillex/Fred Again/Flowdan, “Rumble”

Apparently this galvanizing dubstep/jungle hybrid was a completed Fred Again track before it was Skrillexed, and Four Tet had a hand in it too, so lord knows who contributed what. But as Flowdan's baritone warns us of “killers in the jungle” in answer to Elley Duhé up-pitched call to "feel the rumble," the rhythms down shift with the perfect balance of promise and threat.

Ayra Starr, "Sability"

The latest wrinkle in Afrobeats' complex relationship to earlier Afropop comes via a beguiling Nigerian who lifts soukous star's Awilo Longomba "Coupé Bibamba" and boasts of her ability to "sabi," or understand.

2HUMPY / 2RARE: “2HUMPY Anthem”

Oh hell yeah. What do I know about Philly club? Not enough, apparently! But a Bomb Squad sax whine and a Rob Base flow over a hyperkinetic beat takes rap back to the basics, where MC means to move the crowd.   

Tyla, “Water”

The first South African to chart in the U.S. since Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela in the '60s is an irresistible seeker of erotic transcendence who floats above a (suitably) more liquid version of the jazzy amapiano style until she reaches the bold declaration of the chorus: “Make me sweat, make me hotter, make me lose my breath, make me water."

Wednesday, “Chosen to Deserve”

There’s something non-propulsive about this Asheville band's beat that often trips me up, but the centerpiece of Rat Saw God helps me understand why so many consider it the indie rock album of the year. Karly Hartzman drawls about her wasted youth so concretely, so winningly, that her guy’d have to not only be a prude but a dope to pass on her because of it.

Jess Williamson. “Time Ain’t Accidental”

If, like me, you first made Williamson’s acquaintance last year when she recorded with Katie Crutchfield as Plains, you'll want to move on next to her latest full-length. The biggest hook in the bunch belongs to this title track, a song about a love affair beset by complications of time and space. 

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7djNRNu2ynvjw0jgd6D3ib?si=5291fbc409bb4f31

Wanna get a local song considered for the playlist? To make things easy on both of us, email keith@racketmn.com with MONDAY PLAYLIST in the subject header. (Don’t, as in do NOT, DM or text: If I’m in a good mood, I’ll just ask you to send an email; if I’m in a bad mood I’ll just ignore it.)

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