Now That’s What Joe Calls Music 2023

I find myself immersed in music throughout the day, every day, allowing me to discover a lots of great tunes. About a year ago, I decided to compile a playlist of songs that resonated with me over 2022. With a set of rules in place, I aimed to include tracks released or popularized during the year, with a few exceptions for those that I stumbled upon for the first time. To maintain variety, I limited each artist to one song, even if they had other noteworthy tracks.

The feedback from friends, especially Rob, who made it his go-to snow plowing soundtrack, encouraged me to create a new playlist for 2023. After all, Rob needs a fresh snow plowing soundtrack this winter.

This time around, I decided to be intentional about the playlist’s order. It’s essential to note that the order doesn’t imply a ranking; rather, it’s crafted purely for aesthetic reasons.

I started this blog partly to have a place I could share this playlist and my thoughts about it. Feel free to just listen and enjoy, or if you want to know more about my selections keep reading. Keep in mind that I am an album guy, and many of these songs are part of albums that are worth listening to in their entirety.

I’d love to hear if you find something new that you like, or if you have a recommendation for me.

If you liked Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories (I was obsessed), you’ll appreciate the seamless integration of “Un Deux Trois” by MUNYA into that vibe. Perfect timing for the 10th anniversary of Random Access Memories.

Stephen Sanchez is one of two artists that was also featured on my 2022 playlist (the other being Mitski, below). A standout on Sanchez’s 2023 album Angel Face, “High” showcases his enticing retro sound, which has become a personal favorite.

“Welcome To My Island” by Caroline Polachek is on this playlist solely for the incredible primal business in the first 25 seconds. I would happily listen to that on a loop. The entire song, with its Crystal Pepsi vibes, is a journey worth taking. I particularly enjoy the bit of vocoder and the little guitar licks after she sings “the ocean blue”.

My first exposure to Genesis Owusu was “Leaving The Light”, which made me deeply anxious and I had written him off entirely. Then “Tied Up!” made me feel good, and fascinated by the power this man’s music has on my emotions.

I’m a sucker for a good song that mentions Minnesota, especially when sung by someone with a voice as nice as Ber’s. “Superspreader” makes my list because it also sounds nice, has a catchy chorus, and brings a good amount of cleverness.

Olivia Rodrigo gives us the year’s best fuck you song with “vampire”. The lyrics are clever, the chord progression is devastating, the song is interesting and catchy without becoming overly repetitive, and Olivia’s delivery is piercing. The radio edit changes “blood sucker, fame fucker” for “blood sucker, dream crusher” which I find loses the essence of the track and makes it an entirely different, worse song.

“Nothing Matters” by The Last Dinner Party somehow lives in the early 80’s for me, if the 80’s were more self-actualized and empowered. I’m looking forward to their forthcoming album.

At over seven minutes long and quite even-keeled, I won’t blame you for skipping over most of “Hungersite” by Goose. Just please make it through the instrumental section that starts at 3:35. I typically connect with music almost entirely on the basis of the sound of the singer, but this guitar solo really woke me up.

Another track with a throwback sound, “Corner Of My Eye” by The Lemon Twigs really takes me back into that late 60’s early 70’s vibe. It lands in my ear pretty much as a slightly more mainstream version of Tiny Tim (“Tip Toe Through The Tulips”) that somehow just works?

Noah Kahan has had an extraordinary year. I fell in love with his album Stick Season in January 2023 while it provided my soundtrack for fixing up my soon-to-be-born son Luca’s bedroom. The title track is the highlight, but the rest of the album is really good too.

This is about as close to full-on country music that I will probably enjoy, but the juxtaposition of Zach Bryan’s gravelly voice next to the pure sweetness of Kacey Musgraves in “I Remember Everything” really works for me. Add in the unexpected (at least for me) drawn out and restrained pacing of “drinkin’” in the line “you only smile like that when you’re drinkin’”, and I’m all in.

“Eddie My Love” by Brigitte Calls Me Baby is yet another song this year with a decidedly retro sound. This time there’s a whole Roy Orbison thing going on, which is similar to why “The Curse of the Blackened Eye” by Orville Peck landed on last year’s list.

There is apparently some controversy over whether the Icelandic Laufey is the future of jazz, or if she even is jazz or not. I feel she is jazzish, and that’s fine, but I get that things are more complicated than that. Regardless, “From The Start” is an easy on the ears bossa nova song that for some reason reminds me of the fun opening to La La Land.

Last year I included Mitski’s “Love Me More”, and this year we have the more subdued “My Love Mine All Mine” where she showcases her lower register. I guess there’s just something about Mitski singing about love that connects with me.

My heart goes out to Sufjan Stevens, he has been going through some hard times lately. I’m thankful that he put out Javelin, another indie folks album a couple of months ago. “Shit Talk” is a standout track.

“What Was I Made For?” by Billie Eilish is quite a nice song on its own, but it symbiotically elevates and is elevated by its placement in the movie Barbie that it was written for.

I am obsessed with two things in “Nothing’s Free” by Angel Olsen: she sings like a saxophone, and then there’s the actual saxophone. I’m glad she decided to keep it. This track feels like the end of an SNL episode which is why it is the perfect closing track for this playlist.

There was a lot more great music in 2023 than I covered here, and I’m sure I missed a few favorites as well. I hope you enjoyed this musical journey and I’d love to hear what music you are listening to right now.


4 responses to “Now That’s What Joe Calls Music 2023”

  1. @lencioni Great post! Sorry this is totally off-topic, but how do you insert hyperlinks in text here (like you did in several spots)?

    1. Thank you! I wrote this post in WordPress which makes links easy (you should be able to see it here https://joelencioni.com/journal/53/). The post is federated via the official WordPress ActivityPub plugin.

  2. Robbie G Avatar

    Great playlist! I appreciate it even more knowing your insights into song selection and playlist position.
    Could consider doing monthly/quarterly playlists thought the year, too.

    1. Thanks Rob, I’m glad you like it. Let me know how it works for your snow plowing.

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