9. Ratboys – The Window
There may not be a more perfect song to capture the music scene in 2023 than the lead track from the Ratboys' fifth album – “Making Noise for the One You Love.” Julia Steiner’s songwriting has never been as consistently strong. On The Window, she and her bandmates from Chicago have crafted a near-perfect rock album, with bouncy power chords and country-tinged ballads. Several of the songs may overstay their welcome (it’s hard to pull off the extended jam of “Black Earth, WI” if you’re not an Allman Brother), but even those songs tend to be so good that it barely seems to matter.
BEST TRACK: THE WINDOW
8. Megan Moroney – Lucky
Beyond the generic impulse toward female empowerment, there may be nothing riot-grrrl about Megan Moroney’s debut. She’s traditional country and makes no apologies. Indeed, when her hit single “Tennessee Orange” landed last year, she sounded about as traditional as you get – going as far as using SEC football rivalries as a potential roadblock to romance.
But the deeper you go into Lucky, the more you hear an artist carving out her own course – which fortunately for her coincides with popular modern country. Every country artist from Tanya Tucker to Gretchen Wilson to Ashley McBryde has a “girls gone wild” drinking song like “Lucky.” They all may have a self-reflective heartbreak song “The Girl in the Mirror.” Or a free love anthem like “Another on the Way.” It’s just that Moroney nails every single one of them. And then there are quirky sweet/sad ballads like “Why Johnny” (addressed to June Carter Cash) and “God Plays a Gibson.” By the time you her signature “Georgia Girl,” you have to be a fan.
BEST TRACK: GEORGIA GIRL