I’m going to admit something to you. Just to you – and not to everyone else – because you’re taking the time to read this, and I feel I owe it to you. Here it goes:
I did not listen to every song that was released in 2023.
Wow, I’m glad that’s off my chest. I know it must qualify as some sort of malfeasance for a writer who is setting out to identify the best songs of the year. I’m sure everyone else who is putting out lists like this has done their due diligence, hearing every last track, from hip-hop to hardcore, EDM to emo. New wave and new rave and new age and … you get the point. Why, just today, I listened to a couple of new J Mascis tunes that I had not even considered for my list. And I love Dinosaur Jr. (SPOILER ALERT – I didn’t really like his newest stuff.)
Anyway, with that out of the way, here are the absolutely, positively 25 best songs of 2023. In categories for your reading convenience.
BEST SONGS FROM THE BEST ALBUMS
I already covered this material in my “Best Albums of the Year” article, so just as a quick refresher…
“EL DORADO” by MOLLY TUTTLE AND GOLDEN HIGHWAY
A kick-ass history lesson on the American gold rush done by the best contemporary bluegrass band playing today.
“YEAR ZERO” by BILLY WOODS AND KENNY SEGAL
As if it wasn’t enough for woods and Segal to create the year’s best hip hop album, they went ahead and added Danny Brown to this track to give that weird menace that he is so good at.
“BABY ON MY BIRTHDAY” by SKATING POLLY
Perhaps the greatest hillbilly cowpunk song of all-time.
“GEORGIA GIRL” by MEGAN MORONEY
With all the culture wars swirling around country music today, sometimes it’s nice to just have a good old-fashioned song about kicking a cheater to the curb.
“JEEZ LOUISE” by UNDERSCORES
Underscores throws everything at a listener on this riotous track, that seems to morph into at least three different songs during its seven minutes. Henhouse comes out of nowhere in the middle to usher in the first transition, and then everything changes yet again in the final minutes. Somehow, it all works.
“VAMPIRE” by OLIVIA RODRIGO
On an album chockful of standouts, this stands taller than the rest.