Great Songs of Q3 2023.

steve cuocci
11 min readOct 1, 2023

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Metric — Just the Once

Metric was never a band I would look into for a song that was “fun”. I always considered them one of those ‘smart’ indie bands, ones who were looking to make something that was closer to art than joy. But later and later in their career, it seems like they’ve put a lot more writing time into sound pop songs, and ways to let loose a bit more without anchoring themselves in the slower undertow of what it means to make Thinking Music. This song really epitomizes the upbeat with a disco-adjacent jam that intends to get us more out of our heads and onto our feet. (YouTube)

Mick Jenkins — Smoke Break-Dance (feat. JID)

Back-to-back slick verses with a silky beat to create a bed on which to spread the sheets. Have to say, I’ve been a big fan of Mick for a long time, but it seems to me that JID has been finding himself on a lot of sick tracks and he’s doing a lot of great things on them. Usually not my type of artist, but I’m finding it harder and harder to come up with reasons to ignore him. (YouTube)

Jerome’s Dream — Reminders to Parallel

Love songs like this that have clean guitars and refined drum parts laying the groundwork with urgent and razor-sharp vocals clawing up the walls. The flip is switched partway through the song and it exposes some ticking time bombs which eventually reveal the post-rock sensibilities of a band that is way more cerebral, though violence tends to be their exoskeleton. (YouTube)

Johnny Booth — The Ladder

Man, Johnny Booth has appeared on so many of my playlists that I hardly can find more words to describe just what their brand of boundariless metalcore does to me and the way that the heft of their riffs bring me immaculate joy. The record this song came off of is destined to be in my top 10 of the year, I’m fairly sure and it’s the way that the band can juggle moments like clean singing, interesting breakdowns and crippling bridges without burning out the clutch, making it seem like they had multiple ideas they simply needed to force into a track. Everything feels organic. Even the horns here? It provides that perfect depth, the exact sinew that makes the muscles on the song tense. It’s exactly what the song needed. Just such a smart band. This record goes to way more melodic places than some of their other stuff has gone, but the way they’ve managed to make it feel like it was meant to be there instead of something they’ve done to suit a changing industry is perfect. Huge fan. If I could fit their whole album on this playlist, I would. Listen to Johnny Booth. (YouTube)

Thermal — Groupie

A cool fuzzy jam that leans into 90s ‘Garbage’ territory (excuse the heavy single quotation marks; I meant Garbage the band, not garbage the noun?), bordering on Yeah Yeah Yeahs sensibility. Just a good little pop song that doesn’t overthink itself, the reverb of the guitars starring in its role just as much as the faux-grunge vocals. (YouTube)

ANOHNI — Why Am I Alive Now?

Anohni’s voice is incredibly haunting, haunted even. Hollowed out and brought from somewhere deep in a sea of powerful whirlpooling dark water. The song’s instruments provide such a gossamer backdrop around the vocals that keep a desperate hold of the spotlight. There’s an ethereal Twin Peaks-y type of detachment from reality going on here, something that adds to the majesty of the song. Really a beautiful offering here. (YouTube)

Temple of Angels — Waving to the Wind

I love the record that came from this band. It’s got a little bit of a castle in the clouds type of feeling to it, something that gives it a mystical, larger-than-life feeling, kind of the same way that 80’s ballads would. It’s a different sense than most traditional 80s analogs are drawn. I imagine wings, feathers, huge gusts of mystic winds. I think the band name is just perfect for the way that this song lifts the sound to somewhere incredible. The illustration is perfect. Even the way that the bassist is produced adds to that flat, accidental twang that gives it a sound from a different time period altogether. (YouTube)

Jungle — Back on ‘74

Interestingly, this record hit me in a way different way than it did many of the other people I tried to recommend it to. I think when you first spin it up, it does have a little bit more of that traditional flat house sound to it, but over the course of the entire album, it never loses that pocket groove, a soulful sound that I can’t stop moving to. It could be that I’m not super versed in this type of sound overall, but I’ve mentioned a lot that I’ve tried to jump deeper and deeper into a lot of classic Motown and find that a lot of it can start to blend together, but I think this one is so deeply influenced by that sound and uses the best of the best sounds to elevate the mood. This song is just one of the fare found there, and on some level, I can see that it might be a bit generic for some, but it’s exactly the formula for the groove I’m seeking out. What an absolute jam. (YouTube)

Pile — Scaling Walls

I don’t know how to properly frame Pile’s sound. It’s almost a little bored, a little drab, a little bit like someone lost in a spiraling thought and lamenting the idea that they can’t find the words to set themselves free from it. But I think those descriptors are not only ways in which the band escapes my ability to illustrate them, but also work to add a beauty to them, a way that the journey of the song becomes that much more fraught with the little hells we let adorn our ribs. The keys are dark and hover at low altitude, right below the tongue. The groaning guitars and bass drag the lethargy outward into a massive blast radius that doesn’t obliterate but can’t help but deflate. (YouTube)

Angel Du$t — Born 2 Run (feat. Mary Jane Dunphe)

Angel Du$t’s new record is one of the most interesting that I’ll hear all year. There’s such an eclectic blend of different styles and tracks and influences that scatter wildly across the collection. This one spoke the loudest to me in terms of songs that I wanted to bring with me, but it the whole piece really acts as a sketchbook for the ‘supergroup’ to let all of their different ideas that don’t quite fit in the bands they currently occupy (Trapped Under Ice and Turnstile mainly). This song feels a little bit like it takes a little bit of a page from The Clash, but also some more traditional reggae, perhaps some ska (the Rancid type, not Reel Big Fish?), and even some upbeat pop music. Rad track, probably have listened to it more than any other song on this playlist. (YouTube)

Forest Swords — The Low

Hypnotic. Forest Swords’ strength always lay in their ability to create mantras out of the electronic loops, but this one’s vocal meditational labyrinth is such a journey, such a constant trudge towards the center of one’s own personal Earth that I can hardly break eye contact with it. The colors inside of it feel invented, adapted from our own collective consciousness to generate a Pantone the likes of which we’ve never experienced before. (YouTube)

Oneohtrix Point Never — A Barely Lit Path

Songs like this can stretch a bit long, but that’s mostly because I believe when they are being constructed, there are entire environments in mind, big huge concepts that need only to be constructed from their individual parts. It doesn’t come to a close until the whole thing is complete, and sometimes the journey there feels a bit long-winded, but you’ll find the other end of it with something aboard you that you haven’t yet experienced it. I would definitely say that the past 3 months have been science fiction tinged with the release of Starfield, the Telltale Games version of The Expanse along with the first of the three books in the trilogy of that series which I’ve been reading… so this song really scratches my itch within that genre, if there truly is a science fiction genre of music. Love this artist for their ability to try new things, to create music that feels more like art and less like songs, to use sounds that sound less than instruments and more like elements. (YouTube)

’68 — Removed Their Hooks

I have always really loved the creativity that Josh Scogin brings to the table, from his work with the origins of Norma Jean (Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child remains a masterpiece), to the entire breadth of The Chariot, but it has taken me quite some time to really experience ’68 with the same vision that he has put together. I think their new record drops end of September and I’m actually going to give this one a good deep dive, as two of the tracks that have come from it have really intrigued me. Less traditionally ‘heavy’ and more easily described as ‘frantic’, this sounds as if The Black Keys were trapped in a tornado and had one chance to save their lives through the power of music. The backend of this track really devolves into something darker, an unraveling like an exorcism gone wrong. Something within taking hold and portending a new and wicked future. (YouTube)

Mitski — My Love Mine All Mine

A beautiful song about intimate possession, hardly one which I can put words together to make any sharper for you. Mitski’s new record is one that I strangely got very excited about as it came out, and over the first few tracks I wasn’t really vibing with it… but once the album crested, I started feeling really great about what lay within and this song is definitely one of the brightest diamonds in that crown. Simply stated, lovingly told, deeply sung. (YouTube)

Night Verses — Arrival

I put all of my trust in Aric Importa and Nick DePirro. The way that they continue to make incredible and creative works both individually and within their group Night Verses (along with bassist Reilly Herrera) is something that, simply put, astounds me. They have myriad ideas, absolute legions of different ways to approach their instruments, and the ways that they are able to braid their skills together into marveling towers of heavy instrumental trebuchets blows my mind. This song is fast and hard without landing in anything-core territory, painting intricately with dashes and blasts of filth-dark color. Carnal weight with protean desires wing hard here, and the way that the extraterrestrial blast sounds feel less like experimental tangents and more like tesla coils that power the vessel is extraordinary. (YouTube)

I Feel Fine — Hiking Trails

Modern emo has taken on some definitive styles over the past few years, and since I hear less and less of it being propagated, it’s always a nice bask in the sunlight to hear a band do it with a nod to the roots, the past and the present while carrying the style into the future. There are some intricate guitar sounds that remind me a little of American Football and some big group vocals that wave the flag of groups like Everyone Everywhere. This song has a little bit of that grooving-on-an-island sound as well, so it isn’t all dreary and emotional, but can also bring a bit of a lightness as well. (YouTube)

Invent Animate — Heavener

Something about this song really landed well with me, and it reminded me a lot of The Deftones. Sadly, those boys have been quiet in terms of releasing studio stuff for a great deal of time (though Chino continues to bring new quality Crosses stuff to the forefront), so something like this with its chunky riffs, its delicate and slowly constructing vocals feels like its paying homage on some level. I like that the guitars drape deep into the background, but I do wish there was a little bit more bite to them and that they were mixed a bit closer to the front. Either way, a cool song from a band I honestly hadn’t had my eye on. (YouTube)

Dom Archey — Jewels (feat. Che Noir, Backwood Sweetie)

A slow flow through this whole track gives you a chance to really take on the words that the artists are delivering one by one. In a way, it kind of reminds me of the storytelling that Talib Kweli put out on The Beautiful Struggle. Che Noir is a new artists who I discovered this year, someone who I think has a nice new album this year and her features on other tracks has really shown that she’s out for something big in the game, something that she isn’t content on just being another Female Rapper, and I really respect that. Hook is smooth nice on this one. (YouTube)

The National — Turn Off the House

I feel so conflicted about The National making two great records in the same year. This second record that they surprise dropped is such a phenomenal one, one which hit me harder than the first one did. I don’t know which one impacts me more, but I know this one dropped a lot on me. Great record. This song in particular has a line that probably drove hard to many of us like an unapologetic nailgun: Leave all the messages blue, don’t even look at the screen. Full body gentle shutdown. So many people to let down. Parcel by parcel, that one disassembled me and put me in a zen garden, only to be scraped over by sand and time. (YouTube)

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