Wrapping up 2023: Music

The Happy Fits at The Masquerade in Atlanta, April 16, 2023
Photo by: Me

As usual, my live music anchor of the year was Shaky Knees in Atlanta, where I was introduced to several acts that I followed all year. However, I saw several other concerts this year that were stellar and came across a variety of new albums that fueled by bus rides, bike rides, and drives. Here are the artists and albums that made my year sing.

Deadpan Love
By Cautious Clay, 2022

I played this album more than any other this year. Cautious Clay played Shaky Knees and by the time the festival happened, I was already spending a lot of time with his music. There is something playful and Frank-Ocean-reminiscent in Clay’s lyrics, and he’s a widely talented instrumentalists. He released a new album later in the year, but I haven’t spent as much time with it. More than any other album this year, it’s the one where I know exactly what’s coming next after a song finishes. He was fantastic to see live.

Talking Book
By Stevie Wonder, 1972

I spent the first two months of this year listening to this album almost exclusively. It gave me that exquisite joy of finding music that’s new to you buy an artist you already love. My dad saw Stevie Wonder in the last 60s, and his description of that concert have always been magical. This album carries several songs that everyone knows, but “You and I” and “Blame It On the Sun” were such joyful discoveries for me. I was first put onto the album in 2022 from reading the “50 Years Ago, Stevie Wonder Heard the Future” in the NYT.

As Above, So Below
By Sampa the Great, 2022

Sampa was new to me this year, sliding in as a recommendation because of something else I was listening to. This album sounds like a superhero soundtrack playing in the background of poetry slam. Sampa is strong, vocally quirky, boisterous, and happy to remind everyone that she’s the current queen of Zambian pop. I had tickets to see her show at Terminal West this year that I had to dip on because of my father’s surgery. But my partner and a close friend went in my place, and said that it was electric.

By Noname, 2023

After more than a five year break, Noname was back this year with this album that dropped in July. I remember checking online everyday for a week waiting for it to show up. It’s fantastic. Her lyrics have become so rich and narrative in nature; each song has two or three different stories happening simultaneously. Like Sampa, she builds really strong collaborative pieces with other artists. My partner and I saw her recent show in Atlanta, and it was best stage energy I’ve seen all year. Noname doesn’t present as an underground, experimental artist anymore (which, by the way, I loved). On this album and at her show, she was all style soul. My favorite track is “boomboom”.

everything is alive
By Slowdive, 2023

I remember Slowdive a little from the 90s. When the showed up with a new album this year, I thought: I’ll give that nostalgia rock a try. But I was wrong. This is more moody and new and instrumental than I remembered. Within a week, I was putting this on to sleep at night, when I was working, and while I was making food in the kitchen. They have a beautiful and haunting sound.

In case you’re thinking about going to Shaky Knees next year, feel free to have a listen to my SK24 playlists, organized by day (the artists were just announced this week). I always leave off the big artists (I often don’t use stick around to see them), and I use these playlists to spend some months learning new music and making decisions about whom I want to see. The debates get kind of frenzied around April. Let me know if you’d like to get in on the group discussion.


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