MMM Top Ten: 10 Must-Listen Songs of 2023 (So Far)

2023 has been packed with fantastic songs, both from some of music’s most reliable creatives and from a number of promising up-and-comers. So abundant has great music been this year, it’s been a struggle to confine the year so far to a list of the ten greatest songs. So much so, that I must begin this list with five honorable mentions that didn’t make the top 10, but remain vital listens nonetheless:

*Honorable Mentions:

“Fader” – Roisin Murphy (The latest single from her Roisin Murphy’s upcoming album is a euphoric pop sing-along about living life to the fullest.)

“Miss Lucy” – Liz Phair (The near-perfect piece of indie-rock that had been left on the cutting room floor during the 1993 Exile in Guyville sessions)

“County Road” – Margo Price (Margo Price’s hauntingly desolate tribute to a friend lost in a car accident)

“The Weakness” – Ruston Kelly (Ruston Kelly’s triumphant anthem about overcoming addiction)

“Carole With An E” – Brennen Leigh (A country up-and-comer’s infectious slice of honky-tonk)

#10. “Breathing Song” – Samia

Photo Credit: Sophia Matinazad

The emotional centerpiece of Samia’s excellent Honey is a horrifying slow-burn, continuously hinting at tragedy amidst a night gone wrong, until one’s worst fears are confirmed in the song’s final moments: “Samia, why would it matter what happened after you said… No,” she sings, confirming the song’s theme of sexual assault. A spine-tingling scream of “no” rings out the song, leaving listeners genuinely lost for words.

#9. “Safe To Run” – Esther Rose

Photo Credit: Brandon Soder

The title track from Esther Rose’s impressive new alt-country LP captures those midpoint moments during big changes where you begin questioning every decision you’ve made up until this point. It’s filled with unanswerable questions, and an unmistakable nihilistic streak runs through devastating lines like “I don’t care // If the whiskey drowns me.”

#8. “Shitty Town” – Sarah Mary Chadwick

Photo Credit: Darren Sylvester

It could be said that Sarah Mary Chadwick is the 21st Century’s most effective and compelling communicator of pain via music. She takes the concept of ‘confessional’ songwriting to new, staggeringly vulnerable heights and enjoys a powerful, cracking voice that is equal parts, Adele and Daniel Johnston. On “Shitty Town,” she tackles dissociation and depression with bravery and black humor, before landing on a roundly relatable sentiment: “Yeah, I know I’m angry // Why aren’t you?”

#7. “Stampede” – Jess Williamson

Photo Credit: Jackie Lee Young

The emotional centerpiece of Jess Williamson’s affecting new album is “Stampede” – an ode to an old partner who is now struggling with addiction. It moves affectingly between warm nostalgic recollections of better days and dispatches from the present. With utmost compassion, Williamson croons, “Heard it’s a battle, I know you’re givin’ them hell.”

#6. “When We Were Close” – Jason Isbell

Photo Credit: Danny Clinch

Jason Isbell’s devastating tribute to the late Justin Townes Earle speaks with immense intensity and affection to the consequences of loss from addiction and, the trauma of survivor’s guilt. In the particularly painful second verse, he speaks of Earles’ young daughter, hoping she’ll remember his smile but admitting, “She probably wasn’t old enough, the night somebody sold you stuff // That left you on the bathroom tiles.” For all the song’s explorations of pain, Isbell never reaches closure, wondering why he too hasn’t “traveled beyond the Great Divide.”

#5. “Begin Again” – Jessie Ware

Photo Credit: Jack Grange

You can’t get much closer to disco perfection than this! The luscious third single from Jessie Ware’s latest LP is a full-band, ecstatic celebration of release – and of finding real connection in a digitized world. “Can we begin again?” asks Ware repeatedly, and this song will make you want to hit that repeat button and let it begin again time after time after time.

#4. “A&W” – Lana Del Rey

Photo Credit: Neil Krug

A number of songs from Del Rey’s excellent new album would be worthy of a place on this list – the heart-wrenching “Kintsugi” and “Fingertips,” particularly. But the obvious centerpiece is the stunningly ambitious “A&W” – which is half slow confessionals and half surreal, “Shimmy Shimmy KO KO Bop”-sampling trip-hop.

#3. “Chosen To Deserve” – Wednesday

Photo Credit: Wednesday via YouTube

The centerpiece of Wednesday’s excellent new album is a grounded love song that refuses to shy away from unpleasant realities – filled with descriptors of drug use, over-drinking, and listlessness. At its core, it’s an ode to finding connection in a dirty, desperate world, with Karly Hartzman declaring, “Thank god that I was chosen to deserve you.”

#2. “Not Strong Enough” – Boygenius

Photo Credit: Ryan Pfluger

The centerpiece of Boygenius’s debut LP represents indie-rock at its most evocative – with angst about the future building into a cathartic chorus about accepting unknowing and fault (“I don’t know why I am // The way I am.”)

#1. “Younger & Dumber” – Indigo De Souza

Photo Credit: Angella Choe

“Younger and Dumber” is almost certainly the most affecting power ballad you will hear this year – a meditation on lost innocence and the people who turn us “sour.” It ripples with a sense of displacement (“I don’t feel at home in this house anymore”) and longing (“When I was younger, younger and prouder…”) and bursts into unbridled catharsis in its final moments.

Written by: Tom Williams

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