AADL 2023 Staff Picks — Audio

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Music, podcasts, CDs, records, and more:



The Rotten Opera 

I'm a pretty big fan of everything Fletcher Shears puts out, whether it's through his band The Garden or his solo work as Puzzle. While all his music borders on experimental, I found that this recent album can get wonderfully bizarre in a way his previous works felt too restrained to do. {Bandcamp} {Spotify}

Yves Tumor 
Praise a Lord Who Chews but Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds)
It's always a good time when Yves Tumor releases another experimental album. There's honestly nothing I could say about this album that would be any better than just listening to it (and then listening to it again, and then again, etc.) {AADL}

Sufjan Stevens 

Very few people can write about love in the frank but encompassing way Sufjan Stevens can. Stevens described this as his first "singer-songwriter" album since 2015's Carrie & Lowell, and it feels like a return to his folk roots while still maintaining all the innovation of his later 2010s work. {AADL}


At the time of this writing, It has been 2,657 days since Frank Ocean released an album and Sky Ferreria’s second album is nowhere to be seen, but everything is OK because Kelela finally released new music. This half-dance, half-ambient album is a perfect follow-up to her debut album, and just as mesmerizing. {AADL}

Earl Sweatshirt & The Alchemist 
Voir Dire 

After being teased for the last two years, Earl Sweatshirt and The Alchemist finally released their collaborative album this year. Their chemistry is undeniable and this moody but evocative album is a career high for both artists. {Spotify}

Frost Children 
Hearth Room

Frost Children released two albums this year, one similar to their other hyperpop-esque dance albums (which I love) and another that takes a more stripped-down and sincere approach. Hearth Room is the latter, and their departure into a more minimalistic (at least compared to their other albums) sound really impressed me. They can do it all! {Bandcamp} {Spotify}

King Krule 
Space Heavy 

I will be transparent and say that King Krule could release just about anything and I would probably like it. While still focused on his trademark dreary sound, there are enough surprises along the way that make this album feel like the next step in his career. {Bandcamp} {Spotify}

Danny Brown & JPEGMafia 
Scaring the Hoes 

Danny Brown & JPEGMafia are a perfect match, and I'm very glad they finally linked up to create this messy and energetic album. Danny Brown's music has always been interesting, but I think JPEGMafia's production is what pushed this album for me. {Bandcamp} {Spotify}


2023 saw the release of many amazing shoegaze albums, but GIZMO by Tanukichan emerged as my favorite by a long shot. {Bandcamp} {Spotify}

A New Tomorrow

I have been following ZULU since the My People... Hold On EP was released in 2020, and it's been amazing to see the band grow into one of the most interesting new hardcore acts. {Bandcamp} {Spotify}

The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We

I honestly don't think Mitski has the ability to release a bad album. What else can I say, she don't miss. {AADL}

Andre 3000 
New Blue Sun

After 17 years on hiatus, Andre 3000 made his return to music with this ambient album. It's explicitly charming and oftentimes passive, which is all I could ever ask for when it comes to ambient music. {Spotify}

SPELLLING & the Mystery School 

On Spellling & the Mystery School, musician Spellling records new versions of previously released songs. While her typical murky synth-heavy sound is still present every rework feels like a completely new and at some times more expressive song. {Bandcamp} {Spotify}

Gilla Band 
Most Normal

Gilla Band is a very good, very noisy, and somewhat surreal post-punk band, and they made a very good, very noisy and somewhat surreal album. I love noises and if you like noises you will love this. {Bandcamp} {Spotify}

Otoboke Beaver 
Super Champon 

Otoboke Beaver is one of my favorite active punk groups, and Super Champon might be my favorite release from them. If you ever get the chance to see them live, buy the tickets and don't think twice. {Bandcamp} {Spotify}


Santogold is such a landmark album, and it still sounds just as fresh as it did when it was released. {AADL}

Los Campesinos 
Hold On Now, Youngster… 

Los Campesinos debut album holds a very special place in my heart, it's incredibly catchy and very beautifully produced. {Bandcamp} {Spotify}

Yukihiro Takahashi 

Yukihiro Takahashi, known as the lead vocalist for Yellow Magic Orchestra and drummer for Sadistic Mika Band, passed away in January of this year. He left behind an amazing legacy, and I would honestly recommend any of his solo works. However, his first solo album, a French-pop-inspired romp, is my favorite. {Spotify}


HEIDI P. — HR Associate

While cruising along the Queen's Highway through Ontario, I heard a couple of podcasts that were just pure fun:

The Debaters with Steve Patterson
Some of the debates I've enjoyed so far are “Tape vs Glue,” “Living With Grandparents,” and “Theater Actors.” {Apple Podcasts}

This Is That
This Is That innocently broadcast a story titled "Gordie the Unmanned Spacecraft" over the radio and I was thinking, “Geez this story is hilarious ... can it be true?” Nope, this is just goofy and I love it. Other stories that I've enjoyed are, "Invisible Art" about an up-and-coming artist, "Texas Sugar Water," and "Mannequin Police Force.” {CBC Podcasts}

Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend

New to me this year is the podcast, Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend. Someone told me about an episode with Martin Short (love, love, love) and Steve Martin and I was sold from there. He has the best guests (Aubrey Plaza, Questlove, Steven Wright), and his assistants Sona and Matt are just hilarious. What I love most about this show is just how much laughter there is. Especially from Sona, she's always losing it in the background and has a terrific laugh. I never really watched late-night TV and missed Conan's show so I had no idea how much I would enjoy his self-deprecating humor, obnoxious jokes, and witty banter. {Apple Podcasts}

Wiser Than Me

Julia Louis-Dreyfus has wonderful conversations with some phenomenal women. Every episode has been a pleasure, especially Carol Burnett and Jane Fonda. {Apple Podcasts}



Tom Cardy
Big Dumb Idiot

My favorite album of the year is a bunch of silly meme songs by an Australian TikTok star. This is not what I expected to happen at all. My taste in music is all over the place, usually consisting of a mix of alternative, classic rock, and show tunes. However, Tom Cardy makes hysterically funny videos to accompany his songs, and after watching a few, I decided to listen through his albums just to see what else he has done. His songs have a unique energy and his lyrics are simultaneously rhythmically satisfying and superbly funny. Nearly every song on the album has a comedy video version, but often the audio track on the album will be extended from how much is in the video. I can't quite put my finger on why I love Tom Cardy's music so much, but it's funny, entertaining, sounds great, and is just an all-around great listen. {Bandcamp}



Danny Elfman
Big Mess

I caught the wickedly creepy music video for "Happy" some time ago but had missed the rest of this album until now. It's impish, urgent—and inspiring to see an older rocker creating such stellar work. {AADL}

Paper Moon: Original Recordings Featured in the Soundtrack and Django Reinhardt and the Quintet of the Hot Club of France Vintage Thirties Recordings.

This soundtrack is responsible for tattooing my brain with several very silly, extremely sugary Depression-era pop songs. {AADL}

"1A with Sohla El-Waylly: Fall food tips and party hosting tricks"

For all her serious cooking chops—watch her compose "a resplendent 7-course tasting menu entirely and exclusively from convenience store ingredients" here—Sohla El-Waylly sounds so open and unassuming in this freewheeling radio interview. There's likely something here for food lovers of all stripes, but this nugget caught my ear: "As you cook, taste often because flavors change throughout the process." Hey, 35-year-old me, are you listening? {1A}

Viagra Boys
Cave World

An unreasonably cool, bitingly funny work of cultural anthropology from these Swedish punk rockers. {AADL}

They Might Be Giants

I feel very much at home inside this album's bountiful, exuberant weirdness. Hat tip to my colleague Roosevelt for the recommendation! {AADL}


If Tirzah keeps kicking out the hard jams, I'll keep telling you about 'em! If I were to make a music video to accompany this 33-minute thrill ride, it would involve rocketing through an infinitely-expanding haunted house that's spinning around in deep space. {Domino Records}

Bikini Kill
The Singles

The hilarious miniseries pen15 uses a truncated version of "Demirep" for its theme music, so I checked this collection out, which contains the full cut. All nine of these blistering riot grrrl tracks wail hard. {AADL}

Celestine Ukwu
Tomorrow Is So Uncertain"

A gorgeous, relaxing memento mori. {Bandcamp}

María Elena Walsh
"Don Dolón Dolón"

This beautiful, spare, pensive song poses a riddle. Can you solve it without consulting a friend on the vocab, like I had to? {YouTube}



Imaginary Worlds

The tagline/introductory phrase host Eric Molinsky uses at the beginning of most shows is, "How we create them, and why we suspend our disbelief." It's a cerebral look at the things we, as humans, make up to entertain ourselves. Episode examples: religion in fantasy/sci-fi books, action figures, Doctor Who, how Ukrainian fantasy writers are dealing with the Russian invasion, and radio dramas. If people have made things up, he'll probably talk about it, if he hasn't already. {Website}



Dark Blood EP

{AADL} {Spotify}

Red Velvet 
Chill Kill

Red Velvet make-a-bad-album challenge—impossible. {Spotify}



Guilty EP

The rizzness. Enough said. {Website}




I don't know Japanese, but I found this song very catchy and the music video by TOHO Animation is stunning. Some viewers have speculated that the pink-haired character featured in the music video is implied to identify as either trans or a cross-dresser (both of which I am all for). There is a contrast shown in their facial expressions throughout the video that supports this interpretation. Now, the great thing about music videos is that they are often up for interpretation by the viewers, and no two theories could be the same. Regardless of what folks take away from “COLORs,” they all share their love for the music and animation. {YouTube} {Spotify}


BUMP OF CHICKEN has become one of my favorite Japanese bands and Pokémon holds a special place in my heart. So naturally when one of the group’s songs was featured in the Pokémon music video "GOTCHA!," I had to put the music video on repeat. {YouTube} {Spotify}

Laura Jane Grace
“Day Old Coffee”

A co-worker started singing this and now it's stuck in my head. Honestly, it's catchy and it's simply day-old coffee microwaved to boiling. {YouTube} {Spotify}



the record

{AADL} {Spotify}

Noah Kahan
Stick Season




Pontiac Trailblazers
Seeing The Pontiac Trailblazers on Friday nights at North Star Lounge was one of my favorite things to do all year. Only musicians this good can be so loose and have so much fun on stage. Beyond the core members who play upright bass, guitar, washboard, violin, and mandolin, the band features a variety of amazing guest musicians who all add their flavors to the lineup. You never know what old-timey songs or contemporary covers (bluegrass ABBA anyone?) will be in the mix each week. {Facebook

Breathe Owl Breathe
I can’t believe how exciting it was to see Micah and Andréa from Breathe Owl Breathe perform a whole concert in someone’s living room this past summer. After listening to so much music in my life, hearing anything so beautiful was startling and not something I will soon forget. {Website}



The Maybe Man

This album takes you on a trip through the hardships of growing up and discovering your time on Earth may not be as long as you originally thought. Each song references itself in other songs throughout the album asking the listeners to solve the clues of each hidden meaning found within their music. The Maybe Man had me sobbing and bobbing along as I was let through a roller coaster of emotions. {Website}



Neil Gaiman reads A Christmas Carol
New York Public Library Podcast

The NYPL has one of Dickens’ prompt copies of A Christmas Carol, which you can read more about here. Neil Gaiman came in costume to do a public reading from this prompt copy. It’s a great listen, especially if you’re a fan of both Dickens and Gaiman! {SoundCloud}



The Maybe Man

I’ve been listening to AJR since the group’s album The Click came out in 2017. AJR is an indie-pop band consisting of three brothers: Adam, Jack, and Ryan Met. I recommend their music to anyone I cross paths with because they are truly an eccentric band. AJR has a way of taking common life experiences and feelings that are hard to put into words and turning them into fun, alternative songs that bend the rules of what you might consider “typical” indie-pop music. This is why they may seem a little strange or controversial to others at first, but the wide variety of unique orchestral sounds and creative lyrics the brothers incorporate in their songs is what made me fall in love with their music. The Maybe Man is by far my favorite album they’ve written. {Website}




Heavy metal perfection. Intense, heavy, catchy, sci-fi-laden guitar heroics from the Pacific Northwest. This list is not ranked, but if it was, this would easily be my album of the year. Exogalactic has it where it counts in every category. {YouTube}

Ontological Mysterium

With enough prog sensibilities to please your uncle who loves Rush (it’s me—I’m your uncle who loves Rush), and a treasure trove of complex/catchy riffs in tow, somehow these Philly-based death dealers just keep getting better. There’s a reason you’ll see this one topping a bunch of year-end lists—it rules. {YouTube}

Blood Incantation
Luminescent Bridge

It’s only two songs, but Luminescent Bridge is an exciting look into things to come for death metal’s most promising young band. One track is the kind of cosmic death metal you’ve come to love and expect, and the other is a spacey, synth-heavy, Pink Floyd-ish instrumental. My only complaint is that there isn’t more, but get stoked—there’s an Arthur Rizk-produced full-length on deck for 2024! {YouTube}

Dying Fetus
Make Them Beg For Death

This album is tough. I know, I know—your mom doesn’t like their band name, and I guess I don’t really either? But when you need something to lift heavy things to and some Cookie Monster vocals to giggle at, look no further than this 37-minute bruiser. These guys are legends for a reason, and on their 11th (!!!) release, they deliver what may be their greatest. {YouTube}

Tomb Mold
The Enduring Spirit

Tomb Mold is maybe the second funniest name on my list, but there is nothing to laugh at on The Enduring Spirit. This album is a quantum leap forward for the Canadian trio, akin to the growth of ’90s pioneers Death; a firm shift into heady/progressive territory, while not sacrificing any of the laser-precise death metal they’ve released previously. Death metal should always be a little bit weird, and these guys are proudly carrying the weird flag up the mountain. {YouTube}

Bestial Devastation/Morbid Visions

Re-recordings of early material are almost always a recipe for disappointment, but the Cavalera brothers have achieved the impossible. What were once nearly unlistenable albums now have a massive and crystal clear production (thank you, Arthur Rizk, the real MVP of this list), showing all the promise that Sepultura had in their early days in a whole new light. Feral, urgent, heavy, and great. {YouTube}

72 Seasons

As a lifelong listener of Metallica, they have not always made it easy to be a fan, especially between the years of 1995 and 2008. There is nothing really “new” to be had here, but I find it very telling that between its release in April and now, I’ve listened to this album a lot. Tons of great earworms, a handful of very classic Hetfield riffs, and their best production since 1991’s Metallica, this album is a fitting addition to their towering legacy. {YouTube}


After losing a primary songwriter, Jonathan Hulten, in 2021, I feared the change facing Tribulation might be too great for them to maintain their spooky, goth-tinged death-n-roll thing that makes me love 'em so much. Hamartia proves me wrong, and serves as a four-song taste of where they’re going; it’s darker, a little bit heavier, and makes me excited for their grim, corpse-painted future. {YouTube

Foo Fighters
But Here We Are

Following the tragic passing of drummer Taylor Hawkins, things looked pretty grim for Foo Fighters. But Here We Are is a bonafide triumph, packed with the kind of powerful hooks and stadium-ready choruses you know from Dave Grohl and company, but also faces grief and loss head-on in tracks like “Under You” and “Hearing Voices.” As a bonus, you get an album of Grohl smashing the drums, which is plenty of reason to celebrate. {YouTube}

John Carpenter
Anthology II (Movie Themes 1976-1988)

While I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t rather have a new feature film from the legendary John Carpenter, the work he has been doing with his son and godson re-recording old film scores is plenty exciting in its own right. The star of the show here is arguably the unused bits from the classic 1982 remake of The Thing, but each track delivers the analog synth goodness and feverish pulse you love from Carpenter. {YouTube}



Blank Check with Griffin & David

Blank Check examines the careers of successful directors who are often seen as auteurs. Or otherwise known as directors who are showered with money to make their passion projects. I got into it because their most recent series covers David Fincher, one of my favorite directors. Both the hosts have an encyclopedic knowledge of the movie industry, and I’ve learned more about movies in the past few months of listening than I have in my lifetime prior. {Spotify}



Spilt Milk


The Maybe Man




Poetry Unbound

The lilting, Irish voice of Pádraig Ó Tuama reads and guides you through hand-picked poems (Thanks, Amanda S.!). {Website}

Bad Idea Social Club
Michigan-based graphic designer/artist Aaron McCall interviews guests about "creativity and life and processes and f*cking up and all that sh*t." {Website}

Nicholas Britell
If Beale Street Could Talk

I have not yet seen the film or read the book (soon!), but this gorgeous score has essentially been the soundtrack to my fall. {Spotify}

The Record

You probably already know this one is good. {AADL}

Oh He Dead
Oh He Dead

A "DC-based indie soul band with haunting harmonies and a penchant for MURDER." {Spotify}



Formal Growth in the Desert

I'm a long-time fan of Detroit's post-punk Protomartyr, and their sixth album Formal Growth in the Desert exceeded my expectations (which is saying a lot). Heavy yet hopeful, this album deals with death, grief, and learning to live after loss. "Graft Vs. Host" is particularly solemn, and particularly beautiful. (If you're not familiar with the band, also check out Under Color of Official Right.) {AADL} {Spotify


I love black/sludge metal, and CELESTE's album Assassine(s) made me an instant fan of this new-to-me band. Super heavy, super dark, and strangely cinematic. I'm not able to tell you what this album is about thematically, because everything I learned in high school French class has been lost to the knowledge-black hole that is time without practice. Anyway, check out "De tes yeux bleus perles," my favorite track on the album! {Spotify}

Goldie Boutilier
Cowboy Gangster Politician EP

A big departure from the rest of the albums I have listed here, but a great one nonetheless. Goldie Boutilier channels Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" in the title track "Cowboy Gangster Politician." (She sounds so much like Stevie Nicks that it blows my mind.) "K-Town" also won me over with its lyric references to Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, and Hank Williams ('Cause I've been through a ring of fire / Been so lonesome I could die / I'm the daughter of a coal miner's daughter"). Give this album a listen if an indie-pop/'70s country/rock mash-up album sounds cool to you. {Spotify}


I was slow to draw when it came to listening to IDLES. I had previously heard the song "Never Fight a Man With a Perm" off the album Joy As an Act of Resistance and loved it. But then, for some reason, I stopped exploring the band’s discography. I'm glad I got back around to it because CRAWLER is nothing short of amazing. This album is an emotive look at trauma, recovery, and the temptation to relapse. "Progress" and "The Beachland Ballroom" are a couple of my favorites. {AADL} {Spotify}



I’ve never listened to BABYMETAL before seeing them last summer—they absolutely shred. Japanese synchronized metal and a killer live show. {Website}

Fydolla Ho
Most know Shawnee Smith from the Saw films or the show Becker, but she fronted a band for a while, too. Fydolla Ho’s single “Deciding” took me by surprise. Check it out. {YouTube}

Dave Matthews Band
Walk Around the Moon (2023)
This album is fantastic. Not much else to say. Acoustic/jam band/singer-songwriter. “Monsters” and “Singing from the Windows” are my favorites. {YouTube}

Global Probing (2023)
I was able to catch this tour live last summer, so glad they released the live recording. Fronted by Maynard Keenan (Tool, A Perfect Circle) and Carina Round, Puscifer is an electro-rock, experimental, indie, whirlwind of satire and existential songwriting. {Website}

Dethalbum IV (2023)
Again, not much to say. Deth & Metal! For real though, Brendon Small is an amazing multi-instrumentalist. Support the homie if it’s your type of genre. {YouTube}

Johnny Hollow
Goodbye Horses (2023)
The original tune is a classic, Johnny Hollow’s gothic lo-fi dance vibes breathe some new life into it. {Bandcamp}

Requiem (2023)
Their latest album is fantastic from start to finish if you’re into Nu-Metal. It’s great to hear these dudes continue to release music. {YouTube}

Cracker Island (2023)
A wonderful collection of unique collaborations spanning genres while keeping it funky. {Website}



Pod and Prejudice

This podcast is a super-fun look at the works of Jane Austen through the perspective of Becca, an Austen-loving lawyer, and Molly, who is reading the books for the first time. The two best friends discuss the books and all of the movie adaptations, through a modern lens, with the third season of the podcast highlighting Emma. {Website}

Hidden Brain

I enjoy every episode of Hidden Brain that I happen to catch while driving in the car on the weekends, but the “Healing 2.0: Change Your Story, Change Your Life” episode—about the stories we tell ourselves and how they shape our lives—was fascinating. {Website}

The Call of the Void
An award-winning Dramatic SciFi-Horror podcast set in New Orleans, but produced and recorded independently in Southeast Michigan by the husband and wife duo of Michale and Josie Herman and starring many local actors and creative artists. (Pulp article from 2020 on the show here.) {Website} {Spotify}

Conditions of a Punk


Jacob Jefferies
Leave it to Love


Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers
Pursuit of Wonder



{Spotify} {YouTube}

Bright Blues


Sufjan Stevens

{Spotify} {Website}


{Spotify} {Website}

Woody Goss
High Loon!




Fun Home 

The Broadway recording of Fun Home came out at around the time when I was taking a break from theatre in favor of a cappella. Coming back to it was a welcome experience, and this musical was the right production for the job. Fun Home is a musical by Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron based around Alison Bechdel's graphic novel memoir of the same name (highly recommended, too). Kron's lyrics and Tesori's artful melodic choices blend with the narrative to produce a moving story around her coming-of-age as a lesbian, as partly defined by her father's sudden death and possible suicide. The album is intense, hilarious, tragic, and absolutely stunning. {YouTube}

Ada Rook

Although some may know her for being one-half of the critically acclaimed Black Dresses, Ada Rook's solo work is no less expressive. Filled with intense, gritty vocals and satisfying electronic growls and roars, UGLY DEATH delivers an exciting and fun musical experience. Of note is the frequent and creative sampling of the anime ICE. Vocalist Ash Nerve, a frequent collaborator, also makes a feature on one of her tracks. {Bandcamp

The 8-Bit Big Band
Game Changer

The 8-Bit Big Band is an ensemble of musicians who render video game soundtracks in big band form! While the group’s last full album, Backwards Compatible, had more obvious hits (most notably, "Meta Knight's Revenge," which won a 2022 Grammy for best arrangement), Game Changer boasts a set of talents on its own. Jonah Nilsson from Dirty Loops makes an appearance on the cover of "Last Surprise" from Persona 5. "Tifa's Theme" makes for a lush rendition. Alan H Green provides exquisite vocals for "Pollyanna" from Earthbound, and it's probably one of the best covers of that song I've heard. If you are at all a fan of video games, Game Changer and The 8-Bit Big Band are worth listening to! {YouTube}

Tech Won't Save Us

In a world where billionaires seem to be gambling directly with the technologies we use every day, Tech Won't Save Us interrogates the hype of new developments in Silicon Valley. Usually bringing on a selection of guests to help discuss current events in tech, Paris Marx and friends do a wonderful job of lending a critical eye to technologies such as LLM and crypto, which are beginning to seem ubiquitous. This podcast helps dissuade some of the anxieties that are beginning to emerge as a result of irresponsible tech developments, and correctly center humans as both perpetrator and victim of the computer age. New updates come out every week! {Website}




A studio album released on December 30, 2022, featuring hometown heroes Vulfpeck barefoot, bathrobed, and sporting some sort of gnomish sauna hats, every track on Schvitz is a funky, catchy joy. The song about earworms is not even the catchiest one, and Vulfpeck handily demonstrates how much better Dylan songs can be with 100% less Dylan. Best track: “Miracle.” {YouTube}



billy woods & Kenny Segal

What if “conscious rap” was not corny or bad but 110% exceptional? For my money, the smartest and funniest rapper out there is billy woods. He churns out perennial masterpieces, entwining endlessly evocative imagery and precisely deployed cultural references with an attuned awareness of historical injustice. His music is almost endlessly rewarding, unearthing new strata of effortlessly profound meaning with each listen. This album is his interrogation of touring, travel, and life on the road, but woven into these observations are musings on anarcho-primitivism, gentrification, alienation, commercial weed, and more. On the dreamily jet-lagged single “Soft Landing,” woods spits, “Free political dissidents from they cages / but leave ‘em open / we got lists of names, pages, and pages / wouldn’t want to waste the space the previous regime gave us.” He has such an effortless cadence—almost more talking than rapping—that still finds the most satisfying pockets in Kenny Segal’s masterful production. This conversational approach makes the record less didactic and more fun. 

The Layover” features one of woods’ rare instances of flexing on a song, as the foodie boasts, “Big jar when you donate my brain / spicy chili oil, let that bad boy marinate.” Another track, “Blue Smoke,” opens with a semiotic analysis of celebrity (“Over time, symbols eclipse the things they symbolize / I sympathize but read the contract before you sign”), proceeds to poke fun at the government’s surveillance of Black radicals by conjuring up a personal team of investigators (“FBI agents narrowed they eyes / frustrated, asking to be reassigned / been on this n-word for months, I think it’s all just rhymes’”), and ends with a mouth-watering recipe for fried pork belly. These disparate, even dizzying shifts in topic work because woods’ raps are so mandalic; despite their specificity, they enfold worlds of experience. If you like his solo work, check out Armand Hammer, his duo with rapper Elucid, which released another stellar album this year titled We Buy Diabetic Test Strips. {Bandcamp} {Apple Music} {Spotify}

Nourished by Time
Erotic Probiotic 2 

Heartrendingly beautiful alt-ish R&B(-ish) by Marcus Brown, exploring the intersection between (often failed) romance and capitalism. His lyrics are bracingly political, sneaking in DeLillo-esque levels of postmodern critique of American society. “The Fields” is a standout and it never fails to make me emotional, with lines like “church on highway intersections / look at what the future’s been rejecting”—a tossed-off observation about how whole swaths of society more or less were foreclosed upon. Another standout is “Daddy,” in which Brown compares themself unfavorably to their girlfriend’s sugar daddy, which despite its tragic content is super upbeat and danceable. {Bandcamp} {Apple Music} {Spotify}

Yves Tumor
Praise a Lord Who Chews but Which Does Not Consume (or Simply, Hot Between Worlds) 

This album glimmers like a gemstone beetle in an abandoned museum display. Sean Bowie has shed many of the soul/R&B trappings that defined their previous album, Heaven to a Tortured Mind, meanwhile focusing all of their frontperson energy into a brutally brittle yet staggeringly self-assured glitz-grunge record. As a ‘90s baby and aughts teen, I came of age at a time when alternative music was a major driving force in American culture. So my appraisal is only slightly clouded with the bias of nostalgia when I say that I am hard-pressed to imagine a listener who would not love this album. Impressive staying power kept this in rotation for months. {AADL} {Bandcamp}

Peso Pluma

Peso Pluma is the future. Peso Pluma is music. Peso Pluma is larger than life. {Apple Music} {Spotify}



Florence & the Machine
Dance Fever

I am a slow listener. I find new artists and albums in at a glacial pace and once I latch on to something I like, I listen to it over and over again. The playlist that results from my Spotify Wrapped always has a hilariously large Venn diagram overlap with the previous year’s playlist. I don’t yet know what Spotify will tell me about how many times I have listened to this album this year. I pointedly ignored Dance Fever for many months after it first dropped in May 2022 because I was not ready. All this waiting was well enough, because Florence & the Machine added a final track, “Mermaids,” in 2023 and dubbed the new version of the album “complete.” 

I would not call Dance Fever a radical departure from previous Florence & the Machine albums, more like a filigreeing of themes and styles they have already explored, but with notable maturity. Among other things, it is an honest—perhaps in places too honest—account of the psychic effects of aging. Since Florence Welch is just a couple of years younger than me, I appreciate that someone close to my age is making a soundtrack about it. Dance Fever is about how the old tricks that used to work aren't working anymore and that part of growing up is figuring out how to do things for yourself instead of relying on holdovers from youth. {AADL}

Office Ladies

I am going to cop to having listened to pretty much every episode of this podcast. It’s an Office (U.S.) rewatch with Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey, who played Pam and Angela, respectively. But I think if it were just about the show, it wouldn’t hold a fraction of the charm that it does. Yes, you do learn way more about The Office and how it was made than you ever thought you wanted to know, but there’s much more. Jenna and Angela go on ridiculous deep dives about bizarre topics at best tangentially related to the show. They try to convince each other to watch their favorite movies and TV shows (like that time when Jenna watched all of the John Wick movies because she thought it was Angela’s favorite series, and it turns out Angela had only seen half of the first one.) Angela reads from the amazingly dorky diaries she kept as a young aspiring actress. They do great interviews with their co-stars. Really, Office Ladies is a podcast of deep friendship that happens to be about a TV show. If you have a long drive ahead of you, or some late-night marathon knitting, or frantic house cleaning, this podcast is a choice companion. {Website}



Barbie: The Album

My most listened-to album of the year is the soundtrack to the Barbie movie. Not only was the film a lot of fun, but the album made for the movie of mostly original tracks was wonderful. In particular, I enjoyed “Speed Drive” by Charlie XCX, “Choose Your Fighter” by Ava Max, and “Pink” by Lizzo. The song “Pink” has a B-side of sorts in “Pink (Bad Day)”, which doesn’t appear on the official CD. But all the songs are available on Spotify and other music-streaming services. {AADL}



Who Shat on the Floor at My Wedding? 

A caper for the ages. {Website}



Taylor Swift
I eat, sleep, and breathe for Taylor Swift (Taylor’s Version ONLY). {AADL}

Normal Gossip

I have been obsessed with this podcast since it started in 2022. Anonymous and fun gossip? Sign me up! {Website}



Britney Spears 

I decided to listen to Blackout in its entirety for the first time this year after reading an article about the album, which was somewhat overlooked when it was released but also influenced a new wave of underground pop artists who “had their formative years in the ‘00s” and were drawing on that time for inspiration. I have always loved pop music, specifically 2000s-sounding pop music. I go to listen to the artists mentioned in the article (Kim Petras, Slayyyter, LIZ) when I feel the need for new pop music that sounds like how I remember pop music sounding. It even described Lady Gaga's The Fame (an album I hold dear to my heart) as “a graduate of the Blackout school of pop.” I had high hopes for this album going into it, and it delivered!

Another article describes Blackout as “the first time [Britney] sounded truly dangerous”:

"Looking back, the record opened the gates of dark, glitchy dance-pop heaven (or hell) for a new breed of artists immersing themselves in the world of futuristic, more experimental sound. By the next decade, you couldn’t turn on a radio station without hearing chopped-up, pitch-shifted vocals over layers of jagged club beats."

I find Britney’s raw, distorted, and uninhibited vocals and the experimental, somewhat unfinished-sounding production refreshing compared to the overly polished and manufactured sound you typically find in pop music. Blackout sounds like somebody took a pop album and dragged it through a creepy post-apocalyptic sci-fi fantasy–—while still being catchy, danceable, and proudly pop. {Youtube} {Spotify} {AADL}

Kim Petras
There Will Be Blood

{YouTube} {Spotify}

Hemlocke Springs
stranger danger!

{YouTube} {Spotify}

Hemlocke Springs
sever the blight

{YouTube} {Spotify}

Lana Del Rey
Tulsa Jesus Freak

{YouTube} {Spotify}



the record

These three musicians create something truly special when they work together. {AADL}

Everything But The Girl

EBTG’s first album in 24 years recalls their early work but is still incredibly fresh. {AADL}

Depeche Mode
Memento Mori

The best kind of dark melancholy from Depeche Mode. GenX forever. {AADL}

Hermanos Gutiérrez
El Bueno Y El Malo

This one takes me back to long solo drives across the Rockies and Southwest when I feel like I need to get away. {Bandcamp}

Everything is Alive

Goes right into my heart. {AADL}

An Inbuilt Fault

This new release is lush and complex and continues to grow on me with each listen. {Bandcamp}

Sinead O’Connor
The Lion and the Cobra

One of my favorites from when I was in middle school—went back to it this year after Sinead O’Connor’s death because it’s an amazing album that holds up incredibly even after 35+ years. Best track: “Troy.” {AADL}

Chelsea Wolfe
“Whispers in the Echo” (single)
“Dusk” (single) 

Chelsea Wolfe’s next album (She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She) doesn’t come out until 2024, so these two singles will have to hold me over until then. {Bandcamp}

The Runcast with John Richards

I returned to running this year after a bit of an unintended break, and this is a fabulous playlist from KEXP of excellent new-to-me music with a sprinkling of motivation and commentary to keep me going. {Website}

The Illustration Department Podcast with Giuseppe Castellano
Thoughts on Illustration with Tom Froese

These two podcasts have offered a lot of great advice about technique and process as I work to explore new areas of creative work. {Website} {Website



Laura Jane Grace
Day Old Coffee

“Day-old coffee microwaved to boiling, day-old coffee microwaved to boiling ...” {Spotify}

Eternal Blue

I discovered Spiritbox because of Megan Thee Stallion's single “Cobra,” which featured the band. I am in awe of Courtney LaPlante's vocals. Never trust anyone who thinks women can't be metal vocalists. {Spotify}

Motion City Soundtrack
Hold Me Down

My best friend introduced me to this band. I love the line, “This may sound bad and don't take it the wrong way / I love you, however.” {AADL} {Spotify}

LCD Soundsystem
new body rhumba

I listened to this a lot when I was anemic, lol. {Spotify}



When this album came out in 2020, I completely ignored it aside from the hit single “Runner.” It was fine, it was good, it was catchy. Nothing could prepare me for the obsession I would later have with the entire album, including but not limited to “I’ll Haunt You,” “Swimmer,” and “Echoes.” {AADL}

Listening to this album is the reason I had to listen to Swimmer. It was so good, I needed more. "Hotel Valet” might be my favorite, but there isn’t a bad song on the album. {AADL}

Bad Seeds 

A podcast hosted by Summer Rayne Oakes about the lengths some plant collectors go through to obtain their specimens. An investigation into the criminal side of the plant market from the theft of a plant worth thousands of dollars in 2020 to the dubious origins of famous conservatories and botanical gardens and everything in between. {Spotify}



Keshi and RINI did some heavy lifting on my listening habits and my mental health this year. Smooth, comforting R&B, with a little soul, a little lo-fi, and a little alternative mixed in, they will always hit the spot. I saw Keshi perform at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, and I expected it to be good, but he blew me away. His range live was more than any of his recordings have ever captured. I died. This is my ghost writing this. {Spotify} {Spotify}

NCT 127

Ay-Yo is the repackaged version of NCT 127’s 2 Baddies album, and let me tell you, the three songs they added to Ay-Yo go hard. I already liked the 2 Baddies album, but the new tracks "DJ," "Skyscraper," and "Ay-Yo," ended up being my favorites on the repackage. "DJ" especially stays on heavy rotation, because it’s so much fun to dance to. {AADL}

One Ok Rock
One Ok Rock is a Japanese rock band that very much fills the 2007 emo/pop-punk void in my life. If you know, you know. {Spotify} {AADL}


Onew’s voice is so powerful and captivating, he grabs hold of you with the title track and doesn’t let you go til the last song is over. This is an album I just keep coming back to. {AADL}


Taeyong, the leader and main rapper of NCT 127, and NCT as a whole, released his first solo album this year, and what. a. treat. While the title track is an absolute bop, my favorite is the more introspective “Back to the Past.” {Spotify}

Janelle Monáe
The Age of Pleasure

Immediately yes. Front to back, no skips. As soon as I was done listening to it, I sent the Spotify link to the besties so we could all rave about it together. {AADL}

NCT Dream

Bop after bop. This album is so much fun! And then it ends with the sweet softie song “Like We Just Met.” Ulch, I’m here for it. I tried to fight liking this album so much, but here we are. {AADL}


D.O. always brings the vocals and the emotion. {Spotify}

BTS members’ solo albums: They are all so different and I love them each so much:


Moody, dancy, electric. “Alone” and “Like Crazy” are my favorite tracks. (Spoiler alert: there’s also a hidden track on the CD that isn’t on streaming platforms). {AADL}

Agust D 

100% Agust D and HERE FOR IT. He hits the ground running with “D-Day” and “Haegeum,” and then with each song the album gets a little more mellow, and now I know what Mariah Carey meant because he’s got us feeling emotions. This album is so great I don’t know how to pick my favorite tracks, but for right now, in this moment, I’m going to say “D-Day” and “SDL.” I had the absolute pleasure of seeing his solo concert, and needless to say, it was incredible. BTS concerts are just on a different level. {Spotify}


This album is so V. It’s lo-fi, jazzy, chill, and an absolute vibe. Perfect for a scenic drive, to listen to while doing the laundry, or maybe while you’re having a study moment (I wouldn’t know, I haven’t had to study in years). My favorites are “Rainy Days,” “Love Me Again,” and” For Us.” Is that half the album? Yes. What do you want from me? Just go listen to it. {AADL}

Jung Kook

Global pop superstar alert! This album isn’t a K-pop album, it’s just a straight-up pop album and it's just smash hit after smash hit. Each song is a different genre within the pop umbrella and shows off Jung Kook’s range. When I listened to “Somebody” for the first time, I was like, “OK, who is the feature on this track?” Joke’s on me, it was JK using his voice in a new way. “Yes or No,” “Standing Next to You,” and “Somebody” are my favorites. But I mean come on. Jung Kook’s vocals don’t miss. {AADL}



Blackpink in 2023: 

Another stellar year for Blackpink (and possibly their last?!). This year the superstar K-pop quartet completed its Born Pink tour, with a total of 66 shows across 22 countries and four continents. They drew in over 1.8 million attendees in total, making it the most-attended concert tour by a Korean girl group as well as the highest-grossing concert tour by a female group. They were the first girl group to perform at Allegiant Stadium, Oracle Park, and Dodger Stadium during their U.S. encore tour, and only the third female act in history to sell out back-to-back shows at MetLife Stadium (the other two acts were Beyonce and Taylor Swift, also this year). Their tour is documented in nearly six hours of behind the scenes in 33 episodes of their YouTube series Born Pink Memories (B.P.M.).

In March, Jisoo became the last Blackpink member to debut solo music, a two-song recording titled Me, featuring “Flower” and “All Eyes on Me.” Me broke the record for the best-selling recording by a K-pop female soloist and became the first to sell a million copies in history. Jennie also dropped the song “You and Me,” which has two versions: the original version she debuted during the first shows of the Born Pink tour as well as the special edition she performed at Coachella. Jennie also had a cameo on the HBO show The Idol (which was generally terrible) and was featured on one of the soundtrack songs, “One of Your Girls,” with The Weeknd and Lily-Rose Depp.

Blackpink also became the first Asian act to headline Coachella, performing songs such as “Pretty Savage” and “Shut Down.” Their performance of “Typa Girl” (one of my personal favorites) quickly became the most-viewed Coachella performance of all time on YouTube and is worth watching. They also headlined Hyde Park in the U.K. and performed “Pink Venom” and “Shut Down” with a live orchestra at the Le Gala des Pieces Jaunes charity event in Paris organized by the first lady of France, Brigitte Macron. In addition to this, Rose was recently invited by U.S. First Lady Jill Biden to speak at the APEC Mental Health Discussion at Apple Park, and all four members of Blackpink were invested as honorary Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) by King Charles III during a special investiture at Buckingham Palace, which was also attended by President of South Korea Yoon Suk Yeol.

In addition to all of this, Blackpink continued to grow in popularity and was awarded the Guinness World Record for the most-streamed female group on Spotify with over 8.8 billion streams as well as the Guinness World Record for the most viewed music channel on YouTube for a group, with over 30.15 billion views. Toward the end of the year, Blackpink released a single called “The Girls” for their mobile app Blackpink The Game. But will this be their last release as a group? Their original seven-year contract expired this year, and it’s anyone’s guess if they will resign with their management company Y.G. Entertainment, which has experienced more than a few issues in recent years. However, after a year like this one thing is for sure: These girls need some time off and a long vacation!!


The only other music I cared about this year was my discovery of South Korean singer BIBI and the release of her first studio album Lowlife Princess: Noir. The absolute standout track is “Vengeance,” an absolute bop that's fierce and powerful! I played it nonstop all year and eventually became one of BIBI's top 0.5% fans on Spotify. The “Vengeance” music video is graphic and amazing and essentially a mini-movie in its own right, showing off BIBI's multi-talent as an actress and as a vocalist. I also really enjoyed this video of her singing a mashup of 10 of her songs live—it really highlights her incredible vocals and charismatic personality. {YouTube}

What Scares Us

Amanda, Matt, Christopher, and I continue to have a great time reviewing movies on our horror movie review podcast What Scares Us—a podcast where four friends share the horror movies that freak us out. Recent standout episodes include PhantasmThe Prowler, and The Endless, and we’ll have a brand new episode on The Descent out in January. Join us! {Spotify}{Apple Podcasts}



Judy Banker
Bona Fide

On her fourth Americana LP, Ann Arbor singer-songwriter Judy Banker explores genuine feelings of heartbreak, grief, and love. Backed by rich harmonies and rootsy instrumentation, she takes listeners on an 11-track journey that explores the cycle of relationships and the emotions that accompany them. The country-rock title track shares Banker’s frustration about a dead-end relationship while the bluesy heartbreak tale, “You’re Not There,” addresses the disappointment of unrequited love. Other highlights include the heart-wrenching grief ballad, “Slow Dance,” the serene instrumental, “Dancer Road,” and the fiery blues jam, “Got Me Goin’.” Explore Banker’s Bona Fide journey through our past interview with her here. {Bandcamp} {Spotify}

The City Lines
Analog Memories

Pat Deneau, the vocalist, rhythm guitarist, and songwriter for The City Lines, links personal stories as a father, husband, firefighter, and tribal member into a perceptive collection of songs on his band’s sophomore album, Analog Memories. Alongside bandmates Bob Zammit, Skott Schoonover, Jason Rhoades, and Megan Marcoux, he finds his way through spirited choruses, propulsive power-pop-punk instrumentation, and a touch of classic American twang across the album’s seven tracks. Standout tracks include “Different This Year,” “Seasons Won’t Stay,” and “Erased (AM Remaster).” Read our past interview with Deneau and Zammit. {Bandcamp} {Spotify}

Adam J. Snyder
Down From the Mountain Out to the Sea

Ypsilanti singer-songwriter and guitarist Adam J. Snyder overcomes life’s obstacles to follow a new path on his Down From the Mountain Out to the Sea EP. He shares a positive outlook throughout his sophomore release, which features soft, breathy vocals; concise lyrics; bluesy influences; and percussive, rhythmic, and fingerpicked acoustic guitars. Those elements create a comforting sonic experience and reflect the hope, encouragement, and determination embedded in the EP’s five tracks. Standout tracks include “Where the Light Comes From,” “Sound and Fury,” and “Road Runner.” Revisit our interview with Snyder. {Bandcamp} {Spotify}

Cat Lung

After feeling torn apart during the pandemic, Ann Arbor’s Cat Lung assembled a holistic approach to healing on Fragments. The prog-rock quartet of Diane “Impi P.” Crang, Pamela “Pammy Whammy” Benetti, Steven “Even Steven” Crang, and David “Dr. David” Beauchesne replaced shards of disillusionment and loss with slivers of hope and connection. Despite the album’s title, Fragments is anything but a piecemeal approach to classic prog-rock for Cat Lung. It features cohesive elements of jazz-rock, classical, psychedelia, and experimental music fused across 10 imaginative tracks. Definitely check out “Fragments,” “Dreamland,” “Cat Lung,” and “Dark Acrobat (Aliisa-Kissa Tuonelaan).” Revisit our past interview with the band. {Bandcamp}

Sundogs & Weekends on the Moon

Ypsilanti hip-hop artist deegeecee’s Sundogs & Weekends on the Moon features contemplative poetry set against a backdrop of hypnotic beats and compelling post-rock and film score samples. The debut “two-disc” album features deegeecee, aka Daryhl Covington, reflecting on loss, self-doubt, growth, and change across 15 introspective tracks. Inside his mystical world, listeners learn about deegeecee’s appreciation for cosmic imagery and magna references (think Solanin) while processing life experiences in Ypsilanti, East Lansing, Metro Detroit, and Chicago. Standout tracks include the majestic opener, “Weekends on the Moon,” the life-questioning monologue, “306,” the ode to gratitude, “Sundogs,” and the risk-taking anthem, “Open Mic.” If you’ve arrived at a crossroads in life and need to think carefully before making your next big move, then Sundogs & Weekends on the Moon is the ideal listen for you. It’s hard not to feel stronger and wiser after listening and living vicariously through deegeecee’s journey. To learn more, check out our past interview. {Spotify}

Adam Plomaritas
Old Time Love

Earlier this month, Ypsilanti pop-soul singer-songwriter and guitarist Adam Plomaritas released his new EP, Old Time Love, which explores the challenges that come with being loved and loving others. The EP’s five infectious tracks are filled with heartfelt vocals, vibrant horns, and upbeat pop-rock instrumentation. Highlights include “Love Me Better,” Plomaritas’ honest response to the music industry as an artist; “All I Need is You,” a tribute to loving someone from afar and then having that feeling returned; and the stuck-in-your-head title track as a nod to lasting marriages and lifelong commitments. Old Time Love also serves as a milestone EP for Plomaritas in another way—it’s his first in a decade since releasing 2013’s The Hard Way album. Check out our recent interview with Plomaritas here. {Spotify}

Kylee Phillips
Long Time Coming

Kylee Phillips is a vocal powerhouse that’s left a lasting impression in Washtenaw County since releasing her “debut” EP, Long Time Coming, in October. Filled with autobiographical themes, the Ypsilanti indie-pop singer-songwriter shares a spectrum of emotions—ranging from disappointment to anticipation to relief—across five introspective tracks. The EP’s cathartic lyrics and atmospheric pop instrumentation also allow listeners to instantly grasp and connect with Phillips’ perspective. While only 20 minutes long, it’s impossible to avoid digesting each track, but the confessional opener, “Where You Found Me,” the vulnerable ballad, “Home to You,” and the tender title track are my favorites. To learn more, check out our past interview. {Spotify}

Chris DuPont
Fragile Things

Ypsilanti singer-songwriter Chris DuPont beautifully weaves intimate storytelling with raw emotion across his folk-pop catalog. His latest EP, Fragile Things, carries that tradition forward and reflects on navigating personal crises before and during the pandemic. What resulted are five personal songs about the trajectory of relationships and the vulnerability, honesty, and wisdom that come with them. DuPont shares those tales through emotive vocals, atmospheric folk-pop instrumentation, and ambient soundscapes. The title track examines the challenges of sharing your true feelings in a relationship that’s struggling to stay afloat. Another gem, “Heights,” spotlights sacrificing yourself, accepting a relationship's demise, and seeing the outcome differently in hindsight. Finally, “Annie Lindbergh” reveals the growing passion and love for another that’s rising to the surface. Dig into our past interview with DuPont here. {Bandcamp} {Spotify}

Joanna Sterling
Queen of Wands

There’s something magical about hearing Ann Arbor singer-songwriter Joanna Sterling’s album Queen of Wands for the first time (and on repeated listens). While the tarot and nature references create a majestic setting, it’s Sterling’s emotional journey of self-discovery, authenticity, and courage that truly resonates with me. Her beautiful sophomore release reveals her inner thoughts, feelings, and experiences as a trans woman across 13 cathartic tracks. The indie-folk album’s confessional ballads, rallying cries, and melancholic tales document Sterling’s journey and pack an emotional punch. It’s tough to pick a favorite track from Queen of Wands but give “Joey,” “Girl by Choice,” “So Afraid,” “Queen of Wands,” and “Deep End” a spin. You can’t help but feel empowered and renewed after digesting those tracks and the album as a whole. Revisit our past interview with Sterling. {Spotify}

Sara Tea
Songs for Discarded Souls

Chelsea singer-songwriter/producer Sara Tea chronicles a cathartic journey of reclamation on her EP, Songs for Discarded Souls. For her debut release, she unearths past fears and forges a new path for the future across five tracks steeped in experimental soundscapes. Ethereal elements of ambient music, trip-hop, and indietronica seamlessly fuse with her lush vocals, especially on “Forward Bow” and “Time Will Avenge.” At only 17 minutes long, it’s a refreshing and innovative release to hear from start to finish. Learn more from our past interview here. {Bandcamp} {Spotify}

Blind Liars
The Ringer

Ypsilanti indie-rock quartet Blind Liars provides a vulnerable outlet for understanding your self-worth on The Ringer. Inside the band’s debut album, Schala Walls, Jon Root, and Eric Bates unearth deep emotions from the human psyche—including shame, disappointment, and loneliness—to reveal an authentic sense of self. (Bassist Mari Neckar joined after the album was recorded.) As one of Blind Liars’ lead vocalists and multi-instrumentalists, Walls channels personal experiences of social alienation due to neurodivergence and queerness across eight cerebral tracks. The Ringer is a truly eye-opening and compelling listen, especially due to its intimate ballads, howling sing-alongs, and emotional tales steeped in ‘60s prog-rock, shoegaze, and a kitchen sink-full of other influences. Standout tracks include “The Ringer,” “Together,” “Alarm Clocks,” and “pt. 2.” To learn more, check out our past interview. {Bandcamp} {Spotify}

Bill Edwards
So Far

As an accomplished songwriter, Bill Edwards often tells stories from multiple perspectives across an astonishing catalog of songs. This time, the prolific Ann Arbor singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist opted to share his own stories on his latest Americana album, So Far. Edwards features 14 tracks that collectively reflect on a life filled with optimism, love, gratitude, loss, wisdom, and nostalgia. The album’s honest sentiment, introspective lyrics, and earnest instrumentation invite listeners to contemplate their lives alongside Edwards. Be sure to check out “A Whole Lotta Hell Left to Raise,” “No Time Like the Past,” “Please Cheat,” “Too Much Sayin’ Goodbye,” “Time for You to Go,” and “So Far.” Read our interview with Edwards here. {Bandcamp} {Spotify}

Social Meteor
Social Meteor

Social Meteor’s self-titled album serves as a collective voice for sharing Gen Z and Millennial struggles. The Ypsilanti indie-rock quartet of Paul Robison, Jordan Compton, Brad Birkle, and Patrick Frawley didn’t intend for the debut release to speak for their respective generations but realized their exploration of relationships, losses, and lessons quickly resonated with others. On Social Meteor, the band features evocative lyrics and cathartic instrumentation across a dozen tracks, which include elements of indie rock, alt-rock, psych rock, post-punk, and jam rock. The album’s tracks also function as journal-like entries that reflect on everything from toxic people to lingering grief to adulthood struggles to instant gratification. Out-of-this-world tracks include “King Cobra,” “A Conundrum,” “Getting Older,” and “Social Media.” {Spotify} Check out our past interview with the band.

Jeff Karoub
Between the Commas
During his time at The Associated Press, Jeff Karoub wrote obituaries about Motown legends, baseball coaches, and other people of note. Those obituaries recounted life accomplishments and caused the Dearborn singer-songwriter to ponder how he’d best summarize his own life. What’s resulted is Between the Commas, a compelling folk-rock album that shares contemplative tales of loss, connection, crisis, and change. Across the album’s seven tracks, Karoub, now a senior public relations representative at U-M, features hopeful lyrics and emotive instrumentation. Favorite tracks include “Between the Commas,” “Summer’s Almost Over,” “Little Bird,” and “On the Planet.” Learn more through our past interview with Karoub.



Flavien Berger
"La F​ê​te Noire"

In February 2007, I was watching a Washington Wizards basketball game and a Mitsubishi car commercial came on. We were in the market to get a fresh ride since we had a baby on the way and our then-current vehicle was so crappy that there was a good chance the hospital would call child-protection services before we left the parking lot. But the need for new speed wasn't the main reason why I kept watching the ad; it was because Mitsubishi used The Fall's 2005 jam "Blindness" in the commercial. Good enough for me. The next day, I went to the car dealer and drove off with a new-used Mitsubishi Outlander without knowing a thing about the vehicle.

A similar thing happened this year when said Outlander took its last ride. I have no patience for buying big-ticket things and I just wanted a car to materialize in my driveway. That didn't occur for two months despite me wishing really hard, but Hyundai felt my pain and released a commercial this fall featuring Flavien Berger's striking "La F​ê​te Noire" as the soundtrack. I said, "Yep, that's the car for me." Went and got a new-used Hyundai Santa Fe like I had read every issue of Car & Driver back to front and made an informed decision. (Hell, nah.)

"La F​ê​te Noire" is a minimalist song that has the repetitious cool of Suicide's "Ghost Rider" with French lyrics that talk about the rush Berger gets from carnival rides. It's prob the same sort of rush I got when I heard "Blindness" and "La Fête Noire" and knew I didn't have to research a thing about my next rides. {YouTube}

The Replacements
Tim (Let It Bleed Edition)

I'm in favor of remixing everything. Nothing is sacred, nothing is finished. So when I read The Replacements would take a stab at presenting a better mix of their 1985 classic, Tim, I was in favor of it. Because whatever, if I didn't like the new mix, I could still listen to the old one. That's what happened with 2019's Dead Man's Pop, a box set that featured a new mix of The Replacements' 1987 record, Don't Tell a Soul, which has one of the worst snare-drum sounds in history—but I love it, so I've ended up listening to the OG version more even though I like the updated version, too. But Tim (Let It Bleed Edition) is so far and away a better mix than the original that I can't imagine bothering to listen to the 1985 edition again. Ed Stasium brought out so many details in the mix, and the overall clarity of sound benefits Paul Westerberg's finest collection of songs. There's a lot of extra stuff on this box set I probably won't revisit much—demos and live recordings—but this new vision of Tim has rekindled my love for the album. {Website} {YouTube}

Lloyd Cole
On Pain

Just before the pandemic brought everything to a halt, I was communicating with Lloyd Cole about bringing him to Ann Arbor. The idea was for him to play a night of his singer-songwriter stuff at The Ark but also do a synth-based show and talk at the library. Because even though he's best known as a clever wordsmith with a buttery voice ever since his days of fronting pop-rock greats Lloyd Cole and the Commotions in the mid-'80s, he's also been a hardcore modular-synth guy for quite a while. On Pain is the perfect marriage of Cole's skills, melding picture-perfect wordplay with savvy synthesizer sounds and an ear for the same sort of captivating melodies we first heard on "Perfect Skin" nearly 40 years ago. Plus, one song on the record has a connection to a former local guy: "The Idiot" is about the time Iggy Pop and David Bowie fled Los Angeles for Berlin to kick their drug addictions. {Website} {YouTube}

Friday Five
Every Friday since September 11, 2020, Pulp has published a roundup of five music releases from Washtenaw County artists and record labels. That's more than 850 locally connected albums, singles, videos, and more, and there's never been a week where the column has lacked potential content. That's a whole lotta music. (Note to local artists: Y'all gotta slow down, give an old guy a break.)

More AADL Staff Picks:
➥ 2022

➥ 2021
➥ 2020
➥ 2019
➥ 2018
➥ 2017
➥ 2016