Listen: Tracks of the Year 2023

So Young Tracks of the Year 2023.

As we edge closer to excessive food, drink and the exciting prospect of enough sleep, we reflect on our favourite things from 2023. Six print magazines, and a good few handfuls of excitable single reviews have given us a wealth of amazing new music to sift through in order to find our favourites of the year.

In no particular order, this is the So Young Tracks of the Year 2023, as picked by our community of writers.

Grian Chatten – Fairlies

Grian Chatten of Fontaines D.C. took to the floor on his own this year, wandering down the path of solo life with his debut album, ‘Chaos For The Fly’ in hand. Chatten explained the record as an expression of the “exaggerated aspects” of his soul, and as such, ‘Chaos For The Fly’ was inherently emotional, and intriguingly confessional. ‘Fairlies’ was a focus point of those attributes, underlined by flourishing folk-rock, led by Chatten’s poetic monologue, and tinted by charming allusions to myth and legend, the single was undeniably a magnetic preview. – Amber Lashley

Water From Your Eyes – Barley

Sometimes a song feels so fresh and devastatingly original that every hair stands on end, all the senses flare up, and the soul passes the threshold of spiritual awakening and into the bonds of psychic euphoria. It’s moments like these which keep our will for new music alive, and which have made 2023 a year to climb to the rooftops and jubilantly proclaim, “Water From Your Eyes are soo fucking SICK, man!”. From the first scatter-minded synth boggle, to the first count of mountains; from the first bad-ass guitar lick to the last bad-ass guitar lick, ‘Barley’ presented an apogee for fucked-up modernist pop, and set a new benchmark for ‘counting songs’, period. – Elvis Thirlwell

Let’s make one thing clear; Water From Your Eyes are cool. They’re cooler than you, and they’re cooler than all the other bands you like, and they want you to know that. ‘Barley’ barely takes a second to establish this fact, and does so in the enigmatic and offbeat style that they’ve honed over their last handful of releases. Rumbling basslines, disorienting sound effects and atonal guitars underpin vocalist Rachel Brown’s deadpan delivery as they conjure a Dadaist landscape of America. It’s strange, and sounds unlike anything else this year, but it feels like their approach to penning unorthodox songs is almost effortless, and that’s why it’s so charming. – Reuben Cross

This summer, I witnessed Water From Your Eyes somehow transport a muddy field of Green Man goers to New York’s early 2000s electroclash scene like genies granting my wish to experience that energy just once. – Kalisha Quinlan

We chat to Water From Your Eyes in Issue Forty-Three of the magazine. Pick up a copy here.

The New Eves – Mother

An astounding and haunting debut from one of the most exciting names in alternative folk right now. Pairing unsettling strings and eerie harmonics, the track draws on an extensive and complex history of female fronted folk, mimicking the stripped back, lore heavy songstresses of bygone times, yet remaining an utterly refreshing, intoxicating offering. – Eve Boothroyd

Who knew that what we needed, at this time, more than ever before, was a choir of bone-grinding cello scrapes, a flute engaged in butterfly-flight, a violin in mourning, and the squeakings of a bare hand rushing up and down a fretboard? Who knew there could be a quartet whose dresses flow as exquisitely as their melodies, hitting as hard and heavy as iron-plated punk, while yet as light and delicate as the rime of ancient song? With sublime vocal harmonies to burrow into your dreams and sugar-coat your nightmares, ‘Mother’ – the debut from The New Eves – introduced us to band to put the ‘fuck’ back into folk, a band who in this hyper-driven technological dystopia, could breathe a thrilling new life into antique arts, and re-introduce us with the tingling excitement of primeval humanity itself. – Elvis Thirlwell

The New Eves feature inside Issue Forty-Five of So Young. Pick up a copy here.

Geese – Cowboy Nudes

Taken from Geese’s phenomenal sophomore album ‘3D Country’, ‘Cowboy Nudes’ is warm, playful and endearing. This song is representative of how Geese don’t take themselves too seriously, but let their musical prowess shine through without them being like ‘hey let me show you how good I am at my instrument.’ Let me be your warrior!! – Poppy Richler

Geese are on the cover of So Young Issue Forty-Six. Grab your copy here.

The Last Dinner Party – Nothing Matters

The Last Dinner Party have undeniably blown everyone away this year, and ‘Nothing Matters’ stands as the baroque pop anthem to start the spark. A passionate entanglement, a chiaroscuro love song that dances between the shadows of lust and the light of tenderness. Hum, sing, dance, and scream like nothing matters. This will be one of the tracks of the century, and it’s barely a quarter way through. – Will Macnab

It’s safe to say it wouldn’t be a true reflection on the year without mentioning the regal romance of this five-piece. ‘Nothing Matters’, the first single of The Last Dinner Party back in April, embraced the divine feminine in all of us with crude words on love and vulnerability, whilst casually mocking the breakdown of relationships. – Alicia Tomkinson

Everything The Last Dinner Party turns to gold and this song is total pop-rock perfection. This band is about to conquer the world and I’m here for every step of it. The highlight has to be the rock goddess guitar solo but can the whole song be a highlight? Their debut album has already been pre-ordered. – Poppy Richler

The Last Dinner Party are on the cover of Issue Forty-Four. Get your copy here.

Nabihah Iqbal – This World Couldn’t See Us

This year saw the release of Nabihah Iqbal’s latest album, ‘DREAMER’, starring ‘This World Couldn’t See Us’. An eclectic but consistently evocative collection of tracks, ‘DREAMER’ saw Iqbal expand beyond her existing projects, blending her fluency in electronic and dance music with elements of blurred dream pop. ‘This World Couldn’t See Us’ is a showcase of that hybrid, driven by Iqbal’s powerful spoken word, the track is synthwave-backed poetry – and a track that I have kept coming back to all year. – Amber Lashley

Nabihah Iqbal chats to us inside Issue Forty-Four of the magazine. Head here to get your copy.

Mary in the Junkyard – Tuesday

After 2 years and over 50 gigs, 2023 was the year that Mary In The Junkyard put their first release out into the world. ‘Tuesday’ feels more like an album than a single. 2024 will be their year and this is their manifesto. A tender build into a wonderful crescendo. A track to savour. – Sachin Turakhia

 The rattling screams of the central line roar in agony, and the hurried lives of seemingly numb bodies stream past—each one a universe of complexity yet infinitesimally small. mary in the junkyard’s debut is a mesmerising, meandering take on finding yourself alone in a new place, stumbling around with insane precision. Free to move where it pleases, ‘Tuesday’ traverses fleeting moments of calm, drifting through space with nothing around but the echos of consciousness, into an imploding star, ripping through everything with an inescapable grip. – Will Macnab

Mary in the Junkyard chat to us inside Issue Forty-Two of this years magazines. Get a copy here.

Mandy, Indiana – Pinking Shears

I’ve honestly never heard a track like this one before, its completely mental. What impressed me about this song is that it only really fits within the context of the full album, which is a very unique listening experience in itself. I would strongly recommend grabbing a copy of ‘I’ve seen a way’! – Leo Lawton

Bill Ryder-Jones – This Can’t Go On

Bill Ryder-Jones’ cinematic single, ‘This Can’t Go On’ has been on repeat for the last quarter of the year, making the final slog towards Christmas that little bit more hopeful and fending off the winter blues, a real breath of fresh air. It’s one of only a few songs that’s made me think, “that’s exactly how I feel”. Both euphoric and melancholic in equal parts it speaks to the child in all of us and touches on the animalistic and emotional nature of being human. A triumphant call for change that brings a tear to the eye.

The song is accompanied by some of my favourite art-direction of 2023. The single artwork features a collaged photo of Bill as a boy and the James Slater directed music video perfectly captures the feel of the song, filmed in Crail, Fife, referencing the album artwork painted by Dale Bissland. – Josh Whettingsteel

An interview with Bill Ryder-Jones is featured inside Issue Forty-Seven. Shop here.

Lime Garden – Nepotism (baby)

If it wasn’t a truth universally acknowledged when the year began, then surely, by the end of 2023, after another smattering of insanely catchy blessings from these indie-goddesses in waiting, Lime Garden must be recognised as among the finest guitar-toting tunesmiths around. With a trio of mighty fine singles unleashed in the last six months, the one that kick-started the excitement for their upcoming debut album, ‘Nepotism (Baby)’, is the chorus I’m still singing gently to myself on walks to bus-stops and during idle moments drifting down escalators. With a touch of 90s Britpop to it’s big-chungus grunge-lite guitars, and a melody so immaculate that it could juice a 1000 citrus fruits….fuck it, I love Lime Garden, and there’s nothing more to be said. – Elvis Thirlwell

YHWH Nailgun – Castrato Raw (Fullback)

This years print magazines have highlighted a wealth of NYC talent, but one group I’ve found myself becoming an active cheerleader for are YHWH Nailgun. The sheer array of creativity that exists in the scraps we have to feed off of just now is wildly impressive. Between industrial clangs, naked snares and the dynamic pairing of dying wimpers and desperate shrieks, ‘Castrato Raw (Fullback)’ provides a clear statement of the band’s vibrant world, direction and ambition. Stay in touching distance of these. – Sam Ford

You’ll find one of the bands only interviews inside Issue Forty-Six of the magazine. Pick it up here.

Fat Dog – King of the Slugs

As we crawled out of lockdown, the gig going community took a while to feel comfortable in the sweaty venues we used to call home. 2023 was the year where we refound that unadulterated joy of live music. And it was Feral. In the most beautiful sense. Fat Dog led this feeling, straddling post punk and hard-techno, they make music that demands you to get sweaty and animalistic. King Of The Slugs is 7 minutes of this encapsulated, to leave your heart pounding in your chest. – Sachin Turakhia

Fat Dog gace the cover of Issue Forty-Five. Shop your copy here.

Model/Actriz – Slate

I may be playing up to Welsh stereotypes picking a song with ‘Slate’ in the title, but there’s something to be said for this maddeningly taut track. An infectious industrial ascent that leaves you entirely at frontman Cole Haden’s whim every time. – Natalia Quiros-Edmunds

We chat to Model/Actriz in Issue Forty-Three. Head to the shop for your copy.

Cardinals – Roseland

You’ve not seen black wrap around sunglasses worn like this since the White Light/White Heat era. Gimme more painfully cool, shoegazey trad folk! – Kalisha Quinlan

Deadletter – The Snitching Hour

Sometimes you have to concede and allow your Spotify Wrapped speak for you. ‘The Snitching Hour’ racked up a few plays from me, and this single felt like the signifier that Deadletter are more than what you’ve come to expect. Unison claps, big sax moments and ambitious, anthemic vocals, this one was Deadletter with a smile. – Sam Ford

Legss – Daddy There’s Sand in the Sandwiches

Nobody does atmosphere quite like Legss. Chilling drones, a cutting bassline, and frontman Ned Green’s whispered poetry. It’s deliciously dark, charged, unnerving, and unlike anything I’ve heard this year. – Natalia Quiros-Edmunds

English Teacher –  Worlds Biggest Paving Slab

‘The World’s Biggest Paving Slab’ is yet another impressive release from English Teacher, showcasing some of the best lyricism from the band with effortless vocals and intricate instrumentals, perfectly setting up the 2024 release of their debut album. – Mia Lambdin

English Teacher are on the cover of our final issue of the year. Pick up your copy here.

Van Houten – Coming of Age

Van Houten created a four minute spark of optimism with their latest release ‘Coming of Age’, with the cathartic track masterfully blending their signature shoegaze sound and cemented the band as ones to watch in 2024. – Mia Lambdin

Nukuluk – I Just Wanna Luv U

Operating in a twilight world between dream and reality, the ever-polymorphic London collective Nukuluk revels in drawing out uncanny moments from familiar genres. ‘I Just Wanna Luv U’ is no different—a trip-hop descent through a melancholy haunted house made of mirrors. – Bryson Edward Howe

University – Notre Dame Made Out of Flesh

This song feels like being electrocuted whilst falling down the stairs… But in a nice way. A nostalgic reminder that that fizzy teenage angst never quite left my system. – Cameron JL West

University feature inside Issue Forty-Six which you can buy here.

Blue Bendy – ‘Cloudy’

As stunning as it was, it turns out that 2022’s ‘Motorbike’ EP was only a small window into the strength of London art-rock sextet Blue Bendy’s songwriting capability. With ‘Cloudy’, the first of their two singles this year, their world expanded with this multi-part epic that showcases the brilliance of frontman Arthur Nolan’s lyricism, making references to half the band’s Humberside origins, ‘beef with a monkey account’, and the mysterious character of John Superman. The cathartic climax of group choruses in the back end of the track makes for one of the finest releases of tension in a song this year, and paired with the intricacy of the rest of the song it makes for Blue Bendy’s most grand statement yet. – Reuben Cross

Tapir! – Broken Ark

Strangely nostalgic of the classic ‘Hushabye Mountain’, the track feels comforting yet alluring, much like the rest of their releases. – Cameron JL West

If all/most of the above made it into your 2023 highlights too, and you like reading interviews with these artists, perhaps consider a subscription to So Young Magazine. More info here.

Listen to our tracks of the year on the Spotify playlist below.

Also Read: So Young Tracks of the Year 2022.

So Young is a new music magazine and the new issue is out now. Buy your print copy here or read the digital edition below.