Best of 2023 - Em Moore's Picks (Cover Artwork)

Best of 2023

Em Moore's Picks (2023)

staff picks

Looking back on a year is a huge task. It is impossible to encapsulate all of the emotions and events, both personal and in the world at large, without forgetting anything. 2023 was many things. It was a year filled with tremendous joy, lots of laughter, enormous amounts of stress, and unimaginable horrors. With everything going on right now things can feel bleak and hopeless but if this year has shown us anything, it’s that we’re stronger together. We need to continue to stand up for what’s right and we need to continue to look after each other. Community is one of the most important things that we have and it’s about damn time we recognize that.

A terrific amount of new music was released this year from promising debuts to final albums to everything in between. I listened to more new music this year than in all previous years combined and discovered so many new (or new to me at least) bands including Taxi Girls, Zeal, Sial, and Gummo. I played lots of new music on my monthly bonus episode series of the Punknews Podcast called Em Moore Tells You What To Listen To. It has warmed my heart to hear from people who have discovered new music through these episodes and I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who listens to it. I love doing these episodes and I’m very glad that you are loving them as well. I am extremely grateful to be a part of Punknews and work with people who care so deeply about music. I am lucky to count them as my friends. This year I also started volunteering for Canadian-only music site Dominionated where I’ve written lots of blurbs about Canadian punk, metal, and rock, launched my online radio show, The Reservoir, and have had the absolute pleasure of working with incredibly passionate and talented individuals. I am very grateful that I get to be a part of what they’re doing and I hope to continue for many years to come. I was also honoured to be interviewed by the most rocking condiment out there in January (thanks again Mustard!) and was able to interview Nina of Yours Sincerely for the now shuttered Music Shelf With Mustard.

Speaking of interviews, I more than doubled the number I did last year for Punknews and I am immensely proud of each one. I am so grateful that I am able to do this and I am incredibly lucky to be able to speak to so many bands and artists that I have a great deal of respect for. Huge thanks are in order for everyone who sat down with me and everyone who made these interviews a reality. Thank you for answering my questions and thank you for trusting me with your stories. Thank you for putting up with Zoom and allowing me to send you another link when the time limit ran out. Thank you for the insightful answers, laughs, and awesome music recommendations. It means the world to be able to do this and I can’t thank everyone involved enough. I hope one day we are all able to meet in person. Here is a complete list (in chronological order) of my Punknews interviews from this year: Christophe Brochu of, Lyndsey McDougall of New Pagans, Joram Zbichorski of Rust Ring, Toni and Mike of The Abruptors, Anthony Webster of GEL, JP of The HIRS Collective, Piper Torrison of Mediocre, Harry Bailey of Death Goals; Jules Batterman, Shea Carothers, and Hannah Hughes of Julez and The Rollerz, Jeremy Hunter of JER, Skatune Network, and We Are The Union, Chris Dowd of Fishbone, Julian of Avem, Amy Gabba of Amy Gabba and The Almost Famous; Beverley Boal, Bethany Crooks, Ciara King, and Alanah Smith of Problem Patterns, Cloe Madonna of Destiny Bond, Frank Iero of L.S Dunes and MCR, Lexi McCoy of Suzie True, Taxi Girls, The Holy Ghost Tabernacle Choir, Maeve of Lucky Iris, Rosie Richeson of Night Witch, Travis Miles of The Penske File, The Ape-Ettes, James McHenry of Blind Equation, Deanna Belos of Sincere Engineer; Lleen, Bee, and Sage of Thank You, I’m Sorry, Freddie Criales of Magnolia Park; KZ Staska, Aki McCullough, and Ryan Couitt of Dreamwell, Michi and Mike DiGiulio of Mega Infinity, John Nolan of Taking Back Sunday, KT and Mikey of Upchuck, Erik Button of Dollar Signs, Mandy and Lindsey of Death Cassette, and Lizzie Killian of Teens In Trouble and Bailey Moses of Desert Mambas. You can read all of these interviews (and more!) on my Linktree right here.

This year I saw some awesome shows and had my first two festival experiences! Pouzza was my first festival as well as my first time in Quebec and I’m very proud of myself because I successfully spoke French not once but twice. The vibrancy of the city, the kindness of the people, and the wonderful array of bands made it an incredible experience from beginning to end. It was a lot of fun exploring the area and all of the venues I went to sounded great. I met so many new people and caught up with lots of friends which was an absolute delight. I saw so many amazing bands and artists including Matty Grace, Screaming Females, Single Mothers, The Anti-Queens, Dollar Signs, Teens In Trouble, Heavy Petter, Call Me Rita, and The Dirty Nil. There were many bands whose sets I unfortunately missed due to injuries but I will hopefully be back better than ever next year to see even more bands and eat way more poutine! The second festival I went to this year was Toronto’s New Friends Fest during the summer and it was amazing. I was able to see all 30 bands who played the festival and each and every one of them completely fucking ripped. I was on my feet for the majority of the three days and was moving constantly whether that was dancing or moshing. I’m super grateful that I got to experience this festival with my best friend and we got to meet so many amazing folks while we were there. The atmosphere in the Lithuanian House was very welcoming and the feeling of community was palpable. There were so many killer sets by fantastic bands and artists including Boxcutter, Lastima, Burial Etiquette, Dreamwell, Life In Vacuum, Jetsam, Respire, Ostraca, Habak, Cloud Rat, HIRS Collective, Piper Maru, Heavenly Blue, Saton, Pageninetynine, The Disaster (comedy show where everyone was utterly hilarious - shoutout to Kenley’s JFK jokes), Stay Inside, Hundreds of AU, Boneflower, Gulfer, Fern Sully, Crowning, Coma Regalia, Massa Nera, Quiet Fear, and Eyelet. The pits were wild, especially when the HIRS Collective took to the stage. It was gloriously chaotic and Jenna proved her superhero status with the highest dive into the crowd that I’ve ever seen in my life. I can’t wait to go back next year, see more outstanding bands, make new friends, and meet up with everyone from this year. I also had my first live musical theatre experience when my friend took me to the Toronto production of Six in October which was mind-blowing. Hopefully, I’ll be able to see more live musical theatre in the future!

I had so many albums and EPs that I loved this year and I couldn’t fit them all onto this list! The releases listed below absolutely rock and you should listen to them all! If there’s anything on here that you’ve already listened to then listen to it again, I guarantee you’ll notice something new. In no particular order, here are my Honourable Mentions for 2023: A DOG A DEER A SEAL by Hit Bargain, Free Rein To Passions by The Dirty Nil, Find Out by Filth Is Eternal, Dissecting A One-Winged Bird by A Constant Knowledge of Death, Growing in Strange Places by Thank You, I’m Sorry, Science Progresses One Funeral at a Time by Obroa-Skai, Past//Present//Future by Meet Me @ The Altar, Chiaroscuro by Closet Witch, Till You Return by Teenage Halloween, Errors by Capra, Be My Vengeance by Destiny Bond, No Love Lost by Year of The Knife, VOID by KEN Mode, Lost by Life In Vacuum, Jerk Off Diary’s self-titled album, Denaturing by Nova Doll, Velveteen by PONY, Anna by Yours Sincerely, Attachment Styles by M(h)aol, Simple Minded Symphony’s self-titled album, chaos takes the wheel and i am a passenger by Awakebutstillinbed, Zorn’s self-titled album, Expired by Headcheese, The Whaler by Home Is Where, Reverie by Sweet Gloom, Doom Loop by Dream Nails, Warm Blanket by Worriers, The Book of Broken Glass by Sarah and The Safe Word, It Doesn’t Matter If It’s Cool by Basic Bitches, Don’t Test The Pest by Pest Control, GOLD STAR by SPACE CAMP, Half Glow by The Penske File, Bite The Hand That Feeds by Upchuck, The Sin of Human Frailty by END, It Wasn’t Supposed To Be Like This by pulses., Super Snooper by Snooper, Doki Doki’s self-titled album, Alt Account by Equipment, Find Out by Fight on Sight, Distractions by See You Next Tuesday, Symptoms of Survival by Dying Wish, Gris by Valery Vaughn, Games of Power by Home Front, Agriculture’s self-titled album, HELLMODE by Jeff Rosenstock, Noticeably Cheerless by The Abruptors, Treats by Poindexter, Unconditional Love In Hi-Fi by Miesha and the Spanks, Demo 2023 by White Collar, Your Life and Nothing Else by Faim, Hands In The Honey Jar by Open City, Enduring Spirit by Tomb Mold, Siiick Days by Pkew Pkew Pkew, Come What May by Sunflo’er, When No Birds Sang by Full of Hell and Nothing, Wavebreaker #4 by Bad Operation and Joe Gittleman, Exile by BÖNDBREAKR, This Will Define You by Shroud, Howl Still by Comeback Clit, DUREX FUCKS by Durex, Sangkar by Sial, People Die Every Day by Tripper, Nerdin About Birdin by Avem, MMXXIII by Snag and Coma Regalia, Pool Kids // POOL by Pool Kids and POOL (their hardcore punk alter-egos), Get Rid of It by Death Cassette, Misanthropy Now! By Ratpiss, Confusion/Chaos/Misery by The Hope Conspiracy, The Breakdown of Progress by Matty Grace, Skullpresser’s self-titled EP, Dwell by Joystick, To Know You’re Screwed by Mediocre, Mis Sueños Son De Tu Adiós Split by Burial Etiquette, Hormones by Hysterics, Cut Piece’s self-titled EP, and Harsh Reality by Stress Positions.

As always, this is not the definite ranking of music that was released this year. These are all releases that I greatly enjoyed this year and that includes the above list of Honourable Mentions. EPs had to be over 2 songs to make it onto the list so that’s why you won’t see Cluttered’s excellent Two Tracks Before The Breakdown, Spaced’s Far Out Hardcore single, or Death Pill and Shooting Daggers’ awesome split single on here but you should definitely do yourself a favour and check them out. My top album (or in this year’s case, albums) is always determined by how many times I’ve listened to it over the course of the year. This year there’s a tie because I listened to all of my top albums the same number of times and they’ve all had a huge impact on me this year. All of the albums on the list are very close together in ranking and as always, the EPs are not ranked. Read my list below!

Top 20 albums of 2023

20. The Hives: The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons

Disque Hives

When The Hives released “Bogus Operandi” earlier this year, I listened to it upwards of 20 times every day for a week. After that I listened to it about 5 times a day until The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons came out, then I started listening to the whole album on repeat. The band is energy personified as they kick out 12 lively garage-y, punky, bluesy tracks full of fun insightful lyrics and brilliant arrangements you won’t be able to get out of your head. Every time I listen to this album, I feel compelled to move just like lead singer Pelle Almqvist does on stage. The amount of times I’ve had to stop myself from climbing on things while listening to this album is astronomical. There is no doubt that the Hives are at the top of their game. Randy Fitzsimmons would be proud.

19. NOBRO: Set Your Pussy Free

Dine Alone Records

If you’re ever having a bad day, turn on Set Your Pussy Free, heed the call of NOBRO, and get your ass on the dance floor. The band captures their electric energy in a bottle as they celebrate friendship, tell the story of the formation of the band, and get existential with rocking tunes that boast infectious hooks that are guaranteed to stick in your head for days. The songs are brimming with life and you’ll get the urge to sing along to each one but especially on “Set That Pussy Free”, “A.I. Sexbots”, “I Don’t Feel Like It”, “Where My Girls At”, and “Gimme More (Party Through The Pain)”. The indomitable spirit of NOBRO shines through extremely brightly on Set Your Pussy Free and whenever I listen to them I feel like I can take on the world.

18. GEL: Only Constant

Convulse Records

If you thought GEL’s Violent Closure EP, live record, or split with Cold Brats was good, just wait until you hear their debut album Only Constant. The band come out of the gates swinging with high-energy hardcore punk that boasts an increased depth of sound, more bite than ever, and dynamic vocals. They keep the arrangements fresh all throughout and showcase their creativity on the chill atmospheric ode to community “Calling Card” which is made up of voicemails sent in by fans of the band. The only constant may be change but one thing that will never change is the power I feel coursing through my veins when I listen to GEL.

17. Initiate: Cerebral Circus

Triple B Records

Initiate have created something truly exceptional on Cerebral Circus. The 10 tracks pass by in a whirlwind of luxuriously heavy instrumentation, stellar vocals, and impactful lyrics. Each of the songs flows seamlessly into one another which can be heard to full effect in the transition from the delicate yet punishing exploration of conflicting emotions on “Amend” to the distortion-laden 39-second instrumental “Interlude” to the no-holds-barred soul-deep rage of “Fire Starter”. It is also impossible not to get goosebumps when the screaming electric guitars of “No Burden of Guilt” fade perfectly into the acoustic intro of album closer “Transparency”. “Transparency” is an ethereal track that begins with poignant spoken word poetry before exploding into top-notch harsh vocals and intricate soaring guitars that fill you with a sense of peace. Cerebral Circus is a record that gives you space to unleash your fury while also helping you to recognize and examine your emotional complexities.

16. Sincere Engineer: Cheap Grills

Hopeless Records

Sincere Engineer absolutely rock and Cheap Grills is one of their best albums to date. Deanna Belos’ songwriting just keeps getting better whether she’s reminiscing about old memories on “Old Coat Pocket”, detailing awesomely cathartic revenge fantasies on “Fireplace”, dealing with burnout on “Inside My Head”, giving voice to frustration on “Code Orange”, or incorporating lots of Chicago references in the majority of the songs but especially on “Blind Robin”. You can feel everything that went into crafting these songs which makes you appreciate the excellent balance of sincerity and humour that much more. Cheap Grills is a home run.

15. La Sécurité: Stay Safe!


La Sécurité came onto my radar last year when they released their debut two-song single and I’ve been eagerly awaiting new music from them ever since. Their debut album Stay Safe! finds them expanding upon their post-punk-meets new wave-meets disco sound as they weave together weird time signatures, rhythmic synths, and biting punk spirit to create a sound that will keep you grooving from the first few notes on album opener “Le Kick” to the distorted fade-out at the end of “Sleepy Rebellion”. With lyrics sung in both English and French, the band examines longing, takes a look into mental health, opens a dialogue about bodily autonomy, celebrates friendship, and discusses video games with directness and humour. It is impossible to sit still when listening to La Sécurité so break out your dancing shoes, grab a partner or a pet, and turn Stay Safe! up loud today.

14. Single Mothers: Roy

Dine Alone Records

One of the things that makes Single Mothers one of my favourite bands of all time is their uncanny ability to release something when I need to hear it most. For example, during the height of lockdown, they released two killer EPs - Bubble and Pig - that helped me process all of the emotions that surfaced during that time and gave me hope that things would get better. While I won’t get into the details surrounding the meaning this album holds for me, I will say that both the timing of the release and the name of the album connect to an indescribably significant moment that happened earlier this year. Another thing I love about Single Mothers is how different all of their albums sound. They are constantly experimenting with new sounds and tempos. While the fire is still there on Roy, they also dip into a dreamier post-rock sound on songs like “Quincy”, “Forest Fire”, and “Airsick”. Drew Thomson’s signature wit, biting sarcasm, and are also on full display throughout the album especially on “(Moonlight) On Sunset”, “James Gandolfini”, and “Inquisitor”. Long live Roy. Long live Single Mothers.

13. Flying Raccoon Suit: Moonflower

Bad Time Records

There is no question that Flying Raccoon Suit are one of the most exciting ska punk bands going today and you need only look at their second album Moonflower to see why. The band sound like they were born to play together with each song oozing the confidence that only comes with trusting your bandmates implicitly. They infuse their ska punk with elements from metal, indie rock, and emo which keeps the musical arrangements fresh and interesting throughout the album. From the slow-building ska of “Vidalia” to the high energy surfy punk of “Eat The World” (just try to not along to the chorus, I dare you) to the spell-binding ominousness of “Witch’s Streak” that builds until it explodes into gloriously chaotic horns to the breakneck pace of hardcore punk and metal-influenced “Axe To Grind” the band keeps you guessing about what’s coming next. Keep an eye out for Flying Raccoon Suit because just like their namesake Mario power-up, you’ll feel like you’re flying when you listen to Moonflower.

12. Alien Boys: The Weight of It All


The Weight of It All is full of pure punk fury. Alien Boys pull no punches as they delve deep into the brutality and corruption of the police and politicians, the impact that destructive capitalist practices are having on our well-being, the fight for bodily autonomy, and the prevalence of state-sanctioned violence with infectiously catchy hardcore punk brimming with hard-hitting lyrics. Even though things may feel hopeless at times, Alien Boys are here to remind you that systems of oppression can be disrupted and dismantled. We’re stronger when we work together and fight for a better world.

11. Pupil Slicer: Blossom

Prosthetic Records

Pupil Slicer have done it again. They’ve completely blown me away with their second album Blossom. Everything they created on their stellar debut album Mirrors (2021) is built upon as they put on a masterclass in heaviness and attack every element of the album with reinvigorated intensity. The vocals are incredible as they go from screams of pure ferocity to celestial and melodic singing and back again in no time at all. The instrumental arrangements are fresh and exciting as they bring in more atmospheric elements (especially on “Glaring Dark of Night” and “The Song at Creation’s End”) to their blend of mathcore, black metal, grunge, extreme metal, shoegaze, electronica, hardcore punk, and grind. The band takes a dive into cosmic horror, explore alternate plains of existence, experience otherworldly contact, and take a look at the human condition with deep, affecting lyrics. Even though the journey is sometimes arduous, Pupil Slicer shows that there is always a glimmer of hope in the darkness on Blossom.

10. Zulu: A New Tomorrow

Flatspot Records

A New Tomorrow showcases the range, passion, and power of Zulu. The band keeps you on your toes as they go from jazzy instrumental tracks like “Africa” and “Shine Eternally” to blisteringly heavy hardcore punk songs like “Our Day Is Now” and “From Tha Gods To Earth” to spoken word poetry like “Créme de Cassis” (by Alesia Miller and Precious Tucker) in the blink of an eye. The lyrics are incredibly powerful as they delve into why Black pain is treated as currency in our society, discuss how Black culture is appropriated, and celebrate the meaningfulness of community. A New Tomorrow is an essential album in every way and it cements Zulu as a name to know and a band to watch for many years to come.

9. Blind Equation: DEATH AWAITS

Prosthetic Records

DEATH AWAITS is many things. It is intense, it is complex, and it is endlessly enjoyable to listen to. Blind Equation mix in elements from hyperpop, nintendocore, and chiptune with extreme metal, grindcore, and black metal to create a wonderfully experimental sound that pushes emotional cybergrind to new heights. Betrayal, fear of the future, self-doubt, and mental health are all dug into deeply with hard-hitting lyrics that are brought to life by James McHenry’s fantastic vocal delivery which ranges from clean melodic singing to visceral harsh vocals that you can feel on a molecular level. It is impossible to sit still when you listen to DEATH AWAITS, Blind Equation will have you moshing and dancing while you contemplate the meaning of life.

8. Rust Ring: North To The Future

Knifepunch Records

Rust Ring’s album North to the Future is an absolute delight to listen to from start to finish. Each song has a different feel to it whether that be the synth-y 80s-influenced “Three Sunrises” (which also features a killer sax solo!), the tender and sweet indie rock meets grunge of “‘Everytime We Touch’ Comes On”, the introspective hopeful soft-loud-soft rock of “One Polar Night”, or the infectious emo punk of “Guilty”. This not only highlights the musical range of Rust Ring, it is also integral to the story being told of a magical and transformative trip to Alaska. The story is told through heartfelt and humorous lyrics as gender and sexuality are explored, self-doubt is worked through, love blooms, and lives change forever. North to the Future holds so much emotion within 10 tracks and leaves you with the hope that everything will fall into place when the time is right.

7. Dollar Signs: Legend Tripping

Self Aware Records

There are few things better than when a band incorporates folklore, history, and horror movie references into their lyrics and Dollar Signs have done this perfectly on their album Legend Tripping. Whether they are referencing the Patterson-Gimlin film (appropriately on “Patterson-Gimlin”), Bloody Mary (on “RESONATOR!”), or Scream (on “Fight or Flight”) the references are always much more than they seem. The band weaves them into tales of growing up in the Southern US and the contradictions that exist there while also using them to examine the changes brought about by the passage of time, friendship, and mental health. There were so many things that I learned about because of this album including the Cameron Village slime mold (“C.V.S.M.” and there is NO WAY those are worms), the Devil’s Tramping Ground (“Old Times’ Sake”), and the 1961 B-52 crash in Goldsboro, North Carolina (“Nuclear Family”). Each song has it’s own unique vibe whether that’s the ethereal ominousness of “East of The Rockies”, the biting political punk of “Fight or Flight”, or the emotional pensiveness of “Eastover”. On top of being brilliant on record, Dollar Signs are also an outstanding live band. Since seeing them at Pouzza Fest earlier this year, I’ve been waiting for another chance to see them live. Fingers crossed for 2024.

6. Suzie True: Sentimental Scum

Get Better Records

I’ve been thinking about what growing up means to me and I’ve realized that it doesn’t do me (or anybody else for that matter) any good to try to live up to the unrealistic expectations that I hold for myself or that others hold for me. I’ve also realized that holding in my emotions does me no favours at all, it only hurts me in the long run. One album that I had on repeat while I came to these realizations was Sentimental Scum by Suzie True. In just over half an hour the band talk about the process of growing into yourself, the necessity of giving yourself time to feel your feelings and letting go of toxic relationships, the value of building up self-worth, and the importance of celebrating friendship with honest, heartfelt, and reflective lyrics. The songs are at turns sweet, melancholy, and furious - making them perfect for when you want to unleash all of your emotions and dance at the same time. Growth is difficult and messy but as Suzie True show on Sentimental Scum, it is always worthwhile.

5. Buggin: Concrete Cowboys

Flatspot Records

There are few albums that make me want to open a pit as badly as Buggin’s debut album Concrete Cowboys. The album blasts by in just over 15 minutes in a flurry of thrash-infused hardcore that is frenetic, ferocious, and a hell of a lot of fun. They pay tribute to the hardcore community in Chicago on “Get It Out”, pen an ode to the best snacks on the aptly named “Snack Run” (which ends perfectly with a burp and laughter), tear tokenization in hardcore to shreds on “Not Yours”, and tell you how to become dangerous on “Hard 2 Kill”. The title track also ends with a snippet of Hank Locklin singing “Please Help Me, I’m Falling” which ties into the Western-themed artwork of the album wonderfully. Buggin are one of the most exciting hardcore punk bands putting out music right now and if you haven’t heard Concrete Cowboys yet fix that immediately.

4. Night Witch: Host Body


Night Witch’s final album Host Body says a lot in just over eight minutes. The band are faster and even more furious as they deal with mental health, talk about overcoming trauma, discuss the lack of accountability in the punk scene, shine a light on the evils of capitalism, and tear into toxic masculinity with powerful lyrics. There is something incredibly special about being able to listen to an album and completely let go - to allow the music to consume you and move you. Add in the ability to scream along with the lyrics and you’ve got a perfect album. For me, Night Witch have delivered all of that and more on each of their albums especially Host Body. While I am sad that there won’t be any more music from Night Witch, I know that much like the album cover, every ending marks the start of something new beginning to grow.

3. Screaming Females: Desire Pathway

Don Giovanni Records

Desire Pathway shows Screaming Females at the top of their game. The riffs are crisp and huge, the bass is deep, the drums are stellar, and Marissa Paternoster’s voice is extraordinary. The power of her voice and the melodies she’s able to achieve shine throughout the album but especially on “Brass Bell”, “Mourning Dove”, “Let Me Into Your Heart”, “Beyond The Void”, “Desert Train”, and “It’s All Said And Done”. The band also delivers one of their most vulnerable songs with “So Low” which showcases a softer side of Marissa Paternoster’s voice and features delicate, introspective guitarwork. I had the opportunity to see them live at Pouzza Fest earlier this year and they were excellent. Everything about their performance kicked ass and the songs that they played off of Desire Pathway shook the venue. I am extremely grateful that I got to see them because earlier this month they announced that they would be disbanding after 18 years together. It was very surprising news but I’m glad that they’re going out on their own terms. Desire Pathway is one hell of a final album.

2. New Pagans: Making Circles of Our Own

Big Scary Monsters

There is no denying the magic of New Pagans. Making Circles of Our Own is surrounded by an energy that is apparent from the first note of “Better People” and stays with you long after the final note of “The State of My Love’s Desires”. This is an album that calls out to you, these are songs that you feel with every fibre of your being. The lush instrumental arrangements, dynamic vocal delivery, and lyrics packed with imagery contain so much beauty, so much intricacy, and so much emotion that it is impossible to stop listening. No matter how many times I’ve listened to them, songs like “Hear Me, You Were Always Good” (those vocal runs!!), “Find Fault With Me”, “There We Are John”, “Comparable Reflections”, and “Fresh Young Overlook” compel me to sing and dance along. No matter what kind of day I’ve had, I know that Making Circles of Our Own will be there to bring me comfort, help me release rage, and bolster my spirit.

1. (Tie) Dreamwell: In My Saddest Dreams, I Am Beside You

Prosthetic Records

I have not been able to turn off Dreamwell’s In My Saddest Dreams, I Am Beside You since it came out. It is a gorgeous album with intricate and crushing yet delicate and bright instrumentation, superb vocal delivery that can go from soft and melodic to pure throat-shredding ferocity in seconds, imagery-laden lyrics that are full of emotion, and fantastic abstract artwork that represents the overall feeling perfectly. You can feel the unique power of each song coursing through your body when you listen to them, whether that be the emotional intensity of “It Will Hurt, and You Won’t Get to Be Surprised”, the reality-bending frenzy of “Blighttown Type Beat”, or the devastating beauty of “I Dream’t of a Room of Clouds”. The songs take on even more life when you see them played live. I had the pleasure of seeing Dreamwell live for the first time at New Friends Fest earlier this year and they blew me away. They were one of my sets of the weekend and I’m already counting down the days until I can see them live again.

1. (Tie) Problem Patterns: Blouse Club

Alcopop! Records

I’ve been listening to Problem Patterns pretty much non-stop since I discovered their EP, Good For You, Aren’t You Great?, in 2019, and when they announced their debut full-length album, Blouse Club, earlier this year I cheered so loudly that I startled my cat. The album is a tour de force as the band takes on misogynist pricks, the healthcare crisis, capitalism, homophobia, the church, TERFs, and pity bras with lyrics full of anger and humour and deep, resonating instrumentation that is the very definition of controlled chaos. Each song is incredibly cathartic and screaming along with them has helped save my sanity many, many times over the course of this year. There are few things better than cranking up songs like “Letter Of Resignation”, “A History of Bad Men Part II”, “Y.A.W.”, “Big Shouty”, “TERFs Out”, “Poverty Tourist”, or “Who Do We Not Save” and letting it all go. Three of the songs on the album - “Y.A.W.”, “Big Shouty”, and “TERFs Out” - were all re-recorded and in doing so, the band imbued them with even more fire than when they were originally released as standalone singles. To sum it all up, Blouse Club is pure punk perfection. Problem Patterns are fast, Problem Patterns are furious, and Problem Patterns will light a fire under your ass to tear it all down and start again.

1. (Tie) The HIRS Collective: We’re Still Here

Get Better Records

If there is one thing that everyone can agree on it’s how much the HIRS Collective rocks. Their very existence brings joy and catharsis into the world, no more so than on their album We’re Still Here. With over 35 artists being featured over the course of 17 tracks the Collective more than lives up to their name and shows us that the secret to making something wonderful is to create it with your friends. A strong feeling of connectedness can be felt throughout the album as everyone brings their own touch to HIRS’ heavy punk sound from the digital hardcore meets hip-hop of Ghösh on “Judgement Night” to the haunting cello of the Punk Cellist on “Bringing Light and Replenishments” to Marissa Paternoster’s anthemic vocals on “Unicorn Tapestry Woven in Fire”. We’re Still Here is full of rage, joy, despair, humour, and hope as the Collective dives deep into mental health, the evils of capitalism, and the importance of community with lyrics that fortify you to continue to fight for what’s right, to show up for yourself and your community, and to remember that you are loved. There is also a pretty rad Powerpuff Girls sample that connects “Neila Forever” and “Last King Meets Last Priest”. I cannot begin to tell you the number of times this year that I have put on this album and screamed, danced, cried, and laughed until nothing was left. The catharsis that We’re Still Here provides is unparalleled. That was taken to a whole new level when I was able to see them live at New Friends Fest. The feeling in the room when they took the stage was absolutely incredible and no matter how hard I try, words cannot accurately describe it. I am so grateful that the HIRS Collective exists and next time, I will get on stage and scream into the second microphone. Xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo.

1. (Tie) Death Goals: A Garden of Dead Flowers

Prosthetic Records

From the first time I listened to A Garden of Dead Flowers by Death Goals, I knew that the album would become a close companion for the rest of the year and beyond. The album has helped me work through a lot in my life and for that I am grateful. The 11 tracks are gloriously chaotic and full of superb distortion, outstanding dual vocals, and lyrics brimming with imagery as they tackle gender dysphoria, addiction, mental health, queer joy, and self-acceptance. It is impossible to be still when you listen to songs like “Ultraviolence”, “I Wouldn’t Be Caught Dead (Taking A Bullet For You)”, “Year Of The Guillotine”, “If I’m The Enemy Then Who’s The Protagonist?”, and “Faux Macho”. I have headbanged, danced, and started a one-person pit countless times no matter where I’ve been, including on public transit. Whether I am screaming along to the cheerleader-esque chant of “Light it up, light it up/Like a funeral pyre” or to the fierce declaration of “You can’t erase our existence”, every song on A Garden of Dead Flowers offers up some much-needed catharsis. Queer hardcore for-fucking-ever.

Best Collection of the Year

Matty Grace: Blemishes and Scars: A Collection


The quest for perfection is destroying us. It is destroying our mental and physical health and decimating our creativity. How do we fight this? We celebrate imperfection. We free ourselves from expectations and unleash the full power of our creativity. This is the intent behind Blemishes and Scars. The collection is made up of songs that Matty Grace wrote for previous bands, a full EP that was recorded early in the COVID-19 pandemic, and an Against Me! cover that was originally recorded in 2017. Through the rawness of the songs, you are given a glimpse into her mental state as well as invited to view her songwriting process. “Napathy and Exhaustion” is a perfect example of this. The song is acoustic and speaks to the exhaustion brought on by trying to stay afloat, especially during the COVID-19 lockdowns. You are also able to hear how the song changes when the instruments are electrified on Cluttered’s version which was released earlier this year on their Two Tracks Before The Breakdown single. There is an incredible amount of heart in these songs (just try to listen to “This Bus Is A Pipebomb” without crying) and you can feel every ounce of blood, sweat, and tears that went into making them. On Blemishes and Scars, Matty Grace proves that there is so much beauty and merit to be found in vulnerability and imperfection. It is always worth it to push past the self-doubt.

Best Live Album Made Up Of Improvised Original Songs of the Year

PIQSIQ: Spectral Harmonies


PIQSIQ open Spectral Harmonies with an invitation for you to take their hands and allow them to transport you into a hauntingly beautiful world. The power of Inuksuk Mackay and Tiffany Ayalik are on full display as they flawlessly entwine their voices to create immersive pieces that capture the excitement and trepidation of venturing into the darkness, the magic and lurking danger of the cold, and the celebration of life. The songs flow seamlessly together from the first few seconds of opener “Come With Me” to the last seconds of “We Fear the Endless Dark”, a feat that is even more impressive given the fact that these original compositions were improvised and recorded live. Spectral Harmonies is an all-consuming album and is something that needs to be heard to be experienced fully. Put your headphones in, sit back, and join PIQSIQ on a journey you won’t soon forget.

Best Standalone Collaborative Cover Songs of the Year

Fucked Up and The Halluci Nation: “John Wayne Was A Nazi” and “Electroshock”

Merge Records

Fucked Up and The Halluci Nation are a match made in heaven and these two covers more than prove it. They also incorporate electronic elements into MDC’s “John Wayne Was A Nazi” which makes the song sound heavier, more psychedelic, and more sinister. The song is slowed down slightly which, along with Damian Abraham’s excellent vocal delivery, forces you to focus more on the lyrics. It is hands-down one of the best covers I’ve ever heard. Their version of Dangerous Rhythm’s “Electroshock” is also outstanding. It is a swirling, energetic, punky electronic song that has an air of ominousness and will have you dancing in no time at all. I’ve listened to these covers so much over the past year and I have my fingers firmly crossed for more collaborative music from Fucked Up and The Halluci Nation.

Top EPs and Splits of 2023 (unranked)

The Callous Daoboys: God Smiles Upon The Callous Daoboys

MNRK Heavy / Modern Static Records

The Callous Daoboys just keep getting better and better. There is no downtime on God Smiles Upon The Callous Daoboys as the band continues to experiment and grow their sound. You have no idea what the next few seconds will bring as they swing between post-hardcore, mathcore, nu-metal, jazz, salsa, pop punk, and electronic music with some of the best breakdowns from this year and powerhouse vocals that oscillate between gorgeous clean melodies and marvelously harsh screams. They also team up with the super exciting Virginia-based post-hardcore band pulses. to close the EP with the absolutely mind-blowing “Designer Shroud of Turin”. How they were able to fit that much in just over 5 minutes is astounding. May God continue to smile on The Callous Daoboys for many, many years to come.

The Holy Ghost Tabernacle Choir: heartland attack

Big Money Cybergrind

The Holy Ghost Tabernacle Choir have put out their heaviest material to date on heartland attack. The band creates an all-consuming sound that is replete with blistering yet melodic guitar work, deep bass, ferocious drumming, and superb vocals that go from clear, strong spoken word to intensely furious visceral screams. The confrontational lyrics allow for a release of pent-up anger which is so incredibly cathartic that I feel like a whole new person every time I scream along. Along with reminding us of the importance of organizing, protesting, and “menacing the bigots” to create a better world, the Holy Ghost Tabernacle Choir also make sure we remember the vital importance of telling our friends how much we love them and knowing how much we are loved in return. Taking care of ourselves and taking care of each other is one of the most significant things we can do while we are on this planet.

Boxcutter, Treehouse of Horror, Please Don’t Crash: What Good Does Getting Angry Do?

Maraming Records and Mostly Tapes

What’s better than a two-way split? A three-way split! What Good Does Getting Angry Do? features two new tracks from Treehouse of Horror, Please Don’t Crash, and Boxcutter, and they all completely rock. Forgoing a traditional split structure where each band’s songs are grouped together, the bands instead opt to alternate tracks going from the mathy screamo of Treehouse of Horror to the grunge-y, emotional post-hardcore of Please Don’t Crash to the wonderfully distorted skramz (which sometimes incorporates a cello) of Boxcutter (who are phenomenal live) and back again in a state of perfect flow. What Good Does Getting Angry Do? is a flawless split because all of the songs work so well together while also retaining each band’s unique sound.

Mega Infinity: Chaos Magick

Ska Punk International

Mega Infinity never stops expanding their sound and their EP Chaos Magick is no exception. The band takes cues from math rock, ska, punk, and power pop to create four songs that are chock full of killer riffs, dynamic lyrics, and inventive arrangements. They tackle many things in just over 15 minutes as they give thanks for their community, rip into toxic masculinity (“Dude Poisoning” is also a great name for that icky feeling you get when faced with misogynistic jerks), voice the frustrations that come with waiting, deal with mental health, and bring Skalanis Morissette to life on a super ska-infused cover of “You Oughta Know”. Chaos Magick is full of life and I can’t wait to see where Mega Infinity go next.

Fishbone: Fishbone

Bottles To The Ground

Recorded with 4 of the 6 original members, Fishbone celebrate 40 years and look ahead to 40 more on their new self-titled EP. From the positive ska-fuelled ode to living in the moment on “All We Have Is Now” to the haunting “Estranged Fruit” (which builds upon Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”) to the punky and dynamic “I Don’t Care” which contains a great slowed-down piano part, the band sound like they’re at the top of their game. With fresh arrangements, excellent lyrics, and plenty of their unstoppable energy there is absolutely no doubt that Fishbone remain red hot.

Scowl: Psychic Dance Routine

Flatspot Records

What doesn’t Psychic Dance Routine have? The breakdowns are fantastic, the riffs are both brutal and groovy, the lyrics are top-notch, and Kat Moss’ vocals are WILD. In a matter of seconds, she shifts from clean singing to guttural growls to powerful, urgent screams and back again without breaking a sweat. The band balances their pure hardcore fury with supremely danceable melodies, making Psychic Dance Routine perfect for when you want to mosh, dance, and release some pent-up emotions. Turn Scowl up loud and join the psychic dance team today.

Desert Mambas: …But It’s A Dry Heat

Kill Rock Stars

…But It’s A Dry Heat, Bailey Moses’ debut EP under the moniker Desert Mambas is spectacular. The tracks are full of bluesy, synthy, 50s-inspired rock ’n’ roll and are extremely catchy. Each song has a different feeling to it whether that be the dreamy introspection of “In The Middle”, the upbeat almost surfy feeling of “It’s Been a While” (which features stunning guitar work), or the acoustic exploration of identity of “Buzz Cut Blues”. Along with vulnerable and skillful songwriting, the EP also features some great artwork in the form of a very cute snake with a cowboy hat. Needless to say, I am very excited to see what the future holds for Desert Mambas.

Wampums: Rainbow Beam

Sealskin Records

Every time I put on Rainbow Beam I can feel all my tension and stress melting away. Wampums have crafted four dreamy, garage-y, folky, psychedelic tracks that are brimming with love, care, and positive vibes. You can feel the thought that went into every element on the tracks from the instrumentation to the soft, gentle vocals to the feeling of hope that permeates the EP. Rainbow Beam is a bright, shining light in the darkness and I return to it as often as I can, I suggest you do too.

Proper.: Part-Timer

Father/Daughter Records

Do you know what you want out of your life? How about your career? What are you prepared to give up to achieve your dreams and is there a way to achieve them without sacrificing your well-being? Proper. ask themselves all these questions and more on Part-Timer as they explore their relationship with the music industry, reflect on the journey they’ve taken to get where they are now, contemplate wasted potential, and look towards the future throughout five intricately cohesive tracks. Along with earnest and introspective lyrics, the band skillfully employs changes in tempo, volume, and vocal delivery to create a dynamic sound that gives you a peek into their thought process whether that’s the confidence of “Marquee”, the conflicted emotions and anger of “Middle Management”, or the doubt of “Potential”. With the last line of the EP being, “See y’all for LP4 next year” the band leaves you wondering what they have in store for 2024. One thing is for certain, Proper. will continue to make their art the way they want on their own terms.

Jetsam and Gummo.: Assimilation Is Death

Coups De Couteau, Minga Records, No Time Records, Here And Now!, Loner Cult Records, Sleepy Dog Records, Sonic Bath Records, Crypt Of Dr Gore, Don’t Trust The Hype, Wrecking Crew Recordings

I love Jetsam and when Assimilation Is Death was announced I was beyond excited to hear new music from them. Their side is extraordinary. The trio’s instrumentation is heavy and intricate and the vocals are fucking amazing, going from visceral screams to clear, strong spoken word and back again. The lyrics are powerful and tackle topics such as Borderline Personality Disorder, the true meaning of freedom, the hate that boils barely under the surface of our society, trans rights, and capitalism (they even include an excerpt from Voltairine de Cleyre’s writings (as quoted by Emma Goldman) on their track “New Colossus”). Every time I listen to these songs (as well as their 2022 EP Powerviolence is for Lovers) I can feel every word, scream, bass note, and drumbeat on an atomic level. The vigorous energy that they possess can be felt in full force when you see them live. I was able to see them at New Friends Fest and they blew me away. Words cannot accurately describe the power of Jetsam. I was not familiar with Gummo before and I’m glad that this split remedied that. They kick out six tracks full of frenzied grind-influenced powerviolence that blast by in what feels like seconds. They discuss the horrific impact of the Catholic Church, push for the disarmament of nuclear weapons, and explore the passage of time with hard-hitting lyrics. Assimilation has been toted as the perfect solution to every situation but as Jetsam and Gummo remind us, this is a lie and we must resist assimilation in all its forms as we fight for total liberation for all.

Zeal: Demonstration 2022

Runstate Tapes

Zeal had one of the heaviest releases this year with their debut recording Demonstration 2022. They kick out fantastically frantic thrashy crust punk that will have you zooming around like a human tornado no matter where you are. There is no rest at all over the course of the four tracks as the band seems to get deeper into their sound with every passing second. Demonstration 2022 is a call to mosh and cement Zeal as a band to watch.

Lambrini Girls: You’re Welcome

Big Scary Monsters

Lambrini Girls’ debut EP You’re Welcome is pure punk perfection. It is fast, it is loud, and it is full of rage as the band takes aim at the patriarchal society we live in (“Lads Lads Lads”) and how that impacts everything from the music industry (“Boys In The Band”) to the trivialization of queer people (“Help Me I’m Gay”). They also rip TERFs to shreds on “Terf War”, and point out red flags to watch out for in relationships on “Mr. Lovebomb”. You’re Welcome absolutely kicks ass and always helps me let off some steam. I can’t wait to hear more from Lambrini Girls in the future.

Princess: Princess


Princess embrace chaos on their excellent self-titled debut EP. They confront the corruption, racism, and hypocrisy that has become embedded within our society with direct lyrics that pull no punches and fierce metal-edged hardcore punk. Princess is one of the most exciting debuts of the year and I’m looking forward to hearing more from Princess.

Taxi Girls: Coming Up Roses

Wild Honey Records and Dirt Cult Records

If you’re in the mood for rocking garage-y punk look no further than Taxi Girl’s debut EP Coming Up Roses. The trio kick out five high-energy tracks that are filled to the brim with infectious hooks that will make themselves at home in your head for days. It is impossible to resist singing along with “After Effect”, “Sunshine”, “Good Grace”, and “Stay With Me”. “Hands Off” is the most cathartic song on the EP that sees the band talking about unwanted physical contact and sexual assault with lyrics full of bite and rage that express the outrage that we’re still dealing with shit like this in 2023. I just missed their set at Pouzza earlier this year and I hope that next year will bring a chance to see them live and sing along in person.

Teens In Trouble and Desert Mambas: Teens In Trouble/Desert Mambas

Asian Man Records and Kill Rock Stars

One thing that I love about Teens In Trouble and Desert Mambas’ split EP is that even though they each have their own distinct sound, a strong feeling of friendship and trust flows through each of the four songs. Teens In Trouble’s songs embody wonderfully fuzzy indie punk and Desert Mambas’ tracks are Americana-tinged bluesy rockers. They both talk about mental health and living in the moment with thoughtful lyrics and irresistibly catchy melodies that will have you singing along in no time. I love Teens In Trouble and Desert Mambas and I hope they collaborate more in the future.

Baby Got Back Talk: Wince, Repeat

Wiretap Records

Whenever I hear that Baby Got Back Talk is releasing new music I get excited and Wince, Repeat is no exception. The band continues to hone their blend of emo, pop punk, and alt-rock with incredible synths, stellar vocal harmonies (especially on “Film Noir” and “Pivot To Evil”), excellent songwriting, and melodies that will plant themselves firmly in your head for weeks on end (particularly on “I’m Sorry I’m a Moron, But Also, Help” and “Meg White”). Baby Got Back Talk always puts so many things into a song whether that be musically or lyrically and every time I listen to Wince, Repeat I notice something new.

Julez and The Rollerz: Is This Where The Party Is?

Party Mermaid Records

Julez and the Rollerz’s debut EP Is This Where The Party Is? is rock at its finest. The band creates stunning arrangements that meld together blues, psychedelia, new wave, punk, and indie rock in a timeless fashion that makes you want to dance. With honest and sometimes humorous lyrics, they don’t shy away from confronting their feelings and insecurities head-on especially on “Sorry I’m Just A Waste of Time”, “Think About It”, “Wildest Fantasy”, and “Confess”. When you listen to Julez and the Rollerz, it becomes clear that the party is wherever they are.

Earl Wyvern: Billionaire Dinosaurs Turned Me Gay

Tarantula Tapes

Earl Wyvern’s wonderfully named debut solo EP Billionaire Dinosaurs Turned Me Gay is just over 8 minutes of no-holds-barred political punk. The EP opens with the furious garage punk takedown of late-stage capitalism that is “Class War” before Earl proves that the ukulele is one of the punkest instruments on the upbeat folk punk call to action that is “Wrath”. “No Future” is a brilliant skate punk track that tackles the military-industrial complex and Earl ends the EP with a ukulele-driven ode to going out (and a reminder not to do cocaine in the bathroom) “Bathroom”. Each of the songs has a strong message and Earl reminds us that the only way to see change is to stand and fight together.

Circuit Circuit: Body Songs

Dark Trail Records

Circuit Circuit mixes noise rock, mathcore, post-hardcore, punk, and digital programming together on Body Songs to create an experimental hardcore sound that will absorb you from the opening sounds of a VCR on “I Dream The World Awake” and won’t let you go until the abrupt ending of “< / null>”. The pure chaotic energy of the band is on full display on all five tracks as they take you on a unique, surreal journey where they explore surveillance, capitalism, the digital realm, death, and rebirth with urgent, thought-provoking lyrics. After you’ve listened to Body Songs once, you’ll be listening to it non-stop and eagerly waiting to see what Circuit Circuit do next.

Fucked Up: Cops


Fucked Up absolutely kick ass and if you need more proof of that look no further than their outstanding EP Cops. The band tears into police brutality and the heightened presence of law enforcement (including private security forces) in our society with urgent and timely hard-hitting lyrics that are full of outrage and disgust on “Cops” and “Fucks”. The EP closes with the hardcore instrumental track “Quality Seconds (Orbital)” which perfectly encapsulates the fury of the first two tracks before fading out with echoing distortion. Fucked Up put a spotlight on the failures and the needless violence carried out by the police on Cops and in doing so reminds us that the only people we can count on to keep us safe are each other.

That's all folks!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my list! I hope to do more writing, do more interviews, go to more shows (and festivals!), and create more podcasts in the new year. If you see me at a show, come say hi! Remember to wear your masks when you’re able to, stay up to date on your vaccines, wash your hands, and stay safe. Never give up hope and take care of yourselves and each other. May we see peace in 2024.