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Heartcrushingly Beautiful: Favorite Albums 2023 – PART 3

This year, we are presenting a list of hauntingly beautiful albums, all from a diverse perspective of genres and styles. Curated by our very own Nikolaj Bruus, the list represents a year’s worth of exploration and discovery of new records. The list will be presented in three parts, concluding on New Year’s Day with the unveiling of the top 10 albums. 

Happy New Year from PCC!


Yo La Tengo

This Stupid World (2023)

Yo La Tengo is one of my all-time favorite bands and this is a very solid outing, probably their best since “Fade”. They continue to play their specific branch of indie rock almost like nothing ever happened since “I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One”, and I mean this in the best way possible, since they do it convincingly and with heart. Much better than any of their contemporary succeeders. It didn’t function very well when N. Young tried to do Devo/Kraftwerk on Trans, did it? Innovation is only good if it’s motivated by an inner drive. In any other circumstances, one should stick to one’s “calling”. In rock/pop history, at least, this is (from the listener’s perspective) usually the receipe for artistic success.

YLT are also masterful rock-improvisators, but I prefer their long-droney repetitive 4/4 explorations live rather than on record (why a track like Sinatra Drive Breakdown is not a favorite).

Label: Matador
Genre: Indie Rock
Fav tracks: Fallout, Aselistine, Brain Capers, Miles Away
Rating: 4.0



Suono Assente (2023)

This record encapsules the original spirit of post-punk: Truly playful, experimental and innovative (while actually having “something to say”, even if this “something” cannot be easily discerned – important bc lots of so-called innovative experimental musicians seems to have nothing to say, head without heart). True unhindered creativity and emotional investment goes hand in hand on this release and here lies its strength. So much post-punk sounds so tired in ’23 – like a strange nostalgic parade through town seemingly totally disconnected from any actual, lived contemporary reality – but this, I think, could be made in 1983, 2023 or 2053. Makes me think of the best similar material from Arthur Russell, PiL and The Nits.

Label: AD 93
Genre: Post-Punk, Experimental, Post-Disco
Fav tracks: Suone Assente, Candles, Bites
Rating: 4.0


Bleary Eyed

Bleary Eyed (2023) [EP]

Shimmering, bombastic and immensely creative indie-rock / shoegaze from the present capitol of experimental rock-music, Philadelphia. Almost reminds you of something from Broken Social Scene peak-period. Highly, highly recommended!!

Label: Born Losers Records
Genre: Indie Rock / Shoegaze
Fav tracks: Tree, Run
Rating: 4.0


Rod Modell

Ghost Lights (2023)

Modell is the Detroit producer best known as DeepChord (a duo he founded with Mike Schommer in 1997 and a solo act since 2002) having released lots of amazing dub-techno since the late-90’s/early 2000’s. Though this record has the sonic signature of dub techno, there’s no basslines or beats, i.e. it’s purely ambient. Spread across four parts (each about the length of a side of vinyl), ‘Ghost Lights’ invites the listener into a space of wide, immersive sound
with tremendous sound-design (the clarity of the top-end, the weight of the sub-bass, and the warmth of the whole thing is awe-inspiring). Presenting musical events in an atmospheric, detailed, multi-layered sonic realm, “Ghost Lights” is one of the most affective pieces of beatless ambient dub techno I’ve heard in a long, long time (perhaps my favorite). A truly great sonic and emotional experience.

Label: Astral Industries
Genre: Ambient Dub Techno, Drone
Rating: 4.0


Ryuichi Sakamoto

12 (2023)

A harrowing but deeply profound listen, “12” was to be the great composer Sakamoto’s last work before he died following almost a decade of cancer struggle. Sakamoto noted that he made this album as a sort of diary during the end of this difficult period, “showering” himself in music, as he poetically expressed it. Consisting of different sonic textures of slightly different colours – some calm, some anxious – this is also Sakamoto’s most intimate recording, where you can hear him breathe, lifting his foot from the piano pedal, shifting his position on the stool, etc, and what sounds like a heart monitor and ventilator at work. A pensive, emotive and to my mind truly important work of the deepest musical poetic insight – honoring the beauty of silence with every note gracefully placed – “12” contains equal amounts of grief and hope, light and darkness, while asking all the biggest questions, exposing the paradoxes, revealing the emptiness, while carrying hope and advocating humility.

I think this is perhaps as close as we might get to a direct, vivid, acute, and ultimately profoundly touching phenomenal manifestation of our basic condition (the inescapable fact of death, the paradox of nothingness), since music and the best poetry has this exact, unique ability to tap into and expose these deep existential layers of emotional intuitive experience, where our habitual use of words and concepts die. To express what cannot be said. When listening to “12”, we’re in the constant equally threatening and welcoming presence of the terrifying sublime, that which is much bigger, unfathomable, indescribable, forcefully transcribed to notes, timbres, textures and silence. Truly an aural experience that will mark me forever and to which I will return often to think, feel and wonder.

Label: KAB / Milan
Genre: Ambient / Modern Classical
Rating: 4.0


Fire! Orchestra

Echoes (2023)

A massive, ambitious, wild free jazz / spiritual jazz / experimental big band album from Fire! Orchestra. The best I’ve ever heard from them, and they’ve done some truly great records. The musicality on display here – both in performance, arrangement and composition – is simply breathtaking and awe-inspiring. I don’t have that much more to say right now. The guest performances from Joe McPhee are simply phenomenal and quite touching.

Label: Rune Grammofon
Genre: Free Jazz / Spiritual Jazz / Experimental Big Band
Rating: 4.0


Sun Organ

Candlelight Showertime (2023)

The first time I heard “God Love His Little Things, Pt. 1” I was so overwhelmingly blown away I immediately needed to listen to it again and again and again…. The heavy, slow dragging beat with the incredibly deep baritone and the wonderful interplay with the female vocals, the highly highly addictive melody, the sudden eruption of noise and incredible build up through it all, the guitar explosion midway through (seriously loud, a handful db louder than everything else, JUST THE WAY a squeaming, crying guitar solo should be), THE BUILD UP OF GUITARS, and noise and noise and noise, until everything crashes and we only have this sad, punctured lullaby left of something that once was.

My expectations were now impossibly high. So at first I was a bit disappointed with the rest of the record. But it grew and it grew. The melodies got stuck in my head. I soon needed to live the atmosphere. It became one of my most played albums of ’23. We have this strange The 6ths-inspirered pop music (if anyone mentions the 6ths, it’s a sign we’re talking about pristine melodies, if not anything else) in a weird, dark, semi-lofi packaging where everything seems a bit wavy, tension-filled and deformed, a bit polluted and seasick. I’m not sure there’s a single clear pitch on this record, everything’s constantly slightly bending, slightly in motion, slightly detuned, if it’s chorus/phaser, pulling the strings or a wavering pitch. A surreal distorted atmospheric universe of chemical poisonous pop music, that’s what it is. I love it, I love it, I love it. “Please Not Today” is the most beautiful album closer I’ve heard in a long, long time.

Important to mention, Sun Organ is another Philadelphia band. How could this even be possible? After such a long, dry period for rock music, suddenly all the best bands are located in one place? We’ve seen it before, I guess… Or am I dreaming?

Label: Self-released?
Genre: Post-Punk / Dream Pop
Fav tracks: God Love His Little Things, Pt. 1, Please Not Today, Hours Waiting For You, Swallowed in Waves, High in the Shower
Rating: 4.5


Prizes Roses Rosa (p rosa) (panda rosa)

Burned Car Highway Light Volcanic (2023)

If the album of the year could be judged by the quality of a handful of tracks, “Burned Car Highway Light Volcanic” would win the prize. Though the album as a whole (to my faulty ears) is somewhat inconsistent, too wavering and would benefit from being shortened, I had the biggest musical revelations of the year with this deeply mystical, sublime, supremely indescribable work. On the other hand, if this album DIDN’T venture of all in all to many strange directions, if the tracks didn’t seem to carry on forever, if there wasn’t a big brown pile of mud and rumble enveloping all the tracks making clarity, definition and understanding impossible…. Well, it wouldn’t be Panda Rosa, and it would loose some of it’s sublime quality that exactly stems from its unfathomable nature.

If one should venture into the impossible task of describing Panda Rosas music, it could perhaps be said to be some sort of Bark Psychosis post-rock, Broken Social Scene indie rock experiments, contemporary lofi hypnagogic pop and Jon Hassell-like tribal ambient. This music is definitely not easily consumable – but it’s mind-expanding, emotionally maturing and ultimately immensely, immensely rewarding.

Label: P. Rosa Incorporated
Genre: Post-Rock / Ambient / Experimental / Dream Pop
Fav tracks: Dying, Cutting All My Wires, Mortal End Love, The Brain Misfolds, Grant
Rating: 4.5


Le Cri du Caire

Le Cri du Caire (2023)

An early strong AOTY candidate. Sort of a blend of arabic folk music (based on Sufi poetry and philosophy) / ECM-style-jazz and post-minimalist classical music, this is some highly original and important emotive music. Led by singer, writer, poet, and activist Abdullah Miniawy – who, according to Le Guess Who, “became, in the wake of the revolution, an artistic emblem for Egypt’s agitated youth” – Le Cri du Caire carries the hopes of the oppressed with their gripping, emotionally confronting spiritual music. Highly, highly recommended.

Label: Les Disques du Festival Permanent
Genre: Arabic Folk / Jazz / Post-Minimalism
Fav tracks: Pearls for Orphans, Splendid Tales,
Rating: 4.5


Strange Ranger

Pure Music (2023)

Philadelphia is apparently where it all happens concerning fresh, new, exciting and experimental rock music in ’23. This is genuinely innovative. Could it be possible to succeed making a contemporary semi-electronic experimental indie-rock version of Bark Psychosis’ “Hex” or The Blue Nile’s “Hats”? Stranger Ranger are certainly close with “Pure Music”.

Like the two previously mentioned records, this is darkly romantic music for getting lost in the city at night combining elements of sophisti-pop (think Deacon Blue / Prefab Sprout), dreampop / shoegaze, triphop, contemporary club music, post-rock, jazz, etc. The title of the album is ambitious, and so are the music. Filled with amazingly creative breath-taking production, hair-raising performances, sprawling genre-diversity, an ethereal and lofty surreal atmosphere, this record has perhaps given me the greatest goosebumps this year. Truly f***cking impressive, a milestone, something to live up to, future classic right here. A perfect excuse to write “criminally underrated”.

Label: Fire Talk
Genre: Indie Rock / Dream Pop / Alternative Dance
Fav tracks: Way Out, Wide Awake, She’s on Fire
Rating: 4.5

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