Staff Picks US: Best of 2023

Rough Trade Records

December 15th, 2023

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“It kinda sounds like how a perfectly made peanut butter and jelly sandwich would taste. An ideal balanced, fun, sweet, comforting classic blend of homey flavors and textures that just feel right.”

What better way to end the year than with a couple words from our lovely staff? From the warehouse to the shop, our staff take us along a diverse and eclectic musical journey, its no secret that they have amazing music taste.

Featuring titles from Hotline TNT, Cut Worms, JPEGMAFIA, Vanishing Twin, Mitski, Lifeguard, and many more!

Be sure to stop in and give a big thanks to our staff this holiday season!



Youth Lagoon Heaven Is a Junkyard

Delicate and direct, Trevor Powers (Youth Lagoon) embraces desolation (both situational and psychological), with perhaps the first album that could be described as “Idaho Gothic”. When aliens land on earth, this album should be used as a guide to the human emotional experience.



Caroline Polachek Desire, I Want to Turn Into You

Caroline Polachek’s highly anticipated album, Desire, I Want to Turn Into You, does not disappoint. It sounds like a mythical, ethereal woodland creature, a whirlwind romance and a European vacation made an album together. It’s melodic, catchy, dreamy, weird, artsy hyperpop and Polachek’s vocals are *chef’s kiss* perfection.



Damien Jurado Motorcycle Madness

One of two (or is it three?!) full-lengths Damien Jurado self-released in 2023, Motorcycle Madness is a moody, reverb-laden, horn-filled singer/songwriter record that continues on the themes and characters Jurado has been developing since releasing his masterwork, 2012’s Maraqopa, while adding a new sonic character. Prior to that record, made with the late Richard Swift, Jurado seemed to be mostly focused on lyrics and song craft; in the years since we’ve seen a mix of both quiet and sonically adventurous releases, with Motorcycle Madness being, in my opinion, the biggest jaw-dropper of the bunch.



Paramore This Is Why

This Is Why was my most anticipated release of the year and it did not disappoint! This album shows a natural progression from, and builds beautifully upon, Paramore‘s previous work— both retaining their “typical” rock sound while exploring new styles. Paramore has never been a band willing to be pinned down by genre or influence, but they have certainly pinned down their essence with this album— which is why although I will always be an After Laughter girlie, I believe This Is Why is Paramore at their best. Highlights for me include “You First”, “Figure 8”, and “Thick Skull”!



Vanishing Twin Afternoon X

This surrealist, ethereal, meditative album by Vanishing Twin just kept creeping its way into my daily listening. Since its release, Afternoon X has been THE album that I have been forcing all my friends to listen to (and they love it). With electronic and Krautrock influences, Afternoon X is a plethora of professional and sophisticated musical sensibilities. Vanishing Twin caught me at just the right time in 2021 with their album Ookii Gekkou and Afternoon X has a similar momentum, filling blank space with echoing vocals and drum machines while the hypnotic bass lines carry the track forward. Real excited to see whats next for these guys. Favorite track: “Lotus Eater”



U.S. Girls Bless This Mess

Toronto based Meghan Remy thoughtfully evokes retro 80’s funk and pop on their 8th studio album under their U.S. Girls moniker. Right out of the gates, U.S. Girls delivers bouncing, infectious grooves; wrought with memorable hooks. Clever arrangements and stellar production allow tracks to gleam. Tasteful moments of nostalgia are iced over with fresh perspective. Even the softest moments on Bless This Mess are laid with intention and brimming with character.


Mitski The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We

Mitski surprised me this year and released her best record in years, shedding the synth-heavy 80’s feel of her last record for a more honest Americana sound, which is new territory for her and she does it fabulously. Her writing is the real star of this record, and she takes the listener through a myriad of lush landscapes: galaxies of flickering stars, noisy trainyards, bogs of croaking frogs and howling dogs (a la Fetch the Bolt Cutters), showing her hand at a folkier singer-songwriter sound while still staying true to her candid, stream-of-consciousness indie pop roots.


Lifeguard Crowd Can Talk/Dressed in Trenches

Droney new-age hardcore with rhythm that makes you want to move! This two EP release stays energetic and noisey without sacrificing pretty, pretty melodies. Great for fans of Horsegirl, Unwound, Drive Like Jehu, and Water From Your Eyes.



Billy Woods and Kenny Segal Maps

Woods has had an insane album run since Hiding Places and Maps is another piece of that legacy. Segal‘s stylistically chic and dissonant beats once again paired with Wood’s signature cynicism and paranoia is filtered through the experiences that Woods has gone through since he has gained notable fame and toured the world. Despite being a more emotionally balanced and melodic album then previous records, there is a gnawing motif throughout the lyrics of the permanence of impermanence that can switch from feeling liberating and almost hopeful to soul-crushing depending on the verse. Super simple, heavy lines that make you feel like we’re all stuck on a puzzle never meant to be solved. It was alright.



Hotline TNT Cartwheel

Hotline TNT’s second full-length release is a benchmark of modern shoegaze that stays earnest and fun. The opening track “Protocol” was stuck in my head for a good chunk of the year, and I’m not complaining.


JPEGMAFIA & Danny Brown Scaring The Hoes

You got two of the most unique rappers of the past decade joining forces, rapping over old PlayStation and WWE samples smothered in glitchy chaotic beats. Sounds like a fun time!


Militarie Gun Life Under The Gun

Hardcore with pop sensibilities? Sign me the hell up. This just builds on what came before – and their songwriting is leveling up in real time with these batch of songs. Can’t wait to see what the next record looks like!



B. Cool-Aid Leather Blvd.

B. Cool-Aid’s Leather Blvd. melts jazz, R&B, and rap together flawlessly. Featuring Pink Siifu’s raspy vocals and smooth flow, Ahwlee’s early 2000s neo-soul reminiscent production, and plenty of other talented rising artists, this album is just stunning. Through the use of well-placed extended skits, hilarious dialogue interludes, and voicemail samples, the record transforms into a fully immersive experience. It kinda sounds like how a perfectly made peanut butter and jelly sandwich would taste. An ideal balanced, fun, sweet, comforting classic blend of homey flavors and textures that just feel right. My fave tracks include: “Cnt Go Back”, “Wassup”, and “Brandy, Aaliyah.”



Fall Out Boy So Much (for) Stardust

Fall Out Boy rises from the deep with So Much (for) Stardust, their first album since 2018’s Mania. So Much (for) Stardust is my ultimate feel good record. Fall Out Boy dances us through a post-quarantine landscape where everything is lit except our serotonin. In true Fall Out Boy fashion, the lyrics are laced with witty jabs and profound emotion, but the upbeat tempo doesn’t give you time to dwell on the sadness. What a time to be alive indeed!



Cut Worms Cut Worms

Cut Worms‘ third full-length LP on Jagjaguwar hit the spot for me in 2023. Max Clarke, aka Cut Worms, vintage aesthetics pay homage to legends like The Stones, The Beatles, Brian Wilson and Everly Brothers while Max’s original tracks shine on their own and reach their full potential when brought to life recorded live with his band. As an extra bonus, they collaborate with the great Lemon Twigs on two tracks. The album intentionally keeps it simple which in the end only enhances the strong songwriting. 


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