[sic] Magazine

Tasting Notes 2023

After two years of wing-to-wing chaos, it’s been refreshing that music has kept its relative cool during 2022 when much else seems to have continued down the pan. An anchor in stormy seas, a shoulder on which to cry, new music in particular still has the power to excite too, the frisson of discovery as unpredictable as medium-term success, and, yet, optimistically, here again is our annual feature that really ought to be sub-titled “bands/artists that don’t yet have an album, but from whom we’d like one soon”. Like always, we’ll kick off by appraising the progress – or otherwise – of last year’s chosen few; what, simply, is the point of a list like this if we’re ultimately not held accountable for it?

Riding a buzzy wave of impressive proportions, we’re first-up pleased to report that slack garage-punks Enumclaw have graduated from EP to LP very recently and, reassuringly, there’ll not at interested in fixing what was far from broken. Accordingly, we get an ear-catching smear of rough and ready distortion, smart melodies lifting respectfully from the choicest of genre elders. It’s really not supposed to sound this easy. Next Up, Leeds lads English Teacher landed themselves an noteworthy support slot on the Yeah Yeah Yeahs tour and still had time to table a debut EP. And, it’s solid. More spidery and indie-inclined than the preceding, post-punk-leaning single suggested perhaps, but bigger and more confident too. A band at the crossroads, it’ll be interesting to see which direction they take next. Also the owners of a new EP, American-Canadian indie/grunge duo Francis Of Delirium have also been making a bit of a splash in tastemaker circles this year. Shelving their scrappier, punchier show-stoppers in favour of a more tempered, grown-up form of alt-rock, the move is a brave one that’s nevertheless calling out for the pendulum to swing both back and forth to benefit best from both sounds. Our picks last year have all stepped up to release more material in 2022, but none of them have done it so successfully as Chicago’s Horsegirl, who’ve made the transition to indie-major Matador seamlessly, proper production leaving their chilly, hands-off post-punk/art-rock to glisten like frost, guitars crunching like walking through fresh snow. It’s woozy stuff; see where it lands in our albums of the year list soon. Rounding out last year’s tips was, of course, Wet Leg. Their rise has been the dictionary definition of stratospheric, and – inevitably – the debut album was rushed and suffered as a result – not that it impacted sales. Kudos on writing a song to rival the ubiquitous “Chaise Longue” (the wry, caffeinated indie-pop of “Wet Dream”). Shame about the some of the rest of the LP. You can’t win them all, but in the ears of many Wet Leg already have.

Anyway, with that round-up done and dusted, let’s head on over to the main event. Make of the below what you will, considering the mixed bag above. Here goes nothing then; 2023’s ones to watch are:

Deadletter – There’s no getting around the Talking Heads influences that this arty Leeds collective hold so dear, nor their reverence for the itchy punk-funk of forefathers Gang Of Four. It’s the squalling sax and louche cowbell of New York no-wave though that really gets the groove going, allowing Northern shaman Zac Lawrence and his wry observations the licence they need to get weird. Key track: “Line The Cows”

Sprints – Never underestimate the raw power of a firebrand frontwoman. Karla Chubb weaponises Irish charisma by bottling it and then delivering it back with a flaming rag stuffed in the neck. The garage-punk band she leads with her magnetic performance is combustible as a result, but it’s her literary lyricism and storytelling takedowns that most successfully burn their way into the memory. Key track: “Little Fix”

Boy With Apple – Taking their name from the fictional painting in Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel, these woozy dream-pop practitioners arrive fully formed and impossibly perfect. The Gothenburg conveyor belt of swoonsome, otherworldly indie has churned out some wonderful stuff over the years and the Boy With Apple’s hot run of tracks this year stands alongside the very best. Key track: “Strawberry Boy”

M(h)aol – With an album confirmed for 2023, this feminist five-piece of noise-rocking post-punks tackle intersectionality and socially hot topics with a weary malaise that grabs the attention and dares you to keep on walking by. Pronounced “male” (think “gaol/jail”), they paint a very gloomy picture of their Dublin home and beyond, unafraid of asking their audience some difficult questions. Key track: “Bored Of Men”

Been Stellar – There’s an effervescence to this Brooklyn five-piece that immediately brings to mind The Strokes circa Is This It? The opening one-two of their debut EP lands with the same swagger, the breathless authenticity of youth and great taste bound together in tight pants and flushed down an urban sidewalk. There are 1000 bands in the same gutter and yet Been Stellar are looking like stars. Key track: “Manhattan Youth”

Got a new band/artist you want to see make an album in 2023? Want to slag these choices off? Know something we don’t about any of the artists mentioned above? Let us know your thoughts using the comments below.