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The End Of List-o-Mania Jay's best of 2023 playlist is not, repeat not, a chart, a countdown or an award ceremony.

The End Of List-o-Mania

Jay's best of 2023 playlist is not, repeat not, a chart, a countdown or an award ceremony.

by Jay Lewis, Reviews Editor
first published: December, 2023

approximate reading time: minutes

However tempting it may be to compare Lankum to an orange, The Lilac Time to a spaceship, and Craven Faults to a potted plant, I'll resist.

There may still be a few moments left in 2023 to reflect on the music that I've been listening to from the last twelve months. But, before I meander through those highlights, you'll note that this is not a list. It is not a chart rundown, there are no winners. There are no runners-up. It will be accompanied by a video of me standing against a wall of albums ranking the records from worst to best. You will not see me wearing a hat indoors. Not that. Not at all.

There are so many reasons to not make annual lists of records, and not all of those reasons involve IDLES. Maybe the most profound reason for never placing any records of the year on a competitive list was given by ANONHI upon winning the Mercury Music Prize in 2005: "It's like a contest between an orange and a space ship and a potted plant and a spoon" she remarked upon being handed the award.

However tempting it may be to compare Lankum to an orange, The Lilac Time to a spaceship and Craven Faults to a potted plant, I'll resist. And I can only apologise to those artists who were the almost album of my previous years, especially those that came in second, which will always bring that Jerry Seinfeld routine about athletes in the Olympics that only get the silver medal (of all the losers, you came in first...no one lost ahead of you). I'm not going to place Hamish Hawk next to Jason Williamson and Anthony Szmierek in the 1500m sharpest and most quotable lyrics race. And I don't want to weigh how much more or less the words of Robert Forster, Katherine Priddy or Stephen Duffy have meant to me. It's somehow missing the point. 

Instead, I may just allow there to be themes: 'Remarkable Interpretations of Another's Work' to include many of those who contributed to the tribute albums to the late Daniel Darc and Nick Drake. The Ligeti Quartet for a record that celebrated the brilliant musical mind of Anna Meredith, or Bill Pritchard for taking the poems of Patrick Woodcock and making them sound like Bill Pritchard songs.

Then there's the theme of 'I Really Didn't Know What To Expect But I Wasn't Expecting That...' where Arooj Aftab/Vijay Iyer/Shahzad Ismaily's haunting and meditative 'Love in Exile' defied any categorization, or Lankum's ability to adapt traditional folk songs and reels to reveal their sinister and perilous side. I had no experience of Miski and was not anticipating a record that I could play alongside Weyes Blood. Despite releasing records for 40 years, I was new to Glass /Reich classicism meets pop nous in the work of Arnold Dreyblatt. And, even though there's been a few thousand words written about it elsewhere, I really didn't expect that final Beatles song to be any good.

Maybe the greatest surprise was Vince Clark's solo 'debut'. After four decades of crafting synth-pop gems, I was not prepared for the minimalist instrumentals of 'Songs of Silence' and, in particular, the sampled folk song that runs through the bleak soundtrack of 'Blackleg'. It's eerie and it'll stay with you.

Despite my recent abstention from music radio, I've somehow managed to become fascinated by four of the acts that BBC 6 Music championed as their artists of the year (Anthony Szmierek, Say She She, The Last Dinner Party and, although it took ages to finally deliver their debut album), Gabriels. I know that all of that may come back to haunt me, like that time I deemed an IDLES album to better than anything else released from that year. Sure, the old Omar Khayyám 'the moving finger...'
quote has been replaced by the fact that we can now hit delete, recall or rewrite the original article. But that never undoes under the original misdemeanor. You're only fooling yourself with that one.

And so, here are 23 tunes from 2023. In no particular order, other than I like the way they follow each other. No more countdowns, I'll make it a New Year's Resolution. Promise.

23 from 22 - Jay Lewis playlist

Jay Lewis
Reviews Editor

Jay Lewis is a Birmingham based poet. He's also a music, movie and arts obsessive. Jay's encyclopedic knowledge of 80s/90s Arts films is a debt to his embedded status in the Triangle Arts Centre trenches back then.


about Jay Lewis »»

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