As we’ve now been doing for more than a decade, we’re kicking off our week of Year End coverage at the site with a slew of recommendations from various friends and associates from all over the various corners and dimensions of Our Thing. At the end of the day, ID:UD remains a two-person passion project, and while that’s a big part of what’s kept us going as long as we have, the trade-off is that there are all manner of records that can pass us by in a calendar year. That’s why we love this particular element of our Year End coverage so much: we get to hear about some great records from heads in the know we might have otherwise slept on (or hear different perspectives from our own on stuff we did cover), and our readership gets a much broader sense of what happened in the year that was. Take a look at these 12 records below, then tune in tomorrow for the first instalment of our traditional Top 25 list!
Shannon Hemmett of Leathers and ACTORS, graphic artist
Art School Girlfriend, Soft Landing
I travelled a lot with my bands this past year, and I learned quickly that noise cancelling headphones are a must on flights. The album I listened to most at 30,000ft is aptly titled Soft Landing by Welsh electro-shoegaze artist Art School Girlfriend (Polly Louise Mackey). The production decisions are right in my wheelhouse; I love the texture of her voice against the floating guitar tones. The choice of live drums, bass guitar, and airy synths seem to pressurize and release as we hit our cruising altitude. Start with my fave track “Close to the Clouds” and ascend.
Konstantina Buhalis, writer and journalist
Ritual Howls, Virtue Falters
Detroiters Ritual Howls released their fifth studio album, Virtue Falters, distilling what the post-punk scene offers. Ritual Howls outdoes themselves ten-fold on Virtue Falters, taking sophisticated textures and weaving them together to craft a multi-faceted record. Pulling in Western tones enhances the industrial underpinning, keeping the throughline consistent. Virtue Falters’ macabre lyrical content sweeps the listener into a trad-goth-inspired romp. The record’s contained fury creates a hypnotic yet eerie auditory landscape through space-age laser sounds and high-energy drums. Virtue Falters relentlessly powers forward, taking no prisoners and stopping for no one. Ritual Howls released the blueprint of the future with Virtue Falters.
Ned Raggett, Music writer and I Die: You Die inspirer
Aunty Rayzor, Viral Wreckage
What matters most about the debut album by Nigerian artist Aunty Rayzor is that it feels absolutely now — something that could not have existed before this general historical moment, with the increasing dissolution of barriers to entry when it comes to making your mark musically from anywhere in the world, and working with anyone in the world as one chooses to as well (listed producers and guests appear from Japan to France to Brazil to Kenya and back). What it sounds like is a hotwired vision of a real cyberpunk landscape from the near future rather than a continually looped-back 80s stereotype, with beats that slam hard, Rayzor’s spitting of rhymes and lines combining control with careening and the sense that this is what the world actually feels like right about now.
Gaby Gustafson of Eva X
Banshee, Birth Of Venus
Perhaps surprisingly, my most influential release of the year was a Spotify recommendation. Banshee is the blend of synths, dance beats, and metal influences I didn’t know I needed before I heard it. I’m a sucker for dissonance, and the combo of soft atmospheres and raw screams that she brings on the title track grabbed me and Would. Not. Let. Go. The rest of the EP is fantastic – I came for the catharsis, and stayed for the fantastic cycling between house, dance, lo-fi, and metalcore influences, all over just 20 minutes. Plus, it’s hard not to love a song called “YES ALL MEN”.
Justin Hagberg of Ritual Dictates and 3 Inches of Blood
Peter Gabriel, i/o
My favourite album of 2023 has to be i/o by Peter Gabriel. Every song is so beautifully written and composed, and although it’s been over 20 years since his last album (Up), it was so worth the wait. Once again, a truly stellar vocal performance backed by unbelievable musicianship. The string arrangements are breathtaking. Oh, and if you’re looking for hooks, look no further.
Matia Simovich of Inhalt, Producer at Infinite Power Studios
Puerta Negra, Playa Sola
Every year around this time I try and take stock of what it was I’ve done creatively the entire year. This year, I can’t even recollect what precisely happened as I and my studio was booked out nearly every day. Therefore, I’ve resorted to specific moments and memories that stood out and one such set of sessions were for Puerta Negra. I had the great pleasure of producing and mixing their Playa Sola EP and I really think the final outcome really captured both their personalities and their energy. It was probably one of the fastest recordings I’ve been involved with but to no detriment or deficit to the final outcome (I still can’t believe we made the EP as quickly as we did). If you haven’t heard this EBM via Synclavier gem of an EP do it now.
Eric Oehler of KLACK and Null Device, Submersible Studios
Everything But The Girl, Fuse
A lot of gushing stuff has already been written about this record in the press. And yeah, it’s a fantastic record, even if it’s not strictly “Our Thing.” Moreover, it represents a pretty convincing pushback against the prevailing wisdom that dance music is exclusively the domain of young people. Fuse is a dynamic, modern album made by a pair of sexagenarian parents, and while the world-weariness that comes with age is certainly present, it never presents itself as cynicism or judgment. It’s a record that manages to lean on the band’s iconic status without descending into tedious boomer nostalgia, while broadly accepting and celebrating the innovations of artists many years their junior. It’s not exactly be my absolute favorite record of the year, but it was certainly one that hit with multiple layers of significance. It gives me a measure of confidence that me and my contemporaries can continue to have interesting musical careers long after we’re past the “industry prime.”
Avi Roig of HARSH R
Kabeaushé, The Comming of Gaze
Joy is an incredibly rare commodity in the world of today and that fact alone makes a record like The Comming of Gaze shine. Unbound by any/all outdated notions of genre constraints, Kabeaushé manifests a colorful kaleidoscopic soundscape, borrowing as needed from across the spectrum of modern music and filtering it through an East African lens. The result is overwhelmingly joyous, yes, but it also manages to be earnest, tender, vulnerable and, most crucially, the catchiest, most hook-filled album of 2023.
Jeff Cancade of Devours and The Golden Age of Wrestling
My favourite album of 2023 is Post-American, the debut LP by an art-punk band out of Mississippi named MSPAINT. To put it simply, it is the most vital record I have heard all year. The lyrics are so strong – existential, political, life-affirming – and the production is absolutely crazy. Strange beautiful synth lines, massive fuzzed out bass parts, no guitars, and a vocalist who sounds like he could be the long lost brother of the frontman from late 90’s nu metal warriors P.O.D. The band really knows what they’re doing with their aesthetic as well – not afraid to be colourful, weird, and creative, they are marching to the beat of their own drum and pushing synth-punk in an important new direction.
Starr Noir, DJ, Streamer and Graphic Designer
Sierra, A Story of Anger
Highly anticipated by many and well received by all, A Story of Anger is just that: from start to finish it takes you on a journey that speaks (at least, to me) on such a deep and visceral level. It comes from a core level of emotions, exploring the process of grief and letting go, only to rise stronger than ever before. Easily my “album of the year,” it not only highlights Sierra’s incredibly unique sound, but we really get to hear more of their talents come through. With the addition of a couple really fantastic collaborations (Carpenter Brut & HEALTH), the album is just really well produced & beautifully done. I know I’m not alone when I say I’m really excited for what they do next!
Michael Pinch of Chrome Corps.
Tom Carruthers, Future Wave
“Scratch an EBM head, find a raver”. One of the best compliments I’ve ever gotten from a journalist who reviewed my band’s music. That’s precisely what i wanted people to think when they heard the oldskool house piano stabs in my body music band Chrome Corps’ outlier song “Dance Or Die”. Not trying to do a self plug, I merely brought that up because if you’re someone like me who’s cut from an oldschool EBM and industrial cloth, and you’re chasing a classic vibe outside of – but still adjacent to – those genres, I’ve got great fucking news for you. This new monster truck of an album by seminal UK bleep mastermind Tom Carruthers called Future Wave is guaranteed to scratch your oldskool techno and acid house itch. Truthfully, it was difficult to choose an album to review because so much amazing music was released this year. I decided to review this album because 1: not that many people in “our thing” know about it, and 2: it’s just some of the best god damn dance music I’ve heard this year. You’ve got 80s / early 90s techno bangers like “Delve” and “Launch Cod”e, with their plucky fm basslines and jacking 909 grooves that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Nexus 21, or perhaps 808 State, or even an early Orbital record. Then you got the appropriately titled “Industrial Sub”, “Visions”, and “Mission Control”, which sound like long lost demos from Leeds’ legendary electronica outfit LFO. There’s a lot of blatant Detroit influences on this album too; the track “Short Circuit” is an obvious nod to Derrick May’s “The Dance”, possibly even sampling the exact same DX7 square wav from that classic dancefloor belter. That’s not a dig at all, I love it. And for you strict EBM muscle bros, need not worry, there’s the track “XXX Scene”, with its sexual energy, punchy bass and heavy Wax Trax coded industrial drums which would not sound out of place on a Greater Than One or Randolph and Mortimer record. “The Future” and “Darkside” are heavy midtempo shredders with hints of Belgian new beat that will make you want to wear a windbreaker and sunglasses and dance very silly. The only possible downside of this album is it does have a lot of tracks, a whole 18 to be exact, and there isn’t TOO much variety, hell some basslines and beats are recycled here and there, so I can understand why one might not want to listen to this album in its entirety. But if you ask me, it’s better to have too many bangers than not enough bangers. Also, if you’re like me and you fucking love oldskool dance music thats groovy, laid-back, AND nasty (you’re a real one if you understand that reference), it’s honestly a perfect album from start to finish and there are really not very many other artists out there at the moment who scratch that specific itch more than Tom Carruthers.
Ian Ross of Flesh Field
genCAB, Signature Flaws
I recall watching a documentary on the history of comic books years ago wherein during an interview with a writer, the writer reflects upon his reading of Watchmen for the first time. After completing Watchmen, the writer stated when he returned to the office, he trashed all of the scripts he had been working on and told his colleagues, “We can do better.” I had the same reaction upon listening to the new genCAB album Signature Flaws particularly with respect to the vocal performance. The thought, effort, and production that went into the vocals on this album really struck me and I resolved to try harder on my own material. Many thanks to GenCAB for raising the bar and inspiring me to try to improve!
Mason McMorris of Ringfinger
Fearing’s first full length effort since their transition into full drum machine territory builds upon the still-relatively-fresh foundation laid by 2022’s Desolate EP and doubles down on the dreary atmosphere of their back catalog. This album took some time to grow on me, but a few evening walks and bike rides through this autumn’s heavy fog have cemented it into regular rotation for me. Sometimes all it takes is the right context. As much as I enjoyed the live drums on earlier releases, this is a band that shines brightest to me when building textures over comparatively repetitive, grid-locked sequences. There’s a decidedly more California vibe to this release, with more upbeat, smoother sounds akin to fellow Californians Provoker seeping through the dour exterior of some of these tracks, especially on the title track, but never enough to derail the atmosphere. Conversely, the album stands out most to me at its lower tempos, with tracks like “The Sun Sets On Me” using space and minimalism to great effect. The ideal soundtrack to get lost in a dreary West Coast fog.
See you tomorrow for the first 10 entries in our Best of 2023 countdown!