KCRW's Best of 2023
KCRW's Best of 2023 - Best Albums
KCRW's annual Best Of recognizes the music, food, and entertainment that broke through the din and made us think, feel, and move in 2023. These are the artists and works that continually innovate and inspire, while pushing culture forward; not a competition but a celebration. Explore the standouts from the past year.

Best Albums


The Lamb as Effigy or Three Hundred and Fifty XOXOXOS for a Spark Union With My Darling Divine


There’s a reason why Sprain is your favorite band’s favorite band right now, and why, at their album release show at the Moroccan Lounge in September, the line literally wrapped around the block. It’s the same reason why the band played continuously, relentlessly, for more than three hours, exhausting their material and the crowd, and why, shortly after, the band abruptly called it quits. The Lamb as Effigy is the second and (for now) final album by Sprain, scions of the urgency and innovation springing from LA’s underground. It’s a record of endurance. Literally — from the full album title, to the 96-minute run time, to its eight tracks (two of which clock in at over 24 minutes each) — but more so spiritually: An articulation, symphonic in scale, of existential vertigo. 

This is a difficult album, rife with dissonance, screaming, paranoia, and oppressive stillness. It is often tremendously ugly. Less often, but all the more cathartic, are moments of consonant grandeur. Is this slowcore? Art rock? Post-rock? No wave? Noise? Minimalism? It’s “all of the above” and “none of the above,” masterfully orchestrated around its no-rules approach. The result is music that sounds aggressively of the moment and unlike anything else, liberated from the cultural feedback loops that make so much new art feel reactionary and safe. You have no idea where the record is going or what you’re going to hear next, but you’re along for the free-fall. In that sense, The Lamb as Effigy is a document of what it feels like to be alive right now: A reckoning of modern life’s paradoxes, crying out because we yearn for, demand, and maybe even believe in something better.

— Andrea Domanick (Digital Editorial Manager)

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Sunrise Bang Ur Head Against Tha Wall

Nia Archives

The often-underrated genre of jungle (aka drum ‘n’ bass) has been enjoying an intriguing resurgence lately, finding its way onto tracks and remixes by artists not typically associated with the style (see: Disclosure’s “Higher Than Ever Before,” Fat Freddy’s Drop’s Bones’ “Dub Pistols & Freestylers Remix,” and Sweatson Klank’s “Can I Go”). Even more intriguing is the new generation of artists centering their work on its sound. Chief among those finding inspiration in the “old-school” jungle motif (in particular, the early ‘94-96 amen breaks style of jungle, my absolute favorite) is the UK’s Nia Archives.

Nia’s third EP, Sunrise Bang Ur Head Against Tha Wall, is a testament to the genre’s longevity and unwavering appeal. She delivers the exquisite chaos of the jungle sound in six palatable tracks that pay homage to her many influences, including samba and R&B.

The fiery opening track, “Baianá,” is a nod to Brazilian jungle pioneers DJ Marky and DJ Patife, where a furious mix of samba and breakbeats offer a perfect backdrop to soaring Brazilian chants. For fans of more R&B-influenced styles, guest vocalist Maverick Sabre delivers the perfect groove-driven soulful antidote on “No Need 2 Be Sorry, Call Me?”

And then there’s “So Tell Me.” Lovesick Nia lets us into her intimate world of heartache, confusion, and longing. “I get so stuck inside my head / this overthinking sends me west…” she intones via gorgeous vocal delivery. It’s vulnerable, honest, and, accompanied by such a hard-driving jungle beat, impossible to resist. 

— Valida (KCRW DJ)

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The South Hill Experiment

Named for their DTLA Hill Street studio, The South Hill Experiment is a project from LA-based, Baltimore-bred brothers Baird and Goldwash, respectively artists in their own right who we've been tracking for some time now. Baird brings whimsy and eclecticism, while Goldwash provides an indie electronic funk-meets-Robert Wyatt vibe. The results feel like we're witnessing, indeed, an experiment, explorations for a soundtrack to a film that doesn't yet exist. A couple of tracks are bonafide breakout hits for KCRW: The sonically distorted “Chameleons” and “Gabo's Last Resort,” a lilting, piano-driven choir piece that's both mournful and majestic.

— Chris Douridas (KCRW DJ)

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For That Beautiful Feeling

The Chemical Brothers

The tenth studio album from The Chemical Brothers fuses the feelings of mystery, celebration, experimentation, and excitement into a singular aural sensation. The pioneering Manchester duo have been taking fans on a ride for over three decades now, and on For That Beautiful Feeling, they repave the course with twists and turns into electronic music’s unknown. Tracks like “Feels Like I Am Dreaming”, capture the expression of musical escapism that has defined Ed Simons and Tom Rowlands’ career, melding a knack for anthemic pop hooks with visceral, rhythmic intensity. For That Beautiful Feeling culminates a body of work to be experienced, not just heard, from start to finish.


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the record


Mega-trio boygenius — the side project of Julian Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus — are each gifted confessional songwriters in their own right with knacks for melody and arrangement. Joining forces in 2018, the supergroup soon took on equally super accolades from critics and fans alike with their self-titled EP. This year, they released their long-awaited debut LP the record and were promptly rewarded with no fewer than seven Grammy Award nominations in major categories, including Album Of The Year, Record Of The Year, Best Rock Performance, and Best Alternative Album.

This is no coincidence, especially when you think about the breakthrough power of “Not Strong Enough,” on which each artist takes a verse. The individual appeal is distinct, but together, their friendship, rich harmonies, and emotional songwriting coalesce as one.

— Ariana Morgenstern (Executive Producer, KCRW Music and Today's Top Tune Curator)

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Leaving your first home, your birthplace, the place that raised and made you — it ain’t easy. It takes courage, a sense of fearlessness, creating pressure that yields precious stones. In the case of Brazilian virtuoso guitar player and singer-songwriter Rogê (pronounced haw-zheh), his sonic diamonds were born from saudade, a Portuguese word akin to “deep longing” but that doesn’t have a direct translation; rather, it’s a feeling, one that intensifies when you’re away from a land, a person, a moment that you love. Curyman is a Brazilian serenade for the soul, a spirit-filling, heart-string-pulling expression of what raised Rogê, released on the 20th anniversary of his self-titled debut album. It’s the Latin Grammy nominee’s first international breakthrough album, and the love and care that went into creating it resonates vividly with every note.

Rogê’s incredible talent on the guitar is paired with legendary arranger/guitar maestro Arthur Verocai, who added strings on “Pra Vida” and “Mistério da Raça.” The album takes us from the lush jungles of Brazil, to the lively beach parties of Rio de Janeiro, to Venice, CA. Curyman calls on the ancestors, on nature, on the orixás (deities), and pays homage to the classic sounds of career-long inspirations like Jorge Ben and Arlindo Cruz. Curyman is a whole love song, teleporting us to the beating heart of Brazil.

— Ro “Wyldeflower” Contreras (KCRW DJ)

More: Rogê: KCRW Live from HQ

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Pastor's Paradox

Aruán Ortiz

Aruán Ortiz is fascinated with the history surrounding the great Martin Luther King, Jr. A brilliant pianist born in Cuba and raised in Brooklyn, Ortiz has done his research, and approached the speeches of Dr. King from many angles. The biblical references, the analogies, and even the rhythm of cadence used to deliver the messages are all tools and poignant strategies to synchronize thought and the crux of the message inside a socially acceptable package. The truth delivered in a box with a bow. Now let’s add music!

The compositions for Ortiz’s Pastor’s Paradox are all based on Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream,” the speech that immersed itself into the heart of our nation with a message of gold, causing love, fear, respect, disdain, self worth, and ill will for our fellow Americans. It is an intersection of avant garde piano, spoken word, cello, drums, and, not a replica of the time, but more like a peak into the looking glass of a Black man: the degree of stress and determination to merely exist with the tribulations, raising and protecting family, and existential brothers bonding together. The sound is piercing, determined and on the edge of possibility; colors that lean to the dark side in a search for eminent light. Don Byron on clarinet always brings the element of confrontation, a force to deal with, a voice asking the hard questions that need to be answered. Fleeting thoughts, but the stance is strong and determined.

Titles like “The Dream That Wasn’t Meant to Be Ours”, “An Interval of Hope,” and “No Justice, No Peace Legacy” give you a glimpse into perspective. The compositions lay down a cinema which separates you from these times, inserts your consciousness into the thick of those times, and then arrives in the present with questions about why changes and strides feel like trickery, the masquerade of a jester.

But, the movement is forward, the determination is still strong, the horizon is still in the distance and, so many years later, the unrequited dream is still our daunting reality. This music moves thought and the work should be theater. An excellent suite depiction of life's equality, “Movement 2023.” The saga continues!

— LeRoy Downs (KCRW DJ)



Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds)

Yves Tumor

Yves Tumor is a mysterious gift. On the surface, their allure may stem from impeccable glam-rock style and minimal social media presence. Scratch a little, and get sucked into the way they blend just about every genre in the book. Even with four acclaimed albums and a handful of under-the-radar hits under Tumor’s belt, Praise a Lord Who Chews but Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds)” is both a standout and watershed in an already-distinguished career. Reminiscent of Prince and Blood Orange (Dev Hynes), the album is both cool-as-hell and emotionally liberating, full of longing and lyrical intrigue. Tumor explores some pretty grim themes — pain, evil, death — but through it all, finds a way to make you feel wholly more alive.

Each track marks a culmination of Tumor’s art-rock and experimental pop explorations, ensembles of instrumentation building to cacophonies paired with catchy, heart wrenching melodies. “Heaven Surrounds Us Like A Hood” melds haywire guitar riffs, battering percussion, and Tumor’s gentle falsetto to ecstatic effect. “Lovely Sewer,” featuring the Lady Gaga-esque vocals of Egyptian-Italian musician Kidä, summons you to sing along. And closer “Ebony Eye” is a breathless, cinematic triumph. The album is like a room of funhouse mirrors — with each turn, you see something different. While Yves Tumor may themselves be a mystery, “Praise a Lord...” reveals an artist fully formed.

— Anna Chang (Producer, Morning Becomes Eclectic)

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The Comeback Kid

Marnie Stern

A lot of great albums came out this year. Most remarkable of them for me would have to be Marnie Stern’s new LP, The Comeback Kid. Not only is it excellent, but it comes after Ms. Stern went radio silent for ten years after releasing her equally-excellent Chronicles Of Marnia in 2013. After that long, I thought she had just moved on to other things. She was, in fact, gainfully employed as a musician on Seth Meyers’ late night television show, which perhaps kept her away from creating her own work. The Comeback Kid isn’t as much a return to form as Marnie just picking up where she left off. The coolest part is there’s absolutely no diminishing of her great talent. I just hope she doesn’t wait so long until her next album, lest she have to title it The Cicada, and I’ll have to listen to it between naps in an assisted living facility.

Music is really good right now. I’d go as far as to say Independent Music hasn’t been better than it has been in the last ten years or so. I think more bands and artists are starting their own labels, making their own records, and seemingly not nearly as concerned with getting their music on radio or video channels, thus making their mindset and music truly independent. The bottom line is there’s never been a better time to go to the record store or the show than right now. Platforms like Bandcamp make it relatively easy to check out music without having to risk your savings. Happy listening.

— Henry Rollins (KCRW DJ)

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Glorious Game

El Michels Affair & Black Thought

This year we witnessed the fitness of two of the best in the business at distilling every drop of raw soul from every note, beat, and word they release. Leon Michels (El Michels Affair) is a proper force of nature in every project he's produced for the likes of Chicano Batman, Liam Bailey, Lady Wray, and Brainstory, as well as constant collaborations with The Black Keys, Wu-Tang, and other masters of the game. It was only a matter of time (and a global pandemic) before he’d join mighty forces with Tarik Trotter, known to the world as Black Thought, or to many, one of the greatest emcees to ever touch a microphone via leading The Roots.

The title track embodies the pair’s approach on this masterpiece: slow and steady, warm and wise, calm and calculated, a shared maturity exuded in every nuance. Contributor KIRBY's coldblooded vocal hook adds that velvet upholstery to the ride while Trotter leans out the window, cruising the blocks of his mind, line-by-line...
"Okay, I'm… / Proof that we all should get free / Direct from the streets of S.P.

Cool on tryna be the next thing/ For real, I'm just tryna be the best me, so... No gas, I'm higher in octane/Which icon am I if not flames?”

Together, these master craftsmen bring a depth and introspection so needed in this world today. The album not only transmutes pain and struggle into beauty and wisdom, but does so in a way that we can ride to it, slow and low, calm and collected. In a time of armchair dabblers and newcomers so quick to give advice, it's refreshing to hear such tenured mastery at play. In a word: "Quintessence.”

— Jeremy Sole (KCRW DJ)

More: Leon Michels: KCRW Guest DJ set

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It’s been six long years since we had last heard from Kelela, with little of the drip-drip-drip of features and loosies (or even social media posts) to which we've become accustomed from stars feeding their fans in the modern media age. But rather than seeing Kelela’s influence wane since 2017's Take Me Apart, it felt like the world was finally getting up to speed with what she had thrown down. Dropped in February, Raven set the tone for a lot of the sonic trends that followed and helped define the music of 2023. From dreamy, atmospheric soundscapes to incorporating more club-friendly rhythms like drum ‘n’ bass (a genre that had a big moment in 2023), dancehall, and Baltimore club, Kelela shows masterful dexterity in synthesizing all sounds from across the spectrum and making them her own. The LA artist has always had a keen ear for forward-leaning productions and collaborators on the cutting edge, but Raven feels more like a carefully-crafted sonic journey than just a collection of great tracks, setting a new high-water mark for one of the most exciting artists of the past decade.

— Travis Holcombe (KCRW DJ, host of FREAKS ONLY)

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UK producer, pianist, songwriter, singular vocalist, and 2017 Mercury Prize winner Sampha has at last delivered his sophomore LP Lahai, named for his grandfather. More songbook than album, Lahai is a road into the depths of his personal experiences. His accompaniment seamlessly blends the digital with the organic, with melodies falling effortlessly across the keys of his piano. Stand-out tracks include “Spirit 2.0” (featured on Song Exploder), a cut whose urgency lords control over fluctuating rhythms and tempos. Yussef Dayes’ percussive movements add to its ethereal innovations and Owen Pallet’s strings lend balance and structure.

Working with producers Kwake Bass and El Guincho, Lahai is an album of introspection and relationships explored… with spot on sequencing. “Stereo Color Cloud (Shaman’s Dream)” unfolds intriguingly over staccato beats and spare interludes. It’s a careful construction which carries through to the record’s subtle closer “Rose Tine.” A perfect conclusion with a hard out, leaving it all on the floor. And from an artist as emotive as Sampha, we should know by now to expect nothing less.

— Jason Kramer (KCRW DJ)

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when the poems do what they do

aja monet

The debut album from surrealist blues poet aja monet is a refuge from the endless scroll of mindless content. A deep dive into an ocean of feeling. Monet wields words like a weapon, igniting passion that moves the listener to new levels of understanding.

Monet follows in the tradition of classic Black poets like Gil Scott-Heron, Sonia Sanchez, and Amiri Baraka. She portrays the Black experience with references to Black joy, ice cream trucks, love, resistance, justice, the Middle Passage, double dutch, and dimples, to name a few.

When reading poetry on the page, the writer’s voice is more of an imagined vision. But when you combine the art of spoken word and jazz, it elevates poetry to a new and purely Black art form. Monet’s spoken word breathes life into each poem. She pours passion into the meaning of her words with a cadence switch, using the emphasis of repetition (“pay fair wages, pay fair wages”), speeding up her flow, or slowing down to accentuate each syllable of a word. The sound of her voice is rich and deep, like the “ancient, dusky rivers” Langston Hughes describes in his poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers." It’s a voice that calms the mind until it’s open to receive, one that speaks directly to the spirit of the listener.

Her voice is her instrument, her words are the notes, tapping in tandem to her backing jazz band’s heartbeat drums, howling horns, resonant upright bass, and the keys that dance atop it all.

— Tyler Boudreaux (KCRW DJ)

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Nabihah Iqbal

Nabihah Iqbal's DREAMER is the sophomore follow-up to the London artist’s alluring debut Weighing of the Heart, but this record travels farther and penetrates deeper. The title is apt — the album feels like a trip into your subconscious, like a dream but less easily forgotten. Memories, fears, and wishes emerge and fade, as in a dream where familiar settings become unrecognizable or old acquaintances inexplicably appear then disappear. Falling and flying are one in the same. The impossible is possible.

Though a gifted singer (as evidenced on songs like "Sweet Emotion" and "Closer Lover"), much of Iqbal's vocals are delivered in a spoken word soliloquy floating above a shimmering sea of synth waves. It's an intoxicating and oftentimes paradoxical mix. Dreamy but not sleepy. Hypnotic but not monotonous. Poetic but not pretentious. Inspiring but not didactic.

I find this record incredibly empowering in ways that escape articulation. But DREAMER is like looking at a night sky full of stars, hearing a voice whisper in your ear to just reach up and take one... and believing for a second that you could.
— Dan Wilcox (KCRW DJ)

More: Nabihah Iqbal: KCRW Guest DJ set

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Many artists intend for their work to be enduring while also reflecting the times. But few manage to achieve this balance quite as distinctly as WITCH (We Intend to Cause Havoc) with the release of their album Zango.

To comprehend just how compelling Zango is, it’s imperative to revisit their origins. WITCH’s journey began in the early 1970s, when a freshly independent Zambia was in the midst of building a new national identity. Zambia’s musical landscape flourished, giving birth to Zamrock, which paired traditional rhythms with the psychedelic rock and funk sounds of the West. It was electrifying. WITCH emerged as a pioneer of the genre, giving voice to a newly liberated generation. But these golden years would be short-lived; Zambia’s sudden economic downturn, coupled with the AIDS pandemic, threatened to put the band on an indefinite hiatus.

But WITCH’s story was far from finished. Nearly four decades after the release of their last studio album, Kuomboka, the band returned with Zango, a ten-song masterwork featuring original vocalist Emmanuel “Jagari” Chanda alongside a fresh lineup of musicians from across Zambia and Europe. While Zamrock remains its anchor, Zango incorporates a host of other textures and rhythms. Psychedelia and hip-hop fuse perfectly on “Avalanche of Love,” featuring fellow Zambian artist and rapper Sampa the Great. Keith Kabwe, Hannah Tembo, and Theresa Ng’ambi round out the collaborators on the album, on which space-funk, psych-pop, and disco also make sonic appearances. The result is a body of work that sounds innovative and contemporary, while conjuring the past that gave rise to Zamrock in the first place.
Zango is stunning, and proof that the band’s musicianship endures the test of time: Half a century and counting.

— Francesca Harding (KCRW DJ)

More: WITCH: KCRW Live from HQ

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Good Lies


This one’s for the folks who show up to the dance tent the second that it opens. Those who pick their spot, stare straight ahead, and carefully unveil their well-rehearsed moves. UK production duo Overmono have been around since 2016, their Arla EP (released via titans of left-of-the-dial dance music, XL Recordings) announced their presence with dissonant bleeps and bloops punctuated with just enough forays into sonic ecstasy to make them an article of immediate intrigue. 2017’s Arla II was both weirder and more beautiful. By the time Overmono’s certified club kid breakthrough “So U Kno” arrived in 2021 — just as many of us were taking our first tentative steps back into public life — the people were ready.

But the group would take a little more time. Overmono’s debut album Good Lies arrived this year in the midst of a jam-packed touring schedule, anchored by festival stops including Coachella, Primavera Sound, and Portola. The album doubles as an expertly crafted performance/DJ set, designed with the dancer in mind. Opener “Feelings Pain” is a meditative warm-up; the title track is a teasing invitation to really let loose; but it’s the record’s middle stretch that offers something deeper and more contemplative — particularly on the hip-hop/club hybrid “Walk Thru Water,” featuring heady lyrics and trippy vocal modulations from LA’s St. Panther. “So U Kno” arrives as the penultimate hit of catharsis, with its elegant juxtaposition immediately following in the form of Good Lies’ cool-down of a closer, “Calling Out.”

— Marion Hodges (Digital Producer, Music & Culture)

More: St. Panther: KCRW Guest DJ set

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Jungle’s fourth album, released in August, injected some much-needed soul into 2023. Through collaborations with Erick the Architect, Channel Tres, Roots Manuva, Mood Talk, and Bas, and catchy grooves like “Dominoes” and “Coming Back,” this is, as the band proclaims, its “most honest record to date.” Not to mention the absolute banger, “Back on 74,” which broke the band into a mainstream consciousness that previously eluded them. Now on the other side, Jungle lands comfortably and securely amongst the canon of ambitious pop-adjacent innovators like Sault, Khruangbin, and Janelle Monae. Volcano is just a perfect listen from start to finish.

— Jose Galvan (KCRW DJ)

More: Jungle: KCRW Live From The Basement (MBE, 2018)

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Let's Start Here.

Lil Yachty

Shall we? For the previously unacquainted, Let’s Start Here. is an exciting place to start with Lil Yachty’s music, but don’t get too comfy — his fifth studio album is a self-confessed experimental project. Back in January, before having this back-info, I pushed play on the new release of an artist I’d come to associate with trendy “bubblegum trap,” and was instead immediately grabbed by the first strums of the Pink Floyd-flavored guitar, spacey synth, and soothing melodic rap of intro track “the BLACK seminole.”

This piquant blend of psychedelic rock, soul, and hip-hop continues throughout the album with many of the tracks pleasingly blending from one to the next, along with intriguing interstitials like audio of Bob Ross working on a painting, and Yachty pondering fame and failure with a tender, sincere tone à la fellow Atlantan André 3000 in his Love Below era. Layers of live instrumentation and production from folks like SadPony, Jacob Portrait (Unknown Mortal Orchestra), and Magdalena Bay are a huge plus, and Diana Gordon’s other-worldly Clare Torry-reminiscent vocals pack a big wallop without overshadowing the consistent, main character presence of Yachty himself, who proffers a calm emotionality throughout.

— Novena Carmel (Morning Becomes Eclectic co-host)

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Flowers At Your Feet


After leading the Brooklyn surf-garage group Habibi for the past decade, Rahill Jamalifard ventures into personal reflection on her solo debut Flowers at Your Feet, exploring coming of age as a first generation Iranian-American. The album is extremely versatile, blending familiar influences of hip-hop, soul, psych, r&b, jazz, and, of course, vintage Iranian music. Underscoring it all is timeless production and co-writing from Alex Epton (FKA Twigs, Arca) and other notable collaborators, including Beck and Slauson Malone 1.

Opener “Healing” is a perfect palette cleanser, immersing the listener into the soundtrack of her childhood and family with voice memos of her sister and mother. “I Smile for E” pulls the thread further, an ode to her late aunt — the rock of her father’s family — that features a sample of the matriarch singing the words “in honor of you” in Farsi. A voicemail transports us into the chaos of an automobile auctioneer in “Ode to Dad,” on which Rahill reflects, with such softness, the hefty expectations and influence of a blue-collar Iranian immigrant parent who wants the best for their child. There is, of course, love had and love lost, but the focus is more on the artist’s own growth, intuition, and evolution, relishing the simple and familiar things in life that bring her joy, like the sport of "Futbol." “Note to Self” is a fitting finale to the LP, diaristic with lyrics that are simple-yet-captivating, just like the album’s namesake.

— Nassir Nassirzadeh (KCRW DJ)

More: Rahill: KCRW Guest DJ Set

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Switched On


Expertly crafted and thrillingly modern LA dub music… with a Latin twist?! Be still our hearts. Puerto Rican-born Pachy Garcia (Pachyman) is a self-taught studio-whiz with a vast back-catalog, but 2023’s Switched-On is next level. His increased comfort with adding vocals to the mix is emblematic of his growth as an artist, offering an introspective look into the multi-instrumentalist's mind.

Inspired by genre legends like King Tubby, Scientist, and the Marley fam, Garcia infuses the sounds of his island roots, influences from past projects, and SoCal inspiration to make Switched-On a satisfying update of the classics. Jams like “Trago Coqueto” give us a taste of missing the island while “Goldline” is inspired by his local home-away-from-home in Highland Park, where (fun fact) Garcia also works as a mixologist when he’s not touring the world with his stellar sounds.

— Raul Campos (KCRW DJ & host of Global Beat)

More: FREAKS ONLY Presents: 3 Song Story with Pachyman

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everything is alive


Nearly a decade on from their surprise reunion at Primavera Sound 2014, Slowdive has now been back in operation for longer than their influential original run in the early ‘90s. The shoegaze pioneers’ self-titled 2017 album was received like a miracle, as much for its legitimate excellence as for the fact that it broke a 22-year recorded silence. In the face of such an enthralling rebirth, any subsequent release was bound to suffer by comparison.

Enter everything is alive, the UK band’s fifth album. Suffice to say that it will never — could never — have the novelty shock that its predecessor enjoyed. And the recent explosion (dare I say glut) of dreampop bands will make some of its textures feel at least superficially familiar. But for those with ears to listen, everything is alive is positively ravishing. The album bursts with color and detail, from the arpeggiating synths of “shanty” to the punchy drum programming of “kisses” (a clear pop highlight). The vocal interplay of Rachel Goswell and Neil Halstead still feels like the source code for a million halfhearted replicas. And the band as a whole plays their gorgeous new creations with an infectious and surefooted confidence. Everything is alive is the sound of a band finally taking their rightful place in a musical culture they helped to create. And nothing could be more satisfying.

— Myke Dodge Weiskopf (Senior Producer, KCRW Music)

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Slugs of Love

Little Dragon

Anytime LD returns with an album, it’s an event that never lets you down. Innovative — even experimental — arrangements and sleek production, paired with Yukimi Nagano’s playfully emotive vocals, make for a guaranteed sure shot. Most importantly, the band members continue to push each other with a sense of humor, as noted during their recent MBE Session. They remain curious and daring, unafraid to play on the fringes, a sonic imprint that’s all over Slugs Of Love.

Each track is a gem that makes you lean a bit further in, wondering where the band will take you next. It’s hard to believe this is their seventh studio album; they remain so vibrant and fresh, every damn time.

— Anthony Valadez (Morning Becomes Eclectic co-host)

More: Little Dragon: KCRW Live From HQ

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Say She She

It could be easy to sink into the funky, discodelic grooves and harmonies of Say She She’s Silver without doing a deeper dive into the power and soul of this Brooklyn trio. Yes, they love Grace Jones, ESG, The Supremes, Talking Heads, and Chic as much as we do, but here is their particular brilliance: Say She She swings and updates these sounds, all while rewarding those who listen closely with something more beneath the surface. Take the dance floor jam, “Norma.” The trio wrote it collectively in the aftermath of learning the Supreme Court was going to overturn Roe vs. Wade. Or catch the Tom Tom Club vibes on “Forget Me Not,” which pays tribute to New York arts activists Guerrilla Girls. That said, the badass women of Say She She aren’t scared to pen a chorus or two simply to let it all go on the dance floor or lounge with a lover. See: “C’est Si Bon” for the former and “Passing Time” for the latter.

Say She She’s debut, Prism, was No. 6 on KCRW’s Best Albums of 2022. In 2023, they set out to prove a point: They charmed America on CBS Mornings (complete with love from their hero Nile Rodgers), made their Hollywood Bowl debut, and toured the world nonstop. You’ll find them on more personal KCRW DJ year-end lists than any other artist this year, and among our highest played… by a pretty wide margin. They’re also in the top-tier of our most-played artists this year across the board As the ever wise Anthony Valadez once said, “Say She She has set their bar skyward.”

— Anne Litt (KCRW Program Director of Music & DJ)

More: Say She She: KCRW Live from Apogee Studio

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