Ground Control Magazine’s Year in Review 2023

Ground Control Magazine’s Year in Review 2023

Wednesday, 20 December 2023

Bam! What a year, am I right? It certainly has been one for me. Let’s not get into it, but I’m just glad to be here, you know? Happy to be bringing you cutting edge content. Looking at those other sites’ best-of lists makes me realize there’s no accounting for good taste. Some of these recommendations look like they’ve been put together by AI. But not here, dear readers. We’re flesh and bone. We hurt and we bleed, and we bled once again to bring you the best yearly music recommendation on this blessed earth. Joyeux Noel!

Top 10 Albums of 2023:

1. Brutal Youth – Rebuilding Year

Rebuilding Year simply checked all the boxes for what makes a great album. It’s fast, heavy, abrasive, urgent, melodic, and catchy as hell. It’s a pop punk record on adrenaline. Once I fell in love with it, that love remained 6 months later, and who am I to deny that? And lo and behold, nothing else compared this year. This album foretold the future: it HAS been a rebuilding year. 

2. Die Spits – Teeth

The riffs, man. The riffs! Sure, Teeth is technically an EP, but WHAT AN EP. Where did these ladies come from with filler-free metal/punk perfection? Everyone else should take note, and pay attention. You get to say you were there when the explosion happened. Or before they imploded.

3. The Hold Steady – Price of Progress

Nope, I did not think I would like this album as much as I did, but the Hold Steady did it again. Initially apprehensive, I let these songs soak, and opened myself to them, and yes, it made sense. Price of Progress is a cohesive message and a roller coaster ride sans cliches.

4. Frenzal Rhomb – Cup of Pestilence

Look, when you play this fast and your sole focus is to inject as many harmonies and melodies into my brain and to top it off you’re doing it with sharp witty lyrics, I can’t help but love you. Frenzal Rhomb seem to be following a pattern of putting a good record every other time. Guess what cycle Cup of Pestilence falls into?

5. OSEES – Intercepted Message

I love you OSEES, but you put out too many records. I can’t keep up. Which one was the good one? I’m not sure. This time you made a record with songs that belong together. Sure, it sounds like a punk rock space b-movie but that’s a good thing. Intercepted Message shows what the band can do when it focuses. It’s a thing of beauty.

6. Screaming Females – Desire Pathway

RIP to one of the real ones. I think I was as shocked as everyone when this band called it quits. None of us appreciated them as much as they deserved. Serves us right. We thought they would never stop, and now we have egg on our faces. The Screaming Females are human, after all. It’s easier to appreciate Desire Pathway after this sad news. They went out on a high note.

7. The Damned –  Darkadelic

There’s no reason for a band that’s been doing it this long to be putting out music of this quality, but I guess the Damned are made of stronger stiffer stuff. Darkadelic is a thoroughly Damned album. No one else would be able to pull off these songs like this band does. It’s a complete statement made by a band who knows themselves all too well.

8. Sleaford Mods – UK Grim

Boy, that CREEM profile sure made these guys look like wankers, didn’t it? Like they were using the band as a vehicle to become rich and famous. Maybe it was satire? I don’t know. When I ignore that article and just listen to these songs, it’s clear UK Grim is maybe the strongest Sleaford Mods have been since English Tapas. Almost like they figured out their own weird formula. Everyone should listen to this album at least once this year.

9. Quasi – Breaking the Balls of History

It finally dawned on me what makes Janet Weiss such a great drummer. What she does can be replicated by any other decent drummer, but her composition is just so damn interesting. It commands attention not just because it’s so loud (no engineer would dare give it a low mix on an album) but because it’s so fun to listen to. It has its own personality. That’s certainly the case with Breaking the Balls of history: an album full of personality that maybe isn’t as appreciated as it should be. The fact is that this rocks harder than most albums that came out this year, and it has no guitars.

10. Snuff – Come and Have a Go if You Think You’re Rachmaninoff

It’s tough putting an album of old songs this high on the list, but Snuff’s latest experiment of revisiting their old catalog with a more acoustic elegant approach really stands out. It makes you realize that underneath the silliness and punk rock lies elegant songwriting that’s beautiful and deep. I just couldn’t help but be impressed by this band after every listen.

Best of the Rest (in no particular order):

Foo Fighters – But Here we Are

R Ring – War Poems, We Rested

Czarface – Czartificial Intelligence

Speedy Ortiz – Rabbit Rabbit

The Dwarves – Concept Album

Kurt Baker – Rock N Roll Club

Blur – The Ballad of Darren

Fucked Up – One Day

The Hives – The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons

Yo La Tengo –  This Stupid World

Best Compilation/Reissue:

Bob Dylan – Fragments – Time out of Mind Sessions (1996-1997), The Bootleg Series Vol. 17

The man will stop making music when he dies on stage, so just accept that, OK? Time Out of Mind was his second comeback and maybe the debut of the late era croak. The old Dylan is gone. This is something new and of its own. And these extras: are they actually having fun in the studio? How dare they!

Best albums of last year I didn’t hear until this year:

The Paranoyds – Talk Talk Talk

Weyes Blood – And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow

Best EPs:

Zeal – Demonstration 2022

I’m pretty sure this came out this year, even though the title might suggest otherwise. This sounds too much like good Discharge to ignore. And maybe the fact that it’s so short makes it even better. It’s music that’s lost in time.

Paint it Black – Famine

Oh, Paint it Black, I missed you so much. Why do you have to return so late in the year and just as an EP? With songs like this you could have been contender for album of the year. I group this band as the Wagenschutz and post-Wagenschutz era. If you know your stuff, you know what I mean. This is the best the band has sounded with the new lineup.

Best book:

The Soviet Century: Archeology of a Lost World
By Karl Schlogel

Told from the perspective of an archeologist – every object has a story to tell – Soviet Century transports us back to the highs and lows of life in Soviet Russia, using these objects as a starting off point. It can be as simple as wrapping paper or as complex as a Gulag camp. Expertly written, Schlogel paints a vivid and engaging picture of something most of us probably misunderstand. I actually felt like I was having withdrawal symptoms when I finished this book.

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