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Jim Carroll’s favourite songs of 2023

Jim Carroll’s favourite songs of 2023

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Best of 2023 | Best albums | Best songs | Irish albums | Best Of Podcasts | Guest lists |


Jim Carroll no longer writes about music. You’ll find him on Spotify, Instagram and Twitter . He edits RTÉ Brainstorm.

See Jim’s previous choices from 2022 and 2021.

Here are Jim’s 10 tracks of the year.


10.

Lankum

Go Dig My Grave

It’s Radie Peat’s world, really. Between her handiwork on the False Lankum masterpiece and those distinctive contributions to ØXN’s CYRM album, Peat’s singing has long been a thing of wonder and awe. ‘Go Dig My Grave’ is a big showcase for that one of a kind voice, a broody, haunted, slow-motion meditation on the kind of loud grief which takes over mind and body and soul. Music to be really shook by.


9.

ANOHNI & The Johnsons

It Must Change

As has been the case since the get-go when Anohni was Antony and moving updown from downtown, the part-time Donegal resident’s new album My Back Was A Bridge for You To Cross is quite a set. It’s also remarkable for the road she has taken. Instead of continuing with a spin further to the left of the leftfield, a trajectory which set in some releases back, the album dials back on the interference and lets the soul and the strings swoon back in. Here, on a song which is as lovely and lovelorn as things come due to lush arrangements and a canny melody, she sounds resigned, bereft and heartbroken. “No one’s getting out of here/That’s why this is so sad.” 


8.

Corinne Bailey Rae

New York Transit Queen

Boom! A scuzzy, gritty, punky blast of copped-on stomp with all the frills from Ms Put Your Records On. Inspired by am Ebony magazine photo of Audrey Smaltz, an African-American teenager named Miss New York Transit in 1954 by her fellow workers, this is a headbanger of a tune you would happily accompany into battle. 


7.

Olivia Rodrigo

Vampire

The only thing I really knew about Olivia Rodrigo before this song came along one fine day was the great Fairview Park teen riot of 2022 when a couple of hundred fans charged the tent while she was playing. This, though, is a tune of much greatness, a four-minute five-star blast of righteous anger and fury and rage and fuming directed at someone somewhere sometime who has done her wrong. The song builds and builds into a thunderous slap in the mush and baring of the fangs at whoever it was slighted her in the first place. Another reason for a riot.  


6.

Priya Ragu

Vacation

Bright, breezy summertime carnival crispness from the Swiss-Tamil artist with a big dollop of Sister Nancy’s ‘Bam Bam’ keeping things sultry on the side. 


5.

Say She She

Astral Plane

The New York-based trio will remind you of a lot of folks who’ve shimmied this way in pop’s yesterdays – Chic, ESG, Rotary Connection, Cymande, Liquid Liquid, Tom Tom Club – but their rhythms seem out to get out to get you in other ways. The strong voices of Piya Malik, Sabrina Mileo Cunningham and Nya Gazelle Brow are what keep this discoball of a tune spinning. The rest of the album Silver is just as breathtaking. 


4.

Jessie Ware

That! Feels Good

The two exclamation marks probably give the game away. Jessie Ware’s fifth album is a life-affirming reminder of the great joy you get from hearing pop music made by people who know the right buttons to push and when to push them. All of the tracks here have soundtracked my year, the title track’s delicious sweep of pleasure and ecstasy is the cherry on top. 

3.

Caroline Polachek

Welcome to My Island

There are no bagpipes on this track – as there are elsewhere on Polachek’s kick-ass Desire I Want To Turn Into You album – so you can’t have it all. This, though, is a smasher, Polachek’s grand operatic vocal range going up, up and away, powered by an off-the-books pop hook of the highest calibre. 


2.

 Irreversible Entanglements

Protect Your Light

Freewheeling music for these complex and confusing times, Irreversible Entanglements made their bones as an outfit where protest was as much a part of the origin story as their musical wherewithall. Their new album’s title track comes on strong with a Stax-like swagger and carnival, while Moor Mother providing the vocal guideropes. A mighty, mighty noise. 


1.

John Francis Flynn

The Zoological Gardens

Prompt to ChatGPT 19/11/23, 7.53pm: please describe John Francis Flynn’s song ‘The Zoological Gardens’ in 50 words or less

John Francis Flynn’s ‘The Zoological Gardens’ is a haunting folk song that narrates a captivating story within the confines of a zoo. The lyrics paint vivid scenes, exploring human nature and societal reflections through a mesmerising blend of storytelling and acoustic melodies, creating a unique and thought-provoking musical experience.

Hmmmm. I think we should hang onto the humans a bit longer….

This is the filthiest track to open any album this year. Pure filth, lads. John Francis Flynn takes the bawdy and blue traditional song which The Dubliners had the crack with and turns it insideout, upsidedown and back to front. If the salacious double-entendres aren’t enough to poke and prod your synapses, the way in which Flynn and collaborator Brendan Jenkinson hustle and bustle the song onto new, eerie, uneven ground with a battery of sound effects, prickly static and sonic drizzle should do the trick.


See all Guestlist of 2023 choices

Best of 2023 | Best albums | Best songs | Irish albums | Best Of Podcasts | Guest lists |


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