February Fudge: The Best Records I’ve Heard in 2023, with Exceptions Real, Imagined, and Past Due That I Allowed So I Can Invite a Top 25 + One to My Party

I have resolved not to whine this entry, because, a few days after posting the last one, I realized that a) great new music tends to arise slowly but regularly from the creative volcano and will soon erupt, and b) I should never again imagine that I am going to quit listing albums every month. To quote Coach in LETTERKENNY, it’s fucking embarrassing.

So, though I had to resort to tossing in a couple of new singles, a fantasy EP that I created from a young group’s singles from 2022, and some November ’22 LPs, I have tried to make up for the previous mope by unfurling a long-for-February list of damn fine stuff.


  1. I am finding myself increasingly seduced by electronic r&b (or whatever it’s properly called), and, though I am no expert, I find no reason why I shouldn’t consider Liv.e’s new record a model of the subgenre–I even have it listed above Kelela’s, which is splendid, too.
  2. Singles: I mentioned Dr. Mark Lomax’s Urban Art Ensemble’s very therapeutic “Ho’opomopono” last month as a kind of footnote, but it belongs in a more significant way than that, especially during February in all its rampant hostility toward black (in other words, our) history, learning about the depths to which humans can sink along with our many triumphs, and tranquility in general. Also, the great Texas harmonica master Walter Daniels (I first came to know him as a member of the long-gone Jack O’ Fire) has released a truly rock and rolling 45 on the ever-interesting Spacecase label that I can’t quit playing.
  3. Fake EPs: see my note below about mid-Missouri’s Tri-County Liquidators, who I believe will become a force beyond the tri-counties.
  4. I listen to a LOT of music, so I was surprised while reading Dan Charnas’ terrific JDilla bio Dilla Time that I’d never even heard of the Australian unit Hiatus Kaiyote, who’d Dilla-ized themselves in a very interesting way. Seeming seconds after I looked them up, the reissue below was announced. No coincidence, I’m sure. It’s bound to fascinate many of you.
  5. I did not know Japanese psychedelia was a thing–and, truly, that word doesn’t perfectly fit VW Sorceror’s out-there but also excitingly varied two-disc comp Purple Haze from East. Note: no Hendrix covers are therein.
  6. The title of the Dylan excavation I have listed is a joke, but much more accurate than the actual title.
  7. I’m actually sitting on a fence with Iris DeMent’s offering, because it sometimes seems like a checklist of our ills; I often feel similarly about recent DBT records. But her vocal performance is very powerful and passionate–even for her.

(Bolded items are new to the list).

  1. Lakecia Benjamin: Phoenix (Whirlwind)
  2. Liv.e: Girl in The Half Pearl (Real Life / AWAL)
  3. Kelela: Raven (Warp)
  4. Satoko Fujii & Otomo Yoshihide: Perpetual Motion (Ayler Records)
  5. The Necks: Travel (Northern Spy)
  6. Belle and Sebastian: Late Developers (Matador)
  7. Parannoul: After the Magic (Poclanos/Top Shelf)
  8. Jason Moran: From the Dancehall to the Battlefield (Yes Records)
  9. Walter Daniels: “From Death to Texas” / “Seems Like a Dream” (Spacecase Records 45)
  10. Hiatus Kaiyote: Choose Your Weapon (Flying Buddha / Sony Masterworks reissue)*
  11. Algiers: Shook (Matador)
  12. The Urban Art Ensemble: “Ho’opomopono” (CFG Multimedia 16-minute single)
  13. Various Artists: Purple Haze from East, Volume 1 (VW Sorcerer Productions)*
  14. Karol G: Manana Sera Bonito (Universal Music Latino)
  15. Tyler Keith & The Apostles: Hell to Pay (Black & Wyatt)
  16. Staples Jr. Singers: Tell Heaven(EP) (Luaka Bop) Note: the vinyl gets you more great minutes of testifying.
  17. Tomas Fujiwara’s Triple Double: March On (self-released EP—coming in March)
  18. Bob Dylan: Time Out of Mind Stripped Naked (Columbia)
  19. Mat Muntz: Phantom Islands (Orenda)
  20. Iris DeMent: Workin’ On a World (FlariElla)
  21. Various Artists: Turkish-Syrian Earthquake Relief (Canary Records)
  22. James Brandon Lewis: Eye of I (Anti-)
  23. Ice Spice: Like…? (10K Projects / Capitol Records EP)
  24. Yonic South: Devo Challenge Cup (Wild Honey)
  25. The Art Ensemble of Chicago: From Paris to Paris (Rogue Art)
  26. Tri-County Liquidators: “Flies” / “Weep Then Whisper” / “Bitter” (self-released)@

*Technically, these are 2022 releases, but they didn’t show up until November, so I’m letting them under the fence.

@The Tri-County Liquidators are a blossoming young band from Columbia, Missouri, though I assume its members are drawn from beyond Boone County. I’ve taken their three 2022 singles and turned them into a 2023 extended play single. Yes, I’m biased because I’m a Columbian; yes, I’m biased because I taught one of them (bassist, songwriter and vocalist Marielle Carlos), and have known her and one of the guitarists (Spenser Rook, who entered Hickman High School with a blonde Rob Tyner White Panther ‘fro and can play inventively in any style—he also writes and sings) for over a decade; BUT they have a flexible, dynamic sound that’s both delicate and intense, and a reliable local music scene source informs me that these recordings do not capture the intensity they transmit live. I don’t get out to shows much, and they play at a great punk venue at which I’d feel like Tucker Carlson at a Juneteenth picnic, but I hope to see them soon. They are legitimately talented and my crusty listening veteran hypothesis is their potential has barely been brushed. Check ‘em out on Bandcamp.

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