And with that, another year is over.
Overall, the year was fine. On the music front, it feels like 2023 lacked the presence of heavy hitters on record release days, especially when compared to 2022. Last year featured releases by Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar, and Red Hot Chili Peppers among others. This year wasn’t lacking heft by any means, we did get a new Foo Fighters record as well as new music by Jason Isbell, Dave Matthews Band, AND THE BEATLES. Yeah, the Beatles. But compared to last year, it was more like regular fireworks compared to the 4th of July fireworks.
But the involvement of heavy hitters does not make a year special and music-wise, this year was still pretty solid, what with aforementioned releases by the Foos and Isbell as well as records by Blur, Killer Mike, Portugal .The Man and dude, The Gaslight Anthem came back. Oh and that Olivia Rodrigo lady isn’t messing around. I listened to GUTS, I loved GUTS and I was really just flat-out impressed by GUTS.
Now when it comes to looking at the “best” songs of the year, I go in a slightly different direction. I like to single out the songs that grabbed my attention, that made me stop dead in my tracks, turn the volume up, and ignore everything thing else in this godforsaken world until the tune was over. These are Hey-Oh! songs, bud. You heard ’em and in one way or another, let out a good ol’ Hey Oh!.
Since 2013, I have assembled my year-end list based on the idea that some songs are Hey-Oh! songs and as such, my lists are generally comprised of songs I think best fit the mold.
What exactly is a Hey-Oh! song? I’m so happy you asked.
It’s a song that when it came on incited an unsolicited, deep from the belly & soul Ron Burgandy quality “Hey-Oh!”– as in, “Hey-oh! That’s a damn good song.” You might not have said it out loud, but you definitely thought it. You turned the volume up, you danced, you pressed repeat, and yelled to no one in particular: DJ! ONE MORE TIME!
The “hey-ohs” can be enthusiastic and full of life or they can be more restrained, complete with more stoic appreciation. Ultimately, it’s a song that stops you in your tracks one way or the other when it comes on.
Some of last year’s best Hey Oh! songs were brought to us by my new favorite DJ duo The Allergies, old favorites Red Hot Chili Peppers, Spoon, and Band of Horses, new favorites like Goose, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, and Arlo Parks and fun pairings like Black Thought and Danger Mouse, Angel Olsen and Sturgill Simpson, Khruangbin and Leon Bridges, and Lettuce and Bootsy Collins.
In 2023, themes or vibes could be reliability, accessibility, season enjoyment boosters, and PLAY THIS SHIT LOUD, KID. Here’s the full list in handy, dandy playlist form.
( Editor’s Note: Spotify will not allow an embed, so you can find Ryan’s playlist HERE. )
More specifically, why these 40 songs beyond them being solid Hey Oh! songs? God, I’m so glad you asked.
“Reconcile” The Allergies w/ Charles Morgan
Because these two British gentlemen keep dropping music more fun than 90% of what is out there.
“Grateful” El Michaels Affair/Black Thought
Because The Roots don’t release new music anymore but at least Black Thought is out there finding people that do.
“Ready for Me” Galactic ft. Cimafunk, Anjelika Joseph
Because it’s Galactic and Galactic is one of my ride or dies.
“Weightless” Arlo Parks
Because Arlo Parks’ voice sounds as soothing and comfortable as my bed with clean sheets feels.
“What About Now” Scott McMicken and THE EVER-EXPANDING
Because Dr. Dog’s spirit can’t be put on the shelf even though the band’s briefly was.
“No Reason” Sunny War
Because I heard this song and couldn’t stop listening to it (checks watch) 8 months later.
“Maestro (Tears Don’t Lie)” Wilder Woods
Because I know it sounds like Nathaniel Rateliff and I’m okay with that because I love Nathaniel Rateliff.
“Death Wish” Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
Because Jason Isbell’s lyrics are like good jazz in that they are all I can think about when listening to it.
“Under You” Foo Fighters
Because not only did the Foos come back after Taylor Hawkins’ sudden death, they came back with a vengeance.
“Homesick” Noah Kahan
Because it reminded me of home, which I think was the point.
“All We Have is Now” Fishbone
Because the ferocity of Fishbone is one of our most prized natural resources.
“Dummy” Portugal. The Man
Because they are one of the most interesting acts in music today, full stop.
“Let Me Down Easy” Daisy Jones & The Six
Because the music on the show was the best part of the show, which I know isn’t saying a lot because the show wasn’t great but whatever, a lot of the music was.
“Ain’t It Amazing” Griffin William Sherry
Because Sherry’s old band The Ghost of Paul Revere called it quits but thankfully he didn’t.
“Calm Down” Rema ft. Selena Gomez
Because it was the song of the summer and sounded great in the car when we were headed to the beach.
“All You Wanted Was Tomorrow” Dave Matthews Band
Because this song is sneaky; you think it’s gonna be one way but then it’s another and it’s probably the coolest song on the album.
“We’re All Gonna Die” Joy Oladokun w/ Noah Kahan
Because this song is easy to enjoy, even if we’re all gonna die.
“The Narcissist” Blur
Because this is probably my favorite song of the year and I’m not even a big Blur guy but this tune always sounds great and last I checked, still not sick of it and I’ve listened to it a lot.
“bad idea right?” Olivia Rodrigo
Because I heard this song and had to check to make sure I was listening to GUTS and I was and then I was like, sweet, turn it up.
“The American Dream Is Killing Me” Green Day
Because Green Day just won’t quit and that’s effin’ amazing all things considered.
“Now And Then” The Beatles
Because the song was good at first listen but then felt good and important once I saw the video and now I like it a lot more.
“South Dakota” Chris Stapleton
Because this tune will make you start drinking super early in the morning and like, not in a bad way.
“Tropic Morning News” The National
Because no one sounds like The National and you’re either cool with that or you’re not.
“Walk On Down” Dari Bay
Because it sounds like an Elliot Smith tune if Elliot Smith wrote a song when it was sunny out.
“Pilgrim” The Wood Brothers
Because these dudes are groove machines.
“Holding My Breath” Atmosphere
Because Atmosphere reminds me of a certain period of my life and I’ll always enjoy how listening to them takes me back to that place…and this song is just a lot of fun.
“Positive Charge” The Gaslight Anthem
Because The Gaslight Anthem getting back together was a rare piece of good news in 2023.
“Don’t Call Her Over To You” Beatenberg
Because I got into this band because they were described as Mumford and Sons meets Vampire Weekend and yeah, still tracks.
“Be Your Man” Eric Kranso & Otis McDonald
Because Kraz was on a heater in 2023.
“Sugar Babies” Spoon
Because it’s Spoon and Spoon has yet to drop a song or a record I don’t like. #Facts
“Forgiving Ties” Deer Tick
Because even though I work from home, I still drive sometimes and good driving music is undefeated.
“Don’t Let The Devil” Killer Mike w/ El-P, thankugoodsir
Because Killer Mike has never not brought it. Ever.
“Buy My Round” Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
Because, unlike Wilder Woods, this actually is Rateliff and crew and I fucking love ’em.
“Gwan – Cumbia Mix” The Suffers
Because The Suffers should get more attention.
“Shiner In The Dark” Royal Blood
Because Royal Blood continues to release music that is some of the best new rock music being released today.
“Didn’t You” Count Basie/Lettuce/Talib Kweli
Because this is some old-school jazz shit with a Talib touch and yeah, that all checks out.
“Kid” The Revivalists
Because The Revivalists have carved out their own little niche and I like that niche and encourage others to do the same.
“Hot Damn” ALO
Because this song makes me wish I was wearing flip-flops, regardless of the weather.
“Nu-Grape” Hiss Golden Messenger
Because I’m a sucker for a song with good bounce to it and this song has a delightful bounce.
“L.T.D.” Nick Andre, Jazz Mafia, Lyrics Born & Lateef The Truth Speaker
Because Lyrics Born and Lateef working together again is cause for celebration.
See you next year, kid.
Ryan harbors a constant fear of losing his keys, prefers flip flops, and will always choose cereal if it’s an option. He maintains his own blog, Giddy Up America, and has previously contributed work to UPROXX & Heavy. Ryan is on Twitter: @ryanoconnell79