7 Indie Rock Albums from Early 2023 That Will Be Better Than Anything You Hear On The Radio This Year
Well, this year has been a busy one to say the least, and I have a lot of albums to review. So, let me just jump right into it and skip the small talk.
Magazine Beach - Constant Springtime - 5 stars out of 5
If you haven’t heard of Magazine Beach from Washington D.C. and Philly, don’t feel bad. Until I listened to this album, I hadn’t either, and boy am I glad I spent the time to listen to this whole album.
It is incredibly solid on every song, but my favorite part is that it is one of the most intimate albums I have heard in a long time. It definitely reminds me of another band I really like, Kali Masi (both bands are on the same label as well - Take This To Heart Records).
The band stands out on their own with one major component in that they have dual singers, one male and one female vocalist (Angelo Leitner-Wise, Casey Rutter respectively).
Their sound is kind of in the vein of a band like Grouplove (who I really enjoy), but they are more technical on guitar and just overall make more rocking songs while still keeping their indie rock sound.
They also remind me of the first time I ever heard The Rentals (Matt Sharp’s post-Weezer project) even with some of the lyrics as Sharp had mentioned Virginia and the East Coast on a few songs and so does this band.
I think all of these songs are truly great in their own right, and I really enjoy “Bitter Sun” and “Totally Cool” as they are great songs even as singles.
The ONE song that is absolutely fucking perfect is “Window” though. If you listened to it as a single by itself, it may not hit as hard. So, I encourage you to listen to the whole album to lead up to that song (it’s track 6 on the album) which would be a perfect “Side A” final song as well…if the band had a vinyl release for it (hopefully someday that is a possibility).
I don’t want to dissect this album too much, but I am also all for this band getting way more attention, because I am a huge fan. Keep an eye out if they come to your town and check them out.
The album is now available on all streaming platforms.
Recommended Songs - “Bitter Sun”, “Totally Cool”, “Window”
Raised On TV - Strangers in Pictures - 4.8 out of 5 stars
I am going to preface this review with the fact that I have become friends with the 2-man band Raised On TV (Keaton Rogers - guitar, vocals, Kacey Greenwood - drums) over the past 2.5 years, but I only bring this up to let you know that I would support these guys even if no one ever did.
HOWEVER, I wouldn’t be throwing up high ratings on album reviews if they didn’t deserve it, and their 4th album Strangers In Pictures is excellent.
Lead singer/guitarist Rogers is a song-making machine, and even before this album was released he not only told me about “album 5” coming soon, but he even self-recorded, self-produced and released an entire parody-country album under the pseudonym Travis Kreeps - which I am not going to lie, is probably the single best country album I have heard in the last 30 years or so. But don’t let me get sidetracked, because I almost ALWAYS dislike any country music.
For those who have never heard of Raised On TV, you might get a sense of who they are if you take The Strokes, The Shins, and Jimmy Eat World and blend that all up. So, if you like any of those bands, I have a feeling you will dig these guys.
I will say that while the past 3 albums may have a handful of really good songs on each one (I think they are all great, but I will say there are “stand-out tracks” for sure), Raised On TV has put together their most complete and best whole album on this release.
“The Race” is probably my second favorite song on the album, and its uptempo speed with the metallic-sounding lead guitar (literally I couldn’t think of a better way to describe it) makes me want to rock out and get a bit of moshing going on.
This is followed by “The Fire” which is another banger - and my favorite song on this release. I would put this song up as one of the best songs the band has ever released. It may rival my previous favorite “Helium” from their last album, Fernando.
Then comes another killer tune in “Between Highs and Lows” which is right there with “The Race” in terms of how much I really like the song. The guitar on this song is (both parts done by Rogers) is truly incredible stuff.
I can’t wait for these guys to come back to Vegas in June to see them play all these new songs and a handful of their old songs. I really have no idea how they are not on mainstream radio considering how good they are and that they have some family ties to the music industry (which may not be so hidden if you look at the members’ last names).
They are one of, if not THE BEST, indie-rock band in Los Angeles right now, but it seems like the City of Angels is either still living in the past with their hair metal obsession or completely ignoring rock music altogether.
It makes me feel like I’m losing my mind. Oh, I should mention that “Losing My Mind” is another excellent song on the album and probably how Rogers feels trying to break a rock band in L.A. these days.
Go listen to this damn album, fools! Out now on all streaming and available in physical forms from Sell The Heart Records.
Recommended Songs - “The Race”, “The Fire”, “Between Highs and Lows”, and “Losing My Mind”
Hot Mulligan - Why Would I Watch - 4.9 out of 5 stars
If you haven’t heard of Hot Mulligan by now, well, this is THE TIME to go give them a listen. This is EASILY one of the best albums of the year. A lot of people will have it as the top contender so far.
I will say this, admittedly I have not listened to a full Hot Mulligan album before, and I have enjoyed their music. Again, there is just only so much time in the day to listen to every band that ever lived.
This album would be the equivalent for my high school self when Blink-182 released Enema of the State or the first time I heard Taking Back Sunday.
This is a 100% breakout album, and I believe that if Hot Mulligan, White Reaper and Turnstile all went on tour together, then NEW ROCK MUSIC would be showcased in such a way that radio stations and record labels would have to realize that a 90’s band doesn’t need to be a headliner.
This album is OBJECTIVELY great. No one can argue that it is a bad album. Seriously, if you said this album is bad to my face, I would laugh at you for saying something so irrationally stupid.
My only worry is how well it holds up to 100 listens which is something I have always kind of set as a standard for how many times you can listen to something before you either realize it is “timeless” or it is “a fad.”
I don’t think this album is a fad (even IF the comeback of Emo/Pop-punk seems prevalent right now), but I have only listened to it twice, and it is hard to see a “fad” in music when you are currently within a trend. So, will this album hold up in 10 years and I go back to it like The Wonder Years’ last album or will it fade from my playlists?
The fact that I even have this conversation is just to split hairs about HOW GREAT the album is versus whether or not it is great.
Start to finish this is an album that you can rock with and not care what else is going on around you.
The ONLY reason it isn’t getting a 5 star rating is because I do have one gripe as a die-hard rock fan and that is that the tone is a little poppy at times, and while I don’t hate pop-rock or pop-punk, every so often you get a flavor of it that hits you in the wrong way.
The most prevalent point in the album where this happens for me is during the song “No Shoes in the Coffee Shop (Or Socks).” That intro and guitar riff make me think I am watching the intro to like Good Morning America or something for just a few seconds. I have no idea why, but it is that overt nod to the mainstream that I have to push back on just a little bit.
It doesn’t make the song bad, but it just has that rub that makes me think, “Ahhh, just change that one bit slightly, and it is perfect.”
Stream this album immediately if you ever liked anything about rock music (especially emo, post-emo, pop-rock)
Recommend Songs - The whole goddamn album, seriously.
Vanity Mirror - PUFF - 4.6 out of 5 stars
Fans of The Beatles are going to appreciate this throwback sound that Vanity Mirror has put together on their debut album PUFF.
I am not sure how this band even got together in the first place, but the two members Brent Randall and Johnny Toomey were previously in another group together (Electric Looking Glass), but the two live in totally separate parts of North America with Randall in Toronto and Toomey in L.A.
It’s great that in the modern age of music band members can be 2000 miles away and still create albums and make rad music.
To steal a line from the band’s press release, I think this phrase pretty much sums up the sound of Vanity Mirror - “dreamy lo-fi bedroom pop.”
I first heard of these guys when they released their music video for “Tuesday’s News” which I feel is the strongest song on the album as a single, but the whole album is a perfect spring/summer type of album to play while you just want to chill out.
A good contemporary musical project that I could compare Vanity Mirror to would be Coconut Records - the solo project of actor Jason Schwartzman.
The one major drawback on creating a band around that lo-fi sound is that if you aren’t a big fan of the sound, you may get fatigued on the album as it plays on.
Even some of my favorite bands of all time I have had this issue with. Most notably Primus and Rush…not that these bands sound like Vanity Mirror. I just have to be in the mood to listen to a full Primus or Rush album knowing that it takes some of my focus and requires me to stick with it all the way through.
All this to say that Vanity Mirror’s sound MAY be so eclectic that you may or may not stick with the full album all in one sitting, and that is TOTALLY fine.
I do believe that you will enjoy it front to back no matter how many songs you listen to consecutively. Heck, throw the whole album in your rock playlist and watch how good you feel when ANY of the songs pop up, because it is something different, it feels good, and your mood will likely change for the better because of it.
The album is out now on We Are Busy Bodies Records and streaming everywhere.
Recommended Songs - “Tuesday’s News”, “Dandelion Wish”, “Somehow You Know”
The Ragged Jubilee - Mulholland Overdrive - 4.7 out of 5 stars
It’s rare that you actually get some great blues-rock music outside of The Black Keys these days, but that’s exactly what you get from The Ragged Jubilee.
Their new 10-song release Mulholland Overdrive brings the loud rock bangers flared with blues leads and solos as well as that crunchy and gravelly vocal sound that great blues-rock bands have been known for over the years.
The first song on the album, “Placebo,” has the frenetic energy of a song that The Doors may have brought out back in the late ‘60s with its presence of understanding timing structures and tempo and playing with the song to get the desired result.
The band seems to want to push the boundaries and pace of what this style of music can be known for as there are even flashes of punk throughout the drumming and pacing just to keep things from every getting dull (which can happen with this genre too often).
“Love Junkie” is one of those songs that straddle the line of punk, in my opinion, but, of course, you will also get a fresh breakdown with ripping guitar that is not characteristic of punk music.
“New Flame” brings an unrelenting, in-your-face sound that is just fantastic. This song actually reminds me a bit of the old Jack White stuff that actually could rock out without being pretentious.
Another band that I would probably throw in the mix of who these guys can sound like is Clutch even though Clutch does have a heavier sound for about 50-60% of their music, The Ragged Jubilee are very much within the scope of their sound too.
“Senguine, My Brother” definitely has that outlaw sound to it that inspires images of TV shows like Sons of Anarchy or Mayans.
Then comes “Space Cowboy” which is full-on rockabilly and post-surf (is that a thing?) with its speed guitar intro and wavy lead throughout. It makes no sense that this song should work for this band, but it really does.
If you want a good technical song to sort of geek out on, then you definitely want to check out “Requiem For Capricorn” as it has some of the best drumming and guitar and is just a really awesome song with its composition overall. It has very few lyrics and vocals in the song, but it doesn’t seem to stop it from being absolutely badass. Stay tuned to the end for the drum solo that will have you bug-eyed.
Overall, I would say this album is one of my personal favorites of the year just because it is not something you get to hear every day, and it absolutely rocks.
If you ever liked bands like Creedence Clearwater Revival or The Doors or even The Band from back in the day, then I think you are going to really enjoy The Ragged Jubilee which modernizes the sound that those kinds of bands brought to the masses.
For those who haven’t had their attention spans burned out by radio, TV, and smartphones, the album also features back-to-back long form songs in “Circuit Sun” and “Like a Knife” which are 9 minutes and almost 11 minutes respectively.
“Circuit Sun” is basically a two and a half minute song with a six and a half minute solo attached to it, and it rips, but the critique there would be whether or not it belongs on an album. I’m not to say one way or the other, but I think if you made it this deep into the album, you are fully along for the ride.
“Like a Knife” is a chainsaw of a song that gives no shits and just goes on a sonic journey for about 7 minutes there.
If you like highly-skilled musicians creating incredibly good rock music, then you are going to like this album.
The album Mulholland Overdrive is available everywhere you stream.
Recommended Songs - “Placebo”, “Requiem For Capricorn”, “Love Junkie”
Island of Love - Island of Love - 4.8 out of 5 stars
Island of Love is a pretty new band, and this is the band’s debut full-length album (with a few previous demos and EPs), and what a first impression it makes.
The London-based quartet consists of dual singers/guitarists Karim Newble and Linus Munch, Daniel Giraldo on bass and
The band was signed on the spot by Third Man Records which is Jack White’s record label and became the first band ever signed to the label. Pretty high praise that the band has definitely lived up to.
I think I have already listened to the album about 5 times because it is so refreshing with its varied song styles and their brand of indie rock feeling very familiar but incredibly revitalizing at the same time.
I will say the one thing I struggle with on this album is choosing which songs to best highlight as I think all the songs are really good.
It’s almost like I can hear 60 years of British rock being blended into one band with a heightened awareness of how to make a catchy melodic rock song.
I really like the song “Sweet Loaf” as it just brings the whole album down for a minute with an incredibly intimate song that has really interesting guitar work throughout. It’s just vocals and a diffused electric guitar for the first three minutes and twenty seconds, but then blasts in with the full band at the end.
It immediately reminded me of “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd, and that’s never a bad thing.
The guitars on this whole album are reason enough to give it a listen as I find myself following the riffs and lead throughout - which I usually focus on the drumming for most bands initially. But that’s just how good the guitars are on this album.
I will say that the ONLY thing I am not truly a fan of on this album is the guitar and melody in the intro of “Charles” as it reminds me of the late 80’s and early 90’s new wave Brit rock which I just never liked, but I know a LOT of people will instantly love the song for that reason. I would say that is just me being picky, and the rest of the song rocks out. So, I can’t complain too much.
Just a heads up, the last song on the album “It Was All Ok Forever” actually has a hidden song at the end of it…which I believe is titled “Island of Love.” So, make sure to listen to both of those songs.
You will definitely want to check this album out before they are playing big ass festivals soon.
Recommended Songs - “Big Whale”, “Sweet Loaf”, “It Was All Ok Forever” + “Island of Love” (Secret Track)
Chappaqua Wrestling - Plus Ultra - 4.6 out of 5 stars
You want some politically charged indie rock music that might remind you of early Radiohead mixed with something like Portishead? A totally coincidental comparison of two bands that had “head” at the end of their names.
Well, that’s where I think Chappaqua Wrestling fits into the scope of rock music right now.
Right from the first song on their new album Plus Ultra the band talks through the British lens of how the UK government has failed the people of the country for years.
“Full Round Table” is the song that affirms that no matter what politicians say about trying to be “for the people” the table is already full, and the people of power don’t seem to want to open up any more seat any time soon.
The band was created by Charlie Woods and Jake Mac as the two founding members and principal songwriters, and they have created some incredible songs on this album.
The overall sound is definitely an indie-rock aesthetic, but you get bits and pieces of hardcore and new wave sounds mixed in here and there as well.
The band has plenty to say throughout this album, and I won’t pretend to know their full perspective on all the issues they bring up, but it’s not just WHAT they are saying that seems to matter. The way they put their music together makes it hard to ignore the message whether they are conveying.
A great example of this would be the song “Wide Asleep” which seems to be an anti-woke culture message about how people act like they know what they are talking about, but because their perspective and life situation is not the same as the intended audience, the actual “wokeness” can’t be achieved.
It’s a great song, and I would say it has the appeal of the more rocking songs that Oasis was known for back in the mid-90’s.
I won’t dig into every song on this album, because I think just giving them a listen is more valuable than whatever I may say about the music.
The shoegaze sound is strong with these guys, and you could easily find yourself sort of daydreaming towards the later half of this album with songs like “My Fall I”, “My Fall II” and “Can I Trick.”
Make sure to check out this album out wherever you stream your music.
Recommended Songs - “Wide Asleep”, “Full Round Table”, “Can I Trick”