This year, Met Radio is taking part in the time-honoured tradition of the year-end top ten list. Throughout the month of December, Met Radio staff and volunteers will be sharing their personal pop culture favourites from the year gone by. Visit the website every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to check out our best of 2023!
In anticipation of my upcoming show set to debut early next year, dedicated to unearthing hidden musical gems, I went deep into the realm of obscure, underrated, and undiscovered music throughout the past year. Countless hours were dedicated to scouring Bandcamp, Rate Your Music, and beyond in search of new music spanning every conceivable genre from around the globe. Many of the best albums I found were significantly underappreciated in the eyes of critics and year-end lists. As a result, I’m excited to present 10 of my personal favourite albums from this year in no particular order, each deserving of your attention and possibly overlooked by many.
Heavenly Bodies, Repetition, Control – Noble Rot (https://noblerotmusic.bandcamp.com/album/heavenly-bodies-repetition-control)
Noble Rot is a new project from the duo of Alex Edkins (Metz, Weird Nightmare) and Graham Walsh (Holy F***), two minds behind some of the best music to ever come out of Toronto. Their debut album is a compelling fusion of what makes them unique musicians, seamlessly weaving familiar dance and noise rock sensibilities with a distinct approach to melody and nuance. What sets them apart is their willingness to explore off-kilter experimentation, resulting in one of the most immersive and impressive musical experiences of the year.
Den Sämsta Lösningen Av Alla – Per “Texas” Johansson (https://pertexasjohansson.bandcamp.com/album/den-s-msta-l-sningen-av-alla)
On the new album (which translates to “The Worst Solution of All”) from the Swedish saxophonist, you hear instruments you wouldn’t expect from a jazz record. Oboes, French horns, and violins seamlessly intertwine with saxophone and pedal steel guitar, creating a distinctive fusion of jazz, chamber music, and neo-classical elements. It almost sounds like a soundtrack to a Bond film set in the 1700s, that’s the best way I could describe it anyway.
We Are Still Wild Horses – MF Tomlinson (https://mftomlinson.bandcamp.com/album/we-are-still-wild-horses)
Brisbane-born MF Tomlinson crafts songs that dive deep into the confrontations and introspections of the human experience. His new album unfolds as a canvas for his often self-deprecating and satirical reflections, particularly focusing on his isolation and subsequent desolation during the pandemic. With fantastically lush instrumentation heavily influenced by 60s acid-folk and art-rock, MF Tomlinson creates a truly unique record. Despite having only four songs, the album is anchored by the incredible 21-minute titular track. It’s a truly epic song that builds to a crescendo featuring lounge piano, chaotic drums, stand-up bass, and arpeggiating synth runs; a standout favourite of mine this year.
Eight Waves In Search Of An Ocean – Fortunato Durutti Marinetti (https://fortunatoduruttimarinetti.bandcamp.com/album/eight-waves-in-search-of-an-ocean-2)
Fortunato Durutti Marinetti (aka Daniel Colussi) is a Turin-born, Toronto-based singer-songwriter who sounds as though he comes straight from the 70s with a crooning, poetic voice à la Lou Reed. On his third album under the FDM alias, Colussi delves into what he describes as “poetic jazz rock,” weaving tales of love and loss amid a lush soundscape of synths, saxophones, flutes, and violins. The fusion of electronic and organic instruments, coupled with his nostalgic vocals, results in a completely new and indescribable sound that’s truly something special.
The Worst Is Yet To Come – Big Head (https://big-head.bandcamp.com/album/the-worst-is-yet-to-come)
Big Head, a solo endeavour led by Mills Chaiken from Denton, Texas, has crafted one of the most captivating and surprising rock albums of the year. On “The Worst Is Yet To Come,” Chaiken defies expectations by turning genres like emo, pop-rock, power-pop, and alt-rock on their heads. He throws in rap features, experiments with vocal effects, and introduces perplexing melodies, creating an album where you’re never quite sure what’s coming next, and that’s what makes it so exciting.
Drive Home – Portraits of Tracy (https://portraitsoftracy.bandcamp.com/album/drive-home)
On this massively ambitious 18-track double album, rapper/singer-songwriter Portraits of Tracy, also known as Couren Bowman, unfolds the narrative of their alter ego, Junie, and their battles with past trauma. Through spoken-word monologues, quick skits, and voiceovers that thread the storyline together, “Drive Home” offers an almost cinematic experience. Fueled by poetic intensity and dramatic ambition, it stands out as one of the most compelling story-driven hip-hop projects I’ve come across in a while.
O Yinne! – Alogte Oho and His Sounds of Joy (https://alogteohoandhissoundsofjoy.bandcamp.com/album/o-yinne)
Alogte Oho and his band stand out as one of the most important forces preserving and revitalizing traditional Ghanaian Highlife music. They inject vitality into the genre by seamlessly blending gospel elements and local traditions. Highlife, a fusion of African roots and Western jazz melodies, exudes an infectious and danceable energy. Their album “O Yinne!” vividly exemplifies this, showcasing driving synths, blazing horns, and effortlessly groovy rhythms. Described as an “Afro-futuristic firework of pentatonic vocal explosions” with a foundation in rolling West African rhythms, it’s a unique sound that the group aptly calls “Frafra-Gospel, not Gospel,” as per their Bandcamp description.
And Blue Space Is Burning Noon – Now (https://nowww.bandcamp.com/album/and-blue-space-is-burning-noon)
Now, a San Francisco trio, creates a unique brand of rugged psychedelia, blending laid-back Rock ‘n’ Roll with a refreshing twist. Their fifth album envelops itself in a dreamlike haze, capturing the essence of waves that likely accompanied their recording sessions. The sound is distinctly West Coast, echoing the spirit of San Francisco’s musical landscape from the 60s and 70s. Infused with irresistibly catchy hooks and witty lyrics, Now has fashioned an endlessly enjoyable and timeless summer classic in my opinion.
Valosaasteen Sekaan – Musta Huone (https://mustahuone.bandcamp.com/album/valosaasteen-sekaan-2)
Emerging in the mid-2010s, Helsinki band Musta Houne initially began as a duo blending post-punk with black metal. Today, they’ve evolved into a four-piece who’ve added a heavy dose of psychedelia to the mix. Their new album, which translates to “Among the Light Pollution,” is a strange experience in the best way possible as it incorporates krautrock, noise-rock, and more. They showcase a real love for darkness, brutality, and ferocity, yet aren’t afraid to let the weird and beautiful moments shine through. It’s certainly a challenging listen, but the depth and complexity of the album make it an experience that not only deserves your attention but, in the end, proves to be entirely worthwhile.
End Credits EP – Graf Orlock (https://vitriolrecords.bandcamp.com/album/end-credits)
Alright, I’m bending the rules a bit by throwing in an EP, but I can’t resist talking about one of my favourite bands. These guys are the pioneers of the “cinemagrind” genre, thanks to their fusion of film dialogue samples with grindcore. The appropriately titled “End Credits EP” is supposedly their swan song, and they exit with a bang, ripping through 5 songs in a thrilling 12-minute ride. Expect their trademark massive riffs, blast beats, intense vocals, and apocalyptic lyrics, all framed with samples from Snowpiercer, Children Of Men, Mad Max, Dredd, and Waterworld. It’s a wild journey and hands down the most fun I had with a hardcore release this year. Here’s hoping they’ll stage a comeback, just like any good action heroes would.