The Best of 2023….So Far

KUTX Staff pick their favorite songs from the first half of 2023

It’s that time of year again when our staff look back, and somewhat reluctantly, come up with three of their favorite songs of the half-year. 2023 has already proven to be a very interesting musical year. Lots of delayed COVID projects are starting to emerge, and musicians freed up to travel, are engaging in a record number of collaborations. This is an arbitrary exercise at best – music nerds that we are, we’re all likely to have three different favorites next week, but there’s still a lot of great music here to explore. Enjoy! 

– Jeff McCord

Jack Anderson – Producer

Genesis Owusu – “Leaving the Light”

For some reason, this tune reminds me of Thelma Schoonmaker’s placement of Devo’s “Uncontrollable Urge” in The Wolf of Wall Street. But its cinematic sensibilities don’t outweigh its potential as a sweat-drencher –  be it working out or on the dance floor.

Thundercat & Tame Impala – “No More Lies”

Kevin Parker’s been busy lately! Between this, his Gorillaz collab “New Gold”, and his work on the Dungeons & Dragons soundtrack, it’s been really cool hearing Parker’s idiosyncratic vocals a bit outside of Tame Impala’s typical wheelhouse.


Whatitdo Archive Group – “Astral-Desia”

I could just as easily list their latest LP Palace of a Thousand Sounds…but this lead single really does a great job of capturing the dusty exotica formulas blowing out of Reno these days.

Peter Babb – Digital Web Editor

The Stacks – “Dope Demise”

As guitarist for Austin’s buzzworthy Good Looks, Jake Ames was forced to put his own project, The Stacks, on hold while touring behind that band’s first album. On hold no longer, The Stacks’ self-titled debut hits that sweet spot between folky Americana and upbeat, dreamy indie rock. Especially songs like “Dope Demise,” the perfect tune to kick off that summer road trip. 

Urban Heat – “Goodbye Horses”

Former KUTX Artist of the Month Urban Heat has quickly become one of my favorite live shows in town, with their infinitely danceable post-punk anthems and frontman Jonathan Horstman’s physically commanding stage presence. Their take on the 1988 brooding synth-pop hit “Goodbye Horses” is one part faithful cover and 100% awesome.

Jess Williamson – “Chasing Spirits”

For her latest release, “Time Ain’t Accidental,” Texas native Jess Williamson decamped to Los Angeles to rediscover her country/western roots. The move seems to have worked. The new album is full of clear-eyed country songs that harken back to the best of the 70’s folk rock movement. On “Chasing Spirits”, she peels back the covers on a past relationship with plaintive vocals and honest lyrics that have you singing along and crying in your beer all at the same time.

Andrew “Soundfounder” Brown – Host

Alex DL – “II”

This year Austin-based veteran electronic producer Alex DL (FKA IAYD) released his album Rite of Passage. The track “II” is equal parts relaxing, stimulating, ambient and haunting.  Highly recommended for fans of instrumental Synth music.  

Flobama – “Gradients” 

Austin beatmaker Flobama continues his prolific stream of releases in 2023 with one of his best tracks yet. Smooth synth lines and expert drum samples create an undeniable groove and an all-around great listening experience.  

Four Tet – “Three Drums” 

At the age of 45, Four Tet is having the best year of his career.  He played for massive crowds in sold-out Madison Square Garden, Times Square, and Coachella and capped the whole thing by releasing this relaxing, meditative song “Three Drums”.  

Susan Castle – Host

Chromeo – “Words With You”

The Montreal duo puts the fun in electro-funk and knows precisely how to make songs that unlock your body and make you forget about the ills in the world. 

Boygenius – “Not Strong Enough”

Each member of this talented trio of Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus has their sweet shining verse moments, but when the chorus harmonies hit, it grabs you.  


Who doesn’t love a good psych-rock song, right?  But it gets better.  They’re an Austin foursome featuring a female lead vocal with Alex Maas producing and James Petralli engineering.  No wonder it’s such an instant classic.

Jody Denberg – Host

Jess Williamson – “Hunter”

A Dallas native who began her musical career in Austin, Jess Williamson comes of age with her 5th solo album Time Ain’t Accidental.  Coming off last year’s collab with Katie Crutchfield as Plains, Williamson delivered an album that showcases her singular voice and revealing songs. Her recent Studio 1A performance with her band was also a 2023 highlight.

Margo Price – “Been To The Mountain”

Margo’s work may still be filed under “Americana’, but this rocker shows she is beyond categorization. The opener of her album Strays–  and most of her recent shows – “Mountain” is full of self-aware declarations from the get-go: “I got nothing to prove, I got nothing to sell/I’m not buying what you’ve got, I ain’t ringing no bells.” The whole album is great as was her guest DJ stint on KUTX’s SXSW Wrap-up show.

Wild Child – “End Of The World”

The first full-length in five years from Kelsey Wilson, Alexander Beggins and Co. is deep in great songs, and I wish this title track didn’t resonate so strongly with me lyrically but alas….”it’s freaking me out” (but at least I’m not alone). The band didn’t play this one at their recent Studio 1A performance, but it was still excellent.

Jacquie Fuller – Assistant Program Director

Bar Italia – “Nurse!”

A taut, disaffected-cool track that devolves into a mess of Can-esque drums that makes me reach for “Vitamin C” every time. This song definitely smokes cloves. Also, I’ve heard this band plays in the dark because of course they do.

Kieran Hebden (Four Tet) and William Tyler – “Darkness, Darkness”

A 1969 song by Gloria Loring (who, interestingly, also wrote the theme to TV’s The Facts of Life) gets a makeover by electronic artist Hebden and guitarist Tyler. The result is arrestingly grand, beautifully layered, and best played very loud.

W.I.T.C.H. – “Avalanche of Love [feat. Sampa the Great]”

I was still wearing Osh Kosh B’Goshes when this band was having its heyday in Zambia, but I’m glad to witness their resurrection. Comebacks can be lackluster, but not for W.I.T.C.H. This bonafide scorcher – off their first album in 39 years – is just the excuse to finally try psychedelics at 49 that I’ve been looking for.

Laurie Gallardo – Host

Thundercat & Tame Impala – “No More Lies”

 A perfect pairing of talent. Stephen Bruner and Kevin Parker have complimentary vocal styles that give this one a seamless glide. The humor behind it is also devastating. “I’ll just be on my own / I’ll just be home alone…” Dude. Why you gotta be so awkward?

John Cale – “Nightcrawling”

The story of Cale’s connection to Bowie back in the day. They’d excitedly discuss working on something together, though nothing would materialize. The magnetic pulse of this track, imposing vocals over dark synth, draws me into very specific memories of my own. It speaks to the power of people projecting their own meaning onto a song.

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – “When We Were Close”

 The entire album Weathervane is a gut punch in the best way possible, but this tribute to Justin Townes Earle pierces the heart with its power.  There’s something hard and familiar about its badass riff that knocks the air out of one’s lungs.

Deidre Gott- Assistant Program Director

Haiku Hands – “Nunchucka”

 “I can be the one that I want. I can be the one that I’m lookin’ for.” “Go crazy, have you met me lately?” “Jump back and kiss myself. I’m a motha’ fucka’. Nunchucka!” The Australian trio Haiku Hands released this self-affirming banger in May and I can’t stop (won’t stop) dancing to it.

Genesis Owusu – “Leaving The Light”

If you ever have a chance to see this Australian artist perform live, DO NOT MISS IT. A dynamic and captivating performer, this newest single emphasizes the high-energy excitement you feel when you see him live in action. I just want to fist pump and start jumping. 

Obongjayar – “Just Cool”

One of my favorites from this year’s KUTX Live at Scholz morning broadcast during SXSW, London-based Nigerian musician Obongjayar absolutely slayed his 30-minute set. This new single, released in May, is the first new music since last year’s debut album, Some Nights I Dream of Doors.

“Confucius” Jones – Host

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – “Nadja”

V by UMO is already one of the best albums of 2023, but the song Nadja stands out the most. A minimalistic record with a big personality, which just about sums up the band itself.

Rory, Phonte, BeMyFiasco – “Otherside”

Rory is one half of the Rory and Mal podcast, and he released his debut album I Thought It’d Be Different. “Otherside” features Phonte of the rap group Little Brother (a huge inspiration for Drake), and Dallas native BeMyFiasco, who is signed to Phonte’s label. Their voices compliment each other well, which makes this track feel like something that 60s Motown could’ve produced.

Kalu & The Electric Joint – “Crime”

Garden of Eden, the latest album from the Austin band, adds to their already great body of work. “Crime” sits near the end of the album but it could’ve easily started it and hit all the same. Kalu & The Electric Joint are one of the best bands in the land and “Crime” proves it.

Aaron “Fresh” Knight- Host

Thee Sacred Souls – “Running Away” 

Thee Sacred Souls do it again, mixing classic R&B and Soul with a contemporary sound. “Running Away” feels so nostalgic and yet so new at the same time. Have we found this generation’s Marvin Gaye?

Portugal. The Man – “Dummy”

An infectious chorus line with the ominous Nightmare on Elm St countdown nursery rhyme, the song sounds very much like Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”. “Dummy” makes you wanna get up and move & groove. 

Grace Sorensen – “Digits (ft Magna Carda)”

I’ve been calling her Austin’s Wonder Kid for about two years now, and Grace Sorensen proves it with this sultry R&B bop accompanied by fellow Austin artists Magna Carda.  

Art Levy – Producer

Water From Your Eyes – “Barley”

These days, I’m finding myself craving newness in music, something revolutionary. This song sounds like the future, partially because it returns us to the raw promise of rock and roll. It’s a reminder that music can be nonsensical and dangerous.

Young Fathers – “Rice”

Energized and energizing. The sound of a new beginning. Another revolutionary sound: this is joyous music.

Yo La Tengo – “Fallout”

When I get tired of revolutionary sounds, I return to this stunner from Yo La Tengo. When your band has featured a married couple at its core for thirty-some years, intimacy becomes another instrument, a beating heart beneath the guitar fuzz.

Jeff McCord – Music Editor, Host “What’s Next”

Model/Actriz – “Amaranth”

A SXSW standout, this Brooklyn quartet oozes unease loaded with sexual tension, set to taut, explosive post-punk led by Cole Haden, a gangly and unforgettable frontman. “Amaranth” confronts with an inescapable in-your-face fury, up close at a time we’re all just getting used to that again. 

PJ Harvey – “I Inside The Old I Dying”

A haunting, mystical dream of longing, and reportedly the last song to be finished on Harvey’s upcoming album. A brief slip into flowing beauty, Harvey serenades someone named Wyman over a hypnotic old English guitar pattern. “I laugh in the leaves / And merge to the meesh / Just a charm in the woak / With the chalky children / Of evermore.”

Alfa Mist – “4th Feb (Stay Awake)”

A somnambulant slice of trip-hop, from London producer/mc Alfa Sekitoleko. ‘4th Feb’ is about facing adversity, but instead of shouting encouragement, Sekitoleko raps in a coarse whisper, barely audible above sonorous bass grooves that eventually give way to a lush coda. 

Rick McNulty – Music Director, Host “Left Of The Dial”

Water From Your Eyes – “Barley”

The first time I heard this was so disorienting—it sounded like two different songs playing simultaneously. It’s confusing, bizarre, and absolutely the most ridiculous song you’ll hear on the radio this year. Those weird sounds aren’t nails on a chalkboard—it’s actually your spine tingling out loud to the sound of the future.

Wild Child – “End of the World”

I don’t know that anyone in Austin is writing more well-crafted pop songs than Kelsey Wilson right now. It’s like she carries around a pillowcase full of hooks and clever turns of phrase and pours them out on every different project. “End of the World” is a bonafide classic with some of the funniest lyrics of the year (e.g. “You do pilates and it’s freaking me out”).

Bar Italia – “Nurse!”

Here’s something refreshing in this age of information overload: a band that thrives on mystery. They don’t give interviews, have no social media presence, and apparently don’t speak at their shows. All we really know is that there are three members and they concoct deeply layered songs that are as mysterious and enigmatic as they are. Why this track is called “Nurse!” is anyone’s guess.

Elizabeth McQueen – Podcast Producer

Caroline Rose – “Miami” 

I’m such a fan of the nylon string guitar, and that sound is so central to this song. It makes me happy. Then Caroline Rose takes you through nostalgia, regret and deep heartbreak in under 5 minutes. Plus they sing lines like “This is the hard part/The part they don’t tell you about/There is the art of loving/This is the art of forgetting how.” I’m all in.

Grace Sorenson and Magna Carda – “Digits” 

I don’t go out late night anymore trying to connect with people and hopefully give them my number – but this song makes me feel like I’m still in that part of my life! The beat puts me in the club, and Grace’s voice, plus Megz’s flow, straddles the line between desire and desperation. Suddenly I’m 23 again, and loving it.

Pelvis Wrestly – “Keep on Running” 

I’m so ready for Pelvis Wrestly’s take on country music. Singer-songwriter Benjamin Violet’s voice has this vulnerable conviction that makes me want to listen again and again. The track takes me to an 80’s Bruce Springsteen place, but with 200% more strings! And synths that make my heart sing! Yes please!

Darren Puccala – Intern

Being Dead – “Muriel’s Big Day Off” 

The creative force driving the work of Being Dead is alive and well. The Austin-based trio spell out why you should be excited for their first album, “it’s spelled like this: M-U-R-I-E-L.”Muriel’s Big Day Off, is an indie-pop song with garage rock vocals, split down the middle with a jazzy drum sequence recounting the mayhem of Muriel’s free day.

Wednesday- “Quarry”

The songwriting of Wednesday can be described as a patchwork of stories and moments fit together into a fusion of shoegaze and country. Quarry, off their latest album, Rat Saw God, exemplifies this. Karly Hartzman’s songwriting is reminiscent of a long-time family reunion infused with too many IPA’s and fully intent on making up for lost time. It’s perfect. 

King Krule – “Sea Forth”

King Krule watches over his sleeping partner before soaring above “the broken Earth” in Seaforth. Marshall takes us along hand in hand as he finds the importance of faith in love. For fans like me who patiently waited for the return of King Krule since the release of Man Alive in 2020, we’ve already learned this lesson. Relearning has never sound better. 

Trina Quinn – Host

​​Grace Sorensen (featuring Magna Carda) – “Digits”

This song is so incredibly sexy, and frankly, that’s what I’m into right now!

Walker Lukens – “The One Who Loves You”

This song is so incredibly sexy, and frankly, that’s what I’m into right now!

Die Spitz – “Chug”

This song is so incredibly sexy, and frankly, that’s what I’m into right now!

Jay Trachtenberg – Host, “Sunday Morning Jazz”

Janelle Monae –  “Lipstick Lover”

She’s back!  From The Age Of Pleasure, her first album in five years, comes this sultry treat riding a low ‘n’ slow pop reggae groove that goes down easy on these hot summer nights…..and days.  Look for Monae to be back in Austin this Fall.    

The Heavy Heavy  – “Go Down River” 

They may hail from Brighton, UK but this earthy five-piece band really captures a 1960s-70s California vibe on this sunny, infectious tune that conjures up summer imagery.  They tore it up at our Scholz Garden SXSW showcase back in March.  

Tinariwen – “Tenere Den

Pioneers of the Desert Blues sound of northern Saharan Africa, this Malian band creates a stirring, hypnotic blend of strings, percussion and western rock.  Personally, I can’t get enough of it.  The song comes from their new, Daniel Lanois-produced album, Amatssou.

Taylor Wallace – Host

Being Dead – “Muriel’s Big Day Off” 

A weird band of titillation and surprise, Being Dead never fails to pull you in.  With hypnotic harmonies and an impressive amount of tightness, “Muriel’s Big Day Off”’s titular character enjoys a day in the city, having tea with friends and making multiple shoplifting trips to Payless. An enigmatic character, and you want to be the person Muriel is meeting for tea between her budget-fashion escapades.

Water From Your Eyes – “Barley” 

With an immeasurable number of sound effects, and Lord knows how many guitar pedals, this song sounds like an exercise inspired by The Avalanches. While not buried, the vocals take a backseat to all of these other offerings, making the Brooklyn duo more like composers of an unlikely orchestra. Wacky without being chaotic, throw this on in the car or at the pool, and you’ve got yourself a bona fide conversation starter.  

Haiku Hands – “Nunchuka” 

I’m never surprised to learn that a new, weird dance track I’ve fallen in love with is by a group from Australia. The lowered inhibitions and “embrace the absurd” culture organically seep through the music– showing, not telling. Adrenaline-charged from the start, “Nunchuka” makes you feel like you’ve been dropped into an intense level of a martial-arts style fighting game.  

Ryan Wen – Host

Pearl & the Oysters – “Pacific Ave.”

I can’t get enough. The chorus has to be among the catchiest vocal melodies I’ve heard this decade; and that funky, vaguely ’70s yacht rock bass line–pure bliss.

Fontaines D.C. – “Cello Song”

Nick Drake is my most listened-to artist ever. This is not an exaggeration. Five Leaves Left and Bryter Layter forever cursed me with an insatiable love for sad bastard folk music and anything that sounds vaguely autumnal. Do you know that gif of Robert Redford nodding in approval? That’s me when I heard Fontaines D.C.’s cover of “Cello Song.” 

Boygenius – “Not Strong Enough”

Speaking of sad bastard music, Phoebe Bridgers won me over when I discovered she was also a fan of Mark Kozelek. I hate the person he was recently revealed to be, but I can’t remove from myself decades of memories and late nights listening to Rollercoaster. In my favorite track from Boygenius’ debut, Bridgers borrows Kozelek’s guitar tone from one of my favorites, “Katy Song.” It seems she can’t entirely let go either.

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