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My top 30 songs of 2023

Phil Shaw

1 California – CMAT

A soaring voice, funny lyric and great tune from the excellent album Crazymad, For Me – all the work of Dubliner Ciara Mary-Alice Thompson – coalesce into an irresistible twist on Celtic country-soul.

2 Come Around And Love Me – Jalen Ngonda

American-born but an honorary Scouser for the past decade, Ngonda’s extraordinary range and the production evokes Marvin Gaye’s masterpiece What’s Goin’ On and other vintage Motown tracks.

3 Will Anybody Ever Love Me? – Sufjan Stevens

For all the romantic despair of this gem from the US singer-songwriter, the gorgeous melody and the way it builds from a solitary start to an epic fusion of voices and instruments is strangely uplifting.

4 Travelling Hard – Steve Mason

In a just world, such catchy, left-field, political songs would make the former singer with Scottish indie stalwarts The Beta Band a household name like less interesting contemporaries from the 1990s.

5 Moonless – Julie Byrne

The best of the delicate songs of love and loss, desire and grief that made The Greater Wings a fine album, the lo-fi vocal and small-ensemble backing reminiscent of Nick Drake… or Sufjan Stevens.

6 Hunter – Jess Williamson

The Texas singer-songwriter was once part of alt country duo Plains with Katie Crutchfield, aka Waxahatchee, but here she demonstrates how her craft has propelled her beyond the limitations of the genre.

7 Eliza I See – Darlingside

Lush, intimate harmonies from the Boston Baroque folk-pop quartet – a song, like Fleet Foxes’ White Winter Hymnal, whose elegance and unity will surely see it being sung by choirs in rounds.

8 Place Called Love – Ron Sexsmith

The Canadian troubadour’s output is as consistent as it is prolific, and in these bruising, divisive times the gentle warmth of this brass-and-piano-kissed paean to community hits a sweet spot.

9 The Narcissist – Blur

Not, alas, a verdict on Boris Johnson but a song which found Damon Albarn reflecting on what he saw in the mirror – one to rank with the band’s best, even if it reached only No81 in the UK chart.

10 Done – Josienne Clarke

With its beautiful echoes of Sandy Denny, both in the clarity of the voice and the phrasing, this sumptuous track has elevated Clarke from the folk scene to the realm of top-notch chanteuse.

11 Leikara – Susanne Sundfor

12 Aapki Khushi – Jasdeep Singh Degun (featuring Ashnaa)

13 Let The Games Begin – Lucius

14 Vampire Empire – Big Thief

15 The Alcott – The National (featuring Taylor Swift)

16 Throne Of Amber – Harp

17 Last Rotation Of Earth – BC Camplight

19 Tramp Like You – Oracle Sisters

20 Dickhead Blues – Kara Jackson

21 In My Head – The Lemon Twigs

22 Careful of Your Keepers – This Is The Kit

24 Emotion Sickness – Queens Of The Stone Age

25 Let The Light In – Lana Del Rey (featuring Father John Misty)

26 Goldenrod – Teni Rane

27 The Insider – Robert Vincent

28 Eat My Words – Divorce

29 Let Go The Day – Ynana Rose

30 Not Strong Enough – boygenius

My 10 favourite covers of the year

1 ’Cello Song (Nick Drake)

Fontaines DC

2 Keep Me In Your Heart (Warren Zevon)

Fantastic Cat

3 Darkness, Darkness (The Youngbloods)

Kieran Hebden & William Tyler

4 Ballad Of A Thin Man (Bob Dylan)

Cat Power

5 Fast Car (Tracy Chapman)

Luke Combs

6 You Haven’t Done Nothin’ (Stevie Wonder)

Billy Valentine & The Universal Truth

7 Atmosphere/Heroes (Joy Division/David Bowie)

The Miraculous Love Kids (featuring Beth Gibbons)

8 Picture Of Me Without You (George Jones)

Teddy Thompson

9 Love (Sara Groves)

Beth Nielsen Chapman

Sharon Van Etten (featuring Michael Imperioli)


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