2023 Staff Picks: Music

By Skokie Staff Advisory Services

Our expert staff members look back at the year and share their favorite titles.

  • Voyageur

    2023 by Toure, Ali Farka

    This posthumous collection of music by the late, great Malian musician Ali Farka Touré is part homage, part luxuriating in the virtuosity. The intricate guitar riffs, harmonious vocals and goading grooves are all present, offering a final joyful melding of Touré’s hypnotic desert grooves. Suggested by Adam and Chris.

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  • Principia

    2023 by En Attendant Ana (Musical group)

    Stepping out from the long shadow cast by Stereolab, this agile French combo revels in post-punk indie guitar shivers, thick cut bass, krautrock grooves, and catharsis stirring vocals. It all comes gloriously together on 'Wonder,' the album's best cut and one of the finest singles of the year. Suggested by Mariah and Chris.

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  • Everything Is Alive

    2023 by Slowdive (Musical group)

    More than 30 years after their debut, the shimmering layered guitars and songcraft of the band are as strong as ever, creating songs that urge listeners to transcend the malarkey and give in to a bliss just out of reach. 'Kisses' may be our favorite track! Suggested by Chris and Paul.

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  • (I'm Just) Chillin', on Fire

    2023 by Niño, Carlos

    LA-based renaissance man Carlos Nino has been gathering like-minded new-age jazzheads, vibe gurus and fellow travelers for spiritual-goulash recording sessions for years now. Improvisations give way to the cosmic and you don’t fight it, you feel it. Suggested by Chris.

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  • This Is Why

    2023 by Paramore (Musical group)

    It doesn’t matter what she puts out–Hayley Williams’ voice will always be effortless to listen to. With a mix of catchy pop tunes, tasteful ballads, and the pop-punk flare from the band’s past days, This Is Why showcases how Paramore has matured as a band while still staying true to their roots. Suggested by Elise.

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  • Quest for Fire

    2023 by Skrillex (Musical Group)

    I loved this album because it is a great example of "less is more." Skrillex provides hard-hitting beats and genre-bending creativity in a package that is not overproduced. Suggested by Paul.

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  • Pendant World

    2023 by Balmorhea (Musical group)

    Balmorhea is frequently referred to as neoclassical, though this slippery catchall genre, which the duo embraces, fails to capture that they’re really just making very good imaginary soundtracks for Windham Hill documentaries. And I’m down with that. Suggested Chris.

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  • The Returner


    We were captivated by this album from the very first song to the last. It’s funky, sensual, groovy, organic, and celebratory. According to the Montreal-born artist, the album was inspired by "survivors' joy" and you can feel and hear it with all your heart. Suggested by Megan and Sharon.

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  • Rustin' in the Rain

    2023 by Childers, Tyler

    Childers is a breath of fresh air in modern country music. He is so far removed from the generic bro country that has taken over country music in the last decade and his music harkens back to when country music stood for 3 chords and the truth. I loved this album for how the new songs evoked classic country and how classics (like his cover of 'Help Me Make It through the Night') felt modern and new. Suggested by Lynnanne.

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  • Why Does the Earth Give Us People to Love?

    2023 by Jackson, Kara

    Hands down my favorite debut of the year, Jackson’s blend of folk, rock, and introspective lyrics is a delight. Decidedly off-kilter, lyrically fierce, overflowing with sly, inventive production touches and all held together by Jackson’s assured delivery, you don’t want to miss this one. Suggested by Chris.

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  • Ahora

    2023 by Melenas (Musical group)

    The first track on Ahora sets its tone--a metallic sample kicks off the percussion, a catchy organ lick drops in, followed by glorious sprawling synth, and finally the one single lyric line sung in harmony. Throughout, this record is more than the sum of its parts or any one or another influence. It feels distinctly its own. Suggested by Mariah.

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  • Lucky for You

    2023 by Bully (Musical group)

    Channeling my inner indie/alt rock taste for this pick. It’s an emotional album for sure. Also, Bully’s collaboration with Soccer Mommy on the track ‘Lose You’--it gets to me every time. Suggested by Sharon.

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  • The Muppets Mayhem [Original Soundtrack]: Music from the Disney+ Original Series

    2023 by Dr. Teeth And The Electric Mayhem (Musical Group)

    As a lifelong Muppet fan, of course I watched the Disney+ new series Muppets Mayhem following the Muppet band, The Electric Mayhem. Not only is the series funny, sweet, and heartwarming, but the music truly rocks! From new songs to reimagined pop and rock classics, I can't stop listening and singing along. Suggested by Mandy.

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  • Love in Exile

    2023 by Aftab, Arooj

    This trio of three master musicians meeting for an unhurried set of songs based on previous improvisatory sessions is a cool glass of water. Texture and harmony take precedent with melodies emerging and shimmering like a tonic. Deep, lovely, and rooted. Suggested by Chris.

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  • You've Got to Learn

    2023 by Simone, Nina

    Finally! The long-awaited release of Simone's 1966 Newport Jazz Fest set. It's relatively short, but teems with intensity, from the inspired performance, to the audience's rapturous approval, to the wind hitting the microphones. Suggested by Adam.

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  • You're the One

    2023 by Giddens, Rhiannon

    I’ve been looking forward to this CD for a while, and it does not disappoint. I love the way Giddens tells a story with each song, and I love her blend of blues, soul, folk, jazz, country, cajun, and gospel. It’s as joyful as it is moving. Suggested by Sharon.

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  • That! Feels Good!

    2023 by Ware, Jessie

    Ware, an outspoken LGBTQ+ ally, created this finely honed work of Disco advocacy to show her solidarity, support, and thanks. It’s also a deliciously radiant homage to the freedom, acceptance, and loved-up vibes found on the most welcoming dance floors. Suggested by Chris.

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  • The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We

    2023 by Mitski

    With gorgeous writing and beautiful melodies, themes of love, loneliness, and identity explored, this is heartbreaking and exquisite. Suggested by Sharon.

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  • Halo

    2023 by Bakar

    Decidedly lo-fi, striking British accent, and walking a fine line between pub rock, soul, and indie, this one. Like a warm, worn sweater. Youthful, tossed-off and charmingly disposable. Suggested by Chris.

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  • So Much (for) Stardust

    2023 by Fall Out Boy (Musical group)

    A solid comeback that has easily become one of my favorite Fall Out Boy albums–which is saying a lot for someone who fell in love with FOB from their rougher roots in the early 2000s. It’s an energetic and witty album, with a touch of nostalgia that I very much appreciate. Suggested by Elise.

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  • Cousin

    2023 by Wilco (Musical group)

    This Chicago-based band has been making outstanding albums for nearly three decades, and Jeff Tweedy and company are still going strong. The lyrics, melodies, and creativity will bring me back to it again and again. Suggested by Sharon.

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  • 72 Seasons

    2023 by Metallica (Musical group)

    Metallica returned a bit earlier this year with an exceptionally executed (writing, performance, recording, packaging) album. It picks up where Hardwired from 2016, left off, but Seasons ranks up there with some of their finest work. It's lovely and inspiring to see bands celebrating milestone anniversaries (40 years for these folks) continuing to produce strong albums. Suggested by Adam.

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  • World Music Radio

    2023 by Batiste, Jon

    It’s a concept album, with a fictional interstellar DJ transmitting all types of musical genres. Sounds kind of out there. The more I listened, I couldn’t help falling under its spell and really liking the variety and inclusivity. Suggested by Sharon.

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  • Praise a Lord Who Chews but Which Does Not Consume (or Simply, Hot between Worlds)

    2023 by Tumor, Yves

    Not really adhering to any genre, Yves Tumor’s restless sonic exploration does show a deep affection for distortion pedals and lo-fi grime. If I were to slot them, “Leftfield Pop” works as good as any bearing. Suggested by Chris.

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  • Chronicles of A Diamond

    2023 by Black Pumas (Musical group)

    It’s groovy, funky, soulful, and psychedelic. I love the vocals, the beats, the pop, hip-hop, and rock and roll sound. I'm taken to a happier place whenever I give this a listen. Suggested by Sharon.

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  • Chemistry

    2023 by Clarkson, Kelly

    After what felt like forever, Kelly Clarkson FINALLY released her newest album “Chemistry” and I could not have been more excited. An instant favorite, I feel all the pain of her divorce in her songs (Lighthouse) and moving on (Rock Hudson), and hear the excitement for new love in her future (Favorite Kind of High). No one does a breakup album quite like Kelly Clarkson! Suggested by Denise.

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