I’ve been missing for a few…but I’m motivated tonight to tell you about 6 alternative songs in 2023 you need to jump on ASAP! Some of these from spring and summer will make my year-end list of favorite alternative songs in 2023. A few are just in my head and deserve a broader audience.
How to listen to the best alternative songs in 2023
You can stream all of these tunes for free at Bandcamp. You can also buy them there or, even better, buy from the bands’ websites. Most have YouTube videos but I’m not into videos myself. Many also offer free streams at Soundcloud. Even a big dog like Teenage Fanclub is making its brand new album Nothing Lasts Forever available to stream at Soundcloud.
You can listen to ALL of the songs right from this page, and use the handy links to support the artists.
“Fantastic Tales of the Sea” – The Hannah Barberas (Fantastic Tales of the Sea)
“Fantastic Tales of the Sea” may be one the catchiest alternative songs in 2023.
But first, I have to say as a frequent band name critic, let’s give credit to The Hannah Barberas for possibly best band name ever. And double win, best album art of 2023?! (Credit to London designer Sally Kelly). These guys are killing it on the aesthetics.
None of this it to take away from the title track of 2023’s fantastic, Fantastic Tales of the Sea, or my story about hearing it the first time. Among the things I DON’T have to complain about is traveling some this summer. I was listening to Fantastic Tales at Hideaways Beach in Kauai. Yes, I get it, entitled white guy story here. But the moment was still powerful.
It was our last day on the island and I’m at Hideaways with my daughter. It is one of the most picturesque beaches I’ve ever seen. Surreal. Rose is recording an Insta Reel in the water and doing what teenagers do. I was taking in the ocean, listening to The Hannah Barberas’ new album. Near the end, “Fantastic Tales” positively leaped out of the headphones. The chorus was instantly sealed with those last, fading hours of our family vacation, the way some songs are forever connected to a moment in time.
You don’t have to be in Hawaii to enjoy the clear-eyed jangle brilliance of The Hannah Barberas.
Buy Fantastic Tale of the Sea from Darrin Lee’s Subjangle label at Bandcamp.
“This is Gonna Change Your Mind” – Martin Frawley (The Wannabe)
Martin Frawley’s sprechgesang “This is Gonna Change Your Mind” from his second album, The Wannabe, endears itself with repeat listening. Hearing it again, I’m tempted to buy the full album by the former member of Melbourne’s Twerps. Baggy jam at one moment, enigmatic dolewave the next, Frawley’s desultory vocals tie the whole thing together. It’s a nuanced album that begs several listens to really get it.
That said, leadoff “This is Gonna Change Your Mind” is just straightforward infectious pop!
Oh, and interested in tasty Australian wines? Martin and his fiancé, Lauren, produce Syrah, Cabernet and Vermentino wines using Victorian grapes under the El’More Wines label.
“Vampire in Appalachia” – Phillip Bowen (Old Kanawha)
Philip Bowen is an up-and-comer in West Virginia’s growing country scene. I’m quite biased, having proudly grown up among the same hills and streams as Bowen. He joins West Virginia’s Charles Wesley Godwin, Tyler Childers and Sierra Ferrell in much-discussed country and alt country circles.
In fact CWG guests on Bowen’s Old Kanawha (modern pronunciation: kuh-NAW), the county of West Virginia’s capital, Charleston, and the Native American word for “white rocks.” Bowen is a renowned fiddle and mandolin session musician but his vocals runs are so light they could fool you into thinking it is auto-tune.
“Vampire in Appalachia” also boasts a champion version of the “Woah oh oh oh oh” bridge mirrored in the past by The Ronettes, Baltimora and Howard Jones. Bowen owns them all with his earnest “Vampire in Appalachia,” one of the best alternative songs in 2023 in alt country.
Get your copy of Old Kanawha from West Virginia’s newest star, Philip Bowen!
“Analita” – Bobsled Team (single)
Words really only detract from pure pop sugar like Bobsled Team’s “Analita.” The whimsical echo of the chorus begins what you think will be Icelandic dream pop, but it builds to a bit of a noisy indie jam. I’m not previously familiar with Belfast’s Bobsled Team but now greatly anticipate their second album!
“Analita,” a song about a ghost, is an instant classic.
Buy Bobsled Team’s “Analita” today from Bandcamp to hear one of my favorite alternative songs in 2023.
“Unchanged” – Dot Allison (Consciousology)
Let’s stay in this same ethereal space with Dot Allison’s “Unchanged.” Allison has been around basically forever, originally as part of One Dove. We’re virtually the same age, a discovery I usually find surprising in a contemporary indie artist.
One Dove had just one album, 1993’s Morning Dove White, but Allison has released six albums since then, culminating in 2021’s Heart-Shaped Scars and this year’s Consciousology. If she more closely identifies with the psych/trip hop space, the chorus of “Unchanged” floats weightlessly, very nearly like a country harmonic.
Is “Unchanged” a tender homage to her lover, or bitter realization?
You’re always the same
So he should walk away
Yet his love remains...unchanged
Unchanged, like a sunrise
Unchanged, like your ghost
Unchanged, once a lifetime
Unchanged, a seed won’t sow
Unchanged, like the fractal
Unchanged, shaping the snow
Unchanged, if statues could move
Oh the stories they could tell
You can also hear the growing trippy beats under the Scottish singer’s single, which she originally released in May.
“Beggin’ For You” – Hurry (Don’t Look Back)
At some point, I realize I could do these playlists all night. Let’s wrap back in the states, with Philadelphia’s Hurry.
“Beggin’ For You” sounds like a Teenage Fanclub lost classic with thrilling chamber pop flourishes. There is absolutely nothing to dislike about Matt Scottoline’s ode to 90’s power pop and its influences. He owns every Norman Blake vocal peak, Big Star guitar solo and jangly Byrds chorus.
Check out how it comes together on “Beggin’ For You.”
You can’t do much better than Hurry’s Don’t Look Back! Buy it at Lame-O Records.
The best alternative songs in 2023 are yet to come
Look, we’ve got 95+ days left in 2023. These 6 songs were basically some of the last 8 or 10 I put in my phone for a post just like this — an update. I have dozens of favorite alternative songs in 2023 that I’ll catalogue at the end of the year. Last year, I listed 22 of my favorites from 2022.
Subscribe for updates as we wind up another terrific year in alternative music!