9 records: Best indie albums 2023 to absolutely own by now!

Best indie rock albums 2023 so far

It’s been a challenge to assemble the best indie albums 2023 has produced so far. But I’ve got nine exceptional records for you here.

I’ve dug deep, listened long and sampled wide. In the process, I’ve heard a lot of dull songs, some pretty weird stuff and found the very best indie rock albums 2023 has available for your rock dollar. In some ways, the standouts seem fewer this year. Maybe 2022 was so epic, it has been hard to compare; maybe I’m setting the bar too high.

Best indie albums 2023: A few ground rules

Some notes about the 9 bands listed here, the dozen or so honorable mentions and 128,000 bands with albums this year who aren’t listed.

  • First, I think you can goof a little with a mid-year list, but not a lot. These are nine bands I’m serious as a heart attack about. I don’t posture as cooler-than-thou.
  • Second, I’m notoriously 2-4 weeks behind in my listening. This list should be good to about the first of June; I have ten or twelve records on my phone I either haven’t listened to or bought yet.
  • Third, your favorite nine albums are probably just as good as mine. Individual mileage may vary.
  • Finally, I became attached to the number 9 somewhat arbitrarily. Fifteen might have been a better number.

So read a little about these 9 albums and listen to a song from each record. If you dig it, listen to a few moe songs. Link to the release and buy it.

All on one indispensable website, because I love you.

Best alternative albums 2023, to rank or not to rank?

This list of the best indie albums 2023 has produced isn’t listed in order of preference – it’s way too early for ranking! But each album is fantastic and should already be in your collection.

They all stand a fair chance of making many Top 10 lists at the end of the year.

Shana Cleveland (Manzanita)

Manzanita is near the top of my best indie rock albums 2023 so far

The lead singer for La Luz, Shana Cleveland‘s solo albums are distinctly removed from her Seattle band’s surfy good times. Manzanita is a bewitching concoction of dream pop, slithering psych folk and pedal steel. A few of the longer pieces are ornamented with more acoustic passages and discreet melodic side channels.

Of the fourteen songs on Manzanita, eleven are fuller compositions and two or three are a bit more like transition elements, including the 12-second “Bloom.” Haunting arrangments like “Quick Winter Sun,” “Bonanza Freeze” and “Gold Winter” feel like Syd Barrett’s 1960’s Pink Floyd.

But you can imagine Cleveland opening for Beach House on songs like “Mystic Mine.”

I highly encourage you to explore Manzanita, available with Shana merch at her website.

Fixtures (Hollywood Dog)

Hollywood Dog by Fixtures

Hollywood Dog was a spring favorite of mine. Fixtures layers a terrific horn section over power pop. They make you wonder what Bob Mould would have sounded like with these kind of expansive brass arrangements.

Hollywood Dog opens with the driving “21/1” and closes with the “21/1 Reprise.” And “21/1” is a great example of the way each song on Hollywood Dog takes on added drama from Riley Cooke’s done-but-not-overdone trumpet. The brass creates a mystic quality on songs like “Ghost Relays,” which if K. Liakos decided to push his vocals to a scream would sound not unlike a lost Pixies classic.

I’ve decided I will travel up to 400 miles to see Brooklyn’s Fixtures live. Here is the 2:26 blast of title track “Hollywood Dog,” which would rip in person!

Buy a digital copy or vinyl edition of Hollywood Dog at Fixtures’ Bandcamp page.


The Wave by the Waeve

The WAEVE was the first album in 2023 to really knock me over.

I didn’t expect to love Graham Coxon and Rose Elinor Dougall’s album as much as I did. Obviously the Blur founder can turn almost anything to gold. But this is the year 2023 and my expectations were…modest. What a terrific surprise!

Everything about The WAEVE is emotive and stirring. The sequencing of the album from rocker “Kill Me Again” to the jazz-infused “Over and Over” is perfection. “Over and Over” also illustrates how exquisite Coxon and Dougall sound together. A bit of an April-September musical and literal romance, Coxon’s saxophone, guitar progressions and Dougall’s smoky vocal style just couldn’t be better suited together.

The WAEVE is an album of endless surprises, and is probably still my favorite this year.

THE SONGS ARE LONG — and really deserve the time to gradually reveal themselves. The motorik rhythm of “Drowning” is an example of an arrangement you just need to stay with. It turns into this mini-epic of strings and sax perfect for a chilled, rainy night.

At two minutes in, “Drowning” is just getting started. Give it the time it deserves.

Buy The WAEVE‘s debut and merch at the band’s website.

Shame (Food for Worms)

No list of the best indie rock albums 2023 would be complete without Shame

To hear Food for Worm is to be reminded of the seminal London Calling.

Shame swings for the fences again, turning post-punk into something fresh and important. Instead of The Clash’s experiments with ska and world beats, Shame alternately drops skronky guitars and spikey rhythms into Food for Worms.

I’m anxious for Shame to play America this year. However the planned tour dates so far venture no further west than Dallas. They have to announce some West Coast dates – there is still hope to hear one of the best indie albums 2023 has produced so far!

Not surprising, Food for Worms is best played at ear-crushing decibels. Bump that VU on the arena-worthy chorus of album highlight “Adderall.”

Buy your copy of Food for Worms at Shame’s website.

Lael Neale (Star Eaters Delight)

Lael Neale may sneak up on my Year End list of best music

Star Eaters Delight is an early dark horse for my favorite album of 2023.

Lael Neale retreated to her parents home in Virginia during the Corona, and the rural expanse is a felt co-producer on Star Eaters Delight. Neale’s propulsive melodies burst with a sense of clarity from those pastoral months, an extension and sort of reconnection to her previous life in LA.

As consuming as the songs are, they are spacious arrangements. I thought the comment of her producer, Guy Blakeslee, was amusing: “Lael is always telling me to play fewer notes.” Boy, can you hear it in the cavernous arrangements, which don’t seem spare but instead spotlight Neale’s perfect vibrato.

It’s hard not to see and hear a bit of Natalie Mering in Neale, though Neale is more baroque. SED is an album full of singles from one of the best indie albums 2023 has seen so far. But I can only choose one song.

Rather than the epic and enigmatic “In Verona,” here is “Faster Than the Medicine,” which I think is representative of the full recording.

No shows yet in Salt Lake City, but the year is young! Buy Star Eaters Delight as a digital download, CD, vinyl or cassette (whatevs) from Bandcamp.

Teini-Pää (Sata syytä aloittaa)

Would you believe a band from Finlad is among the best indie rock albums 2023?!

Teini-Pää (“Teenage Head”) record super-duper two-minute power pop gems in their native Finnish.

Songs on their second album Sata syytä aloittaa range from power punk to jangle pop and a couple of gazier numbers, most cuts just 2 minutes and change.  I’ve had as much fun with this album as any I’ve heard this year. It has as many hooks and as much depth as Alvvays’ 2022 Blue Rev.

Before your declare, “I don’t even speak Helsinki!”…listen to the universal language of garage rock on songs like “Kuka vaan käy.”

You can buy read more about Teini-Pää and Sata syytä aloittaa (“100 Hundred Reasons to Start”) at their Finnish label Soit Se Silti. As far as I can tell from a poor Google web translation, you need to buy Sata syytä aloittaa from their Bandcamp page.

Let’s get Teini-Pää to play ‘Merica!

Gaz Coombes (Turn the Car Around)

Gaz Coombes - Turn the Car Around

Gaz Coombes’ Turn the Car Around was the first album I bought this year. I’m listening to it now for the first time since January — it’s still superb!

Coombes’ band Supergrass was not part of my musical journey. You can’t listen to all the music. But Gaz is part of my story now. His voice sounds incredible, the compositions are rich, complex, just impeccable.

By point of comparison, many songs on Turn the Car Around are a perfect stylistic mashup of Elbow and Radiohead. “Long Live the Strange” could equally be a takeout from Leaders of the Free World or Kid A.

Check it out on Soundcloud.

Gaz Coombes (Turn the Car Around) – “Long Live the Strange”

Buy Turn the Car Around from Coombes website – I don’t know if I’ve heard a better release all year!

The Murlocs (Calm Ya Farm)

A boldly different alt country album for 2023

I believe I’ve sampled more alt country than any other genre in 2023 besides your broadly defined post punk. I mean…I’VE HEARD A LOT of alt country, and not much has hit hard. I’ve listed a few honorable mentions below, and I’ll find more for my year end list.

But The Murlocs – wow! A band doing something new under the sun!

Calm Ya Farm is a swampy, scuzzy proggy country thing that is an absolute joy. If Geddy Lee formed a bayou jam band and held drunken Friday night hootenannies for friends in low places, it would approximate half the creative energy wrapped up in the 7th album by Melbourne’s The Murlocs.

A sort of second-cousin to King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, members of The Murlocs have labored a bit in King Gizzard’s shadow. The Murlocs’ singer Ambrose Kenny-Smith and bassist Cook Craig also play in King Gizzard. Also, the bands tour together and share a ton of DNA.

Here is The Murlocs’ smoking, roiling “Russian Roulette,” a cut from one of the best indie albums 2023 has seen so far — across any genre!

A song like this begs the question, does Calm Ya Farm devolve into camp? I hear an honest tribute to the genre, not goofing on alt country. And it’s new, different…it is NEEDED.

Buy Calm Ya Farm from The Murlocs website, pour yourself a finger of whiskey and decide for yourself!

Dignan Porch (Electric Threads)

You have to inclue Dignan Porch among the best indie rock albums 2023 so far

Dignan Porch is the retro DIY project of Joe Walsh, and it is amaze.

Melodies are slightly off kilter and psychedelic at times. The lofi songs are wonderfully poppy at their core but warped just enough to sound like lost cassette tracks from Marquee Moon. You can hear the late, revered Tom Verlaine in the mournful harmonized guitar of songs like “Ancestral Trail.”

Walsh moved from London to Manchester shortly before the pandemic. Other than a bit of help from his brother, Walsh wrote, performed and recorded most of Electric Threads on his own.

Order Electric Threads from Safe Suburban Homes Records in the UK and Hidden Bay Records in the EU. In North America, buy from Repeating Cloud Records. I’ve enjoyed Electric Threads so much, it has made me want to go back and explore their back catalogue. You can go through Dignan Porch albums going back to 2010 at their Bandcamp page.

Best indie albums 2023 so far: Honorable mentions

  • The Angles (The Angles) – You’ll fall in love with this soft 70’s jangle pop
  • Indigo De Souza (All of this Will End) – I regret missing De Souza at Kilby
  • BoyGenius (The Record) – Great album. Really good. Don’t @ me for not including them in my Top 9
  • Fran (Leaving) – Top shelf singer-songwriter acoustic songs
  • The Go! Team (Get Up Sequence) – Such a trip hearing The Go! Team in top form
  • Purling Hiss (Drag on Girard) – Wrote, then removed, Purling Hiss entry in my Top 9. Recency bias
  • National Honor Society (To All the Distance Between Us) – Jangle pop I will return to at year’s end!
  • M(h)aol (Attachment Styles) – Not a song on this album I didn’t love, prurient or not
  • JAWNY (It’s Never Fair, Always True) – Looking forward to the JAWNY show in SLC
  • Hifi Sean and David McAlmont (Happy Ending) – I’m working on a full post about this duo!
  • Manchester Orchestra (The Valley of Vision) – This release is amazing but I think it is EP length
  • The Bombshell Flowers (The Death of Me) – Utah indie pop with sugary Killers-style hooks

Best indie albums 2023 so far: Not super impressed

Wall tagged with fown face

  • The National (First Two Pages of Frankenstein) – I’m a big fan but Frankenstein was unremarkable
  • Sparks (The Girl is Crying in Her Latte) – I love Cate Blanchett as much as anyone, but come on
  • Murray Lightburn (Once Upon a Lifetime in Montreal) – So much for my Murray Lightburn mancrush
  • The Tallest Man on Earth (Henry St) – Seems like a lifetime since Shallow Grave. I guess it has been
  • Bondshell (Blondshell) – These songs are good; good not great
  • Yo La Tengo (This Stupid World) – Some day we’ll look back and wonder why we lost our collective mind over an average Yo La Tengo album

100 reasons to love Finnish indie band Teini-Pää

Finnish indie pop band Teini-Pää has just released its second album

Let’s continue this weekend’s exploration of Nordic indie pop with the February album Sata syytä aloittaa by Helsinki’s Teini-Pää. The band Teini-Pää play divine 2 minute guitar pop gems just as catchy as 2022 darlings Alvvays. Now BEFORE YOU STOP READING because the vocals aren’t sung in American, take 2:18 to see if the song “Ydintyttö” persuades you that you need to know more.

That’s one extraordinary blast of power pop right?! Whatever tongue you speak…Finnish, Swedish, Spanish…we all understand the International Language of rock. Before getting into any background, I want to be sure you’re fully on board. If not, begone!

The guitars get a little scuzzier on Teini-Pää‘s “4567.” This isn’t your mother’s Finnish bubblegum pop. Just a 3 minute blast of guitars and harmonies from an alternate indie pop universe called Northern Europe.

Band Teini-Pää hits its stride with 2nd album Sata syytä aloittaa

Fans off Alvvays and Wet Leg:  Listen to the album Sata syytä Teini-Pää by Finland's Teini-Pää!

Like me, you probably didn’t know about this remarkable Helsinki indie pop band that is one EP and two albums into its career. Teini-Pää (“Teenage Head”) has been releasing music for about four years. Here is early single, “L​ä​htisitkö.” (“Would You Go”)

The quintet seems to tour between Helsinki and Turku, in far SW Finland across the Baltic from Stockholm. They have a website with fun facts about each member, including what appears to be a mutual fondness for vissy (sparkling water?), The Go-Go’s and yoga. I’ve conveniently linked an English translation of the band’s website for you here.

If you haven’t heard Denmark’s Appleseeds! what are you even doing?!

100 reasons to love Helsinki’s Teini-Pää

February’s Sata syytä aloittaa (“100 Hundred Reasons to Start”), published by Finland’s Soit Se Silti is a blast from start to finish. Google translates Teini-Pää’s own description of their band from its website as “puff pop.” It may just be a bad translation? The 90 seconds of “Aamulla” sounds like power pop to me!

You can buy a digital copy of album Sata syytä aloittaa from Bandcamp.

Impress all your indie music friends with the band Appleseeds!

The band Appleseeds! should be your newest jangle pop obsession

The band Appleseeds! are a Copenhagen indie-pop duo that released the bright and delightful indie pop æblefrø one month ago. The melodies of Kasper Clemmensen and bandmate Ditte Duus are as catchy as the enchanting packaging and internal illustrations.

Duo share lead vocals on the band Appleseeds! debut

Appleseeds! started releasing songs for æblefrø last spring. Appropriately, the earliest tunes that became album closers “Someone to Talk To” and “Spinning ‘Round” featured each singer on lead vocals.

As you listen to each simple, ever-so-jangly number — most barely two minutes — you can’t help but create a column of “Kasper songs” and “Ditte songs” depending on the singer. Both have the same throaty, desultory delivery. Here is Kasper on “Hungry Mouth,” with Ditte’s backing Ahhh’s!

…and let’s show off one more with Kasper on lead, since he voices the majority of the songs. He’s also credited with all the songwriting. I love this guitar line and the pregnant pauses in “Nightmares.”

Ditte Duus the perfect complement in the band Appleseeds!

Appleseeds! have been churning out indie pop singles for a year

When Ditte takes the mic she reflects the same innocence and sensibility as Kasper. Breathy and light, she offers the perfect complement on tracks like “The Reach” and original single “Someone to Talk To”

Appleseeds! started as foodie band Tampopo

The band Appleseeds! started as Tampopo, who for whatever reason only sang about food

For the five years or so before launching the band Appleseeds! Danish* duo Kasper Clemmensen and Ditte Duus helmed Tampopo, a band conceived to write and sing mostly about food products. I’m not entirely clear why.

Multiple releases since 2017 included songs like “Pancake Tuesday,” “Swordfish! (What do You Eat?),” “Soft as a Muffin” and the catchy (heh) “Ketchup.”

To be fair, as the years went on, Tampopo appeared to write fewer songs with titles like “Milkshake Zombie” and more tracks that transitioned closer to non-food subjects and the sound Appleseeds! displays on æblefrø.

*Googles “Are people from Denmark called Danish or Dutch?”

Love yourself some Nordic pop?! Check out Finland’s Teini-Pää!

Gorgeous packaging of æblefrø by Appleseeds!

I can’t talk about the band Appleseeds! without promoting the CD illustrations that bring you to a complete stop as you leaf through the pages of æblefrø.

Each song is accompanied by its own painting by renowned Japanese artist Mamoru Yamamoto. You should really learn more about Yamamoto at the artist’s website. The tender artwork is both engrossing and also a perfect visual representation of the band Appleseeds!

For this reason, if you are in the habit of buying digital media, I encourage you to instead purchase the limited edition compact disc available from French label Too Good to be True Records. It does not appear to be available in larger, vinyl packaging which would be positively a collector’s item.

As I finished writing this, it occurred to me the band Appleseeds! retained their foodie origins in their new name. Cheers to foodie and jangle pop music alike!

November indie music: Vote for these songs!

Tampered ballot evidence

Was democracy REALLY on the ballot, or was it some diabolical plot to trap us in political season until Christmas? Never you mind…I have just the tonic to wake you up from this political fugue state. Here is a bunch of terrific November indie music you can read about and listen to all in one convenient, non-partisan package.

Let’s do this!

“Ricochet” – Preoccupations (Arrangements)

November indie music:  Preoccupations

It is an indisputable law of physics that rock and roll suffers from a lack of drum solos. At what time have you ever heard someone rage on the kit and thought, “well that was loud and excessive.” NEVER, that’s when, because drum solos are self-justifying. They don’t need your permission.

Calgary’s Preoccupations, née Viet Cong, released Arrangements in September. It includes a mad percussive walkaway on the shimmering “Ricochet,” not unlike Terry Chambers violent hammering on XTC’s “Travels In Nihilon.”

Buy Arrangements from Bandcamp.

Click to listen to more of my favorite songs from earlier this year

Top indie songs of 2022: soundtrack of summer! (Volume 1)

All things considered, summer 2022 is still miles ahead of 2020. No corona…just a divided country, peak anxiety and climate change. Good times! So, for the balance of July and the torpid month of August, here are some of my top indie songs of 2022 to bump until Labor Day.…

“Carl Sagan” – Torres Satélite (Mundos y Estrellas)

November indie music:  Mundos y Estrellas

How could I let more than 2 or 3 weeks go by without another love letter to Spanish-language indie pop?!

I haven’t tracked down a ton of information about Spain’s Torres Satélite. Their latest, Mundos y Estrellas has been on my “Must Buy” list since I heard it last month. At the least, here is a review of 2020’s La Ventana Discreta when Torres Satélite first popped onto the scene with the Discos de Kirlian label. And who needs much more background? Everything you need to know is wrapped inside the 2 minutes and 52 seconds of pop bliss that is “Carl Sagan.”

Download Mundos y Estrellas and follow Discos de Kirlian today!

“The Sir Tommy Shovell” – Robyn Hitchcock (Shufflemania!)

Robyn Hitchcock Nashville

A couple of things about Robyn Hitchcock.

First, he is British rock royalty. Robyn isn’t David Bowie but he is absolutely an extension of the same conversation. Why haven’t I heard of him, then?” you ask. Fair question. He came of age in the late 70’s leading The Soft Boys, whom you also haven’t heard of. I honestly can’t recall if I’ve actually bought the Soft BoysUnderwater Moonlight, so I guess we’re all in the same boat. Suffice it to say, 22 albums later, REM and bunch of other musicians you enjoy today grew up listening to his eccentric catalogue.

Second, I had the occasion to meet and be gently accosted by the legend. Hitchcock, Billy Bragg and REM played NPR’s “Mountain Stage” in 1991. I don’t have a super clear memory of seeing REM that day, so I don’t recall if I was manhandled by Hitchcock after that show or a later concert. But the story goes like this: I was holding and possibly reading from a textbook at an afterparty. Hitchcock grabbed the book from me and began reciting from it and embarrassing me/secretly delighting me. Also I will never forget looking up at him, he must be seven feet tall.

Shufflemania! came out about three weeks ago and includes this delightful song you need to hear today, “The Sir Tommy Shovell.”

Add Shufflemania! to your Robyn Hitchock collection today.

Side Note: The sometimes enigmatic Billy Bragg

Finally, have you forgotten where you know the name Billy Bragg? He revises the lyrics of “The Great Leap Forward” about every two years, not always to great effect. The shared humanity is in the audience sing-a-long with the chorus. Here is the post-performance of “Leap Forward” on Mountain Stage in 1991 after the national broadcast has ended. Michael Stipe makes a cameo.

“Ships in the Night” – Anthony D’Amato (At First There Was Nothing)

November indie music:  Anthony D'Amato

Let’s stay on this Mountain Stage theme, shall we?

Two weeks ago, Anthony D’Amato released At First There Was Nothing. D’Amato had moved from New York to Utah to record his fifth album with Joshua James. He appeared on Mountain Stage in October, where I got to see him in an after-show performance at Charleston’s Empty Glass pub.

At First There Was Nothing is a collection of disparate styles from folk to soft rock and, a little strangely, 70’s Blue Oyster Cult-style AOR. Here is D’Amato at his strongest, in the straight-forward American folk tradition of “Ships in the Night.”

Recorded at American Fork’s own Willamette Mountain, you can buy At First There Was Nothing here.

“Neon Memories” – Death’s Dynamic Shroud (Darklife)

Computer AI

We’re still following a thread here, even if it isn’t obvious. I picked up on Death’s Dynamic Shroud out of Los Angeles as a recommendation from the kids at my college radio station in October. Kids these days.

I didn’t get all the way with September’s Darklife, but enjoyed the warm harmonies and Panda Bear theater-of-the-mind of “Neon Memories.”

November indie music for all ages!

Get your copy of Darklife from Death’s Dynamic Shroud!

“(Herman’s) House” – Special Interest (Endure)

November indie music:  Special Interest

We’re at that point of the night where I could just keep going and going. Need to bring this home.

What November indie music post would be complete without a review of the first week of blog buzz about Special Interest?! The New Orleans group has earned band-of-the-moment status with the terrific no-wave Endure. They’re like an angry B-52’s but with darker, roiling political statements. Original single “(Herman’s) House” tells the story of Black Panther Herman Wallace, who died three days after decades of solitary confinement for a crime he claimed he did not commit.

If it only sounds like house music (pun intended, sorry not sorry), don’t be deceived. “(Herman’s) House” is an angry song for angry times.

Get Endure today from Rough Trade.

“Greatest Hits” – Jockstrap (I Love You, Jennifer B)

Dark eyeliner tips

Yes, I understand this band decided to name itself Jockstrap. I need to write an entire post on awful band names. But suspend disbelief for this delight.

London’s Jockstrap are Taylor Skye and violinist Georgia Ellery, who have been putting out music since 2018. Ellery in particular keeps busy. Besides finishing art school, she also performs with Black Country, New Road and Goat Girl.

Their full-length debut is I Love You, Jennifer B, on which Ellery layers sung and whispered PG-13 lyrics over the top of a fairly complex concoction of ambience, EDM, and jazz. If challenging, it is more accessible than the neurotic, halting beats of earlier Jockstrap experiments like 2018’s “Charlotte.”

Standouts for me are “Greatest Hits” and first single “Glasgow.”

Buy I Love You, Jennifer B at Bandcamp.

“Dressed in Black” – Ezra Furman (All of Us in Flames)

November indie music:  Ezra Furman

How about some wistful American glam rock as a closer?

“Dressed in Black” by Ezra Furman has all of the things you want from a girl group condensed into a torchlit piano ballad. Her August album All of Us in Flames is a slow burn but gets better with each spin. Furman has been at this for 15 years, but at least not on my personal radar. Furman reached greater audiences as she expanded from her solo work to the soundtrack for Sex Education on Netflix.

Here is “Dressed in Black,” and the 50’s love songs it updates in such a muscular and confident way. Love this.

You can still buy Furman’s music bundled with merch at her website!

The election is still going, and so is a great month of November indie music

delicate arch utah

The Republic will survive and at the end of this long year you’ll want to appreciate the best she has to offer. Spend a little money, love your kids and listen to the best music mankind has ever produced. It gets better year after year, if you only have the patience to find it.

November indie music is just the latest chapter….maybe we’ll do this again before the new year and another election cycle!

The band Cheekface is oddly amazing

Something is working when you listen to a song and can’t decide if it is cringey and insufferable or the best thing you’ve heard all year. LA’s Cheekface (latest nominee for worst band name) come fast and furious with mathy, new wave hooks, nonsensical oh-so-meta lyrics and power punk hooks you just. cannot. ignore.

This fall, the kids at my college radio station, U92 at West Virginia University, were heralding Cheekface as one of their favorites of the year. It was the first time I had heard of the band. I wanted to hate them, but I kind of love them.

Here’s why.

No amount of cheese can hide the hooks

Perhaps 2022’s surprise of the year, Too Much to Ask, the third album by the band Cheekface, barrels out of the gates with 1 minute and 25 seconds of total dork fury on “When Life Hands You Problems.” Your car is now a party palace.

If you missed it, Greg Katz lovably laconic stoner lyrics include the word “problemade.”

Life hands you problems, make problemade.
Life hands you wages, minimum wage;
The popcorn ceiling, the great divide.
If you think this sucks would you keep it to yourself?
You must be thinking of something else.

Where have you heard the Cheekface sound before? I have answers

The band Cheekface features Amanda Tannen's drawing of her dog Stubbs on Too Much to Ask

For a few moments, enjoy the cover art of Too Much to Ask. My personal nominee for 2022’s Best Cover Art, the album’s cute little terrier (Shih Tzu?) was drawn by band member Amanda Tannen. Not only is the picture endearing, I think it inadvertently points to some of the band’s musical lineage.

The drawing and free-hand lettering on Too Much to Ask and 2019’s Therapy Island remind me of the art common to Seattle’s BOAT. Going further back, you can start a through-line with Seattle indie forefathers The Young Fresh Fellows, who influenced BOAT and They Might Be Giants, essentially birthing Weezer. And that brings us to Cheekface.

“I Feel So Weird” is a more angular version of the YFF’s “Amy Grant.” Another difference? There is simply no way to bury Katz earworm harmony inside “Weird.” He’s an over-achiever, and out-Weezer’s even the most euphoric Weezer hooks on the resolve of “weeee-ird.”

The band Cheekface is odd and amazing

I could talk myself into getting excited about a Cheekface show. Unfortunately 2023 dates started in San Diego, Las Vegas and Reno in January…jump Salt Lake City…and conclude in Denver in April. So close–this could still happen!

Until then, buy the eccentric, insanely catchy album Too Much to Ask, full of deliberate non sequiturs and little linear sense. Or get a Cheekface T or mini basketball hoop!

I’m holding out hope for a Salt Lake Show. Cheekface brings all of the joy, which we value too little in 2022.