By: Nick Villers
For me, 2023 was an even greater year in singles vs albums (which is saying a lot. l still love the concept of listening to albums in full. I purchase so many I lose track). These songs were my favorite for a number of reasons: Infectious pop melodies & hooks, the heaviest moments, unique concepts, capitalizing nostalgia, and so much more. For one reason or another, these songs struck a chord with me throughout 2023. If you like this list, feel free to save on Spotify and stream it here. Enjoy!:
1.Knocked Loose - Deep in the Willow / Everything is Quiet Now
Yes, Knocked Loose has TWO on this list, but for good reason. KL released what is their heaviest songs to date paired as Upon Loss Singles. They released a concept music video marrying the two singles together. The music video feels like it's out of an A24 horror film, complimenting the eerie overtone the songs create. To top it off, Knocked Loose kicks off the best breakdown of 2023 screaming, "KNOCKED LOOSE MOTHERF*****!" They scream their band name. What a flex. We need to campaign more bands to do this. KL finds a way to get heavier and heavier and I'm here for it.
2. Spiritbox - The Void
Spiritbox released The Fear of Fear EP in 2023 with one of the lead singles being "The Void". The band has been unstoppable in the music they've written and released, especially over the last four years. "The Void" is no different. It blends singer Courtney LaPlante's clean, ballad-like vocals against a ferocious djent backdrop which creates the most beautiful, yet heavy juxtaposition. It caters to both those who love catchy pop melodies and technical metal riffs & drum patterns. The release of this EP made a splash this year receiving a Grammy nomination for their single "Jaded". As "Jaded" is an incredible song worth the listen, for me, "The Void" hits all of the right emotional levers that can be listened to nonstop.
3. Bilmuri - BOUTTA CASHEW
If you read Bilmuri and think to yourself, "you mean Bill Murray?" You're not alone. Bilmuri aka Johnny Franck (formally Attack Attack!) has DIY'd a niche audience within the metal, punk, pop community coining his music as "heavy pop". It certainly is as it blends distorted guitars, clean pop hooks, saxophone, and "dank riffage" to create a sound that is undeniably catchy with a bit of edge to it. "Boutta Cashew" is no different as Bilmuri's songwriting gets stronger and stronger, creating a song that could be mistakenly on current pop radio as well as the local college punk radio station. Bilmuri's unique blend of genres, songwriting, and lighthearted fun makes this a go-to track any time you need a positive pick-me-up and energy boost. If you like this, check out his other recent singles "ALL GAS" and "LIVIN' LAUGHIN' LOVIN'.
4. Architects - Seeing Red
"BLEGH...Are you happy now?" Architects may have dropped one the best "FU" tracks ever in the heavy scene. After receiving much scrutiny for the change in direction of their sound after the passing of their key songwriter/guitarist Tom Searle, Architects has experimented with an industrial, nu metal, stripped down sound over the last two records. "Seeing Red" is a continued evolution of this however brings back flares of classic and new Architects sounds that fans of their heavier material will rejoice in. Most notably vocalist Sam Carter brings back his signature "BLEGH" which became an internet meme and copy cat sound for metal bands over the years. In the same breath, Sam brings screaming lows that haven't been heard since their late-2000s material. When you think you've heard it all, Architects drops one of the best breakdowns of 2023 rung in by Sam stating, "Are you happy now?" It's a tongue-in-cheek nod to those who thought Architects ship had sailed writing heavy material (and to those who sent them death threats). "Seeing Red" proves Architects is still paving their own way in a metal scene that continues to desperately try to imitate them.
5. Bring Me The Horizon - LosT
Bring Me The Horizon continues to push the envelope and their sound. They've released a handful of singles over the last two years but a clear stand out is "LosT". It incorporates elements of heavy rock, hyperpop, pop punk, emo, breakdowns, and a chorus led by Ollie Sykes reminiscent of 2005 My Chemical Romance. Inside its upbeat and catchy nature, the song lyrically addresses the challenges with mental illness and prescription medications. "LosT" is the emo anthem we didn't know we all needed in 2023.
6. Koyo - Life's a Pill
I've been a strong advocate for Long Island's melodic hardcore/emo band Koyo over the last few years and it feels like they're finally starting to breakout. In 2023 they released their Pure Noise Records debut album Would You Miss It? It is refreshing and nostalgic, hailing influences of early 2000s acts such as Taking Back Sunday and The Movielife. The third track "Life's a Pill" is one of the best encapsulations of this sonically and aesthetically. The song is fast, angsty, and catchy. During the chorus vocalist Joey Chiaramonte sings fiercely and thoughtfully, "Turn and burn and carry on / And it feels like nothing's changed / Put it on ice for now and we'll just drive / And look the other way." LIHC forever.
7. nothing,nowhere. - TRAG3DY (feat. WILL RAMOS)
nothing,nowhere. aka Joe Mulherin wrote the greatest love letter to the mid-2000s post-hardcore/emo era with his 2023 album Void Eternal. It features nine vocalists/bands who were kings of the genre or are today's headliners including Will Ramos (Lorna Shore), Seeyouspacecowboy, Freddie Dredd, Silverstein, Pete Wentz (Fall Out Boy), Static Dress, Buddy Nielsen (Senses Fail), and Aaron Gillespie & Spencer Chamberlin (Underoath). If that doesn't fill my 17 year old heart, I don't know what does. "TRAG3DY" featuring Will Ramos is a snapshot of post-hardcore perfection with Joe's upbeat pop verses & chorus, dissonant stop & go guitars, driving drums, and of course a breakdown led by Ramos' crushing deathcore screams. If you want to relive the glory days of the mid-2000s post-hardcore scene or get a fresh-take on it in 2023 with nothing,nowhere.'s evolution, give "TRAG3DY" a listen and hardcore dance in your living room.
8. Beartooth - Might Love Myself
Beartooth has been releasing music for over 10 years and I've never been an active listener of their music. That changed when they released their new album The Surface this past fall. This shift is rooted in the fact that Vocalist Caleb Shomo (formerly Attack Attack!) is now sober from alcohol which resonates with my personal journey. His sobriety reflects positively in the music both lyrically and melodically. Caleb has something to say and you can feel his transformation through the music. "Might Love Myself" is a positive proclamation that celebrates self-love & acceptance. Musically, it showcases some of the best anthemic hooks Caleb has ever written alongside guitar & bass grooves that'll make you get down with it. The Surface is for fans of Bilmuri, A Day to Remember, and HARDY. Wanna feel good about life with a sprinkle of mosh? Listen to this.
9. Better Lovers - 30 Under 13
The world literally stopped turning when Every Time I Die broke up in January 2022. No one knew what an After-ETID life would look like. If we could just go back in a time machine and let our anxiety-ridden selves know during that cold, January angst, everything will be just fine. Hello, Better Lovers. The supergroup comprises of former members of ETID led by guitarist Jordan Buckley, bassist Steve Micciche, and drummer Clayton "Goose" Holyoak. They welcomed ex-Dillinger Escape Plan vocalist Greg Puciato and metal/hardcore music producer legend Will Putney on guitar. Better Lovers smashed expectations with their first single "30 Under 13" picking up where ETID left off with Jordan's signature panic chords, southern rock riffs, and mathcore breakdowns. However, this isn't just an ETID copycat. There's a new feeling of ferocity felt with the addition of Puciato on vocals, the bands on-stage energy (see music video), and their absolute take off on the back-half of the song starting at 2:15. You'll see what I mean. Welcome to the ETID afterlife of Better Lovers.
10. Knuckle Puck - The Tower
Knuckle Puck released their fourth studio album and Pure Noise Records debut Losing What We Love. For me, it feels like a revitalized Knuckle Puck and their best work since 2017 Shapeshifter. Their single "The Tower" is a reflection of this. There's a renewed, raw energy felt from Knuckle Puck, between the back and forth vocals of Joe Taylor and Nick Cassanto, the upbeat syncopated drums, and emo-drenched punk riffs. It is a tinge darker than what Knuckle Puck has typically released and feels almost reminiscent of the mid-2000s post-hardcore/emo era. "The Tower" has absolutely been on repeat for me this year and has been cemented as one of my all-time favorite Knuckle Puck songs.