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Music Of The Month: The Best Albums And Tracks Of May 2023
Patrick Clarke , May 31st, 2023 11:54

Here are the best new albums and tracks released over the last month, as compiled by tQ's in-house staff

I'm a bit sceptical about the idea of a year being 'good' or 'bad for music. We live in an era where the boundaries between 'genres' and 'scenes' are dissolving, and our access to the experimental art making the most of the creative possibilities therein have never been better. As a result, when music's coming in such a ceaseless torrent, it's hard to view it in terms of ebbs and flows. Although there are issues of ever-intensifying magnitude effecting ordinary artists' abilities to find stability through their work, issues that require far greater coverage than I have room for here, I have always believed that despite it all, there will always be enough brilliant stuff in the undergrowth to make it a 'good year' for music.

That said, as we hurtle towards the halfway point of 2023 and the inevitable slew of 'albums of the year so far' lists, it's hard not to feel that impulse to already start measuring up what's been released since January. One thing I can say, is that when I've polled our staff at the end of each month to pick their favourites for this column, their lists have never come quicker and with more enthusiasm.

All of this month's picks, as well as all the other excellent music we've covered at tQ this month, will also be compiled into an hours-long playlist exclusive to our subscribers. In addition, subscribers can enjoy exclusive music from some of the world's most forward-thinking artists, regular deep-dive essays, a monthly podcast, specially-curated 'Organic Intelligence' guides to under the radar international sub-genres, and more.

To sign up for all those benefits, and to help us keep bringing you the kind of music you're about to read about below, you can click here. And read on for the best of the best from May 2023.
Patrick Clarke


Mandy, Indiana – I've Seen A Way
(Fire Talk)

The tracks lurch from one mood to another, never quite fitting together. As much as the album is nodding towards dance music, it’s also pushing it away. Tracks end suddenly (‘Injury Detail’ could happily go on for six or seven minutes, but stutters out early), are swamped with noise and are generally designed to be as un-mixable as possible. Factory Floor feel like kindred spirits to the band, but so too do Liars, Throbbing Gristle and especially their former touring mates, Gilla Band, whose spirit is especially felt in the second half of the album.
Will Salmon – read the full review here

Khanate – To Be Cruel
(Sacred Bones)

To Be Cruel is an incredible record, three tracks of 20 minutes each push the Khanate template outwards in weird and affecting new ways. The production is exquisite. Having had the luxury of living with it for several weeks now I’ve realised that subconsciously I’ve come to appreciate it much in the same way I appreciate a dub record recorded at the Black Ark such is its depth and spatiality. It is a record of fractal depth that bristles with detail at the very borders of perception. But most importantly it achieves all of this without short changing listeners on caustic vitriol, despondent awe and unquenchable agitation.
John Doran – read an interview here

Colin Stetson – When We Were That What Wept For The Sea

Stetson leads us on a voyage of reminiscence and grief, much like a marine adventure, full of suspended moments, foggy hazy shores, and battles against the stormy sea. A Romantic Sturm und Drang work where beauty and horror, fear and longing can exist at the same in the sublime of nature. Dark abysses open after airy and dilated moments; breathes, touches, and mechanical sounds counterpart abstract movements. The spoken lyrics of "The Lighthouse V," which put the musical images into words and inspired the album's title, follow a crescendo that rises until "The Lighthouse IV"'s explosion, where all the tension and misery find its desperate shout.
Guia Cortassa – read the full review here

a.P.A.t.T. – We

‘Cigarettes And Margarine’ is a soaring, electronic anthem that sounds like shallow music composed to sell you things, but manages to lift you upwards anyway, despite your protestations to the contrary. ‘Plump In The Mud’ might just be my favourite track. A series of curveball reveals from the onset, a synth and vocoder-heavy R&B-influenced section becomes saturated with old school BBC Radiophonic Workshop style pulses, out of which erupts 20 seconds of the best Cardiacs-like music I’ve heard to date that that is not actually them. The song then spends the final minute of its duration, slowly unravelling into the ether. In case anyone listening might have missed that part, the band repeat the manoeuvre immediately with the 18 second ‘Walking Around Proper Looking At Things’, which sounds even more like Cardiacs.
Sean Kitching – read the full review here

Memorials – Music For Film
(The state51 Conspiracy)

There’s common ground between the two soundtracks – and, daresay, Susman and Simms’ respective approaches – in the mesmeric drone of Tramps!’ ‘Feel Of Time’ and Women Against The Bomb’s ‘Peacemaker’. But, coming at the end of Tramps!, the real crossover point might be ‘Boudicaaa’, an absolutely magnificent shot of mayhem honouring “queer” Queen Boudica (and the Queen of Sheba, Joan of Arc, Vita Sackville-West, Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth I and her “lezzers in waiting”). After all, wasn’t Boudica a woman leading a tribal uprising against the weapon of mass destruction that was the Roman Empire? Although perhaps with less peaceful, law-abiding strategies than the Greenham community.
Matthew Horton – read the full review here

Jam City – Jam City Presents EFM

I’m afraid there is no other way to put this – this is an album of bangers. ‘Touch Me’ – on which Aidan’s vocals play-off sinuously with those of Manchester singer-songwriter Clara La San – rides in on a groove that is equal parts Balearic anthem and imperial-phase Madonna. On ‘Reface’, even the trademark extravagantly filtered vocals and sonic effects (theorised by critics like Adam Harper and Dan Barrow as quirks of a new accelerationist sub-genre called ‘distroid’) can’t hide the fact that it is broadly channelling the vibe of a Radio 1 Essential Mix circa 2003 (in a good way). Even more gloriously, the drum track in ‘Wild N Sweet’ recalls nothing so much as Gala’s ‘Freed from Desire’, a startling – and not unwelcome – moment in the oeuvre of an artist with a reputation for apocalyptic sonic brutalism. You can almost taste the cheap champagne at Liquid & Envy.
Alex Niven – read the full review here

deVon Russell Gray / Nathan Hanson / Davu Seru - We Sick

On ‘They Stay Breathing Here’, Hanson rips open a shimmering blues and presses it against urgent piano bursts and snare hits. Flickers of devastating melody can be found in his playing, while a sense of progression emerges from undercurrents of rhythm and groove. Elsewhere, the two ‘Solve for Malcolm’ movements are lengthy centrepieces, dedicated to Malcolm X and his 1963 speech "The House Negro And The Field Negro" whose message of individual agency inspired the trio. On the first of these, repeating piano arpeggios, sparse cymbal caresses, and blaring saxophone licks create an atmosphere of rebellious affront, only for a rumbling tom to push everything forward with a marching, martial rhythm. Meanwhile, the second movement basks in a morose sort of lyricism, shuffling from long silences interrupted only by muted piano body knocks and reed sighs to a soaring, glorious free jazz anthem.
Antonio Poscic – read the full review here

Pere Ubu – Trouble On Big Beat Street
(Cherry Red)

This might not be a perfect album, but given that one suspects the element of chaos in Ubu’s inner workings will always be an essential part of their process, that might not be an entirely desirable outcome anyway. What it is though, is another great Pere Ubu record, one imbued with a more upbeat emotional sensibility than its predecessor, with some memorable songs and some wild sonic experiments. It’s a snapshot of where the band are right now, as well as a hint of where they might still go in future.
Sean Kitching – read the full review here

Wolf Eyes – Dreams In Splattered Lines

On songs like ‘Engaged Withdrawal’, ‘Exploding Time’, and ‘My Whole Life’, fragments of distorted spoken word appear beneath scattered textures, clarinet-mimicking leitmotifs, and even the occasional neon-lit darkwave synth in another nod to Chicago Surrealists, like Franklin Rosemont, Penelope Rosemont and Tor Faegre. Despite being rendered unintelligible, the texts are delivered with grit and conviction, suggesting a presence of mind that goes way beyond the autotelic. Taken together, they conjure a vision of a doomsayer in a crowded square whose warning pleas are drowned out by all-consuming urban chaos.
Antonio Poscic – read the full review here

Overmono – Good Lies

Following a string of successful club-house EPs and several single releases later, Overmono have finally shared their debut album. A twelve-track compilation of looping vocal samples, warped production and warm beats, Good Lies is a reflection of the duo’s critically acclaimed career and doesn’t disappoint as their first full-length project. Cultivating a space in the electronic scene with their addictive two-step beats and mechanical synths, the Welsh brother duo have, over a course of seven years, made a name for themselves as one of the most essential dance projects within the electronic scene.
Laviea Thomas – read the full review here

The Purge Of Tomorrow – The Other Side Of Devastation
(Modern Obscure Music)

Blurry chronologies seep through The Other Side of Devastation. On ‘Time Moving’, a frazzle of electronic texture floating around the start seems to prefigure Kathy Alberici’s gorgeous string playing that emerges later, as if we’re hearing the degraded sound before the pristine original. Lattices of rhythm on (what sound like) kalimbas and ideophones wrap around elegiac orchestrations. Whenever it verges on becoming ornate, a glimmer of fried synthesis or a rhythm in a different time frame twists any sense of continuity. Twin voices speak throughout, combining with the music to sound like a mindfulness podcast that’s gone too deep, locking into a perpetual present while the instruments slowly drift along new configurations.
Daryl Worthington – read the full review here

Foyer Red – Yarn the Hours Away
(Carpark Records)

Produced by Jonathan Schenke (Parquet Courts, Liars), the debut LP by Brooklyn five-piece, Foyer Red, comes on like Bodega’s artier, more eccentric sibling, or perhaps a more new-wave adjacent Dirty Projectors. Clarinettist Elana Riordan’s lead vocal falls on the sunnier side of melodic indie pop but works well in contrast to the album’s more eclectic and unusual instrumental tendencies. Whilst some might be tempted to claim that the band throw too many ideas at any one song, it’s precisely this ability to turn so easily on a generic dime that marks them apart from their contemporaries and one would hope that the band’s individuality isn’t compromised by such attitudes as they continue to develop their sound. ‘Etc’, with its marimba opening, steel drum percussion and gracefully spare bass line, is one of many standout tracks. Likewise ‘Pocket’, whose opening hints at James Chance & The Contortions no wave chaos, before heading off in another direction entirely, like Pylon perhaps with a touch of early Cardiacs in its askew guitars. If it doesn’t all work quite so well as it does on those two tracks, there’s still a lot to enjoy here underneath the admittedly appealing immediate surface.
Sean Kitching


Shapednoise – 'Family ft. Armand Hammer'

It takes MCs of the calibre of Armand Hammer to take a beat as shapeless, murky and intense as the one provided here by Shapednoise, and to harness its harsh energy to quite such overwhelming effect
Patrick Clarke

Half Japanese – 'We Are Giants'

The first release from Half Japanese’ forthcoming 20th studio album, Jump Into Love, is a typically optimistic tune that very much wears its heart on its sleeve, whilst combining Jad Fair’s two main lyrical preoccupations—love songs and monster movies—in this case, the love between King Kong and Fay Wray. The band have been on fine form this past decade, becoming better acquainted with the pop aspect of their muse. This track fits entirely with that trope, yet as one of the more straightforward cuts on the album, opts not to give the game away regarding some other, more unexpected turns the long player takes during its 12-track duration.
Sean Kitching

Damon Locks & Rob Mazurek – 'Yes!'

This two-minute blast is but a slither of Damon Locks and Rob Mazurek's sprawling, genre-splicing new collaborative record New Future City Radio. That this single alone is bristling with so much energy bodes brightly for the full-length LP.
Patrick Clarke

Guided by Voices – 'Seedling'

There’s considerable excitement amongst fans that GBV’s 37th studio album sees the group back recording face-to-face in a Brooklyn basement. Little wonder, since this iteration of the group is perhaps its most powerful live incarnation, that the new release harks bark more to 90s era pop-punk GBV than its predecessor, the prog-influenced La La Land. ‘Seedling’ is classic sounding GBV that wouldn’t be out of place on an album like 1996s Under the Bushes Under the Stars. Like all their best tunes, its persuasive central melody sneaks under the radar on first listen, installing itself stealthily but persistently, to leak out in hums, whistles and fragments of lyrics, seeking further cross pollination in like-minded souls.
Sean Kitching

Confidence Man And Daniel Avery – 'On And On (Again)'

Collaborating with Daniel Avery might rein in Confidence Man's silly side, but it's also proof that there's far more to the Aussie duo than camp pop bangers. 'On And On (Again)' is a huge tune, slick enough to hold it's own with any of their contemporaries.
Patrick Clarke

Kristin Hersh – ‘Dandelion’

Gently swelling strains of cello and tinkling bells provide an emotive backdrop to this lovely yet melancholy vignette that shines pristine but apart from the world, like the contents of a snow globe. In a press release, Hersh writes that the song’s main image was inspired by “climbing a fire escape up to my dressing room in an alley outside a club I was playing”. She claims that she’s never needed to invent metaphors “because they’re everywhere”. This may well be the case, but in itself speaks volumes for her powers of observation and capacity to live within her art, which combined with her capacity for communicating sincere emotion with her audience, goes a long way to explain Hersh’s enduring appeal.
Sean Kitching