2023: VA'S FAVE MUSIC & MEDIA OF THE YEAR mylifeinconcert.com


(Graphic by VA)

It was another dark year globally and locally on just about every level, so all the more reason to celebrate that there was so much great music made in 2023.

This year continued 2020 and 2022’s trend of a return to lots of terrific new tunes from genres and artists new and old.

This past year was particularly excellent, meaning that while my Top 10 yielded an especially fine crop in ’23, I had to extend it to 20 so as not to overlook many other first-rate releases I couldn’t fit in.

Rock music, which seemed pretty much dead for by the end of the last decade, rebounded further in ’23 with crackling comebacks by The Rolling Stones and Iggy Pop (both produced by Andrew Watt), while The Pretenders further solidified their string of late-stage high point releases with Relentless.  London’s Wabi Sabis released a string of great EPs, although I am looking forward to their being put together in an album proper for 2014.

And in these difficult era, I’m chuffed that The Beatles (with their final track) and The Stones both have new music on these lists.  Certainly for the last time together.

For me though, many of the year’s best albums fell under the R&B umbrella, with Durand Jones and The Black Pumas updating classic sounds with great songs, Young Fathers jumping into the future, and Gabriels doing both at once.

Meanwhile, Allisson Russell unveiled one helluva LP in The Returner with her soul/roots/folk sound.

Plus there were lots of wonderful Americana/singer-songwriter titles from Lucinda Williams, Margo Price, Rufus Wainwright, Wilco, Jerry Leger, Bruce Cockburn and Neil Young.

Rounding out my list was the great rhythm-charged collaboration between post-punk skins-pounding heroes Budgie from Siouxsie and The Banshees and Lol Tolhurst from The Cure along with producer Jacknife Lee; another left-field turn from PJ Harvey; and delicious skewed pop from a re-charged Sparks, Andy Sauf and Sufjan Stevens.

For me personally, it was a particularly challenging one with competing and overlapping school and work commitments plus other life noise, but luckily it ended up mirroring my 1998 and 2012: two other years in my life that had a long el sucko stretch before wrapping up the year in a blaze of glory, with things sharply turning around.

I’ll have more of that in 2024, please’n’thank you.

I also hope to get more episodes up this year with my life settled back into a groove.

Finally, and again, in the face of so much dark stuff out there, I dedicate this recap to to all the proudly social people who get out there, go outside their front door, make things happen, and help build a community.

Some may be perpetually, proudly boastful of their insularity, anti-socialization and self-limitations—pouncing on any positive, pro-people and pro-community Facebook sentiment with a “…but …”, vituperously clacking away non-stop at their moaning keyboard—while the rest of us enjoy and take part in life.

I feel that with Covid, smart and self-aware folks re-thought their lives and priorities, fully understanding that time on this earth and opportunities are not-endless, and have vowed to right that wrong and re-engage.

I am certainly witnessing this here in London, Ontario where I have felt and seen a community energy coming together in a way over this past year that I haven’t experienced since returning in 2016.  And I’ve had conversations with plenty of others who feel the same way (see more about his below in the Best Live Shows section).

So, a big round of applause for the involved humans connecting and making life better, more joyous, and more interesting.  Champion!

Also, check out my companion Spotify playlist MLIC>2023:VA’s Best Music & Media…My Fave LPs/EPs/45/Archival (Re)Issues highlighting tracks/artists featured in this recap below.

20 BEST LPs OF 2023

2023: VA'S FAVE MUSIC & MEDIA OF THE YEAR, mylifeinconcert.com, Top 10 LPS

As I chose GABRIELSAngels and Queens Part 1 as my top album for 2022, I feel like I’m re-picking it and copping out a bit in choosing the full version released in 2023, even if I do think it’s this year’s best.  Ergo, I have a tie for the top spot this year, split with THE ROLLING STONES’ surprisingly excellent Hackney Diamonds.  Where the hell did that come from?

As mentioned above, this was a particularly strong year for albums. The Top 10 on this list is probably the best Top 10 list I’ve compiled since starting the blog in 2010.

1. (Tie) GABRIELS Angels & Queens (Deluxe Edition) = THE ROLLING STONES Hackney Diamonds


4. SPARKS The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte

5. DURAND JONES Wait Til I Get Over

6. YOUNG FATHERS Heavy Heavy

7. BLACK PUMAS Chronicles of a Diamond

8. IGGY POP Every Loser

9. PRETENDERS Relentless


2023: VA'S FAVE MUSIC & MEDIA OF THE YEAR, mylifeinconcert.com, Top 11-20 LPs

11. MARGO PRICE Strays


13. LUCINDA WILLIAMS Stories from a Rock’n’Roll Heart


15. PJ HARVEY I Inside the Old Year Dying

16. WILCO Cousin


18. JERRY LEGER Donlands


20. NEIL YOUNG Before and After



2023: VA'S FAVE MUSIC & MEDIA OF THE YEAR, mylifeinconcert.com, Wabi Sabis

1. Upload to the Cloud THE WABI SABIS

2. Sweet Sounds of Heaven THE ROLLING STONES with LADY GAGA

3. Strung Out Johnny IGGY POP


5. The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte SPARKS

6. Wasted On You ANDY SHAUF

7. Lord Have Mercy DURAND JONES



10. Great Wind GABRIELS

11. More Than A Love Song BLACK PUMAS

12. Now and Then THE BEATLES


14. The Narcissist BLUR

15. Twelve-Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming to the Canyon) RUFUS WAINWRIGHT with SUSANNA HOFFS, SHERYL CROW, and CHRIS STILLS


It’s another tie (of sorts) in this category between

THE WABIS SABIS with THE JESSE JAMES MEDICINE SHOW at The Richmond, Friday December 22, 2023, London, Ontario, Canada

My favourite local and regional bands on one killer, high-energy and spirited bill just before Christmas. Such a great night out.

… but also …

The local London, Ontario music scene in general, with shout outs to venues The Richmond and The Palasad North

In a year when I couldn’t travel far and opportunities were limited, it was the newly vibrant local London, Ontario live scene that kept me entertained and lifted my spirits.

Covid and lockdown seemed to have been a Wakey! Wakey! lesson for many, as a spirited local live scene among older musicians and music-goers has really blossomed over the last 2 years, with the wonderful Richmond as its epicentre.

London’s oldest-bar, operating since 1852, used to be pretty grim back in the ‘80s but is now the percolating, all-about-the-music epicentre for so many types of tunes. The Palasad at Adelaide & Oxford in the northeast also has to be commended for all the great live shows they have hosted over the past couple of years.  Holy Diver is also taking off as another hot, small live venue.

Say what you want but as I was discussing with someone while at the Richmond a couple of weeks back, we both agreed that what’s happening in the city as of late does have a feel of “the old days,” in the best sense (Hi Diane!).  It’s also been amazing to re-connect with so many people from that time as well as to get to know new folks or those who I didn’t know back in the day.

There are times lately when I forget I’m in my 60s because it feels more like I’m in my 20s.

Kudos to all who are playing as well as those going out and supporting.

Local shout outs must also go to the always fun’n’entertaining BETAMAXX, my favourite-ever covers band with their showcase of 80s alt rock and pop and some from even earlier.  There’s something wonderful about a packed Richmond late on a winter afternoon with everyone singing along to High School Confidential at the top of their lungs.

Also to THE RIZDALES, with their monthly Saturday afternoons and Christmas bashes now institutions here in the Forest City.  I never get tired of seeing them.

I also really enjoyed THE HIPPIES’ reunion show on October 5 at EastSide, opening for THE WABI SABIS, as well as great sets by Hamilton’s LOWDOWN DIRTY MOJOS (out with their new album Down’n’Dirty) and London’s NEWPORT ELECTRIC among many other great local performances I saw this year.

Two more shows of note:

JERRY LEGER, Chaucer’s, London, Ontario, Canada, November 23, 2023

A beautiful acoustic show at a relaxed, attentive and packed Chaucer’s. Such great music and atmosphere on this night.  Just what I was in the mood for.  I selected Leger’s Donlands album as one of the year’s 20 Best.  During his set, he recalled BOB DYLAN winning a Grammy for his Time Out of Mind album and remarking that that the album had been inhabited by the spirit of Buddy Holly.  In that vein, Leger and his band felt that the Donlands album was inhabited by the spirit of JOHN CANDY, recording in the nabe where the SCTV great saw so many flicks in his formative years.

THE (ENGLISH) BEAT featuring DAVE WAKELING, London Music Hall, London, Ontario, Canada, Wednesday April 5, 2023

40 years almost to the week since when THE BEAT played here in 1983, they (alright: Dave Wakeling + band) returned for a fun night with a capacity and nostalgic crowd.

Most regrettably, I had to miss BONNIE RAITT at Centennial Hall this fall. THAT is one show I really wanted to see.  I would also love to have seen THE CURE’s Toronto show from last summer. 



2023: VA'S FAVE MUSIC & MEDIA OF THE YEAR, mylifeinconcert.com, Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone, Vince Guaraldi

JONI MITCHELL Archives, Vol. 3: The Asylum Years (1972-1975)

I was patiently waiting for this box covering a particularly innovative time for Joni and, as with Volumes 1 & 2, it did not disappoint.  I’m assuming the next set will cover 1976-1980.

… and also:

NINA SIMONE You’ve Got to Learn (Live at the 1966 Newport Jazz Festival)

VINCE GUARALDI QUARTET A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (50th Anniversary Edition)



2023: VA'S FAVE MUSIC & MEDIA OF THE YEAR, mylifeinconcert.com, Replacements, Tim, Let It Bleed

THE REPLACEMENTS Tim (Let It Bleed Ed Stasium remix Edition)

Possibly the best remix ever.  Or should that be “proper mix.”  Ed Stasium’s punchy and dynamic retooling definitely replaces and erases the LP’s original anonymous, muffled byproduct that was pressed up.  This brilliant clutch of songs can now be fully enjoyed and appreciated.

Even the album cover is vastly improved!



2023: VA'S FAVE MUSIC & MEDIA OF THE YEAR, mylifeinconcert.com, Rough Trade Live 1979-80

ROUGH TRADE Live: 1979-1980

I can’t find much info on where and precisely when these recordings are from, I am just glad they exist. As a life-long Rough Trade nut, I love this live LP no end, especially as it features 3 new tunes.  Major Negative: why are Carole’s great between-track patter and witticisms so low in the mix??

More live Rough Trade, please.



2023: VA'S FAVE MUSIC & MEDIA OF THE YEAR, mylifeinconcert.com, Rolling Stones, Hackney Diamonds

THE ROLLING STONES’ Hackney Diamonds

In a repeat of 2021, what is it with classic rockers releasing late-in-the-game top-shelf albums adorned with hideously awful covers?  Who the hell sanctioned this cheesy, garish mess, completely unworthy of the music it represents.   Didn’t Keef and Ronnie come out of art school?

A bloody load of rubbish.  The cover, that is.



BLUE RODEO 5 Days in July, especially the track “Know Where You Go/Tell Me Your Dream” (1993)

DAVID CROSBY If I Could Only Remember My Name (1971)

JUDY HENSKE High Flying Bird (1964)

JACKIE SHANE Any Other Way and Jackie Shane Live! In Toronto 1967 (Compilation, 2015)

JO STAFFORD Collection Anthology: The Deluxe Collection (2020)

VARIOUS ARTISTS Pillows and Prayers (1982)



ALESSI BROTHERS “Oh Lori” (1977)

THE BROTHERS FOUR “Try to Remember” (1965)

PAUL GIOVANNI & MAGNET The Wicker Man Soundtrack (1973)

MARTI JONES Unsophisticated Time (1985)

THE MONKEES The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees (1968)

MICHAEL PAGLIARO Hit Parade Compilation

PHILADELPHIA ALL-STARS INT’L “Let’s Clean Up the Ghetto” (1977)

QUINCY JONES “Ai No Corrida” (1981)

SHEILA & B. DEVOTION “Spacer” (1979)

SPACE “Magic Fly” (1977)

SOPHIE B. HAWKINS “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” (1992)

KURT VILE Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze (2013)



mylifeinconcert.com Top 10 Spotify Songs of 2023

  1. Upload to the Cloud THE WABIS SABIS (2023)
  2. Tamalpais Hight (At About 3) DAVID CROSBY (1971)
  3. Strung Out Johnny IGGY POP (2023)
  4. Holy Moly YOUNG FATHERS (2023)
  5. Wasted on You ANDY SHAUF (2023)
  6. Everything Is Art THE WABI SABIS (2022)
  7. Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover SOPHIE B. HAWKINS (1992)
  8. Oh Lori ALESSI BROTHERS (1977)
  9. Guinnevere CROSBY, STILLS & NASH (1969)
  10. The Autumn Stone THE SMALL FACES (1969)


Yet one more tie for this year …

2023: VA'S FAVE MUSIC & MEDIA OF THE YEAR, mylifeinconcert.com, What We Do In the Shadows, Only Murders in the Building

Only Murders in the Building Season 3 and What We Do In the Shadows Seasons 1-5 (I just discovered it this year, better late than never).

And also…

  • The White Lotus Season 2
  • Our Flag Means Death Season 2
  • British, Canadian, and Australian Bake Offs (Note: With the Aussie Bake Off, it is only up until 2022.  I can’t watch the carpetbagging judges and hosts who replaced the perfect cast.)
  • The Crown Season 6
  • Murdoch Mysteries Season 17
  • Eugene Levy: The Reluctant Traveler
  • And Just Like That Season 2



2023: VA'S FAVE MUSIC & MEDIA OF THE YEAR, mylifeinconcert.com, Thurston Moore, Sonic Life 

THURSTON MOORE Sonic Life: A Memoir

Thurston pens an engrossing tale as a witness to the unfolding punk-rock-then-No-Wave-scene in NYC in the 70s through decades of alt-rock culture, where Sonic Youth were at the forefront.  A fascinating and self-aware tome filled with wry and contemplative reflections documenting a never-to-be-repeated time, place, and world.

And a little further down in my series, Sonic Youth will be coming up numerous times. 

My time was greatly limited this past year and was unable to read several key releases I have been eager to get to.  Here are the 2023 music-related books I’m scheduled to read in 2014:

  • The Tastemaker by TONY KING
  • Living the Beatles Legend: The Untold Story of Mal Evans by KENNETH WOMACK
  • My Name Is Barbra by BARBRA STREISAND
  • Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again): A Memoir by SLY STONE
  • Don’t Tell Anybody the Secrets I Told You: A Memoir by LUCINDA WILLIAMS
  • Maybe We’ll Make It: A Memoir by MARGO PRICE



 Another tie:

  • JONI MITCHELL playing her first full, ticketed live show in a few decades: a 3-hour Joni Jam at The Gorge in Washington to a sold-out show crowd of 27,000. Hosted by Joni friend and cheerleader BRANDI CARLILE, the onstage assemblage included ANNIE LENNOX, SARAH McLACHLAN, ALLISON RUSSELL, and more.  More please.
  • TALKING HEADS coming back together to promote the gorgeous audio-visual 4K remastering for the 40th Anniversary of Stop Making Sense. It was not only incredible re: how the film was received, with people dancing in the aisles in theatres, but also to see the group themselves seemingly healing and interacting again via various promotional outings.

Oh Heads: please tour one more time.  Right now, we all need that joy.



Peace and sanity for the world above all else especially in the face of what could coming in the new year.  I can hope, anyway. On a lighter and music note, for 2024 I wish that

  • TALKING HEADS will reform and tour
  • PJ HARVEY will do her retrospective North American tour as teased
  • That I finally get back to Ottawa Bluesfest as planned
  • THE CURE will finally release their long-delayed new album
  • THE WABI SABIS will finally release and album

I’m looking forward to ALLISON RUSSELL at the London Music Hall on March 10th, my first ticketed gig of the year. She released such a knock-out album with The Returner.  Can’t wait to see and hear her live.

Also, since 2023 was such a great year for releases, let’s hope for more good stuff in ’24.



Depressingly, this list of musical creatives who meant something to me which is always part of my recap grows longer with each year.  As the mylifeinconcert.com series moves along in the years ahead, concerts by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Gordon Lightfoot, and The Pogues will all be coming up.

Jeff Beck

Jane Birkin

David Crosby

Astrud Gilberto

Myles Goodwyn of April Wine

Jean Knight

Gordon Lightfoot

David Lindley

Shane MacGowan of The Pogues

Sinead O’Connor

Mary Quant Fashion Designer who tailored Swingin’ ‘60s London

Alan Rankine from The Associates

Paul Reubens aka Pee Wee Herman

Robbie Robertson

Ryuichi Sakamoto

Wayne Shorter

SPOT, SST Producer

Seymour Stein Sire Records founder

Barrett Strong

Tom Verlaine from Television

Cynthia Weil

Have a great year, everyone!


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NEXT ON STAGE> Birmingham UK’s reggae outfit UB40 made two trips to London, Ontario, in the mid-80s, playing to a packed and joyous Centennial Hall on March 7, 1984, and then returning a year later almost to the week, to pack out Alumni Hall on the Western University campus on March 14, 1985.

The first show came on the heels of their international breakthrough with the “Red Red Wine” single and its accompanying covers album, Labour of Love, while they were riding high in the Canadian charts with their Geoffrey Morgan album for the ’85 show.

This long overdue episode, which we recorded almost a year ago, will finally see the light of day and get my story back on track.

Not only will Special Guest Phil Robinson be returning with his always splendiferous and humorous memories and observations, new Special Guest to the podcast and all-round wonderful person and broadcaster Skye Sylvain joins us in piecing together a hilarious—and sometimes bumpy and not-so-mirthful for her—and very memorable ride through the events surrounding these two concerts, especially delving into the social stuff following the gigs and a particular interview with the band.

Stay tuned for group afterparties, setlist shockers, questionable album autograph signings, “excited” band “members,” contrasting memories about meeting Ali Campbell, Astro’s sweaty towel, and a “whoopsy-daisy!” moment that was part of a UB40 interview for Skye, complete with attempted strangulation.

All that and more is coming up next time in Episode 33, Concert no. 25, So Here I Am: UB40 @ Centennial Hall, London, Ontario, Canada, March 7, 1984 and at Alumni Hall, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada, March 14, 1985You can also click through to the original blog entry from 2015 from OpenSalon.com.

© 2024 Various Artists

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