Our Favorite Local Albums of 2023

Our Favorite Local Albums of 2023, Boston, Boston Music, Boston Musician, WERS 88.9 FM
Graphics by Sarah Tarlin

Boston’s music scene is one worth celebrating. That’s why our writing staff is excited to take you through 15 of our favorite EPs and albums from local artists this year. From musicians just making their debut album like chrysalis to the legendary Dave Herlihy from O Positive, there is tremendous talent locally that is begging to be uncovered!

 

PALEHOUND — EYE ON THE BAT

Forecasts Say It Will Be a Pale Christmas

Local loves, Palehound, plow through the snow (or lack thereof) to bring us one of the best indie rock albums of the year, Eye On The Bat. Palehound is an awesome act in their own right, but if you need to see some credentials, check out Rolling Stones’ “The 250 Greatest Guitarists of All Time,” which placed lead singer and guitarist El Kempner at 226, or take a peek at their most recent tour poster, which show the band opening for boygenius at both of their MGM Fenway shows back in September. Eye On The Bat is grungy and edgy, a real present all wrapped up in Kempner's lyrics. Some of the highlights are the road trip song, “Eye On The Bat,” that the album is named for, and Kempner's guitar solo on “The Clutch.” If you're still trying to come up with a New Year's resolution, might I suggest listening to more Palehound in the new year?

Favorite tracks: “Eye On The Bat” and “The Clutch”

- Eden Unger, Staff Writer

 

SQUIRREL FLOWER — TOMORROW’S FIRE

Why you shouldn’t save Tomorrow’s Fire for tomorrow and should listen now:

Boston’s very own (and WERS favorite), Squirrel Flower, had another hit release this year. The release of Tomorrow’s Fire marks the fourth album from the indie singer-songwriter. I was lucky enough to hear some of the album at her October 24th show at Brighton Music Hall and immediately fell in love with Ella Williams’ stage presence. On the record, the instrumentals are striking and attention capturing, from the prominent strings on “Alley Light” to the mellow, haunting tune of “What Kind of Dream is This?.” Williams’ vocals only add to the impressive range of emotion and stylings that Tomorrow’s Fire has to offer, refusing to mold to just one sound per each song on the album. Being a fan of Squirrel Flower is a “Full Time Job” in the best possible way. 

Favorite tracks: “Alley Light” and “What Kind of Dream is This?”

- Ren Gibson, Staff Writer

 

CHRYSALIS — I’M ON MY WAY

chrysalis is on their way to indie stardom with their debut album

Boston-based singer-songwriter chrysalis marries expertly melancholy lyrics with soaring acoustic melodies on their debut album, i’m on my way. The release opens with “meeting you,” a beautifully delicate song doused in hope and laced with bird chirps. With a feature from folk artist tofusmell, the opening track finds strength in its softness. The mood shifts slightly when chrysalis dives into the less optimistic “denver.” chrysalis, a master of poetic lyricism, uses the location of Denver to symbolize their lost love. They repeat, “miss her miss her miss her,” until they are finally struck with the heart-wrenching realization that they actually, “lost her lost her lost her.” Other songs like, “handprints” and “crazy” perfectly capture the same desperation and longing found in songs by indie superstars Phoebe Bridgers and Adrianne Lenker. The debut record closes with “double takes,” a soft, yet full-sounding duet with fellow Berklee student benji jimenez. Layered melodies of guitar, background vocals, and saxophone create an ethereal, immersive sound. Yet, despite it all, chrysalis’s voice still manages to take center stage. Their riffs, tone and harmonies will leave listeners begging for more

Favorite Tracks: “handprints” and “denver” 

- Claire Dunham, Music Coordinator

 

SLOTHRUST — I PROMISE 

Why I promise that Slothrust’s new EP is worth checking out:

The first sounds you hear when you hit play on Slothrust’s new EP, I Promise, are heavy and sensual, much like the lyrics that come. Lead track “Pony” is the more alternative, more overtly sexual cousin of MUNA’s “Silk Chiffon.” It trades MUNA’s imagery of fabric, fashion and “fun,” for saddles, riding and getting “nasty.” While “Pony” is a cover (and quite the change-up from the R&B version by Ginuwine), two original songs follow — “Maybe, Maybe” and “Magic Glow.” Subtle doesn’t feel like a word that can be attached to any of Slothrust’s discography, but the guitar doesn’t have quite as deep a tone on these tracks, and the lyrics are nature-filled. Next comes an instrumental “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” that’s about as heavy as Jimi Hendrix’s “National Anthem.” And then, three bonus tracks, all playful reinterpretations of “Pony”: a 14-minute extended version, and instrumental and acapella versions. All the while, throughout, both sonically and lyrically, I Promise is a clear representation of female power. It’s not necessarily a new theme for the female-fronted Slothrust, who have been active since 2010, but it is one that comes across in a fresh and inspiring way nonetheless. 

Favorite tracks: “Maybe, Maybe” and “Magic Glow”

- Nora Onanian, Web Services Coordinator

 

WINKLER — FOR YOU, NOW 

Drop what you’re doing NOW and press play on Winkler’s album, For You Now

I’m always on the hunt for new feel good music that has a unique sound and will take my ears on a musical journey, and Winkler’s debut album, For You Now, does just that. For You Now is not just an album; it's a gift of sound and emotion. It invites listeners to immerse themselves in Winkler’s collection of finely crafted tunes with a lo-fi vintage sound. In just eight songs, the album provides a wonderful listening experience that will have you vibing and jamming out. Every track has its own melody and intricate rhythm. This means that the songs on the album won't blur into one another, and you ultimately get a unique listening experience from each track played. Some parts of the album are slow and thoughtful, while others are fast and energetic. The band does a great job of putting the pieces together to make the music sound just right. This is an album that deserves to be heard. Hear it for yourself on February 17th at The Lilypad down in Cambridge. Or, in other East Coast states as Winkler’s album release tour extends into late February.

Favorite Tracks: “Wonderful Photography,” “Call it Good Times” and “City Rain”

- Madison Ruiz, Staff Writer

 

JOBIE — GRENDEL

JOBIE’s Grendel makes a grand(el) entrance

A bible for the tender-hearted, JOBIE’s independently released debut album Grendel is a warm spot in an ice bath. Being named after the John Gardner novel of the same name, Grendel is an indie-folk album that doesn’t shy away from feelings of heartbreak. Throughout the half-hour run time, listeners follow Emerson College student Josie Arthur, as she devotes her lyrics to a sincere and sickly sweet reality. From the first track, “take my coat,” JOBIE sets the tone of the record with the evocative lyric “I’m a girl in my prime, oh God let me feel it this time.” All eight songs utilize minimalistic sound alongside haunting lyricism that reveals an unquestionably honest tale of love and hurt and learning to trust oneself – JOBIE is speaking from and for her heart. In the title track, “Grendel,” she sings, “You’re my lighthouse, you’re my island, with the lights off, made of silence.” It’s only one of many intimate depictions of a life being lived, of shoes broken in. Listening to the entirety of Grendel allows listeners to sit in raw feelings while also learning to loosen their grip on them. Grendel can show listeners something about themselves they may not have known before, or reflect experiences they didn’t think could be articulated.

Extra points to Grendel for being released on my birthday. 

Favorite Tracks: “irish goodbye,” “bottom of the sea” and “all is well” 

- Ella Mastroianni, Staff Writer

 

COUCH — SUNSHOWER 

Couch’s new album is worthy of being showered with love

Boston’s own Couch offered us up a beautiful and sultry EP, Sunshower, this November. This collegiate Frankenstein of a band has roots in Berklee and a few other universities. They consist of 7 young members who each bring a piece of Couch’s signature luminous funk-pop. Sunshower is uplifting, heartfelt, and groovy as all heck. The band’s magnitude does not detract from its focused sonic palette in the slightest, with Sunshower delivering tight horn lines and stank-faced keys (in the best way possible). Singer Tema Seigel comes through with power and passion that emanates from every belt and vocal run. I had the pleasure of seeing Couch perform at a free show in the back of someone’s driveway in the summer of 2021, and their captivating performance had me checking their Spotify on the way out. I sincerely hope you get to enjoy the incredible phenomenon that is a Couch live show because this band is a true force to be reckoned with.

Favorite tracks: “Let Me Hold You” and “Alright”

- Max Hunter, Staff Writer

 

MIRANDA RAE — FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH

For what it’s worth, I think Miranda Rae’s new album is the perfect segue into the local music scene

Miranda Rae’s new album, For What It’s Worth, is the Cambridge R&B artist’s triumphant return to the scene. This album is her first project since the 2019 EP Excuse My Baggage. Rae shines on tracks like “sure,” a clear standout from the record. Her rich vocals are complimented nicely by a hint of autotune, giving the track a smooth, glossy feel. The lyrics see Rae yearning for “more of it,” a theme throughout the album. The “ease” with which Rae has returned to music is apparent, as is the fact that she’s been honing her craft. She’s spent the last few years dealing with personal issues like a serious injury in 2022, and has come back with redoubled efforts. Rae is seriously underrated, her sound is so polished and professional, and her visuals are always on point. The album cover, and intimate close-up of her face is exactly in line with the vulnerable nature of this project. If you’re looking for some new local music, look no further than Miranda Rae’s For What It’s Worth.

Favorite Tracks: “sure,” “ease,” “stoneheart” 

- Arlo Winokur, Staff Writer

 

DAVE HERLIHY — POSTCARDS FROM KINDERGARTEN VOL. 1

Postcards from Kindergarten Vol. 1 will send you into kindergartener-like awe!

The singer of beloved Boston band O Positive, Dave Herilhy, released his first solo EP in May of this year. In just five songs, Herilhy seamlessly switches from soft acoustic songs to a more punk rock feel before closing the record off with the bluesy “I Need An Alibi.” Regardless of genre, the songs feel honest. The quiet melodies, particularly those of “Does the Bird,” feel like an intimate conversation with the listener. A skilled lyricist, Herilhy fills his songs with witty lines about aging and reflecting on past decisions. The vocalist also has a unique tone of voice and shows impressive range from a higher belt to dissonant, low, warbling sounds. Don’t wait “86 Years” to hear this hometown hero on Postcards from Kindergarten Vol. 1.

Favorite Tracks: “86 Years,” “I Need An Alibi” and “Invisible Girl”

- Annie Sarlin, Staff Writer

 

JVK — WHO IS JVK? 

A fantastic local band whose sound should be international, this is JVK:

The incredibly talented band JVK, composed of Berklee College students, came out with an amazing EP earlier this year. According to the band, this EP has been in the works for two years now, and the care and time they put into the album shines through. According to Jo, the lead singer of the band, she is heavily inspired by the music she listened to growing up including Nirvana, Greenday, and more. You might have heard their music before on our very own Wicked Local Wednesday where the band came to do an acoustic set for us. From this specific EP, “Grinding My Teeth,” is a stand out track, a loud song with powerhouse vocals from Jo herself. If you love the sound of that song or their live session with us here at 88.9 WERS, you’ll love the additional songs they released on their Deluxe Version of Who Is JVK?. There is so much to explore with this up-and-coming band.

Favorite Tracks: “Grinding My Teeth” and “All I Want”

- Erin Norton, Staff Writer

 

CHRIS WALTON — RUMINATING THOUGHTS 

Having Ruminating Thoughts while staring out your frosted window pane?

Like brushing a diary page with silky ink, Chris Walton’s debut album is traced with gingered sentiments that resemble the confinement of words in a journal entry. Ruminating Thoughts swarms the mind of Chris Walton and displays his jumbled, oscillating ponderings as an open book. Each line punctuates how Walton is teetering on the edge of devotion and yearning. While he croons and verbalizes his love-laced conflictions, Walton starts to gaze at his own reflection, making his creative genesis a form of remedial nurturing to aid his deep-seated melancholy. His track — shimmering with soul — “Halfway Lover” is an exemplary illustration of what Walton is trying to capture on his debut. Though we crave forms of intimacy that may be emotionally harmful, sometimes as people, we can’t help but give in. Ruminating Thoughts paints an honest picture of somebody who is torn, and yet still grasping for loose ends of something that once was. As a Berklee grad, we can expect to see Chris Walton playing his debut across the Boston area soon. If you’re looking for a classic sultry groove within the R&B realm, he’s certainly an artist to keep on your radar. 

Favorite Tracks: “Halfway Lover,” “Changes” and “YOWM”

- Ash Jones, Staff Writer

 

COURTNEY SWAIN — TOURNESOLS

Tournesols will turn you into a fan of Courtney Swain & Emily Hopkins

Courtney Swain, the singer of celebrated band Bent Knee, joins harpist Emily Hopkins to create an alluring, yet experimental EP. This mostly improvised piece is filled with unique vocals and a sound that is difficult to pin down. Most people would probably describe it as calming, yet sometimes it might come off as slightly eerie. Either way, it is a delightful five-track journey that will remind you of nature, or help you finish your homework. You get to choose which! But make sure to give it a listen first. 

Favorite Tracks: “Entanglement,” “Willingly” and “Sunflower”

- Jimena Cieza, Staff Writer

 

ANJIMILE — THE KING 

“The king don’t lie”: Anjimile doesn’t tell any lies on The King
Anjimile explores themes of religion, childhood and existentialism in their newest album, The King. Their intricate guitar melodies and ethereal vocals blend beautifully in this indie-folk album. Channeling the fiery themes of the Old Testament, Anjimile uses powerful lyrics to connect religious tales with the reality of being a Black American. “Genesis,” a raw and powerful ballad written after George Floyd’s death, pleads to a godly figure and the real world to enact change both in Anjimile’s life, as well as the world around them. If you like strong melodies and powerful lyricism, Anjimile is sure to be a hit!

Favorite Tracks: “Genesis” and "The King"

- Avieana Rivera, Staff Writer

 

SKI CLUB — DOWNHILL DAISY

Time to hit the slopes, but watch out for the Downhill Daisy!  

The Boston born band Ski Club debuted their first EP this April and man was it a funky rock smash. With a mix of loud sounds and some perfectly matched vocals, the self-proclaimed “trad-jazz post-punk Americana new wave psychedelic funky junky jam band” hit the nail on the head with the lively EP. With the smooth and upbeat intro of “Cool Girl” to the headbanging bass in “Doomer,” Ski Club introduced a playful feel to every one of the four released songs, yet each has a signature sound without becoming too repetitive throughout the listen. You can’t help but want to hear more as the music scratches that one itch at the back of your brain that makes you want to be dancing at a show somewhere. The next opportunity to hear Ski Club live is January 5th at the Crystal Ballroom. 

Favorite tracks: “Cool Girl,” “Camping in my Mind” and “Doomer” 

- Caitlin Molloy, Staff Writer

 

ANA SCHON — PORTRATO 

The portrait Ana Schon paints with Portrato is breathtaking

As the title suggests, Ana Schon’s Portrato paints a candid portrait of a coming of age in a deeply flawed world. Though flawed, it’s one that still has some beautiful moments and bonds, which Schon recognizes in tracks like “Popcorn,” an ode to her relationship with her mother. But just two songs later in the tracklisting, Schon finishes off “Medicine” with a build-up of energy that bursts with her repetitively singing the rather grim line, “The world is going to end.” The song addresses pollution, global warming and other dire changes to the Earth, and the twisted paradox of all of this happening while billionaires send themselves to space. Listening through Portrato reminded me that there is something so special about songs about coming of age that are written from a young person. Their writer is not quite at a place where they’re looking back with a more whole sense of wisdom… They’re still learning. It’s messy. It’s raw. It’s poetry to my ears, especially as a young person born the same year as Schon. Portrato is only the debut album of Berklee alum and MIT graduate student Ana Schon. The Argentine artist — who has already earned recognitions such as being a Berklee Songs for Social Change award-winner — surely has a bright future ahead.

Favorite tracks: “Popcorn” and “Medicine”

- Nora Onanian, Web Services Coordinator

Uncommon Newsletter

Music reviews, ticket giveaways, live performances & member specials.

Sign Up

We'll never sell your email, be boring or try to sell you on bad music.

CONNECT WITH WERS