Archive for December, 2023

Best of 2023

I’ll tell you what the worst of 2023 is, far and away: the goddamn United States empire and its endless funding for war, murder and genocide. Never felt sicker to my stomach about my home country than I do right now, the only silver lining being that it seems that more and more people are seeing the United States and its various imperialist tentacles for what it all truly is. Get these bloodthirsty sociopaths off my planet, now and forever! That said, in an effort to momentarily set aside the heartbreaking, disgusting state of affairs within which we’re all expected to behave normally, please allow me to try to celebrate some of the high points of my musical year. You’ll find my trusty best-of lists below, but first, here are some other things that stood out and feel relevant to share:

– If you didn’t notice, Yellow Green Red is also now available on Substack via Same exact content as this domain, just through a different, more modern service that people seem to like, and delivered as email newsletter. I guess you can comment on there too, if you really wanna be that guy? I see no harm in signing up for it and checking this site, and telling all your friends to do the same.

– My band Pissed Jeans released a seven-inch single, No Convenient Apocalypse, on Sub Pop Records. It’s a merciless banger and I urge you to give it a listen, and even purchase if you feel so compelled.

– My project with living cultural icon Jo Livingstone, The Dolorous Stroke, released its debut two-track EP digitally on Bandcamp (where else?). You can check that out at if you’re curious.

– As far as movies go, Rotting In The Sun was my absolute favorite of the year. If you have a quota of naked penises you intended to see in 2023 and you’re far behind, this film should catch you up quickly.

– Rather than focus on any single live performance, I’d like to highlight the joy of watching familiar artists perform numerous times, actively following the evolution of their respective sounds and styles. I saw both Bill Nace and Carnivorous Bells numerous times in 2023, and each were joys to behold, every single time. Bill Nace collaborated with a wide variety of players, really honing in on the taishōgoto as his current realm of sonic exploration, whereas Carnivorous Bells tried out brand new material (off what will hopefully be their third full-length) and tightened up their hits, as precise as the watchmaking program drummer Leo Suarez is enrolled in. Excluding music performances entirely, watching Eileen Myles read from her newest book was transcendent, captivating and hilarious. Eileen has the timeless sex-god energy of Iggy Pop when they walk in the room, a natural-born charisma that we can only hope rubs off slightly on the rest of us.

– Generally not a reissue enthusiast over here, but I have to shout out two incredible records that I may have never heard in full had they not been dutifully pressed to wax in 2023: Mindecision by Мир, some of the most distinctive early hardcore I’ve heard in forever, and the self-titled Gee Gee Decorator album, the most WTF anti-talent funky no-wave nightmare on the planet (those holding original copies, please take my money).

– Do you subscribe to Matt Schnipper’s Deep Voices Substack? If not, you should. We have the same first name and have known each other since he invited my band to play a show in his school gym back in like 1999, and I am consistently impressed with his ability to articulate what good music does to him. If I can write like Schnipper on an off day, I’ll feel like I’ve succeeded.

– Al Usher’s “The Evenings” is my favorite song of 2023, just an endlessly-replayable adult-Balearic banger in the mode of Ann Steel, though my absolute favorite “new to me” song of the year is “Star Rider” by Hällas, found on their 2017 full-length debut Excerpts From A Future Past. A good friend told me that Hällas made him want to challenge himself to become an even stronger songwriter (his band opened for them recently), and he told me as we hung out together at Double Decker Records on its final day of existence, December 2nd, 2023. No single entity comes close to having shaped my musical identity as much as Double Decker, and I am nowhere near finished lamenting its loss, both the sick record scores that I snagged from there since age fifteen to the lifelong community of friendships and co-conspirators it’s responsible for forming.

If you’re reading this now, I thank you sincerely, and if you’ve ever reached out via an email or DM, sent in a record, or communicated in any other way (I’ve gotten real letters this year!), I thank you even more. I love writing about music, but it would be a whole lot less fun if no one was on the reading end. Emails are nice ( and Instagram DMs are cool (@mattkorvette)… hopefully I’ll just see you around in 2024.

Top Singles of 2023
1. Blawan Dismantled Into Juice 12”
2. Al Usher The Evenings / The Visitors 12”
3. Carrier Fathom 12″
4. Disintegration Time Moves For Me 12”
5. Chris Korda Not My Problem, I’ll Be Dead 12”
6. Waste Man Waste Man MP3s
7. An-i Rabble EP 12”
8. People’s Temple I’m With The People’s Temple 7”
9. Emptyset Ash 12”
10. Gruuel Elite Controller / Softness On The Other Side 7”
11. Haus Arana Dunkelheit Bleibt 7”
12. Beau Wanzer A Dead Person’s Monologue 12”
13. Drab Majesty An Object In Motion 12”
14. Peder Mannerfelt The Benefits Of Living In A Hole 12”
15. Bjarki Tears In Berghain 12”
16. Gruuel Nobody’s Daughter / Dust With Legs 7”
17. Rat-Nip My Pillow 7”
18. Body/Head Come On EP 2×7”
19. Civilistjävel! Fyra Platser 12”
20. Pretty Sneaky PS002 12″

Honorable Mention:
PLO Man Anonymousmaterial 12″
Secretors Comparing Missile Size Vol. 1 7″
Delco MF’s The March Of The MF’s 7”
Montel Palmer Südstadt 7”
Dubamine Cool & Relax 12”

Top Albums of 2023
1. Mary Jane Dunphe Stage Of Love
2. Equipment Pointed Ankh From Inside The House
3. Ssabæ Le Roi Est L’oiseau
4. Spiral Dub Spiral Dub
5. Lewsberg Out And About
6. Feeble Little Horse Girl With Fish
7. A.S.O. A.S.O.
8. Pmxper Pmxper
9. Water From Your Eyes Everyone’s Crushed
10. ConSec Wheel Of Pain
11. Quade Nacre
12. Carnivorous Bells Room Above All
13. Avalon Emerson & The Charm
14. Sweeping Promises Good Living Is Coming For You
15. Otto Willberg The Leisure Principle
16. XIII Permanent Rain
17. Bill Nace & Chik White Off Motion
18. R.M.F.C. Club Hits
19. Heavy Metal IV: Counter Electrode / Iron Mono
20. Sharp Pins Turtle Rock

Honorable Mention:
Graham Lambkin Aphorisms
Sam Gendel Blueblue
Leda Neuter
Fairytale Shooting Star
Burnt Envelope I’m Immature: The Singles Vol. II

Blawan Dismantled Into Juice (XL Recordings)
I dunno what to tell you… Blawan just keeps doing it, over and over and over again. Dismantled Into Juice is a dramatic reinvention, and yet it comes as no surprise that this is what a new Blawan record sounds like in 2023. He’s always had bigger, thicker chords and pads than anyone else – do they make illegal growth hormones for synths? – but on Dismantled Into Juice it sounds like the software has reached that sentient status we’ve all been fearing. Even without any clear 4/4 kick, there’s an incredible sense of motion to these songs, a sort of sweeping pull I’d associate with the ocean tides. It’s a wild accomplishment as is, this sort of re-structuring the DNA of techno rhythm, but Blawan turns these cuts into distorted pop songs too, complete with vocal hooks I suspect to not be entirely human. (Vocalist “Monstera Black” is credited, but they might be as real a person as one of those AI Sports Illustrated correspondents.) No one else appears to be on Blawan’s level, nor is anyone particularly trying, as it’s such an imposing and oily surface, a slip and fall guaranteed for anyone who doesn’t have Blawan’s supreme skills of balance and dexterity. Not sure how he’ll top this one, though I’m certain he somehow will.

Mary Jane Dunphe Stage Of Love (Pop Wig)
Mary Jane Dunphe’s solo debut was a work in progress for a while; I knew she was looking for a label, shopping around demo tracks and working on it when she could, dealing with life’s many unexpected hurdles all the while. I was not expecting Justice Tripp’s Pop Wig label to be the one to release it, but I’m certainly glad he did, as it’s a triumph! Dunphe is one of the most visceral live performers around, we all know that now, but Stage Of Love showcases her unique songwriting styles, big on hooks and weird, powerful lyrics, her commanding voice bursting at its seams. I suppose this is a synth-pop record if you had to file it somewhere, but her music is too complicated and messy to really fit neatly in any particular slot. Seems like the biggest cold-wave synth-poppers rely on vague, sad lyrics and typical aesthetic signifiers, whereas Stage Of Love bursts with a kaleidoscope of undiluted emotion, from heartbreak to joy and everywhere else. It’s her lack of easy classification that might explain why I don’t think I’ve seen Stage Of Love on any other year-end lists… I read someone say it sounds like Arthur Russell, which I don’t hear at all, but that’s how it goes when you’re doing something pure and unique – it’s not easily understood by the masses, and those who do enjoy it experience it differently. For my money, it’s like Kate Bush trapped in Twin Peaks, performing at a hybrid surprise-party / funeral wake, and yeah, it’s categorically my favorite album of 2023.

The streetwise aesthetic and raw yet danceable sound of Side By Side’s sole seven-inch EP has been raising my pulse for decades, and though a born New Yorker myself, I was all of seven years-old when they played their final show in 1988. When some of my pals wanted to go see them, I figured, why not treat myself to what has a good chance of being Side By Side’s only US show this century, with a bill stacked with contemporary (read: non-reunion) hardcore acts? We consolidated cars at the Woodbridge, NJ Walmart parking lot and charged the city.

I’m sure there are a number of readers who have never been to New York, and not only fantasize about the famed metropolis itself but its storied hardcore scene as well. While a gig of this capacity certainly doesn’t constitute the norm, if this was your sole New York hardcore experience, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s… kind of like anywhere else in the world. The Brooklyn Monarch is one of a number of old industrial warehouses turned grubby-chic Live Music Nightlife Entertainment Venue across the US, replete with a staff that couldn’t tell the difference between pictures of Flea and Harley Flanagan, nor would they care. That’s fine, I suppose, and if I was going to check out a modestly popular touring indie band like Real Estate or Wild Nothing, it’d be a perfect fit, but c’mon, this is Side By Side! Some classic NYHC folks were in attendance, thank goodness, though I can imagine they also felt the surroundings to be a little off, like a fancy terrarium mimics nature. Or maybe, in a landscape where every mom-and-pop has been systematically targeted and replaced by a chain, they’re already used to it.

Hudson, NY’s Dead Last opened and set the vibe, one of hesitance and modest engagement. The pit was opened and left empty by a couple valiant parallel moshers, and barring the singer’s Infest diss (which seemed a little cheap!) there wasn’t much to write home about, posi or negi. As it turns out, the Monarch is situated next to another venue (owned by the same folks as the Monarch, how about that) called The Meadows, where Sick Of It All were performing, almost at the exact same time as Dead Last were on stage. Sick Of It All would’ve been perfect with Side By Side for many reasons, but I understand that the money probably wouldn’t have worked that way, no matter how repugnant Born Against might declare it.

Brain Tourniquet were next, bearing the incongruous position of being the sole grind-core act on a hardcore bill. Desirable to some and awkward for others, the trio blasted out their set of power-violence faithfuls, clearly indebted to unimpeachable greats like Crossed Out and Terrorizer. I’m kicking myself for missing them at a smaller venue here in Philly over the summer, but they made it work here, complete with “…An Expression In Pain” to end their set, the twelve-minute doom/grind/riff opus that encompassed all of the second side of their 2023 Iron Lung album.

Firewalker took the stage next, and were the highlight of the night for me. This Boston five-piece delivered their flawless mix of NYHC grit ala Raw Deal and Krakdown with the first-wave cracked-teeth spite of Negative Approach and Last Rights. I was wondering how Sophie Hendry’s gruff, death-metal vocals would translate live, and they were as menacing as I could’ve hoped, stalking the stage in her practice-team pinnie / hoodie combo. Each song had all the proper parts – slow mosh, hard mosh, fast dive zone, shout-along chorus, internal vexation – and I was kicking myself for not reading along with a lyric sheet in preparation. I was feeling it all the way in the back, and the up-front crowd responded in kind. Raving to a friend about their set days later, we put on Firewalker’s 2017 full-length and it sounded better than ever – I love when you see a band for the first time and their recordings take on a different, brighter glow. Next time, I’m gonna lose it to “Don’t Cross Me”, that’s a promise!

Tired yet? Things were moving briskly, but then S.H.I.T. took a while to get started. My ex-edgeman friend shifted from vodka sodas to vodka Red Bulls, and found the frantic metallic sheen of S.H.I.T. to be his least favorite of the night, whereas I thought they did a noble job following Firewalker’s colossal presence. On stage, it became clear to me that their songs all utilized the exact same picking style, resulting in an imposing wall of heavy hardcore that might benefit from a little deviation. Don’t their wrists get tired with all those endless 16th notes, over and over? Probably a little too punk for the youth-crew crowd, especially one antsy for their beloved one-off reunion band, but I enjoyed their energy, and the fact that Brain Tourniquet called them “Shit” but they announced themselves as “Ess Aitch Eye Tee”, clearing up that matter. Two Iron Lung Records recording acts on the same Revelation Records reunion gig, what’s not to like about that?

Which brings us to Side By Side. Cheers erupted as the group plugged in, as well as jeers from at least one guy who took umbrage at Hate5Six’s presence – he hit the videographer with “do a pushup!” and “Rage Against The Machine sucks!” before being thrown out. Though the group doesn’t need to be rated on an age-based curve, it was impressive to see the energy and presence of vocalist Jules Massey in particular, who admittedly hadn’t been involved in hardcore in nigh thirty years. (He’s now a practicing maritime lawyer in Florida, one of the happier outcomes of the late ’80s NYHC diaspora.) Wearing a Terror t-shirt over a hoodie, he spoke at length between each song, thanking old friends, rejecting the modern practice of crowd-killing, segueing into lyrics, and explaining the purpose of the gig: a benefit for The Alex Brown Foundation, an art residency program put together in memory of his departed friend and bandmate. Touching and sincere, long-winded and (self-proclaimed) corny, Massey is a natural frontperson who seemed bemused to be playing hardcore again, with energy to rival S.H.I.T.’s sprightly Ryan Tong. The guitar tone was dead-on for the EP, and the crowd reacted with plentiful tumble-roll dives and fist-in-the-air sing-alongs, even if the nostalgic-terrarium feel continued to loom, somewhere between a 1988 CBGBs matinee and a Las Vegas Punk Museum simulacrum of one. When they struck their first chord, a sea of cell-phones popped up. I know we all talk about hating phones at shows, but in this context it felt particularly unpleasant. Clearly, no one was going to watch their little videos later; rather, this significant number of show-goers wanted to broadcast their attendance to their social-media followers, a clout check-in of sorts rather than active participation. Makes sense if you’re going to see U2 in the Orb or Taylor Swift on an aircraft carrier, but hardcore is meant to be experienced first-hand with one’s full attention, at least in this writer’s opinion. My friends were thrilled by Side By Side’s set, too up-close to even pull out their phones, and I watched them race to the merch line for fresh Side By Side longsleeves as the venue security screamed at everyone to leave. None of us took a single pic.