New Album Review

Best Released & Upcoming Albums of 2023

2023 has already been a great year for music. In honor of reaching the year’s halfway mark, I’ve compiled five of my favorite albums released so far in 2023 (in no particular order), as well as five albums I’m looking forward to spinning later this year.

New Album Review

Album Review: “Memento Mori”

Depeche Mode, formed in 1980, revolutionized the goth scene with their distinctive sound.

Now they stand behind their most recent album, “Memento Mori,” released March 24, 2023.

In the wake of Andy Fletcher’s death in May of 2022, this piece serves as a testament to the band’s unique spirit.

It manages to capture Depeche Mode’s signature style even in the absence of one of its founding members.

Photo by Marek Studzinski on Unsplash, used under Unsplash License

“Memento Mori”

Memento mori, a Latin phrase meaning remember you must die.

Ironically, also the subject of my most recent tattoo.

This phrase, adored by the Victorians, stands as a reminder of every individual’s inherent mortality. Its interpretation varies across cultures and individuals.

In Depeche Mode’s album, I see “memento mori” as an invocation of sensation: a narrator lays himself bare before an audience, succumbing to self-doubt and despair.

Through an assortment of carefully-woven sounds, the audience enters the narrator’s “mind palace” (“My Cosmos is Mine”).

An almost smoky synth arrangement coalesces with the dismal energy of Dave Gahan’s vocals. An undercurrent of gloom stripes the band’s characteristic sensuality, painting a romantic picture of misery and yearning.

For an opening track, “My Cosmos is Mine” does an excellent job of setting the auditory scene.

However, the album’s second track, “Wagging Tongue,” is a sharp stylistic pivot. The song is comparably upbeat, though still decidely morose with the lyrics “watch another angel die.”

Compared to its darker predecessor, the song strikes a New Wave tone with a brighter, more colorful energy.

Synths function to produce vibrant electronic beats while Gahan harmonizes with bandmate Martin Gore, whose angelic voice obfuscates the song’s pessimistic lyrics.

Following “Wagging Tongue” was “Ghosts Again,” originally released as a single Feb. 9, 2023.

The song features ebullient synths and a danceable beat, again far removed from the deep gloom seen in “My Cosmos is Mine.”

Together, “Wagging Tongue” and “Ghosts Again” complement each other. However, they fail to connect to the album’s opening song.

As a fan of Depeche Mode’s more woeful sounds, (and a passionate hater of “I Just Can’t Get Enough”) I began to worry about my compatibility with the album moving forward.

I had expected something mournful and dark, but the album appeared to be moving towards the figurative “light.”

I almost considered canceling my review and selecting an album from a different artist, accepting the disappointment of “Memento Mori.”

However, everything changed as the album’s fourth track began to play.

Image of a human skull on a table.
Photo by Mathew MacQuarrie on Unsplash, used under the Unsplash License

A Return to Darkness

Don’t Say You Love Me,” the fourth track on “Memento Mori,” marks a drastic tonal shift away from the colorful New Wave beats of “Wagging Tongue” and “Ghosts Again.”

One may argue that the track represents a return to the style that first garnered Depeche Mode’s admiration within the goth subculture, a melange of cold industrial sounds and Gahan’s reverent voice.

Listening to Gahan wax poetic about tumultuous and toxic love was enough to restore my faith in the album. Each track moving forward continued to capture the often-theatrical melancholia of Depeche Mode and the idea of beautiful darkness.

Final Thoughts

My first introduction to Depeche Mode was through “Violator,” an album they released a decade before I was born.

I didn’t discover the album until around 2015. By then, mainstream discourses surrounding the release had long since faded.

With no point of reference, I consumed the album without an ounce of criticality (arguably one of the best ways to experience albums).

Eight years later, I approach “Memento Mori” with a wholly different perspective.

For individuals unfamiliar with the works of Depeche Mode, “Memento Mori” may not be the best place in the band’s discography to start listening.

While the album is ultimately satisfying, it maintains distance from what I would consider to be the schematic Depeche Mode.

For those just getting into the band, I would recommend starting with “Violator” or “Music for the Masses” before visiting “Memento Mori.”

Recommended Songs

New Album Review

Indigo de Souza’s “All of This Will End”: Album Review

I was first introduced to Indigo de Souza by my boarding school roommate who had gone to the same school as the singer in Asheville, North Carolina. When I began playing a radio show, I was always excited to play a small, local artist like Indigo de Souza. In the coming years, she would become not-so-small, and her discography would expand in a way I could not be more pleased about.

New Album Review

Gel – “Only Constant” Album Review

I don’t keep a secret about how much I love Gel.

This band got on my radar after seeing the now-infamous video of their set at a Sonic Drive-In, but it wasn’t until I got the opportunity to see them open for High on Fire and Municipal Waste in December, a night that made my top 10 list of shows from last year, that I truly fell in love with this New Jersey 5-piece (specifically, that moment was when I heard “Bitchmade” live).

This band plays a style of hardcore punk that has been injected with so much groove that I struggle to listen to this band without throwing a chair out of a window. This sound and energy has been perfected from their new album “Only Constant” released March 31 through Convulse Records.

The Music

“Only Constant” starts out strong with a slow groove on “Honed Blade,” the second single released to promote the album. This track builds in intensity throughout its duration before ending on a powerful breakdown, however this song only gives a taste of what’s to come on the rest of the album.

Where the album really spreads its wings is the third track “Attainable,” that incorporates an almost jazz-like drum beat on the cymbals before coming back in with pure d-beat goodness to remind you that this is indeed a hardcore album.

From this point the album does not let up, going into my favorite song “Out of Mind,” that has a massive sound and intensity that winds down into a groovy breakdown. This continues through songs such as “Dicey,” which features a slightly more upbeat tone in the chorus but still retains the aggressive character of this style of music, as well as “Snake Skin,” that progressively slows down over the course of the track into a stomp-inducing finale.

The closer of the album is “Composure,” a track that clocks in at just over 3 minutes long, making it the longest song both on the album and of the band’s whole catalog of songs. While this song is likely my least favorite of the album, it is by no means a bad song and works excellently as a bookend to this otherwise phenomenal album. 

The Vocals

A discussion of this album wouldn’t be complete without addressing the vocal tracks from singer Sami Kaiser. In all honesty, hardcore vocals are very hit-or-miss for my ears, but I firmly believe that Gel is a band that has hit the mark on them.

Sami delivers the vocal lines with enough grit and aggression in their voice to fit the music, while also maintaining clarity and enunciation. That aspect of the vocals I think is necessary when it comes to having politically and socially relevant lyrics as punk music often does (especially where an artist’s lyrics aren’t readily available online or even in physical media inserts). 

In the case of this album, the lyrics appear to be more introspective and focused on personal experience and thought rather than commentary. This shines through on “Snake Skin,” which discusses committing to being in control of one’s own life rather than submitting to the expectations and desires of someone else.

This message of personal empowerment rings throughout the record, and I think it’s a great way to remain fresh and feel new to the music.

Final Thoughts

Overall, this album shows an upward trajectory for Gel, following up 2021’s impeccable “Violent Closure” and last year’s sonically unique split EP “Shock Therapy” with an incredibly strong release. It’s a gut punch of a record from start to finish, doesn’t overstay its welcome, and is faster and groovier than their other releases. If in-your-face punk rock is something you enjoy, this album will certainly be up your alley.

I implore you to not only give this album a listen for yourself, but also to find a chance to see Gel live to get a full feel of their music, as well as supporting them, the bands they play with, and the independent venues they perform at. The phrase “it takes a village” is one I think applies strongly to music scenes, especially those that are more underground such as the hardcore punk scene. 

“Only Constant” from Gel can be found on streaming services, with a digital purchase available through their Bandcamp, and is still in stock as of writing this through Convulse Records on CD and cassette.

Live video of Gel’s Sonic Drive-In show from Hate5Six
New Album Review

“Things Don’t Always Go the Way You Plan:” Celebrating 10 Years of Flume

To commemorate his tenth year as Flume, Harley Streten put out an old unreleased track on November 6, 2022: “Slugger 1.4 [2014 Export.WAV].” The track strongly resembles the warm, grainy, not-quite-polished songs found on Flume’s self-titled album, released in 2012. Shortly after, on February 8, 2023, fans were gifted an entire mixtape of unreleased tracks on “Things Don’t Always Go the Way You Plan.”

New Album Review

Zorn – Self Titled Album Review

Zorn is a Philadelphia-based band that has a sound which blends the intricacies and vocal style of GISM, the hard-hitting intensity and power of Discharge, and some black metal flair. The result is nothing short of incredible, and this band has truly captured some black magic on their new self-titled debut album.

The Music

Released in early March through Raleigh’s own Sorry State Records, “Zorn” is an album that does not let off the gas until it ends.

The opening track, “The Spell of The Fairy Tree” jumps straight into a killer bass line only made better by the power in Max’s bass tone. From there, the album balances melody, aggression, and dissonance in an absolutely stellar way.

Zorn establishes their musical prowess by weaving between black metal rhythms and hardcore punk grooves between and within songs accompanied by blistering guitar solos from guitarists Harley and Nao.

Just about halfway through the album comes my personal favorite track, “The Delco Devil Mosh” which opens with a haunting arpeggio leading into a more scandi-punk riff that goes back and forth throughout the song before slowing it down for an intense breakdown section.

The speed and intensity picks up until the finale “Würm,” that works well to close out the album with a slower and more melodic song that really shows the black metal influence in the band.

Last Thoughts

The only gripe I have with this album is that my record didn’t come with a DVD or VHS of them playing live. I say this because the truest way to experience this band is to see it in person with vocalist Alex waving a flaming sword at you while lyrics are ferociously belted out. Luckily for me, I will be catching a hometown Zorn show at this year’s Something To Talk About concert series in Philadelphia this June.

Zorn’s self titled album can be found on streaming services, with a digital purchase available through Bandcamp, as well as on vinyl at Sorry State Records.

Live video of Zorn from Max Volume Silence
New Album Review

“Hot Between Worlds” by Yves Tumor: A Review

Yves Tumor is back with his fifth studio album, “Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds)”. This extensively titled album actually has a somewhat short playtime, though not anything particularly shorter than their previous albums.

“Hot Between Worlds” keeps up Tumor’s heavy-hitting basslines and echo-y, melancholic vocals from their past works on songs like “Meteora Blues”. Unfortunately, so many tracks on here have such similar melodies that songs become difficult to distinguish from each other with a few exceptions.

The Bangers

First off, I don’t wish to imply that the songs that sound similar are bad by any means. For most of these tracks, if they come on a playlist on shuffle, I’ll gladly listen to them. There’s a lot of good introspection by Tumor on how his religious views and upbringing intersect with his queer identity. Some of the singles, like “Parody” and “Heaven Surrounds Us Like a Hood”, especially embody this type of discussion as well as Tumor’s percussion-heavy signature sound. They’re quite good in their own right, though I’m unlikely to seek them out independent of the greater album.

As for those exceptions mentioned earlier, “Operator” and “God Is a Circle” are definitely the highlights of “Hot Between Worlds”. While the former has the most inventive lyrics of the album, the latter has such a fresh, driving beat exemplifying Tumor’s exhaustion with feeling betrayed over and over again. The way “God Is a Circle” ends with such a climactic buildup is just perfect too.

“Operator” features Tumor’s most direct call to God yet, asking why God feels so distant. Their cries of “Hello” again and again only exacerbate that uncertainty over their relationship with God. Tumor’s trying to grapple with why there’s so much strain and hesitation which is amplified by the pervasive bass.

Official audio for “Operator” by Yves Tumor

The Flops

To be quite honest, no song on “Hot Between Worlds” is actively bad. Like I said earlier, there’s just not much differentiating many of these tracks from each other. Other than that, though, there isn’t much in the way of strong messages in Tumor’s lyrics on many tracks. They cover a lot of the same ground repetitively throughout the album, even in just 37 minutes.

Part of that issue may come from the minimal vocals on each song, leaving little room for expansive storytelling or metaphors. Songs don’t feel underdeveloped or rushed, they just feel like they need more space to work, which is something that seems to plague Tumor’s albums like “Heaven To A Tortured Mind”.

–DJ Cashew

Rating: 6/10

New Album Review


JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown’s collab album, “SCARING THE HOES”, has finally arrived. This album is the first of supposedly three albums that each are releasing this year, and it does not disappoint.

Isn’t this supposed to be fun?

Both artists are on point in their verses and JPEGMAFIA’s production is filled to the brim with inventive samples. Their disregard for mainstream success and popularity drives much of their motivation for this album. That motivation is made explicitly apparent on the eponymous track “SCARING THE HOES”.

Stop scarin’ the hoes
Play that s— have them touch they toes
“We don’t wanna hear that weird s— no more” (Uh)
“What the f— is that? Give me back my aux cord” (Yeah)

Lyrics from “SCARING THE HOES” by JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown

The name comes from a tweet by JPEGMAFIA where he insults people who use this excuse to keep others from listening to weirder music. The song samples a piece of shrieking avant-garde jazz that may turn off a lot of mainstream listeners already. Peggy does work to turn the sample into a workable beat, though, making it more appetizing to a wider audience.

Through the rest of the album, the two artists just seem to be having fun with this collaboration. There’s so much bright percussion and synths on tracks like “Garbage Pale Kids” and “Where Ya Get Ya Coke From?” They’re not afraid to make music that sounds silly and lighthearted, even if the content is definitely not kid-friendly. It creates space for listeners to relax and unwind without feeling ashamed.


Though, there does seem to be something off with Brown’s energy on this project. He seems to have mellowed out some from his former projects, which is not what I would expect working with someone as eccentric as JPEGMAFIA.

Additionally, Peggy’s production can sound quite shallow in places when there’s no bass supporting it. While this works for Peggy’s deeper voice, Brown’s nasally vocals on top of some of these beats can feel lacking on tracks like “Steppa Pig”. However, the fast vibrant style of songs like “Fentanyl Tester” seems to accomplish the work of bringing each of their styles together well.

Concluding Thoughts

It’s possible that we’ll be getting more extensive collaboration in the future from these two considering their invocation of duo Run the Jewels as a song title. If so, I cannot wait for it considering how well this album ultimately comes together. While some tracks lack the energy that might be needed to maximize the impact of both rappers, the finished project is fun, off-the-wall, and has the potential to expand both of their audiences significantly. Or, they’ll sit by satisfied with scaring the hoes.

Music video for “SCARING THE HOES” by JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown

Rating: 9/10

–DJ Cashew

Blog New Album Review

“Counterfeit” by Fordmastiff – Album Review

Listening to “Counterfeit” by Fordmastiff is like peering into a dull throbbing memory of incandescent lights, cold city pavement, and merry crowds, and it wound up being one of my favorite albums of last year.

Fordmastiff is a Brazilian artist who seems to be one in an emerging scene of cassette tape based producers coming out of Brazil. This first release of theirs is a strange lo-fi concoction that is far too swirly and hazy to be techno or house, but too thump-y and danceable to be 100% ambient.

The production style on “Counterfeit” is interesting. It sounds grainy and lo-fi, but it doesn’t sacrifice anything to achieve this effect. Each and every moment of this album still sounds full and lively, and the soundscape is incredibly rich.

Perhaps this is Fordmastiff’s cassette tape style shining through. What really makes “Counterfeit” stand out though, is its sense of place.

This is a rare instance of abstract music coming through clearly and tangibly. We often hear ambient music as a set of ideas that can only be objectively described using a musical language; “the piece has this duration,” or “this section has this timbre,” and so on.

We can try to relate it to other abstract concepts, perhaps a mood or a color, but when we start to relate it to the concrete, we are forced to turn to our individual experiences to shape our conclusions.

What got me thinking about Fordmastiff’s vision on this album was an article from Daryl Worthington of “The Quietus” detailing his favorite cassette tape releases of the year. He spells out nearly the exact same conclusion that I had; which was that “Counterfeit” is about trying grasp at strands of memory. Maybe this is just a coincidence. However, I prefer to see this as evidence of Fordmastiff’s ability to gently guide the listener to exactly what he wants us to experience.

I experienced this album while walking under the moon and the sharp city lights. The timing was perfect. I was travelling somewhere, but I was enjoying myself so much just walking around that I took a couple of detours to finish the album. I was transported to another place. It was incredible.

Overall, I give Fordmastiff’s “Counterfeit” a strong ★★★★☆. Great album.

New Album Review

“Norm” by Andy Shauf Album Review

Andy Shauf is a Canadian singer, songwriter who is known for his storytelling-oriented discography.

In his past work he has fabricated a world of his own, following a list of different characters, social situations and stories. If you are interested in reading more about his past discography, read my Artist Profile of him.

His newest album “Norm” follows the morally questionable actions and intentions of Norm as his pursues his love.

As seen in some of his other releases, Andy Shauf ties in themes of high powers. Past releases such as “Satan” and “Alexander All Alone” have placed God and the devil as passive players in the stories of each character. However, in “Norm” this theme takes root at the core of the album.

Typically throughout Andy Shauf’s work each character has represented an internal struggle, memory of emotion within the singer songwriter himself.

When I attended Andy Shauf’s concert at the Cat’s Cradle early 2022, one of the fellow audience members yelled out between sets: “Who’s Judy?”, one of the most prominent characters in Andy’s past albums “Wilds” and “The Neon Skyline”. In response Andy replied simply with “Me”.

“Norm” takes a different approach. The story unfolds through the perspectives of Norm and God himself. In an interview with Vanity Fair Andy Shauf states:

“There’s multiple perspectives to the story. There’s the God perspective, there’s Norm, there’s another character. It’s a bit of a puzzle, but there’s still a lot of space in it where I don’t really spell out what happens. In the end, I think if you listen closely, you’re gonna get pretty close to an understanding. If you are purely listening to it for the enjoyment of the music, you’re not gonna catch any of that.”

One component I love about his music is the whimsical, indirect, mysterious nature of his lyrics. There are many interpretations to be made. “Norm” provides music that is deeply driven my storytelling with variety and mystery that begs for another listen.

Song and Lyric Highlights

“Norm”, the namesake track off the album is subtle, melodic, and introduces a new thematic boldness to his discography. Andy Shauf has so much control over his lyrics. He adds the perfect amount of description to create a vivid story without overwhelming the listener.

Particularly in the dialog between Norm and the Godlike voice in this track, there is so much beautiful subtly:

“And when the television’s silent
I speak into his dream
‘Stop these wicked ways
And I will lead you to
The promised land”

Following with “Halloween Store”, this song combines joyful pop with eerie illusion. Andy gives us some of his best lycris yet. Andy molds the awkwardness and minutia of daily life into compelling, graceful music:

“I wondered if I’d locked the house
Walked back and found that I hadn’t
But now my keys were in the car
Walked to the car, pulled the handle
And it snapped back, at least I’d locked one door”

This song is one of the best examples of character building within his discography. The back track gives the song such innocent optimism, but the lyrics and vocal work gives the song an underlying darkness. It is a great demonstration of Norm as a character and the world he lives in.

“Sunset” continues some of the innocence heard in “Halloween Store”, but slowly reveals the true intentions of Norm under a sweet and loving musical facade.

“You get quiet, you are scared
Just watching the sunset
And I’m letting you know
Just how long I’ve loved you for”

Each and every song off this album has such depth. If you are interested in learning more about some of Andy’s intentions and stories behind each track, Andy Shuaf had an interview with Sterogum that perfectly walks through each track.

I’m looking forward to hearing more from Andy Shauf. If you are interested in seeing him live, he will be touring to the Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw, NC. Tickets and show information can be found here.