Welcome to the latest installment of Endless Crate’s monthly segment, Overlooked Gems, which uncovers recently released albums that may have slipped under the radar but are definitely worthy of your time and attention. In this edition, I’m taking a retrospective plunge into some of the finest, yet somehow missed, albums of 2023. Uncovered through various ‘best of the year’ compilations curated by other outlets, these records area all exemplary in their own right. Had these gems surfaced on my radar earlier, they would have undoubtedly found their place on my ‘best of 2023’ list. So let’s delve in, and perhaps discover new additions to your end of year playlists.
Ricardo Dias Gomes – Muito Sol
Returning strong with his third LP, Ricardo Dias Gomes, a respected figure from the Rio de Janeiro music scene and a collaborator of Caetano Veloso, has gifted us with an album that exemplifies the pure joy of listening to exceptionally good music. Gomes’ songs require no particular understanding of the lyrics to appreciate; his expert infusion of traditional Brazilian elements in a contemporary setting is an adventure in itself. Vibrantly eclectic, the album offers a smorgasbord of sounds. From the stylistically minimalist post-punk vibes in “Morrerei Por Isso,” to the rich folds of Tropicalia folk in “Com 6 Anos,” every fleeting note in Muito Sol celebrates the pure, unadulterated magic of sound.
Jeffrey Silverstein – Western Sky Music
This spellbinding album by Portland artist Jeffrey Silverstein weaves together intricate sonic tapestries inspired by the captivating beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Harnessing the power of his guitar, Silverstein masterfully conducts captivating cosmic country journeys through inner spaces that capture your full attention, deftly bridging the gap between ambient soundscapes and engrossing acoustic structures.
Kofi Flexxx – Flowers In The Dark
Flowers In The Dark synthesizes diverse sonic elements – spiritual jazz, spoken word, and hip-hop – forging an exquisite heritage pathway through music. Captivating throughout, the album oscillates between thunderous percussion and soul-piercing flute spiraling into a mystical tempest to eliciting an infectious zest that compels dance.
Brown Spirits – Solitary Transmissions
Brown Spirits’ sound hearkens to the trailblazing punk vibes of Hawkwind and the nascent experimentalism of Can. The album’s most exploratory tracks, such as the astral-infused “Solar Kollektiv” and the richly layered 13-minute finale “Who’s At The Door,” stand out as some of the finest psych rock offerings in recent memory. Solitary Transmissions succeeds as a skillfully crafted, nostalgia-inducing record that captivates with its sonic brilliance and immersive aesthetic.
YL – Don’t Feed The Pigeons
Painting a beautifully detailed canvas of his world, Don’t Feed The Pigeons takes listeners on a 35-minute immersive tour through YL’s quintessential New York, reflecting his keen observational skills and the vibrant energy of his city. The album stands as a testament to YL’s charismatic approach to music—it’s a rich 19-track LP presenting an astonishing blend of lyrical finesse, relaxed yet assertive rhythms, and soulful production crafted by a talented ensemble including Eyedress and Roper Williams.
Vanishing Twin – Afternoon X
Renowned for their distinctive amalgamation of lounge music, dub, rock and jazz, Vanishing Twin underwent a kaleidoscopic transformation with their 2023 album Afternoon X. The result is a mesmerizing soundscape that invokes elements of surrealism. Their evolved songwriting techniques treat every component as mutable—with vocal refrains distorted beyond recognition and familiar grooves taking unexpected turns.
Purelink – Signs
Meditative Chicago trio Purelink make a fine art out of stripping away layers and slowing the tempo of their ethereal melodies and throbbing rhythms. There’s a beauty in the subtle shifts that characterizes Purelink’s music – easy to overlook, yet powerfully lingering when observed. Effortlessly oscillating between soft whispers of new-age music and minimal glitches, the six tracks on Signs demonstrate their deceptive dynamism, resulting in one of the more powerfully meditative albums of 2023.
Danny Paul Grody – Arc Of Day
Arc Of Day proves once again that music has a transformative power. The album encapsulates the intrigue of observing a master guitarist in action, where each strum elicits an emotional flight that’s nothing short of mesmerizing. Grody’s compositions artfully weave together a tapestry of melodies that chart a path of exploration, inviting listeners to embark on a beautiful sonic journey.