2023 is now over, and to celebrate that, or mourn it, fourteen of our staff members at KRUI went on the smaller scale and picked out what their favorite song was of the year. Our staff has diverse taste, and this list shows that off. That taste gracing our airwaves and website is what makes a college radio station so great. KRUI is a place where all those people getting together has created something special, and 2023 was no exception. Here, they wrote about what these songs mean to them, the expertise in how they were crafted, or just why they enjoyed them so much.
AJRadico – “WRANGLER“
“WRANGLER” is a song that has consistently been on repeat since it dropped in September. With the perfect mix of ambiance and infectious beat, three minutes isn’t long enough. I love the different vocal tones AJRadico uses to contrast each verse. His matter-of-fact tone pairs perfectly with a synth background punctuated by isolated claps in the chorus, causing it to be impossible not to make each listen through a performance. This song is one to dance to and one to rap along with, and when it comes on, I’m always down.
-Sofia Muñoz, Music Staff
Baby Rose, Smino – “I Won’t Tell“
Funky and almost futuristic, Baby Rose and Smino’s “I Won’t Tell” seems to come to us from another time. Old funk music is one of my favorite music genres and any artist that successfully emulates that same upbeat groovy feeling gets a thumbs up from me. Baby Rose’s unique voice pairs perfectly with the infectious funky beat that backs the song. Baby Rose’s smooth vocals and Smino’s laid-back yet speedy rap verses create a relaxed yet captivating atmosphere. It’s a fun and energetic track that never fails to put me in a good mood.
-Preston Venable, Programming Staff
The Crane Wives – “The Well“
Following their successful Foxlore and Coyote Stories albums, 2023 saw the release of a new single from The Crane Wives titled “The Well”. The Crane Wives have a knack for making folk music with the rock edge I adore, and this song perfectly exemplifies that. It also showcases the emotional weight inherent to almost all of their tracks, something which has led them to become a very popular choice of music for AMV creators.
“The Well” is a microcosm of what makes the Crane Wives so beloved to me, and that’s only enhanced by the knowledge that going into 2024, the band is planning a full album release for the first time since 2016. In a year filled with many tiny moments of suffering, The Crane Wives helped me find a few that weren’t so terrible, and this song was a huge part of that.
-Harry Epstein, Online Content Staff
Faerybabyy – “I Could Never Stay Mad at You“
Every year needs its definitive song of the summer, and this year Faerybabyy provided that for all of us with “I Could Never Stay Mad at You”. Payton Morse, the artist behind the project, typically creates new-wave style tracks, but dropped this fast-paced indie surf rock jam back in June. The track opens up with a shimmery guitar riff backed by light airy drums before a countdown kicks it off in a swathe of fuzzy radiating energy. This makes up the extremely infective chorus with Morse’s fed-up lyrics and vocal delivery.
The song fits the category of dark themes clouded by jovial instrumentation. Between the three chorus sections are more moody sections of emotional distress. This gives the entire runtime great dynamism, but also elevates and uplifts the chorus. This amplifies the hair-blowing-in-wind feeling of freedom conveyed on the track. Perfect for flying past vegetated cliffs while abandoning any deep seeded tumultuousness.
-John Glab, Editor-In-Chief
julie – “catalogue“
Following their single from the previous year entitled “pg.4 a picture of three hedges/through your window”, California based band julie put out another single this September called “catalogue”. Here, the song allows grunge and shoegaze to join forces, creating edgy stretches of restless vocals and richly sustained muff. The song emits a certain feel for dull numbness, expressing this sensation within complex utterances of mellow thought and washed-out observations.
As the song kicks off with a pulsing, gradually oscillating guitar, the ringing drums create anticipation and suspense toward the listener. Alongside, bass timbres strike and cut through the thick, vacuumed waves of frequency. The pieces form a rhythmic melody that is haunting, as if in an ill-lit room with a bunch of flashing drone lights. What “catalogue” evokes is the sentiment of loud emptiness, as it takes one into a void full of chaos and intense voluminosity.
-Anika Maculangan, Online Content Staff
Laufey – “Lovesick“
In September, Laufey released her wonderful new album Bewitched, filled to the brim with jazz age inspired vocals, but also modern lyricism that culminated into one of my favorite releases of the year. The standout song from the album for me is “Lovesick” with its marvelously fresh chord progression.
The lyrics go from an intimate reflection on love to a bombastic proclamation of rose-tinted memories. Reflecting the switch in lyrics between verses and choruses, the soundscape goes from an intimate feeling, to an ethereal beauty, which grabs me every time. If you ever needed any suggestion for a Laufey song to start with, this is a great one for its sheer and utter beauty.
-John Mumm, Online Content Staff
Lil Yachty – “the BLACK seminole.“
Lil Yachty, a forerunner of the mumble rap scene, made a massive stylistic u-turn and released Let’s Start Here, a psychedelic rock album, and a great one at that. Its intro track, “the BLACK seminole.”, sounds like if you locked thirty producers in a room and told them to mush every idea Pink Floyd ever had into one track. That sounds like an absolute mess, but still this track is a banger. It’s audacious, tasteful, grand, and gorgeous, rivaling the progressive rock greats with a single song.
-Amman Hassan, News Staff
Mitsubishi Suicide – “Shooting Myself with an Amazonian Blowgun“
A music box twinkles, a guitar slams, someone screams. The sound builds until it’s almost too loud to bear. You want to dance, but your whole body feels like it’s made of rust. The noise parts, the drums slow, and the melody begins to clean. Boiling down “Shooting Myself with an Amazonian Blowgun” to a simple review would never do it justice. Instead, I offer the following anecdote:
I put on my headphones while driving home from a family Christmas party, skeptical at their ability to drown out my sister’s music: Drake’s album More Life. To my surprise, the song succeeded in turning Drake’s grating semantics into nothing more than a memory. If these screams and metallic guitar riffs can defeat Audrey Grant himself, what other power might they hold?
-Casper Bakker, Marketing Staff
Sluice – “Acts 9:3“
“Acts 9:3″ is a slow-building folk-rock track from the Winston-Salem, North Carolina band Sluice’s second full-length release Radial Gate. The instrumentals slowly groan upwards before simmering in a murmuring of slide guitar. It’s reminiscent of a Trace Mountains song, but with more western stylings, and a greater emphasis on the traditional country sound. The song describes the possible analogization by Justin Morris, lead singer and songwriter of the band, of Saul’s travels to Damascus. While Saul’s journey initiates his conversion to Christianity, Morris’s journey culminates in a meeting with a pickup-driving, gun-toting Jesus who offers him beer and oxycodone after spitting out his dip.
-Brian Wrobel, Music Staff
UNIVERSITY – “Notre Dame Made Out of Flesh“
UNVIERSITY, a punk-rock trio from Crewe, England, released “Notre Dame Made Out of Flesh” in early September to announce their signing with Transgressive Records. The label’s name fits their ferocity. The band’s sound is self-described as “getting punched in the face by a gorilla but then being cuddled afterwards.” Their vulnerable intensity likens to being smothered, not cuddled. “Notre Dame Made Out of Flesh” is a furious five minute frenzy led by a catchy riff and dense drums.
Lyrically, the rebellious track centers on a loner alienated from his town. “I don’t want to be my dad, or anybody from the past,” vocalist and guitarist Zak screams. Verses erupt over the spidery guitar. Drummer Joel delivers furious fills at a rapid-fire pace. The lead singer lacks the nasal tone of Midwest emo, nearing the style tied with punk and post-hardcore groups from the ‘90s.
Keep an eye on UNIVERSITY. Their first EP Title Track has jagged guitars with the edge of early emo.
-Nick Layeux, Training Director
Verraco – “Escándaloo“
Throughout the summer everybody knew the track, knew the label, knew the artist, but not its name until late August when everything came together. “Escándaloo” was the name of the EP, and the title track is my song of the year. The combination of rolling percussion, dembow rhythms, and scattered kick drums accompanied by horn stabs and robotic bleeps build uncommon tension throughout the intro. Everything is brought together when the track starts rolling, almost literally, going back and forth in speed causing nothing other than frenzy when the kick drum is fully incorporated.
Verraco comes out once again with triumphant sound design that can only be described as frenetic. The rest of the EP is well balanced, with “jajaja” referencing bass music roots with alien like voices calling out the techno purists. “How is this even possible?” adds a melodic touch within the same sound palette.
-Andrés Mora Mata, Music Director
Westside Gunn – “Kostas“
I might catch some flak for this one. “Kostas” wasn’t objectively the best song on And Then You Pray for Me but it was one of my favorites. Tay Keith produced a beat for it that hits as hard as one of his typical trap beats would. It features verses from Benny the Butcher and Conway the Machine, who humorously announces he just left the hospital, and his anesthesia hadn’t worn off yet. While it is not a boom bap track that many have come to expect from Westside Gunn, it is still a Griselda Records masterclass.
-Mason Dunn, Programming Director
Wilco – “A Bowl and a Pudding“
The song starts with satisfying arpeggios of acoustic guitar, a common formula to frontman Jeff Tweedy’s songs. The slight reverb leads to the soft drum beat that then later introduces Tweedy’s vocals. “Not saying anything,” is the first line we hear, and it echoes delicately. Yet again, another classic move that Tweedy makes on other Wilco albums and his solo records. The line that follows, “Says a lot,” can tell us the song is about heartbreak.
The repetition of this gentle track gives it the emotional depth that Wilco revisits occasionally within past albums. Though the reason that this sad song is so powerful is because of the simple yet affecting lyrics that the band builds on once again.
-Tatum D’Emanuele, Music Staff
Zella Day, BROODS – “Hand as My Arrow“
Zella Day is no stranger to creating instrumentals that transport listeners into vivid scenes and fantastical worlds. “Hand as my Arrow”, which was released in July, is an understated and emotional passage into the inner workings of an intimate relationship. The narrator of the song takes a step back to let their lover guide them onwards through a harshness that ultimately is meaningless when the two are together. The song’s shortness is addictive as many of Zella Day’s songs are, making the listener want to go through it all again. This song sits as another work of her raw talent.
-Amelia Johnson, Music Staff
Cover image by Anna Kritz.