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Presenters’ Picks – 2023

Phoenix FM presenters choose their favourite albums and tracks of the year …

Alan Johnson

Album: Tiësto – Drive

The Dutch DJ who brought us the masterpiece of trance Adagio for Strings has changed styles a lot since his first album 22 years ago. Drive is largely radio-friendly pop and includes a number of tracks previously released as singles such as The Business with the uncredited richly deep vocals of James “Yami” Bell, one of its co-writers, and Hot In It with the confident exuberance of Charlie XCX. I also enjoyed Bet My Dollar with Freya Ridings as well as one of the catchiest songs I’ve heard in a long while – once Tate McRae is in my head pretty much all I know (is) it’s 10:35!

Track: John Summit & Hayla – Where You Are

2023 seemed to be the year of the re-working of 90s anthems, some more than once – such as Robert Miles’ Children featuring heavily in Switch Disco’s massive React as well as on Closer by Bou featuring Slay, or the Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony also getting drum ‘n’ bass remixes by the sensational Issey Cross on Bittersweet Goodbye and on Sigma’s Adrenaline Rush featuring Morgan. I liked something about all of those but I’ve chosen this original song by a relative newcomer to the dance music scene along with his fellow rising star and her powerful vocals on the track which the pair co-wrote along with others. On its release Hayla described Where You Are as encapsulating the feeling of longing – of tossing and turning at night wondering about that person who is special to you but who isn’t with you. This is undoubtedly an EDM future classic.

Andy Furneaux

Album: T-Pain – On Top Of The Covers

Not so many years ago, this artist was well known for coming out with material using autotune. His music was a little bit like Marmite – you either hated it or loved it, but it sold well; I’m Sprung and Bartender with Akon are the hits that come to mind. But with this release in 2023, the autotune was removed and we’re stripped back to T-Pain’s actual vocals, and what a pleasant surprise it is!

I was intrigued by the album because of songs I’ve always loved, including A Change Is Gonna Come, Tennessee Whiskey and That’s Life. Full credit to an artist who has battled with mental health as a result of big success, followed by huge criticism, from folks who just didn’t like his style. Respect due for the respect he’s given to the artists who wrote this music & the way he’s tackled it. Wonderful stuff!

Track: T-Pain – A Change Is Gonna Come

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a huge fan of Sam Cooke, his distinctive voice and his music. Over the years, so many artists have covered Sam’s songs. I must be honest – I was never expecting T-Pain to cover such an important song in black music history. This song is never more important, even more so in 2023, for us to find equality for all mankind. And I found myself blown away by T-Pain’s efforts to do this song justice, while getting the message across. So this wins my vote!

Andy Gardener

Album: Pynch – Howling At A Concrete Moon

The Londoners’ debut album was well worth the wait, fusing pop guitars, glitchy synths and dancey drumbeats with emotive personal and political lyrics. The Simpsons fans (the title comes from a poem in an episode) caught the mood of growing up in austere Britain perfectly. The album came out back in April but I knew on first listen that I wouldn’t enjoy another one as much as this.

Track: Oslo Twins – Miss Yesterday

The Bristol newcomers created pop perfection with Miss Yesterday, taken from their debut EP Back To Nothing. A shimmering upbeat slice of dreampop with an 80s touch, Oslo Twins were one of my discoveries of 2023 and had two tracks in my top ten of the year.

Andy Gilson

Album: The Pretenders – Relentless

Still going strong after all these years with one of their best offerings yet.

Track: The Pretenders – Let The Sun Come In

The best track on the album – Chrissie Hynde sounding as good as ever.

Antonia Jones

Album: André 3000 – New Blue Sun

André 3000’s long-awaited album is a unique masterpiece. The entirely instrumental and flute-based tracks transcend genres, and the album is a great way to introduce listeners to the music and allow them to create their own lyrics. This bold move highlights André 3000’s prowess in curating a timeless playlist, which is why I’ve picked this as my album of the year.

Track: Tyla – On and On

Tyla’s latest single brings back the upbeat rhythm, and is pure fun. The catchy melody creates a vibrant and energetic mood for fans and is a refreshing reminder that music has the power to uplift spirits.

Ben Simmons

Album: Kylie Minogue – Tension

I’ve loved pretty much everything Kylie has done since I Should Be So Lucky. Padam Padam is currently in my show intro every week as well.

Track: Miley Cyrus – Flowers

Love the song. Love the Hemsworth controversy. Love listening to it after Bruno Mars!

Bob Simpson

Album: Peter Gabriel – i/o

I’m still absorbing this album. His first solo studio album for 21 years is full of interesting very listenable tracks full of Gabriel’s quirkiness that hooks you in and gets your attention. I need to listen another dozen times to fully appreciate it and that’s the point. It’s worth it.

Track: The Beatles – Now and Then

No surprises there then! As a lifelong fan it had to be. It was more of a landmark occasion than a song. The last Beatles song. Should it have been done? I’m not sure but I’m glad we’ve got it. It sounds modern in its production and strikes me that it’s a bit like time travel, John Lennon’s part from the 70s, George Harrison’s contribution from the 90s, with Ringo and Paul finishing off in 2023, as well as some added harmonies originally recorded in the 60’s. The result – a good (not brilliant) song that made it to number 1 in the UK. That’s good enough for me.

Claire Gevaux

Album: OST – Barbie the Movie

Written and produced by Mark Ronson, this album saw some amazing collaborations but the genius track of I’m Just Ken showed musical influences from the 1930s musicals to West Side Story to Slash on guitar!

Track: Miley Cyrus feat Brandi Carlile – Thousand Miles

A great track from the Endless Summer Vacation album featuring Brandi Carlile who I love – their voices melt together.

Daniel Gregory

Album: Kamaal Williams – Stings

Another blossoming light on the London jazz scene, Kamaal’s album took root in the heady days of the pandemic, and those solitary moments inspired him to dig even deeper into his innermost creative realms. This really is a blissful trip off the beaten track into the colourful fields beyond.

Track: Yoni Mayrez – Palms

This single was released in April of this year ahead of his exquisite album Dybbuk Tse! If you are looking to expand your horizons through masterful blends of hip-hop, jazz and electronica, then look no further than this London-based producer to start your journey. This was the song that thankfully brought him to my attention.

Daren Mootoo

Album: The Rolling Stones – Hackney Diamonds

The Stones seem to have been around since the Stone Age and despite some line-up changes, they continue to stick to a tried and tested formula and don’t try to run with the crowd. With the Stones, you know exactly what to expect and Hackney Diamonds shows they are once again sticking to their blues roots. It’s also great that they are all very accomplished musicians and that always shows. Production is on point, particularly noticeable when you play it loud!

Track: Kylie Minogue – Padam Padam

Not to be confused with the Edith Piaf song of the same name, this track was definitely the earworm of the summer and Kylie’s first number one in over a decade. Taking a leaf out of Madonna’s book, Kylie has come up with a very current dance sound by enlisting great (and not always well-known) songwriters and producers – in this case Pete Mycroft and Ina Wroldsen. Trancey vocals over a driving beat meant this song was a hit on any club dance floor, but also on car stereos pounding up and down Britain’s motorways!

Gareth Williams

Album: Jake Shears – Last Man Dancing

Whereas his first solo album had been good, but not great, his sophomore release is pretty much a flawless pop album. Having rediscovered his love of disco, it’s unashamedly fun, songs with one eye on the dancefloor whilst the other is on the bedroom. It also has an array of special guests including Kylie and Jane Fonda, but it’s US singer Amber Martin who steals the show on the duet Devil Came Down The Dance Floor, a trick she pulled off when she joined him live at Glastonbury. His Village Underground gig was also my gig of the year! Honourable mentions: Blur – The Ballad Of Darren, Queens Of The Stone Age – In Times New Roman.

Track: The Joy Formidable – Feel My Heat

Clocking in at over 15 minutes long, not an obvious choice or a single, but in a year I rediscovered the band and saw them live for the first time this was a song that I just had to keep returning to. Driving guitars, throbbing synths, party bongos (I may have made that last bit up) – it had it all. Brilliant. Honourable mentions: Blur – The Narcissist, Creeper – Black Heaven.

George Hanlon

Album: Hak Baker – World’s End FM

This is a wonderfully fun, deep and personal exploration into the world and upbringings of Hak Baker. The album consists of 6 wonderful tracks in my opinion and has stuck with me since its release.

Track: Hak Baker – Full On

My track of the year has to be the one that accompanies my album of the year. This 2 minute 43 seconds track is, in my honest opinion, the coolest track all year. Most may not have heard of this song but please go out and give it a listen. Super catchy and rhythmic instrumentals the whole way out, and Hak’s working-class, east London voice supports his everyman lyrics brilliantly. Truly the best track of the year!

Ian Cash

Album: The Rolling Stones – Hackney Diamonds

Their first new material in 18 years and boy was it worth the wait; from first song Angry through to Rolling Stone Blues, every song is superb. The rough sound of guitar in Bite my Head Off is very stones raw, while Mess it Up has a chorus that easily gets stuck in you head very quickly! If this is the Stones’ last album what a way to go out, amazing!

Track: Blur – The Narcissist

The first time I heard this I wasn’t a massive fan but I listened again and again and now it turned into my favourite tune of 2023, such a chilled tune initially it builds into a really upbeat tune that only Albarn and Coxon could do, would love to hear this song live in a stadium one day, what a track!

Jo Bailey

Album: ARXX – Ride Or Die

The Brighton alt/pop/garage duo Hanni Pidduck and Clara Townsend have worked non stop for years, gigging, writing and building a huge fanbase. They’re at the point of making it even bigger and the album shows the tracks of their journey over the years.

Songs from their early years such as the rockier Stuck On You from 2018, which has been reworked to a gentler harmonic layered beauty, to Not Alone, one of the best tracks I feel ever written. So sit back and take in the glorious 11 track (well, 12 tracks with the fab outro) Ride Or Die Album from ARXX.

Track: Sophie Griffiths – Power Cut

It’s so difficult to choose your favourite single of the year. I’ve been lucky enough to have had many amazing artists from Essex and beyond, on my drive live sessions this year, so I’ve gone for a local artist that I’ve caught live many times. This track is taken from Sophie’s EP Note To Self. It’s a pop/alt track that is a total earworm. There’s no way you can listen to this song and not sing along at the chorus.

The Brentwood singer/songwriter says the subject matter came about from the way she was feeling at the time. “I was exhausted. I was overworking, overthinking and just not allowing myself time off.” Something a lot of us can relate to, no matter what age we are. 2023 has been a big year for Sophie. I’m excited to see what 2024 has in store.

John Chubb

Album: Eddie Chacon – Sundown

A fantastic collection of soulful and jazzy tunes with superb vocals.

Track: Peter Gabriel – Road To Joy

A superb song from someone whose talent has graced the music scene for well over five decades, but who still has much to offer.

Keith Ball

Album: Justin-Lee Schultz – Just In The Moment

Still only 17, Justin-Lee is a prodigy who released his debut album at the age of 13. He has an artistic maturity which far surpasses most musicians of his time.

Track: Justin-Lee Schultz – Fellowship

This collaboration with saxophonist Dave Koz is a definite highlight.

Kev Piggott

Album: Ellie Goulding – Higher Than Heaven

A very understated artist. This album has an 80s disco vibe; each track is an absolute banger. A fun pop album – it you haven’t heard it have a listen.

Track: Miley Cyrus – Flowers

Just because it was a catchy summer tune and I liked it!

Madeline Christy

Album: Noah Kahan – Stick Season

Northern Attitude and Drunk Dial have been major standout tracks this year. I’ve really enjoyed listening to Noah revisit tracks on this album and rerecord with the likes of Hozier, Kacey Musgraves and Post Malone.

Track: Katy Hurt – What Have You Got To Lose

I was absolutely thrilled to have Katy feature on the show this year. This particular track has a great bluesy country sound and really showcases Katy’s great songwriting skills.

Mandy Cullen

Album: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Council Skies

I have to confess that I don’t give either of the Gallagher brothers a lot of time these days, their best work was definitely done when they were together making music as Oasis. But Noel Gallagher’s latest album Council Skies is a little bit different. The title track is curiously atmospheric, then develops into an excellent pop song which sounds great; and it features Johnny Marr on guitar which is always a bonus. The title track does set the tone for the rest of the album with Pretty Boy almost being its twin. But ‘Dead To The World’ is a beautifully understated. And ‘Open The Door, See What You Find’ is an excellent track and has ‘single’ written all of it. To be honest, this album was a nice surprise, I hadn’t really expected much, but boy, I was wrong. It is a great listen.

Track: Simple Minds – Solstice Kiss

I’ve always been a big fan of Simple Minds, I love almost everything they’ve done, and they’re a terrific watch live too. So I was super excited to hear they’d had a new album out last year; (which, to my shame, I still haven’t listened to in its entirety) but when Solstice Kiss was released to coincide with the summer solstice, I was delighted. From its Celtic-sounding opening, right through with the moody melodic riff, it’s just brilliant. When a band comes back with a new single in a new era, they often don’t get it right, but Simple Minds have really found the right balance with Solstice Kiss. If you’ve yet to hear it, go give it a listen.

Michelle Ward

Album: Steve Mortimer – Psalms From The Gutter

Steve Mortimer is a Chelmsford-based singer/songwriter and producer, who produced a stunning debut album taking you on his journey with mental health. Emotions are raw and there are uplifting songs too. It’s an album to listen to from start to finish. Steve has collaborated on this album with many local singers and musicians who, inspired by him, wanted to be part of his musical expression. Independent music at its best.

Track: Beat Bakery feat George Bone – One More Time

This track kicks off strongly and continues to build into a massive chorus. Mike and Hypnotyst from Beat Bakery have been working with an array of artists this year including Feel Alive feat Milena and Boxes ft Michelle Suzanne. Even more music to come from them in 2024 – watch them rise! There were a few contenders for my track of the year and I have to give special mentions to The Jo Jo Man Band – Fuzz Box, Joby Fox – Falling, Abi Flynn – My Own Woman, Raphael Tate – Gotta Hold On, Adam Wedd – Fomo and George Bone – Valencia. All my chosen tracks are independent musicians too, the talent out there is outstanding and 2023 has been exceptionally beautiful musically.

Mike Porter

Album: Corinne Bailey Rae – Black Rainbows

I think she is a very talented and very underrated artiste.

Track: The Rolling Stones – Mess It Up

I am in awe of these guys. I have no idea how they are still alive let along releasing songs and touring.

Natalie Bays

Album: Lana Del Ray – Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd

This album could be the soundtrack to your dreams. Lana Del Rey has always been known for her very specific tragic melodic sound – however this album really brings the inner turmoil up a notch with intense crescendos (Did you know (…)), experimental sounds (A & W) and almost psychedelic tracks scattered through which wouldn’t feel out of place in a ‘Twin Peaks’ soundtrack (Jon Batiste Interlude). There are the usual Del Rey flavours in dark, smokey, contextually familiar songs (Sweet) but this album is deeper and far more intense. One for any sound art lover, or anyone who wants to imagine what it is like being at art school.

Track: Cassö x RAYE x D-Block Europe – Prada

Despite questionable lyrics this euphoric sound has not left my mind since its release in the summer. The unofficial uptempo remix of D-Block’s ‘Ferrari Horses’; this track demonstrates the power of collaboration – a gritty South London rap remixed with the catchy beat and sounds of rising star Cassö. This Dance hit gets you moving as much as those timeless classics from the mid-late 90s. Hoping to hear more from this collaboration!

Nick Field

Album: Paramore – This Is Why

Not another collection of Misery Business-lites (their biggest hit for anyone too young or with short memories), but a great combination of an older and wiser sound with enough pop-punk energy to feel like the Paramore we know has never been away.

Track: This Boy’s Fire – Permanent Vacation

I always try to give a local act a nod here and this band features veterans of the 2000s rock scene who haven’t let their flair for a good tune go to waste since then. Musical influences from various eras combine with an urgency that keeps you very much in the present moment.

Nigel Fitzmaurice

Album: Victoria Monet – Jaguar II

Total neo-Soul with a contemporary smooth soul feel.

Track: Jessica Ware – Hello Love

Total romantic Philly soul – a true proper single for 2023.

Patrick Sherring

Album: Lauren Daigle – Lauren Daigle

Christian singer/songwriter Lauren’s 3rd studio album is the first for a mainstream label. It has already been nominated for Grammy and Billboard awards. The 23 tracks demonstrate her breadth of writing, though the majority are love songs. The production also presents variety. Soulful, jazzy, R’n’B influenced.

Track: Joby Fox – Falling

Northern Irish singer/songwriter and humanitarian activist, Joby came to the Phoenix FM studios and this song was part of his set. This jazzy haunting track is about the healing power of a relationship to help overcome troubling news images.

Paul Golder

Album: Pacifica – Freak Scene

Blur are my favourite band, so a comeback album in 2023 that doesn’t sound like Think Tank should be my shoo-in as my top album. But I felt that although they perfectly captured their transition into middle-age, it didn’t have quite enough energy for me (and I need energy) so I have plumped for the debut album from a female indie duo from Buenos Aires. They have quite a big following online after recording a lot of videos of them playing Strokes covers, but they’re much better than The Strokes. 30 minutes of perfect powerpop – and a great live set this month at the Islington Academy too. Honourable mentions to Blur and to Belgian band Annabel Lee, whose album Drift perfectly captures that early 90s slacker rock feel.

Track: Blur – The Narcissist

I couldn’t ignore them completely – a beautifully melancholic comeback with the band at their best. And how good was this live in the summer, too!

Rob Harvey

Album: Depeche Mode – Memento Mori

This album for me has been more a return to some of what I love about Depeche Mode’s sound, as it marries clever melodies and interesting synthetics, with some strong songs. This able was created before the loss of Andy Fletcher and yet has a spark new spark of energy, care of collaborations in some writing. This outing for the band is the most complete to my tastes in a good few years.

Track: Blackcardburning feat Neil Francis – Love In Control

This song was a favourite for my show during its release from the album, Watching Sleepers. The album was written and produced by Mark Hockings, who is one half of mesh a band who have had a long pedigree of great albums. And live shows This song, to me is so warm and up lifting, and not just because of the way Mark has created it but also by the huge voice of Neil Francis, that lifts this song to a high plain.- It is a song that almost feels like a Christmas love song, yet it was release earlier in the year and to me lives on anytime.

Scott Ross

Album: The Rolling Stones – Hackney Diamonds

This includes some great new, gritty Rock ‘n’ Roll tracks like Angry, Live By The Sword, Mess It Up and Whole Wide World, which are sure to become tomorrow’s future classics.

What’s more, the material is unmistakably authentic Stones. To my ears the band still sounds as fresh and raw as the day they launched 61 years ago, and that has to be truly amazing!

Track: Jake Shears – Too Much Music

2023 has been one of those good years with loads of great tracks from which to choose, so my single track of the year says it all “Too Much Music” from the ex-colead vocalist of The Scissor Sisters is an absolute belter! Having said that, I don’t think you can ever have too much music!

Siobhan Copland

Album: Jorja Smith – Falling or Flying

Jorja shows her maturity as an artist and offers thought-provoking lyrics and moody tracks as you would expect, met with upbeat memorable tracks such as summer anthem Little Things.

Track: Chris Brown feat Davido & Lojay – Sensational

A feel good anthem, great collaboration of artists who have all had great singles throughout the year. An impressive blend of two genres – R’n’B and Afrobeats with pop appeal. Seamless flow on the track, and an equally appealing perfectly choreographed music video to match.

Sophia Marie

Album: Anne-Marie – Unhealthy

Released in July, this album is full of sass and style. The title track features Shania Twain and has a really cool country twist. I listened to an interview with Anne-Marie about how she was so excited to be doing a track with Shania Twain and then went onto releasing the new album with the track title. I also personally love this artist as she is local to Essex and I love how she has skyrocketed to success! She is also best friends with two great friends of mine who work at Sophisticated so I am a huge supporter!

Track: Niall Horan – Heaven

Amazing lyrics and such beautiful music. I personally love this song and play it often on my Sunday breakfast show.

Spencer Carter

Album: Kylie Minogue – Tension

Padam? You bet I do! The album that just returned Kylie to a level none of us were really expecting. All killers, no fillers, it’s a fusion of classic pop and cutting edge electronica which you cannot fail to move your feet to. A genuinely euphoric album with some clever lyrics and intricate musical breaks. Worthy of its (global) number one place.

Track: Delta Goodrem – Back To Your Heart

A song I’ve played to death on my show – The Weekend Wind Up – this is an unashamedly BIG song, with soaring vocals, a killer hook and almost anthemic feel. It’s a return to the charts for Delta Goodrem, reminding us what a superb songwriter and musician she is. Deserves to be played loud!

Steve Robertson

Album: Peter Gabriel – i/o

It’s taken 28 years for this album to be released and although it didn’t come out until December, it’s been an album of the year as I’ve heard each track when released each month (or rather, each full moon).

This has the unmistakable Peter Gabriel sound from the opening note to the last track. With both Bright-Side and Dark-Side remixes, it’s his longest album to date and there are no fillers here. When given a choice of versions of the track my personal preference so far is for the Bright-Side mixes.

Track: Depeche Mode – Ghosts Again

It’s a great sounding song from the Basildon band, deservedly reaching the top 20 singles chart. The emotion of Dave Gahan’s voice really strikes a chord.

Tony Smith

Album: Chase & Status – 2 RUFF, Vol 1

Chase & Status are representing the new wave of jungle and D’n’B, well known for their singles Baddadan with Bou, featuring Irah, Flowdan, Trigga and Takura on vocals, and Disconnect with Becky Hill. Both tracks are all-out anthems that took over many stages and sound systems including my own gigs during 2023’s festival season.

Track: Fred Again and Obongjayar – adore u

Fred Again is producer Frederick Gibson and Obongjayar is a London-based Nigerian musician. This track was released on August 11, and Obongiayar made this song for his little brother, while Fred Again made it for his little sister without knowing this. The track has a unique vibe that set it out against other chart pop songs. Fred Again performed the track solo at Glastonbury in June.

Vic Damhar

Album: Cleo Sol – Gold

Gold pushes Cleo’s blissful vocal boundaries to great effect, sounding more powerful than ever. She explores the breadth of her range with growing confidence. It’s an album that transposes her songwriting, covering topics from Love, Faith and Self Belief. This collection is arguably Cleo Sol’s strongest compositions to date.

Track: Nia Archives and Maverick Sabre – No Need 2 Be Sorry, Call Me (Mount Kimbie remix)

Nia Archives released an EP of remixes of tracks from Sunrise Bang Ur Head Against Tha Wall. The five track remix collection features No Need 2 Be Sorry, Call Me by electronic pioneers Dominic Maker and Kai Campos AKA Mount Kimbie. A must listen and appreciation to everyone who worked on this track!

Xanthe Bearman

Album: Georgia Crandon – Georgia Crandon

I’ve been following Georgia’s career for a few years and am delighted that she released her superb debut album in 2023, blending soul and retro pop with her trademark heartfelt lyrics.

Track: Miley Cyrus – Flowers

This track was number 1 for 10 weeks from the end of January – it’s one of those songs that you find yourself singing along to and then repeating lines at various times during the year!

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Presenters’ Picks – 2023

Phoenix FM presenters choose their favourite albums and tracks of the year …

Alan Johnson

Album: Tiësto – Drive

The Dutch DJ who brought us the masterpiece of trance Adagio for Strings has changed styles a lot since his first album 22 years ago. Drive is largely radio-friendly pop and includes a number of tracks previously released as singles such as The Business with the uncredited richly deep vocals of James “Yami” Bell, one of its co-writers, and Hot In It with the confident exuberance of Charlie XCX. I also enjoyed Bet My Dollar with Freya Ridings as well as one of the catchiest songs I’ve heard in a long while – once Tate McRae is in my head pretty much all I know (is) it’s 10:35!

Track: John Summit & Hayla – Where You Are

2023 seemed to be the year of the re-working of 90s anthems, some more than once – such as Robert Miles’ Children featuring heavily in Switch Disco’s massive React as well as on Closer by Bou featuring Slay, or the Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony also getting drum ‘n’ bass remixes by the sensational Issey Cross on Bittersweet Goodbye and on Sigma’s Adrenaline Rush featuring Morgan. I liked something about all of those but I’ve chosen this original song by a relative newcomer to the dance music scene along with his fellow rising star and her powerful vocals on the track which the pair co-wrote along with others. On its release Hayla described Where You Are as encapsulating the feeling of longing – of tossing and turning at night wondering about that person who is special to you but who isn’t with you. This is undoubtedly an EDM future classic.

Andy Furneaux

Album: T-Pain – On Top Of The Covers

Not so many years ago, this artist was well known for coming out with material using autotune. His music was a little bit like Marmite – you either hated it or loved it, but it sold well; I’m Sprung and Bartender with Akon are the hits that come to mind. But with this release in 2023, the autotune was removed and we’re stripped back to T-Pain’s actual vocals, and what a pleasant surprise it is!

I was intrigued by the album because of songs I’ve always loved, including A Change Is Gonna Come, Tennessee Whiskey and That’s Life. Full credit to an artist who has battled with mental health as a result of big success, followed by huge criticism, from folks who just didn’t like his style. Respect due for the respect he’s given to the artists who wrote this music & the way he’s tackled it. Wonderful stuff!

Track: T-Pain – A Change Is Gonna Come

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a huge fan of Sam Cooke, his distinctive voice and his music. Over the years, so many artists have covered Sam’s songs. I must be honest – I was never expecting T-Pain to cover such an important song in black music history. This song is never more important, even more so in 2023, for us to find equality for all mankind. And I found myself blown away by T-Pain’s efforts to do this song justice, while getting the message across. So this wins my vote!

Andy Gardener

Album: Pynch – Howling At A Concrete Moon

The Londoners’ debut album was well worth the wait, fusing pop guitars, glitchy synths and dancey drumbeats with emotive personal and political lyrics. The Simpsons fans (the title comes from a poem in an episode) caught the mood of growing up in austere Britain perfectly. The album came out back in April but I knew on first listen that I wouldn’t enjoy another one as much as this.

Track: Oslo Twins – Miss Yesterday

The Bristol newcomers created pop perfection with Miss Yesterday, taken from their debut EP Back To Nothing. A shimmering upbeat slice of dreampop with an 80s touch, Oslo Twins were one of my discoveries of 2023 and had two tracks in my top ten of the year.

Andy Gilson

Album: The Pretenders – Relentless

Still going strong after all these years with one of their best offerings yet.

Track: The Pretenders – Let The Sun Come In

The best track on the album – Chrissie Hynde sounding as good as ever.

Antonia Jones

Album: André 3000 – New Blue Sun

André 3000’s long-awaited album is a unique masterpiece. The entirely instrumental and flute-based tracks transcend genres, and the album is a great way to introduce listeners to the music and allow them to create their own lyrics. This bold move highlights André 3000’s prowess in curating a timeless playlist, which is why I’ve picked this as my album of the year.

Track: Tyla – On and On

Tyla’s latest single brings back the upbeat rhythm, and is pure fun. The catchy melody creates a vibrant and energetic mood for fans and is a refreshing reminder that music has the power to uplift spirits.

Ben Simmons

Album: Kylie Minogue – Tension

I’ve loved pretty much everything Kylie has done since I Should Be So Lucky. Padam Padam is currently in my show intro every week as well.

Track: Miley Cyrus – Flowers

Love the song. Love the Hemsworth controversy. Love listening to it after Bruno Mars!

Bob Simpson

Album: Peter Gabriel – i/o

I’m still absorbing this album. His first solo studio album for 21 years is full of interesting very listenable tracks full of Gabriel’s quirkiness that hooks you in and gets your attention. I need to listen another dozen times to fully appreciate it and that’s the point. It’s worth it.

Track: The Beatles – Now and Then

No surprises there then! As a lifelong fan it had to be. It was more of a landmark occasion than a song. The last Beatles song. Should it have been done? I’m not sure but I’m glad we’ve got it. It sounds modern in its production and strikes me that it’s a bit like time travel, John Lennon’s part from the 70s, George Harrison’s contribution from the 90s, with Ringo and Paul finishing off in 2023, as well as some added harmonies originally recorded in the 60’s. The result – a good (not brilliant) song that made it to number 1 in the UK. That’s good enough for me.

Claire Gevaux

Album: OST – Barbie the Movie

Written and produced by Mark Ronson, this album saw some amazing collaborations but the genius track of I’m Just Ken showed musical influences from the 1930s musicals to West Side Story to Slash on guitar!

Track: Miley Cyrus feat Brandi Carlile – Thousand Miles

A great track from the Endless Summer Vacation album featuring Brandi Carlile who I love – their voices melt together.

Daniel Gregory

Album: Kamaal Williams – Stings

Another blossoming light on the London jazz scene, Kamaal’s album took root in the heady days of the pandemic, and those solitary moments inspired him to dig even deeper into his innermost creative realms. This really is a blissful trip off the beaten track into the colourful fields beyond.

Track: Yoni Mayrez – Palms

This single was released in April of this year ahead of his exquisite album Dybbuk Tse! If you are looking to expand your horizons through masterful blends of hip-hop, jazz and electronica, then look no further than this London-based producer to start your journey. This was the song that thankfully brought him to my attention.

Daren Mootoo

Album: The Rolling Stones – Hackney Diamonds

The Stones seem to have been around since the Stone Age and despite some line-up changes, they continue to stick to a tried and tested formula and don’t try to run with the crowd. With the Stones, you know exactly what to expect and Hackney Diamonds shows they are once again sticking to their blues roots. It’s also great that they are all very accomplished musicians and that always shows. Production is on point, particularly noticeable when you play it loud!

Track: Kylie Minogue – Padam Padam

Not to be confused with the Edith Piaf song of the same name, this track was definitely the earworm of the summer and Kylie’s first number one in over a decade. Taking a leaf out of Madonna’s book, Kylie has come up with a very current dance sound by enlisting great (and not always well-known) songwriters and producers – in this case Pete Mycroft and Ina Wroldsen. Trancey vocals over a driving beat meant this song was a hit on any club dance floor, but also on car stereos pounding up and down Britain’s motorways!

Gareth Williams

Album: Jake Shears – Last Man Dancing

Whereas his first solo album had been good, but not great, his sophomore release is pretty much a flawless pop album. Having rediscovered his love of disco, it’s unashamedly fun, songs with one eye on the dancefloor whilst the other is on the bedroom. It also has an array of special guests including Kylie and Jane Fonda, but it’s US singer Amber Martin who steals the show on the duet Devil Came Down The Dance Floor, a trick she pulled off when she joined him live at Glastonbury. His Village Underground gig was also my gig of the year! Honourable mentions: Blur – The Ballad Of Darren, Queens Of The Stone Age – In Times New Roman.

Track: The Joy Formidable – Feel My Heat

Clocking in at over 15 minutes long, not an obvious choice or a single, but in a year I rediscovered the band and saw them live for the first time this was a song that I just had to keep returning to. Driving guitars, throbbing synths, party bongos (I may have made that last bit up) – it had it all. Brilliant. Honourable mentions: Blur – The Narcissist, Creeper – Black Heaven.

George Hanlon

Album: Hak Baker – World’s End FM

This is a wonderfully fun, deep and personal exploration into the world and upbringings of Hak Baker. The album consists of 6 wonderful tracks in my opinion and has stuck with me since its release.

Track: Hak Baker – Full On

My track of the year has to be the one that accompanies my album of the year. This 2 minute 43 seconds track is, in my honest opinion, the coolest track all year. Most may not have heard of this song but please go out and give it a listen. Super catchy and rhythmic instrumentals the whole way out, and Hak’s working-class, east London voice supports his everyman lyrics brilliantly. Truly the best track of the year!

Ian Cash

Album: The Rolling Stones – Hackney Diamonds

Their first new material in 18 years and boy was it worth the wait; from first song Angry through to Rolling Stone Blues, every song is superb. The rough sound of guitar in Bite my Head Off is very stones raw, while Mess it Up has a chorus that easily gets stuck in you head very quickly! If this is the Stones’ last album what a way to go out, amazing!

Track: Blur – The Narcissist

The first time I heard this I wasn’t a massive fan but I listened again and again and now it turned into my favourite tune of 2023, such a chilled tune initially it builds into a really upbeat tune that only Albarn and Coxon could do, would love to hear this song live in a stadium one day, what a track!

Jo Bailey

Album: ARXX – Ride Or Die

The Brighton alt/pop/garage duo Hanni Pidduck and Clara Townsend have worked non stop for years, gigging, writing and building a huge fanbase. They’re at the point of making it even bigger and the album shows the tracks of their journey over the years.

Songs from their early years such as the rockier Stuck On You from 2018, which has been reworked to a gentler harmonic layered beauty, to Not Alone, one of the best tracks I feel ever written. So sit back and take in the glorious 11 track (well, 12 tracks with the fab outro) Ride Or Die Album from ARXX.

Track: Sophie Griffiths – Power Cut

It’s so difficult to choose your favourite single of the year. I’ve been lucky enough to have had many amazing artists from Essex and beyond, on my drive live sessions this year, so I’ve gone for a local artist that I’ve caught live many times. This track is taken from Sophie’s EP Note To Self. It’s a pop/alt track that is a total earworm. There’s no way you can listen to this song and not sing along at the chorus.

The Brentwood singer/songwriter says the subject matter came about from the way she was feeling at the time. “I was exhausted. I was overworking, overthinking and just not allowing myself time off.” Something a lot of us can relate to, no matter what age we are. 2023 has been a big year for Sophie. I’m excited to see what 2024 has in store.

John Chubb

Album: Eddie Chacon – Sundown

A fantastic collection of soulful and jazzy tunes with superb vocals.

Track: Peter Gabriel – Road To Joy

A superb song from someone whose talent has graced the music scene for well over five decades, but who still has much to offer.

Keith Ball

Album: Justin-Lee Schultz – Just In The Moment

Still only 17, Justin-Lee is a prodigy who released his debut album at the age of 13. He has an artistic maturity which far surpasses most musicians of his time.

Track: Justin-Lee Schultz – Fellowship

This collaboration with saxophonist Dave Koz is a definite highlight.

Kev Piggott

Album: Ellie Goulding – Higher Than Heaven

A very understated artist. This album has an 80s disco vibe; each track is an absolute banger. A fun pop album – it you haven’t heard it have a listen.

Track: Miley Cyrus – Flowers

Just because it was a catchy summer tune and I liked it!

Madeline Christy

Album: Noah Kahan – Stick Season

Northern Attitude and Drunk Dial have been major standout tracks this year. I’ve really enjoyed listening to Noah revisit tracks on this album and rerecord with the likes of Hozier, Kacey Musgraves and Post Malone.

Track: Katy Hurt – What Have You Got To Lose

I was absolutely thrilled to have Katy feature on the show this year. This particular track has a great bluesy country sound and really showcases Katy’s great songwriting skills.

Mandy Cullen

Album: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Council Skies

I have to confess that I don’t give either of the Gallagher brothers a lot of time these days, their best work was definitely done when they were together making music as Oasis. But Noel Gallagher’s latest album Council Skies is a little bit different. The title track is curiously atmospheric, then develops into an excellent pop song which sounds great; and it features Johnny Marr on guitar which is always a bonus. The title track does set the tone for the rest of the album with Pretty Boy almost being its twin. But ‘Dead To The World’ is a beautifully understated. And ‘Open The Door, See What You Find’ is an excellent track and has ‘single’ written all of it. To be honest, this album was a nice surprise, I hadn’t really expected much, but boy, I was wrong. It is a great listen.

Track: Simple Minds – Solstice Kiss

I’ve always been a big fan of Simple Minds, I love almost everything they’ve done, and they’re a terrific watch live too. So I was super excited to hear they’d had a new album out last year; (which, to my shame, I still haven’t listened to in its entirety) but when Solstice Kiss was released to coincide with the summer solstice, I was delighted. From its Celtic-sounding opening, right through with the moody melodic riff, it’s just brilliant. When a band comes back with a new single in a new era, they often don’t get it right, but Simple Minds have really found the right balance with Solstice Kiss. If you’ve yet to hear it, go give it a listen.

Michelle Ward

Album: Steve Mortimer – Psalms From The Gutter

Steve Mortimer is a Chelmsford-based singer/songwriter and producer, who produced a stunning debut album taking you on his journey with mental health. Emotions are raw and there are uplifting songs too. It’s an album to listen to from start to finish. Steve has collaborated on this album with many local singers and musicians who, inspired by him, wanted to be part of his musical expression. Independent music at its best.

Track: Beat Bakery feat George Bone – One More Time

This track kicks off strongly and continues to build into a massive chorus. Mike and Hypnotyst from Beat Bakery have been working with an array of artists this year including Feel Alive feat Milena and Boxes ft Michelle Suzanne. Even more music to come from them in 2024 – watch them rise! There were a few contenders for my track of the year and I have to give special mentions to The Jo Jo Man Band – Fuzz Box, Joby Fox – Falling, Abi Flynn – My Own Woman, Raphael Tate – Gotta Hold On, Adam Wedd – Fomo and George Bone – Valencia. All my chosen tracks are independent musicians too, the talent out there is outstanding and 2023 has been exceptionally beautiful musically.

Mike Porter

Album: Corinne Bailey Rae – Black Rainbows

I think she is a very talented and very underrated artiste.

Track: The Rolling Stones – Mess It Up

I am in awe of these guys. I have no idea how they are still alive let along releasing songs and touring.

Natalie Bays

Album: Lana Del Ray – Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd

This album could be the soundtrack to your dreams. Lana Del Rey has always been known for her very specific tragic melodic sound – however this album really brings the inner turmoil up a notch with intense crescendos (Did you know (…)), experimental sounds (A & W) and almost psychedelic tracks scattered through which wouldn’t feel out of place in a ‘Twin Peaks’ soundtrack (Jon Batiste Interlude). There are the usual Del Rey flavours in dark, smokey, contextually familiar songs (Sweet) but this album is deeper and far more intense. One for any sound art lover, or anyone who wants to imagine what it is like being at art school.

Track: Cassö x RAYE x D-Block Europe – Prada

Despite questionable lyrics this euphoric sound has not left my mind since its release in the summer. The unofficial uptempo remix of D-Block’s ‘Ferrari Horses’; this track demonstrates the power of collaboration – a gritty South London rap remixed with the catchy beat and sounds of rising star Cassö. This Dance hit gets you moving as much as those timeless classics from the mid-late 90s. Hoping to hear more from this collaboration!

Nick Field

Album: Paramore – This Is Why

Not another collection of Misery Business-lites (their biggest hit for anyone too young or with short memories), but a great combination of an older and wiser sound with enough pop-punk energy to feel like the Paramore we know has never been away.

Track: This Boy’s Fire – Permanent Vacation

I always try to give a local act a nod here and this band features veterans of the 2000s rock scene who haven’t let their flair for a good tune go to waste since then. Musical influences from various eras combine with an urgency that keeps you very much in the present moment.

Nigel Fitzmaurice

Album: Victoria Monet – Jaguar II

Total neo-Soul with a contemporary smooth soul feel.

Track: Jessica Ware – Hello Love

Total romantic Philly soul – a true proper single for 2023.

Patrick Sherring

Album: Lauren Daigle – Lauren Daigle

Christian singer/songwriter Lauren’s 3rd studio album is the first for a mainstream label. It has already been nominated for Grammy and Billboard awards. The 23 tracks demonstrate her breadth of writing, though the majority are love songs. The production also presents variety. Soulful, jazzy, R’n’B influenced.

Track: Joby Fox – Falling

Northern Irish singer/songwriter and humanitarian activist, Joby came to the Phoenix FM studios and this song was part of his set. This jazzy haunting track is about the healing power of a relationship to help overcome troubling news images.

Paul Golder

Album: Pacifica – Freak Scene

Blur are my favourite band, so a comeback album in 2023 that doesn’t sound like Think Tank should be my shoo-in as my top album. But I felt that although they perfectly captured their transition into middle-age, it didn’t have quite enough energy for me (and I need energy) so I have plumped for the debut album from a female indie duo from Buenos Aires. They have quite a big following online after recording a lot of videos of them playing Strokes covers, but they’re much better than The Strokes. 30 minutes of perfect powerpop – and a great live set this month at the Islington Academy too. Honourable mentions to Blur and to Belgian band Annabel Lee, whose album Drift perfectly captures that early 90s slacker rock feel.

Track: Blur – The Narcissist

I couldn’t ignore them completely – a beautifully melancholic comeback with the band at their best. And how good was this live in the summer, too!

Rob Harvey

Album: Depeche Mode – Memento Mori

This album for me has been more a return to some of what I love about Depeche Mode’s sound, as it marries clever melodies and interesting synthetics, with some strong songs. This able was created before the loss of Andy Fletcher and yet has a spark new spark of energy, care of collaborations in some writing. This outing for the band is the most complete to my tastes in a good few years.

Track: Blackcardburning feat Neil Francis – Love In Control

This song was a favourite for my show during its release from the album, Watching Sleepers. The album was written and produced by Mark Hockings, who is one half of mesh a band who have had a long pedigree of great albums. And live shows This song, to me is so warm and up lifting, and not just because of the way Mark has created it but also by the huge voice of Neil Francis, that lifts this song to a high plain.- It is a song that almost feels like a Christmas love song, yet it was release earlier in the year and to me lives on anytime.

Scott Ross

Album: The Rolling Stones – Hackney Diamonds

This includes some great new, gritty Rock ‘n’ Roll tracks like Angry, Live By The Sword, Mess It Up and Whole Wide World, which are sure to become tomorrow’s future classics.

What’s more, the material is unmistakably authentic Stones. To my ears the band still sounds as fresh and raw as the day they launched 61 years ago, and that has to be truly amazing!

Track: Jake Shears – Too Much Music

2023 has been one of those good years with loads of great tracks from which to choose, so my single track of the year says it all “Too Much Music” from the ex-colead vocalist of The Scissor Sisters is an absolute belter! Having said that, I don’t think you can ever have too much music!

Siobhan Copland

Album: Jorja Smith – Falling or Flying

Jorja shows her maturity as an artist and offers thought-provoking lyrics and moody tracks as you would expect, met with upbeat memorable tracks such as summer anthem Little Things.

Track: Chris Brown feat Davido & Lojay – Sensational

A feel good anthem, great collaboration of artists who have all had great singles throughout the year. An impressive blend of two genres – R’n’B and Afrobeats with pop appeal. Seamless flow on the track, and an equally appealing perfectly choreographed music video to match.

Sophia Marie

Album: Anne-Marie – Unhealthy

Released in July, this album is full of sass and style. The title track features Shania Twain and has a really cool country twist. I listened to an interview with Anne-Marie about how she was so excited to be doing a track with Shania Twain and then went onto releasing the new album with the track title. I also personally love this artist as she is local to Essex and I love how she has skyrocketed to success! She is also best friends with two great friends of mine who work at Sophisticated so I am a huge supporter!

Track: Niall Horan – Heaven

Amazing lyrics and such beautiful music. I personally love this song and play it often on my Sunday breakfast show.

Spencer Carter

Album: Kylie Minogue – Tension

Padam? You bet I do! The album that just returned Kylie to a level none of us were really expecting. All killers, no fillers, it’s a fusion of classic pop and cutting edge electronica which you cannot fail to move your feet to. A genuinely euphoric album with some clever lyrics and intricate musical breaks. Worthy of its (global) number one place.

Track: Delta Goodrem – Back To Your Heart

A song I’ve played to death on my show – The Weekend Wind Up – this is an unashamedly BIG song, with soaring vocals, a killer hook and almost anthemic feel. It’s a return to the charts for Delta Goodrem, reminding us what a superb songwriter and musician she is. Deserves to be played loud!

Steve Robertson

Album: Peter Gabriel – i/o

It’s taken 28 years for this album to be released and although it didn’t come out until December, it’s been an album of the year as I’ve heard each track when released each month (or rather, each full moon).

This has the unmistakable Peter Gabriel sound from the opening note to the last track. With both Bright-Side and Dark-Side remixes, it’s his longest album to date and there are no fillers here. When given a choice of versions of the track my personal preference so far is for the Bright-Side mixes.

Track: Depeche Mode – Ghosts Again

It’s a great sounding song from the Basildon band, deservedly reaching the top 20 singles chart. The emotion of Dave Gahan’s voice really strikes a chord.

Tony Smith

Album: Chase & Status – 2 RUFF, Vol 1

Chase & Status are representing the new wave of jungle and D’n’B, well known for their singles Baddadan with Bou, featuring Irah, Flowdan, Trigga and Takura on vocals, and Disconnect with Becky Hill. Both tracks are all-out anthems that took over many stages and sound systems including my own gigs during 2023’s festival season.

Track: Fred Again and Obongjayar – adore u

Fred Again is producer Frederick Gibson and Obongjayar is a London-based Nigerian musician. This track was released on August 11, and Obongiayar made this song for his little brother, while Fred Again made it for his little sister without knowing this. The track has a unique vibe that set it out against other chart pop songs. Fred Again performed the track solo at Glastonbury in June.

Vic Damhar

Album: Cleo Sol – Gold

Gold pushes Cleo’s blissful vocal boundaries to great effect, sounding more powerful than ever. She explores the breadth of her range with growing confidence. It’s an album that transposes her songwriting, covering topics from Love, Faith and Self Belief. This collection is arguably Cleo Sol’s strongest compositions to date.

Track: Nia Archives and Maverick Sabre – No Need 2 Be Sorry, Call Me (Mount Kimbie remix)

Nia Archives released an EP of remixes of tracks from Sunrise Bang Ur Head Against Tha Wall. The five track remix collection features No Need 2 Be Sorry, Call Me by electronic pioneers Dominic Maker and Kai Campos AKA Mount Kimbie. A must listen and appreciation to everyone who worked on this track!

Xanthe Bearman

Album: Georgia Crandon – Georgia Crandon

I’ve been following Georgia’s career for a few years and am delighted that she released her superb debut album in 2023, blending soul and retro pop with her trademark heartfelt lyrics.

Track: Miley Cyrus – Flowers

This track was number 1 for 10 weeks from the end of January – it’s one of those songs that you find yourself singing along to and then repeating lines at various times during the year!

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Presenters’ Picks – 2023

Phoenix FM presenters choose their favourite albums and tracks of the year …

Alan Johnson

Album: Tiësto – Drive

The Dutch DJ who brought us the masterpiece of trance Adagio for Strings has changed styles a lot since his first album 22 years ago. Drive is largely radio-friendly pop and includes a number of tracks previously released as singles such as The Business with the uncredited richly deep vocals of James “Yami” Bell, one of its co-writers, and Hot In It with the confident exuberance of Charlie XCX. I also enjoyed Bet My Dollar with Freya Ridings as well as one of the catchiest songs I’ve heard in a long while – once Tate McRae is in my head pretty much all I know (is) it’s 10:35!

Track: John Summit & Hayla – Where You Are

2023 seemed to be the year of the re-working of 90s anthems, some more than once – such as Robert Miles’ Children featuring heavily in Switch Disco’s massive React as well as on Closer by Bou featuring Slay, or the Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony also getting drum ‘n’ bass remixes by the sensational Issey Cross on Bittersweet Goodbye and on Sigma’s Adrenaline Rush featuring Morgan. I liked something about all of those but I’ve chosen this original song by a relative newcomer to the dance music scene along with his fellow rising star and her powerful vocals on the track which the pair co-wrote along with others. On its release Hayla described Where You Are as encapsulating the feeling of longing – of tossing and turning at night wondering about that person who is special to you but who isn’t with you. This is undoubtedly an EDM future classic.

Andy Furneaux

Album: T-Pain – On Top Of The Covers

Not so many years ago, this artist was well known for coming out with material using autotune. His music was a little bit like Marmite – you either hated it or loved it, but it sold well; I’m Sprung and Bartender with Akon are the hits that come to mind. But with this release in 2023, the autotune was removed and we’re stripped back to T-Pain’s actual vocals, and what a pleasant surprise it is!

I was intrigued by the album because of songs I’ve always loved, including A Change Is Gonna Come, Tennessee Whiskey and That’s Life. Full credit to an artist who has battled with mental health as a result of big success, followed by huge criticism, from folks who just didn’t like his style. Respect due for the respect he’s given to the artists who wrote this music & the way he’s tackled it. Wonderful stuff!

Track: T-Pain – A Change Is Gonna Come

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a huge fan of Sam Cooke, his distinctive voice and his music. Over the years, so many artists have covered Sam’s songs. I must be honest – I was never expecting T-Pain to cover such an important song in black music history. This song is never more important, even more so in 2023, for us to find equality for all mankind. And I found myself blown away by T-Pain’s efforts to do this song justice, while getting the message across. So this wins my vote!

Andy Gardener

Album: Pynch – Howling At A Concrete Moon

The Londoners’ debut album was well worth the wait, fusing pop guitars, glitchy synths and dancey drumbeats with emotive personal and political lyrics. The Simpsons fans (the title comes from a poem in an episode) caught the mood of growing up in austere Britain perfectly. The album came out back in April but I knew on first listen that I wouldn’t enjoy another one as much as this.

Track: Oslo Twins – Miss Yesterday

The Bristol newcomers created pop perfection with Miss Yesterday, taken from their debut EP Back To Nothing. A shimmering upbeat slice of dreampop with an 80s touch, Oslo Twins were one of my discoveries of 2023 and had two tracks in my top ten of the year.

Andy Gilson

Album: The Pretenders – Relentless

Still going strong after all these years with one of their best offerings yet.

Track: The Pretenders – Let The Sun Come In

The best track on the album – Chrissie Hynde sounding as good as ever.

Antonia Jones

Album: André 3000 – New Blue Sun

André 3000’s long-awaited album is a unique masterpiece. The entirely instrumental and flute-based tracks transcend genres, and the album is a great way to introduce listeners to the music and allow them to create their own lyrics. This bold move highlights André 3000’s prowess in curating a timeless playlist, which is why I’ve picked this as my album of the year.

Track: Tyla – On and On

Tyla’s latest single brings back the upbeat rhythm, and is pure fun. The catchy melody creates a vibrant and energetic mood for fans and is a refreshing reminder that music has the power to uplift spirits.

Ben Simmons

Album: Kylie Minogue – Tension

I’ve loved pretty much everything Kylie has done since I Should Be So Lucky. Padam Padam is currently in my show intro every week as well.

Track: Miley Cyrus – Flowers

Love the song. Love the Hemsworth controversy. Love listening to it after Bruno Mars!

Bob Simpson

Album: Peter Gabriel – i/o

I’m still absorbing this album. His first solo studio album for 21 years is full of interesting very listenable tracks full of Gabriel’s quirkiness that hooks you in and gets your attention. I need to listen another dozen times to fully appreciate it and that’s the point. It’s worth it.

Track: The Beatles – Now and Then

No surprises there then! As a lifelong fan it had to be. It was more of a landmark occasion than a song. The last Beatles song. Should it have been done? I’m not sure but I’m glad we’ve got it. It sounds modern in its production and strikes me that it’s a bit like time travel, John Lennon’s part from the 70s, George Harrison’s contribution from the 90s, with Ringo and Paul finishing off in 2023, as well as some added harmonies originally recorded in the 60’s. The result – a good (not brilliant) song that made it to number 1 in the UK. That’s good enough for me.

Claire Gevaux

Album: OST – Barbie the Movie

Written and produced by Mark Ronson, this album saw some amazing collaborations but the genius track of I’m Just Ken showed musical influences from the 1930s musicals to West Side Story to Slash on guitar!

Track: Miley Cyrus feat Brandi Carlile – Thousand Miles

A great track from the Endless Summer Vacation album featuring Brandi Carlile who I love – their voices melt together.

Daniel Gregory

Album: Kamaal Williams – Stings

Another blossoming light on the London jazz scene, Kamaal’s album took root in the heady days of the pandemic, and those solitary moments inspired him to dig even deeper into his innermost creative realms. This really is a blissful trip off the beaten track into the colourful fields beyond.

Track: Yoni Mayrez – Palms

This single was released in April of this year ahead of his exquisite album Dybbuk Tse! If you are looking to expand your horizons through masterful blends of hip-hop, jazz and electronica, then look no further than this London-based producer to start your journey. This was the song that thankfully brought him to my attention.

Daren Mootoo

Album: The Rolling Stones – Hackney Diamonds

The Stones seem to have been around since the Stone Age and despite some line-up changes, they continue to stick to a tried and tested formula and don’t try to run with the crowd. With the Stones, you know exactly what to expect and Hackney Diamonds shows they are once again sticking to their blues roots. It’s also great that they are all very accomplished musicians and that always shows. Production is on point, particularly noticeable when you play it loud!

Track: Kylie Minogue – Padam Padam

Not to be confused with the Edith Piaf song of the same name, this track was definitely the earworm of the summer and Kylie’s first number one in over a decade. Taking a leaf out of Madonna’s book, Kylie has come up with a very current dance sound by enlisting great (and not always well-known) songwriters and producers – in this case Pete Mycroft and Ina Wroldsen. Trancey vocals over a driving beat meant this song was a hit on any club dance floor, but also on car stereos pounding up and down Britain’s motorways!

Gareth Williams

Album: Jake Shears – Last Man Dancing

Whereas his first solo album had been good, but not great, his sophomore release is pretty much a flawless pop album. Having rediscovered his love of disco, it’s unashamedly fun, songs with one eye on the dancefloor whilst the other is on the bedroom. It also has an array of special guests including Kylie and Jane Fonda, but it’s US singer Amber Martin who steals the show on the duet Devil Came Down The Dance Floor, a trick she pulled off when she joined him live at Glastonbury. His Village Underground gig was also my gig of the year! Honourable mentions: Blur – The Ballad Of Darren, Queens Of The Stone Age – In Times New Roman.

Track: The Joy Formidable – Feel My Heat

Clocking in at over 15 minutes long, not an obvious choice or a single, but in a year I rediscovered the band and saw them live for the first time this was a song that I just had to keep returning to. Driving guitars, throbbing synths, party bongos (I may have made that last bit up) – it had it all. Brilliant. Honourable mentions: Blur – The Narcissist, Creeper – Black Heaven.

George Hanlon

Album: Hak Baker – World’s End FM

This is a wonderfully fun, deep and personal exploration into the world and upbringings of Hak Baker. The album consists of 6 wonderful tracks in my opinion and has stuck with me since its release.

Track: Hak Baker – Full On

My track of the year has to be the one that accompanies my album of the year. This 2 minute 43 seconds track is, in my honest opinion, the coolest track all year. Most may not have heard of this song but please go out and give it a listen. Super catchy and rhythmic instrumentals the whole way out, and Hak’s working-class, east London voice supports his everyman lyrics brilliantly. Truly the best track of the year!

Ian Cash

Album: The Rolling Stones – Hackney Diamonds

Their first new material in 18 years and boy was it worth the wait; from first song Angry through to Rolling Stone Blues, every song is superb. The rough sound of guitar in Bite my Head Off is very stones raw, while Mess it Up has a chorus that easily gets stuck in you head very quickly! If this is the Stones’ last album what a way to go out, amazing!

Track: Blur – The Narcissist

The first time I heard this I wasn’t a massive fan but I listened again and again and now it turned into my favourite tune of 2023, such a chilled tune initially it builds into a really upbeat tune that only Albarn and Coxon could do, would love to hear this song live in a stadium one day, what a track!

Jo Bailey

Album: ARXX – Ride Or Die

The Brighton alt/pop/garage duo Hanni Pidduck and Clara Townsend have worked non stop for years, gigging, writing and building a huge fanbase. They’re at the point of making it even bigger and the album shows the tracks of their journey over the years.

Songs from their early years such as the rockier Stuck On You from 2018, which has been reworked to a gentler harmonic layered beauty, to Not Alone, one of the best tracks I feel ever written. So sit back and take in the glorious 11 track (well, 12 tracks with the fab outro) Ride Or Die Album from ARXX.

Track: Sophie Griffiths – Power Cut

It’s so difficult to choose your favourite single of the year. I’ve been lucky enough to have had many amazing artists from Essex and beyond, on my drive live sessions this year, so I’ve gone for a local artist that I’ve caught live many times. This track is taken from Sophie’s EP Note To Self. It’s a pop/alt track that is a total earworm. There’s no way you can listen to this song and not sing along at the chorus.

The Brentwood singer/songwriter says the subject matter came about from the way she was feeling at the time. “I was exhausted. I was overworking, overthinking and just not allowing myself time off.” Something a lot of us can relate to, no matter what age we are. 2023 has been a big year for Sophie. I’m excited to see what 2024 has in store.

John Chubb

Album: Eddie Chacon – Sundown

A fantastic collection of soulful and jazzy tunes with superb vocals.

Track: Peter Gabriel – Road To Joy

A superb song from someone whose talent has graced the music scene for well over five decades, but who still has much to offer.

Keith Ball

Album: Justin-Lee Schultz – Just In The Moment

Still only 17, Justin-Lee is a prodigy who released his debut album at the age of 13. He has an artistic maturity which far surpasses most musicians of his time.

Track: Justin-Lee Schultz – Fellowship

This collaboration with saxophonist Dave Koz is a definite highlight.

Kev Piggott

Album: Ellie Goulding – Higher Than Heaven

A very understated artist. This album has an 80s disco vibe; each track is an absolute banger. A fun pop album – it you haven’t heard it have a listen.

Track: Miley Cyrus – Flowers

Just because it was a catchy summer tune and I liked it!

Madeline Christy

Album: Noah Kahan – Stick Season

Northern Attitude and Drunk Dial have been major standout tracks this year. I’ve really enjoyed listening to Noah revisit tracks on this album and rerecord with the likes of Hozier, Kacey Musgraves and Post Malone.

Track: Katy Hurt – What Have You Got To Lose

I was absolutely thrilled to have Katy feature on the show this year. This particular track has a great bluesy country sound and really showcases Katy’s great songwriting skills.

Mandy Cullen

Album: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Council Skies

I have to confess that I don’t give either of the Gallagher brothers a lot of time these days, their best work was definitely done when they were together making music as Oasis. But Noel Gallagher’s latest album Council Skies is a little bit different. The title track is curiously atmospheric, then develops into an excellent pop song which sounds great; and it features Johnny Marr on guitar which is always a bonus. The title track does set the tone for the rest of the album with Pretty Boy almost being its twin. But ‘Dead To The World’ is a beautifully understated. And ‘Open The Door, See What You Find’ is an excellent track and has ‘single’ written all of it. To be honest, this album was a nice surprise, I hadn’t really expected much, but boy, I was wrong. It is a great listen.

Track: Simple Minds – Solstice Kiss

I’ve always been a big fan of Simple Minds, I love almost everything they’ve done, and they’re a terrific watch live too. So I was super excited to hear they’d had a new album out last year; (which, to my shame, I still haven’t listened to in its entirety) but when Solstice Kiss was released to coincide with the summer solstice, I was delighted. From its Celtic-sounding opening, right through with the moody melodic riff, it’s just brilliant. When a band comes back with a new single in a new era, they often don’t get it right, but Simple Minds have really found the right balance with Solstice Kiss. If you’ve yet to hear it, go give it a listen.

Michelle Ward

Album: Steve Mortimer – Psalms From The Gutter

Steve Mortimer is a Chelmsford-based singer/songwriter and producer, who produced a stunning debut album taking you on his journey with mental health. Emotions are raw and there are uplifting songs too. It’s an album to listen to from start to finish. Steve has collaborated on this album with many local singers and musicians who, inspired by him, wanted to be part of his musical expression. Independent music at its best.

Track: Beat Bakery feat George Bone – One More Time

This track kicks off strongly and continues to build into a massive chorus. Mike and Hypnotyst from Beat Bakery have been working with an array of artists this year including Feel Alive feat Milena and Boxes ft Michelle Suzanne. Even more music to come from them in 2024 – watch them rise! There were a few contenders for my track of the year and I have to give special mentions to The Jo Jo Man Band – Fuzz Box, Joby Fox – Falling, Abi Flynn – My Own Woman, Raphael Tate – Gotta Hold On, Adam Wedd – Fomo and George Bone – Valencia. All my chosen tracks are independent musicians too, the talent out there is outstanding and 2023 has been exceptionally beautiful musically.

Mike Porter

Album: Corinne Bailey Rae – Black Rainbows

I think she is a very talented and very underrated artiste.

Track: The Rolling Stones – Mess It Up

I am in awe of these guys. I have no idea how they are still alive let along releasing songs and touring.

Natalie Bays

Album: Lana Del Ray – Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd

This album could be the soundtrack to your dreams. Lana Del Rey has always been known for her very specific tragic melodic sound – however this album really brings the inner turmoil up a notch with intense crescendos (Did you know (…)), experimental sounds (A & W) and almost psychedelic tracks scattered through which wouldn’t feel out of place in a ‘Twin Peaks’ soundtrack (Jon Batiste Interlude). There are the usual Del Rey flavours in dark, smokey, contextually familiar songs (Sweet) but this album is deeper and far more intense. One for any sound art lover, or anyone who wants to imagine what it is like being at art school.

Track: Cassö x RAYE x D-Block Europe – Prada

Despite questionable lyrics this euphoric sound has not left my mind since its release in the summer. The unofficial uptempo remix of D-Block’s ‘Ferrari Horses’; this track demonstrates the power of collaboration – a gritty South London rap remixed with the catchy beat and sounds of rising star Cassö. This Dance hit gets you moving as much as those timeless classics from the mid-late 90s. Hoping to hear more from this collaboration!

Nick Field

Album: Paramore – This Is Why

Not another collection of Misery Business-lites (their biggest hit for anyone too young or with short memories), but a great combination of an older and wiser sound with enough pop-punk energy to feel like the Paramore we know has never been away.

Track: This Boy’s Fire – Permanent Vacation

I always try to give a local act a nod here and this band features veterans of the 2000s rock scene who haven’t let their flair for a good tune go to waste since then. Musical influences from various eras combine with an urgency that keeps you very much in the present moment.

Nigel Fitzmaurice

Album: Victoria Monet – Jaguar II

Total neo-Soul with a contemporary smooth soul feel.

Track: Jessica Ware – Hello Love

Total romantic Philly soul – a true proper single for 2023.

Patrick Sherring

Album: Lauren Daigle – Lauren Daigle

Christian singer/songwriter Lauren’s 3rd studio album is the first for a mainstream label. It has already been nominated for Grammy and Billboard awards. The 23 tracks demonstrate her breadth of writing, though the majority are love songs. The production also presents variety. Soulful, jazzy, R’n’B influenced.

Track: Joby Fox – Falling

Northern Irish singer/songwriter and humanitarian activist, Joby came to the Phoenix FM studios and this song was part of his set. This jazzy haunting track is about the healing power of a relationship to help overcome troubling news images.

Paul Golder

Album: Pacifica – Freak Scene

Blur are my favourite band, so a comeback album in 2023 that doesn’t sound like Think Tank should be my shoo-in as my top album. But I felt that although they perfectly captured their transition into middle-age, it didn’t have quite enough energy for me (and I need energy) so I have plumped for the debut album from a female indie duo from Buenos Aires. They have quite a big following online after recording a lot of videos of them playing Strokes covers, but they’re much better than The Strokes. 30 minutes of perfect powerpop – and a great live set this month at the Islington Academy too. Honourable mentions to Blur and to Belgian band Annabel Lee, whose album Drift perfectly captures that early 90s slacker rock feel.

Track: Blur – The Narcissist

I couldn’t ignore them completely – a beautifully melancholic comeback with the band at their best. And how good was this live in the summer, too!

Rob Harvey

Album: Depeche Mode – Memento Mori

This album for me has been more a return to some of what I love about Depeche Mode’s sound, as it marries clever melodies and interesting synthetics, with some strong songs. This able was created before the loss of Andy Fletcher and yet has a spark new spark of energy, care of collaborations in some writing. This outing for the band is the most complete to my tastes in a good few years.

Track: Blackcardburning feat Neil Francis – Love In Control

This song was a favourite for my show during its release from the album, Watching Sleepers. The album was written and produced by Mark Hockings, who is one half of mesh a band who have had a long pedigree of great albums. And live shows This song, to me is so warm and up lifting, and not just because of the way Mark has created it but also by the huge voice of Neil Francis, that lifts this song to a high plain.- It is a song that almost feels like a Christmas love song, yet it was release earlier in the year and to me lives on anytime.

Scott Ross

Album: The Rolling Stones – Hackney Diamonds

This includes some great new, gritty Rock ‘n’ Roll tracks like Angry, Live By The Sword, Mess It Up and Whole Wide World, which are sure to become tomorrow’s future classics.

What’s more, the material is unmistakably authentic Stones. To my ears the band still sounds as fresh and raw as the day they launched 61 years ago, and that has to be truly amazing!

Track: Jake Shears – Too Much Music

2023 has been one of those good years with loads of great tracks from which to choose, so my single track of the year says it all “Too Much Music” from the ex-colead vocalist of The Scissor Sisters is an absolute belter! Having said that, I don’t think you can ever have too much music!

Siobhan Copland

Album: Jorja Smith – Falling or Flying

Jorja shows her maturity as an artist and offers thought-provoking lyrics and moody tracks as you would expect, met with upbeat memorable tracks such as summer anthem Little Things.

Track: Chris Brown feat Davido & Lojay – Sensational

A feel good anthem, great collaboration of artists who have all had great singles throughout the year. An impressive blend of two genres – R’n’B and Afrobeats with pop appeal. Seamless flow on the track, and an equally appealing perfectly choreographed music video to match.

Sophia Marie

Album: Anne-Marie – Unhealthy

Released in July, this album is full of sass and style. The title track features Shania Twain and has a really cool country twist. I listened to an interview with Anne-Marie about how she was so excited to be doing a track with Shania Twain and then went onto releasing the new album with the track title. I also personally love this artist as she is local to Essex and I love how she has skyrocketed to success! She is also best friends with two great friends of mine who work at Sophisticated so I am a huge supporter!

Track: Niall Horan – Heaven

Amazing lyrics and such beautiful music. I personally love this song and play it often on my Sunday breakfast show.

Spencer Carter

Album: Kylie Minogue – Tension

Padam? You bet I do! The album that just returned Kylie to a level none of us were really expecting. All killers, no fillers, it’s a fusion of classic pop and cutting edge electronica which you cannot fail to move your feet to. A genuinely euphoric album with some clever lyrics and intricate musical breaks. Worthy of its (global) number one place.

Track: Delta Goodrem – Back To Your Heart

A song I’ve played to death on my show – The Weekend Wind Up – this is an unashamedly BIG song, with soaring vocals, a killer hook and almost anthemic feel. It’s a return to the charts for Delta Goodrem, reminding us what a superb songwriter and musician she is. Deserves to be played loud!

Steve Robertson

Album: Peter Gabriel – i/o

It’s taken 28 years for this album to be released and although it didn’t come out until December, it’s been an album of the year as I’ve heard each track when released each month (or rather, each full moon).

This has the unmistakable Peter Gabriel sound from the opening note to the last track. With both Bright-Side and Dark-Side remixes, it’s his longest album to date and there are no fillers here. When given a choice of versions of the track my personal preference so far is for the Bright-Side mixes.

Track: Depeche Mode – Ghosts Again

It’s a great sounding song from the Basildon band, deservedly reaching the top 20 singles chart. The emotion of Dave Gahan’s voice really strikes a chord.

Tony Smith

Album: Chase & Status – 2 RUFF, Vol 1

Chase & Status are representing the new wave of jungle and D’n’B, well known for their singles Baddadan with Bou, featuring Irah, Flowdan, Trigga and Takura on vocals, and Disconnect with Becky Hill. Both tracks are all-out anthems that took over many stages and sound systems including my own gigs during 2023’s festival season.

Track: Fred Again and Obongjayar – adore u

Fred Again is producer Frederick Gibson and Obongjayar is a London-based Nigerian musician. This track was released on August 11, and Obongiayar made this song for his little brother, while Fred Again made it for his little sister without knowing this. The track has a unique vibe that set it out against other chart pop songs. Fred Again performed the track solo at Glastonbury in June.

Vic Damhar

Album: Cleo Sol – Gold

Gold pushes Cleo’s blissful vocal boundaries to great effect, sounding more powerful than ever. She explores the breadth of her range with growing confidence. It’s an album that transposes her songwriting, covering topics from Love, Faith and Self Belief. This collection is arguably Cleo Sol’s strongest compositions to date.

Track: Nia Archives and Maverick Sabre – No Need 2 Be Sorry, Call Me (Mount Kimbie remix)

Nia Archives released an EP of remixes of tracks from Sunrise Bang Ur Head Against Tha Wall. The five track remix collection features No Need 2 Be Sorry, Call Me by electronic pioneers Dominic Maker and Kai Campos AKA Mount Kimbie. A must listen and appreciation to everyone who worked on this track!

Xanthe Bearman

Album: Georgia Crandon – Georgia Crandon

I’ve been following Georgia’s career for a few years and am delighted that she released her superb debut album in 2023, blending soul and retro pop with her trademark heartfelt lyrics.

Track: Miley Cyrus – Flowers

This track was number 1 for 10 weeks from the end of January – it’s one of those songs that you find yourself singing along to and then repeating lines at various times during the year!

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Presenters’ Picks – 2023

Phoenix FM presenters choose their favourite albums and tracks of the year …

Alan Johnson

Album: Tiësto – Drive

The Dutch DJ who brought us the masterpiece of trance Adagio for Strings has changed styles a lot since his first album 22 years ago. Drive is largely radio-friendly pop and includes a number of tracks previously released as singles such as The Business with the uncredited richly deep vocals of James “Yami” Bell, one of its co-writers, and Hot In It with the confident exuberance of Charlie XCX. I also enjoyed Bet My Dollar with Freya Ridings as well as one of the catchiest songs I’ve heard in a long while – once Tate McRae is in my head pretty much all I know (is) it’s 10:35!

Track: John Summit & Hayla – Where You Are

2023 seemed to be the year of the re-working of 90s anthems, some more than once – such as Robert Miles’ Children featuring heavily in Switch Disco’s massive React as well as on Closer by Bou featuring Slay, or the Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony also getting drum ‘n’ bass remixes by the sensational Issey Cross on Bittersweet Goodbye and on Sigma’s Adrenaline Rush featuring Morgan. I liked something about all of those but I’ve chosen this original song by a relative newcomer to the dance music scene along with his fellow rising star and her powerful vocals on the track which the pair co-wrote along with others. On its release Hayla described Where You Are as encapsulating the feeling of longing – of tossing and turning at night wondering about that person who is special to you but who isn’t with you. This is undoubtedly an EDM future classic.

Andy Furneaux

Album: T-Pain – On Top Of The Covers

Not so many years ago, this artist was well known for coming out with material using autotune. His music was a little bit like Marmite – you either hated it or loved it, but it sold well; I’m Sprung and Bartender with Akon are the hits that come to mind. But with this release in 2023, the autotune was removed and we’re stripped back to T-Pain’s actual vocals, and what a pleasant surprise it is!

I was intrigued by the album because of songs I’ve always loved, including A Change Is Gonna Come, Tennessee Whiskey and That’s Life. Full credit to an artist who has battled with mental health as a result of big success, followed by huge criticism, from folks who just didn’t like his style. Respect due for the respect he’s given to the artists who wrote this music & the way he’s tackled it. Wonderful stuff!

Track: T-Pain – A Change Is Gonna Come

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a huge fan of Sam Cooke, his distinctive voice and his music. Over the years, so many artists have covered Sam’s songs. I must be honest – I was never expecting T-Pain to cover such an important song in black music history. This song is never more important, even more so in 2023, for us to find equality for all mankind. And I found myself blown away by T-Pain’s efforts to do this song justice, while getting the message across. So this wins my vote!

Andy Gardener

Album: Pynch – Howling At A Concrete Moon

The Londoners’ debut album was well worth the wait, fusing pop guitars, glitchy synths and dancey drumbeats with emotive personal and political lyrics. The Simpsons fans (the title comes from a poem in an episode) caught the mood of growing up in austere Britain perfectly. The album came out back in April but I knew on first listen that I wouldn’t enjoy another one as much as this.

Track: Oslo Twins – Miss Yesterday

The Bristol newcomers created pop perfection with Miss Yesterday, taken from their debut EP Back To Nothing. A shimmering upbeat slice of dreampop with an 80s touch, Oslo Twins were one of my discoveries of 2023 and had two tracks in my top ten of the year.

Andy Gilson

Album: The Pretenders – Relentless

Still going strong after all these years with one of their best offerings yet.

Track: The Pretenders – Let The Sun Come In

The best track on the album – Chrissie Hynde sounding as good as ever.

Antonia Jones

Album: André 3000 – New Blue Sun

André 3000’s long-awaited album is a unique masterpiece. The entirely instrumental and flute-based tracks transcend genres, and the album is a great way to introduce listeners to the music and allow them to create their own lyrics. This bold move highlights André 3000’s prowess in curating a timeless playlist, which is why I’ve picked this as my album of the year.

Track: Tyla – On and On

Tyla’s latest single brings back the upbeat rhythm, and is pure fun. The catchy melody creates a vibrant and energetic mood for fans and is a refreshing reminder that music has the power to uplift spirits.

Ben Simmons

Album: Kylie Minogue – Tension

I’ve loved pretty much everything Kylie has done since I Should Be So Lucky. Padam Padam is currently in my show intro every week as well.

Track: Miley Cyrus – Flowers

Love the song. Love the Hemsworth controversy. Love listening to it after Bruno Mars!

Bob Simpson

Album: Peter Gabriel – i/o

I’m still absorbing this album. His first solo studio album for 21 years is full of interesting very listenable tracks full of Gabriel’s quirkiness that hooks you in and gets your attention. I need to listen another dozen times to fully appreciate it and that’s the point. It’s worth it.

Track: The Beatles – Now and Then

No surprises there then! As a lifelong fan it had to be. It was more of a landmark occasion than a song. The last Beatles song. Should it have been done? I’m not sure but I’m glad we’ve got it. It sounds modern in its production and strikes me that it’s a bit like time travel, John Lennon’s part from the 70s, George Harrison’s contribution from the 90s, with Ringo and Paul finishing off in 2023, as well as some added harmonies originally recorded in the 60’s. The result – a good (not brilliant) song that made it to number 1 in the UK. That’s good enough for me.

Claire Gevaux

Album: OST – Barbie the Movie

Written and produced by Mark Ronson, this album saw some amazing collaborations but the genius track of I’m Just Ken showed musical influences from the 1930s musicals to West Side Story to Slash on guitar!

Track: Miley Cyrus feat Brandi Carlile – Thousand Miles

A great track from the Endless Summer Vacation album featuring Brandi Carlile who I love – their voices melt together.

Daniel Gregory

Album: Kamaal Williams – Stings

Another blossoming light on the London jazz scene, Kamaal’s album took root in the heady days of the pandemic, and those solitary moments inspired him to dig even deeper into his innermost creative realms. This really is a blissful trip off the beaten track into the colourful fields beyond.

Track: Yoni Mayrez – Palms

This single was released in April of this year ahead of his exquisite album Dybbuk Tse! If you are looking to expand your horizons through masterful blends of hip-hop, jazz and electronica, then look no further than this London-based producer to start your journey. This was the song that thankfully brought him to my attention.

Daren Mootoo

Album: The Rolling Stones – Hackney Diamonds

The Stones seem to have been around since the Stone Age and despite some line-up changes, they continue to stick to a tried and tested formula and don’t try to run with the crowd. With the Stones, you know exactly what to expect and Hackney Diamonds shows they are once again sticking to their blues roots. It’s also great that they are all very accomplished musicians and that always shows. Production is on point, particularly noticeable when you play it loud!

Track: Kylie Minogue – Padam Padam

Not to be confused with the Edith Piaf song of the same name, this track was definitely the earworm of the summer and Kylie’s first number one in over a decade. Taking a leaf out of Madonna’s book, Kylie has come up with a very current dance sound by enlisting great (and not always well-known) songwriters and producers – in this case Pete Mycroft and Ina Wroldsen. Trancey vocals over a driving beat meant this song was a hit on any club dance floor, but also on car stereos pounding up and down Britain’s motorways!

Gareth Williams

Album: Jake Shears – Last Man Dancing

Whereas his first solo album had been good, but not great, his sophomore release is pretty much a flawless pop album. Having rediscovered his love of disco, it’s unashamedly fun, songs with one eye on the dancefloor whilst the other is on the bedroom. It also has an array of special guests including Kylie and Jane Fonda, but it’s US singer Amber Martin who steals the show on the duet Devil Came Down The Dance Floor, a trick she pulled off when she joined him live at Glastonbury. His Village Underground gig was also my gig of the year! Honourable mentions: Blur – The Ballad Of Darren, Queens Of The Stone Age – In Times New Roman.

Track: The Joy Formidable – Feel My Heat

Clocking in at over 15 minutes long, not an obvious choice or a single, but in a year I rediscovered the band and saw them live for the first time this was a song that I just had to keep returning to. Driving guitars, throbbing synths, party bongos (I may have made that last bit up) – it had it all. Brilliant. Honourable mentions: Blur – The Narcissist, Creeper – Black Heaven.

George Hanlon

Album: Hak Baker – World’s End FM

This is a wonderfully fun, deep and personal exploration into the world and upbringings of Hak Baker. The album consists of 6 wonderful tracks in my opinion and has stuck with me since its release.

Track: Hak Baker – Full On

My track of the year has to be the one that accompanies my album of the year. This 2 minute 43 seconds track is, in my honest opinion, the coolest track all year. Most may not have heard of this song but please go out and give it a listen. Super catchy and rhythmic instrumentals the whole way out, and Hak’s working-class, east London voice supports his everyman lyrics brilliantly. Truly the best track of the year!

Ian Cash

Album: The Rolling Stones – Hackney Diamonds

Their first new material in 18 years and boy was it worth the wait; from first song Angry through to Rolling Stone Blues, every song is superb. The rough sound of guitar in Bite my Head Off is very stones raw, while Mess it Up has a chorus that easily gets stuck in you head very quickly! If this is the Stones’ last album what a way to go out, amazing!

Track: Blur – The Narcissist

The first time I heard this I wasn’t a massive fan but I listened again and again and now it turned into my favourite tune of 2023, such a chilled tune initially it builds into a really upbeat tune that only Albarn and Coxon could do, would love to hear this song live in a stadium one day, what a track!

Jo Bailey

Album: ARXX – Ride Or Die

The Brighton alt/pop/garage duo Hanni Pidduck and Clara Townsend have worked non stop for years, gigging, writing and building a huge fanbase. They’re at the point of making it even bigger and the album shows the tracks of their journey over the years.

Songs from their early years such as the rockier Stuck On You from 2018, which has been reworked to a gentler harmonic layered beauty, to Not Alone, one of the best tracks I feel ever written. So sit back and take in the glorious 11 track (well, 12 tracks with the fab outro) Ride Or Die Album from ARXX.

Track: Sophie Griffiths – Power Cut

It’s so difficult to choose your favourite single of the year. I’ve been lucky enough to have had many amazing artists from Essex and beyond, on my drive live sessions this year, so I’ve gone for a local artist that I’ve caught live many times. This track is taken from Sophie’s EP Note To Self. It’s a pop/alt track that is a total earworm. There’s no way you can listen to this song and not sing along at the chorus.

The Brentwood singer/songwriter says the subject matter came about from the way she was feeling at the time. “I was exhausted. I was overworking, overthinking and just not allowing myself time off.” Something a lot of us can relate to, no matter what age we are. 2023 has been a big year for Sophie. I’m excited to see what 2024 has in store.

John Chubb

Album: Eddie Chacon – Sundown

A fantastic collection of soulful and jazzy tunes with superb vocals.

Track: Peter Gabriel – Road To Joy

A superb song from someone whose talent has graced the music scene for well over five decades, but who still has much to offer.

Keith Ball

Album: Justin-Lee Schultz – Just In The Moment

Still only 17, Justin-Lee is a prodigy who released his debut album at the age of 13. He has an artistic maturity which far surpasses most musicians of his time.

Track: Justin-Lee Schultz – Fellowship

This collaboration with saxophonist Dave Koz is a definite highlight.

Kev Piggott

Album: Ellie Goulding – Higher Than Heaven

A very understated artist. This album has an 80s disco vibe; each track is an absolute banger. A fun pop album – it you haven’t heard it have a listen.

Track: Miley Cyrus – Flowers

Just because it was a catchy summer tune and I liked it!

Madeline Christy

Album: Noah Kahan – Stick Season

Northern Attitude and Drunk Dial have been major standout tracks this year. I’ve really enjoyed listening to Noah revisit tracks on this album and rerecord with the likes of Hozier, Kacey Musgraves and Post Malone.

Track: Katy Hurt – What Have You Got To Lose

I was absolutely thrilled to have Katy feature on the show this year. This particular track has a great bluesy country sound and really showcases Katy’s great songwriting skills.

Mandy Cullen

Album: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Council Skies

I have to confess that I don’t give either of the Gallagher brothers a lot of time these days, their best work was definitely done when they were together making music as Oasis. But Noel Gallagher’s latest album Council Skies is a little bit different. The title track is curiously atmospheric, then develops into an excellent pop song which sounds great; and it features Johnny Marr on guitar which is always a bonus. The title track does set the tone for the rest of the album with Pretty Boy almost being its twin. But ‘Dead To The World’ is a beautifully understated. And ‘Open The Door, See What You Find’ is an excellent track and has ‘single’ written all of it. To be honest, this album was a nice surprise, I hadn’t really expected much, but boy, I was wrong. It is a great listen.

Track: Simple Minds – Solstice Kiss

I’ve always been a big fan of Simple Minds, I love almost everything they’ve done, and they’re a terrific watch live too. So I was super excited to hear they’d had a new album out last year; (which, to my shame, I still haven’t listened to in its entirety) but when Solstice Kiss was released to coincide with the summer solstice, I was delighted. From its Celtic-sounding opening, right through with the moody melodic riff, it’s just brilliant. When a band comes back with a new single in a new era, they often don’t get it right, but Simple Minds have really found the right balance with Solstice Kiss. If you’ve yet to hear it, go give it a listen.

Michelle Ward

Album: Steve Mortimer – Psalms From The Gutter

Steve Mortimer is a Chelmsford-based singer/songwriter and producer, who produced a stunning debut album taking you on his journey with mental health. Emotions are raw and there are uplifting songs too. It’s an album to listen to from start to finish. Steve has collaborated on this album with many local singers and musicians who, inspired by him, wanted to be part of his musical expression. Independent music at its best.

Track: Beat Bakery feat George Bone – One More Time

This track kicks off strongly and continues to build into a massive chorus. Mike and Hypnotyst from Beat Bakery have been working with an array of artists this year including Feel Alive feat Milena and Boxes ft Michelle Suzanne. Even more music to come from them in 2024 – watch them rise! There were a few contenders for my track of the year and I have to give special mentions to The Jo Jo Man Band – Fuzz Box, Joby Fox – Falling, Abi Flynn – My Own Woman, Raphael Tate – Gotta Hold On, Adam Wedd – Fomo and George Bone – Valencia. All my chosen tracks are independent musicians too, the talent out there is outstanding and 2023 has been exceptionally beautiful musically.

Mike Porter

Album: Corinne Bailey Rae – Black Rainbows

I think she is a very talented and very underrated artiste.

Track: The Rolling Stones – Mess It Up

I am in awe of these guys. I have no idea how they are still alive let along releasing songs and touring.

Natalie Bays

Album: Lana Del Ray – Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd

This album could be the soundtrack to your dreams. Lana Del Rey has always been known for her very specific tragic melodic sound – however this album really brings the inner turmoil up a notch with intense crescendos (Did you know (…)), experimental sounds (A & W) and almost psychedelic tracks scattered through which wouldn’t feel out of place in a ‘Twin Peaks’ soundtrack (Jon Batiste Interlude). There are the usual Del Rey flavours in dark, smokey, contextually familiar songs (Sweet) but this album is deeper and far more intense. One for any sound art lover, or anyone who wants to imagine what it is like being at art school.

Track: Cassö x RAYE x D-Block Europe – Prada

Despite questionable lyrics this euphoric sound has not left my mind since its release in the summer. The unofficial uptempo remix of D-Block’s ‘Ferrari Horses’; this track demonstrates the power of collaboration – a gritty South London rap remixed with the catchy beat and sounds of rising star Cassö. This Dance hit gets you moving as much as those timeless classics from the mid-late 90s. Hoping to hear more from this collaboration!

Nick Field

Album: Paramore – This Is Why

Not another collection of Misery Business-lites (their biggest hit for anyone too young or with short memories), but a great combination of an older and wiser sound with enough pop-punk energy to feel like the Paramore we know has never been away.

Track: This Boy’s Fire – Permanent Vacation

I always try to give a local act a nod here and this band features veterans of the 2000s rock scene who haven’t let their flair for a good tune go to waste since then. Musical influences from various eras combine with an urgency that keeps you very much in the present moment.

Nigel Fitzmaurice

Album: Victoria Monet – Jaguar II

Total neo-Soul with a contemporary smooth soul feel.

Track: Jessica Ware – Hello Love

Total romantic Philly soul – a true proper single for 2023.

Patrick Sherring

Album: Lauren Daigle – Lauren Daigle

Christian singer/songwriter Lauren’s 3rd studio album is the first for a mainstream label. It has already been nominated for Grammy and Billboard awards. The 23 tracks demonstrate her breadth of writing, though the majority are love songs. The production also presents variety. Soulful, jazzy, R’n’B influenced.

Track: Joby Fox – Falling

Northern Irish singer/songwriter and humanitarian activist, Joby came to the Phoenix FM studios and this song was part of his set. This jazzy haunting track is about the healing power of a relationship to help overcome troubling news images.

Paul Golder

Album: Pacifica – Freak Scene

Blur are my favourite band, so a comeback album in 2023 that doesn’t sound like Think Tank should be my shoo-in as my top album. But I felt that although they perfectly captured their transition into middle-age, it didn’t have quite enough energy for me (and I need energy) so I have plumped for the debut album from a female indie duo from Buenos Aires. They have quite a big following online after recording a lot of videos of them playing Strokes covers, but they’re much better than The Strokes. 30 minutes of perfect powerpop – and a great live set this month at the Islington Academy too. Honourable mentions to Blur and to Belgian band Annabel Lee, whose album Drift perfectly captures that early 90s slacker rock feel.

Track: Blur – The Narcissist

I couldn’t ignore them completely – a beautifully melancholic comeback with the band at their best. And how good was this live in the summer, too!

Rob Harvey

Album: Depeche Mode – Memento Mori

This album for me has been more a return to some of what I love about Depeche Mode’s sound, as it marries clever melodies and interesting synthetics, with some strong songs. This able was created before the loss of Andy Fletcher and yet has a spark new spark of energy, care of collaborations in some writing. This outing for the band is the most complete to my tastes in a good few years.

Track: Blackcardburning feat Neil Francis – Love In Control

This song was a favourite for my show during its release from the album, Watching Sleepers. The album was written and produced by Mark Hockings, who is one half of mesh a band who have had a long pedigree of great albums. And live shows This song, to me is so warm and up lifting, and not just because of the way Mark has created it but also by the huge voice of Neil Francis, that lifts this song to a high plain.- It is a song that almost feels like a Christmas love song, yet it was release earlier in the year and to me lives on anytime.

Scott Ross

Album: The Rolling Stones – Hackney Diamonds

This includes some great new, gritty Rock ‘n’ Roll tracks like Angry, Live By The Sword, Mess It Up and Whole Wide World, which are sure to become tomorrow’s future classics.

What’s more, the material is unmistakably authentic Stones. To my ears the band still sounds as fresh and raw as the day they launched 61 years ago, and that has to be truly amazing!

Track: Jake Shears – Too Much Music

2023 has been one of those good years with loads of great tracks from which to choose, so my single track of the year says it all “Too Much Music” from the ex-colead vocalist of The Scissor Sisters is an absolute belter! Having said that, I don’t think you can ever have too much music!

Siobhan Copland

Album: Jorja Smith – Falling or Flying

Jorja shows her maturity as an artist and offers thought-provoking lyrics and moody tracks as you would expect, met with upbeat memorable tracks such as summer anthem Little Things.

Track: Chris Brown feat Davido & Lojay – Sensational

A feel good anthem, great collaboration of artists who have all had great singles throughout the year. An impressive blend of two genres – R’n’B and Afrobeats with pop appeal. Seamless flow on the track, and an equally appealing perfectly choreographed music video to match.

Sophia Marie

Album: Anne-Marie – Unhealthy

Released in July, this album is full of sass and style. The title track features Shania Twain and has a really cool country twist. I listened to an interview with Anne-Marie about how she was so excited to be doing a track with Shania Twain and then went onto releasing the new album with the track title. I also personally love this artist as she is local to Essex and I love how she has skyrocketed to success! She is also best friends with two great friends of mine who work at Sophisticated so I am a huge supporter!

Track: Niall Horan – Heaven

Amazing lyrics and such beautiful music. I personally love this song and play it often on my Sunday breakfast show.

Spencer Carter

Album: Kylie Minogue – Tension

Padam? You bet I do! The album that just returned Kylie to a level none of us were really expecting. All killers, no fillers, it’s a fusion of classic pop and cutting edge electronica which you cannot fail to move your feet to. A genuinely euphoric album with some clever lyrics and intricate musical breaks. Worthy of its (global) number one place.

Track: Delta Goodrem – Back To Your Heart

A song I’ve played to death on my show – The Weekend Wind Up – this is an unashamedly BIG song, with soaring vocals, a killer hook and almost anthemic feel. It’s a return to the charts for Delta Goodrem, reminding us what a superb songwriter and musician she is. Deserves to be played loud!

Steve Robertson

Album: Peter Gabriel – i/o

It’s taken 28 years for this album to be released and although it didn’t come out until December, it’s been an album of the year as I’ve heard each track when released each month (or rather, each full moon).

This has the unmistakable Peter Gabriel sound from the opening note to the last track. With both Bright-Side and Dark-Side remixes, it’s his longest album to date and there are no fillers here. When given a choice of versions of the track my personal preference so far is for the Bright-Side mixes.

Track: Depeche Mode – Ghosts Again

It’s a great sounding song from the Basildon band, deservedly reaching the top 20 singles chart. The emotion of Dave Gahan’s voice really strikes a chord.

Tony Smith

Album: Chase & Status – 2 RUFF, Vol 1

Chase & Status are representing the new wave of jungle and D’n’B, well known for their singles Baddadan with Bou, featuring Irah, Flowdan, Trigga and Takura on vocals, and Disconnect with Becky Hill. Both tracks are all-out anthems that took over many stages and sound systems including my own gigs during 2023’s festival season.

Track: Fred Again and Obongjayar – adore u

Fred Again is producer Frederick Gibson and Obongjayar is a London-based Nigerian musician. This track was released on August 11, and Obongiayar made this song for his little brother, while Fred Again made it for his little sister without knowing this. The track has a unique vibe that set it out against other chart pop songs. Fred Again performed the track solo at Glastonbury in June.

Vic Damhar

Album: Cleo Sol – Gold

Gold pushes Cleo’s blissful vocal boundaries to great effect, sounding more powerful than ever. She explores the breadth of her range with growing confidence. It’s an album that transposes her songwriting, covering topics from Love, Faith and Self Belief. This collection is arguably Cleo Sol’s strongest compositions to date.

Track: Nia Archives and Maverick Sabre – No Need 2 Be Sorry, Call Me (Mount Kimbie remix)

Nia Archives released an EP of remixes of tracks from Sunrise Bang Ur Head Against Tha Wall. The five track remix collection features No Need 2 Be Sorry, Call Me by electronic pioneers Dominic Maker and Kai Campos AKA Mount Kimbie. A must listen and appreciation to everyone who worked on this track!

Xanthe Bearman

Album: Georgia Crandon – Georgia Crandon

I’ve been following Georgia’s career for a few years and am delighted that she released her superb debut album in 2023, blending soul and retro pop with her trademark heartfelt lyrics.

Track: Miley Cyrus – Flowers

This track was number 1 for 10 weeks from the end of January – it’s one of those songs that you find yourself singing along to and then repeating lines at various times during the year!

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