Chicago’s fiercely political metallic hardcore vets Racetraitor returned this year with the tremendous new album Creation and the Timeless Order of Things, and now all five members have made us lists of their favorite albums of 2023, including vocalist Mani Mostofi, guitarists Andrea Black and Daniel Binaei, bassist Brent Decker, and drummer Andy Hurley (also of Fall Out Boy).
The lists, most of which have commentary, include JPEGMAFIA & Danny Brown, The Hope Conspiracy, Zulu, ANOHNI and the Johnsons, MIKE, Outer Heaven, Cannibal Corpse, Jesus Piece, Restraining Order, PJ Harvey, Frozen Soul, Tomb Mold, Westside Gunn, Andre 3000, Peso Pluma, and more, as well as a couple albums by people contributed to Racetraitor’s new album. Tim Kinsella (Cap’n Jazz, Joan of Arc, etc) appears on “Black Creek/Red River” and the Tim Kinsella & Jenny Pulse album made Brent’s list, and Dennis Lyxzén (Refused, Fake Names) appears on “Pastoral Monolith” and the Fake Names album made Mani’s list.
Read on for all five lists, and to see what the band members had to say about each one…
RACETRAITOR’S FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2023
- JPEGMAFIA & Danny Brown – Scaring the Hoes
Damn this record works for me. It’s got a golden era of hip-hop feel, while being super fresh and experimental. All those people that are sad that André 3000 didn’t return with a hip-hop album just need to listen to JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown to get the hard hitting weirdness they crave.
- Kayhan Kalhor and Toumani Diabaté – The Sky is the Same Color Everywhere
Kayhan Kalhor is a big influence on the new Racetraitor record, particularly the closer Pangea Proxima. He just invokes so much space and introspection with his kamancheh (a bowed instrument played in Iran and neighboring countries). On “The Sky is the Same Color Everywhere” Kahlour and his collaborator Toumani Diabaté, who plays the Malian kora, pair wonderfully. I lay in the dark and let this trippy epic take away all the angst and tension I carry.
- The Hope Conspiracy – Confusion/Chaos/Misery
If you don’t love this record you just don’t like hardcore music. Confusion/Chaos/Misery might be my favorite output by them and that is saying a lot. Musically and lyrically, Hope Con boys could not make a more purpose driven collection of songs. It’s been in heavy rotation since the release weeks ago. Also people need to embrace EPs again. They can be so satisfying.
- Zulu – A New Tomorrow
At its hardcore heaviest “A New Tomorrow” is like being attacked by a bear and a wolverine at the same time. But what really makes the album a special listen for me is all the soul and neo-soul sections and samples. Zulu combines two genres I love into one unlikely space and makes it work. Of course, politically Zulu is my cup of team, thought provoking and radical, and the solidarity they have shown Palestinians has made me respect them all the more.
- Closet Witch – Chiaroscuro
We did a split with Closet Witch a few years ago. We didn’t know a single member of the band, never met. But I loved them so much and just cold DMed them one day and became one of my favorite releases Racetraitor has been a part of. I think Chiaroscuro is the natural next step for Closet Witch. The record is so intense and emotionally draining (in a good way). Chiaroscuro is almost nostalgic for me, as it reminds me of the flock of grind, proto-screamo, and chaotic hardcore bands that populated the midwest in the late ’90s with better production and songwriting. And I really appreciate how Mollie’s lyrics so elegantly uses personal trauma to provide social messaging about mental health, gender, power, and abuse.
- ANOHNI and the Johnsons – My Back Was a Bridge for You to Cross
Ever since I heard I Am A Bird Now when it came out, ANOHNI and the Johnsons have never left my rotation. My Back Was a Bridge for You to Cross is the closest ANOHNI has come to an activist album singing about social unrest and the climate crisis. The opener “It Must Change” hit me hard as an overtly melancholy anthem with the smallest hint of optimism. At times I hear Nina Simone and Lou Reed in these songs but ANOHNI is a singular artist.
- MIKE – Burning Desire
Just smooth, smart, underground hip-hop. I rock this one on a slow sunday and feel good.
- Dawn Ray’d – To Know the Light
I feel like Dawn Ray’d is more known for where they position themselves politically than their music. Something I am very familiar with. But that is a shame because they are really one of the best active black metal bands. To Know the Light delivers the massive swirling visceral anthems Dawn Ray’d is so masterful at writing but this time they lean more on folk instrumentation, melodies, and construction. By doing so the songs are less dissonant and ugly than prior releases, and provide, dare I say, inspiring black metal. Black metal puritans will hate it and that’s a win in my book.
- Janelle Monáe – The Age of Pleasure
As the title suggests this album is cool, neo-soul, and pure pleasure. Janelle always delivers and I thank her.
- Fake Names – Expendables
We all know that super groups usually disappoint. Super groups made up of punk icons in their 50s are usually even more iffy. But with the Expendables Fake Names does give a fuck and delivers a straight-to-the-point punk joy ride that simultaneously exists in 1985 D.C. and 1977 London. What is not to love here?
- Outer Heaven – Infinite Psychic Depths: Raw death metal great riffs and awesome production 10/10 would kill my parents to
- Cannibal Corpse – Chaos Horrific: Brutally heavy, great production, never disappoints .
- End It – Audiotree Live: Best non metal influenced HC band since Buried Alive IMO short punch musically interesting good balance of humor and seriousness
- Czarface – Czartificial Intelligence: Raw, grimes, catchy, kill Keith and logic guest spots, battle trick 10/10, comic book and wrestling samples can’t go wrong, el segundo reference
- Jesus Piece – So Unknown: Gets better w every record, brutal heavy, deep tissue massage for my ear drums
- Luggage – Hand Is Bad: Slint worship from Chicago. Power trio w the precision of Meshuggah if they were a noise rock band.
- Black Cross Hotel – Hex: Soon to take over music. Analogue sounding industrial from Chicago. All the catchy parts from every industrial band you like, with no filler, all killer.
- Zulu – A New Tomorrow: I love samples in hardcore, this band takes it to another level in a way that works really well. Heavy as hell. Message for our times.
- Mutoid Man – Mutants: Another ripper from this power trio , a seamless mix of eclectic influences, catchy, heavy, melodic in a very tasteful way.
- The Suffering – Our Fathers Turn in Their Graves: Scott Donough founding member of Bleeding Through does HM2 Grindcore that has some very thoughtful hooks and tasty moments that makes this stand out from others in the genre.
1. Yob – Elaborations of Carbon
2. Restraining Order – Locked in Time
3. Kali Malone – Does Spring Hide its Joy
4. Wolves in the Throne Room – Crypt of Ancestral Knowledge
5. Aridus – Serpent Moon
6. Christian Kjellvander – Hold Your Love Still
7. Hope Con – Confusion/Chaos/Misery
8. Pj Harvey – I Inside the Old Year Dying
9. The Third Mind – The Third Mind2
10. Scream – DC Special
1. Frozen Soul – Glacial Domination: Heavy, affecting perfection. My favorite band in DM.
2. Tomb Mold – The Enduring Spirit: Excellent prog/tech rebirth for an already amazing band. So many layers that need repeated visits to fully explore. Also my favorite band in DM.
3. Haken – Fauna
4. Alchemy of Flesh – By Will Alone
5. Westside Gunn – And Then Pray For Me
6. Enslaved – Heimdal
7. Offset – Set it Off
8. Blackbraid – II
9. End – The Sin of Human Frailty
10. The Ocean – Holocene
1. De La Soul – Buhloon Mindstate (30th anniversary): This is one of the best records of all time. This year they were able to finally stream it. My CD broke a long time ago.
2. Tim Kinsella + Jenny Pulse – Giddy Skelter: Tim and Jenny continually put out amazing records that pull from influences that I’m not super familiar with…I think this is their best so far.
3. Black Cross Hotel – Hex (Vinyl Release): Although originally released in 2022, the vinyl version of this record really makes it sound more analog and warm. They are the best thing going in Chicago right now!
4. Habak/Lagrimas Split EP: Habak is the best punk band right now. Was really stoked on these two songs released this year.
5. The Grateful Dead – Wake of the Flood: The Angel’s Share: Does the Dead need another expanded release? Probably not, but I will take it! Cool versions of some of their underrated songs.
6. Neil Young – Chrome Dreams: The official release of this record. Many of the songs are on other releases but I really like them in the context of the record. .
7. Peso Pluma – GENESIS: This record somehow sounds from the past and the future at the same time. A lot has been debated about this record. Most times missing the real culprits when it comes to the violence connected to the international drug trade.
8. The Circling Sun – Spirits: Spiritual Jazz collective from New Zealand.Amazing debut record.
9. Andre 3000 – New Blue Sun: This has been on repeat since it was released. I’m not really a fan of Outkast past Aquemini and didn’t know that this was the record I needed.
10. Dave Matthews Band – Walk Around the Moon: DMB for Life! Ask Yasi Salek!