It’s that time again… As we celebrate our seventh birthday and yet another year of music is on its way out, Music Republic Magazine announces our “Best Of 2023” round-up….
For new music, live music, established bands/artists and exciting new finds, we think it has been a very good year.
Music Republic Magazine’s contributors – our great bunch of talented writers and photographers – each came up with a definitive list of their personal “Best Of 2022”, before the editor’s own choices and the final list was decided upon…
Best Album, Best EP, Best Live Act, Best Festival, Best Male Artist, Best Female Artist, Best Band, Best New Artist, Best Live Album, Best Guitarist, Best Acoustic Artist, Best Book, Best Music Video, Best Producer, Best Song/Songwriters, Best interviewee….
Plus our tips for 2024 of who we think could do well – and the “Hot Contenders” who narrowly missed out on the main “Best Of” in each category…
This year, our “Lifetime Achievement” accolade is shared between two giants who have provided the soundtrack to many lives…
Heaven Part II: Rebecca Ferguson
After seven years, the X Factor 2010 runner-up (she wuz robbed!) is back with a breathtaking new album. It has to be heard. Her voice is so unique and her performance is faultless. No tours since 2018, she is back on the road for nine dates in spring 2024. Check out our exclusive interview and our five-star album review.
CMAT: Crazymad, for Me (stylized)
RAYE: My 21st Century Blues [ # 2 UK chart – Shania Twain stopped RAYE from top spot]
Cian Ducrot: Victory
Jackie Venson: Evolution Of Joy
Max Beesley: Zeus
Holly Humberstone: Paint My Bedroom Black
boygenius (stylized): The Record
Griff: Vertigo Vol 1
Alex Spencer: One Step Forward
Adult Leisure: Present State Of Joy And Grief
Eric Paslay: Perfect Stranger
Divorce: Heady Metal
boygenius: The Rest
Best Male Artist
Sir Elton John
Best Female Artist
CMAT – An artist who we say will break through in 2024. An artist who puts on a great visual show, and both vocally and the rest, she really brings it. Her 2023 album, Crazymad, for Me (stylized), is a belter. Watch her go…
The 1975 [Matty and the boys have still got it!]
Ocean Colour Scene
Canadian band: Half Moon Run
Best New Band
Alt Blk Era – Nottingham sisters who we tipped from their very first gig. Since then, signed to management, record deal, singles, BBC Radio 1 spins and sold out gigs. We told you….2024 they’ll go even further…
Divorce – Nottingham band to watch.
Meagre Martin – Berlin trio we rate highly.
Adult Leisure: Bristol band we really dig. Been tipping them for a good while now. Their second EP came out in November 2023: Present State of Joy and Grief. Cracking track “All For You” – see video below – is lifted from the excellent EP.
Picture Parlour: Caught this quirky and classy band at Neighbourhood Weekender in May this year, and mightily impressive they were too. We think they’ll break through in 2024. Good live act.
Gen and the Degenerates: One of the best acts of Brighton’s The Great Escape in the spring. Exciting to watch and fierce punky rock to listen or bop to. Gen is the photo top of the page too.
Incredibly soulful voice and way beyond his years songwriting from this 18-year old from Leicestershire, now London-based. If this talented kid is not a huge star and filling arenas around the world in the next few years, we may as well give up – and change to covering cat and dog shows, as we will obviously know nothing about music and spotting future stars. But we bloody well do….So watch him go postal!
STOP PRESS: On New Year’s Eve, 31st Dec 2023, Sekou will appear on Jool’s Holland’s Hootenanny on BBC 1. Check him out: Sekou really is sensational. He signed a record deal and at 18 bought a house in London. Kerchiing!
When the likes of Led Zep legend Jimmy Page praises your guitar playing, it may attract curious music fans to check you out… fear not, Ms Rosie Frater-Taylor’s fretboard skills are no let down and this is not hollow hype.
The 24-year-old UK singer and guitarist Rosie Frater-Taylor is an exciting new talent and we wait with anticipation for her incoming album, “Featherweight” (Cooking Vinyl) in Feb 2024).
This Nottingham youngster is the new Jake Bugg say many, with a touch of The Arctic Monkeys thrown in for good measure. We have been showing him some love from day one. Check out our interview with him in “Features Zone.”
This sublime voice, a throw back to the days of Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan stops traffic, especially when we realise she is just 19-years-old. The New York artist released “Anaïs Reno Live At PizzaExpress Live in London”, in November 2023 on PX Records. Jazz standards sprinkled with loveliness. It is quite special.
Born in Switzerland in 2003 to an opera singer father and violinist mother, Anaïs Reno moved with her parents to New York as a baby. At 12 years old, she began to sit in regularly at Birdland in New York at open mic nights.
After winning the 2016 Forte International Competition’s Platinum Award at Carnegie Hall, Anaïs went on to achieve second place at Michael Feinstein’s Great American Song Book Academy competition in the summer of 2018. At 14, the youngest contestant ever. At 16, Anaïs released her debut album “Lovesome Thing”, which debuted at number six in the jazz charts.
Kitty Liv: With her siblings, she was one third of the trio Kitty, Daisy and Lewis. Now solo, Kitty signed to Sunday Best Recordings who recently released her debut single, “Sweet Dreams”. Kitty has also been touring as support and in the band of movie star Kiefer Sutherland. Watch for a lot more from Kitty in 2024 and beyond. Big talent.
Australian youngster Jacotene wowed at Neighbourhood Weekender Festival in Warrington back in May this year, and at The Great Escape in Brighton, when she was just 17. Precocious talent, with a stunning voice and superb material; very on-trend. Her energy on stage is boundless. Likely to land a major label deal we think, and let’s hope the bookers get her back over here in spring/summer 2024 for more shows and festivals.
With a touch of George Ezra and James Bay about him perhaps, 20-year-old Bolton artist Felix dropped super single “Safe and Sound” as the first in a run of 2023 releases on Everybody’s Records. Produced by George Murphy (Yungblud, Bleach Lab, Hotel Lux), Felix played all instruments on the recent sessions aside from the drums. Liverpool-based, and a regular performer around Manchester, we have a lot of time for Felix who is one cool cat… [see what we did there?]
Best Live Act
Such a unique artist whose star is still on the ascent. Ciara Mary-Alice Thompson (27) aka CMAT is an Irish singer, songwriter, and musician who released her debut studio album, If My Wife New I’d Be Dead [knew is stylized new], was released in February 2022.
It entered the Irish Album Chart at number one. Her excellent second studio album, Crazymad, for Me [stylized] was released in October 2023. Lots of humour in her lyrics and this is quirky, classy pop writ large. More please…
His main stage Glastonbury debut in 2023 was his ‘Farewell’ from touring, and at 76-years-old, the superstar’s stunning two+ hour set was astounding. Fans from school and college age, to folk as old he is lapped it up, and TV viewers around the world were unanimous in their lavish praise, via social media.
Jackie Venson: Utterly brilliant US singer, songwriter and guitarist. It amazes us why she is not a household name globally. If she doesn’t tour over here soon then there is something wrong with the world.
Alt Blk Era: Nottingham sisters who really have something special. Live they kick butt. 2024 will be a big year for them…
Gen and Degenerates. Once seen, never forgotten. Smashed it at several festivals in 2023 and their energy could power the National Grid.
Best Live Album
Anaïs Reno Live At PizzaExpress Live in London
New York’s 19-year-old jazz sensation who has to be heard to be believed. Channeling the greats such as Ella and Ms Vaughan, this is a fabulous live album that showcases a classy and sublime voice.
Christone Kingfish Ingram in London
US blues star on Alligator Records who was recently a guest on “Later…With Jools Holland” on BBC TV.
Liam Gallagher Knebworth 22
Placebo Live Box Set – released on 15th Dec – is an extensive collection of career-spanning performances captured in Mexico, Spain and London. Remarkably, after more than 25 years of their career, the set includes the first live album the band have ever released – Collapse Into Never: Placebo Live In Europe 2023. It is also the first time any live stuff is available on vinyl.
The Weeknd Live At SoFi Stadium
RAYE: My 21st Century Symphony. Live at the Royal Albert Hall with The Heritage Orchestra. Beautiful…
Hellfest – France
The Great Escape, Brighton
Jackie Venson: Fabulous Texas-based artist. Triple threat – Voice, guitar and songwriting.
Toby Lee: Young exciting UK guitarist and singer/songwriter who started very young, and is coming of age in more ways than one. Live he and his band pack a punch and his vocals are now up there with the quality of his guitar licks. The song writing is coming on and he is developing into an excellent artist.
Steve Craddock: The Ocean Colour Scene and Paul Weller guitarist really is a smashing and creative player. Live with OCS, they just ended a big UK tour with a storming gig at London’s iconic Eventim Apollo, where The Modfather Mr Weller turned up to guest, along with PP Arnold.
Conor Selby: This young UK artist has matured nicely with his vocals, and his song writing, but his guitar playing was up there from day one. The Ray Charles influence is obvious from his vocal phrasing and soulfulness, and we look forward to much more to come from Connor, who is featured in one of our “Track Record” Q&As.
Sophie Lloyd: The sensational British guitarist tours huge venues globally in Machine Gun Kelly’s band, and has her own solo album due in 2024, “Imposter Syndrome”.
Best Acoustic Artist * can be solo artist or band
Australian-born, Sweden-based Hazlett released “Goodbye to the Valley Low” EP – six-tracks of delicate indie-folk – on 8th December, preceded by the beautiful single “Slow Running”. Follow-up to his debut album “Bloom Mountain” earlier this year, and fresh off the back of a hugely successful UK/EU tour with Wild Rivers and Josiah & The Bonnevilles.
Showhawk Duo: This acoustic instrumental duo need to be seen and heard to be believed. On paper; two dudes on acoustic guitars sat on chairs on huge festival stages in front of thousands around the world – including at Glastonbury – playing dance music, looks bonkers and a recipe for disaster.
See it and hear it and you’ll soon think differently. Their music-only version of the Faithless dance anthem “Insomnia” is outrageously good.
Nat Myers: US blues man Nat Myers is unashamedly nodding to the originators of raw acoustic blues from the front porch and the fields of America way back in day. Real blues. Back to its roots. As authentic as it comes. The Korean-American blues poet recently (October) saw his debut album “Yellow Peril” hit the top of the Billboard blues chart.
Clips of his work on-line got to the ears of Dan Auerbach, the Black Keys frontman and founder of Easy Eye Sound Records, who reached out and asked to meet up in Nashville. They co-wrote a few times, along with songwriter Pat McLaughlin and blues legend Alvin Youngblood Hart, eventually recording Nat’s debut album at Dan’s home in Music City. Nat will tour in France in January.
Paul Charles: Adventures In Wonderland
Our book of the year. Veteran live agent and artist manager Paul Charles of the Asgard Agency in London publishes his overdue memoir ‘Adventures in Wonderland’ via Irish publishers Hot Press. Full of interesting anecdotes of the Northern Irishman’s long career behind the scenes as a powerful and respected agent and talent manager. He writes about his encounters with The Beatles, The Kinks, Robert Plant, Van Morrison, The Rolling Stones, Carly Simon, The Police, U2, The Waterboys and dozens more, and his 30-year involvement in the Glastonbury Festival, where he books the acts for the acoustic stage.
The book is praised by best-selling authors Joseph O’Connor as “a wonderfully enjoyable memoir” and John Connelly as “a very fine piece of work”. Paul may be a music industry exec’ and a businessman in the business of music, but these pages scream loudly about his passion and deep love for music from a young age, and the respect he has for its makers.
Paul has managed Van Morrison, Ray Davies of The Kinks, The Waterboys and Dexys Midnight Runners, among others, and Tanita Tikaram [debut album sold nearly five million copies.] He has been agent to The Kinks, Robert Plant, Tom Waits, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Don McLean, Lonnie Donegan, Rory Gallagher, Marianne Faithfull, John Prine, Carly Simon, Jackson Browne, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Christy Moore, Taj Mahal, The Buzzcocks, The Undertones, Hothouse Flowers, Ronnie Spector and more.
Paul is also a successful crime writer and songwriter, with songs on albums by Kendrick Lamar, Norah Jones and others. Who says men cannot multi-task? The book features some great photographs too.
Boy George: Karma My Autobiography
Living The Beatles Legend: The Mal Evans Story by Kenneth Womack
Beatles ‘expert’ Kenneth Womack has done a sterling job here. The first full-length biography of Mal Evans, the Beatles’ treasured roadie, personal assistant, confidante and friend.
One of the few in The Fab Four’s inner circle, he died in 1976 and until now much of Mal’s life has not been in the public domain. Drawing on hundreds of exclusive interviews and with full access to Mal’s unpublished archives – including his personal diaries, manuscripts and memorabilia – Womack’s comprehensive research and unique access pays off, to deliver the first in-depth look at Mal’s life and career at the heart of the Beatles’ story.
Bernie Taupin: Lyricist to Elton John’s music, the pair were a musical dream team and responsible for decades of hit after hit, that are the soundtrack to literally billions of lives worldwide. This is his story…
Best Music Video
P.O.D. (Feat. Tatiana Shmayluk) – Afraid To Die
Peter Jackson (Director): Now and Then / The Beatles last song
beabadoobee & Laufey: The Way Things Go
Best DVD or Film or series
The Lost Weekend: A Love Story was released on 20th November on the Icon Film Channel and on 18th December on DVD, Blu-Ray and on digital platforms.
Film/Documentary: ‘Fight the Power: How Hip-Hop Changed the World’ Jan 2023
“Carlos” The Santana Journey – produced by Rudy Valdez (Sept 2023)
The Beatles last single “Now and Then” – Producers: Sir Paul McCartney, Giles Martin and Jeff Lynne
Best Song & Songwriter/s
All For You – Ella Henderson & Cian Ducrot
19th Hour : Griff
Hazlett: Slow Running
Jackie Venson: Flying + You Might Hear
Hattie Whitehead: Read My Mind
Rachael Sage: I Made A Case
Rebecca Ferguson: You Don’t Have To Leave [Written by Eg White and Rebecca Ferguson]
Si Connelly: Winter’s Song from his stunning 2023 album “nevertheless” (stylized lower case)
Lifetime Achievement Award
The Beatles – The band released their last ever song this year, the tear-jerking “Now and Then”, finishing off a rough John Lennon home-recorded voice and piano demo, utilising advances in technology to deliver a remarkable end result. This band’s influence is gargantuan.
No Beatles; no many, many, many bands and artists of the last six decades. We salute you Paul, John, George and Ringo. Not forgetting the likes of Sir George Martin and Brian Epstein.
The Rolling Stones
Still going strong with Keith having just celebrated his 80th birthday and Mick about five months ahead of him. Charlie Watts died in August 2021 at the age of 80. Ronnie Wood the baby of the band at 76. But on stage they have the energy of a bunch of rock and rollers half their age – the biggest grossing touring band of recent times.
Retirement? No chance…The band released their new album “Hackney Diamonds” in October 2023, their first set of original material since 2005’s “A Bigger Bang”. Their 14th album to go to # 1 in the UK and it hit top spot in 20 countries – their 31st studio album.
There has always been that old chestnut of a question to music fans: The Beatles or The Stones? There is no wrong answer. Both bands are part of music history and their music and influence will live on long after Paul and Ringo, Mick, Keith and Ronnie pack it in and put their feet up. If they ever do! The best answer is, both of them. I am a Stones fan and a Beatles fan in equal parts. That’s the answer. We salute you all…
After a battle with cancer, the Welsh comic is back, funnier than ever and about to hit the road for the biggest tour of his career, in 2024 and 2025.
Jim Hao Li
A really unique comedian. Chinese by way of Singapore, Jim is a rising star of UK comedy and we predict big things for him.
Our Red Hot Tips For 2024 * Bands and solo artists
As you will have seen earlier in this round-up, this gifted 18-year-old from Ashby in Leicestershire gets our “New Artist Of The Year 2023″nod. His voice is so soulful and rich, and his songwriting chops are not what you’d expect from a teenager. Way beyond his years.
For us, he is the most exciting new artist for yonks. We predict # 1 singles and albums, sell out tours from day one and eventually getting to fill arenas, plus a slew of big collaborations with UK and US stars. And much more… But he needs time to develop and to to find his feet in the business at such a young age. So all in good time, you just watch.
A new artist we really love. British singer and virtuoso guitarist Rosie Frater-Taylor (24) will drop her album Featherweight, on Cooking Vinyl on February 9th 2024, and we cannot wait. No one sounds like her, but think Lianne La Havas for the vocal and John Mayer for the guitar skills, some pretty different chord structures and then… forget that shizzle and just listen…
Catch her on tour in February. Feb 8 – London, Rough Trade West (unplugged performance + signing), Feb 9 – Bristol, Louisiana, Feb 13 – Leeds, Book Club, Feb 15 – Glasgow, Rum Shack, Feb 16 – Manchester, Deaf Institute, Feb 17 – London, Omeara.
This 14-year-old Norwegian metal kid is playing Download Festival this summer. Whaaaat? Millions of fans on TikTok love his brand of metal; and he just dropped his new single After a Lie. He has already performed at the biggest festival in Norway, Tons of Rock, played at the German festival Summer Breeze Open Air, toured Norway together with Gåte, and now UK fans can see what he is made of at Download.
Our Live Act Of The Year 2023, CMAT is our big tip to break through in 2024. Really cool performer and lots of fun too. Check out her superb album Crazymad, for Me (stylized).
After a tour in the UK supporting Jared James Nichols this year, Dutch psych-rockers DeWolff are back in March for 10 dates, their first headline tour here. Their latest studio album, ‘Love, Death & In Between’ drops in February on Mascot Records.
Keep your eyes peeled and your lugholes pinned back for young (20), talented West Midlands-based singer and songwriter Ezrae, aka Eve Sheldon, who is getting tongues wagging in the right places with her self-penned gritty and commercial tracks.
Only a handful of cuts on-line so far, which have impressed a few taste makers and at least one major record producer, who invited her for a chat at Abbey Road studios and lapped up her stuff, especially the most recent single, “Nosebleed”.
She’s had a few radio spins – including one play on BBC Radio 1 for the track “Ouch!” – and we hear she has a new one ready to go soon. Ms Ezrae is likely to attract industry attention with a few more decent songs like her current small back-catalogue, and much more gigging experience. Keep you posted…
Her second album, The Prize (via Flat Iron Recordings / Strawberry Moon Records) is due 12th Jan 2024. A “wide-reaching ethereal blues rock record”, produced by Greta Van Fleet’s bassist Sam Kiszka – his first producer credit outside of his own band. He also plays bass, keys and organ on the album, while Greta Van Fleet’s Daniel Wagner plays drums on the record.
Interviewee of the year (Editor’s choice)
Our thanks to the many music publicists, record labels, music management, concert and festival promoters and the bands and artists themselves who help us to to bring you the latest news, gig and festival reviews and photographs, interviews, album and EP reviews, music videos…with the stars and future stars…
Big thanks to all of the writers and photographers who contribute their considerable talents – and of course, to our readers worldwide…We love to hear from you with feedback of our content and your requests of who we should be covering next, via the ‘Contact Form’ on the site or via the editor’s direct email (which can be found in the ‘Contact Zone.’
We will be back on the case in 2024, just as eager to bring you yet more FREE and FRESH news, reviews, big exclusives and much more. Watch out for a few brand new features next year, launching soon.
Make sure you Stay in the Zone!
Photos by Jason Sheldon: Sir Elton John, Loyle Carner, Declan McKenna, Becky Hill, Holly Humberstone, Alt Blk Era (live shot), Ezrae, Disturbed @ Download, Leeds Festival Stage, The Rolling Stones, Liam Gallagher, Self Esteem (purple suit/leather glove shot), The 1975
Photos by Alex Asprey: Gen & The Degenerates, Amy Montgomery
Photos by Mike Gray: CMAT, RAYE (finger shot)
Photo by Steve Thorne: Sir Paul McCartney
Photos by Rothschild: Sophie Lloyd, Cian Ducrot, RAYE (mic stand shot), boygenius
Photo by Andrea Bottino: Maisie Peters
Photo by David Bronstein: Hellfest sign,
Photos by Steve Best: Self Esteem (with dancers shot), Jacotene, Steve Cradock, Ty Taylor (Vintage Trouble), Picture Parlour, Alt Blk Era (posed shot), Toby Lee
Photo by Samir Hussein: The Weeknd