Exclaim!'s Staff Picks for January 23, 2023: Little Simz, Jockstrap, Dream Unending

Photos (clockwise from top left): Little Simz by Karolina Wielocha, Dream Unending courtesy of the artist, Jockstrap by Eddie Whelan, Special Interest by Mathew Scott

BY Exclaim! StaffPublished Jan 23, 2023

Honey, we're home! 2022 was certainly a banner year for great music, and this year is already gearing up to be the same. But, after the year-end lists are done and dusted, there's a four-to-six-week state of limbo as the calendar changes over where we get to play catch-up. Out of this fruitful discovery period where everyone's reminiscing on the year's best projects, late-blooming favourites emerge — and we wanted to give them their flowers in the first 2023 edition of Exclaim!'s Staff Picks.

Check out our reviews section to stay up to date on the most exciting early-2023 releases. Next week, we'll also begin covering our faves of the year so far!

Dream Unending
Song of Salvation
(20 Buck Spin)

On their second album as Dream Unending in as many years, Tomb Mold's Derrick Vella and Justin DeTore of Innumerable Forms guide their spacious meld of death and doom metal to exhilarating new heights. As crushing as they remain, the duo take wing toward brighter horizons on Tide Turns Eternal follow-up Song of Salvation, spurred on by a solemn trumpet siren, clean vocals, gentle piano, and the strength of their guitars' crystalline clean tones and searing, exploratory leads.
Calum Slingerland

I Love You Jennifer B
(Rough Trade)

This is an instance where a long-yearned-for debut was well worth the wait — even if it took me a second to get around to listening to it. I Love You Jennifer B is reminiscent of a dry martini with a twist, as its Broadcast-recalling icy tones play around the warmth of album highlight "Glasgow." String sections flip to glitchy synths like it's nothing, making Jockstrap the latest masters of the bait-and-switch. 
Sydney Brasil

Little Simz

The queen of rap returned quietly in 2022 — and despite riding for her in 2021, Little Simz's latest album NO THANK YOU admittedly slipped under my radar last year. Following her Mercury Prize-winning Sometimes I Might Be Introvert was never going to be an easy feat, and the UK heavyweight decided to continue with her winning formula: dissecting the political and personal with her incisive bars, cutting through the bullshit society has become complacent to. Despite its expectedly dense subject matter, Simz's fifth studio album feels vibes-forward and could easily soundtrack anything from a family brunch to smoke-and-din club nights. 
Allie Gregory

Colette Lush
"im good"

In 2016, the American Idol judges were complimenting the unique vocal quality of Colette Lush after her audition. She's flown under the radar since, but on her November single "im good," the R&B singer's silky voice makes a welcome return. Strutting over punchy percussion and airy background vocals, she exudes a devil-may-care attitude fitting of a song about confidence. Lush hasn't released a full-length project since 2018's Seven-One, but has continued to release high-quality singles, her latest being this year's pensive "violet skies."
Ben Okazawa

Special Interest 
(Rough Trade)

Endure arrived toward the tail end of 2022, but its rage, lust and power still managed to feel definitive of the year that birthed it. Endure is all about conflict — between the body and the world, between hardness and softness, between groove and punishment. The third album from New Orleans' Special Interest careens between sinewy dance music and abrasive industrial punk, all tethered by the dangerously charismatic Alli Logout. From the hammering creep of "Turkish Radio" to the lo-fi disco of "Midnight Legend," Endure refuses to release the tension. 
Kaelen Bell

Two Shell
(Mainframe Audio)

British electronic duo Two Shell released their single "home" in January 2022, but it wasn't until nearly a year later that I got addicted to it. It's playful and bubbly like an underwater dance party, with twee robot singing and splishy-splashy percussion that sounds like that noise kids make by flicking their cheek. You know that one, like bloooop. The single's flipside, "no reply," has a bit more of a trip-hop bounce and is similarly fun.
Alex Hudson 

The Wesleys
Outside Voices
(Burnt Sugar)

This year, I once again had the pleasure of working on the editorial for our annual Class Of concert series — which introduced me to the Wesleys and immediately made me butthurt they were only on the bill for the Montreal show. My attention was captured right from the spangly, distortion-dipped opening arpeggio of "Find a Way," the first track of their aptly titled 2022 debut EP. There's an itchy urgency that demands high volume levels throughout, save a brief repose in the sigh of '60s Merseybeat-inspired "Wrong Side of Love."
Megan LaPierre

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