DIY's Best of 2023 DIY’s Tracks of the Year 2023

From debut singles to established artists breaking bold new terrain, this is what’s dominated our collective headphones since January.

The second half of our annual sonic round-up is here, and this one was even more difficult to narrow down than the last. From big pop moments with Dua and Billie to thrilling debuts (Fat Dog - we’re looking at you), our esteemed team of contributors have helped us put together a Tracks of the Year list that truly runs the gamut of 2023.

Plus, we’ve also compiled the songs below with a selection of picks from our Top 20 Albums of the Year into one handy playlist - call it an early Christmas prezzie from us. So here we go: DIY’s Top 20 Tracks of 2023, as chosen by our wonderful writers.

20. CMAT - Have Fun! 

Sometimes, you come across a very specific moment in a song - be it a key change, beat drop, or vocal inflection - that just scratches an itch in your brain. Punctuating her swaggering spring single ‘Have Fun!’, CMAT’s self-referential aside of ‘huh, silly bitch’ is one such moment; brilliantly blunt and immensely quotable, it immediately confirmed that her then-forthcoming sophomore album ‘Crazymad, For Me’ would be as wry, camp, and idiosyncratic as we’d come to expect from the Dublin cowgirl. Complete with earworm piano melody, fiddle interpolation, and of course knockout vocals, the rest of the track follows its titular directive to a T, too. (Daisy Carter)

19. Young Fathers - I Saw

Introducing itself with a foot-stomping, bone-vibrating beat, when 'I Saw' arrived at the top of the year, it was nigh on impossible to ignore. Quintessentially Young Fathers in that it connects to something very corporeal - almost primal - within the listener, it alchemises elements of gospel, trip-hop, dance music and more into a final form that far exceeds the sum of its parts. This is three and a half minutes of dynamic, driving joy from the Mercury Prize-acclaimed purveyors of what is, for our money, one of the best live shows around. (Daisy Carter)

18. Troye Sivan - Rush

Much like its name, Troye Sivan’s ‘Rush’ caused an immediate stir. Wrapping the hedonism, euphoria, and inherent sexuality of party culture into an idiosyncratic pop tune, there’s little wonder why it sent the internet into a frenzy. As the lead single from the Australian trailblazer’s recent album ‘Something To Give Each Other’, its engrossing mixture of football-style chants and booming house beats elicited untameable excitement for the then-forthcoming project. Accompanied by a noughties-inspired music video and crisply choreographed dance routine, it’s a full package pop anthem with iconography to match. (Emily Savage)

17. Paramore - The News

While some artists this year chose to use their material to delve into the more escapist, euphoric side of life as a tonic for the current state of the world, on ‘The News’, Paramore instead plunge themselves right into the eye of the storm. Trying to grapple with the bout of horrors that crop up every day, and the helplessness it’s easy to sink into (“I worry and I give money and I feel useless behind this computer / And that's just barely scratched the surface of my mind”), their jittery, frenzied offering is a propulsive rally call to push through the compassion fatigue and remember our humanity. (Sarah Jamieson)

16. Ashnikko - Cheerleader 

Ashnikko has long possessed a knack for creating electrifying, subversive anthems and so it’s little surprise that her eagerly-awaited debut ‘WEEDKILLER’ packs them in. ‘Cheerleader’ is, however, arguably the most vivid of them all. A whip-smart commentary on the double standards of society’s fascination with beauty and sexiness - with added nods to iconic 2000s movie Bring It On - the track swerves from fiery verses to a creepy nursery rhyme-esque bridge, before the ritualistic chanting of its chorus adds an even more explosive edge. (Sarah Jamieson)

15. Grian Chatten - Fairlies

Over each of Fontaines DC’s three studio LPs, we’ve seen frontman Grian Chatten become ever more introspective, and ever more intricate. On ‘Fairlies’ - one of the standouts from his debut solo offering ‘Chaos For The Fly’ - he pushes the envelope even further, communicating a sense of moving fragility and hope-tinged melancholy via weepingly beautiful trad-folk instrumentals and the kind of poeticism which echoes that of his late, great countryman Shane MacGowan. (Daisy Carter)

14. Creeper - Further Than Forever

Somehow managing to simultaneously conjure up visions of Meat Loaf’s magnificent ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ and the John Williams-soundtracked battle prep scene of Home Alone, there’s nothing shy and retiring about the opening track of Creeper’s newest album ‘Sanguivore’. A rollicking epic that spans over nine minutes - and boasts at least four different musical sections to boot - ‘Further Than Forever’ distils the band’s camp, theatrical flare better than the rest of their discography to date. (Sarah Jamieson)

13. Fat Dog - King of the Slugs

As far as introductions go, Fat Dog’s first step into the recorded world was the equivalent of turning up uninvited to a house party, booting down the door, and barrelling in with 20 mates, a massive forghorn and a treasure chest of Class As in tow. A chaotic whirlwind of klezmer punk, located somewhere in between a Middle Eastern souk and a crusty 3am underground rave, ‘King of the Slugs’ sounds like literally nothing else around. Toss in a lyric about “sliding into the night, covered in Vaseline”, and the sort of plate-smashing finale designed to whip up crowds into absolute circle-pitting carnage, and you’ve got a bunch of hounds who truly can’t be caged. (Lisa Wright)

12. Dua Lipa - Dance The Night

Dua Lipa made one of the stand-out tracks from the Barbie soundtrack with ‘Dance The Night’; and while it is, of course, a key part of the film, with its choreographed dance sequences, it’s also an offering that has buckets of energy and vibrancy to it away from the movie. It contains the pure disco energy of ‘Future Nostalgia’ but hints at an evolution for one of the most consistently exciting pop stars around, giving us a little taste of what we might expect on her much anticipated third record. (Chris Connor)

11. PinkPantheress feat. Ice Spice - Boy’s a liar Pt. 2

One of the year’s most symbiotic pairings truly came together to maximise their star power on ‘Boy’s a liar Pt. 2’. Having both closed off 2022 as break-out stars in their own right, they would then cement their place at the centre of the musical zeitgeist with this update to PinkPantheress’ original ‘Boy’s a Liar’. Ice Spice’s nonchalant tone and characteristic flow are just as distinctive as PinkPantheress’s sleek, contemporary answer to y2k club sounds, and together they’ve created a sensitive-yet-swaggering anthem for the It girls of the present day. (Ims Taylor)

10. Billie Eilish - What Was I Made For?

In a vulnerable moment for this year’s Barbie movie, Billie Eilish explored the roots of human purpose and took the charts by storm. The emotive piano ballad showcases Eilish’s stripped back vocals and was paired with a simplistic music video, steering away from the usual theatrics that had been stereotypically associated with the Mattel doll. A gripping and beautiful track, it follows the precedent set by her June 2022 EP ‘TV Songs’, and the fact it became a TikTok meme also made it a pivotal moment for 2023 internet culture, of course. (Amrit Virdi)

9. Militarie Gun - Do It Faster

With their latest album ‘Life Under The Gun’, Californian outfit Militarie Gun challenged themselves to squeeze as much melody into their gnarly brand of punk as possible, with its lead track distilling that approach perfectly. Bearing the kind of potent, arms-aloft chorus that begs to be chanted along to loudly (preferably from the middle of a mosh pit), ‘Do It Faster’ is the cathartic hardcore anthem that 2023 so desperately needed. (Sarah Jamieson)

8. Heartworms - Retributions of an Awful Life

Igniting 2023 with a sizzlingly seductive electro-goth juggernaut of monolithic proportions, January’s release of ‘Retributions of an Awful Life’ well and truly announced Heartworms - the solo moniker of Jojo Orme - as an artist of fearsome capability. With synths ghosting through our bodies and sending us shivers, and Orme’s entrancing vocal veering between ghoulish sing-speak and haunting croon, this five minute odyssey gobbles us up, chews us down and spits us out. And afterwards, we’re left giddily writhing on the floor, still fizzing from the electricity of it all. 12 months on, we’re still reeling, hungry for more. (Elvis Thirlwell)

7. The Last Dinner Party - Sinner

How do you follow up a debut single that sent ripples through the music world, winning you both fervent fans and perturbed naysayers? For The Last Dinner Party, the answer was simple: with a rollicking rock-opera number that exorcises feelings of religious guilt and self-flagellation via multi-part harmonies, tension-building dynamic shifts, and un-self-consciously Guitar Hero riffs. For those who needed convincing that TLDP weren't messing around, 'Sinner' achieved that aim in spades. (Daisy Carter)

6. Lana Del Rey - A&W

One of the best tracks Lana has ever released, ‘A&W’ is very much a song of two halves. It begins life as an acoustic folk-pop number, before turning into trap for the second half, while its lyrics look at losing the innocence of childhood and address rape culture head on. Though it clocks in at over seven minutes in length, time flies while listening to ‘A&W’ - it’s classic, quintessential Lana, but steps up yet another level in artistry, merging her various eras and incarnations together in an unforgettable manner. (Adam England)

5. Blur - The Narcissist

‘Growing old gracefully’ can, often, be a synonym for sinking down into your comfy armchair and not rocking the boat too much Grandad. But on ‘The Narcissist’ - the first single from this year’s surprise album ‘The Ballad of Darren’ - Blur found a way to be both gentle and rousing; to quote their own previous glories, it is a track that was tender to the extreme. Full of call-and-response moments between Damon Albarn’s instantly recognisable lead vocal and Graham Coxon’s more fragile backing, the track almost feels like an ode to these two friends reunited, with tangled nods to what could be interpreted as their rollercoaster relationship over the years (“Connect us to love, and keep us peaceful for a while”). Soaring and emotive, ‘The Narcissist’ has staked an immediate spot within Blur’s canon of great ballads. (Lisa Wright)

4. Olivia Rodrigo - vampire

The first track released from Rodrigo’s soon-to-be globe-conquering second album ‘GUTS’, ‘vampire’ is an unashamedly maximalist statement of intent that raised its own bar over and over within less than four minutes. From the sort of teasing, creeping piano beginnings that hinted there was very much more to come, Olivia took aim at an unnamed “bloodsucker, fame-fucker” that her fans collectively deemed to be Taylor Swift (“I was very surprised when people thought that,” she later told The Guardian, not denying the rumour…), whilst ramping up with more musical crescendoes than an entire waltz down the West End. Lyrically biting and musically massive, it marks Ol-Rod walking up to centre stage and owning her spotlight with gusto. (Lisa Wright)

3. boygenius - Not Strong Enough

2023 has been one hell of a year for boygenius who, five years after dropping their debut EP, loomed back into the frame of cultural relevance with their full-length ‘the record’. The album’s fourth single arrived at the beginning of March, ready to become the year’s most streamed track by queer people everywhere, with its rumbling “always an angel / never a god” refrain answering the prayers of many a sapphic couple looking for an easy Halloween costume. The track boasts quintessential boygenius antics: there’s the lyrics that writhe in existentialism and self-flagellation; the rich melting of all three of their vocals; the rock-leaning arrangement that, when played at the right volume, feels like a biblical rainstorm is falling on top of you – it’s no wonder it became the runaway song of the record. 2023 was the year of boygenius, and ‘Not Strong Enough’ is them at their best. (Caitlin Chatterton)

2. Caroline Polachek - Welcome To My Island

As she dances around fantasised sperm, Caroline Polachek wails through the euphoria of fancying someone on ‘Welcome To My Island’. The track, from which fourth record ‘Desire, I Want To Turn Into You’ gets its name, is chock full of Carolineisms — ethereal screams, a scratchy spoken word bridge, explosive visuals (ahem), an electronic rock solo and chaotic, poetic infatuation — that feel both familiar and completely experimental. Upping the ante of 2019’s crush anthem ‘So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings’, Caroline’s earthy electronica merges prehistoric lust with modern metaphysically to become one of the “brattiest” alt-pop tracks of the year. (Otis Robinson)

1. The Last Dinner Party - Nothing Matters

‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’. ‘Chaise Longue’. ‘Nothing Matters’. When The Last Dinner Party’s debut single arrived back in April, the ensuing furore immediately placed it in a lineage of star-making first tracks; an introduction so undeniably good that the band - according to certain sneering factions of the internet - simply must have been engineered by a scheming cohort of industry insiders. In reality, however, ‘Nothing Matters’ had been a long time coming, with TLDP having honed their strain of unashamedly melodramatic, literary wares across London’s live circuit. By the time they finally unleashed the fruits of their labours, the band had already struck upon a unique balance of the classical and modern, fusing operatic poise in the track’s delicate opening notes with a soaring crescendo built for giddy en masse gatherings. Here, in three minutes, The Last Dinner Party provide a moreish aperitif for what's set to come, leaving the world begging for seconds. (Lisa Wright)

Keen for even more end of year list content? Check out DIY’s Top 20 Albums of 2023 below…

Tags: Ashnikko, Billie Eilish, Blur, Boygenius, Caroline Polachek, Cmat, Creeper, Dua Lipa, Fat Dog, Grian Chatten, Heartworms, Ice Spice, Lana Del Rey, Militarie Gun, Olivia Rodrigo, Paramore, PinkPantheress, The Last Dinner Party, Troye Sivan, Young Fathers, Listen, Features

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