These songs soundtracked our 2023 – the highs and lows, the afternoons glued to what feels like never ending traffic in North Texas, and of course, Thursday nights spent with The KXT Local Show.
From the runaway success of artists like Abraham Alexander and Hannah Jadagu and their being named some of NPR’s Favorite New Artists, to our biggest Local Music Month celebration to date, 2023 was stocked full of bangers. And since we last checked in, even more amazing music has been released by artists from all over our home.
Below are some of KXT’s on-air talent and contributing writers’ favorite songs (in no particular order) released by local artists in 2023. You might even hear some of them during our annual on-air countdown of listener-voted favorite songs and albums of the year on December 27.
Cheers to a great year for music in North Texas!
“What You Did” – Hannah Jadagu
A year-end list without a cut from Hannah Jadagu’s stellar debut album, Aperture, would be remiss. This one gripped me by the ears in a matter of seconds after playing it the first time, and it hasn’t let up since. “What You Did” is reminiscent of the early ’90s as it dips its toes into shoegaze with husky guitar riffs backing Jadagu’s ethereal tone. What’s more, the 21-year-old Mesquite-grown artist’s first LP for Sub Pop Records is a wholly gorgeous collection of songs that showcase a rising voice of the next generation in bedroom-pop.
“Meadow” – Piper Byers
Like many of us who grew up in Texas, McKinney’s Piper Byers grew disillusioned by a country music landscape that was sparse on the “all” part of “y’all,” leading her to break from it in recent years to explore pop music. So naturally, it’s difficult not to root for her on “Meadow,” a highly welcomed rule-rewriting return to country — you can’t take the country out of the girl, after all. This song is an enticing indulgence in sexuality and womanhood, and even though it just dropped in October, it has been one of my most-listened to songs by a local artist this year.
“Could’ve Been” – Devy Stonez
Hip-hop remains one of the most underrated genres beating out of the North Texas music scene, and at the center of that tremor right now is Devy Stonez. His new album, I Luv Stoney, is one of the best hip-hop releases of the year and loaded with sounds nodding to influential early 2000s titans like 50 Cent and Lil Wayne. If there’s one song to capture his sound-shifting moment of growth on the album’s track list, it’s the infectiously western-tinged “Could’ve Been.”
“Character Development” – Allison Ponthier
2023 was one-and-done for Allison Ponthier, but when you have a deliciously defiant pop anthem like “Character Development,” sometimes it’s all you need to get you through the year. Don’t let anyone convince you the age of music videos is dead, either – this one would sit comfortably atop the throne of that list, too. I’m easily doubling down on this one.
“The Hardest Part” – Matthew McNeal
Matthew McNeal’s fearless approach with vulnerability in his songwriting often feels like he’s lending a warm shoulder to cry on. So, it comes as no surprise that his new Love Was EP is some of his most honest and band-aid-ripping material to date. As he told me earlier this year, “I’m gonna heal more by staring my emotions in the face rather than suppressing them.” And that’s exactly what he did on this touching opening track of Love Was.
“If The Kids Are United” – Room 13
Room 13 only formed this year but deliver hard a hard hitting brand of well-seasoned punk. The band came straight out of Denton with an anthem we didn’t know we needed.
(Warning: This song contains lyrics that some might find offensive.)
“Daydreaming” – Dana Harper
I had this song on my list of favorite North Texas songs (So Far) back in June and it’s such a jam that it stayed in my favorites the whole year. “Daydreaming” examines the frustrations of an almost relationship while simultaneously paying tribute to Aretha Franklin.
“Find Your Way To My Heart” – Larry Gee
This one is relatively new – my colleague Preston Jones premiered the song just this month. Gee worked on “Find Your Way To My Heart” (along with a handful of other songs) with producer Beau Bedford years ago and decided to start releasing them after a health scare. This high energy soul number puts the strength of Gee’s voice front and center. Looks like we’re in for a treat when he drops his new EP, The Get Back, in 2024.
“Pleasure + Pain” – FIT
Despite this being the the only song that FIT released in 2023, the Dallas indie rockers consistently play to packed venues across North Texas. “Pleasure + Pain” stays true to the band’s style – the song slowly builds while managing to make you bob your head and sound slightly haunting all at the same time.
“I Did It” – Sally Renee
Renee is a relatively new indie artist out of Dallas and “I Did It” is her debut single. The song seems to be more declaration that confession, and holds a perfect mix of tenderness and optimism.
“Déjà Vu” – Abraham Alexander ft. Mavis Staples
Inspired by Khalif Browder, a 16-year-old boy who was wrongfully accused of stealing, then sent to Rikers Island, “Déjà vu” is a powerful song that examines the often-cruel justice system. You can hear the agony in Abraham Alexander’s voice, while the legendary Mavis Staples cuts through by adding weight to the already heavy track. A moving must-listen.
“She’s Fancy” – Bencjones
The Fort Worth artist is no stranger to experimenting with different genres, and here, he seamlessly blends alt-pop with a taste of soul on this catchy tune that balances a modern spin on a classic sound. “She’s Fancy” will leave you strutting to the beat, and maybe even feeling a little fancy yourself.
“God Don’t Let Me Lose My Mind” – About You
About You gave us three great new singles this year, but “God Don’t Let Me Lose My Mind” is a standout. The indie-rock track is backed by a beautiful string arrangement that counters the emotional vocals and lyrics and ends in pleasantly surprising distortion. About You frontman Max Poscente told KXT host Nilufer Arsala that he “hopes that the song can help normalize openness and healing from depression and mental illness.”
“Hunter” – Jess Williamson
This Americana gem from Jess Williamson’s Time Ain’t Accidental LP is for those on the sometimes painstakingly continuous search for finding the right person. Her refreshingly assertive perspective on what it’s like navigating the dating climate as a young woman yearning for something real makes it one of my favorite songs in KXT’s on-air rotation this year.
“Nebula” – CHROMA
There’s a reason CHROMA also made our list of artists featured for Local Music Month this year – their new album, The Age of Starlight, is brimming with songs worth checking out. Among them is “Nebula,” powered by a smooth bass that makes you feel like you’re floating through space and a beat that makes it nearly impossible not to get up and dance.
“Something Good” – Pretty Boy Aaron feat. Tesia
Dallas-based rapper, producer and singer Pretty Boy Aaron doesn’t drop new tracks with regularity, but when he does, it is always worth the wait. This late summer stunner, featuring a gorgeous hook from vocalist and frequent collaborator Tesia, is irresistible.
“Say It Now” – Hannah Jadagu
One of the year’s breakout stars, Hannah Jadagu, originally hails from Mesquite, although she makes her home in NYC these days. Still, Aperture, her acclaimed Sub Pop debut LP, is full of glitchy, gleaming tracks, like this one, splitting the difference between the 4AD roster and TikTok.
“Section 52 (Morning Sun, I Built the Stairs)” – Polyphonic Spree
The Polyphonic Spree’s first LP of original material in a decade, Salvage Enterprise, is, as most of the Dallas-based choral rock collective’s work tends to be, profoundly moving and intricately layered. But, as with this closing track, sometimes intimacy is Tim DeLaughter’s secret superpower.
“You Said” – Bosque Brown
Five years had slipped by since singer-songwriter Mara Lee Miller (who performs under the musical moniker Bosque Brown, along with Jeremy Buller) had released any new material, but she reinforced how criminally underrated she is with this exquisite track, rich with guitar effects-blitzed swirl and Miller’s inimitable cut-glass vocals.
“Apartment” – Wish Kit
This Denton rock quartet has become a reliable favorite, not least because they freely cartwheel through a variety of influences, leaving listeners happily dazed by the vibrant clash and rattle of guitars and drums.
“I’ve Been Here Before” – Corina Grove
I had this debut single on repeat like an emo girl laying on the living room floor. It was my top overall song on Spotify wrapped, if that means anything to anyone else.
“Under the Cover of Darkness” – Cameron Smith
This one kept getting stuck in my head like a cozy blanket in the cold. A favorite local folk writer, Smith’s writing always seems to ease what ails.
“Crazy (for you)” – Igimèjí
This banger had something of a ‘90s trance vibe mixed with hip-hop / R&B. I couldn’t stop bumping it in the car on my way to shows.
“All My Friends Are Dead” – Olive Vox
Quintessential grunge vibes; that feeling you get when you want to leave the town you’re in and become feral.
“Find my way” – Justin King
Short but sweet, this song has the feeling of hope in the face of a mountain of dreams. Life is about taking chances.