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  • Writer's pictureChris Rockwell

Top 23 NJ Songs of 2023, And Who to Watch in 2024

Updated: Feb 14


Woman with guitar howling at the night
Emerson Woolf of Emerson Woolf & the Wishbones

The state of New Jersey has always been known for its rich musical history, from the legendary jazz greats of Newark to the iconic rock and roll of Asbury Park. And in the year 2023, the Garden State once again proved that its music scene is still thriving, with many talented musicians making waves both locally and globally. We saw the launch of the inaugural North 2 Shore Festival, spanning three New Jersey cities over the course of three weekends, the revival of the Turf Club in Asbury Park, and even Maplewood's own SZA being the most nominated artist at the 64th Grammy Awards, taking home three trophies. From breakthrough artists to established names, New Jersey musicians had an amazing year in 2023, and it seems that the momentum will only continue in coming year.

But the point of our list is always to celebrate the newcomers, the underdogs, the DIY armies, the unsigned, and ironically, the unsung. We know there were established artists who made great strides, and we salute them for that. In the end, though, we're not here to give flowers, we're here to give light to the flowers. Here is our list of Top 23 Songs of 2023, and who to look out for in 2024!


23. “Julia” by Green Knuckle Material - Catchy and crafted from scorn, “Julia” by Green Knuckle Material offers one of their most well produced and tightly written songs to date. They are also responsible for Bayville Fest, and we tip our caps to the organizers of events that pop up in unlikely places and prosper.

22. “Day in the Life” by New Br33d - On an entire album dedicated to smoking herb, “Day in the Life” sticks out because the hook is absolutely perfect. “Another day in the life doing the same shit/ My shorty texted me hi, I told her ‘Same, bitch.’” Sorry, but that’s fire.

21. “Spread Some Love” by Buncha Scrubs - Buncha Scrubs bottles up summer and shakes it on their track “Spread Some Love” from their debut project Nice and Juicy EP. It’s a feel-good song reminding us to keep our heads up, and we could all use that reminder once in a while.

20. “My Life” by Pryme Prolifik - An emcee opening up about blue collar life is refreshing in this day and age, and Pryme Prolifik does just that on “My Life”. It’s an honest song about pain and unwaveringly overpowering plight.

19. “We Killed Davy Crockett” by Meteor Police - A high octane, rowdy track with plenty of message to spare. Fun fact, Soup Can Magazine alum artist Don Swenson painted their album cover!

18.“Sunday Morning Funeral” by Roper Williams featuring Fatboi Sharif, YL, and AKAI SOLO - Soulful but dark, this track offers a slice of life from all these emcees, submerging us in their humble brags and real world benefaction. We're here to support all things Fatboi Sharif.

17. “Florida Snow” by DezzyBlanco - Displaying an impressive amount of confidence and control on a debut album, DezzyBlanco settles in and gets comfortable making vibey yet edgy music, and “Florida Snow” is the prime example of that.

16. “Sorry” by Pamela Flores - A soulful breakup ballad from spirited and emotive songstress Pamela Flores, “Sorry” is swept along with lush, layered, delicate production. 

15. “Bandoliers” by The Mercury Brothers - Songwriter Dan Apy holds nothing back in “Bandoliers,” sketching self-incriminating scenes with lines like “If I am honest today, maybe I’ll live with myself/ I’m still lost in the shade that’s mistaken for hell.” The Mercury Brothers have fast indie anthems to spare, and this is no exception.

14. “Darting Eyes” by With Sails Ahead - “Darting Eyes” is one of those songs that, whether you hear it by accident, you finish on purpose. It forces the listener to want to see With Sails Ahead perform live, and we all should.

13. “Hands” by Charles Only - A slick number by a crooner with a Hip-Hop sensibility, “Hands” plays with language just subtly enough for the listener to be engaged by it without it ever becoming all seasoning, no food.

12. “sour” by mxtchxll - Pop-punk energy, emphasis on the pop. Throughout “sour”, singer/songwriter/producer mxtchxll sums up how drawn out and conflicting relationships can be toward the end, with lyrics like “Like everything changed, I'm knockin' at your door/ I want you to be mine, but I can't be yours.”

11. “Life of Change” by Nick Nubz - Bars like “I talk shit like it’s part of my job/ I keep a knife like it’s part of the car” are why the song “Life of Change” feels like it has sharp edges. Throughout this song, Nick Nubz illustrates clearly that while the world may change around him, deep down he’s staying exactly who he is.

10. “Side Effects” by Fake Pockets - We knew this time last year that Fake Pockets would end up on this list, and they definitely did not disappoint. Their latest EP, Reverie, has their signature deadpan wit and social critiques spread throughout, but “Side Effects” pulled through as the favorite. “Doing everything the doctor said/ All I got to show for it is side effects,” makes for one indicting hook, implying a lot about what it’s like growing up in America.

9. “Come On Down” by The Azures - Fast paced and intense, yet mysterious and intriguing, vocalist Gia Rose implores the listener to accompany her “down the road” to the “lost wilderness of gold,” and it’s hard not to follow.

8. “Cloud Nine Paper Plane” by Mark Aguilar - There is a movement of Hip-Hop artists crossing over into indie rock, and Mark Aguilar understood the assignment. On “Cloud Nine Paper Plane”, he captures the ethereal feeling of losing yourself in a moment getting high, he writes “One hit floats me away like paper.”

7 “Bitch Like Me” by Blaise and Heather Hills - Besides the fact that this is the exact combination of attitude and altitude we were waiting for, “Bitch Like Me” accomplishes more sonically than what we’d even hoped for from this long-awaited collaboration from the musical features from our very first two issues of Soup Can Magazine. 

6. “Oblivion” by Emerson Woolf and the Wishbones - Emerson Woolf is foremost a lyricist, penning everyday passing moments with punch and kicks to spare, but it doesn’t hurt that her voice is addictive to listen to. No single line stands out. The entire song is a diamond.

5. “40” by Scoop - The misuse of the word “drunk” in this song is part of the appeal, harking back to when Winston cigarettes changed the use of the word “like.” Scoop’s whole album is pure gold Hip-Hop, but the title track makes it onto the list because it has a little of everything the record has to offer, including lyrics like “It’s the dirt, but a flower never hated on the sun.”

4. “Gemini” by NOT YER BABY - Glitchy but blaring, “Gemini” is our favorite release so far from Asbury Park’s punk outfit NOT YER BABY. With lines like, “You said to pick my battles, but I pick them all,” this song is as unapologetic as it is catchy. Get your repeat button ready.

3. “Cruel, Cruel, Cruel” by Rachel Ana Dobken - This song is every inch to the hilt what we’ve been waiting for from Rachel Ana Dobken. On “Cruel, Cruel, Cruel,” she combines all the ingredients she always works with, this time in perfect combination. Steeped in head-shaking regret, there’s that slight touch of vengeance in having the last laugh when calling out emotionally manipulative relationships, and Dobken nails it. This is about being fed up and slamming the door behind on your way out. Songs like this can only be written from raw experience, and who can’t relate to that shitty breakup that hangs on long after you’re over it?

2. “You’re the One to Lose” by Madhavi Devi - Sometimes it feels like there’s nothing Madhavi Devi cannot do. We’ve read and published her poetry, heard her more mellow folk songs, and now with her single “You’re the One to Lose,” we hear the energy of youth knocking down the door to wisdom, saturated with self-awareness, and with no missed sense of irony, urging the listener to jump, recklessly and passionately, into every minute with that one person who understands you in the subtle ways nobody else in the world ever can. And damn, what a voice.


1. “Till We Meet Again” by Coming In Clutch - The song “Till We Meet Again” by pop-punk band Coming in Clutch takes on new, heavier meaning in the wake of the untimely death of singer CJ Mueller. Their entire debut EP, Pity Party, is filled with energetic, nostalgia-tinged, twenty-something sincerity, but the lyrics to this one read like confessional poetry. Now, we can’t help but look at this particular piece of songwriting as almost foretelling, with lines like “So say a prayer and rest, hoping I will only wish you the best,” and “Wouldn’t it be nice to make amends, if only- till we meet again.” This is the type of music that motivates other songwriters to write always as if it were the last song you ever wrote, because one day it will be. In the case of “Till We Meet Again,” it’s one heart-rending, but beautiful send off. 








Who to watch in 2024:

skinnyveins - Just released their debut single and it’s a witty, honest take from a refreshing new voice. 

Izzy Miz - Sultry downtempo R&B singer/songwriter with singles and an EP in the works.

Burnt Tavern - Post Apocalyptic Folk entourage with harmonies for days.


BONUS:

There are honorable mention songs on the playlist from Lake Champagne and Chill Smith!


Do you think we missed anyone? Leave a comment!

Get the latest issue of Soup Can Magazine here.



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1 Comment


jakkigioia
Feb 16

How does one get her music considered for this honor for 2024?

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