Best of 2023
We are halfway done the first month of 2024 which is more than enough time to make conclusions on the year that 2023. I guess.
I’m going to do my best to not make this an encapsulation of everything 2023 and just focus on the media. That way I don’t make this more of a blog journal entry sort of thing. No need to really get into the grit.
Similar to previous entries of Best of’s I have done here I will break it down into eight categories.
The hardest part of these lists? All of the stuff I didn’t get to in 2023 that I still have on my backlog. I can at least say my music has been satiated but film, TV, and videogames? Way behind. I’m behind every year. I will never catch up. Such is life. Anyway!
Best of 2023: Album
I Am Not Myself by Hotel Mira
I first heard Hotel Mira back when they were known as JPNGIRLS which I’m glad they changed their name because hoo boy that is not a good name. Regardless, the song “Southern Comforting” I heard around 2014/2015 and it was unlike anything out at the time. Just a dirty honesty to the singing by Charlie Kerr beyond what other songwriters are really willing to go. Charlie is okay being pathetic. Charlie is okay with being sad. Charlie is okay saying the things nobody wants to admit. Hotel Mira then released Perfectionism in 2020, an album I connected to even more. In “Speaking Off The Record”, a song I’ve listened to many times, Mr. Kerr doubling down on letting everyone in on his insecurities and doubts.
I wish I could say the band’s lyrics were in a better place emotionally but an album called “I Am Not Myself” should tell you that Charlie is still trying to exercise the bile out of his voice as a songwriter. I won’t make judgment if this is how he’s feeling or the people he’s writing about, but through all the depression and darkness is a clever outside the mainstream I connect to. “Fever Pitch” has the line, “She lit up a cigarette, she said listen bitch we’ll get into it” and it’s nice to hear that sort of conversational tone without sounding forced. And that’s really what I love about Hotel Mira. Nothing is forced. Hotel Mira is writing the music they want and not chasing anything other than being open.
I should also bring up the fact that the band is just tight. A real contender for best band from Canada going today. If you make an album with 12 tracks and I am happy to repeat six of them any day? That’s a grand slam in the Spotify Single age. I should really see them live in 2024.
If you like indie rock that’s okay with showing you all of their cards with a smile? Spin the album and see them live.
Honourable Mention: Ooh Rap I Ya by George Clanton, Unicorn by Gunship, Texture by Battle Tapes
Best of 2023: Song
I Been Young by George Clanton
I do a Spotify Playlist every month called The Sweatdown and this year has seen a lot of George Clanton. It would probably surprise someone that I didn’t give him album of the year as I listened to Ooh Rap I Ya quite a lot. And while that album did have a few songs I loved this year, nothing touched I Been Young.
It’s not just the song either. The music video is this perfect throwback to a specific ephemera of Canadian pop culture, which is the music channel MuchMusic and their Intimate and Interactive live performances which they would do live from their studio. Clanton is an American boy so I don’t think he was really pulling from that but he hit the aesthetic perfectly.
The song lyrics are definitely the words I had been looking for as a 38-year-old who doesn’t really feel like he has aged into being almost 40. “I think I’m growin’ up but nah, if I’m growing? I’m just growing old” and, “Young enough to start a life and old enough to die, waste a couple of years while I make my mind” are the type of words that bounce around my head all the time but it was necessary for someone to make music about it so I had a soundtrack for it.
The song is also a beautiful mix of 90s R&B, electronica, and pop that somehow allows it to tip toe in nostalgia but stay modern enough to play perfect in today’s rotation. I don’t think the song will fall off my personal rotation anytime soon. I’ll probably still feel I’m just growing old a decade from now so I guess the song won’t lose the feeling.
Honourable Mention: Golden Days by Emi Grace, DooM Dance by Gunship, Drift by 3TEETH
Just a word on Golden Days by Emi Grace, she gets under 50,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. She’s only 21. Hasn’t made an album yet. Just found her randomly on Spotify one day. I’ve played this song to a half dozen people and every single person who hears it makes sure to save it. This is a brilliant song by someone just starting her music career and I would love to see her do more in the future. For all the reasons I loved I Been Young for being a reflection, Golden Days is more about the joys of living in the moment instead of reminiscing. “There’s no fun in yesterday.” Give it a spin.
Best of 2023: Film
I AM FROM WATERLOO, WHERE THE VAMPIRES HANG OUT
I maybe watched a dozen movies from 2023 and have a backlog I am embarrassed by, so maybe this doesn’t last in being the best film made in 2023 for me but it’s absolutely the best film I saw while living in the year of 2023. I think this high of it and I watched it on a plane. A Spirit Airlines plane. From my cell phone being held in one hand. Yeah.
The story of Blackberry is one us Canadians know a little bit and I think if you’re from Ontario and around my age you know at least one person who at one point worked for RIM out of college and university. Hi Dennis! There was a time where it felt like Canada was going to rule technology in the 21st century with Blackberry at the forefront. When Jim Balsillie tried to get an NHL team to Hamilton we all rooted for him, not knowing anything really about him.
I’m sure a lot of the movie is a dramatization but that’s fine when you have Glenn Howerton putting on the best performance of the year as Balsillie. Howerton has already been well known for unbridled comic rage in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia but Jim is more than just rage. Jim is the human embodiment of smug entitlement. He’s maybe the easiest human I’ve watched in something to hate without him actually doing anything particularly nefarious but you also sort of root for him to whip these geeks into shape and win in the end. But you know he will never win in the end.
Jay Baruchel and Matt Johnson are also great as they try to find a spine throughout the course of the movie, and it has a lot of great Canadian nostalgia from the 90s. When Matthew Good Band started playing I got so happy. Great movie. Easy watch at two hours as well.
Honourable Mention: The Killer
Best of 2023: Television
I Think You Should Leave: Season 3
I had some trouble with this at first because of course my brain first went to the dramas I watched in 2023. But then I remembered the zip line.
I Think You Should Leave barely qualifies as a full fledged TV show since episodes are only 15 minutes long. It’s just a bunch of skits. But Tim Robinson has this ability to absolutely nail these skits that just appeal to me in the best possible way.
This year we got the zipline, the fake kid fight video, DRIVING CROONER, Richard Nixon with a pig mask, FEED EGGS, Pay it Forward, Rat’s in the Office, 200 friend group, the perfect place to slam Jerry The Jet Jones, da dogs blowing me, TastyTime Vids, and others that were good but come on these were the best ones. Okay maybe same shirt too.
It’s incredible that we got three seasons of this now and there’s memorable skits in each season. So much killer. The worst thing I’ll say about an I Think You Should Leave skit is it didn’t work for me. I’ll never say it was lazy or bad or offensive.
Honourable Mention: Righteous Gemstones, Succession, The Bear
Best of 2023: Internet
Plagiarism and You(Tube) by hbomberguy
It only makes sense to talk about the best YouTube videos I watched on the year. I spend way more time watching videos on YouTube and Nebula than I do watching TV shows or movies.
Instead of saying a lot about the Plagiarism video I’ll just link to the Honourable Mentions. I do think it was the best video I watched in 2023 but Internet Video is just a way to present things. There’s a lot of genres. Watching an hour of a bald guy talk about the ways people on YouTube plagiarized might not be your thing. Maybe Dog of Wisdom is though!
The Medieval Kingdom that was erased from history by Cambrian Chronicles
The Show: Ween Edition by Homestar Runner
Dog of Wisdom II by Joe
Fozzie’s Last Joke by Solid jj
Miniminuteman’s I Watched Ancient Apocalypse Series:
What Makes This Song Stink Ep. 8 – Jason Aldean by Pat Finnerty
Congrats, Bruins! by UrinatingTree
Best of 2023: Videogame
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
Have I beaten Tears of the Kingdom? No.
I only beat The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in 2023. Because I had to beat it before Tears of the Kingdom came out.
And just like Breath of the Wild, I am taking breaks in playing Tears of the Kingdom. I already dropped a good 50 or so hours into Tears and have got a lot done. But playing one game for that long will cause me to somewhat resent the game for making me play that much and I need to take a break. I’ll get back to playing it in 2024. Will I finish it in 2024? Probably not. Maybe next year. But I’ll eventually finish it.
It may sound weird that I would love a game I have to take breaks with but I gotta take those breaks because these games absolutely envelop me into their world. It becomes everything I do. Nintendo taking Zelda to the open world might not be a new or novel concept for people who have played a ton of open world games but I for the most part avoid them. Tears of the Kingdom is absolutely a blast to play with creating my own vehicles and weapons but the exploration is what hooks me. I’ll sometimes find myself just wandering the map with no real purpose. Just trying to find new things. It’s like going on vacation without leaving the house. Which sounds sad but hey, I did take a vacation to the west coast in 2023 and treated it similar to playing Tears of the Kingdom. I had plans, but I let the wind take me to my next destination.
Honourable Mention: Octopath Traveler II, Final Fantasy VI: Pixel Remaster
Note: I have downloaded Sea of Stars. I have not played it yet. Tried to play Eastward and beat it first. And then I got to the second last boss of Eastward which made me learn a new parry mechanic literally at the end of the game. So I’ll play Sea of Stars soon.
Best of 2023: Wrestling Event
It’s interesting following All Elite Wrestling because I still am very aware of how bad the wrestling business was to follow between 2001 and 2018. It absolutely sucked in North America unless you loved the WWE. I did not love the WWE but I had to follow it because my friends all followed it and I was involved in indie wrestling as road crew and other jobs. I worked on a podcast and was also an editor at Last Word on Sports so I had to keep up with the WWE. It was like being a Hartford Whalers fan and hating the Boston Bruins but now the Whalers don’t exist and all you can watch is the Bruins. It sucked.
So now AEW is around and of course it isn’t perfect. Of course it has problems. I discuss them every month, sometimes every week if I’m in the right frame of writing mind. But wow is the business better with a company to watch that isn’t WWE and doesn’t present pro wrestling like WWE. I’m always aware of that in the back of my mind yet people treated this year like it was horrible for AEW.
All year long it has been about the dark cloud over the company and how bad things are when so much is easy to explain. Attendance dropping? AEW increased the price of tickets beyond their paying customers and have been burned due to it. Viewership falling? Right in line with cable TV cord cutting plus their lead in is no longer as strong as it used to be. Too much sports entertainment? I guess, if you want to pretend that Cody Rhodes and his Nightmare Family universe wasn’t a Sports Entertainment product in AEW. It feels like the same amount to me, but maybe it seemed more because it was now coming from the AEW World Champion. But the AEW World Champion in MJF doesn’t wrestle like a sports entertainment guy. He wrestles like one of the best wrestlers in the world in his mid 20s.
Revolution gave us an Iron match, over 60 minutes of incredible wrestling between MJF and Bryan Danielson. It gave us the Texas Death match which was my favourite match of the year until, well, until the next Texas Death match Hangman Page had. We got a great match between Christian Cage and Jack Perry, we got the House of Black versus The Elite, and we got a good big man battle between Samoa Joe and Wardlow. We even got Ricky Starks beating Chris Jericho which people pretend actually hurt Ricky Starks since it’s easier to claim all these wins hurt him instead of just admitting he’s a midcard act that shouldn’t go beyond the midcard and if he doesn’t like it he can take his bobble head to the fed where he’s already been hanging around on his off time, but hey, that’s just me.
Revolution was the best wrestling show I watched in 2023, in a year with some pretty decent wrestling shows. AEW puts on the best pay per views in the business, and this was the best example of that. Was it a bad year for AEW? If this is bad, I’ll take it for another 20 years over what I got before AEW was around.
Honourable Mention: Stardom All-Star Grand Queendom, AEW/NJPW Forbidden Door II
Best of 2023: Wrestling Match
Adam Page vs Swerve Strickland, AEW Full Gear
Not only do people say it was a bad year for All Elite Wrestling but it was also a bad year for Hangman Adam Page. He wasn’t in the main event title picture all year so I understand it on that level, but on the level of in ring action? He had three great matches with Jon Moxley and two great matches with Swerve Strickland. It’s hard to have a bad year with that on your resume.
For most of the year, Moxley and Page’s Texas Death match at Revolution was my favourite match of the year. And then Hangman Page started a feud with one of my favourite wrestlers since his Lucha Underground days in Swerve Strickland. A guy I wanted very much to leave WWE for AEW. I was very happy when they let him go, and it was proof that Triple H doesn’t know a superstar when it’s under his toucan ass nose. Swerve has been handled pretty well in AEW, with exception to the Embassy hiccup, but for most of 2023 he’s been on the right track upward to the main event.
At Wrestle Dream, Page and Swerve had a great wrestling match with a cheap ending which didn’t take away from the quality. In having a Texas Death match, the match which was becoming Hangman Page’s signature in the company, it elevated the meaning of their program to new heights. The match was brutal, beautiful, and aggressive all at the same time. Hangman Page drinking Swerve Strickland’s blood and Swerve hanging the Hangman are moments I will remember for a very long time. They are the defining images of 2023 for All Elite Wrestling for me, and that’s what I want out of a great wrestling match more than anything.
The match didn’t just cement Swerve Strickland as a top player in AEW but might have also made him the people’s choice of the fans. For the fans to cheer him over “The Protagonist of AEW” is a major feat, and one I hope the company understands in 2024. Go all the way with Swerve Strickland, but keep Hangman Page in his orbit. These are your stars AEW. Do a double turn. Do whatever. But make them the focal point.
Will Ospreay vs Kenny Omega, NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 17
Bryan Danielson vs MJF, AEW Revolution
Will Ospreay vs Zack Sabre Jr, NJPW Royal Quest III
Hangman Page vs Jon Moxley, AEW Revolution
Thanks for reading.