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Sunday 12 February 2023

Welcome back to The Ephemeric's 2023 Hot List. This week we will be having a look at the most exciting new music due for release in the coming year.

best anticipated new music 2023 albums hot list

If variety is the spice of life, then there has never been a finer time to be into music. Democratisation of music streaming and a departure from the traditional "album" has left us with an overabundance of new artists and releases each year. The sheer volume can be difficult to manage, which is why the act of curation is more vital than ever. With this year's Hot List, The Ephemeric aims to provide a concise and thorough list of the most exciting music coming from debut artists as well as returning favourites. Tastes may differ, but if you start your 2023 musical adventure off here, you won't go far wrong.

So without further ado, here is our list of the top albums to keep an eye on in 2023, starting with number 15:

15. MGMT

mgmt kids time to pretend new album 2023 best most anticipated music
MGMT are still best known for their trailblazing debut, Oracular Spectacular, released some 15 years ago. The singles from their first album, Time to Pretend, Kids, and Electric Feel, proved to be generational hits with longevity to this day.

It would not be accurate to say they have struggled since this strong beginning, so much as they have eschewed the familiar pop stylings that made them such an instant success. Their work since then has veered more into the experimental and genre-defying, to rather more divisive reception. 

This all seems to have changed with their most recent album, 2018's Little Dark Age, marking a return to the radio-friendly electronic pop that worked well on the debut. That album was a critical and commercial success, considered by many to be some of their best work to date. 

In 2023, the band is set to release a new, as yet untitled album. We have no idea what it will look or sound like; if it is to continue the formula of OS and LDA, or dive into something new entirely. Whatever comes of it, it's sure to be worth checking out.

Release Date: Summer 2023

14. "Bubblegum" by Biig Piig (New band)

bubblegum biig piig 2023 debut album best most anticipated new music
Next we have Irish performer Biig Piig, a consistent fixture on the music industry's one-to-watch lists for 2023. 

A series of EPs released over the last few years have generated considerable hype for the West London-based rapper and songwriter, including tracks such as Sunny and Feels Right. In 2023, her debut album Bubblegum will release and it has industry watchers very excited.

Biig Piig stands out for her unique, genre-hopping blend of pop and rap, with lead singles as disparate as the tender and delicate In the Dark and the more acerbic Kerosene (which I don't care for as much). There's considerable talent here and Biig Piig are likely to be a name we hear more going forward.

Release Date: January 2023

13. "Angels & Queens: Part II" by Gabriels

gabriels debut new album 2023 angels and queens part 2 ii best most anticipated musicLast year's winner of the Debbie for best debut album, along with a host of other lesser awards, 2023 will see an immediate follow up from Gabriels. 2022's debut album was intended to be released in two parts and in 2023 we will get Angels & Queens: Part II.

This soul-singing trio has been hotly tipped for success by many pundits in the industry and attracted glowing endorsements from heavy hitters like Elton John, who described last year's release as one of the most seminal releases of the past 10 years.

Gabriels' sound builds on the entire history of Black American music, with influences in gospel, soul and blues. Their debut release last year earned hype reviews and awards.  At the time of writing, no tracks have been released from the upcoming Part II, aside from the fact that it will feature the lead track from their 2021 EP, and still the best song they have written, Love and Hate in a Different Time.

Release Date: March 2023

12. "Continue as a Guest" by The New Pornographers

continue as guest new pornographers new album best most anticipated new music 2023While they may not be the flashiest name in the music industry, few things are as dependable as Vancouver rock band The New Pornographers putting out an album of catchy, crowd-pleasing tracks every couple of years.

Considered a supergroup, comprised of musicians who have succeeded either as solo artists or as part of other notable bands in the Canadian indie scene. I could spend all day listing out some of their memorable tracks, so here's just a sample: On the Table, Falling Down the Stairs of Your Smile, and Challengers.

The band's latest album, Continue as a Guest is set to release in March and promises more of the same quality, with lead single Really Really Light boding well for what is to come.

Release Date: March 2023

11. Crawlers (New band)

crawlers best new most anticipated debut album 2023
While I am inherently skeptical of bands that go viral online, I will make an exception for Liverpudlian rock band Crawlers, who are set to cap two years of building hype with a full LP release in 2023.

The track that originally launched the group to fame, Come Over (Again) is just pure gold, but there is plenty else to admire with tracks like I Can't Drive released last year to similar praise.

This has all resulted in Crawlers being one of the more hyped bands of 2023, included in many of the industry's one-to-watch lists. That debut album should hit sometime later in 2023 and it is one to be excited for.

Release Date: TBD 2023

10. Tseba (New band)

tseba debut new album 2023 best most anticipated musicAnother new artist for 2023, Tseba have been making waves in the electronic music scene for their collaborations with genre artists such as JAM and Electric Fields.

Billed as a project to blend the old and new in electronic music, hearkening back to the roots of house with with a modern pop twist. Tseba's work manages to tap into nostalgia without sounding tired.

If tracks such as Must Be Love and Smile are anything to go by, then Tseba's reputation as one of the more exciting new songwriters in the dance genre appears to be well-founded. Their debut LP is going to be one ot keep an eye on.

Release Date: TBD 2023

9. Lemon Twigs

lemon twigs new album best new anticipated music 2023
Long Island art rock maestros Lemon Twigs have been going strong since their hype 2016 debut Do Hollywood

A smattering of EPs, tours with major acts like Arctic Monkeys, and experimentations in various nostalgia-tinted projects had been met with mixed success until their most recent album, 2020's Songs for the General Public nailed the formula. The result was some of their finest work to date, most notably hit single The One.

In 2023, Lemon Twigs are returning with a new, as yet untitled album that will build upon the band's niche in retro, harmony-rich rock and roll. Starting with recently released single Corner of My Eye.

Release Date: TBD 2023

8. Tommy Lefroy 
(New band)

tommy lefroy debut album best new anticipated music 2023
Next up, another exciting new artist in Tommy Lefroy, a London-based folk duo inspired by Jane Austen and musicians such as First Aid Kit and Phoebe Bridgers. 

Tommy Lefroy followed up their well received 2021 EP with a series of tours through Europe and America in 2022. Now they are hard at work at putting out their debut album, which is expected to release in 2023.

Folk duos are a dime a dozen, but Tommy Lefroy stand out for their lush instrumentals and impeccable production, with some superb tracks released with their EP, notably The Cause and Shoot. They have just put out the first track from their upcoming debut, Worst Case, and it is a gem of a track. Definitely one to keep an eye on.

Release Date: TBD 2023

7. Jamie xx

jamie xx 2023 avalanches new album best most anticipated new music
The 2010s were a good time to be in the "xx" business. This was the decade where London rock band The xx took the world by storm with their trio of albums, and at the same time saw the launch of founding member Jamie xx's own highly successful solo career, in particular his platinum single Loud Places.

Now several years since either act has released a new album, both have been teasing an imminent release. Of the two, Jamie xx's as yet untitled third album appears to be the farthest along, allegedly in the final stages of editing before release. 

Little is known of this new album, other than that it will feature a collaboration with Melbourne's legendary plunderphonics duo The Avalanches, and is said to have been highly influenced by their sampling work with old records. We're expecting this to release sooner rather than later and when it does it will be one of the most highly anticipated releases of the year.

Release Date: Spring 2023

6. Fleet Foxes

fleet foxes new album 2023 best most anticipated music
Few bands evoke as much anticipation as Seattle's Fleet Foxes, one of the modern day masters of folk rock. 

Of their four albums to date, at least two have been bona fide masterpieces, including The Ephemeric's album of the decade, Helplessness Blues. Their most recent album, Shore marked a strong return to form and was one of the finest records of 2020, earning runner up position in the 2020 Debbies. 

In 2023, the band will release an as yet untitled fifth album. No tracks have yet been released, but the existence of the new record was confirmed during interviews following the recent release of new single A Sky Like I've Never Seen. This track itself is not expected to be part of the new record, written instead as the soundtrack to a new Amazon documentary, but if it is any indication Fleet Foxes are in fine form.

Release Date: Summer 2023

5. Braxe + Falcon (New band)

braxe falcon new debut album best most anticipated music 2023
One of the most exciting new projects in music. Braxe + Falcon is a new collaboration of legendary French producers Alan Braxe and DJ Falcon

2022 saw the release of the duo's first EP, Step By Step, a fantastic track featuring the unmistakable vocals of Panda Bear, lead vocalist of Animal Collective and highly successful solo artist in his own right.

The EP was well received, generating hype for what was to come next. A smattering of additional singles and remixes have followed to similar praise, but we're all really just waiting now for the inevitable full blown LP, confirmed recently to exist in a Reddit AMA. If, as expected, this sees the light of day in 2023, it will be one of the biggest releases in electronic music for the year.

Release Date: TBD 2023

4. "Urban Hermit" by Aloboi (New band)

aloboi urban hermit new debut album 2023 best new anticipated musicIt's finally here. A perennial item on The Ephemeric's Hot List, Aloboi has been building hype for years with a series of excellent EPs and singles. From the retro chill out vibes of A Pleasing Smile, to the more danceable electronic stylings of Want To Love, the classical remix of Night Train (Claire de Lune), or the dazzling genre mash up of Somebody Feel.

2023 will, at long last, see the release of a debut LP Urban Hermit. My first impression is that it is a shame for the LP not to include the hit singles that we have heard so far. While I am excited for entirely new music, I can't help but feel like they're leaving their star players on the bench. But make no mistake, this is still excellent music from one of the freshest composers in the industry today. Remember the name, because Aloboi looks set to become a mainstay in the electronic music scene.

Urban Hermit will release in February 2023.

Release Date: February 2023

3. "Cracker Island" by Gorillaz

cracker island gorillaz 2023 new album best new anticipated music
It feels like a long time since we have had a truly great release from Gorillaz. The Damon Albarn-led virtual band has been a core fixture in pop music for 20 years now, producing some of the world's biggest hits with tracks like Feel Good Inc19-2000, and On Melancholy Hill.

2010's Plastic Beach was a masterpiece and arguably the last great album from the group, with their more recent work, Humanz, The Now Now, and Song Machine: Season One, being met with more lukewarm reactions, despite the occasional nugget of gold. 

Their latest album, Cracker Island, looks like a return to the style of their older work, with excellent early singles Baby Queen and Skinny Ape boding very well indeed for what's to come. This could be a genuine return to form and is one of the most exciting albums to keep an eye on in 2023.

Release Date: February 2023

2. The Killers

the killers new album 2023 best new anticipated music
Next we have a band that requires absolutely no introduction. You all know their hits. The Killers are one of the world's biggest bands, now with decades of seminal work under their belt.

The band have been on something of a creative hot streak since the pandemic, with albums released in 2020 and 2021. 2023's as yet untitled album is set to make it three in four years, an impressive output in just a few years. Even more impressive is that these albums have represented some of their best work to date, with Imploding the Mirage, and Pressure Machine both releasing to immense critical acclaim.

So far just the one track has been released from the upcoming album, Boy, and it is a good one, with a danceable, electronic style that hints at a throwback to the pop stylings of Day & Age. I don't know how long the band can keep this up, but they are absolutely in the midst of a creative renaissance and long may it continue.

Release Date: Summer 2023

1. "Fantasy" by M83

fantasy m83 midnight city new album best most anticipated music 2023
But this year's number one most hotly anticipated album is Fantasy, the latest from French electronic music group M83.

This is not a group that releases music often. 2011's Hurry Up We're Dreaming was a masterpiece, ultimately finishing as runner up in The Ephemeric's top albums of the decade. But that was over a decade ago. The years since have seen a brief foray into 1990s kitsch and an experimental instrumental record released, but there has been no proper follow up.

That looks set to change with Fantasy, with the early singles indicating a return to the nostalgic 1980s pop with a modern twist that worked so brilliantly in HUWD and Saturdays = Youth. The tracks revealed so far are not just good, they're great. Oceans Niagra and Earth to Sea compare favourably with the band's best work and the rest of the tracks ooze quality. This could well be the successor to HUWD that we've been waiting on all these years, as well as an early album of the year contender when it releases in March.

Release Date: March 2023

So there you have it folks: 2023 in music. Tune in next week for this year's final Hot List, where we look at the most exciting new movies in 2023.

Sunday 5 February 2023

Welcome back to The Ephemeric's 2023 Hot List. This week we will be having a look at the most exciting theatrical productions coming to the stage in the coming year.

best anticipated new theatre theatrical production 2023 hot list

Theatre is in vogue again. We talk about it around the proverbial watercooler. The biggest names in the dramatic arts, all around the world, flock to the London stage. 2023 is set to feature household names, on and off the stage, working their craft. We have world premieres, West End transfers, Broadway hits making their way across the Atlantic for the first time and, believe it or not, still some postponed 2020 shows due to make their long-awaited debuts. 

2023 is an exciting year for theatre in and around London. So without further ado here's our list of the top 10 theatrical productions to keep an eye on in 2023, starting with number 10:

10. "Next to Normal" by Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt, at the Donmar Warehouse

london best theatre 2023 next to normal musical brian yorkey tom kitt donmar
We start off with Next To Normal, the London debut of the acclaimed Broadway musical about a bipolar woman coming to terms with her family's history.

With book and music by Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt respectively, Next to Normal was a Tony and Pulitzer prize winning phenomenon during its time on Broadway, and a move to the London stage was always an inevitability. 

That this long awaited debut will come at the Donmar, rather than one of London's bigger stages, might come as a bit of a surprise. But this will ensure the ideal intimate experience for those who manage to get tickets when its run begins in August of this year.

9. "Best of Enemies" by James Graham, at the Noel Coward Theatre

london best theatre 2023 james graham best enemies noel coward zachary quinto david harewood
James Graham is one those playwrights that demands attention. His recent work reads like a guide to some of the finest work in topical or political theatre, with This House, Ink, and Quiz to his name, among others.

His latest, Best of Enemies, is a fictionalised depiction of the 1968 debates between intellectuals William F. Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal during the Democratic National Convention, the ensuing fallout and litigation, and the legacy that its coverage left on political discourse in America. 

This latest West End transfer stars two major film actors in Zachary Quinto and David Harewood and has been met with widespread critical acclaim. The current run only extends until the end of February (although another extension or transfer seems likely), so see it while you can.

8. "Free Your Mind" by Sabrina Mahfouz & Danny Boyle, at Factory International

best theatre 2023 manchester danny boyle free your mind matrix
Now for something a little bit different, in many ways. 

Free Your Mind is an immersive theatrical dance adaptation of The Matrix featuring hundreds of dancers, debuting at Factory International in Manchester, taking place over multiple "flexible spaces".

Sound weird, wild and ambitious? Sure. But it's also being directed by none other than Danny Boyle, the legendary film, stage and Olympics director who has won just about every accolade under the sun and produced work tantamount to genius over the past thirty years. It doesn't really matter what Free Your Mind is, with Boyle attached you're going to want to see it.

"Oklahoma!" by Rodgers and Hammerstein, at Wyndham's Theatre

london 2023 best theatre oklahoma rodgers hammerstein wyndhamI know what you're thinking. Really? That Oklahoma!? The cheesy, schmaltzy aw shucks musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein? Yes, is my answer. But this is Oklahoma! like you have never seen it before.

The original musical is primarily about love triangles, awkward romances and drama, but in an innocent, high school kind of way. This new interpretation, revived for Broadway in 2021 and the subject o widespread acclaim, is a much more provocative piece of work. Darker, more sexually charged, more real.

It's the same play, but reinterpreted in an entirely new light and energy. It should be an exciting watch for any musical fans, but particularly for those acquainted with the original.

6. "The Secret Life of Bees" by Lynn Nottage, Duncan Sheik and Susan Birkenhead, at the Almeida

best theatre london 2023 secret life of bees nottage sheik birkenhead almeida Another musical, but this time a brand new world premiere. This one looks to be something quite special.

The Secret Life of Bees is a musical adaptation of the award winning novel of the same name. A coming of age story set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. 

The adaptation has a huge amount of theatrical pedigree behind it, including Lynn Nottage, writer of the incredible award winning Sweat, as well as the musical minds behind the Tony Award winning Spring Awakening. This is going to be a big one when it hits the Almeida this April.

5. "Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead" by Olga Tokarczuk and Simon McBurney, at the Barbican

best theatre 2023 london drive your plow over bones dead simon mcburney complicite barbicanA new production from Simon McBurney's legendary Complicité theatre company is always an event to be savoured. Complicité are renowned for their creativity and invention, often making groundbreaking use of technology, minimalism and visual ingenuity.

This latest work adapts a violent, genre defying Nobel Prize winning novel of the same name by Olga TokarczukSet in remote rural Poland, men from the local hunting club are dying in mysterious circumstances and Janina Duszejko – an eccentric older local woman, ex-engineer, environmentalist, devoted astrologer and enthusiastic translator of William Blake – has her suspicions. 

DYPOTBOTD is touring the country through 2023. For those in London, it will be at the Barbican in March.

4. "Trouble in Butetown" by Diana Nneka Atuona, at the Donmar Warehouse

london best theatre 2023 trouble in butetown donmar diana nneka atuonaBack to the Donmar with Trouble in Butetown

A world premiere play by highly regarded playwright Diana Nneka Atuona, Trouble in Butetown is the story of a black GI gone AWOL during wartime, seeking refuge in an illegal boarding house set in the port town of Butetown, Cardiff. 

It's part war story, part social commentary, but ultimately just a fascinating and personal story of a man trying to leave his old life behind and escape prejudice. Butetown is set to be the spring tentpole in the Donmar's theatre lineup when it launches at the end of February.

3. "The Pillowman" by Martin McDonagh, at Duke of York's Theatre

london best theatre 2023 pillowman martin mcdonagh duke of yorkOne of the most celebrated works of the multi award winning playwright, screenwriter and director Martin McDonagh, best known for his work in Hollywood that includes In Bruges, Seven Psycopaths, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. The Pillowman made its debut at the National Theatre back in 2003. Now, some 19 years later, it returns to the stage at Duke of York's Theatre.

The Pillowman is the story of Katurian, an author living in a police state whose work comes under scrutiny when it becomes apparent that the violence depicted in his writing bears striking similarities to a series of gruesome child murders that take place. This West-End revival comes with a fairly prominent star in Aaron Taylor Johnson, and a dark turn for comedian Steve Pemberton

This was one of those productions originally slated for 2020 before the pandemic hit. The Pillowman is finally going to hit the stage in summer of 2023.

2. "The Motive and the Cue" by Jack Thorne, at the National Theatre

motive cue jack thorne national hamlet gielgud richard burton elizabeth taylor sam mendes johnny flynn mark gatiss london best theatre 2023
Some productions just have everything on paper. The Motive and the Cue is an exciting new play fictionalising the making of the 1964 production of Hamlet by Richard Burton and John Gielgud and the creative tensions that nearly tore the team apart.

Written by highly prominent film, TV and theatre writer Jack Thorne, whose body of work is too numerous to itemise, but includes films like The Aeronauts and The Swimmers, TV series including This is England, His Dark Materials and The Eddy, and best known in theatre for his Olivier Award winning work with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. It will be directed by a legendary director of the film and stage who needs no introduction, Sam Mendes, and feature a big name cast that includes Johnny Flynn, Mark Gatiss and Tuppence Middleton

The Motive and the Cue will be the National's big summer production on the Lyttleton Stage.

1. "Patriots" by Peter Morgan, at the Noel Coward Theatre

london best theatre 2023 patriots peter morgan almeida noel coward ruper goold tom hollander
We end our theatre preview with the new play from legendary playwright Peter Morgan, known for Frost/Nixon, The Queen, The Crown, and many, many others brilliant works. 

His latest, Patriots, looks at the scramble for power between Russia's oligarchs following the collapse of the Soviet Union, focusing particularly on Boris Berezovsky, played by the award winning Tom Hollander. The presence of Rupert Goold, a man with an enviable track record in theatre, in the director's chair is the final ingredient to what should be an electric piece of theatre.

Patriots will play at the Noel Coward Theatre from May, transfering from The Almeida.

So there you have it folks: 2023 in theatre. Tune in soon for our next instalment of the Hot List, covering the essential new music coming this year!

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