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In Defense of Guitar Music in 2023

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Blog post title is somewhat of a misnomer because I don’t actually have a well-articulated argument for why guitar music matters in 2023, or is good, or is worth your time, or is underrated, or whatever…all I have is a playlist of my fav guitar songs of 2023, which is above, and which I'll update as the year goes on. On it, you'll find dub production, rapping, electronic beats, different types of punk, some country's a mixed bag. But on every song, guitar. I think it speaks for itself, and at this exact moment, I can show you better than I can tell you. However I do feel a ramble coming on...

(Playlist includes Juan Wauters, whose Finals interview is here (shout out Hattie Lindert), and Enumclaw, whose Finals interview is here (shout out Stas THEE Boss)).

I'm aware guitar music doesn't need any more cosigns. It's doing fine. It's the main music of P4k which is still an indie rock blog, and it seems to be the main music in America at this moment when Taylor Swift is doing billion-dollar tours and pop country is on top of the charts.

That said, this blog post is inspired by one of my favorite retired music critics saying, in a discord post recently, that they felt depressed that anyone under 25 is listening to rock music in 2023. And that's something I've heard from other people, too, whose taste in music I generally trust, ranging from musicians to label owners. At least in my circle, nobody really has time for you if you try to evangelize current guitar music to them. They feel like guitar music is spinning its wheels, is rock nostalgia with nothing new to say, and being involved with it can only hold you back culturally. I think they just aren't looking hard enough for the good shit.

On a musical level, I find the implied notion that music must always be forward-pushing and “progressive” to be limiting, dismissing out of hand the that sometimes music that is unchallenging to tradition can also be good, to say nothing of a listener who wants to do the knowledge and go back and listen to old music, or hear new music that is tapped into the spirit and sound of old music. Also there is guitar music in 2023, and on this playlist, that could be seen as musically progressive in terms of, for example, embracing DAW composition. But I don't even like fighting that fight. New forms can certainly be interesting and important, but I feel music doesn't need to be constantly striving for further progressive horizons. Those types of advancements happen naturally, I think, with new technology, cultural exchange, because sometimes that's what culture is hungry for, and sometimes because of straight-up visionary artists following their imaginations.

I also think that my playlist does include several undeniably innovative cuts, enough to make a case that current guitar music can be more adventurous, and also less white, than some people think. Although innovativeness is not what chiefly draws me to any of these jams. That's generally something I notice about music and appreciate after I already decide if I like it or not.

I should admit that I write under the influence of experiencing Tomu DJ’s open format Mood Ring DJ set last Friday, where she dropped Local H “Bound for the Floor” and it was perfect, recasting landfill alternative rock as being totally deserving of slotting alongside stone classics like Electric Relaxation and I Wanna Dance with Somebody (btw the addictive guitar riff is the same as Taylor Swift’s I Can See You, also a jam). And the unreleased demo that Tomu shared with me the other day also hit me right in the heart and was very downer rock, consisting of solo vox and distorted Stratocaster. So I'm feeling like one of my favorite (and might I add critically vetted) artists is also feeling me on this: that it's perfectly ok and even cool to listen to, DJ, and make guitar music 2023. Not that I necessarily needed the back up, but it does make me feel less crazy considering the rest of my social situation is pretty hostile to my rockness.

I'll admit, when I look at my in-progress list of best music projects of 2023 there isn't a lot of guitar music on there (the homie Aramis from Enumclaw is kind of the opposite, which intrigues me). But it's a different story trackwise. The songs in this playlist are all cuts that I think hang with the best of music, period, in 2023. Some might even sway some haters who still have a rock bone buried in their body to give the guitar another chance in 2023. Listen and see what it does to you.


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