According To Jeff Polk, These Were The Best Local Songs of 2023

Dec 7, 2023 at 12:36 pm
According To Jeff Polk, These Were The Best Local Songs of 2023

Follow along with Jeff's list of the best local songs of 2023 using this Spotify playlist, or check out our Tuesday Tracklist and Listen Local picks on our Spotify profile.

It’s a bit early, but since our next issue isn’t until February, I thought this would be the best time to let you know what my favorite local songs of the year were. There were so many amazing songs, but these rose to the top for me. 



I have yet to see FALL live (“yet” being the key word). But to be honest, I’m a little scared to. This is the kind of aggressive old-school hardcore that I would assume leaves a lot of people bleeding after their set, and “501c3” would be a big reason for that. Parts like the first breakdown a minute in, that swells then explodes into old-school beatdown hardcore —  at 2:25, it goes into an insanely powerful stomp, then a slow, plodding, crushing beat at 4:54 — if you’re not delivering a windmill kick to someone’s face in those moments, you’re on the receiving end of one. Honestly, there are so many shifts in tempo and timing here that it never gives you the chance to get bored… or comfortable, and that’s what I love about it. It’s almost like numerous pieces of different songs mixed together, but it all flows perfectly. From melodic to progressive to downright brutal, FALL rolls through every change with absolute precision while remaining aggressive as fuck the entire time. And the conviction in vocalist Michael Spalione’s voice while screaming these lyrics is truly frightening, putting every ounce of energy he has into every word. All the best elements of Sick Of It All, Snapcase, Converge, Terror, Strife, Knocked Loose, Hatebreed, and Earth Crisis — they’re all here. “501c3” is absolutely one of the best hardcore tunes I’ve heard in over 20 years!

Indignant Few 

“Gimme That Somethin’”

A few things have happened in the 27 years since Indignant Few broke up and reunited: smartphones, Netflix, the Squatty Potty, Amazon’s world domination, Limp Bizkit (I didn’t say they were all good). Through it all, these guys kept playing, albeit in separate bands. If you were around the local scene from 1991-1994, you knew who Indignant Few were. You couldn’t not know — they were loud, abrasive, snot-nosed punk rockers who, depending on your expectations, either created a good time or ruined it. Their songs back then weren’t particularly well-written, but they were catchy and served their purpose. Flash forward to 2023 and “Gimme That Somethin’,” Indignant Few’s first release since 1992’s Street Smart Girl EP, and, well, the more things change, the more they stay the same. They’re still loud, abrasive, snotty-nosed punk rockers — just older, wiser, slightly more refined, and now very capable of writing talented punk rock tunes. “Gimme That Somethin’” is a catchy as fuck, driving, powerful, energetic, straightforward, and unapologetic punk song along the lines of Social Distortion, Dead Kennedys, and The Sex Pistols, with a punchy singalong chorus that sticks in your head. This is the kind of punk music that Louisville has needed again ever since, well, since Indignant Few originally broke up. And for the record, they can still either create a good time or ruin it, depending on your expectations, only now for a whole new generation!



Easily one of the most overlooked bands in Louisville, LUX once again makes my list for favorite local songs (for the second year in a row). Far more advanced as musicians and songwriters than their young age would lead you to believe, LUX combines shoegaze with post-hardcore mixed with a bit of indie rock and even grunge for a distinctly unique sound. There is an underlying element here that brings to mind that amazing ‘90s Louisville sound of bands such as Slint, Rodan, Falling Forward, and Enkindle that draws a ‘90s scenester like myself in. But listen a little deeper and bands like The Bends/OK Computer-era Radiohead, Hot Water Music, and early We Were Promised Jetpacks (before they went the Coldplay route) emerge. “KYDS,” one of two songs to released by the band this year, blends a flowing, emotional, melancholic, even somewhat haunting melody with explosive, driving, powerful rhythms to create a huge dreamlike soundscape. Concerned by their social media silence since the release of their two tracks this past summer and fearing they might have broken up, I reached out to them and was told by bassist Gavin Martinez: “2/4 of us are currently in college while the other half work full time.” So they haven’t had time to do much musically lately, “but hopefully that will change once this school year is out.” Here’s to hoping some new tunes and shows are in store for 2024!

Producing a Kind Generation


PAKG was making this list regardless; it’s just that, initially, it was going to be “Eye Do” from their Life is a Miracle album, which came out back in April. But then they snuck in their brand new album All of Us at the last minute, and I heard “Stain”. This is a hit song if I’ve ever heard one. The fact that PAKG isn’t signed to a major label and their songs aren’t in rotation on every modern rock radio station worldwide is proof of how messed up the music industry has become. Or proof of how racist it still is against Black artists playing rock music (something Angelo Moore and John Norwood Fisher of Fishbone can tell you all about). From frontman Dre Smith’s smooth-flowing vocal delivery and guitar work, Kym Williams’ laid-back, in-the-pocket drums, and bassist Aaron “Ace” Holmes’ funky bass lines that drive it all home, “Stain” is a mellow slow-burner of an alt-rock tune with its roots planted firmly in funk and blues. Imagine the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ song “Californication,” but with more heart and soul. Smith’s poetic lyrics are bleak and heartbreaking, but they embrace the music perfectly. Although the entirety of All of Us is as solid as they come, “Stain” just has such a strong groove to it that pulls you in and demands your full attention. Give them a listen and try to tell me PAKG isn’t one of Louisville’s best bands ever.


“In Yr Head”

I knew the moment I heard this song all the way back in April that it would wind up on this list. I will admit, though, that it was a bit of a toss-up between this and “Old Time,” both from the Shit Genes EP. Oddly, both songs are pretty much on different ends of the spectrum, to the point to where it’s hard to believe this is the same band on both tracks. “Old Time” is more of an Americana ballad, whereas “In Yr Head” is, well, pretty much the exact opposite. Modern garage punk with a 90’s grunge soul, “In Yr Head” explodes out of the gate as the lead track on the EP, setting the tone for the tracks to follow. This is the kind of sound Courtney Love wishes she could have pulled off with Hole, and the kind of sound The Gits actually were pulling off around the same time but not enough people were listening. There’s a powerhouse performance by the entire band here, but vocalist Hannah Blakeman really steals the show with the expressiveness and ferocity of her vocals. “In Yr Head” is pretty much Shitfire’s calling card at this point, and with good reason. If someone were to ask what’s going on in the Louisville punk scene these days, this would definitely be the song to play for them first.

Tyrone Cotton

“Go Back”

If you read my review of Tyrone Cotton’s new album Man Like Me earlier in this piece, it should come as no surprise that this is one of my picks. Literally, every song on the album should be on this list. I’m not exaggerating when I call it one of the greatest records ever to come out of Louisville. It’s an absolutely stunning collection of songs, all written at various times in Cotton’s 30 years as a musician. However, it’s “Go Back” that gets me every time. I’ve probably listened to this song 10-15 times in the past week alone, and not once have I not at least teared up hearing it. “Go Back” is a gorgeous, soulful, bluesy, piano-driven ballad with a minimalist drum beat and synth-based atmospheric sounds coloring the background. But it’s Cotton’s voice — proud, strong, and confident as that of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., yet at the same time delicate and vulnerable like that of Johnny Cash in his later years — and his heartwrenchingly beautiful poetic lyrics that are the star here. When I asked about the inspiration behind the lyrics, Cotton said: “It’s gotten a bit hazy at this point. Anyway, sometimes we stray from where we need to be. And now it’s time to go back.” Producers Josh Kauffman and Ray Rizzo bring such a warm, expansive, inviting sound to not just this song but the entire record that it almost feels like Cotton is sitting right in front of you singing and playing his songs.

Letters of Acceptance

“Statue of You”

So I can admit now that I’d already decided back in the very first days of 2023 when Letters of Acceptance’s Shadow Problems 1 EP came out that this track was making this list. It’s just too damn good not to. This four-piece hybrid band made up of members from Louisville and Lexington (band practices must be fun when it’s college rivalry week) has been churning out some amazingly catchy power pop songs over the past year; the aforementioned EP was released in January, the follow-up EP Shadow Problems 2 came out in September, and a brand new full-length album is set to be released in January 2024. This is one hell of a prolific band. Their sound is straightforward yet genre-defying; “Statue of You” in particular takes on elements of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Bob Dylan, The Wallflowers, and even a bit of Elvis Costello with an underlying vibe of The Grateful Dead and the spirit of early Beatles. LoA has a way of creating amazing songs that are rich with big hooks and catchy melodies, but they do it in such a laid-back kind of way that you get completely lost in the music and lose track of just how well-crafted their songs are and how much talent is behind them. “Statue of You” is one of those songs you can put on, let go of your problems, and sink into a feeling of pure contentedness to.



When vocalist/guitarist Brian Omer sings “Had enough of the disrespect, my life’s work you cannot steal,” he means it. “Scowlers,” the lead track on their latest album Eye of the Skull, is everything Omer has needed to say for the past few years. Less an attack on his former bandmates and more of a battle cry regarding the fight Omer had to go through to reclaim the Stonecutters band name, “Scowlers” hits hard with a pile-on sing-along chorus and a crushingly powerful, stomping groove that falls somewhere between Death’s “Spiritual Healing,” S.O.D.’s “March of the S.O.D.,” and Sepultura’s “Inner Self,” blurring the lines between death metal, thrash, and hardcore. Although all of the members of this new Stonecutters lineup are accomplished musicians and could’ve made this song as technical as they wanted, they dial it back and just let the power of the chugging riffs lead the way. This is one of those tracks that when you hear it, you can just picture the pit opening up when it’s played live — arms flailing wildly, feet stomping, and bodies flying every which way. This is a perfect song to slam to, no doubt about it, and definitely a standout track amongst Stonecutter’s entire discography. “Chin up. Head high. ‘Til we die! SCOWLERS!”

The Response

“We’re The Response”

I fucking love this band! They’re rowdy, they write catchy-as-fuck tunes, and they’re fun as hell to watch live. “We’re The Response” is their mission statement, and the lyrics tell you everything you need to know about them. Made up of former members of bands such as Reagan Youth, The Vagrants, Ants in an Argument, The Sickies, The Shanks, and The Ladykillers, among many others, this band plays raw, gritty, stripped-down, bare-bones, true punk rock; this track in particular is reminiscent of Sloppy Seconds, The Queers’ pre-Grow Up era, and Nine Pound Hammer, but with an early Rolling Stones influence underneath it all. Guitarist Sean Magnum brings his gruff voice to the mic, taking on the lead vocal duties for this tune, while vocalist Donnie Vagrant is relegated to sharing backing vocals with a special guest, local music legend Brent Starkey (Creeps Inc., Cherub Scourge, Brain Dead, and many others). Behind it all is drummer Trey Meihaus playing like a punk rock Charlie Watts, and fill-in bassist Alien J (Plague IX) holding down the low-end. “We’re The Response” is two minutes and 44 seconds of relentlessly energetic, fun, catchy old-school punk rock that kicks you in your ass and pushes you into the pit. Cuz they’re The Response, and they’re here to regulate...y’all!



When former My Own Victim and Surviving Thalia vocalist David “Sailor” Bryant messaged me about a new studio project he had coming out, I knew it would be good. But what I got was something much better than I expected. Warplan isn’t just good, it’s fucking amazing. Produced by and featuring Nashville-based musicians and producers Kile Odell and Jameson Force, Warplan’s debut EP The Snake-Eye Conspiracy is a world-class modern metal record. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than on the track “Unmerciful,” which also features Louisville musician Bryan Fox (End Of Me, Bryan Fox and the Good Chiggens), and sounds like equal parts Slipknot, Pantera, Disturbed, and Parkway Drive. Yeah, this song hits hard! This is a sound tailor-made for the main stages of Louder Than Life, and one the Loudmouths will lose their shit over. The musicianship on this song is outstanding, and the production is flawless, but it’s Bryant’s vocals that are clearly in the spotlight here. His voice is as solid as any of the vocalists of the aforementioned bands, with the ability to go from the hardcore aggression of Phil Anselmo to the clean dynamics of Corey Taylor at the drop of a dime. This should honestly be in heavy rotation on SiriusXM’s Liquid Metal channel right now, and hopefully soon will be. A video was just shot for this song, and Bryant is now working on putting a band together and turning Warplan into more than just a studio project, so there are definitely great things on the horizon.


“A La Carte”

If you’ve ever wondered what MC5 or The Stooges would sound like today if they were just now recording Kick Out The Jams or Fun House, then you really need to look no further than Wiirmz. However, don’t mistake them for a modern-day proto-punk revival band. Wiirmz is its own beast, but with the power and strength of the aforementioned bands in their prime. Featuring former members of Trophy Wives and Hot Wires, Wiirmz came about because, as drummer Brad White recently told LEO, “We were feeling pretty upset with the affairs in the world and thought a punk band would be better than yelling at the Internet.” “A La Carte,” the title track from their latest EP, comes out swinging from the opening chords and doesn’t let up. Proto-punk meets classic punk meets garage rock in a head-on collision of sound. This is gritty, raw, powerful, energetic, stripped-down, true rock n’ roll. When asked about the lyrics to this track, White said: “‘A La Carte’ is about everyone having an expectation that they deserve to get whatever they want and having to watch grown men, influential people, publicly throw temper tantrums.” So basically a big middle finger to Trump and his supporters. “A La Carte” is one of those songs that just plows right over you, leaving you beaten and bruised but wanting more. Play this one at full volume!