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Your backstage pass to Northeast Ohio's independent music scene.

Shuffle’s favorite Northeast Ohio music of 2023

four local albums selected as Shuffle's top music of the year
Anya Van Rose, PAL, Holden Laurence and Posture are among the local albums selected by Shuffle as the best of 2023.

There was no shortage of new music from a diverse mix of artists in Northeast Ohio this year. From Middle Eastern prog rock to reggae, and Pakistani electro to harp rock, the local music community delivered a wide-ranging catalog of new releases and debut albums.

This year Shuffle collaborated with Applause Performances to showcase area artists Austin Walkin’ Cane, Ngina Fayola and Ava Preston through live, in-studio performances and interviews. The sessions are available to stream on demand here and with the free PBS app.

Look back on 2023 with these favorite local albums selected by Shuffle’s Amanda Rabinowitz and Brittany Nader.

Anya Van Rose – “Lucky Stars

Canton Vocalist and rhythm guitarist Anya Antonavich formed her band with bassist Austin Wolfe, drummer Austin Popovich and lead guitarist Devin Johnson create a style of music called “bubble grunge,” and as a 90’s girl, this sound appealed to me immediately.

As Anya Van Rose, the group released its debut album, “Lucky Stars,” in July. The 11-track release was recorded at Realgrey Records in Canton, where Antonavich got her start as an artist. For her, it was a process of experimentation, self-discovery and learning to have fun.

Amanda Rabinowitz

For me, it’s easy to be initially drawn to Anya Van Rose because of the aesthetics. Antonavich often plays shows and takes photos in puffy, pastel dresses, which juxtapose the heavy, guitar-driven music she and her band perform.

I first saw Anya Van Rose play at PorchROKR this year, and the momentum hasn’t stopped. The band will perform next at Musica in Akron on Saturday with the Buffalo Ryders and Blue Hour. On Jan. 15, she’s performing with the Canton Symphony Orchestra for itis Divergent Sound series at the Auricle.

Brittany Nader

Holden Laurence – “Fires Fading into Black

Laurence quietly released his third album, “Fires Fading into Black” at the beginning of this year, writing, performing and recording it entirely on his own (except for the drumming) at his home studio in Cleveland. He keeps finding new ways to tap into his raw emotions and translate those feelings into song. The tracks feel like mini movies, carrying you through a story with layers of emotion as the music swells and opens up. It’s music that is not only catchy, but you feel it deep inside.

Amanda Rabinowitz


The three-piece band and its debut record were conceptualized, written, recorded, tracked and mixed this summer. The fast-paced nature of how this album came together pairs well with the length of the record — it comes in at under 12 minutes in its entirety. PAL is equal parts new wave, art rock and punk, the latter of which is typically characterized by being loud, fast and angry.

But what I love about PAL is the humor and irony they inject into every song. The band is having a release show Dec. 17 at the Happy Dog for its upcoming Christmas EP—this is where I saw PAL play their debut album release show this summer, which included matching outfits, a multimedia performance and lots of laughs.

Brittany Nader
Me:You – “Field Tapes in Der Trash

This is a new project of two members of the Cleveland ensemble Mourning [A] BLKstar, LaToya Kent and RA Washington. The duo said they wanted to create a gritty, almost punk-rock album in spirit by weaving together drumbeats, guitars, bass, synth and tape loops. It’s called “Field Tapes In Der Trash” because that’s how they wanted it to present: like an old, forgotten tape or CD somebody dusted off. I love Kent’s voice and lyrics. It’s a perfect blend.

Amanda Rabinowitz

Posture – “St. Isidore

Posture is a math rock-adjacent band conceptualized by Eric Vaught nearly a decade ago. Its debut LP, released on Small Mammal Records, comes nine years after Posture released rough living recordings of its original songs. This album contains some of those same tracks but much more polished.

The production is amazing, and the accompanying music videos are not to be missed. “Carpet,” in particular, gives me that nostalgic feeling of falling asleep with MTV or VH1 on the TV, then waking up in the middle of the night to a weird and fun music video and eagerly waiting for the name of the band and song to appear on the screen.

Brittany Nader

Hand + Noise – “Hand + Noise

This three piece, based in Cuyahoga Falls and Akron, formed in 2020 and call their sound “cage-free folk, free-range rock and pasture-raised blues.” The band has children running around, so they said they started out recording songs at home when they could. The group raised $11,000 through a crowdfunding campaign to record its debut self-titled album at a studio.

Members Elijah Blower, Tong Xu and Sam Weisend said, “We don’t live for our music; we live through our music,” and spent the years leading up to the album’s release honing their sound. Hand + Noise will perform next at the Highland Square Holiday Stroll in Akron on Saturday.

Amanda Rabinowitz

The Bics – “Bad Luck

Formerly known as White Lighter and originated as a minimalist guitar-and-drums duo, the garage rockers changed their name to the Bics and have grown to four members over the last few years. There’s a myth folks may be familiar with that white Bic lighters are bad luck, so this Akron band’s album name is quite apt. The release is a sonic blend of ‘90s DIY ethos and catchy ‘60s power pop, the result of which is a punky, trashy good time.
Brittany Nader

Dave Rich and his Enablers - "Strategic Laments + Baseball"

When longtime musician Dave Rich’s popular surf-rock instrumental band, the Beyonderers, went on an indefinite hiatus during the pandemic, he started writing his own rock songs in a fury. Rich is releasing five albums worth of new songs over the next year, and what I’ve heard so far, they’re all fantastic.

He describes his new band as some “real old dad rock,” and his bandmates are some big names in the music scene: Chris Butler of the Waitresses on drums, writer and bassist Dave Giffels and "Friday Mike" Wilkenson on guitar. “Strategic Laments + Baseball” is Rich’s first full vocal album released over the summer. And a spoiler: Dave Rich and his Enablers will be on Shuffle in February 2024.

Amanda Rabinowitz

Slowspin – “Talisman

Cleveland-based artist Zeerak Ahmed was inspired to make music by North Indian vocal traditions and the experimental-electronic music that surrounded her in her native Pakistan. “Talisman” is a gorgeous blend of finger-plucked guitar work, lush soundscapes, dreamy vocals and complex musical arrangements, all of which work together to communicate the immigrant experience. Though she’s worked at the Cleveland Institute of Art for several years, Ahmed shared in her Shuffle interview that she plans to move to New York City to pursue music full-time as Slowspin.

Brittany Nader

Amanda’s picks:

1. Anya Van Rose – "Lucky Stars"

2. Holden Laurence – "Fires Fading into Black"

3. Me:You – "Field Tapes in Der Trash"

4. Angie Haze – "Time Thief"

5. Marcus Smith – "Unique Melange"

6. Kahrin Spear – "Poems from Willow Creek"

7. Hand + Noise – "Hand + Noise"

8. Easton Union – Various singles

9. Soleo – "Soleo"

10. Dave Rich and his Enablers – "Strategic Laments + Baseball"

Brittany’s picks:

1. PAL – "PALS"

2. Posture – "St. Isidore"

3. Anya Van Rose – "Lucky Stars"

4. The Bics – "Bad Luck"

5. Slowspin – "Talisman"

6. Total Downer – "Caretaker"

7. YFL Kelvin – "Dedicated"

8. funeral commercial – "killing me again"

9. Hand + Noise – "Hand + Noise"

10. Grumpy Plum – "Real Tough Guy"

Expertise: Audio storytelling, journalism and production
Brittany Nader is the producer of "Shuffle" on Ideastream Public Media. She joins "All Things Considered" host Amanda Rabinowitz on Thursdays to chat about Northeast Ohio’s vibrant music scene.