A Time Capsule for 2023

By Emily Massey of Slow Pulp, Meernaa, Maple Glider, Doohickey Cubicle

Photography by Joey Martinez and the artists themselves

2023 was a whirlwind. A year that ushered in a multitude of social, political, and climate events that shaped and impacted many of our lives.

So let’s wrap up this year just like we have the last few years – honestly, with a time capsule that shares the highlights while not shying away from the year’s more challenging parts. We asked some of our favorite artists to summarize their year in three acts, with a song to accompany each memory.

Photo by a stranger with Shan, Alice + Brid

Act One:

Light of a Clear Blue Morning by Waxahatchee (Dolly Parton cover)

I’d had a bit of an emotional breakdown New Year’s Eve and was feeling quite out of my body. My partner and I went camping to one of our favourite spots on New Year’s Day. We listened to this song a lot on that trip, playing cards, swimming and driving around. I remember feeling hopeful for the first time in a little while.

Act Two:

The Wild by Jen Cloher

I listened to the entire Jen Cloher album all year, but by the middle of the year, I had been living out of the city for a couple of months and had just gotten some work on an egg farm. It was a time of pain, togetherness, nature, and reflection. I have strong associations with this song in particular at that time of the year.

Act Three:

Waving To My Girl by Winten 

Late 2023 I had a beautiful time touring with my friend Bridgette of Winten. In between some shows our friend Shan was organising for us, Shan invited us to stay in her shack for a couple of nights. We got stoned and ate pasta, read, swam, walked, chatted, and bonded heaps. Then we played solo sets at a beautiful old pub in the Hinterland, ate delicious food, and just laughed a heap with Alice and Shan who we were touring with. We listened to a lot of music on this trip but listening to this song live after scream-singing along to it many many times was very special for me. It was on my pre-show playlist so though not physically together I spent the entire end of the year listening to this song before my first ever shows in Europe, UK & US, fully aware we’d be in these places together someday.

Act One (Alli + Francis):

Jetski by Tiberius B

This absolute banger came out at the end of April and both Francis and I were perfectly OK listening to it *very* frequently. Sometimes twice in a row. Things were sort of weird at this time because Francis was sick but he couldn’t figure out what it was. His right sinus hurt. He had to sleep sitting up. Some days we thought we had it figured out and some days we felt hopeless. This song made us feel good and excited. Fav lyric:  “You’re a package of salt and I’m a Jetski”

Act Two (Alli):

I Believe by Caroline Polachek 

Turns out Francis had a rare cancer in his right sinus and within a month he underwent a really intense surgery. I went to see him in the hospital everyday from around 3pm-10pm for a week, and as I drove there each day I felt simultaneously fearful and excited to see him. I think I would call this the hardest week of my life – and listening to this song on the drive there helped me show up bright, positive and strong for him. I didn’t really know what the song was about but the line “I don’t know, but I believe we’ll get another day together” was exactly what I needed to yell in the car.

Thanks Caroline <3

Act Three (Alli + Francis):

Marmalade by Julien Chang

An early October morning, I had a friendly new radiation technician who asked “do you have a music preference for your session today?”. I was feeling worse for wear from the radiation side effects, and I got excited that I could have a say in what music was blaring during my daily treatments (before this day it was 80s radio rock which had its own charm..:)).

In that moment I wanted to hear Julien Chang and I felt so lucky from that day forward every time I heard “Marmalade” while my head was under a machine. I found perseverance, especially through the driving drum beat of the song and swift change to the tender, melancholic ending. This song matched the duality of my mood during this time. The lyrics “I remember falling in love” encapsulate the feeling of deep appreciation for my family, friends, and healthcare pros.

Act One:

Crash by The Primatives

This year was the most we have ever toured through a calendar year (almost 5 months) Real pedal to the metal to the metal type stuff. Touring started in March when we went to Europe for the first time with Death Cab for Cutie, which was an absolute dream come true for us. I heard Crash by The Primitives at a pub we stopped at in Nottingham and it felt like the perfect soundtrack to preface the rest of the year to come. But hopefully not predating a real crash, just mental haha.

Act Two:

Chicago by Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grapelli, Quintette du Hot Club de France

Most of the summer was spent at home in Chicago. I craved a sense of stillness more than I ever had in my life. Simple everyday pleasures had become a treat for me. I adopted a dog this summer, a sweet former research beagle named Bambi. Going on walks with her changed my life. Getting up earlier in the morning, moving my body, talking to neighbors, taking in sunshine, it was magic. Then I would come home and listen to jazz or piano music as I made coffee to start the day. Louis Armstrong, Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru, Gia Margaret’s Romantic Piano, and Django Reinhardt were some favorites.

Act Three:

Breath In by Frou Frou

I developed an obsession with Imogen Heap this year, especially this Frou Frou record. I listened to it so much throughout the fall/winter. It can be hard for me to listen to music while on the road. I’ve found that sound can easily overstimulate me when I am around it so much while traveling. I often refrain from listening to music at all on tour. But something about Imogen Heap’s voice was so calming to me and it never got old, which was incredibly welcomed by the end of this year. It pulled me back to earth when I was losing it lol.

Act One (January):

April Suzanne by Robert Lester Folsom

I called Spencer on a whim. I saw snow in the mountains from where I stood on the main drag just outside of the studio. Rob told me if there was any time to go, now was the time. It seemed like such an improbable place for snow. But Los Angeles is full of surprises. Because I never clean my car I had everything I needed: a parka, boots, an extra sweater, and a headlamp. Spencer agreed to join me on this last-minute adventure.

I drove to his house in Altadena and we got in the car and headed up the 2. We caught up on things, talked about estrangement and the complicated way of fathers. We laughed and got to a spot where we could park in the Chilao campground. We got out of the car and I remember the cold air hit us in a way that forced us to move quickly. We made our way through an untrodden, deep powdered path to a lookout where there was a gentle wind moving sagebrush and the mountains stood proudly, bragging of their new dusting and the sunset behind them glowing a shade of red I’d never seen in real life. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever witnessed.

Act Two (September):

One Fine Summer Morning by Evie Sands

I flew out to South Dakota. I was nervous. I didn’t know what the belly button of North America would have in store for me. I have a lot of tattoos and don’t necessarily mind my mouth at all times. I went there to record my dear friend Suzanne Vallie. She is from South Dakota. Though when I’d met her she’d been living on a mountain in Big Sur.

Sometimes we would have tea and I would listen to her stories. She returned to her small town in South Dakota when her father passed away last year. She inherited his estate and has been working hard to make beautiful what was left to her and is gracefully succeeding. She had me stay in her beautiful home as the season was changing.

We set up a small recording set up in her small living room where there was a massive picture window looking out to a small forest. Cats would roam the yard and the birds would show off and cause drama. We had to track down a cricket that got in the house. But I’d heard it was bad luck to kick a cricket out… we did it anyway.

At dusk, the streets would glow pink. In the midwest they use rose quartz to pave the roads. She’d joke about corn culture, but I thought the infinite golden fields were a marvel. We’d take breaks from recording and she’d take me down to the Missouri River to dip and stroll along its wide shore. There were crystals in her house. One right next to the bed she’d made me. She told me that there was a cliff along the river where they came from. I saw bald eagles. I bought a hand-embroidered tablecloth for three dollars from the second-hand store, drank tequila, and listened to Suz tell her stories and laugh. 

Act Three (October):

Come Home by Hana Stretton & Are You Looking Up by Mk.gee


I got news that a dear friend passed. I hadn’t spoken to her in two years. Not for any reason other than that thing that time and distance does. Surreal. A true star person. I was in the studio and excused myself to try and let my brain slowly unfurl this information. I made my way home and wept the whole ride home. I talked to friends I hadn’t spoken to in years that were a part of that old world I used to inhabit. We reminisced, shared our shock, and cried. It was a strange and immense gift to reconnect with these people I have so much love for, but have grown distant from. People that always occupy welcome space in my mind.

I drove up to the bay that same week with one of those friends. We joked and caught up. I dropped her off in San Francisco and made my way to Marin to stay with my mom. I met up with Daniel in Dolores Park and let myself cry in public as I listened to him speak in his beautiful way about our friend. I played a solo show at the farmstand in Bolinas and he came along with Sarang and Frank. A high school friend showed up whom I hadn’t seen in ten years. I met with friends for breakfast. I swam in the ocean. It was so cold. 

And here’s to 2024! Explore the other artists Slumber Mag has featured this year.