The 51 Best Songs to Come Out of the 51st State in the Past 365 Days

“If you want the world behind you, you’ve gotta get your area behind you.” — Noochie
The pandemic didn’t kill the DMV scene. It did, however, accelerate the growing forced sprawl of the music scene. For better or worse, there are now disparate pockets across the DMV that are effectively serving as creativity incubators (see: the literal Pocket).
I hope one day we find a way to go back to the all-genres-everything-everywhere-all-at-once house shows of yesteryear, but I’m also genuinely intrigued as to whether these pockets eventually connect like spokes on a wheel or tragically morph into self-protective roaches scattering to the relative safety of their respective nooks.
As Brody Steck, lead singer of Makeup Girl, put it to Washington City Paper’s Dorvall Bedford, “My dream would be just one DIY scene that we can all be part of. It’ll take a lot of passionate people to make that happen, but I do think it’s beginning to happen.”
Watch this space.
As always, praise be to Listen Local First, Hometown Sounds, DCist, Roxplosion, DMV Life, 730DC, City Cast, Washington City Paper, Washington Informer, Afro, and the various D.C. music WhatsApp groups that let me leech off their good taste.

Every year, while researching, composing, and culling these best-of lists, I end up with a pocket-sized notebook full of jotted-down thoughts…

  • This playlist is not a top-down ranking. I’d like to think of it more as a John Cusack-in-High Fidelity situation. Flow; thematic narrative; a desire to impress Catherine Zeta-Jones. It’s all in there.
  • For example, there is a reason we kick off with Griefcat’s gospelic reminder that there is no such thing as a “Benevolent Billionaire” and then glide into 3ohBlack’s “Steppin On Ants,” in which he recounts “running through Gallery Place with a coat with a tag.”
  • BEST LYRIC: “I wish you would take antidepressants, but I can’t tell you that.” — Cuchulain, “Antidepressants”
  • I may be reading too much into this, but Bob Boilen’s resignation letter from NPR came off as really ominous:

  • FUN FACT: Light Beams’ singer Justin Moyer was part of the Washington Post team that won a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the January 6th attack.
  • Microgenre I didn’t know existed until this year: bubblegrunge
  • Oh He Dead!’s album release show at 9:30 Club was one of the best shows I attended all year.
  • The best one: Kill Lincoln at Union Stage
  • “If you want the world behind you, you’ve gotta get your area behind you. So, I just thought about, what’s the most D.C. shit I can do ever?” — Noochie on his Front Porch Freestyle concert series
  • In both 2021 and 2022, Nasim Siddeeq won the award for Most Seductive Cover Art, but he has since been dethroned. Congratulations, Joe Maye:

  • “You know, I tried to give her a softball and give her Coltrane. And she was like, ‘No, no, no. Where’s the Mingus?'” — Charvis Campbell of Home Rule Records recounting Kamala Harris’ visit to his store last May
  • Pinky Killacorn is to “Mardi Gras” as Nicki Minaj is to “Monster”
  • As I was putting this thing together, I realized many of the typical big-name artists/groups hadn’t released anything this past year. After an informal survey, it became apparent that after having been cooped up all pandemic, they’d blown their respective creativity loads in 2022.
  • One fun outcome of that is there are more lesser-known artists on the playlist than ever before. In terms of Spotify monthly listens, we’ve got:
    • Griefcat: 382
    • Taisha Estrada: 167
    • Flo Petite: 139
    • Sohil: 50
    • Sarah Booke Trouble: 12
  • FUN FACT: Hip-hop/R&B artist Krystal Marie has a doctoral degree in dentistry. (Make ’em say ahhhh)
  • Carve out 20 minutes to watch “DMV Rappers Who Fumbled Their Rap Deal.” In it, Ant Glizzy “dives into the untapped potential of DMV rappers who landed record deals but might have missed seizing the opportunities presented”:

  • “I like being here. I feel I can really hear myself. [Plus, the] sidewalks are nice . . . amazing parks, free museums, and some of the best food in the states. It does not get better than this city.” — Jack Kays, the Travis Barker protege who moved here in 2021 to be with his GWU-attending girlfriend
  • It was a delight to see all the Gen Xers get babysitters and come out for Black Cat’s 30th Anniversary shows. Black Flag and Bad Brains patches as far as the eye could see.
  • Shy Glizzy, don’t do (more) songs with Chris Brown.
  • Did you know that DC Fire and EMS have a band? It’s called Heat Stroke. Badum chhh.
  • IMPLICIT BIAS IN ACTION: That song that sounds like it’s being sung by Mark Hoppus from Blink 182 is actually by Breezy Supreme, who looks like this:

  • Keen-eared listeners may have caught Reesa Renee’s suggestion to “call up Tyrone” in her song “Radio Unplugged.” Yes, that is an allusion to Erykah Badu’s “Tyrone.”
  • There are a ton of solid pop punk/pop punkish bands that have popped up recently, and I’m all for it.
  • I readily admit I’m taking liberties when it comes to labeling some of these bands/artists a DMV band/artist. Some of these list-makers may have since abandoned the area for greener pastures, some may live closer to Richmond than Alexandria. Whatever. Enjoy the music.
  • Thank you to Lindsay Hogan for the header image.


Questions, comments, and concerns should be directed to @brycetrudow, where they will be gratefully received or immediately ignored depending on what you write.

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