The Top 20 Albums of 2023

The Top 20 Albums of 2023

With some long-awaited returns, solid sophmore records, veterans at the top of their game and some huge debuts, we round up the 20 best albums of the year

From blistering, innovative hardcore and boundary pushing hip-hop to experimental alt-pop perfection and genre-fusing dance music productions, here are the 20 best albums of 2023.

20. DRAIN - LIVING PROOF

20 DRAIN

Santa Cruz hardcore punks signed to Epitaph for their brilliantly relentless second album of heavy-riff-filled, groove-laden crossover sounds, taking their sound to the next level and leading the charge of modern hardcore into 2024.

19. Pangaea - Changing Channels

19 Pangaea

Veteran English producer, DJ and Hessle Audio cofounder’s second studio LP shows an artist and true dance music scholar at the height of his powers, effortlessly switching from UK Garage to Happy Hardcore and tech house to hypnotic breakbeats with a focus on fun and setting the dance floor alight.

18. Slowdive - everything is alive

18 Slowdive

34 years into their career, legendary English dreamy shoegazers did what they do best on their fifth album, crafting atmospheric, engrossing, lush and layered dreamy shoegazey soundscapes, while also being their most polished album to date without being “overproduced”.

17. Overmono - Good Lies

03 Overmono

Cult fave Welsh production duo and brothers Tom & Ed Russell took us on a tour of the history of British dance music through a modern lens on their debut album, with pop and trap infiltrating their sample heavy takes on techno, UK Garage, breakbeat and more. Rather than just a collection of “bangers”, Good Lies sees the pair explore some atmospheric and experimental sounds alongside the dance floor faves.

16. Fever Ray - Radical Romantics

16 Fever

While we may still naively wish for The Knife to make a comeback, the good news is Fever Ray AKA Karin Dreijer and her brother/former The Knife bandmate Olof Dreijer are still working together, with Olof co-writing and producing Karin’s innovative & engaging third album. Written as an ode to love and its many facets, Radical Romantics sees the Dreijer’s fuse everything from , electro, techno and even post-punk across its 10 tracks of avant-garde yet catchy sounds.

15. Yaeji - With A Hammer

14 Yaeji

Ever since she made her mark with a double EP drop back in 2017 we’ve been waiting for the debut LP from hip-pop-house artist Yaeji, with With A Hammer finally arriving in April this year and showing Yaeji is more than capable of crafting a full length record - more please.

14. K-Lone - Swells

13 K LONE

British producer & Wisdom Teeth co-founder K-Lone’s second full-length album lives up to its title as the record swells from ambient-influenced downtempo beats to indie-dancefloor flavours, halftime autonomic vibes as well as a hypnotic guest feature from the one and only Eliza Rose.

13. Jesus Piece - ...So Unknown

12 Jesus

If you’re a person of culture who likes their grindcore just as much as they like their nu metal, then Philadelphian metallic hardcore band Jesus Piece’s second album is the one for you. A bit more experimental than their first album Only Self, ...So Unknown throws some post-punk influences into the mix of their crushingly heavy yet melodic sound.

12. Avalon Emerson - & the Charm

11 Avalon

Longtime fave of the electronic underground, American producer & DJ Avalon Emerson completed her transition into dream pop singer-songwriter on her evocative debut album that blends shoegaze and synthpop with Balearic beats, resulting in an irresistible listen from start to finish.

11. Sampha - Lahai

17 Samphar

Six years on from his Mercury Prize winning debut album Sampha delights on his second full-length, trading in the themes of loss and grief from Process for more optimistic and positive vibes inspired by him becoming a father, with Sampha’s iconic, unmistakable voice remaining the star of the show.

10. Sufjan Stevens - Javelin

Sufjan Javelin

With a discography as legendary as iconic as American singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Sufjan Stevens’, one can’t help but have a slight concern that each new album may not reach such similar heights… Thankfully on album number 10, Stevens draws on the wide reaching sonic palette he’s created from indie folk and chamber pop to more electronic-influenced sounds, while retaining the personal approach to songwriting from his first few albums.

9. Sofia Kourtesis - Madres

10 Sofia

As equally appropriate for kick ons as it as starting the night, Peru-via-Berlin producer Sofia Kourtesis’ magical debut album sees her fusing all manner of luscious house sounds with catchy pop-influenced productions, with interesting fluctuations in tempo and perfectly calculated breaks in the four-to-the-floor drums.

8. Danny Brown & JPEGMAFIA - Scaring the Hoes

09 Danny JPEG

In a year of great albums from some massive collabs in hip hop, among the best were two of the most idiosyncratic voices and beatmakers in the game. Across 14 avant-garde & downright ADD cuts, the pair flex their absurd creativity and collaborative chemistry with Peggy’s ever-evolving, chaotic & manic productions on a whole new level this time as he samples everything from video game soundtracks to WWE wrestling promos. Brown’s rapid-fire, higher frequency vocals are balanced by Peggy’s more laidback, bassy delivery as they spit pop-culture referencing bars that are as off the wall as they are comically thought out and timed.

7. Julie Byrne - The Greater Wings

08 Julie

After huge critical acclaim for her 2017 record Not Even Happiness, the six year wait for American alt-indie-folk singer-songwriter Julie Byrne’s third album proved more than worth it. Stunning and stripped back, The Greater Wings is a majestic collection of moving compositions, with gentle guitars, poignant pianos and sweeping strings accompanying Byrne’s striking vocals.

6. Wednesday - Rat Saw God

05 Wednesday

Americana alt-rock-shoegazers came into their own on their brilliant fifth album of loud yet diverse brand of indie rock, a record that showcases their laidback, seemingly effortless approach to crafting addictive, in-your-face tracks with riveting, storytelling lyrics completing the package.

5. Kelela - Raven

06 Kelela
Another artist who broke their six year album drought was American alt-r&b innovator Kelela whose brilliant second album saw her further hone and evolve her forward-thinking dance music productions meets soulful r&b, with productions from the likes of LSDXOXO, Kaytranada and AceMo and more.

4. Armand Hammer - We Buy Diabetic Test Strips

04 Armand

The stark realities of our modern profit over people society never sounded so good - or interesting. The title of billy woods & Elucid AKA Armand Hammer’s sixth album of boundary-pushing, experimental hip hop sums up its lyrical themes well, referring to signs posted around New York City and highlighting the problems with America’s health system. woods & Elucid’s off the wall raps are met by equally imaginative beats that range from lush, dreamy soundscapes to harsh, industrial noise.

3. Yves Tumor - Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds)

02 Yves

In an era and year where “genre fusing” is the new norm, no album did it better than American experimentalist Yves Tumor’s epic (and epicly titled) fifth record. Striking the perfect balance between challenging and accessible, the album features an intoxicating blend of r&b, indie pop and electronica alongside hard rock and even some metal influences, resulting in one of the most unique and rewarding listens of the year.

2. Caroline Polachek - Desire, I Want To Turn Into You

07 Caroline

The title of this album has been stuck in my head since before 2023 even started. When Welcome To My Island dropped in December last year (featuring the album’s titular hook), it set expectations for Polachek’s fourth album extremely high - and in February she more than delivered. A perfect album of modern alt-pop, Polachek takes her 90s and 2000s influences into the sonic stratosphere and a few left turns thrown in for good measure, resulting in an exultant and enrapturing listen from start to finish.

1. billy woods & Kenny Segal - Maps

01 Billy

In 2023, it truly felt like it was billy woods’ world and we’re just living in it. An artist whose quantity is truly matched by quality, woods has made our list twice now, also coming in at number 5 alongside Elucid as Armand Hammer. His second full length with underground beat wizard Kenny Segal is a rare achievement indeed, with the combination of his stream of consciousness, off the wall rhymes chopping and changing from his signature metaphors and mysterious messages through to some of the more frank and straightforward bars we’ve heard from billy. Themes related to “the road” - both those taken but more so these untaken are explored as only woods can, set to the soundtrack of Segal’s productions that range from woozy, laidback cuts to overblown electro influenced styles and his unique brand of breakbeaty boom bap - and even some drumless, spacey affairs. This is hop hop heaven.

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