Opinion, Music, Featured

31st December 2023

My Albums of the Year 2023

These are my albums of the year 2023, I limited myself to ten albums that I’ve really loved or think are just incredible musically. Some will be well-known and I hope others not, each description of the album includes why I love it and recommendations that you might enjoy if you like the album/artist. Happy New Year!

The Record – boygenius

This choice will be no surprise to anyone. I understand it’s a predictable choice but this list would be incomplete without it. The Record has been featured on practically every music outlet’s albums of the year from NPR to the BBC and for good reason. It is a blend of each artist’s style with poetic lyrical detail from Lucy Dacus; breathy folk vocals from Phoebe Bridgers and steely guitar riffs from Julien Baker. The result is an album that fundamentally asks the question, What is love? It explores platonic devotion and puts their bond at the centre, particularly in songs like True Blue and We’re in Love.

I genuinely cannot pick my favourite tracks from this album since its release in March every song has been my favourite at some point. My Spotify-wrapped would, however, argue Cool About It and Not Strong Enough are my top candidates. If you loved this try listening to The Sun by Joesph or really anything by Adrianne Lenker for more female-fronted indie folk.

Rat Saw God by Wednesday

The 5th album from North Carolina based Wednesday is by far their best and most experimental. It’s difficult to confine this band to a genre with country and indie-rock influences as well as nineties shoegaze creating an individual sound. This album feels quite explicitly Southern American with an autobiographical theme of growing up that merges feelings of utter chaos and love. Truthfully it feels like a coming-of-age album that is both personal to frontwoman Karly Hartzman and universal in its themes.

Standouts on this album for me are country-inspired Chosen to Deserve a song that chronicles the dirtier parts of growing up that shape a person. Another is Quarry the song that originally pulled me into the album and made me a fan of Wednesday. If you enjoy this album try Versions of Modern Performance by Horsegirl which narrowly missed being on this list or another North Carolina resident MJ Lenderman.

Black Classical Music by Yussef Dayes

Yussef Dayes is a South London-born drummer and producer, with this being his debut solo project giving him a chance to experiment on a new level. Dayes is a staple of the growing British Jazz scene and this album reached number one on the UK jazz and blues chart. The album is genre-bending featuring elements of funk, contemporary jazz, Caribbean beats and orchestral elements. Dayes’ list of collaborators makes the album all the more impressive for a debut with the likes of Tom Misch and Yamilah Barry featuring. On top of this, the album feels incredibly personal with both his daughter and mother appearing on songs.

My first standout track is Afro Cubanism where brass, piano and percussion really shine. My other is The Light (feat. Bahia Dayes) with smooth silky bass and heavily affected guitar creating a perfect balance of soft and energetic. If you like this album listen to Shiroi by Mansur Brown or Black Focus by Yussef Kamaal (One of Yussef Dayes previous projects).

To Learn by Leith Ross

This is another debut album that’s made its way onto the list. Leith Ross is a poet with their lyrics creating a narrative landscape that feels confessional and raw. Paired with soft meditative guitar and soothing gentle vocals on some tracks and driving basslines and synths on others. In a genre considered oversaturated, Ross still stands out through their emotive lyrics and moving instrumentals. To Learn, More is evocative, confessional and at its heart completely unpretentious it is indie-folk at its best.

An obvious standout on this album is We’ll Never Have Sex a song that flung Ross into virality and is one of my most-played songs of all time. My others would be I Just Don’t Think That You Like Me That Much Anymore and To me one is about knowing a relationship is over and the other is about doing anything for someone who manipulates the fact that you would. If you enjoyed this album try what we leave behind by Delaney Bailey or any of Rachael Jenkins releases.

Wishes to Fulfill by Another Michael

Another Michael’s music is best described as feeling like a hug personified. This album is for fans of Hovvdy and Pinegrove it’s filled with energetic acoustic guitar and smooth harmonies as well as conversational lyrics. The complexity of harmonies and layered elements of this album make it musically interesting while retaining an element of simplicity due to minimal production. This album listens like a love letter to music and life itself.

Standouts for me are Guitars with its layering of acoustic guitars over one another and Angel which feels like it should be in the background of a post-breakup scene in a rom-com. If you loved this album try Blue Heron by Jodi who opened for Another Michael on tour or Radiator by Sadurn.

Cuts and Bruises by Inhaler

To anyone who knows me this will be another very unsurprising choice. This album soundtracked the first half of my year alongside The Record. Compared to their debut album Cuts and Bruises is more confident and cohesive, it’s not an experimental album but it’s not meant to be. Explosive guitar, soaring vocals and addictive drums create an album that solidifies the band as a rock-inspired quartet with more pop vocals and energy on some tracks. I think lyrically the album captures youthful energy and is the perfect soundtrack to university life.

My standout tracks would have to be the more raw and slower moments of Valentine and If You’re Gonna Break My Heart a favourite of mine since the release of the album. If you enjoyed this album I would recommend Lifetime of Wanting by Nieve Ella or Beautiful by Overpass.

The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We by Mitski

There is always so much to say about Mitski both lyrically and musically. This is Mitski’s first album since announcing her retirement and feels like a definitive shift away from her previous work sound-wise. What does not change on this album is the skilful weaving of emotional lyrics she has become known for as well as soaring vocal melodies. There’s a definite country element to the album alongside the more expected orchestral elements of Mitski’s music with pedal steel guitars and snare drums accompanying classically reminiscent violin and piano.

The most obvious standout is the viral My Love is Mine All Mine with celestial imagery and timeless love it is no surprise this song is a fan favourite. For me, I really enjoyed the more country-tinged I Don’t Like My Mind and The Frost. For lovers of Mitski, I would recommend Stay Proud of Me by NoSo or Cypress by Sarah Kinsley.

Why Does the Earth Give Us People to Love? by Kara Jackson

Kara Jackson is an award-winning poet which you can tell very quickly when listening to this album or any of her music. On this debut album, the 24-year-old ponders grief in adolescence, love as destructive and desperation for worth and value shifting to a sense of self-worth. Jackson’s lyrics are overflowing with detail, tiny components that flourish into bigger stories within her songs. Why Does the Earth Give Us People To Love? feels like a journey of lyrical resilience and growth.

Standout tracks are lily mainly for its simplicity and richness of vocals and pawnshop with lyrical imagery and wordplay. If you liked this album I would recommend I Killed Your Dog by L’Rain or I’ve Got Me by Joanna Sternberg another 2023 album that made a substantial amount of Best Album lists.

This Stupid World by Yo La Tengo

Yo La Tengo are by far the longest-standing band on this list having formed in 1984 this is their seventeenth album. They are an incredibly reliable indie-rock band with noisy energetic beats and bassline alongside stretching guitar solos. Some of the songs on this album feel gentler with softer guitar and limited percussion creating a soothing sound. Overall This Stupid World feels like a late 90s indie-rock throwback in the best way possible.

Standout tracks on this album are the softer Aselestine which sounds similar to a Mazzy Star song and the slightly higher-energy Fallout. If you like this I would suggest On Fire by Galaxie 500 or Stereolab’s 1992 debut album Peng!

Unreal Unearth by Hozier

Hozier once again creates an ethereal and evocative album with Unreal Unearth which is inspired by Dante’s Inferno. This album is much more experimental and expansive than Hozier’s previous indie-folk influences while some tracks stick to this many branch off into more upbeat synth and guitar-heavy songs. The main thing that remains unchanged is that Hozier’s lyrics are pure poetry and his vocals are just as crisp as they were on Take Me To Church. The fact this received such little critical acclaim and recognition is shocking to me when I feel like it delivers on all fronts.

My standout songs are the incredibly popular Unknown/Nth which has beautifully intricate guitar and heartbreaking lyrics. As well as Butchered Tongue set in the 7th circle of hell which is violence the song is a discussion of colonial powers attempting to kill off what makes indigenous cultures distinct from the colonisers.

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