It’s that time of year again. Time for me to desperately search for the perfect soundtrack to accompany our collective existential crisis – because nothing says “world falling apart” like Emo-Country-Pop. Join the musical masochism as I navigate the allegedly “best” albums of 2023, and maybe (just maybe) you’ll find a little something you like.
For eighteen years now, compiling this list has been a labor of love. Here are the previous ones:
It’s neat to go back and see how many of my previous “favorite” albums are still in my listening rotation. Quite a few, actually.
OK, enough stalling. Here we go. No excuses. No explanations. Just my favorite albums from the past 12 months:
10. Peter Gabriel – i/o
i/o is exactly the album you’d expect Peter Gabriel to release in 2023: considered, jubilant, thoughtful, ambitious, articulate, introspective, deeply personal, global, optimistic, and filled with melodies as big as the ideas they contain.
[Louder Than War]
9. Young Fathers – Heavy Heavy
Each of the tracks fits well with the rest, but each track is surprisingly unique, so that it is a thrilling listen from front to back. A little Michael Jackson makes its way into the mix, a little bit of Kendrick Lamar, and a whole lot of what feels like indigenous sound, the most compelling part of this project for me. It’s full of great sounds and great sentiments.
8. Paul Simon – Seven Psalms
Making its entrance with a softly tolling bell followed by some of the most delicate acoustic guitar since the early days of Simon & Garfunkel, this is a gentle, mystical record, a world away from the boisterousness of Paul Simon’s Graceland years.
7. Sufjan Stevens – Javelin
A deeply personal, Earth-moving masterpiece exploring relationship tensions with the gravitas of an apocalypse and the simplicity of a melody passed down through generations.
[The Line of Best Fit]
6. Zach Bryan – Zach Bryan
Across 16 songs, relationships fail and prosper and then fail again; hope deteriorates and grows, only to deteriorate again. What Zach Bryan is is a moving portrait of life’s knottiest, in-between moments.
5. Lana Del Rey – Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd
Beyond simply toggling between different Lana eras, several songs on Did you know synthesize the personality-driven pop genius and the hyper-specific singer-songwriter, demonstrating how tight a grasp she maintains on her multi-faceted vision and how drastically she’s evolved as an artist.
4. boygenius – the record
the record is everything fans of Baker, Bridgers, and Dacus could have asked for. Their voices blend together flawlessly, the choruses are catchy, the storytelling is vulnerable, sad and authentic, and the melodies are meticulously crafted. It will become an instant classic in the indie rock scene.
3. Caroline Polachek – Desire, I Want To Turn Into You
The sheer range of Polachek’s songcraft makes you realise you are in the presence of a commanding talent. She has drawn comparison with Kate Bush and Bjork, not because she sounds like them, but because she has a similar blend of extraordinary vocal ability, florid imagination, and genre-bending boldness.
2. Chappell Roan – The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess
Chappell Roan’s debut is thoughtful, a little unhinged and entirely contradictory, merging the alt-pop seriousness of Lana Del Rey with the untethered preppy charm of Lorde to go full throttle into messy, emotional fun.
1. Olivia Rodrigo – GUTS
Blending raucous guitar riffs with her signature witty prose (and some much-needed screaming), Rodrigo takes aim at the all-too-familiar beauty and chaos of youth. It takes, well, guts to create a rock record that is just as lively and daring as it is introspective and heartbreaking. Long may Rodrigo reign.
Foo Fighters – But Here We Are
Paramore – This Is Why
RAYE – My 21st Century Blues
Jessie Ware – That! Feels Good!
Blur – The Ballad of Darren
Troye Sivan – Something To Give Each Other
Bully – Lucky for You
Wednesday – Rat Saw God
Gracie Abrams – Good Riddance
Jungle – Volcano
If you want to listen to all Top 20 Albums, one after the other, then this is the playlist for you:
What did I get wrong? What did I miss? What is your favorite record from 2023? Leave me a comment and let me know!