December 20, 2023

Albums of 2023

Presenting: The Best Albums of 2023 featuring boygenius, Janelle Monáe, Algiers, André 3000, Wednesday, Vagabon, Irreversible Entanglements, Yo La Tengo, and more!

While last year saw major releases from some of the biggest names in music, 2023 felt like the year that rising artists were able to take the spotlight and fully shine. That's not to say that there aren't some bonafide names on this list, but it felt like a year of transformation rather than one of affirmation. I've been ranking my favorite albums of the year since 2008 and I feel just as proud, confident, and excited by this list as I have with all the others. There are still a ton of heavy-hitters on this list and I expect that a lot of the names here will become the stars of tomorrow. Of course there are still the dependable acts like Sufjan Stevens, Yo La Tengo, and Animal Collective, who all put out excellent new records, right alongside major pop artists like Olivia Rodrigo and the new reigning rock and roll champions boygenius, but there are also a ton of new, groundbreaking musicians that entered the fold ready to make their claim as voices of a new generation. Despite the hate, rock music still found a voice in Bully and Tanukichan and metal raged with Ragana and Horrendous. This year finally saw the return of André 3000, who defied all expectations and dropped his long-awaited solo album only for it to be an ambient, New Age, flute-based record. It also saw shoegaze make a shredding resurgence via new bands like Hotline TNT, feeble little horse, and Parannoul backed by the glowing return of veteran act Slowdive. Whether you're looking for jazz, hip-hop, punk, folk, or something totally experimental, there's something on this list for you.

50  MARNIE STERN | The Comeback Kid
49  CINDY | Why Not Now?
48  SPIRITUAL CRAMP | Spiritual Cramp
45  HORRENDOUS | Ontological Mysterium
44  KELELA | Raven
43  ROMY | Mid Air

40  AMAARAE | Fountain Baby
39  INDIGO DE SOUZA | All of This Will End
37  RAGANA | Desolation's Flowers
36  TIRZAH | Trip9Love...???
35  PARANNOUL | After the Magic
34  JANELLE MONÁE | Age of Pleasure
33  FEEBLE LITTLE HORSE | Girl with Fish
32  JESS WILLIAMSON | Time Ain't Accidental

30  HOTLINE TNT | Cartwheel
28  NOURISHED BY TIME | Erotic Probiotic 2
27  SLOWDIVE | everything is alive
26  NONAME | Sundial
25  L'RAIN | I Killed Your Dog
24  ALGIERS | Shook
23  MODEL/ACTRIZ | Dogsbody
22  ARMAND HAMMER | We Buy Diabetic Test Strips
21  AVALON EMERSON | & the Charm

20  FRED AGAIN.. / BRIAN ENO | Secret Life
18  MILITARIE GUN | Life Under the Gun
17  BLUE LAKE | Sun Arcs
16  BULLY | Lucky for You
15  TANUKICHAN | Gizmo
14  ANDRÉ 3000 | New Blue Sun
13  BLACK BELT EAGLE SCOUT | The Land, The Water, The Sky
12  JULIE BYRNE | The Greater Wings
11  SUFJAN STEVENS | Javelin

10  YO LA TENGO | This Stupid World

Over thirty years and seventeen albums into their storied career, Yo La Tengo continue to embrace the “your favorite band’s favorite band” motif and on their best album in over a decade, it’s probably worth questioning why they’re not just one of your all-time favorite bands too. Bursting with squalls of guitar feedback and explosive solos, there are also their typically tender moments packed in here as well showcasing the band’s stunning dynamics and their unparalleled ability to shift from droning noise anthems to incendiary dream-pop spectacles. Many can and will argue about what the best Yo La Tengo album is, probably picking something from their imperial run from the mid-90s until the early millennium, but it’s even more remarkable that twenty years since many would declare them at their creative peak, they’ve unveiled yet another astonishing record in their legendary discography. We’re lucky to be living in the time of Yo La Tengo and fortunately their remarkable era is feeling far from over.

When you see a “rock” act signed to the pioneering electronic label Warp, you can assume that whatever you’re about to hear will probably buck your expectations. Classifying the music of Yves Tumor as rock feels appropriate in the sense that rock music has often been a boundary-pushing genre that borrows from the past while moving boldly into the future. Everything about Praise a Lord feels alien and futuristic, beaming down from the same spaceship that from which Ziggy Stardust rode in the ‘70s, but with the technological advancements that feel light years ahead. Guitars melt like magma and there’s an electro-sheen that washes over these bangers giving everything a neon-soaked coating that streaks speakers with a varnished texture. Rock music hasn’t ever sounded quite like this before and as much as Yves seems to be envisioning the future, it’s unlikely anyone will sound like this again. They’re a singular vision that continues to evolve with each release, exposing us to something new and otherworldly every time and Praise is yet another artifact we’ve been given to treasure.

08  JESSIE WARE | That! Feels Good!

Disco, in many ways, never really died like many want to think (or proclaim) that it did, but it’s been a long time since an album has come along that fully embraces the genre quite like Jessie Ware has done on her fifth full-length. On That! Feels Good!, Ware goes beyond the Soul music roots we’ve heard before and embraces the flash, glitz, and glamor that beautifully reflects off a mirror ball as it spins above a dance floor. This is an album for your most sparkling occasion, one to get your friends to devour delicious, fizzy cocktails and adorn their best attire for a night of endless pleasure. Whether you're into it just for the singles or have found that it works wonderfully from start-to-finish, your best party has officially found its new soundtrack and it's one that will make your guests feel luxurious with each passing track. It screams "fabulous!" and begs you to dress to the nines while you enjoy each positively exquisite number. Every note hits with dazzling wonder and offers nothing but the best of times. As the title and exclamation points suggest, this is an album all about living your best life and bringing along everyone who brings the best vibes.

07  FEVER RAY | Radical Romantics

Over the course of their career, being able to predict what Karin Dreijner would do next has been an impossible task. From the icy-synths of The Knife’s Silent Shout to the frozen tundra soundscapes on their self-titled Fever Ray debut, there’s at times been a darkness to their sound, but that’s progressed over time to include neon flourishes and club rhythms. Radical Romantics, the artist’s first new album in six years is perhaps the first time we haven’t seen a groundbreaking re-invention from the singer, but rather one that has enhanced what came before it. There are familiar electronic pangs, beats, and rhythms, and Karin’s lyrics prove to be just as inventive as ever. So while this might be the first time they haven’t covered new ground, it’s perhaps the first time we’ve heard Karin feeling settled into their craft, having sharpened their skills and techniques enough to live and breathe comfortably in a world they’ve so painstakingly created. For the first time, Karin has applied the methodology “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” Nothing needs fixing on this album and it’s yet another major achievement from an artist that has already given us so much. Here’s to finally feeling at peace in your own skin, no matter how long it takes you to find it.

06  CAROLINE POLACHEK | Desire, I Want to Turn Into You

I’m not sure I’ve ever heard pop music take the risks Caroline Polachek embarks upon throughout her second solo album Desire, I Want to Turn Into You. With tumbling, gymnastic-like vocal performances, flamenco melodies, and hyper-pop rhythms, she stretches out and takes the listener on an obstacle course full of swooping beats that dodge logic to create something bold, beautiful, and uniquely her own. The best songs may have been released in previous years as singles, but to hear them in the context of the album gives them new life and only affirms that the additional tracks that surround them also serve a purpose; they’re anything but filler. This is pop music that feels far from radio success, but there are parts that share a similar DNA and it’s without question some of the most pleasing and pleasurable music of the year, exactly what pop music should be all about.

05  BOYGENIUS | the record

I’m not sure there’s a band that had or could’ve had a bigger year than boygenius. Five years after a fluke EP (fluke as in it was intended to be a merch table item and not an entire career), the trio of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus, collectively known as “the boys,” reconvened via their group text and decided to be a band again. After a killer cover appearance on Rolling Stone, the trio dropped three singles at once and announced their new album. By the end of the year they had headlined MSG and The Hollywood Bowl, two venues that seemed way out of their league merely eleven months ago, but now seem like the only destinations possible. Their deeply intimate lyrics, glowing melodies, and epic joy of being friends catapulted them to superstardom beyond any of their dreams. Trying to determine which of the boys is the most famous proved to be a fun debate all year long and as many ponder what could be next for their individual solo careers, it seems silly to ignore the fact that no matter what happens in the future, 2023 was without question the boygenius era and it was a great one at that.


I have no doubt that many people were expecting (and hoping) for Olivia Rodrigo’s sophomore album to be a flop. After the astronomical success of “Driver’s License” led to the stupendous debut album Sour, there were haters out there who thought there’d be no way she could do it again. Man, did Oliva get those haters back. Guts isn’t just a successful follow-up to an incredible debut, it tops it. Bringing in elements of grunge and pop-punk, she swung for the fences with this one and knocked it right out of the park. The piano-driven “Vampire” was an early sign that Olivia wasn’t going to fade away quickly and that the hype leading up to her second release would be warranted. (Hearing Jack White shout her out at his Brooklyn Steel show earlier in the year didn’t hurt either.) The maturity and growth she’s achieved in such a short amount of time only highlights her talents and places her atop the pop pedestal, but calling her a princess only cheapens her success. A new queen has arrived and she’s ready to hold court.

03  ANOHNI AND THE JOHNSONS | My Back was a Bridge for You to Cross

After releasing a spellbinding record that went deep in electronic flourishes and near-industrial tones, it was a rather shocking surprise to learn that Anohni had resurrected her former backing-band The Johnsons to deliver a stunning, blue-eyed soul spectacular. Drawing numerous comparisons to Marvin Gaye’s all-time classic What’s Going On?, the latest release from Anohni tackles similar subjects through a modern lens, but with the rich detail of Motown-style R&B. Her voice is the silver bullet here, no knocking the band of course, and it’s power is what draws you in before the subject matter at hand really grabs hold. Of course there are vibrant sounds and phenomenal sonic elements that course through the record, “Scapegoat” is a marvel and “Can’t” builds up to a towering release that explodes with true passion, but it’s Anohni’s biting voice that transports the album into a realm all its own.

02  WEDNESDAY | Rat Saw God

“We’re gonna play a country song now” announced singer Katie Hartzman during the band’s stop at Music Hall of Williamsburg this past summer before the group blasted-off into the song of the year, “Chosen to Deserve.” It’s not what you might first expect when you hear the genre get name dropped, but Wednesday firmly stick to their Southern roots and sing about their more mundane lifestyles of getting fucked up on too much Benadryl and listening to Drive-By Truckers real loud. It’s not your mom’s country music, but you can tell they’ve heard enough Neil Young and Crazy Horse via Dinosaur Jr that they’ve taken the shoegaze wall of sound and a bit of hardcore crunch and added it to the music that feels most authentic to them. There's an energy that radiates and sizzles with a cast-iron heat throughout and every song punches with a mighty force, ready to knock your socks off and raise hell in the pit. Coursing with high-wire volts of distorted guitar and steel-pedals that are coated with a sludgy buzz, it's no wonder this is the band's fifth album, but no one would blame you for thinking it's their first, and over their steady rise they've been able to sharpen their focus without losing that essential fuzz. If this is the country music of the future, we’re in for a wonderful new world of tunes.


Whether on his own or one half of the duo Armand Hammer (see #22), the prolific streak of billy woods continued this year with his best release yet. Teaming up with Kenny Segal for production, his barbed bars of hard hitting rhymes took me to places like no one else on this list and that’s not due to the album’s themes on life on the road in a post-pandemic world. Unraveling lavish spoken words with some of the most well-thought out verses is no easy task, but woods spews his carefully contracted rhymes with fine-tuned story-telling of abstract thoughts. Home to the best verse of the year, “Sooner or later it's gon' be two unrelated active shooters / Same place, same time / Great minds / Tesla and Edison,” the record is full of these wildly stunning realizations that stopped me in my tracks and had me hit replay just to recapture the magic one more time. Danny Brown's exclamation "bicycle kick" and his inclusion of the broken ice cream machine at McDonald's are also heavy contenders. It's hard to suggest listening to an album with its lyric sheet close at hand, but doing so only helps bring to life the words of woods and will give new perspective to the bars that you might miss on first listen. Regardless, even after playing this more than any other album this year (I think there was a whole month when it didn't leave my turntable), I'm still finding more nuance with each repeated spin. Who else is rapping about the quality of weed sold at bodegas while also giving the instructions for a killer pork belly recipe or ordering a mezcal negroni. Kenny Segal's lacerating beats provide a stark soundscape for woods to find a groove to rap over (although the jazz rhtyhms that flow through "Blue Smoke" are fantastic), but his disregard for trying to chisel out a hit single is more his demeanor and it's clear that on Maps, woods isn't concerned with breaking out of the underground. The fact that he's started to do so anyway further proves he's one of the best rappers not just in NYC, but in the game.


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