Our favourite albums of 2023

By in Features





30 releases that defined this year.

Many of 2023’s best albums look inward. From the over-analytical self-awareness of boygenius’ the record to the reflective sketches of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s 12, many of our favourite releases this year were concerned with the self and identity and offered vulnerability to listeners.

From propulsive hip hop to Irish trad metal, read on for our favourite albums this year.

Words by Kelly Doherty, Becky Rogers, Annabelle Van Dort, James Hammond and Emily Hill.

Our favourite EPs of 2023 are here.



(Ninja Tune)


Actress’ ninth studio album is a sight to behold. A stunning thirteen tracks, it is an epic culmination of Darren Cunningham’s 25 years of production under the moniker, from clubs to raves through to sold-out concert appearances. The double LP explores themes of physicality in the material approach of Cunningham’s production methods within the studio. The music speaks for itself however, exploring the more avant-garde corners of their production style, centring them in the forefront of the underground club scene.–Emily Hill

Altın Gün




Capturing an artist’s live energy on a record isn’t always easy, but Altın Gün’s fifth album, Aşk, shows how to do it right. From beginning to end, it’s an exhilarating dance through psych reinterpretations of traditional Turkish folk songs and surefire originals that ooze a funk-meets-acid richness. Disco stompers, freakbeat breakdowns and space-rock swirls aplenty, Aşk is all fuss and frills, and sounds as great spinning on your turntable as blasting through venue speakers.—Becky Rogers

billy woods, Kenny Segal




The Records That Made Me alumnus billy woods racked up not one but two excellent projects this year–one alongside Elucid under the banner Armand Hammer and a collaborative album with producer Kenny Segal. The latter, titled Maps, stands as one of 2023’s leading hip-hop albums. Anxious and jittery, Maps is an exorcism of alienation, gentrification and feeling out of step with one’s context. woods is in unstoppable form here, opening himself up through humour and detail while Segal’s explorative production  – Kelly Doherty


the record



boygenius, the collaborative project of Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker, was omnipresent in 2023. With three of indie music’s brightest stars working together for a second time, expectations were always high and the record did not disappoint. Threading Bridgers’ sardonic observations, Dacus’ bright-eyed storytelling and Baker’s blistering edges together, the record spoke to the queer female experience in a way rarely seen in such broadly accessible music. Filled with odes to friendship, relationship regrets and the eternal urge to grow, the record is a raw account of the pains that make us human.–KD

Caroline Polachek

Desire I Want To Turn Into You

(Perpetual Novice)


Desire, I Want To Turn Into You sees Caroline Polachek continue her experimentation with genre as she brings Spanish guitars, bagpipes and Celtic folk into her avant-pop world. Her full-blown theatrics and maximalism thread into this pop-play seamlessly too. Where a trip-hop-powered collab with Dido and Grimes in “Fly To You” floats around laidback techno beats, the suave R&B-twitches of “Bunny Is A Rider” continue her foray into writing outright pop-hits with an abstract sheen.– BR

David Toop and Lawrence English

The Shell that Speaks the Sea

(Room 40)


As the title hinted, The Shell That Speaks The Sea finds experimental maestros David Toop and Lawrence English looking to the material and immaterial suggestions that sound poses. Worldbuilding around field recordings of birds and insects, with these tracks the duo manage to extrapolate the nature of these sounds and engage vivid recordings with voice and an array of sound-making objects and instruments. A long time in the making for this collaboration and with results that readily take the ears along on a journey into the uncanny.– James Hammond

Jaimie Branch

Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die (​(​world war​)​)

(International Anthem Recording Co)


Recorded just months before jaimie branch’s untimely passing in July 2022, Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((world war)) finds the much-missed trumpeter crafting out an ambitious suite of songs with her longstanding Fly or Die ensemble. With the artwork as a primer to the vibrancy of sounds within, these tracks come as a distillation of the group’s expansive approach and move from electrified jazz to the country stylings of “The Mountain” without missing a step. Upping the vocal harmonies and keeping the grooves and melodies at the forefront throughout, the sadness of this being branch’s final work is met with the life-affirming sounds that she so brilliantly articulates with this album.– JH

JPEGMAFIA & Danny Brown




On SCARING THE HOES, two of hip-hop’s most idiosyncratic renegades join forces, melding their fire-cracker witticisms and off-beat flows for one of 2023’s most incendiary collaborations. Uninhibited and intoxicatingly unhinged, both rappers revel in the freneticism of the album’s percolating JPEG-produced beats, hyper-compressed to the point of sonic pixelation. Screeching saxophones collide with pummeling drum machines, ricocheting through layers of dissonant synths and industrial-tinged distortion—an appropriate cacophony for these most chaotic times.–Annabelle Van Dort

Joanna Sternberg

I’ve Got Me

(Fat Possum Records)


Singer-songwriter Joanna Sternberg continued their journey as one of the world’s foremost lo-fi artists this year with the sincere and comforting I’ve Got Me. Concerned with the minutiae and refreshingly direct, I’ve Got Me is deceivingly sweet at first glance but contains tales of pain and growth that leave their mark, even when faced with Sternberg’s buoyant sense of hope. A rewarding listen that feels like coming home. –KD





Leaning deeper into her experimental tendencies than ever before, Kelela creates a vast world of electronic possibilities on Raven. The Afro-futurist-inspired project revels in both physical and spiritual dimensions, examining the connection between body and nature, identity and art. It’s a sprawling and ambitious release that offers a clear perspective while leaving enough space for interpretation. An enduring meeting point of ambient and melodic R&B, listening to Raven feels like being reborn.– KD


False Lankum

(Rough Trade)


Irish trad doomers Lankum submerge themselves in traits that made their second album The Livelong Day so unique by pushing further on the extremities on False Lankum. An intriguing blend of trad, ambient and metal, Lankum dig deep into the sorrows and suffering that so often characterise Irish trad music. A haunting listen that ambitiously recreates established folk storytelling for new audiences.– KD

Lana Del Rey

Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd



Vast and uncompromising, the ninth album from America’s foremost 21st Century troubadour is a sweeping, sprawling masterpiece. Guided by an existential impulse, Did You Know There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd sees the singer reckon with her own mortality, interrogating the significance of memory and indulging in self-mythologising tendencies on her most meta record yet. Featuring some of Lana’s most unconventional songwriting thus far, tracks like “Kintsugi” and “Fingertips” shift in unexpected directions, possessing a stream-of-consciousness quality, flowing with the boundlessness of a dream. A bold and brilliant turn from the singer-songwriter. May this album stand the test of time as her magnum opus.– AVD

Laurel Halo




Laurel Halo, when in the studio, often sonically conceives music which can be considered an instant classic. Atlas, the fourth studio album from the accomplished artist, features contributions from the celebrated Norwegian saxophonist Bendik Giske, London based CURL collective affiliate, producer & vocalist Coby Sey and string players James Underwood & Lucy Railton. Existing in the otherworldly realm of modern classical, it buzzes with weightless jazz and orchestral vibrations taking Halo’s production to ever soaring new heights.– EH

Lonnie Holley

Oh Me Oh My



Lonnie Holley’s fourth album is a special thing, heart-wrenchingly harrowing in its dissection of trauma, yet still finding a way to be spiritually uplifting, summoning a capacity to heal from the heaviness of the past. A biographical work, Oh Me Oh My follows Holley’s journey from his time at Alabama Industrial School for Negro Children—a juvenile correctional facility where boys were physically and sexually abused and forced to pick cotton—and interweaves his experiences with the intergenerational traumas of his mother, and his enslaved ancestors before him. With his rich, gravelly voice, Lonnie Holley is the conveyor, whipping things up to a fever-pitch on album centre-piece “Mount Meigs”, before acting as a soothing salve on the gorgeous Bon Iver featured “Kindness Will Follow Your Tears”. Featuring bountiful grooves as well as moments of tender resolve, Oh Me Oh My is a striking and eminently listenable document of trauma and its aftershocks—one to return to again and again.– AVD

Loraine James

Gentle Confrontation



As a title, Gentle Confrontation sets the tone of Loraine James’ latest LP and its open-hearted approach to family, loss and the formative influences of her teenage years. With contributions from friends, recordings of a card game with her grandparents and samples of the influences of her teenage years such as DNTEL and Telefon Tel Aviv, this one draws from a wide and deeply personal net, with its vulnerabilities laid out in the mix. As you’d expect from James, Gentle Confrontation abounds in rhythmic complexities, and here these punctuations help to keep currents of airy electronica tethered to the ground, alongside a new space for her vocals and some deadpan delivery. Another fine addition to an inspired body of work.–JH

Marina Herlop




Taking voice and piano as the foundations of Marina Herlop’s work with Pripyat, the Catalonian artist adds experimental computer production to the mix and hits upon adventurous zones and intuitive rhythms that make the most of a vast musical imagination. Inspired by the vocal techniques of South Indian Carnatic music, on Pripyat the essence of such techniques is stretched and contorted as Herlop finds all manner of ways to take her impressive vocal range and augment it into unique and contorted structures.–JH


The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We

(Dead Oceans)


Of all the singer-songwriters working today, no artist captures alienation like Mitski; she looks deeply at how loneliness shapes the human condition and renders this universal experience into heart-wrenching songs that pack a visceral gut punch. Her seventh album is no exception, featuring some of Mitski’s most impactful songwriting, adorned in luscious orchestral arrangements that mark an earthier turn from her earlier icy synth-centric works. Whilst the record still deals with weighty topics, for the first time in Mitski’s discography, there are undercurrents of hopefulness on the horizon. Striking album closer “I Love Me After You” builds like a battle cry, sounding as her personal mantra for self-actualisation and self-love in the wake of heartbreak— a fascinating new chapter for one of America’s greats. – AVD

The Murlocs

Calm Ya Farm

(ATO Records)


Aussie garage-rockers The Murlocs don their cowboy boots and bow their Stetsons as they take on country rock with their seventh album, Calm Ya Farm–and they don’t do it by halves. Though adopting the quintessential free-flowing country rock sound (and spirit), harmonicas, flamenco-guitars, flutes and go-go organs ensure Calm Ya Farm stays within their garage-psych-meets-R&B familiarity.– BR

Natural Wonder Beauty Concept

Natural Wonder Beauty Concept

(Mexican Summer)


With Ana Roxanne and DJ Python already being well known for their superlative solo work, this LP as Natural Wonder Beauty Concept finds the duo staking out new electronic zones populated by breakbeats and ambient undercurrents. Taking a pop-oriented logic and skewing it into a shared language of experimentation and hybrid forms, this one left-turns its way through tempos and production techniques in a true merging of approaches.–JH





Nidia is an exceptional producer, whose work continues to put smiles on faces throughout the world. Their third full-length album 95 Mindjeres radiates joy, brimming with dynamic Afro-Portuguese percussion and floating melodies with roots in Guinea-Bissau’s anti-colonial history. The eleven-track album was inspired by a group of 95 women who banded together during the ’60s and ’70s to fight for the liberation of Guinea-Bissau from Portuguese colonial domination. Textures flow and change, with formulated pitches varying to create alternative musical energies between jubilation and more heavyhearted moments.–EH





With the release of her much anticipated third album, Chicago rapper Noname has her finger firmly on the societal pulse, leaving no rocks unturned in her fearless critiques of the negative forces that shape our world—even when that includes herself. Be it Black beauty standards or Barack Obama’s war record, Sundial offers abundant wisdom, humour, and radical moments of self-reflection, transmitted within Noname’s signature sun-drenched neo-soul sound and effortlessly carefree delivery. Putting the cool back into conscious rap, Sundial is bursting with ideas, full of vibrant philosophies of life and pedagogies of community from one of hip-hop’s most fearlessly transgressive voices.– AVD

Nourished by Time

Erotic Probiotic 2

(Scenic Route)


The debut album from the Baltimore-born, London-based singer Marcus Brown under his Nourished By Time alias is a silken and spaced-out trip across ’80s freestyle and ’90s R&B sonics. Awash with noir hues, Erotic Probiotic 2 is perfect for late-night cruising with the windows down. Helmed by Brown’s yearning vocals and disarmingly anthemic songwriting, Erotic Probiotic 2 is a magnificent slice of outsider pop that establishes Brown as one of 2023’s most promising new voices.– AVD

Olivia Rodrigo




Olivia Rodrigo’s follow-up to SOUR was one of the most anticipated pop albums of the year, and GUTS lives up to its expectations, making the two-year wait worth it. Where SOUR saw Rodrigo teeter on teen heartbreak, GUTS is a bonding of collective female experience. “bad idea right?” backslides to her ex with ’90s pop-rock grandeur, “all american bitch” blasts the attainable double standards for women as it slides from angelic to chaotic, and “get him back!” sees Rodrigo’s jealous side backed by killer synths and 00’s rap-pop. GUTS had big shoes to fill and still managed to become one of 2023’s best releases–an impressive feat from Olivia Rodrigo.–BR


Changing Channels

(Hessle Audio)


Hessle Audio’s Pangaea returned this year with his first record since 2016’s Drum Play. The producer and DJ deftly navigates garage, house and techno throughout Changing Channels, creating a collection that is both willing to experiment and unafraid to lean into crowd-pleaser territory. Packed with anthemic club stormers, Changing Channels is one of the year’s best dance records.–KD

Ryuichi Sakamoto


(Milan Records)


Released at the beginning of the year to mark Ryuichi Sakamoto’s 71st birthday, this diary of 12 sketches came to be the final musical statement from a much-loved composer, as Sakamoto passed away a few months after release. As final statements from beloved artists go, this appeared not as a greatest hits career retrospective, but rather as a musician confronting mortality and looking to the present tense to frame the importance of music within their lives. As Sakamoto put it when describing these tracks: “I had no intention of composing something; I just wanted to be showered in sound. I had a feeling that it’d have a small healing effect on my damaged body and soul.” The results are sparing, ambient etudes for piano and synthesizer that meet Sakamoto’s laboured breathing with the vital essence of his music.–JH

Sofia Kourtesis


(Ninja Tune)


Few albums invoked a spirit of joy this year like Sofia Kourtesis’ debut, Madres. Inspired by Kourtesis’ mother’s battle with cancer and subsequent recovery, Madres is a testament to the heart of dance music as a collective, healing experience. Heavily influenced by the Latin music of Kourtesis’ Peruvian background whilst drawing from the Berlin clubs she’s spent her career in, Madres pulls the political and personal together in a celebration.–KD

Sufjan Stevens


(Asthmatic Kitty)


Returning to the fundaments of his songcraft, 2023 saw Sufjan Stevens release Javelin amidst the loss of his life partner and a diagnosis of the debilitating Guillain Barre syndrome. Despite the gravity of such events, Stevens remains resolute and delivers this uplifting record as an assured reminder of his talents and the centrality of love within his work. Ever the storyteller, these tracks are fleshed out by accompanying essays, and despite the lack of fanfare and the impossibility of a tour to promote Javelin, these tracks still stand out as a highlight of 2023’s songbook.– JH


With A Hammer



Yaeji finally released her debut album With A Hammer via XL. Whilst Yaeji’s relative silence over the last few years may have been disappointing for her devotees, the step away from the limelight has resulted in an album that moves away from her zeitgeist tendencies toward a more pronounced, personal sound. Yaeji is still club-adjacent on With A Hammer yet the ironic party anthems are gone, replaced by confessional ruminations on identity and emotional development against a backdrop of bass, trip-hop and pop. An emotionally realised project from one of electronic’s most understated stars. –KD

Young Fathers

Heavy Heavy

(Ninja Tune)


Heavy Heavy is a pure anthemic release from Young Fathers. It marks a long-awaited return from the Edinburgh trio, with it being just under five years since their last LP, Cocoa Sugar, and what a triumphant homecoming Heavy Heavy is. Their expert mix of rock, soul, pop, hip-hop and more, results in uttermost passion and heart across its 10 tracks, with each cut strong enough to hold itself–a true masterpiece.– BR

Yves Tumor

Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds)



The latest long player from Yves Tumor shows no letting up of their hot streak of gleefully skuzzed, earworm-filled songs that intrigue with persona, lyrics and guitars in tandem. Black, queer rock music that looks to genre on their own terms, and as a means of experimentation, the Prince-like scream at the outset of this LP initiates a chain of hook-laden tracks that slant the familiar climes of verse-chorus-verse.–JH