Our favourite albums of the year so far

By in Features





6 months of music not to be missed.

We’re halfway through the year and that only means one thing; it’s time to take stock of the brilliant music blessing our ears over the last six months. From debut albums to established legends, lush pop to doom-driven trad, 2023 has so far given us a wonderful scope of talent, exploration and artistry.

Read below the discover the VF team’s favourite albums of the year so far.

Altin Gün


(Glitterbeat Records)


Altın Gün return to their Anatolian folk-rock roots with fifth album Aşk, after venturing into synth-pop with previous releases Âlem and Yol. A hypnotic snapshot of the group’s live prowess, Aşk dances between space-rock stomps and funky-acid breakdowns with ease all while bringing ‘70s psych folk into the modern day.–Becky Rogers

Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer, Shahzad Ismaily

Love In Exile

(Verve Records)


Arooj Aftab teams up with pianist Vijay Iyer and multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily on Love In Exile for a lesson in musical collaboration. Love In Exile is a minimalist proposition, centred around interplay between keys, bass and voice. This minimalism leaves space to examine the intricacies of each artist’s talent as disparate parts speak to each other with stunning chemistry. Hypnotic and engulfing.–Kelly Doherty

bar italia

Tracy Denim



Mysterious trio bar italia offer up a mixing pot of lo-fi, post-punk and shoegaze on their third album, and first on Matador, Tracey Denim. The 15-track LP is more fleshed out than previous releases, maxing out at nearly double the length, but it’s Tracey Denim’s grit that pushes it into rock-essential territory.–BR

billy woods & Kenny Segal




billy woods and Kenny Segal reunite to craft the best hip-hop album of the year so far. billy woods is in unbeatable form on Maps, giving voice to his anxieties and the downside of a life spent on the road. His delivery alternates between harsh and vulnerable, supplemented by the free-flowing, discordant productions of Segal. A diamond in a catalogue filled with precious jewels.–KD

Black Belt Eagle Scout

The Land, The Water, The Sky

(Saddle Creek)


Katherine Paul, aka Black Belt Eagle Scout, releases her third album via Saddle Creek. Bottling elements of ‘90s shoegaze and marrying it with a thrilling, tender grandiosity, The Land, The Water, The Sky is a spiritual journey to discovering one’s identity through nature and ancestral connection. A beautifully crafted and insightful release.–KD


The Record



Few albums this year have had as much online anticipation as The Record. boygenius, the supergroup made up of contemporary indie-folk triumvirate Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker, present their first fully-realised project following what seemed to be a one-off EP back in 2018. The Record plays to each member’s strengths, serving as a sampling menu for the trio’s individual styles. Across Bridgers’ dark humour, Dacus’ earnest story-telling and Baker’s intensity, The Record is an alt-rock rumble focusing on personal insecurities and the power of friendship.–KD

Caroline Polachek

Desire, I Want To Turn Into You

(Perpetual Notice)


Caroline Polachek welcomes us onto her pop-infected island with Desire, I Want To Turn Into You. A playbook for becoming a pop sensation, Desire… has a passion for maximalism and the abstract with its Spanish guitars, bagpipes and Celtic influences complimenting Polachek’s euphoric composition seamlessly.–BR

Indigo De Souza

All Of This Will End

(Saddle Creek)


Indigo De Souza gets visceral on her third album for Saddle Creek. Filled with blunt, observational lyricism against an alt-country-leaning full band sound, All Of This Will End grapples with life’s constant interplay between hope and disappointment. Cathartic and anthemic, this is one for blasting with the windows rolled down.–KD

James Holden

Imagine This Is A High Dimensional Space Of All Possibilities

(Border Community)


Following a period of deviance from the techno of his early career, UK producer James Holden incorporates his musical explorations by creating a rave album that refuses to be reined in by structures or genre divisions. The result is a colourful, joyous set of club-oriented bangers that contain the multitudes that the album’s title implies. Grab your friends, head to a field, throw this on and dance your worries away.–KD

Janelle Monáe

The Age Of Pleasure



After a five-year wait, Janelle Monáe returns with an album for the good days. The Age Of Pleasure moves fluidly between genres, picking motifs from hip-hop, amapiano, reggae and much more and rolling them together in a seductive, joyous celebration of personal empowerment and sexuality. A quintessential summer album. –KD

Kali Uchis

Red Moon In Venus



Red Moon In Venus is an album about love in all its forms, both for others and one’s self. Against lush, dreamy R&B textures, Uchis relishes her feminine energy and treats matters of the heart with a devoted, spiritualistic approach. Packed with lovers’ anthems and pop sensuality, Red Moon In Venus is an excellently produced melodic pleasure.–KD

Kassa Overall




With a star-studded cast of features including Francis & The Lights, Theo Croker and Danny Brown, Kassa Overall’s Animals in an astute vision of jazz’s vitality in 2023. Intersecting jazz arrangements with languid hip-hop beats, electronica and inscrutable experimentation, Animals feels explorative and wholly new. Very little on this album is to be expected as each track heads its own exciting direction.–KD





Kelela takes a left turn on her long-awaited second album, Raven. Opting into a more futuristic, experimental sound than the heady R&B of her career to date, Raven is a transformative release with a holistic vision of Black femme identity and the relationship between the human body and nature. Kelela’s hooky sultriness remains, making for a release that is both danceable and thought-provoking.–KD


Release Spirit



Canadian producer Khotin returns to downtempo powerhouse Ghostly for Release Spirit. A tender and insular collection, Release Spirit evokes the video-game soundtracks of the early ‘00s, building its own music language through a series of bleeps, samples and a gentle, cloud-like atmosphere. Release Spirit is a massage for the mind and Khotin’s best release yet.–KD

Lana Del Rey

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



Lana Del Rey can’t stop winning. Her current streak of albums, kicked off by 2019’s Norman Fucking Rockwell!, has seen the sometimes popstar, sometimes great American songwriter undergo a radical expansion of her capabilities. Her latest, with its unwieldy title, continues to cement her position as one of the best of our generation. Sprawling, ambitious and intensely self-aware, Did You Know… is more rewarding with each listen.–KD


False Lankum

(Rough Trade)


Irish folk experimentalists Lankum bridge unease and tranquillity with their fourth album False Lankum. Though a sprawling collection of reimagined Irish trad tracks and two originals, False Lankum pulls together traditionalism and modernity with confidence.–BR

Lonnie Holley

Oh Me Oh My



Lonnie Holley isn’t afraid to divulge on Oh Me Oh My–his thoughts need to be heard. Recollections of Holley’s experiences during Jim Crow-era America and his time at Alabama Industrial School for Negro Children span its 11 tracks, backed by a barrage of free-jazz, spoken word and maximalist funk. An incredible, ambitious release.–BR

Nabihah Iqbal




Despite suffering a robbery of her studio equipment, Nabihah Iqbal returns on flying form with Dreamer. The Ninja Tune release sees Iqbal move in a more organic, indie-inspired direction and it’s an absolute treat. Buoyed by a post-punk spirit steeped in nostalgia and loneliness, Dreamer is perfect for late-night solo walks and coming-of-age movie-style realisations. “The World Couldn’t See Us” is an album standout, with its irresistible hook and sense of defiance. Lovely melancholic stuff.–KD


Good Lies



Overmono’s debut album Good Lies delivers on the increasingly fervent hype around the duo. An ode to ’90s rave culture, whilst drawing upon more contemporary club aesthetics, Good Lies is euphoric and emotional and successfully responds to the present-day appetite for updated nostalgia. Overmono are at the helm of a new era in mainstream dance music and Good Lies is a fitting introduction. –KD


This Is Why



Paramore yet again readjust their gaze on their sixth studio album, This Is Why. The former pop-punk leaders have continued to warp their sound throughout the years, dabbling in emo, grunge, new wave, pop, and electronic and their latest transformation looks towards early ’00s post-punk and indie. This Is Why is a brief yet impactful tumble through Hayley Williams’ millennial anxieties. Painfully relatable, perhaps, but Williams is a perfect guide through the bad days.–KD

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs

Land Of Sleeper

(Rocket Recordings)


Wake up from the Land Of Sleeper with Pigs x7’s latest primordial noise-metal release. Sludging riffs aplenty, Land Of Sleeper keeps its loud-mouthed doom-rock heart balanced alongside creepy choral interludes (“The Weatherman”) and trad-folk duets (“Ball Lightning”).–BR


Formal Growth In The Desert



Midwest punks Protomartyr return with Formal Growth In The Desert, a collection of tracks about “getting on with life”. Focused on configuring change and growth rather than just pushing woes aside, Formal Growth In The Desert finds hope in vocalist Joe Casey’s impassioned post-punk snarls.–BR

Ryuichi Sakamoto


(Milan Records)


Ryuichi Sakamoto’s twelfth, and final, solo studio album is a minimalist outing with a now elegiac quality. Written and recorded throughout Sakamoto’s battle with cancer, 12 contains raw ambient sketches from the maestro. Allowing a high level of audience intimacy, from including Sakamoto’s breath to the bare-bones nature of these recordings, 12 is a graceful send-off to a legend.–KD

The Golden Dregs

Of Grace & Dignity



The Golden Dregs’ third album, On Grace & Dignity, is a sobering but poignant look into project-lead Benjamin Woods’ pandemic experiences of “digging holes” in his hometown of Truro. Among the discussions of gentrification and finding hope, Woods’ baritone warmth battles the bleak and settles among brass-lined solemness.–BR

The Murlocs

Calm Ya Farm



The Murlocs serve up free-rolling country rock with Calm Ya Farm, an album packed with harmonicas, flamenco-guitars, flutes and go-go organs. Seemingly far from their previous gritty garage-psych blues releases, Calm Ya Farm holds the same sentiment–take a step back and have fun with what comes your way.–BR





Tuareg desert-blues rockers Tinariwen welcome us into their ever-evolving soundscape with Amattsou. For this cut, the outfit link their North African country lilt with Americana fundamentals, seeing contributions from Fats Kaplin and Daniel Lanois. Never detracting, these additions push Tinariwen’s fight for justice to new heights.–BR

Wesley Joseph


(Secretly Canadian)


Polymath Wesley Joseph finds his feet on his second album GLOW. Following in the steps of experimental R&B master Frank Ocean, GLOW never stays in its lane, constantly changing modes yet always held together by Joseph’s stream-of-consciousness flow. An exciting showcase from an artist with immense potential.–KD


With A Hammer



Yaeji finally releases her debut album and it’s a certified winner. Moving away from the club bangers that made her name, With A Hammer takes forward-looking electronic elements and blends them with jazz, trip-hop and pop. Whilst Yaeji’s output has often had a sugary sweet sheen, With A Hammer confronts the pain and anger of growing older and coping in an often cruel world. Her most personal and consequential work yet.–KD

Yazmin Lacey

Voice Notes

(Own Your Own)


East London singer-songwriter Yazmin Lacey blesses us with her feel-good debut Voice Notes. Forgoing smooth production for a rawer, live feel, Voice Notes is a chill ride. Dabbling in soul, R&B and jazz, Voice Notes tells localised stories littered with narrative detail and a relaxed perspective all through Lacey’s beautifully warm voice. A charming debut.–KD

Young Fathers

Heavy Heavy

(Ninja Tune)


For their first album in five years, Young Fathers’ Heavy Heavy is a joyous collection of riff-laden tracks itching to get you moving. Full of heart, haste, and soul, each cut is as good as the next. An essential for all collectors.–BR