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Best Albums Of 2023: 10 Instant Classics Of The Year
List & Guides

Best Albums Of 2023: 10 Instant Classics Of The Year

From boundary-pushing EDM to genre-bending pop, the best albums of 2023 find fresh and exciting ways to challenge and inspire listeners.


2023 is already shaping up to be a great year for music fans, with a plethora of critically acclaimed albums winning hearts and minds around the world. From the boundless creativity of Gorillaz to the irrepressible talents of younger artists such as RAYE, the best albums of 2023 encompass a wide range of genres and styles, each leaving a lasting impression. Here are the most praiseworthy titles among the best albums of 2023.

Listen to our Chart playlist here, and check out our best albums of 2023, below.

10: Skrillex: ‘Quest For Hire’

Once upon a time, Skrillex was the doyen of dubstep. Today, he is rightly regarded as a seminal figure on the EDM scene, and his long-awaited second album, Quest For Life, is arguably his best. Coming nine years after his game-changing debut, Recess (and just a day ahead of its sister album, Don’t Get Too Close), Quest For Life sees the producer and DJ reinvent himself, toning down the wobble bass in favour of a streamlined mix of dance-pop, Chicago juke and 2-step garage. From the grime influences creeping into the Fred Again.. and Flowdan collaboration, Rumble, to the hybrid trap sprawl of Tears (featuring Joker and Sleepnet), Quest For Hire suggests that Skrillex is about to revolutionise electronic dance music all over again.

Must hear: Rumble

9: Shame: ‘Food For Worms’

Arguably one of the most exciting UK post-punk acts of the past five years, Shame deliver a sharp-tongued masterclass in socially-charged spleen-venting on their third album, Food For Worms. Whether howling at the empty promises of consumerism (Six-Pack) or railing against prescription-drug addiction (Aderall), the album is noisy yet melodic, dissonant yet sophisticated, and it marks a huge step up from Shame’s previous efforts. “It’s the most concise album we’ve done so far, because it’s a complete snapshot,” frontman Charlie Steen told Paste magazine. “The themes, musically and lyrically, are linked, because it’s a short period of time in which it was all written.” As one of the best albums of 2023, Food For Worms serves up awe-inspiring art-punk that’s likely to make fans of contemporaries such as Fontaines D.C. or Dry Cleaning very happy indeed.

Must hear: Six-Pack

8: Young Fathers: ‘Heavy Heavy’

Nobody is making music quite like the Scottish alt-rap trio Young Fathers. Their fourth album, Heavy Heavy, is a fiercely passionate oddity, drawing upon everything from neo-psychedelic hoedowns to gospel music, with a kaleidoscopic focus on hip-hop’s laser-guided lyrical approach. “We don’t think our music is weird,” co-founder Alloysius Massaquoi said in an interview with The Guardian. “It’s just the context it exists within makes it seem weird. We love choruses, hooks. This is the pop music that we want to listen to.” From the tribal art-pop of I Saw to the spiritual folk singalong of Rice, Heavy Heavy sits among the best albums of 2023 for the way it captures the eccentricities of UK hip-hop at its most adventurous and idiosyncratic.

Must hear: I Saw

7: The Murder Capital: ‘Gigi’s Recovery’

Seemingly abandoning the post-punk dissonance that characterised their debut album, When I Have Fears, Irish band The Murder Capital enlisted indie-pop’s foremost producer, John Congleton, to streamline their alt-rock sound while retaining their intensely poetic streak for their sophomore record, Gigi’s Recovery. “I had a crime scene of lyrics, torn lyric sheets from my journal put up on my wall, fucking sitting and staring at them like a crazy person for months,” songwriter James McGovern told Clash magazine. By fleshing out the group’s melancholic moodiness and lyrically exploring the human condition, Gigi’s Recovery ranks among the best albums of 2023 while proving The Murder Capital to be one of the most exciting rock bands of the decade.

Must hear: Return My Head

6: Lil Yachty: ‘Let’s Start Here’

Venturing far from his SoundCloud-rap origins to entwine his Auto-Tuned vocals with a psych-rock vision, Lil Yachty embarks on a fresh beginning with his fifth album, Let’s Start Here. With an array of eclectic partners in crime such as Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Jacob Portrait and indie favourite Mac DeMarco, the Mableton, Georgia-born rapper moves away from trap to indulge in guitar music – an undeniably refreshing sonic volte-face that finds him toying with Tame Impala-esque psychedelic pop on IVE OFFICIALLY LOST ViSiON!!!! and amping up the country-soul influences on REACH THE SUNSHINE. Proving that it’s more than possible for rap artists to break free from genre restrictions, Let’s Start Here is a remarkable – and often surprising – venture into previously unexplored territory for Lil Yachty.

Must hear: sAy sOMETHINg

5: RAYE: ‘My 21st Century Blues’

It shouldn’t be a surprise to see RAYE’s debut album, My 21st Century Blues, rank among the best albums of 2023. From the doomy vibes of The Weeknd-esque UK No.1 hit Escapism, featuring 070 Shake, to the emotional outpouring of progressive house beats on Black Mascara, the record sees RAYE dabble in everything from pop-rap to piano ballads in order to showcase her wondrously diverse contemporary R&B style. There’s also an abundance of intellectual depth here: most notably, the single Ice Cream Man is a devastating meditation on the after-effects of sexual assault. Lyrically intelligent and musically ambitious from start to finish, My 21st Century Blues is a testament to RAYE’s artistry, dedication and unwavering passion for creating impactful, genre-defying music that leaves a lasting impression.

Must hear: Ice Cream Man

4: slowthai: ‘UGLY’

Unlike a lot of UK hip-hop, slowthai’s music has always contained the DNA of punk rock and Mike Skinner-esque social commentary, and these elements truly come to the fore on the Northampton-born rapper’s third album, UGLY. A deeply personal and introspective record, it combines slowthai’s raw, confessional lyrics with abrasive, guitar-led atonality and post-punk beats. Kicking things off with a torrid tale of substance abuse titled Yum and confronting his inner demons head-on in the album’s lead single, Selfish, slowthai continually wrestles with feelings of anxiety, depression and self-doubt, making the album a powerfully visceral statement on mental health in modern Britain. Proof that the spirit of punk is alive and well in the belly of rap music, UGLY is not just one of the best albums of 2023, it’s slowthai’s boldest and most experimental effort to date.

Must hear: Selfish

3: Gorillaz: ‘Cracker Island’

The eighth album by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett’s alternative hip-hop outfit, Gorillaz, Cracker Island is arguably the group’s most consistent record in years. With production from pop supremo Greg Kurstin, it sees Albarn team up with Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker and rapper Bootie Brown on the psychedelic marvel New Gold and channel melancholic 80s synth-pop on one of the best songs of 2023, the piano-led ballad Silent Running, which features guest vocals from singer Adeleye Omotayo. Ostensibly a concept album about a fictional island run by a sinister cult “where the truth is Auto-Tuned”, Cracker Island brilliantly smuggles a clever social critique inside Albarn’s impeccably-crafted pop melodies, as on Oil, where Fleetwood Mac icon Stevie Nicks spookily muses on being sucked into a smartphone vortex (“Fairy light companions/To the dark maths that catapult/Us into imagined worlds”). Easily one of the best albums of 2023, Cracker Island is a testament to Gorillaz’s innovative spirit.

Must hear: New Gold

2: Caroline Polachek: ‘Desire, I Want To Turn Into You’

Showcasing the indie-pop songwriter Caroline Polachek’s impressive range as a vocalist, Desire, I Want To Turn Into You, is her most captivating and dynamic offering yet. From the infectious, Haim-esque pop piñata of Welcome To My Island to the album’s choppy and disorienting closer, Billions, Polachek effortlessly blends electronic, pop, and experimental elements to create a sound that is both innovative and accessible. Lyrically, the album is introspective and deeply personal, exploring themes of love, loss and self-discovery with honesty and vulnerability. With Desire, I Want To Turn Into You, Polachek has cemented her status as one of the most exciting and innovative indie musicians working today, and the record is sure to be remembered as one of the best albums of 2023.

Must hear: Welcome To My Island

1: Paramore: ‘This Is Why’

Lyrically inspired by the brutal bouts of self-examination that the COVID-19 pandemic put us all through, Paramore’s sixth album, This Is Why, sees songwriter Hayley Williams lay bare her own vulnerabilities in a remarkably upbeat fashion. On self-deprecating and often highly amusing form, Williams revels in the allure of social avoidance (This Is Why), wallows in the atrophy of her social life (C’est Comme Ça) and skewers her own punctuality problems (Running Out of Time) on some of the best Paramore songs to date. Recorded in Los Angeles with Grammy Award-winning producer Carlos De La Garza, This Is Why marks the latest point of evolution for a band who have gone far beyond their emo-punk roots to incorporate 80s new-wave pop and Bloc Party-inspired angular guitar riffs, making the album a riveting listen from start to finish. Perfectly balancing Hayley Williams’ acute social observations with unbridled pop-rock panache, This Is Why speaks for itself when it comes to picking the best albums of 2023.

Must hear: This Is Why

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