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Best Albums Of 2023: 40 Instant Classics Of The Year
List & Guides

Best Albums Of 2023: 40 Instant Classics Of The Year

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

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2023 has been 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, then, 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.

40: Don Toliver: ‘Love Sick’

Boasting an impressive line-up of A-list collaborators, including Travis Scott, James Blake, Lil Durk and Kali Uchis, Don Toliver’s third studio album, Love Sick, sees the Houston-born rapper return with renewed vigour. Over an otherworldly clash of soulful emotion and trap-infused production, Toliver’s distinctive and hypnotic auto-tuned vocal delivery is a spellbinding masterclass in progressive R&B. Often musing on love and heartbreak, songs such as Do It Right and Leave This Club chill to the core with infectious hooks and a giddy mélange of inebrious melodies that makes The Weeknd’s nocturnal wanderings look tame. An enjoyable and lively listening experience, Love Sick stands as not only one of the best albums of 2023, but also proof that Toliver is back on top of his game.

Must hear: Leave This Club

39: Iggy Pop: ‘Every Loser’

The godfather of garage-rock, Iggy Pop teamed up with the prolific producer/songwriter Andrew Watt (Ozzy Osbourne, Eddie Vedder) for his 19th solo album, Every Loser. “Especially if you’re my age, you can’t really grimace and tightened your fist and say, ‘OK, goddammit, I’m gonna put together a rock album!’” the 75-year-old Stooges frontman said in an interview with Billboard magazine. “It just kind of happened.” From the wiry energy he brings to Frenzy to the raw synth-punk groove of Strung Out Johnny, the septuagenarian rocker is truly on his A-game, backed by a rogue’s gallery of music legends such as guitarists Dave Navarro (Jane’s Addiction) and Steve Gossard (Pearl Jam), bassist Duff McKagan (Guns N’ Roses) and drummers Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Travis Barker (blink-182) and the late Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters). A late-career marvel, Every Loser will have every classic rock fan turning the volume knob up to 11.

Must hear: Frenzy

38: Royal Blood: Back To The Water Below

The self-produced fourth studio album from Brighton-based duo Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher (aka Royal Blood) is a pulse-pounding restatement of purpose. Continuing to fly the flag for alt-rock, Back To The Water Below hits like a rush of adrenaline thanks to chest-pumping tracks such as Mountains At Midnight and Pull Me Through. With each song oscillating around the swirling DNA of Royal Blood’s roots-based breed of rock, this is a life-affirming listen among the best albums of 2023.

Must hear: Mountains At Midnight

37: Kylie Minogue: ‘Tension’

Kylie Minogue’s 16th studio album is a dazzling triumph. With its radiant fusion of nu-disco, dance and a splash of diva house, Tension sees the Australian pop legend effortlessly deliver a pop masterclass of infectious beats and empowering lyrics. From Padam Padam, which emerges as a modern-day addition to the best LGBTQ+ songs, to the relentlessly upbeat Things We Do For Love, the kaleidoscope of vivid musical colours Kylie shakes out on the album are irresistible, flaunting her icon status with both free-spirited sexiness and hypnotic self-expression. Proving just how much of an influence Kylie has been on modern artists such as Dua Lipa and Jessie Ware, Tension sees the “Princess Of Pop” upping the ante like never before.

Must hear: Padam Padam

36: Jack Harlow: ‘Jackman’

The next album to enter our list of the best albums of 2023 is Jack Harlow’s third record, Jackman, which sees the US rapper delivering his most mature offering yet, toning down the youthful exuberance of his early albums in favour of exploring issues such as toxic masculinity (Blame On Me) and the perniciousness of white privilege (Common Ground). With its boom-bap beats and Harlow’s keen sense of self-awareness, Jackman proves there is more than meets the eye to the Kentucky-born wordsmith.

Must hear: Common Ground

35: Maisie Peters: ‘The Good Witch’

Peaking at No.1 in the UK upon its release in June 2023, The Good Witch, the second studio album from singer-songwriter Maisie Peters, boasts a collection of enchanting pop songs that will have listeners under their spell in no time. As if with a wave of Peters’ hand, party bangers (Lost The Breakup) sit comfortably next to disarmingly poignant tearjerker ballads (Want You Back) on an album which proves its creator is going from strength to strength as a songwriter.

Must hear: Lost The Breakup

34: Ed Sheeran: ‘-’

Released in May 2023, Ed Sheeran’s sixth album, -, (aka “Subtract”) saw the songwriter make a heartfelt return to his acoustic folk-pop roots. Across a collection of songs exploring loss and bereavement, Sheeran delves into profound themes with deeply moving sincerity, reflecting on the sudden passing of his dear friend and SBTV founder, Jamal Edwards. On pared-down ballads such as Boat and Life Goes On, Sheeran also wrestles with the raw emotions that flooded in following the news, received in early 2022, that his wife, Cherry Seaborn, had been diagnosed with cancer (her tumour was removed following the birth of their child). “Some people write a diary and get their emotions out through the pen and, for Eds, if something really intense happens, he’ll go and write a song,” Seaborn later said in the Disney+ documentary The Sum Of It All. Co-produced with Aaron Dessner (The National) and featuring ample additions to the best Ed Sheeran songs, this poignant and emotionally affecting album leaves little doubt over why Ed Sheeran is one of the best songwriters of all time.

Must hear: Eyes Closed

33: Pretenders: ‘Relentless’

In a year which saw Pretenders deliver one of the best Glastonbury performances in history, Chrissie Hynde’s crew made a spirited return with their 14th album, Relentless. A collaborative endeavour between songwriter Chrissie Hynde and guitarist James Walbourne, the 12-track collection gives the group’s new wave-era vitality a fresh and modern glow-up that easily stands among the best albums of 2023. Produced by David Wrench, at West London’s Battery Studios, Relentless even sees Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood bring his symphonic touch to proceedings, on closing track I Think About You Daily. As the curtain falls, you’ll be more than ready to give Pretenders a standing ovation.

Must hear:I Think About You Daily

32: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds: ‘Council Skies’

Largely written during the COVID-19 lockdown, the fourth studio album by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds boasts the ex-Oasis songwriter’s strongest collection of material in years. From the David Gilmour-esque guitar solo on Easy Now to the poignantly heart-rending balladry of Dead To The World, Council Skies finds Gallagher at his most wistful and nostalgic, with lyrics seemingly musing upon his formative years in Burnage, Manchester. By successfully coaxing one of the best albums of 2023 out of himself, Gallagher leaves little doubt over why he is one of the finest British songwriters of the last three decades.

Must hear: Easy Now

31: Janelle Monáe: ‘The Age Of Pleasure’

Returning after a five-year gap, the genre-blending R&B maverick and LGBTQ+ icon Janelle Monáe draws upon a typically eclectic array of sounds with her fourth album, The Age Of Pleasure, pulling in genres such as Afrobeat, reggae and soul with aplomb. “I want it to be so specific to this Pan-African crowd who are my friends,” Monáe said in a Variety interview. “I want it to be a love letter to the diaspora.” Steamy and lustful, the record finds Monáe revelling in queer culture and celebrating Black excellence, creating a musical experience that gleefully mixes Afrofuturism with bold messages of empowerment. With its genre-blending mastery, thought-provoking lyrics, and infectious grooves, The Age Of Pleasure stands as one of the best albums of 2023, and effortlessly reminds us that the best Janelle Monáe songs have long cemented her place among the most influential female musicians in history.

Must hear: Float

30: Burna Boy: ‘I Told Them…’

As one of the most influential Black artists to popularise African music across the globe, Burna Boy’s trailblazing mix of Afrobeats and dancehall on his seventh studio album, I Told Them…, sees the Nigerian rapper further broaden his horizons to take in the influence of US hip-hop. With guest spots from J Cole and Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA, it’s a groundbreaking work that ranks among the best albums of 2023 for its ability to transcend geographical boundaries in order to once again position Burna Boy as a major force in the music industry.

Must hear: Sittin’ on Top of the World

29: 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

28: Queens Of The Stone Age: ‘In Times New Roman’

Almost three years in the making, Queens Of the Stone Age’s masterful eighth album, In Times New Roman, finally arrived to take its place among the best albums of 2023. Offering a gnarly and visceral glimpse into grief, the album was inspired by the deaths of frontman Josh Homme’s close friends, the songwriter Mark Lanegan and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, as well as the end of his marriage to Brody Dalle, of The Distillers. “You need the flood to be over, and then you can decide whether you can accept the flood,” Homme said in an NME interview. “I think with this being a record about acceptance, you need to actually get there yourself.” After forcing listeners to break out in a cold sweat after hearing its lead single, Emotion Sickness, In Times New Roman finds QOTSA in full “robot rock” mode (Paper Machete), with riffs so primal they could rattle the bones of a dinosaur (Carnavoyeur). Easily one of the best albums of 2023, In Times New Roman proves Homme and company can continue to astound with their raw power and mercurial allure.

Must hear: Emotion Sickness

27: Grian Chatten: ‘Chaos For The Fly’

Taking a break from being the frontman of Irish rockers Fontaines D.C., Grian Chatten delivered one of the best albums of 2023 when he dropped his solo debut, Chaos for the Fly, in late June. Produced by Dan Carey (Foals, Wet Leg, Fontaines D.C.), the album significantly broadens Chatten’s ambitions on songs which combine his stark and poetic wordplay with new musical digressions. From the maudlin chamber folk of The Score to the quirky swing-jazz vibes of Bob’s Casino, Chaos For The Fly is a revelation, instantly marking Chatten out as one of the most talented indie songwriters of his generation.

Must hear: Bob’s Casino

26: 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

25: Olivia Rodrigo: ‘Guts’

The pop-punk resurgence gains further momentum on Olivia Rodrigo’s sophomore album, GUTS, which sees the former Disney star remain steadfast in her mission to infuse mainstream pop with the angst of 90s grunge. Some could even argue that Rodrigo is the torchbearer of guitar-driven music, particularly in how she channels the spirit of the original riot grrrl movement on songs such as all-american bitch and the spirited pop-punk vibes of bad idea right? The album’s lead single, the piano ballad Vampire, was a true revelation upon its release, in June 2023, giving contemporary pop fangs sharper than those of Twilight’s Edward Cullen. Garnering a well-deserved spot on our list of the best albums of 2023, GUTS demonstrates that Gen Z has finally found a pop star with bite.

Must hear: Vampire

24: boygenius: ‘The Record’

The indie-rock supergroup boygenius – an exceptionally talented power trio comprised of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus – were always destined to be every hipster’s favourite. With bittersweet yet often humorous lyrics, each song on their debut studio album, The Record, is dripping with emotion, whether it be the dream-pop self-flagellation of Not Strong Enough or the madcap sucker punch of $20. Taken together, it’s a vital, uncompromising, and often gut-wrenching listen among the best albums of 2023.

Must hear: Not Strong Enough

23: Gabriels: ‘Angels & Queens’

With an eclectic array of songs running the gamut from gospel to neo-soul, Angels & Queens, the full-length debut album from California soul group Gabriels, is one of the most eye-opening R&B records in years. Bursting with passion and melancholy, lead singer Jacob Lusk has a uniquely expressive voice that is truly jaw-dropping to hear. Calling to mind the 60s heyday of Motown and some of the era’s best soul singers, such as Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin, Angels & Queens earns its place among the best albums of 2023 for unearthing the roots of modern soul with big-hearted and spiritual tenacity.

Must hear: Great Wind

22: 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

21: Foo Fighters: ‘But Here We Are’

Produced by Greg Kurstin, Foo Fighters’ 11th studio album, But Here We Are, took shape in the challenging aftermath of the deaths of drummer Taylor Hawkins and frontman Dave Grohl’s mother, Virginia. Rather than succumbing to melancholy, however, Foo Fighters opted to turn out exuberant rockers that aim to ignite a spirit of resilience. Songs such as Rescued and Under You capture the band howling at the incomprehensibility of grief, channelling raw emotion into arguably their best music in years. Amid the energetic rock anthems there are moments of poignant vulnerability, such as Show Me How, on which Grohl shares a touching duet with his daughter, Violet. Elsewhere, the album’s cathartic centrepiece, The Teacher, unfolds as a mesmerising ten-minute epic that sees Grohl coming to terms with death as an inevitable part of life. Through the power of rock’n’roll, Foo Fighters deliver a cathartic experience among the best albums of 2023, reminding us of music’s ability to pull us through even the darkest of times.

Must hear: The Teacher

20: Sir Chloe: ‘I Am The Dog’

The major-label debut by Brooklyn-based five-piece Sir Chloe, I Am The Dog lets the group off the leash with a gnarly and life-affirming display of indie rock that will restore listeners’ faith in guitar music. From grungy basslines to angular post-punk riffs that will drag fans out of their kennel by the collar, the album mines the angst of 90s alt-rock with shoegazey relish, throwing an occasional nod to surf guitar into mix. Produced by John Congleton, I Am The Dog is a thoroughly modern-sounding rock record that deserves to be championed as one of the best albums of 2023.

Must hear: Should I

19: Lemon Twigs: ‘Everything Harmony’

Comprised of brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario, The Lemon Twigs mix the best ingredients of 70s pop and classic rock into a rich and potent stew. Their fourth album, Everything Harmony, is arguably their most ambitious yet, occupying a world where Beach Boys-esque harmonies (Corner Of My Eye) live comfortably alongside Osmonds-style melodies (Any Time Of Day), or where the power-pop of Big Star (What You Were Doing) rubs shoulders with Phil Spector’s love of orchestral bombast (What Happens To A Heart). All in all, Everything Harmony is not just one of the best albums of 2023, it’s one step closer to Pet Sounds territory for the D’Addario siblings, who clearly have an ear for timeless songwriting.

Must hear: Any Time Of Day

18: Fall Out Boy: ‘So Much (For) Stardust’

Fall Out Boy’s eighth album, So Much (For) Stardust, marks a triumphant return to their original record label, Fueled By Ramen. Produced by Neal Avron, the group’s trusted collaborator from the 2000s, the album is a delightful blend of guitar-driven rock with unexpected elements of disco, soul and funk. Its lead single, Love From The Other Side, showcases Fall Out Boy’s ability to fuse full-on orchestral bombast with emo-punk choruses, and stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the best Fall Out Boy songs. “We wanted to make a record that was really lovingly crafted and deliberate and patiently guided – like someone cooked you a delicate meal,” frontman Patrick Stump said. Another standout track, Heartbreak Feels So Good, reaches a synth-laced crescendo that pays homage to delectable 80s pop-rock. With So Much (For) Stardust, Fall Out Boy brilliantly reassert themselves as one of the most exciting alternative-rock bands of the 21st century.

Must hear: Heartbreak Feels So Good

17: Lankum: ‘False Lankum’

With a Mercury Prize nomination cementing its place among the best albums of 2023, False Lankum is a haunting masterclass of heart-wrenching melancholia. From the suicide balladry of Go Dig My Grave to the 12-minute-long apocalyptic folk-horror closer The Turn, the Dublin-based indie-folk quintet Lankum stir up the ghosts of maritime loneliness across a dark and foreboding collection of songs that are as discomforting as they are awe-inspiring.

Must hear: Go Dig My Grave

16: 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

15: Zach Bryan: ‘Zach Bryan’

Released in August, Zach Bryan’s self-titled fourth album became the biggest success of the Oklahoma-born country songwriter’s career to date, breaking streaming records in its first week of release and topping the Billboard 200 charts. The 27-year-old singer’s duet with Kacey Musgraves, I Remember Everything, even debuted at No.1 on the Hot 100 – a remarkable achievement that marks Bryan out as the most exciting country-rock artist in years. With his indelible mixture of red-dirt poetry and indie-tinged folk music, this entry among the best albums of 2023 demonstrates the enduring commercial appeal of country music.

Must hear: I Remember Everything

14: Geese: ‘3D Country’

Brooklyn-based indie rock band Geese wear their Stetsons slightly askew on their second album, 3D Country, a refreshingly offbeat take on Americana that yee-haws its way into our list of the best albums of 2023. With Arctic Monkeys’ favourite producer, James Ford, at the mixing desk, the group mix cow-punk, blues-rock and alt-country while frontman Cameron Winter drawls his way through proceedings in a quasi-psychedelic haze. Like a fever-inducing mix of The Rolling Stones and Television, the song Cowboy Nudes is a beguiling work of sinuous guitar riffs and playful wordplay (“I’ve got eyes for anything moving/Fell in love with a tumbleweed”). With a second album this bizarre and brilliant, it will be fascinating to see where Geese ride off to next.

Must hear: Cowboy Nudes

13: King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard: ‘PetroDragonic Apocalypse; Or, Dawn Of Eternal Night: An Annihilation Of Planet Earth And The Beginning Of Merciless Damnation’

It’s never easy to predict which direction the ever-industrious King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard are going next. Having released more than 20 albums in ten years, the band never fail to wow listeners with their remarkably prolific and musically diverse ways, frequently dabbling in garage-rock, prog, jazz fusion and even microtonal compositions. On their 24th studio album, PetroDragonic Apocalypse; Or, Dawn Of Eternal Night: An Annihilation Of Planet Earth And The Beginning Of Merciless Damnation, the Australian rockers turn their attention to thrash metal and summon a Kaiju-syle lizard for a concept record about ecological catastrophe. As fiery as lava and as weighty as volcanic ash, it’s a doom-laden opus that cements its position as one of the best albums of 2023. King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard’s timely and imaginative narrative serves as a stark reminder of how climate change has unleashed its own monsters.

Must hear: Gila Monster

12: 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

11: Travis Scott: ‘UTOPIA’

Despite Travis Scott’s longstanding association with trap, the rapper’s fourth studio album, UTOPIA, sees him significantly broaden his musical scope to Hans Zimmer-esque levels of cinematic ambition. Not only does Scott flirt with intergalactic boom-bap (Hyaena) and hydrographic synth-pop (My Eyes), but his cosmic-sounding collaboration with The Weeknd and Swae Lee, on Circus Maximus, proves the former Kanye West protégé has gone from Auto-Tune apprentice to outside-the-box sonic wizard. With UTOPIA, it’s clear Scott is a hip-hop visionary unleashing the full scope of his talents, crafting hypnotic soundscapes and cutting-edge beats with an ear for the inventive and an eye for the cosmos.

Must hear: Hyaena

10: Lana Del Rey: ‘Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd’

A captivating exploration of self-discovery and defiance, Lana Del Rey’s ninth studio album, Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd, sees her delve into personal anecdotes about her family, failed romances and the complex desire for both visibility and anonymity. Through introspective songs such as the striking A&W and Fingertips, Del Rey unveils different dimensions of her life story, touching on themes of sexuality, the emergence of maternal instincts and the lingering impact of past traumas that have shaped her journey through adulthood. Embracing a sense of grandeur, Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd confidently establishes itself as one of the best albums of 2023, flawlessly showcasing Del Rey’s unrivalled artistry and her ability to craft moody and profound lyrical narratives.

Must hear: A&W

9: 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 clattering tribal madness of Xena, Quest For Hire suggests that Skrillex is about to revolutionise electronic dance music all over again.

Must hear: Xena

8: 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

7: Blur: ‘The Ballad Of Darren’

Serenading us with The Ballad Of Darren, Britpop originators Blur captured something painfully relatable on their ninth album. Released in July 2023, it finds songwriter Damon Albarn at his most nostalgic and bereft, stringing together the threads of heartbreak into an achingly melancholic masterclass of timeless art-rock. From guitarist Graham Coxon’s Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)-esque Frippertronics on St Charles Square to the world-weary reminiscences of The Narcissist, The Ballad Of Darren is not just one of the best albums of 2023, but, mature, immediate and impeccably crafted, it’s also one of the best Blur albums of all.

Must hear: The Narcissist

6: 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

5: 100 gecs: ‘10,000 gecs’

Though it may be an acquired taste for some, 100 gecs’ sophomore record, 10,000 gecs, is a mind-blowingly original album from the eccentric hyperpop duo. Fearlessly traversing a kaleidoscope of styles, the band effortlessly transition from the nu-metal and pop-punk vibes of songs such Hollywood Baby to unexpected ventures into third-wave ska with I Got My Tooth Removed, and even channel Red Hot Chili Peppers-esque funk on Doritos & Fritos. Sounding like an unhinged psychedelic soundtrack to an Adult Swim cartoon, 10,000 gecs captures the essences of daring, fun and unapologetic wackiness, pushing the boundaries of genre and showcasing 100 gecs’ unparalleled creativity, making it an exhilarating listen among the best albums of 2023.

Must hear: Hollywood Baby

4: Jessie Ware: ‘That! Feels Good!’

In yet another shimmering pop delight, Jessie Ware’s fifth album, That! Feels Good!, sees the nu-disco temptress follow 2020’s What’s Your Pleasure? with a similarly lascivious journey into infectious funk grooves and hot-under-the-collar lyricism. From start to finish, Ware masterfully captures the essence of disco’s golden era and infuses it with a dance-pop sheen to give it a more contemporary spin, whether she’s treating us to sultry pillow talk (That! Feels Good!) or dancing until her necklace falls apart (Pearls). Elsewhere, Tracks such as the diva-led jazz-pop banger Begin Again and the Salsoul thumper Freak Me Now are irresistible dancefloor anthems, while Free Yourself invites Ware to pick up the female-empowerment baton from like-minded disco queens Donna Summer and Gloria Gaynor. On top of a flawless blend of sparkling production touches and diamond-bright melodies, Ware’s enchanting voice is both nostalgic and fresh throughout. Not just one of the best albums of 2023, but also one of Jessie Ware’s most consistent records yet, That! Feels Good! will restore your faith in pop music to move and inspire.

Must hear: Begin Again

3: PinkPantheress: ‘Heaven Knows’

As the long-awaited debut studio album from PinkPantheress, Heaven Knows does not disappoint. Jumping from contemporary R&B to alt-pop with 2-step beats and touches of atmospheric drum’n’bass, the songs see the singer grappling with grief and coming to terms with “being at peace with yourself in your aloneness”. Easily one of the best albums of 2023, Heaven Knows caps off an earth-shatteringly momentous year for PinkPantheress after her duet with rapper Ice Spice, on Boy’s A Liar Pt.2, brought hyper-pop into the mainstream when it peaked at No.1 in the US.

Must hear:Must hear: Boy’s A Liar Pt.2

2: JPEGMAFIA & Danny Brown: ‘SCARING THE HOES’

Rejecting the convenience of Pro Tools in favour of a 90s production style on a Roland SP-404SX sampler, JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown’s collaborative album, SCARING THE HOES, is a weird and perplexing dive into the realm of experimental hip-hop. With surreal sonic touches and left-of-centre rhymes, both rappers relish being dangerously provocative and confrontational, utilising meaty clapping on to unsettling effect on the album’s title track, while the fanfare bop of Burfict! plays out like a well-oiled heavyweight boxer’s entrance theme. Like a buddy cop movie, SCARING THE HOES leans on retro stylings to shake contemporary hip-hop out of its current malaise, reviving a sense of fun and adventure in a way that feels almost revolutionary. Easily one of the best albums of 2023, this is one for discerning rap aficionados who miss the experience of being beaten into a head-bopping daze.

Must hear: SCARING THE HOES

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

Looking for more? Check out the best album covers of 2023.

Original article: 25 April 2023

Original article: 25 April 2023

Updated: 8 July 2023. 23 October 2023. 20 December 2023

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