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  • Writer's pictureEvan

My Top 100 Albums of 2023

Like every year, 2023 started off slow, but as the months have gone by, it has become another unforgettable period for music. Arguably the best year for pop music in decades, we have been blessed with infectious masterworks in the mainstream as well as gems in the alternative scene. When it comes to hip hop, the commercial side has not been too impressive this time around, but the sheer creativity of the underground has kept the genre in bloom. For rock, for folk, for jazz – so many excellent records have released this year, in every genre imaginable. Here are my 100 favourites from 2023.

Firstly, I would like to shed light on a handful of honourable mentions. There are dozens of albums that did not quite make the list, either because they were squeezed out at the last moment, or because I simply did not have enough time to sit with them. Each honourable mention has its own strengths, and there are so many more I wish I could have included. A few of these include Burning Desire by MIKEAll of This Is Chance by Lisa O’Neill, Heaven knows by PinkPantheress, Lahai by Sampha, and Sunday Dinner by 2nd Cousin. Now for the main list!


100. Lettuce Season by Dome Lettuce | A jazzy dive into the mind of rapper Dome Lettuce, weaving together head-bopping hi-hats with finely-chopped horn samples. With some of his most energetic verses to date, this stands as one of the MCs most personal and passionate efforts yet.

99. SUPPLY & DEMAND by JohnnyTra$h & Happy Art | Full of grit and grime, Johnny and Happy bring out the best in one another, combining their strengths to create a truly hard-hitting rap album. Witty one-liners, slick basslines, and punchy sample loops are sprinkled all over this crossover.

98. Heavy Heavy by Young Fathers | Up there with the most creative acts in Scotland, Young Fathers outdo themselves on Heavy Heavy, bringing an animalistic energy to every surreal performance as the group float over thundering drums, dreamy synths, and relentless basslines.

97. Is It Friday Yet by Thought Provokah | Proving his lyrical prowess yet again, this record sees MC Thought Provokah taking on the persona of everyman Knaps Jones, turning the character’s mundane life into a set of comedic, slickly rhymed verses. Highlights like “The Price of Tea in China” show the rapper at his most technically impressive.

96. Catastrophic by spiky | Ambient music in its darkest, most chilling form, Catastrophic is anything but relaxing. Built on a foundation of droning synths and punching drums, the open atmosphere of this record evokes more dread than calm, making this a harrowing LP to return to.

95. Reflections by Sufjan Stevens, Timo Andres & Conor Hanick | A flurry of elegant improvisations, few LPs this year capture the simple beauty of Reflections, where three elite pianists go back and forth, trading the spotlight with their majestic, ever-evolving solos.

94. TMRW.PPL 2 : ESC FROM TMRW by Tomorrow People | As tightknit and infectious as ever, hip hop duo Tomorrow People thrive on their latest project, hyping one another up and trading standout verses over an array of surreal, hyperenergetic beats. Bronze’s production reaches new heights with the abstract flurry of samples on show, and Xhef’s poignant performance matches it nicely.

93. omphalos by herratic | An enthralling fusion of electronica and classical, omphalos is a smooth pairing of sounds natural and robotic. Synths harmonise with strings, ebbing and flowing from the swell of an orchestra to the hard-hitting grooves of an underground rave.

92. Tropicana by BMG Castro | Instrumental hip hop at its most languid, producer BMG Castro captures a distinctly tropical atmosphere on his latest album, seamlessly sewing together soulful vocal chops with twisting horn samples and soft drum patterns.

91. The Breakthrough by Rome Mallory | Another lyrical achievement from rapper Rome Mallory, whose precise rhyme schemes and effortless flows pair well with the glossy, soulful soundscape of this underground gem. Joined on the mic by talents such as Backwood Sweetie and Knowitall, no verse misses the mark.

90. Let Her Burn by Rebecca Black | The long-awaited debut album from Rebecca Black is a marriage between mainstream pop balladry and the crazed experimentation of the hyperpop scene. Finding a fine balance between accessible and alternative sounds, Black sounds more confident than ever before, thriving over the colourful sounds of Let Her Burn.

89. PRELUDE by klwn cat | Proof that klwn cat is one of the most consistent producers in modern hip hop, even his leftovers sound impeccable. Embodying all the grit and darkness that make his style so memorable, this LP is the perfect summary of klwn’s twisted production skill, with a handful of standout guests who elevate the record even more.

88. Hell On Heart by Kheyzine | A four part epic spanning 36 tracks, Hell On Heart is a testament to the consistency of Bordeaux’s Kheyzine. Bringing on an army of rappers from Shottie to D.R.E. Colombian Raw, the quadruple-disc album is an all-star showcase of the worldwide rap underground, with a rough, uncompromising sound.

87. A LONE WXLF by Money Mogly | Miami rapper Money Mogly at his most eclectic, creative, and enthusiastic. From glamorous pop rap cuts to braggadocious, hardcore bangers, the MC hops across a dozen different styles, supplying ferocious verses and witty hooks to every last song.

86. Numb To It All by Da Cleaver & Numbz | Whether it be the explosive cuts that kickstart this LP or the more melancholic tracks on the back end, Da Cleaver brings emotion and skill to each track. Harbouring some of his most vulnerable and potent material yet, Numbz brings out a newfound passion in Da Cleaver.

85. Noir or Never by Che Noir & Big Ghost Ltd. | This may not be the most daring work from Che Noir, but even sitting in her comfort zone, the rapper brings a fiery performance. Rhyming over a set of frigid beats from underground great Big Ghost Ltd., this record encapsulates the icy sound of New York in a ruthless 22 minutes.

84. Gag Order by Kesha | A dark change of pace for Kesha, Gag Order shows off the singer at her most mature and creative. There are dazzling pop cuts here and there, but the main appeal are the darker songs, where the singer’s agonising past brings a manic rawness to her performance.

83. Rap Philosophiæ: Book I by Echo | Rapping over an array of gritty, atmospheric beats, Echo sounds right at home on the spacey production of this LP. Splicing moral dilemmas and philosophical concepts into his bars, he finds a score of clever ways to tell a story, proving his prowess as a lyricist.

82. Mene Gene’s Ringside Series by Skip the Kid | Skip the Kid has become a defining name in the hip hop underground, and this record is his victory lap. With production as abrasive and disjointed as ever, he invites a range of eclectic MCs to bask in the chaos of his sound, from Gustavo Louis to Action Figure.

81. The Good Witch by Maisie Peters | Bright, summery pop music with bouncing instrumentals and an infectiously charismatic performance from Maisie Peters. The Good Witch is nothing groundbreaking for the pop landscape, but with her sharp writing and stunning vocals, Maisie stands out as one of the most promising names in the mainstream.

80. Charlotte’s Unfortunate Death by Dell CLT | With a hyperactive flow, sharp pen game, and ear for punching instrumentals, Dell Nellson flexes all his talents on this hypnotic rap record. He slides over every beat with ease, hooking the listener on every word with his undying passion for hip hop.

79. Derik “The Dragon” eMCee by Lil Derik & Skip the Kid | A stark departure from the brutal style of his other work, on this LP, Skip the Kid goes for a more laidback sound, building a glamorous soundscape for Lil Derik to thrive. The Dragon MC spits every verse with a suave confidence and melodic flair that turns each bar into an earworm, oozing confidence for every moment of this dazzling project.

78. To What End by Oddisee | Jazz rap has seen better years, but To What End is evidence that the subgenre is far from dead. Sliding over a lush blend of rising horns and plucking double bass, Oddisee has all the groove and conviction of a swing performer, floating in the jazzy atmosphere of this LP.

77. O.W.L.S. by Jules Clay & Owlkast | The light, soulful style of producer Owlkast complements the husky-voiced verses from Jules Clay on this mystical crossover. At his most introspective and sharp-witted, Clay’s densely-packed verses make this his strongest album to date, with some of the finest production of his career.

76. Memoirs by Zim | On his latest album, Zim shows off his versatility as an MC, mastering a variety of different styles thanks to the long list of producers involved. There are atmospheric cuts, mesmerising jazz rap tracks, as well as hardcore bangers, each bringing out different strengths in the underground star.

75. Shifting Shadows by Blank Thought | Ominous beats, consistent features, and frigid soundscapes are nothing new to producer Blank Thought, but on Shifting Shadows, his formula is unleashed to its fullest potential. Few hip hop records are as immersive and eerie as this, engulfing the listener in a vast, foreboding atmosphere.

74. Volcano by Jungle | One of the most infectious, danceable records of the year. Volcano perfectly captures the essence of a summer album, with warm basslines, hypnotic drum patterns, and an endless run of earworm choruses. The colourful, funk-infused vibrance of Volcano is something only Jungle could pull off.

73. ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE by Metro Boomin | I had not expected to enjoy a soundtrack so much this year, but thanks to Metro’s innate ability as a curator, this LP comes together as a cohesive highlight of the year. Whether it is the emotional balladry from James Blake or the quickfire rhymes from Nas on the closer, Metro brought on a host of incredible talents to grace this soundtrack.

72. A Few Pages from the Dark Ages by Len-Dor & Rhook Beats | On his own, Len-Dor is a formidable MC, but rapping over the icy network of samples crafted by Rhook Beats, each verse is given a harsh new impact. Growling his bars over every unsettling instrumental, Len-Dor is yet to top this underground gem.

71. RE: 21 XX by LUNAR. | 30 tracks and 100 minutes in length, beatmaker LUNAR. crafted one of the most ambitious rap albums of 2023. Built on a base of video game samples, the LP has a distinctly futuristic aesthetic, inviting the listener on a journey through time with a comprehensive list of features.

70. Portals by Onwuka & INSMNC | Combining their talents to form InsomniWuka, few duos in the hip hop underground pair better than Onwuka and INSMNC. A concept album all about travelling through different dimensions, Onwuka has the sharp pen game to paint a vivid picture of every world visited, and INSMNC has the effortless knack for production to soundtrack their chaotic odyssey through the continuum.

69. Triple Corona by Salazar El Tabaquero & Tev95 | As if his ferocious flows and slick delivery were not enough, rapper Salazar takes things a step further by changing language mid-verse, effortlessly switching from English to Spanish as he cuts up every jazz-infused instrumental from Tev95. With some of the most intricately layered production this year, Tev95 is up there with the finest samplers of 2023.

68. The Mind of a Saint by Skyzoo & The Other Guys | Thoughtful rhymes and timeless verses are guaranteed whenever a new Skyzoo album releases. On The Mind of a Saint, the rapper takes inspiration from the TV show Snowfall, finding dozens of clever ways to incorporate the show’s drug-based drama into his conscious bars.

67. Trifecta by Numbz & Furious Stylez | A hip hop essential from this year, Trifecta sees Furious Stylez unleash some of his most explosive beats, over which Numbz spits a score of fiery verses. Weaving together triumphant orchestral samples with quaking drums and hard basslines, Trifecta is the duo most bombastic and braggadocious collaboration.

66. Train of Thought by Nonazz & Crimzon Merlot | Train of Thought embodies a soft, languid sound wherein the understated mic presence from Nonazz is given heightened prominence and power. The peaceful blend of jazz and soul samples from Merlot are divine, whose sample-chopping talents come together into a gorgeous soundscape.

65. The Book of Mr Scratch Hook by Mr Scratch Hook | The sheer charisma on display here is enough to land Mr Scratch Hook a place on the list. Bombastic, busy instrumentals make up this LP’s sound, with dozens of fast-paced samples crammed together over a ripple of record scratches. Each MC brings their all, feeding into the infectious energy of this summery hip hop record.

64. DREAMBIIG by YawnyBlew & amir. | DREAMBIIG is as vibrant and expressive as its album cover implies. YawnyBlew and amir. have phenomenal chemistry, passing the mic back and forth for every party anthem. Blending together the punch of hip hop with the songwriting of a pop classic and the rhythms of a house track, DREAMBIIG is 24 minutes of irresistible grooves and timeless choruses.

63. Shift Paradigm by Dot-Com Intelligence & Sycho Sid | Quickly becoming one of my favourite MCs of the decade, Shift Paradigm is further evidence that Dot-Com Intelligence is amongst the most underrated rappers today. His raging delivery and poetic penmanship shine through on this record, truly thriving over the brutal soundscape painted by Sycho Sid.

62. SILK by Jiggs & Wiz Kelly | Jiggs set a high standard for himself with the incredible God Meant It and Southside’s Hope, and on SILK, he outdoes himself. Making his mark as a storyteller, the vivid tales and motivational anthems of SILK make it an instant highlight of the year, levitating over a range of soulful beats from the talented Wiz Kelly. 

61. FUCK UR BEATS 2 by Skip the Kid | On FUCK UR BEATS 2, Skip does not break away from his signature sound, but rather, he embellishes it, picking out the finest talents from all corners of the underground to grace his instrumentals and bask in the brutal madness of his production.

60. GREYMATTER by Nonazz & klwn cat | Whereas Nonazz was given plenty of space to breathe on Train of Thought, the rapper sounds as if he is drowning in bass on GREYMATTER. Arguably the harshest project produced by klwn cat, every track is a chaotic spiral of corrupted sounds, with crunching bass and screeching samples laced together into an uncompromising cacophony.

59. TERMINAL : TERMINAL by Xhef & Filip Neuf | This is not the type of album to spin regularly, but whenever it is on, I’m left impressed every time. An entire album dedicated to death and the concept of dying, TERMINAL : TERMINAL is despairing and bold, with Xhef’s crestfallen delivery made more impactful thanks to the ever-changing soundscape by Filip Neuf.

58. Low Magnetics by A1phaB3nch | The long-awaited crossover between the Benchwarmers Clique and A1phaNum3ric5, Low Magnetics is a masterclass in chemistry. Each rapper brings their all to the project, spitting bombastic verses and charismatic hooks over a range of soulful and funky instrumentals. Effortlessly slick, the album sounds better with every listen.

57. Let’s Start Here. by Lil Yachty | With gorgeous guitar work, stunning choruses, and dreamy vocals throughout, Yachty captures the otherworldly essence of psychedelic rock while putting his own hypnotic spin on it. There are not many standout tracks on the project, but as a cohesive whole, it stands as one of the most immersive albums of 2023.

56. Red Moon In Venus by Kali Uchis | Maintaining her status as one of the best singers in modern R&B, Red Moon In Venus is a summery showcase of Kali’s talents. The production is lush and warm, with swelling synths and distant horns providing a laidback atmosphere for Kali to flex the strength of her voice.

55. Heal In by Rigz | Following up the incredible Gold in 2022, Heal In sees East Coast rapper Rigz get even more personal, spilling out his soul over a batch of soulful, often unnerving instrumentals. The rapper’s moody, meticulous presence gives every ferocious verse a razor-sharp impact, bringing confidence as he masters every despairing beat.

54. Wrestling School by Action Figure | Wrestling School is an achievement. Crafted over the course of 24 hours, East Coast luchador Action Figure invited a host of talents into the studio to create this quickfire classic, and the result is some of the grimiest music to grace hip hop this year.

53. Everybody Good? by Black Milk | In stark contrast to the icy sound of the underground scene, Everybody Good? is as bright and uplifting as rap music gets. Summery synths, angelic backing vocals, insatiable basslines, and addictive hooks add up into another production masterwork from Black Milk.

52. Tha Geeb Tape 4 by Twogeebs | A year on from the bombastic Geeb Tape 3, the follow-up is just as hard-hitting and twice as emotional. From comedic tales to emotional lows to straightforward bangers, New Jersey titan Twogeebs tackles a dozen styles in his latest rhymefest, scarcely stopping for a breath as he devours every instrumental.

51. FIFTY. 50. by MANSDEM | An unapologetic flex of his superhuman work ethic, this LP is exactly as its title suggests – a 50 track epic where Mans raps for an eternity, showing off his innate lyrical prowess without pausing for a moment. Produced by a variety of talented beatmakers, the diverse soundscape of FIFTY. 50. keeps it engaging from beginning to end.

50. At Ya Neck by BlaQ Chidori & Barto100 | Some of the rawest hip hop of 2023. On production, Barto steps away from the soul samples in favour of crafting a dark, twisted atmosphere for BlaQ Chidori to thrive. The rapper tears apart every beat, with the cutthroat flows, deadly rhymes, and mesmerising vocals to steal the show on every last track.

49. In Times New Roman… by Queens of the Stone Age | Stoner rock legends Queens of the Stone Age divided fans with the lukewarm Villains back in 2017, but with their latest LP, it seems the band are getting back on their feet. With vocals as moody as ever and an array of sparkling guitar solos, the grit and angst that made the group so iconic shines through on Times New Roman.

48. Garden of Ash by Garden of Ash | Newcomers to the rock scene, three-piece outfit Garden of Ash made their explosive debut this year. This is a stellar blend of hard rock and metal, with angsty vocals from Kristina, crunching guitar from Zach, and relentless drum-work from Levon. The three gel effortlessly, with vocals and instrumentation joining in brutal harmony for the full 35 minutes.

47. O Monolith by Squid | Growing more experimental with each release, O Monolith is the boldest effort yet from punk band Squid. There are still hardcore bangers here and there, but in between are ominous ambient passages and flickers of electronica, showcasing the group’s swelling versatility.

46. Man of a Few Words by Chapo’s beatcorner | For those who miss the simple, jazzy sound of ‘90s hip hop, do not miss out on this instrumental LP. Chapo is an expert when it comes to crafting beats, splicing together horns and basslines to forge instrumentals as infectious and groovy as the work of Pete Rock and Organized Konfusion.

45. Praxis by INSMNC | Instrumental hip hop at its most experimental and raw, the genre fusions on display here make it difficult to pin Praxis down to just one sound. A seamless blend of hip hop, dance, trip hop, ska, rock, and countless other styles, Praxis is a melting pot of ideas where INSMNC mixes together every possible sound into his own unique genre.

44. Fly Langston by Shaw Calhoune | Jazz rap has always been one of my favourite styles of hip hop, and on Fly Langston, rapper Shaw Calhoune puts his own colourful spin on it. The MC’s deep-voiced rhymes offer a cold contrast against the laidback jazz of the production, flowing effortlessly over chopped-up horns and sizzling hi-hats. A lyrical heavyweight with a dominating presence, every verse is a standout.

43. at death’s door by Formerly Known As | A joint effort between producers Blank Thought and Mashoni, the beatmakers complement one another perfectly, combining their sounds to forge an incredibly dark and dense atmosphere. Every guest delivers with their verse, but it’s the chilling production that makes at death’s door so special.

42. mini mix, vol. 3 by Magdalena Bay | Two years after their masterful debut album Mercurial World, synthpop duo Magdalena Bay have returned with a brief mixtape of quickfire highlights. None of the songs are as detailed or intricate as those from their album, but even limited to a 15 minute runtime, the dreamy vocals and pulsing synths that make them so brilliant are still present.

41. Glorious Game by El Michels Affair & Black Thought | Further solidifying his status as one of the greatest rappers of all time, Black Thought teamed up with El Michels Affair for this jazzy masterclass in rhyme. It is not as punchy or energetic as Cheat Codes last year, but even so, the endless stream of rhymes from Black Thought is enough to make this a standout in 2023.

40. No Stranger by Kennedy White | Producer Kennedy White seldom gets the praise he deserves, especially after dropping an album as excellent as No Stranger. Comprised of gorgeous soul samples and poetic verses from every feature, this LP is as lush and serene as rap music gets.

39. STIGMATIC by Shottie & Digitale | If you do not know Shottie, you are missing out on some of the hardest-hitting hip hop this decade. Fully produced by Digitale, STIGMATIC is explosive in its sound, with thundering basslines and earthquaking drum patterns scattered across this abrasive rap masterclass.

38. New Blue Sun by André 3000 | Dipping his toes into ambient and spiritual music, New Blue Sun is a peaceful change of pace for the OutKast veteran. Though there are not many compelling solos throughout, each respective performance converges to build a wall of glittering sound, soothing the listener with a rain of synths, flutes, and horns.

37. Beats That Collected Dust, Vol. 3 by DJ Premier | In hip hop, DJ Premier is unbeatable. His hypnotic record scratches and mathematical sample chops are so captivating that a fully instrumental record can be just as memorable as any Jeru or Gang Starr LP. Vol. 3 is proof of that, harbouring some of the finest beats of Preemo’s career.

36. Hotel 1105 by D2x | Two years after his gorgeous debut album, Hotel 1105 sees Midwest MC D2x mature in his musical abilities, outdoing his first LP in every regard. A love letter to jazz and soul, the summery soundscape of the album offers a captivating dichotomy to his lyrics, growing more personal – and at times, despairing – with each song.

35. Raven by Kelela | Simultaneously one of the catchiest and most relaxing records of the year, Kelela has reached a new creative height with Raven. The record bounces back and forth between soothing ambient cuts and head-bopping dance tracks, mastering each style with the silky vocals and sharp writing that brought her to fame.

34. UTOPIA by Travis Scott | Perhaps the biggest mainstream release of the year, Travis Scott lived up to expectations on UTOPIA. His most consistent effort since Rodeo, the MC brings a fiery presence, thriving over every instrumental, from the dance-pop grooves of “ECHOES” to the brutal percussion on “HYAENA”. Lyrically, Travis does not offer much, but his versatility and consistency across this record make up for it.

33. Integrated Tech Solutions by Aesop Rock | Another lyrical masterclass from Aesop Rock. With a dozen quirky stories to tell and a million words to describe them, the rapper is in prime form, scarcely uttering the same word twice as he asserts his godly rhyming ability for the dozenth time.

32. NODUO by NODUO | This is a record whose beauty cannot be properly described in words. One of the best rap albums to release this year, its sound is lush and elegant, evoking exactly the kind of peaceful atmosphere its album cover connotes. Top it off with a few elite performances from rappers no god. and Nonazz, and NODUO is easily one of the best debuts of 2023.

31. The Aux by Blockhead | Abstract producer Blockhead has proven his worth as a beatmaker countless times, and on The Aux, he proves his ability as a curator. Every single performance – from billy woods to ShrapKnel to Aesop Rock – is phenomenal, and likewise, every beat is fantastic. Perfecting his bizarre, sample-twisting style, The Aux is proof enough that Blockhead is one of the best producers in rap history.

30. Messy by Olivia Dean | I decided to check out Messy after it won a nomination for the Mercury Prize, and after a handful of listens, I can safely say it deserves every accolade it receives. A deeply personal, but equally upbeat listen, the crisp, jazzy sound of Messy complements Olivia’s voice perfectly, making for one of the smoothest pop records of the year.

29. Magic 3 by Nas & Hit-Boy | Nas and Hit-Boy may have rushed to the finish line with the Magic trilogy, but even so, the final instalment is brimming with highlights. Rapping with the passion and ferocity he brought to King’s Disease III, Nas dominates every bouncing instrumental with the same swift flows and masterful pen game that made him an icon in the first place.

28. softscars by yeule | Completely reinventing themselves, softscars sees yeule abandon the ambient pop of their early career in favour of a loud, vibrant, emotional rock album. All about self-reflection and self-love, the louder soundscape adds power and agency to every word they scream, making softscars the singer’s most impactful LP to date.

27. The Twits by bar italia | A modern indie masterpiece. The Twits has the dense instrumentation of a shoegaze album and the angsty vocals of a ‘90s rock classic. The vintage sound of the record will make it an instant favourite for any classic indie fan, but the vivid writing and enthralling chemistry between each vocalist is what makes The Twits unique.

26. the record by boygenius | Gorgeous guitarists and equally gorgeous vocalists, the record is a crossover between three of the strongest voices in the alternative scene. Emotional ballads and heartwarming tales of friendship are littered across this LP, narrated through a series of stunning harmonies and over mesmerising guitar passages.

25. Quaranta by Danny Brown | Over a decade after XXX, Danny Brown is still delivering masterpieces. Quaranta is not as manic as Atrocity Exhibition, but it’s equally as despairing – digging deep into his psyche and picking out the darkest parts, this LP is driven by themes of regret and turmoil that take shape in a series of laidback and aggressive standouts.

24. Duck Soup by MANSDEM & Filip Neuf | Perhaps the best album from either party involved. On production, Filip Neuf is at his sharpest, sewing together a patchwork of disjointed jazz samples to form a backdrop equally intricate and chaotic. Mans thrives in that messy sound, evoking anger and passion with his swift verses and effortlessly smooth delivery.

23. VOIR DIRE by Earl Sweatshirt & The Alchemist | The long-awaited collaboration between Earl and Alc is just about as brilliant as I expected. The past few projects from the two artists have not left much of an impact on me, but on VOIR DIRE, they bring out the best in each other, with crisp production and intricately written verses throughout.

22. Harvest Moon by NODUO & Big Z | I was sceptical about whether NODUO could deliver a project as great as their debut just a few months later, but Harvest Moon exceeds its predecessor in every possible way. Fully produced by Big Z, the instrumentation takes a darker, more melancholic turn, matching the poignant writing from both MCs. Every song is a masterclass in itself, but held together, Harvest Moon is a 2023 essential.

21. Tracey Denim by bar italia | Even better than The Twits, indie outfit bar italia blew me away with Tracey Denim earlier this year. Taking a more moody approach, the crestfallen writing and angsty vocals have an added impact thanks to the screeching guitar and endless shimmer of percussion that flood over their vocals.

20. STRUGGLER by Genesis Owusu | No artist in the current music landscape is as versatile as Genesis Owusu. STRUGGLER is his ambitious sophomore effort, discussing themes of death and godhood over an eclectic blend of electro-punk and neo-soul. Whether he is flexing his silky vocals, shouting into the mic, or spitting a few despairing bars, Owusu is a master of every style he adopts.

19. The Blaxploitation by Patty Honcho | You cannot claim to be a hip hop fan if you have not heard The Blaxploitation. Embracing all sounds funky and soulful, Patty Honcho abandons the gritty style of his earlier work in favour of an upbeat, summery soundscape of meandering basslines and blaring horns. This is the type of innovative hip hop that should be ranking on every year-end list.

18. Hand Painted Realities by Knowitall & Barto100 | Knowitall has asserted himself as one of the best rappers this decade, and Hand Painted Realities strengthens his case even more. Every verse is a meticulous network of rhymes and double meanings; every beat is a puzzle of sliced-up samples, repackaged into a selection of grand instrumentals. Barto and Knowitall thrive together, creating a truly timeless album.

17. This Is Why by Paramore | Each time I listen to This Is Why, I find new reasons to call it one of the best records this year. Paramore at their most playful and explosive, the hard-hitting, pop-punk instrumentals add even more excitement to the animated hooks and cartoonish verses, fully embracing their wild sound for a dramatic finale to their catalogue.

16. Ooh Rap I Ya by George Clanton | Arguably his best album, Ooh Rap I Ya is a seamless fusion of sounds electric and psychedelic. Clanton’s faint vocals blend in with the synth-laden instrumentation, turning his poetic words into their own instrument, carried by the ebb and flow of polychrome sounds. Once this record turns on, it’s difficult to turn it off, as the listener is quickly submerged in the mesmerising glory of Clanton’s production.

15. SCARING THE HOES by JPEGMAFIA & Danny Brown | Unhinged is the perfect word to describe this legendary collaboration. The thundering bass and fast-paced samples give SCARING THE HOES a distinctly danceable sound, but any infectious groove is quickly tarnished by the maddened voices of Peggy and Danny. Spitting some of their most animated and hilarious verses ever, the duo are constantly one upping each other for who can spit the most bizarre verse.

14. Javelin by Sufjan Stevens | Over the course of his career, Sufjan Stevens has dabbled in pop and electronica, but Javelin is a welcome return to form where the songwriter steps back into folk music. As always, Stevens’s writing is poignant, with his tragic lyrics painted over in layers of harmonious backing vocals and gorgeous, orchestral production.

13. Don’t Go Outside by Unruly & klwn cat | A crossover between two of the greatest minds in the hip hop underground. Unruly is a monster on the mic, with a savage delivery and twisted lyrics fit for the nightmarish soundscape depicted by klwn cat. With help from a range of talented lyricists, Don’t Go Outside is a frightening look into the mind of one of rap’s most promising MCs.

12. We Buy Diabetic Test Strips by Armand Hammer | Every verse from the Armand Hammer boys is a treasure. Their latest LP is their boldest yet, zigzagging from sounds dark and foreboding to light and accessible, with assistance from a variety of abstract veterans. Innovative beats, genius verses, and captivating tales are found all over We Buy Diabetic Test Strips.

11. BB/ANG3L by Tinashe | Ever since going independent, Tinashe has been on a creative streak, and BB/ANG3L is her most exciting effort to date. In only 20 minutes, the R&B legend flexes her songwriting strength with some of the catchiest – and equally most creative – hits of the year. The ever-changing, electro-infused production acts as the perfect playground for Tinashe to experiment with her vocals, constantly finding new ways to innovate her style and define her status as an R&B great.


10. As It Unfolds by Harvey Gold | As It Unfolds captivates me in a way few albums ever have. The way Harvey Gold uses samples is simply genius, cutting up old songs into disjointed, stuttering melodies which sound like hazy recollections of the original material. Gold injects soul and brightness into each track, going beyond the mere effort of looping a sample, building musical worlds through every song. A few brilliant guests feature here and there, but the production is what defines As It Unfolds as such a special album. 30 tracks in length, Gold transitions from soul to jazz to rock to EDM, all with the finesse and cohesion of a producer who knows exactly how to make a beat into a work of art.


9. I Inside the Old Year Dying by PJ Harvey | Thirty years after PJ Harvey released the iconic Rid of Me, the singer is still making phenomenal albums. I Inside the Old Year Dying has the same harrowing themes and cryptic stanzas of her earlier work, but its sound is less abrasive, inviting the listener into a realm of dark synths, ominous guitar, and chattering drum patterns. Her vocals are impeccable, reaching angelic heights with some falsettos on “The Nether-edge”, then returning to a series of angsty shouts on the impactful closer, “A Noiseless Noise”. Focussed more on crafting a vivid atmosphere than making a set of standout tracks, the cohesion and flow of this LP is its main appeal. Its truly haunting sound keeps me coming back over and over, constantly finding new details buried in its dense production.

8. DeeP by DeeeP | Drawing from UK garage, acid house, and drum and bass, DeeP is an infectious dance record whose eight lengthy tracks all have their own distinct strengths. The DJ has an effortless skill for pairing catchy samples with even catchier drum patterns, transforming well-established songs into brand new dance bangers through his precise use of drums and basslines. “Sick Boy” is memorable from the vocal sample alone, but coupled with its hypnotic percussion and the wash of synths on the back end, it becomes one of the finest tracks of 2023. Likewise, the head-bopping synth-line on “Gunpowder” is enough to get anyone moving, but as layers of drums, synths, and vocals are folded in, it becomes insatiably catchy, transforming into an entirely new song by the end. The DJ’s inspirations are clear, but his skill is even more apparent. To debut with a record this dynamic and intricate, the future looks bright for DeeeP.


7. Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd by Lana Del Rey | Since Norman Fucking Rockwell! back in 2019, I have been waiting for Lana to recapture the careworn beauty of that record, and on Ocean Blvd, she surpasses her own standard. Moody self-reflections and tragic romances make up the bulk of the album. Though thematically it is nothing new, sonically, no album in her catalogue holds a candle to this. Whether it is the enchanting piano on “Candy Necklace”, the sizzling electric bass on the back end of “A&W”, or the bizarre amalgamation of sounds acoustic and electric on “Fishtail”, Ocean Blvd is Lana’s most versatile and consistent effort. Moreover, her vocals impress on every song, experimenting with her tenor in the same vein as Chemtrails back in 2021, but with the sharp songwriting to back it up. Guests like Father John Misty and Jon Batiste add depth and nuance with their contributions, turning Ocean Blvd into the quintessential Lana Del Rey album.


6. The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We by Mitski | Words cannot do justice the beauty of this LP. At her most vulnerable and introspective, Mitski’s crestfallen writing elevates this to one of her strongest albums ever. The instrumentation stuns me every listen, especially on cuts like the guitar-driven opener “Bug Like An Angel” and the swift crescendo of baroque noise on “When Memories Snow”. The poetry, the production, the raw and emotive vocals – in every regard, Mitski puts in her all. Though at first I was disappointed by the brevity of the album, now it only impresses me more. With the restricted runtime in mind, Mitski packs passion and detail into every possible second, leaving no room for the listener to lose focus. A champion of the alternative scene, The Land Is Inhospitable marks yet another groundbreaking release from one of the greats in modern music.


5. GUTS by Olivia Rodrigo | Disregarding all sense of politeness and celebrity docility, GUTS sees Olivia Rodrigo fully embrace the irresponsible nature of her youth, screaming about her traitorous lovers, bragging about her spotty relationships, and telling hilarious tales of troubled romance. Shouting her lyrics over grungy guitars and explosive drums, the production strikes a fine balance between pop appeal and raging rock aesthetics. Her writing is incredible, pulling off comedic stories as well as existential ballads. The lyrics are great, the choruses are catchy, and the production is irresistible, but it is the boundless charisma Olivia brings that makes GUTS so brilliant.


4. The Loveliest Time by Carly Rae Jepsen | The Loveliest Time is an album so good that, had it gone on for another few hours, I would not have complained. Perhaps her best record since 2015’s Emotion, the dance-pop grooves are addictive, with synths loud enough and basslines funky enough to mistake some songs for cuts off of Daft Punk’s Discovery. More passionate and energetic than ever, The Loveliest Time contains some of Carly’s best vocal performances ever, belting her vocals on some tracks while whispering on others, refusing to settle on any one style. Highlights like “Psychedelic Switch” show the singer fully embracing her dance influences, whereas deep cuts like “Shadow” have an intimate tone only Carly could master. What The Loveliest Time lacks in any deeper meaning or groundbreaking ideas, it makes up for in its sheer catchiness and unmatched pop appeal.


3. Desire, I Want to Turn Into You by Caroline Polachek | The most creative pop album of the year. Caroline Polachek has a natural talent for blending accessible melodies with avant-garde concepts, striking a delicate balance between mainstream and alternative sounds. A song like “Blood and Butter” sounds catchy enough on the surface, but digging deeper, its bizarre quirks become apparent. The disjointed, stuttering vocals from Caroline; the cryptic lyricism; the bubbling synth-work and bagpipe solo – all elements which sound strange in isolation, but when fused together, make perfect sense. Caroline is an incredible songwriter and an even greater vocalist, mastering every detailed instrumental with her operatic, autotune-tinged stanzas. An even more experimental venture than 2019’s Pang, it seems the more daring her sound becomes, the greater the end result.


2. Maps by billy woods & Kenny Segal | 2023 has been a tremendous year for hip hop, but for me, no album comes close to Maps. Another modern masterpiece from billy woods, the rapper’s bars are as detailed and intricate as ever, this time framed through the device of a world tour. As the album progresses, billy travels the world, remarking on his changing surroundings as well as his evolving mental state as he leaves home and returns once again. There are flickers of plain fun here and there – like the hilarious Danny Brown feature on “Year Zero” and the back and forth with ShrapKnel on “Babylon By Bus” – but for the most part, Maps is another powerful expression of existential dread where woods loses and rediscovers himself, documented through the medium of hip hop. Unlike Hiding Places, where Kenny Segal forged an explosive rock-rap backdrop, Maps is relaxed and jazzy, giving woods the space to hook the listener on every word.


1. That! Feels Good! by Jessie Ware | After dipping her toes into disco with 2020’s What’s Your Pleasure?, on this LP, Jessie dives even deeper into the genre, sounding more confident and energetic than ever. Her showstopping vocals, wild vocal inflections, and seductive writing are even stronger here, using the dance-infused soundscape to experiment with her voice in exciting new ways. “Shake the Bottle” is a Madonna-esque narrative, listing off all her failed lovers with a witty sense of humour; “Hello Love” is a soulful ballad of pure romance; “Freak Me Now” is a raunchy disco banger where Jessie drops all the euphemisms and screams out every sexual desire. From the chirpy percussion to the blaring horns to the slick, meticulous basslines, every instrument adds to the power of her words, swelling with every shout and simmering with every whisper. Jessie Ware has already proven herself a master of pop music, but That! Feels Good! is evidence that her talents will never fade. Unlike her last record which felt like a close, intimate experience, this one is loud and bombastic – a sonic party of all sounds danceable. I am yet to find an album this year as catchy, consistent, and charismatic as That! Feels Good!. A stunning pop record and another opus from Jessie Ware, no other LP could have topped my list.

Thank you for supporting Doombox Music in 2023.

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