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The List: Stereoboard's Best Albums of 2023

Monday, 11 December 2023 Written by Stereoboard

Welcome to Stereoboard's Album of the Year rundown for 2023, where we delve into 12 months of head-spinning, pulse-quickening, thought-provoking music. Join us.
 

 

Sampha // Lahai

Following collaborations with Stormzy, Kendrick Lamar and just about every other major act of the last decade, the wait for Sampha’s follow up to his beloved 2018 debut ‘Process’ has felt arduous. Fortunately, Lahai serves up everything fans wanted and so much more beyond that. Across 14 gorgeous tracks, Sampha’s voice soars through the universe, searching for meaning via lyrical motifs that use the cosmos, time travel and alternate realities to wondrous effect. Its music is similarly adventurous, highlighted by the Brainfeeder-style jazztronica of Satellite Business and Can’t Go Back. Few albums this year feel so richly envisioned and fewer still boast such pathos-laden emotional weight. // Tom Morgan

Listen: Only


 

Militarie Gun // Life Under The Gun

Who’d have thought that the lockdown solo project of Ian Shelton, frontman of powerviolence mob Regional Justice Center, would end 2023 soundtracking Taco Bell adverts? Despite his heavier musical past, Shelton’s raspy but melodic voice is a core tenet of his band’s endearing and exhilarating debut ‘Life Under The Gun’. These 12 tracks overflow with energy and course with soul, with highlights Very High and My Friends Are Having A Hard Time serving as potent examples of Militarie Gun’s uptempo, hardcore-meets-college-rock blend. It’s fun, hook-laden and emotionally intelligent. No wonder it’s achieved so much success beyond the scene from which it was birthed. // Tom Morgan

Listen: Do It Faster


 

Slowdive // Everything Is Alive

The fifth studio album from Reading shoegazers Slowdive was remarkable. Having built a reputation over 30+ years, it was hard to imagine that they could top much, if any, of their career output to date but it topped the lot. Opening with the predominantly instrumental Shanty was a brave move but it is utterly divine and kicks off an album of such sonic beauty that words cannot do it justice. Even more astounding is the quality of these songs considering Rachel Goswell takes more of a backseat on vocals with Neil Halstead stepping further forward than ever before. Across just eight tracks, their heart and soul has been poured lovingly into every corner of the album to ensure an epic, magical experience that can only be matched during the most wonderful lucid dream. Truly magnificent. // Graeme Marsh

Listen: Alife


 

Bully // Lucky For You

‘Lucky For You’ is a joyous culmination of all of Alicia Bognanno’s work to date. Intuitive and assured, it is not the sound made by an artist settling, rather one completely at peace with their creative process. Noisy pop-rock veers into Sonic Youth dissonance to give the record an intimidating bite, before the slowcore/shoegaze mash up of A Love Profound soothes the wound. Intertwined with its nostalgic college radio vibe, Bognanno addresses the pain of loss, and still finds hope in opening yourself back up to the possibility of love. And even if on album highlight Ms. America, she sings “everything falls apart,” here she lays down the blueprint for another alt rock masterpiece. // Craig Howieson​ 

Listen: Days Move Slow


 

Dream Nails // Doom Loop

Simply put, Dream Nails’ second full length is a punk masterpiece. After lead vocalist and founding member Janey Starling left in 2021, the band confirmed that they’d be continuing entering tricky territory. Bands marching on when the lead singer leaves have tended to yield mixed results, but in the case of Dream Nails, it’s been a success – incoming vocalist Ishmael Kirby slotted right in and the band picked up from where they left off, looking at incel culture, sexual assault, police brutality, and what it is to be queer in 2023 against a backdrop of some of the most fizzing, vital heavy music we’ve seen this year. // Adam England

Listen: Good Guy


 

Earl Sweatshirt + The Alchemist // Voir Dire

‘Voir Dire’ was a true coming together of new and old school hip-hop. The Odd Future alum Earl Sweatshirt always felt worlds away from the Alchemist, the traditionalist legend, but when they came together it was a match made in heaven. Earl’s deliberate flow is as hypnotic as ever, and his penchant for dread is juxtaposed with bright arrangements from the Alchemist. It’s a true fire-and-ice situation that works perfectly. That it was a surprise drop tied to NFTs and individual animated videos made this project about as 2023 as it's possible to be, but they both managed to stick to their own true styles to make this absolutely essential listening for hip-hop heads from all eras. // Jack Terry

Listen: 100 High Street


 

Paramore // This is Why

‘This is Why’, the sixth studio album from Paramore, shuns any yearning for early nostalgia, and instead exudes a staggering sense of maturity, separating it from any other release in the band’s catalogue. Taking bold strides lyrically, vocalist Hayley Williams bares a sense of vulnerability in dressing down the band’s old wounds from years previous, and addresses the world with a fresh fierceness. The album has enough post-punk bite to contrast with the intimacy of Williams’ poetic solo works as Petals For Armor, yet neither is it simply a return to the pop-punk era that Paramore are famed for. There is grit to ‘This is Why’ that demands newfound attention. // Rebecca Llewellyn

Listen: The News


 

Foo Fighters // But Here We Are

Foo Fighters’ response to the tragic and unexpected death of drummer and close friend Taylor Hawkins was a masterpiece of an 11th album. ‘But Here We Are’ is a tear jerking and captivating record — both melodically memorable and thought-provokingly sentimental. It shed light on the excruciatingly painful and often brutal realities of loss, opening up what is undoubtedly the darkest and most heartfelt era of the band to date. ‘But Here We Are’ encompasses sadness, anger and frustration, spinning them into impressive moments such as the power pop-leaning Rescued, which is already a firm fan favourite. // Issy Herring

Listen: Rescued


 

Olivia Rodrigo // Guts

Olivia Rodrigo took the world by storm with her smash hit Driver’s License and her debut album ‘Sour’ before even graduating high school, but over two years later there was never any chance of second album syndrome with her follow up ‘Guts’. Still only 20, in some ways, Rodrigo continues where she left off with another collection of pop songs inspired by the pop-punk and alternative rock of the 1990s and 2000s. But her viewpoint has shifted, reflecting the past couple of years as the former Disney star has had to make the transition from teen to adult while being one of the most famous young people on the planet. Second single Bad Idea Right? is a highlight. // Adam England

Listen: Bad Idea Right?


 

Gel // Only Constant

Sixteen minutes of completely unnerving hardcore; that’s what Gel stunned listeners with this year thanks to their debut album ‘Only Constant’. Hardcore for the freaks is how they put it and, well, you’ve got to be a freak to keep up with them. Sami Kaiser led from the front with a bark like a rabid dog, leaving listeners with no time to get off of this exhilarating, hellish ride. Gel arw confrontational and barbed in all that they do — they aren't for everyone but ‘Only Constant’ proved they're for anyone who’s prepared to get tangled up in a pit with them. // Jack McGill

Listen: Honed Blade


 

Danny Brown // Quaranta

Danny Brown grew old gracefully with his sixth album, ‘Quaranta’. Italian for 40, this spiritual successor to his essential 2011 album ‘XXX’ heard the Detroit rapper at his most contemplative and vulnerable, as he owned up to the transgressions of his younger years and mused on how they had affected his personal life. Deeply emotive and honest, he sounded comfortable in a low-and-slow tone that is at odds with his usual, unmistakable voice. That's not to say that side of Danny is gone, though, as the record is also a celebration of how he's turned his life around, and songs like Tantor and Jenn’s Terrific Vacation are just as vital as the brooding Celibate. Close to a new career best for one of modern hip-hop’s most charismatic artists. // Jack Terry

Listen: Jenn's Terrific Vacation


 

Health // Rat Wars

Since their 2019 album ‘Vol. 4: Slaves of Fear’, Health have lived at a unique convergence of pop and metal. The Los Angeles noisemakers collaborated with a host of musicians across their pandemic-era ‘Disco4’ projects (including Nine Inch Nails, Lamb of God and 100 Gecs), and on ‘Rat Wars’ they consolidated everything they’d learned from those superstars into a diverse yet consistent masterpiece. Health’s fifth album ranges from hard-nosed riffs and Godflesh samples to silky electro-pop, but its every second offers a moody, dreamy escape. With pop looking increasingly to metal for inspiration, hopefully Health will smash into the mainstream soon. // Matt Mills

Listen: Sicko


 

Young Fathers // Heavy Heavy

The Scottish art-pop trio kicked the year off in style, bringing an immense sense of freedom to their basement-recorded fourth album. A back to basics record that sounds massive thanks to the euphoria of tracks such as Tell Somebody or Ululation and the irresistible dub beats of Shoot Me Down, ‘Heavy Heavy’ was an album made to be shared, through which to build a community spirit. The album was nominated for the Mercury Prize — almost a decade on from Young Fathers winning it with ‘Dead’ — and opened the door for the band to play a blinding set at Glastonbury, along with sold out shows up and down the UK. They say lightning doesn't strike twice, but the way that Young Fathers managed to recapture the magic of their debut was staggering and gave listeners something to dance and, more importantly, connect to. // Jack Terry

Listen: I Saw


 

Lana Del Rey // Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Boulevard?

On her ninth studio album, Lana Del Rey found some solace in a sense of calm. Driven by her vocals and piano, ‘Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Boulevard?’ exerts its power through lyrical messages. In its 78-minute running time, Lana explores some of life’s biggest questions — opener The Grants questions the afterlife and what her family will think about her after she has died, where album highlight A&W sees her roll her eyes at the thought of ever being in love. But that’s not all. The album is doused in samples and interpolations, referencing some of her previous work (Taco Truck x VB) and Tommy Genesis’s Angelina (Peppers) with that same track also nodding to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Is it a work that will take some time to digest? Yes, but it’s worth it. // Katie Macbeth

Listen: A&W


 

Dying Wish // Symptoms of Survival

The promise Dying Wish showed on their debut album was well and truly met on ‘Symptoms of Survival’. Injecting more melodic sensibilities into their stock in trade metalcore on the stirring Paved In Sorrow and soaring closer Lost In the Fall, they also kept the brutality coming at every opportunuty. Starved piled on breakdown after breakdown and Kiss of Judas served up frantic, pit inciting mayhem. Sounding less the the metalcore of yesteryear and more like their own animal entirely while still paying homage, ‘Symptoms of Survival’ put Dying Wish firmly at the forefront of the genre in 2023. // Will Marshall

Listen: Watch My Promise Die


 

Shame // Food For Worms

Following up their 2021 second album ‘Drunk Tank Pink’, Shame served up some of their most compelling songwriting to date. Delving into the struggles of a toxic relationship (Yankees), the challenges of being in your 20s (Fingers of Steel), and the emotional turmoil of watching a close friend turn into somebody you don’t recognise (Different Person), ‘Food For Worms’ found the band exploring the complexities and nuances of friendship, allowing their signature sound to evolve in fresh, exciting ways. Shame have hit their stride, delivering a powerful, confident album that leaves listeners hungry for more. // Katie Macbeth

Listen: Fingers of Steel


 

Ice Spice // Like..?

Ice Spice’s eagerly-awaited debut EP 'Like..?' dropped at the start of the year, and perfectly showcased her signature drill sound while being the ideal introduction to the young rapper. It’s poppy enough to set her up perfectly for mainstream success long after the initial social media buzz and meme-worthiness might die down, but her vocal tone sets her apart from the chasing pack and gives her plenty of hip-hop cred. Even if you don’t think you know Ice Spice, you’ll likely have heard Princess Diana, with Nicki Minaj, or Gangsta Boo, with Lil Tjay, while scrolling through social media, but here she proves that she’s got plenty more strings to her bow. // Adam England

Listen: In Ha Mood


 

Pupil Slicer // Blossom

Pupil Slicer had already made a splash with the frenetic, downtrodden whirl of chaos that was their debut album ‘Mirrors’ in 2021, but their second LP ended up being one hell of a glow-up. ‘Blossom’ was a magnificent expansion of the London metallers’ capabilities in terms of range and ambition, combining a detailed sci-fi narrative with sounds that were savage and beautiful all at once. Above all, however, this marked the point where they truly stepped out from the shadows of their influences – it’s no bad thing that you can tell they’re Converge and Dillinger Escape Plan fans, but this time around, they sounded more like Pupil Slicer. // Emma Wilkes

Listen: Blossom


 

Mitski // The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We

An artist as complex as Mitski will always pose fresh questions to their audience. ‘The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We’ proved to be no exception, veering away from past sounds and giving fans plenty more to dissect and pore over, both lyrically and musically. Stepping back from the maximalist pop of ‘Be The Cowboy’ and ‘Laurel Hell’ into something approaching alt-country, it underlined her commercial potency while also showing that she remains an artist willing to throw down a curveball. // Rebecca Llewellyn

Listen: Bug Like An Angel


 

MSPAINT // Post-American

Mississippi punks MSPAINT crush genre conformity with future sounds on their breathless debut ‘Post-American’. Beating with a hardcore heart the four piece swap guitars for radiant, visceral synths and bone-shaking bass that rivals the intensity of any of their more traditional contemporaries. From takedowns of pitiful patriotism, to pointing out the injustices of the American justice system, vocalist Deedee has a voice capable of politicking without preaching. And on tracks such as Delete It, featuring producer Ian Shelton of fellow hardcore subverters Millitarie Gun, the band revel in the joy of the here and now, completely at home in the noisy chaos they create. // Craig Howieson

Listen: Delete It


 

Grian Chatten // Chaos For The Fly

Somewhat subdued when compared to the gritty gusto of his previous work as vocalist of post-punk greats Fontaines DC, Grian Chatten’s solo album arrived as a pleasant surprise. Still packing the storytelling prowess one would hope for, his words are weaved throughout an unexpectedly tender approach to an acoustic-based sound. Moody elements are replaced with light guitars, and even a fizz of electronics. These elements are themselves dispersed effortlessly throughout opening track The Score and the change in ambience is alluring, softening a hardened exterior and setting an intricate melodic to trap for newcomers. // Rebecca Llewellyn

Listen: Fairlies


 

Troye Sivan // Something To Give Each Other

A 10-track celebration of love, sex, community, queerness, and friendship, ‘Something To Give Each Other’ provided Troye Sivan with the opportunity to reinvent himself and confront the anxieties that previously held him back. Despite being brought to life amid a break up, the album found Sivan at his most confident. Lead single Rush arrived made for the dancefloor with its house-inspired beats and football chants, while One Of Your Girls is a siren song for straight men that he finds himself attracted to. An album that examines the highs and lows of love, ‘Something To Give Each Other’ runs on a new sense of swagger and liberation. // Katie Macbeth

Listen: Rush


 

100 gecs // 10,000 gecs

Sticking another nought on the end is a tried and tested formula for 100 Gecs, who followed up their bonkers debut ‘1000 gecs’ with the equally chaotic ‘10,000 gecs’ in the spring. The dynamic duo of Laura Les and Dylan Brady waste no time blowing your head off with Dumbest Girl Alive, marrying clipped gunshots and nu-metal riffage in the way only they can. Taking hyperpop into a newer, noisier sphere, the album descends into silliness and carnage, be it the outlandish Doritos & Fritos or the party number I Got My Tooth Removed, which is exactly what it says on the tin. Unfiltered pandemonium, from top to bottom. // Rishi Shah

Listen: Hollywood Baby


 

Metallica // 72 Seasons

For anyone still experiencing vivid and horrifying ‘St Anger’ flashbacks, the thought of listening to another therapy-slanted Metallica record seemed about as enticing as eating nails. Factor in their patchy post-millennial output, combined with this album’s 77 minute length, and the words ‘indigestible’ and ‘regurgitation’ immediately sprang to mind. So it was a genuine pleasure to hear them make an absolute mockery of those concerns, while clearly having a shit-tonne of fun, on this conceptually gripping, delightfully self-referential, superbly produced effort.  Revolving around the birth and persistence of a person’s deep rooted psychological damage, we can hear exactly where James Hetfield’s formative fire came from, and how his trauma sparked the band’s entire story, over soon-to-be vintage bangers that pull from all eras of their history to create, in perfect unison, an unashamedly META Metallica offering. // Simon Ramsay

Listen: 72 Seasons


 

Sleep Token // Take Me Back To Eden

Rounding out their year with a headline show at London’s OVO Arena Wembley, many heavy music fans would argue that 2023 has belonged to Sleep Token. Solidifying their mainstream breakthrough with the conclusion to a conceptual trilogy of albums that began with 2019’s ‘Sundowning’, the anonymous masked metal outfit’s latest release put a remarkable spin on arena-rock, blending metal, pop, and R&B influences in uniquely purposeful ways. An ambitious monolith of a record laden with creative risks and bold left turns, it offers up a sonic journey that rewards patience, with more than half its tracks extending beyond five minutes. Guided by expert craftmanship and surrounded in intricate lore, ‘Take Me Back To Eden’ is nothing short of a masterpiece. // Maddy Howell

Listen: Take Me Back to Eden


 

Caroline Polachek // Desire, I Want to Turn Into You

On her second solo album released under her real name, Caroline Polachek further establishes herself as one of pop’s leading alternative voices. Again, she works with hyperpop staple Danny L Harle and his influence can be keenly felt across its 12 tracks, but it’s her artistry that shines through first and foremost. From the use of new-age synths to Spanish guitar and trip-hop beats, it’s all in here, knitted together by her voice and charisma. Singles Bunny Is a Rider and Welcome to My Island are just perfect pop songs, while Blood and Butter and Fly to You, the latter featuring Grimes and Dido, are the perfect ventures to showcase Polachek’s talent. // Adam England

Listen: Welcome to My Island


 

Armand Hammer // We Buy Diabetic Test Strips

Depending on how you look at it, abstract hip-hop has either had a resurgence in the internet era, or it now just makes more sense to our frazzled brains. ELUCID and billy woods’ Armand Hammer are the frontrunners of this new golden age of experimental rap music. Their latest full length ‘We Buy Diabetic Test Strips’ is a stunning, expressionist work of art, one that’s layered with myriad unique textures and bold, inventive beats. Unlike the dense work of many of their peers, these 15  tracks possess a sharp internal logic that avoids tipping them over into the cacophonous. They duo are also uniquely adept at plumbing deep wells of feeling, as evidenced by the existential The Flexible Unreliability Of Time & Memory and jaw-dropping highlight The Key Is Under The Mat. An album packed full of potent and uniquely futuristic pleasures. // Tom Morgan

Listen: Woke Up and Asked Siri How I'm Gonna Die


 

Hotline TNT // Cartwheel

Amid the baggy euphoria of Hotline TNT’s first album for Third Man Records lies one of life's most difficult conundrums. On ‘Cartwheel’, Will Anderson grapples with the choices faced when your life veers off its imagined path. In a fuzzed out freefall of overdriven guitars and bleached vocals he delivers an optimistic outlook for all those still looking for their place long after they thought they would have settled down. From the new wave grunge of opener Protocol to the spiky electronic samples of BMX, each track is blessed with an enormity beyond the sum of its parts. Channeling My Bloody Valentine for a new generation of fans, Anderson is rightly at the forefront of the shoegaze revival. // Craig Howieson

Listen: Protocol


 

Blink 182 // One More Time...

Tom DeLonge’s return to Blink-182 following Mark Hoppus’s recovery from cancer was emotional for all concerned, including the band’s fans. Taking the reins again following a couple of records with Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba, the band’s imperial phase trio, completed by drummer Travis Barker, returned with ‘One More Time...’ and it almost felt as though they never left. Transporting us back to a time when life seemed much simpler, they cleverly combined shouty punk rock with experimental elements seized from their iconic 2003 untitled LP. ‘One More Time...’ signified a definitive moment for the band three decades into a career that once seemed like it was out of chapters. // Issy Herring

Listen: Dance With Me


 

Boygenius // The Record

One of the year’s breakout stories, Boygenius laces together Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, and Julien Baker as one harmonious being. The result is spellbinding, and testament to the core friendship that has driven the trio in their musical endeavours, both as a collective and individually.’The Record’ garnered instantaneous praise, reaching number one in the UK album charts and breaking the top five of the Billboard 200 in the US. With its unapologetically bold lyrics and signature indie-folk sound, it delivered a blockbuster reunion. Whether this is to be a standalone release remains to be seen, but Boygenius have cemented their legacy. // Rebecca Llewellyn

Listen: Cool About It


 

Doja Cat // Scarlet

After taking to social media just weeks before the release of her third album to state that her two previous ones (‘Hot Pink’ and ‘Planet Her’) were ‘cash grabs’ and being in the headlines for constantly arguing with internet trolls — those who criticise her appearance, or those who spread rumours that she was a satanist — on ‘Scarlet’ Doja Cat had the last laugh. An album that does it all, from calling out those who compare her to other artists (Attention), to diving into arguments with her peers (97), before discussing her sexual experiences in a fun, light-hearted manner (Agora Hills). ‘Scarlet’ allows Doja to firmly put her foot into the door of the hip-hop hall of fame – if people continue to overlook her, it appears she doesn’t mind either way. // Katie Macbeth

Listen: Balut


 

Incendiary // Change The Way You Think About Pain

Metallic hardcore at its most blood-pumping and teeth-gnashing, ‘Change The Way You Think About Pain’ is comfortably one of the best ‘heavy’ albums released in 2023. A level-up for the New York four-piece in pretty much every aspect, these 10 thrilling tracks are painted in the same deep, dark hues as the mysterious scene that adorns its cover art. The songwriting is effortlessly great, full of intense breakdowns (Jesus Bones) and remarkable builds and releases (Echo Of Nothing), but it’s the commanding performance of frontman Brandon Garrone that deserves special praise. His half-rapped bark oozes New York swagger, while his lyrics offer up a genuinely thought-provoking thesis on contemporary socio-political strife. An accomplished and engrossing metalcore masterclass. // Tom Morgan

Listen: Bite The Hook


 

Yves Tumor // Praise a Lord Who Chews but Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds)

Psychedelic, experimental and broadly guitar-based is as close as we can get to buzzwords for the third album from Yves Tumor, which is a mission statement of identity that’s as bombastic as its title suggests. An artistic enigma, their ethereal vocals take centre stage on Heaven Surrounds Us Like A Hood, while the pounding bassline of lead single Echolalia unlocks a new level of depth to the American artist, who now resides in Turin, Italy. Meteora Blues is a pure rock anthem for the ages, while Lovely Sewer is Yves Tumor at their most danceable to date. Elusive and peerless, ‘Praise…’ confirms their place in a league of their own, an antidote that modern rock is crying out for. // Rishi Shah 

Listen: Echolalia


 

Svalbard // The Weight of the Mask

Svalbard’s Serena Cherry is one of the greatest lyricists in the modern metal scene. On their three previous albums, the singer/guitarist of the post-black metal four-piece has poetically savaged rape culture and the unjust nature of society, while also suggesting how to improve these problems. ‘The Weight of the Mask’ turned that scrutiny inwards. It’s a powerfully honest expression of Cherry’s depression, with the emotion of her lamentations only punctuated by the shimmering, blackened hardcore of the band’s music. Without words, it would be a truly remarkable statement. With them, however, it’s a raw expression of strife too devastating to be ignored. // Matt Mills

Listen: Eternal Spirits


 

Creeper // Sanguivore

A band who’ve become known for their no-half-measures approach to spooky sonic storytelling, Creeper’s third album is bombastic, bloodthirsty, and downright brilliant. Immersed in a vampiric world, it’s their darkest record to date, drawing inspiration from the flamboyance of rock composer Jim Steinman and the twisted fantasy of classic monster movies. A bold tribute to ‘80s gothic glam that intertwines anthemic choruses and darkly poetic lyrics, from the glorious  nine-minute odyssey opening of Further Than Forever to the closing notes of emotive piano ballad More Than Death, Creeper’s theatricality is concentrated into a narrative-rich cinematic journey, enhanced by the record’s polished production courtesy of Tom Dalgety (The Cult, Ghost, Rammstein). Solidifying their status as gothic rock innovators, ‘Sanguivore’ is a spellbinding release from a band looking to make a resounding statement. // Maddy Howell

Listen: Cry to Heaven


 

Billy Woods & Kenny Segal // Maps

Toeing the line between a love letter to and lamentation of being a globally touted touring musician, ‘Maps’ heard New York rapper Billy Woods at his most effective. Paired with Kenny Segal’s unique and enthralling beats, Woods’ lyricism pops, his narration like fireworks in a dark sky. From the yawning bass chasms on Hangman to the restless keys of The Layover, Woods has a rhyme scheme and narrative to fit, painting a clear picture of life on the road and all the obstacles that come with it, from crappy weed to missing loved ones. Both parties play their parts expertly and together create a modern rapper-producer masterpiece fit to share the rarefied air of classics such as ‘Madvillainy’. // Jack Terry

Listen: Soft Landing


 

Queens Of The Stone Age - In Times New Roman...

Heading back towards their heavier side, Queens of the Stone Age took album eight to impressive heights. Josh Homme’s  emergence on the other side of personal darkness is drenched in negativity and anger, representing a spirited, rabble-rousing response. Intriguing wordplay meets chaos on Carnavoyeur’s blistering wall of noise, but the best of the lot awaits you at the end of the tunnel. Gargantuan nine-minute epic Straight Jacket Filling boasts riffs aplenty to provide a suitably bombastic climax to an ear-splittingly good collection of songs. If your ears can handle it, delve in. // Graeme Marsh

Listen: Emotion Sickness


 

PVRIS // Evergreen

PVRIS were great before 2023 but ‘Evergreen’ was about levelling up. Taking a new electronic approach, which pushed up against their existing guitar-centric sound, made for the perfect amalgamation of pop and electro-rock. Lyndsey Gunnulfsen’s palpable swagger throughout the record is award-worthy alone and hearing her completely untethered for what feels like the first time made an enormous difference. ‘Evergreen’ is a middle finger to any misconceptions that you may have about PVRIS. // Jack McGill

Listen: Love Is A…


 

Killer Mike // Michael

Killer Mike described his latest solo effort as if “Run the Jewels is X-Men, this is my Logan”, implying this album is a more introspective effort in contrast to his work as one half of the more explosive duo. While it’s hardly a downtempo release, the effortlessly great ‘Michael’ peels back the layers of its creator’s psyche in order to tell som engrossing, deeply personal tales. Nowhere is this better exemplified than Slummer, a wise and honest story of teenage pregnancy. A distinctly southern flavor imbues this glorious album, from the brash lyrical honesty to production rife with choirs and 808 drums. Incisive lyrics, distinctive production and great guest features  make this comfortably one of the most accomplished rap releases of 2023. // Tom Morgan

Listen: Scientists & Engineers


 

Sufjan Stevens // Javelin

Sufjan Stevens has always had the ability to access the hard to reach recesses of the human psyche. With meticulous melodies and arrangements he can draw out dormant emotions from listeners. On First listen ‘Javelin’  is an achingly beautiful record, similar in tone to his earlier masterpiece ‘Carrie & Lowell’. And as a break-up record, which it initially appeared to be, it stood head and shoulders above most of the year's releases. But when the album was later dedicated to his partner, who died in the Spring of this year, we learned that this was a set of songs informed and defined by grief and a permanent loss. It transformed into one of the bravest and most exceptional releases of recent times. An extraordinary outpouring from an artist who always gives all he has. // Craig Howieson

Listen: So You Are Tired


 

The Hives // The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons

Unleashing a 31 minute rollercoaster ride, The Hives’ long awaited comeback is every ounce the “soon to be award winning new album” the band have so modestly claimed. Judging by the frenetic fire and kinetic brimstone that powers this breakneck beast, it almost feels like the Swedes have been locked away for the last decade, allowing their boundless energy to build until it reached critical mass. As such, every exuberant second of this face-melting romp, which also packs plenty of razor-edged wit and damning socio-political attacks, delivers an incendiary barrage of potent pop hooks, weaving from punk-fuelled bangers and rockabilly romps to haunted disco blues and gothic cabaret. Let’s hope their mantle pieces have enough room for all those inevitable gongs. // Simon Ramsay 

Listen: Countdown to Shutdown


 

Code Orange // The Above

Code Orange’s murky world got even weirder on their fifth album. Faced with the prospect of ever-expanding crowds and growing stature in the alternative world, the Pittsburgh hardcore mob’s response was to both embrace it in their own way and simultaneously gurn at it. That approach spawned, in turn, icy yet eerie arena bangers (The Above) and twisted takes on grunge (The Mask Of Sanity Slips) and even a surprisingly inspired collaboration with Billy Corgan (Take Shape), with some of their catchiest hooks ever rubbing up against characteristically discordant blasts of noise. Even if it seemed confusing at first, ‘The Above’ was calculated and clever. // Emma Wilkes

Listen: Take Shape


 

Jeff Rosenstock // Hellmode

With ‘Hellmode’ Jeff Rosenstock swiftly dismissed any fears that he may be slowing down. This  full throttle, riotous collection of tracks mirrored the paranoia of existence in 2023. The machine gun drumming and impossible to catch guitar riffs of opener WILL U STILL U make you feel like you’ve run a marathon in three and a half minutes. And throughout the album Rosenstock — still DIY to his core — cements himself as a scene leader, constantly striving while never compromising. And even if things get dark, and the weight of the world he describes is hard to bear, ‘Hellmode’ is still the finest pop-punk party of the year. // Craig Howieson

Listen: Healmode


 

Enter Shikari // A Kiss for the Whole World

A dynamic sonic journey that refines the chameleonic soundscape of 2020’s ‘Nothing is True & Everything is Possible’, Enter Shikari’s seventh album exudes a rejuvenated sense of purpose and raw energy. Recorded off-grid in a farmhouse powered by solar energy, vocalist Rou Reynolds delivers some of his most visceral vocal performances to date, exploring themes of existence in a postmodern world and striving for hope amid the chaos. Divided into segments with spacey interludes, from trance nods (Bloodshot) to orchestral flourishes (Dead Wood), it’s a brilliantly self-aware release from a band who have dedicated more than two decades to evolution. An explosive reconnection with the project’s radiant core, in 2023 Enter Shikari delivered a euphoric and bombastic testament to their refusal to settle. // Maddy Howell

Listen: It Hurts


 

Genesis Owusu // Struggler

Introducing The Roach, otherwise known as Australian visionary Genesis Owusu. Dominating the sphere with his low-register, powerhouse vocals, ‘Struggler’ sees him blend rap, rock and even punk at times, underpinned by some refreshingly raw production. The driving rhythm of Stay Blessed is a standout anthem, while the chromatic build in Leaving The Light evokes a wicked level of tension. Letting groove dictate the pace of the record, Owusu finds his flow over luscious instrumentals on songs such as Tied Up!, where every moving part has room to breathe. Genesis Owusu is building his own world, brick by brick, and ‘Struggler’ hints at an artist whose versatility knows no bounds. // Rishi Shah​ 

Listen: Stay Blessed


 

The Murder Capital // Gigi's Recovery

As history tells us, the second album is make or break time for most artists. The Joy Division bleakness that drove the Murder Capital’s debut ‘When I Have Fears’ is less obvious here, having naturally evolved into something deeper and more developed. It’s cinematic and thrilling, emotional even, and at times mesmerising. From excellent singles Ethel and Return My Head, where tensions mount to create euphoric feelings of intensity, to the more expected doom and gloom of Belonging, ‘Gigi’s Recovery’ is clearly the sound of a band in transition. But this transformation is stunning, akin to the metamorphosis of a butterfly. The band haven’t just matched or slightly bettered their debut, they’ve simply smashed it out of the park. // Graeme Marsh

Listen: A Thousand Lives


 

Empire State Bastard // Rivers Of Heresy

Brash, bold, and at points absolutely bonkers, Empire State Bastard’s debut album is a reminder to always expect the unexpected from Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neil. The frontman’s grindcore supergroup, featuring Oceansize frontman/Biffy touring guitarist Mike Vennart, Slayer's Dave Lombardo on drums, and Naomi Macleod from Bitch Falcon on bass, ‘Rivers Of Heresy’ embraces extremity and weirdness in wicked style. An unpredictable sonic romp through unrelenting screamo, sludge masterclasses, and sprawling prog epics – all guided by Neil’s signature off-kilter lyrical prowess and penchant for experimentation – it’s a merciless effort from some of rock’s most weird and wonderful talents. // Maddy Howell

Listen: The Looming


 

The Armed // Perfect Saviors

Ignore its Mighty Boosh-looking cover art, ‘Perfect Saviors’ is among the best rock albums of 2023. ‘Rock’ might seem vague, but it is about the only genre tag available for The Armed’s fifth full length, which transcends stylistic limitations in thrillingly unique fashion. Shifting from fist-pumping, heavier early tracks to groovy robo-rock numbers to a jazz fusion closer, this playful collection is a mercurial and constantly evolving beast. It works best when it puts its foot firmly on the throttle, such as on FKA World and Clone, which feel like being driven at a hundred miles an hour with a stomach full of hallucinogenics. A sense of full spectrum colour permeates ‘Perfect Saviors’, conjuring a vision of rock music’s future, displayed in the most resplendent of fashions. // Tom Morgan

Listen: Sport of Form


 

Zulu // A New Tomorrow

Flatspot Records are seemingly incapable of missing. Zulu’s ‘A New Tomorrow’ offered a radical celebration of Black love, joy and community in the face of systemic racism and economic injustice. That it’s an invigorating mixture of heavy hardcore and powerviolence along with soul and spoken word samples doesn’t hurt either – the opening Africa and For Sista Humphrey are a galvanising call to arms, while Fakin’ Tha Funk (You Get Did) seethes and roils. A short runtime of just under half an hour means ‘A New Tomorrow’ will stick with you long after it finishes rattling your skull. // Will Marshall

Listen: From Tha Gods To Earth


 

The Menzingers // Some of It Was True

Like a heavyweight boxer toning his muscles to pack an even greater punch, The Menzingers further refined their core strengths, while continuing to bulk up their artistic reach, on this deliciously well-rounded knockout affair. Without jettisoning a hint of the band’s reassuring, nostalgia-tinted tales, or trademark backbone of authentic spirit, soul and fizzing live energy, the Philadelphia quartet’s unswerving commitment to judicious incremental evolution allows ‘Some of it Was True’ to confidently stride even farther into blue collar heartland territory without its creators forgetting where they came from. Familiar and fresh in equal measure, while drawing from an even broader pool of Americana and classic rock influences, the band’s unshakable, and increasingly well executed, belief in producing thematically watertight albums, fuelled by pin sharp narrative driven storytelling, makes this record the perfect ‘fuck you’ to all things streaming. // Simon Ramsay

Listen: Hope Is A Dangerous Little Thing

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