Best albums of 2023

Welcome to our Best Albums of 2023 list.

Some years we showcase our top ten albums of the year. Sometimes this expands due to the sheer array of wonderful releases in the year. This time around it is one of those extended list run downs as we enjoyed a wide array of albums. We just couldn’t leave any out.

Across our 20, we have the return of old faces, from the 1960s – both real and fictional. We delve into the masterful world of library music, there’s some great debuts from emerging artists too. And pop. Lots of pop.

It is also worth mentioning the fine EPs that were released this year, with John Monroe and Field Music‘s Songs from the Shelf a highlight, as the Sunderland band’s original line up  reunited for some timeless piano driven pop.

Then XTC frontman Andy Partridge re-emerged with one of the most interesting takes on pop of the year, together with Jen Olive and  and Stu Rowe with their 3 Clubmen project. In its lead track Look At Those Stars they have produced one of the most memorable songs of the year.

Remember to check those tracks and more on our Best of 2023 Spotify list after you’ve looked through our run down of the Best Albums of 2023.

20. The Sinclairs – The Long Slow Death Of A Cigarette

Damned drummer Rat Scabies’ and Flipron and Neville Staple guitarist Billy Shinbone’s garage pop act The Sinclairs returned in 2022 with more surf rock inspired tunes.

This time they brought a host of guest vocalists with them, including the actor Kevin Eldon, Yoshiko Fujiyama and Akiko Omo from garage punk act The 5,7,8’s and Roger Chapman from 1960s band Family, drops by too.

Read our full review here.

19. RJ McKendree – Wallflower

Californian music man RJ McKendree is a character created in the novel Villager by Tom Cox who has come to life thanks to Will Twynham. It’s a wonderful folk album of laid back, haunting tunes with sumptuous strumming and whispered, echoing vocals which are absolutely sublime. Could it have been created in 1967 or this year? You decide.

Read our full review here.

18. Matt Berry – Simplicity

Comedy actor Matt Berry described it as an “honour” to be asked by legendary music library label KPM  to be one of its composers. That is putting it mildly given the label’s writers have created some of TV most memorable and historic theme tunes, from The Avengers and Grandstand to This Is Your Life.

He has clearly loved taking part in the project judging by the resulting album Simplicity – a wonderful 1960s and 1970s inspired array of instrumental tracks, with opener and lead single Top Brass particularly outstanding.

17. PJ Harvey – I Inside the Old Year Dying

This is PJ Harvey’s tenth studio album. It is extraordinary. It is unique.

The music takes not so much a back seat, more a pleasant companion in the passenger seat. It is restrained and somewhat muted, as if to emphasize the subject matter. It’s an album to be heard in its entirety. All twelve tracks flow together as one.

Read our full review here.

16. Olivia Rodrigo – Guts

Olivia Rodrigo Guts

It is always a pleasure to discover a great pop artists. On her second album, the Disney TV graduate, delivers a great mix of glossy pop, rock and ballads. It is an amazingly diverse album for a very young artist, and one aiming squarely at the mainstream. Crucially it is also a lot of fun.

15. Jalen Ngonda Come Around and Love Me

How is Jalen Ngonda only in his 20s? He sounds like a lost classic Motown singer from the 1960s whose startling album has only just been discovered. Come Around and Love Me is a wonder of a collection, packed full of almighty hooks, great tunes and timeless joy.

14.Guided By Voices – Welshpool Frillies

Guided By Voices Welshpool Frillies

We could have picked any one of the three albums that Bob Pollard and co put out this year. They’re all great fun and packed with guitar hooks and catchy melody amongst the pop, punk, prog and psych on offer.  This one just about shades it for us. Don’t like it as much? Not a problem, there’ll be another one along any day.

13.Lottery Winners – Anxiety Replacement Theory

Fifth album from the Greater Manchester act focuses on singer Thom Rylance’s battles with mental health. Boy George, Frank Turner and Sean Ryder join the band along the way to create one of the most life affirming alternative albums of the years. We were lucky to see them at Glastonbury Festival this year for a set as uplifting as this album. In Burning House they have one of the top singles of the year and the Letter to Myself will make you laugh and cry in equal measure.

12. Hamish Hawk – Angel Numbers

Hamish Hawk Angel Numbers

Hamish Hawk is a great live artist. His mix of Divine Comedy style crooning, with the dancing approach of Ian Curtis, is something to witness. The good news is that his recorded output is just as enjoyable. Angel Numbers is his third album and his most accomplished. There is an edge to many of the sings here, but also some great tunes and interesting storytelling. ‘Think of us Kissing’ is up there with the finest singles of the year.

11. Eyelids  A Colossal Waste of Light

Already boasting alumni of Guided By Voices, The Decemberists and other bands in their ranks Eyelids are even more of a super-group now with the addition of Camper Van Beethoven’s Victor Krummenacher on bass. Making things even more super is the return of Peter Buck on production duties, also adding guitar on some tracks.

Where their last album, The Accidental Falls, had more of a 60s and early 70s feel this album returns to Paisley Underground influences that we’ve seen across the band’s career. Overall the album has quite a mellow and relaxed feel, but that doesn’t mean it is without edge and energy.

Read our full review here.

10. Ratboys – The Window

Ratboys The Window

Ratboys have been around for over a decade but it was a surprisingly positive review on Pitchfork that brought them to our attention this year. The album was produced by Death Cab For Cutie alumni Chris Walla and is great mix of pop and alt-rock with a few fun twists. ‘Morning Zoo’ is the one to add to your 2023 playlist, but its a great album start to finish.

9. Sparks – The Girl is Crying In Her Latte

After five decades of music and 25 albums the Mael brothers are still the undisputed kings of pop. The Girl Is Crying In Her Latter is packed with pop, with the title track and Nothing Is As Good As They Say It Is among many highlights. How they stay relevant and cutting edge after all this time on this collection is perhaps unique in pop.

8. Sparklehorse – Bird Machine

Bird Machine is something that nobody was expecting before it was announced, a new Sparklehorse album. Loving assembled by the late Mark Linjous’ family the album is a combination of tracks that had been recorded with Steve Albini, and older unreleased songs that had been discovered. This potential hodge-podge is actually incredibly consistent, and holds together as an album really well. The mixture of ugliness and fragile beauty that exemplifies the Sparklehorse sound.

7. Belle and Sebastian – Late Developers

Full of radio friendly pop while never diminishing their indie music stalwarts status, is Belle and Sebastian’s calling card as arguably the most consistent band of the last three decades

Recorded at the same time as last year’s Bit of Previous, this 2023 collection is packed with some of their best tunes.

Among standouts is the first single I Don’t Know What You See in Me, which the band themselves liken to a potential Eurovision entry. Those synths! This is among their best singles over the last 27 years, and there have been plenty.

Read our full review here.

6. Lewsberg – Out And About

Lewsberg quietly and studiously release an album ever year or so, to little acclaim or widespread notice. The Rotterdam quartet don’t have a record label, they are a cottage industry, and they aren’t about making a fuss. What they do make are beautiful records that echo the Velvet Underground without ever aping them. Out and About continues that tradition wonderfully.

5. Billy No Mates – CACTI

Billy No Mates at Glastonbury 2023 (pic by Joe Lepper)

Politics, relationships and the continuing aftermath of Covid take centre stage on Tor Maries (aka Billy No Mates) second exciting album. She performed much of this collection during her enthralling set at Glastonbury last year, where she entered the stage like a nervous geography teacher who has been asked to perform before turning into a crazed pop star before our eyes. Blue Bones (Deathwish) is a particular favourite of ours across an album of remarkable consistency.

4. BC Camplight – The Last Rotation of Earth

BC Camplight has been releasing music for nearly 20 years, but success is something that eluded him for much of his troubled career. His 2018 album, Deportation Blues, got some attention and he’s been critically lauded since, but failed to break through. The Last Temptation of Earth seems to have finally changed his fortunes. He’s appeared on Jools Holland, sold out large venues and actually hit the top 40. This album is a great starting point for anyone wanting to discover one the most interesting acts out there.

3. The Mountain Goats – Jenny from Thebes

As more families are forced to flee war and climate change worldwide during 2023 it seems fitting that The Mountain Goats revisit one their most popular characters, Jenny, who offers sanctuary to people in need at her ‘ranch style house’ in Texas.

While she first appeared on the Panasonic boombox recorded All Hail West Texas, here she gets the full band treatment with bigger, slicker production.

It’s an album of  loving production across its dozen tracks, as Mountain Goats fans have come to expect in recent years. All kindness no filler.

Read our full review here.

2. Girl Ray – Prestige

Girl Ray are quietly cementing themselves as pone of the best pop bands around. Their first album was indie pop of the best kind and was our favourite debut album back in 2017. On their second album they embraced a more pyre pop sound and that was pretty wonderful too. This time around they’ve gone disco, and it really is the most fun you’ll have with an album this year.

1. Sufjan Stevens  – Javelin

On his tenth album Sufjan Stevens has borrowed much from his back catalogue to make perhaps his most complete collection so far.

The choral aspect is one stand out in the production, sounding like it should be in a heavenly scene in a old movie at times.

While largely recorded by himself at his home studio, it includes great harmonies from Adrienne Maree Brown, Hannah Cohen, Pauline Delassus, Megan Lui, and Nedelle Torrisi, among others.

Another who joins is the National’s guitarist Bryce Dessner.

When the production becomes more intricate it is never intrusive  and those backing vocals are a work of art, reminiscent of Kate Bush tracks at times.

Read our full review here.

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers 


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