The Top 50 Albums of the Year

The albums that captured the many moods of 2023. From grunge-inspired exorcisms to transmissions from transcendental worlds, via triumphant debuts, dancefloor-driven comebacks and meandering reflections on modern discontent. These are the records that ignited the senses and gripped hearts in a year tainted by division and grief.


Troye Sivan

Something To Give Each Other

EMI Australia/Capitol Records

Poreless twink Troye Sivan has done everything from bops about bottoming (ahem, Bloom) to Sam Levinson-directed trauma porn. But with this summer’s Something to Give Each Other, he embarked on his most ambitious, and cohesive, body of work yet. Its lead tracks are set amid the body crush of a gay bar – from the heady disco of Rush, a nod to the flush-inducing adrenaline of poppers, to the infectious, meme-sampling Got Me Started. Yet Sivan’s songwriting is most impressive in the album’s quieter moments, bringing emotional subtlety to post-coital whisperings, trysts with straight guys and unrequited situationships. Sivan’s third album is not only that rare thing – a great pop long-player – but a tactile, moving record of a life lived.

Megan Wallace


Luzmila Carpio

Inti Watana - El Retorno del Sol

ZZK Records

Luzmila Carpio’s creative practice has a deep connection to the land. As a child, the 74-year-old Indigenous Bolivian singer learned the daily songs of the Quechua and Aymara peoples that inhabit the Bolivian Altiplano, one of the world’s largest plateaus, and the spiritual centre of the country. Roughly translating to ‘the sun year’ from Quechua, Inti Watana is a winding musical journey through Andean mysticism, closing the gap between the traditional and the futurist, the synthetic and the organic. Carpio’s warm folk vocals, delivered in both Spanish and Quechua, are entwined with layers of charango, crystal organ and quena flutes, as well as flutters of birdsong and rushing water. Transmissions from a sublime, transcendental world – one we must protect fiercely. 

Rachel Grace Almeida

Inti Watana – El Retorno del Sol by Luzmila Carpio



The Record


The point of a supergroup is to present its members as more than the sum of their parts, and yet, Boygenius transcend even that cliche. You get the impression that Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers primarily write songs for each other, and their audience just happen to be lucky eavesdroppers. While the trio share vocal duties, they weave through the songs as one voice, sharing each other’s desires, promises and secrets – of social isolation, romantic obsession and self-doubt – over gently plucked guitars and indie rock riffs pulled straight from the most heartwarming pages of the slacker 90s playbook. But the beaming success of The Record isn’t just in its masterful songwriting or musicianship – it’s the fact that these three separate artists were able to symbiotically create an album that glows with such affection and intimacy. 

Cameron Cook


Armand Hammer

We Buy Diabetic Test Strips

Fat Possum Records

NYC underground rap veterans Billy Woods and Elucid’s sixth studio album as Armand Hammer is defined by an existential ache that haunts their abstract, free-associative verses. “Life’s a blip,” Woods raps on Woke Up and Asked Siri How I’m Gonna Die over a languid JPEGMAFIA production, while Elucid ponders the drag of time and “ciphers never completed” on the otherworldly Switchboard. The El-P-produced The Gods Must Be Crazy is the closest they get to a straightforward rap anthem, built around a disorienting vocal chant. But the ominous mood pervades here, too, as Woods conjures the image of “men pregnant with death, frightened at the quickening” – a stunning meditation on ageing, or perhaps horror at the societal rot we’ve created. 

Robert Kazandjian



Touched by an Angel

Parkwuud Entertainment

On her seventh album, south London experimentalist Klein frames poignant vignettes of the urban experience through her characteristically opaque lens. Touched by an Angel’s immaculately crafted and often beatless sound collages are occasionally tinted with beauty and optimism, as on the transportive opener, Black Famous. More frequently, though, disorientation is the dominant mood, with DJ Drop in particular lulling you into a false sense of security with gossamer pads and a mesmerising R&B vocal, only for it all to be upset by distortion, cacophony and infuriating repetition. Elsewhere, Black Timbs and The World Is Yours to Assemble sees Klein return a nod to the classical minimalism of her 2021 album Harmattan. Like much of Klein’s work, Touched… is hardly an easy listen, but for those keyed to her strange frequencies, it stuns with its emotional potency.

Annie Parker


Natural Wonder Beauty Concept

Natural Wonder Beauty Concept

Mexican Summer

Brian Piñeyro (a.k.a. DJ Python) and Ana Roxanne have both been working tirelessly at defining themselves in wholly different sonic spheres. Piñeyro has shaped his own deep, experimental answer to dembow, and Roxanne’s been able to put her unique fingerprint on ambient music, intensifying it with soulful, R&B-inspired vocal flourishes. Natural Wonder Beauty Concept is an opportunity for both artists to explore their most outlandish pop inclinations, though – a firework display of dizzy romance and saccharine, radio-friendly giddiness. Grabbing ideas from vintage IDM, video game soundtracks, K-pop and cloudy rap, they trade ideas (and, occasionally, vocals) back and forth as if nobody’s watching, and it’s a joy to behold.

John Twells

Natural Wonder Beauty Concept by Natural Wonder Beauty Concept



I Killed Your Dog

Mexican Summer

It’s possible that no one on this planet except L’Rain really understands what this puzzle box of an album is all about – even Taja Cheek’s own description is a negation of a concept: an “anti-breakup record”. Pay it proper attention, though, and you can divine your own meaning from the tea leaves of these genre-skewering, darkly comic songs. L’Rain is in her brat era: she’s trolling her friends and lovers – and even you – by defying all fixed identities and all expectations of how love starts and ends, and doing so while sending up the white rock canon, laughing through gritted teeth on sideways skits, and taking us on surreal murder mysteries. A most modern album.

Chal Ravens

Natural Wonder Beauty Concept by Natural Wonder Beauty Concept


Water From Your Eyes

Everyone's Crushed


Everyone’s Crushed might just be Water From Your Eyes’ masterpiece. Since their 2016 eponymous EP, the Brooklyn oddball duo have happily embraced a weed-buzzed slacker aesthetic, albeit with an art-pop bent. For their fifth album, not only do they build on this eccentric approach, but elevate it to something truly remarkable and really rather weird. Offbeat drums and spiralling synths rut up against deadpan vocals that aren’t jarring but simply part of a beguiling web of sound spun across every track with confidence – you only have to look as far as the title track’s rhythmic sleaze. Sure, the poppier moments are superb (True Life, Remember Not My Name, 14) but it’s within the wonk and wobble that Water From Your Eyes prove their virtuosity, and their wicked sense of humour. 

Thomas Frost


Kate NV


RVNG Intl.

The exclamative title of Kate NV’s fifth LP, WOW, couldn’t be more apt. Her music is bright, bold and fizzing with creativity – an ALL CAPS affair populated by a cacophony of music box melodies, pitch-shifted vocals and musique concrete flourishes. Animated opener Confessions at the Dinner Table bounces with the energy of a video game soundtrack, while Slon (Elephant) employs found sounds for a sonic collage that is unexpectedly profound. More than ever before, WOW sees the Russian vocalist and producer eschewing traditional song structures in favour of a freeform, hallucinatory approach which avoids exhausting sonic overwhelm thanks to her endlessly on-point melodies and production. 

Oscar Henson



Aunty Rayzor

Viral Wreckage

Hakuna Kulala

The debut album from Nigerian MC Aunty Rayzor is a textbook example of how to produce energetic vocal flows that can go toe-to-toe with the most thumping of electronic beats. Releasing on Kampala’s Hakuna Kulala label and joining the likes of fellow fierce female vocalists like MC Yallah and PÖ, the 12 tracks on Viral Wreckage veer fluidly through everything from siren-laden baile funk on Bounce to frenetic drill beats on Murder and earth-shaking sub bass on Stuttrap. Switching between Yoruba and English while modulating her voice to embody Nicki Minaj-style characters, Rayzor proves herself to be a lyrically dextrous and eminently swaggering vocalist, capable of fronting up to the most intimidating, dancefloor-ready soundtrack.

Ammar Kalia

Viral Wreckage by Aunty Rayzor





Sabrina Teitelbaum’s first record as Blondshell is certainly not shy. Sardonic lyrics, up there with the snottiest handiwork of alt-rock’s 90s heroes (the “You’ve been in the bathroom/ Perfect for an asshole” couplet on Sober Together could have come from the pen of Courtney Love) meet thundering, Smashing Pumpkins-influenced guitars on a record shaped by the tastes of Teitelbaum’s childhood. Tackling topics including addiction, sobriety and challenging relationships, Blondshell is a grunge-inspired exorcism. Marked by its ballsiness but also by its understanding of restraint, this record is full of the recognisable realisations, disappointments and acceptances that ultimately turn you into an adult – and together they sound fantastic.

Lauren O’Neill

Blondshell by Blondshell





Kelela has never sounded freer than she does on long-awaited comeback album, Raven. Whether cleansing the soul with ephemeral ambient heartsongs, stimulating the mind with teasingly lustful lyrics (“I’ll give you a taste if you’re good but you gotta wait”) or signalling to the smoky dancefloor with atmospheric dancehall and jungle soundscapes, you sense the New York-based singer and producer is communicating exactly what she wants, when she wants it. With production features from fellow experimentalists LSDXOXO, Bambii and Kaytranada, this gloriously vulnerable album is as tuned into Kelela’s own journey of renewal, self-connection and boundary setting as it is the soft, beating heart of electronic music in 2023.

Jasmine Kent-Smith



Work of Art

YBNL Nation/Empire

Arriving hot on the heels of his debut, Mr Money With the Vibe – the highest charting debut Nigerian album of all time, according to BillboardWork of Art doubles down on Asake’s perfectly calibrated blend of Afro-pop and amapiano. The Nigerian superstar clearly has a playful streak, even as he proclaims his greatness from the rooftops (“studying me it’s an honour, jẹun lọ/ I get many pages like songs of Solomon” he sings on Basquiat, gliding between English and Yoruba). Elsewhere, he reveals shades of vulnerability, as on the gospel-inflected Lonely at the Top. But don’t be fooled – Asake is at peace with his global profile. Work of Art is too joyful and compelling to be the work of an artist who isn’t relishing every single moment.

Nicolas-Tyrell Scott


Paul St Hilaire

Tikiman Vol. 1

Kynant Records

Dub techno luminary Paul St Hilaire’s first solo album in over a decade showcased his artful blend of bass-forward electronic production and raw, emotive vocal delivery. Drawing on his lineage as a pioneer of dub dance fusion since moving to Berlin from Dominica in 1994, the nine tracks on Tikiman Vol. 1 unfurl slowly over an ever-undulating bass. Tracks veer from Bedroom in My Bag’s ambient electronic textures to In Door’s cascade of modular synths and Keep Safe’s pairing of wailing electric guitar with rootsy dub. Amid the variety, it is Hilaire’s keening falsetto that lends consistency here, as he sings with gentle power over murky instrumentals to draw us further and further into his solipsistic mood music. 

Ammar Kalia

Paul St. Hilaire – Tikiman Vol.1 by Paul St. Hilaire


Lana Del Rey

Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd


America’s greatest living songwriter reaches outwards on Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd. From the record’s very first track, it revels in a variety of voices – there are spine-tingling harmonies by Melodye Perry, Pattie Howard and Shikena Jones, plus a sermon by celebrity pastor Judah Smith. By extension, this album goes beyond the themes of romantic love, disillusionment or both that Del Rey’s music has become defined by. Here, love is multitudinous: familial, Platonic, and even divine. Though it remains peppered by the irony that has become Del Rey’s calling card (“Pass me my vape/ I’m feeling sick”), Ocean Blvd is made special by her desire to sing and play with others, and in the rich new musical frontiers she can traverse when she does. 

Lauren O’Neill


Freak Heat Waves

Mondo Tempo

Mood Hut

As their namesake grows more ominous, Freak Heat Waves seem to be brightening up with every new record. The fifth long-player from the Canadian duo is a shimmering double-rainbow of good-time grooves in comparison to the shades-on spikiness of their earlier work. Joining Vancouver’s famously horizontal Mood Hut label, Steven Lind and Thomas Di Ninno soften into a slinkier, baggier version of themselves, channelling 90s end-of-history optimism while prophesying climate doom. But on album standout In a Moment Divine, a dreamy guest vocal from Cindy Lee (a.k.a. former Women frontman Patrick Flegel) buoys the perfect morning-after song, with creaking strings for added drama. Even when all seems lost, life can be real purdy.

Chal Ravens

Freak Heat Waves by Freak Heat Waves



绿帽 Green Hat


Shanghai- and Taipei-based producer Tzusing has stepped into dance music’s spotlight this year, and it’s easy to see why. With 绿‮٤‬U Green Hat, his debut album for underground tastemakers PAN, he introduced the folkloric concept of “wearing a green hat” – an old Chinese idiom that expresses the shame of being a cuckold. So far, so brutal. Sonically, the album unfolds in a similarly ruthless way thanks to a corrosive clash of industrial and techno. The menacing Balkanize, with its shrieking vocal samples and frantic drums, rattles the skull; Clout Tunnel builds on this unease further, funnelling what sounds like siren alarms through a passage of chaotic electronics. It’s an album that feels like one long chase scene from a slasher film: you know what’s coming, but you don’t know exactly how it will play out.

Jasmine Kent-Smith

绿帽 Green Hat by Tzusing



The Head Hurts but the Heart Knows the Truth

PLZ Make It Ruins

Discourse around the use of AI in music went into mind-numbing overdrive this year. A facsimile Drake and The Weeknd collab was submitted for the Grammys; Spotify piloted a DJ ‘Right in Your Pocket’; Nick Cave experimented with (then promptly berated) ChatGPT. Perhaps the least offensive and most enjoyable of all these digressions, though, came in the form of Headache – a side project from PLZ Make It Ruins label-head Vegyn. The lyrics are credited to Francis Hornsby Clark, though Google doesn’t seem to register this as a real person. Whoever they are, their meandering, paranoid, often anodyne reflections on modern discontent capture perfectly the uncanny dull-ache anxiety of the age of deep learning, rehearsed responses and half-remembered anecdotes. Set to an ambient, trip-hop-ish soundtrack reminiscent of Chris Morris’ cult Blue Jam radio series, Headache generates a quietly profound portrait of our times.

Duncan Harrison



Just a Matter of Time

Payday Records

Football-loving north London MC AntsLive grew up idolising Brazilian icon Ronaldinho, and his playful, effortlessly masterful approach to rap emulates the mischievous, fun-loving flair of his childhood hero. Take Number One Candidate, the lead single from his lean, featureless debut LP. The song’s mood is triumphant, with blaring trumpets and booming percussion backing boasts about his “starboy excellence”. Later, he manipulates his cadence into something softer over the dreamy synths of Talking Stages, before slickly changing direction again, channelling chest-puffing confidence over a skeletal beat on Glow Up. Across its nine tracks, Just a Matter of Time serves as a victorious introduction to Ants’ creative versatility, at a time when no singular sound can be said to define UK rap.

Robert Kazandjian



Source of Denial

Nyege Nyege Tapes

Kudistro, the opening track on Nihiloxica’s second album Source of Denial, erupts like an alarm marking the beginning of the end. A sense of urgency radiates through the record, and understandably so: it’s shaped by a denunciation of the UK government’s hostile border regime, which disproportionately targets musicians from Africa and which derailed the Ugandan/Dutch/British band’s European tour in 2022. Computer-generated voices explaining this absurd bureaucracy are dotted between the tracks, but the sense of rage and frustration comes through just as forcefully from the drumming and discordant harmonies, reaching a peak in the booming, distorted polyrhythms of the title track. A vital sonic document of our deeply troubled and unequal times. 

Adam Quarshie

Source of Denial by Nihiloxica


Kara Jackson

Why does the Earth Give Us People to Love?

September Recordings

Folk singer-songwriter Kara Jackson’s debut album harnessed her agile voice and narrative lyrics to build a sombre soundworld of absorbing stories and finger-picked melodies. From lamentations about men looking for mother figures (Therapy) to the gorgeous, strings-laden examination of the wearying journey to find love (No Fun/Party), Jackson creates eminently relatable scenarios with just her acoustic guitar and plaintive voice. Her storytelling powers reach their peak on the moving title track, exploring Jackson’s grief at the death of her best friend in 2016. Building gently over its six minutes, Jackson channels the essence of love’s yearning joys and the tender pain of inevitable loss, finding relief in the enveloping sounds of her music.

Ammar Kalia


Speaker Music


Planet Mu

DeForrest Brown, Jr.’s vision of techno is not as most contemporary European clubs would have it. Both in his academic writings and musical output as Speaker Music, the New Yorker is interested in techno in its foundational state: highly futuristic and experimental music pioneered by Black artists, driven by the promise of new technologies. On Techxodus, the exploratory spirit of techno is taken to its limits, its rhythms leaning closer to the jitter of footwork or the skittish generative experiments of Jlin than to the functional 4/4 pulse so often synonymous with the genre. Distorted washes of ambient noise and time-stretched saxophone contribute to a disorienting, otherworldly sonic experience that channels the creativity of early Drexciya to create something fresh.

Oscar Henson

Techxodus by Speaker Music


Speakers Corner Quartet

Further Out Than the Edge

OTIH Records

Over 15 years in the making, south London group Speakers Corner Quartet’s debut album proved the power of the instrumental jam. Coming together as the house band for a mid-noughties hip-hop open mic night in Brixton, the quartet honed their original compositions through improvised sessions over the years, gradually inviting their vast network of collaborators to add verses, lyrics and melody to their edits. The result is a remarkably precise yet genre-fluid 13 tracks, veering from Coby Sey’s downcast On Grounds to Sampha’s mid-tempo yearning on Can We Do This? and Kae Tempest’s impassioned, orchestral Geronimo Blues. The unifying thread is the Quartet’s instinctive backing, as they craft a dark sonic palette capable of giving their featured vocalists ample space to shine.

Ammar Kalia

Further Out Than The Edge by Speakers Corner Quartet


Slauson Malone 1



Multi-instrumentalist Jasper Marsalis’ debut album as Slausone Malone was a notable departure from his previous soul-sampling, hip-hop mixtape work for the Brooklyn collective Standing on the Corner. On Excelsior, Marsalis, now adding 1 to his chosen moniker, painstakingly crafts sonic collages of sounds to produce a sprawling 18 tracks of unpredictable moods and music. Wielding everything from distorted guitars to whimsical wurlitzer, grungy basslines and keening melodies, Marsalis’ skill lies in producing enveloping sonic worlds that somehow cohere despite their dissonance, thanks to the anchoring presence of his nonchalant voice. It’s a skittering record that surprises as much as it delights, but in the exuberant stomp of tracks like New Joy we find Marsalis’ human touch amid the noise.

Ammar Kalia



Bunyi Bunyi Tumbal

Drowned by Locals

Emerging from an archival project investigating the history of colonialism and conflict in Indonesia, Bunyi Bunyi Tumbal is an exploration of the violence of distinct cultural forces colliding. If that sounds heavy, that’s because it is. The album – created by Aditya Surya Taruna (a.k.a. Kasimyn), one half of Balinese sonic destroyers Gabber Modus Operandi – is a deeply unsettling and visceral take on power and displacement. Like the period of history it interrogates, nothing on record is steady or still. Rhythms rarely cohere, menacing synth stabs emerge seemingly out of nowhere and warped renderings of traditional Indonesian instruments explode alongside what sound like demonic screams. The record’s scope, intent and production are unlike anything else you’ll hear this year – music for rattling the senses, and, more importantly, altering worldviews. 

Adam Quarshie


PJ Harvey

I Inside the Old Year Dying


When PJ Harvey, exhausted from touring the ambitious but grim The Hope Six Demolition Project, needed to rekindle her inspiration, she dug deep. Steeped in Dorset folklore, tradition and the archaic dialect, I Inside the Old Year Dying is an excavation into mulchy netherworlds; a work of magic realism, where sexual awakenings merge with the casual brutality of rural life, and a supernatural chill whistles through it all like wind in the telephone wires. “Wordle zircles wider/ With the silence upside down/ Horse atop the rider,” Harvey sings on The Nether-Edge. It could be a legend for an album that is frequently, purposely inscrutable, which thrills in ambiguities, and the spaces in between. 

Louise Brailey





After five years away from the spotlight – ample time to question the motivations of her majority white live audience and form a book club focused on Black authors and social justice – Chicago rapper Noname’s Sundial arrived with grit amongst its silken instrumentals. Taking aim at everyone from Barack Obama to Rihanna, Jay-Z and even herself (for playing Coachella), Noname’s thorny verses flow impeccably over 11 tracks of downbeat, jazz-influenced arrangements, bossa nova, funk breakbeats and gospel harmony. If the beats are slick, it is ultimately Noname’s wrestling with her own ethics as a socially conscious performer that makes Sundial so engaging, reaching a peak on Gospel? as she entreats anyone listening to “Pray for me.”

Ammar Kalia




Peak Oil

Chicago trio Purelink have been bubbling on high for the last year, mining the richest seams of ambient techno, drum’n’bass and downtempo to inform a rich, dynamic approach of their own. Their anticipated debut LP, Signs, is undoubtedly indebted to a selection of turn-of-the-century masters: the stepping dubwise grooves of Pole, the clicks-and-cuts textures of Jan Jelinek and the gaseous atmospherics of Basic Channel are clear reference points. But rather than sounding derivative of any of these artists, Signs serves as a celebration of the near infinite creative possibilities afforded by this particular sonic niche, effortlessly moving between – and beyond – its influences to create something fresh and entirely of its own.

Oscar Henson

Signs by Purelink


Fever Ray

Radical Romantics


“Everyone is beautiful, but nobody is horny,” mused R.S. Benedict in a perceptive 2021 essay. So what might intimacy mean right now, when the majority of culture shies away from the subject completely? Karin Dreijer examines modern romance on their sticky third full-length, dissecting love’s complexity and hybridity over a free-flowing wash of tracks infused by disparate compounds from across the global musical landscape. “Can it be just something? Can you just let me be?” Dreijer wonders on Looking for a Ghost, buoyed by Nídia’s sensual Afro-Portuguese rhythms. They’re more direct on North, a sleazy, electro-pop slow burner that picks apart the atemporality of sex, but it’s Tapping Fingers that scratches deepest, as Dreijer recalls the electrifying vulnerability of a romantic liaison.

John Twells



A New Tomorrow

Flatspot Records

Black liberation can take many forms – in fact, it takes all forms, as demonstrated by Los Angeles grindcore band Zulu’s hurricane of a debut album, A New Tomorrow. Interspersed with soul, R&B and reggae samples, the record follows the throughline between traditional Black American culture and the fierce anger that is needed to revolutionise an oppressed population. Zulu use a steep arsenal of metal characteristics, including growling vocals, chugging riffs and whiplash-inducing blast beats, but punctuate the roiling fury with powerful, piano-backed spoken word and rap interludes that voice struggle and resilience. This is a hardcore album for kids who grew up going to Black Lives Matter protests as well as basement shows, and who will look back on their youth not as a period of naive idealism, but one of ear-splitting optimism.

Cameron Cook

FSR66 – A New Tomorrow by Zulu


Holy Tongue

Deliverance and Spiritual Warfare

Amidah Records

Producer Al Wooton and percussionist Valentina Magaletti’s Holy Tongue project has been experimenting with a bass-heavy combination of dub and post-punk since their self-titled EP was released in 2018. On this debut album, the pair recruited additional member Susumu Mukai (of Zongamin fame) on bass to produce ten tracks of deep, dark, low-frequency explorations. Opening with a military fanfare, Saeta’s rolling snares soon give way to distorted techno kick drums, signalling a descent to the dancefloor. From here, the trio traverses the reverb-heavy dilations of Threshing Floor to the jazz-inflected walking double bassline of Joachim, while keeping the listener locked into a body shaking, percussive journey. An inventive masterclass on dub movement.

Ammar Kalia

Deliverance And Spiritual Warfare by Holy Tongue


Avalon Emerson

& the Charm

Another Dove

Avalon Emerson is certainly not the first DJ to make a post-pandemic turn towards indie pop, but she just might just be the best to do so. The hints were there from the beginning – not least on Emerson’s breakout club hit The Frontier, which led with a howling synth line that mimicked a guitar solo drowned in digital reverb. That same lead sound would sound at home on & the Charm, which pitches up at the midpoint between Cocteau Twins-like dream pop and the sunnier end of the shoegaze spectrum. The record carries the unmistakable touch of executive producer Bullion, who at this stage is to Balearic pop rebrands what Jack Antanoff is to megastar reinventions. It’s a match made in retro-futurist heaven.

Oscar Henson

& the Charm by Avalon Emerson


Mandy, Indiana

I've Seen a Way

Fire Talk

A strong contender for the most electrifying entry of the year, the unshackled fierceness of Mandy, Indiana’s I’ve Seen a Way has the power to trip you up and make you take notice. The Manchester-based, French-British band’s first offering deals in earth-shattering, guitar-fortified noise, but loosens its tight grip with pockets of sheer transcendence. Opener, Love Theme (4K VHS), for example, is an undulating, synth-heavy meditation of epic proportions. Field recordings in crypts, caves and, unexpectedly, Bristol shopping centres (as on the furious Peach Fuzz) lend a tender human touch to this abrasive sound palette. Coupled with lyrical themes about climate change, fascism and sexism, a debut album has rarely sounded so urgent. 

Thomas Frost


Lil Yachty

Let's Start Here.

Quality Control Music/Motown

Lil Yachty’s pivot to psych rock didn’t come as a total shock – not after he appeared on a 2022 remix of Tame Impala’s Breathe Deeper. But on his fifth studio album, the divisive prince of SoundCloud rap fully commits to his inward trip. Opener The Black Seminole. praises the “remarkable sounds” he’s discovered, as undulating synths build up to howling guitars, only to be consumed by R&B singer Diana Gordon’s transcendent scream. Standout Teezo Touchdown collaboration The Ride– is a trippy, sun-bleached groover that shifts to reveal Yachty’s inner struggles: “When I’m alone with my thoughts/ I’m terrified.” Despite the sometimes uncomfortable nature of self-discovery, Let’s Start Here. signals a new era for Yachty’s artistic and emotional growth – and it’s a journey he’s taking in his stride. 

Robert Kazandjian




N&J Bluberries

Best known as the vocalist for HTRK, Jonnine Standish has crafted a short, appealingly tactile folk record in Maritz. Made in memory of her mother, who died when she was 21, it’s an album full of sweet observations and questions – the type you save up throughout the day for someone you love. “Would you like lavender/ Or a homemade biscuit?” she asks on single Tea For Two (Boo), one of the many cute, stream-of-consciousness lines that characterise the record, though Standish’s reasoning for her inquiry is just as telling: “You’ve got a broken heart/ And maybe this would fix it.” On Maritz, Jonnine tells a warm and empathetic story through the sounds of minimal bass, reverb-laced synth washes and unostentatious vocals, one that is rooted in the small but powerful ways we care for one another.  

Lauren O’Neill


Laurel Halo



Once seen as a quirky oddball of the post-dubstep club scene, Laurel Halo’s recent works have taken her ever deeper into uncharted (and ethereal) territory. 2018’s Raw Silk Uncut Wood marked a distinct shift towards ambient and modern classical – a move consolidated on her score for Dutch docu-horror Possessed, as well as in her loungey contributions to the latest Moritz von Oswald Trio record. On Atlas, though, she finally takes us headlong into the abyss. Meandering keys and string swells are delayed and refracted into a beautiful, tangled mess; a queasy tonal fog rises in the record’s opening moments and barely breaks across its duration. Many ambient records vied for our attention this year, but none with the same strange allure as Atlas.

Oscar Henson

Atlas by Laurel Halo


Debby Friday

Good Luck

Sub Pop

Good Luck, the title of Debby Friday’s debut album, functions more like an ominous warning than a hopeful incantation. If the LP’s packaging is meant to disarm, then its contents are designed to disorientate. Riffing off her countercultural positioning, the album’s lyrics paint Friday as an outcast, a lost soul and an antihero – personas she plays with an ironic wink. Sonically, we’re met with a barrage of racing beats, heavy drums and brash static, all set off against a distinctive vocal repertoire which runs from shouty verses to jagged murmurs to spoken word. Variously a jump scare, scream into the void and villain origin story, Good Luck is a bold introduction to Friday’s lore – and a seductive invitation to her pop underworld. 

Megan Wallace




False Lankum

Rough Trade

The ocean, in all its vast and untameable majesty, flows and churns through Lankum’s transcendent LP, False Lankum. Recorded in a Martello tower overlooking the Irish Sea, this daily vista inspired both the serenity and fear at the core of the Dublin quartet’s third album. After 20 years spent perfecting their sound, the band are at the height of their intoxicating powers as they channel disparate sonic influences for songs ranging from the black metal and drone-cloaked horror of hair-raising single Go Dig My Grave to the uneasy yet beautiful folk arrangements of Newcastle and Lord Abore and Mary Flynn. Above all else, though, there’s a palpable sense of humanity and care – for people, and for musical lineage – coursing through these often tragic songs. A rare and moving listen.

Kez Cochrane


JPEGMAFIA & Danny Brown

Scaring the Hoes


Produced entirely by JPEGMAFIA, the first full-length collaboration between two of rap’s most eccentric non-traditionalists is a 36-minute plunge into sonic lawlessness. Peggy and Danny Brown’s darkly hilarious verses chronicling misadventures in sex and drugs are laid over productions bursting with inspiration: pitched up R&B samples; 16-bit video game synths; frantic drum’n’bass breaks; distorted disco-gospel; and even a Hokkaido tourist commercial. When the beats are at their most chaotic, like on opener Lean Beef Patty, Brown’s nasal drawl sounds like it’s being called in from some far off galaxy, adding to the dizzying disorder. Between the nihilistic hedonism of its protagonists, haphazard tracklisting and its vast pool of influences, Scaring the Hoes is an irresistible reimagining of what a rap album can be.

Robert Kazandjian




Fountain Baby

Golden Angel/Interscope

Accra-born Amaarae stormed out of the gate in 2020 with her critically adored debut LP, The Angel You Don’t Know. Then, a 2021 viral, Kali Uchi-assisted remix of Sad Gurlz Luv Money turned her into TikTok royalty. The bar was set higher than ever for her second album, then – and Fountain Baby delivered. True to its name – and the fluid recording process between Accra, London and LA – the album flows between genres, cadences and moods. Where single Reckless & Sweet saw her elevate her signature whispery vocals over seductive Afrobeats, Sex, Violence, Suicide finds her riffing over smooth, fingerpicked chords, before diving headfirst into a deluge of punk guitars. It’s a code switch that only an artist as versatile and charismatic as Amaarae could pull off – and on Fountain Baby, she’s never sounded so free. 

Maya Ellwood


Marina Herlop



On first listen, Nekkuja feels like a move deeper into the avant garde for Catalan musician Marina Herlop. Field recordings, whispered vocals and alien synths coalesce across different planes to create an end result that is complex and multidimensional. On closer inspection, though, the follow-up to 2022’s Pripyat is reaching towards something more direct and intuitive; an endlessly compelling record where experimental production is decorated by bursts of life, voice, water and light. Herlop has said that the record is inspired by gardening, and a sense of earthly pleasure and toil pervades the music. Cosset feels like Björk channelling Arca-powered euphoria, while Karada employs rural field recordings as a backdrop for blissful harp and bright, wordless vocal modulations. On the finale, Babel, Herlop returns, fittingly, to a lyrical refrain first heard at the start of Nekkuja: “Damunt de tu només les flors” (“above you only the flowers”) – and the circle of life is closed. 

Duncan Harrison


Universal Harmonies and Frequencies

Tune In


Disparate elements, including jazz, ambient and the avant garde, intertwine on this record, a collaboration between Chicago sound explorer Hieroglyphic Being and Polish experimental saxophonist Jerzy Mączyński. Emerging out of improvised sessions recorded in Amsterdam, the album contains reworked versions of 12 tracks, representing the points at which the two musicians’ distinctive visions coalesce most vividly. Recalling the Afrofuturist ambitions of house, techno and free jazz, while also hinting at esoteric and mystical experiences with track titles like The Book of Hidden Knowledge and The Emerald Tablet, the album probes the transcendental possibilities available on the fringes of dance music. The mangled sax melodies at the tail end of Can You Hear the Hum offer brain-frying disorientation, while the deep percussive grooves of Breaking Open the Head and the introspective Sam-Sa-Ra exist in their own unique and joyous territory. 

Adam Quarshie

Tune IN by Universal Harmonies & Frequencies


Anohni & the Johnsons

My Back Was a Bridge For You to Cross

Rough Trade

Anohni sounds reborn on her sixth album, revitalised and reconnected with the sharp-toothed activism that inspired the England-born polymath in 90s New York City. It’s hardly surprising that she picked this moment to bring back the Johnsons, the band she named after LGBTQ+ rights activist (and Anhoni’s formative influence) Marsha P. Johnson. Across the world, the lives of queer people, particularly trans people, are once more being placed in the crosshairs as a supposed ‘culture war’ becomes the frontline for a fight between dogmatic conservatism and necessary progress. Unlike its grim, experimental predecessor Hopelessness, though, My Back… is struck through with soulful, jazzy tenderness, inspired by Marvin Gaye’s radical What’s Going On. Over sparse, dusted instrumentation, she lets her voice carry falsetto tales of love in the face of division, confronting environmental collapse, transphobia and the purification of sadness. It’s a career-defining statement that can’t help but leave a lump in your throat.

John Twells

My Back Was A Bridge For You To Cross by ANOHNI and the Johnsons




915582 Records DK

Vayda prima donna,” goes the first bar of Prima Donna, the opener on Vayda’s fourth project, Breeze. Over a restless Jersey club beat, the prolific Georgia rapper and producer has rightfully claimed her throne as queen of Extremely Online rap, and she makes it look so damn breezy. Here, Vayda’s self-proclaimed “d1gitalg1rl” persona blossoms into full form. Flitting between hyperactive electronics, smooth R&B and hard-hitting trap, each of the album’s nine tracks offer a different insight into the life of a twentysomething internet girlie, from unrequited love (Ulovemequestionmarkwinkyface) to flexing that “you cannot block me” on Venus on Fire. Despite the mixtape’s polished finish, the whispery quality of Vayda’s voice keeps her firmly in the real world, as if her freestyles are being transmitted through the stereo in a fluffy-cushioned, poster-clad Y2K bedroom. Like she says on the Chaka Khan-sampling twinkler Mutable Signs: “Just want a simple ass conversation about what I’m contemplating.”

Annie Parker





After appearing last year with a pair of astonishing, genre-piercing mixtapes, PAN’s mysterious Honour refines their expression into a tight narrative on Àlàáfíà. Reaching from Lagos to London, the album tells Honour’s personal story without betraying their identity, exploring grief and love in the wake of the death of their grandmother. Using humble tools – they only had access to a limited trial version of Ableton Live – they patchwork live jams, ramshackle jiggy rap beats, field recordings and disorienting drones to craft prismatic compositions that stretch time, and puncture reality. There’s also an important sense of humour throughout that keeps us guessing: it’s a record that’s as likely to nod to Richard Pryor or Omarion as it is bell hooks and DMX. Grief is a powerful emotion, and Honour assures us that it can be both a celebration and a puzzle by laying their soul-searching out in a delirious rumble of industrial scrapes and hard-hitting rhythms.

John Twells

Àlááfíà by Honour


Caroline Polachek

Desire, I Want to Turn Into You

Perpetual Novice

After cutting her teeth in the late-noughties alt-pop band Chairlift, Caroline Polachek has re-emerged this decade as a new genre of pop star: one whose virtuosic songwriting chops seamlessly intertwine with an esoteric spirituality that appeals to po-faced music critics, queer stans and astrology girlies alike. Think Enya meets Kylie. Desire, I Want to Turn Into You expounds on Polachek’s signature sound – angelically crystalline vocals, introspective and romanticised lyrics, flawless experimental pop production – and creates a swirling universe rich in both nostalgia and futurism. From the immediately infectious bassline-and-whistle intro of hit single Bunny Is a Rider, to recruiting Grimes and Dido for the skittering, warped space ballad Fly to You, these tracks pull from a colourful lexicon of 80s, 90s and noughties sounds, melting radio pop, new age mysticism, classic Timbaland-esque production and rock star charisma into a package so expertly executed, not a single note is left unaccounted for.

Cameron Cook




Low Lying Records

Singer-songwriter Alia Seror-O’Neill and producer Lewie Day bottle up everything they know about dancefloors – and what comes after – and subvert it on this addictive self-titled debut. Day is best known as the respected DJ and producer Tornado Wallace, while Seror-O’Neill spends her time outside of music acting. Together, they’ve created a knowingly stylised and theatrical sound which is as much about building scenes as it is sound. The cloudy, trip-hop shuffle of Rain Down and the haunting, ominous build of True linger like memories past, while the mournful dream pop of Love in the Darkness and closer Somebody’s cloying kinetic waltz sound like exercises in letting go. These are tracks to get lost to in the small hours; the dying embers of the party at the end of the world. Or love songs for those who had given up on the concept entirely.

Duncan Harrison

a.s.o. by a.s.o.




Thrill Jockey

Haela Ravenna Hunt-Hendrix has suggested that 93696 could be Liturgy’s final album. The band’s founder and sole composer has always taken a multidisciplinary approach to the project, pursuing both personal and spiritual truths through art and philosophy. As she put it to Crack Magazine back in March, 93696 “feels like a refinement of all Liturgy has been”. An ambitious project exploring “eschatological possibility” with a view to addressing real world pain, 93696 pushes past the nihilism of their black metal foundations to invoke a kind of heaven on earth. It’s a monumental task articulated through a sound that embraces extremes in all directions. Ritualistic melodies break up virtuosic odysseys ranging from 19th century classical arrangements to gale-force rock epics layered with blast beats and death growls – often within the same composition, but always directed by meticulous precision. 93696 feels like a series of controlled explosions, with Hunt-Hendrix creating not just with instruments, but with energy itself.

Emma Garland


Bendik Giske

Bendik Giske

Smalltown Supersound

It’s within the opening seconds of Start that you hear it: an intake of breath, unmistakable and strangely intimate. It’s the first sign that saxophonist Bendik Giske’s third album – nakedly and tellingly self-titled – will spend the next 36 minutes closing the gap between listener and musician until they’re touch-tight. The culmination of a meticulous recording process (no reverb, single takes, tiny microphones mounted on flesh and brass), this could have been an exercise in sterile rigour. Far from it. The results range from ecstatic to meditative; from the tactile, thrumming percussion (actually the close-mic’d sound of the saxophone keys) and the transportive progressions that recall Philip Glass (most notably on Rhizome), right through to the spittle-flecked mistakes – the honks and squeaks – that express the album’s queer physicality. Look at the cover art; a prone, sweat-slicked neck and tensed shoulder in close-up. There’s strength in vulnerability, and there’s beauty, too. 

Louise Brailey

Bendik Giske by Bendik Giske


Jim Legxacy

Homeless N**** Pop Music


DJ, the first track on Jim Legxacy’s Homeless N**** Pop Music, opens with the gently plucked guitar of a Midwest emo hit from the 2000s. The south Londoner’s delicate falsetto is laid over the top; his voice is wistful, fragile even, as he sighs, “I chose a song/ It reminded me of all the things we used to do.” Then a second voice trickles in. Whatever you might have been expecting at this point, it probably wasn’t the gruff baritone of UK drill star Unknown T. Everything shifts again as skittering drums join the fray, and Legxacy’s voice fades into the echoes of Homerton B before giving way to an R&B run of pure feeling. In the space of one minute, Jim Legxacy has turned three different genres inside out.

It’s a trick he masterfully repeats throughout the album, creating a universe where Soul for Real’s Candy Rain is an understated Afrobeat anthem, and pop-punk ballads play host to repurposed grime vocals. One moment, he’s deep in his American Football bag, the next, he’s a heartbroken Frank Ocean. Throughout it all, his productions are scattered with samples that recall the cultural ephemera of his youth – Miley Cyrus, Dizzee Rascal and a promotional tag for Nigerian digital radio station all make appearances.

The result is a warm, emotionally charged palimpsest of the 23-year-old’s life in southeast London. A life that hasn’t been without its difficulties. The album’s title points to the fact that Legxacy recorded it while homeless, staying with friends and relying on his community to hold him up. On record, Legxacy invites the listener into his most intimate memories, stating on the album’s title track that ​​he “bought a mic tryin’ to ease all the trauma”. Further heightening the album’s sonic verité is the way Legxacy uses both the voices of his friends and snatches of conversations captured from Lewisham’s streets – as if striving to capture fragments of lives as they come together and drift apart. “There are big, dark stories that happen here, but there are also the human stories,” explained Legxacy of his environment in Crack Magazine’s July cover story. “And it’s just balancing the two and showing [they] exist at the same time.”

The most poignant example of this approach is Old Place, a track written about Legxacy’s fraught relationship with his father. Clocking in under two minutes, it’s a heart-wrenching glance into Legxacy’s inner conflict. Fundamental to the track is a perfectly flipped sample of MizOrMac’s drill anthem, Grip and Ride. The juxtaposition of the anguish on display in lines like, “To try ignore how I and you/ Would love the company of fools/ But we were the fools, tied in a race,” with the repeated sample, “If we turn up now, weapons out, how you gonna back your–” highlight Legxacy’s attempt to reconcile feelings of vulnerability with the natural impulse to bite back.

Similarly, the start of Block Hug neatly sums up the murky emotional terrain Legxacy explores on HNPM. Skipping over a brooding 67 sample, Legxacy sings, “She told me hood n****s don’t cry/ So as she broke my heart I had to straight face.” It’s a disarmingly direct way of addressing modern masculinity’s perpetual identity crisis – a topic that is subtly weaved into the entire record. On Candy Reign (!), he asks his paramore if she ever dreams of candy-coated raindrops as the backing vocals tell her ex “to lick his own wizz”, while Fake Smiles opens with the unexpected confession, “You know I’m around a bunch of people I love/ Still, I feel so alone.”

Given that HPNM’s total runtime is less than half an hour, what Legxacy has accomplished on this record is astounding. Much has been made of the shift into ‘post-genre’ music, where artists who defy easy categorisation are folding in disparate sonic elements and influences to chart-climbing effect. Yet Legxacy isn’t merely drawing from diverse sources of inspiration; his approach is more akin to a collagist, as he uses the last twenty-odd years of music as a sonic palette with which to create a stirringly intimate self-portrait. Even more impressive is the fact that, in its specificity, HNPM speaks to a whole generation of music fans, playing with our collective nostalgia and turning it into a force for progress. All this, and he still had time to co-produce Dave and Central Cee’s summer smash, Sprinter. 2023 may well mark the start of his own legacy.

Mike Vinti

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