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The Best Albums Of 2023.

The Best Albums Of 2023.

2023 has contained multitudes, but the one constant that we could depend on were the albums that we lived in, for, and through - each one soundtracking and housing our most important memories of the year.

You always remember the first time you heard a life-changing album, and maybe that's the real treasure of 2023: the new albums that we listened to along the way.

Here's what our 2023 sounded like / we hereby present to you our final decision on 2023's Best Albums (our Best Songs Of 2023 list is out tomorrow!)...

#10. 'IN THE END IT ALWAYS DOES' - THE JAPANESE HOUSE

BECAUSE: The Japanese House's (a.k.a. Amber Bain) sophomore album closes with Bain vocalising a sentiment so familiar yet so hard to put into words: "It feels something like I'm missing you but / Also like I'm missing me, I wanna be free." Something Bain is so skilled at and continues to do throughout this record is pinpointing a specific feeling from a specific time that it feels as though only she could be feeling it - but turns out it's more universal and relatable than ever imagined. With her knack for emotional and sonic landscapes, this poignant album is a follow-up to her 2019 record, 'Good At Falling,' and continues Bain's loyal collaboration with The 1975's George Daniel who co-produced every track with London's Chloe Kraemer. Featuring appearances from the likes of Bon Iver, MUNA, Charli XCX, and The 1975's Matty Healy - the album is a family affair of familiar faces and those situated in the universe of The Japanese House. Bubbly and upbeat production often creates an illusion of sound where the songs are not the bubbles and dancing feet that they tend to appear as ("Walking by the seafront / Sailing past a part of me”). Via her Instagram, Bain shared a message of thanks to the people and places that help create the record and concluding it with the message: 'Circling round, again and again, the circle is spinning so fast you can’t see it’s moving at all,” which so perfectly encapsulates this album and this year.  [LJ]
KEY TRACKS: 'Sad To Breathe', 'Touching Yourself', 'Boyhood', 'Sunshine Baby'.

#9. 'MID AIR' - PARIS TEXAS

BECAUSE: It's only right that Paris Texas' sophomore album 'MID AIR' closes out with '...We Fall' - an almost six-minute-long ode to their hero's journey, self-belief, and survival of the fittest. "But I just kept faith that we find our own sound," says the duo's Felix while detailing their past grind - and 2023 has proven both him and Louie Pastel correct to have been so confident in their future, having released this year's boldest and most singularly unique record. From the anthemic 'Sean-Jared', to razor-edged 'Lana Del Rey' (named in reference to Lana's own song, 'Paris, Texas'), and brutally honest 'Ain’t No High' ("My brother has a family of his own / They don't see him like they see me," reflects Louie Pastel), 'MID AIR' is an unpredictable rollercoaster of musical excellence that more than proves Paris Texas can do anything they set their minds to. [SG]
KEY TRACKS: 'Sean-Jared', 'Lana Del Rey', 'Ain't No High', '...We Fall'.

#8. 'SUNBURN' - DOMINIC FIKE

BECAUSE: The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh once wrote that "understanding is love's other name," and this is also true of Fike's sophomore album, 'Sunburn' - a blueprint to better understanding the world of extremes that Fike was raised in ("Toast your dilemma baby / It's only temporary," he reassures on 'Frisky'), and a compassion booster for the ever-evolving struggles of his present ("I felt a hole in my soul this evening / I thought it would be different after I left treatment / I stood up to a demon / Mama you shoulda seen it," he recounts in 'Dark'). Fike burns bright because he's truthful, and while he may run a little too hot for some, he is such an open book on 'Sunburn' that his songs demand empathy - a reminder that love can also be a choice you make to relate to the humanity in other people. [SG]
KEY TRACKS:
'What Kinda Woman', 'Dark', 'Mama's Boy', 'Ant Pile'.

#7. 'THE LAND IS INHOSPITABLE AND SO ARE WE' - MITSKI

BECAUSE: Deep into Mitski's catalogue (this album marks her seventh studio album), she continues to pull out almost never-ending threads and strings from her deep well of vulnerable emotion and feeling to put into a song. Following the release of her 2022 record, 'Laurel Hell', Mitski shared the first single from 'The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We' with the harrowing 'Bug Like An Angel' ("Sometimes a drink feels like family") proving once again that her music more than anything feels like a calling she was bestowed. Mitski has a speciality for making her most candid and sincere thoughts become a heartbreaking hymn of sorts, connecting so intensely you get whiplash ("You believe me like a god / I'll betray you like a man"). The song 'My Love Mine All Mine' which details how the only thing that is truly hers is the love she has, sweeped TikTok and playlists, with one Twitter user even describing it as the 'Skinny Love' by Birdy of our generation. At the core of every song and sound, the theme of love rings throughout the entire record. With the entirely self-written album being recorded between Nashville and Los Angeles, the album features a dash of everything from a 17-person choir to a solo voice echoing through a track. Mitski has so deeply cemented herself in a league of her own that it is proving impossible to compare her to anyone else. [LJ]
KEY TRACKS:
'Bug Like An Angel,' My Love Mine All Mine', 'Heaven', 'I'm Your Man'.

#6. 'GUTS' - OLIVIA RODRIGO

BECAUSE: Expectations were high for Olivia Rodrigo’s sophomore effort following the smashing success of 'Sour', and she soared well above those expectations on 'Guts'. With relatable, honest, punching lyrics about the daunting experience of girlhood (“I'm sorry that I couldn't always be your teenage dream”) sprinkled between anger (“I wanna get him back / I wanna make him really jealous, wanna make him feel bad”) and insecurity (“And I bought all the clothes that they told me to buy / I chased some dumb ideal my whole fucking life”), she has single-handedly become the spokesperson for teenage girls—well, girls who are actually teenagers and women in their 20s and 30s who latch onto their fleeting youth with a white-knuckled grip. Rodrigo opens 'Guts' with heavy hitter 'all-american bitch', where Rodrigo writes up a fantasy world in which she is the exact woman that society expects her to be: “I'm a perfect all-American bitch / With perfect all-American lips / And perfect all-American hips.” She then spends the rest of the album deconstructing that illusion of herself, outlining in vivid detail her own flaws, idiosyncrasies, and weaknesses, her brutal honesty lifting the veil on what everyone expects Rodrigo to be, showing that she truly is, at her core, just a girl. On 'Guts', she meticulously, angrily, and passionately creates a cinematic world in which she is the starring actress, the producer, the writer, and the director, proving that it truly is Olivia Rodrigo’s world, and we’re just living in it. [CB]
KEY TRACKS: 'lacy', 'get him back!', 'love is embarrassing', 'bad idea right?', 'pretty isn't pretty'.

#5. 'DID YOU KNOW THAT THERE'S A TUNNEL UNDER OCEAN BLVD' - LANA DEL REY

BECAUSE: In an interview with the Sunday Times, Lana Del Rey shared, "I badly needed some beauty to come out of the chaos" - and that is exactly what she created with her ninth studio album, 'Did You Know That There's A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd'. The opening track 'The Grants' details Lana carrying the memory of her loved ones, both past and present - quickly followed by the title track on the album decorated with the haunting echoes of Lana pleading, "Don't forget me," ringing as you witness her battle with the idea of being remembered. Highlight tracks from the album, 'A&W', 'Kintsugi', and 'Let The Light In (feat. Father John Misty)' see Lana reach new heights on her vocals and songwriting. At the heart of the record, 'Paris, Texas' makes a convincing argument for why Lana should absolutely score a movie. Classic Lana is scattered throughout, and it wouldn't be a Lana Del Rey record without it ("I'm a different kind of woman / If you want some basic bitch, go to the Beverly Center and find her"). She even samples her own music in the closer to the record, 'Taco Truck x VB', which samples 'Venice Bitch' from her 2019 record, 'Norman Fucking Rockwell.’ With nine records under her belt now, if there is one thing for sure, it's that no one will be able to forget the name Lana Del Rey - even if they tried. [LJ]
KEY TRACKS: 'Did you know that there's a tunnel under Ocean Blvd', 'A&W', 'Let The Light In (feat. Father John Mitsy)', 'Margaret (feat. Bleachers)'. 

#4. 'THIS IS WHY' - PARAMORE

BECAUSE: A stark departure from the 80s-inspired pop-rock sounds of 2017’s 'After Laughter', Paramore’s sixth full-length endeavor 'This Is Why' bravely walks the line between post-punk and new wave, with a mature sonic landscape crafted by Taylor York’s world-building guitar and Zac Farro’s textured drums - and with weighty, cutting lyrics, Hayley Williams keenly places the human condition under a microscope. The hallmark of a good Paramore song - true of the entirety of 'This Is Why' - is its diaristic intimacy. In a way only Williams can, she lyrically choreographs a delicate dance between anger and empathy (“Every second, our collective heart breaks / All together, every single head shakes”); existentialism and hope (“I romanticize even the worst of times / When all it took to make me cry was being alive”); and revenge and vindication (“I'll do better when you're better / Let me revel in your defeat”). The album takes a soft detour from righteous anger, through the agony of ease and the pain that comes with love, and into the atmospheric 'Liar', where Williams sings “Love is not an easy thing to admit / But I'm not ashamed of it.” The gut-wrenching, apocalyptic rock of 'Thick Skull' ties up the album with a bloody bow - Williams reflects, “I pick 'em up and now my fingers are bleedin' / And it looks like my fault / And it looks like I'm caught red-handed.” 'This Is Why' runs the gamut of emotional intensity, wrestling with the whole of the human experience, showing that there is truly no subject off-limits for the three-piece. If brutal honesty, maturity, and existentialism are any indication of longevity, 'This Is Why' proves that Paramore is here to stay. [CB]
KEY TRACKS: 'You First', 'Figure 8', 'Crave', 'This Is Why'.

#3. 'THE RISE AND FALL OF A MIDWEST PRINCESS' - CHAPPELL ROAN

BECAUSE: Doused in glitter, wearing hot pants, and adorned in a cowboy hat is the ideal way to listen to Chappell Roan’s debut album. A Twitter user described this record as, "kinda like [Ethel Cain's] 'Preacher’s Daughter' for happy people," which at first glance feels like a true statement - but once the layers of the Midwest Princess are peeled back, you find a vulnerable depiction of a girl's coming of age navigating the hardships of modern relationships ("It's hard being casual / When my favourite bra lives in your dresser / And it's hard being casual / When I'm on the phone talking down your sister”), the lasting remnants of heartbreak ("I'll meet you for coffee, only for coffee / Nowhere else is safe, every place leads back to your place"), and leaving behind what you know to become the person you are ("Every night's another reason why I left it all / I thank my wicked dreams"). It would be difficult to talk about Roan and not mention how intertwined both her and her music are with queerness - in everything from her self-expression and her influences to her fanbase and her music. A heart-string pulling track on the record, 'Kaleidoscope', details the first time she fell in love with a woman and her pained voice breathes out the words: “And if you change your mind / I will understand / And it'll just take time /To go back to being friends." The album feels handcrafted to be the soundtrack to a slumber party where even the highest highs of the night (‘HOT TO GO!’, ‘After Midnight’, ‘Red Wine Supernova’) have to eventually come crashing down (‘Coffee’, ‘Casual’, ‘My Kink Is Karma’). Chappell Roan’s world is growing and expanding - and hitching along for the ride is going to be fun. [LJ]
KEY TRACKS:
'Red Wine Supernova', 'Coffee', 'Super Graphic Ultra Modern Girl', 'My Kink Is Karma'. 

#2. 'CALICO' - RYAN BEATTY

BECAUSE: Ryan Beatty offers his third studio album 'Calico' up on a silver platter to the listener, along with his heart and his emotions, and just about every other vulnerable thing he could give. The California basted album is stripped back in every sense of the word, being entirely produced by Beatty himself and Ethan Gruska, alongside instrumental contributions from none other than Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. With his voice at the helm of the ship, every word is left to ruminate and sit with you as you wait for the next. Beatty is uninterested in picking apart his lyrics and believes in the mystery of the record, sharing with i-D earlier this year: “I’m still unwilling to share a lot about [the album] and not for any other reason other than I believe in keeping the mystery of things. It has to stay that way.” The nine track record which Beatty started working on in February 2021 paints endless vivid images of heartbreak ("The laundry is turning / And every day I've been hurting") and loneliness ("I purchase furniture in place of you"). The haunting lyric, "it's brave to be nothing to no one at all," from the first single 'Ribbons' sticks with you long after the album has finished. Beatty has a knack for disappearing, taking his time in living life before returning to music when it's right. In 'The Hunter', he croons: “I'm not seeking a shelter, but I'll be gone for a while / And I don't wanna be found" - this time around, a warning and a consolation for the listener before he departs. [LJ]
KEY TRACKS:
'White Teeth', 'Bruises Off The Peach', 'Ribbons', 'Cinnamon Bread'. 

#1. 'THE RECORD' - BOYGENIUS

BECAUSE: Retelling the origin story of this tight-knit trio feels similar to a fated happenstance. In 2016, the band's Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus formed an immediate connection over a novel while hanging out in a green room, which was followed not long after by Baker and Phoebe Bridgers bonding over their shared love for the same novelists and poets - leading to Baker introducing Bridgers and Dacus ("You guys would love each other!"), and as they say: the rest is history. They say once is an accident, twice a coincidence, and three times a pattern, which could explain the trio's profound relationship - the pattern of finding people who understand you like no one else in the whole universe does. Only growing closer since that fateful meeting, the band released their debut self-titled EP in 2018 which Bridgers once described as: "It was not like falling in love, it was falling in love." The band banded back together earlier this year to share their debut album, 'The Record' with the world, and the almost surprise comeback of the band caught long-term fans off-guard after years of begging the three separate parties to come together again and bless them with more music. The trio arrived with a bang - novelist Elif Batuman penning the introductory essay for the album, and actress Kristen Stewart directing three music videos compiled as ‘boygenius - the film’. The album details the fear and comfort of falling in love in 'We're In Love' ("Will you still love me if it turns out I'm insane? I know what you'll say, but it helps to hear you say it anyway"), and the drowning feeling of the fall-out in 'Cool About It' ("Tellin' myself I can always do without it / Knowin' that it probably isn't true,"), in a way that only the three of them can. Taking the trio costume and running with it, the group very appropriately dressed as the holy trinity for Halloween (with Bridgers' dog Maxine playing the role of the lamb of God)... This year would've looked a lot different without the sounds and the faces of Boygenius - and god, aren't we glad we didn't have to experience it without them? [LJ]
KEY TRACKS:
'True Blue', 'Cool About It', '$20', 'We're In Love'.

If you want to listen to all ten albums, one after the other / all together, then this playlist is for you:

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