As 2023 winds down, we reflect on an excellent year for music. The past months have seen a tantalising mix of predicted but welcome hits and unprecedented masterpieces. From the returns of industry titans like the Rolling Stones, delivering their first original work in nearly two decades, to the startling evolution of artists like Lil Yachty, this year has spoiled us for choice time and time again.
We witnessed Everything But The Girl’s triumphant comeback, Christine and the Queens’ epic three-part opera, and Foo Fighters’ poignant exploration of grief. The autumn season alone brought us a plethora of gems: Mitski, Sufjan Stevens, and Animal Collective, while newcomers like Boygenius and Overmono marked their territory with memorable debuts. Meanwhile, heavyweights like Travis Scott, Doja Cat, and Taylor Swift kept our playlists fresh.
As we compile our list of the 50 best albums of 2023, we celebrate a year of musical brilliance as vibrant as the artists who created them. We know it’s tempting to scroll straight to the bottom (top) ten, but please try to resist the temptation; there are tons of talented runners-up.
50. Ashnikko – Weedkiller
Ashnikko’s debut album Weedkiller is a fierce challenge to fame, refusing to be boxed into a “hot pop girl” stereotype. Shifting from her 2021 mixtape, Demidevil, this work merges sex and horror in an intense record. It explores fame’s exploitative nature and its impact on self-image, relationships, and social worth, all while delivering nuanced expletives and sexual innuendo. Love odes to partner Arlo Parks, blended with rage anthems, creating a celebration of feminine fury. The album’s maximalist elements energize without overwhelming, showcasing Ashnikko’s evolved storytelling and production skills. – Lucy Harbron
49. Pinkpantheress – Heaven Knows
PinkPantheress’s debut album Heaven Knows is a testament to her rapid ascent in British pop. Combining her characteristic soft voice and delicate instrumentals, this album showcases her best work yet. Predominantly solo, it also features strong collaborations with artists like Central Cee, Ice Spice, and Kelela. Tracks like ‘True Romance’ add a nostalgic twist, while her unique hyperpop style, infused with drum n’ bass, sets a new standard in the genre. This record, enriched with complex production, is both a subtle background listen and a layered, immersive experience, marking a promising start for PinkPantheress. – Alex Berry
48. Overmono – Good Lies
Brothers Tom and Ed Russell, known as Overmono, transitioned from individual career paths in electronic music to form a dynamic duo. Their album Good Lies weaves together myriad influences from 90s sounds, post-dubstep, and UK dance labels. Known for combining modern samples with various electronic genres, they’ve created a sound that appeals to a broad audience. Tracks like ‘Feelings Plain’ and ‘Arla Fearn’ showcase their skill in fusing vocal patchwork with electronic textures. The album, while not groundbreaking, successfully makes electronic music more accessible, mixing RnB, hip-hop, and rap into a style that captivates and uplifts. – Charlie Bird
47. Sleaford Mods – UK Grim
Sleaford Mods, a decade since their breakthrough, maintain their vital, coarse commentary on British life with UK Grim. This seventh duo album (12th overall) escalates from 2021’s Spare Ribs. It’s aggressive, with Andrew Fearn infusing new colours into their musical fabric. Tracks range from dancefloor threats in ‘On The Ground’ to East Midlands-style West Coast hip-hop in ‘Smash Each Other Up,’ and a ska-pop critique in ‘Right Wing Beast.’ With snarky takedowns and A-list collaborations, the album mixes fury, introspection, and subtle wit. It’s a satirical cruise through Brexit Britain, where everyday struggles meet absurdity, highlighting the Mods’ essential voice against normalised gloom. – Harvey Solomon-Brady
46. Jorja Smith – Falling or Flying
Jorja Smith’s Falling or Flying is a bold departure from her debut, infused with a newfound authenticity. Entirely produced by DameDame, it blends afrobeats, alternative rock, and reggae across 16 varied tracks. Smith’s soulful voice and introspective lyrics explore themes of love, empowerment, and womanhood, creating a cohesive record that stays on the straight and narrow. Standouts include collaborations with J Hus and her candid songwriting, particularly in ‘Broken is the Man’. – Sam Moore
45. The Hives – The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons
The Hives return with The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons, reviving their signature high-energy rock. With ear-catching singles like ‘Bogus Operandi’ and ‘Countdown to Shutdown,’ they’ve reignited interest in their full-throttle guitar music. Despite a period of uncertainty after their early 2000s success, this album, driven by Howlin’ Pelle’s dynamic frontmanship and Chris Dangerous’ precise drumming, feels like a time capsule of their peak era. While not groundbreaking, it’s a fervent nod to their garage band roots, offering a defiant jolt to rock music in 2023. Who knows, maybe it’ll inspire a new wave of The Hives tribute acts? – Greg Wetherall
44. Lil Uzi Vert – Pink Tape
Merging rap with alternative rock, Lil Uzi Vert’s Pink Tape is a lengthy, genre-bending ride. The album, Uzi’s first in three years, spans 94 minutes and 26 tracks, featuring a mix of high points and, admittedly, inconsistent moments. Notable collaborations include Travis Scott on ‘Aye’ and Nicki Minaj on ‘Endless Fashion’, along with unexpected features from Bring Me The Horizon and Babymetal. While the album’s length is a point of criticism, Uzi’s unique style and otherworldly production make it a worthwhile experience for fans. – Archie Brydon
43. Inhaler – Cuts and Bruises
In Cuts & Bruises, Inhaler showcase a commendable leap in maturity while holding onto their debut’s charm. The album, evolving from their first, It Won’t Always Be Like This, veers away from youthful exuberance, embracing more nuanced and broader musicality. The lead single, ‘These Are The Days,’ maintains their festival anthem vibe, but the rest of the album reflects a more mature outlook. Tracks like ‘Just To Keep You Satisfied’ and ‘If You’re Gonna Break My Heart’ blend introspective lyrics with a polished sound, marking a shift from boyish energy to a more thoughtful approach. Frontman Eli Hewson’s growth is evident, as is the influence of touring and hard work. Produced by Antony Genn, Cuts & Bruises signifies the start of Inhaler’s evolution, a promising direction for the Irish band. – Teddy Coward
42. Fizz – The Secret To Life
Fizz’s debut album is a refreshing escape for its members Orla Gartland, Dodie, Martin Luke Brown, and Greta Isaac, each established solo artists. This record shuns their individual brands for a collective holiday-like spirit, brimming with fun and vibrancy. Fusing indie hooks, alt-pop edges, and maximalist theatrics, Fizz create a joyful, optimistic album that also respects their knack for sentimental ballads. It’s a bold, cohesive project that amplifies each member’s talents, transcending their solo personas to form something uniquely collaborative and exciting. – Lucy Harbron
41. Baby Queen – Quarter Life Crisis
A compelling mix of sharp lyrics and upbeat alt-pop, Baby Queen’s debut explores the complexities of mid-twenties life. Bella Latham’s work encapsulates the struggle of transitioning into adulthood with a mixture of hope, reflection, and humour. Through lush synths and catchy melodies, the album reverberates with the tangled emotions of growing up, offering a relatable soundtrack for those navigating the chaotic journey towards maturity. – Hannah Mylrea
40. Kassi Valazza – Kassi Valazza Knows Nothing
In her sophomore album Kassi Valazza melds folk and country with a psychedelic touch, creating a ten-track collection that feels more like a series of poetic musings. Each song, rich with intricate lyrics and a haunting atmosphere, showcases Valazza’s unique style and we’re all here for it. The album, which includes a tribute to folk legend Michael Hurley, captivates with its thoughtful storytelling and earthy, eerie sounds, proving that sometimes knowing little can indeed say a lot. – Holly Smith
39. Mitski – The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We
Mitski returns to her roots after the synth-pop sheen of Laurel Hell. Here, she departs from the commercialised path, showcasing a more authentic, earthy sound with country and folk influences. The album, rich in steel guitars and Americana, explores themes of eco-existentialism and personal turmoil. Tracks like ‘The Deal’ and ‘I’m Your Man’ display Mitski’s skill in expressing complex emotions through beautifully poignant lyrics. This deeply pensive album reflects Mitski’s struggle with fame and the inevitability of artistic creation. – Lucy Harbron
38. Potter Payper – Real Back In Style
In his debut album, Potter Payper offers a compelling glimpse into his life, marked by raw storytelling and experiences that led to his incarceration. Despite his fame, the Essex rapper remains a product of his environment, a theme poignantly explored in tracks like ‘All My Life, If I Had…’. The album, crafted while he was in prison, is a candid narrative of his journey, featuring heart-wrenching stories like ‘Money Or Victims? (Kayla’s Story)’. His distinctive voice soars over cinematic UK hip-hop beats, addressing socio-political issues with intensity and authenticity. This debut is a cohesive, powerful representation of Payper’s impactful road rap storytelling. – Fred Garratt-Stanley
37. Olivia Rodrigo – Guts
Opening with the potent ‘All-American Bitch’, Olivia Rodrigo challenges perfection pressures with her characteristic ferocity. Following her explosive debut with Sour, Rodrigo’s new album reflects her personal growth, traversing the complexities of early adulthood. Tracks like the alt-pop anthem ‘Love Is Embarrassing’ and the grungy ‘Ballad of a Homeschooled Girl’ showcase her candid, relatable lyrics. With a mix of roaring pop-rock and quieter moments, Guts offers a raw, honest portrayal of Rodrigo’s experiences, further enhancing her reputation for poignant and powerful songwriting. – Hannah Mylrea
36. Kelela – Raven
Raven triumphs with 15 tracks that mix electronic dance with elements honouring black, queer culture. The album ranges from breakbeat to techno, featuring top producers like Yo Van Lenz and Bambii. It opens with the spiritual ‘Washed Away’ and dives into club anthems like ‘Happy Ending’. The album explores themes of distance in relationships and self-identity, combining Kelela’s classic R&B style with powerful dance beats. As the second act shifts to a more introspective tone, Kelela focuses on identity and empowerment. The project culminates with ‘Far Away’, echoing the album’s opening and showcasing Kelela’s jazz influences. Raven stands out as a comprehensive celebration of dance, thought, and black and queer liberation. – Millie O’Brien
35. Keaton Henson – House Party
With House Party, Keaton Henson presents a refreshing departure from his “king of sadboys” image. Known for deeply moving, dark lyrics, Henson’s new album offers a different perspective through an alter-ego that embraces fame. The album mixes classic rock and country influences, showcasing louder singing and guitar, marking a shift from his previous work’s stifling sadness. This character has really brought Henson out of his shell and has led to his first live shows in years. While still featuring his signature poetic lyricism, House Party reflects Henson’s personal growth and humour, exploring fame’s emotional complexity and challenging the tortured artist trope. The album stands as a testament to Henson’s artistic evolution. – Lucy Harbron
34. J Hus – Beautiful and Brutal Yard
J Hus opted for a dual approach, combining melodious bops and jazzy flexes. Despite its occasional bravado, this summer-ready album is mostly tranquil, like in the lead single ‘It’s Crazy.’ J Hus skillfully glides over beats, exemplified in tracks like ‘Massacre’ with its sun-kissed sounds. The album also explores themes of sex and salaciousness, with contributions from Jorja Smith and Burna Boy. While occasionally fiery, the record mostly maintains a relaxed pace, showcasing J Hus’s ability to blend the mellow with the intense. – Teddy Coward
33. Hozier – Unreal Unearth
Hozier makes a soaring return to form, harmonising deep lyricism with poppy charm. This 16-track record avoids the filler trap of his previous album, offering a compelling journey through various genres, from folk and soulful R&B to classic rock. Standouts include the Elton John-esque ‘To Someone From A Warmer Climate’ and a surprising indie pop collaboration with Brandi Carlile on ‘Damage Gets Done’. The album showcases Hozier’s versatility, moving from radio hits to gothic and acoustic numbers. Highlights like the mythical rock ballad ‘Francesca’ and the literate ‘Unknown / nth’ cement Hozier’s status as a storyteller and pop culture’s literary icon, appealing to both avid readers and casual listeners alike. – Lucy Harbron
32. Jungle – Volcano
A decade after their enigmatic debut, Jungle’s fourth album radiates with carefree confidence and infectious fun. Shifting from their earlier mystique, Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland embrace a freer, less serious approach.
The album bursts with energy, influenced by their DJ sets and live shows, showcasing techno-inflected beats, ‘90s house vibes, and diverse samples. Collaborations add depth, with artists like Channel Tres and Roots Manuva enhancing tracks with distinct vocals and flows. Lydia Kitto’s agile voice shines, particularly on ‘Back On 74’. Volcano is Jungle’s unburdened celebration, a testament to their evolution into confident, joyous musicianship. – Hannah Mylrea
31. Ethan P. Flynn – Abandon All Hope
Abandon All Hope is a profound exploration of loneliness and coming-of-age wisdom, despite the artist’s young age of 25. Ethan P. Flynn’s debut, the album oscillates between despair and moments of connection, with the Yorkshireman’s deep, soulful voice delivering introspective lyrics. Standout tracks like the lovelorn ‘In Silence’ and the countrified ‘Bad Weather’ offer sage advice amidst melancholy, showing Flynn’s ability to tap into age-old wisdom.
The 16-minute ‘Crude Oil’ is a highlight, evolving from folk to jazz and classical, and culminating in a powerful instrumental finale. This album, resonating with timeless themes, promises to be a lasting work for reflective listening. – Teddy Coward
30. The Chemical Brothers – For That Beautiful Feeling
The Chemical Brothers’ tenth studio album, For That Beautiful Feeling, showcases their enduring presence in electronic music. Unlike their iconic dance tracks, this album offers a more reflective, soulful approach, weaving emotional depth into their exhilarating sound. Tracks like ‘Fountains’ and ‘The Darkness That You Fear’ mix psych-electronica and house with human emotion, while ‘Skipping Like A Stone’ features heavenly choral harmonies alongside Beck’s vocals.
Embracing diverse influences, from hip-hop to trip-hop, the album culminates in the title track, symbolising an endless, emotion-tinged rave. This work reflects The Chemical Brothers’ evolution, proving their ability to create music that resonates on the dancefloor and in the heart. – Teddy Coward
29. Christine and the Queens – Paranoïa, Angels, True Love
Paranoïa, Angels, True Love by Christine and the Queens, a.k.a. Redcar, is a profound three-part musical journey that merges intense personal exploration with artistic expression. This 90-plus minute album, heavily influenced by producer Mike Dean’s bass power, envelops listeners in a cavernous soundscape, exploring themes of self, sex, and sexuality.
The album features impactful tracks like ‘Tears So soft’, ‘Marvin Descending’, and ‘Flowery Days’, each offering a blend of serenity and intensity. Madonna’s cameo adds a layer of melodrama, while 070 Shake’s feature on ‘Let Me Touch You Once’ brings themes of lust. Despite its lengthy run time and occasional overbearing intensity, the album stands as a work of art, presenting a narrative arc from beginning to end, showcasing Christine and the Queens’ creative evolution and deep personal excavation. – Teddy Coward
28. Post Malone – Austin
Austin by Post Malone, also known as Austin Post, marks a shift from his earlier high-energy lifestyle to a more relaxed and introspective approach, reflecting his journey into fatherhood. The album’s opener ‘Don’t Understand’ sets a mature tone, contrasting with his debut mixtape’s youthful exuberance. Tracks like ‘Something Real’ and ‘Landmine’ delve into themes of genuine fulfilment and the struggle between indulgence and maturity.
While ‘Socialite’ and ‘Texas Tea’ recall his earlier party days, songs like ‘Chemical’ and ‘Speedometer’ explore joy beyond substances. Despite some filler tracks in its 17-song length, “Austin” successfully showcases Post Malone’s evolution with a guitar-driven sound, culminating in the reflective ‘Green Thumb’ and ‘Laugh It Off’, symbolising his growth as an artist and individual. – Teddy Coward
27. Gorillaz – Cracker Island
In Cracker Island, Gorillaz showcase a refined, imaginative vision that skillfully balances the group’s penchant for experimentation with a more streamlined approach. The album departs from their 2020 release, focusing on standout solo contributions that elevate the overall experience.
Stevie Nicks’ ethereal vocals on ‘Oil’ create a majestic aura, while Bad Bunny infuses ‘Tormenta’ with a vibrant reggaeton flair, demonstrating Gorillaz’s ability to blend genres seamlessly. The album’s highlight, ‘New Gold,’ sees Tame Impala and Bootie Brown joining forces for a captivating mix of electronic and hip-hop elements.
With Damon Albarn’s existential vocal style adding depth, tracks like ‘Tarantula’ and ‘Skinny Ape’ delve into introspection, while the tranquil ‘Possession Island’ with Beck closes the album on a reflective note. Cracker Island exemplifies Gorillaz’s continued evolution, offering a harmonious blend of features that underscore their creative prowess and solidify their position in the contemporary music landscape. – Teddy Coward
26. Holly Humberstone – Paint My Bedroom Black
Holly Humberstone’s debut is a vibrant tapestry of emotional depth and sonic evolution. From the defiant title track to the heartfelt ‘Into Your Room’, Humberstone showcases her growth from crafting introspective piano melodies to confronting life’s complexities – all with refreshing audacity.
The album balances venomous tracks like ‘Ghost Me’ with tender numbers like ‘Elvis Impersonators’, demonstrating her fearless honesty. Sonically diverse, it flirts with ’90s alt-rock in ‘Lauren’, embraces haunting minimalism in ‘Baby Blues’, and experiments with unconventional stadium pop in ‘Antichrist’. Holly’s debut transforms personal turmoil into unifying, bold artistry, marking her as a significant voice in contemporary music. – Ali Shutler
25. Mythical Earl Sweatshirt & The Alchemist – Voir Dire
The enigmatic mixtape from dynamic duo Earl Sweatshirt and The Alchemist finally emerges from the realm of myths and rumours. It’s an eclectic blend of dense poetry and innovative beats, showcasing the best of both artists. The Alchemist’s talent in sampling shines, creating a backdrop that complements Earl’s profound lyrical prowess. Standout tracks like ‘Vin Skully’ and ‘Geb’ highlight this synergy, while the only guest appearance from MIKE on ‘Sentry’ adds a distinct flavour.
Uniquely available on Gala Music, an NFT-driven platform, Voir Dire challenges conventional music distribution methods. This 11-track project is a testament to the pair’s artistic compatibility, offering a mix of thought-provoking and laid-back vibes. As fans await its mainstream release, Voir Dire stands as a testament to the duo’s innovative spirit and artistic excellence. – Archie Brydon
24. Bombay Bicycle Club – My Big Day
Bombay Bicycle Club’s My Big Day marks a significant evolution for the indie-rock veterans, almost two decades into their journey. This sixth album surprises with its bold explorations into trip-hop, pop, and electronica, featuring an impressive roster of collaborators, including Damon Albarn, Chaka Khan, Nilufer Yanya, Holly Humberstone, and Jay Som.
Standout track ‘Turn the World On’ reflects a matured perspective on fatherhood and life’s swift changes, while ‘Meditate’ showcases a more intimate sound with Yanya’s vocals. The inclusion of Albarn in ‘Heaven’ infuses the album with an electronic groove reminiscent of Gorillaz, and ‘Tekken 2’ featuring Khan is a thrilling funk departure for the band. A two-minute instrumental whirlwind encapsulates the album’s daring spirit, merging various genres in a vibrant showcase. My Big Day is not just a leap into new musical territories but a statement of evolution, indicating an exciting new chapter for Bombay Bicycle Club. – Sam Moore
23. The Rolling Stones – Hackney Diamonds
The Rolling Stones remind us all of their unwavering vitality, integrating their classic sound with a contemporary edge under producer Andrew Watt. Despite the presence of big names like Paul McCartney and Elton John, it’s unmistakably a Stones album. Steve Jordan fills Charlie Watts’ shoes, adding a fresh dynamic without overshadowing the band’s signature style.
The album, featuring contributions from Watts and Bill Wyman, traverses familiar territories with a modern flair. Highlights include the standout track ‘Close to You,’ with its ’70s vibe, and ‘Mess it Up,’ a spiky disco groove. If this is their final album, Hackney Diamonds confirms The Rolling Stones’ enduring legacy as a rock ‘n’ roll powerhouse, seamlessly integrating their past brilliance into today’s music scene. – John Moore
22. The Streets – The Darker the Shadow the Brighter the Light
A triumphant return for The Streets after a 12-year hiatus, this album comfortably ranks among their best, evoking the nostalgic essence of Original Pirate Material while embracing new sounds. Tracks like ‘Troubled Waters’ skillfully blend melancholy with euphoria, reminiscent of their earlier hits. The album experiments with diverse elements like 1930s jazz and banjos, showcasing Mike Skinner’s willingness to innovate.
Despite its exploratory nature, there’s a prevailing sense of reflection and subdued tone. Skinner’s lyrics poignantly address modern challenges, particularly the impact of smartphones on social interaction. This new release balances nostalgia with contemporary relevance, retaining The Streets’ unique sound and appealing to both long-time fans and new listeners. – Harvey Solomon-Brady
21. Animal Collective – Isn’t It Now?
Animal Collective’s 12th studio album, Isn’t It Now?, is a journey of sound, 23 years since their debut, mixing indie rock, psychedelic, electronic, and folk, and marked by unconventional instruments and complex harmonies. The album, produced by Russell Elevado, pivots around live instrumentals, showcasing the band’s evolved musicality. Standout tracks include the 22-minute epic ‘Defeat’, a symphony of emotional layers, and ‘Magicians from Baltimore’, weaving a daydream-like narrative.
‘Stride Rite’ offers an intimate piano-driven experience, while ‘Gem & I’ injects youthful energy with pop undertones. Running 64 minutes without filler, every track contributes to a cohesive experience, reflecting Animal Collective’s commitment to pushing sonic boundaries. Isn’t It Now? confirms their status as innovators in the ever-evolving landscape of contemporary music. – Harvey Solomon-Brady
20. Travis Scott – Utopia
Utopia is a testament to Travis Scott’s evolution as an artist, delivering his finest album yet. Marked by ambition and unpredictability, it stands out for its murky yet enthralling soundscapes. This vast record spans 75 minutes, filled with otherworldly production and a stellar cast of collaborators, including Beyoncé, Bon Iver, and The Weeknd. Standout tracks like ‘Hyaena’ and ‘My Eyes’ showcase Scott’s ability to blend intense, high-quality verses with contributions from top artists.
While the album emanates unease rather than euphoria, it captivates with its nighttime acid-trip feel, leading the listener through a complex journey that’s both uneasy and immensely enjoyable. Utopia is a profound exploration of Scott’s artistry, cementing his status as psychedelic rap’s biggest star. – Archie Brydon
19. Foo Fighters – But Here We Are
But Here We Are, Foo Fighters’ emotionally charged album, emerges from the grief of losing drummer Taylor Hawkins and Dave Grohl’s mother. This 11th album intertwines heavy lyrics with a sound reflecting their early rawness and later rock-radio sheen. The album opens with ‘Rescued,’ a direct nod to loss, followed by tracks like ‘Under You’ and ‘Hearing Voices’ that delve deeply into Grohl’s personal anguish and longing.
Despite a misstep with the title track, songs like ‘The Glass’ and ‘Nothing At All’ showcase the band’s enduring strength. ‘Show Me How’, featuring Grohl’s daughter, Violet, adds a poignant family element. The album culminates in ‘Rest,’ a sombre finale echoing the inescapable weight of grief. With its blend of introspection and powerful rock, But Here We Are stands as a testament to the band’s resilience and ranks among their best works in recent years. – Greg Wetherall
18. The Japanese House – In The End It Always Does
Shifting from the tumultuous journey of first love in Good At Falling to exploring quieter yet deeper emotional landscapes, Amber Bain’s new album delves into nuanced vignettes of queer life, capturing moments like post-breakup reflections and complex feelings of identity and love. Bain’s sound, characterised by rich production and vocal effects, now incorporates classical elements with electronic layers, creating a beautifully complex sonic palette.
Tracks like ‘Morning Pages’ and ‘Indexical Reminder Of A Morning Well Spent’ offer intimate, almost diary-like insights, while songs like ‘Sad To Breathe’, ‘Boyhood’, and ‘Sunshine Baby’ blend poetic lyricism with catchy pop energy. Collaborations with artists like MUNA’s Katie Gavin and The 1975’s Matty Healy add depth, particularly in ‘Sunshine Baby’, a standout track. Overall, the album eschews grand love narratives for a focus on life’s subtle, yet significant moments, showcasing Bain’s growth as an artist unafraid to explore and innovate within her genre. – Lucy Harbron
17. Lana Del Rey – Did You Know That There Are Tunnels Under Ocean Blvd
Here Lana diverges from her initial themes of glamorising death and troubled relationships, instead exploring deeper personal and societal reflections. Featuring tracks like ‘The Grants’ and ‘Kintsugi,’ this latest work is an introspective journey marked by grief, loss, and familial bonds. She skillfully combines sass, raw honesty, and poetic introspection, revealing her growth as an artist. This album, emphasising happiness and self-awareness, shows Lana’s transition from a Tumblr icon to a mature, expressive artist. – Natasha Jagger
16. Roger Waters – The Dark Side of the Moon Redux
Roger Waters revisits his iconic work with Pink Floyd in The Dark Side of the Moon Redux, marking its 50th anniversary with a fresh yet respectful reimagining. More than just a remaster, the album is injected with cynicism shaped by the passage of time, contrasting the youthful understanding of life and time of the original. Waters acknowledges the joint efforts of his former bandmates while exploring the project alone.
Key tracks like ‘Time’ are re-recorded, preserving their essence but reflecting Waters’ current perspective. Particularly poignant is ‘The Great Gig in The Sky’, featuring a heartfelt tribute to his late friend Donald Hall. This album emerges as a version 0.75 of the masterpiece, offering a solitary, reflective take that doesn’t seek to overshadow the original but to complement its enduring legacy. – Harvey Solomon-Brady
15. Birdy – Portraits
Birdy’s Portraits features a mix of high-energy pop bangers like ‘Paradise Calling’ and ‘Heartbreaker’, alongside soulful ballads such as ‘Ruins I’, ‘Battlefield’, and ‘In Your Arms’. Notably, ‘In Your Arms’ stands out as one of her best works. Birdy’s growth is further highlighted by her homage to Kate Bush, especially in tracks like ‘Raincatchers’, resonating with Bush’s melodramatic and orchestral style. Portraits signifies Birdy’s liberation from her teenage image, embracing her creative freedom and embarking on a new artistic journey with unabashed pop and rich theatricality. – Lucy Harbron
14. John Cale – Mercy
John Cale, the 80-year-old avant-garde pioneer and founding member of The Velvet Underground, gfts us Mercy, a testament to his enduring experimental spirit. This album, featuring collaborations with contemporary artists like Laurel Halo, Sylvan Esso, and Animal Collective, is Cale’s first in over a decade and reflects on the tumultuous times of recent years.
The record oscillates between dystopian themes, as heard in the opening track ‘Mercy’ and ‘Not the End of the World’, and moments of melodic respite, like the cheerful ‘I Know You’re Happy’ with Tei Shi and Dev Hynes. Despite some moments feeling overly experimental, Mercy remains a bold and ambitious project, showcasing Cale’s willingness to push artistic boundaries even in his eighties. – Teddy Coward
13. Blur – The Ballad of Darren
Blur make a triumphant return eight years after their previous release. The album skillfully balances nostalgia and new directions, showcasing the band’s two distinct styles: their lively, observational narratives and their deeper, emotional songs. Opening track ‘The Ballad’ sets a reflective tone, while ‘St. Charles Square’ brings back the band’s early energy. ‘Barbaric’ juxtaposes an upbeat melody with longing lyrics.
The standout track ‘Russian Strings’ offers a dreamy, heavenly escape. While not every song hits the mark, the lead single ‘The Narcissist’ stands out with its genuine rousing quality. The album, influenced by life experiences and losses, ends with ‘The Heights,’ pondering time’s passage. The Ballad of Darren is not just a reunion album but a celebration of Blur’s enduring connection and creativity. – Teddy Coward
12. PJ Harvey – I Inside The Old Year Dying
PJ Harvey’s long-awaited comeback album, I Inside the Old Year Dying, marks a stark departure from her politically charged 2016 release, Hope Six Demolition Project. Embracing a contemplative and dreamlike approach, this album emerged from a rapid, three-week creative burst, focusing on personal and local themes rather than global issues. The opener, ‘Prayer at the Gate,’ introduces listeners to a mystical, hypnotic soundscape, blending synths with wordless melodies and ancient Dorset tongue lyrics.
Producers Mark ‘Flood’ Ellis and John Parish enhance the album’s otherworldly fantasy feel, exploring themes of first love and innocence. Tracks like ‘Lwonesome Tonight’ and ‘Seem an I’ showcase Harvey’s gift for creating heartstring-tugging simplicity with minimal instrumentation. Despite a misstep in ‘Autumn Term,’ the album primarily exudes bliss, culminating in the jarringly atonal ‘A Noiseless Noise,’ which disrupts the album’s medievalesque dreaminess. I Inside the Old Year Dying represents Harvey’s journey back to a love for music, characterised by purity and naivety. – Matt Mills
11. Temples – Exotico
Exotico opens with the epic ‘Liquid Air,’ a six-minute journey showcasing the band’s heavier side and their ability to shift into more serene sounds, before ‘Gamma Rays’ brings a pop-oriented, electronic flavour, maintaining the Temples vibe. The title track, reminiscent of early Tame Impala, highlights James Edward Bagshaw’s guitar skills, whilst the energetic ‘Cicada’ and ‘Oval Stones’ have a Glass Animals feel, offering a pop-driven sound.
The album, spanning 16 tracks including several interludes, doesn’t feel overlong due to its experimental nature. The album combines psychedelic sounds with pop and electronic influences, securing Temples as a continually evolving force in indie music. These diverse and energetic new tracks will likely enrich their live sets forever more. – Chris Connor
10. Grian Chatten – Chaos For The Fly
Grian Chatten, the charismatic frontman of acclaimed post-punk band Fontaines D.C., ventures into solo territory with Chaos For The Fly, earning a glowing four-star review from us, close to five. This introspective album, crafted away from the spirited energy of his band, showcases Chatten’s profound depth and romantic soul.
Steeped in Irishness, the record is a journey back to his roots, filled with mellow, contemplative tracks that resonate with Chatten’s heritage. Each of the nine distinct songs on Chaos For The Fly explores different musical landscapes, from jazzy narratives in ‘Bob’s Casino’ to the folk-rock vigour of ‘Fairlies.’ Chatten’s poetic prowess ties the album together, offering heartfelt contemplation and a deep dive into his inner world. Produced by Dan Carey, this album is not just a stopgap in Fontaines D.C.’s discography but a testament to Chatten’s versatile artistry and the profound expression of his soul. – Teddy Coward
9. Sufjan Stevens – Javelin
Sufjan Stevens’ illustrious journey in the music world reaches a new pinnacle with Javelin, a masterpiece that has earned a stellar five-star review. Stevens, known for his diverse and intricate discography, transcends his own artistic boundaries in this latest offering. Javelin weaves indie-folk beauty, seamlessly mixing familiar folk melodies with expansive, soul-stirring crescendos. Each track is meticulously crafted, starting with understated, earthy tones and building to grand, emotional climaxes.
Standout pieces like ‘Shit Talk’ and ‘Will Anybody Ever Love Me?’ showcase Stevens’ storytelling prowess and musical genius. The album’s structure is a testament to Stevens’ ability to create deeply introspective work that resonates on a universal level. Javelin is not just an addition to Stevens’ discography; it’s a testament to his unwavering commitment to exploring the depths of musical creation and emotion, making it a truly unmissable experience for listeners. – Ims Taylor
8. Danny Brown – Quaranta
This autobiographical masterpiece departs from Brown’s earlier, high-energy works, showcasing a more reflective and contemplative Brown at age 40. It’s his most personal album to date, filled with raw anecdotes and revelations about his life, struggles, and triumphs. Brown collaborates with industry icons like The Alchemist and Paul White, creating a sound that’s as evolved and contemplative as his lyrics.
Tracks like ‘Tantor’ and ‘Dark Sword Angel’ blend profound storytelling with innovative beats, highlighting Brown’s transformation as an artist. ‘Quaranta’ is not just a musical journey but a candid exploration of Brown’s battles with mental health and addiction. It’s a right turn away from the usual hip-hop narratives, offering a mature, philosophical, and emotionally complex perspective. The album’s narrative arc, from chaos to clarity, mirrors Brown’s own journey from addiction to sobriety. While this new direction may challenge some fans, it stands as a testament to Brown’s resilience and his extraordinary ability to transform life experiences into compelling art, making Quaranta an essential listen. – Harvey Solomon-Brady
7. Fred Again and Brian Eno – Secret Life
Securing seventh place in our top albums is Secret Life, a serene collaboration between Fred Again and mentor Brian Eno. Veering from Fred’s usual euphoria, this ambient journey invites introspection. Born into aristocracy and mentored by Eno, Fred evolves into a key figure in electronic music. Like a peaceful sunrise, the album offers minimalist, resonant experiences. Highlights like ‘Enough’ blend rain-like rejuvenation with electronic sparkles. Guided by Eno, Secret Life demonstrates Fred’s maturity and depth, rightfully earning its accolade. – Teddy Coward
6. Taylor Swift – 1989 (Taylor’s Version)
1989 (Taylor’s Version) elevates Taylor Swift’s iconic work to new heights. This re-recording journey, part of Swift’s mission to reclaim her music, enhances her transition from country-pop innocence to defiant pop superstardom. The album’s rerun classics, like ‘Welcome to New York’ and ‘Blank Space’, shine brighter, while the vault additions add depth and diversity.
Standout tracks like ‘Is It Over Now?’ and ‘Slut!’ showcase Swift’s versatility, incorporating melancholy into her signature pop brilliance. A perfect blend of independence, confidence, and youthful vibrancy, 1989 (Taylor’s Version) not only surpasses its original but serves as a triumphant reclaiming of Swift’s artistic integrity. – Archie Brydon
5. Sampha – Lahai
Landing in the top five, Sampha’s Lahai is a magnificent auditory journey, transcending beyond his previous work with a deeply personal narrative. This album marries deeply personal lyrics with otherworldly soundscapes, exploring the raw emotions of love, loss, and human existence. Each track in Lahai is a therapy session in itself, filled with poetic imagery and therapeutic melodies that resonate with the soul.
From the celestial opener ‘Stereo Colour Cloud (Shaman’s Dream)’ to the uplifting ‘Spirit 2.0’, and the heartfelt family reunion in ‘Rose Tint’, Sampha creates an immersive experience that is both grounding and transcendent. Lahai not only showcases Sampha’s incredible talent as an artist but also his profound growth in understanding and accepting life’s complexities. It’s a masterful blend of emotion and artistry, making ‘Lahai’ an essential listen and a standout achievement in contemporary music. – Millie O’Brien
4. Everything But The Girl – Fuse
Securing the fourth spot, Fuse marks a jubilant return for Everything But The Girl after a 24-year hiatus, delivering a masterful blend of contemporary electronic sounds and nostalgic sophistication. This new album sees the duo, Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt, reemerge not as relics of the past but as pioneers, confidently weaving their classic ethereal vocals and lavish production into the fabric of modern electronic music.
With tracks like the garage-infused ‘Nothing Left To Lose’ and the shimmering ‘When You Mess Up’, Fuse balances euphoric dance anthems with introspective moments, showcasing their wisdom and experience. The album’s fusion of sorrow and joy, past and present, creates a rich tapestry that resonates deeply with listeners. This isn’t just a comeback; it’s a redefinition, proving Everything But The Girl’s enduring relevance and artistic vitality in today’s music landscape. A must-listen, Fuse cements their legacy as influential artists who continue to inspire and captivate. – Teddy Coward
3. Boygenius – The Record
Securing the third spot, The Record by Boygenius, comprising the extraordinary talents of Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker, and Phoebe Bridgers, is nothing short of a musical marvel. This album transcends expectations, elevating the trio’s individual artistry to a collective pinnacle. The combination of their unique styles forms a harmonious convergence, showcasing their vulnerability and strength in equal measure. Tracks like ‘$20’, ‘Emily I’m Sorry’, and ‘True Blue’ exemplify their ability to shine individually while creating a cohesive, unparalleled sound.
The production is impeccable, with each song rich in emotion and depth, culminating in the stunning finale, ‘Letter To An Old Poem’. This track, a reimagined version of their EP hit Me & My Dog, symbolises their artistic growth, changing from “emaciated” to “I wanna be happy, I’m ready”. This lyrical transformation is a testament to their journey as artists and individuals. The Record is more than an album; it’s a testament to the power of collaboration, the beauty of shared vulnerability, and the magic that happens when three of this generation’s finest artists unite. A flawless masterpiece, The Record by Boygenius is a triumphant celebration of friendship, growth, and exceptional music. – Lucy Harbron
2. Lil Yachty – Let’s Start Here
Lil Yachty’s Let’s Start Here clinches the second spot in sensational fashion, revolutionising his sound with a blend of psychedelic and classic rock, diverging from his hip-hop roots. This audacious album showcases Yachty’s successful foray into a new musical landscape while maintaining his unique style. Influenced by Pink Floyd, Yachty creates a distinct blend of genres, evident in tracks like ‘The Black Seminole’ and ‘We Saw The Sun!’, while ‘Running Out Of Time’ resonates with synth-pop undertones.
Yachty’s decision to collaborate with high-end producers and artists like Diana Gordon reflects a mature approach, enhancing the album’s depth and quality. Let’s Start Here marks a significant evolution for Yachty, transitioning from his playful early hits to a more sophisticated and optimistic sound, symbolizing not just a personal transformation but a bold statement in contemporary music. – Archie Brydon
1. King Krule – Space Heavy
King Krule elevates his exploration of space – both as a concept and a musical element – to new heights. This album, brimming with a variety of moods and sounds, delves into mental, physical, and cosmic spaces, hewing a story that feels both desolate and intriguing.
The opening track, ‘Flimsier,’ sets a melancholic yet soft tone, contrasted by the edgier ‘Pink Shell.’ The album’s flow is deliberately inconsistent, embodying contradiction and change, moving from moments of brightness to typical King Krule bleakness.
Tracks like ‘Tortoise Of Independency’ and ‘Empty Stomach Space Cadet’ blend jazzy undertones with dark, introspective lyrics, showcasing Krule’s skill in juxtaposing contrasting elements. The inclusion of well-placed interludes like ‘Flimsy’ and ‘When Vanishing’ provides a necessary respite, maintaining the album’s heavy atmosphere without becoming overwhelming. ‘Seagirl,’ featuring Raveena, and ‘Our Vacuum’ stand out, beautifully merging different tones and perspectives.
When he first released ‘Seaforth’ and announced an early summer release date, you wondered if an optimistic King Krule album was coming. After all, since his last album in 2020, the man behind the moniker has become a father. It’s a strange thought, given how many people have witnessed Krule transform from boy to man himself, navigating the complexities of adolescence and his early twenties through an unflinching discography.
Space Heavy is not that album; it is now evident it never could be. Immaturity is not an issue to have afflicted King Krule. The topics covered as an 18-year-old on Six Feet Beneath The Moon make this abundantly clear. After the birth of this first child, in his late 20s, some revelation would be too simple. The evolution of the King Krule artist is less linear. Growth won’t follow its traditional trajectory when vulnerability has dominated his music since he was a teenager.
Rather, with King Krule, you see Archy Marshall continuing to explore in a way only he can – through shapes and spaces, ideas and sounds, in his bleakly beautiful way. He could never create a polished, perfect album, but this genuine exploration is far better. – Archie Brydon