Albums Of The Year 2023

As ever, I’ve had to whittle this list down to a manageable twenty from over one hundred albums that could have made it. It was a fucking good year for new music! Ooh, and this time, the album links to where you can hear it, every platform, one click.

Just to be on this list means that the artist deserves your love, money and merch orders. Enjoy!

20. Wednesday – Rat Saw God

The slow rev up of Got Shocked, coupled with the beautifully aloof vocals kept me returning to this album of scuzzy, drawling brilliance. Also, I do love a bit of pedal steel bunged not where you’d expect it.

19. DRAIN – LIVING PROOF

DRAIN are pure fucking stupid hardcore fun. God, I wish there were more bands round like this and fewer edgelord dullards.

18. TOBi – PANIC

TOBi’s effortless soul vibes and gift for tiny but vitally important narrative details draws you in. Every song on here is a journey and, crucially, is real.

17. RVG – Brain Worms

The first 17 seconds of Midnight Sun is every fucking thing that rock music should be. A wildly inventive, unafraid album.

16. Nära Döden – Slänger Ingenting

Yes, I’m gonna be racist about the Swedes again and yes, there is something in / not-in in the water over there. How else do you explain the absolute magnificent melodies, harmonies and RIFFS of this punkyindie future classic?

15. Buggin – Concrete Cowboys

If this album doesn’t make you want to punch God in the face, then you are dead. Hardcore that is gonna make you gurn like Tommy Cooper.

14. Suki Sou – Notes On Listening

Apparently Suki is ‘based in the Peak District’ so I’m now imagining her on the top of Mam Tor prodding a Buchla into all manner of warbling, flarbling loveliness.

13. Palehound – Eye On The Bat

El Kempner’s vocals meld with their lyrics into a gripping, welt-ridden biography of the mundane that is, of course, utterly riveting. “Bad sex makes a good joke that anyone can get.” The Clutch is a cloudy pearl.

12. Massane – By The River

I’m curious as to why I haven’t seen this album of supreme electronica more hyped. It varies between ambient floaters to outright bangers like Trust. Wtf, world?

11. Shit Present – What Still Gets Me

If you search them, they describe themselves as, “An emo pop rock punk indie guitar-based music project or whatever from the South West of England.” Which is a bit like saying that Da Vinci was handy with crayons.

10. Incendiary – Change The Way You Think About Pain

Hardcore but there are so many echoes of other funsters in here too (like Anthrax) as Incendiary blatantly dngaf about pleasing anyone other than themselves. Slamming riffs, wet concrete breakdowns – perfect.

9. Kota The Friend & Static Selektah – To See A Sunset

The combo of Kota and Static gives us a glorious album of insistent, incessant, imperative beats that are blessed by rapping and singing that interweave sublimely. Seriously, if this doesn’t get your head nodding, I have nothing. Nothing.

8. The God Fahim & Nico JP – Chess Moves

Spooky beats coupled with intricate vignettes make for an album that sounds like an instant soundtrack to me. This has been perfect late night driving music for me.

7. Dur-Dur Band International – The Berlin Session

Somali grooves that will get you onto your feet and throwing shapes till you’re a wizened, weeping hump. Just do it like I do, I’m fat so I just do a lil shuffle. It’s fine, you really can’t keep up with this album full-speed.

6. Ruen Brothers – Ten Paces

ARGH – I blame these fuckers for creating a tune as relentlessly catchy as Don’t Know What’s Come Over You. I sing it all the time, just walking about. Like a tit. And the rest of the album is in the same Roy Orbison meets Michael Nesmith territory. How could I not like it?

5. Noname – Sundial

In which Fatimah Nyeema Warner, aka Noname, just fucking soars. Every song is a movement, every verse is a throwdown:

“We just see self in his image
Won’t be a self-critic, burn up our whole village
That wasn’t us, that was colonialism
We keep our babies fed, we don’t beat and rape on our women, we good
We is Wakanda, we Queen Rwanda
First black president and he the one who bombed us, yeah.”

I mean, fuck me. Fuck me.

4. ford. – Guiding Hand

I don’t know how they’ve done it but somehow ford. has taken a summer afternoon between 2.47 and 5.53 and crammed it all into one album of honeyed, glowing glissandos, toasty beats and distant hootings. I keep coming back to this for the feel of the album. In a not-great year for me, it’s been a small respite.

3. Zulu – A New Tomorrow

Easily my fave heavy record of this year as Zulu make everyone else look they’re trying way too hard. They play with the authority and dexterity of old geezers but, switching from Where I’m From to Shine Eternally as if it’s nothing. But, let’s be honest, how many current heavy bands could do both? Zulu’s strength is precisely this pride in difference, this celebration of diversity and struggle which many bands stick in their lyrics but their music? Not so much. Zulu can and do, pure revolutionary praxis.

2. Will Jay – Someone On The Internet

Don’t get me wrong – this is a pop album. If you sneer at even the idea of pop music, you will loathe this. Will Jay makes immensely catchy, tuneful songs that should be primetime daytime radio. I love all that shit but what kept me listening is the way he twists a lyric where he need not do. Just a little poke at us all, a little emoji wink that, yeah, he knows what we’re like.

“All the thoughts feel like static
And the days keep on passing
I’m just tryna get back in my body
At some point, my life lost me

Like I’m watching myself on TV
What if everything I see
Change the channel if I could, could
Watching myself on TV
God, I’ve said I’m not happy
Tell me, when does it get good, good?”

It’s my favourite kind of pop – a sugar coating on a crispy centre of tiny spiders screaming about DEATH.

1. Acid Arab – ? (Trois)

HAH – anyone who knows me or has been to any of my DJ nights this year knew this would be my number one album of 2023.

From the first seconds of hearing Laila, I was fucking hooked. There’s something about perfectly-balanced repetitive beats that I cannot deny, I cannot escape or even rebuke as they seduce me and undo me and leave me clicking repeat like a monkey in a psych lab.

And that’s one song out of ten, four minutes out of nearly an hour of hypnotic hit after fucking hit. Like all the music in this list, it is undeniable. It is art that comes and eats you and, after the first couple of shocking bites, you let it.

It’s also my number one album because it is now. I don’t believe this beautiful collision of cultures, people and styles could ever have created this exact artefact before 2023 and, ultimately, that fucks me up. I love old music, I love old culture. But why look to the past when we can take what we have now and bash the fuck out of it, make something NEW, something from us?

When I’ve played tracks from Trois DJing, they made punters wake up and take notice. They’ve heard Bollywood, they’d heard K and J pop but a lot of them had not heard anything like this. And they loved it.

Ladies, gents, enbies and others – Acid Arab’s Trois is my album of the year, 2023.


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