The 50 Best Albums of 2023

Avatar photo
best albums of 2023

We’ve listened to countless albums, recommended our favorites, debated the merits, traded playlists and advocated for the underdogs, and then all that was left to do was put it on the record. We already revealed our favorite songs of the year, and now it’s time for the long-players. While 50 records is only a small sampling of what we loved this year, it’s a pretty great listening marathon regardless. So here goes: These are our picks for the best albums of 2023.

Blurbs written by: Adam Blyweiss (AB), Adam P. Newton (APN), Casey Burke (CB), Colin Dempsey (CD), Ed Brown (EB), Elliot Burr (EBu), Emily Reily (ER), Forrest James (FJ), Greg Hyde (GH), John-Paul Shiver (JPS), Joshua Seawell (JS), Jeff Terich (JT), Jeff Yerger (JY), Liam Green (LG), Langdon Hickman (LH), Noah Sparkes (NS), Sean Fennell (SF), Tyler Dunston (TD), Tom Morgan (TM), Virginia Croft (VC), Wil Lewellyn (WL)

Note: When you buy something through our affiliate links, Treble receives a commission. All albums included are chosen by our editors and contributors.

Agriculture s/t review

50. Agriculture – Agriculture

California black metal is an oxymoron, or at least it would be had there not already been numerous triumphs to the contrary. Los Angeles’ Agriculture is a necessary addition to that list, their self-titled debut rife with moments of beauty and bombast, songwriting and arrangements that transcend tropes, and a sound wrought from beating hearts and emotional exorcisms. Agriculture find reconciliation between coastal sunsets and blast beats, meditative restoration and explosive urgency. – JT

Read More: The Best Metal Albums of 2023

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)

best albums of 2023 Arooj Aftab Vijay Iyer Shahzad Ismaily

49. Arooj Aftab/Vijay Iyer/Shahzad Ismaily – Love In Exile

Singer Arooj Aftab, pianist Vijay Iyer and multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily went onstage in New York without any pre-planned set of compositions in 2018 and somehow managed to create something intangible and beautiful as if drawing magic from the air. Love In Exile is the studio product of that initial improvisational performance, delayed a few years for obvious reasons but no less affecting or powerful upon its arrival. Spacious, mystical, transcendent, it’s neither jazz nor ambient, but rather existing between genres, between universes. Its pieces are neither busy nor frenetic, defying predictability while opening up seemingly endless potential avenues for progression. It’s not so much lightning in a second bottle as mastering the ability to harness its electricity. – JT

Listen/Buy: Spotify | Merchbar (vinyl)

Jeff Rosenstock Hellmode review

48. Jeff Rosenstock – HELLMODE

Jeff Rosenstock’s most recent offering, HELLMODE, is, technically, an album. But it might better be described as a stream of consciousness, a series of small but powerful explosions, or a ricocheting pinball through the flashing neon chaos of Rosenstock’s troubled mind. The most enduring theme of this record is simply “instability,” and most every qualm or quandary—be it personal, political, outside or in between—gets a look in. We’ve got revolution, the Constitution, toxic friendships, the fear of having become a sell-out, the beauty of rainy days, cheap red wine—anything you could ask for. Apart from a pause for breath, that is. – EB

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Merchbar (vinyl)

charif megarbane marzipan - best albums of 2023
Habibi Funk

47. Charif Megarbane – Marzipan

A landmark release for being the first album on the Habibi Funk label solely composed of new recordings, Lebanese composer and musician Charif Megarbane’s Marzipan blurs the line between tradition and reinvention. Incorporating elements of jazz-funk and Lebanese popular music into a unique fusion he dubs “Lebrary,” Megarbane pairs lush arrangements that evoke paradisiacal climes with warm, lo-fi hip-hop beats—all recorded solo via live instruments, no less. Though Megarbane’s archives of music under his own name and various aliases expand at a steady clip, Marzipan is a spectacular entry point—accessible, innovative and romantic. – JT

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp

best albums of 2023 Paramore

46. Paramore – This Is Why

For a band whose members were just teenagers when they began making music together, it’s an inevitability to endlessly hear how much more mature each subsequent record is. In the case of Paramore’s sixth, This Is Why, that maturity is a double edged sword, presenting the confidence and prowess of a well-oiled songwriting and performance machine as well as the acknowledgement that adulthood is mostly just a minefield of anxieties. Hayley Williams sings of everyday malaise and unavoidable disappointment, wrapped in jerky, infectious, sharp-edged post-punk disco that’s anything but drab—an exercise in mood exorcism that takes the shape of some of the best songs they’ve ever written. Their pep talks sometimes feel more like tough love, but the bottom line is no less galvanizing: if it feels bad, do it anyway. – JT

Listen/Buy: Spotify | Merchbar (vinyl)

best albums of 2023 so far Meg Baird
Drag City

45. Meg Baird – Furling

Meg Baird’s Furling is a setting, a mood. The former Espers vocalist’s fifth solo record is teeming with absorbing and remarkably catchy psych folk that lives as far out as it does next door. Baird’s world unfolds with winding, yet uniquely comforting songs that bring Mazzy Star and Red House Painters at their most bright-eyed to mind. The passages Baird explores on songs like “Cross Bay” and “Ship Captains” contain a wondrous sense of a journey, delicate masterpieces of intention, where each musical element brings something both permanent and new. By the time the penultimate choogle “Will You Follow Me Home?” comes into play, we can hear Meg Baird and partner/producer Charlie Saufley just having fun with it. Furling is 2023’s ultimate comfort-folk record. -PPi

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)

best albums of 2023 - Carly Rae Jepsen

44. Carly Rae Jepsen – The Loveliest Time

Since 2015’s Emotion, Carly Rae Jepsen has made a habit of following each of her studio albums with a companion release full of “B-sides,” in the process building up the best catalog of outtakes in contemporary pop music. The Loveliest Time turns that formula around somewhat, following the more subdued and reflective The Loneliest Time with a collection of wall-to-wall bangers that draw from disco, house, jungle/breakbeat and French touch, putting the more immediate darts of pleasure on the flipside. The glitter, flash and hedonistic thrills throughout amount to one of her most purely enjoyable listening experiences as well as some of her best songs to date. No leftovers here, just a full platter of abundant decadence. – JT

Listen/Buy: Spotify | Merchbar (vinyl)

best albums of 2023 - Algiers Shook

43. Algiers – SHOOK

Algiers have described their fourth album SHOOK as one that “deepens and broadens” their world—which feels like an understatement. A sprawling mixtape and sound collage that invites in the likes of Big Rube, Zach de la Rocha, billy woods, Backxwash, Samuel Herring, Patrick Shiroishi and Nadah El Shazly, SHOOK is defined as much by the community it builds as the sound it contains. Which is, as ever, one that never remains stationary, charting a path through celebration, mourning, defiance and camaraderie via electro-industrial production, skittering hip-hop beats, gospel, jazz and punk. On SHOOK, more truly is more, a cohesive statement built by removing every possible boundary. – JT

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Merchbar (vinyl)

Spiritual Cramp review
Blue Grape

42. Spiritual Cramp – Spiritual Cramp

For Spiritual Cramp, San Francisco acts like the grubby sixth member of the band, which already boasts a tambourine wielding dancer for their brand of iridescent punk-revamping. After many years in scene circles, their self-titled debut LP arrived compacted with all its juicy, grimy goodness, from critiquing musical heroes turning into arseholes (“Talkin’ On the Internet”) to performing the best “1-2-3-4!” of the year (“Better Off This Way”), and frontman Michael Bingham even finds a second from crashing parties and stealing cigs to pen a sweet love letter on “Herberts On Holiday.” Powering through jangle riffs, dub interludes, fist-pumping machismo and hooks aplenty in less than half an hour, it’s the Tenderloin District captured in formaldehyde and, unsurprisingly, a full-blown riot. – EBu

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)

Ragana Desolation's Flower review

41. Ragana – Desolation’s Flower

Olympia black metal duo Ragana is the rare band that can share a stage with both Wolves in the Throne Room and The Microphones seamlessly—and they have. The veteran DIY group have been releasing stark, gloomy black metal for more than a decade, capturing a uniquely Northwestern gray haze in their gorgeously melancholy dirges. None of which changes on Desolation’s Flower, their first to be released through The Flenser, but there’s a balance of power and grace here that showcases Ragana at their most breathtaking, whether invoking the spirit of queer forebears in the searing opening title track, roaring through a ferocious bout of sludge in “Woe” or easing back into a softer slowcore space in “Pain.” The distance between any of these songs isn’t as great as it seems, each of their songs essentially comprising guitar, voice and drums—and occasional field recordings. That they can conjure up a hellish inferno or pare it back to a bare campfire light is all part of their uniquely powerful mystery. – JT

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Merchbar (vinyl)

best albums of 2023 - Yo La Tengo This Stupid World

40. Yo La Tengo – This Stupid World

Throughout their catalog, 39 years and a couple dozen albums deep, Yo La Tengo have rarely adhered to a single, streamlined approach for the duration of two sides. Even the dreamy lullabies of 2000’s And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out eventually tumbled into the charging shoegaze of “Cherry Chapstick.” In a sense, This Stupid World is no different, full of charged-up noise-pop songs, dreamy ballads, psychedelic freakouts and a mesmerizing, lengthy dream pop closer. Yet it’s lean and focused, much more than you might expect for an album so focused on distractions, anxieties, fears and insecurities. Its title initially sounds like a joke but it’s more of a sigh of frustration, one the long-running New Jersey trio combat with openness, warmth and an abundance of joy. “This stupid world is all we have,” sings Ira Kaplan in the hypnotic title track, its transcendent drone underscoring a more down-to-earth concern that we’d all do well with a little more kindness and patience. – JT

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Turntable Lab (vinyl)

best albums of 2023 - Caroline Polachek
Perpetual Novice

39. Caroline Polachek – Desire, I Want to Turn Into You

What sets apart Caroline Polachek’s particular approach to pop music? Maybe it’s the children’s chorus or the bagpipe, sure, but it’s her voice that demands immediate attention and rewards deeper listening. Right off the bat, Polachek throws her voice high and wild like a siren song luring you to her island before cutting it down to a mesmerizing and rhythmic monotone. And that’s just the beginning. From there she drawls and flutters, bends and breaks, effortlessly commanding the forefront of her sophomore album. – FJ

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Turntable Lab (vinyl)

Fucked Up One Day review

38. Fucked Up – One Day

On their sixth full-length studio album, Fucked Up turned in a record that was, in many respects, the antithesis of their fifth, Dose Your Dreams. At a lean and mean 40 minutes, One Day eschewed its epic predecessor’s rock-operatic aspects in favor of more personal themes like grief, the gentrification of one’s hometown, and the encroachment of middle age. By reducing the number of players on the album to a mere four (and the allotted timeframe of completion to 24 hours), the band’s newly stripped-down sound represented a refreshing, and successful, change of pace. – GH

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Merchbar (vinyl)

Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter SAVED! review
Perpetual Flame Ministries

37. Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter – SAVED!

I’ll never pretend to know what pain Kristin Hayter has experienced, moved past, or internalized. I’ve only been able to listen as she works it out in public with her art, sharing it not merely as storytelling or metaphor but as a psychic transfusion. Her work as Lingua Ignota used metal and bent its rules to explore personal and social evil, before she retired the moniker and the work for her own health. Now dubbed Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter, she invokes the sounds and imagery of roadside revival-tent gospel on SAVED!, using traditional hymns as well as her own songwriting to seek salvation from things not her fault. Breathtaking in its delivery of discomfort, SAVED! is one of the most organically creepy albums I’ve ever played. Hayter’s voice multitracked into dour choirs, her treated pianos, and her speaking in tongues—all produced to sound like a damaged (cursed?) cassette or LP—are worthy of a horror film. SAVED! is Hayter’s invitation for us to enter the church of a poisoned mind, to not only pay her money and attention to accept her trauma but to experience some of our own as penance. This is some of the best music ever made that you may not want to hear more than once. – AB

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Merchbar (vinyl)

Loraine James Gentle Confrontation review

36. Loraine James – Gentle Confrontation

The older I get, the more I seek out art that encourages me to feel and challenges how I feel—I need something real, and I look for it wherever I go. Hearing Gentle Confrontation by Loraine James provided just such an experience. It’s a cathartic and empathic slab of immaculate electro that the artist herself refers to as “emo.” The album delivers deep memory work that focuses on family, relationships, growing up, and the emotional peaks and valleys those situations deliver. James helps her own case by showcasing more of her own vocals and inviting more guest vocalists than ever before.

Musically, the entire project rests on how James crafts her snare patterns and then layers them together to meet the rhythmic needs of each track. She also fuses together a delicious blend of deep sub-bass, sharp synth stabs, and fanciful pop elements in the arrangements. Together, it’s a robust record that hits hard with heavy glitch stylings, footwork bass thumps, and spidering synth licks. Led by standout songs like “2003,” “Let U Go” (ft. keiyaA) and “I DM U,” James take listeners on an exquisitely emotional journey through modern electro. – APN

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Merchbar (vinyl)

Jlin Perspective review
Planet Mu

35. Jlin – Perspective

Perspective holds two unique distinctions. First, it’s the only record on this list released in two forms—first as a recording of polymath producer Jerrilynn Patton’s compositions by Third Coast Percussion, then as a reworking of those very renditions by Jlin herself. This self-reengineered version isn’t just an aural experience; it’s a tactile one. Guided by Jlin’s intuition and backed by breezy marimbas and singing bowls, these jagged songs flit in and out of digital fissures that feel physical. The record prizes body over mind, practice over theory—which makes its second distinction on this list all the more notable: the only record to earn a Pulitzer nomination. The honor is richly deserved. – CB

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Merchbar (vinyl)

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit Weathervanes review

34. Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – Weathervanes

Jason Isbell had a busy year. He not only released his ninth studio album, but likewise appeared in two feature films, the first a documentary about his life and art titled Running With Our Eyes Closed and the second Martin Scorcese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, in which he took his first stab at dramatic acting. Even with all that on his plate, Weathervanes remains his most impressive output of the year. There are few songwriters as consistently strong as Isbell and Weathervanes is no exception, replete with weather-beaten tales of love and loss, always with a keen eye for those time forgets. – SF

More: Rock Docs Podcast: Running With Our Eyes Closed; Treble 100—Jason Isbell’s Southeastern

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Turntable Lab (vinyl)

Sprain the Lamb as effigy review

33. Sprain – The Lamb As Effigy

Full disclosure: This was my vote for AOTY. The placement of this record can be attributed to two main components. First, the nearly peerless quality of The Lamb As Effigy, blending contemporary classical music in all its riveting vastness and sophisticated complexity with the harsh ugliness of peak noise rock, like Terry Riley meeting Big Black for a collaborative record. Second, what I hinted at by telling you my vote, which is its irascible capacity for producing ravenous fans. This record has the scent of something like later Unwound, mid-period The Jesus Lizard or any period of Kayo Dot, preserving itself on the lips of the faithful and foaming. That it places as well as it does should be a sign of the beginning of a long campaign and not the end. – LH

Read More: 12 Essential The Flenser Albums

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Merchbar (vinyl)

MSPAINT Post-American review

32. MSPAINT – Post-American

Hardcore has had a notable recent uptick in popularity of late. There are plenty of reasons for this—the increased access to online live footage and a demand for community in the post-COVID/Trump/insert-other-crisis era being just two off the top of this writer’s head. MSPAINT’s Post-American feels like a key text of this fertile period. Its genre fluidity (check out the hip-hop influence on album highlight “Titan Of Hope”) reflects the scene’s progressive sensibilities, while its positive lyrics are symptomatic of hardcore’s recent turn towards compassionate subject matter. Major 2023 releases in the genre from the likes of MSPAINT, Gel, Fiddlehead and Zulu, all, to varying degrees, offer up radically humanist visions of better worlds. The brash, colorful Post-American might be the most radical of the lot. – TM

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp

pj harvey i inside the old year dying review

31. PJ Harvey – I Inside the Old Year Dying

No other album from 2023 is as intoxicatingly atmospheric as PJ Harvey’s I Inside the Old Year Dying. The tenth solo album from the shape-shifting English artist is unlike anything she’s released before—a dark folk concept album whose narrative follows the contours of Harvey’s 2022 epic poem Orlam. The enigmatic, magical realist lyrics are written in a regional English dialect, possessing an arcane quality that’s as heady as it is engrossing. There’s moments of serene wonder (the folky opening tracks) as well as murky unease (see the spectacular, electronica-laden “The Nether-Edge”) that are all modulated with incredible elegance. It’s an abstract and occasionally abstruse album, but also genuinely otherworldly. – TM

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)

Militarie Gun Life Under the Gun review
Loma Vista

30. Militarie Gun – Life Under the Gun

What started out as a COVID-era bedroom project has evolved into a powerful, full unit, and Militarie Gun’s full-length debut Life Under the Gun is a vision fully realized—one of the year’s most exciting rock records. While there’s a bit of an edge to songs like “Big Disappointment” and “Will Logic,” thanks to the wall of guitars that surrounds Ian Shelton’s commanding growl, this is by no means a hardcore record. The music is filled with bright loud hooks, indebted to influences such as Guided By Voices and Britpop. Yet, listen to “Do It Faster,” and you’ll feel like you can run through a brick wall. – JY

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)

Sweeping Promises Good Living Is Coming For You review
Feel It/Sub Pop

29. Sweeping Promises – Good Living Is Coming For You

On the buzzworthy 2023 post-punk smashing hooks delivery system, Good Living Is Coming For You, the Kansas-based duo Lira Mondal and Caufield Schnug, have taken all the good bits from Athens, Georgia, Detroit, Michigan and Akron, Ohio—the cities of origin of the B-52’s, White Stripes, and Devo—and made the album that Mondal calls “the parts of songs that I always loved singing really loud at the top of my lungs in the cars.” It’s the freaking stuff, Son. Minimal, pop-infused, referential but still in conversation with the UK’s Dry Cleaning, and San Francisco’s Fake Fruit, like a mug. “Eraser,” my jam of the year hands down, their lead song from the album, is the blitzkrieg atonal blaster you’d expect from a punk veteran outfit. Keep your eye on these two. – JPS

More: Rock Docs: Poly Styrene—I Am a Cliche, with guests Sweeping Promises

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Merchbar (vinyl)

best albums of 2023
Buzzin’ Fly

28. Everything But the Girl – Fuse

Sometimes genius needs 24 years to simmer. Fuse, Everything But the Girl’s first album after a near quarter-century group collective pause, showcases the husband-and-wife duo, Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn, using that deadly brain share like no time has passed. But it has. The two outside of EBTG have released seven solo albums, raised three children, written five memoirs, and managed three record labels. No biggie. 

But during this time, amidst a global pandemic, these time-bending musicians discovered something that had eluded them in their previous collaborative effort. Through age and wisdom, they have found inspiration in the longing for interconnectedness, where previously lonely despair was their consistent muse. Fuse sounds new and speaks differently, yet is reminiscent of their post-’90s club records. 

They’ve always excelled in taking that darkest drum and bass grumble and sprinkling it in breakbeat house arrangements that feel warm and edgy. Familiarity remains complex. When Thorn pleads, “Kiss me while the world decays, kiss me while the music plays” on the 2-step low-key banger “Nothing Left To Lose,” the sentiment meanders through the unknown, floating on the beat, toughened up by the wonky-heavy tremolo bass. When Thorn reinforces this with “nothing works without you,” it brings us, aging fans, the same heartfelt result as in earlier decades, by way of new GPS. – JPS

Listen/Buy: Spotify | Amazon (vinyl)

Irreversible Entanglements Protect Your Light review

27. Irreversible Entanglements – Protect Your Light

Irreversible Entanglements’ signing to Impulse! Records solidified what had already been understood via the group’s three prior albums—that they’re a singular force of innovation and intensity in contemporary jazz. The group recorded at Rudy Van Gelder Studios in New Jersey, channeling the giants who occupied the space in decades past while leaving their own imprint via eight breathtaking compositions. Driven at once by intertwined threads of social justice (“Our Land Back”), grief (“root <=> branch”) and genuine joy (the title track), Protect Your Light is both an expansion and a refinement from an undeniable force of nature. – JT

Listen/Buy: Spotify | Merchbar (vinyl)

best albums of 2023 - Fever Ray Radical Romantics

26. Fever Ray – Radical Romantics

Swedish artist Karin Drejier extends their journey into moody electronic music, flirting with the conventions of pop but is haunted by a sardonic undertone. Their attitude continues to be artfully non-conforming, independent as ever but with occasional production and collaboration with brother Olof—thus, briefly, reuniting their long-defunct group The Knife, as well as Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of Nine Inch Nails. Deeply human yet somehow extraterrestrial at once, Radical Romantics feels like the observations of an alien who fell to Earth, which pretty well summarizes Fever Ray’s artistic persona. – WL

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Turntable Lab (vinyl)

Slowdive Everything Is Alive
Dead Oceans

25. Slowdive – everything is alive

Slowdive’s first album in six years was well worth the wait—each track has a silken quality, enveloping the listener in a meditative electronic atmosphere. Opener “shanty” weaves in and out of Goswell and Halstead’s soothing vocals, intertwined with a whooshing, punchy combination of synths and drums. Band members Rachel Goswell and Simon Scott both lost parents prior to the writing of everything is alive, their grief hanging heavy on the album as it provides purposeful release and escape from the present. While they hold moments for reflection on tracks like “prayer remembered,” they find a groove to dance and effuse joy within on “kisses.” – VC

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Turntable Lab (vinyl)

best albums of 2023 - yaeji with a hammer

24. Yaeji – With a Hammer

Yaeji’s debut full-length was written and recorded after she examined how years of emotional suppression to cope with bullying and frequent moving affected her. It doesn’t cover her journey to reconnect with the Yaeji she buried beneath her defense mechanisms but presents the fully formed Yaeji who recognizes how and why she developed them and can move past them. With a Hammer represents this openness with her most adventurous work, with each track playing like an exercise for her in the realms of drum & bass, pop and ambient. She presents the ideal form of recovery—a woman who’s only wiser and more confident because she’s more self-aware. Art doesn’t always allow us to present ourselves at our best, and can sometimes be a conversation with our worst traits. Yaeji wisely turns this conversation into one that occurred in the past. She comes out looking like her strongest—and most charismatic—self. – CD

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Turntable Lab (vinyl)

L'Rain I Killed Your Dog review
Mexican Summer

23. L’Rain – I Killed Your Dog

L’Rain’s latest is an art-pop album fit for the internet age; a record overflowing with ideas, replete with minute long memes, bewildering maximalism, handfuls of absurdity, and a vital core of sincerity. Over 35 minutes, Taja Cheek darts between adventurous art-pop songs (the pysch-pop “Pet Rock,” and the lush “5 to 8 Hours a Day”), and short, experimental, occasionally comedic sketches. L’Rain moves from R&B croons to strange, effects-laden vocals, her lyrics oscillating between abstract, twisted surrealism and a more accessible, earnest songwriting. In the lead-up to the album’s release, Cheek spoke of “envisioning a world of contradictions.” It’s within I Killed Your Dog’s overwhelming mesh of ambiguity that L’Rain tries to find meaning. A true meta-modern fever dream. – NS

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)

JPEGMAFIA Danny Brown Scaring the Hoes review

22. JPEGMAFIA & Danny Brown – Scaring the Hoes

JPEGMAFIA raps with an astounding vengeance that nods to hip-hop’s iconoclasts of the ‘90s, while also employing a ferocious sense of humor that offsets his delivery. His collaboration with Danny Brown, entitled Scaring the Hoes, is a multi-spectral project packed with furious energy and futuristic production that draws both directly and less obviously from the best of OutKast, Marvin Gaye, and Public Enemy.

Lyrical integrity is the name of the game, as the duo deliver sharp insights into both granular hip-hop and wider popular culture. They craft blistering bars about money, the music industry, artistry, fandom, the police state, politics and Elon Musk. The two aim high with pinpoint precision, as aural touchstones from the ‘80s R&B, vintage jazz, gospel and stadium rock are inverted and subverted with the huge snares and kick-ass kick drums of trap. This is maximalist music from two spitters unafraid of sharing their feelings or hurting yours. – APN

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)

The Armed Perfect Saviors review
Sargent House

21. The Armed – Perfect Saviors

Ignore the cover art; Perfect Saviors is one of the best albums of 2023, in any genre. That last caveat is important, because there’s no generic box in which to fit The Armed’s fifth full-length. Shifting from the unpredictable early ragers (“FKA World” being a highlight) to bizarre robo-rock (“Modern Vanity”) to resplendent jazz fusion (brilliant closer “Public Grieving”), these dozen tracks playfully transcend genre limitations. It’s a less intense proposition than previous releases from the Detroit collective, which can be initially disarming, pun intended. However, once it eases its way into your consciousness, Perfect Saviors reveals itself as a surprisingly accessible collection that reminds you that rock music can still be contorted into myriad wonderful shapes. – TM

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)

Gel Only Constant review

20. GEL – Only Constant

In a year in which bands like Militarie Gun and Scowl strived to marry the fury and energy of hardcore punk with the melody of alternative rock, on Only Constant New Jersey’s Gel proved that the mix didn’t necessarily have to be 50/50. Flourishes of melody come through in the riffs to songs like “Honed Blade” and “Worn Down,” but through the album’s relentless 16 minutes, Gel are careful not to let these elements undermine their songs’ overriding urgency and abrasiveness. -GH

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp

Titanic Vidrio review
Tin Angel/Unheard of Hope

19. Titanic – Vidrio

There’s a wonderful, life-affirming moment when you hear music that sounds like nothing you’ve heard before. It’s a reminder that there are always new directions in which to travel, new combinations of sounds and textures. Hearing Mabe Fratti’s work is one such experience. Her latest—a collaboration with Hector Tosta (who composed and arranged all of Vidrio)—is a staggering, beguiling record. Despite Vidrio’s startling originality, its dissonant strangeness, and its thorny departures down untrodden pathways, there’s also a warm familiarity here, a tonal lightness, perhaps held within Fratti’s raw falsetto or her throaty cello, perhaps within the layers of intimate brass or the unique sonics. The result is an album frequently teasing towards the comforting structures of pop without ever fully committing, content to find beauty and warmth within the unfamiliar. – NS

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)

Earl Sweatshirt Voir dire review
Tan Cressida

18. Earl Sweatshirt and The Alchemist – Voir Dire

It’s easier to name rappers who don’t sound great over Alchemist beats than it is to make a list of those who do, have or would. When the MC of honor is Earl Sweatshirt, you know you’re in for some superlative hip-hop music. On Voir Dire, The Alchemist is a sentient musical and referential encyclopedia the same way Sweatshirt is a Kwisatz Haderach of wordplay, exemplified on the crackling boom-bap of “Vin Skully” and “27 Braids.” (These two make a particularly apt match.) Voir Dire moves somewhat away from the intense self-analysis of Sweatshirt’s last two full-lengths without seeming like Earl’s hiding any aspects of himself: As he quips on album closer “Free the Ruler,” “I found my father in my furtive glance.” – LG

Listen/Buy: Spotify | Turntable Lab (vinyl)

best albums of 2023 Debby Friday Good Luck
Sub Pop

17. Debby Friday – GOOD LUCK

The industrial bent to Debby Friday’s pop comes with both a grimace and a wink, synths screeching and basslines kinked. It is menacing, no doubt about it, but it is also playful. Not in the least because of the musical smorgasbord of prog, goth, hyperpop, ballroom and beyond that she blends together. On GOOD LUCK, the persona of Debby Friday is just as multifaceted, twisting in just a few beats from raunchy swagger to yearning modulated vocals. The sum total is a force to be reckoned with, both on and off the dancefloor. – FJ

Read More: Debby Friday’s Harmony in Dissonance

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)

Serfs Half Eaten by Dogs review
Trouble in Mind

16. The Serfs – Half Eaten by Dogs

The three members of the Cincinnati group play different variations of post-punk in different configurations with different names, but The Serfs is at once their most eclectic and focused project. Half Eaten By Dogs is in a state of constant evolution and rotation, flickering with Hacienda disco one moment, pulsing with streamlined jangle-pop energy the next, harmonicas and saxophones wheezing in the in between spaces. Playfully abstract and fun even in its most darkly peculiar moments, sleek yet with a freewheeling looseness, Half Eaten by Dogs is a bundle of contradictions that resolves itself through a gothic Trojan horse of beat-driven hedonism. – JT

Read More: The Serfs’ Midwestern Prophecies

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Merchbar (vinyl)

Jessie Ware That Feels Good review

15. Jessie Ware – That! Feels Good!

On That! Feels Good!, “freedom is a sound… and pleasure is a right.” The album extends a retro turn for Ware, elevating it to new heights of nostalgia and dancefloor hedonism. Where lesser artists would temper the camp of Good‘s concept, Ware embraces it—cowbells, a horn section, and a French disco heater follow; on “Shake the Bottle,” she rhymes “pickup truck” with an omitted “fuck” when describing her paramour’s assets, namechecking his mother (“mutha”) in-between. Her delivery is nimble and persuasive: devilish on Good’s dance tracks, stirring and emotive on its jams. On tour, she extends the last chorus of Free Yourself to an indefinite loop, because she means it; the party’s not over till she’s satisfied. – JS

Listen/Buy: Spotify | Amazon (vinyl)

best albums of 2023 - Kelela Raven

14. Kelela – Raven

Raven is future R&B that mixes science fiction with noir. This divine 15-song album conjures up dreamy moods and trippy grooves perfect for both slow dancing and decompressing. It’s often sultry, especially when sitting at mid-tempo and starting to vibe, but the music is even better when Kelela’s inner introvert pursues solitude.

It all begins with the relationship between her voice and the keyboard. Together, they inculcate an inviting atmosphere that welcomes the listener and encourages them to sit for a spell. It’s easy to become enamored with the glorious basslines that populate these tunes, as they effortlessly balance soul and edge, and the album truly excels in its dexterous employment of drum patterns: Sometimes, they’re syncopated and clubby, elsewhere, they float into the ether.

Throughout Raven, Kelela exudes a confident, self-possessed energy, and you hear it best in top cuts such as “Happy Ending,” “On the Run,” “Contact,” “Bruises,” and “Enough for Love.” I’m mesmerized by her tremendous talent, thematic diversity, and artistic vision. – APN

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Turntable Lab (vinyl)

mandy indiana i've seen a way review
Fire Talk

13. Mandy, Indiana – i’ve seen a way

In a year defined in part by some of the most progressive-thinking metal records we’ve heard in some time, the heaviest albums often skirted or circumnavigated genre altogether. Manchester’s Mandy, Indiana are a Rorschach-test band with the physical urgency of noise rock or industrial but with no specific limitations on what shape that might take. Amorphous yet sculpted into sleek edges, their debut i’ve seen a way scraps outdated modes of playing, hearing and thinking about music into a set of songs that hit like a sledgehammer all the same. Through fiery chants of a need for social change and a tidal wave of electronic noise, Mandy, Indiana imagine a future beyond good enough. – JT

Read More: Mandy, Indiana Want to Rattle Your Bones

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)

Bully Lucky For You review
Sub Pop

12. Bully – Lucky For You

Alicia Bognanno, the sole engine for Bully, churns out heartbreakingly heavy indie rock mini-tomes that are cut across the middle with Bognanno’s honest, emotional outbursts. Channeling the likes of Liz Phair and The Pixies, Bognanno mixes rational lyrics with cathartic, scorching screams. She digs deep on Lucky For You, baring not-so-subtle references to her struggles with substance abuse and bipolar II disorder, as well as the loss of her dog, Mezzi. Bognanno isn’t shy about how her life has been irreversibly shaped by these catalysts. “Guess that’s just the way it goes / we never really have control,” she sings in “A Love Profound.”  Lucky For You balances the pain and finds healing within the chaos. – ER

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Merchbar (vinyl)

big brave nature morte review
Thrill Jockey

11. Big|Brave – nature morte

Editor-in-chief and overall main man Jeff Terich and I, the two biggest fans of this group on staff, absolutely exploded on the release of nature morte. There was a sense that Big|Brave was back, as much sense as that makes when their previous full-length was still excellent and their shocking folk record with the Body was charming as hell. Still, I tend to envision this group in the sweeping and oceanic expanse of hyper-emotionalist post/drone metal that Isis left in their wake when they broke up and here, they once more return commandingly to that mantle. What is Robin Wattie singing? Like Cocteau Twins, I don’t know or need to know. All I know is that the gentility, when it’s not fractured with rage, of that voice laid against the brooding storm of these pieces leaves me ugly crying and solemn in contemplation, just how I like it. – LH

Read More: Big|Brave’s All-Encompassing Catharsis

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)

anohni my back was a bridge for you to cross review
Secretly Canadian

10. ANOHNI – My Back Was a Bridge for You to Cross

Like most people with functioning hearts, Motown and soul was the first music I ever learned to love. So ANOHNI returning and, in doing, handing over her avant-garde plaudits to make a modern soul record from the heart about the current trans and broadly queer struggle for liberation, following up Marvin Gaye’s immaculate and perfect What’s Going On? with a more gendered and queered eye, worked its way into the chest with a quickness. Even politics aside, I cannot stress enough this record is beautiful. Beautiful. A sophisticated soul workout for lowlights and slow dancing in the living room, for reading novels and smoking cigarettes, for loving, for living. – LH

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Turntable Lab (vinyl)

best albums of 2023 Wednesday
Dead Oceans

9. Wednesday – Rat Saw God

By turns punishing, loping and sweet, Wednesday’s fifth album is a barnburner. Singer/songwriter Karly Hartzman stuffs her eagle-eyed narratives with deeply felt experience, personal and otherwise, while MJ Lenderman’s guitar combines the weight of shoegaze with the melodic flair of Tonight’s the Night. The album plays like a rock anthology steeped in cultural mystery, sudden eruptions of violence (two of these songs are about freak accidents), and mundane moments both felt alone and shared between lovers (most beautifully in “Chosen to Deserve,” our song of the year). Rat Saw God isn’t an easy or anytime listen. It takes a lot out of you. But there’s very little not to love. – CB

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Turntable Lab (vinyl)

Mitski the Land is inhospitable review
Dead Oceans

8. Mitski – This Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We

Mitski returns with an album full of instrumentation reminiscent of Puberty 2, and some of her strongest songs to date. Complex melodies, complex landscapes, both natural and psychological, featuring piercing meditations on loneliness, the divine, love, pain, loss, fleeting instances of beauty, and vistas of desolation. In key moments, depictions of those desolate landscapes of the mind clamber their way on up to the sky, as in the beautiful string arrangements on “Heaven.” This is an album rooted in the land, with all of its gritty realities, but it also takes time to gaze up at the stars. – TD

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Turntable Lab (vinyl)

yves tumor praise a lord best albums of 2023

7. Yves Tumor – Praise a Lord Who Chews but Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds)

Have Yves Tumor ever made a bad album? No, I do not believe they have, and the Miami-born musician continues their hot streak with what feels like their most effortless and yet abstract album to date. Praise a Lord integrates their most important influences and sonic fetishes across glam and art rock, industrialized electronics, and opulent R&B. And so will Yves Tumor escape the Prince comparisons? No, I do not believe they will, not yet, but I also don’t believe they should. Why wouldn’t we want that collective hole in our sonic soul filled? Let’s embrace these master-class chapters of song—these focused exhibitions of popstar monsters, sleazy cheerleaders, and sexual politics—while we have them. – AB

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Turntable Lab (vinyl)

Hotline TNT cartwheel review
Third Man

6. Hotline TNT – Cartwheel

Cartwheel is an album about heartbreak and heartache, aimlessness and daydreams, uncertainty and indecision. But mostly it’s an album about guitars—grungy, shoegazey, crunchy, jangly, shimmering and loud. The second album by Will Anderson (formerly of DIY Vancouver rippers Weed) and company shows what it sounds like when the feeling of falling in love is plugged into a pedalboard, with the gain cranked all the way up. There’s something charmingly scrappy about Hotline TNT’s wistful, bittersweet songs—which is perhaps to be expected from someone who publishes his own homemade basketball zine—but they sound like a million bucks. – JT

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)

Sufjan Stevens Javelin review
Asthmatic Kitty

5. Sufjan Stevens – Javelin

Grief is impossible to describe, but thank God and Sufjan Stevens for trying. Javelin is not only a tender ode to love and loss and all the beautiful little devastations in between, it is a career culminating achievement. Stevens brings back the more somber and wistful tone that he perfected on Carrie & Lowell while retaining the grand production ethos of his past few years of experimentation. Powerful electronics and an urgent array of strings pop in and out, always flowing along the arc of his characteristically intimate vocals. The result is one of his very best, and a fitting tribute to a life well loved. – FJ

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Turntable Lab (vinyl)

Armand Hammer We Buy Diabetic Test Strips review
Fat Possum

4. Armand Hammer – We Buy Diabetic Test Strips

A running internal joke every year for Treble is how many billy woods projects will make it to the year-end list. What can we say? When your brand is “consistent superlative quality,” it’s hard to imagine otherwise. This record seems capable of anything, from the spaced out post-MF DOOM style bars laid against even spacier found-sound beats a la early Clipping. to the tougher locked in bars against heavier beats we might associate with Griselda. The throughline here is bars. Not to sound too much like an oldhead but, while I adore a great beat in a hip-hop track, the thing that makes the genre for me is ultimate bars, raps, rhythms. This record plays like a loose, tossed off tape of a rap duo at their peak. That calm, cool confidence makes it and god damn is it ever earned. – LH

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Turntable Lab (vinyl)

Tomb Mold The Enduring Spirit review
20 Buck Spin

3. Tomb Mold – The Enduring Spirit

Tomb Mold released their previous two albums in such quick succession that the three-plus years of relative quiet that followed (aside from guitarist Derrick Vella’s work in Dream Unending) suggested that they might have had something big cooking. The Enduring Spirit is indeed big, an ambitious and intricate progressive death metal opus that feels like they’ve opened the door into a new world of melodic and atmospheric possibility. Prog-rock, dream-pop and jazz-fusion all have a place within their otherwise crushing approach, turning one of the most notoriously abrasive genres into something more spacious and beautiful. It’s such an awe-inspiring and visionary work that you can kind-of-sort-of almost get why anyone might think t-shirts and shorts wouldn’t fit the mood (maybe Ulver can lend some shades and sports cars?). There’s no dress code here, however—this is death metal utopia. – JT

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Turntable Lab (vinyl)

best albums of 2023 billy woods maps

2. billy woods and Kenny Segal – Maps

Head in the loud clouds, both feet on the fuckin’ pavement” could be read as a sonic and conceptual mission statement for billy woods and Kenny Segal. Dreams, free association, beautiful images and wordplay, a sublime bass groove, all firmly rooted in solid and often grim realities and tactile beats. “Birds-of-paradise in the menagerie” flows seamlessly into “A single death is a tragedy, but eggs make omelets / Statistics how he look at war casualties / Killin’ is one thing, what sticks is how casually.” It is all too real. You can get lost listening to this music—lyrically and musically, it’s absolutely gorgeous. But that reverie can’t last for too long—a moment will come that makes you pause in order to process. Maps isn’t suffocating, but it’s dense in a good way; it calls for repeat listens to unpack. The album stews in the glitter and grit in equal measure. – TD

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Turntable Lab (vinyl)

Ratboys The Window review

1. Ratboys – The Window

Ratboys didn’t have to say it out loud, but earlier this year the Chicago group signaled the proverbial “big things coming” through the release of “Black Earth, WI,” an eight-minute sprawl of a song that flexed their alt-country muscles beneath wide open skies and stoned, romantic starlight. A good band already on the verge of great by the time the Covid pandemic cut short momentum behind their 2020 album Printer’s Devil, Ratboys emerged on the other side with this, a sign of growth and fluidity, sharpened instincts and the potential for horizons beyond where they’ve already been.

The Window is the full realization of that potential, a career-best set of noise pop, daydream Americana and richly layered indie rock that’s as much a crystallization of their powers as a band as well as a more emotionally resonant showcase for Julia Steiner’s lyricism. They’ve never sounded quite this locked in and lush, a byproduct of both a recording session with indie MVP Chris Walla and a greater focus on creating something as an all-hands, unified group. Songs like “Morning Zoo” and “It’s Alive” take relatively simple three- and four-chord ideas and turn them into headphone feasts, while the title track promises to beautifully break your heart every time you hear it.

In its dynamic journey of rises and falls, bombastic highs and gentle comedowns, The Window feels almost cinematic—not so much a concept album but an impeccably crafted one with recurring motifs of being on the outside looking in, and vice versa. These are deeply relatable songs that feel bigger than the humdrum of everyday living, splashed with bright colors and rich harmonies. It’s breathtaking when they opt for the majesty of “Black Earth, WI,” but certainly not any less so when Steiner asks “What’s the one thing you love?” in the hushed, acoustic closer “Bad Reaction.” It’s a question you shouldn’t have to think about to answer, a necessary grounding after nearly an hour spent peering through panes, head in the clouds, heart full and nearly bursting. – JT

Read More: Ratboys are growing together

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)

Treble is supported by its patrons. Become a member of our Patreon, get access to subscriber benefits, and help an independent media outlet continue delivering articles like these.

Scroll To Top