The 34 Best Albums of 2023 So Far

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best albums of 2023 so far

Every December, Treble’s writers offer a communal celebration of the music that resonated with us throughout the year. But six months before that, we like to offer a progress report on the music that’s gotten us halfway there. With the middle point of 2023 just a couple weeks away, that time has arrived.

Our list of the best albums of 2023 isn’t ranked—as we looked back on the 34 albums we liked most over the past six months (give or take a couple weeks), we simply opted to put them in alphabetical order. It’s a chance to get caught up and binge a batch of recent favorites—which is as good a reason to do this as any.


debby friday good luck review
Matador

Algiers – SHOOK

Pairing Backxwash and billy woods for the explosive lead single “Bite Back” was the first indication that Algiers were up to something big with their fourth album. SHOOK turned out to be massive. Their longest album yet, and with an incredible cast of collaborators (Zack de la Rocha! Samuel Herring! Big Rube!), SHOOK finds the group steering their haunted post-industrial songwriting through hip-hop, jazz and sound collage, harnessing joy, pain and community through a go-for-broke statement that feels like their most unified statement in spite of how wide it swings. It’s an album that takes a few listens to fully absorb, but only one to make you feel something. -Jeff Terich

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Merchbar (vinyl)


best albums of 2023 so far Arooj Aftab Vijay Iyer Shahzad Ismaily
Verve

Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer, Shahzad Ismaily – Love in Exile

Love in Exile opposes much of jazz’s improvisational tenets. It’s delicate rather than explosive, immersive rather than performative, and, most importantly, values the unspoken bond between bandmates rather than showcasing them. Jazz is as much about cooperation as it is about friendly competition; pushing your bandmates so their star can shine brighter. Aftab, Iyer, and Ismaily collectively avoid spotlights on Love in Exile, playing with an unspoken agreement to thrive in humility. Their pieces are sparse and evocative, as if they’re challenging each other to see who can impart as small of a footprint as possible. In reality, it’s not the music that drives the record, but the chemistry between the trio. It leaves you in awe of how compatible three people can be without sharing a single word. – Colin Dempsey

Listen/Buy: Spotify | Merchbar (vinyl)


best albums of 2023 so far Meg Baird
Drag City

Meg Baird – Furling

Meg Baird’s Furling feels remarkably familiar, with spiraling melodies and warm textures so immediate it’s like they exist outside time. Baird’s latest is an intentional pivot toward more direct songwriting. The Espers and Heron Oblivion player writes with a clearer lens than the spectral ambience she spun with harpist Mary Lattimore on 2018’s Ghost Forests. Heavily influenced by sharing a small domestic space with her collaborator and partner, guitarist Charlie Saufley, Furling is a celebration of the home, meditating greatly on the centrality of music in family life. There’s a pastoral element in Baird’s more pop-dominant formula, making for one of her most approachable collections yet. “Star Hill Song” is the type of song that convinces you to see Furling through, “Will You Follow Me Home?” will make you glad you did. These songs melt together as brilliantly as they shine on their own. Meg Baird’s latest is a must-listen. – Patrick Pilch

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Merchbar (vinyl)


best albums of 2023 so far bar italia
Matador

bar italia – Tracey Denim

A press-shy London group who share their name with a Pulp song and formerly released music on Dean Blunt’s World Music label, bar italia bridge British music’s not-too-distant past with a contemporary haze. Their Matador Records debut carries any number of early ’90s signifiers—baggy, shoegaze, slowcore—without being defined by them, the trio’s instrumental performances always working as a complementary whole, each piece spiraling and intertwining in a hypnotic lo-fi groove. The group successfully evokes an air of mystery without overselling it via corny gimmicks, just a set of wonderfully stark and chilly songs with a bright glow emanating from their core. -Jeff Terich

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)


big brave nature morte review
Thrill Jockey

Big|Brave – nature morte

After taking a detour through the creation of a brilliant folk record with The Body, Big|Brave are back to releasing emotionally devastating drone/post-metal. We’ve written glowingly about this record and for good reason: while drone-oriented work can often seem opaque to some listeners, Big|Brave have the uncanny ability to cut through the noise and slice deep into your heart, their sound bristling with desire and strain, like a flowing river. The tie to folk music on nature morte has cooked away to a chemical substrate, noticeable when you know to look for it but otherwise comfortable lingering in the background, making for their most powerful record yet. – Langdon Hickman

Read More: Big|Brave’s all-encompassing catharsis

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Merchbar (vinyl)


best albums of 2023 black country new road
Ninja Tune

Black Country, New Road – Live at Bush Hall

This writer was fortunate enough to catch one of Black Country, New Road’s live shows last summer, where eight of these nine new tracks received an outing. Snippets of the set inveigled their way into my dreams and are now firmly embedded there thanks to the release of this terrific live collection. Its music is more chiseled, intricate and theatrical than the band’s breakthrough Ants From Up There. There are moments of real beauty (“Turbines/Pigs” is jaw-droppingly pretty) as well as baroque whimsy (the pastoral fantasia “The Boy”) that reaffirms BC, NR’s place as one of the most bold and exciting acts to come out of the UK in many years. – Tom Morgan

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Turntable Lab (vinyl)


Bully Lucky For You review
Sub Pop

Bully – Lucky For You

On a purely aesthetic level, Bully’s evolution has been a gradual one, but in terms of their songwriting, the Nashville grunge-pop act has grown by leaps and bounds. Alicia Bognanno’s fourth album Lucky For You is at once her most adventurous and most emotionally affecting, addressing the unhealed wound of genuine grief and learning how to love yourself even when others are reluctant to do so. In the process, however, Bognanno takes every opportunity to add a stylistic left-turn, whether Madchestering up her shoegaze on “Hard to Love” or stripping away the big rock arrangements for a sparse, stunning ballad on “Ms. America.” That it still sounds so distinctively like Bully while dramatically opening up what that comprises is what makes Lucky For You such a triumph. – Jeff Terich

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)


best albums of 2023 so far Debby Friday
Sub Pop

Debby Friday – GOOD LUCK

Toronto’s Debby Friday isn’t a new artist per se, having released a pair of excellent EPs and a mixtape in 2018 and 2019. But GOOD LUCK, her proper debut album, feels like a necessary reintroduction to her eclectic artistic prowess. Friday bores a tunnel between the discotheque and the goth dungeon, infusing industrial rap with blues, building a cohesive statement from seemingly contradictory parts that work in a strange, cacophonous harmony. It takes a certain kind of confidence to juxtapose a menacing throb like “Hot Love” against the euphoric pop of “So Hard to Tell,” but Friday is a commanding presence, always finding harmony in these contradictions. In “Pluto Baby” she declares, “This is heaven/This is hell.” And she’s right. -Jeff Terich

Read More: Debby Friday’s Harmony in Dissonance

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)


depeche mode memento mori
Columbia

Depeche Mode – Memento Mori

After the death of longtime Depeche Mode member Andy Fletcher, Dave Gahan and Martin Gore recapture the kind of gripping emotional investment that the group last captured on 1997’s Ultra. Memento Mori is one of the strongest Depeche Mode albums in years, channeling their ’90s-era heights (which were underrated heights, to be sure), but rather than the drug-fueled introspection of the time, they offer a meditation on grief. It’s channelled into the grooves and melodies of these songs, breathing life into Gahan’s baritone croon while Gore picks up his guitar again. Dark and urgent, Memento Mori is a reminder of the kind of power that Depeche Mode first showcased more than three decades ago. – Wil Lewellyn

Listen/Buy: Spotify | Amazon (vinyl)


best albums of 2023 so far Black Thought
Big Crown

El Michels Affair & Black Thought – Glorious Game

Leon Michels, of El Michael Affair, is one of Black Thought’s favorite producers. He creates warm, lo-fi bottom-heavy productions, coined by Michels as “cinematic soul.” What better canvas for Black Thought, a top five all-time Emcee, to weave his stories, cautionary tales, and films yet to be made? Glorious Game is a collaborative project between the two foundational artists that conquers time, Kodachromes the past lives and experiences of Philly’s best on the mic, while Michels keeps that kick-drum soul rolling out dem blues for Tariq to bear witness. This is prime material, demonstrating how hip-hop improves with age. Since we no longer have Biggie, Phife, Dave of De La Soul, and so many others, Black Thought is carrying the flag, and at the age of 51, dude is still jut scratching the surface. Mark my words: I’ll be writing about this record again come Christmastime. – John-Paul Shiver

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Turntable Lab (vinyl)


yves tumor praise a lord review
Rabid/Mute

Fever Ray – Radical Romantics

Radical Romantics brought us both a reunion of The Knife (kinda) and two collaborations between Karin Dreijer and Nine Inch Nails, and yet somehow those these otherwise headline-stealing events are still runners up to Fever Ray’s overall vision. More muted than 2017’s Plunge, Radical Romantics makes the transition from that album’s animated celebration of queer sexuality toward something more quietly intimate. With a set of electronic arrangements that harbor layers to slowly unfold and reveal themselves with time, Karin Dreijer offers a more personal record than usual while avoiding the blinding spotlight. It may only be a glimpse, but it’s perhaps the most we’ve ever seen behind the mask. – Jeff Terich

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Turntable Lab (vinyl)


Gel Only Constant review
Convulse

GEL – Only Constant

The impressive grit that explodes from New Jersey’s GEL makes Only Constant one of the best hardcore albums of this still-developing year. The band don’t necessarily attempt to reinvent the wheel, but add their own unique flourishes along intertwining paths laid out by the likes of GISM and the Plasmatics to put forth an honest expression of anger. In a world closer to war than most of us care to admit, this album has been the sonic middle finger I have needed. Their razor-throated proclamations of creative destruction are possessed by a raw clarity of purpose in the face of rapid-fire guitars that attack the listener with metallic propulsion. – Wil Lewellyn

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp


best albums of 2023 so far Geld
Relapse

Geld – Currency // Castration

In the press release for their third album, Australian hardcore group Geld “offer no promise of a higher purpose or resolve.” This absolves an issue that confronts many releases in the genre; their intentions are obfuscated by wanton noise. Geld’s message is that their music serves no higher purpose and can be taken at face value. And what a face they have; more akin to a sunburned boar than a thick-necked mosh enforcer. In practice, this means Geld vary their tempos, crank up the fuzz on their production, and toy around with non-musical sounds their instruments can produce. As such, Currency//Castration is paradoxically coherent and chaotic, at times in combat with itself because the aspects that should be off-putting are legible. Luckily, both sides of that equation are in harmony with each other, cementing Currency//Castration as one of the year’s best violent hardcore records. – Colin Dempsey

Read More: The no-rules hardcore of Geld

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)


best albums of 2023 so far Tim Hecker No Highs
Kranky

Tim Hecker – No Highs

Playing like a fusion of Love Streams and his impeccable masterwork of a double-album with Konoyo/Anoyo, No Highs situates itself on the line between minimalist techno-backed ambient and orchestral scenework. Ignore the word “ambient” on the label; this is far too cinematic and symphonic in scope for that name to make much sense, instead being something closer to a heartstopper. I normally read while I listen to records but this one, as it roared in my ears, has a number of times forced me to shut the book, close my eyes and dive into its oceans. – Langdon Hickman

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)


JPEGMAFIA Danny Brown Scaring the Hoes review
AWAL

JPEGMAFIA & Danny Brown – Scaring the Hoes

Calling Scaring the Hoes “crusty” is a compliment of the highest order. Peggy and Brown had collaborated before on “Negro Spiritual” from Brown’s 2019’s album, uknowhatimsaying¿, but that track was, all things considered, tame. Conversely, Scaring the Hoes is the most “Danny Brown” that Danny Brown has sounded in a while, a walking wrecking crew of hedonism and giggles. Meanwhile, JPEGMAFIA is the straight man, countering Brown’s outrageousness with verses whose fingers are knuckle-deep in the pulse of internet references and professional wrestling samples. He has a tendency to suit his beats to his collaborators, meaning that he gets a ton to play with thanks to Brown’s eagerness. Whether it’s “Fentanyl Tester” and its dance club beats or the breakbeats lacing “Jack Harlow Combo Meal,” you can hear Peggy’s glee at working with someone who answers “yes” to every absurd idea. – Colin Dempsey


kelela raven
Warp

Kelela – Raven

The early singles Kelela released in the lead-up to Raven suggested that Kelela’s electronic impulses were leaning toward the classics—’80s and ’90s house and breakbeats, early rave and underground culture. That’s partially true, but even while acknowledging generations of Black and queer influence in shaping electronic music, Kelela does so with an eye toward the future. From opener “Washed Away,” it feels as if Kelela’s opened a portal to tomorrow, one punctuated with elements of vintage electronica but showcasing a dancefloor utopia where joy and melancholy are all offered the same uptempo BPM prescription. Beautiful, richly atmospheric and hauntingly nocturnal, Raven feels like the kind of night you’d never want to end. – Jeff Terich

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Turntable Lab (vinyl)


Khanate To Be Cruel review
Sacred Bones

Khanate – To Be Cruel

It’s safe to say that none of us entered 2023 with expectations of long-defunct drone-metal miscreants Khanate returning with their first set of new music in 14 years, but it’s been a pleasant surprise to hear them doing that very thing. Moreover, To Be Cruel—the first new music from the band since 2009—is their strongest album to date. Still haunted with the apparitions and antagonists of their past work, the group find a more interesting balance between pure abrasion and more exploratory, jazz-inspired improvisation like their peers and successors in Sumac. Massive, unpredictable and weird in ways only Khanate can be, To Be Cruel reinforces that even a reunited version of the band only knows a path forward. – Jeff Terich

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)


best albums of 2023 so far Yazmin Lacey
Self-released

Yazmin Lacey – Voice Notes

Yazmin Lacey’s debut full-length album, Voice Notes, is a self-reflective exploration of when the call comes from within. The digital sketchbook, created with beatsmiths David Okumu, Melo-Zed and JD. Reid, covers an hour—a 14-song cycle—allowing Lacey to wiggle with charm in those spacious waters of R&B adjacent music that pushes Betty Carter, Carmen McRae, Badu, Lauryn Hill and Sister Nancy into the future properties of Black music. Always the laid-back, less-is-more vocalist, finally, we get all the brilliance she’s been advertising through EPs over the past five years. She recounts the electronic music artist’s philosophy of self-consciousness being a creativity killer in the album’s intro, “Flylo Tweet,” while a cooler-than-your-best beats arrangement slaps in the wind behind her words.

“Pass It Back,” my favorite (I’m sure you’ll have yours), swings with attitude, funkin’ for the peoples, like something Kaidi Tatham would use to start off his DJ set. Yazmin lets off some comfortable steam from her psyche, then invites everyone to get down in the Sade-adjacent jam by providing the right atmosphere. Makes you wanna groove till sun up. – John-Paul Shiver

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)


mandy indiana i've seen a way review
Fire Talk

Mandy, Indiana – i’ve seen a way

On their unconventional and intense debut album, Manchester’s Mandy, Indiana offer up a scorching, abrasive brand of noise rock, wrapped in electronics and atypical recording techniques. Led by the keening pipes of Valentine Caulfield chanting leftist polemics in French, the group combines thundering drums, industrial synths and slicing guitars with absolutely terrific fury. The songs of i’ve seen a way showcase a sublime level of songwriting acumen, as volume, power, and intensity are wielded with tactical precision. It’s innovation without pretense, creativity without affectation, sincerity without naïveté. – Adam P. Newton

Read More: Mandy, Indiana want to rattle your bones

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)


Mega Bog End of Everything review
Mexican Summer

Mega Bog – End of Everything

Erin Birgy is one of the most distinctive singer/songwriters of the past decade, injecting doses of unflinching, aching honesty into poetic abstraction and equally abstract art-pop arrangements. End of Everything plays it a little more straight on that front, rendering her intricate melodies in more direct, hook-forward new wave songs washed in radiant synth tones while Birgy reflects on lived experiences dripping with both pain and hope. The title suggests something far more bleak, and though there’s more than enough anxiety and defeat to go around, the beauty in End of Everything is a beacon of light in itself—a reminder of the grace we can still find even in such a cruel world. – Jeff Terich

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)


best albums of 2023 so far Model Actriz
True Panther

Model/Actriz – Dogsbody

The defining quality of Dogsbody, the debut album by New York noise rock group Model/Actriz, is its physicality. Their shrieking guitar textures ebb, surge and throb, balancing on the cusp of violence and eroticism, vocalist Cole Hayden caught somewhere between ecstasy and utter breakdown. It’s not a comfortable listen—then again what noise rock ever is? But what separates Dogsbody from a group like Chat Pile is their ability transfer that physicality not strictly to the viscera but the loins, with an immediacy that feels a little weird, a little wrong even, but wildly fun and revelatory in spite of, or maybe even because of it. – Jeff Terich

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)


MSPAINT Post-American review
Convulse

MSPAINT – Post-American

“Synth-punk” is a nebulous term, one that conjures images of experimentalists of yore rather than vital acts on the contemporary hardcore scene. MSPAINT are firmly entrenched in the flourishing U.S. scene (their label Convulse also put out killer releases this year from the likes of Gel and Gumm) but are the only major act on it to use gooey, colorful synths instead of abrasive guitars. The idiosyncrasies don’t stop there. On their thrilling debut Post-American, MSAPAINT’s lyrics adopt a radically positive perspective, espousing optimism and the possibilities of the future. The closing lines of “Titan of Hope,” half-rapped/half-barked by frontman Deedee, surmise Post-American’s refreshing outlook: “my mindset is a titan of hope / go!” – Tom Morgan

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp


Kate NV wow review
RVNG Intl.

Kate NV – WOW

WOW is set in 2023’s number one tourist destination, a place without three-dimensional objects, stuffed with only the brightest colors, and where whimsy is the native tongue. It’s easier to describe Kate NV’s latest album with such flimsy descriptors because it flies in the face of conventional music language. It feels more like a location rather than an album since its sparkling palette is better suited to lounging than progressing, plays like a video game main menu, inviting you to join in on whatever hijinks it has up its sleeve, houses stories of fruits rolling out of wheelbarrows (how silly!), anthems celebrating ambivalence (“d d don’t”), and parades around like a bouncing ball on a squash court. It is, simply, relief. – Colin Dempsey

Read More: 10 Essential RVNG Intl. Albums

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)


best albums of 2023 so far Paramore
Atlantic

Paramore – This Is Why

Paramore’s sixth album This Is Why is a collection of 10 songs that each exude the kind of casual, confident musicianship that can only be wrung from a band who know exactly what they want to do and precisely how to deliver it. Enthusiasm for their craft bleeds through every bass groove, every stammering guitar riff, and every off-beat tap of the hi-hat, creating songs ranging from the dainty, dreamlike “Crave” to the more aggressive “The News,” which could just about fit onto Riot! if someone played around with the distortion. This feels like the album that Paramore have been building toward throughout their career, but even more inspiring, it’s the album that, until recently, Paramore didn’t realize they were capable of. – Ed Brown

Listen/Buy: Spotify | Turntable Lab (vinyl)


best new releases pile
Exploding in Sound

Pile – All Fiction

Pile established themselves as a left-field force in indie rock and post-hardcore through albums like 2012’s Dripping, but more than a decade on from that early career highlight, Rick Maguire and company stray further and further from conventional rock and punk music—to spectacular effect. It’s been a while since the group’s made anything you could call “straightforward,” but on All Fiction, the influence of musical shape-shifters like Björk permeates their sense of atmosphere. At times threatening to become an electronic or ambient pop album just in time for a thunderous rock climax, All Fiction is Pile as art-rock iconoclasts, spinning some of their most memorable songwriting from unlikely parts and becoming the strongest version of themselves yet. – Jeff Terich

Read More: Bandcamp | Merchbar (vinyl)


best albums of 2023 so far Pigsx7
Rocket

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs – Land of Sleeper

The former-industrial cities of the UK produce some incredible doom metal: Black Sabbath, My Dying Bride, Godflesh, Iron Monkey. Add to this list Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, from the Northern port city of Newcastle. The band’s take on the genre is gleefully fun, a mood that their latest (and best) album Land of Sleeper revels in. The riffs of “Big Rig” and “Mr Weatherman” are an accessible delight and prove why the band have garnered a following from beyond the metal sphere. While Land of Sleeper provides plenty of such thrills, more outré cuts such as “Ball Lightning” and the creepy “The Weatherman” also impress and effortlessly bend Pigs x7 into exciting new shapes. – Tom Morgan

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)


best albums of 2023 so far Andy Shauf norm
Anti-

Andy Shauf – Norm

On Andy Shauf’s Norm, delicate, twinkling instrumentals meld with Shauf’s tongue-in-cheek approach to lyricism, leaning into self deprecation at just the right moments, playing into the quietness of his nostalgic musings. Standout track “Wasted On You” employs violins to add a punctuated brashness to Shauf’s continued asking of whether or not his love was “wasted on you?” The album as a whole carries Shauf’s signature brand of soft rock, blending synths and wispy guitars to highlight yearning and hope. It bleeds with melancholia in a contented way, tackling Shauf’s inner monologue up and down charming synth melodies. – Virginia Croft

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Turntable Lab (vinyl)


Spotlights Alchemy for the Dead review
Ipecac

Spotlights – Alchemy for the Dead

The fourth album by Brooklyn trio Spotlights finds the group fully realizing who they are in a profound manner. More post-hardcore than metal, the soaring atmospheric intensity of Alchemy for the Dead finds the confines of even that term limiting. This hits the sweet spot of being sonically heavy, rather than strictly metal. Alchemy for the Dead is not fueled by aggression, but an in-your-face expulsion of wonderment, as their introspective lyrics and stunning vocals haunt both syncopated grooves and hypnotic riffs that drone heavenward. Yet, the band does so much more than simply dialing in the right sounds, but meticulously weaving them into some of their most memorable songs. – Wil Lewellyn

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)


Jessie Ware That Feels Good review
Interscope

Jessie Ware – That! Feels Good!

Here at Treble, we firmly believe that 2023 is the Year of Disco. At the top of that glittering mountain stands Queen Jessie in her regal splendor. On her scorching new album cheekily titled That! Feels Good!, Ware delivers an impeccably crafted project that revels in how loose and fun it is. These ten kinetic tracks simply can’t sit still, and she knows exactly when to get them a bit sweaty and then step back to air things out a bit. The music starts with thick bass grooves and syncopated snare strikes, undulates into the warm keys, and then flows into the slinky guitar riffs and horn bleats before finally achieving sweet release with Ware’s passionate alto. The entire project is unabashedly horny in the best way possible. – Adam P. Newton

Listen/Buy: Spotify | Amazon (vinyl)


best albums of 2023 so far Wednesday
Dead Oceans

Wednesday – Rat Saw God

As the specter of AI-created music dominated discourse in the first half of this year, Asheville, North Carolina’s Wednesday offered as stunning a rebuttal to the idea of a future of machine-learning listening material. Rat Saw God, Wednesday’s fourth album, wraps snapshots of autobiographical narratives in sense memories and trickles of nostalgia and trauma—teenagers having their stomach pumped from overdosing on Benadryl, drinking piss-colored Fanta and listening to Drive-By Truckers on a drive back from Dollywood, and starting fires in fields from setting off bottle rockets. Karly Hartzman’s affecting, funny and charmingly strange storytelling finds an equally idiosyncratic backing in Wednesday’s arrangements, leaping from hook-laden alt-country to dense, Sonic Youth style riffs, a mixture of sounds and experiences too specific, too weirdly human to come from anywhere else. Not to mention an algorithm could never come up with riffs this sick. – Jeff Terich

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)


billy woods kenny segal maps review
Backwoodz

billy woods and Kenny Segal – Maps

It’s hard to imagine a more Treblecore rap record than this. Fusing experimental electronic music, indie tones and textures and dirty street-level rhymes that hover with a post-MF Doom flow, it’s impossible to conceive of a world where Maps doesn’t place high for us. billy is in the midst of a wild hot streak and he knows it; while it’s up for debate whether it’ll unseat Aethiopes (our Album of the Year for 2022) as the greatest of his current streak, it absolutely will go down as a solid W rap record. His flow is, as always, the real weapon here, like a Voltron of all the best elements of Wu-Tang’s finest in their prime. He’s impossibly good. – Langdon Hickman

Read More: 10 Essential Backwoodz Albums

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)


best albums of 2023 so far yaeji with a hammer
XL

Yaeji – With a Hammer

It’s not often that a musician releases an album that outclasses all their preceding work, but Yaeji’s debut full-length With A Hammer drives a rift between itself and her previous releases through sheer quality. The New York/South Korean DJ and rapper seemingly entered the Hyperbolic Time Chamber at some point during the last three years, emerging as an artist operating on a whole new level, taking her previously-club-friendly beats somewhere wonkier. With A Hammer also dismantles the practice of using music as a means to self-identify. Instead, Yaeji employs it to self-reflect, filling her tracks with therapeutic revelations that came years after she processed her stifled emotions. That’s to say that With A Hammer overflows with lines that force you to inspect yourself and your beliefs, such as, “Isn’t it so weird how we learn to/ Pass down what we didn’t want to do?/ Isn’t it our mission this life to/ Break the cycles, make it make you mend the cycles?” – Colin Dempsey

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Turntable Lab (vinyl)


yo la tengo this stupid world best albums of 2023 so far
Matador

Yo La Tengo – This Stupid World

The title of Yo La Tengo’s last album of original, song-based material referenced Sly Stone in the midst of an America growing more tense by the day; its follow-up’s title seems to find the group throwing up their hands in resignation that nothing’s really gotten better since. But on This Stupid World, there’s a joy and a verve in spite of it—frustration and resignation as well, but never defeat. The band’s chemistry and sense of freedom is as strong as it’s ever been, yielding a set of songs that don’t feel bound by what’s come before yet fit in comfortably into the band’s body of work, from its softest meditations to its wildest distorted freakouts. If there’s still anxiety and uncertainty in Yo La Tengo’s music, they’re working through it the best way they know how—through the simple, immeasurable pleasure of making music together. – Jeff Terich

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Turntable Lab (vinyl)


yves tumor praise a lord
Warp

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

With a brash, bold and experimental approach, Yves Tumor crafts a fresh batch of explosive pop songs on Praise A Lord Who Chews… Each track showcases their evolving, consistently unconventional approach; “God Is A Circle” reads like a heavy take on ’90s alt-rock, while “Heaven Surrounds Us Like a Hood” leans into a psychedelic, funkier tone, and “Meteora Blues” has hints of post-punk in its stripped-down guitar sound. While each song may have its own identity, there is a cohesion within the music that binds them together, the album finding its own niche, brimming with life. – Virginia Croft

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Turntable Lab (vinyl)


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