Wednesday 20 December 2023

The Top 50 Albums of 2023

The Top 50 Albums of 2022
A ballerina spinning on her toes fades to the Earth dancing around the sun. A new year come and gone, events dotting our timeline like the pearls circling her neck. Elated jumps and minor tumbles are part of the game, but the music keeps on playing, more now than ever, overwhelming listeners who struggle to know where to turn. With so much material, how do we distinguish the gems from the dirt? Ah, don't worry about a thing, baby! I've done it for you!

Flashback! Remember 2022? That was a tricky jig where I suddenly made awkward eye contact with my mortality. That year did not inspire the same joy of some that came before, and as any respectable music consumer should, I blamed myself entirely. If you ever find yourself saying stupid shit to the effect of, "They sure don't make music like they used to," just know you are getting old. And maybe I was getting old. The musical landscape appeared to be moving on without me, losing the connection I once bragged about so fearlessly.

Thankfully, my concerns were baseless, and 2022 was to blame, after all. Duds are to be expected from time to time, but not all the time. Exhibit A: 2023. A superb year of music! Rivalling the best of the decade thus far. I am still young! Ish!

My loudest relief arrived in the form of rappity rap hip-hoppity hops. Several years have rolled on by where I found this genre lacklustre or even embarrassing. But now the cycle has blasted from the ground into the stratosphere, giving us its strongest run in recent memory. Another significant contender for the style-of-the-year conversation is the happy-sad-girl pop, which was everywhere. Furthermore, the trend of super-long records grew in prevalence, which is not a practice I condone. I'm busy, ffs! Still, there is a glimmer of power in this approach. Cast your mind back to when everyone said the death of the album was imminent, and that the industry would splinter into singles-based packages due to the ADHD digital age. Let's agree that this prediction was incorrect and has died.

2023 was my 14th year of scrubbing the corners of the music scene, and the project hardly stresses me out anymore. The mental process is automated, and the system knows how to shut out the noise and focus on albums using a simple yet effective prerequisite: I have to remember them. So many technically excellent records fall out of the skull the moment the closer dissipates to silence. Conversely, excruciatingly painful records claw at my nightmares, forcing their way into a slot. You may think this protocol would produce a list catered to my tastes, and you'd be right. This is MY list. However, I listen to and appreciate every genre, which means I aim to represent the full spectrum of the musical train below.

Simply put, you WILL find something you love. It is GUARANTEED. It has been designed that way.

I listened to 445 albums this year. Here are the best 50.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Nuovo Testamento - Love Lines

50. Nuovo Testamento - Love Lines

Italo-Disco Dance-Synthpop
3 March 2023

Exploding from the 80s right into 2023, it feels unfathomable to experience something so brazenly retro coming at us under the guise of "new music". Yet it doesn't appear as some a nostalgic cash-grab due to Nuovo Testamento's sheer proficiency at yanking us back onto the long-forgotten disco floor where the colours and dance moves have never lost their appeal. It's such a thrill to hear modern people making tunes like these, and while it's a touch samey-same throughout, that's more a genre flaw, no? And if you're intentionally doing a thing, then why would you veer from it, anyway?

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Nuovo Testamento - Love Lines

49. Monika Roscher Bigband - Witchy Activities and the Maple Death

Experimental Avant-Progressive Big Band Pop
5 May 2023

Witchy Activities and the Maple Death has such an excess of strange colours that its talent can be nauseatingly uncomfortable. Every crevice is stuffed with a different instrument to summon some mythological beast of pagan order, moving in to swallow your life within a swirl of psychedelic energy and technical prowess. It's fun and scary, but at over an hour, it could also prove too heavy for many to bear. Thankfully, they've thought of that, and the best songs are right at the end, sending you off with a smile on your face and a permanent streak of bright paint across your brain.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Blut aus Nord - Disharmonium - Nahab

48. Blut aus Nord - Disharmonium - Nahab

Atmospheric Avant-Garde Black Metal
25 August 2023

Irrespective of whatever you were listening to before, turn up your volume at least one notch for this horror show. There are layers here which are terrifyingly otherworldly, dwelling deep beneath the heaviness, and you must go to them. If demons made music, this would be it. It is no easy feat to create something so inhuman yet without completely losing the musical ability. For even in its dark wonkiness and buried indecipherable vocals, there is an undeniable talent inside of what this band does.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Underscores - Wallsocket

47. Underscores - Wallsocket

Indietronica Electropop Rock
22 September 2023

There’s one person here, but she sounds like a full band. There are 12 songs here, but each is enjoyable, not an ounce of fat. And there’s a 90s indie flavour here, but maybe that’s what the scene needs? If not, the massive injection of dance-pop vibes straight to the heart will flood your system with the precise fun energy the doctor ordered; proficient at the comedic upper songs but competent at mellowing down without taking itself too seriously. Keep an ear out for that sample-use, too, as they are never utilised as icing but instead build the songs as integral components to the compositions in a casual way. I guess sometimes it’s just nice to enjoy music without getting too clever about it, you know? That said, there is something very clever about this.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Jessie Ware - That! Feels Good!

46. Jessie Ware - That! Feels Good!

Disco Dance-Pop
28 April 2023

First and foremost, I LOVE Jessie Ware. LOVE LOVE LOVE. Her debut was on my Top Albums article in 2012, and I featured her last release on my 2020 collection, so there's all the proof I need. And now we have That! Feels Good!, a record every reviewer is worshipping on such an elevated pedestal that it's towering far above anything I understand. Granted, each song sounds like an infectious single and comes with sneaky manoeuvres that are out of the ordinary. But is it really as wonderful as everything she's done before? Maybe. I fear it is, and I'm the one who does not get it. Hence, I am future-proofing my ass and placing it on this list in case that its click is in the mail. But let it be known that if everyone agreed that this record was a slight disappointment, I'd be more inclined to fall that way. Soz, Jessie!

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. leroy - Grave Robbing

45. leroy - Grave Robbing

Hard Dance Dariacore Mashup
20 July 2023

What sets Grave Robbing apart from other mashup albums is that the samples are not the star of the show. Instead of those “aha” moments of directly stolen song recognitions, the snippets are madly detailed bricks to insulate the overall picture. How such a project bypasses the royalties nightmare is a mystery to me. Still, I’m thrilled it’s here, rushing out with a speedy excess of energy to provide something that is not only danceable fun but also a brutal pounding to the headache.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. PinkPantheress - Heaven Knows

44. PinkPantheress - Heaven Knows

Contemporary Alt-Electronic R&B Dance Pop
10 November 2023

When I talk about our current era of happy-sad girl pop, PinkPantheress represents the team perfectly. Her hooky vocals long for romantic fulfilment which tugs on our emotions, but thanks to the vibey electronic beats, the experience uplifts us into our dancing step, song after song, until it ends too soon with an aftertaste of honey. PinkPantheress has been a conversation for a hot minute, and her debut proves we weren’t wasting our breath. Even if it's nothing new, it doesn’t have to be. Just do what you do, and do it well!

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Eartheater - Powders

43. Eartheater - Powders

Electronic Art Pop
20 September 2023

Eartheater has one of the most unique and instantly recognisable vocal styles in the Strange Folk scene. However, her former artistic decision to sing over equally interesting music has fallen away, with Powders taking part in a far more digestible trip-hoppy electro-art landscape. As a result, here is her “normal” album, decidedly “ordinary” in the context of her previous offerings, which may be considered a bad thing, depending on your position. But once you deal with such disappointments, you cannot deny the beats serve her so voice well, and perhaps this record could be remembered as the point where Eartheater’s revered avant-gardeness turned to conquer the mainstream. That said, the System of a Down cover is a funny yet terribly executed dip on the album, and is wholly skippable.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Nation of Language - Strange Disciple

42. Nation of Language - Strange Disciple

15 September 2023

God bless you, Rough Trade! In your compulsion to be forever obscure in your Album of the Year choices, you've nailed something genuinely special in 2023, introducing many otherwise ignorant listeners to the catchy world of Nation of Language (myself included). With the romantic, melancholic vocals that could be Morrissey at a stretch, the midi synthyness is this project's primary bragging right because it's delivered without shame, embracing itself for what it is, laying out a cohesive sound across a quality of consistency. And how about that five-opening track run? That's one of the best rows of initial songs you'll hear on a 2023 project.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Gezebelle Gaburgably - Gaburger

41. Gezebelle Gaburgably - Gaburger

Slacker Indietronica Pop Rock
4 July 2023

Noise so fuzzy and playful you want to scratch it behind the ears! This album’s selling point is its number of standout tracks, surpassing the usual “keep rolling the dice until we get lucky” style that the lo-fi slacker pop genre is famous for. An upbeat energy lifts the catchy choruses while her nervous, self-deprecating lyrics return them down to earth, landing in a package that the artwork manages to capture in some indirect manner. Part of me hopes this record gets the attention it deserves because what could Gezebelle achieve with an actual producer? Then again, does her craft require an ugly messiness to thrive? Just like the snails? Regardless, I am looking forward to what she does next!

Janthopoyism: Your New Religion

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. MSPAINT - Post-American

40. MSPAINT - Post-American

Post-Hardcore Synth Punk
10 March 2023

With a band name like this, how could you go wrong? You can’t! The hard-hitting joy of this record is hilariously aggressive, with catchy sing-a-long (or shout-a-long, rather) vocals over unashamedly synthy music; the components rebelling against each other yet collaborating in a gloriously jagged pixelated manner. Delete It is one of my Songs of the Year. Hardwired is very close.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Aesop Rock - Integrated Tech Solutions

39. Aesop Rock - Integrated Tech Solutions

Abstract Conscious East Coast Hip Hop
10 November 2023

Revolving around the concept of technology and consumerism, meet Integrated Tech Solutions. Like the majority of Aesop Rock albums, it's comparable to listening to a comic book, proving that audio can be brightly technicoloured in a way nobody else does. And while it's dazzling to remember that he makes these beats himself (and they're so dope!), it's his smarty-pants flow that rivals some of the best out there. As if a storyteller comedian, he's SAYING stuff, fictional adventure vibes, which is refreshingly ego-free and unlike anything you've heard before. That said, it's a lot of quirk for such a long runtime, and occasionally I do get the sense, like... what are you even talking about, bro? Still, his discography is enormous now and features five or six of the millennium's most essential hip-hop records, which includes Integrated Tech Solutions, so there.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Tenhi - Valkama

38. Tenhi - Valkama

Dark Folk
9 June 2023

How dark can folk go? Let me show you. Tenhi’s first album in 12 years is as devastating as a funeral and as eerie as if the said funeral was held in a haunted forest. I’m convinced it is an experiment at bringing the mood as low as possible without resorting to manipulative strings or metal wails of anguish. Instead, it is acoustic minimalism that depends on the richness of the composition, achieving so much sadness with so little energy spent. They’re Finnish, which makes more sense than any other location.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Wednesday - Rat Saw God

37. Wednesday - Rat Saw God

Alt-Country Indie Noise Rock
7 April 2023

We need the yearly reminders that the simple lockjaw of noise rock will never lose its grip on the modern indie scene, and Rat Saw God could be argued as 2023’s hero piece. Scraping the circumference of the genre to artistically present its emotional splinters, the occasional country twangs give Wednesday an additional boost, sticking into my memory so forcibly that it can’t even compare to itself.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Model/Actriz - Dogsbody

36. Model/Actriz - Dogsbody

Industrial Noise Rock Dance-Punk
24 February 2023

Panic stations, everybody! If you're faced with a day when abrasive industrial noise just isn’t fucking you up enough, give Model/Actriz a try. With frontman Cole Haden’s awkward self-loathing smeared on top, there’s an original type of discomfort to what this band does, guaranteed to make you feel more disgusting the longer you dance to it. Not bad for a debut!

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Liturgy - 93696

35. Liturgy - 93696

Avant-Garde Black Metal
24 March 2023

When an avant-garde black metal album is one hour and 20 minutes long, you've just got to surrender to the thing. But hear me now: they do not waste a second of that time, covering so much ground that you might as well build a country here. The vocals are balanced between screechy forward attacks and softer harmonising backings that exemplify the genre perfectly yet are the least talented pieces on offer. Rather, it's the technical prowess of the music that tosses you around like an anatomical therapy doll, shaking your limbs, sometimes for 15 minutes a pop, sometimes for only one minute. And while the glitchy production trick is so overused, I've never grown sick of it, and then suddenly a dainty flute joins the song, and you really question your survival. It takes a lot for a metal record to impress me these days, let alone hit my top 50, but 93696 proves it can be done.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Mega Bog - End of Everything

34. Mega Bog - End of Everything

New Wave Art Synthpop
19 May 2023

Using unapologetic retro synths, Mega Bog may take its every cue from yesteryears, but it does so in a unique manner that brings something different to the party than what you'd expect. Without a song or a note or a breath of filler, its slumberous romances conceal a sophisticated style of mystery, which I think can be best described through the following lyrics from their song Anthropocene, which goes: “City skies turn black in the daytime. See a burnt-up alligator. What the fuck?” We’ve all been there.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. dodheimsgard - Black Medium Current

33. dodheimsgard - Black Medium Current

Progressive Avant-Garde Metal
14 April 2023

It may not be evident upon first listen, but Black Medium Current is hiding a secret. Initially, you might foolishly consider this album a standard (albeit remarkably talented) Norwegian black metal affair. But as it goes on, with its boundless stylistic shifts and moments of modernised surprises, you start to uncover the truth: this is hilarious. But is it intentionally hilarious? Or are we mocking the sermon? Are we in on the joke? Or are we the joke? The fact that we can’t tell makes it even funnier because whatever it is doing, it’s serious about it, never letting up on the joke if there is even a joke here because you don’t actually know. But once you know you don’t know, it’s even more lols, because whether it’s meant to be funny or not is a question that makes it funnier still. At the same time, it’s no joke because the songwriting skills are undeniably a solid chunk of metal regardless, representing the genre with style, but also, hahaha.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Sprain - The Lamb as Effigy

32. Sprain - The Lamb as Effigy

Experimental Post-Noise Rock
1 September 2023

Apologies. This review is about to come across as overly critical. But the album made the list, right? I obviously love a lot about it. For example, the nihilistic lyrics that are delivered by unhinged vocals on top of noisy instruments that forever makes unpredictable left turns... that's the post-hardcore record that every year deserves, and The Lamb as Effigy is a respectably demented forerunner. However, there are some unnecessary annoyances, such as extending the songs to where they have no business being, with two 24-minute pieces that don’t add anything to the experience except to aggravate a nightmarish endurance test. If they removed 30 minutes from this project, it’d not only remain over an hour, it’d be a modern classic. In additional complaints, I get the sense that the vocal wails are, at times, disingenuous, as if cashing in on the contemporary breed of dissonant dominoes Daughters set in motion in 2018, but now a copy of a copy of a copy. Perhaps this album will do down in history as the final nail in that coffin of derivatives? Regardless, my biggest gripe is that we’re listening to a special offering here, and I had faith that Sprain could ultimately refine themselves to find something even better. But instead, they went and broke up, so fuck them.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Lil Yachty - Let's Start Here.

31. Lil Yachty - Let's Start Here.

Neo-Psychedelia Rock
27 January 2023

Haters call it derivative, but let's analyse the market. What's more saturated? Trap Pop Rap? Or Neo-Psychedelia? I know my answer. Irrespective of whether you think it's a generic play at the genre or not, such an alteration of one's roots is no easy feat to pull off. But Lil Yachty's reinvention is not only a step in a respectable direction, but he's fully competent at it, evidently paying attention to all the spacey greats, inspired by the likes of Pink Floyd to Tame Impala and even Radiohead artsies for extra security. What could possibly go wrong? You may reject it like many have, but how can you be mad when it's so good? I don't care what anyone says, anyway. This album is far out, man.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Hail the Sun - Divine Inner Tension

30. Hail the Sun - Divine Inner Tension

711 August 2023

What the fuck is Swancore? Within a minute of runtime, I am like, oh god no, eject this emu crap immediately. Two songs later, I am headbutting my laptop in a fit of passion. The inventive structures and soaring vocals bypassed every anti-whinecore tastebud I'd developed by never placing a single misstep, but that is hardly sufficient. Instead, Divine Inner Tension made my precious list based solely on the profound lyrics, which are frequently the best I've heard in years. For example, this topical offering from Tithe:

Fight or flight, escape it,
Zion is their torture chamber.
This always happens,
We cannot let this get out,
All our sermons are important,
But business comes first.
Casket cradle innocence,
Scripture for my benefit,
And if you think the heavens chose you to lead,
Then you can do nothing wrong.

Or this fresh honesty from Chunker:

If you stare at my reflection long enough,
You'll see a sovereign, you'll see what you wish you saw.
And all my life I've been so stubborn in this way,
I'd rather see them crash and burn or have to pay.
Enemies fueling my thoughts, taking up space,
Why do I have to be so fucking spiteful?
And if I suffer, they should suffer, that's what I want
It gets me nowhere and I'm aware it just makes it worse.

I wake up with these songs in my head. Man, if I were still an emotionally vulnerable kid, this album would destroy me because I'm nearly 40, and I FEEEEEL this shit.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. JPEGMAFIA & Danny Brown - SCARING THE HOES


Experimental Hardcore Hip Hop
24 March 2023

Shove JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown in the same room, and what did you think was going to happen? Absolute cartoon carnage, of course, with so much hyper quirk that 16-bit candy and rotten teeth explodes from every song. But while the key duo are at their utmost do-not-give-a-fuckery, the beats have far more flash than the flow. The sliders are set to the red, clipping be damned, as the jam-packed slop of production is best described as “sparkly chaos”. Take these joys with one of the funniest album names of 2023, and you’re not going to find hip-hop like this anywhere else, standing tall above an uncharacteristically excellent year in the genre anyway.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Kesha - Gag Order

28. Kesha - Gag Order

Electronic Alt-Pop
19 May 2023

Kesha records are either hit or miss, never between. But when she knocks a home run—a feat Kesha's achieved, like, three times now—she gifts us with such a skew calibre of experimental pop that she cements her name as a star in a sky of her own creation. Her woes have been public knowledge for a long time, but Kesha reaches her peak when she uses this turmoil as inspiration, and Gag Order illustrates this achievement perfectly. It is a project driven by an insecure heart, yet within the healing process, a coherent spiritual awakening runs through these songs, collaborating to create a piece greater than its parts. It works. It sticks. And if this isn't her best album, then it's most definitely the most well-produced, but also, yeah, this is her best album, right?

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Yaeji - With a Hammer

27. Yaeji - With a Hammer

Glitch Pop
7 April 2023

Yaeji's long-awaited debut moves like it's made from interlocking segments, fluidly passing through a cute atmosphere that is soft but never light due to the danceable beats that regularly drop their hammers onto the clean production to ensure we keep up. And as she flips between Korean and English, Yaeji shows off herself as someone who knows how to maintain interest even if her smarty-pop substitutes and ambition for originality don't always bear fruit. So, no, it's not a perfect record. But it holds some of the year's best songs, and that's enough.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Katie Gately - Fawn / Brute

26. Katie Gately - Fawn / Brute

Post-Industrial Art Pop
31 March 2023

There's an entrancing curiosity to this record, like venturing into an fairy tale woods at midnight, aware that you probably shouldn't, and yet there's something so familiar about this place that you can't turn back now. It's a peculiar experience, but it isn't going out of its way to be so, rather an egg naturally laid from the moon, deliciously rich in protein but might make a lesser person sick. Unfortunately, there is a slight midway-sag, but even in that, there's an illustration of just how calculated this record is, striking you in the beginning, then lulling you into a false sense of fatigue before re-smashing you at the very end, leaving a strong aftertaste of forest egg lingering. 2023 has unfairly overlooked this beauty, so come join us in the know. It's nice here.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Swans - The Beggar

25. hemlocke springs - going…going…GONE!

Bedroom Synthpop
29 September 2023

If you are craving that infectious pop that doesn’t sacrifice danceability for kooky eccentricity or vice versa, then you won’t find anything as satisfying as Hemlocke Springs’ debut release. And the greatest compliment I can give is this: EPs have never qualified for my lists, but I changed the rules for this one alone. There are seven songs here, each competing for the best pop tracks of the year. Heck, the EP itself may even be the most solid EP I’ve ever heard.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. DJ Sabrina the Teenage DJ - Destiny

24. DJ Sabrina the Teenage DJ - Destiny

13 August 2023

Four hours of music, wtf, Sabrina! When you're busy, that's, like, giving up your whole day for one record! And to make the journey even more daunting, our DJ is not known for her versatility, with an album that is essentially made from the same long song. But what a song! Her signature layers upon layers of love-infused vocal samples gleam from astoundingly perfect production that is, somehow, unmistakably her. It's dopamine on tap so undiluted that I wish she'd been around when I was a teenager, coming off drugs, where this album may have saved my life. So what can you do? You accept it, commit to it, and then let go. And once you reach that point of surrender, you realise that this record is so unobtrusive and cohesive that you can break out of it and jump back into it whenever you want, and it won't disrupt the experience in the slightest. Plus, it's so enjoyable that you'll ultimately admit that you wouldn't care if it kept going for literally fucking ever.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Tim Hecker - No Highs

23. Tim Hecker - No Highs

Ambient Electroacoustic
7 April 2023

Tim Hecker is the best of the best in the modern ambient scene, or progressive electroacoustic scene, or minimalist drone scene, or whatever this is. What is it? Well, it’s music without being music, pushing its audio onward and building the creep with the finickiest of details, doing just enough to be... something. I’ve listened to and loved each of Hecker’s eleven studio albums, and No Highs is high up there with his finest of the fine. But what I appreciate about everything he’s done is that they’re inadvertently interactive experiences. They’re just there. If you wish to use them in conjunction with other things, like reading or writing or simply experiencing life lost in thought, they can provide that soundtrack. However, if you wish to actively participate, you can melt into it, becoming one with it, as immersive as you’ll allow it to go.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Noname - Sundial

22. Noname - Sundial

Conscious Jazz Hip Hop
11 August 2023

Sundial may present those smooth, laid-back beats and intriguing (at times controversial) choice of guest stars, but Noname is the name, and Noname is the star. In a year of solid hip-hop, she nudges her way above the norm based on her lyrical talent alone. Her rhymes are clever in both structure and message, egolessly offering clued-up perceptions while firing some risky subtext shots if you can keep up with them. But beyond even this, is that Noname sounds like she’s rapping with a smile from the beginning to the end, which is an appreciated enhancer to the journey even if our time together is over far too quickly.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Sufjan Stevens - Javelin

21. Sufjan Stevens - Javelin

Indie Chamber Folk
6 October 2023

Analysing Sufjan's erratic catalogue, the evidence is undeniable: the artist performs at his best when mourning the death of someone he loved. The passing of his partner, Evans Richardson, dictated this album's theme, which harkens to his 2015 masterpiece Carrie & Lowell, which itself revolved around the death of his mother. However, where Carrie & Lowell's folk acoustics devastated the listener, Javelin's sadness is brightened using colourful electronics reminiscent of 2010's The Age of Adz, another of the artist's defining moments. This combination of the two styles Stevens has perfected did the trick, unsurprisingly crumpling critics into grieving heaps. And even if I find the reaction a touch overstated, one cannot deny that Sufjan is very proficient at handing the bleakness over to you.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. KNOWER - Knower Forever

20. KNOWER - Knower Forever

Synth Jazz-Funk
2 June 2023

Energetic funk licks and jazzy percussions boost a soft voice filled with expletives into the sky, bouncing the listener along in pure delight. I'll be the first to admit that some songs are better than others. But not because some songs are bad. It's because the good songs live in the highest quality bubble of 2023 tracks (I'm the President knocks on the upper rungs of my ladder, btw). Still, the top-heavy initial run and the gut-nudge closer prove their ordering was pedantically organised, effortlessly running to the end, encouraging repeated visits, always a good time to listen, listen to it now, Knower Forever.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Swans - The Beggar

19. Pile - All Fiction

Indie Art Rock
17 February 2023

As a long-time fan, I am forever impressed at Pile’s ability to captivate me in ways the majority of bands struggle to achieve. However, during the last several years, their trajectory wavered as if they were trying to accomplish something yet could not ultimately find a landing. Such uncertainties have historically broken bands, either retreating to familiar ground or doubling down to prove their vision. But not Pile. Instead, with All Fiction, their attempts are made clear as they finally locate the perfect spot to insert the knife. And it hurts. It really hurts, not as the most distraught album in the world, not even close, but immensely troubled in no immediately obvious manner. This confusing sadness sets me low, makes me want to give up, and sometimes, that’s exactly how I want to feel. Life can be beautiful from down there. And so can this record, as perhaps even their best thus far. I don’t say that lightly.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Carly Rae Jepsen - The Loveliest Time

18. Carly Rae Jepsen - The Loveliest Time

28 July 2023

Following the 2022 gem, The Loneliest Time, Jepsen has lifted herself as the lowkey queen of pop by releasing this b-side companion piece. Somehow, it not only sounds better than the a-side collection but also sounds better than just about any other radio album in recent memory. Her secret to uccess is exactly that: a secret. Sure, we could discuss her ability to compose the most infectious hooks on the planet since the early 2010s. We could also praise her desire to pen commercial music that never lets go of its optimistic love, pumping life into our Fridays or nurturing our broken hearts on Mondays as a brand new genre I’m calling "healing pop". But none of this explains the adoration people have for her. She transcends elitism, whereby I’ve even spoken to metalhead snobs who proudly confess that “Carly Rae Jepsen is pretty good.” That’s incredible and wholly unexplainable.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Mandy, Indiana - I've Seen a Way

17. Mandy, Indiana - I've Seen a Way

19 May 2023

The vocals may threaten you in French, but the hard industrial is unmistakably German, the band representing their Manchester-Paris-Berlin bases proudly in equal measures. They are byproducts of their environments, and could never happen without this precise blend. As a result, the sinister aura of I've Seen a Way does not let up, void of bad songs, even though there are tent-pole tracks that lift the project over the entire electronic landscape. This sentiment applies like superglue to Pinking Shears, which I reckon was the song I listened to the most in 2023, with no other luring me back in quite the same way.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Swans - The Beggar

16. Swans - The Beggar

Experimental Post-Rock
23 June 2023

As always, Swans are unmistakably Swans, but Michael Gira has spent a career edging forward, honing the craft he has invented, every album getting sharper, more focused, and closer to... what??? I’m not sure we should ask. Regardless, there are clues as to where we’re going on The Beggar. Gira’s signature ugly meets beauty aesthetic still festers here, but the beauty is gaining dominance. Most Swans records overpower the senses. This one’s madness has mellowed out into subtle accessibility, calling you to peer deeper in, deeper, deeper, and then you tumble down, gone. As you'd expect, the runtime is a challenge, crossing the two-hour mark, which includes a 43 minute track, an album inside an album. But that goes for every Swans record for the last two decades, so no surprises there. But what is a surprise is that, within context of all their achievements, this record, somehow, comes out as one of their finest works yet.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Sofia Kourtesis - Madres

15. Sofia Kourtesis - Madres

Deep Latin House
27 October 2023

The line separating humans and machines blurred beyond recognition in 2023, but the collaboration between Sofia Kourtesis and her anaesthetising breed of repetitive house music offers hope for what our future may look like. The chilled beats comes with spiritual properties while her traditional Peruvian flavouring is stirred within, producing one of the more soothing electronic debuts in recent memory. It’s pretty much perfect for what it is.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. きくお [Kikuo] - きくおミク7 (Kikuo Miku 7)

14. きくお [Kikuo] - きくおミク7 (Kikuo Miku 7)

Art Pop
21 March 2023

The Japanese have mastered a particular flavour of pop, and only when listening to Kikuo's seventh offering did I realise how long it has been absent from my life. But this album is THAT thing, capturing the instant-stick big-eyed anime cuteness in audio format but with creepy undertones, subtly hiding beneath the happy-clappiness that crawls further out per every listen. The amount of mood-layers on any given song are incalculable, and yet there is no conflict, everything functioning to a higher gleam of near-perfection (even if it can't resist the occasional truck driver's gear change, which I automatically deduct points for, fuck you, Kikuo).

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Christine and the Queens - Paranoïa, Angels, True Love

13. Christine and the Queens - Paranoïa, Angels, True Love

Alt-Art Pop
9 June 2023

Something about Chris’ brand of self-important synthpop has annoyed me for years, so when he announced a 90-minute triple record, the preceding cringe was automated. It’s a typical move at this point in someone’s career; a fourth album leap into indulgence, a platform we’ve witnessed so many people miss and plummet. It’s a bad look, and it’s difficult to recover from. However, within seconds of Paranoïa, Angels, True Love, I exhaled my troubles, and by the end, I realised he’d bypassed my preconceived unfairness, and I was forced to reevaluate myself rather than evaluate this record. The spacious production is in no rush to deal track after track that builds upon its epic stage, each worth the time and not a single composition better off cut. There are only a handful of examples in history where such an ambition has been fulfilled so successfully. and when Chris manages to hook Madonna for not one but three feature slots, we can almost see the sword of pop royalty hovering over his shoulders.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. George Clanton - Ooh Rap I Ya

12. George Clanton - Ooh Rap I Ya

Baggy Neo-Psychedelia Chillwave
28 July 2023

If you've been paying attention, you'll note the baggy genre creeping back above the musical landscape and making a proper go for it. My love for the style is so all-consuming that I wonder if Ooh Rap I Ya is as good as it sounds or if it just so happens to have fallen on my tongue at the exact right time as the quintessential baggy album of the modern era? Is that how music works? Either way, it offers a specific flavour of that loose swagger, and it's pretty bulletproof in its filler-less execution, which is easier to do when you're clocking in at under 40 minutes. If anything, it ends too quickly. One final shout-out to the Hatchie guest slot, another baggy frontliner who is only here to add lamination, not to steal the show, proving an artistry that did not need to be proven.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. ANOHNI and the Johnsons - My Back Was a Bridge for You to Cross

11. ANOHNI and the Johnsons - My Back Was a Bridge for You to Cross

7 July 2023

Already boasting an impressively critically treasured backlog, Anohni has finally dropped her masterpiece. With the musical chops that serve the soul genre by its very name, it is our front lady who yanks the spotlight upon herself. She was never the most gifted singer, but she uses her vocals in a manner that no other voice will do: shaky and vulnerable, dedicating every beat of her heart to cut out her emotions and spread them flat like an animal hide, ready for us to treat with our tears. If this isn’t the most flawless record you hear this year, I’d love to know what you’re listening to.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Yeule - Softscars

10. Yeule - Softscars

Dream Pop Indietronica
22 September 2023

I’ve chanted Yeule’s name for years, but she has transcended my little voice and is finally getting the praise she deserves, no longer mine to tout, like a mechanical bird flying free from my hands. I’m happy for her, but it breaks my heart the tiniest bit; my grief further agonised in that she seems happier than ever. Her glitchy bleakocore nightmare (which I adored) has been pushed aside for something far dreamier and more melancholic than her former outright self-hatred. But what Softscars lost in the reboot, it gained with stylised production and pleasurably psychedelic pop, amalgamating to create one of the rarest creations you’ll find in music: an album that is an instant stick and a grower at the same time. Moreover, everything orbits the star of the show, Yeule, whose character alone is enough to guarantee my loyalty for decades to come.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Kara Jackson - Why Does the Earth Give Us People to Love?

09. Kara Jackson - Why Does the Earth Give Us People to Love?

Contemporary Chamber Folk
14 April 2023

Kara Jackson’s debut’s secret is its simplicity, achieving so much with so little, building its arty smarts tall upon soft ground, risking a saggy structure yet avoiding that altogether. Instead, it’s an exercise in introspective exploration, exposing her profound depth and producing something of substance which is as boundlessly genuine as it is intimately captivating. When I think of outstanding 2023 records, this album is one of the top examples that always comes to mind.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Łona x Konieczny x Krupa - TAXI

08. Łona x Konieczny x Krupa - TAXI

Conscious Jazz Hip Hop
13 October 2023

Łona is regarded as one of the greatest lyricists in Poland, but I have no idea because I don’t speak Polish. It would be nice to understand what he’s saying, but in this comes the additional advantage of foreign rap. The words don’t overshadow the show. We can pay extra attention to the production. And in the case of TAXI, the production raises the bar. The beats are so clean, with careful awareness of the smaller details, but more importantly, they do not rely on loops. They are genuine compositions, proving that modern hip-hop does not need to rely on cringy gimmicks or surrender to old-school ethics to impress. Because this spreads its talents across every taste of the musical spectrum, and is as fresh as it gets. 2023 was already hip hop’s best of the decade. TAXI is just about the best of that.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Lana Del Rey - Did you know that there's a tunnel under Ocean Blvd

07. Lana Del Rey - Did you know that there's a tunnel under Ocean Blvd

Alt-Chamber Art Pop
24 March 2023

At 77 minutes, Lana’s ninth album is her longest, and she is certainly in no hurry to please anyone but herself. Instead, this offering educates our entire musical spirit on how to mature creatively without playing it safe, demonstrating the art of softly falling back into slow pianos without becoming boring. By finding inspiration in gospel music and her family, Ocean Blvd becomes more impressive still when compared to the greater scheme of her career, where her evolution has been so unforced, yet she is a completely different person to the one we met a decade ago, finally getting the respect she always deserved. And even considering her past successes, we may remember this one as her most important work. A&W alone is life-changing.

BY THE WAY: I wrote a book about Lana Del Rey this year and people are LOVING it. You should take a look!

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Laufey - Bewitched

06. Laufey - Bewitched

Traditional Pop
8 September 2023

From the first instant I heard Laufey's sophomore right up until listening to it now, I would happily get rid of all other music and leave this as the only one that exists. Its melodic lounging is delivered by a piano so softly minimal that her romancing vocals are almost the only thing we have, and in that lies lullaby perfection. In comparison, the frills of modern music are exposed as desperate and embarrassing. Meanwhile, Laufey belongs in a Disney princess musical because it's actual magic. I feel something here. Bewitched exactly. I genuinely believe this album transcends opinion and if you don't like it, I refuse to accept you like music whatsoever.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Otay:onii - 夢之駭客 Dream Hacker

05. Otay:onii - 夢之駭客 Dream Hacker

Post-Industrial Art Pop
22 February 2023

The fact that this record hasn't brought the music scene to its knees both thrills and saddens me. With a hypnotic new-age core surrounded by a densely ethereal atmosphere, it's a witchy affair that is as spiritual as it is menacing, summoning its danceable electronics with spellbinding chants in English and Mandarin. Dream Hacker is an appropriate title. It's as dreamy as they come except infecting the slumber with darkness, tossing throughout the night, the bedbugs biting, pass the cream.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Armand Hammer - We Buy Diabetic Test Strips

04. Armand Hammer - We Buy Diabetic Test Strips

Abstract Experimental East Coast Hip Hop
29 September 2023

For over a decade, Billy Woods has constantly churned out such a consistent display of hip hop’s top albums that it’s difficult to know whether he’s at the utmost highest rung of the underground or already racing up to conquer the mainstream scene. 2023 was much the same, but while the world dropped to unzip the trousers of Maps (his release with Kenny Segal), that project didn’t smash me as hard as some of his previous releases. But Armand Hammer, his collaborative outfit with Elucid, fucking did. As with anything Billy touches, there is an old-school refusal for unnecessarily pretty accessories. Hence, Elucid provides the perfect no-nonsense backdrop, which toys with the abstract line of what-is-or-isn’t a beat. Yet, the music doesn’t submit to the temptation of being abrasive or annoying solely to backhand the listener, rather gifting us with just the right amount of everything to keep us interested at each turn. As for Billy, he sounds as dangerous as ever, like the dark figure blocking the street with a wide smile as you’re crossing a neighbourhood you don’t belong in, past the hour you should be out. I repeat myself, but there appears to be a shift in general rap quality in 2023 with a bountiful harvest to feed from. But this is the hip-hop album of the year for me. Not even a shred of competition.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Geese - 3D Country

03. Geese - 3D Country

Alt-Country Indie Art Punk Rock
23 June 2023

I can’t remember when last an album caught me off guard with such a left hook before sending me spinning to the floor in a stupified chortle. It’s one of those “catch lightning in a bottle” types of records, where its appetite for originality shocks charisma into every genre it gallops over, perhaps the most inventive “country” derivative I’ve ever heard. No easy comparison points exist (besides The Stones?) due to the quirky moments shifting so rapidly that you instantly forget what came previous. Still, the ride is smacked upwards by such comedic joy that it leaves me panting at the end of the session, serotonin milked dry yet in awe of how this celebratory masterpiece fell from the sky just when our hurting world needed it the most.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Mitski - The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We

02. Mitski - The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We

Indie Folk
15 September 2023

Full disclaimer: I am Mitski's number-one fan. The love I harness for Mitski has reached a unique level separate from anything I hold for any artist across time and space. And because of this adoration, I felt unworthy to even differentiate between her records, each an extension of the artist, no project superior to the other because they all existed beyond the scope of us mere worshippers. But when The Land Is Inhospitable fluttered into our audio awareness, these sentiments no longer held. Mitski's ability to create unparalleled pieces of original quirk was always her strong point, and that's what makes this record so different, as a brand new branch on that growth, utterly alien to anything that came before. It's a far deeper affair. More mellow. Refusing to disguise the melancholy beneath her signature arty pops, but squeezing the last drop of love from me like lemon. And I am left as nothing. It's difficult to sink into a collection of slow ballads without becoming mediocre, but The Land Is Inhospitable knocks me out cold, and I could listen to it all day (and have). So yes, as Mitski's number-one fan who was unable to pick her greatest album, I now can, and here it is. This is the one.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022: XX. Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter - SAVED!

01. Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter - SAVED!

Southern Gospel Hymns
20 October 2023

Kristin Hayter, aka Lingua Ignota, is the unchallenged queen of flipping the switch on Satan and exposing how Christian indoctrinating is a far more terrifying form of religious trauma. But while her previous projects smashed the concept with brute force like a hammer, SAVED! strips out the abrasive industrial and is left with something wholly holy gospel. And in that genre, somehow, it is even more inconceivably distressing. By reflecting on the hymn format to inflict havoc upon our souls, the result is such a fully realised project that it speaks for itself entirely. It doesn't get any better or worse per each listen because it's so set in cold stone that it is what it is and always will be, and there you are with it every time. Like everything she's done, it's the best thing I've ever heard in my life.


Black Country, New Road - Live at Bush Hall
The HIRS Collective - We're Still Here
Fever Ray - Radical Romantics
Yves Tumor - Praise a Lord Who Chews but Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds)
Amaarae - Fountain Baby
Foo Fighters - But Here We Are
Jeff Rosenstock - HELLMODE
Mandaworld - For Emotional Use Only
Trhä - Av◊ëlajnt◊ë£ hinnem nihre
Odz Manouk - Bosoragazan (Բոսորագազան)
Victory Over the Sun - Dance You Monster to My Soft Song!
Invent Animate - Heavener
Victoria Monét - JAGUAR II