The 50 best albums of 2023

The 50 best albums of 2023

There was nary a moment in 2023 where music fans were left wanting for long-form greatness. At every turn, a record harnessed the pain, hurt, love, joy and everything in between felt all year long. Perhaps it was loss (Sufjan Stevens’ ‘Javelin’, Depeche Mode’s ‘Memento Mori’), reckless abandon (Militarie Gun’s ‘Life Under The Gun’, Grrrl Gang’s ‘Spunky!’) or inquisitive experimentation (Amaarae’s ‘Fountain Baby’). These 50 records – as selected by NME’s global team of writers – encapsulated the full human experience and are worth treasuring and holding tightly.

Thomas Smith, Commissioning Editor (Music)

Contributors: Alex Rigotti, Anagricel Duran, Andrew Trendell, Andy Brown, Ben Jolley, Emma Wilkes, Hannah Mylrea, Hollie Geraghty, Jenessa Williams, Jordan Bassett, Karen Gwee, Kyann-Sian Williams, Liberty Dunworth, Mia Hughes, Rhian Daly, Sophie Williams, Surej Singh, Thomas Smith, Will Richards and Ziwei Puah.

Lil Yachty – ‘Let’s Start Here’

50. Lil Yachty – ‘Let’s Start Here’

Where do you stand on 2023’s most divisive record? The rap superstar took an about-turn on ‘Let’s Start Here’, embracing psych-rock for a rebirth that was only gazumped by André 3000’s flute-heavy adventure. Lil Yachty got there first, though, on this mesmerising journey down the creative rabbit hole. TS

Depeche Mode – ‘Memento Mori’

49. Depeche Mode – ‘Memento Mori’

The synth-goths’ best album this side of the millennium was already underway before the tragic death of founding member Andy Fletcher, but this jet-black meditation on mortality took on an even darker hue in the context of that terrible news. Though its Latin title translates to “remember you must die”, the shell-shocked duo’s collection of stadium-sized electro anthems offered catharsis and creative uplift in equal measure. JB

Grrrl Gang – ‘Spunky!’

48. Grrrl Gang – ‘Spunky!’

Listening to Grrrl Gang’s debut album felt like an instant ticket to the sort of basement show where sweat rolls down the walls. With an energetic, youthful scrappiness, guts to spill, and truckloads of personality (not to mention some fantastic one-liners), the Indonesian punk trio were unafraid to embrace their riot grrrl influences, and had a hell of a time doing it. EW

IVE – ‘I’VE IVE’

47. Ive – ‘I’ve Ive’

After introducing themselves as contenders for K-pop’s crown in 2022, the group solidified their excellence with their debut album, ‘I’ve Ive’ in April. The record showed off Ive’s full spectrum of strengths, going on a thrilling journey from the bratty, brash pop of ‘Kitsch’ to the soft resilience of ‘Heroine’ and the upbeat rush of ‘Not Your Girl’. It fully justified the buzz around them, shining from beginning to end with fresh ideas and immaculate energy. RD

Karol G – ‘Manana Sera Bonito’

46. Karol G – ‘Mañana Será Bonito’

Colombian singer Karol G continued to pave the way as a history-maker with her fourth studio album, which earned the Number One spot on the Billboard 200 chart upon its release. She swung big by bringing in legends such as Romeo Santos, Shakira and Sean Paul to feature on a few tracks, creating a heavyweight reggaeton LP bound to withstand the test of time. AD

Olivia Dean – ‘Messy’

45. Olivia Dean – ‘Messy’

Brimming with hope and promise, Olivia Dean’s sublime debut reshaped the early ‘00s neo soul-inspired sounds of her earlier material into something newly exhilarating. ‘Messy’ addressed Dean’s family history and her own romantic failings – these topics led to a creative revitalisation, not only in her forthright lyrics but also in a more rhythmic sonic palette. It felt like watching an ascendant star lean into a bolder, braver version of herself. SW

CMAT – ‘Crazymad For Me’

44. CMAT – ‘Crazymad, For Me’

CMAT possesses an uncanny talent for making songs that sound as much like country ballads as they are chaotic voice note exchanges with friends. Described as an “abstract break-up album”, the Irish artist’s second record captured the ache and denial of heartbreak in a way that was both beautifully impactful and totally wacky, whether she was making silly pop culture references or hollering gut-wrenching lyrics like “Good enough to know you / Was all I wished to be”. HG

The Rolling Stones – ‘Hackney Diamonds’

43. The Rolling Stones – ‘Hackney Diamonds’

61 years, 24 albums and one member down (RIP Charlie Watts), you’d have been forgiven for thinking the world’s greatest rock’n’roll band had come to the end of their journey. You’d have been wrong, of course. This long-gestating new record from The Rolling Stones arrived courtesy of producer Andrew Watt, who recently coaxed rowdy albums out of Iggy Pop and Ozzy Osbourne, and helped the Dartford rockers knock up some of their best tunes since the ‘70s. Cameos from Paul McCartney, Lady Gaga, Stevie Wonder and Elton John didn’t hurt, either. AF

Geese – 3D Country

42. Geese – ‘3D Country’

Though this was just the second album from Brooklyn five-piece Geese, ‘3D Country’ played with a sound far more expansive than most bands at this stage of their career. Overwhelming instrumentals and half-wailed vocals from singer Cameron Winter meant that ‘3D Country’ courted all-out chaos on this rambling, proggy epic. AB

Benefits – ‘Nails’

41. Benefits – ‘Nails’

In the midst of the Tory mission to Make Britain Grey Again, what can you do? When punk proves futile and there are no answers, all you’re left with is noise, bile, and a glimmer of empathy. This towering debut from Teesside’s Benefits proved a monument to standing up for yourself when no one else will. As Kingsley Hall barked on ‘Flag’: “Privilege won’t save you / Eton won’t save you / People who speak Latin will not save you.” AT

James Blake – ‘Playing Robots Into Heaven’

40. James Blake – ‘Playing Robots Into Heaven’

A decade before he was in studios producing for Travis Scott and Beyoncé, James Blake was making some of the most innovative electronic music of his generation. On the London-born post-dubstep pioneer’s sixth album, he went back to his club roots to deliver a record that was consistently inventive and hard-hitting – even in its quieter moments. BJ

Holly Humberstone – ‘Paint My Bedroom Black’

39. Holly Humberstone – ‘Paint My Bedroom Black’

Grantham-born singer-songwriter Holly Humberstone’s candid debut was filled with everything that she does best: diaristic confessions on friendships, crushes and heartbreaks; softly-sung lyrics; brooding melodies for fans to escape within. But her first album was also more than that, serving as a hopeful portrait of an artist outgrowing the 20-year-old who first broke out during lockdown, instead looking ahead to a future that could take her – and her sound – anywhere. HG

Agust D – ‘D-Day’

38. Agust D – ‘D Day’

Future’s gonna be OK,” Agust D – aka BTS rapper Suga – declared in the opening line of ‘D-Day’. The fiery album wrapped up his trilogy of solo releases with more sharp, thought-provoking societal observations and reflections on his own life, but with room for a new sense of peace, acceptance and hope. That it was all set to hard-hitting hip-hop and featured starry collabs with BTS’ J-Hope, late Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto and more only made ‘D-Day’ more spectacular. RD

Paris Texas – ‘Mid Air’

37. Paris Texas – ‘Mid Air’

The electrifying debut from Californian duo Paris Texas mixed up its vibe with every track: punk, rap, rock and pop would all feature. Whether it was the lyrical wit of ‘tenTHIRTYseven’, scuzzy aggression of ‘Bullet Man’, or poignancy of ‘…We Fall’, ‘Mid Air’ was impossible to predict – and even harder to stop listening to. AB

Corinne Bailey Rae – ‘Black Rainbows’

36. Corinne Bailey Rae – ‘Black Rainbows’

Low-key opener ‘A Spell, A Prayer’ acted as an incantation that elevated listeners to the singer-songwriter’s new spiritual plane: wonky nu-jazz, woozy alt-pop and loud-as-fuck grunge guitars. No, do not adjust your sets – we are thinking of the same Corinne Bailey Rae, she of tasteful neo-soul that was once big in the ‘burbs. Inspired by a visit to Chicago’s Stony Island Arts Bank centre of Black culture, Rae exploded expectations with this thrilling, genre-busting revelation. JB

Hak Baker – ‘World’s End FM’

35. Hak Baker – World’s End FM’

With ‘World’s End FM’, east London’s Hak Baker may have restored your faith in contemporary protest music. An interplay between indie and scruffy-edged pop, the LP concerned itself with a central theme of perseverance in the face of endless turmoil. Whether condemning music industry leeches, or decrying working-class appropriation, the record exuded an infectious and topical energy – and, arguably, was unfairly snubbed from this year’s Mercury Prize nominations. SW

Wednesday – ‘Rat Saw God’

34. Wednesday – ‘Rat Saw God’

This year saw Wednesday become the hottest band in the indie-rock underground, and for good reason. ‘Rat Saw God’ was an album on which they solidified their potential, making a truly great collection that could only be theirs. They combined dirtbag country with slacker rock and crushing shoegaze, and told stories of suburban Americana that were both desperately sad and darkly funny. It was gnarly, scuzzy and full of heart. MH

Laufey – ‘Bewitched’

33. Laufey – ‘Bewitched’

Laufey pulled off a subtle conjuring trick on her sumptuously detailed second album. The record’s songs, which elevated her modern jazz sound with elements of pop and bossa nova, all felt effortless despite being so tightly constructed – it made for a triumph of introspection and restraint. If 2022’s ‘Everything I Know About Love’ was the introduction to this prodigious talent, ‘Bewitched’ offered proof that she’s arrived. SW

The National – ‘Laugh Track’

32. The National – ‘Laugh Track’

2023 was a creative rebirth for a band stuck in a rut. Despite meeting bigger audiences during the pandemic through their work with Taylor Swift, frontman Matt Berninger told NME that The National were struggling to connect with each other amidst his writer’s block. They released two albums, the sensitive ‘First Two Pages Of Frankenstein’ to break the ice, and then September’s ‘Laugh Track’, a gnarlier, brighter companion record that was rapidly completed once their mojo had been reignited. Had they combined the two collections, their placing may have been much, much higher. TS

Kaytramine – ‘Kaytramine’

31. Kaytraminé – ‘Kaytraminé’

In a sweaty summer dripping with seasonal bops, no one brought the heat quite like producer-rapper duo Aminé and Kaytranada. From Pharrell-assisted dance banger ‘4EVA’ to the smooth, lazy river vibes of R&B chillaxer ‘Rebuke’, there was no better album to crack open a cold one to or, if you were feeling more energetic, soundtrack a sticky night out in the clubs. AF

LE SSERAFIM – ‘Unforgiven’

30. Le Sserafim – ‘Unforgiven’

For a group whose name unscrambles to form the phrase “I’m Fearless”, K-pop rookies Le Sserafim certainly put their money where their mouth is on this ambitious debut. ‘Flash Forward’ nailed sugary pop as readily as ‘Impurities’ did glacial R&B, while the touching ballad ‘FEARNOT’ found strength in shades of twinkling emo-rock. It was the triple threat of ‘UNFORGIVEN’, ‘ANTIFRAGILE’ and ‘Eve, Psyche & The Bluebeard’s Wife’ which really coined their signature style though – rebellious, bassy anthems that put the empowerment in the party. JW

PinkPantheress – ‘Heaven Knows’

29. PinkPantheress – ‘Heaven Knows’

Who else would reinterpret Shakespeare’s King Lear on a pop record in 2023? Her commitment to her vision is impressive and pays dividends on debut ‘Heaven Knows’. The ability to write hooks goes unmatched – see the insanely catchy ‘Nice To Meet You’ – and there’s plenty of sonic experimentation that challenges the PinkPantheress sound whilst extending it into exciting new territory. The Grammys ought to be kicking themselves for snubbing this star. AR

Water From Your Eyes – ‘Everyone’s Crushed’

28. Water From Your Eyes – ‘Everyone’s Crushed’

Has there been a more joyful success story this year than that of Water From Your Eyes? The duo released four albums before they hit their breakthrough moment with ‘Everyone’s Crushed’: a record of invigorating pop songs, given greater heft thanks to a much-talked about festival run over the summer. Here, they made music to reflect their own core idiosyncrasies, and were embraced with open arms by a whole new audience. SW

Killer Mike – ‘Michael’

27. Killer Mike – ‘Michael’

Race, inequality and masculinity: Killer Mike tackled it all on this sprawling opus. Yet the Run The Jewels rapper’s first solo record in over a decade was also an intimate affair (the clue’s in the title!), as Michael Render shared his honest, unvarnished worldview. Hooky, heart-breaking and, sometimes, humorous too. JB

Earl Sweatshirt & The Alchemist – ‘Voir Dire’

26. Earl Sweatshirt & The Alchemist – ‘Voir Dire’

‘Voir Dire’ had a curious beginning. Producer The Alchemist claimed in 2021 that the pair had released a ‘secret’ album on YouTube under an undiscovered pseudonym. Cryptic clues eventually led to this, a sharp fusion of both of their finest skills when it was formally released in August 2023: ‘Vin Skully’ and ‘Heat Check’ were delightfully slinky and flashy. TS

Loraine James – ‘Gentle Confrontation’

25. Loraine James – ‘Gentle Confrontation’

Listening to Loraine James is an act of reverence, and ‘Gentle Confrontation’ is astonishing in its ability to capture compassion. It was equal parts lush, layered, and fragmented, but hearing James interpret vulnerability in so many creative ways – from incorporating personal genre influences to the voices of her family – made for an exciting, tender listen from the underground club scene. AR

Yaeji – ‘With A Hammer’

24. Yaeji – ‘With A Hammer’

Yaeji’s long-awaited debut album found the Korean-American artist at her most ambitious. While ‘With A Hammer’ was undoubtedly fuelled by rage, the record’s sonic contrasts – veering between electronic frenzies and moments of calm – proved there are many different ways to channel such emotions. BJ

Lana Del Rey – ‘Did You Know There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Boulevard’

23. Lana Del Rey – ‘Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd’

‘…Ocean Blvd’, which starred Father John Misty and Tommy Genesis, might have been Lana Del Rey’s most collaborative album to date but it also felt like her most personal. Over 16 tracks that flew through hushed experimentalism, intricate folk and arresting instrumentals, she explored the idea of family – the one we were born into, might conceive in the future, or might find in a partner. A record of great depth, it further confirmed Del Rey’s position as a master of her craft. RD

Blondshell – ‘Blondshell’

22. Blondshell – ‘Blondshell’

Blondshell’s self-titled album distilled her most personal and intense emotions into a triumphant alt-rock smasher. From the sensual rawness seen on ‘Kiss City’ (“Just look me in the eye when I’m about to finish / I think my kink is when you tell me that you think I’m pretty”) to the fierce ‘Salad’ (“Look what you did, you made a killer of a pacifist”), each song spotlighted a special rising talent. AD

Sleep Token – ‘Take Me Back To Eden’

21. Sleep Token – ‘Take Me Back To Eden’

After finding their footing over recent years, on ‘Take Me Back To Eden’ Sleep Token established themselves as arguably the most important metal band of 2023. On paper, the album’s genre-defying, experimental approach could have been contrived, yet with tracks like ‘The Summoning’ and ‘Granite’, the end result was one refined enough to establish the band as arena headliners and a breath of fresh air for today’s rock scene. LD

Jessie Ware – ‘That Feels Good’

20. Jessie Ware – ‘That! Feels Good’

“I think I finally know the artist I’m meant to be now,” Jessie Ware told NME ahead of the release of her ‘70s disco-inspired fifth album. Across 10 shimmering tracks, the singer embraced her sensuality and indulged in excess, oozing with a new-found artistic confidence that just felt so damn good. She said it best herself on the slinky, seductive title track: “Pleasure is a right.HM

Militarie Gun – ‘Life Under The Gun’

19. Militarie Gun – ‘Life Under The Gun’

On their debut full-length, Militarie Gun’s approach to hardcore reflected the genre’s mainstream boom. As frontman Ian Shelton spat and snarled his way through these tracks, the band behind him was playing big, hooky, polished rock that looked more towards the airwaves than the basement. It played not as a cash grab, but as an attempt to write a timeless, undeniable record unbeholden to punk snobbery. Mission accomplished. MH

Genesis Owusu – ‘Struggler’

18. Genesis Owusu – ‘Struggler’

On Genesis Owusu’s second album, his star was glowing ever brighter. A concept album centering around a character called The Roach, Owusu’s output was an assured thrill, weaving rippling basslines, bursts of disco and funky riffs into a vibrant patchwork. In both its story and sound, ‘Struggler’ was brimming with bright ideas. EW

Yves Tumor – ‘Praise A Loard Who Chews But Does Not Consume Or Simply Hot Between Worlds’

17. Yves Tumor – ‘Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds)’

Yves Tumor’s transformation into a glam rock star became complete this year on their fifth album. It swung for the fences with unashamedly huge melodies, but managed to not sacrifice their inherent urge for experimentation. ‘Meteora Blues’ had huge ‘90s alt-rock guitars, but ‘In Spite Of War’ lent itself closer to 21st century indie. It’s almost no surprise, then, to learn that Tumor’s birth surname is Bowie – they both appear to have the same iconic look and restless nature. WR

Foo Fighters – ‘But Here We Are’

16. Foo Fighters – ‘But Here We Are’

Given that Foo Fighters’ origins were born out of Dave Grohl’s grief for Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, it added another bleak layer to the tragic death of drummer Taylor Hawkins in March 2022. ‘But Here We Are’, their first album since his passing, exceeded expectations: from the serene ‘Show Me How’, a gorgeous duet with Grohl’s daughter Violet, to the emotionally vulnerable ‘Hearing Voices’, the record brought fans closer to the band than ever before. LD

JPEGMafia & Danny Brown – ‘Scaring The Hoes’

15. JPEGMafia and Danny Brown – ‘Scaring The Hoes’

US alt-rap titans JPEGMafia and Danny Brown teamed up in March for this explosive collaborative album which was a chaotic playground where both of their respective crafts were showcased, respected and pushed. Produced by JPEGMafia in its entirety, there was scarcely a dull moment. TS

100 gecs – ‘10,000 gecs’

14. 100 Gecs – ‘10,000 Gecs’

Emotional depth wasn’t the strength – or the point – of 100 Gecs’ second album, but if you bought into the hilarity of ska songs about sad frogs at parties and gruesome dental procedures, it was in the running for 2023’s wildest listening experience. It avoided novelty through the sheer excellence of its pop melodies; Laura Les and Dylan Brady were having a laugh, while remaining deadly serious about the quality. WR

Romy – ‘Mid Air’

13. Romy – ‘Mid Air’

After more than a decade as lead vocalist of The xx, Romy Madley Croft stepped out of the shadows and into the light with her euphoric debut album. Showcasing a new, vibrant side to her artistry, the 11-track record soared thanks to life-affirming pop-house bangers like ‘Enjoy Your Life’, ‘Strong’ and ‘Loveher’. BJ

Queens Of The Stone Age – ‘In Times New Roman’

12. Queens of The Stone Age – ‘In Times New Roman…’

A half-decade of turmoil (a messy and highly-publicised divorce from the Distillers’ Brody Dalle; a cancer diagnosis; the loss of friends including Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins and former bandmate Mark Lanegan), left Josh Homme ambivalent about making another record. Yet the veteran rocker found himself, as he put it to NME, “walking deeper into the darkness”. The result was QOTSA’s most bludgeoning sonic assault yet – and that’s saying something. JB

Sufjan Stevens – ‘Javelin’

11. Sufjan Stevens – ‘Javelin’

Amidst a serious health episode, and the loss of his partner in April, Sufjan turned to “full singer-songwriter mode” for the first time since 2015’s ‘Carrie & Lowell’. A collection of intimate indie-folk, layered vocals and lush instrumental arrangements accompanied Stevens’ devastating lyrics: another triumph from the prolific cult hero. HM

Blur – ‘The Ballad of Darren’

10. Blur – ‘The Ballad of Darren’

When Britpop heroes Blur announced their reunion in late 2022, ‘The Ballad Of Darren’ was barely a kernel of an idea; Damon Albarn later credited the impending Wembley Stadium shows in the diary – initially booked to celebrate ‘Modern Life Is Rubbish’’s 30th anniversary – as creative momentum to get the whole band back in the studio. Following disparate recording sessions (2015’s ‘The Magic Whip’) and an absent Graham Coxon (2003’s ‘Think Tank’), ‘The Ballad Of Darren’ would prove their best album since the ‘90s, a reckoning of lost relationships and middle-aged malaise. TS

Mitski – ‘The Land Is In hospitable And So Are We’

9. Mitski – ‘The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We’

Mitski writes about heartbreak like no one else, but on her last few albums she’s coated it in glossy synths and upside-down pop songs. Not here. Acoustic guitar, slide guitar and strings reigned on Mitski’s seventh album, giving it a mournful country feel. When the instrumentation was rich it was like she was building a whole universe, and when it was sparse, it was like devastating desolation. Mitski’s stunning voice was the centrepiece, smokey and plaintive as her melodies jerked in unexpected directions like on marionette strings. By now, there’s little denying that she’s one of the best songwriters of this generation. MH

Amaarae – ‘Fountain Baby’

8. Amaarae – ‘Fountain Baby’

A record that redefined the boundaries of alt-Afropop. Ghanaian-American Amaarae demonstrated her ability to craft a luxurious sound all the while steering the album with direct storytelling. Her second album drew from a myriad of global influences – including the awe-inspiring Arabic scales and the brash, rebellious nature of punk rock – and these diverse elements, paired with Amaarae’s signature syrupy register, made for a memorable experience. KSW

Sofia Kourtesis – ‘Madres’

7. Sofia Kourtesis – ‘Madres’

The debut album from Peru-born, Berlin-based DJ and producer Sofia Kourtesis was dedicated to neurosurgeon Dr Peter Vajkoczy, who saved her mother’s life after a 2021 cancer diagnosis. “He really makes me brave and makes me take more risks,” Kourtesis told NME, and this gratitude and strength shone through on an album bursting with joy and healing. Kourtesis’ beats are filled with sunshine and jubilation: “Come on, let’s move forward,” she sang on highlight ‘Si Te Portas Bonito’, one of countless moments of emotional breakthrough on this special album. WR

Caroline Polachek – ‘Desire I Want To Turn Into You’

6. Caroline Polachek – ‘Desire, I Want To Turn Into You’

The expansive ‘Desire, I Want To Turn Into You’ saw Caroline Polachek blast open her sonic world. Following on from ‘Pang’’s avant-pop, here the innovative artist fearlessly played with genre, instrumentation and arrangement. Throughout the record you heard Spanish guitar and bagpipes; trip-hop and UK garage; even Grimes and Dido, who appear on the same track. But despite the far-reaching sonics, on ‘Desire…’ she managed to mould these disparate sounds into something that’s distinctly unique. HM

Paramore – ‘This Is Why’

5. Paramore – ‘This Is Why’

Bringing their love of British indie to the fore, ‘This Is Why’ saw US stalwarts Paramore hone in on the spiky, claustrophobic emotions of trying to be the best human, bandmate, lover and social advocate you can without losing yourself in the process. With a quirky pop-rock flourish, the danceable moments went hard (‘Running Out Of Time’, ‘C’est Comme Ça’), but so did the more intimate ones, with epic Pixies-on-piano closer ‘Thick Skull’ making thrilling use of the subtleties and strength of Hayley Williams’ vocals. With all three members clearly pulling in the same direction, the group’s collective future has never looked brighter. JW

Troye Sivan – ‘Something To Give Each Other’

4. Troye Sivan – ‘Something To Give Each Other’

Beneath the many, many moments of ecstasy on ‘Something To Give Each Other’ – the hot, dripping lust that defined ‘Honey’! The perfectly-timed Bag Raiders sample on ‘Got Me Started’! – there was also a deep sense of grace. Between a breakup and acclimating to his adopted home of Melbourne, Troye Sivan has had a tricky few years: he put it all into this career-best effort, which saw him abandon regret and hollow out any feelings of shame.

These songs cut to the core of why pop music can be a guiding light during heartache. The possibilities of desire and a brighter, sexier future intensified in tandem with the BPMs (‘Rush’, ‘Silly’); an act of assertion that cemented Sivan as a newly emergent icon. SW

Young Fathers – ‘Heavy Heavy’

3. Young Fathers – ‘Heavy Heavy’

With their fourth album ‘Heavy Heavy’, Scottish trio Young Fathers affirmed their creative power. It’s a record so joyously executed, so steeped in humanity and creativity, that putting your finger on why a single song or moment is so affecting feels fruitless. ‘I Saw’ is one of the year’s finest rock belters, both direct and explorative; ‘Rice’, meanwhile, touched on the plundering of Africa’s natural resources.

“It’s a mark of the band’s strong songwriting nous that such politicised lyrics are subtly imbued across a project that still manages to be equal parts anthemic and infectious,” NME’s five-star review swooned. Masterful work. TS

Olivia Rodrigo – ‘Guts’

2. Olivia Rodrigo – ‘Guts’

No one does fun, unabashed theatre kid maximalism like Olivia Rodrigo. These 12 biting and often feverish songs were stuffed with admissions that others would find too embarrassing to share with a friend, let alone broadcast to a global audience of millions. “Every guy I like is gay!,” the 20-year-old cried on ‘Ballad Of A Homeschooled Girl’, her exaggerated matter-of-factness underscoring the album’s main takeaway: ‘Guts’ was born from fresh pain.

Here, Rodrigo often wondered if she’s ever going to figure life out now that she’s entered young adulthood. This outlook was wrought through adrenaline-pumping guitar passes and the occasional screamed vocal; she righteously chose to indulge in her own intensity, and celebrated herself for doing so. SW

Boygenius – ‘The Record’

1. Boygenius – ‘The Record’

Few bands dominated 2023 like Boygenius did. Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker might have been the focus of intense fandom before, but this year saw them reach new levels of cult worship, largely thanks to ‘The Record’, their long-awaited debut album.

Although the album covered the ground of relationships of many different forms, at its core it centred on the friendship between three of this generation’s most incisive songwriters – both lyrically and the performances captured on it. It took what might seem like mundane anecdotes about driving in the wrong direction with your mates and turned them into touching odes to connection and what it means to really be known by someone (‘Leonard Cohen’). It asked questions about how far friendship could go – even through satanism? – and found strength in getting vulnerable on one of many highlights, ‘Not Strong Enough’. That song might have positioned Boygenius as “always an angel, never a god”, but ‘The Record’ deservingly vaulted them much closer to musical deity status. RD

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