The top 50 albums of 2023, ranked from 50 to 41.

CMAT – Crazymad, for Me

Dublin’s CMAT has a unique blend of Jenny Lewis and Self Esteem, creating catchy country tunes that capture life’s most embarrassing moments. This is like using a big beehive hairdo to distract from your tearful eyes. In her second album, CMAT reflects on the cost of her bad relationships, self-sacrifice, and avoidance of harsh realities, all with a sharp sense of humor instead of self-pity. The lyrics of “Such a Miranda” highlight this as she sings about being reduced to a mere stewardess who takes care of her partner’s pets, does their chores, and pays their bills. Despite all the losses portrayed in her music – pride, love, and money – CMAT maintains a strong sense of self and perspective.

Romy – Mid Air

Despite the consistent use of her lyrics, which revolve around themes of love and hurt, and the repetitive yet well-produced trance-style instrumentals created by Fred Again and Stuart Price, Mid Air avoids feeling mundane thanks to the unique and commanding vocals of Romy Madley Croft. The xx frontwoman elevates the album with her tender reassurances on “Strong”, her ability to balance the upbeat rhythm and playful wordplay on “She’s on My Mind” with a sense of concern, and her shaky vibrato on “Twice” as she comes to terms with the intensity of her emotions. Ben Beaumont-Thomas

Character and authority … Romy

Jaimie Branch – Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((World War))

In August, the passing of Branch at 39 years old left the American jazz community without one of its boldest trumpet players and composers, praised for her complex arrangements and uplifting melodies. This album, released posthumously, is a remarkable final expression of her talent, encompassing elements of country, hip-hop, free improvisation, Latin funk, and soulful ballads, all tied together by Branch’s spirited declarations and beautiful trumpet playing. BBT


Gina Birch is known for playing her bass at a high volume.

During my winter walks in London, one thing that stood out was the prevalence of Gina Birch’s face on posters promoting the Tate’s Women in Revolt! exhibition. The image was taken from a Super 8 video that Birch created in 1977, the same year she formed the punk band the Raincoats with Ana da Silva. After 46 years, Birch’s debut album, featuring a blend of spindly, dub, and funk sounds, remains just as relevant and powerful as her earlier works. The song “I Am Rage” transforms classic girl-group sweetness into an unbearable experience with Birch’s use of a haunting childlike voice. In the title track, her skilled bass playing reveals hidden secrets. Yet, her lyrics also demonstrate a mature perspective, with lines like “One day I stopped caring / On and on it went,” delivering a casual yet impactful message. Overall, Birch’s music captures both a sense of anger and wisdom that only comes with time.

Vital … Gina Birch

Hannah Diamond – Perfect Picture

Wearing pink clothing and speaking in a feminine tone, Diamond challenges anyone to underestimate her or see her bubblegum pop project as insincere. Instead, she authentically expresses her desire to be noticed and loved, while also contemplating the divides between fame and everyday life, and the contrast between digital fantasy and real life experiences. Her openness and genuine nature, in contrast to the artificial relatability of mainstream celebrities, may be why she has not gained mainstream success. However, these songs, created with David Gamson of Scritti Politti, are truly exceptional pop creations that rival those of A-list artists. BBT

Slowdive – Everything Is Alive

After the passing of Rachel Goswell’s mother and Simon Scott’s father, Slowdive’s second album in their comeback era showcased a newfound clarity. The dense shoegaze haze that once enveloped their music had dissipated, perhaps taking with it the youthful belief in eternal permanence. Everything Is Alive is stripped down and reflective, enhanced by cold electronic elements but still grand in scope. Interestingly, the album’s recognition of life’s cycle of endings and rebirth has garnered attention on TikTok, indicating a broad appeal across generations for their hard-earned perspective. LS

Fantastically nasty … Mandy, Indiana


I have witnessed a solution, Mandy from Indiana.

Last year, if Gilla Band’s Most Normal deconstructed rock in a Cronenberg-style, then Manchester’s Mandy, Indiana removes all the genre elements to focus on pure, intense texture. Their first album brings forth chilling winds that whip against damp warehouse walls, accompanied by relentless techno beats; mournful fanfares that fade into nothingness; and eerie, chaotic sounds. It is delightfully unsettling, heightened by their uncompromising approach to rhythm and lead singer Valentine Caulfield’s percussive and hissing joy as she sings about various disturbing themes. While many artists created their own worlds during these uncertain times, Mandy, Indiana, like Lankum, echoed in the depths of darkness. LS

Yo La Tengo – This Stupid World

This album, titled “This Stupid World,” serves as a tribute to the 40 years of collaboration between Georgia Hubley and Ira Kaplan, along with 30 years with bassist James McNew. It is the result of intentional, directionless jam sessions in their private space, isolated from the outside world but still guided by their unique chemistry. The track “Tonight’s Episode” captures their humorous side with its unsettled yet groovy vibe, while “Until It Happens” maintains a sense of curiosity and simplicity. The distortion in songs like “Brain Capers” and the title track is counterbalanced by Hubley’s sweet country tune “Aselestine,” featuring a pedal steel guitar. The band’s natural equilibrium is showcased in “Sinatra Drive Breakdown,” where a cool pulse calms the sparking noise into a brooding stillness. Overall, “This Stupid World” does not dictate a specific perspective, but rather suggests the importance of strong community and understanding in the face of the foolishness beyond your own personal space. LS

Jim Legxacy – Homeless N*gga Pop Music

The Lewisham artist, who produces, sings, and raps, not only helped create the instrumental for the most successful UK rap song of the year, Dave and Central Cee’s “Sprinter,” but also released his own heartfelt solo album. Each short song on the album is distinctly and uniquely his. Legxacy’s style involves vulnerable R&B vocals about uncertain relationships, accompanied by clean acoustic guitar melodies and samples of drill, grime, and other older Black music that come and go like a passing car. While some of the beats are upbeat and high-tempo, such as the Jersey club-inspired “Old Place,” the overall mood remains bittersweet as if Legxacy is reminiscing about past parties and relationships.

Fever Ray – Radical Romantics

One of the great enunciators in pop … Fever Ray

Taking another journey through the depths of Fever Ray’s unique sound, a combination of frozen and tropical elements. This sound was first developed twenty years ago by Karin Dreijer with their brother Olof, known as the Knife, and has since been enriched with a thriving mix of bird calls, wolf howls, and unexpected bursts of noise. The underlying beats are influenced by dancehall and techno, giving the music a pulsing rhythm. Dreijer is also recognized for their lyrical prowess, reveling in the poetic nature of their words: “Will you join me in this magical moment? / On the other side of intense focus?” (Meanwhile, Olof’s own 12-inch release this year, Rosa Rugosa, captures the essence of summer from a different perspective.) BBT