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2023 Albums of the Year!

There's been so many top quality albums in 2023! Big releases from some Indie / Rock giants as well as some stellar debut records from the most exciting emerging artists around. Here's a rundown of our top 20...

20. Chappaqua Wrestling - Plus Ultra

19. Maneskin - RUSH (ARE U COMING?)

18. Pip Blom - Bobbie

17. Sundara Karma - Better Luck Next Time

16. Miles Kane - One Man Band

15. Do Nothing - Snake Sideways

14. Shalom - Sublimation

13. Blondshell - Blondshell

12. Spector - Here Come The Early Nights

11. King Nun - Lamb

10. Coach Party - KILLJOY

One of our most highly-anticipated albums of 2023 was Coach Party’s debut record ‘KILLYJOY’ and it did not disappoint! Originating from the Isle Of Wight, the frantic Rock four-piece have been going from strength to strength and gaining a slew of fans thanks to their gritty, unforgiving lyrical attitude, powerful instrumentals and unforgettable live shows.

The album strikes a perfect balance between Punk-infused, aggressive sonic attacks, empowering singalong melodies and sunny, free-loving Indie Rock anthems. The tracks exude a wonderful swagger, filled with a ‘FUCK YOU’ kind of confidence as the band take on the world in style! 

9. The Clockworks - Exit Strategy

The Clockworks had been hailed as the next in a line of lyrically adept Irish Post-Punk revivalists such as The Murder Capital and Fontaines D.C. Yet their debut album ‘Exit Strategy’ expands beyond this categorisation and delves deeply into their poetic poignancy and ability to find powerful sentiments in life’s mundanity as well as in the bigger, societal issues that they critique with astute observations.

Tracks like ‘Mayday Mayday’, ‘Enough Is Never Enough’ and ‘Feels So Real’ do provide this angsty energy that rings of ‘Dogrel’ yet songs like ‘Hall Of Fame’ and the album opener ‘Deaths and Entrances’ showcase their more majestic and cinematic qualities. It is a wonderfully well rounded album that combines their hit singles from the past few years with the more heartfelt, vulnerability of their new material. 

8. Fatoumata Diawara - London KO

Malian singer, songwriter, guitarist and actress Fatoumata Diawara teamed up with a stella selection of fellow artists to treat us to her new album ‘London Ko’ this year. She combines her soulful Afrobeat and Hip-Hop sound with the eclectic artistic flair of her collaborators to completely reinvent traditional African music and bring the style of her home nation to a western audience.

There is a wonderful, vibrant and varied flow to the record, seamlessly diverting from the spaced out electronic grooves of ‘Nsera’ featuring Damon Albarn and the soulful swagger of the Angie Stone collab ‘Somaw’ to the angelic, soaring bliss of ‘Sete’ with Brooklyn Youth Chorus and the slick Hip-Hop rhythm and angular energy of ‘Mogokan’ that dives into a wonderfully flavoursome Rap offshoot featuring M.anifest. This was the perfect summer soundtrack album that is packed full of ever-shifting sonic excitement from start to finish.

7. The Hives - The Death Of Randy Fitzsimmons

Over 20 years on from their debut, The Hives are sounding as undiluted as ever. Their new album ‘The Death Of Randy Fitzsimmons’ is filled with straight-to-the-vein Rock and Roll riffs and Pelle’s distinctively angular vocal shouts that even verge into Rap territory thanks to his machine-gun delivery style.

Tracks such as ‘Bogus Operandi’, ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ and ‘Countdown To Shutdown’ have the sing-along sonic euphoria of their early hits while ‘Rigor Mortis Radio’ offers a swagger-filled, stomping groove and songs such as ‘Stick Up’ and ‘What Have I Ever Done To You?’ see them experiment with a more diverse array of styles, incorporating some more atmospheric electronic sounds and cinematic brass sections. It’s big, bold and radiates an audible joy from the band. This could just be their best record yet! 

6. The Murder Capital - Gigi's Recovery

Four years on from their poetic and punchy debut album, Dublin’s The Murder Capital have moved beyond this monolithic ‘post-punk’ label, evolving into a confident, talismanic modern Rock outfit with their new record ‘Gigi’s Recovery’.

This second album is a comprehensive narrative of ten chapters focussing on an unidentified figure’s transformation from questioning the reason for ‘Existence’ to realising that to ‘Exist’ is something that must be cherished. The Irish quintet exhibit a polished, emotional, and gritty drama, sometimes sprouting into rowdy, unconventional build ups and, at other times, dazzling with cathartic ballads. Through interplaying melodies that are reminiscent of Radiohead’s In Rainbows with classic 80s British Post-Punk, The Murder Capital meticulously fashion an album that manages to feel supremely fresh. 

Words by Ben Cole

5. Grian Chatten - Chaos For The Fly

It’s safe to say that when Grain Chatten first announced he would be embarking on a solo venture, every Fontaines D.C. fan and BBC 6 Music enthusiast had their eyes widened with excitement and expected nothing less than brilliance from the Dublin frontman. Well, his 9-track debut album ‘Chaos For The Fly' has certainly delivered, yet perhaps in different ways than anticipated.

It dabbles with more electronic production than we’ve seen Grian work with in the past and as well as focusing on rich acoustics, lyrical notions and Folk-inspired songwriting that consistently hints at its Irish origins. The album is a wonderful representation of Grian’s personal and creative identity as well as his love for exploring Irish heritage.  ‘Fairlies’ was the attention grabbing high energy single yet ‘All Of The People’ provided one of the most poignant tracks of the year, with a captivating music video to match. 

4. Royal Blood - Back To The Water Below

After a pretty hectic 12 months that saw Royal Blood re-enter the public spotlight for all the wrong reasons, the Rock duo returned with their new album ‘Back To The Water Below’ and the album speaks for itself, proving both their infectious Rock spirit and the depth of their songwriting abilities in a much more eloquent way than they seem to have been able to do whilst talking in the past year.

Opening track ‘Mountains At Midnight’ delivers a thick guitar line that is inventive in its structure and ferocious in its delivery. The drums compliment this sound with a punchy, funky beat before causing a shattering cacophony in the chorus. This track’s name perfectly encapsulates the sonic effect it has. It has a soaring, gigantic quality as well as the underlying anger and darkness that makes their music so tempting. However, the real brilliance of this album lies in tracks such as ‘The Firing Line’, ‘Waves’ and ‘There Goes My Cool’ which are a real departure from their original style, leaning more towards a 90s Radiohead esc sound. They are more considered and more introspective, exploring inner turmoil with a greater emotional depth than we have ever seen from the duo. The more melodic rhythms and instrumental performances allow for the subtleties of Mike Kerr’s vocals to really shine through while the newly-entertained piano performances add a cinematic richness to the arrangement. These are probably Royal Blood’s most impressive displays of songwriting and lyricism they have ever released.

3. HONEYMOAN - Sorry Like You Mean It

South African born Indie outfit HONEYMOAN were new on our radar this year but blew us away with their debut album ‘Sorry Like You Mean It’. As each single was released in the lead up we became increasingly confident that the record would be making its way onto our top 10 come the end of the year. Opening track ‘Pick Up, Don’t Pick Up’ sets the tone of the record perfectly, moving from a tangled web of intricate percussive rhythms and dreamy guitar lines before diving head first into a dense electro stomper of a chorus oozing with angsty attitude and infectious melody. It is a sharp, vibrant attack on the senses that is reminiscent of Jungle Giants in moments with supercharged guitar solos swirling this way and that while the catchy vocal lines provide a melodic anchor that sticks in your head long after the final note.

Tracks like ’Seriously, Good Luck With That’ and ‘Sit Right’ offer a more soothing Indie Pop flow with beautiful keyboard melodies and understated yet appealingly cocky vocal deliveries that fill you with an empowered sense of confidence. ‘Show You Off’ produces an undeniably fun burst of high-octane Bubblegum Pop while the title track delivers the most anthemic and poignant finale on the album. Dreamy textures combine with direct, angry attitudes superbly on this incredible debut offering and whether your tastes lie with the experimental, the bizarre, the energetic or the catchy, there’s something for you to love here.

2. Young Fathers - Heavy Heavy

The inescapable energy and eclectic sound that fuses a Punk intensity with electronic textures, African rhythms and a range of vocal styles has always drawn us towards Young Fathers. However we have never felt this magnetically drawn to one of their projects as we instantly were to ‘Heavy Heavy’. From start to finish they tell a string of passionate stories that tap right into the heart of emotion with their poetic and primal lyricism.

Their visceral storytelling is equally reflected in the music that, although densely textured, radiates a raw and unfiltered feeling. The opening track ‘Rice’ encapsulates the album, playing on their love for an almost tribal atmosphere as multiple vocals all add in their unique, expressive content into a joyous melting pot that will lift your spirit to the very core. The sentiment of “I gotta catch my fish, I gotta eat more rice” highlights the basic, primal joys that the song, and indeed the album, triggers inside of you.

‘I Saw’ combines some of the more angst-ridden vocal attacks of the band’s earlier work with their newfound gospel choir euphoria. The first minute of the track is truly moody as the aggressive vocal style is matched by a punching drum beat, a swirling siren sound and the occasional shooting pulse of distorted guitar. However, a more hopeful and empowering vocal line is then introduced that begs to be chanted back in a live setting. The finale is perhaps the most uplifting moment on the album as the backing vocals pierce the dense rhythms with a hook that can almost make you feel giddy with excitement due to the sheer primal happiness that it brings about.

The penultimate track ‘Holy Moly’ is another highlight. It sees fast paced lyrical flurries clash with a galloping rhythm that makes you want to start running. The layered instrumentals are almost overwhelming at times as they are packed with so much drama and so much bustling tension that they instantly make you feel you are being confronted with a situation that is terrifying yet potentially incredible. The chorus lines of “Holy moly! You'd better take your chance, I'm here for one night only. No procrastinating” are filled with such a cinematic, climactic air that it is hard not to be moved. It is rare that you see the sentiment of a song be so accurately replicated in its sound. It is a highlight in a staggeringly good album that is almost inspirational at times due to the seemingly incongruous pairings of primal releases and cinematic grandeur.

1. Geese - 3D Country

Wow…this year has well and truly been all about Geese for us! The NYC quintet are bringing back the groove-laden soul of Dad Rock while infusing it with experimental intensity, modern Post-Punk fury, moments of spellbinding emotion and consistently artistic lyricism. Their album ‘3D Country’ bursts out of the traps with ‘2122’ a frantic Classic Rock attack that slaps you round the face at every turn.

The visceral vocal shouts of erratic frontman Cameron Winter have a pulse-raising passion and the layered instrumental backing refuses to lay still throughout, looking one way then the next, subverting your expectations and dragging you through the dirt taking you on a wild Rock and Roll ride whether you like it or not!

‘3D Country’ and ‘Cowboy Nudes’ lean more into their love of retro Rock influences, introducing some Rolling Stones esc gospel vocal backing and a crazy “New York Cityyyyy” freakout in the latter of the two. ‘I See Myself’ is one of the most beautiful moments on the album, channelling the band’s raw intensity into a pure and primal love song that you can’t help but belt out!

‘Undoer’ then reverts to the madness of ‘2122’ as it explodes into a 7-minute offering full of technical brilliance, plenty of virtuoso performances and unusual time signatures that really display how tight and musically accomplished the five guys are. ‘Mysterious Love’ is perhaps the track that best encapsulates the different sides to their music; ferocious Punk Rock spirit with an experimental flair, poetic sentiments and an expressive, free-spirited, jangly finale topped with a supremely catchy melody delivered with a warped vocal twang as they refuse to do anything by norms.

A superb poetic highlight that showcases their more emotive and intimate side is ‘Domoto’. Its religious lyricism is delivered with a delicate caress in its most insular sections and a roaring passion in the brief moments of unfiltered expression. It is a heartbreaking artistic piece that places together the final piece of the puzzle that makes up their wonderfully diverse sonic and emotive range.

Never has a sophomore album met our expectations with such flying colours!



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