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Best albums of 2023 (so far)

No, Pink Tape is not on here.

Hopefully this list will help you find some new favorites!

10. Calico by Ryan Beatty

BROCKHAMPTON affiliate Ryan Beatty came back this year after 3 years of silence with his third studio album, Calico. After being unable to beat the sophomore slump allegations with Dreaming of David, Calico came as a welcome shift into dream pop and indie folk in contrast with his previous alternative r&b sound. Released in March alongside a collectible $25(!?!?!?) jigsaw puzzle, lead single “Ribbons” is a tale of a lover growing away. Starting with just Ryan’s voice and piano, the song swells into the lush and orchestral instrumentation that eventually becomes the centerpiece of Calico’s appeal. The astonishing production work on this album is much in thanks to Ethan Gruska, who you may know for his extensive work with Phoebe Bridgers and boygenius, among many others. Once you’re familiar with his style, it’s easily identifiable in the best way possible. If you’re a fan of Calico, I’d also suggest giving a listen to Gruska’s 2020 album En Garde.

Check out: “Ribbons,” “Cinnamon Bread,” and “Andromeda

9. 10,000 gecs by 100 gecs

Despite being announced summer of 2021 and having an initial target release of “early 2022,” 10,000 gecs finally released this past March. Was it worth the wait? Yeah, I think so. As someone whose childhood home is a measly 20 minute drive from the gec tree, I felt it would be blasphemous to not have at least some level of appreciation for this release, and luckily that level of appreciation was pretty high. Laura Les and Dylan Brady continue to prove that they just have hooks for DAYS. Whether it’s the Nu-Metal inspired “Dumbest Girl Alive,” the infectious “Hollywood Baby,” or the shitpost of a song “Frog On the Floor,” some melody on this album will be squirmin’ around in your ear even when it comes to the stranger and/or more experimental cuts. We often forget that music is supposed to be fun, and this album is a punch-in-the-face of a reminder.

Check out: “Hollywood Baby,” “757,” and “Billy Knows Jamie

8. A Place You Grew Up In by Laveda

Every day I’m thankful to be on my college radio station’s music director team. I would’ve never been introduced to Albany based shoegaze band Laveda if it weren’t for that job. Still just shy of 30k monthly listeners on Spotify at the time of writing this, Laveda is still at the bar-gig and house show stage of their career. Their sophomore album, A Place You Grew Up In is a masterclass in this second wave of shoegaze we’re in right now, as they foster a cohesive but constantly engaging sound throughout the whole record.

Check out: “Surprise,” “Troy Creeps,” and “A Place You Grew Up In

7. This Is Why by Paramore

After over 5 grueling years, Paramore came back last fall to start the rollout for their 6th album, This Is Why, as the band comes up on its 20th anniversary. Sharp instrumentation and Hayley’s evergreen feminine rage have made this album a favorite among both longtime Paramore stans and casual listeners. To hear more of my thoughts on this album, read my full review here.

Check out: “Figure 8,” “Liar,” and “Crave

6. Rat Saw God by Wednesday

After getting to see their infectious love for life and pure passion for music at their live show (featuring 2(!!) different lap steel pedals) last Monday, it’s no question that Wednesday deserves all the newfound praise and attention following their latest album, Rat Saw God. 37 exhilarating minutes of alt-country (or y’allternative, as I think it should be called) confessionals detailing the band’s experiences with growing up in the south, identity, and self worth. The twang and subsequent screams of lead singer Karly Hartzman are incredibly charming and perfectly accompany the band’s sonic palette. The two part, 8 ½ minute behemoth that is “Bull Believer” showcases everything Wednesday excels at whether it be their sonic range, potent storytelling, or their unique use of text painting with Karly’s wavering vocals and harsh screaming. We’re certainly in a transitional period of alternative/indie rock, and I don’t doubt Wednesday will be listed as one of the standouts of this time down the road.

Check out: “Chosen To Deserve,” “Bath County,” and “Bull Believer

5. To Learn by Leith Ross

For every 100 wannabes sitting in their car claiming they just wrote the “song of the summer,” you get someone like Leith Ross. The Canadian singer-songwriter rose to prominence on TikTok in late 2021 for her somber, touching, and expertly crafted acoustic tunes, particularly To Learn’s lead single, “We’ll Never Have Sex,” a short and sweet ditty chronicling being truly and tenderly loved by a partner despite present mental health struggles. A record certainly not for the faint of heart, Ross is unafraid to tackle several gut wrenching topics that gives the listener a deeply personal glimpse into their heart and mind. Themes of isolationism, sexual violence, and loving someone terrible are touched on throughout To Learn, especially the latter. The instrumentals are gentle, lush, and expertly composed throughout, but the softness of these songs never compromises Leith’s eloquence and candor. To Learn’s third single, “(You) On My Arm”, a song about wanting to experience romantic mundanities with someone is a sonic break from the rest of the album, and it’s truly pop perfection. It took months for the song to leave my head after Leith first previewed it on TikTok. Ross is truly the exception, not the rule, when it comes to artists emerging from TikTok, and the attention she’s garnered online so far is more than deserved.

Check out: “Orlando,” “You (On My Arm),” and “Ask First

4. Desire, I Want To Turn Into You by Caroline Polachek

It takes a certain level of gravitas to flex two octaves of your vocal range in the first 30 seconds of your album. Caroline Polachek embodies said gravitas. Pure bombast, clear creative vision, and dedication to serving the fuck out of every vocal performance are just a few of the things that make Desire just so compelling. Teaming up with the perpetually booked and busy Danny L Harle, Polachek’s ambitious poptimism is consistently convincing, effective, and simply refuses to lose the listener’s attention. To hear more of my thoughts on Desire, including an aside on my hatred for Grimes, you can check out my full review here.

Check out: “Billions,” “Welcome To My Island,” and “Pretty In Possible

3. the record by boygenius

Boygenius are finally back after 5 years, and are cementing themselves as one of the best collaborative projects of this generation. Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, and Lucy Dacus are some of the best songwriters of our time on their own, but together they’re somehow able to reach something even greater. These three women are frustrated: with themselves, with ex lovers, even at the world at large, and the way they’re able to express that frustration with poise, nuance, and potent relatability is how boygenius has captured the hearts of so many (the issues surrounding their fanbase is another story that I will likely cover at a later date). To categorize them as simply “sad girl music” is an immense disservice to their talent and craftsmanship. Take one of the three lead singles, “$20,” a song in ⅞ about Baker’s inability to leave well enough alone. The song reaches a fever pitch towards the end with each member singing different lines relevant to the song’s subject matter over a swelling instrumental. The more intense sonic landscapes like this on the record contrast well with the album’s lighter moments, such as the painfully relatable “Cool About It.” “Cool About It” passes around a verse and a changing chorus from each of the three members, all centering around the experience of catching up with your ex before the wounds of the breakup have fully healed. I made the choice to really get the full immersive experience of this song by seeing it live with my ex. Do NOT try that at home, folks. Whether or not boygenius plans to come back after this album cycle runs its course is entirely up to fate, but the past several months have certainly proven that they are and will continue to be a force to be reckoned with.

Check out: “Not Strong Enough,” “$20,” and “Satanist

2. Live at Bush Hall by Black Country, New Road

After lead singer Isaac Wood decided to leave the band just four days before the release of their acclaimed second album Ants From Up There, the future of Black Country, New Road’s output was unclear. Right before Wood’s departure, bassist Tyler Hyde noted that the band’s next release would almost certainly not be a studio album, but what form they would be releasing new material in was still not decided. A little over a year later, the band filmed a concert movie of sorts over the course of three themed (prom, harvest, and Italian murder mystery) performances at the historic Bush Hall in London, which was released to streaming and physical soon after release due to demand. The performances contained ~45 minutes worth of brand new material the band had written, passing lead vocal duties between Tyler Hyde, pianist May Kershaw, and saxophonist Lewis Evans. The band largely stuck to their tried and true baroque-era inspired art rock sound, while also delving further into the grandiose musical theater-esque songwriting that was sprinkled throughout Ants. That style is showcased the most on the songs lead by Lewis, “Across the Pond Friend” and “The Wrong Trousers.” The snappy, syncopated drums, catchy melodies, and Lewis’ charming and passionate (albeit amateurish) vocals really took me back to my time in the pit orchestra in the best way possible. The most “true to form” BC,NR tracks are those lead by Tyler, with their overarching crescendos and devastating lyrics about heartbreak and self loathing (the exception being the exhilarating “Up Song” about the band’s persevering friendship). One of those tracks, “I Won’t Always Love You,” is my personal favorite, and is full of dramatic pauses as Hyde commands the rest of the band with her vocals. The 3 act nature of the song, and in contrast to what BC,NR fans came accustomed to, how much Tyler’s lyrics say with very few words make this track my favorite released by anyone this year so far. To those that believe this doesn’t hold a candle to the band’s previous work, I’m not sure if we’re hearing the same record. The future is bright for BC,NR, and it’s truly still just the beginning for them.

Check out: “Up Song,” “I Won’t Always Love You,” and “Across the Pond Friend


I am also surprised that a rap album is my favorite of this year so far. As someone that was raised on what I’d now call “grocery store music,” (Colbie Caillat, Sara Bareilles, John Mayer, etc) my journey of branching out my music taste has taken several years. It took me until a couple years ago to really appreciate hip-hop that wasn’t just Tyler, the creator, and genres like post-punk and emo also admittedly hadn’t hit my radar until the past year or so. But now that I am able to follow and enjoy those genres, I’m certainly better for it. SCARING THE HOES is a masterclass in the virtue of music being fun. JPEGMAFIA has proven himself to be an incredible rapper and an even more virtuosic producer over the course of his career, and that shines on this team up with Danny Brown. The chemistry between these two is palpable and refuses to fizzle out even a little bit for the record’s entire runtime. There isn’t a single moment where either of their flows become repetitive or derivative, and the welcome absurdity and wittiness of their bars is just as consistent.

That being said, the real star of this album is Peggy’s production prowess. Taking inspiration from several pieces of Korean and Japanese media, JPEG's method and utilization of sampling is impressive and immensely creative. Every switch-up and transition is seamless and exciting. Every beat begs to be analyzed and picked apart.

For better or worse, this album plants itself to this current moment in time, down to the title. Being named after the online trope of genres like alternative hip-hop being referred to as "hoe scaring music," SCARING THE HOES absolutely panders to the chronically online, chock full of references to internet happenings/figures (ex:Elon Musk's photo with Ghislane Maxwell, Kai Cenat's Twitch ban, 2chan) and recent political events (ex: Matt Gaetz sex trafficking scandal, Kyle Rittenhouse, Rudy Giuliani hair dye incident). Beyond the music itself, the merch released alongside this album present similar pandering, as two of the graphic t-shirts feature RateYourMusic screenshots of the release, and an alternate LP cover featuring a screenshot of getting blocked by JPEGMAFIA on Twitter.

Whether my infatuation with this album will be surpassed by another release this year is unknown, but for now, SCARING THE HOES is my favorite album of 2023.

Check out: The whole thing. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t

If you want a convenient place to listen to the songs featured in this list, here's a Spotify Playlist!

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