Welcome to our first annual round-up of the year’s greatest musical escapades, where we dive into an ocean of soundscapes so fresh, they make your Spotify playlists look like relics of a bygone era. Brace yourselves, audiophiles and casual listeners alike, as we embark on a sonic journey through the best albums of 2023–the ones that set our ears ablaze and made us question our musical tastes.
Forget ‘classic’–these albums helped us get through inflation, the government admitting UFOs are real, and Taylor Swift’s love life. So, grab your headphones, and let’s unravel the symphonies that made 2023 an auditory feast to remember! Side note–yes, we know this list is completely biased and no, we don’t care (Rolling Stone gets away with it every year)!
On Glockoma 2’s opening track, Memphis-born rapper Key Glock raps that he, “Made it out them slums, can’t forget where I came from”. It’s hard to argue differently after hearing him deliver verses full of cold, stark, uncompromising raps reminiscent of the woozy, narcotic style of the Memphis greats that came before him. Tracks like “Let’s go” and “Fuck Dat Shit” sound like modern-day Three 6 Mafia–with the latter even sampling their signature rhyme pattern. Glock’s multiple link-ups with rapper Young Dolph might have inspired the rapper’s flow at times despite not appearing on the album. In fact, you won’t find any features on Glockcoma, which, in our opinion, is a breath of fresh air these days. In a world of rap singles, Glockcoma 2 is an album full of heaters.
Kabelo Motha aka Kabza De Small is often referred to as the “King of Amapiano” after playing an instrumental role in popularizing the Amapiano genre with his breakthrough in 2018. Kabza began his career as a DJ in 2009, venturing in the genres: Afro-fused house and EDM. He gained his production credits by releasing his first EP Avenue Sound, and gained attention by releasing the popular songs ‘Amabele Shaya’ and ‘Umshove’. Motha has several collaborative studio albums with record producer DJ Maphorisa namely Scorpion Kings , Piano Hub , The Return of Scorpion Kings and finally with Isimo, released in October. If you are asking yourself, what is amapiano? Relax, you’ve already been exposed to it from stateside acts like Drake, Major Lazer, and Solange, who have been quietly “borrowing” the South African sound for years. Enjoy this before middle-aged white women ruin it for everyone.
Both Dave and Central Cee are absolutely rapping their asses off on this EP. If you’re new to both of these guys, this is a nice little introduction. If you’re already familiar, then you already know that this EP was an event that grabbed both sides of the Atlantic. With only 4 tracks this EP packs a punch into every sound. The record’s breakout hit, ‘Sprinter’, lit up the summer with Dave’s patented brand of storytelling throughout while Cee delivers verses packed with braggadocious statements that only he can get away with. Anyone with 16 minutes–and a love for UK rap, should give this a listen.
Clocking it at just under 20 minutes this EP offers snapshots and fragments of, what could be, some of the most inventive Drum n Bass tracks released in 2023. Then again, maybe that’s the point: This is an EP about dragging out the night’s short end, and making well-intentioned plans for life’s daylight hours. The record’s break out track, “Baianá” features a chopped and pieced-together melody that stems from Brazil’s popular body-music group, Barbatuques. Meanwhile, tracks like, “So Tell Me” have the chords–and feeling, of a Mike Skinner track. So whether you’re staying in this weekend or hitting the afters for another sesh, Sunrise.. Has something for everyone.
Birthed in the cold fringes of Edmonton, Alberta Canada’s Home Front released an album that sent chills down our middle-aged backs. Taking cues from legendary acts like, The Cure, Echo & the Bunnymen, and Suicide, Home Front sits comfortably in the area between the death of punk, and the birth of new wave. A record bubbling over with analog synth, guitar loops, slammed 808 drums, and anthemic vocals, ‘Games Of Power’ was the key bump of nostalgia that everyone who grew up drinking from the garden hose needed. This album also conveniently fills our guitar quota for this article so it’s a win-win for everyone involved.
Released in early may, this breakout album from one of the UK’s most hotly anticipated electronic acts tops our list with a bang. Since their inception in 2015, brothers Tom and Ed Russell have been winning over the hearts of club and festival goers alike with their ground-breaking EPs. With ‘Good Lies’ peaking at 11 on the UK dance charts, a phenomenal Boiler Room set, and a summer full of live appearances it’s clear that their love for larger-than-life live moments helped shape these tracks. Songs like Cold Blooded: with its almost dreamlike, floating above-the-clouds bassline–sound absolutely massive when experienced live. With the year coming to an end and another new single already released in September, it’s a safe bet that the duo are cooking up some heat for ‘24.
So there you have it, 2023 may have given us Scandoval, the death of Bob Barker, and way too many Barbie memes but the year did manage to squeeze out six albums that kept our heads bobbing while pretending to work.
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