Favorite Albums of 2023 (so far)
Somehow we’re already nearly halfway through 2023 and at times, I’ve been overwhelmed by the flood of great new music. After yesterday’s post about my monthly music diaries, I thought it’d be nice to share some of the albums in heavy rotation over the last six months. I always put together year-end lists to share here but wanted to flag some early favorites, listed here in no particular order.
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First Two Pages of Frankenstein - The National
Every time I listen to The National, I think they might be my all-time favorite band. Over the last few albums, it seems I like each one even more than the one before. I’m leaning into my sad dad stereotype with this one. This will be hard to top as my favorite of the entire year. Standout tracks are Once Upon A Poolside, New Order T-Shirt, and Send for Me.
Heavy Heavy - Young Fathers
Young Fathers is a Liberian/Nigerian/Scottish hip-hop trio that put on one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen in San Fransisco nearly ten years ago. They’d seemingly gone dark the last few years so I was exicted to learn news of a new album. On this tight ten-track album (only 32 minutes), we find the band mixing heavy, dark lyrics with something new: joy. Standout tracks: I Saw, Geronimo.
Past // Present // Future - Meet Me @ The Altar
In high school, I listened to a lot of pop-punk but only rediscovered the genre early in the pandemic. It’s been fun to re-immerse myself in this angsty, loud, aggressive world and find it more inclusive, diverse, and fun than when I was a kid. Meet Me @ The Altar is proof of that and dominated my headphone as summer began. Standout tracks are Kool, TMI, and Thx 4 Nothin’.
Secret Life - Fred again… and Brian Eno
I’m late to the Fred again… train but am now fully a fan. This collaboration with Brian Eno seems to be getting mixed reviews but I’ve found myself returning to it often, drowning in the soundscapes, especially early in the morning as the day is just getting started. Standout track: Cmon.
Formal Growth In The Desert - Protomartyr
The genre I listen to the most, I think — or at least the one that means the most to me — is post-punk. I’ve long been drawn to the dark/goth/glam scene and Protomartyr has been a favorite the last few years. This album, to me, feels more experimental, mixing shoegaze, some jazz-inspired instrumentation and the skulking vocals I always love. Standout tracks: Polacrilex Kid, Rain Garden.
Paradise Crick - M. Sage
Most mornings, I’m listening to ambient and experimental music (before moving to louder, more energetic music in the afternoon) and this new-to-me artist, M. Sage, has been a favorite for the last few weeks. Mixing natural sounds, ambient instrumentation, and drone, it’s exactly the kind of ambient music I love the most. Standout tracks: Stars Hanging Shallow, Evenin’ Out.
Heaven Is a Junkyard - Youth Lagoon
I’ve been a Youth Lagoon fan since their debut record in 2011 but thought we’d heard the last of Trevor Powers’s alt-indie band. Returning to the moniker after a series of health issues, this new album is Powers’s more confident and most original. Standout tracks: Idaho Alien, Prizefighter.
Nocens - Thme
Similiar to the M. Sage album above, Thme, a mysterious Paris-based ambient artist, mixes solo piano, glitchy textures, and natural soundscapes to create atmospheric records that sounds best with headphones on. Put the whole album on and let it wash over you.
Compositions - Deathprod
The other side of my ambient interests is the darker, drone-led artists, especially Deathprod. Here, Deathprod, better known as Helge Sten, experiments with short tracks — none longer than four minutes — that contrast eerie silence and overwhelming noise.
The Shell That Speaks the Sea - David Toop and Lawrence English
Lawrence English, an Australian polymath, has been making some of my favorite ambient music for years. On his new album, a collaboration with another polymath, David Toop, feels more expansive, in many ways mixing my love of drone music and my love of natural soundscapes. This album mixes nature (wind, birds, rustling leaves) with dark sonic textures for a beautiful collection of songs.