Looking back on a year of music is always an odd endeavour. There is an incredibly wild variety of
music, and yet when you pay attention to what is going on in the world of music for a whole year,
everything looks almost cohesive. Music does not operate in an independent culture, it’s weaved
into our lives in so many ways that ends up making us look back on the records released in 2023 and
thinking that all those albums, while so different, just feel so 2023. As art’s solitary purpose is to be
criticised and ranked against each other, here are the completely objective top 10 albums of the
year that was 2023.
10. JPEGMAFIA/Danny Brown: SCARING THE HOES
As early as its release in March, SCARING THE HOES was guaranteed to be one of the best hip hop
albums of 2023. JPEGMAFIA, responding to the meme that his music is mostly played by men while it
repels women, leans into the joke in the album, as clearly seen in the title. The rappers, on their first
collaboration together, prove that they are a duo with huge potential. SCARING THE HOES has no
shortage of addictive and interesting beats, in particular the title track. One of the most impressive
things about this album is its wildly chaotic instrumentation and production, which somehow comes
together into something amazing to listen to. It is an album that hip hop fans, and maybe even the
hoes, can all enjoy together.
9. Caroline Polachek: Desire, I Want To Turn Into You
Polachek’s sophomore album under her real name is a mix of art pop beats and just straight up
bangers. ‘Welcome To My Island’ starts the album off on a high note that Polachek does not allow to
decline. Desire is a collection of truly great pop hits with Polachek wearing her 90’s influences on her
sleeve. The record is also not without its intimate moments, such as on the song ‘Sunset’. Her skill at
making pop tunes is undeniably, but Polachek’s lyrical brilliance cannot be understated. Polachek’s
album revolves around the feeling of desire, with the album’s title referencing the chorus of
‘Welcome To My Island’. It is a testament to Polachek’s skill as an artist that she is able to create an
album with her deeply personal feelings while also making songs you can pop a boogie to.
8. 100 gecs: 10,000 gecs
In their most recent project, Dylan Brady and Laura Les take their duo into an exciting new area.
Straying from their hyperpop origins, 100 gecs explore an alt-rock/pop-punk direction on tracks on
10,000 gecs, such as on ‘Doritos & Fritos’. But the duo have not abandoned their hyperpop roots
with tracks like ‘mememe’, but they have achieved a new sound which is not easily confused with
the sound of their debut album 1000 gecs. While 100 gecs’ skills at creating bangers perfect for the
mosh pit, one of the best aspects of their music is how absurd it is. If you listen to 10,000 gecs you
may just find yourself starting to feel a lump in your throat, a fresh feeling after listening to
ridiculous tracks like ‘Frog On The Floor’, only to realise you’re listening to a reflection on a recent
dentist visit on ‘I Got My Tooth Removed’.
7. Mitski: The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We
From the first single it was clear that Mitski’s seventh album was going to be something different.
According to herself this is Mitski’s “most American album” with lyrics all surrounding “the theme of
love”. It begins with the lead single ‘Bug Like an Angel’, a lush piece over a gentle guitar, with a choir
joining in at the chorus. The choir, arranged by Mitski, is just one part of a beautiful productionwhich includes an orchestra, and of course the artist’s own delightful voice. Do not be confused, just because this record revolves around love, does not mean it’s all happy, far from it. This is seen clearly on the song ‘I’m Your Man’, where the toxic dynamic of a relationship is laid bare; “You’re an angel, I’m a dog/Or you’re a dog and I’m your man.” After her four year break following Be the Cowboy, it seemed like Mitski was in a bit of a rut with the disappointing Laurel Hell. But after The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We it is clear she is so back and currently making some of the best music of her career.
6. Olivia Rodrigo: GUTS
“The sophomore curse” haunts all new artists. It is a common occurrence where artists who have big
success with their debut release will often come out with a disappointing second album. It is clear
that Olivia Rodrigo was not affected by this at all. On GUTS Rodrigo reaches new levels of sincerity
and self-reflection with a series of powerful tracks that pack a punch. Back in her debut album,
SOUR, Rodrigo encapsulated the feeling of teenage angst and heartbreak, two years later she is
exploring the same feelings but as a more mature songwriter. One of the most striking things about
her record is Rodrigo’s depiction of expectations placed on women; “Bought a bunch of makeup,
tryna cover up my face/I started to skip lunch, stopped eatin’ cake on birthdays.” These feelings of
female expectations are perhaps most impactful on the track ‘lacy’, where Rodrigo shows how much
she compares herself to and envies other women, to the point where it is almost depicted as being
romantic; “Smart, sexy Lacy, I’m losin’ it lately/I feel your compliments like bullets on skin.” SOUR
was a behemoth of a record to try to follow up, but Rodrigo pulled through with a sophomore album
that gives her a debut a run for its money.