This list comes late because every year we sift through every other list we can get our hands on before finishing ours. This list is a result of that deep digging, that I love to do so others don’t have to. Our goal is to lift up the most interesting and engaging music from the year across every genre.
It’s also a result of some selective culling, there’s no need to reiterate albums on every other year end list. 100 is an arbitrary number and this list should be thought of, at best, as loosely ordered. There isn’t an album on this list that will be a waste of your time if you have at least a passing interest in the genre. This list lacks electronic releases because we put together separate list to present the most exciting club and dance music.
In 2024 we’ll (actually) start to send out a monthly newsletter highlighting some of our favorite new finds from the past month in addition to other artistic highlights encountered like art, films, books, and live performances. If that sounds like something that might interest you, subscribe here!
I'm also looking to expand on our output as a project next year and am looking for people interested in helping. If you’re interested in contributing in any capacity (writing, design, dev, etc) then we'd be more than happy to have you. If interested, email me here!
We’ve selected a favorite track from each album in this list (of those available on streaming services). This format inherently hurts most of these albums because they’re pieces of art meant to be consumed in full. However, these playlists are a sample platter that exhibit standouts from each album. We also created a Buy Music Club page linking to everything available on Bandcamp.
An indescribable woozy 4 track EP for fans of tirzah, jockstrap, voice actor, perko, honour and other leftward leaning pop exploration.
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Honour’s debut album is a ligament stretching from Lagos to London and to New York, curling across the diaspora and brushing the darker hues of blues, hip-hop, free jazz, ambient, gospel with Christian mythology and Yoruba folklore. As cinematic as it is painterly, Àlàáfíà is a meditation on themes of life, death and love that pulls inspiration from the poetic profundity of God, remembered dreams, unexpected casual conversations, field recordings, literature, ephemera, and personal archives.
The title holders for best album of 2020 have finally returned, with a… concept album about worms? That’s oversimplifying, though factually accurate. The worm is greed, the worm is capitalism, the worm is hatred, it’s a lot of things. That this record can convey such a harebrained idea convincingly, and still pull together some incredible standalone tracks like “Saddest Worm Ever” and “The End Is Now” is remarkable. Plus, who doesn’t love a batshit concept album? - Courtesy of Drew Pitt (former Natural Music writer) on his music newsletter, Apotheosis, because I could never sum this album up better if I tried
Jeff Rosenstock makes increasingly chaotic albums for an increasingly chaotic world. With each passing year, it feels like the temperature of the universe boils five degrees hotter, and with each new album, Rosenstock’s music grows more unwieldy and lawless. Louder, faster, more feral. Which brings us to 2023—a planet on fire and the release of the appropriately titled, anarchic record, HELLMODE.
"To me, the album feels like the chaos of being alive right now,” - Jeff Rosenstock
The quartet is Biscuit on flute, Kwake Bass on drums & percussion, Raven Bush on violin, and Peter Bennie on bass - with a whole bunch of synths and unique toys to boot. Further Out Than The Edge features an extensive list of friends and family, most of who happen to be some of the most exciting names in independent music: Tirzah, Kelsey Lu, Shabaka Hutchings, Coby Sey, Sampha, Kae Tempest, Mica Levi, Joe Armon Jones, Lawfawndah, Léa Sen, and more.
DJ Python and Ana Roxanne are both known for bittersweet, contemplative electronic music that feels like a companion in quiet times. With Natural Wonder Beauty Concept the two artists have found their natural, if unexpected, counterparts.
"Lunch Money Life is a five-piece band with no remit. All music composed communally and spontaneously." reads the band's bio on Spotify. The God Phone is a concept album that explores a society transformed by the scientific proof of God's existence but just listening through you'd never know. It's a frenetic journey between too many genres to count with the sheen of London somehow filtering through.
After well over 5 years we finally got the sophomore album from the very promising UK-based RnB artist Sampha. Lahai is very much a continuation of the R&B-styled UK bass and art pop that Sampha burst onto the scene with 2017's Process. However, unlike his debut album, the focus and drive for consistency drives this album to much higher emotional planes. . The vocals, the gentle push, your lyrics... bittersweet bliss and release.
While not perfect, Homeless N*gga Pop Music, is a brilliant showcase of creativity and potential from a young artist unafraid to experiment. This mixtape creates its own musical universe, where Hannah Montana and Jersey club samples somehow orbit seamlessly around a core of poppy Afrobeats, emo, and rap. We can't wait to see what Jim Legxcy brings on his proper debut album.
Neo Gibson records, performs, and produces under the alias 7038634357. Her latest album, Neo Seven, contains a spare, beautiful, and raw journey through the artist's emotive, psychologically-charged ambient songwriting. The album’s seven tracks bleed into and out of one another, continually forming and deforming between soundscape, song, and silence."sounds like computerized emotions in an abyss of loud ambience, in the best way possible"
This is pure anxiety on disc, in the best way possible. sprain’s blend of dissonant post-rock, totalist composition, noise rock, and just plain noise is so gratifyingly, brutally uncomfortable. Almost definitely one of the standout heavy albums of 2023.
Touched By An Angel is a 90-minute experimental ambient odyssey that showcases her unrestrained creativity and unique sound. The album is a complex tapestry of sound collage, synths, and minimal orchestration, blending elements of free jazz, gospel, and avant-R&B. Its atmospheric textures are both grimy and beautiful, with a roughness that adds charm and depth.
Produced in collaboration with BADBADNOTGOOD, Portrait Of A Dog is a rich exploration of heartbreak and a glimpse into Yano's world. The Hiroshima-born, Montreal-based singer-songwriter blends warm jazz tones, gentle folk meditations, and poppier moments into an album that's just extremely pleasant to listen to.
A four-piece experimental noise band that formed out of the fertile Manchester scene. With I've Seen a Way they have together generated a sound that is at once chaotic and precision engineered, where chance operations are manipulated into percussive geometries, and gnarled guitars sit in thickets of distortion around which vocals spin knots of lyrical repetitions.
The decade-long wait for this LP has paid off, showcasing Evian Christ's ability to create a work of beauty and apocalyptic intensity that's both an homage and reinvention of trance music, filled with cresting arpeggios and massive supersaws. The album presents a range of atmospheres, from cold and tense to dramatic, yet maintains a melodic and human-like essence amidst its synthetic and futuristic sound.
The freewheeling techno DJ and leftfield producer Avalon Emerson's debut album with her new band marks a delightful shift from techno to indietronica, blending pop structures with elements of shoegaze, balearic beat, and alt-dance, all wrapped in dreamy '80s and '90s nostalgia. It's a journey through shimmering melodies and cinematic dreamscapes, showcasing Emerson's songwriting prowess and inventive, gentle style.
Maps is an abstract hip hop record that shows a strong connection between the two artists, blending Woods' vivid storytelling with Segal's atmospheric and varied beats and cements both as some of the best of our time. It's "a story of the road, or roads, taken and untaken; of living the dream and dreaming of another life. It is an album about trying to find your way home, after making your home wherever you lay your head." Weaving between poignant memoir, deadpan humor, and incandescent bursts of surrealism this is a must listen album from 2023.
Experimental cloud trap mixtape with 16 freewheeling tracks in just 22 minutes from Quinn. Highlight ‘Kilo’s track’ melds junglish breaks, huge trap sub bass, soaring strings, and nostalgic samples into a buttery emotional euphoria in just 1 minute 52 seconds and ‘heart of coal’ builds a track around a soccer mommy track. A must listen for fans of jpegmafia, lil b, rxknephew, They Hate Change, yung lean, or little ugly mane.
In a year ripe with shoegaze Hotline TNT emerges as a standout in the genre, blending old-school gazey tones with modern songwriting and mixing. While it doesn't venture into unexplored territories, its strength lies in its familiar, slacker-y vibe, complemented by jangly, punchy guitar riffs and sugary vocal melodies. Cartwheel delivers simple sonic satisfaction and reaffirms the joy of guitar-led music without the need for genre-breaking innovation.
An ambient dub masterpiece, blending elements of IDM and avant-garde electronic with a reverence for the turn-of-the-millennium sound. The album, developed from compositions for live performances, features a soft, billowing sound grounded in bass weight, reminiscent of artists like Boards of Canada. Purelink's collaborative process results in a sound that is both meditative and actively contemplative and "Signs" captures the trio's chemistry in its most fluid form, with music that is subdued yet vibrant, mapping a journey through glitch, rhythm, and space.
Chunky's debut album "Somebody's Child" is a striking testament to his African roots and Manchester upbringing, blending Afrobeats, grime, dancehall, techno, and drum'n'bass with a unique flair. The album stands out for its humor, musicality, and the memorable soundbites that capture the essence of Manchester's underground club scene.
Fountain Baby skillfully connects music from Latin America, black pop, and alternative R&B, all while staying rooted in its African origins, making it easily one of the best pop albums of the year.The album flows with confidence, showcasing sleek, shiny production that feels as fluid and brilliant as the water on the cover with the submerged-sounding synthesizers and smooth drums.
Look Over The Wall, See The Sky reinterprets traditional folk with a blend of past and present, analog and digital. This album, complex yet welcoming may not click on the first listen but with each successive play, it draws you in further. The delicate arrangement of these songs leaves them floating in a surreal space, creating an emotional force that resonates through the album.
A statement piece with the power to back up its title, Brother May’s Pattern With Force burns with a spirit of optimism and empowerment. The nine-track album - co-produced by Brother May and acclaimed musician, composer, and long-time collaborator Mica Levi (Under the Skin, Tirzah, Good Sad Happy Bad). It brims with the fearless UK garage, jungle, and post-grime influences of its production, along with the raw poetic energy of May’s own early drill and gangster rap background.
Joanne Robertson's Blue Car is a profound journey and a treasure trove of acoustic recordings that showcase her unique voice and guitar skills, echoing the raw, lo-fi folk essence of artists like Grouper and John Fahey. The album's strength lies in its consistent, immersive mood, offering a transcendent emotional atmosphere that lingers long after the music stops.
An avant-pop exploration that delves into introspective and experimental rock. The album stand out “Ruins,” beautifully blends post-punk rhythms with Hval's captivating vocals. Tracks like “With the Other Hand,” inspired by Leonard Cohen, showcase a creative fusion of guitar lines and transformative lyrics, painting vivid scenes from urban nightscapes to early internet days. This work is a journey into the physical and a melodic experience that invites listeners to get lost and reemerge with new perspectives.
A Grisaille Wedding, the collaborative album from Space Afrika and Rainy Miller, is a masterful blend of UK experimental music. This monochrome-inspired project infuses ambient pop, grime, and hip-hop elements, creating a canvas of emotions ranging from grief to hope. It showcases the trio's affinity for creating evocative soundscapes, where Manchester's industrial roots meet modern musical innovation. The album not only celebrates their union but also the richness of the broader UK scene, offering a poignant, immersive experience.
A perfectly smoky but lucid and atmospheric fusion of organic modern classical, avant-rock, jazz, chamber pop and more. Breathtaking melodies, strong composing skills, expressive recording and production, emotionally urgent performances, a perfect balance of atonal/disharmonic and tonal/harmonic stuff.
Mabe Fatti crafts a sound lodged somewhere between Antena, Arthur Russell, Elaine Howley, Julia Holter, Fleetwood Mac and Vicente Atria and this is not one to sleep on.
Suntub is a journey into electric guitars and layered vocals, blending folk and rock melodies with dreamy digital atmospheres. The album's clean guitar tones and Buch's deep, breathy vocals create a unique atmosphere, where minimalism results in mesmerizing soundscapes.
I pushed off listening to this all year because I felt I basically knew what to expect from a fusion of JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown's unique styles. Unsurprisingly this album stands as a pinnacle of experimental hip-hop in 2023, delivering a compact, 36-minute burst of 'sparkly chaos'. Its intense, non-stop energy and boundary-pushing quirkiness make it a standout for the year offering a mix of humor, high-energy beats, and innovation that resonate with both respect and uniqueness.
Raven is consistently praised for its production. The fidelity of the album uplifts ethereal layered vocals that are grounded with heavier bass and ambient elements. Reminiscent of R&B but textured and complicated, the juxtapostion of sound demonstrates a departure from one-note identities, exploring what it means to be woman, to be black, to be queer. - Julie Kim
"Burning Desire" by MIKE is a masterful mix of atmospheric samples and clever wordplay, exploring themes of loneliness and love. Echoing Earl Sweatshirt's style but with his own flair, MIKE delivers a strong lyrical and production performance, particularly in standout jazz-infused tracks. The album's second half shines brighter, showcasing MIKE's artistic growth and solidifying "Burning Desire" as his most accomplished work yet.
A unique blend of noise-pop experimentalism and modern twee pop sensibilities. The album, short at just 26 minutes, delivers an instantly gratifying experience with its loud, abrasive edge and sarcastically cool lyrics. It's a richly textured work full of fuzzy melodic hooks and intriguing left turns, reminiscent of Frankie Cosmos but covered in FUZZ. Tracks like "Steamroller" and "Pocket" exemplify the album's ability to balance catchy pop hooks with heavy feedback and fuzzy guitars, creating a contrast between chill vocals and the intense sounds of the instruments.
trip9love...??? is a masterful blend of minimalism and experimental pop, combining clubby vibes with an intangible, surreal essence.. The album is constructed around piano loops, a consistent drum beat, and Tirzah's romantic vocal toplines, all enveloped in hazy, lo-fi effects. This limited sonic palette creates an immediate yet surreal atmosphere, reminiscent of vaporwave and early 2000s R&B, with a touch of witch house. The album's detached, dreamy quality is anchored by Tirzah's captivating voice, making it a standout for fans of experimental pop and artists like Dean Blunt.
Exit Simulation masterfully blends R&B, ambient, and gospel into a deeply enchanting experience. The album's unhurried pace allows Blues' soft, undulating voice to emerge from atmospheric synths and humming bass with a haunting effect. This groundbreaking mix of genres, from heavy ambient tracks reminiscent of Grouper to jazzy tunes akin to Nala Sinephro or Nubya Garcia, offers a soulful journey that's both immersive and innovative, resonating with a spiritual depth influenced by Niecy's early experiences with ambient church music.
Whilst its brief twenty-eight minute runtime flashes by, Suono Assente never feels rushed. It’s a record that encapsules the original spirit of post-punk: Truly playful, experimental and innovative echoing in spirit artists like Arthur Russell, Moin, or PiL.
Across seven years and several albums it feels like WFYE has finally found there sound. The album, reminiscent of '90s indie icons like if Stereolab and Broadcast made post punk warped by digital editing akin to Daniel Lopatin's style, blending catchy melodies with mangled instrumentation. Despite its challenging nature, the album's anticapitalist critique and stoner humor, polished even in its roughest moments, place it among the best rock albums of the year and a solid step in their artistic journey with Matador Records.
Black Country, New Road are an English art rock band with roots in Cambridge. They released Live at Bush Hall in February through a concert film that depicts cuts of the charming group humbly performing for 'schoolmates' in three sold out shows. Themes ranged from a quarterly farm harvest to prom night. The reprise 'Look at what we did together, BCNR friends forever' invites friend and foe to celebrate a diverse yearbook of lyrics, instruments, power and whimsy. It's altogether invigorating and soothing, energizing and contemplative. Standout track of the year 'Turbines/Pigs' is an absolutely essential listen. - Julie Kim