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The Roundup wrapped: best albums of 2023

The+Roundup+wrapped%3A+best+albums+of+2023

By Alex Gross ’24

THE ROUNDUP

Though in most years a ‘best albums’ list may feel like a countdown of billboard hits, 2023 delivered in a much more different way. Lacking in copious mainstream successes and maybe even ‘dull’ by a casual listener’s standards, this year allowed for musical experimentation that is sure to set the stage for generational projects in the coming years. So without further ado, I present my top albums of the year – not the most popular or accessible, but truly the best examples of musical artistry.

Honorable Mentions: Mammoth II by Mammoth WVH (Aug. 4, 2023), Utopia by Travis Scott (July 28, 2023), Back to the Water Below by Royal Blood (Sep. 8, 2023), A Great Chaos by Ken Carson (Oct. 13, 2023), SOS by SZA (Dec. 9, 2022)

5. A Beat to Make it Better by Thandii (March 21, 2023)

This producer duo of vocalist Jess Berry and percussionist Graham Godfrey will have you enamored with relaxing lounge music before hitting listeners with funky bass grooves that are sure to be stuck in your head for days. This masquerade of jazz is imbibed within funk tracks like “Give Me a Smile” and “New Shock” that could’ve easily landed on Cleo Sol’s latest release, Heaven. For an incredibly underground group, this project shattered the low expectations most critics had, setting a new standard for the future of modern jazz and groovy R&B.

4. Desire, I Want to Turn Into You by Caroline Polachek (Feb. 14, 2023)

Polachek’s eclectic mix of electronic indie pop and alternative vocals pairs to create a uniquely modern collection of hooks, creating an incredibly fresh sound for an artist whose contemporaries have largely become jaded. The theme of love can often become dull in mainstream pop, but Polachek’s innovative production and irregular song structures make this listen anything but predictable. Music enjoyers from all genres can band together in celebration of this incredibly fun album. Kudos for also being a contestant for best cover art.

3. This is Why by Paramore (Feb. 10, 2023)

Paramore’s near two-decade long career has been tumultuous to say the least, but seeing core members Haley Williams, Taylor Yorke, and Zac Farro reunite for an authentically honest project was perhaps the most refreshing release of the year. A return to more guitar-based sounds is prominent in songs like “This is Why” and “Running Out of Time,” but not devoid of reflectionary tracks like “Liar” and “Thick Skull.” Paramore has made it clear that they don’t owe anyone anything, and whatever is to come in the future is sure to be their most personal work yet.

2. Lahai by Sampha (Oct. 20, 2023)

Besides appearances on Kendrick Lamar’s “Father Time” and Travis Scott’s “My Eyes,” Sampha had been fairly quiet since his debut album Process in 2017. But Lahai was well worth the six-year wait. Sampha’s signature despondent vocal style layered on top of swirling piano and electronic drum kits is the perfect vessel for the grappling of time throughout the project. Additionally, Sampha’s live performances (see his NPR Tiny Desk Concert) breathe new life into each song, adding acoustic elements and backing vocals to an already hypnotic experience.

1. Let’s Start Here by Lil Yachty (Jan. 27, 2023)

Lil Yachty surprised the world with perhaps the first truly successful venture into rock from a hip-hop artist (sorry Kid Cudi and Lil Wayne). Drawing from inspirations from Mac DeMarco, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and MGMT, Yachty stuck to the core of psychedelic rock that has propelled the genre into the mainstream over the past decade. “The Black Seminole” is arguably the most innovative track of the decade, and groovy pop songs like “drive ME crazy” are sure to leave listeners baffled that its writing credits belong to a SoundCloud rapper. Similarly to Tyler, the Creator’s Igor, Yachty masks his lack of vocal talent through tasteful autotune and ethereal production, showing his skills as a true curator of music and breaking out of his past label of a mumble rapper.

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Alex Gross, Online Managing Editor
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