Best Albums of 2023!

text by digital-media

28 December, 2023

Words by: Bella Genolio (External MD), Marion Suchowiecky (Internal MD), and Ryan Tabib (Music Librarian)

The music department at KCSB is constantly looking for the best music from diverse, underrepresented, and independent musicians. As the year comes to a close, we wanted to share our favorite musical gems from 2023. The list includes brand-new albums, re-releases, and compilation albums released in the last year. You can find our favorite tracks from each album in the playlists linked below. 

Bella’s Picks


1. Yo La Tengo – This Stupid World

At the start of the year, I saw Yo La Tengo perform this album live, and it was one of the best, if not the best, shows I’ve been to. This album summarizes YLT’s sound well; it combines the silliness of their more popular earlier works and the electronic ambient sound from their instrumental albums. The vocal shift contrasts the airy vocals of Georgia Hubley and the harsher sound of Ira Kaplan’s voice to create a range of feelings throughout the album. The instrumentation is full of synths, uses rhythmic raw noise throughout, and combines this with simple guitar riffs and 2/4 drum beats. On top of that, Kaplan integrates complicated yet subtle guitar melodies that tie the songs together. It’s an album I kept returning to throughout the year, and I will continue to listen to it past the end of 2023. 

2. Underscores – Wallsocket

Wallsocket is another album I keep coming back to, though it was released later in the year. For me, it was one of those albums that yields a different listening experience on every listen. At first I thought it was just a fun hyperpop, 100 gecs-esque album.  I started listening closer to the lyrics and found out it was a concept album that followed different characters in a fictional town. As I got deeper and deeper into the lore behind Wallsocket, I discovered this project had a massive amount of background all over the internet. There’s a town website that connects to blogs, newsletters, and local business sites; the main story of the album follows three girls in the town; etc etc etc. I wrote an add of the month blog for KCSB about this album, so if you’re interested in finding out more, go check it out.

3. bar italia – The Twits

Bar italia really teased this album with all of the singles they released beforehand. It has a super deadpan and moody feel, while maintaining an angsty 90s alternative sound. The vocals on this album are super fun – bar italia is a three piece. On each song they switch lead vocals creating a sort of dialogue that runs through the album. A personal favorite track is my little tony – it’s sleazy, high energy, and feels like it belongs on the soundtrack of a film about a high-risk, high-reward situation.

4. Blonde Redhead – Sit Down For Dinner

Blonde Redhead released this album after a decade of no new releases, and it is so great. The instrumentals are layered and dreamy, with vocals both ethereal and melancholy. It’s also interesting sonically; on many of the songs, different elements shift from ear to ear, creating a full soundscape that heightens the senses. Sit Down for Dinner manages to be peaceful and incredibly interesting simultaneously – the percussion, synths, and piano remain in the background but allow the listener to shift their focus towards each element as they evolve throughout the album.

5. Altın Gün – Aşk

This album’s a great listen. Altin Gun combines spacey psych-rock sounds with traditional Middle Eastern instruments and Turkish vocals. Many of the tracks are reminiscent of American psych-rock greats but manage to implement an entirely new experimental sound. This album remains incredibly interesting; some songs use synths to create an eerie sci-fi sound, while others overlay a heavy metal guitar sound with lighter surf rock waa pedals. At the same time, some combine standard rock riffs with mystical percussive sounds. Some are even disco! Altin Gun takes inspiration from Neşet Ertaş, a Turkish folk musician, and implements traditional Turkish vocals over their instrumentation. Everything combines to make an incredibly fresh sound while retaining traditional American and Turkish elements.


6. The Go! Team – Get Up Sequences Part Two

7. Subsonic Eye – All Around you

8. tricot – Fudeki

9. Tanuchikan – Gizmo

10. Sufjan Stevens – Javelin

11. Deeper – Careful!

12. Joanne Robertson – Blue Car

13. Florry – The Holey Bible

14. American Analog Set – You Don’t Want Me To Arrive Do You?

15. feeble little horse – Girl with Fish

16. MJ Lenderman – And The Wind (Live and Loose!)

17. Ricardo Dias Gomes – Muito Sol

18. Various Artists – Moping in style: A tribute to Adam Green

19. Slowdive – everything is alive

Wednesday – Rat Saw God

20. Snow Strippers – April Mixtape 3

21. Snõõper – Super Snõõper

22. Deadharrie – Names

23. Mitski – The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We

24. Steph Green – Lore

25. Hataalii – COMPLETELY!!! Personal

26. After The Magic – Parannoul


28. Hard Copy – 12 Shots of Nature

29. Lankum – False Lankum

30. John Fahey – Proofs and Refutations

31. Ryuichi Sakamoto – 12

32. Ester Rose – Safe to Run

33. Kibi James – Delusions

34. Tony Molina – Embarrassing Times

36. Dan Kurfist – Arkinetics

37. Elliott Fulham – End of Ways

38. Bully – Lucky For You

39. Bebel Gilberto – João

40. The Williams Brothers – Memories To Burn

41. Pharoh Sanders – Pharoh

42. Mad Anthony – The Lost Tapes

43. Lorraine James – Gentle Confrontation

44. Laurel Halo – Atlas

45. Colter Wall – Little Songs

46. thanks for coming – What Is My Capacity to Love?

47. The Murder Capital – Gigi’s Recovery

48. Jungle – Volcano

49. Will Hammond – BILLO

50. Signs – Purelink

Marion’s Picks

Another year has come and gone (almost), so it is only fitting to reflect on what has come to pass. This year was huge for me- I was lucky to spend a lot of time traveling and discovering what makes life worth living. The coming year will bring a lot of change, which is partly exciting but also very scary. However, one thing that has never and will never change is my commitment to and love for music. The following are the albums that kept me company this year – accompanying everything from my travels, study sessions, solitary nights, and adventures with friends. The albums one listens to undoubtedly act as keepers of memories. Much like a scent from childhood, one never knows what song will stir up those feelings of nostalgia that leave one longing for, or longing to forget, a certain point in one’s life. These are some of the tunes that I believe will aid me in looking back at this point in my life with fondness and love.

Apart from the first five records, which were my favorites, there is no particular order throughout the rest of the list. Every single one of these records is worth listening to. With all this said, I want to wish you all a very happy new year full of love, health, and light. Surround yourself with good people, take care of yourself, and don’t forget to listen to music!

1. Sufjan Stevens – Javelin

Sufjan Stevens has solidified himself as this generation’s king of nostalgia. This latest work was characterized by true vulnerability: a portrait of a man learning to cope with the unspeakable. Instrumentally, Javelin is stripped down, featuring primarily finger-picked string instruments, Sufjan’s renowned angelic harmonies, and the occasional piano. Here at the station, we were lucky to have received a CD copy of the album, which included a booklet featuring Stevens’ art meant to accompany and enhance the listening experience. Javelin spent six consecutive weeks as #1 in the NACC charts- a hefty accomplishment amidst what has felt like a year of boundless great music. 

2. Slaughter Beach Dog – Crying, Laughing, Waving, Smiling

This album was my companion throughout many a beach day, bike rides, long drives, hikes, and cooking sessions. With lyrics as bountiful as the landscapes and characters they describe, there’s much room for discovery upon re-listening. The album’s instrumentation, influenced by the likes of Neil Young, Paul McCartney, and even Roy Orbison, particularly appealed to me. Despite the clear influences heard in the album, the band does a remarkable job of telling distinctly contemporary stories; they seem to perfectly understand what life feels like as a young person who yearns for adventure today.

3. Mitski – The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We

There is something I must admit that I am not particularly proud of… This album was my introduction to Mitski. I know, I know, it is a terrible thing.

But in the spirit of starting fresh in 2024, I had to get it off my chest.

If there is one thing that my exploration of Mitski’s catalog has taught me, it’s that she deserves absolutely all of the hype. Foremost, the gentle folk/country instrumentation throughout the album is perfectly executed, with just enough of the classic sound balanced out by Mitski’s unique and distinct vocals. Thematically, I loved indulging in her honest and raw lyrics, which were faithful companions on some of the long and challenging nights I encountered this year.

4. Wednesday- Rat Saw God

Without a shred of doubt, this was Wednesday’s year. This is a band that is on the verge of something huge. The Karly Hartzman-fronted project has pioneered a new frontier for shoegaze. The balance between MJ Lenderman’s heavy fuzz-laden guitars, Karly’s southern drawl, and Xandy Chelmis’ steel guitar has resulted in the happy marriage of shoegaze with country (which I hope is here to stay). Having attended the band’s concert at the Teragram in the spring of 2023, I can attest that this band does it all, from the very heavy to the vulnerable and sweet. Again, the album proves that the earnest and vulnerable approach to lyricism allows the audience to relate to and see their most private characteristics mirrored and validated.

5. Yves Tumor – Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds)

It isn’t easy to put my thoughts about this album into words because it feels like there cannot possibly be a point of reference for something so beautifully expansive and simultaneously fragmented. The album seems to encompass everything – every kind of feeling, musical genre, and style. Yves Tumor is undoubtedly solidifying themself as a Bowie-esque figure, synthesizing the contemporary moment into something altogether new and unique but that retains the capability to appeal to all who listen. This is an album that I have no trouble admitting intimidates me as a writer and listener. It is one of those records that requires more from the listener than just attention – it requires thought, empathy, and imagination.

6 – 50:

6. Liv.e –  Girl in the Half Pearl

7. Feeble little horse – girl with fish

8. Titanic – Vidrio

9. All Around you – subsonic eye

10. The Gun Club – Mother Juno (re-release)

11. MJ Lenderman – And The Wind (Live and Loose!)

12. Parannoul – After the Magic

13. Earl Sweatshirt, The Alchemist – Voir Dire

14. Bar Italia – the twits

15. Black Country, New Road – Live at Bush Hall

16. Youth Lagoon – Heaven is a junkyard

17. Indigo De Souza – All of This Will End

18. Armand Hammer – We Buy Diabetic Test Strips

19. Lonnie Holley – Oh Me Oh My

20. The Lost Days – In the Store

21. Billy Woods & Kenny Segal – Maps

22. Blue Lake – Sun Arcs

23. Deadharrie – Names 

24. Everyone Asked About You – Paper Airplanes, Paper Hearts

25. Cut Worms – Cut Worms

26. PJ Harvey – I Inside the Old Year Dying

27. Squirrel Flower – Tomorrow’s Fire

28. Navy Blue – Ways of Knowing

29. Tyler The Creator – Call Me If You Get Lost: The Estate Sale

30. Natalia Lafourcade – De Todas Las Flores

31. Sofia Kourtesis – Madres

32. ANOHNI – My Back Was A Bridge For You To Cross

33. Nourished By Time – Erotic Probiotic 2

34. Andre 3000 – New Blue Sun

35. Boygenius – The Record

36. Mad Anthony – The Lost Tapes

37. Pharoah Sanders – Pharoah

38. Bully – Lucky For You

39. Young Fathers- Heavy Heavy

40. Yo La Tengo – This Stupid World

41. Slowthai – UGLY

42. 100 gecs – 10,000 gecs

43. Daniel Caesar – Never Enough

44. Liturgy – 93696

45. The Lemon Twigs – Everything Harmony 

46. Blómi  – Susanne Sundfør

47. King Krule – Space Heavy

48. Squid – O Monolith

49. Tanuchikan – Gizmo 

50. Golden Apples – Bananasugarfire

Ryan’s Picks

1. bar italia- Tracey Denim 

I randomly stumbled across bar italia’s album ‘Tracey Denim’ (the first of two albums they released this year). I had zero expectations and zero knowledge of the band going into it. Coming out of the experience, I knew this would be my favorite album of the year. There’s a ton you can say about it, but I think the real reason I connect with this record so deeply is that it answers a question every edgy teenager has asked: “Why don’t they make music anymore like they used to?” Tracey Denim stands as the answer, encapsulating a refreshing sound in its release time yet igniting some nostalgia. It is self-admittedly rough around the edges, but it perfectly fills a vacuum left by current music.

2. ML Buch – Suntub

2023 has been a very transformative year for my taste in music. I learned that when you forsake attention to genre, you begin to find the more minute, unique details within the music. I can’t even place a genre on Danish artist ML Buch’s sophomore album, Suntub. It is electronic and ambient and folk and psychedelic and dream-pop, and… you get the point. Leaving us with an album that is incredibly unique, intentional, and captivating; it never wavers in quality. The intro track, “Pan Over the Hill,” perfectly introduces the listener to what this album offers lyrically and instrumentally.



3. Earl Sweatshirt & The Alchemist – Voir Dire

Voir Dire is everything you’d want from an Earl release, and teamed up with one of the best producers in modern rap, the album makes for such an enjoyable and solid project. The album is a quintessential edition to Earl Sweatshirt’s catalog of conscious and abstract rap that, as the name suggests, rejects your typical elements of popular rap for captivating and unique rhyme schemes, lyrics, and production.

4. Everyone Asked About You – Paper Airplanes, Paper Hearts 

If you had told me a year ago that one of my favorite releases this year would be from an Emo band from Little Rock, Arkansas, I would first point you to my younger sister, who loves to wear all black, and then probably double take at the fact that there are bands out of Arkansas. Let my ignorance be a valuable lesson to you. Everyone Asked About You has become one of my most listened-to bands. Paper Airplanes, Paper Hearts is a compilation of unreleased and undiscovered music from the band throughout their active years in the ‘90s. Lead singer Hannah Vogan’s vocals are a huge draw to their music; they’re rough and loud but exceptionally melodic and a perfect guide through the noise rock playing behind her.

5. Nabihah Iqbal – DREAMER 

In trying to describe this album, I keep hitting a wall, finding myself instead answering what this album is not. Nabihah Iqbal doesn’t combine genres or use them as influences in her songs. Instead, each song is its own genre. The album starts, and you think you’re listening to your next favorite dream pop track. Suddenly, two songs in, you’re hit with some really groovy deep house and electronic music. The last three songs on the record might as well have been on Slowdive’s Souvlaki – ethereal melodies and vocals come together to create that perfect shoegaze atmosphere. DREAMER is such a fun listen, so I had to put it in my top five.


6 – 50: 

6. Joanne Robertson – Blue Car

7. Deadharrie – Names

8. Wednesday – Rat Saw God 

9. a.s.o – a.s.o 

10. MJ Lenderman – And The Wind (Live and Loose!)

11. J. Albert – Flat Earth

12. Naked Flames – It Is What It is

13. she’s green – Wisteria

14. Billy Woods, Kenny Segal – Maps

15. Mitski – The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We

16. Flooding – Silhouette Machine 

17. DreamWeaver – blue garden

18. Yo La Tengo – This Stupid World

19. subsonic eye – All Around you 

20. bl4ck m4rket c4rt – Today I Laid Down 

21. Everything is Alive – Slowdive

22. Summer 2000 – Ellie Kemper

23. Underscores – Wallsocket 

24. Yves Tumor – Praise a Lord Who Chews but Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds)

25. Feeble Little Horse – Girl With Fish 

26. Waveform* – Antarctica

27. Doc Sleep – Birds (in my mind anyway)

28. Sigur Ros – klettur

29. Cave Diver – Alone with Everything

30. Parannoul – After the Magic

31. Jane Remover – Census Designated 

32. Jonah Yano – portrait of a dog

33. Armand Hammer – We Buy Diabetic Test Strips

34. Kristin Hersh – Clear Pond Road

35. Lamp – Dusk to Dawn

36. Actress – LXXXVIII

37. Bebel Gilberto – João

38. Maria BC – Spike Field

39. Tanuchikan – Gizmo

40. Nourished By Time – Erotic Probiotic 2

41. Elliott Fulham – End of Ways

42. Ryuichi Sakamoto – 12

43. King Krule – sPacE hEavy

44. Pharoah Sanders – Pharoah

45. bar italia – The twits 

46. Lankum – False Lankum 

47. George Clanton – OOh I Rap Ya

48. Oxbow – Love’s Holiday 

49. Andre 3000 – New Blue Sun

50. Tyler The Creator – Call Me If You Get Lost: The Estate Sale

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