Christmas can be a time for quiet reflection, but allow us to turn up the volume for a moment as the members of the MusicRadar team tell you about their favourite albums of 2023.
This isn’t a ‘best of the year’ list - we’re sure you’ll have your own favourites - but a selection of personal choices from the people whose words you’ve been reading this past 12 months. You may have heard some of the records, but if you find something new here that you can take away and enjoy, so much the better.
Josiah And The Bonnevilles - Endurance
I had drifted away from listening to acoustic singer-songwriters, but Josiah Leming reminded me just how powerful great songwriting can be when delivered that way.
This is a really strong album front to back, full of hooks and Josiah's striking voice and poignant lyrics. He's a really special talent who can make covers his own, too - as his version of Justin Bieber's Ghost testifies.
But this album proves just how well his own songs stand up – this is the real deal. I can hear the years Josiah has put into his craft on the road, making sacrifices to survive as a musician and being able to bring it all to life in his songwriting. Rob Laing
Sam Greenfield - Sam Greenfield Rules
Super funky and very silly, but full of fantastic musicianship. I've been addicted to this album since it dropped in November. The follow up to last year's also brilliant Sam Greenfield Sucks is full of huge grooves, sax solos and lyrics that will make you smile. Just please don't put on 'Cheeks' when the kids are listening. Adam Lee
Sleep Token - Take Me Back To Eden
I didn't board the Sleep Token train until this, their third album, but they've quickly become my 2023 obsession - Spotify Wrapped tells me I listened to 4,996 minutes of the band this year. Whoops.
The eclectic blend of downtuned metal, prog and pop hooks on Take Me Back To Eden really sunk its claws into me, from the sprawling title track, to the soaring pop rock of album closer, Euclid. Their drummer - II - has quickly become my drummer of the year too, with chops to rival the late Aaron Spears and the best sounding snare in metal right now. The hype is totally justified. Chris Barnes
JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown - Scaring The Hoes
With its distorted, booming production, hilarious punchlines, and eclectic sample choice, Jpegmafia and Danny Brown make their intent clear right from the opening line of First off, f**k Elon Musk. It features some of the most inventive beatmaking I’ve ever heard, from the D'n'B break of Fentanyl Tester, strummed acoustic guitars of Kingdom Hearts Key, and even a gospel choir on God Loves You.
Sure to overwhelm anyone on their first listen, if you’re looking for accessible hooks and clean production this is not the album for you. But if you’re bored of the same old hi-hat patterns and sliding 808 bass, the distinctive flavour of Scaring The Hoes could be just the tonic. Matt McCracken
Foo Fighters - But Here We Are
I am a lifelong Foos fan, so this was a very bittersweet album for me. On one hand, it's the best material the band has released since 2011's Wasting Light, but on the other, it's an album intrinsically linked to tragedy.
Now, while this collection of songs reads as a love letter to their fallen brother, Taylor Hawkins, as well as Dave's mother, who also passed away, at its heart, it's a solid rock album with plenty of anthemic hooks, massive guitars and stellar drumming from Grohl. My standout tracks are Under You, Hearing Voices and Nothing At All. Daryl Robertson
Water From Your Eyes - Everyone's Crushed
At first listen, I didn't necessarily know that Water From Your Eyes' schtick was what I, myself alone, was crying out for. The worried-looking 'louche' musician is a less common figure than it was a decade back, but was I ready to fall in with that ilk again this soon? Not in all honesty.
However, as autumn leaves turned brown, I felt an about-turn coming on. It might have been a bad case of earache blocking the screechier interludes. Maybe it was in reaction to the saccharine/serious Barbenheimer notes of summer. But the band's "giant shrug" persona, at first alienating, suddenly felt soothing.
Following the formula of their 'hit' Barley, in large part tracks are pinned together by stream-of-consciousness murmurings in a sweetly laconic New York patter. Less wall of sound, more dilapidated dry stone field division trampled by five generations of sheep.
However, then, on occasion, everyone involved apparently wakes up from their stupor, elbows on keys/feet on guitar pedals, ready to break out into an expressive recital fragment gone wrong. And a week later, you come back to find those dissonant, contrarian drone sounds are now cheerful little micro-earworms. You can't teach that. Full marks. Kate Puttick
Skrillex - Quest For Fire
If you’d told me a decade ago I’d be naming a Skrillex record my Album of the Year, I don’t think I’d have believed you. Beginning his career as the frontman of post-hardcore band From First to Last, Sonny Moore underwent his first transformation in the early ‘10s, becoming a producer of deeply unfashionable, Grammy-sweeping dubstep that earned the (frankly unwarranted) ire of snobbish electronic music fans across the pond.
Ten years on, and we’ve all grown up a bit. Skrillex included, who has switched up his style once again with infinitely better results. Dropping two albums in the space of 24 hours, he established his place as a god-tier producer capable of applying his talents to just about every genre of electronic music going. Spanning house, garage, dubstep, trap, juke and DnB, every track on the project is different, but all share a single winning formula: addictive pop hooks amplified through devastating sonic impact.
The best of the pair, Quest For Fire, is hit after hit after hit; from the mind-melting bass weight of Rumble to the dewy-eyed UKG of Still Here, these are impeccably produced bangers of the highest order. Skrillex went on a quest for fire, and he found it. Matt Mullen
Eloise - Drunk On A Flight
It’s always a pleasure to discover a new artist, particularly one as talented as Eloise. I can’t claim to have chanced upon her music through word of mouth, via social media or at a live show - my introduction came via the rather more prosaic medium of a press release - but I was hooked on her debut album, Drunk On A Flight, from first listen, and still find new things to enjoy every time I put it on.
A break-up record that’s alternately jazzy, soulful and rocky - check out the glorious harmonies in the title track, and Therapist, a bruising emotional takedown of an ex - Drunk On A Flight is full of the kind of authentic, sophisticated songwriting that many artists seem to find elusive or shy away from. In fact, it’s thoroughly intoxicating. Ben Rogerson
Pangaea - Changing Channels
Both as an artist and as co-founder of influential label Hessle Audio, British DJ and producer Kevin McAuley, aka Pangaea, has had a hand in some of the most adventurous and boundary-pushing dance music releases of the past two decades. His latest solo album is something different, though; rather than challenging conventions or ripping up the house and techno rulebook, Changing Channels is a remarkably straightforward album that encapsulates club music at its most fun.
Across seven tracks and a tight 35 minutes, Changing Channels is packed with bubbling basslines, shuffling garage rhythms and energetic synth hooks. That's not to say there are no original ideas, though. From the weird unintelligible vocal flips on Installation to the off kilter synths of Squid, there are plenty of oddball touches that give the album personality, but it all feels like it's first and foremost in service of having a good time. Si Truss