We are a few weeks in to the new year and I have now had plenty of time to look back over the year that was 2023. In music, 2023 gifted us with more great music than we knew what to do with. There were a number of artists that released amazing debut records that would have dominated the landscape if not for some equally great albums from established acts. The European and Asian markets proved again in the last year that they have some of the greatest music the world has to offer. From K-Pop to AfroBeats to Grime the international music scene put the American music scene on notice.
My favorite albums of the last year cover those genres as well as numerous others. I am not saying that these are the best albums of the past year but the ones that I found myself listening to over and over and sharing with anyone who would listen.
5. Fuse Everything But The Girl
It was nearly 25 years ago when Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt went “Missing” from the musical landscape to focus on having a family. The duo, Everything But The Girl, emerged from their two decade plus slumber to deliver a timeless album that pays homage to their past as well as the path they have awoken to blaze.
4. Volcano Jungle
On Jungle’s latest release, it proves difficult to pick the standout tracks as the 14 songs on Volcano blend together effortlessly. The album from the UK dance-duo has so many layers much like a fine wine that you taste over and over trying to describe every subtle hint of an aroma only to find something new with every sip.
3. Let’s Start Here Lil Yachty
Mumble rap has never and will never be my cup of tea. I have listened to so many tracks from mumble rappers and I often feel angry and stupider for doing so. BlocBoy JB, Lil Gotti, Oboy, and Trippie Redd as just some of the ‘artists’ that I’ve sampled songs of only to be left with a taste and desire to listen to some 90s rap to make the world right. When Lil Yachty’s Let’s Start Here arrived I had ZERO hopes for anything positive to come from it. After the first listen I was hooked. I have been blown away all year by how good this album is. I get that this is his “take me serious” album and he most certainly has grabbed my attention.
2. IRL Mahalia
My two favorite albums of the year both deliver bold, venerable takes on R&B. Mahalia followed up 2019 album Love and Compromise with an album full of truthfully moments that range from relationship trauma to newly found confidence discovered during therapy. IRL is highlighted by some heavy hitters that have come to prop the R&B diva up. Broadway and pop star JoJo joins Mahalia on the sultry, smooth “Cheat” and UK rap legend Stormzy drops in on “November.”
1. My 21st Century Blues
I have screamed the praises of Raye and My 21st Century Blues all year long and as loud as I can. This is album not only my favorite of the 2023 it also one of the best debuts in recent memory. There are just absolute dace floor filling jams on the record but it’s the song writing that is the real star of the album. Raye has had a very public fight to get her music released despite first being signed to record deal a decade ago.
Raye sings “My pen is a gun” on “Hard Out Here” and she made sure it was loaded before it hit the paper. She bravely recounts and sings about the sexual assaults she endured at the hands of some producers and record executives. “Oscar Winning Tears” and “Ice Cream Man” are two of the songs that really take a deep look into the violence she faced. I have said multiple times that this could be a very therapeutic album for a countless number of young people that have found themselves in very all too similar situations.
Steven McCash is the Lead Music Writer and Utility Man for SoBros Network. Steven is the host of the ‘Drinking With…’ podcast, and the pioneer of New Music Friday, highlighting each week’s new releases in the world of music in addition to the occasional live show review. He also pitches in as a Nashville lifestyle writer and football analyst (hence the ‘Utility Man’ title). Follow on Twitter: @MC_Cash75
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