My Top Albums Of 2023

2023 was an… unusual year for music. As far as individual tracks go, 2023 was a bumper crop! My Fall 2023 Spotify playlist had to be split in two because there were just SO MANY great songs showing up on Spotify!

But as far as entire albums go? Ehhhhhhh, not so much. I know some of you are thinking “dude, are you CRAZY? 2023 had albums by Caroline Polachek, Lana Del Rey, boygenius, Small Black, Depeche Mode, Alison Goldfrapp, Mitski. 100 gecs, Fever Ray, Sufjan Stevens… we even got a flute record from André 3000!”

I get it. I do. But while I found many, many great new songs this year, full albums seemed to elude me. Which is why I broke one of my longstanding rules this year. Oh yes – there is RULE BREAKING this year!

So let’s get to it: below are my ten favorite albums of 2023. The list comes from my stats generally; I almost always tinker with the specific order of the albums. After that are the honorable mentions, followed by the “Band of the Year”, “Song of the Year”, “Live Song of the Year” and the raw data from

My Top Albums of 2023

10) M83 – Fantasy – I’ll be honest: M83 is one of those bands I wish I liked more… especially since Spotify says “French indietronica” is one of my top genres, and these guys (with Daft Punk and Air) basically created the whole thing! Yet, M83 is a band I listen to and like the hits (but wore “Midnight City” into the ground… badly). So, while this is a pretty good LP I’d recommend to anyone, it says something that this year was so slow that a band I’m ultimately kinda “meh” about makes the Top 10.

9) Slowdive – Everything is Alive – Good to have ya back, guys.I don’t know you ended up as THE most evergreen tree in the shoegaze forest, but here we are.

8) Alice et Moi – Photographie – Alice Vannoorenberghe or Alice Vanor for short, or her stage name, Alice et Moi, has released a ton of good singles and EPs. Her song “Éoliennes” was even in a teaser for Netflix’s You:

That’s her music – slow, but with a beat… sexy… European. It’s EXACTLY the kind of music you’d see in a show like You… or a Longchamp commercial. Photographie builds on the success of all those singles, EPs and her debut, 2021’s Drama. But while I like this album, I understand the “it starts to sound ‘samey’ after a  while” criticism. Like I said, it’s a slow year for albums.

7) Munya – Jardin – Montreal’s Munya does pretty indie pop, end of story. One of the later tracks on this disc – “Un Deux Trois” – sounds like a parallel universe Madonna, where she ended up French-Canadian and in Montreal in 1983 instead of NYC.

If the French is too much for you, here’s her slightly funky cover of “Bizarre Love Triangle” (LOVE THAT BASS!)

She’s a lot of fun. This album is a lot of fun.

6) Kid Francescoli  – Sunset Blue – What’s there  to say? All of Kid Francescoli’s albums have made my “Best of” lists, excepting the first two (that predate my lists). And really, why wouldn’t his stuff be here? If “French indietronica” is something you might be into, he’s one of the biggest names. His music is fun, catchy and almost always has a beat. There’s a time and place for slow, almost ambient music… but Kid Francescoli time ain’t it. If you want to feel like you’re hanging out in a hipster lounge in Marseille… this is the artist (and album) for you! And speaking of, Kid (actual name Mathieu Hocine) is from Marseille, and he dedicated this album to the sights, sounds, smells and memories of his hometown. It’s a great album to listen to while walking, and a great album to play for a party. Keep up the FANTASTIC work, sir.

5) Cosmetics – Baby – This is the point in the list where I launch into a tirade about Johnny Jewel. And yeah, it’s a thing: Jewel, musician and producer, broke up Chromatics and ran off many of his labels most talented artists. You may remember the Italians Do It Better band Heaven, who had a indie hit called “Truth or Dare”:

Or, if you saw Chromatics on their 2019 tour, you might have seen Heaven’s lead singer Aja playing synths with Desire. Anyway, I guess as part of the IDIB fallout, she left the label and restarted her previous band, Cosmetics.

It’s just pure synthpop. And not every song works, but I really like them, you guys:

4) Cannons – Heartbeat Highway – I’ve been following Cannons since before “Fire for You” became a big hit (since In a Heartbeat, if you must know). I’m glad to see them get recognition, but also feel like this is almost a goodbye, as if the band is about to become popular and morph into something I no longer like. It’s the story of my life – Cocteau Twins and R.E.M., especially. So let’s just enjoy Heartbeat Highway while we’re here. And if you’re predisposed to like Cannons anyway, there’s a LOT to like here. It’s just pop music of the “we were in love, then you broke my heart” variety. But Cannons’ music is so…. slick and sexy, it’s hard not to be charmed by them. They may not be for everyone, but if you just accept them for what they are, they’re a lot of fun!

3) Camp Claude – Moody Moon – OK, lemme just get it out of the way: I love Diane Sagnier, She’s a photographer and a singer and a musician, and she’s really good all three (she does almost all the photography for Melody’s Echo Chamber, for example). And while album’s hit single – a jaunty little bit of indietronica called “Everynight” – does most of the heavy lifting, this is a pretty solid outing overall. If I have a problem with it, it’s the sequence of the tracks. The opener, “Nothing New” is a good song, but it’s kind of slow, and doesn’t reach out and grab you, and make you wanna keep listening. The next song, “Crystal in my Mind” has a beat and is just… more interesting? More compelling a song? Perhaps one day I’ll make Moody Moon (Jim’s Version) in my preferred order on Spotify.

2) Skip Ahead – Your questions will be answered.

1) Beach House – Become – So yeah… as long as I’ve been doing these – 13 years! – I’ve had the policy of NOT allowing EPs on the list. After all, the list is “best albums”, not “best albums and EPs”, yeah? But this year the reality is, Beach House’s Become is my record of the year… full stop, end of. No other LP came close to sucking me in completely like this EP.

I think that’s a huge testament to how good a band Beach House is that these 5 songs – considered “not good enough” for Once Twice Melody, and pawned off as a Record Store Day exclusive – REALLY ARE some of the best tracks of their career. Let’s get this out of the way right now: “Holiday House” is PEAK BEACH HOUSE:

I can almost picture the band putting down their instruments and walking away, having reached the pinnacle of their abilities. How does one top that? Easy: by almost any other song on this EP: “American Daughter”, “Devil’s Pool”, “Black Magic” (especially that one!) or the title track, “Become”. They’re all kind of different, yet all are amazing.

So, what about #2, then? Well, if I’m OK with making Become my “Album of the Year” even though it’s an EP, then why not be truthful and give the #2 slot to my second-favorite record of the year? And thus:

2) Yumi Zouma – EP IV – I love this band SO MUCH, you guys, and this EP, slowly revealed over the course of the year, captures the band seemingly headed in a slightly different direction. I can’t wait to see where the band goes in 2024. But wait… there will be more!

Honorable Mentions and EPs

Ladytron – Time’s Arrow
Julia Jean-Baptiste – Cinérama
Kraków Loves Adana – Oceanflower
Caroline Polachek – Desire, I Want to Turn Into You
Frankie Rose – Love as Projection
Small Black – Small Black
Depeche Mode – Memento Mori
Pieter Nooten – Someone There
Portland – Departures
The Red, Pinks and Purples – The Town That Cursed Your Name
Hatchie – Giving The World Away
French 79 – Teenagers
French Boutik – Ce Je Ne Sais Quoi
Alison Goldfrapp – The Love Invention
Georgia – Euphoric
Alaska Reid – Disenchanter
Xpropaganda – Strangely
Cathedral Bells – Everything At Once
The Japanese House – In the End It Always Does
Annie Hart – The Weight Of A Wave
Art School Girlfriend – Soft Landing
Polly Scattergood – La Fille Illustrée
Seja – Here Is One I Know You Know
Yota – Room 412
Bathe Alone – Fall With The Lights Down
Soda Blonde – Dream Big
Youth Lagoon – Heaven is a Junkyard
Blonde Redhead – Sit Down For Dinner
Slow Pulp – Yard
Clio – Carambolages
OMD – Bauhaus Staircase
Emma Anderson – Pearlies
Metric – Formentera II

Band of the Year

No doubt about it: 2023 was The Year of Yumi Zouma. As I said in last year’s round-up, it almost happened by accident. I liked a few YZ songs here are there, but when Purity Ring canceled their Atlanta show for the THIRD TIME due to COVID I was angry. The third time they canceled “due to COVID” most venues were back to normal. I was even getting the weekly emails from TicketBastard and every music venue I’ve visited since 2014.

I was tired of getting Purity Ring tickets and Atlanta hotel reservations only to have to cancel them a few months later. In one of those venue emails I saw that Yumi Zouma was coming and thought “I like a few of their songs, I should go. They at least have the stones to actually go on tour!” So I did.

And fell in love immediately. It was a slow burn: I didn’t come back from the Terminal West show, my heart all aflutter. I gradually ramped up my love, slowly moving from album to album and EP to EP.

They’re SO GOOD you guys!

At their newest:

At their synthpoppiest:

At their dreamiest:

At their smoothest:

At their most beautiful:

Song of the Year

Yep: it’s the previously mentioned “Holiday House” by Beach House. It truly is ALL THAT:

Live Song of the Year

You ever fall in love with a deep cut from a band, and then you see them live like, three weeks later, and you think “there’s NO WAY they’re playing that old song tonight”, but they end up play it anyway? Yeah, that happened to me in November, at the Yumi Zouma show in Durham with “Song for Zoe and Gwen”. This is a fan video from the show in Brooklyn a week later. The sound quality isn’t great, but it’s almost exactly what I experienced:

If you’d like to hear a better-sounding version, this is from the “Live at Guitar Center” YouTube series (8 years ago, with former member Sam Perry): Stuff

All data scraped on 12/20/2023.

Overall albums of the year from 01/01/2023 to 12/20/2023, with release year and annual play count:

1) Yumi Zouma – Truth or Consequences (2020, 965)
2) Beach House – Become (2023, 764)
3) Mint Julep – Broken Devotion (2016, 721)
4) Empathy Test – Monsters (2020, 589)
5) Yumi Zouma – Yoncalla (2016, 455)
6) Flunk – Morning Star Expanded (2022, 732)
7) Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Cool It Down (2022, 371)
8) Yumi Zouma – Willowbank (2017, 379)
9) You Drive – You Drive (2018, 340)
10) Alvvays – Alvvays (2014, 334)

Adjusted albums of the year, 2023 releases only:

1) Beach House – Become (764)
2) Camp Claude – Moody Moon (210)
3) Munya – Jardin (120)
4) Kid Francescoli  – Sunset Blue (94)
5) Cannons – Heartbeat Highway (87)
6) Cosmetics – Baby (63)
7) Slowdive – Everything is Alive (46)
8) Patchnotes – Endless Surrender (46)
9) M83 – Fantasy (45)
10) Alice et Moi – Photographie (42)

Total plays per artist, 2023

1) Yumi Zouma (2,761)
2) Mint Julep (2,344)
3) Beach House (1,681)
4) Alvvays (867)
5) Empathy Test (688)
6) Flunk (564)
7) R. Missing (452)
8) Minimal Schlager (444)
9) Camp Claude (443)
10) Kid Francescoli (416)

Total plays per artist “All Time” (since June 10, 2010)

1) Mint Julep (9,808)
2) Marsheaux (6,420)
3) Yumi Zouma (4,941)
4) Saint Etienne (4,221)
5) You Drive (4,144)
6) Empathy Test (3,168)
7) Purity Ring (3,048)
8) Beach House (2,618)
9) Chromatics (2,332)
10) Minimal Schlager (2,252)

Previous “Albums of the Year”

2022: Yumi Zouma – Present Tense
2021: Mint Julep – In a Deep & Dreamless Sleep
2020: Mint Julep – Stray Fantasies
Chromatics – Closer to Grey
You Drive – You Drive
2017: Saint Etienne – Home Counties
2016: Marsheaux – Ath.Lon
2015: Purity Ring – Another Eternity
2014: La Roux – Trouble in Paradise
2013: Marsheaux – Inhale
2012: Beach House – Bloom
2011: The Raveonettes – Raven in the Grave
2010: Katy Perry – Teenage Dream*

* – There was no single choice for “best album” in 2010; the article simply listed my favorite albums that year in no particular order. The choice of Teenage Dream was made ex post facto from that list of albums.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.