TOP 10
1.
Boygenius The Record

When Boygenius — the supergroup comprised of Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus, and Phoebe Bridgers — first appeared with their 2018 self-titled EP, its members were known indie quantities but not quite the stars that they are in 2023. Their steady rise makes their debut LP, The Record, all the more of an event, and has found them on the cover of Rolling Stone, headlining festivals, and even appearing on the massive Taylor Swift stadium tour. But what might get lost in the hype and the friendship-focused narrative is that Boygenius also finds three magnificent songwriters working in their prime, tapping both new and unfamiliar territory in equal measure, and discovering parts of themselves that can only be illuminated through the artistry of others. – Philip Cosores

2.
Olivia Rodrigo Guts

Even Olivia Rodrigo herself had worried about facing the sophomore slump, given the massive success she found with her 2021 debut, Sour. Her fears were simply just that. Rodrigo’s record Guts does a masterful job of blending her musical influences, tapping into the power and angst on stadium-ready tracks like “Ballad Of A Homeschooled Girl.” Her growth as a songwriter in just two years is already evident, reeling with the idea of being a famous “tourist attraction” on the vulnerable “Making The Bed,” or digging even deeper into personal hurts on “The Grudge” and “Logical.” – Lexi Lane

3.
Wednesday Rat Saw God

On the previous Wednesday LP, 2021’s Twin Plagues, singer-songwriter Karly Hartzman wrote evocative story songs set in what I like to call the Gummo South, a partly real and partly made-up region in which dead dogs and burned-down Dairy Queens dot the landscape like Starbucks crowd street corners in big cities. But on Rat Saw God, her songwriting exhibits a level of detail that is practically physical. The title alone of the opening track, “Hot Rotten Grass Smell,” filled my nostrils with the aroma of a humid late July day. – Steven Hyden

4.
Sufjan Stevens Javelin

If I’m writing this blurb based on my experience with Javelin prior to October 6, reliable critic terms like “return to form” and “masterful” come to mind; means of expressing how Sufjan Stevens did a lot of familiar things on his tenth album and did them remarkably well, even if it doesn’t place him at the center of discussion in 2023 the way that Illinois or Carrie & Lowell did. But when Stevens posted a tribute to his late partner Evans Richardson on the day of Javelin’s release, things like “narrative” and “zeitgeist” and “rankings” ultimately felt trivial. Which, yes, that’s what Stevens’ best work does, whether it’s his maximalist, big-top indie revivals or his skeletal folk or the songs on Javelin which fall somewhere in between. The joy, love, brotherhood, and devastation that Stevens sings about here are overwhelming, but as he’s learned from the passing of his best friend and also his own fragile health, all the more beautiful because they’re ultimately fleeting. This is all the more reason to treasure Javelin as if it were Stevens’ final word. – Ian Cohen

5.
Caroline Polachek Desire, I Want To Turn Into You

Caroline Polachek is by no means new to the music world. Despite this, her solo sophomore release, Desire, I Want To Turn Into You, finds her experimenting with a range of influences and elevating herself beyond the initial sound that first drew listeners in. Here, she plays with flamenco on “Sunset,” while also not alienating anyone by adding the catchy, electronic early preview of “Bunny Is A Rider.” In her present chameleon fashion, she then flips the script once more for the quiet tension on “Crude Drawing Of An Angel.” Just as the title suggests, Polachek reaches a new peak by being able to play with the concept of transformation and versatility on this album. – Lexi Lane

6.
SZA SOS

Yes, this album came out in 2022, but with most of its success taking place in 2023 and the fact that it came after most 2022 lists, it’s only right that SZA’s SOS makes the cut here. Five years removed from her debut album, SZA returns to a world riddled with troubled waters that people from all over hoped to survive and swim out of. Through the album’s expansive 23 songs, SZA guides us on a journey of surviving life’s elements, the lessons learned along the way, and what it looks like to make it to shore. The ups and downs of life, growing pains, and artistic struggles are all present on this album, and it’s even more impressive that she made its 23 songs not feel like an absolute drag. It was a long time coming for SZA, but boy did she arrive. – Wongo Okon

7.
Mitski The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We

Recorded in Nashville and Los Angeles, with a cast of supporting musicians that include country scene stalwarts like pedal-steel guitarist Fats Kaplin and keyboardist Brooke Waggoner, The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We is as still and insular as Mitski’s previous record, 2022’s Laurel Hell, was upwardly mobile and extroverted. The music is stately, dreamy, and extremely pretty, with Mitski’s voice buffeted by a pocket symphony of soft-focus Americana instrumentation, a stirringly cinematic string section, and a ghostly 17-person choir. – Steven Hyden

8.
billy Woods & Kenny Segal Maps

At its best, Billy Woods’ new project with producer and Project Blowed affiliate Kenny Segal unearths glittering examples of multifaceted wordplay. The subject matter ranges from Woods’ life as a touring musician to musings on the cultural connections of the African diaspora. But no matter where his musings take him, it’s all in service of a single-minded commitment to the art of rhyme, the endless excavation of hip-hop’s bedrock (as represented by Segal’s dense, protean soundscapes) for the sake of exploration, for the art itself. Woods never takes the direct route; the destination is secondary. The journey is the point. – Aaron Williams

9.
Kelela Raven

Nearly five and a half years went by between Kelela’s critically acclaimed second album Take My Apart and her third album Raven. Though the former depicts the singer and the vibrant colors within and around her, Raven offers a greyscale image of a face on the surface of the water. This willingness to let go of the powers that be, coupled with vulnerability, are two of the themes that make up the singer’s third album. Raven is crafted with the invitation to her listeners to explore what lies within and be open to what they find. Kelela, the album’s executive producer, accomplishes this to impressive levels with the assistance of dance, jazz, and R&B sounds – a combination that simply whisks one off their feet. – Wongo Okon

10.
Lana Del Rey Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd

Lana Del Rey’s career has been defined by a hot and cold reaction from the press, and equally hot and cold moments of self-sabotage and self-mythologizing. But if anything, it speaks volumes that any online spat that might accompany a rollout is generally forgotten by the next album cycle. That’s how continually surprising and sharp Lana is as a songwriter, that mild controversy slides off her. And that talent is underscored on Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd. “A&W” is another high point in sonic adventurousness and lyrical insight, while “The Grants” and the title track are so instantly familiar, they might as well be pulled directly from the singer-songwriter canon. We just can’t quit you, Lana. – Philip Cosores

11.
Victoria Monét — Jaguar II
11.
Victoria Monét Jaguar II

After years of working behind the scenes as a songwriter of many pop hits, Victoria Monét finally got to shine on her own this year. This past summer saw Monét release her debut album, Jaguar II, on which her hitmaking prowess continues to hold up. While the album maintains its cohesiveness throughout its 11 tracks, nearly all of them could be a single — including the kiss-off “Stop (Askin’ Me 4Sh*t),” the surprisingly pleasant break-up ballad “Good Bye,” and of course, the dirty south tribute, “On My Mama.”Alex Gonzalez

12.
Ratboys — The Window
12.
Ratboys The Window

A band can be called “underrated” only for so long before it starts to become a backhanded compliment, a constant reminder of success not yet achieved and a nagging prompt to question whether they’ve gotten a raw deal or just failed to make themselves essential. For over a decade, Ratboys have been a classic “your favorite band’s favorite band,” “sorely overlooked,” and a perennial solid opener but on The Window, they get on their Seth Cohen shit, jumping up on the proverbial coffee cart and refusing to be anyone’s secret anymore. Teaming up with Chris Walla (who knows a thing or two about this kind of move), Ratboys don’t do a whole lot differently, but they do it with a newfound gusto – their throwback alt-rock is hookier, there’s more grit in their rootsy indie, the jams go on for much longer, and their slice-of-life story songs have a greater sense of personal investment. The Window did everything a “level up” could ask for, including the most difficult part for a perennially underrated band, leaping from likable to lovable. – Ian Cohen

13.
Janelle Monáe — The Age of Pleasure
13.
Janelle Monáe The Age of Pleasure

Janelle Monáe is always worth the wait. The Age Of Pleasure is their fourth album, and their first in five years, and with this record, Monáe is on a higher spiritual plane than ever before. Indulging in hedonistic pleasures, Monáe revels in queer sensuality, embracing intimacy and touch on songs like “Lipstick Lover.” They also celebrate many a win on “Champagne Sh*t,” and embrace their own body as a work of art on the luxurious “Haute.” Through smooth transitions between tracks, The Age Of Pleasure paints a continuous portrait of opulence and sexual liberation within an unapologetically queer, genderfluid world created via Monáe’s multidimensional lens. – Alex Gonzalez

14.
Amaarae — Fountain Baby
14.
Amaarae Fountain Baby

A perfect example of thriving in the realm of versatility can be found in Amaarae. Her sophomore album Fountain Baby blends genres despite being billed as a pop album, incorporating elements of R&B, hip-hop, afrobeats, punk, and alternative rock. But maybe the most exciting element of Fountain Baby comes from a deeper place, as the album is drowned in female empowerment and swims in the fluidity of sexuality and gender expression. It nourishes with sounds that are digestible for people near and far, just like water – the album’s theme – does globally. With her second album, Amaarae took a leap comparable to few in 2023 and produced an album unlike any other released this year. – Wongo Okon

15.
Noname — Sundial
15.
Noname Sundial

Noname isn’t in rap to make friends but to platform important causes. On her latest album, Sundial, Noname uses the project’s brief run time to have an intense communal conversation, as she’s so militantly pointed out during her triumphant NPR Tiny Desk Concert. Nothing and no one is off limits. Sundial is sharply witted banter about politics, classism, racism, and more. Whoever said rap was in its flop era clearly hasn’t listened to Noname’s Sundial because the project is a lyrical masterclass and a brilliant display of what craftsmanship sounds like. – Flisadam Pointer

16.
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit — Weathervanes
16.
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit Weathervanes

The venerable dean of modern-day country-leaning singer-songwriters has been so consistent for so long that the arrival of another excellent album is easy to take for granted. But I would make the case for Weathervanes ranking with his very best work. Taking over production duties from long-time collaborator Dave Cobb, Isbell has made the best-sounding record of his career by leaning into the live-in-the-studio chemistry he has with The 400 Unit. After a series of quieter and folk-oriented albums, he actually cranks the guitars this time to levels that recall his tenure in Drive-By Truckers. (The DBT allusion is deliberate on one of the album’s best tunes, “When We Were Close.”) But as always his core strength is writing with great care and sensitivity about the inner lives of ordinary people caught in extraordinary circumstances — a school shooting, a failing marriage, the haunting memory of a terrible father, a young couple facing a potential life-changing decision. As you come to know the songs, you feel as if they know you, too. – Steven Hyden

17.
100 Gecs — 10,000 Gecs
17.
100 Gecs 10,000 Gecs

This record offers many potential rhetorical landmines for the humble year-end list blurb writer. Because (Hyman Roth voice) this is the business we have chosen, your initial instinct as a gainfully employed music critic is to stare off into space and stroke your chin and come up with a grand theory about why 10,000 Gecs works as well as it does. For instance, I once compared 100 Gecs to the Ramones in the sense that both groups surveyed the trash culture of their respective eras and distilled it all into an idiot-genius package that didn’t elevate the material so much as revel in wanton moronic splendor for its own sake. But does likening 10,000 Gecs to a record that came out 47 years ago really do this band justice? I suspect not. Therefore, I surrender. This record is great because it rules. Put emojis on my grave, I’m the dumbest dude alive. – Steven Hyden

18.
Yo La Tengo — This Stupid World
18.
Yo La Tengo This Stupid World

This Stupid World is the sonic equivalent of rubbing your temple while muttering, “What is it now?” The greatest band to ever come from Hoboken and one of the most consistently great acts in rock history, Yo La Tengo are a bit easy to take for granted. But while they found their comfort zone and got their thing (comforting and disquieting Velvet Underground, world-weary storytelling, studio-as-instrument vibe maintenance) down to a science a long time ago, every so often they go from “another great Yo La Tengo album” to “oh they did another masterpiece,” just to keep us on our toes. This Stupid World is alternately seething and soothing, filled with feedback-drenched rockers like “Fallout” that prove they can tape into their Painful ‘90s past if they feel like it. It’s nice to see that side of the band again. But even so, no one ruminates like Ira Kaplan, who looks on with disgust at an ever-coarsening world, and then holds his friends tighter, because what else can he do, accepting that “This stupid world / It’s killing me / This stupid world / Is all we have.” – Michael Tedder

19.
Kara Jackson — Why Does The Earth Give Us People To Love?
19.
Kara Jackson Why Does The Earth Give Us People To Love?

This Chicago-based singer-songwriter has a legitimate literary pedigree — she was the National Youth Poet Laureate back in the late 2010s. But the wonder of her beguiling jazz-folk fantasias are how they operate on a level that goes beyond language. What Jackson evokes musically is usually more compelling than the lyrics, which has a lot to do with her expressively husky, one-of-a-kind voice. But it’s also related to her unusual melodic sense — these songs never play out in the way you might expect. Structures and tempos waver and morph and evolve in idiosyncratic fashion, and just when you begin to worry that it might all fall apart they land, miraculously, with grace and beauty. – Steven Hyden

20.
Anohni and the Johnsons — My Back Was A Bridge For You To Cross
20.
Anohni and the Johnsons My Back Was A Bridge For You To Cross

I’m not sure anyone has ever named ANOHNI as the spiritual successor to Al Green, but here she is, sounding better than anyone in the 2020s over Memphis soul. The Johnsons’ build much of My Back Was A Bridge For You To Cross out of light guitar licks, crisp snare drums, and plenty of empty space to allow ANOHNI’s voice to smoulder like wood fire. But on “Rest,” the arrangement screams bloody murder as she desperately yearns for a missing presence in her life: “In the poison ocean blue, she’ll come home to you.” This is not retro revivalism, but something that feels outside of linearity. – Dean Van Nguyen

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21.
Jessie Ware — That! Feels Good!
22.
JPEGMAFIA & Danny Brown — SCARING THE HOES
22.
JPEGMAFIA & Danny Brown SCARING THE HOES

You sort of have to give Jpegmafia and Danny Brown credit for recognizing the primary critique of their joint album coming down the pike (by way, naturally, of TikTok and the recently viral description of off-kilter avant rap) and masterfully subverting it right from the jump. For what it’s worth, the left-center samples, stilted beats, and tongue-in-cheek, absurdist wordplay here probably wouldn’t have scared the hoes in the first place. Confused a few purists? Put off a few pop aficionados? Absolutely. But for those with the appetite for the Jackson Pollocking of hip-hop, there’s more than enough here to wrap your head around. – Aaron Williams

23.
Zach Bryan — Zach Bryan
23.
Zach Bryan Zach Bryan

In country music, there are always artists who claim to bring the music back to its working-class roots; this summer a certain ginger-haired lightning rod became an instant (though perhaps short-lived) star by doing just that. This is not Zach Bryan’s approach. His currency is emotional authenticity, in which he delivers gut-level catharsis in a mainstream pop context that otherwise is placid and plastic. At its best, that’s exactly what his self-titled album delivers. – Steven Hyden

24.
Blondshell — Blondshell
24.
Blondshell Blondshell

LA-based songwriter Blondshell is the latest buzzy indie songwriter to arrive on the scene in 2023. Her self-titled debut offers a realistic snapshot of navigating your early 20s, relationship woes, and a heaping pile of self-doubt included. Blondshell opens with a song titled “”Veronica Mars,”” referencing the early aughts hit TV show. But that’s not the only ’00s reference you’ll find sprinkled throughout the album. The blown-out guitars and tangible angst call back to early alt-rock, along with singer Sabrina Teitelbaum’s earnest yet at-times guttural vocal delivery. Her lyrics pack an emotional gut-punch, my personal favorite being, “”My kink is when you tell me that you think I’m pretty”” on “”Kiss City.”” – Carolyn Droke

25.
Paramore — This Is Why
25.
Paramore This Is Why

Paramore’s This Is Why is what it looks like when a band whose been making music for two decades gets back in touch with making music for the fun of it. This Is Why arrived earlier this year on the heels of a six-year hiatus when the band found themselves in the midst of a pandemic and social upheaval, and offers a sardonic commentary on the time period. Throughout their album, Paramore take a more pop-forward approach while holding on to elements of their emo roots. In true Paramore fashion, songs like “The News” offer deadpan takedowns of the powers that be while others like “You First” focus inward. – Carolyn Droke

26.
Lil Yachty — Let’s Start Here
26.
Lil Yachty Let’s Start Here

Is Lil Yachty’s experiment in psychedelia technically hip-hop? I think the point he makes with Let’s Start Here is: who cares? (We’re including him here because of how Yachty got his start, the mode of the music he primarily makes, and the fact that he spends as much of this rock-inspired effort rapping as he does singing.) Yachty’s always bristled at the thought that he could be limited to just one genre. Here’s the strongest argument in his favor. – Aaron Williams

27.
Hotline TNT — Cartwheel
27.
Hotline TNT Cartwheel

A poppy shoegaze outfit that doesn’t skimp on catchy melodies even as the guitars push deep into the red, Hotline TNT attracted lots of hype this year. But the songwriting earns it, especially when singer-songwriter Will Anderson contrasts his surging, ear-splitting music with sensitive-guy musings that elevate Cartwheel to the heights of romantic fuzz-rock bliss. – Steven Hyden

28.
Doja Cat — Scarlet
28.
Doja Cat Scarlet

While Doja Cat and her antics have proven polarizing over the past few months, her ability to make hits is undeniable. On Scarlet, Doja prioritized lyrics and her hip-hop craft overall, showcasing her abilities on the confident and assured “Go Off” and the horrorcore-influenced “Demons.” Though she’s previously denounced her past pop hits, old habits die hard, notably with the infectious “Paint The Town Red.” – Alex Gonzalez

29.
Julie Byrne — The Greater Wings
29.
Julie Byrne The Greater Wings

Julie Byrne’s songs are as gentle as they are heartbreaking. They feel as vast as galaxies yet as intimate as chosen families. The Greater Wings, the Buffalo singer-songwriter’s third album, distills her greatest strengths as a songwriter into a composite whole. Her penchant for vivid imagery (“Summer Glass”), swooning synth arrangements (“Conversation Is A Flowstate”), and gorgeous finger-picked guitar (“Portrait Of A Clear Day”) coalesce on The Greater Wings. As a tribute to her late collaborator, close companion, and synth savant Eric Littmann, Byrne has given him – and us – the ultimate gift. – Grant Sharples

30.
Mike — Burning Desire
30.
Mike Burning Desire

The New York artist’s sixth solo studio album is stream-of-consciousness rap at its best. Loosely organized around horror-movie themes and mining everything from psych-jazz to reggae loops, Burning Desire takes an everything-but-the-sink approach to its diverse samples, zigging and zagging between moods and vibes, anchored always by Mike’s laconic, serpentine flows. With appearances from fellow indie-rap stalwarts like Earl Sweatshirt and Larry June and soulful splashes of honeyed harmonies from Liv.e and Lila Ramani, Burning Desire harkens back to the primordial beginnings of the backpack rap sound, where every MC wanted to prove they could rhyme over anything. – Aaron Williams

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31.
André 3000 — New Blue Sun
31.
André 3000 New Blue Sun

For years, fans had been clamoring for an André 3000 solo album. In true 3K fashion, when he finally delivered one, he made the ultimate swerve. New Blue Sun doesn’t feature any raps from the Atlanta pioneer, who once pronounced that “the Souf got sum’ to say.” But that’s not through any fault of his own; take the title of the album’s opener “I Swear, I Really Wanted to Make a ‘Rap’ Album but This Is Literally the Way the Wind Blew Me This Time.” This is just what he wanted to say. Thrillingly, it’s every bit as profound a statement as if he’d felt moved to rhyme. – Aaron Williams

32.
Bully — Lucky For You
32.
Bully Lucky For You

Bully’s fourth album, Lucky For You, is a re-invention of Alicia Bognanno’s one-woman grunge project. This version of Bully is glossy more than gritty, cinematic more than incendiary. The result is her best album yet. From high-octane sunny-day anthems like “All I Do” and “Days Move Slow”, to gnarlier, heavier cuts like “Hard To Love” and “How Will I Know”, the choruses on here are almost all jaw-dropping — and where less clever production may have made them feel distant, here it feels like you’re completely, gloriously immersed in them. – Mia Hughes

33.
Militarie Gun — Life Under the Gun
33.
Militarie Gun Life Under the Gun

The search for “the next Turnstile” has given us a bunch of trendpieces and zero albums that managed a fraction of the critical and commercial impact of GLOW ON. In retrospect, Militarie Gun was actually the band calling the shots for hardcore in 2021; as dozens of their peers started to dabble in power-pop, Buzz Bin fanfic, and Oasis deep cuts, all roads indeed led to the Gun and their bullish major label debut. Many have pointed out that Life Under The Gun is hardcore in vibes only, but the ethics of Ian Shelton’s past work are every bit as crucial as the hooks – each song makes it point, makes it stick, and gets out before it can waste time on anything less than essential, a goal so thoroughly realized that the “next Militarie Gun” can only come from their next LP. – Ian Cohen

34.
Sampha — Lahai
34.
Sampha Lahai

At long last, 2023 was the year that Sampha emerged from his humble abode to release his sophomore album Lahai, the long-awaited follow-up to 2017’s Process. Where Process was drowned in feelings of loss and grief, Lahai finds Sampha on the other side of the wall, filled with hope, optimism, and acceptance. He grapples with time from start to finish on the album, but the most important takeaway with Sampha’s second album is that the London singer remains as good as ever, and arguably better, in the time that has passed since his debut. Evidence of that lives within “Only,” “Can’t Go Back,” “Spirit 2.0,” and much more. – Wongo Okon

35.
Yves Tumor — Praise A Lord Who Chews. But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply: Hot Between Worlds)
35.
Yves Tumor Praise A Lord Who Chews. But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply: Hot Between Worlds)

It’s not quite radical enough to qualify as “experimental” and not quite catchy enough to work as a full-on pop move. But sonically this is one of the best-sounding indie albums of 2023’s first half. With the assistance of Noah Goldstein, an engineer who worked on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and Alan Moulder, who’s one of the great architects of ’90s alt-rock, Praise A Lord invites you to get lost in its grooves. It’s a very good headphone record. The instrumental tones are on-point. – Steven Hyden

36.
Youth Lagoon — Heaven Is a Junkyard
36.
Youth Lagoon Heaven Is a Junkyard

Trevor Powers has lived a number of lives since he first began creating nostalgic, cathartic DIY pop as Youth Lagoon in 2011. After three albums under that name, he began releasing music under his given name, imbuing the songs with a personal urgency that derived from impactful experiences. Now, back again as Youth Lagoon, Powers blends the best of both projects on Heaven Is A Junkyard, a weirdo pop opus filled with sticky melodies and playful grooves. The album — which was produced by Rodaidh McDonald, who has worked with Gil Scott-Heron, The xx, and more — is built around piano and voice, using electronics, creative drumming, and pedal steel to accent Powers’ cracked, open voice. – Will Schube

37.
Veeze — Ganger
37.
Veeze Ganger

Though he’d been heard on collaborations with Babyface Ray, Lil Baby, and others, Detroit rapper Veeze truly made his presence felt in 2023 with the release of his second project Ganger. Coupled with a later deluxe edition, Ganger helped cement Veeze’s new position in the rap game. Most would credit the satisfying juxtaposition of the rapper’s slurring bars and laid-back approach, even in threatening moments and others of proud arrogance, over raucous bass-rattling production. Whatever it is, there’s certainly something to love with Veeze who, nonchalance and all, made sure he was heard in 2023. – Wongo Okon

38.
Jaimie Branch — Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die (World War)
38.
Jaimie Branch Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die (World War)

It is easy to be cynical about posthumous records, to see them as some last chance to turn death’s headlines into final receipts. But the polymath trumpeter jaimie branch long ago dispatched with cynicism, embracing instead a pugilist’s insistence on communal rebellion to build a better and better-connected world. That feeling radiates through every calypso smear, folk waltz, dub groove, and punk outburst of this heartbreaking but affirming 46-minute carnival, nearly finished before branch died in August 2022. In her quartet Fly or Die, she found a fleet of fellow freaks who wielded jazz chops as weapons, not crutches. “We’re gonna take over the world and give it back to the land,” branch insists over their clatter. She made it only to 39, but she left so much fuel for the rest of us. – Grayson Haver Currin

39.
Nourished by Time — Erotic Probiotic 2
39.
Nourished by Time Erotic Probiotic 2

Marcus Brown’s musical offerings are difficult to pin down. They defy shallow taxonomy by melding various stylistic reference points: new jack swing; Baltimore club; ’80s pop; R&B; new wave. Yet they weave these disparities together so seamlessly in songs like “Daddy,” “Shed That Fear,” and “The Fields,” all of which are standouts on his second album as Nourished By Time, Erotic Probiotic 2. On the sequel to 2022’s Erotic Probiotic, Brown’s proper debut album gives him ample space to expand their ideas further. Erotic Probiotic 2, as a result, is an immaculate masterwork. – Grant Sharples

40.
Parannoul — After the Magic
40.
Parannoul After the Magic

In our world of oversaturation and a drive to catalog every move, promote every brand, and chronicle every breathtaking moment of our always exciting lives, a little bit of anonymity is refreshing. With that in mind, Parannoul is a still-unknown South Korean musician who has become one of the most exciting voices in indie rock by doing the almost unthinkable: turning the gaze back on the music. On their sprawling, epic After The Magic, wistful melodies collide with stadium-ready acoustic guitar progressions and strings fit for movie trailers. There are a number of touchstones here, but what makes After The Magic is the way shoegaze guitar parts, electro synths, and post-rock drums collide into otherworldly, previously unexplored territory. – Will Schube

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41.
PJ Harvey — I Inside the Old Year Dying
41.
PJ Harvey I Inside the Old Year Dying

In the seven years since her last album, the blues-punk bard PJ Harvey took up a new career as an epic poet. Granted, epic poetry isn’t far from the words she would pen for albums like Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea, but this new artistic path was a bit different. The result of this endeavor, a book-length poem Orlam, became the inspiration for her invigorated, innovative 2023 LP, I Inside The Old Year Dying. Acoustic instruments like piano and guitar mingle with scrappy drum lines and minimal electronic highlights. Like always, though, it’s Harvey’s inimitable, unclassifiable voice that steals the show. She can twist it on command, making it sound like a floating bird at one moment, and a ravenous predator the next. We should all be thankful Harvey returned to her day job; she’s damn good at it. – Will Schube

42.
NewJeans — Get Up
42.
NewJeans Get Up

Whether you know their name or not, you’ve probably have heard one, two, or all of the tracks off of NewJeans second EP, Get Up. (Let’s be real. You’ve sung “Super shy, super shy” unconsciously or have come across a phone carrier commercial that had “What’s your ETA? What’s your ETA?” blasting.) All to say, most of the world and the internet has had their fair share of LSS (Last Song Syndrome) this year because of the undeniably catchy hooks this mini-album contained. Less than a year into their debut, the six-track project continues to cement the K-pop girl group’s impact into the global music scene with their nostalgic Y2K bubble gum pop image. Taking inspiration from the PowerPuff Girls and modern technology, Get Up is a sonic joyride that links old and new sounds, making it an album suited for all. – Lai Frances

43.
Danny Brown — Quaranta
43.
Danny Brown Quaranta

13 years and four albums removed from his debut album, The Hybrid, and its hedonistic, breakthrough follow-up XXX, Danny Brown is older, wiser, and wearier. He’s also more introspective; on “Hanami,” he muses about how you “can’t get time back,” and ponders a possible, eventual end to all this, while album closer “Bass Jam” finds him rapping over as low-key a beat he’s ever tackled to take stock of life at 40 and a career that’s seen highs, lows, and near-crashes. But if you thought that hearing a more mature Brown would make him sound any less electric, you’d be wrong. – Aaron Williams

44.
Wilco — Cousin
44.
Wilco Cousin

Does Jeff Tweedy ever sleep? In a year where the Wilco leader put out his third book, went on tour with the band behind last year’s release (Cruel Country), had their music prominently featured in the high-profile 2nd season of The Bear, and even played shows in Iceland for the first time, Tweedy and company still managed to put out the band’s stellar 13th album, Cousin. Produced by Welsh artist Cate Le Bon, Cousin is a more natural addition to the Wilco canon than the country music-leaning Cruel Country. As a songwriter, Tweedy is as sharp as ever on cuts like the sticky single “Evicted” and the evocative and atmospheric “A Bowl And A Pudding.” Le Bon’s direction helps guide the genius of Tweedy, Nels Cline, John Stirratt, Glenn Kotche, Pat Sansone, and Mikael Jorgensen’s return to top form. And for anyone who’s ever loved a Wilco album, Cousin is another fine example of Tweedy digging up more gold from his seemingly never-ending bag of songs. – Adrian Spinelli

45.
Troye Sivan — Something To Give Each Other
45.
Troye Sivan Something To Give Each Other

A forerunner of queerness being the new face of contemporary pop music, Troye Sivan brings energy and flirtation on his third album Something To Give Each Other. Sivan’s first full-length LP in five years, appropriately timed to the singer-actor’s role on HBO series The Idol, finds the Australian artist not having skipped a beat, changing the verve from where his sophomore album, Bloom, left off. It isn’t lost on Sivan’s listeners that the sun-soaked and pulsating lead single “Rush” is a double meaning for the euphoric inhalant of the same name. Elsewhere, he gets tongue-tied and “messy” with the album’s sole featured artist, Spanish musician Guitarricadelafuente, on the mid-tempo nighttime bop “In My Room,” while “Got Me Started” is an amorous take on 2009 ringtone hit “Shooting Stars” by electronic duo Bag Raiders. Sivan gets unapologetically intimate on Something To Give Each Other, and invites us to witness him bare it all. – Jaelani Turner-Williams

46.
Young Fathers — Heavy Heavy
46.
Young Fathers Heavy Heavy

When the pandemic was having its way with the world, Young Fathers holed themselves up in a basement studio and got to work on their first album in five years, Heavy, Heavy. The Mercury Prize-winning Scottish trio have always stood out with incredibly visceral tunes that feel like breaking out of a tight-fitting societal shell, and this effort is no different. “Let the demons out and deal with it. Make sense of it after,” band member Kayus Bankole said of the album’s process. It’s exactly what we hear in moments from the explosive thump of “I Saw” to the slow-building triumph of “Geronimo.” It’s a band in command of their art form, expressing themselves without limitations and trying to make sense of a wild, shifting world around them. Few can do it with such passion, in a way that’s both anxious and controlled. – Adrian Spinelli

47.
Home Is Where — The Whaler
47.
Home Is Where The Whaler

We’ve been through a global pandemic, a global recession, and two Presidencies that, in the year 2000, would have seemed unlikely. But the defining moment of this century still remains 9/11, a moment that broke America into two countries, unlikely to ever reconcile. And on the follow-up to their instant classic I Became Birds, Home Is Where’s frontwoman Brandon MacDonald tells a story where 9/11 never ends, and our refusal to heal traps the world in a time loop of revenge, anger, and a stupidity that kisses the absurd. (She’s from Florida, she knows of what she speaks.) Over compositions that never go where you think they will and stubbornly refuse to reconcile themselves, MacDonald sings of bodies eating themselves, God hiding in fear from us, and the persistent fear we will never change. But even if we are doomed, we are in it together, as MacDonald promises with a wisdom John Berryman would nod at: “no one unloved.” – Michael Tedder

48.
Hozier — Unreal Unearth
48.
Hozier Unreal Unearth

Andrew Hozier-Byrne knows nothing of minimalism — or, at least if he does, his records have never betrayed it. Unreal Unearth, his third and best, is a maximalist sprawl. It spills beyond the bounds of an hour and spools from electro-screwed anthems alongside Brandi Carlile and svelte piano soul to string-or-synth-swept surges like “Francesca” that make his albatross, “Take Me To Church,” feel meek. Drunk on ideas of Dante, Jonathan Swift, and James Joyce, even Hozier’s quiet acoustic beauties feel grand here. Overblown and overbearing they may sometimes seem, Hozier links all these sounds to senses of hope, wanderlust, and romance that, so long as you suspend a little disbelief, become contagious. From the Mississippi River to the doors of Hell, every corner of the universe is a place for Hozier to suss out new meaning. How could that sound anything but enormous? – Grayson Haver Currin

49.
Chappell Roan — The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess
49.
Chappell Roan The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess

Chappell Roan has had a wild few years. During the pandemic, she moved back home to Missouri, where she saved up money to resume her music career. The result is her debut album, The Rise And Fall Of A Midwest Princess. Produced by pop music’s new favorite collaborator, Dan Nigro (Olivia Rodrigo, Conan Gray), Roan found herself free and comfortable to express her identity fully. Across the 14 brilliant pop tracks, it has the energy of a merry-go-round at a club or a dancefloor at the county fair. Either way, getting off the ride is hard once you press play. – Lexi Lane

50.
Fever Ray — Radical Romantics
50.
Fever Ray Radical Romantics

Fever Ray’s first album in six years sounds like a call to arms. “Did you hear what they call us,” Karin Dreijer sings in the opening track. The rest of Radical Romantics follows in that vein. The Swedish artist’s latest endeavor is a transgressive, cutting-edge, and ideal vision of what synth-pop music, and the world at large, could be. They rail against hegemonic structures like capitalism and heteronormativity, their lyrics often as elastic as their brother Olof’s production. In one sense, this plays like a new album from their old band The Knife. In another, it eschews the past entirely, gazing only toward the future. – Grant Sharples


Music Editorial Director: Philip Cosores | Music Critics Poll Creative Direction/Management: Jason Tabrys & Jessica Toomer | Design: Daisy James, Carlos Sotelo Olivas, Merle Cooper | Poll Construction: Joseph Petrolis & Derrick Rossignol | Dev: Max Pukhalevych & Sergey Pasyuk

Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.