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Best Albums Of 2023 Alphabetically By Artist Ending July 31st

10,000 Gecs – 100 Gecs – the hyper-pop duo are pop music’s saving grace and leading the way for a hybrid electronica with a soupcon of J-Punk and the same old same old anything they can think of lyrics (try the single “Hollywood Baby” and the self-explanatory “Doritos And Fritos)

United Blood l.p. – Agnostic Front – released as part of Record Store Day, originally recorded and released in 1983, it helped lay the foundation for the New York hardcore scene. It beyond stands up, especially Adam Mucci on bass who at this late date is revelatory

My Back Was A Bridge For You To Cross – ANOHNI, Antony and the Johnsons – gorgeous collection of soul pop and among their best efforts, a beautiful set that hits a zenith with the coda of “Scapegoat”

Mount Wittenberg Orca (Expanded Edition) – Bjork, Dirty Projectors – the 2011 mash-up EP about small stores where opera was performed in the 1500s in Italy is released with additional tracks and live tracks and the brilliant “On And Ever Onwards”

The Bootleg Series Vol. 17: Fragments – The Time Out Of Mind Sessions (1996-1997) (MP3) – Bob Dylan – Considered to be one of Bob Dylan’s great works but only if your revisionism hasn’t found a minimum of works that aren’t great, in which case it is what we expect if not more, Time Out Of Mind follows two excellent cover albums and is proceeded by Love And Theft (another masterpiece); Dylan wouldn’t fall to earth till 2009. This is a remix of TOM for eleven tracks plus an additional 8 and very good outtakes as well; presumably these are the mixes his producer Daniel Lanois didn’t like. The mp3 is $35 and includes a an album of live versions from 1999 and every song is part of a larger scenario of loss and I’d age

The Bootleg Series Vol. 17: Fragments – The Time Out Of Mind Sessions (1996-1997) (streaming) – Bob Dylan – a remix of the original album and an album of outtakes

Ace (50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) – Bob Weir – A Grateful Dead by any other name, this excellent album is given a serious remixing as well as an hour from Weir’s April 22 Radio City concert, it is a good album, a smart remix, a fine live add… Weir was 24 years old when he recorded it

Fast Net (Sampler) – Brix Smith – from the late Mark E.’s ex-wife, she returns with what feels like straight ahead US rockers, not punk, certainly not the Fall, but a reminder of how major she was with Mark, “FastNet” is terrific

Lucky For You – Bully – the top indie rock band… anywhere, they put boygenius and Haim (and Paramore) in their pocket and you get back change back, and this is their best album yet: a breathtakingly good, one melodic high and riff bent beauty after another opening with two high points and never looking down

The A&M Years…And More! – Burt Bacharach – Burt reminded me a little of George Gershwin during his golden years: couldn’t sing and couldn’t write a lyric but man could he compose a great melody. Burt is in his prime and this 103 song compilation of 60s and 70s tracks from the 2004 release is simply spectacular

Desire, I Want To Turn Into You – Caroline Polachek – on first listen I immediately bought a ticket to her Radio City Music Hall gig in May, the singer songwriter is a pop musician all the way, she is at service to a unique sound, a hyper pop variant with beats from rock to dembow. The songs are wonderful, big, and colorful (the calypso on “Sunset” is brilliant), and this might make her a superstar

Changes: The Complete 1970s Atlantic Studio Recordings – Charles Mingus – Mingus died in 1979 but in 1973, after being dropped by Columbia, he signed to Atlantic for the final seven albums, at least two, Changes I and Changes II may well be considered masterpieces

Paranoia, Angels, True Love – Christine And The Queens – as a non fan I am impressed by Christine taking on the great gay fantasia “Angels In America” on an album of low key, electronic pop tracks

The Great Escape – Chris Stamey – power pop god Chris with a fine, low key set of country rock-pop highlighted by an excellent Alex Chilton cover

Precious – Conrad Sewell – a superb little album from the Australian singer songwriter who is fully adept at dealing in r&b (“Ego”) or classic rock or alty rock with a rockers voice and a bands vibe

Wronger – Cowboys In The Campfire – Imagine the Faces meet the Replacements with some alty indie country flava on this old school OG. It is great to hear Tommy,, just a very pleasurable experience where even a break up is a reason to play (on the excellent “Wrong”)

St. Jude (15th Anniversary Edition) – Courteeners – arriving ten years after Brit Pop’s peak in the 1990s, in 2008, but the Manchester band continued the legacy brought down from The Hollies to Stone Roses and beyond as Oasis style hard rockers. I missed the album in 2008 but it is my bad because this is near perfect English rock

A Garden of Dead Flowers – Death Goals – “UK queercore duo DEATH GOALS have today released their sophomore album, and Prosthetic Records debut, A Garden of Dead Flowers. On A Garden of Dead Flowers, DEATH GOALS unapologetically embrace their LGBTQIA+ identity against a backdrop of chaotic hardcore punk…” And it is better than that sounds, ear bleeding hardcore thrash with occasional hard rock verses, also any band who can pay off a song called “Genderless Clones of Gameshow Hosts” demands to be taken seriously

The Feminine Divine – Dexys – hasn’t Kevin retired? Apparently not. Dexy’s are a misunderstood and underappreciated outfit that put Ireland into Northern Soul but with so much eccentricity on an ode to feminine superiority (a sentiment I agree with wholeheartedly)! The songs are plenty good as well

Twenty on High – Drayton Farley – Now here is a revelation, an Alabama boy who can write a country track as good as anything Morgan Wallen can but more old fashioned, more George Jones could cover it, more better songs: a tremendous set of mainstream old school country songs

London Ko – Fatoumata Diawara – Damon Albarn introduced us to Mali Music back in 2011 and he is here as well but Fatoumata doesn’t need him to bring us down on a fine set of songs from Africa

Speed Run – Frost Children – Angel and Lulu Prost, the siblings with a machine… if you don’t love the great faces of hyperpop putting everything into a blender for best modern pop this side of 100 Gecs with cool to spare. A truly fun ride

One Day – Fucked Up – the return of Toronto’s Fucked Up -a tough to love hard rock mindfucks, with their best work since 2011, written and recorded in 24 hours (thus the name) it is hard headed classic rock

Peace…Like A River – Gov’t Mule – Warren Haynes at his best and while recorded at the same time as 2021s blues set it is a classic rock dream set and his finest Mule to date positioning itself less with the Allmans and more like Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers and a dreamlike pleasure

Defiance Part 1 – Ian Hunter – Ian Hunter’s latest album reminds us why Mott The Hoople were always great. On a glittery, star-studded set of songs that includes Mike Campbell, Taylor Hawkins three times, Jeff Beck, Todd Rundgren, Ringo Starr, and more, Hunter’s songwriting chops are never obscured. This is a phenomenal classic rock album by an artist who, while never quite top-tier, came within spitting distance. It’s worth noting that unlike Bruce, who seems to be pushing the envelope so hard because of his inability to make a great album again, Ian Hunter pushes nothing and is rewarded with Jeff Beck’s solo to end “No Hard Feelings”

Workin’ On A World – Iris DeMent – written before lockdown and revised with help of her family after, it is an accidental protest album that revolves around her home and family but finds herself at odds with the Red states she represents. My one fear is that it will wear off me but so far… I’ve been listening since Friday and the magic remains. At this moment of time, it is the album of the year or at least

Dark Luminosity: The 21st Century Collection – Jah Wobble – If all Jah Wobble had ever done was The Metal Box, his name would still be a legend. However, he has done much more, including “The Bus Routes Of South London” from earlier this year. This compilation features five hours of Jah dub in the 2020s

The Age of Pleasure – Janelle Monae – five years after “Crazy, Classic Life” and nothing on her fourth album is its sonic equal, but it is all a bright shining ode to fucking, like a sexual Pinocchio evolved cyborg. The problem is that it lacks flat out memorable songs, otherwise it is perfect, a brisk and pleasurable half an hour of electronic if Prince were Monae

Joy’All – Jenny Lewis – if Rilo Kiley had been formed in 1977 and not 1998 they might well have sounded like Jenny does on her most consistent solo album to date, with a move from a pure pop song like “Apples And Oranges” and following it with the Motown girl group “Essence Of Life”. And she pulls off the same track for the entire half hour. by the way I met her once and she was very sweet indeed so…

Mindsets – Joan Jett And The Blackhearts – guitarist wrote or co-wrote the entire six song EP, and Joanie and her band perform more than credible versions of the pandemic based songs, glam rocking as the mood takes them. Currently on tour with Bryan Adams and taking it from me, as last years gig at Citifield proved Joan can handle arenas, but this is a nightclub excellence and a sweet surprise 

I’ve Got Me – Joanna Sternberg – the surprise of the week is a gorgeous folk pop set of ear candy, acoustic guitar plus piano with finely crafted lyric about romantic malaise and melodies by the truckload, the songs are very strong indeed

MERCY – John Cale – This is better than you’d expect and you’d expect it to be really good. The former Velvet Underground has averaged an album every three to six years since the mid-70s (more before) and they can be impenetrable and not much fun, but not always: with the addition of young turks Weyes Blood and state of art rock Animal Collective, John is less dystopian and more real life bummer: dip yourself deep in sonic hellaciousness and disquiet

I Have Nothing Against Homosexuality So Long as No Fellow Male Tries to Force Himself On Me, and at This Point, I Don’t Think I’m in Much Danger – John Mendelssohn – Pop music success is 10% genius, 90% blind luck, and the former rock critic hasn’t had much luck but while he might not be a genius strictly speaking he is still one of the most unique singer songwriters in the business. “Nothing Against” is a body blow to Trumpism just in time for The Donald’s third campaign. Consider John a more baroque musically, less understanding politically take on the US (where the California native left for the UK years ago): closing with a country and western ode to the horrors of his life on “My Heart’s An Open Book” after spending ten tracks railing at the GOP and the dimming of the light, he is left with: “The lamb isn’t silent anymore, the chickens have come home to roost, I can’t seem to get up off the floor, my vaccine’s may need a boost” and the rarest thing, an album about being ravished by old age

Finally Alone – The Sticks & Stones Tapes – Johnny Thunders – In April there is a box set, From The Beginning To The End, dropping and it should be revelatory if this totally excellent rarities album culled from the box set kinda proves

Stage & Screen -John Pizzarelli – No, he isn’t his father, the late, wonderful Bucky Pizzarelli (I never missed him for 20 years, here). And anyway, this is exactly where John thrives, whether covering movies like the Doris Day and Gordon McCrae (and name of the song) “Tea For Two” or Broadway masterpieces like the “Oklahoma Suite”

SCARING THE HOES – Jpegmafia, Danny Brown – the one time I saw JPEG i thought he gave experimental rap a good name and both times I saw Danny I was convinced he had the best voice in the business. Here they come together with trap beats and outstanding and if the title means stop being an asshole, well, both Danny who sounds like a nerd on drugs with a voice, and Jpeg, who produced and interlopes with abandonment

That! Feels Good! – Jessie Ware – we’ve waited three years for this and the disco diva has a whole lot to live up and man does she live up to it. A very strong set of disco barn burners, sexy as fuck. In a world where everybody is talking about their mental health, Jessie deals with her physical well being

The Greater Wings – Julie Byrne – her partner in music and life, Eric Littmann, a former lover, died at the age of 31, and Julie has written an album of longing and need that remains so personal it feels obtuse, but the songs are really excellent and kudos to Ben Beaumont-Thomas for the Sufjan Stevens comparison

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach – Keith Jarrett – Johann Sebastian’s son was the original nepo baby and if he wasn’t youknowwho’s son would be remembered better. I know Jarrett through his keyboard playing with Miles Davis on albums like Live/Evil, Jarrett had a heart attack and hasn’t performed since 2019, this one dates from 1974, peak stuff, and is more than a tribute to Bach Jr, it is a tribute to the musicianship of Jarrett himself

Gag Order (Live Acoustic EP From Space) – Kesha – now Dr. Luke is in her rearview mirror the question becomes how good is she? she is great, she was great at Hammerstein back in 2017 and her last album was terrific and this acoustic EP is just awesome, a catchy earworm of post-childhood

Pistolz & Pearlz – Kodak Black – I’ve admired Kodak Black since catching him years ago at a Tidal night curated by Hova, with a lot of heavy competition he held his own and has done, between stints in jail, living up to a man who claimed “I couldn’t find peace without all the violence”, an amazingly stupid comment. This is as straight ahead as emo rap gets, a missing link between Juice WRLD and Lil Uzi Vert, with one grand coulda been a contender after the other, the title track is especially excellent 

Star Eaters Delight – Lael Neale – The L.A. singer-songwriter’s second album for Sub Pop is better than her first album, which was already pretty great. It’s less dense and easier to penetrate than her other songs. The album is magnificent and catchy as hell, with “Must Be Tears” being a standout track 

Keed Talk To ‘Em 2 – Lil Keed – dead at 24 years old, the Atlanta friend of Young Thug (one of the most gifted rappers and musicians to blow it on crime) Lil Keed with a posthumous beautify of trap beats and drill vibes. Moody and dangerous, I bet it hits the top ten

Let’s Start Here. – Lil Yachty – remember when Lil Wayne decided to become a rock star and all be derailed his career? Lil Yachty doesn’t with a complete remake of the brand where he becomes an indie alty acid rocker with walls of sound and strangeness that seem to have not a damn thing to do with rap. Yachty, a first rate rapper, can also handle indie rock and does so on this terrific and adventurous album

Meteora 20th Anniversary Edition – Linkin Park – nu-metal certainly felt like a conjob but it stands up very well 20 years later, Chester is gone, Mike is left to rap alone now, but then they made a powerful one-two and changed pop for a moment

Sticks and Stones – Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real – Willie’s boys and Youngs backers return with a straight ahead Americana ode to booze more that pot with some really enjoyable vocals, a little like Canned Heat and without a clunker in the lot in a good time party-

Fantasy – M83 – the electronic production wiz hasn’t figured out how to follow Hurry Up, I’m Dreaming… till now. The teen dreams of is earliest works and are grown up and fantasies become more difficult to maintain on this earnest, difficult, iver produced dreamscape… it still sounds magnificent

Gummi Soul: Another Rubber – Matt Whipkey – I reviewed it earlier today (here), a magical re-imagination of the Beatles’ masterpiece

Yallah Beibe – MC Yallah – she couldn’t be better, born in Uganda, living in Nigeria, she adds dancehall beats to the best flow you may ever hear and the sound is intoxicated otherness that spits like major and has the power of a woman who knows what she is talking about though we don’t. From Crack Magazine: “She speaks four languages, and raps fluently in all of them: Luganda (Uganda), Kiswahili (Kenya), Luo (another Kenyan dialect) and English (though rarely these days). With her producers sending her experimental, electronic beats, she chooses a language based on the sound and how many syllables she can fit in a bar.” Want to know more? Here.

Strays – Margo Price – the first great album of the year is hard rock meets classic rock meets Americana with an exciting sound that improves with listening. “Radio” is hard to beat and Price and her husband nail down an explosive Americana

Beware of the Monkey – Mike – on his eighth album Mike remains the adult in the rap pack going from underground other to middle class sounds as he plays with form and self awareness in an effort to prove himself our best rapper. Which he isn’t. But he’s not bad

One Thing At A Time – Morgan Wallen – with everything on the line, country boy follows up to his sophomore album Dangerous in 2021, which is still in the top ten after 112 weeks, he managed it with an album, 36 songs, that has quite the continuity and the craftsmanship of his last week. Plus, as a Yankee supporter I loved “98 Braves”

Enter Sandman EP – Motörhead – the title track dates from 1998 where it was part of a Wrestling compilation, plus their own “R.A.M.O.N.E.S”, plus “God Save The Queen” and more. Five songs. All perfect

Plastic Eternity – Mudhoney – the grunge avatars (or is that abattoir) are amazingly still on top of their game; still noisy, still politically astute, still with an ear for hardcore. In the thirty-five years they’ve been together, they’ve had exactly one change of members and have only ever recorded for Sub Pop. All of which leads to an album that is less nostalgic then a straight up, obstreperous success 

Best Of Nancy Ajram – Nancy Ajram – the 39 year old, Lebanese Queen Of Pop is fine on a greatest hits, it is clearly Lebanese pop (Sabah could sing them) but the instrumentation is very digital and the effect is a coming of age for modern Arabic pop and not Arabic Sahara garage

GÉNESIS – Peso Pluma – in which regional Mexican music -corridos and like that – has urban Latin beats added and the result is a horn and flamenco modern dance album breaking through the Billboard 200 all the way to top, this is Regional Mexican closing in on reggaeton and a horns eccentric dance album with complete skills, in a year where Latin Urban seemed on a downward swing, Peso’s swinging sound is a pure pleasure and the album is a masterpiece of Spanish pop, the best new rep since Bad Bunny. Does it work? Oh yes, it works

Seven Psalms – Paul Simon – a death rattle as scary invitable, one song, seven recurring psalms, and a sign that says entrance he hopes with an acoustic guitar and moodiness (but I bet you got to fill out a form first, and then you wait in the line)

I’m A Woman (Expanded Edition) – Peggy Lee – recorded in 1962, dropped in the garbage pail of music month releases, January, to coincide with the title single being a hit, here the fine and smooth jazz-blues-R&b and Spanish tracks have an additional 50% added. This shows that there is nothing much better than Miss Peggy Lee having fun

B-Sides, Demos & Rarities – PJ Harvey – the compilation of the outtakes, demos, B-Sides that PJ Harvey has been dropping for a coupla years and spanning her entire career sounds great when altogether. It reminds me why you worship her

In Times New Roman… – Queens of the Stone Age – Josh Hommes divorce album, not to mention post-cancer album finds him at the top of his powers. a bluesy, brooding, shredding, grungy work of classic rockism and an axiom for the year: “emotion sickness, I wanna die”…. “Paper Machete” is the song Foo Fighters couldn’t pull off

Rave & Roses Ultra – Rema – the Nigerian Afrobeats star you know from the remix of “Calm Down” with Selena Gomez, this adds five new songs and the already mentioned remix

The Vivian Line – Rex Sexsmith – on his seventeenth album, Ron remains a top singer songwriter, songs like warm summer nights that just envelope. Here he is doing some Kinks sounding pop, some baroque pop, song after song of gentle beauty for an artist who is more consistent… why, he is more consistent than Freedy Johnston

The Chicago Sessions – Rodney Crowell – Crowell goes to Chicago with a few of his folks and Jeff Tweedy produces him in Jeff’s studio. and it is Rick Rubinesque in the way it boils the sound down to what the sound is in a fabulous collection of country Americana

Gloria – Sam Smith – five years after his worse album comes Sam Smith’s best album, and not just the world beating “Unholy” but that and the entire album is song after song of Sam studying sex without the moribund bad news of lost love overwhelming them. Easily their best work since if not “Latch” certainly “I’m Not The Only One” , the songs are superb and Sam imprints on them and while I’ll pass on “How To Cry” nearly everything else here is perfect and “UnholY” is other worldly and the Stargates production team from Norway are nothing if not a good add

SCREAM – Sam Huber – straight off his latest tour of Europe, Sam has a post-punk classic rockisms, big bang album of electric rockers, and some general weirdness to keep us honest with a sound like a nervous breakdown breaking up

Desire Pathway – Screaming Females – debate is raging as to whether Marissa Paternoster is our greatest living guitarist, and she has yet to let us down on album after album with her three piece she is an epitome of indie rock and more, it is a goth dream-nightmare that shines as punk simple and raging, shredding prog recklessness. Nearly 20 years on, this is their best since that 2009 – 2012 three album highlight

An Evening at Macri Park – Seán Barna – “Sparkle when You Speak” is a terrific and quiet singer songwriter confessional gay man at a gay bar “Macri Park”, and telling us about the denizen – This is his sophomore effort and a lovely piece of work

Gasms – Smokey Robinson – At his very worst, Smokey is a soulful loverboy to the tips of his toes. The album name is ghastly and the songs are proforma, but they are very Smokey and I love em al, especially “Beside You”

Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) – Taylor Swift – Speak Now is one of Swift’s best albums, only her third and yet a nigh on flawless collection with some of her finest moments (though you wouldn’t know it from the Eras Tour): the title track, “Mine” “Dear John”, the first nine songs are unmissable, listen to em in order and she will hear the arrival of a superstar. But it is so good that her reworkings aren’t as good, her voice is thicker and her performance is out of synch and the songs from the vaults aren’t nearly as good as what we have. And it is still great because there is only so far wrong you can go with “Mine” and its best in class: “You made a rebel of a careless man’s careful daughter…”… the from the vaults tracks are especially strong

O-Mit – The Fall – four outtakes from the excellent Re-Mit and all of them should’ve been on the album, this is Mark at his most accessible and the tracks function as a death dream. I’d forgotten how much I miss them

Dead Meat – The Tubs – nothing personal but was that the best name this fine indie rock band could come up with? Members of Joanna Gruesome and Ex-Void come together for a great set of post-punk, punk, pop, and a huge English vibe

Who’s Next : Life House – The Who – from the press release: “Featuring 155 tracks, of which 89 are previously unreleased and 57 feature fresh remixes, the set will delight longtime Who fans with its long-sought, complete picture of Townshend’s incredibly prescient songwriting, while captivating a new audience with his visionary description of a future that has, in many ways, come true. It features all of his songs, in their many stages of development, from the abandoned, audacious Life House project, started in 1970 as a follow-up to The Who’s epic Tommy, and from the undisputed rock classic of 1971 that it evolved into, Who’s Next.”. This is an eleven track taster

MANSION MUSIK – Trippie Redd – Trippie got fired from opening for Travis Scott on the “ASTROWORLD” tour and it is easy to see why one of the champions of soundcloud rap -that genre that blew up with Juice WRLD and XXXTentacion’s death imploded, wasn’t taken seriously. At places like the basement of Webster Hall, folks like the featured here Ski Mask The Slump King mistook chaos for exuberance. HOWEVER, Redd is excellent on this feature packed to the gills (Future, Kodak Black, the before mentioned Travis… many more) album of rap as pop and a whole lotta chest beating that all adds up to a sensation and a potential smash

CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST: The Estate Sale – Tyler, The Creator – the album was his best to date and so was that MSG gig (here) and this expanded addition loses nothing with the adds except some sense of romantic subtext

UTOPIA – Travis Scott – “Crazy how they love to talk shit and got no Trident/ I’m loyal, bitch, I got Ye over Biden,” Travis claims on a song featuring Young Thug, and Kanye doesn’t make but he produces and co-wrote several songs -though not the one featuring Beyonce. Highly produced and very expert rap, the equal of Astroworld (on first listen) and when you have a Parliament sample on the first take you know it’s gonna be a deep dive. Travis rapping is fast and fluid, his selection of add ons incredible (Bey is only the best of them) and it sounds awesome; joined by The Weeknd on “Circus Maximus” you might be overwhelmed by how it sounds like nothing you’ve heard. On first listen, there isn’t a dog in the entire 73 minute

Moving On Skiffle – Van Morrison – his second skiffle album is a magnificent thing and the first that looks as though it will be one of the best of the year. A covers album of songs from pre-Presley, Lonnie Donegan, skiffle on a washboard, which means a mix of English vaudeville and American country. Song after song Morrison is just magnificent, that “Oh Lonesome Me” is classic but so is everything and while I agree to a limited degree Glide’s take “the weight of so many background vocalists with call and response or echoes in every chorus on these tracks becomes wearisome” – I wouldn’t say wearisome but unimportant but that’s it ; the one time he gets back into his shitty politics on the trad “Gov Don’t Allow” it is terrific

I Go To The Rock: The Gospel Music Of Whitney Houston – Whitney Houston – I only saw Whitney live once (opening for Michael Jackson believe it or not) but I was already a huge fan and as her Australian tour imploded rocknyc championed her from 2009 till her death in 2012. If you want to know why, try this excellent compiling of her Gospel recordings: with her mother, Sweet Sensation legend Cissy Houston and Godmother Aretha Franklin, Gospel was in her blood from when she was a child singing in the church choir. It is all over this thrilling Gospel album

Business Is Business – Young Thug – Punk was amongst the top ten albums of 2021 and then Young Thug got rico’d and he is in jail awaiting trial for racketeering, he recorded this with producer Metro Boomin from jail over two weeks and it is the best rap album of the year: nobody has a better grasp on commerciality, on crossover that doesn’t sound like crossover, and songs that stand up to rigorous deconstruction while being loose and wooly

BUSINESS IS BUSINESS (Metro’s Version) – Young Thug – a coupla new tracks and a shuffling of the playlist

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