Red Moons, Guts and Diamonds: Here are the best albums of 2023

These are our favourite records of the year. How many have you heard?


2023 has spoiled us for choice when it comes to music output. 

Whether it’s the ongoing soul revival, a tonne of spellbinding pop, the Afrobeats explosion and a smattering of scuzzy rock, the year has been vibrant in all sorts of sonic ways.

The Euronews Culture team have made some hard choices and ranked their favourite releases of 2023. These are the records that we’ve had on heavy rotation all year round, and made 2023 truly memorable.

Our countdown to the best album of the year begins with… 

20) King Krule – Space Heavy

The moody but deeply compelling ‘Space Heavy’ marks the fourth musical endeavour from London-born artist Archy Marshall, better known as King Krule. Here, Marshall’s distinctive “sad boy” indie rock aesthetic, characterised by his haunting vocals and washed-out guitar tones, remains a constant, but it now finds itself bathed in a newfound warmth and optimism. The brooding Mercury Prize-nominated artist reckons with themes of love, loss, existential doubt and the transformative journey of fatherhood. Standout tracks like ‘From the Swamp’ showcase his prowess for unique chord progressions and grungy alternate tunings, while ‘Seaforth’ dazzles with its arpeggiated riffs and evolving groove. Another highlight is the ethereal ‘Seagirl’, where the exquisite vocals of R&B singer Raveena gorgeously compliment Marshall’s huskier sound. The album’s cleverly orchestrated transitions and occasional interludes, featuring immersive jazzy and orchestral arrangements, create a mellow, dreamy atmosphere that permeates the entire record. In the right headscape, ‘Space Heavy’ is one of the year’s best listens. Theo Farrant

19) Kali Uchis – Red Moon in Venus

If you’re not already slightly enamoured with Kali Uchis, her latest love potion of an album will undoubtedly sweep you off your feet. Following her critically acclaimed projects, ‘Isolation’ and ‘Sin Medio’, the Grammy-winning artist continues to push boundaries and explore new sounds on her third studio album, ‘Red Moon in Venus’. The project showcases a rich blend of lush, floating R&B and sultry Latin-infused Neo-soul tracks, each exploring different facets of love. With her enchanting vocals and lyrics delivered in both Spanish and English, the Colombian-American singer-songwriter effortlessly creates a dreamlike atmosphere imbued with divine feminine energy. The album’s early opener, ‘Wish You Roses’, perfectly sets the tone for the entire project, enveloping listeners with a gorgeous, swelling beat and Uchis’ celestial vocals. Other standout tracks, such as the 80s-inspired ‘Hasta Cuando’, the deeply psychedelic ‘Moral Conscience’, and the chart-topping hit ‘Moonlight’, further showcase the scope of her artistry. Clocking in at a digestible 43 minutes, the album is a seductive exploration of romance, draped in honey-like allure. TF

18) Kelela – Raven

After a nearly five-year-long hiatus since her debut album ‘Take Me Apart’, American singer-songwriter Kelela was back in 2023 with ‘Raven’, an ambient dance record that transports you back to the 90s club scene. While that may sound like a stale exercise in nostalgia, ‘Raven’ is the furthest thing from passé; its innovative sounds show Kelela stepping away from traditional pop song structures, and instead preferring to let the pulsing energy of a musical comedown envelop the listener. Few albums this year have been this atmospheric and intoxicating, and as much as individual singles like ‘Washed Away’, ‘Happy Ending’ and ‘Contact’ are bangers, this record rewards uninterrupted plays from start to finish. As if that wasn’t enough to whet your appetite, ‘Raven’ is more than just stylistic journey. Kelela stated that her second album began as a reaction to feeling alone as a Black femme working in dance music, and the way she centres on the perspective of queer womanhood affirms that dance music just got one of its most ambitious figureheads. While everyone’s hoping it won’t be another five-year wait for LP 3, ‘Raven’ was more than worth the entr’acte. David Mouriquand

17) Yussef Dayes – Black Classical Music

After more than a decade in the music business, one of London’s greatest drummers, Yussef Dayes, released his first solo project, ‘Black Classical Music’, earlier this year – and it’s a resounding triumph. Previously recognised as one half of the dynamic jazz-funk duo Yussef Kamaal and celebrated for his collaborative efforts with Tom Misch on the acclaimed ‘What Kinda Music’ in 2020, Dayes is a drumming prodigy. Unsurprisingly, his talent was nurtured under the mentorship of Billy Cobham, Miles Davis’ legendary drummer, from just 10-years-old. In his first solo venture, Dayes weaves a sonic tapestry of influences, drawing from contemporary jazz, West African highlife, reggae and beyond, to create a rich, cinematic soundscape over 19 breathtaking tracks. But Dayes is not alone: his intricate and technically brilliant rhythms orchestrate an Avengers-style lineup of talent, including saxophonist Venna, bassist Rocco Palladino and Jamaican dancehall icon Chronixx. He even samples the voice of his three-year-old daughter on the mesmerising track ‘The Light’. The results are electrifying, propelling listeners on a journey through the styles and influences that have positioned Dayes at the forefront of the UK jazz renaissance. TF

16) Young Fathers – Heavy Heavy

The fourth album from Scottish art pop group Young Fathers is a natural progression from their Mercury Prize-winning debut ‘Dead’ and standout ‘Cocoa Sugar’, with an added animalistic sense of urgency to its tracks. Lead single ‘I Saw’ pairs shouted antagonisms by singer Kayus Bankole with Alloysious Massaquoi’s more mellow chants as they both add percussion to the mix. The third member Graham ‘G’ Hastings provides an explosive choral backdrop to the managed chaos. Throughout the album, backup singers create layers upon layers of voices threading through the momentum of the instrumentation. This pattern is repeated throughout the album to create a hypnotic work of anthemic quality that never dips into trite stadium sycophancy. It’s a short album, over in around half an hour, but there’s still time to dial down for lighter moments. Tracks like ‘Tell Somebody’ and album closer ‘Be Your Lady’ hit the breaks to experiment in the ethereal. A physical gut punch of an album, ‘Heavy Heavy’ delivers on all the hype Young Fathers have deservedly built. Jonny Walfisz

15) Paramore – This Is Why

Screaming, “Whoa, I never meant to brag!” and moshing on your bed is a key coming of age memory for many angsty millennials; the fierce vocals of Paramore’s lead singer Hayley Williams a defining part of the noughties emo scene. Now, twenty years after a fourteen-year-old Williams was first signed to a record label alongside her bandmates Zac Farro and Taylor York, their sixth studio album ‘This is Why’ navigates nostalgia through alt-rock influences like Bloc Party and Foals. While the flustered drumming and anxiety-stricken riffs remain a core essence of Paramore’s offerings through tracks like ‘The News’ and ‘You First’, others present a more mellow and matured essence, like the soothing swell of harmonies in ‘Liar’. Bands that shaped certain eras often become imprisoned by their biggest hits, struggling to find renewed relevance. Paramore have proven this isn’t the case for them; still in the business of misery – but no longer confined to it. Amber Bryce

14) RAYE – My 21st Century Blues

In 2021, RAYE, the 25-year-old South Londoner, took to Twitter and declared, “I’m done being a polite pop star. I want to make my album now.” Fast forward two years, and the moment her fans eagerly awaited arrived – the release of her debut-full length project ‘My 21st Century Blues’. This momentous release follows a lengthy battle with her former label, Polydor, who had signed her when she was just 17. During her time with Polydor, RAYE showcased her songwriting talents by penning songs for some of music’s biggest names including Rihanna and Beyoncé. But RAYE was constrained from releasing her own project, making this album a hard-fought win for artistic freedom. ‘My 21st Century Blues’ stands as a testament to RAYE’s undeniable talent as both a singer and a songwriter. The album boldly breaks through genre boundaries and delves candidly into some of her most vulnerable life experiences. From the global smash-hit ‘Escapism’, which earned the artist her first UK No.1 single, to the emotionally charged, progressive house beats of ‘Black Mascara’ and the profoundly moving track ‘Ice Cream Man’, RAYE’s prowess brilliantly shines through, proving her to be a true force to be reckoned with. The album is undoubtedly one of the year’s best. TF

13) Anohni and the Johnsons – My Back Was a Bridge for You to Cross

Returning to the Johnsons musical collective for the first album since her staggeringly wrought protest solo album ‘Hopelessness’ in 2015, Anohni has entered into a new phase of soulful vitriol. From the opening track ‘It Must Change’ through songs like ‘Scapegoat’, the blissful melodic shift of the band is a celebratory backdrop to fury over topics from the climate crisis to trans rights. Legendary Stonewall figure Marsha P. Johnson – who Anohni met briefly – is the muse for an album that luxuriates in the world’s beauty as it vies with the tribulations of living. Anohni’s voice is otherworldly in its sonic beauty. Through songs like ‘Can’t’ and ‘Why Am I Alive Now?’, her rich melodies and her band’s magnificent music act as a spiritual guide through a world less grand. JW

12) Mr Eazi – The Evil Genius

In the midst of the Afrobeats and West African music explosion, Mr Eazi emerges as one of the movement’s shining stars with his latest masterpiece ‘The Evil Genius’. Despite having already been streamed over 1.5 billion times, in part thanks to a handful of collaborations with the likes of Beyonce, Bad Bunny and Burna Boy, the album marks the Nigerian-born artist’s full-length debut. In short, it’s a vibrant, creative and downright refreshing collection of 16 tracks that venture into the joys, challenges and occasional chaos of navigating fame, success and relationships. Eazi, a musical nomad of sorts, wrote and recorded the album across many locations, spanning from Benin, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, to the USA and the UK. From the infectious Banku sound of ‘Chop Time, No Friend’, to the stylish highlife rhythms and saxophone-led ‘Fefe Ne Fefe’, the album is a melting pot of styles and influences. Eazi, a proven lyrical maestro, explores themes of family, love, self-worth and legacy, name dropping a few of his heroes, including Nelson Mandela and Fela Kuti, along the way. The album is non-stop vibes from start to finish and is well-deserved of a place on this list. TF

11) The Lemon Twigs – Everything Harmony

Lights dimming on a confetti decorated dance floor; making eyes with a stranger across a cherry-topped milkshake; walking home after a grand realisation; falling-in-love montages – these are some of the things listening to The Lemon Twigs’ fourth studio album will make you think of. Far from sour, the sunny-spirited sadness of brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario’s songs sweeten any mood, blooming with early-70s swoon. The harmonised vocals, melancholic melodies and orchestral swells take you back to a different time, laced with iconic sonic influences like Simon & Garfunkel, the Bee Gees, The Beach Boys and Todd Rundgren (who they even collaborated with in 2022). Despite being so heavily inspired by a bygone era, every track on ‘Everything Harmony’ still manages to sound fresh and exciting, emotions illuminated by flickers from the past. AB

10) Olivia Rodrigo – GUTS

Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album ‘SOUR’, released in 2021, took the world by storm, picking up billions of streams, three Grammy awards and making the former Disney-star an instant Gen Z music icon. Two years on and faced with a mountain of expectation, the 20-year old’s follow up album, ‘GUTS’, not only upholds ‘SOUR’’s winning formula – characterised by angsty, early 2000s-inspired teen pop-rock – but propels it to triumphant heights. Kicking off with the electrifying (Avril Lavigne-indebted) opener ‘all-american bitch’, which perfectly establishes the youthful and rebellious tone for what follows. Across the nearly 40 minute runtime, ‘GUTS’ seamlessly alternates between bratty rocker-chick anthems, like ‘bad idea right?’, and wistful balladry, as heard on ‘the grudge’ and ‘logical’. Just as in ‘SOUR’, Rodrigo delves into past romantic betrayals on ‘GUTS’ with sharp and witty lyricism, while also exploring the intricacies of fame, self-worth and the pressures of female adolescence. The album, undeniably one the year’s best musical offerings, dispels any notion that Rodrigo is merely an “industry plant”. She’s an exceptional artist who’s here to stay. TF

9) boygenius – the record

Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker may have been loved individually before, but 2023 saw them combine their powers once more, following a 2018 EP, to release their first full-length record… And now, no one relishes the thought of them apart. The supergroup delivered an addictive and achingly intimate ode to collaboration, and listening to ‘the record’ (stylised in lowercase like the band’s name) makes you feel like you’re privy to a mic-sharing session between three mates who genuinely enjoy their creative time together. As the dreamy ‘True Blue’ states: “It feels good to be known so well.” Whether it’s the tale of existential crisis on the rockier ‘$20’ or the Paul Simon-indebted ‘Cool About It’, the musical dialogue between the trio is sharp, and their chemistry disarmingly genuine. As for the catchy lo-fi folk of album centrepiece ‘Not Strong Enough’, it gave fans the line “Always an angel, never a god” – and therefore further opportunity to shower boygenius with divine comparisons. Let’s face facts – they’ve deserved it. DM

8) Wednesday – Rat Saw God

Scuzzy country meets slacker rock with a smattering of shoegaze for Wednesday’s fifth album, which not only confirmed the band’s potential, but solidified their status as one of the hottest indie-rock darlings around. The Ashville outfit, led by singer-songwriter Karly Hartzman, delivered a borderline bipolar mix of tracks that generally split themselves into two categories: gentle melodies that bring out Wednesday’s knack for a catchy tune, and more aggressive grunge beamed in straight from the 90s. This disjoint works wonders and ultimately conspires to create evocative snapshots of Americana, filled with darkly funny coming-of-age confessions. Hartzman’s lyrics are the biggest draw of all, crafting a quilt of vivid memories that go from sitting on stairs with a never-ending nosebleed while someone plays Mortal Kombat in the background (‘Bull Believer’), to skipping school, watering down all the liquor… and then pissing in the street (‘Chosen to Deserve’). Lend that last song your ears, as it perfectly encapsulates ‘Rat Saw God’’s unbosoming appeal: “We always started by tellin’ all our best stories first / So now that it’s been awhile, I’ll get around / To tellin’ you all my worst / Just so you know what you signed up for / What you’re dealin’ with / Just so you know what you’ve been chosen to deserve / I’m the girl that you were chosen to deserve.” Not sure if we’re deserving or not, but we’ll take it. And gladly. DM

7) Jalen N’Gonda – Come Around and Love Me

To listen to Jalen N’Gonda is to be instantly transported back to a golden era of soul. Every track on his spectacular debut album, ‘Come Around and Love Me’, seeps with syrupy smooth 70s-esque sounds, reminiscent of classic artists like Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke. Originally from America, the 28-year-old singer moved to Liverpool, UK, to study almost ten years ago. His talent is undeniable; from the wandering wistfulness of ‘Lost’ to the layered yearning of ‘Just Like You Used To’ and bouncy bellows of ‘If You Don’t Want My Love’, every track cloaks you in warmth, like melting into an old lover’s arms. AB


6) Black Pumas – Chronicles of a Diamond

It’s been a good year for soul music. The aforementioned Jalen N’Gonda and his sweet falsetto made us swoon; Durand Jones (who sadly didn’t make the 20-album cut) had ‘Wait Til I Get Over’, which was a Southern sounding gem; and more about Gabriels in a bit… But right now, let’s talk about Black Pumas. Following a critically acclaimed, Grammy nominated first album, which fused hip-hop, soul and indie-rock, the Texas duo have impressively managed to exceed expectations and deliver one of this year’s very best records. And not just in the soul revival category. Frontman Eric Burton sounds more confident than ever, with vocal performances that will blow you away. He boasts a range that wasn’t always heard on the band’s eponymous debut, making ‘Chronicles of a Diamond’ a much more expansive and swaggering listen. All 10 tracks are a joy to listen to, with the anthemic opener ‘More Than A Love Song’ leading the charge and signalling from the get-go that what Black Pumas have achieved here is to convincingly capture the essence of soul music and inject their blend of contemporary sensibility. From the first note to the last, this album proves that soul music is still a source of inspiration in dark times, has a bright future ahead of it. Long let the panthers prowl. DM

5) Caroline Polachek – Desire, I Want to Turn Into You

With Polachek’s fourth solo album, she makes the case that she is this generation’s Kate Bush. All the qualities are there. Her voice – which seemingly warbles through multiple octaves simultaneously – is unparalleled. It’s worth checking out her recent NPR Tiny Desk concert to see her in action unadorned of studio meddling. Then there’s her unknowable aesthetic of a pop superstar completely unique to herself. Any sample of her lyrics or videos prove she’s willing to embrace strange in a way more authentic than potential poser peers. Finally, there’s the songwriting. Already demonstrated on last album’s track ‘So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings’ and her many songwriting credits, Polachek is an undeniable hit maker. ‘Desire, I Want To Turn Into You’ showcases her Bushlike ability to meld this talent with unexpected genre flourish. From the Spanish guitars on ‘Sunset’ to the trip-hop influences ‘Pretty In Possible’, every corner of this album is a treasure chest of refined pop gems. JW

4) Jesse Ware – That! Feels Good!

Can any bad mood can be cured by listening to Jesse Ware? Affirmative. Pop on ‘Free Yourself’ and watch your worries evaporate into effervescent empowerment. It’s these fizzy feel good vibes that make ‘That! Feels Good!’, Ware’s fifth studio album, such a joy to listen to. The follow up to her 2020 dancefloor-filler ‘What’s Your Pleasure?’, every track rushes with an excitable, disco-infused energy that courses through your body until every limb is moving in rhythm. From the twitchy beats of ‘Freak Me Now’ to the swoony tempo of ‘Hello Love’, this is the kind of music that washes over you with a sweaty 2am-in-the-club delirium that dizzies all the disappointments of reality — and that does feel good! AB

3) Yves Tumor – Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds)

The thrillingly enigmatic Yves Tumor – led by Sean Bowie – released their fifth album this year, a follow-up to 2020’s excellent art rock epic ‘Heaven To A Tortured Mind’ and the overlooked 2021 EP ‘The Asymptotical World’. Blessed with arguably the best title of any album this year, ‘Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds)’ merges post-punk, glam rock and dance funk to create a genre-bending exercise with infectious energy to spare. It’s Yves Tumor’s most immediately accessible album to date, but they’ve not compromised experimentation for the sake of catchiness. The dazzling melodies and dynamite hooks are complemented with searching lyrics on faith, desire, gender and romance – the ominous opener ‘God Is A Circle’, the anthemic ‘Operator’, the entrancing ‘In Spite Of War’ and the epic ‘Ebony Eyes’ shine brightly in a multidimensional set of songs. The influence of Nine Inch Nails can be heard on certain numbers, which is hardly surprising considering they toured together last year; but the biggest influence is Sean’s namesake – David Bowie. The album’s volcanic yet measured flair for the theatrical, as well as its boundary stretching ambitions, would have had our much-missed Starman applauding. Without hint of hyperbole, Yves Tumor have fully grasped Bowie’s baton, giving us lucky listeners the alien, mould-breaking sound our ears have been missing. Praise a Lord who chews but which does not consume? Sure. But praise Yves Tumor louder. DM

2) Sufjan Stevens – Javelin

Since 2015’s beautiful ‘Carrie & Lowell’ and the overlooked ‘The Ascension’ (2020), Sufjan Stevens has released a huge number of experimental projects – most of which were collaborative efforts with the likes of Bryce Dessner, Timo Andres and Angelo De Augustine. With his new solo studio album ‘Javelin’, Stevens has combined his heart-rendingly intimate songwriting ability with his more experimental musical skills. The result is astonishing. Earnest yet never saccharine, the lyrics deal with faith, love, and the loss of his partner Evans Richardson. Unlike when he dealt candidly with the death of his step-father on ‘Carrie & Lowell’, the lyrics about Richardson are more reflective and obscured – as his relationship was from the public eye. It is nonetheless startling how Stevens creates new modes of sincerity through a palette of punishing lyrical flourishes on his startlingly broad sonic canvas. JW


1) Gabriels – Angels & Queens

It was our top pick at 2023’s halfway mark, and no record has dethroned it come year-end. Some have come close, but there’s something about Gabriels’ debut album that keeps you coming back for more. This sonic addiction boils down to the British-American trio’s varied sonic palette, which somehow manages to fit every mood. From lush soul to groovy disco and funked-up gospel, ‘Angels & Queens’ will make you want to dance before kicking back to better relish its outstanding orchestrations. Singer Jacob Lusk’s velvety falsetto serves as a guiding thread throughout, from the stunning vintage sounds of opening number ‘Offering’ to the sumptuous closing song ‘Mama’, via standout ‘Love And Hate In A Different Time’. There’s a truly timeless quality to what Lusk, keyboardist Ryan Hope and violinist Ari Balouzian have achieved here, and when Elton John described ‘Love And Hate In A Different Time’ as “probably one of the most seminal records I’ve heard in the last 10 years” in front of his Glastonbury crowd this year, he was bang on the money. ‘Angels & Queens’ is a truly remarkable record – and we can’t wait to hear what Gabriels do next. DM

There we have it. 

If you’re seething that PJ Harvey, Foo Fighters, Janelle Monaé, Lana Del Rey or The National didn’t make the Top 20 cut, we’re as mad as you are. But tough choices had to be made. Some of them were included in our Best Albums of 2023… So Far list earlier this year – do check it out. 

Did we miss anything else? Let us know, and stay tuned to Euronews Culture for more 2023 Best Ofs, including our upcoming ranking of the Best Movies of 2023.

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