Friday, December 29, 2023

Year In Review 2023 - Favorite Albums of 2023

Here are our all of our favorite albums of 2023. This is the year end review, all in one place.

Below are our picks for RtBE's favorite albums of the year. It starts with our honorable mentions then moves into our top ten albums of the year. There is a short blurb about the album and a song from it, click on the title to read our full review of the selected records. The focus here is on full albums, not singles, but long playing releases you can slap on and listen to all the way through.

We worked with the Glide Staff on their list as well, so there may be a few overlaps if you read that already. 

We also took some time to discuss our favorite album artwork, our favorite archive/live album releases and favorite live shows from the year if you are interested.   

Thanks for reading. Until next year....

Some quick thoughts on 2023.

This was the first year since the pandemic that things started to feel, musically, that they were back to semi-normal, meaning not every album was a meditation on the world shutdown.
The last few years, our rankings were very nebulous in that there was no real major standouts. All the albums we mentioned were solid yet we weren't super attached to our number #1 pick as opposed to our say #10 pick. This year the top eight or so seemed to standout and overall this was a much stronger year than 2021 or 2022.

We reviewed a good mix of brand new artists (to our ears) and old favorites returning (and retiring, sad). Below are the honorable mentions, followed by our top ten, click the album titles for full reviews. 

All the albums below are worth your time and hard earned money.

Honorable mentions:  

These unique, LA  rockers put out some interesting tunes on their 2023 album Data Doom. A mix of post punk, psych rock and afrobeat?  Don't mind if we do. 

A nice, catchy collection of breezy, Nashville inspired tunes. Not earth shattering but a fun ride from Lewis this go around.

A good slice of midwestern indie rock in the vein of The Replacements.  

Some solid post punk mixed with lots of Sleater-Kinney inspiration, a very good record from Cable Ties.

Kyle Roussel - Nola A La Mode

A cool solo jazz piano release from one of the best doing it in NOLA today. 

A really solid record with a lot of excellent songs from one of the best songwriters in any genre. 

A great throwback, metal/hard rock album that has a killer cover and spirit. Bang your head accordingly. 

A cool mix of jazz and NYC downtown rock from this collection of immensely talented players.  

Bombino returns with more Tuareg guitar greatness. Another solid album from him and his band. 

The bounce legend returns with a fun album that displays huge bass bombs, freaky beats and ass shaking rhythms.  

A cool instrumental album that has it's foot in the jamband world, a touch of jazz and a heaping of older rhythm and blues eras (Stax/Motown/Muscle Shoals). A fun listen. 

A really great slice of pop rock with pop-punk influences. Excellent songwriting from this up and coming band. 

Dynamite, noisy, revved up rock from The Kills. God Games is their first album in a long time, and it is a good one. 

The 90 year old American legend is still putting out great music, this cover album is a testament to that. 

Top 10:

The first full-length in five years from Yo La Tengo is a good mix of dreamy/soft/loud/hard as they always seem to have their sounds locked down. 

The most unexpected of comebacks, the Zamrock legends We Intend To Cause Havoc returned with a few original members and some new blood to release a really good album, Zango.  

A fun record from the prolific Melbourne rockers, Calm Ya Farm is a upbeat poppy trip through British Pub rock filtered through a prog/garage/rock Australian filter. Interesting and catchy stuff abounds.

Death Valley Girls have softened musically with each release, adding more pop influences, and digging more into the spiritual hippy cosmos of the we-are-all-in-this-together vibe. They also have continually improved, as Islands in the Sky is their best album to date.

RtBE's first experience with what Wednesday calls 'country-gaze' and that phrase sure does fit. A very interesting album that blends very different genre's and feels alive throughout. Unique and engaging tunes.

A unique set of instruments (harps, pedal steel, flutes) but it all works wonderfully on Davis' sophomore release And Southern Star. A strong set of comfortable/experimental tunes that push things on and on for this exciting young artist.  

RtBE are big Hold Steady fans, but their last studio effort, Open Door Policy, was our least favorite of their career (maybe tied with Teeth Dreams) and we did not have high hopes for the new album. Well, it is nice to be pleasantly surprised as The Price of Progress is their most assured, and evolved release in years.  

Speaking of surprises, this opening sentence from our review covers it pretty well: The self-titled debut from Blondshell is an unfiltered look at a modern life littered with late-night self-reflection, bleakly humorous malaise, and poor romantic choices. Heavy doses of ’90s-tinged alternative rock mix with pop affections to create one of the more impressive debut albums in some time.

From a super impressive debut, to one of the most consistently great bands to do it for the last 20 years. Desire Pathway is another kick ass record from Screaming Females from top to bottom. Not a misplaced tune and one we have gone back to often throughout 2023. Unfortunately, the band called it quits earlier this month which flat out sucks, however, they went out on a high note with Desire Pathway. While incredibly solid, one album impressed a bit more this year. 

The fact that this album isn't nominated for a GRAMMY in the Contemporary Blues category just proves what a joke that award show is...

What he does with "You're Gonna Need Somebody on Your Bond", sampling the original, inserting beats, making it his own is worth the award itself, but Nichols consistently reimagines the blues throughout The Fatalist, to these ears it was the most impressive album of 2023. 

While Buffalo Nichols’ debut was a warm and welcoming affair, this follow-up is a complete 180. This record is also a huge stride artistically forward for Nichols, as he tries something very out of the box and it works completely well. This isn't strictly a blues album as it brings in different genres and reshapes sounds in unique ways.  

The Fatalist gains in stature with each spin and when each dark night falls, as Nichols displays his affinity for electro beats and goth-like sounds that color his dramatic wordplay and deep reverence for a genre he loves and shoulders into the future.

Agree? Disagree?  Feel free to comment on your favorite albums in the comments and as always thanks for reading. 

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