We are already at the six-month mark of 2023! So now is as good a time as any to showcase the best music the year has offered in all genres. So far, we’ve seen releases from major artists as well as some underground sleepers. Let’s look at 15 albums that we still can’t get enough of and likely will stick around in our playlists by the end of the year.
Lil Yachty – ‘Let’s Start Here’
Perhaps there’s no better place to start than with Lil Yachty’s Let’s Start Here. Much like Yachty himself, his fifth studio album is hard to place in a box. Despite his reputation, it’s not quite a hip-hop album. The 25-year-old’s latest effort experiments with a trippier sound, falling more accurately into psychedelic rock. Accepting such a large departure from the sound that made him famous is a demanding ask of his fans. Yachty makes it clear with his first track, “The Black Seminole,” clocking in at nearly seven minutes, that he doesn’t care what anyone has to say about his new sound, be it critics or fans, old or new. Yachty clearly experimented with a sound that he himself felt passionately about, and the result is uniquely infectious.
Rebecca Black – ‘Let Her Burn’
Rebecca Black burst onto the scene at the age of 13 in 2011 thanks to the viral internet sensation that was the song, “Friday.” Of course, much of the song’s attention was due to harsh comments making fun of the song and the execution of the video. Despite being exposed to such mean-spirited commentary at a young age, that did not stop Black from continuing to pursue music as a career. From then on, she continued to sporadically release singles and EPs over the years. That said, Let Her Burn marks the former YouTube star’s first full-length project at the age of 25. Let Her Burn sees Black experimenting with different forms of pop, namely hyper pop and electropop. The results have been favorable by critics for the most part, proving that years after her initial brush with fame, Black’s future remains bright.
Logic – ‘College Park’
College Park is a triumph for Logic for several reasons, not all having to do with the music itself. The two-time Grammy nominee’s eighth studio album also marks his first album in 10 years as an independent artist. He’d spent the last decade signed to Def Jam before deciding he simply wanted to “make music on my terms,” per his words to Variety. Now, he’s already taken steps to achieve that outlook for himself by releasing College Park just a mere eight months after his last album with Def Jam, Vinyl Days. The more carefree nature of his rhymes is evident on the album, especially in his collaboration with Joey Badass, “Shimmy.” It’s clear that Logic had fun while making this album, and it’s hard not to join in on the fun while listening.
Larry June & The Alchemist – ‘The Great Escape’
The Alchemist may not be the most famous producer in the mainstream world, but he ranks among the most respected. Think of him as your favorite rapper’s favorite producer. Alchemist is often considered to be the producer that rappers want to go to whenever they just want to get inside a booth and deliver raw, unfiltered rhymes. Larry June, known for his own understated rap schemes, is a perfect fit for the Grand Theft Auto V composer. June slides smoothly through each of the Beverly Hills native’s finely tuned beats. What audiences get is an album that sounds as cool, calm and collected as the people who made it.
City & Colour – ‘The Love Still Held Me Near’
Dallas Green is most commonly associated as the bassist for Alexisonfire, but in his downtime away from the band, he works on his own music under the name City & Colour. The Love Still Held Me Near arrives as City & Colour’s seventh album. Much of the album’s content carries a rightfully bittersweet tone, as Green says that the album is his outlet to compile his grief and “get all this stuff off my chest.” Among this “stuff” that Green is dealing with is the loss of his close friend and producer Karl Bareham, who died in a scuba-diving accident mere weeks before his last album’s release. The title track especially sees Dallas finally release years’ worth of grief and pain through emotional hymns.
Danny Brown & JPEGMAFIA – ‘Scaring the Hoes’
While the album title and single of the same name may sound alarming to some at best and off-putting to others at worse, it exemplifies the in-your-face style that both Danny Brown and JPEGMAFIA are notorious for. Both parties have teased collaborating with each other in the past, and now fans get to hear JPEGMAFIA’s signature provocative, aggressive production alongside Danny Brown’s textbook idiosyncratic lyricism. JPEGMAFIA also has some lyrics of his own to offer, along with redveil, the project’s only featured artist.
Kaytranada and Aminé – ‘Kaytraminé’
JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown’s work was not the only critically acclaimed rap collab to come out during 2023’s second quarter. Producer Kaytranada has produced a handful of songs for rapper Aminé dating back to 2014, but this marks the first time the two have made an actual project together. This project is supported by noteworthy guest spots from the likes of Snoop Dogg, Freddie Gibbs, Big Sean and Pharrell Williams. Kaytranada brings his usual funk-inspired sound while Aminé brings his upbeat style to the mic. The result is a catchy, danceworthy album that’s short, sweet and worth listening to on repeat.
Lovebites – ‘Judgement Day’
The name Lovebites may not mean anything to American readers, but the band is among the most popular power metal groups working out of Japan today. Its fourth studio album, Judgement Day, was hotly anticipated by dedicated listeners as this would be officially the band’s first album with Fami on board. Per Blabbermouth.net, the all-female band began its hiatus in the summer of 2021, when bassist, leader and co-founder Miho left the group. This documentary posted to the band’s official YouTube channel follows a grueling audition process with nearly 300 bassists before the band announced Fami as its new member in October 2022. Four months later, in February 2023, the album dropped. Already, Fami has proved to be a welcome addition to the group by adding to its electric, infectious sound on songs such as “Victim of Time.” The album proved to be the band’s highest-charting one to date, peaking at No. 5 on Billboard Japan.
T-Pain – ‘On Top of the Covers’
Thanks in large part to his internet popularity and his new podcast, T-Pain’s career is finding something of a resurgence. Once a staple of late 2000s pop and R&B, audiences are starting to realize they never fully appreciated the skill set that the face of autotune has to offer. On Top of the Covers is a covers album that highlights the best of T-Pain as both a singer and a producer. Audiences finally recognize that he is capable of not only duplicating various sounds but also putting his own spin on them through classic artists such as Sam Cooke and Frank Sinatra. The album as a whole has been received positively, with his covers for Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” garnering the most attention and acclaim.
Jack Harlow – ‘Jackman’
Despite being Grammy-nominated for best rap album, Jack Harlow’s Come Home the Kids Miss You recieved mixed reviews. Critics were divided, while many fans criticized Harlow’s lack of substance through a poppier sound on a hip-hop album. Some critics even agreed with such fan sentiment, such as Matthew Strauss of Pitchfork, who called it “among the most insipid, vacuous statements in recent pop history.” Needless to say, Jack Harlow’s third studio album, Jackman, arrives a year later with some pressure on the artist. Songs such as “Questions” reflect an introspection that shows Harlow has taken criticisms of his last album to heart. Meanwhile, songs such as “Gang Gang Gang” provide a level of complexity he hadn’t showcased on a mainstream level before now, as he speaks candidly about the dilemma of maintaining friendships with dangerous people.
Janelle Monáe – ‘The Age of Pleasure’
As heard on the first track, “Float,” Janelle Monáe’s first words on this album are “No, I’m not the same,” which is an incredible understatement. Monáe became a household name during the early 2010s, when her persona was defined by being seen exclusively in suits, all while keeping her personal life private. Over the years, she’s continued to evolve by liberating herself of her suit (and most of her clothes) and overtly expressing her sexual desires. She does so throughout the appropriately titled The Age of Pleasure. Songs such as “Lipstick Lover” highlight a smooth sensuality that is as passionate as it is sexy. Monáe manages to be bold, empowering and as groovy as ever as she makes it clear what and who she wants.
Paramore – ‘This is Why’
After a six-year hiatus, Paramore returns with its first album since 2017’s After Laughter. The band’s sixth album, This is Why, arrives with booming vocals on a funky fusion between pop-punk and rock. It is a refined, perfected version of the sound that Paramore is known for while still finding ways to introduce new elements. The title track and lead single is the biggest standout on the album. Ironically enough, it was the last song written for the album, per lead singer Hayley Williams in a statement to Pitchfork. Williams added that the song was written to reflect “the roller coaster of being alive in 2022, having survived even just the last three or four years [post-pandemic].” It’s a song carried by a haunting, frenetic fatigue from a generation ready to finally scream its frustrations to the world. Much of the album reflects that same tone and cynicism through a catchy production.
Miley Cyrus – ‘Endless Summer Vacation’
Hip-hop, pop, rock, country, etc. These are all genres that Cyrus has dipped her toes into over the years. Each experimentation with each genre reflects not only her evolution as a musician but her evolution as a person. Releasing her eighth studio album at age 30, Endless Summer Vacation showcases a wise, reflective outlook on themes of grief and heartbreak. She doesn’t analyze these themes with sadness but with optimism as the opportunity of self-discovery awaits the next transitional stage of her life.
Caroline Polachek – ‘Desire, I Want to Turn Into You’
One can argue that Desire, I Want to Turn Into You sprouted from both urgency and spontaneity. As she details in an interview with Rolling Stone, Polachek started working on her album in March 2020 at the very start of the COVID-19 pandemic following the sudden cancellation of her tour. Being compiled during a frenzied time in the world may explain why the album borrows elements of a frenzy of genres. The album is ultimately pop, but songs such as “Bunny Is a Rider” and “Welcome to My Island” feature trip-hop sensibilities. Other parts of the album experiment with new age and electronic synth sounds, all while speaking to the versatility that Caroline Polachek has to offer.
Daniel Caesar – ‘Never Enough’
After receiving backlash in 2019 for defending an ill-advised tweet from Julieanna “YesJulz” Godard, Daniel Caesar is working his way back into popular culture. Caesar’s third album, Never Enough, has received critical acclaim and peaked at No. 14 on the U.S. Billboard 200, No. 6 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and No. 4 on the Official Charts Company’s U.K. R&B Albums. The Toronto native’s album also ranked No. 8 on Billboard’s Canadian Albums list. He’s since apologized for his 2019 rant, most notably in a new interview with Apple Music, and expanded his fan base through his collaboration with Justin Bieber on the hit song “Peaches.”
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