From one fellow music lover to another, Vinyl Mag staff shares the albums they loved all year long. Take a look below to see what records made us feel, dance, and reflect in 2023. Maybe you’ll find a new favorite.
Adeboye Adeoye, Staff Writer
- McKinley Dixon, Beloved! Paradise! Jazz!?
- Sampha, Lahai
- Lord Apex, The Good Fight
- Kara Jackson, Why Does the Earth Give Us People to Love?
- Leith Ross, To Learn
- Noname, Sundial
- Jordan Ward, FORWARD
- Khamari, A Brief Nirvana
- MARCO PLUS, JOINTS
- Jamila Woods, Water Made Us
The albums that stick with me most this year tell very personal stories. McKinley Dixon evoked the written works of master author Toni Morrison over jazzy instrumentation to tell the story of contemporary Black life and his place in it. The title track stands out to me because of how simple it can be with repetition yet how layered its lyrics and themes are. Seeing Sampha return to the stage and release a new solo album was a moment of profound joy for me. Now a father and husband, I can hear how the years have aged him for the better, how he worked to overcome pain and grief, and it gives me hope for a brighter future in my own life. On a similar note, Kara Jackson’s record is an especially poignant project. The former National Youth Poet Laureate is bringing a whole new generation’s ears to the Blues while personally using her music as a vessel to navigate a sea of grief. I hope 2024 is filled with stories as personal as these, but I also hope that I don’t limit my ears to a small subsection of the near-boundless collection of stories and perspectives that is modern music.
Ethan Barrilleaux, Staff Writer
- Westside Gunn, And Then You Pray For Me
- Travis Scott, Utopia
- Earl Sweatshirt, The Alchemist, Voir Dire
- Zach Bryan, Zach Bryan
- Logic, College Park
- Lil Yachty, Let’s Start Here.
- JPEGMAFIA, Danny Brown, SCARING THE HOES
- Drake, For All The Dogs Scary Hours Edition
- Larry June, The Alchemist, The Great Escape
- Tyler, The Creator, CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST: The Estate Sale
Reflecting on the music released this year, I am reminded that hip-hop is alive and well. However this year, I reached out of my comfort zone with records like Zach Bryan’s self-titled and Lil Yachty’s indie/psychedelic rock Let’s Start Here. Bryan gave me the best I could ask for in an introduction to country music, a soft record with insightful lyrics. And when I first heard about Yachty’s indie album, I was skeptical, but, the intro track “the BLACK seminole” immediately drew me into the great record. However, this year gave me plenty of new favorite hip-hop records too. We got a classic boombap-style record by Westside Gunn. This record was all I could ask for with its grimy drums over eerie instrumentals. The track “KITCHEN LIGHTS” is beautiful and it’s where we get what Griselda Records do best. Since July, Travis Scott’s Utopia has grown on me. The intro track “HYAENA” is already an iconic track during his live shows, and I still cannot stop listening to “MODERN JAM” and “TIL FURTHER NOTICE”. Earl Sweatshirt delivered on his brief yet beautifully produced record Voir Dire with The Alchemist, who had an incredible year. The Alchemist was also featured on Larry June’s The Great Escape and Drake’s For All The Dogs Scary Hours Edition, where Drake went 6 for 6 on the additional tracks. It was an experimental yet gratifying year for hip-hop production largely thanks to The Alchemist and Conductor Williams. However, I cannot talk about experimental production without highlighting JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown’s SCARING THE HOES. Tracks like “Garbage Pale Kids” and “Lean Beef Patty” gave such unique productions that I keep coming back to them. Then there was Logic’s College Park, a highly anticipated album for me, and while it did not meet all my expectations, tracks like “Lightsabers” and “Village Slum” made it one of my favorites of the year. Lastly, we did not get an entirely new Tyler, The Creator project this year, but CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST: The Estate Sale contained enough notable and well-produced tracks such as “WHAT A DAY” and “HEAVEN TO ME” that I had to include it.
Haley Gilbert, Staff Writer
- Liza Anne, Utopian
- Chappell Roan, The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess
- Heffner, Super Bowl LXIX
- Olivia Rodrigo, GUTS
- Zach Bryan, Zach Bryan
- Boygenius, the record
- Indigo De Souza, All of This Will End
- Hozier, Unreal Unearth
- Gregory Alan Isakov, Appaloosa Bones
- Briston Maroney, Ultrapure
This year marked the end of my college career and the beginning of whatever happens next. Naturally, things did not play out in the way I had planned, but that does not mean that they did not play out in the way they were supposed to. During this in-between phase of life, I have found myself surrounded by lots of music, which tends to be a good sign about how things are going. While listening to Utopian by Liza Anne, I realized how special of a gift it is to be able to listen to them describe change as a beautiful and necessary thing while I am currently terrified at the prospect of restructuring my life; I was able to find comfort where I wasn’t necessarily expecting or looking for it. After finding myself at lots of shows in Athens this past year, there was no way Heffner’s Super Bowl LXIX was not going to make this list; their sound has become interwoven in many of the memories I made during my time in the Classic City. Between boygenius’s the record, Briston Maroney’s Ultrapure, Chappell Roan’s The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess, Indigo De Souza’s All of This Will End, and Olivia Rodrigo’s GUTS, there was no such thing as a boring car ride this year. The songs on these bodies of work were raw, powerful, and such an experience to listen to. On the late-afternoon-coffeehouse-playlist side of the spectrum, Zach Bryan, Hozier, and Gregory Alan Isakov served as my company on many of the days when I turned to music for a sense of peace and comfort with their respective releases Zach Bryan, Unreal Unearth, and Appaloosa Bones. Isakov’s Appaloosa Bones, an album with themes that largely focus on the importance of leaning on those around you for love and support during times of hardship and struggle, felt like a message I so desperately needed to hear, even if I was initially reluctant to accept it, and Zach Bryan’s self-titled album felt like an important step in his mission with Noah Kahan to assemble the Folk Avengers. As the end of the year is approaching, I genuinely do not know what is next for me, but the artists on this list have helped me not only come to terms with this fact but begin to embrace it.
Buket Urgen, Editor-in-Chief
- Janelle Monáe, The Age of Pleasure
- Olivia Rodrigo, GUTS
- Victoria Monet, Jaguar II
- Troye Sivan, Something to Give Each Other
- boygenius, the record
- Hozier, Unreal Unearth
- Caroline Polacheck, Desire, I Want To Turn Into You
- Portugal. The Man, Chris Black Changed My Life
- Allison Russell, The Returner
- Olivia Dean, Messy
Honorable Mention: Amaarae, Fountain Baby
Per usual, my favorite records of the year lean female-artist-heavy. With a mission to throw myself into more music, this year, I made a point of listening to an album from beginning to end, and repeatedly, until it sank in. (I’ve always had a particularly bad habit of zoning out on listens one through three and not genuinely hearing a record until the fourth or fifth time.) I listened to 55 new albums that came out in 2023, which is much less than I would’ve liked. So, here are the albums that were in heavier rotation than the rest. Without a doubt, 2023 was a great year for sexy club bangers from Janelle Monáe’s and Amaarae’s Afrobeats-inspired progressive R&B to Victoria Monet’s more classic R&B and hip-hop influences to Troye Sivan’s electro-pop and house. Meanwhile, supergroup boygenius found massive success following their first full-length record, growing their cult-like following with an indie rock triumph. The record is a slow burn and I find myself finding something new to appreciate in each listen. Olivia Rodrigo’s GUTS was a compelling instant classic, with Rodrigo’s edgy girlhood-core aesthetic brilliantly shining through to reach the repressed teen girl in all of us (or was that just me?). And in moments when I needed to let go and just be, I found myself returning to Caroline Polacheck’s Desire, I Want To Turn Into You or Allison Russell’s The Returner, both soothing in different ways for any rough sailing days in life. This year lacked the blockbuster records of the previous one (see: RENAISSANCE, Midnights, SOS), but it was instead defined by breakthrough moments for long underrated artists or the ones coming into their own with their second full-length project. For anyone out there trying, there was plenty of good music to be found in 2023.