John Preston shares his top ten favourite albums of 2023 (in no particular order).
Yves Tumor, Praise a Lord Who Chews but Does Not Consume (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds)
‘Be aggressive! Be, be aggressive!’ goes the exhilarating cheerleaders’ chant on Yves Tumor’s fifth album. It seems like a warning – don’t accept the status quo; challenge the norm – and this sums up Yves Tumor’s canon to date pretty much perfectly, making this an album that is deliciously rich and abrasive in equal measure.
Slayyyter, ‘Star Fucker’
Big and basic, maybe, but don’t let that put you off – Slayyyter’s sophmore album Star Fucker doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it does provide thunderous electro and lot of camp, knowing fun. Anyone missing Felix Da Housecat and scenes from the silver screen is going to love this sometimes conceptual trawl through West Hollywood’s slippery underworld
Vagabon, Sorry I Haven’t Called
This is not the record that I expected to hear and in this case that turned out to be a positive – not that there would have anything wrong with what I was expecting. Pop bangers, experimental trip hop and acoustic ballads, all impeccably crafted and considered by Vagabon and super producer Rostam Batmanglij. This is an impassioned album that offers as much brightness as it does shade.
Carley Rae Jepson, The Loveliest Time
CRJ has established a tradition whereby her main album releases are, some 12-months later, followed by an accompanying sister album. Whilst 2022’s The Loneliest Time is a fine record, it’s The Loveliest Time which really takes CRJ in a more unexpected and exciting direction. Her best album since 2015’s Emotion; fight me!
Tiga & Hudson Mohawke, L’Ecstasy
Some records just ‘sound’ so good, a kind of ASMR vibe I guess, and it’s not like you wouldn’t expect something stimulating and tingly to come from a union consisting of these two mighty synth heads. Vocals feature on some tracks whilst clicking, whirring, squeaky and throbbing electronics dominate and pulse throughout. A luxurious, sometimes disquieting, nighttime soundtrack.
Lana Del Rey, Do You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd
It’s safe to say that Lana Del Rey has, a decade into her career, become a most unusual kind of phenomenon. Gen Z want her to adopt them and she has taken her vision to new levels with her very odd and very affecting live show. DYKTTATUOB is already LDR’s ninth album and could possibly be her best; it is both more beautifully soulful and wilfully experimental than anything she’s released before it.
Jessie Ware, That! Feels Good!
Listening to Jessie Ware is also experiencing how deep her love and knowledge of soul and disco music really is, and also how she somehow never falls into the common trap of pastiche. Less common references like Teena Marie and Brazilian funk shine through, introducing new audiences to these decades-old influences. Jessie Ware has established her place as an exceptional UK artist and we are lucky to have her.
Delilah Holliday, Invaluable Vol. 1 & 2
Delilah Holliday seems to operate within a musical universe that is at once futuristically positioned whilst also serving as a tribute to mid-90s, UK alt-dance acts such as Tricky, Faithless and Underworld. A spectacularly diverse and strobe-lit sonic world erupts with songs like ‘Drugs, Again?’ creating an holistic experience of clubland dilemmas.
Chappell Roan, The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess
There is a hefty pinch of the raggedy theatre kid who just wants to make it big on Broadway someday about Chappell Roan. Her debut album is a singer-songwriter mix of wonky electro bangers with corny, big-grin song spelling and Casio keyboards, placed alongside sincere and clever ballads that are plain-speaking and frequently filthy. Chappell Roan is a wonder.
Jake Shears, Last Man Dancing
Maximalist is one way of describing Jake Shears’ beautifully produced – predominantly by Boys Noize nonetheless – second album. Kylie, Big Freedia and Jane Fonda, amongst others, all appear with the back half of the record gradually building from guitar pop to a detailed and thrillingly sequenced homage to depraved club music.