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The best albums of 2023
From Lyn Lapid to Taylor Swift, here are my favourite albums this year
Is November too early to start writing best-of lists? Probably. But there’s been so much good stuff this year that I’ve got to get started.
I spend an extraordinary amount of my time listening to music. Last year, I clocked up 62,323 minutes listening to music purely through my Spotify account. There’s nothing quite like the sensation of finding a song where the sound matches the exact frequency of your brain or the feelings that you’ve been storing away in the back of your mind.
Here are my favourite albums and EPs that came out this year.
to love in the 21st century by Lyn Lapid
Described by Lyn Lapid as a collection of songs for ‘hopeless romantic delulus’, the instrumental opener “intro” immediately sets the scene with whimsical, dreamy, summery vibes as she takes the listener on a journey through a romantic relationship from beginning to end.
In the title track which breaks up the EP, Lapid sings ‘Nobody told me how lonely it feels to be / Young in the 21st century / I just wish I could get with the times, but / I’m not cut out to love in the 21st century’. Later, in “the alternative” Lapid sings ‘Love is a risk / But what’s the alternative?’ relinquishing this idea of giving up on love.
Everything in the EP, from the sound, the lyrics and the accompanying visuals, signals that Lapid is calling out for a relationship where things can slow down. She doesn’t want the fast paced confusion of the 21st century; she wants the simple side of romance.
The Good Witch by Maisie Peters
Somehow only 23 years old with a long history of EPs and a stellar debut You’ve Signed Up For This from Ed Sheeran’s record label behind her, English singer-songwriter Maisie Peters keeps firing on her sophomore album The Good Witch. Peters appears to have perfected the breakup bop with songs like “Lost the Breakup”, “Therapy” and “Body Better”.
The album is full of sharp lyrics, like ‘Baby, I am the Iliad, of course you couldn’t read me’ from “Coming Of Age” and ‘If you don’t love me, why’d you act it / Love’s a verb and not a bandage’ from “BSC”. It feels like an upbeat exorcism of breaking up with someone and finally rejoicing in being able to see them for the waste of time they were.
It only gets better on the deluxe version of the album. “Yoko” stands out as “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” levels of ‘how on earth did this get left off the original album?!’
Positive Spin by Gretta Ray
Amongst a sea of break up anthems and sad ballads dominating the rest of the pop charts, Gretta Ray’s title track “Positive Spin” stands out as a rare bop with a happy outlook. It feels almost more challenging to write a song about a cheerful subject without a nasty twist and Ray nails it.
Throughout the rest of her sophomore album, self-professed ‘honey-blonde Australian’ Gretta Ray is clearly living her own mantra. In “Heartbreak Baby”, instead of lamenting over a string of breakups, she declares ‘I am a heartbreak baby / Been gathering goddamn expertise / In tending to wounds then mending me’. Again, in “Upgraded”, she embraces the joy of looking forward to the best yet to come: ‘Now I’m the name you’re never escaping / Turn up your go to radio station / Your ex lover’s indie pop song’s playing / She’s upgrading, she’s upgrading’.
GUTS by Olivia Rodrigo
Along with Maisie Peters and Gretta Ray, Olivia Rodrigo released a stunning sophomore album this year. Is there something in the water for all these pop girl icons?
I wasn’t the only one worried that Rodrigo had set herself the impossible task of following up her impressive debut SOUR, but GUTS absolutely delivers. Rodrigo once again demonstrates her storytelling range: “get him back!” has such a fun and cheeky double meaning and screamable energy whereas “making the bed” is a devastating lament of being sick of oneself.
Something To Give Each Other by Troye Sivan
Ahead of his first album in five years, Troye Sivan exploded back onto the charts with dance tracks “Rush” and “Got Me Started” from his new album Something To Give Each Other.
An overall much more upbeat album, particularly when compared back to his debut Blue Neighbourhood, but it’s a great move forward for Sivan’s music. His smile on the album cover infects every song. He continues his trend of playing on religious imagery in “Honey” with lyrics that mimic the Serenity Prayer: ‘Give me the courage to say all the shit I mean’.
spiralling (over discourse on the internet) by Lucy Sugerman
Until Lucy Sugerman releases her debut album, this is what I’ve got on repeat in the meantime. spiralling (over discourse on the internet) marks a shift in Sugerman’s songwriting as she moves away from boys and onto the other big cause of her anxiety: the internet. In my favourite track “kiss the algorithm”, she reflects on whether things are changing for the worse: ‘My friend said when he woke up / And asked Alexa the news / She said the world is ending / But it didn’t change his mood’.
Hailing from my home-away-from-home of Canberra, Sugerman continues to dazzle with her impressive vocals and great songwriting skills. With each song she puts out, I’m baffled that she has yet to take her place in the charts as Australia’s next musical superstar.
1989 (Taylor’s Version) by Taylor Swift
1989 is THE album and I knew that 1989 (Taylor’s Version) too would be a defining moment in the music landscape. It’s broken countless records in the few weeks it’s been out and only further cemented Swift’s rerecording project as a revolutionary move. Amongst the rerecords, “Clean (Taylor’s Version)” stands out as somehow even better than the original, particularly given the prominence of co-writer Imogen Heap’s signature style back up vocals.
The five new tracks represent the strongest vault yet. They match the original album so well both in synth-based sound and thematically. “Suburban Legends” gives such strong 2014 vibes with the lyrics ‘When you hold me, it holds me together / And you kiss me in a way that’s gonna screw me up forever’. In “Now That We Don’t Talk”, she laments ‘I called my mum, she said that it was for the best / Remind myself the more I gave, you’d want me less’ but eventually realises that ‘Guess maybe I am better / Now that we don’t talk’ which so well summarises the theme of 1989 as a whole.