The 50 Best Albums Of 2023

The 50 Best Albums Of 2023

Stereogum started off as an indie rock-focused website, and that’s still our bread and butter. But it’s getting harder and harder to define “indie rock,” both as a genre and as a web of associations. In 2023, plenty of longtime Stereogum favorites rose to something resembling full-on pop-star status, while some actual pop stars continue to play around with sounds and aesthetics that previous generations would’ve associated with ashtray-smelling dive bars and handmade mixtapes. Context collapse is happening all over the place, and it can be hard to answer a seemingly simple question: What’s good now?

Well, a lot of things are good now. As always, great music emerges from all corners of the zeitgeist. Our list of the year’s best albums includes artists who have conquered pop charts, festival lineups, and Grammy voters’ consciousness. But we also fell in love with plenty of music that’s nowhere near mass acceptance. Many of our favorites are lone-voice-in-the-wilderness types — people throwing tracks up on Bandcamp without any kind of machine behind them. Others are products of different interlocking underground scenes, whether than means abstract rap, pinwheel-eyed shoegaze, or hardcore-adjacent stagedive music. All of these things can be good. All of them can even be great.

Our list was a group effort. Stereogum’s full-time staffers and freelancers voted on our favorite LPs of the year and then we politely argued over it. Our countdown has a few consensus favorites and a couple of records that landed on most of our ballots. But the list is also full of records that became personal favorites for just a few of the people who write for this website – passion projects for us, as well as for the people who made the music.

Stereogum is an independent outlet, and everyone who works for the site is dizzily, hopelessly in love with music. We get to devote our loves to chronicling music because of you, the people who read the site – especially those of you who have paid to become members. Thank you for another year. We know that you won’t agree with all of our picks, but we hope you find something on this list that captures your imagination the way it’s captured ours. —Tom Breihan


Midwife & Vyva Melinkolya - Orbweaving (The Flenser)

There’s a deep kinship between the hazy “heaven metal” that Madeline Johnston makes as Midwife and Angel Diaz’s shoegaze-inspired work as Vyva Melinkolya. Their first collaborative LP, Orbweaving, emphasizes some of those points of tangency — the gossamer synths; the minimalist guitar lines; the breathy, distant vocals. It also finds Johnston and Diaz helping each other uncover new ground. Some of the boldest, most beautiful moments in either artist’s catalog come deep in the ambient fog of the album’s title track. The music is deliberately blurred, but the emotions are vivid. —Brad Sanders


Truth Cult - Walk The Wheel (Pop Wig)

Truth Cult come from the hardcore scene, but on their second album they’re better described as unhinged rock ‘n’ roll. Walk The Wheel is frantic, frenzied, constantly on the verge of unravelling. Co-vocalists Paris Roberts and Emily Ferrara create a duality of ragged passion and icy cool. And because the album was written while the band dealt with the death of a friend, at the center of the tornado is a raw outpouring of grief and the impossible questions that come with it. —Mia Hughes


Palehound - Eye On The Bat (Polyvinyl)

We need more guitar heroes like El Kempner. For over a decade now, the Palehound leader has been folding their blistering axe-wielding into winsome inside rock songs, and Eye On The Bat just might be their finest collection yet. Not necessarily showy but always dynamic, Eye On The Bat has it all: seesawing riffs, scratchy acoustic fingerpicking, twinging psychedelia. The songs rock, and they have an acerbically gooey center that gnaws like a toothache. —James Rettig


Drain - Living Proof (Epitaph)

Last year, Santa Cruz hardcore insurrectionists Gulch went out in a blaze of glory, playing an instantly legendary final set at LA’s huge Sound And Fury fest. Their Real Bay Shit comrades Drain, led by Gulch drummer Sammy Ciaramitaro, have gone the opposite direction, showing that they’re built to last. Living Proof, their debut for the big, venerable Epitaph label, takes brief detours into rap and pop-punk. But its core sound, a frenetic metallic stomp, is equal parts violently abrasive and ferociously fun. More of this, please. —Tom Breihan


Sexyy Red - Hood Hottest Princess (Open Shift/gamma)

Sexyy Red is a big personality, gregarious and deafeningly raunchy, but Hood Hottest Princess clocks in at a tight 30 minutes, making it an efficient look at Southern Black womanhood. Red raps about her sexuality with extreme casualness, and — as recently witnessed at New York’s Terminal 5 — rejoicing fans turn bars like “My nigga eat me out,” from the hit “Pound Town,” into shout-along mantras. —Jayson Buford


Home Front - Games Of Power (La Vida Es Un Mus Discos)

On its face, the combination makes zero sense: Fists-up oi/streetpunk singalongs over brooding, Depeche Mode-style synthpop? Why? But former Wednesday Night Heroes shouter Graeme McKinnon and ex-Shout Out Out Out dance-punker Clint Frazier had the vision. Edmonton’s Home Front have discovered that oi and synthpop, when combined, merely enhance one another. Both genres share crisp aesthetics, endorphin-rush hooks, and seething vulnerability. When you put them together, you’ve really got something. With their debut LP, Home Front have put together a collection of fired-up anthems that shine brighter than the sum of their parts. —Tom Breihan


Julie Byrne - The Greater Wings (Ghostly International)

The Greater Wings wasn’t supposed to be about grief. Julie Byrne had nearly finished writing her new record when her longtime collaborator Eric Littmann died unexpectedly in 2021. Freshly bereft, Byrne returned to the material, reshaping it into a profound meditation on loss and a poignant tribute to her friend. Byrne’s delicate, New Age-y folk music has always felt intimate, but The Greater Wings almost seems to vibrate with the generosity of her spirit. —Brad Sanders


Panopticon - The Rime Of Memory (Bindrune)

On The Rime Of Memory, eerie, droning folk instrumentals are swallowed up by whirlwinds of sonic violence. Austin Lunn’s massive symphonies to the Minnesota wilderness take time to build up, letting you get fully adjusted to Panopticon’s world. When the songs finally blast off into the harsh black metal furnace, they linger even longer, until the blast beats and growling cries are themselves immersed in swells of orchestral beauty — the sound of dark and light in perpetual collision. As Lunn guides us through one kind of gorgeous serenity and into another, the storm proves to be just as breathtakingly beautiful as the calm. —Chris DeVille


Overmono - Good Lies (XL)

Tom and Ed Russell have a soft spot for the doberman that graces the cover of their euphoric full-length debut Good Lies. The Welsh brothers have been releasing ecstatic, pristine bangers like “So U Kno” and “Gunk” in a steady drip since in 2017, and Good Lies is both a compilation of their past work as well as a look towards the future of UK dance music. Like the glossy photograph of the much-maligned breed, the brothers recontextualize the muscular precision of techno and house, softening it with blissed out vocal samples and a heavy dusting of baggy jungle beats. The result is both aggressive and intimate, nostalgic and evergreen, like a John Hughes movie projected at a rave. —Arielle Gordon


superviolet - Infinite Spring (Lame-O)

After saying goodbye to the Sidekicks, the band he’d fronted since adolescence, Steve Ciolek responded to his thirtysomething-newlywed life with softer, dreamier songs that held on to that familiar melodic jolt. Masterfully blurring together Technicolor ‘60s and ‘70s throwbacks, snappy power-pop, and anthemic blog-era indie, Ciolek’s first album as superviolet felt like both a natural progression and a carefully crafted new beginning — the sound of settling down without settling for less. —Chris DeVille


Victoria Monét - Jaguar II (Lovett/RCA)

Over a decade into a low-key career — writing for hire in Ariana Grande’s songwriting posse, steadily releasing overlooked R&B singles — Monét released an album suggesting she was a star all along. Jaguar II is an opulent throwback, evoking both the cocaine-decor plushness of ’70s R&B and the unapologetic raunch of Southern rap. And Monét has punchlines for weeks, getting not just meme-worthiness but actual laughs out of everything from bisexual blunts to grannies with peppermints to greeting her soulmate on a gallant steed, “titties bouncing and everything.” —Katherine St. Asaph


Feeble Little Horse - Girl With Fish (Saddle Creek)

Blending quirky indie-pop with woozy shoegaze, Feeble Little Horse mastered a stylishly surreal approach to guitar-pop. But what truly elevates Girl With Fish is singer Lydia Slocum. In a scene that errs on the side of abstraction, her sweetly melodic vocals got fearlessly raw, from flirtation (“How can you be satisfied? She’s five foot one and you’re six foot five”) to consummation (“Steamroller, you fuck like you’re eating”). Few listening experiences this year were more arresting than hearing “Do you want to be in my pocket?” evolve from an invitation to a wild-eyed threat. —Chris DeVille


Liv.e - Girl In The Half Pearl (Real Life Music/AWAL)

Girl In The Half Pearl whisks you away into an electronic R&B wonderland. The lakes are made of psilocybin, lo-fi tapes warm the fireplace, and snow falls rapidly at the pace of drum ‘n’ bass. Cooped-up on a cold winter’s day, Liv.e has no choice but to reflect. From the restrained hysteria of “Ghost”‘s thrashed vocals to the open sensuality of “Wild Animals,” Liv.e brings us into the eye of her pixelated hurricane. —Yousef Srour


Lamp Of Murmuur - Saturnian Bloodstorm (Argento)

Lamp Of Murmuur first rose to prominence by infusing raw black metal with the gloomy danceability of ’80s goth and post-punk. Project mastermind M. leaves that sound behind on the bracing, riff-driven Saturnian Bloodstorm. Drawing inspiration from Norwegian black metal overlords Immortal (as well as forebears like Iron Maiden and Dio), M. has crafted a towering, triumphant album worthy of having its cover art airbrushed on the side of a Ford Econoline. —Brad Sanders


Fiddlehead - Death Is Nothing To Us (Run For Cover)

Death Is Nothing To Us is Fiddlehead at their loudest. “The Deathlife” makes a striking opener, bordering on hardcore with unrelenting guitars and Patrick Flynn’s invigorating shouts, ending with his impactful repeating plea: “I just want to be pure!” The band captures the highs and lows of grief with contemplative tracks like the downtrodden “Welcome To The Situation” and the meandering “Give It Time (II)” that contrast with mosh-worthy rippers “Sullenboy” and “Going To Die,” the victorious finale to another great exploration of mortality. —Danielle Chelosky


Sufjan Stevens - Javelin (Asthmatic Kitty)

Sufjan Stevens is at his most aching and bereft on Javelin, navigating the embers of love’s remains. Desire is burning, all-consuming, but also something that is impossible to maintain, ultimately unsustainable. “It’s a terrible thought to have and hold,” “I don’t want to fight at all,” “Will anyone ever love me?” Stevens often sings alone but occasionally he’s joined by a chorus of elegiac voices, a reminder that heartbreak is among the most universal experiences we have. —James Rettig


Nourished By Time - Erotic Probiotic 2 (Scenic Route)

When Marcus Brown was a student at Berklee College Of Music, their professor wanted everyone to write their own “A Change Is Gonna Come.” On debut album Erotic Probiotic 2, Brown finds their own version of Sam Cooke’s protest anthem, sneaking capitalist critiques and existential longing into the peak-time energy of freestyle and Baltimore club. Their baritone cloaks the album in warmth without veering into sentimentality, like a roller rink DJ performing in your dreams. —Arielle Gordon


Veeze - Ganger (Navy Wavy/Warner)

Ganger is supposed to be messy upon first glance. The mixing is inconsistent, the tracklist is written in shorthand, and the clarity of Veeze’s sunken grumbles varies with each vice. It’s a collage of unspoken vulnerability, etching each song’s EQs differently to capture Veeze’s instability. Whether trading verses with Lil Yachty or describing people’s deep reverence for his success on “Safe 2,” the Detroit rapper holds nothing back. It’s all there — every mistake, every conversation in between takes, even a song named after The King Of Comedy himself, Robert De Niro. —Yousef Srour


Yves Tumor - Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds) (Warp)

Across the latest dispatch from shapeshifting rock revivalist Yves Tumor, styles melt into each other imperceptibly: propulsive post-punk (“Echolalia”) spans the gaps between the velvet textures of R&B (“Parody”), the murkiness of grunge (“Meteora Blues”), and even trip-hop (“Purified By the Fire”). They double down on the changeups, their voice variously taking the shape of Prince, Damon Albarn, Lil Peep, and Courtney Love, the enigmatic ringmaster of their own protean circus. —Arielle Gordon


Strange Ranger - Pure Music (Fire Talk)

What a bummer Strange Ranger decided to break up after releasing a stunner like Pure Music. The gently experimental project blankets gauzy synths over choppy beats and vocal samples, “In The Air Tonight”-esque drum-fills, silky sax, and post-punk-minded guitar tones. Best heard under a dark city sky (or in a subway tunnel), Pure Music combines some of the ‘80s’ most innovative soundscapes with last decade’s dream-pop maximalism (M83, the Naked And Famous) to create a new classic. —Rachel Brodsky


Brent Faiyaz - Larger Than Life (ISO Supremacy/UnitedMasters)

After WASTELAND‘s brief stint in LA, Larger Than Life brought a block party back to the DMV. As presented by Brent Faiyaz, the region is not just the government buildings and museums of your imagination; on “Best Time,” he even claims, “All the pretty girls come from VA.” The album is not just an ode to Faiyaz’s stomping ground but to ‘90s R&B, from the opener’s immediate “No Scrubs” sample to an appearance from Virginia’s own Missy Elliott to the addictive bounce of “Forever Yours,” a chopped-and-screwed beat from Jonah Roy made for doing the butterfly. —Yousef Srour


Water From Your Eyes - Everyone's Crushed (Matador)

On Everyone’s Crushed, Water From Your Eyes got both poppier and more inscrutable. The duo’s tracks are made of unnerving dancey loops and disorienting discordant noise, pasted together like a gleefully messy collage. They offer glimpses of recognizable feeling — like on the swaggering “Barley” or the mournful “14” — yet always filtered through some strange alien lens. Mostly the chaos sounds like Rachel Brown and Nate Amos are just trying to amuse themselves, and in the process they create something thrillingly and accessibly weird. —Mia Hughes


Tomb Mold - The Enduring Spirit (20 Buck Spin)

A secret history of death metal runs parallel to its decades-long arms race of brutality. For nearly as long as the genre has existed, there have been bands who have sought to drag it out of the darkness and into the light. With the transcendentally inclined The Enduring Spirit, Toronto’s Tomb Mold join the proud lineage of Atheist, Cynic, and Death, augmenting the charred sound of their earlier work with twitchy prog riffs, jazzy bass lines, and extended passages of gorgeous, sun-flecked lead guitar. —Brad Sanders


yeule - softscars (Ninja Tune)

On softscars, yeule steps back from the “cyborg” personna of last year’s Glitch Princess and into something with far more capacity for destruction: a sentient human, grappling with their own flesh and blood. “Sulky baby” tenderly addresses a younger yeule, the one who found solace in electronic escapism, its echoing guitars stretching out like the sunrise spreading over the horizon at dawn. Yeule removes their digital armor entirely on “software update,” their unprocessed voice crackling with a distinctly human texture. The imperfections of analog instruments and the human voice are the point — after all, you can’t scar without flesh. —Arielle Gordon


“Through all the labor, a raven is reborn,” Kelela sings on the title track of her second album, six years in the making. “They tried to break her/ There’s nothing here to mourn.” Though one might mistake the chilly atmosphere of Raven as anguished, it is the result of methodical determination. Sparse and meditative, Kelela’s music ends up being a calming force — the rattling beats and languid pace are a celebration of resolve and patience. —James Rettig


Feist - Multitudes (Polydor)

Many of the songs on Multitudes started out as lullabies that Feist would sing to her daughter, and the album retains that sense of hushed intimacy. When it came time to perform Multitudes on stage, Feist opted for an immersive experience, surrounded by the audience on all sides. It makes sense for these songs, which are simmering and flickering and encourage the listener to lean in, a powerful document of the human voice and its capability to soothe and heal. —James Rettig


Slowdive - everything is alive (Dead Oceans)

Slowdive probably had no idea what the term “shoegaze” would come to represent decades after they first formed in Reading — how legions of faithful would attempt to capture their signature ambient swirl of effects-steeped guitars. On their second reunion album, which effortlessly undulates with dreamy tones, echoing percussion, and gossamer vocals, Slowdive do a spectacular job of showing — not necessarily telling — why they will always be one of the genre’s benchmarks. —Rachel Brodsky


DJ Sabrina The Teenage DJ - Destiny (Spells On The Telly)

I’ve never heard the whole thing in one sitting, I couldn’t tell you what many of my favorite songs on it are called, but I’ve probably listened to DJ Sabrina The Teenage DJ’s four-hour pop odyssey Destiny more than anything else this year. It’s not an album you listen to so much as live with, an ambient nostalgia-laced texture that makes zoning out and fucking around online just a little bit more appealing. —James Rettig


Yaeji - With A Hammer (XL)

Yaeji delivered a full-length debut album far more elliptical than its cover, on which she wields a giant fuck-off Thwomp-faced hammer, might suggest — but no less striking. On With A Hammer, the Korean-American DJ mutes the stark beats of her past work with mournful woodwinds, and metal-dust vocals reminiscent of Swedish recluse Stina Nordenstam, and laces them with protest-adjacent lyrics that capture the moments of introspection and realignment that come between rallying the community, taking up the mallet, and doing the work. —Katherine St. Asaph


Jessie Ware - That! Feels Good! (EMI)

“Step into a brand new life,” Jessie Ware sings halfway through That! Feels Good! This is Ware’s request: for you to surrender, to transmute yourself into champagne and diamonds and perfume in air, to let your inhibitions fall like a satin robe and become a conduit for pleasure. She devotes herself to this calling more with every album, and on That! Feels Good! she channels Chaka and Donna, vintage funk, and disco at its most sumptuous to reach her headiest heights. —Katherine St. Asaph


Truth Club - Running From The Chase (Double Double Whammy)

Raleigh four-piece Truth Club craft an unsettling universe on Running From The Chase. Shoegaze explosion “Blue Eternal” is a glimmer of light amongst dreary, sometimes cruel landscapes, like the brooding opener “Suffer Debt” or the colossal “Clover.” Travis Harrington’s smooth intonations have a sinister edge adding to the already stark atmosphere, especially on the off-kilter finale “Is This Working?” The album artwork of the members barely floating above dark waters is an apt image for the haunting songs. —Danielle Chelosky


Fever Ray - Radical Romantics (Rabid/Mute)

Karin Dreijer wants to feel everything, and Radical Romantics is their story of allowing themselves to do it. The album distills their past two records to the most concentrated emotions. From Fever Ray, they take the brooding arrangements and the underlying sense that dread is always one thought away: Does the world want what I want? How far is my lover willing to follow me there? And they expand on the defiant queerness and kaiju-scale desires of Plunge by going even deeper into their besotted and horny specifics. —Katherine St. Asaph


The Tubs - Dead Meat (Trouble In Mind)

Few albums this year conjured the effect of the Tubs’ effervescent debut Dead Meat. These misanthropic songs will make you want to frolic. “Illusion pt. II” is a beautiful burst of jangly guitars and Owen “O” Williams’ Morrissey-like lulling as he contemplates the qualms of love. It’s hard to believe this album came out in 2023, especially with the band depicted denim-clad and long-haired on the artwork. On the bubbly “Duped,” Williams proclaims, “I cannot take it anymore,” the melodrama endearing and addictive. —Danielle Chelosky


Slow Pulp - Yard (Anti-)

“Cramps,” an addictive blast of rapid shoegaze, was a misleading first single for Chicago quartet Slow Pulp’s sophomore album Yard, which mostly lingers in midtempo, sunswept indie rock territory. This wasn’t a disappointment by any means; the title track, a charmingly candid piano ballad, is one of the best songs they’ve ever shared: “The neighbors hear me singing/ I don’t care ’cause I’m much too baked,” Emily Massey sings, and it feels like we’re right there beside her. —Danielle Chelosky


Indigo de Souza - All Of This Will End (Saddle Creek)

Depending on how you look at it, the title of Indigo de Souza’s third album could signal either crushing anxiety or freeing relief. She wrestles with that dichotomy across the album. Poignantly and conversationally, de Souza’s songwriting charts the process of figuring out how to keep hold of yourself when life feels impossibly heavy. She jumps between electrifying synth-pop and murky garage-grunge, and when it’s time for a showstopper, she lets loose her stunningly powerful vocals. —Mia Hughes


Parannoul - After The Magic (Topshelf)

The anonymous Korean indie rocker Parannoul has a gift for conveying massive feelings through towering, epic-scale music fit to match. With After The Magic, he brought his music out of the lo-fi muck and into crystalline clarity, with stellar results. Majestic instrumental flourishes give way to gargantuan power chords, and Parannoul’s sighing voice is buoyed to the heavens as songs achieve liftoff with all the glory of a space shuttle launch. Seems to me the magic is just beginning. —Chris DeVille


JPEGMAFIA & Danny Brown - Scaring The Hoes (PEGGY/AWAL)

Some people just thrive on chaos. On their own, JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown were already known for splattery, unpredictable expressionism. They were the wildest motherfuckers on the festival-rap landscape, and in joining forces, they’ve pushed each other to become even wilder. Scaring The Hoes works as a ferocious, jagged landscape of hacked-up JPEGMAFIA samples, lyrical disrespect, and willful discordance. Its frantic inventiveness never settles down. Chaos should always be this much fun. —Tom Breihan


Bully - Lucky For You (Sub Pop)

For years, Bully mastermind Alicia Bognanno has been cranking out raw, feverish grunge-rock jams, and she’s only gotten better since changing Bully from a band to a solo project. On Lucky For You, Bognanno doubles down on Bully’s most accessible elements, adding shimmery hooks and hard-swinging counter-rhythms while enlisting Nashville alt-rock producer JT Daly for assistance. The result is a charged-up, blissed-out collection of bangers that stands as Bognanno’s best work to date. —Tom Breihan


Earl Sweatshirt & The Alchemist - VOIR DIRE (Tan Cressida/ALC/Warner)

A year ago, if you would have asked this former Earl Sweatshirt fanatic whether he would ever release an album like VOIR DIRE, I would have laughed and told you to get used to the abstract rap he was making. But in 2023 Thebe Kgositsile teamed with the Alchemist and gave fans like me a welcome surprise. For whatever reason — perhaps fatherhood or his newfound sobriety — his music has once again become more accessible for the virginal ear, with production that evokes the mystical quality of Alchemist’s tapes with Prodigy. “Vin Skully” is a standout (“The trick is to stop falling, the only option is to start with a step”) and exactly the kind of mournful but lush track that makes Earl such a dynamic and fearsome emcee. —Jayson Buford


Caroline Polachek - Desire, I Want To Turn Into You (Perpetual Novice)

From the moment Caroline Polachek comes swinging into “Welcome To My Island” — fiercely, rapturously wailing in a way that connects the dots between Björk and Mariah at jagged angles — Desire, I Want To Turn Into You never ceases to delight. Polachek has been crafting her own singular vision of modern pop music since Chairlift, and here she sounds fully in control of that aesthetic, whether stuttering and gliding over the skittering “Billions” beat or merging into a melancholic three-woman weave with Grimes and Dido on “Fly To You.” —Chris DeVille


100 Gecs - 10,000 Gecs (Dog Show/Atlantic)

100 Gecs operate in the David Letterman mode of comedy: Tell a dumb joke once, you bomb. Tell a dumb joke ad nauseam, and it becomes hilarious. You liked our debut album, 1000 Gecs? No? Well, how about 10,000 Gecs? How about Anthony Kiedis suckin’ on my penis, Scary Movie, and a frog doing a kegstand? Dylan Brady and Laura Les are astute archivists of bad taste; deeper references to the history of pop music are there if you want to catch them. But the pair couldn’t care less if you’re in on the joke or not. Try to sit through “One Million Dollars” without either shutting it off or screaming at great volume, “ONE MILLION DOLLARS!” They know resistance is futile. —Arielle Gordon


MSPAINT - Post-American (Convulse)

Your! Spirit! Is! True! Confident that you’re gonna break through!” As barked by MSPAINT frontman Deedee, those words hit like an adrenaline shot every time. Throughout the Mississippi synth-punk band’s debut, he performs as if yelling directly in your face the entire time — which makes sense because his revolutionary message is urgent. We need to resist technologically imposed numbness and really feel. Albums like Post-American are a good first step. —Mia Hughes


Hotline TNT - Cartwheel (Third Man)

Cartwheel is a fitting title for Hotline TNT’s dizzying sophomore album, the follow-up to their mesmerizing debut Nineteen In Love. Will Anderson is still using riveting, restless shoegaze to communicate the complexities of romance, but Cartwheel finds the Brooklyn band more engaging than ever before, packed with massive hooks and moments of revelation that feel physical, like the euphoric vertigo of a mosh pit. —Danielle Chelosky


Militarie Gun - Life Under The Gun (Loma Vista)

Are they hardcore songs infused with pop-rock accessibility or pop-rock songs with a hardcore pedigree? When Ian Shelton shouts “Ooh! Ooh!” the genre distinctions cease to matter. Life Under The Gun is Militarie Gun’s official debut album, but it feels more like a victory lap for what they’ve been building in recent years. Over a rhythm section that smacks hard enough to echo across an arena, guitars that evoke Green Day, Weezer, and the Strokes turn Shelton’s raw war cries about regret, depression, and annoyance into triumphant hooks. —Chris DeVille


Ratboys - The Window (Topshelf)

Midwestern indie-twang crew Ratboys are hardly newcomers, but on their outstanding fifth album they sound more alive than ever, partially by joining forces with superproducer Chris Walla. With a generous array of edgy guitar hooks, wistful vocals from Julia Steiner, and just a twinge of country jangle, The Window was like a sonic sunbeam bursting through the skylight this year. —Rachel Brodsky


boygenius - the record (Interscope)

Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus, and Phoebe Bridgers were all rising stars when they got together to form boygenius and release their self-titled 2018 EP. When they got back together for their first full-length as a group, they’d fully risen. The return of boygenius was met with waves of adulation and backlash, and the noise has only gotten louder since, what with the Grammy nominations and the SNL appearance. But the album at the storm’s heart is tender, finely observed, and impeccably arranged — a piece of music lovely enough to justify all the hype and more. —Tom Breihan


Mitski - The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We (Dead Oceans)

Leave it to Mitski to make an album so twisted that it lives up to the title The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We. Her seventh album is gorgeously bleak, simmering with such a queasy confidence that even its most contented moments sound inexpressibly lonely, especially on the sighing, surprise commercial hit “My Love Mine All Mine.” Quiet and exacting, it’s rare to find songs that are so viscerally upsetting yet so compellingly relistenable. Mitski manages both here, and in the process has made a true stunner. —James Rettig


billy woods & Kenny Segal - Maps (Backwoodz Studioz/Fat Possum)

When it comes to colonialism and its effects on the psyche of future generations of Black men, billy woods has the market cornered. Maps is an album about never feeling situated in one place, especially at tour stops where your inner peace becomes harder to maintain and pandemonium becomes a new normal. It makes for intense and weary music, narrated by a wordsmith who could probably recite the dictionary from memory. Over Kenny Segal’s brooding, transfixing beats, woods is authoritative and indulgent as an emcee, making a strong case for himself as the best underground rapper alive. —Jayson Buford


Olivia Rodrigo - GUTS (Geffen)

Olivia Rodrigo aims to appeal. With poise and polish, her second album evokes countless crowd-pleasing influences: Taylor Swift’s singalongs for the girlies; poppy-sassy alt-rockers like Veruca Salt and Kay Hanley; and the campiest line deliveries this side of Legally Blonde on Broadway. But despite her honor-student competence, she’s unafraid to let her songwriting go toward riskier subjects: industry predators (“Vampire”), psychosexual fixations on frenemies (“Lacy”), and thrilling inadvisable hookups you don’t mention on main (“Bad Idea Right?”). —Katherine St. Asaph


Wednesday - Rat Saw God (Dead Oceans)

Wednesday have personality. In a landscape full of interchangeable grunge, shoegaze, and country bands, the Asheville indie rockers blend those touchstones in startling, magnificent ways, an approach inextricable from their big, loud, unapologetically Southern point of view. Daring to stand out — to be extra, to be cringe, to be true to their roots — has earned them their share of detractors, but vociferous praise for Rat Saw God rightly drowned out the naysayers this year. The album was both a masterpiece and a conversation piece; years from now we’ll look back on it as the defining soundtrack of this moment in rock.

From the moment the harrowing epic “Bull Believer” dropped 15 months ago — strewn with bloody noses and Mortal Kombat death blows, riding propulsive Sonic Youth and Breeders worship toward an abrasive, explosive finale — it was obvious 2023 would belong to Wednesday. The grandly twangy Drive-By Truckers homage “Chosen To Deserve,” on which Karly Hartzman’s tales of an aimless youth in the decaying South reached their pinnacle, proved the band could be just as powerful at their accessible extreme. Between those poles, every track brimmed with lived-in detail, doled out in quavering narration that could mirror weeping pedal steel and roaring power chords alike. Taken all together, the album worked as a document of a road-tested rock band riding high, a landmark of songwriting as world-building, and as a reminder that well-worn sounds can still be combined into something brilliantly, bracingly new. —Chris DeVille

Stream a playlist featuring songs from all 50 albums:

Stereogum is an independent site supported by readers like you. Become a VIP Member to read without ads, get Discord access, and more.

more from 2023 In Review