DIY's Best of 2023 DIY’s Albums of the Year 2023

It’s safe to say that it’s been a stellar twelve months on the musical front, but what have DIY’s writers had on repeat?

December is in full swing, and we all know what that means: mince pies! Mulled wine! Eating lunch wearing paper crowns! (No, just us?…) But forget festivities, the real Christmas present come early is of course list season - a chance to reflect on all the truly great music you’ve heard this year, and perhaps catch up on some gems you missed along the way too.

Plus, we’ve also complied a selection of songs from the albums below with our Top 20 Tracks of the Year into one handy playlist - call it an early Christmas prezzie from us. So without further ado, here we go: from Blur to Lana Del Rey, Sufjan Stevens to CMAT, here are our Albums of the Year, as voted for by team DIY and our esteemed contributors…

20. Romy - Mid Air

After nearly twenty years of co-fronting a band as zeitgeist-capturing as The xx, we could have forgiven Romy had she chosen to stick to familiar territory on this, her solo studio debut. That’s not to say ‘Mid Air’ is a complete about turn - the husky, understated vocals and lush production are still there - but here, it feels as if she’s stepping into the spotlight with a hitherto unseen self-assurance. Oscillating between the euphoric escape of the dancefloor and the intimate embrace of a partner (and frequently capturing both simultaneously), the album is a manifestation of the emotional and artistic multitudes contained within Romy herself. (Daisy Carter)

Read our review of 'Mid Air' here.

19. RAYE - My 21st Century Blues

If 2023 was truly a triumphant year for any artist, it’s probably RAYE. Following her 2021 split with her longtime label home of Polydor after a tumultuous series of delays and diversions in her career, the star’s debut album might have been a long time coming, but, since its release in January, its impact has been felt profoundly. A confident, defiant and deeply personal album which lays just about everything - heartbreak, abuse, self-worth - on the line, ‘My 21st Century Blues’ is the kind of powerful first statement she was always destined to make. (Sarah Jamieson)

Read our review of 'My 21st Century Blues' here.

18. Squid - O Monolith

As the follow up to their hugely lauded debut (2021’s ‘Bright Green Field’), Squid’s sophomore effort was always going to spark intrigue. Taking the essential, angsty angularity of their sound and pushing it to the nth degree, ‘O Monolith’ runs the textural gamut, from ethereal electronics to fuzz-laden guitars and meandering brass. On this second outing, drummer and vocalist Ollie Judge’s signature sprechgesang has assumed a more melodic dimension; the time signatures are more off-kilter; and the tracks’ intricately layered instrumentals are all given expansive space to breathe. Ambitious without ever becoming too clever for its own good, it’s a reminder of just how good post-punk can be. (Daisy Carter)

Read our review of 'O Monolith' here.

17. Mandy, Indiana - i've seen a way

‘i’ve seen a way’ is Mandy, Indiana on their most adventurous sonic rampage yet. For every metallic clink and clang, there’s a rush of water and the echo of a field full of Swiss cows. The album is a sound only three Mancunians and a Parisian could make, recorded deep in West Country Caves and an even more cavernous Bristol shopping centre. It’s twisted dance music: spiky synths, discordant guitars and the odd scream. Even if you can’t understand vocalist Valentine Caufield’s French drawl, it all congeals beautifully. ‘i’ve seen a way’ is masterfully controlled chaos, an aural feast that fed us well this year. (Mia Smith)

Read our review of 'i've seen a way' here. 

16. Troye Sivan - Something To Give Each Other

The rug was pulled from under pop music in 2023 when artists ditched seriousness in favour of dizzying hedonism. Troye Sivan, part of the revolution, led its second wave with ‘Something To Give Each Other’, a diverse and irreverent time capsule of pop music and iconography. It’s a commanding record that captures contemporary culture. Recognisable from the virality of the record’s suave choreography, that one sporty gay anthem, a ‘Shooting Stars’ throwback and his thirsty, Britney-inspired drag persona — some of the most notable pieces of pop culture this year — Troye infiltrated the mainstream deeper than ever before. The album’s a complete package: there’s headspinningly addictive, uproarious pop, trendy, sexy visuals and a queer artist at the top of his game. (Otis Robinson)

Read our review of 'Something To Give Each Other' here.

15. JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown - SCARING THE HOES

The existence of this album was no surprise - eclectic rappers JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown had been teasing music together since March 2022 - but ‘SCARING THE HOES’ still shook the hip-hop world. JPEG’s twitching, restless electronic production and use of soul, gospel and 2000s pop samples gives listeners a surprise at every turn, while his lower rapping register contrasts and complements Brown’s trademark hyperactive delivery. ‘Fentanyl Tester’’s wall of sound and the industrial clamour of ‘Where Ya Get Ya Coke From?’ won't be for everyone, but there's nobody else that pushes the envelope quite like Peggy and Danny. (Jack Terry)

Read our review of 'SCARING THE HOES' here.

14. Blur - The Ballad of Darren

Damon Albarn is not one to rest on his laurels and so, when Blur agreed to this summer’s rapturously-received pair of Wembley Stadiums shows, he quietly began work on what would become Blur’s ninth studio album, later bringing the band and producer James Ford in to finish and record ‘The Ballad of Darren’ in a matter of months. As such, there’s an easiness to these songs that comes from four childhood friends acting on chemistry and instinct, buoyed by an innate understanding of each other’s musical quirks. A band with a legendary knack for elegiac, suckerpunch ballads, ‘...Darren’ is bursting with the sort of melodies that only Albarn could concoct (plus a glorious wink to their cranky, rowdy side in ‘St. Charles Square’), all held aloft by a quartet who proved they could still make magic, all these years later. (Lisa Wright)

Read our review of 'The Ballad of Darren' here.

13. Lana Del Rey - Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd? 

Where Lana Del Rey’s earliest work lived in an evocative but easily parodied world of Americana and red dresses, as time has gone on so has the singer become increasingly unparalleled and unpredictable. On this, her ninth album, a sprawling, 16-song tracklist was the framework for a record that eschewed classic structures and hooks for hazy songs that often floated in and out of consciousness, strung together by sampled voice clips and guest turns from friends as varied as Father John Misty and rapper Tommy Genesis; on closing track ‘Taco Truck x VB’, she even sampled herself, bringing oldie ‘Venice Bitch’ back into the album’s warped landscape. ‘... Ocean Blvd’ is the sound of Lana defying categorisation and making the industry beat to her own drum. (Lisa Wright)

Read our review of '... Ocean Blvd' here.

12. Mitski - The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We

For hardcore Mitski fans, each of the singular artist's releases are akin to a prophetic message. But there's something about 'The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We' - her seventh album - that felt particularly ecclesiastical. Be it the orchestral swell of 'Heaven', the ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ essence of ‘I Don’t Like My Mind’, or the choral backing vocals peppered throughout, it’s as if she crafted the record with a spellbound congregation in mind. Which, given the record’s rapturous reception, isn’t too far from the truth. Utterly enveloping and borderline transportive, it’s a hauntingly beautiful handling of hope amidst sorrow. (Daisy Carter)

Read our review of 'The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We' here.

11. Wednesday - Rat Saw God

Few could have anticipated the poignant force that underpins the brilliant fifth studio album by North Carolina five-piece Wednesday. An audible breakdown of an unmistakable America, ‘Rat Saw God’ leaps from bleak suburbia to reckless abandon, driven by Karly Hatzman’s beautiful, corrosive vocals. Standouts arrive in the form of eight-minute epic ‘Bull Believer’, building towards a harrowing Mortal Kombat referencing downward spiral, and the country-tinged, adolescent-fuelled ‘Chosen To Deserve’. Together they represent just a fraction of Wednesday’s broad, brave and raw storytelling grounded in time and place, but one that reaches far beyond its small-town borders. (Ben Tipple)

Read our review of 'Rat Saw God' here.

10. Lankum - False Lankum

Succinctly summing up a Mercury Prize shortlisted magnum opus like ‘False Lankum’ is a daunting task. Lankum's fourth LP will surely be studied for its contribution to expanding contemporary sonic landscapes, but limiting the body of work as a triumph of 'traditional' or 'folk' genres misses the mark on exactly how experimental and fearless it is. From Radie Peat's haunting voice that could make a spine-tingling impact in any era (her take on The Deadlians' song 'Newcastle' is a must-listen), to the unbelievable amount of instruments the Dublin quartet perform, it's impossible to come away from 'False Lankum' without hearing genius. (Kate Brayden)

9. Paramore - This Is Why

Returning six years after the release of their funky-pop opus ‘After Laughter’, Paramore’s latest boasts another deft sonic transformation for the trio. Inspired more by the rough-edged indie-rock of the likes of Bloc Party, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Rapture, ‘This Is Why’ is a darkly seductive record that sees the band growing ever more comfortable in their skin, all while staring squarely at the growing sense of discomfort and disillusionment that haunts our current lives. A far cry from the emo heartland of their early discography, ‘This Is Why’ is blistering ('The News', 'You First') and breathtaking ('Liar', 'Thick Skull') in equal measure. (Sarah Jamieson)

Read our review of 'This Is Why' here. 

8. Grian Chatten - Chaos For The Fly

Having released three albums in only marginally more years at the helm of Fontaines D.C, Grian Chatten’s solo debut arrived in the promo-shunning manner of a true passion project. An immediate tonal departure from his day job, ‘Chaos For The Fly’ was a record of melancholy introversions, laced with strings and acoustic plucks, and written as an escape from the frustrations of fame and touring. Where FDC have increasingly found themselves thrust into the glare of awards shows and mainstream adoration, ‘Chaos…’ reminded the world that, beneath the bright lights, Chatten is a songwriter’s songwriter in the great tradition of them; a modern-day bard of the broken spirit, capable of spinning darkness into real beauty. (Lisa Wright)

Read our review of 'Chaos For The Fly' here.

7. Jessie Ware - That! Feels Good!

Many artists have dabbled in exclamation marks over the years, but no one has managed to impart a sense of fun and flirtiness quite like that of Jessie Ware’s fifth album. A resplendent, sparkling album that builds upon the disco-doused foundations laid with 2020’s ‘What’s Your Pleasure?’, ‘That! Feels Good’ is a retro-feeling delight that places pleasure, freedom and self-acceptance at its heart, without ever veering into pastiche or tackiness. The fact that Jessie seems to be having a ball at the same time makes the whole thing even more delicious. (Sarah Jamieson)

Read our review of 'That! Feels Good!' here.

6. Sufjan Stevens - Javelin

At the very beginning of the opening track of Sufjan’s tenth studio LP, he softly murmurs the couplets “Goodbye evergreen / You know I love you / But everything heaven sent / Must burn out in the end”. It’s a sentiment that’s poignant enough in and of itself, but, upon learning that the record is dedicated to his late partner Evans Richardson - something the artist only shared on the day of its release - these words assume a near heartbreaking significance. Although ‘Will Anybody Ever Love Me?’ is the most direct summation of the album’s mournful vulnerability, this thread is one that’s delicately weaved throughout its ten tracks - a sonic tribute to the pain of having lost, and the beauty of having loved in the first place. (Daisy Carter)

Read our review of 'Javelin' here.

5. CMAT - Crazymad, For Me

Whether you believe that CMAT's second record really is a concept album about an old(er) woman attempting to rewrite her shitty dating history via a YouTube time machine, or simply just a 'Bat Out Of Hell'-style rock opera for the girlies, one thing is unquestionable: the Irish star's sense of brilliant, bonkers ambition. Equal parts confessional, comedic and utterly charming, the emotional rollercoaster of 'Crazymad, For Me' is as fabulous as we could've ever hoped. (Sarah Jamieson)

Read our review of 'Crazymad, for me' here.

4. Young Fathers - Heavy Heavy

Three musicians with the sort of musical synergy normally reserved for those bonded by blood, Young Fathers have been crafting rhythmic, idiosyncratic magic for years now. With fourth album ‘Heavy, Heavy’, that ability seemed almost preternatural, inviting listeners into a world that veered from the seething to the spiritual, wrangled together by a joyful, intentional sense of catharsis and communion. It earned the Scottish trio their second Mercury Prize nomination and perhaps their most universal acclaim to date. (Lisa Wright)

Read our review of 'Heavy Heavy' here. 

3. Olivia Rodrigo - GUTS

As soon as ORod kick-started her ‘GUTS’ era with the release of crescendoing big-hitter ‘vampire’ back in June, we knew she meant business. Rollicking pop-punk-indebted choruses? Tick. Tender lovesick balladry? Tick. Self-aware, zeitgeist-capturing, uniformly whip-smart lyricism? Tick, tick, tick. Stepping into sonic maturity on her sophomore LP, she retains the immediacy of her debut while widening her frames of reference, taking in - and taking on - all the consistent inconsistency of adolescence. (Daisy Carter)

Read our review of 'GUTS' here. 

2. boygenius - the record

Few announcements this year were met with as much rabid excitement as the news, back in January, that the boys would indeed be back in town and bringing ‘the record’ with them. But whilst anticipation for Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker’s collective long-player was of a level that could have been near-unattainable for most, the trio made light work in an album that deftly showcased each of their individual voices whilst finding solidarity and harmony as a unit. From the opening a cappella ‘Without You Without Them’, ‘the record’ was as definitive as its title. (Lisa Wright)

Read our review of 'the record' here.

1. Caroline Polachek - Desire, I Want To Turn Into You

“Go forget the rules, forget your friends / Just you and your reflection / 'Cause nothing's gonna be the same again / No, nothing's gonna be the same again". So exclaims Caroline Polachek on ‘Welcome To My Island’, the tone-setting introduction to her triumphant second outing ‘Desire, I Want To Turn Into You’. And for those who bore witness to her dizzying release-day performance at London’s Hammersmith Apollo - on Valentine’s Day, no less - it truly felt as if the musical course of 2023, at least, had been changed. Cinematic, ambitious, and utterly immersive, the album's influences flit from trip-hop (‘Fly To You’), to classical Spanish folk (‘Sunset’), to bagpipes (‘Blood And Butter’), all of which are handled with the confidence of a mad scientist who knows - just knows - that this time they've nailed the secret formula. Worshippers at the altar of alt-pop, bow down. (Daisy Carter)

Read our review of 'Desire, I Want To Turn Into You' here.

Tags: Blur, Boygenius, Caroline Polachek, Cmat, Danny Brown, Grian Chatten, Jessie Ware, JPEGMAFIA, Lana Del Rey, Lankum, Mandy, Indiana, Mitski, Olivia Rodrigo, Paramore, Raye, Romy, Squid, Sufjan Stevens, Troye Sivan, Wednesday, Young Fathers, Listen, Features

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