Albums of the Year: Best Releases of 2023 and Beyond…

Spotlighting the best album releases of 2023 and hitting play on some of our old favourites, Insanity Radio’s Music Team celebrates the albums that we’ve had on loop this year.

Charlotte G’s favourite release of 2023 – All of This Will End by Indigo De Souza:

Indigo De Souza’s third and latest album is ferocious and unrelenting. The artist sheds all preconceived notions of her soft indie pop past in the first five tracks of the album that all clock in at around 2 minutes and waste none of that time. Her instantly recognisable yelpy and electric vocals open the album and are accompanied by distorted, heavy guitar riffs and a strong beat. Following this opening, the title track has what I consider to be the strongest lyricism of the album. ‘All of This Will End’ is existential and morbid but where you would expect a slow, harrowing ballad you are met with something catchy and danceable. This track encapsulates the message that the rest of the album transmits, that of accepting death and the rest that is to come. The emotional powerhouse of the album is instead its closing track, ‘Younger and Dumber’. This track forgoes the rock influenced instrumentals De Souza previously uses and presents a stripped back rendition about those that have hurt her when she was younger and more naive. My favourite track from the album was released as a single before the release of the whole project. ‘You Can Be Mean’ assesses and mocks the artist’s own self-worth and how she allows herself to be treated wrapped in a throbbing, gritty pop-rock package. If you like Big Thief or indie pop in general, give this album a listen!

Charlotte G’s old favourite on repeat – Juno by Remi Wolf:

Seeing how popular Remi Wolf is becoming, opening for titans of the music world, Paramore and Olivia Rodrigo, on their tours, makes me so incredibly happy. Wolf started out releasing her eccentric, upbeat tracks on SoundCloud before releasing We Love Dogs! in 2021, her first full length album. Juno, another release of 2021, has been on repeat for me this year because of its versatility and personality. Every song sounds like a party but not in a messy or overly complicated way – the songs are very carefully crafted despite the noise and quirky clutter. The tracks range from rap and pop to R&B and funk and sweeps across everything in between. The standout song for me is ‘Quiet On Set’. It’s danceable and Wolf showcases her vocal ability and witty, contemporary lyricism. If you want a no-skip, upbeat and uncompromising album to soundtrack your day, this is a certain contender.

Elisha’s favourite release of 2023 – everything is alive by Slowdive:

The shoegaze powerhouse returns with a stunning album that I have no choice but to rank as my top release of this year; I saw them on tour back in November and my experience there solidifies my choice. Their new album feels very accessible while still remaining faithful to their integral sound; the classic fusion of dreamy vocals with enough distortion to wrap you in a haze but not harsh enough to be an acquired taste. My favourite track from this album is one that strikes that perfect balance: ‘skin in the game’ is the epitome of otherworldly. Very few tracks provide a listening experience as transcendental as this one. It’s a real treasure, though there’s not much praise I can bestow that hasn’t already been said but it’s clear that the band’s music is aging like fine wine.

Elisha’s old favourite on repeat – Broken English by Marianne Faithfull:

Following the tumultuous split from Jagger, destitution on the streets of London and struggles with addiction, this 1979 album is a gem. Her voice harshened by a bout of laryngitis, the album is a marked change from previous releases, with influences ranging from reggae and funk to a cover of Lennon’s ‘Working Class Hero’ (which I would rank higher than the original). My highlight of the album, a caustic, Hendrix-inspired tirade almost too profane for me to mention here (‘Why’d Ya Do It’) makes perfect use of Faithfull’s altered vocals and is the perfect anthem for scorned women everywhere.

Gloria’s favourite release of 2023 – This Is Why by Paramore:

Released earlier this year, Paramore’s sixth studio album, This Is Why, came following an almost six-year hiatus. Although the band did reassure fans that they weren’t breaking up, a release date for new music was left in the air for quite some time. That was until 16th September 2022. They confirmed the album’s title track then, 12 days later, the announcement of the full thing. It was released on 10th February, and since then, the band have embarked on a world tour and have managed to secure two nominations at this year’s Grammys. This Is Why is an album that starts off loud, sarcastic, and upfront before descending into tracks that are earnest and authentic. Paramore have managed to convey their musical maturity considering that they’d grown up in the public eye. They maintain their status as a group that is rooted in alternative rock, even if they aren’t producing the angsty, teenage tracks that they began with. Seeing them live earlier this year, with a setlist that combined the old and the new, was amazing, as their presence whilst performing is one you’ll never forget. ‘The News’ and ‘Thick Skull’ are two tracks I would highly recommend from this album!

Gloria’s old favourite on repeat – Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens:

Titled after his mother and stepfather, Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell is universally recognised as one of his greatest albums. It’s extremely sincere, as he navigates grief and laments not just over the loss of his mother. He is forced to confront and reconcile with the lack of relationship they had whilst she was alive. Mourning someone that you had such a deep connection with, yet barely knew, is the story of Carrie & Lowell. Within its 40-minute runtime, Sufjan Stevens’ storytelling capabilities immerse listeners in his life as he goes into such personal detail. Despite the sombre subject matter, this album is full of beautiful sounding moments and because of this, it has been on rotation throughout the year. It was released in 2015 but transcends time, as I can never see myself growing tired of it.

Maya’s favourite release of 2023 – UK GRIM by Sleaford Mods:

Sleaford Mods have hit the nail on the head yet again with their latest release, UK GRIM. The duo’s distinctive, abrasive brand of electronic rant-rap sounds as brilliant as ever, from the ominous synth bass of the title track through to the more traditionally punk sound of ‘Pit 2 Pit’. Throughout the album, Jason Williamson’s agitated vocals rant about the anxieties and aggravations of modern UK society, name-checking multiple “main characters” of the last year. Featuring appearances from Florence Shaw of Dry Cleaning as well as Perry Farrell and Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction, the album tackles personal struggles with substance abuse as well as wider issues related to class and political stance.

What I like most about this album is the way it captures the spirit of punk in a way that’s somehow both hyper-specific to this year as well as universal enough to endure the test of time. The lyrics, while often explicitly referencing current affairs, reflect such a broad spectrum of anxieties that at least one of the tracks is sure to resonate with any listener. Moreover, the album is also pleasantly versatile sonically: the general sound is somewhat industrial and turbulent, however there are pockets of tenderness and soul throughout. The beats flicker between simplistic and melodic to chaotic, boasting left field electronic influences as well as glimpses of metal-like riffs.

Overall, I think UK GRIM captures the general British public’s mood of the last year or so, and serves as the perfect soundtrack for brooding as well as yearning for something better… After all, the motto of the album is ‘In England, no-one can hear you scream’.

Maya’s old favourite on repeat – Garden Bed by 22° Halo:

This is one of those albums you can fall in love to. It glimmers with nostalgia and exudes warmth, just like that tired phrase, “the warm, fuzzy feeling”. The album is a tidy, walking-speed package of hazy indie guitar goodness that brings comfort to the colder months and compliments the gleam and glow of summer. ‘Scarecrows’ and ‘Storm’ are my favourite tracks, because they encapsulate the beautiful mood of the record as a whole, and the former was the song that introduced me to 22° Halo. From the first listen earlier this year, I fell head over heels for the delicate, entranced vocals radiating with adoration that seems to cast a spell over the vocalist. This sense of magic binds the album together like a velvet ring, drawing the listener into its enchanting realm of optimism and affection which feels simultaneously open to all and handmade just for you. Sonically, the album dips between Panchiko-esque shoegaze, hushed slowcore and harmonic lullaby, providing a stunning half-hour of listening. All the while, the lyrics perfectly express that feeling of attachment to someone that makes everything seem utterly lovely. If you’re looking to do some hardcore longing for a loved one, this album is the only way to start.

Iona’s favourite release of 2023 – Grapes Upon the Vine by TV Girl:

Another unique and beautiful release from “America’s Favourite Indie Band” (TV Girl’s words, not mine!). Continuing their theme of interesting and niche sampling, this album takes inspiration from gospel choir music. This album transitions away a little from their previous lyrics that often have a satirical commentary on misogyny, focusing more on a religious theme. Criticisms of this album focus on the fact that it isn’t the same as their previous releases, but, in my opinion, this is simply because it isn’t as upbeat and destined for TikTok stardom as earlier albums. I think this is refreshing and something new and unique for the landscape of music today. This album has a more cohesive sound than previous releases, but its overall uncommon sound sets it apart. Overall, I think more people should give it a go.

Iona’s old favourite on repeat – Twilight Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Various Artists:

I’ve been listening to the Twilight soundtrack a lot this year because I own the CD. Since my car has a CD player, when I don’t want to choose a playlist to listen to, this is one of my favourites to put on. While this album came out in 2008, it is definitely still relevant today. Paramore have been performing their song on the soundtrack, ‘Decode’, live on tour this year. There has also been some news circulating that the series is being considered for a TV adaptation, and director, Catherine Hardwicke, has even suggested who she would cast for the leading roles if the film was made today (Jacob Elordi for Edward and Jenna Ortega for Bella). Rolling Stone recently published a piece focusing on revisiting the soundtrack 15 years on with Catherine Hardwicke, composer, Carter Burwell, and others. In my opinion, the soundtrack is an amazing mix of songs, with many of them still popular today. When writing the Twilight books, the author, Stephenie Meyer, had a playlist that links to certain scenes, so the music choice for the films was incredibly important, and I think the music department for the film did an amazing job. Even if you’re not a fan of the film, you should give this album a go.

Molly’s favourite release of 2023 – GUTS by Olivia Rodrigo:

An album released this year that I have had on repeat is Olivia Rodrigo’s, GUTS. There are 12 beautiful songs on this album and ‘Vampire’ (which was the first single released for everyone to enjoy) has been the most popular so far and made it to Number 1 on the Official Singles Chart. This album has more of a rock feel to it at times compared to Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album, SOUR, but also has a range of styles with the much softer songs, such as ‘lacy’, too. Many people praise the poetic lyrics to songs such as ‘the grudge’ and ‘making the bed’. Personally, the lyrics are one of the most important things when I’m listening to music.

Molly’s old favourite on repeat In The Heights (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) by Lin-Manuel Miranda:

Another album I have been listening to a lot this year is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In The Heights soundtrack to the movie musical released in 2021. Again, there are many songs with lyrics that I can relate to in this musical, along with a storyline and interactions between characters, that you often cannot find within a pop album, for example. This album features Anthony Ramos, who plays Usnavi in the film, Melissa Barrera, Corey Hawkins and Leslie Grace. Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote the music originally for the theatre version of the musical for which there is a 2008 Original Broadway Cast Recording. He plays the role of ‘piragua guy’ in the 2021 film and sings on this album, too.

Mia’s favourite release of 2023 – The Name Chapter: TEMPTATION by TOMORROW X TOGETHER:

An album (it’s technically an EP) released this year that I have been absolutely loving is The Name Chapter: TEMPTATION by the K-pop group, TOMORROW X TOGETHER. It has a combination of very upbeat songs you can dance to and more chilled out, slow songs. The EP was released at the beginning of the year, and it’s been a firm favourite for me. I definitely think that people who aren’t K-pop fans would also like this album as some of the songs have been brought into the global mainstream through TikTok. My personal favourite on this album is ‘Devil by the Window’ but I also really like ‘Sugar Rush Ride’ which is their most popular song (and the song my morning alarm is set to!). The rest of their discography is brilliant so alongside this EP, I recommend checking their other songs out, too. Again, it’s a mix of fun, upbeat songs and melancholic or gentle songs.

Mia’s old favourite on repeat RAZZMATAZZ by I DON’T KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME:

Another album I’ve had on repeat this year is RAZZMATAZZ by I DON’T KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME. This album was released in 2020 but for the last 3 years I’ve been avidly listening to it. It’s a very strong album that will really stand the test of time and I see myself still listening to it in another 5 years time. Like all of their music, it’s quite experimental in terms of theme and lyrics but I still think that a lot of people would enjoy this one, despite a more unconventional sound. It’s one of many albums I own on vinyl, and I personally think that’s the best way to listen to it. My favourite song from the album is ‘Mad IQs’ but I’d also recommend ‘From The Gallows’ for a more chill song or ‘Sugar Pills’ for a more unique sounding song.

Haslem’s favourite release of 2023 – Led by Ancient Light by KOAN Sound

KOAN Sound have made some of the greatest pieces of electronic music I’ve ever heard. They started off making Dubstep and EDM in the early 2010s, but started going more classical and sound design centred. Their new album, Led by Ancient Light, is their most artful project to date. It’s a massive concept project, encompassing the album, a load of artworks, and a novel. Effectively, the album is a soundtrack to the novel. It’s a wonderful piece of work, mixing watery electronica with classical instrumentation. Modular synths, pianos, and cellos combine into one coherent experience, complete with a documentary on their Youtube channel about how it was made!

Haslem’s old favourite on repeat ᐳ Album Title Goes Here ᐸ by deadmau5:

I miss 2012. I didn’t start listening to deadmau5 until 2017, but his music is like a window into the early days of YouTube and messing around with childhood friends and stuff. This album is also really good. It was never my absolute favourite but I’ve grown to appreciate it a lot more recently. It’s got some of deadmau5’s most unexpected features, like Gerard Way, Imogen Heap, and Cypress Hill. It’s also the first album for years that saw deadmau5 experimenting again, with songs like ‘Take Care Of The Proper Paperwork’ subverting common EDM tropes of the time. It’s the weird middle child between two much more successful albums but I always love a good underdog story.

Kayla’s favourite release of 2023 – But Here We Are by Foo Fighters:

Foo Fighters are by far one of my favourite artists of all time. When I was notified of their latest release, I ecstatically loaded it up and listened to it in full. Then, I listened again. And, again. It is just incredible. Each song is a new way to experience their classic style in a different light, tone or rhythm – it is a rollercoaster of excitement, melancholy and tension throughout. My favourite song on this album is ‘Hearing Voices’: it maintains the same Foo Fighters rock quality but it is embedded with loss, frustration and a sense of something being missing, such as the ‘voice’ that the singer hopes to hear among the many they cannot shut out. Even if this person they sing to is remembered more for their ‘cries’ and ‘lies’, their voice is still the one for which the song truly yearns. It is an album of passion, of fire, of freedom and a desire to figure out what on earth is going on and why nothing seems quite right or complete. It is a true manifestation of the angst that blazes in all rockstars and their music.

Kayla’s old favourite on repeat Faith, Family, Friends & Flatmates by Haslem:

This is an album that pierces the heart yet lightens the mood, all in one session of listening. What a session it was, listening to this album for the first time alongside my friends. All of us had been anticipating the release of Faith, Family, Friends & Flatmates for months as the artist happens to be a friend. He had teased his first music release for a long time, playing occasional produced snippets on his phone and live performances on his guitar. Regardless of my own personal connection to the album, it will remain a favourite of mine for years to come. The music is undeniably a part of the indie genre, in a similar vein to the sounds of Kasabian, alt-J and Gorillaz – electric rhythm and harmony threaded through creative, intriguing lyrics. However, what makes this stand out so much comparatively is the sense of the heartfelt, genuine melodies and vocals, making each song’s emotional origins and passion shine through.

Charlotte B’s favourite release of 2023 UNHEALTHY by Anne-Marie:

This is Anne-Marie’s amazing third album that has a song for every mood, exploring heartbreak, self-reflection and personal growth. As someone who has been a fan since her debut album release, it has been incredible to see her thrive not only as an artist but as a person. The powerful storytelling and emotional performance make this album a must-listen for any fans of pop music or anyone who just appreciates beautiful and relatable lyrics.

Charlotte B’s old favourite on repeat Say What You Mean by John-Allison Weiss:

The perfect blend of folk, punk and indie rock, John-Allison Weiss’ debut album is an amazing listen. Their organic and soulful voice allows the vulnerable and relatable lyrics to truly shine, exploring various themes of love and heartbreak. This emotional rollercoaster of an album is full of captivating melodies that will be stuck in your head for days.

Contributions written by Insanity Radio’s Music Team, edited and published by Lottie Macro, photography by Mia Clarke.

Contributors: Charlotte Gadd, Elisha Heslop, Gloria Aina, Maya Baker, Iona Price, Molly Barnes, Mia Clarke, Haslem Stroud, Kayla Delaney and Charlotte Bayley.