The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

Curated Collections: Top Five Albums of 2023

Supergroups, experimental rap/pop and new stars coming into their own.

2023 was a wild year for music. The 365 days of its lifespan saw a number of unorthodox collaborations, mainstream favorites continue dominance and even Andre 3000 release an entirely instrumental woodwind album. Chaos and oddity aside, here is the best that 2023 had to offer musically. 

5. “everything is alive” by Slowdive

Photo Courtesy / YouTube Slowdive Official

The shoegaze/dream pop pioneers of the early 90s returned in September to release just their second album this century and were met with almost no reception. After a six year hiatus, no one seemed to notice that one of the most influential bands of the past 40 years released new work. But those who did listen realized the greatness of this new project.

The brief eight-song tracklist of “everything is alive” lends to a concise and nuanced listening experience that is rarely seen in today’s industry. They combine familiar sounds, like Rachel Goswell’s ethereal vocals and the drowning instrumentals, with a newer somewhat mystical atmosphere on highlight tracks like “alife” and “shanty” to create a wholly original sound. 

With such a drastic departure from the recognizable, it’s difficult to see how the group ended up here and where they are headed. But I’m sure Slowdive’s talent to constantly reinvent themselves will shine through and continue the band’s legendary status. 

4. “The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We” by Mitski 

Photo Courtesy / YouTube Mitski

Mitski is by far one of the most talented people on the planet. She’s able to somehow create an album full of the most recognizable indie rock ballads with “Be The Cowboy” and just years earlier manufacturing the emotional roller coasters that are “Puberty 2” and “Bury Me At Makeout Creek.” This latest project sees Mitski dive even deeper to reach intimacy that most artists can’t achieve.

Accompanied by a beautifully haunting choir, Mitski’s intro “Bug Like an Angel” shows her at her most vulnerable. Confessing that “sometimes a drink feels like family,” exploring this profound realization of loneliness is the crux of this album. The truncated tracklist eventually apexing with “My Love Mine All Mine,” which could be her best yet. The production leaves so much space that it feels like you and her alone in an empty room with the instrumentals sounding far away. Her lyrics in this space preach unconditional love that she can only hope is reciprocated.

3. SCARING THE HOES by JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown

Photo Courtesy / YouTube JPEGMAFIA

In a year that saw Travis Scott release his first album in five years, Drake drop an almost 90-minute-long project and the long-awaited Earl Sweatshirt x The Alchemist LP finally happen, underground “glitch hop” icons JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown ended up having the best rap album of the year pretty handedly. The duo have had a long history before this project and a collab album between the two was the next logical step to capitalize on their perfect chemistry.

Tracks like “Steppa Pig,” “Burfict!” and “Jack Harlow Combo Meal” exemplify the chaotic beauty of this pairing hopping back and forth with excellently written verses over the mind-blowing industrial production meeting at times jazzy sampling. But the real X-Factor of this project is the goofy, tongue-in-cheek humor the two share. 

From Peggy criticizing Elon Musk’s “Twitter Blue” verification system only seconds into the album’s intro to Brown continuously referencing the most obscure professional sports players possible, the humor carries the album from start to finishThis project seems like only the beginning to what could be one of the genre’s greatest duos.

2. “the record” by boygenius

Photo Courtesy / YouTube boygenius

It being five years since supergroup “boygenius” released their debut self-titled EP, many doubted if they would return, but thankfully the boys dropped this album simply titled: “the record.” Consisting of three of the best songwriters in the world– Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers–the group not only expanded on that first EP but fully blew every expectation held out of the water.

The intro track “$20” starts the album with a bang that harkens back to 2010s indie rock and gives a taste of their explosive chemistry. Phoebe’s generational voice completely takes over in the following track “Emily I’m Sorry,” then the group regains the strength of the triad with the excellent “Cool About It.” 

But eventually, the explosiveness seen in “$20” mixes with the phenomenal lead performance by Bridgers and the harmonizing of “Cool About It” lends way to the best song of the year: “Not Strong Enough.” This beautifully lively song captures what makes “boygenius” so special: the fact that three extraordinary artists can come together and create such emotionally rich music while still making it enjoyable. I think the second half of the tracklist takes a dip in quality after such a sensational start but the boys still deliver some solid tracks, especially the closer on the album: “Letter To An Old Poet” which interpolates “Me & My Dog” the soul-crushing song on their debut EP. This closer shows how far they have come and how impressive this group really is.

1. “Desire, I Want to Turn Into You by Caroline Polachek

Photo Courtesy / YouTube Caroline Polachek

In 2023, there was no other work that could compare to the heights of “Desire, I Want to Turn Into You.” Polachek cemented herself at the forefront of experimental pop with her former band “Chairlift” acting as both lead singer and tambourinist. She only continued this trailblazing with a string of fantastic collaborations with Charli XCX and the impressive solo debut of “Pang.” But her newest effort showed a true sense of identity in such an enthralling way.

Starting off with the mesmerizing “Welcome to my Island” setting an almost tropical tone for the project, then delivering some of the catchiest tunes of the decade with the subsequent “Pretty In Possible” and “Bunny Is a Rider.” Polachek then gets excellent help from one of her biggest inspirations Dido on the infectious “Fly to You” with Grimes supplying a catchy chorus to establish another pop banger. The perfect closer “Billions” ends the project on a melodious and ear-wormy note that could get anyone to dance. Every single track possesses this aura of inventive groove that is nearly impossible to find anywhere else. 

“Desire, I Want to Turn Into You” at the end of the day is without a doubt one of the best pop adjacent albums to be released in a long time and (at least in my opinion) the best album of a stacked year.

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