PTV Playlists: The 50 Best Albums of 2023

2023 has been an impressive year in music, with some classic artists returning to release some of their most impactful and refined albums throughout the year. From Paramore’s This Is Why starting the year off with plenty of pop-punk bangers, Slowdive releasing a great new album after half a decade of silence, 100 Gecs finally releasing an album to prove Hyperpop isn’t a dead genre and Sufjan Stevens emerging to release the most soul-crushing and jubilant album of his entire career. It’s been a glorious year for music heads.

If I had to describe this year of music in a simple term, I’d say “career revival”. Not to imply that these artists were struggling, or needed a lifeline. But so many projects released this year had a focus on reinvention. With artists breaking out of their respective post-pandemic slumps, many demonstrated finding a new perspective on life, one that’s a bit more optimistic and bittersweet. We saw that with The National’s Laugh Track and Billy Woods’ Maps.

2023 was also the year of the Shoegaze Revival, thanks in part to TikTok. TikTok was a huge reason for this, as countless videos reaching millions of viewers were scored to Shoegaze tracks from legacy artists and newer acts keeping the genre alive. Slowdive was one such band, as their song “When The Sun Hits” helped the hashtag #slowdive, reach over 235 million views on TikTok.

There are so many albums we want to highlight, so in no reasonable order, here is a list of favourites, and as we get to the bottom, we’ll outline why these were so special to us and deserve your attention.

If we’ve listed something here that piques your interest, we wanted to streamline the discovery process for you. We’ve made a playlist for you to check out, and if a song gets your attention, we’d heavily recommend giving the full album a go. Now let’s dive in!

The 50 Best Albums Of 2023, As Picked By PEDESTRIAN.TV

  • 50. Steven Wilson – Harmony Codex
  • 49. Tesseract – War of Being
  • 48. Paramore – This is Why
  • 47. Hotline TNT – Cartwheel
  • 46. Squid – O Monolith
  • 45. Vyna Melinkoyla – Unbecoming
  • 44. Frost Children – SPEED RUN
  • 43. Sprain – The Lamb As Effigy
  • 42. Invent Animate – Heavener
  • 41. Kara Jackson – Why Does the Earth Give Us People To Love?
  • 40. Genesis Owosu – Struggler
  • 39. Slowdive – everything is alive
  • 38. Troye Sivan – Something To Give Each Other
  • 37. Spiritbox – The Fear of Fear
  • 36. Fever Ray – Radical Romantics
  • 35. PJ Harvey – I Inside The Old Year Dying
  • 34. Brokenteeth – How To Sink Slowly
  • 33. Jane Remover – Census Designated
  • 32. Kalela – Raven
  • 31. Liturgy – 93696
  • 30. King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard – PetroDragonic Apocalypse; or, Dawn of Eternal Night: An Annihilation of Planet Earth and the Beginning of Merciless Damnation
  • 29. Mitski – This Land is Inhospitable and So Are We
  • 28. Swans – The Beggar
  • 27. HEALTH – Retrace
  • 26. Lana Del Rey – Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd

25. Jessie Ware – That! Feels Good!

If you’ve been sleeping on Jessie Ware’s fifth drop, summer’s the perfect time to give it a stream or five. Kicking off with the title track, we’re brought into her disco world, the track’s got vibes of Nile Rodgers’ Chic and even a bit of Daft Punk.

The album twists and turns through soul, jazz, and lots more, it’s the kind of record to chuck on when you feel like getting away from it all for a bit.

24. Pinkpantheress – Heaven Knows

Pinkpantheress has seemingly come out of nowhere with her unique blend of R&B and pop, her stuff getting a lot of attention on TikTok. Best of all, none of her tunes go over four minutes – perfect for all our short attention spans these days.

Her album features a few killer features too – Central Cee and Ice Spice popping up on a couple of tracks, and the legendary Mike Dean producing standout track ‘Nice To Meet You’.

23. Geese – 3D Country

Rock band Geese recently dropped their follow-up to the extremely popular 2021 drop Projector, this record being hard to pin down or compare to anything – the boys trying anything to sit apart from the pack. The record even ventures into areas of electro-funk and alt-rock, making them a force to be reckoned with.

With 3D Country being a natural step up from their first drop, it’ll be interesting to see where Geese land next – they usually fly back home for the winter yeah?

22. The National – Laugh Track

The National’s Laugh Track is their second release of the year, pairing as a sister album to the more sombre and slow First Two Pages of Frankenstein. If the previous record was a subdued, winter album laden with depressive crooning, Laugh Track is shaking off that snow into a blissful spring.

It’s not a “happier” album per se, it’s still an album by The National, meaning it will be a kick in the gut no matter what. But it’s more absurdist, and playful. The album was written mostly in between soundcheck while touring, meaning the band’s chemistry is the tightest it’s been since maybe 2017’s Sleep Well Beast, leading to the creation of eclectic tracks like “Space Invader” and “Smoke Detector”.

If you’ve been craving an album like Boxer from The National, Laugh Track is the band returning to those roots and putting out something magical.

21. Billy Woods and Kenny Segal – Maps

Maps is a collaborative concept album by rapper Billy Woods and producer Kenny Segal, which explores Woods’

Maps is a concept album about Woods’ experiences as a touring musician, specifically, the alienation of and pressure of touring in a post-pandemic world.

It’s a fantastic album about isolation and alienation, but has also been described by Woods and other music critics as a “hero’s journey”.

20. Armand Hammer – We Buy Diabetic Test Strips

Jumping from Billy Wood‘s map, we have to discuss his other project Armand Hammer, which both he and Elucid encompass.

While Maps is an accessible album, We Buy Diabetic Test Strips is a more demanding listen. The album blends elements of conscious hip-hop, alongside ambience, creating dense and cinematic soundscapes as the artists contemplate their inevitable end.

19. Parannoul – After The Magic

The start of this year was a bit of a slog. Great releases were few and far between, and it took a while for the year to hit its stride. Although Parannoul’s After The Magic was a rare exception. Released at the end of January, this album has stayed on my rotation all year long.

For those unfamiliar, Parannoul is a lo-fi shoegaze project by an anonymous South Korean student that blew up in 2021 thanks to sites like Rate Your Music, Reddit and Bandcamp.

His music is immensely cathartic and nostalgia-driven. With guitars and drums carrying a MIDI sound, the vocals drown out in the mix, sounding more like a texture than a driving force. It has a stunning bedroom studio production to it and pushes against the limitations of the technology available, but it still sounds remarkable. The songs on this project are a beautiful blend of J-pop, ambient music, 90s alt-rock and dream pop, citing musical influences from the likes of Car Seat Headrest, M83, American Football and The Microphones.

18. Protomartyr – Formal Growth In The Desert

Post-punk legends Protomaytr dropped arguably their greatest album to date this year. This also celebrates their third drop on record label Domino, the label home to legends such as Real Estate, Arctic Monkeys, and Neutral Milk Hotel, among a bunch more.

The album carries some of frontman Joe Casey‘s most harrowing and triumphant lyrics, like on the song “Graft Vs. Host” a song about forcing oneself to find happiness again after a crushing loss, or in the album’s closing track “Rain Garden”, which sounds like a dystopian version of The Smith’s “I Know It’s Over” as Casey croons that he is deserving of love, and that he’s finally making way for it.

It’s a record that rewards multiple listens, as details in the mix reveal themselves to you. The album also has some of the most impressive drum choices I’ve ever heard all year, placing hypnotic beats that you just get lost in.

17. Jeff Rosenstock – HELLMODE

Jeff Rosenstock is a veteran of the punk scene and has released banger after banger album. HELLMODE is no exception, and may just be his most accessible and triumphant album yet.

It’s Rosenstock’s most polished album to date, but it has everything you’d want from a great punk album. Simple chords and rhythms, with a vibrant energy to get a crowd moving.

16. The Armed – Perfect Saviors

The Armed is one of the most consistent and elusive bands in music today. When you think of “What would the most Adult Swim band look like?” you’d be left with The Armed, a collective art utopia of collaborators who are all built like ancient Greek warriors.

Perfect Saviors is the band’s most accessible album, but retains their irreverent personality, as shown on songs like “Sport of Form” and “Modern Vanity” including some of the most left-field songwriting this year.

The record overall breaks away from the hardcore genre, leaning comfortably into alternative rock with Songs like “Everything’s Glitter” and “FKA World”.

15. boygenius – the record

Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker came together this year to produce every bisexual’s favourite album this year. It even had a short film directed by Kristen Stewart to promote the release, they knew what they were doing.

The album is a perfect demonstration of each artist’s personal songwriting strengths. But it’s also a beautiful demonstration of friendship and collaboration, as the group shows an admirable level of support for each oher. “True Blue” demonstrates this theme most directly, with Dacus singing “It feels good to be known so well, I can’t hide from you like I hide from myself”.

It’s so rare for a supergroup like this to break into the mainstream, and I love that a wider audience is exploring each artist’s discography and identifying with them. Thank you Obama for the recommendation.

14. Zach Bryan – Zach Bryan

Country music always gets a pretty bad rap, but there’s something special about Zach Bryan. His heartfelt songwriting has connected with fans across the world – with the muso recently hitting the Flemington Racecourse in Melb for a sold-out show – playing to a whopping 30,000 people.

The self-titled release features artists like Kacey Musgraves, The War and Treaty and The Lumineers, so there are no skips here. Each working effortlessly with Bryan to make some truly memorable, and introspective country music.

Who would’ve thought 2024 would end with a country album in my top 20? Not me.

13. The Lemon Twigs – Everything Harmony

There’s always something special in the air when you realise a band has a few related members – finally their ingenious songwriting and harmonies all make sense (looking at you, Beach Boys).

Not that you care, random PTV reader, but you’ve read this far.

I first heard of The Lemon Twigs on one of the first episodes of The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, recommended by Fallon’s bandleader Questlove.

This is the fifth record from the band, and tows a quieter line than their previous drops. But it still packs a punch when it comes to solos, harmonies and songwriting. Just try and chuck on “Any Time Of Day” without crying.

12. Olivia Rodrigo – Guts

I know what you’re thinking – ‘Oh so predictable PTV’, but let me tell you this, there’s not a single skip on this album – that can’t be said about most of 2023’s releases.

Her and producer Dan Nigro really leant into Olivia Rodrigo‘s strengths – this album veering into alt-rock territory, it could’ve easily fit in back in the late 90’s.

Whether she was the top artist in your Spotify Wrapped or you’ve never listened to one of her songs in your life, there’s no arguing that she’s pretty sure of her sound at such a young age.

11. Caroline Palochek – Desire, I Want To Turn Into You

It’s hard to carve out a niche in the world of pop music – but Caroline Polachek manages to achieve that.

Her music has vibes of electronic, rock and even a bit of hip-hop. The album’s based in some weird instrumental vibes – it features Spanish guitar, choirs and even bagpipes.

The singer recently played to sold-out crowds across the country, apparently she’s even better live. Hard to believe when you hear the quality of these tracks.

10. Sleep Token – Take Me Back To Eden

The best metal record of the year, without a doubt.

Explaining Sleep Token lore to people not familiar with the band is a task that I cannot in good conscience engage in. But just know that even if you’re unfamiliar with the band, it’s extended lore isn’t a requirement in enjoying this album.

I’d go as far as to say that Take Me Back To Eden might just be the most accessible Progressive Metal record of all time, as the band demonstrates tight songwriting, memorable hooks, soaring melodies, killer drums and excellent production. It’s hard to argue that the album isn’t a joy to listen to.

The song “Vore” from this release is hands down the best metal track released this year, and it’s bound to convert even the most staunch metal haters into fans.

9. yeule – softscars

If you’ve been chuckling nervously at Grimes falling off hard this year, but yearning for another artist to perfectly capture that digital sound, then you have to listen to yeule, the performance name of Singaporean songwriter Nat Ćmiel.

Their album softscars is a concept album about what connection means when we’re all growing further apart through technology, scored to tracks that scratch that early 2000s alt-rock itch.

It’s a crime Yeule isn’t bigger than what they deserve to be, but the reception to softscars proves she might quickly become a huge name eventually.

8. Model/Actriz – Dogbody

Post-punkers / noise rockers Model/Actriz have only been around in their current form since 2019, so they’re still fresh when it comes to music. But chuck on Dogbody and dive into a record that sounds like they’ve been at it for decades.

The album follows the journey of Cole Haden, citing the musical Cats as an inspiration for the album reflecting his own life “as a cabaret: a very homespun, ridiculous, melodramatic, homespun opera”. Scored to some of the most brutal musical breakdowns, and punk charisma.

7. JPEGMAFIA, Danny Brown – Scaring The Hoes

One of the most thrilling albums to come out this year, Scaring The Hoes is a triumphant collaboration between JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown, creating some of the hardest-hitting, most terminally online experimental hip-hop this year.

It’s an immensely fun record, starting off with “Lean Beef Patty”, named after the famous bodybuilder, the song takes aim at Elon Musk charging $8 to verified on Twitter, free speech hypocrisy, and JPEG’s form of experimental hip-hop that cannot fit within a commercial mainstream.

As noted on the title track of the album “Scaring The Hoes”, both artists predict people’s reactions to people hearing their music for the first time, expecting everyone to call it “weird shit” and demand their AUX cords back. The song also takes aim at the general landscape of hip-hop right now, as JPEG says: “Cause it’s all about the scams, catch up, old man / Said it ain’t about the bars, ’cause it’s all about the brand”

But by far, the best song on the album that had headbanging and laughing until my stomach was sore was “God Loves You”, sampling “You Don’t Know” by Timothy Wright & Jerome L. Ferrell as Danny Brown goes into intense detail about performing oral sex on someone and comparing it to the Genesis flood.

6. 100 Gecs – 10,000 Gecs

After their massively successful debut album in 2019 divided many with their unique and polarising take on hyperpop, the duo pair of Dylan Brady and Laura Les finally released their new album this year.

There are so many influences on this album to point out. From 90s alt-rock, Weird Al Yankovich, ska, nu metal, it’s an impressive love letter to the music we all probably grew up with.

The album is a beautiful collection of shitposts that will leave you grinning ear to ear, while also featuring some of the best bangers of the year including “757”, “Hollywood Baby” and “mememe”.

5. Julie Byrne – The Greater Wings

Julie Byrne is one of my favourite “best-kept secrets” in music.

The Greater Wings is a complete shake-up for Byrne, as it is her first album after the death of her long-term collaborator and close partner Eric Littmann in 2021. It was only after being paired with Alex Somers, of Alex & Jonsi fame, that she was able to complete the album, and lay out all her grief.

The album is lush, filled with dreamy string accompaniments, dusky vocals, and synthesizers, some have started calling the album an “astral folk” experience.

Listening to this album is like being carried away to a large spanning field of grass, and lying in it. Despite the tragic history inspiring the album, it still manages one of the most comforting listening experiences you’ll have this year.

4. Underscores – Wallsocket

When we reviewed this album last month, I called Underscores “the future of music”, and I still stand by that.

April Harper Grey is an immense talent, and Wallsocket features some of the best nostalgic genre blends you’ll find this year.

The album finds a perfect blend in pop-punk bangers like “Cops and Robbers”, acoustically driven midwest emo in “You don’t even know who I am”, UK dance in “Locals (Girls like us) [with gabby start]”. There’s genuinely something for everyone on this album, and it does it so well.

3. Sampha – Lahai

You’d think it’d be hard for Sampha to top 2017’s Process, the record that saw him tour the world over. This year he dropped Lahai, which is arguably one of the best sophomore drops out there.

The album continues to impress months on, perhaps due to the features it holds – Yaeji, Teo Halm and Yussef Dayes popping up on this release.

2. Anohni and The Johnsons – My Back Was A Bridge For You To Cross

There is so much to say about this album, that I want to go as far as to say that it is probably the most important album of 2023.

Anohni doesn’t pull any punches. With the album cover featuring LGBTQ rights activist Marsha P. Johnson, the album reflects on the immense amount of transphobia that’s persevered throughout history and still happens to this day.

The album starts with one of the strongest opening tracks you’ll hear all year, as Anohni pleads that “the way you talk to me, the things you do to me, it must change” and ends with a brutal blow “No one’s getting out of here/That’s why this is so sad”.

The song “Scapegoat” might just be one of the saddest and darkest of the year. The song is from the perspective of a transphobe, using their own entitlement and shame to justify their violence against a vulnerable minority. Stand-out lyrics include; “You’re so killable. Disappearable. This one we need not protect. This one’s a freebie for our guns.” The song ends on a harrowing admittance “You’re my scapegoat, it’s not personal”.

That’s not to say the album is exclusively filled with dread and will leave you stuck in a fetal position for hours. The song “Can’t” is an exception, and is a tremendous soul song, with plenty of energy. But My Back Was A Bridge For You To Cross is a deeply powerful album, and one I think will stand the test of time.

1. Sufjan Stevens – Javelin

It was a tight race, but yes, Javelin is our album of the year. No notes, no comments. Once you listen to the album and experience “Shit Talk”, it’s obvious there is no other album that could take its place. Except maybe an hour of “Dracula Flow“.

Just before the Javelin‘s release, Sufjan Stevens released a post dedicating the album to the passing of his long-term partner, Evans Richardson. Sufjan shortly after announced on Instagram that he had been struggling with Gullian-Barre syndrome, which had left him wheelchair-bound and unable to play instruments.

Despite such an immensely upsetting background, Sufjan still manages to create a triumphant and uplifting album. Javelin is brutally honest. From songs that spell out the end of a relationship, fears of ever being loved again, the shame in holding anger towards someone, and wanting to give up and stop fighting. But each song ends in a crescendo, promising that things will continue to be okay and that there is hope in moving forward.

Graphic by: Erica Tan