BEST OF 2023 The Best Albums of 2023: A – E By Bandcamp Daily Staff · December 04, 2023

All this week, we’ll be counting down our editors’ picks for the Best Records of 2023 and, just like we did last year, we’ll be taking ’em on one chunk of the alphabet at a time. Next week, our genre columnists weigh in with their picks for the year’s best records.

December 4: Best of 2023: A – E
December 5: Best of 2023: F – K
December 6: Best of 2023: L – R
December 7: Best of 2023: S – Z
December 8: 2023’s Essential Releases


Ana Frango Elétrico
Me Chama De Gato Que Eu Sou Sua

On Me Chama De Gato Que Eu Sou Sua, Brazilian mad scientist Ana Frango Elétrico built a hard-grooving time machine that bouced playfully between ‘60s bossa nova, ‘70s disco, ‘80s city pop, and plenty of 21st-century ingenuity. Cascading samba percussion bleeds into hypnotic digital basslines on “Let’s Go To Before Again,” while breakout single “Electric Fish” weaves boogie so chic it could be Nile Rodgers. While the retro references and modernist noise of previous records still peer through, here, the singer and producer aims for glossier, cinematic new heights with the elegant string arrangements of “Nuvem Vermelha” and “Camelo Azul.”

—Richard Villegas

Listen to an interview with Ana Frango Elétrico on Bandcamp Weekly.

Armand Hammer
We Buy Diabetic Test Strips

Merch for this release:
2 x Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD), T-Shirt/Shirt, Bag, Cassette

Armand Hammer, the New York rap duo of billy woods and E L U C I D, have spent the past decade documenting the absurdity of survival in America. Their sprawling, brilliant sixth album, We Buy Diabetic Test Strips, inspired by the signs they’d see advertising the lucrative grey market, catalogs the challenges of continuing to exist in a country that revels in roadblocks. Over wheezing instrumentals that constantly threaten to disintegrate, the rappers let loose with some of their most heartbreaking and poetic observations yet, another triumph in an already unimpeachable catalog.

—Dash Lewis

Read our Album of the Day on We Buy Diabetic Test Strips.

Aselefech Ashine & Getenesh Kebret
ሸ​ገ​ኔ​ዎ​ች (Beauties)

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP

Aselefech Ashine and Getenesh Kebret’s Beauties walks a tightrope between order and chaos. The dusty grooves seem almost electrically overloaded, bustling away while Ashine and Kebret scale the complex vocal parts in complete unison. There are moments of calm (“Kenawtte” is a wistful highlight), but songs such as “Amerewal Shegennu” and “Tenafakiwou Tersseh” deal in brass stabs and low-slung bass, maintaining the tension masterfully. Although the Derg regime in Ethiopia halted the pair’s career making it impossible for them to release a second album, Beauties is a tantalizing suggestion of what should have been.

—Will Ainsley

BAMBII
INFINITY CLUB

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP

Following stellar production on Kelela’s long-awaited comeback album Raven, BAMBII stormed the dance floor with her own ode to collective revelry, INFINITY CLUB. She dipped confidently into R&B and reggaetón on “Hooked” with Aluna, turned the strobe lights to full blast for club-dancehall hybrid “WICKED GYAL” alongside Lady Lykez, and left enough room for an atmospheric cool down on the instrumental title track. The record is an effusive reminder of dance music’s boundless possibilities and a loving invitation to explore and surrender to the beat once more as the pandemic fades into the horizon.

—Richard Villegas

Peter Barclay
I’m Not Your Toy

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP

R&B and the art of studiocraft go hand-in-hand. From the string-laced grandeur of Motown to the work of ’70s masters like Gamble & Huff, Stevie Wonder, Norman Whitfield, and Barry White, the genre’s history of gifted studio auteurs remains unmatched. In the early ’90s, Oakland musician Peter Barclay continued in this tradition with two home-recorded, self-released albums, 1990’s Acceptance and 1992’s What Kind of World. The best of those albums are compiled on I’m Not Your Toy, a brilliant retrospective of Barclay’s limited output. With dreamy, synth-drenched tunes like “O Afrika, “Second Class Citizen,” and “Echo Lake,” I’m Not Your Toy introduces listeners to the sound of an unheralded master of the studio.

—John Morrison

jaimie branch
Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((world war))

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)

Recorded weeks before jaimie branch’s tragic death in August 2022, Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((world war)), finds the trumpeter, singer and keyboardist in inspired form, refining and extending her band’s sound world. Strident melodies and grooves are seamlessly integrated with free improvisation, psychedelia, and dub. From the rousing anthem “Take Over The World” to the buoyant Latin melodies and reggae breakdown of “Baba Louie,” this is contemporary music at its most life-affirming.

—Stewart Smith

Read our feature on jaimie branch.
Listen to an interview with branch’s Fly or Die band members on Bandcamp Weekly.

Bully
Lucky for You

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD), Cassette, T-Shirt/Shirt

Despite its tinge of grunge instrumentation and full-throated riot grrrl vocals, on Bully’s Lucky For You, Alicia Bognanno hews closer to the lesser-known Seattle female-fronted bands, with a straight-up rock ‘n’ roll backbone like Kim Warnick of the Fastbacks and Carrie Akre of Hammerbox and Goodness. The album rips into high gear with a declaration of being fed up and “burned-out wasting tears/ I am done” on opener “All I Do”; detours through the melancholy of mourning with “A Love Profound”; gets anthemic about break-ups with fellow Nashville artist Sophia Regina Allison of Soccer Mommy on “Lose You”; and closes with the Red Aunts-esque short and sweet punk “All This Noise” that encapsulates the media view of our fucked up world by asking, “What else is there to do/ When you can’t escape the news?”

—Katie Kurtz

Read our Album of the Day on Lucky for You.

McKinley Dixon
Beloved! Paradise! Jazz​!​?

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)

Taking its name from the brilliant trilogy of novels that Toni Morrison produced throughout the 1990s, rapper Mckinley Dixon’s Beloved! Paradise! Jazz!? is as ambitious as it is emotionally rich. Referred to by Dixon as “the coming-of-age movie of the summer,” Beloved! Paradise! Jazz!? is flush with cinematic songs like “Run, Run, Run” and “Tyler, Forever” that are full of bittersweet ruminations on life, death, love, and loss. As one of the freshest minds in rap music today, Beloved! Paradise! Jazz!? showcases Dixon’s ability to conjure adventurous songs that are full of heart.

—John Morrison

Read our interview with McKinley Dixon.

DJs Di Guetto
DJs Di Guetto

Merch for this release:
2 x Vinyl LP

In truth, this is actually the second iteration of DJs Di Guetto.  The compilation first appeared in 2006—five years before the groundbreaking Lisbon label Príncipe would become a proper going concern—and spanned a whopping 37 tracks. The original takes some doing to track down these days, but that’s not the only reason this pared-down reissue is so welcome. DJs Di Guetto not only captured a moment in time, but also offered a glimpse at the future—a blueprint for how Príncipe would become one of the most vital dance labels in the world. And the tracks here haven’t aged a day, their high-octane takes on batida and kuduro still sounding breathless and futuristic. If they release a third version in 2033, it will probably still feel ahead of its time—and will no doubt land on the Best Albums of that year as well.

—J. Edward Keyes

Read our Album of the Day on DJs Di Guetto.

Edsel Axle
Variable Happiness

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP

Where does a song come from? Does it descend from heaven like an angel fully-formed; does it stalk your dreams until the hunter becomes the hunted; or must you pull it from the muck, bone by bone, and construct it yourself in the third dimension, no instruction manual included? Perhaps only the musicians know for sure, but Rosali Middleman gives us a glimpse with Variable Happiness, a collection of home recorded girl-and-her-guitar improvisations that drift on instinct from the eerie and the raw to the blissful and majestic released under the name Edsel Axle. Here Middleman captures the amorphous stage of creation where pure expression seeks form, and while there are infinite possibilities contained within, there is also a sense of serenity in its lack of structure, an intuitive understanding that some things needn’t be labored over, embellished, or whipped into shape to be presentable, acceptable, consumable—they are perfect just as they are.

—Mariana Timony

En Attendent Ana
Principia

Merch for this release:
Compact Disc (CD), Cassette, Vinyl LP

Though En Attendant Ana’s daydream-y drone pop takes clear influence from fellow Parisian forebears like Stereolab, the quintet’s motorik songcraft is distinctly lean and clean, pared down to its essential parts. Tasteful, chiming guitars and stabbing basslines provide a loose framework for vocalist Margaux Bouchaudon to shoulder much of the emotional weight, navigating gloomy jazz progressions like wave pool undulations on standout track “To the Crush.” Camille Fréchou’s brass and woodwind contributions add elegant texture to the mix, weaving in and out of bursts of retrofuturist synthesizer.

—Jude Noel

Read the next list… >

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