BEST OF 2023 The Best Albums of 2023: Essential Releases By Bandcamp Daily Staff · December 08, 2023

All this week, we’ll be counting down 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. And next week, our genre columnists weigh in with their picks for the year’s best records.

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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

Chief Adjuah
Bark Out Thunder, Roar Out Lightning

Merch for this release:
Compact Disc (CD), 2 x Vinyl LP

Trumpeter/multi-instrumentalist, Chief Xian aTunde Adjuah describes his body of work as “Stretch Music,” a term that positions jazz not as a bastion of aesthetic “purity,” but as a bridge between various genres and cultures. Centered around his singing voice and the mesmerizing sound of self-designed electric bow/harp, Chief Adjuah’s Bark Out Thunder, Roar Out Lightning presents African and American indigenous traditional music through a strikingly contemporary lens.

—John Morrison

Read our Album of the Day on Bark Out Thunder, Roar Lightning.

Shana Cleveland

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

Rural California is the setting, but the subject is creation in all its surrealistic splendor on Manzanita, Shana Cleveland’s ode to the changing of the seasons on the Earth and in our lives. Written while Cleveland was pregnant with her son and immediately after, the songs here are some of the most serene of her career, psychedelic fingerpicked lullabies swaddled in uncanny synthesized sounds: a distant buzzing, a dappling of Mellotron, a whoosh of white noise beneath the creaking of strings. Yet for all its maternal gentleness, Manzanita is not a record of hippie dippie platitudes. Cleveland sees clearly how terror and delight exist in the same dimension, plainly asking, “Will you find a way to love this world?” It’s easier to imagine that we can when it is a world that produces music of such spiritual generosity, replete with the promise of enduring love and eternal renewal in a reality that darkens by the day.

—Mariana Timony

Read our Album of the Day on Manzanita.

Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP

Time can often be cruel to music, especially if seen as indicative of the moments in which it was fashioned and consumed. But then there is music that has been, for one reason or another, disabused of the wear and tear of passing years, and the changes in listeners’ ears. Such is the case for Ethiopian nun and composer Emahoy Gebru, and Jerusalem, a collection of instrumental piano pieces culled from hard-to-find albums and home tapes, released to mark her 99th birthday last December. The record provides an insight into composition informed by liturgy, her country’s musical tradition, and secular classical music, that lurches gently into the intense, and at times, the noir-ish.

—Mike McGrath-Bryan


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

In their dawning days, Liturgy could make more noise talking about their music—its transcendental intentions, its ecstatic beats, its philosophical underpinnings—than they sometimes made with their ascendant black metal itself. But Haela Ravenna Hunt-Hendrix has corrected that balance in recent years, funneling her discursive considerations of heaven and theosophy into Liturgy’s most audacious albums. To wit, no other metal band pushes as hard as they do on 93696, a roller-coaster synthesis of every avenue Hunt-Hendrix has explored in the last 15 years. Operatic lift abuts hellhound fury abuts math rock maneuvers abuts hip-hop cut-ups, all bound together for 82 minutes that near escape velocity. Liturgy courts less controversy these days, perhaps because so few dare make music at this empyrean scale.

—Grayson Currin

Read our interview with Liturgy.

The Coming of Gaze

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP

From the instant the needle hits the wax, the new record from Nairobi-raised, Berlin-based experimental artist Kabeaushé is a fucking party. Each joyous track slams into the next one, the tempo and temperature rising the deeper in you go. No sooner do you spot a musical reference point than Kabeaushé is on to the next one. To modify an old expression about the New England weather: “Don’t like the way The Coming of Gaze sounds? Wait two minutes.” Acid rock guitar gives way to reaggaetón stomp in “Arthmetical Error,” soaring pop bliss dive-bombs into handclaps-and-jump-rope-chants at the end of “Caracas,” and ‘80s hip-hop transforms into minimal techno in “Unidentified Sock Holes.” The unifying thread here is how fun everything is, and how great Kabeaushé is at delivering non-stop jolts of adrenaline. Early in the album, they shout, “Lift your spirit! Lift your spirit!” The entirety of Gaze is dedicated to doing just that.

—J. Edward Keyes

Dissolution Grip

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP

Nairobi-born, Berlin-based artist Joseph Kamaru (aka KMRU) has an academic approach to sound. This tendency beams especially bright on Dissolution Grip, which is the first release on his new label, OFNOT. The record emerged as a product of his endeavors in Sound Studies and Sonic Arts at Universität der Künste. Across three sprawling pieces, KMRU twists the waveforms of field recordings into melodic tones, causing organic textures to feel synthetic and alien. Dissolution Grip contrasts searing dissonance and raw beauty in mesmerizing fashion.

—Ted Davis

Read our Album of the Day on Dissolution Grip.

I Killed Your Dog

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP

From the stark power of “Funeral” to the ominous retro-roving of “5 to 8 Hours a Day (WWwaG),” L’Rain’s songs serve as incantations. Lost relationships, spite without regret, and acts of revenge—as on the title track, which sounds surprisingly soothing despite its lyrics—I Killed Your Dog is uniquely, delightfully cold, its only warmth coming from L’Rain’s brilliant voice. Throughout the album, L’Rain fearlessly draws on her experiences, desires, and visions, and the result is a force of nature—fires burning, towers tumbling, new epiphanies. Does freedom await? Only L’Rain knows.

—Chaka Grier

Read our Album of the Day on I Killed Your Dog.

MC Yallah
Yallah Beibe

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP

Each release from Kampala label Hakuna Kulala pushes the cutting edge of global club music, but Yallah Beibe is in a class of its own. Uganda-via-Kenya polyglot rapper MC Yallah flexes her muscles as a wordsmith over hibernal beats from Debmaster, Scotch Rolex, and Chrisman, alternating between rapid-fire and swaggering flows. The musical mix on display here—from Ratigan Era’s Auto-Tuned toasting to Lord Spikeheart’s bloodcurdling growls—has an affective unity across the three producers’ contributions, all frigid atmospheres and consequential bass.

—James Gui

Read our Album of the Day on Yallah Beibe.

Nourished By Time
Erotic Probiotic 2

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP

It’s easy to gloss over the heartbreak and yearning that permeate Nourished By Time’s Erotic Probiotic 2. Its songs trade in freestyle, new jack swing, and softly glowing synth-pop, with end results that sound like Paul Hardcastle producing Soul For Real. Listen past the earworm melodies and gorgeously cascading layers of vocal harmonies, though, and it becomes clear that Marcus Brown is grappling with spiritual turmoil. It’s a beautifully timely record, managing to feel both alien and relatable, a nostalgia-tinted pop record that could only have come from right now.

—Dash Lewis

Silicone Prairie
Vol. II

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP

Too often these days being creative and weird is taken to mean annoying and unlistenable, so what a breath of fresh and friendly Midwestern air is Silicone Prairie’s Vol. II, a lo-fi tour de force distinguished by imagination, heart, and a joyful propensity towards coloring outside the lines—just call it punk rock, I guess. Though certainly a trip through the inner world of SP mastermind Ian Teeple, there’s nothing insular about these songs, which zip from crackly synthetic dreamlands to jangly post-punk about moons and cows to fuzzy-textured pop, like a finely detailed Renaissance painting rendered in colorful crayon. But this is a group effort. In the liner notes, Teeple lists all his friends who appear here, their contributions encompassing sounds as disparate as flute, saxophone, and 12-string guitar; he concludes by writing, “Without them I wouldn’t have made this record.” Now that’s a song worth singing along with.

—Mariana Timony

Read our Album of the Day on Vol. II.


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