The Top Ten Albums of 2023

Happy New Year!  We’ve just wrapped up our Year-End Lists, and will soon publish our Winter Music Preview.  The amount of music listed there can be overwhelming, so we’ve decided to pick the world’s earliest Top Ten.  To be fair, we haven’t heard every song on every album, so there’s a bit of guesswork involved; but we’re confident that these albums will be major players down the line.

A Closer Listen is now eleven years old.  A huge thank you to all of our readers, as well as to all of the artists and labels who submit music to our site.  We wish you an amazing 2023, filled with great albums, awesome friendships, and a sense of hope.  And now, the year’s first year-end list!

1) Hammock ~ Love in the Void (Hammock Music, January 27)
Was the void the pandemic?  Was it grief?  Was it spiritual malaise?  Whatever the inspiration for the album title, Hammock seems rejuvenated on its “loudest album ever,” ready to face the world with confidence and verve.  As the world continued to change, love endured.


2) Eluvium ~ (Whirring Marvels In) Consensus Reality (Temporary Residence Ltd., May 12)
We’ll have to wait a long time for this beauty, but we have a feeling it’s going to be worth it.  This orchestral offering (available on Wild Fire vinyl) is a concept album about humanity’s search for meaning, coupled with our love affair with technology.  The clash is apparent through a dialogue that achieves a comfortable symmetry.


3) Hollie Kenniff ~ We All Have Places That We Miss (Western Vinyl, February 10)
The evocative follow-up to The Quiet Drift extends that album’s meditation on time, grief and loss.  Our cherished places are changed; our loved ones are gone; an ineffable residue remains.  Call it nostalgia; call it hiraeth; however it is defined, the feeling is captured in these gauzy grooves.


4) Ruhail Quasar ~ Fatima (Danse Noire, January 27)
Imagine coming home to discover your hometown ravaged by the twin beasts of local conflict and tourism, a shadow of the land you once knew.  This is the fate of Leh, nestled in the Ladakh region.  Fatima reflects the resulting anger, disillusionment and heartbreak, communicating such feelings through field recordings, vocal samples and all-out noise: a manifesto of sound.


5) SØS Gunver Ryberg ~ SPINE (Arterial, February 7)
Danish composer SØS Gunver Ryberg has been building a sonic resume of video game, theatre and dance scores to match the power of her solo productions.  SPINE – the premiere release on her own label – may well be her magnum opus.  The album is part sci-fi and part environmental treatise, a message of hope for those who want to save the earth – not from aliens, but from humanity.


6) Dobrawa Czocher ~ Dreamscapes (Modern Recordings, January 27)
Some may remember this Polish cellist from her collaboration with Hanna Rani; on this album, she takes center stage.  This gorgeous set is bursting with life from start to finish, carefully constructed with a prologue and epilogue, striking not a single wrong note.

7) Cicada ~ Seeking the Sources of Streams (flau, January 6)
Cicada does exactly what the title indicates, as demonstrated by the video below.  They walked into forests, investigated valleys and hiked up hills, seeking the sources of streams.  Upon their return, this Taiwanese ensemble recorded their reflections, creating a celebration and water and land.


8) Francesco Fabris & Ben Frost ~ Vakning (Room40, March 10)
We’re excited about the return of Ben Frost after a brief hiatus.  Working here with Francesco Fabris, the recording artist captures the rare and dangerous sounds of Icelandic volcanos, which have a tendency to erupt without any consideration for those carrying field recording equipment.  Upon hearing these sounds, listeners may be reminded of By the Throat and other early Frostian works, a sign that they too may have been inspired by magma.


9) Eldbjørg Hemsing & Arctic Philharmonic ~ Arctic (Sony Classical, February 3)
A lock for our annual list of The Year’s Best Winter Music, Arctic is the rare release on our pages with heavy crossover potential.  This Norwegian violinist has enlisted the aid of some major film composers (Frozen, The Blue Planet) to construct a suite that sounds like a winter playlist.

10) Kate NV ~ WOW (RVNG, March 3)
WOW is winter’s happiest album.  To arrive at this point, Kate NV shifted her approach; her lyrics are no longer straightforward, but salad.  We call this subgenre “chopped pop,” comprised of bits and pieces: birds, horns, yelps, and of course, beets.  Sorry, beats.  Happy New Year, everyone!

Richard Allen

One comment

  1. Pingback: 2022 Best of Lists from Around the Web: Part IX – Avant Music News

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