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High Road Artists on New York Times Best Albums of 2023 List

[New York Times]

Many of the LPs that made an impact this year, including SZA’s “SOS” and Olivia Rodrigo’s “Guts,” came from looking inward.

By Jon Pareles | Jon Caramanica | Lindsay Zoladz

Personal reflections, not grand statements, filled my most memorable albums of 2023. It was a year when many of the best songs came from looking inward: at tricky relationships, at memories, at individual hopes and fears. Yet in the music, introspection led to exploration: expanding and toying with sonic possibilities, enjoying the way every note is now an infinitely flexible digital choice. For me, there was no overwhelming, year-defining album; this list could just as well be alphabetical. Instead, 2023 was a year of artists going in decidedly individual (and group) directions to grapple with their own questions, risks and rewards.

Synergy reigns in boygenius, the alliance of the singer-songwriters Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus. On “The Record,” they seem to dare one another to rev up the music and sing candidly, or at least believably, about the many ways relationships — romances, friendships, mentorships — can go sideways. Meanwhile, their harmonies promise to carry them through all the setbacks together.

Feist explores sorrow, longing, solace, new motherhood and the future of the Earth on “Multitudes.” Her latest songs are mostly quiet, but not always. They can take startling dynamic leaps: between unadorned acoustic close-ups and forays into orchestration or electronics, between lullaby and clatter, between intimacy and mystery, always seeking a compassionate path.

Despite a 24-year gap between albums by Everything but the Girl, “Fuse” isn’t exactly a reunion. Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt have been married the whole time. But “Fuse” reawakens and revises what they created together on their 1990s albums: a melancholy wee-hours ambience, with electronics pulsing behind Thorne’s contralto, where yearning meets experience and there’s always a chance at an epiphany.

  • 100 gecs, “10,000 gecs”
  • André 3000, “New Blue Sun”
  • Corinne Bailey Rae, “Black Rainbows
  • Geese, “3D Country”
  • Margaret Glaspy, “Echo the Diamond”
  • Irreversible Entanglements, “Protect Your Light”
  • Hannah Jadagu, “Aperture”
  • Kelela, “Raven”
  • Mitski, “The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We”
  • Janelle Monáe, “The Age of Pleasure”
  • L’Rain, “I Killed Your Dog”
  • Nkosazana Daughter, “Uthingo Le Nkosazana”
  • Noname, “Sundial”
  • Peso Pluma, “Génesis”
  • Raye, “My 21st Century Blues”
  • The Rolling Stones, “Hackney Diamonds”
  • Allison Russell, “The Returner”
  • Jorja Smith, “Falling or Flying”
  • Kali Uchis, “Red Moon in Venus”
  • Water From Your Eyes, “Everyone’s Crushed”