A CLOSER LISTEN weekly #25
The Top Ten Albums of 2023
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!
2023 Winter Music Preview ~ Ambient & Drone
Starting today, we delve more deeply into the winter release schedule, which already includes hundreds of titles: a boon for those who have packed away their 2022 playlists and are looking for something new.
Our earliest 2023 submissions arrived in late summer, a sign that some artists really have their act together ~ or were ready to put last year behind them before it was over. We’ve been playing some of these albums for more than a season, and now we’re finally able to share them with you! This winter’s musical slate is already enthralling, one of the finest in years.
Read the list.
2023 Winter Music Preview ~ Electronic
The winter electronic slate sounds more upbeat than it has in years; we’d like to believe that it’s a reflection of the human spirit. In hard times, hopeful music can nourish the soul. While the world continues to bend beneath a plethora of problems, the music community continues to encourage and uplift, channeling help to hearts sunk in depression and nations under siege. If we dance in the midst of disaster, it may mean we’ve found a reason to live. Last year, many clubs closed; this year, in many places, they have been destroyed. But the dance, the beautiful dance, goes on.
Read the list.
2023 Winter Music Preview ~ Experimental
Experimental music is a glimpse into the future, a tapping of future trends, the cutting edge of the new. In this field, what’s next is what’s now. Not that any of these musicians are trying to be popular after they die; they are simply fascinated with sound. Those on the electro-acoustic end of the spectrum are recording unique juxtapositions, while those on the improvised end of the spectrum are pushing their instruments into uncharted territories. Few of these albums will sneak their way into house parties, clubs or radio; but they’ve already found a way to our hearts.
Read the list.
2023 Winter Music Preview ~ Modern Composition
It would have been easy for us to pack our Top Ten Albums of 2023 with works of modern composition, as the field is so fertile at this time of year. Suffice it to say that the overall quality level is higher here this winter than in any other genre. This year many big names are returning, while promising young stars are producing defining works and brand new artists are making their debuts. We know it’s early, but so far this new year is looking and sounding spectacular!
Some of the albums listed below are actually spring releases, as artists are already looking forward to warmer weather while hoping to receive their vinyl records on time. We like to reward early publicity, so we’ll be listing these albums again in three months!
Read the list.
2023 Winter Music Preview ~ Rock, Post-Rock, Folk & Jazz
Way back in 2012, our very first Top 20 list was led by Godspeed You! Black Emperor and included albums by Sigur Rós, Caspian and Anoice. 2021 was a strong year for post-rock, and 2022 less so; but we have high hopes for 2023. Some of the biggest bands have kept us waiting: DMST for six years and WEG for seven, so long that people may not recognize their acronyms. In the interim, new bands have stepped up and are redefining the term for a younger generation. Post-rock may be harder than ever to describe, mutating year by year, but it’s not going anywhere.
This is the last part of our Winter Music Preview; be sure to peruse our Upcoming Releases page to stay informed on new announcements and pre-orders!
Ukrainian Field Notes XVIII
For the last Ukrainian Field Notes of 2022 we travel to Kyiv, Lviv, and Uzhhorod via Berlin, London and Ireland for a “genre fluid” episode taking in experimental, electronic and techno music mixed with metal and neo classical topped up with a dash of pop and indie and a dusting of prog rock.
We start off with Lugovskiy who muses about natural decay, and vixiii who makes fashion out of recycled material, followed by two bands raising funds for Musicians Defend Ukraine, Love’n’Joy (co-founders of the charity) and krapka;KOMA.
We also hear from Neformat family member and “metal guru” Yaryna Denysyuk, and discuss all things Crimean with Pereulok pyatniskii, who promises to change his moniker to something more user friendly.
Over in Kyiv, Emil Asadov shares his secret tip for productivity (spoiler, there’s nothing like a power nap in the middle of the day), while Makido adapts her routine to power cuts, and Natalia Tsupryk transforms an air raid siren into an elegy for her hometown.
Additionally, Axxent13 extols the healing power of nature, Manoua falls in love all over again with music and La Horsa Bianca discuss fundraising in Kharkiv.
To end the year on a high note we feature a late crop of bangers, courtesy of Poly Chain, Bejenec, and Symonenko, as well as harsher tones from brainhack_musicbox and White Ward together with more intimate and vulnerable fare from undo despot and ногируки, plus new fundraising compilations by Standard Deviation, Anklav, Mystictrax, kulturamedialna and Side-Line Magazine.
To bring proceedings to a conclusion we’ve included four tracks by Alyona Alyona, Otoy, Паліндром (Palindrom) and Freel in our viewing room, with English subtitles. But to begin with, here’s the latest video for “Stezhka” taken from Zavoloka‘s new album Amulet and our second spotify playlist from this month’s UFN artists and their top picks for 2022.
Read the entire piece.