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  • Writer's pictureEmily Marshman

Buzzkill's Albums of 2023

Happy 2024, folks! I feel like you have to know the drill at this point, right? We're rounding up our personal favorite releases of this past year, and chatting through (albeit shortly and succinctly) what exactly has made them our favorites.


There were a lot of sophomore records released this year - Holly Humberstone's Paint My Bedroom Black, Inhaler's Cuts & Bruises, and Olivia Rodrigo's GUTS, to name a few - and to say these artists lived up to the hype of their first releases is a massive understatement. Alongside these already-established favorites, a lot of new-to-us artists put out music that turned into favorites, too.


Our Top Tracks of 2023 playlist is here, on which you'll find tons of great releases from these artists and many, many more. Please enjoy our write-ups - we look forward to another fantastic year of talking music!


★ THE ACADEMIC — SITTING PRETTY

The Academic have returned with their second album, their first in five years, and it’s a big moment from the band. Creatively, you can hear the departure Sitting Pretty makes from the band's debut album. The album’s sound features some heavy influences of 70’s and 80’s music while integrating it with modern indie melodies. The Irish band have taken the last few years to really examine the feeling of growing up and what it means to sometimes “play a role” in your own life. A track on the album that sticks out to me is “My Very Best,” in which it explores the relatable emotional powerlessness we all feel in our relationships(platonic or romantic) that we experience the older we get. It conveys a really powerful message that in life there are struggles that people we care about go through that we cannot fix ourselves. While much of the album explores these types of themes, in true Academic-fashion, it's also not without its belt-along tunes. – Bri Jacobs


★ ANGIE MCMAHON — LIGHT DARK, LIGHT AGAIN

Another impressive musician coming out of Australia at the moment is Angie McMahon. Back with her sophomore album, McMahon’s new record creates a sense of groundedness. It is an album one could listen to in the dead of the night and in the light of day and it will create a different atmosphere. While known for her soft, lifting vocals, the powerhouse moments shine through that much more in contrast throughout the album. Songs like Fireball Whiskey, which paints an intimate picture of anxiety and relationships, is a great example of these contrasting melodies. Whereas in contrast, tracks like Mother Nature, have that power consistently through the track. There’s such a sincerity in McMahon’s lyricism that the listener can relate to. – BJ


★ BABY QUEEN — QUARTER-LIFE CRISIS

Baby Queen (aka Arabella Latham) has been a favorite of Buzzkill's since the release of her debut single "Internet Religion" way back in 2020, and it's hard to believe we finally got a full-length album from the queen of the babies herself. Having soared to popularity over the course of the last couple years as the face of the Heartstopper soundtrack, the release of this album couldn't have come at a better time. It seems to have arrived right at the pinnacle of her early career. Ironically, the album is full of themes of insecurity, namely the omnipresent imposter syndrome, though I'd argue there's nothing for her to be insecure about. The lyric with which she's decided to introduce us to this body of work is, "I was crying at the party / Which is not unusual of me," and over the next hour and twelve minutes, she tries to assure us of her insignificance, but I'm not convinced. I think Latham is one of the most important voices of our generation, and the fact that Quarter Life Crisis is only the beginning is beautiful. – Emily Marshman


★ THE BEACHES — BLAME MY EX

After going in blind to their Lollapalooza set this year, I fell deeply, deeply in love with The Beaches. Their newest album Blame My Ex - which arrived six years after their debut, Late Show - is sure and confident and a pretty huge departure from their earlier sound; although they seem to have always known exactly what they want to say, the six years of singles and EPs has given them time to really perfect their surfy, garage-rock, bass-heavy signature.


Breakups don't always have to be messy, but this one seems like it was especially bad. Lead single "Everything is Boring" (and her much more popular younger sister, "Blame Brett") really set the tone for this album - but I feel like "Blame Brett" truly encapsulates just how shitty this ex we're blaming was. This is one of those records tailor-made for those drives you take right as the sun is starting to set on a summer evening. Scream it at the top of your lungs. Project your own feelings onto it. But for the love of god, please listen to this album. – EM


★ BILLIE MARTEN — DROP CHERRIES

Drop Cherries is Billie Marten's fourth record in less than a decade, and over and over again she's proven herself innately capable of one of the most coveted abilities a musician can possess - the ability to transmute seemingly indescribable feeling into song. This record is sanguine, a tree to sit under in the middle of a rainstorm, and so full of love - so many different kinds of it - that I get emotional just thinking about it. All Marten really needs to transfix her listener is a guitar and her lush voice, but with every song, she gives us everything. My favorite tracks are "I Can't Get My Head Around You" and "I Bend To Him." – EM


★ BLEACH LAB — LOST IN A RUSH OF EMPTINESS

The debut full-length from one of the most exciting bands out of the UK right now, Lost In A Rush of Emptiness by Bleach Lab is dizzying and full of emotion. Their sound is quite reminiscent of early Wolf Alice to me, which makes sense, as Catherine Marks produced both this record and My Love Is Cool (also, the new boygenius album!). Bleach Lab have been on the scene for a few years now, cutting their teeth with early gigs and single releases, finding their delicately-balanced sound, but they really began to emerge with the release of their 2021 EP, Nothing Feels Real. This is when they introduced their signature blue-green, blurry album covers, a genius move on their part, as it honestly makes their music recognizable without even having to hear it.


Lost In A Rush of Emptiness finds itself on the way down - a journey through heartbreak, love, loss, and picking yourself back up after all is said and done. If you haven't been listening to this band yet, now's a damn good time to start. They've got quite the future ahead of them. – EM


★ BLONDSHELL — BLONDSHELL

Easily the breakout star of 2023, the iconic Blondshell (aka Sabrina Teitelbaum) put out an equally phenomenal self-titled debut album early in the year, which in turn soundtracked the rest of it for me. This alias has been dubbed by Teitelbaum as “the angriest, clearest, and most vulnerable side” of herself. At just over thirty minutes in length, the album is incredibly honest, with a vulnerability to it that feels both like a relief and a chance to partake in some introspection of my own. If I had to use one single word to sum up this record, I’d call it thrilling. I’m thrilled to have come across an artist who is only getting started, and whose music excites me in a way that I have not been excited by music in quite some time.  – EM


★ BOYGENIUS — THE RECORD

The long-awaited debut album from supergroup Boygenius (stylized hereafter as 'boygenius'), The Record was one of the most exciting releases of 2023. If you'd listened to boygenius before this release, you must know that their status as a band was constantly up in the air. It had initially started as a project (read: book club) for bandmates Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus after a show they'd played together in 2016, who'd then rounded out their threesome with Phoebe Bridgers shortly after. After the release of their 2018 self-titled EP and a short tour, the side project disappeared, and fans were overjoyed when they resurfaced in January of last year. Lore drop aside, in my opinion, The Record itself says less across forty-two minutes than their first release manages to say in less than half the time, but it's still masterful. It's refreshing to have more than six songs that came from the combined minds of three of the most talented musicians alive today. It's easy to see how this is an extension of the EP, too - many of its same themes are present on The Record.  – EM


★ BRISTON MARONEY — ULTRAPURE

Growing up has, and continues to be, the most emotionally painful yet beautiful experience we’ve all been through and "Ultrapure" chronicles Maroney’s journey with such raw, indie perfection. Life is all emotions and ephemera, and these songs sit comfortably alongside it, showing the listener tenderness and honesty. As he laments in ‘Body’: “But feeling every feeling always seems to help.” – Amiee Bolger


★ CAROLINE POLACHEK — DESIRE, I WANT TO TURN INTO YOU

Released last Valentine’s Day, Desire, I Want to Turn Into You is without doubt a love album, fully embracing the richer, manic, and emotionally dizzying side of affection. Returning from the success of her first solo album, Pang, Caroline Polachek returned stronger than ever, masterfully crafting an album that transports and grounds the listener in a lush world of her own creation.


The world she depicts throughout the album is more than escapism, its an indulgent embrace of a chaotic post-pandemic world. Polachek’s siren-like vocals beg for proximity, pulling us into a lush, multilayered paradise, with influences spanning from flamenco to trance to Y2K bubblegum pop. The star of the show is undoubtedly her vocal performance, though rivaled closely by incredibly tight production. With repeating motifs and unplaceable sampling, the entire album feels ephemeral, and unlike any other pop album released in the past few years. – Emma Egan


★ CHAPPELL ROAN — THE RISE AND FALL OF A MIDWEST PRINCESS

A funky, snappy, succinct celebration of queerness and womanhood, Chappell Roan's debut album was absolutely made to be danced to, whether alone in your bedroom in your underwear, or in the arenas she'll be playing with Olivia Rodrigo this spring, but it has its slower, introspective moments, too. It's insane to me that this is her debut - it possesses the vision and gusto of a much more seasoned musician. There's a clear path straight down the tracklist, and following it takes you right into Wonderland. Roan (aka Kayleigh Rose Amstutz) is going into the new year as so many people's artist to watch, and for good reason. – EM


★ CLT DRP — NOTHING CLEVER, JUST FEELINGS

Nothing Clever, Just Feelings does not handle listeners with care. From the get-go to its end, this album is an exhilarating ride delving into queerness, heartbreak, and self-expression in an addictive mishmash of lyrical poetry and chaotic instrumentals. It is bursting with punk, electronica, math, nu-metal, rage, self-love, vulnerability, desire, and mania. – AB


★ CIRCA WAVES — NEVER GOING UNDER

Back again with their fifth album, Never Going Under is an exciting return from the band. A change in direction from their last album, Sad Happy, the record is filled with feel-good rock anthems with a sentimentality in some of the slower songs. A strength Circa Waves have always had is the heart and passion in their music. Whether it comes across in disdain for the government or the special relationships of romance, friendship, and fatherhood. The album pulls together elements of the bands’ past records such as indie-pop and rock, which is a blend they have experimented with but execute really well in this album. My personal favourite tracks include “Do You Wanna Talk?,” “Carry You Home,” and “Golden Days.” Circa Waves are a band that always switch it up with each record which makes them such a great act to see what they do next. – BJ


★ DEL WATER GAP — I MISS YOU ALREADY + I HAVEN'T LEFT YET

When Del Water Gap (aka New York's S. Holden Jaffe) released his debut self-titled record in 2021, it made significant waves in the indie music space. His follow-up, I Miss You Already + I Haven't Left Yet cemented what we already knew - that he's someone to take very seriously. The record is turbulent. Album opener "All We Ever Do Is Talk" was also the first single released, a true introduction to the heart of the album - "I know you're my person / And I won't find no one like you / You know I'm your guy / Your best friend and your lover, too / What did we lose?" According to Jaffe himself, this song is an "...ode to the decadence of the early days of a relationship and a love letter to the melancholy and anxiety nested in the realization that the feelings of the beginning won’t last forever.” From this track forward, we're taken on a trip through Jaffe's innermost self, these songs some of the most vulnerable he's ever released.  – EM


★ FLYTE — FLYTE

Flyte's newest record is self-titled, and it always seems to me that when bands make self-titled records, they're making an effort to reintroduce themselves - "Hi," they seem to say, "this is who we are now; it's not too much different than who we used to be, but enough that it felt important to point out." With Flyte, I feel they've honed in on what makes them most unique from their contemporaries - their ability to practically pick you up and plop you right in the song alongside them. This album was a quieter release in 2023, but it's absolutely worth investing time into sitting down with it.  – EM


★ GETDOWN SERVICES — CRISPS

Crisps is the grooviest, most self-aware, and irreverent debut album you’ll ever dance to. It has been such a long time coming from the self-confessed apocalyptic disco duo and it did not disappoint. Getdown Services has a knack for taking the smallest moments in life and expanding them into intertextual danceable masterpieces. ‘The Vortex’ says it best: “There will only be before and after / You will not be the same again.” – AB


★ GRETTA RAY — POSITIVE SPIN

The new album from the talented Australian performer, Positive Spin is a pure dreamy indie-pop record. There are some very exciting and talented pop musicians coming out of the Melbourne music scene at the moment and Gretta Ray is definitely at the forefront. Like in any great pop album, two things that stick out are the production and songwriting. Ray’s lyricism strength is in the depth of her lyrics but the ability to also catch a hook of a course that engages with her audience. Ray has been open about her influences of Taylor Swift, as a lot of new pop singers have spoken to. I think this has created a really great space for female musicians to find their voices and now more than ever, there are many powerful women occupying the pop scene in an innovative way, much like Positive Spin does. Her production team drawing from creatives all over the world is strongly reflected in the record. Gretta Ray is a very exciting artist to keep an eye on in 2024 and see where she goes next. – BJ


★ HOLLY HUMBERSTONE — PAINT MY BEDROOM BLACK

Another follow-up I feel like I've been waiting ages for, Holly Humberstone's Paint My Bedroom Black - which she'd been leading up to the release of since its first single in early 2023 - so far beyond exceeded my expectations derived from her debut of what a full-length body of work from Holly could be. One of the most talented and full-hearted songwriters of our generation, Holly Humberstone writes about the fullness of womanhood, her songs spanning themes of heartbreak, friendship, and personal identity, and she does so in such a beautiful way. My favorites on the album are the title track, "Paint My Bedroom Black," and "Antichrist."  – EM


★ HOZIER — UNREAL UNEARTH

In keeping with his past work, Hozier’s Unreal Unearth explodes with enough literary references to fill my entire bookshelf. From Atlas and Icarus to the paradoxically philosophical De Selby, Hozier uses an ever-stretching mythos to describe our cultural climate. Like the collection of myths he pulls from, each song feels like an individual story from the same pantheon. Unreal Unearth finds space to balance violence and admiration, love gained and lost, growth and destruction, and life and death.


“First Time” stands as the thesis of the album’s mythological patchwork, describing the bloom of a cut flower as it’s moment “to share the space with simple living things / Infinitely suffering / But fighting off like all creation / The absence of itself”. Unreal Unearth is as much a celebration of life as it is a cry for compassion, and a rebellion against death by living in spite of the darkness. – EE


★ INHALER — CUTS & BRUISES

There's so much to say about this record, and yet I have no clue whatsoever how to put it all into words. Dublin four-piece Inhaler's sophomore record arrived in February of last year (three days after Valentine's), and has remained at the forefront of my mind ever since. Although nothing will stand above It Won't Always Be Like This for me (a perfect debut, in my mind), Cuts & Bruises comes close. Inhaler have stuck close to the same themes of youthful mistakes, restlessness, and first loves, playing off the strengths of their debut, but they've had more time to hone their sound - and their brand - into something that takes inspiration from their predecessors, but which has become so quintessentially Inhaler it'd be impossible not to recognize any of these songs as theirs.


Bandmates Hewson, Robert Keating, Josh Jenkinson, and Ryan McMahon have more lived experience than a lot of young men their age - they've traveled the world several times over, acquiring legions of adoring fans along the way (including us here at camp Buzzkill), and are on their second full-length album, all before they’ve reached the age of 25. The clearest takeaway here has to be that they're firmly on an upward trajectory - and the fact that they've been taking essential time away from the limelight to live their lives will hopefully bring them straight back to us ready for whatever comes next. A follow-up to Cuts & Bruises that's even stronger, I would assume. – EM


★ JANELLE MONAE — THE AGE OF PLEASURE

Janelle Monáe, who is an all-around talented creative whether it be acting or singing, is finally back with their first album since 2018. Released in the summer of 23’, the heat of the album was truly the perfect companion to the summer. With many feel-good elements of the album’s songs, combining R&B, rap, and pop, the album still feels like a coherent singular work. There is a great power in Monáe’s work beyond just the sound as well. They have been very open in recent years about their gender and sexual identity and how it impacts Monáe’s music. The record in itself is a journey of sensuality and pleasure, and power derives from the ability for people of any orientation or identity being able to experience it without it necessarily being central to the conversation. – BJ


★ THE JAPANESE HOUSE — IN THE END IT ALWAYS DOES

I know our whole thing is that we don't rank these albums, but if we did, this would without a doubt be my number one. I listened to In The End It Always Does so many times that I'm sure if it had been on CD, I'd have burnt through the thing - it held my hand through the most difficult and the most exciting parts of my personal 2023, and I know a lot of people feel the same. Amber Bain is one of those musicians who somehow seems to have a looking glass straight into the human psyche, and despite this album being about a very specific experience of hers, these themes of love, loss, and finding oneself among all of it are universally identifiable. An instant classic, in my opinion, and a testament to how important The Japanese House's voice is; my favorite tracks are "Sunshine Baby" (obvi) and "Boyhood," though collaboration with MUNA's Katie Gavin "Morning Pages" is high up there, too. – EM


★ LUCIA & THE BEST BOYS — BURNING CASTLES

The long-awaited debut album from Scottish band Lucia & the Best Boys, Burning Castles is a testament to the band's unique sound. The album plays into the band’s ability to tap into the unknown and imagination. While sometimes classified as indie rock, this new album explores many different genres. There’s a whimsical element in Burning Castles with the pop elements in songs like “Burning Castles” and “Butterflies.” One of the band's strengths is the imagery the music can portray, literal or not. There’s also a strong contrast in some of the rock tunes on the album that have a heavier industrial rock quality. The use of synth-pop production blends well across the album. Burning Castles is an exciting milestone for the group and I’m looking forward to what comes next. – BJ


★ MÅNESKIN — RUSH!

Released to conflicting acclaim in early 2023 (I remember standing in line for a listening event at Grimey's, getting the notification that Pitchfork had given it a two), Måneskin's RUSH! was one of my personal favorite albums of the year. This is one of those albums that is simply a damn good time, regardless of what it does and doesn't make you feel.  – EM


★ MAISIE PETERS — THE GOOD WITCH

The sophomore album from the talented songwriter Maisie Peters, The Good Witch is the next installment in Peters’ musical journey. A collection of songs about healing and coming into one's own, thematically, Maisie paints a picture of what can be the most difficult time in a woman’s life: being in her 20’s. Between love loss and the power of learning to exist in your own skin comfortably, the album follows both the emotional lows of this and the more celebratory moments. This growth and shift is similarly reflected sonically in the album, a strength also represented in her debut album. From pop tunes with electric energy (like the track “Coming of Age”) and clean production to folk-style songs (Like the track “Wendy”) that create an intimate moment even at Wembley Arena. The Good Witch is an album that easily earns the title of a classic record and features some of Peters’ strongest writing to date. – BJ


★ NIEVE ELLA — LIFETIME OF WANTING EP

Nieve Ella has been steadily gaining popularity since the release of her debut single, "Girlfriend," in 2022, but I fully feel as though Lifetime of Wanting has cemented her as one of the most exciting singer-songwriters on the scene. Her distinctive voice and remarkable point of view on topics and experiences that every young person alive can find relatable is what makes her music so special - it's a balance a lot of musicians strive to strike, but very few do successfully. I know I say this a lot, but I really can't wait to see what else Nieve has in store. My absolute favorite track off the EP is "His Sofa," but don't tell the rest of the EP that; I wouldn't want them to think I don't love them all equally.  – EM


★ OLIVIA DEAN — MESSY

The debut album from amazingly talented Olivia Dean has finally arrived. An artist to watch for sure, Dean embodies the fresh pop/neo-soul scene in London. With smooth vocals and soaring instrumentals, Messy takes a journey through love and emotion. It examines individual moments and people in the eyes of Dean and creates a beautiful collection of humanity. The record feels warm even in the softer moments. A solid recommendation for anyone who just enjoys music, no matter the genre. – BJ


★ PARAMORE — THIS IS WHY

Attempting to grapple collective anger and fears, from rampant sexism to draining 24-hour news cycles to the fear of being exactly what everyone thinks you are, This is Why carries a quiet rage alongside Paramore’s quintessential tongue and cheek lyricism. “Getting better is boring” Williams sings in the post-punk inspired “C’est Comme Ça” - and she’s right. While This Is Why certainly signals a newfound maturity for the group, it doesn’t compromise the pop-punk identity Paramore has molded over their 20 year career.  “You First”, “Figure 8” and “Thick Skull” vibrate with the frenetic energy synonymous with Paramore’s back catalog, while still allowing space for the band to evolve around it. 


The album marks the end of an era for the group, completing their record contract with Atlantic, leaving some uncertainty of where the group will land next. With a full social media wipe closing out 2023, we can only hope This is Why is an indicator in the direction of Paramore’s future. – EE


★ RENEE RAPP — SNOW ANGEL

After being known for her young debut on Broadway and starring in the television show Sex Lives of College Girls, Reneé Rapp makes her studio album debut with Snow Angel. A critical success so far, the album showcases not only Rapp’s vocal strength but in tangent with creative production. With her theater experience, it’d be easy to rely on her vocal talents to carry the album, but her lyricism showcases her other musical talents. The album encapsulates Rapp’s identity of being a young queer woman and follows her life through her early 20s. There’s such a vulnerability and soul in Rapp’s music that creates a sincerity in her work. Known for making her way on the pop scene, the album includes many influences of soul and R&B. Some of my favourites which I think really showcase the strengths of the album include: “Pretty Girls,” “Tummy Hurts,” and “23.” – BJ


★ SAMIA — HONEY

Samia's sophomore album is such a feat. Her debut, The Baby, garnered acclaim pretty much universally, and I think there was no question that whatever she gave us next would be just as, if not more, incredible. Honey builds on what we already know about Samia (or, at least, what she wants us to know about her), and you find yourself immersed in these songs about love, life, friendship, and being vulnerable without really noticing it happen. One of the most beautiful things about Samia's music is that, despite the extremely personal nature of her lyrics, it's easy to find something in common with her. Her love for her friends, for one. Her ability to find the beautiful in the mundane - sitting on your front porch recounting the best days of your life with your loved ones - for another. When you really think about it, it is, in fact, all honey. – EM


★ SHAME — FOOD FOR WORMS

One of the most exciting bands to emerge in the post-punk scene over the last few years is Shame. With each record drastically different to the last, Food for Worms is no exception. The band has always been able to have a balance of their 70’s-esque psychedelic and traditional punk energy. The album has a darkness to it but in an observational way rather than depressing; the heaviness of the tracks does not bring the listener down. This record is unique in the post-punk genre due to the introspection of it all. Many times, punk gets the reputation of having this outward anger of the world but there’s a level of close personality that shines through in Food for Worms. Personal favourites off the album include “Orchid” and “Different Person.”  – BJ


★ SLOW PULP — YARD

This is an album I came upon right after it had been released - I'd never listened to Slow Pulp before (I know, I know, tomato, tomato), and I found myself instantly drawn to its beautiful cover. The contents are just as beautiful, if not more; they feel like a rainy day, or maybe the sun peeking through the clouds after a long storm. It's easy to listen to it all the way through over and over again. My favorite off the album is decidedly "Broadview," which I know is a pretty popular choice, but for good reason.  – EM


★ WARGASM — VENOM

Easily one of the most exciting bands to emerge from the British hardcore scene at the moment, Wargasm arrives with their triumphant debut album. I think what makes certain metal/electro-rock bands stick out over others is their understanding of all types of music across the landscape. Yes, of course Wargasm nails the qualities of the nu-metal scene (an understatement), but they also are just overall talented musicians who aren’t afraid to incorporate these elements in their music. Their energy and their lyricism are just always going up, as anyone who’s seen them live can attest to. My personal favourite tracks include "Ride the Thunder" and "Modern Love." – BJ

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