THE BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2023: THE EDITOR'S PICKS

 |   |  8 min read

THE BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2023: THE EDITOR'S PICKS

When Joe Strummer sang “no Elvis, Beatles, no Rolling Stones in 1977” he couldn't have anticipated what 2023 would hold.

All of those artists had albums remastered, reissued or released this year, the Rolling Stones roaring back to life after gap of 17 years since their previous album of original songs.

Was it any good?

Well, let's see . . . because here are Elsewhere's picks of the 40 best albums we wrote about this year. Many of them are challenging, different and interesting. Quite a number have probably not been reviewed in this country outside these pages.

As always, this isn't a “top 40”. Personal taste reigns as we allow with our Readers' Choices list (to which you are invited to contribute, see instructions way way below).

But these are our rewarding, repeat-play albums which we think made the year tolerable.

And these come from only those albums we wrote about, and we couldn't hear everything. Or find time to write about everything else we did.

Some albums we reviewed, others we essayed. 

Where you see (RecRec) after the title, that means this was an album we recommended on vinyl record.

In no particular order here are . . .

Mitski: The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We

mitski_coverWe said, "intelligence, grandeur, damaged beauty and -- as always -- the unexpected."

Read the full essay here

.

Glen Hansard: All That Was East is West of Me Now

We said, "Hansard upturns familiar themes with his roar or dark whisper to shake out sin, redemption, fears, doubt and hope".

Read the full review here

.

Dimmer: Live at the Hollywood (RecRec)

We said, " Curtis Mayfield-like soul (Getting What You Give from 2004's You've Got to Hear the Music), wah-wah grooves (the free-floating Drift, the embittered funk-rock of I Believe You Are A Star) and moody electro-psychedelic rock (Drop You Off, Seed, the shimmering Under the Light) . . . a classic album [I Believe You Are a Star] reshaped".

Read the full review here

Paige: King Clown

Paige_coverWe said, "impressive contemporary pop".

Read the full review here.

Paul Simon: Seven Psalms

We said, "a single, 33 minute body of work in movements  . . . as melancholy – and perhaps even solipsistic – as his words may appear, Simon also imbues these thoughts with magic realism and existential questioning, a signature of his 60-year career".

Read the full essay here

.

Clementine Valentine: The Coin That Broke The Fountain Floor (RecRec)

clemvalWe said, "an album bathed in a kind of golden light and Pre-Raphaelite mystique".

Read the full essay here

The Rolling Stones: Hackney Diamonds

We said, "unexpectedly impressive, their most consistent album since the Seventies, the period Hackney Diamonds mostly resembles. They've avoided being seduced by current trends and returned to their distinctive, if familiar, take on American blues and roots country".

Read the full essay here

.

Ebony Lamb: Ebony Lamb

a1626636153_10We said, " crafted, adult reflection and musical sophistication".

Read the full review here

Mermaidens: Mermaidens

We said, "The confident clarity of Mermaidens delivers their typically inventive but accessible, diverse rock under a title consciously announcing a new beginning".

Read the full review and articles here

.

Vor-Stellen: Parallolograms (RecRec)

vor_stellenWe said, "reference points in Can's Tago Magi and experimental artists of the Seventies, these pieces possess a beguiling inner beauty and echo the minimalist, repetitious approaches of Kraftwerk, New! and others on the kosmische musik/cosmic music axis".

Read the full review here

Tom Lark: Brave Star

We said, “Brave Star is an album adrift on a sea of memory bliss, cleverly produced and like a sonic mood-piece. It's an album which gives dream pop a very good name.”

Read the full review here

.

Olivia Rodrigo: Guts

We said, "Olivia Rodrigo on the evidence here is far too good to be dismissed as just another teen pop star, there's maturity, thoughtfulness and a sense of tightly wound desperation here".

Read the full review here

Anohni and the Johnsons: My Back was a Bridge For You To Cross

a0577757592_10We said, "Antony/Anohni has made some exceptional albums but few quite as approachable as this."

Read the full review here

.

Rasto: Live in Otautahi

We said, "Light touch paper and stand well clear".

Read the full review here

Tania Giannouli: Solo

Solo_3362x3000We said, “There is a considerable interest in improvised solo piano and we'd hope that those who enjoy the challenge and rewards of the idiom wouldn't hesitate to come to this.”.

Read the full review here

.

The Golden Dregs: On Grace and Dignity (RecRec)

We said, "On Grace and Dignity may be very personal for Ben Woods but he speaks for the many who witness the passing of a familiar world and the certainties of yesteryear".

Read the full review here

Josephine Foster: Domestic Sphere

We said, “Unless you have tuned in to Josephine Foster previously – probably through Elsewhere – we can confidently say you won't have heard anything quite like her.”

Read the full review here

.

Shana Cleveland: Manzanita

We said, “Manzanita is a species of Californian trees and shrubs with culinary uses and medicinal properties, a key reference for this entrancing album bearing that name.”

Read the full review here

.

Aftab, Iyer and Ismaily: Love in Exile (RecRec)

35_coverWe said, “Iyer's playing manages to convey the spiritual music of the broad Indian subcontinent, Aftab glides in with seemingly effortless grace and Ismaily's bass – very prominent in places as a strong root – holds everything in place.”

Read the full review here

.

Tiny Ruins: Ceremony

We said, “Small things observed, big conclusions drawn, celebrations of life (the oblique spiritualism of In Light of Everything) alongside the personal (Seafoam Green). Lean in. Again.”

Read the full review here

.

boygenius: the record

We said, “The enticing boygenius suggest calm and secure waters, but there are deep, self-empowering undercurrents beneath the surface.”

Read the full review here

.

Vera Ellen: Ideal Home Noise

We said, “here's edgy beauty (Carpenter, the airy A Grip) and uplifting melodies as she channels her shifting sensibilities into an approachable, sharper version of her indie.rock.”

Read the full review here

.

Lankum: False Lankum 

a3269543111_10We said, “This is not for everyone (especially if you are uneasy on the ocean) but this extraordinary, demanding and transfixing double vinyl album confirms this four-piece from Dublin can grip with a skinny hand and glittering eye, deliver ancient stories of mariners and watery graves, and leave you sadder and wiser.”

Read the full review here

.

US Girls: This Mess

We said, “Meg Remy is one of the smartest lyric writers around but has increasingly married her words to music which is immediately attractive. But once you're hooked, she gently reels you in.”

Read the full review here

.

The Veils: And Out of the Void Came Love (RecRec)

We said, “Although [Finn] Andrews still wears something of his influences, the ambition, refinement and guiding intelligence here suggest he, and we, should be glad he didn't hang up his big stupid hat.”

Read the full review here

.

Young Fathers: Heavy Heavy (RecRec)

a0737973087_10We said, “Put Young Father's fascinating kaleidoscope of mashed sounds to your ear and see what you hear. Or hear what you see.”

Read the full review here

.

John Cale: Mercy (RecRec)

We said, “John Cale opens his soul on Mercy.”

Read the full review here

.

Yo La Tengo, This Stupid World

We said, “Thoroughly enjoyable album by one of the long distance runners in indie.rock.”

Read the full review here

.

Jonathan Bree: Pre-Code Hollywood

We said, “the mask drops to reveal . . . just more lethargic, jaded reserve.”

Read the full review here

.

The Lemon Twigs: Everything Harmony

We said, “The first Lemon Twigs album where you won't be listening for boxes ticked but will be seduced by the very clever Lemon Twigs themselves.”

Read the full review here

.

The Circling Sun: Spirits

a1681062444_10We said, “Utterly entrancing”

Read the full review here

.

Natalie Merchant: Keep Your Courage (RecRec)

We said, “A painter, single mother of a teenage daughter, self-funding recording artist, filmmaker and activist, 59-year old Natalie Merchant has found her voice again. It is confidently beautiful and perhaps -- given it mentions "love" at least 26 times -- even necessary at this time.”

Read the full review here

.

Various Artists: The Endless Coloured Ways, The Songs of Nick Drake (RecRec)

The_Endless_Coloured_Ways__The_Songs_of_Nick_DrakeWe said, "This impressive double album is your gateway to Nick Drake's refined and quiet world".

Read the full review here

.

Durand Jones: Wait Till I Get Over

We said, “It's an enjoyable, often familiar, melange of classic soul manoeuvres but like the best soul has depth and heart.”

Read the full essay here

.

Paul McLaney: As the North Attracts The Needle (RecRec)

a4139814858_10We said, "these are short songs, like a collection of two minute-plus meditations . . . this collection couldn't have come at a better time"

Read the full review here

.

Aja Monet: when the poems do what they do

We said, "on this album the flute, piano, trumpet and percussion – as well as backing vocalists – provide the kinds of sound beds which get this over the line into the world of music as much as it exists in the poetry zone".

Read the full review here

Blur: The Ballad of Darren (RecRec)

We said, "The Ballad of Darren confirms that age and uncertainty suit them".

Read the full review here

.

Erny Belle: Not Your Cupid

We said, "With Not Your Cupid – which entered the chart for New Zealand albums at number two – Erny Belle is moving up and ou"t

Read the full review here

Janelle Monae: The Age of Pleasure

Janelle_Mon__e___The_Age_of_PleasureWe said, "everywhere here Janelle Monae confirms what we know: she's (still) one of the smartest artists at work today. And here she's at play".

Read the full review here

.

Sampha: Lahai (RecRec)

We said, "If you come here looking for dancefloor bangers you will be disappointed, this is a mature artist – and new father – who keeps things low and quiet and considered".

Read the full review here

.

AND NOW IT IS YOUR TURN. SEND ME BY EMAIL A COUPLE OF YOUR TOP PICKS OF THE YEAR (TRY TO AVOID WHAT I'VE POINTED TO HERE) AND TELL US IN A SENTENCE WHY THOSE ALBUMS GRABBED YOUR ATTENTION.

Screenshot_2023_12_10_at_10.44.15_AMWRITE "MY BEST OF 2023" IN THE SUBJECT LINE OF YOUR REPLY PLEASE

AND DO MAKE SURE THEY WERE RELEASED IN 2023!

AS IN PREVIOUS YEARS I WILL COLLATE ALL THESE AND PUBLISH THEM AS READERS' CHOICES, AND JUST REFER TO YOU BY YOUR FIRST NAME OR PSEUDONYM IF YOU PREFER.

GO! 

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Your Comments

Clive - Dec 14, 2023

Veronica Swift-self titled,wow ,one minute she is Ella and then suddenly she is Janis
Black Pumas-Chronicles of a Diamond.Different from the first record,but almost as good.
Jaime Wyatt-Feel Good.Straight up great country rock,she comes out in a couple of ways.
Jimmy Buffett-Equal Stain on all Parts.His last record Album(I had to get Little feat in there somewhere).We are going to miss him.

dom yates - Dec 20, 2023

Songs of the year:
'For granted' - Yaeji; 'Another life' - Naomi Sharon: 'Rush' -Troye Sivan: 'Sweet sounds of Heaven' - Stones; 'Rest' - Anohni
Album I plan to listen to :
Anohni and the Johnsons: My Back was a Bridge For You To Cross
Heartbreaker this year: 'Trouble of the world'- Sinead
Live gig: Kin7gfish

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