Albums Of The Year 2023

Albums Of The Year 2023

Rockshot Magazine Albums Of The Year 2023

2023 has been an incredible year for new music, both from artists putting our their debut LPs and new, innovative and gorgeously textured records from established acts. The Rockshot Magazine team ourselves are a music-loving troupe with diverse and eclectic tastes, and while not in any particular order and by no means an exhaustive list of our favourite records of the year, below is a selection of those LPs that made us listen over and over, each time finding new depth and elaborate layers embedded in their vinyl grooves or compressed digital audio streams.
Paramore - This Is Why

Paramore - This Is Why

The trio’s first record of new material since 2017’s After Laughter, This Is Why is a jubilant, if somewhat clichéd departure from the band’s EMO/pop-punk roots, leaving After Laughter’s synth-pop behind and instead wholly embracing naughties alt-rock head-on. The opening (and title) track switches from shimmering to urgent. The News observes both the state of the world and our collective obsession with observing from afar. “Shut your eyes but it won’t go away” Williams bellows. C’est Comme Ça kicks off with a riff reminiscent of Hard-Fi’s 2005 hit Hard To Beat. The glorious Big Man, Little Dignity is in your face but evokes the very best of alt-rock from years past. Figure 8 is peppered with Taylor York’s lightly screaming guitars, continuing to offer the perfect antidote to Williams’ narrative vocals. Gorgeous ballad Liar is, no doubt, the understated highlight of this record, “love is not an easy thing to admit, but I am not ashamed of it” Williams sings softly as acoustic guitars are picked. Zac Farro’s constant pace, across the oftentimes sparsely instrumented Crave give the tune its road-trip vibe. The 36-minute record is closed out in triumphant style with moody Thick Skull, “it looks like I’m caught red-handed” Williams breathes at it’s close.

– Kalpesh Patel

The Gaslight Anthem - History Books

The Gaslight Anthem - History Books

New Jersey rock favourites The Gaslight Anthem return to form on their sixth album History Books. After going on hiatus following 2014’s Get Hurt, they are refreshed and sounding as good as ever. Lead singer Brian Fallon reached out to his friend and idol Bruce Springsteen for advice about restarting the band and he features on the title track, as the two finally record together after numerous live guest appearances over the years. Fallon has always been regarded as a great songwriter and the topics on this album have matured as he has as time allows him to be in a reflective mood. For an album by TGA it’s quite upbeat in parts – see Positive Charge – but the relatable vulnerability on The Weatherman is a classic example of why so many people love this band so much. Whilst not exactly returning to the sound of their earlier releases – the fast-paced Little Fires is the closest we get to their more raw beginnings – it’s comfortably closer to their trademark sound than the experimental nature of their last release. With huge guitars, soaring vocals and sing-along choruses they haven’t reinvented themselves but have hit the reset button as they embark on the next chapter of their career.

– Will Maxwell

Beartooth - The Surface

Beartooth - The Surface

Lovers of Beartooth’s articulate self-loathing will hate this album, because Caleb Shomo and co have turned a corner towards self love. Early release Riptide signalled a change in Beartooth’s outlook, and their determination to become the best version of themselves rings out like a challenge in every note. The change in direction has brought no loss of intensity in their ferocious sound, and gives you opportunities to slam like there’s no tomorrow while filling yourself with positive affirmations. It’s equal parts confessional, love letter to yourself and incredibly powerful post-modern metal album, and combining savage metal guitar with pounding drums and a layer of fragile hope is a stunning combination.

 – Kate Allvey

Yves Tumor - Praise a Lord Who Chews but Which Does Not Consume; (or Simply, Hot Between Worlds)

Yves Tumor - Praise a Lord Who Chews but Does Not Consume (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds)

Sean Lee Bowie as a person is someone that can’t be put in a box and the music from their enigmatic musical alter ego Yves Tumor also cannot be pinned down. Whilst this record draws on influences from across the musical landscape, it’s the guitars that drive you through this record. The opener God is A Circle opens the album with driving bass and drum beats with sporadic discordant guitar. The opening words show It shows self doubt, vulnerability and introspection: “Sometimes, it feels like, there’s places in my mind that I can’t go. There’s people in my life I still don’t know, Wander ’round, I just feel like a ghost in a well”. These are feelings that follow through the record, in a stark contrast to the maximalist soundscapes. Meteora Blues goes from an acoustic strum pattern in the verse to an incredible distorted guitar in the chorus like any grunge band of the 90’s would be proud of and lyrics of “I’ll always pray to an empty sky” longing for acceptance into the spiritual afterlife. Echolalia continues contemplating the divine with the words “Maybe it’s something you need and you want, but you think it’s love – it’s not love.” The album deals with spiritual trauma and Ebony Eyes the final track comes to a fantastic crescendo with realisation on the afterlifethere’s no other way than the pearly gates, I found my holy place” with another cacophonous display of sound and power. Every so often an album of the stature of Praise a Lord… shows that this genre can be warped, shifted and moulded into something that’s incredibly exciting and a sonically thrilling listen.

 – Chris Lambert

Lana Del Rey - Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd

Lana Del Rey - Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd

I think I came to the LDR party a little late, this is her 9th album in 11 years and I only started to listen to her this year. Did You Know, has a beautiful feeling to it mixes retro Hollywood carefreeness from the 1960s with today’s modern angst, songs flow beautifully and its exactly why the physical album works so well rather than hearing it’s tracks individually on Spotify. Somehow this record means more after seeing her live in the summertime at Hyde Park and you can see that her fans have an unbelievable connection that makes everything she does a major life changing event. I have listened to many albums this year and this is the one I return to most!

 – Simon Jay Price

Young Fathers - Heavy Heavy

Young Fathers - Heavy Heavy

With fourth album Heavy Heavy, Edinburgh’s brilliant, uncompromisingly genre-defying Young Fathers have stepped assuredly into a new league. It’s 32 minutes and ten tightly crafted pop/rock/hip-hop/gospel bolts of joy. Full of hooks and singalong choruses yet dense, intricate- at times almost bewildering and intense in its range of ideas, Heavy Heavy veers wildly between styles but somehow melds together into a near-perfect long player. The 3 main vocalists, Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole and Graham Hastings share lead singing/ rapping/ growling duties throughout, with glorious outlier Ululation given over to female vocalist Taps Mambo. The irresistible drumbeats of opening track Rice lead straight into the 6/8 glam stomp of I Saw – Bankole’s iconic, barking opening salvo picked up by Hastings and the soaring vocals of Massaquoi, before ending unexpectedly with a childlike refrain of ‘Brush your teeth, wash your face, run away’. From the exhilarating Drum with its swapping and layering vocals, to the building, Sigur Ros-esque euphoric beauty of Tell Somebody, the relative serenity of Geronimo, the urgency of Shoot Me Down or Holy Moly to the gospel choir-tinged Sink Or Swim – this is an album breathtaking in its audacity. Songs regularly switch vocal style, instruments, genre and time signature but the sheer number of hooks and memorable lyrics make it all so joyous and exuberant. I’ve been lucky enough to see them twice this year and it’s apparent that Young Fathers are an act at the absolute top of their game. Electrifying, bold and urgent. Don’t bother trying to describe their sound- just dive in and enjoy it.

 – Sarah Kavanagh

Boygenius - The Record

Boygenius - The Record

This record has been in demand since the “supergroup” of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus came about back in 2018, resulting in the group’s eponymous EP dropping that year. But 2023 gave us The Record as well as follow-up EP, The Rest. Unlike your average supergroup, all three leads are frontwomen in their own right and perform as such with boygenius. Opening tune Without You Without Them is a brief acapella “ditty”, unlike anything you might expect to hear on a contemporary record before the indie-rock proper kicks off with Julien Baker-penned $20, gorgeous vocal harmonies building to cacophonous screams. Phoebe Bridgers’ stylings immediately glisten from Emily I’m Sorry before it’s the turn of Lucy Dacus on True Blue. The rest of the record is certainly more collaborative in nature and constantly leaves us wanting for more. Cool About It’s retro alt-country feel introduces banjo without the instrument detracting from delicate vocals. Not Strong Enough is a true highlight, borrowing from Joni Mitchell’s 1970s Laurel Canyon stylings, 1980s New Wave and 1990s Sheryl Crow unabashedly, creating a soaring gem. The stripped-back blink and you’ll miss it Leonard Cohen weaves in such lyrics as “I am not an old man having an existential crisis at a Buddhist monastery writing horny poetry” and leaves you wanting to understand where this music came from. Satanist provides a bop-along indie-rock tune that counters the sway-along tracks that precede it. Baker-led Anti-Curse is just brilliant, “writin’ the words to the worst love song you’ve ever heard” she croons resplendent. Subdued piano-led closer Letter To An Old Poet continues the stripped-back nature of many of The Record’s songs but brings our three leads together for one, final, triumphant chorus.

– Kalpesh Patel

Those Damn Crows - Inhale/Exhale

Those Damn Crows - Inhale/Exhale

Bridgend’s finest go from strength to strength on third album Inhale/Exhale. Firmly establishing themselves as the standard bearers of the New Wave of Classic Rock scene, this is another great album from one of the most exciting British bands around. Two sold-out UK tours either side of this release shows they continue to gain more and more recognition. Inhale/Exhale is a breathless experience from start to finish and is no different from their previous albums and that isn’t a criticism. They are amongst the best at what they do as they deliver yet more amazing Radio Rock anthems like Man On Fire and See You Again. They are also capable of delivering epic ballads like This Time I’m ReadyShane Greenhall’s vocals are outstanding and are perfect for the emotive and inspiring lyrics. Album closer Waiting For You is a departure from their usual sound and proves that they have the versatility that will carry them to even greater heights that will hopefully see these arena rock anthems played in arena sized venues. Thunderous riffs galore and soaring choruses on almost every track makes this a record that absolutely has to be played at full volume.

 – Will Maxwell

Grace Potter - Mother Road

Mother Road - Grace Potter

Mother Road is the best blues rock record I’ve heard in years, it’s clear why Grace Potter has a couple of Grammy nominations under her belt. With high-quality musicianship and songwriting, this album was recorded in Nashville and Topanga Canyon with an A-list cast of session musicians and production by Eric Valentine. From the opening notes of Mother Road, Grace take us on a trip down the lonesome highways and byways of America, mainly written while taking long drives during the pandemic, Grace is a woman on a mission, full throated heartfelt vocals that always have another story to tell. She’s always Ready Set, Go to hit the wide open roads looking for more adventure, while remembering what it was like to be a 9 year old runaway on the scarily evocative Little Hitchhiker. Grace explores her wildest side through Lady Vagabond who is restless for the next adventure, town, drug or sexual conquest all accompanied by the catchy hard to forget sleazy blues bedrock, she has no intention of needing Rose-Coloured Rearview regrets. I find it impossible to just listen to this album once it always demands at least two listens, it closes with Masterpiece which is exactly what this album sounds like to me.

– Simon Phillips

Green Lung - This Heathen Land

Green Lung - This Heathen Land

Having seen them on the Dogtooth stage at Download Festival in the summer, the cult London five-piece released their third album in November on Nuclear Blast records and it’s their most accomplished album to date. Green Lung are somewhat of a throwback to an era of rock music that told stories of mythical heroes in bygone times of yor. It’s a sound that seems so familiar but it doesn’t sound like they’re directly copying & pasting a particular framework. It’s charming and blends 70’s rockers Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull and Rainbow, celebrating one of the most successful periods of British Rock music by bringing a 21st century spin to it. The quality of the musicians is there for all to see. John Wright’s organ solo on Maxine (Witch Queen) is comparable to Deep Purple’s Jon Lord on Highway Star whilst Song of the Stones has guitar work from Scott Black that Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour would be proud of. Vocalist Tom Templar shows his dynamic range from delicate verses to Bruce Dickinson & Freddie Mercury cries and album highlight One For Sorrow showcases his talents. Hunters In The Sky powers through calling on more mythical tales of the Wistman’s Wood in Dartmoor. “When you hear a howling come across the sky, you’ll know that this will be the day that you die.” The drumming of Matt Wiseman is not short on quality as The Ancient Ways is driven along with great power. With Joseph Guest on bass, the five are a real tight knit unit and concluding with Oceans of Time, the album advances to its final and most evocative climax whilst still having archetypal lyrics like  “I have hunted from Whitby to Whitechapel” conjuring up themes of Dracula. It’s a perfect synthesis of prog rock and metal, a quintessentially British rock album drawing on old formulas for a fresh new take. A masterful journey into the occult, mysticism and sorcery. Why fight it?! Come along for a ride with the devil!

 – Chris Lambert

Royal Blood - Back To The Water Below

Royal Blood - Back To The Water Below

Brighton-based rock duo Royal Blood have been redefining just what is possible with just drums and bass (and soaring vocals of course!) since they landed on the scene ahead of 2014’s eponymous debut album. Following 2021’s Paul Epworth and Josh Homme-produced Typhoons, which saw the duo branch out into funk-laden rock tunes, this year’s Back To The Water Below saw the duo take things back into their own hands, self-producing once more at their home studio in Brighton. And what a result! Opener Mountains At Midnight is a storming return to form, a cacophony of sound with a gorgeously sparse and vulnerable break. Gritty Shiner In The Dark is bread and butter Royal Blood while Pull Me Through is led by keys, its lyrics giving the record its title. The Firing Line showcases Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher’s evolution, it’s delicate instrumentation and vulnerable vocals underpinned by more keys and guitars resplendent with an old-school fade-out. Tell Me When It’s Too Late is a classic arena stomper, albeit brief at just 2 minutes and 44 seconds. Keys continue to be embraced on the slow-drive How Many More Times and Beatles-reminiscent There Goes My Cool. Mellow closer Waves feels like it belongs elsewhere on the record, but has the duo embracing soaring guitar parts in contrast to Kerr’s signature stepped-up bass alongside keys for a richer soundscape, the tune requiring four musicians on stage for live outings.

Rockshot Magazine caught up with Royal Blood throughout the year, at Glastonbury Festival as well as headline shows at the Manchester Apollo and London’s Hammersmith Apollo where they road-tested the new LP.

– Kalpesh Patel

Blondshell - Blondshell

Blondshell - Blondshell

New York-raised, LA-based, Sabrina Teitelbaum may have taken time to determine the musical foot she wanted to put forward, her former pop-leaning alter-ego BAUM perhaps a misstep on the road. But with Blondshell, she’s placed that foot firmly down only to raise it quickly to deliver a kick in the teeth by way of her eponymous debut LP. Sub 2-minute opener Veronica Mars is a refreshing glance into her childhood, the noughties teenage private investigator TV show front and centre, before crunchy guitars close out the rock treat. Dreamy Kiss City is simply lush as Teitelbaum sings “I think my kink is when you tell me that you think I’m pretty”. Alt-rock stylings blended with grunge-influenced despair shine from Olympus. Angst-ridden Salad delivers revenge with a punch, “look what you did, you’ll make a killer of a Jewish girl” she cries. Sepsis tells the tale of going back to the wrong guy in a delightfully bop-along rock tune, gorgeous crunchy guitars have you air-strumming throughout. The now sober Teitelbaum tells the tale of a friend falling off the wagon in breezy Sober Together, the highly personal tune having her confront her own sobriety head-on. Uptempo Joiner is the perfect road-trip tune, even if it deals with themes of self-harm and substance misuse! Tarmac sees Teitelbaum lose herself to please new friends before the record is rounded out with the rather sombre and sparse Dangerous.

Rockshot Magazine went down to London’s Moth Club to check out Blondshell’s live show in May. Read what went down here.

– Kalpesh Patel

Rancid - Tomorrow Never Comes

Rancid - Tomorrow Never Comes

Tomorrow Never Comes is a classic Rancid album which stands among the best in their catalogue. That in itself is a huge surprise, given how far their last few albums have wandered from the Rancid brand. Frontman Tim Armstrong, guitarist Lars Frederiksen and bass player Matt Freeman have regained their singing voices and then some, flinging throaty punk gold like molotov cocktails, daring you to call them too old for this game. Rancid have returned to the formula of cramming their albums with very short, sharp tracks, and it really works for Tomorrow Never Comes in the same way it worked for their iconic self-titled album decades before. They’ve jettisoned over ambitious themes and stuck to what they know: brotherhood, toughness and California. The aging skater-favourites also realised that what their fans needed was a well constructed, straightforward punk album and that’s what they delivered, neatly wrapped in an explosive yellow and black package.

 – Kate Allvey

Bilk - Bilk

Bilk - Bilk

Essex three-piece Bilk released their debut, eponymously titled album in February, but I haven’t found anything to eclipse it in the ten months that have followed. The band, who play an amalgam of ‘70s punk and ‘90s Britpop have hooks as catchy as hell, but it’s the lyrics penned by frontman Sol Abrahams that really stand out. Clearly influenced by the likes of Mike Skinner, Ian Dury and John Cooper Clarke, they rattle off Abrahams’ tongue at 100mph and cover just about every facet of a disenfranchised youth existence. It’s to his credit that the words do it with humour and never stray into the trap of becoming self-pitying. There’s Hummus And Pitta (the pointlessness of getting hammered every weekend in the absence of having anything else to do). There’s Brand New Day (dreaming of escaping the pointlessness of getting hammered every weekend in the absence of having anything else to do). There’s Fashion (rebelling against pressure to conform). There are tunes to match just about every occasion. It’s No Longer There and Part And Parcel are sweet acoustic ballads about the loss of a friendship and of the innocence of childhood respectively. Bilk allow themselves one moment of indulgence during Be Someone, with a riff right out of the AC/DC top draw and the most uplifting lyrics of any presented here; the success of the band actually representing a chance to escape the humdrum nature of life in Chelmsford, CM2. At the other end of the spectrum, the dream of being someone is in stark contrast to Stand Up, a rail against injustice and 13 years of Tory rule and the only time when Abrahams and the band sound genuinely angry. If you’re in need of youth social commentary but would like it wrapped up in earworms that will keep you going all day, then in this most assured of debuts, Bilk deliver 37 minutes of the most enjoyable teenage angst you’re ever likely to hear.

– Simon Reed 

The Beaches - Blame My Ex

The Beaches - Blame My Ex

Ever since I covered Canadian four-piece The Beaches live in London for Rockshot this year, I’ve had their second studio album playing on a loop. Blame My Ex, released independently via AWAL, boasts 10 galvanic tracks that exude an unapologetic, rock-infused attitude. Lively opener Blame Brett has notched up over 24 million streams on Spotify and become a viral hit, but the other nine tracks deserve your attention, too. Kismet captures the fluttery sensation of repeatedly bumping into a crush while Me & Me is a spirited, infectious anthem celebrating self-discovery after a breakup. The darker, grungier tones of My Body, Ft Your Lips and the lusty Cigarette strike a delicate balance between tender and evocative. Standout What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Paranoid features raw, powerful lyrics including, “Ran up my minutes on my inner voice. She loves to bring up all my issues, God, she’s the bitch.” From the outset, The Beaches deliver gutsy, pop-infused alt-rock, heightened by sharp lyrics and playful, tongue-in-cheek humour. Blame My Ex is a knockout – a fun, emotional journey that takes the listener on a wild ride through the highs and lows of a split, concluding with self-discovery and learning to love yourself once again.

 – Nicola Greenbrook

The Hives - The Death Of Randy Fitzsimmons

The Hives - The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons

It had been eleven years since the release of their last album, and apart from a few singles, The Hives had been really quiet. That was until May 2023, when they rose back from the dead with their brand new single Bogus Operandi. A tour with Arctic Monkeys and some small venue shows later,  their sixth album came out in August. The Death Of Randy Fitzsimmons was long anticipated, especially after several marketing stunts demanding that THE HIVES MUST ALBUM NOW and the release of Countdown To Shutdown, Rigor Mortis Radio and double teaser Trapdoor Solution + The Bomb.Those singles set the pace for a highly energetic, captivating album that leaves no place for doubt: The Hives are back, stronger than ever, and they’re doing what they do best: pure rock’n’roll pandemonium. The Hives put things straight from the get go, starting with Bogus Operandi and its now-iconic intro. Howlin’ Pelle’s vocals as perfect as ever, with plenty of opportunities for call backs and singalongs like Rigor Mortis Radio, Smoke & Mirrors and The Bomb and Nicholaus Arson’s unmistakable guitar riffs. This album is fast and loud, and begs to be played over and over again which is all I have been doing last summer. While we wouldn’t expect any less from rock’n’roll legends like The Hives. The Death Of Randy Fitzsimmons is an incredibly refreshing and glorious record from start to finish and has the same energy as first albums Barely Legal and Veni, Vidi, Vicious. As the saying goes: “it’s only the champagne of bands if it comes from a small town in Sweden called Fagersta, otherwise it’s just sparkling nonsense”. The Hives are back to prove it and it’s so good to witness it all happen.

Rockshot Magazine went along to check out The Hives live at Bristol’s Fleece as well as their day-lit Glastonbury Festival turn on The Other Stage.

 – Pauline Di Silvestro

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