posted by Staff
December 2023

Another year rolled out and we're ready with a list. Arguably one of our favorite things to do! We were quite busy with a few other things and certainly hoped to cover more new music in 2023, but hopefully, this selection will make up for it. Full disclosure - since we decided to expand our list to 100 this year, we've included EPs as well, we are sure no one would mind a few extra great tracks in their must-listen 2023 list.

For obvious reasons, we didn't include our own label releases, although they truly deserve a spot on this list. That being said, you can listen to the talented artists we worked with this year here and support/share. It would mean the world to all of us.

Best 100 Albums (and EPs) of 2023

So, in case you wonder how we came up with that list - it's simply projects that made an impression on us this past year. Some we love more, some less, but they all deserve your attention as the year is coming to an end.

Full disclosure, we were going to do our 50 favorite albums, but then decided to push it to 100 and include a few EPs

We tend to dwell in the r&b, electronic, UKG, soul, jazz, and beats (lofi/chillhop) space, so the list is largely comprised of those genres. We will be revealing 5 selections each day until Christmas, so you have plenty of time to catch up on the music we loved in 2023 and read the lines we've written (perhaps).

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As we started to discuss the list, we realized there's so much good music out there in 2023 and we will certainly strive to share/review more records in 2024. We're also sharing the "journey" with some (awkward) visuals crafted by Ivo on our Instagram, if that's your thing.

All tracks are added to our Stereofox New Music Finds and Best Albums playlists.

The albums are ordered randomly, we're not ranking them as they are all records that made an impression on us and/or we think they deserve to be heard.

Wave 20 (Dec 31st)

Kelela - Raven

Kelela - Raven artwork best of 2023 album

Feb 10th / Warp Records

Kelela’s 6-year hiatus ended with her second LP Raven and, boy, did she deliver. Since her last album Kelela has gone on a long retrospective journey of defiance against racism, and sexism within the context of the Black female experience, and emphasizing the creative contributions of queer females. "I started this process from the feeling of isolation and alienation I've always had as a Black femme in dance music, despite its Black origins. Raven is my first breath taken in the dark, an affirmation of Black femme perspective in the midst of systemic erasure and the sound of our vulnerability turned to power."

The result is Raven, an album that is both lush, hazy, and ambient, but also nods to the dancefloor. To accomplish this, Kelela collaborated with some of the legends of the dance music world, like LSDXOXO, Kaytranada, and her known collaborator Asmara. There is a little bit of everything in there: jungle, drum’n’bass, dancehall, and lots of downtempo beats. 

The running theme of the album is water (no pun intended), from her album cover and the lyrics, to the overall flowy feel of the sonic journey that is Raven.

Words by Anna

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Lo Artiz - LOVE LACED best of 2023 albums artwork

Sep 21st / self-release

LOVE LACED is a powerful message from alt r&b / hip hop bruja (Spanish for witch) Lo Artiz. We've been keeping an ear on the Miami-born, LA-based artist since 2022 as her vocal prowess is nothing short of magnificent, and the quality of the vibe she's cultivating in her work is truly impeccable.

The 12-track record is home to tunes like “la bruja” and “SOS” which are a great example of the unique lane Lo Artiz is creating for herself. The inner energy of “la bruja” lies within the concept of a witch that has scared folks for ages. The notion of a woman embracing her power and achieving her desires can be challenging for some to accept. "La bruja" represents a vital rebellion against the male-dominated music industry. In the first verse, Artiz boldly asserts, "I deserve my place where men gather, carry on while I persevere," igniting a rallying cry among all women. As a genuine practitioner of bruja traditions, Artiz weaves her spiritual rituals, such as tarot and astrology, into the captivating chorus of this track.

Words by Ivo

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KOAN Sound - Led By Ancient Light

KOAN Sound - Led By Ancient Light best of 2023 albums artwork

Sep 8th / Shoshin

KOAN Sound’s Led By Ancient Light will certainly dominate this year’s lists of anyone who values impeccable sound design and a cinematic approach to creating music.

The album reminds me of both Rival Consoles and DOMi & JD BECK and it combines the experimentation nature of jazz with elements of ambient, EDM, UK Garage, and classical music. The cohesion of all these elements is seamlessly woven with natural-sounding instrumentation, contributing to a robust flow designed to push the boundaries of electronic music. Personally, I find this album crème de la crème.

The British duo first came on our radar in 2019, but this new record and the direction that James and Will took was definitely 2023’s most pleasant surprise.

Also, please do yourself a favour and listen to this on a set of good headphones or speakers.

Words by Ivo

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Caroline Polachek - Desire, I Want to Turn Into You

Caroline Polachek - Desire, I Want to Turn Into You artwork best of 2023 albums

Feb 14th / Perpetual Novice

If you follow other publications and lists, there’s no way you haven’t stumbled upon Caroline Polachek’s Desire, I Want to Turn Into You and there are 12 good reasons for that.

Imagine a blend of Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Kate Bush and Bjork, with a splash of experimental psychadelia. I rarely listen/cover pop-infused records, but Desire, I Want to Turn Into You is too good to not be on this list. It’s fun, liberating and energizing.

Say what you want about contemporary music, but one thing’s for sure - artists don’t abide by norms and genre-bending is at all-time high, giving us records like this one. Caroline’s vocals are superb throughout the whole record, but music-wise my personal favourite is “Smoke”. It sounds so vast, it gives me instant goosebumps every time I listen.

Words by Ivo

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Unknown Mortal Orchestra - V

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - V best of 2023 albums artworks

Mar 17th / Jagjaguwar

Faithful to their lofi production aesthetics, the New Zealand 3-piece delivered what I think is one of their best works to this day. I might be wrong, but V didn’t feel very talked about this year, or at least not as much as it should have been given they’ve been on a a five-year hiatus.

Tracks like “The Garden”, “That Life” and “Layla” are such a delight, and don’t get me started on “Meshuggah” with its spacious and warm chorus that gets me every single time.

V sees Unknown Mortal Orchestra's Ruban Nielson's further deep dive into psychedelic experimentation where he delves deep into the realms of love, loss, and his rich Hawaiian heritage. The double-album venture is an immersive journey, showcasing a perfect equilibrium between two distinct yet harmonious halves. The rhythmic pulse of the compositions creates a magnetic atmosphere that draws listeners into a captivating sonic experience.

Listen / buy

Wave 19 (Dec 30th)

Jungle - Volcano

jungle volcano artwork best 2023 album top 100

Aug 11th / Caiola Records / AWAL

 It's challenging to compile a top list for any given year without acknowledging Jungle, especially in a year when they have released a new album.

The British duo perfectly timed the release of Volcano as the record dropped at the beginning of August and instantly became a soundtrack to those last, but most precious summer weeks. Characterized by a heavy mix of 70s soul, funk, breakbeats, and disco, the album sees a number of prominent features including Channel Tres, Erick the Architect, and Roots Manuva.

The orange palette of the artwork perfectly matches what sounds to be the perfect soundtrack for long drives, drinks with friends, and chilling on the beach. Some of the most breezy bops on Volcano include “Dominos” and “Coming Back”, but certainly don’t sleep on my favorite joint - the cool swag “You Ain’t A Celebrity”.

Words by Ivo

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Kamaal Williams - Stings

Kamaal Williams - Stings artwork album best 2023

Sep 27th / Black Focus Records

Listen / buy

Jazzbois - Higher Dimension Waiting Room

Jazzbois - Higher Dimension Waiting Room artwork best 2023 album

Jul 21st / Blunt Shelter Records

Listen / buy

Musiq Soulchild & Hit-Boy - Victims & Villains

Musiq Soulchild & Hit-Boy - Victims & Villains artwork best 2023 album

Mar 10th

Victims & Villains by Musiq Soulchild and Hit-Boy takes me back to memories of high school. During the early to mid 2010’s, there was a wave of alternative r&b on the rise with artists like JMSN, Cocaine 80’s, and Johnny Rain coming onto the scene. This project reminds me of that distinctive alt r&b vibe.
Musiq Soulchild is already a legend at this point, however, the sonic union with Hit-Boy makes him sound so youthful as if he’s a new artist.

The stellar production here paired with Soulchild’s impressive vocal performance makes this one of the most cohesive soulful 2023 releases, to the point where there are barely any skips here. The title track is certainly one of the brightest gems by virtue of its stellar songwriting that captures turmoil amid romance. It’s beautiful to see Musiq Soulchild make a triumphant return, and Victims & Villains also showcases what Hit-Boy is able to do in the realm of r&b.

Words by Lu

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GoGo Penguin - Everything Is Going to Be OK

GoGo Penguin - Everything Is Going to Be OK artwork best

Apr 14th

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Wave 18 (Dec 29th)

Full Crate - A Kid From Yerevan

Full Crate - A Kid From Yerevan best of 2023 albums

Jun 2nd / 85 Oceans

 In our interview with Full Crate this year, one of the things we asked him about was his view of what home is. And throughout this album, that’s one of the core themes he explores.

Whether you know him as a producer, DJ, vocalist, songwriter, or multi-instrumentalist, Full Crate wears a range of creative hats and this is fully expressed in this project. What really sets A Kid From Yerevan apart from everything he has done in the past though is the fact that we’ve never heard a side of Full Crate this vulnerable and open - to the point where it feels like we’re introduced to a new artist. He acquaints us with the insecurities pulling him back and his deep experiences with romance over charming instrumentals heavily inspired by neo-soul, r&b, hip hop, and funk.

You’ll probably want to experience this with a pair of headphones, it’s quite a deep one.

Words by Lu

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Halibab Matador - Souvenirs

Halibab Matador - Souvenirs albums of 2023 artwork

Oct 20th / fussy by day

What a debut!

While this is his second-only release after a single in 2018, there's a good chance you know Halibab Matador as the founding member of YellowStraps, one of Belgium's most prominent neo-soul acts these days. Their COLORS performance is staggering, so if this is the first time you've heard them, go check it out.

I absolutely love the spacious ambiance created by Halibab Matador on Souvenirs and the ease engraved throughout the compositions. The 10-track release feels like cruising along a long and gorgeous coastline and soaking in all the beauty within. Light and playful.

Words by Ivo

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Nix Northwest - Xin’s Disappearance

Nix Northwest - Xin’s Disappearance album artwork

Mar 15th / Well Overdue Records

Hip-hop is such a huge genre nowadays and while trap/autotune often dominates, I’m always on the lookout for the more old-school or alternative side of it.

Enters Nix Northwest, the UK rapper whom you might know from The Silhouettes Project, his collaborations with edbl or B-ahwe, or just by keeping an ear out for what’s going on in the UK. 
His sophomore album Xin's Disappearance is a 15-piece multifaceted journey telling anecdotes from both his childhood & present years, told by Xin, his own reflection (cool wordplay, I must say). Xin’s Disappearance is independently written, produced & mixed by Nix himself. It's very soulful, groovy & jazzy, as well as showcasing his creativity & lyrical capabilities to the full, with various twists & turns. And it also features ENNY on one of the songs - so that’s the least reason to check it out.

Words by Nasko

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Robyn Florence - Rêverie

Robyn Florence - Rêverie artwork best of 2023 albums

Oct 6th / CMP Records

Holland-based singer, songwriter, and producer Robyn Florence has an innate ability to create intimate moments. This sentiment is backed by her comforting vocal harmonies and imaginative lyricism throughout her 2023 10-track debut album Rêverie. Her lyrics are poetry in motion. They're heartfelt, evocative, and sincere. With every note on this record, she pours her soul into the music, creating an intimate connection with her listeners.

My personal highlight is "Feelings". Even though the instrumental is quite stripped back, the fascinating drum fills grabbed my attention and kept the progression interesting. Balmy synth textures also complement her warm vocal presence, particularly in the track's closing moments.

Words by Nasko

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Steven Bamidele - Summing Up

Steven Bamidele - Summing Up artwork best of 2023

Sep 15th / Tru Thoughts

A debut album by Steven Bamidele is great news, don't you agree?

Been covering the singer on Stereofox since 2017 but I fell in love with his music with "Lightning Fires" in 2019. And it's lovely to see an LP after a streak of singles & an EP in 2021 when he signed to Tru Thoughts.

Summing Up is a collection of 9 songs, including the previous singles that we covered "Kaleidoscope", "Dark Sense Of Humour (Farfisa)", and "Sitting In The Dark". This album serves as a profoundly intimate and introspective venture for Steven, where he uses lyrical exploration as a means of self-healing.

Throughout the tracks, he delves into themes of racial identity, familial bonds, and self-discovery, as well as subjects ranging from his upbringing to his battles with mental health and his connections with loved ones. Steven delivers a truly intimate & transparent project in which everyone can find something for themselves - and ultimately connect with the singer.

Words by Nasko

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Wave 17 (Dec 28th)

Adi Oasis - Lotus Glow

Adi Oasis - Lotus Glow artwork best of 2023 albums

Mar 3rd / Unity Records

We had the honour of interviewing Adi Oasis in 2021 just after she dropped her ground-breaking self-titled record.

Fast-forward to 2023, the French-Caribbean singer, songwriter, and bassist returns with a lush expedition immersed in the sunlit ambiance of swampy funk rhythms, soulful vocals, and compelling bass lines. Lotus Glow solidifies her position as a force to be reckoned with in the contemporary funk, r&b, and soul space. 

In Lotus Glow, her third full-length album, there's a distinct flavor of nostalgia that seems to have been carefully infused into the sonic journey. The album delves into a diverse array of themes, exploring the profound realms of motherhood in tracks like "Multiply" and navigating through the intricate landscapes of love. It seamlessly extends its reach into the realms of self-expression, with tracks that unveil the artist's innermost thoughts and emotions.

One standout piece, "Dumpalltheguns," boldly addresses the intersection of art and politics, demonstrating the artist's commitment to using her platform for meaningful discourse. This track, among others, contributes to the album's multifaceted nature, turning it into an immersive experience that transcends mere musical enjoyment. The record, with its thoughtful exploration of these various dimensions, emerges as a multi-fold journey through the tapestry of the artist's life and perspectives.

Words by Ivo

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Fraen - every cloud has a silver lining

Fraen - every cloud has a silver linin

Apr 21st / Midnight Snacks

I clearly remember the day when Berlin-based artist fraen unveiled her compelling debut EP every cloud has a silver lining. It left a mark on me as it felt like a record that spoke directly to me and my emotions.

The collection of songs takes listeners on a soulful and spiritual journey, weaving a narrative of self-discovery, growth, and resilience. With each of the 5 songs, fraen skillfully crafts a sonic landscape that mirrors the intricate landscapes of personal exploration. The EP serves as a testament to her shining ability to evoke emotions and communicate profound themes through music, making it a noteworthy addition to the realm of soulful and introspective soundscapes. 

every cloud has a silver lining is not just a musical endeavor, but a poignant expression of the human experience, inviting audiences to immerse themselves in a captivating journey of introspection and emotional resonance.

My favorite composition on the EP is “alchemy”. Through her rich and powerful vocals, fraen artfully transmutes the pain of heartbreak into a dazzling display of musical gold. The song's infectious groove and catchy melody are complemented by the artist's raw and vulnerable lyrics, creating an intimate and captivating listening experience.

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Afternoon Bike Ride - Glossover

Afternoon Bike Ride - Glossover artwork best album 2023

Feb 10th / Friends of Friends

The Canadian lofi / folk trio came on my radar because of their Sleepy Fish collaboration "Grid Search" (2021) and have been a go-to place when in search of heart-warming music for those nostalgic summer days. Afternoon Bike Ride consists of Lia (vocals, guitar, programming), David (vocals, guitar, drums, programming), and Éloi (vocals, keys, drums, programming) and it won't take you long before you realize that everything they do is stemming from the depths of their hearts.

After unveiling their spirited and cooperative debut self-titled album in 2021, the Montreal trio continues their musical journey with the delightful release of Glossover at the start of 2023. They intricately shape their musical identity, honing their artistic intent with a gentle array of lo-fi guitars, velvety harmonies, and evocative soundscapes.

One of the highlights on Glossover is certainly "Summertime" - easily the perfect representation of the band's sound - comfy and authentic.

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Afroham - Quantum Love

Afroham - Quantum Love artwork best 2023 albums

Feb 24th / Melting Pot Music

Born Nathan Avraham, Afroham’s artist name is a playful take on his surname and his hairdo. It doesn’t take long after listening to his Quantum Love EP before realizing how skillful the Dutch beatmaker is when it comes to fusing neo-soul, lofi, and hip-hop. 

The release dropped in February via Melting Pot Music and skyrocketed the creative journey of the talented producer.

Packed with amazing collaborations (Ian Ewing, Birocratic, cocabona), in just 5 tracks Nathan offers quite a fulfilling and diverse multi-course sonic menu.

My favorite track on the record is “Online” with  Swiss singer Djemeia (collabs with Melodiesinfonie, Slum Village). The song is a smooth and quite nostalgic blend of neo-soul vocals, mellow synth pads, and dusty hip hop drums, all enveloped in the lofi aesthetics.

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PALLADIAN - Ocra artwork

May 12th / Loci Records

We’ve been excited about PALLADIAN for a while now and I am happy to share that once more Gabriele and Salvatore did not disappoint. 

I closely followed the release journey of their debut album Ocra and carefully explored each single with care and eagerness. The end result is an exciting and unorthodox approach to building a cohesive and mindful electronic experience.

Looking for a place to start? Personally, I love the exotic groove on "Sierra". It definitely feels like a trip in nature not only because of the chanting vocals in the background, but the beautiful and pulsating percussions that the composition is built on. The track is insanely captivating and will leave you wanting more.

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Wave 16 (Dec 28th)

Weval - Remember

Weval - Remember artwork album best of 2023

Mar 3rd / Technicolour

In the realm of experimental synth-driven electronic music, the Dutch electronic duo Weval marked another splendid year by unveiling their eagerly awaited third studio album, Remember, under the Technicolour imprint of Ninja Tune.

As a whole, the record feels enigmatic and cohesive, and I appreciate that Harm and Merijn explore previously uncharted experimental depths, which shows both confidence and curiosity.

If you’re looking for a place to start, I would personally recommend tracks like “Don’t Lose Time” and “Remember”. Both feel absolutely cosmic and perfectly injected with the right amount of nostalgic retrowave futurism.

Words by Ivo

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Disclosure - Alchemy

Disclosure - Alchemy artwork best of 2023 album

Jul 14th / Apollo Records / AWAL

Acclaimed production duo Disclosure has made a name for themselves by providing a pop-orientated synthesis of various styles. Although on their new album Alchemy, we're welcomed to quite a different experience.

I've always wanted to hear them dive into a more experimental route, and finally, my prayers have materialized. "We Were In Love" is among the "left-field" gems from this sonic treasury, to the point where there were some moments that reminded me of 1tbsp. Alchemy doesn’t have any big-name features, and it’s clear that the project felt like a playground where they could experiment with a variety of ideas across electronic music - and they’ve done this so well. It’s a body of work that works well in the club and the living room for an easy listening experience.

Words by Lu

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Laurence Guy - Living Like There's No Tomorrow, But Killing Yourself In The Process

Laurence Guy - Living Like There's No Tomorrow, But Killing Yourself In The Process artwork album best of 2023

Jul 7th / Accidental Pieces

Laurence Guy is a prominent UK producer and DJ, widely acclaimed as a "purveyor of quality music". With a remarkable portfolio, his work has amassed millions of listeners and gained support from the esteemed BBC Radio 1. His art effortlessly lives in both the club space and those after-hours mind places where you need to zone out and ease in from a long night. His 2023 masterpiece Living Like There's No Tomorrow, But Killing Yourself in the Process is certainly something to abide by.

Hands down, my personal favorite on the record is "On Your Side". The pulsating and enigmatic house is built around a pitched-down vocal sample and it immediately draws listeners into an energetic, but dark world full of twists and surprises during its evolution.

Words by Ivo

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ATRIP - TANZPARTEI best of 2023 album artwork

May 4th / self-release

I fell in love with ATRIP's beautifully chaotic bounce electronica at the end of 2022 when I discovered his music.

The German/Polish artist currently based out of London creates sounds in the realm of melodic rave & dance. A vivid example of this is one of TANZPARTEI's singles - "All Night" which is the best Monday morning energy power-up one could consume.

Words by Ivo

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The Blaze - Jungle

The Blaze - Jungle artwork best of 2023

Mar 10th / Animal63

 JUNGLE is the album we didn’t know we wanted from French electronic duo The Blaze. After 5 long years, The Blaze returns with an album that’s bright, occasionally in-your-face, yet also pleasantly atmospheric. 

It’s not only the ultra-rich tapestry of soundscapes that glue JUNGLE together, the signature mantra-like vocal performances also breathe life into this body of work. There are actually moments where this doesn’t even sound like The Blaze by virtue of the experimental approach they undertake at times, to the point where they’re quite reminiscent of Moderat - the tracks “HAZE” and “SIREN” are wonderful examples. Honestly, it’s the production that I find to be the highlight of JUNGLE especially since they’re able to conjure emotions that are difficult to describe throughout the project.

Words by Lu

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Wave 15 (Dec 27th)

Jamila Woods - Water Made Us

Jamila Woods - Water Made Us artwork best of 2023 albums

Oct 13th / Jagjaguwar

A transcendent journey through genres, eras, and emotions, Jamila Woods’ Water Made Us is what everyone yearned for.

Jamila’s third solo album feels like more than a record. The Chicago-based artist and poet builds a solid narrative not only through music, but spoken-word pieces that glue Water Made Us together. Story-telling at its finest, the record flows like water and takes the shape of the object it’s poured in, that object being Jamila’s experiences, feelings, and creativity.

It’s hard to highlight a track that truly stands out because of the diversity and the importance of each element in the record. I feel incapable of dissecting the album track by track just because of the interconnectedness of each of the 17 pieces. Sit down, relax, forget the world, and dive deep into Jamila’s beautiful art.

Words by Ivo

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Baril - For You, Forever

baril for you forever album artwork best of 2023

Jun 23rd / Intercept

Baril’s music came on my radar through a Reddit recommendation and it was instant love. Not only because it checks everything I look for when it comes to chill electronica, but because the record has a very unique feel to it and it evokes a strange set of emotions in me. One of the key things I look for when it comes to selecting music to share with you.

The Dutch producer channels his chillwave origins to create his version of dance music which is both warm and energizing. For You, Forever transcends ambient, breakbeat, and house music, making it perfectly suitable for both the dancefloor and home listening. If you’re looking for a place to start, don’t look further than “Feel This Way”.

Words by Ivo

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Smile High & The Mainsqueeze - The Vibetape

Smile High & The Mainsqueeze - The Vibetape artwork best of 2023 album

Nov 24th / Smile High / Nettwerk

This one's one of the most remarkable projects of the year, in my opinion. Although Smile High isn't a new name (its debut release was back in 2019), it is surely a milestone for him to have 6LACK & QUIN on a project.

The remarkable tale of The Vibetape starts in 2020, when he & his bandmates from The Main Squeeze serendipitously found themselves all residing in the same house/neighborhood during the global shutdown, sparking numerous backyard jam sessions - which the neighbors were fine with. Smile High adds, "The last day we lived there I was jumping rope in the backyard and heard someone on the other side of the fence. I peeked over and wanted to thank them for being incredible neighbors and upon doing so, finally found out who was right next door to us this whole time. QUIN introduced herself and said it was her and 6LACK’s house and they were loving all the music they were hearing from our side of the fence."

This all led to mutual admiration, promises to collaborate, and eventually, a 50-minute freestyle jam which then 6LACK & QUIN insisted on finishing - and that's how The Vibetape was born, a record with a set of star acts also including Tiffany Gouché, Felly, Abhi The Nomad & Marieme.10 songs taking the best of r&b, soul, hip-hop, jazz & pure, genuine creativity.

Words by Nasko

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Obli - it’ll all be oki (ii)

Obli - it’ll all be oki (ii) artwork best of 2023

Oct 27th / Foreign Family Collective

When it comes to an expansive and uplifting blend of lo-fi house and experimental electronica, obli has certainly given us enough oxygen this year. The LA-based producer excels at creating music that simply brightens up your day. Dropped in October, it’ll all be oki (ii) is an expansion of his April-released 6-track EP.

My highlight is “hei” which opens delicately with obli’s wife speaking softly in Norwegian before dropping into sunny feel-good chords. Another gem in the release is “Deeper” which gave me a strong Moby vibe, with a scent of Afro-futurism.

Words by Ivo

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Lawrence Hart - Music For Dark Spaces

Lawrence Hart - Music For Dark Spaces artwork

Jun 23rd / Attack Decay Sweet Release

This was quite an eagerly awaited project for the Stereofox team especially since we’ve been fans of Lawrence’s work for a while. Music For Dark Spaces is a record bursting with emotion and colorful moments thanks to the stellar sound design we’re welcomed to.

In the span of 5 tracks, Lawrence Hart showcases his range as a producer, multi-instrumentalist, and composer. We’re taken from high energy, UKG-inspired club cuts like “Let Me Feel”, all the way to neo-classical gems such as the haunting closer “Veiled”. Although it’s the center jewel of the project “First Light” that really breathes life into the project and encapsulates Lawrence's intention for Music For Dark Spaces. The production is top-notch: the track builds up with the help of echoing vocals and synths, but then the strings kick in, and it's all just pure magic. One of the stand-out electronic projects of 2023.

Words by Lu

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Wave 14 (Dec 23rd)

Kwaku Asante - Blue Solstice: Volume 2

Kwaku Asante - Blue Solstice Volume 2 artwork best 2023 albums

Sep 13th / E&M / Cloud X

Certainly one of my personal favorites for the year. Although we’ve covered Kwaku Asante first in 2019, I fell in love with this music with “Until The Morning” and especially with “Inside Out” - the latter was inspired by the Motown aesthetics which is not something you hear every day nowadays.

The London artist has been on a steady path with his career since his debut in 2018 “The Way That You Move” (currently on 9M+ on Spotify alone), and his sophomore album only cemented his importance in the r&b scene. Moreover, the opening song “Strawberry Skies” got a COLORS show which skyrocketed the project even further.

Blue Solstice: Volume 2 follows his highly-acclaimed 3-song EP Blue Solstice: Volume 1 from 2021. The 9-tracker is beautiful, unorthodox & versatile in terms of production, vibe & topics, which together with his recognisable vocals, makes this album an absolute must-hear.

Words by Nasko

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Jorja Smith - falling or flying

Jorja Smith - falling or flying artwork best 2023 albums

Sep 29th / FAMM

Although you might want to argue she’s never been out, by that I mean that in her sophomore album falling or flying it feels like we’ve got the old Jorja again, the same one in her debut LP Lost & Found. Funnily enough, her 2021 EP Be Right Back plays right into my metaphor/wordplay - it was just too pop for what I loved about her.

Coming back (pun unintended) to falling or flying, the 16-song record is about her equivocal relationship to fame. It’s an absolute honey for the soul, with enough earworms to still be considered radio-friendly but also with plenty of gems with her signature UK sound. The songs swing between slow r&b (“Greatest Gift (feat. Lila Iké)”), afro beats (“Feelings (feat. J Hus)”), uplifting UK funky electronica (i.e. “Little Things”), to even pop-punk (“GO GO GO”). The album is so diverse, rich, experimental, and free, as well as beautiful from head to toes - definitely something you shouldn’t miss on checking out.

It’s so good to have Jorja Smith back.

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Chromonicci - Era III

Chromonicci - Era III best 2023 albums artwork

Mar 7th / self-release

This is one of the very few (or maybe the only) 5-track release on this list, but there's something so magical about chromonicci's ERA III. I just couldn't let it slide.

Most of us know him as an amazing producer, so hearing his voice was a beautiful shock, to say the least. The 5-track Era III. EP carries so much emotion, soul, and most importantly - the intimate confession of Christian.

"I hope this project helps you, heals you, and loves on you the way it has for me. Last year was the hardest year of my life. I lost so much, made so many changes, and did my best to shield my light. I also gained so much, and I’m growing. I am so grateful to be both alive and able to share about it more through this work. I’ve entered Era III.", he elaborates on Instagram.

It's beautiful to see how openly vulnerable he is on this record and I'm curious how this new soulful / r&b path plays out for him. A new playing field full of opportunities and I surely hope the world acknowledges how talented this artist is.

Words by Ivo

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Brent Faiyaz - Larger Than Life

Brent Faiyaz - Larger Than Life artwork best 2023 albums

Oct 27th / ISO Supremacy

Just from the intro on Brent Faiyaz’s Large Than Life, we can already tell what we’re in for. I absolutely love the fact that Brent leans into the 2000’s r&b aesthetic and blends it with a modern touch.

This is accentuated by the presence of Missy Elliot, Timbaland, and Brent’s deeply nostalgic production throughout the album. Large Than Life comes across as “just vibes” for 30 minutes straight, and doesn’t sound like he was going into the studio to make something groundbreaking and that’s fine. As always, his voice is supremely angelic and will most likely be the reason I’d find myself returning to the project. I swear you could tell someone this one released in the 2000s and they would honestly believe you - that’s how much Brent nailed it.

Words by Lu

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Joesef - Permanent Damage

Joesef - Permanent Damage artwork best 2023 artwork

Jan 13th / Bold Cut under exclusive license to AWAL Recordings

One of the best songs I heard in 2023 certainly must be Joesef’s “It’s Been a Little Heavy Lately” - taken from his debut album Permanent Damage. Initially, I was drawn to this body of work on a technical level as I frequently caught myself asking “wow how did they do that?”

The deeper you go into this though, the more we’re welcomed with lyrics that are heartwrenching as Joesef profoundly touches on themes we can all relate to in relationships. Permanent Damage fluctuates between soft, captivating ballads and upbeat cuts layered with punchy drums and groovy basslines. Joesef’s unique blend between soul, indie, and, pop feels like a rare breed that’s simultaneously familiar thanks to the nostalgic allure of his sound.

Words by Lu

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Wave 13 (Dec 21st)

Arlo Parks - My Soft Machine

Arlo Parks - My Soft Machine best 2023 album artwork

May 26th / Arlo Parks / Transgresive Records

Arlo Parks has been a pure inspiration of an artist who has blossomed right before our eyes. Since Nasko featured "Cola" in 2018, our entire team has been captivated by her music and the enchanting, organic evolution she has displayed ever since.

Since then she has been twice nominated for Grammy Awards, won the Mercury Prize award, toured the world and won millions of fans. Her sophomore album, My Soft Machine, is a worthy follow-up to her widely praised debut Collapsed In Sunbeams (2021) and record we knew would end up on our top 100 list. The album serves as the foundational cornerstone, strategically paving the way for an enduring and illustrious career. It carefully lays down the elements that will undoubtedly contribute to the Arlo's sustained success and long-term legacy in the industry. With meticulous craftsmanship and foresight, this musical collection establishes the framework upon which the artist's future endeavors will build, promising a trajectory marked by longevity and excellence.

There are so many tracks to fall in love with on the record, which speaks to how meticulously the record was written. I was very happy to see a Phoebe Bridgers feature on My Soft Machine (the only collab, actually).

Words by Ivo

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Cautious Clay - KARPEH

Cautious Clay - KARPEH artwork 2023 album

Aug 18th / Blue Note Records

Diving into KARPEH felt like I was listening to a completely different artist. We not only hear and witness the evolution of Cautious Clay’s sound, but it’s evident that Clay has experienced immense changes in his personal life through this record. Named after Clay's actual surname, Karpeh is structured into three segments that begin with family discussions, encompassing memories, and imparted lessons from relatives.

His soulful indie sound that he is known for is embellished with a heavy influence of old-school jazz and funk. This ultimately gives KARPEH a retro charm, and this is no accident. Family is the theme that ties this body of work together and antique-like voice memos from his family members recalling important moments in their history heighten KARPEH's nostalgic allure. His songwriting is unifying and thought-provoking whilst the instrumentation throughout the project is nothing short than sublime. This is an amazing exhibition of what it looks like to mature as an artist.

Words by Lu

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digitalluc - Metropolis

Digitalluc - Metropolis album 2023 best artwork

Jun 16th / self-release

I've been a digitalluc fan of since that 2016 Kendrick flip. The German beatmaker is hella consistent and certainly deserves a spot on this list because his summer release of Metropolis surely left a mark in my beat collection.

His 4th LP sounds not only mature and cohesive, but it has this particular ability to feel beautifully timeless. A record I particularly enjoy listening to at night when the world is asleep.

Packed with amazing features including FloFilz and Hubert Daviz, Metropolis is a watermark of what contemporary jazzhop should sound like.

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Michael Kirby - Shoulders Carry Honor

Michael Kirby - Shoulders Carry Honor artwork best 2023 album

Oct 19th / self-release

This is undeniably one of my favorite hip hop albums this year. On Shoulders Carry Honor Michael Kirby can be deep, inspirational, and witty without coming across as preachy in any way and I love it. The project serves as an invitation to pause, reflect, and prioritize well-being in a fast-paced world that often neglects self-care.

Michael Kirby-McGann, known simply as Michael Kirby, is a New York City-based music artist and middle school dean from Hartford, CT. Tracks like “Momma Cry” are inspired by the death of a former student of his due to gun violence. Kirby dives into a range of socially relevant topics throughout Shoulders Carry Honor including infidelity, balancing cultural expectations, and rasicism. After listening to the project, I personally reached out to Michael thanking him for not only diving into risky subjects but also doing this in a manner that showcases his extraordinary skills as a songwriter.

Words by Lu

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Rome In Silver - Dragonfly

rome in silver dragonfly artwork

Sep 22nd / Seeking Blue

For a long time, Rome In Silver has been one of those names I come across frequently but have never dived into his catalog. Dragonfly was not only the ideal gateway into his world, but it’s also the kind of project that leaves a lasting impression.

As a producer, I felt like I learned loads listening to this album. The California-based producer showcases his versatility and leaves listeners in awe with his wizard-like sound design. We’re taken through tracks like “I Don’t Wanna Be Here” with Lhasa Petik which is a r&b and funk-inspired gem, all the way to the tech house-influenced banger “Inferno”. Rome In Silver makes the kind of music that disobeys convention and Dragonfly is a stellar example of this sentiment. This is one of the most interesting debuts in the electronic realm we’ve seen from an artist in 2023.

Words by Lu

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Wave 12 (Dec 20th)

Alfa Mist - Variables

alfa mist variables album 2023 artwork

Apr 21st / Anti

Alfa Mist is easy one of the most consistent names on the UK jazz / r&b / soul scene. 2023 saw the birth of his 6th studio album Variables and a nosedive into a new forward-thinking direction from the British multi-instrumentalist.

One of the things I appreciated the most about the record is the strong vocal presence of Alfa especially on tracks like “Borderline” and “4th Feb (Stay Awake)”. The record can be characterized by a feeling of hope and brightness. It feels mature, calm, and explorative and shows there’s no border when it comes to the creativity of Alfa Mist.

Words by Ivo

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Dinner Party - Enigmatic Society

dinner party enigmatic society artwork 2023 album best

Apr 14th / Sounds of Crenshaw / EMPIRE

Dinner Party is a supergroup comprised of Terrence Martin, Robert Glasper, Kamasi Washington, and 9th Wonder. Their 2023 body of work Enigmatic Society seems to take on a more stripped-back approach compared to their previous self-titled project.

This provides a spacious canvas for featured lead vocalists such as Phoelix and Arin Ray to paint vivid images with their soothing voices. To my surprise, on Enigmatic Society Dinner Party jumps beyond the borders of jazz and soul, and invites funk and a touch of electronic influences. From start to finish, this is quite the laid-back experience, perfect for playing to set the mood with your loved one or even whilst you're hanging with your friends.

Words by Lu

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Mahalia - IRL

mahalia artwork IRL best 2023 album

Jul 14th / Mahalia Burkmar / Warner

There’s no way we’re having this list without Mahalia. We’ve been fans of the UK singer for ages, we first featured her back in 2016, and seeing her being so productive brings only warmth to our hearts.

In 2023, she’s back with her 3rd album after a string of singles and a few EPs since her 2019 sophomore album LOVE AND COMPROMISE which went off the charts. The 13-piece IRL sees Mahalia in both her smooth, loveletter-esque songwriting which we fell in love with, and the more upbeat, trap-esque side of r&b.

Amazing surprises were the features from Stormzy (which ironically is a ballad), Joyce Wrice, DESTIN CONRAD, Kojey Radical, and JoJo. You see why I told you this album belongs here?

The Deluxe version includes some of her 2022 singles, as well as a Vevo Studio live performance of “Terms and Conditions”, so definitely check this one out, too.

Words by Nasko

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Young Fathers - Heavy Heavy

young father heavy heavy artwork

Feb 3rd / Ninja Tune

What a beautiful mess this album is! I’ve always struggled to put the Scottish trio Young Fathers into a specific genre, they are everything all at once - pop, rock, soul, gospel, noise, hip-hop, and the list can probably go on. Heavy Heavy is no exception to the band’s genre-bending tradition. This is the 4th album by Young Fathers, and even though there was an initial moment of resistance from the band’s loyal fans, I think this is their best work to date. 

The first thing one will be urged to do when listening to this mesmerizing cacophony (in the best way possible) is dance, and trust me it will be very difficult to resist. Heavy Heavy can be a bit of a difficult listen at first, but once you get in the groove of things and get grooving, you will have this album on repeat. There is a sense of urgency, ecstasy, and overarching cheerfulness. 

Young Fathers have always been on my radar as one of the most unique and inimitable bands out there, and Heavy Heavy is a testimony to that. On a separate note, Young Fathers is one of the best live acts I have ever experienced! 

Words by Anna

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Marie Dahlstrom - A Good Life

Marie Dahlstrom - A Good Life arwork album 2023 best

May 22nd / JFH Records

Such a simple & beautiful title. Marie Dahlstrom’s music has always been an absolute favourite and her debut record Like Sand (2019) was certainly a huge milestone & a trampoline for her. Exactly 3 years later (to the date), her sophomore album A Good Life got out.

In it, you’ll find her unmistakable soulful & heartwarming vocal runs and impeccable storytelling, as well as features from Jay Prince, Sipprell & Kofi Stone. The record is produced by long-time collaborator Conor Albert & her partner Dan Diggas.

A collection of 12 tracks, A Good Life shows different sides of her identity - a singer, a songwriter, a producer, a mother - and more importantly, her acceptance of this. Written in between putting her son to sleep, moving, and renovating her home, the LP is about the light & the dark aspects of life that make it full; it's that feel-good sigh when you know you're right where you're supposed to be even though life might be hectic at times.

I’ve been figuring out where I belong, what I’m supposed to do and how I fit into all this - because I am so much more than an artist. When you have big dreams or goals and you see time being taken away from achieving them, and going towards something else - how do you make that a positive experience? There are always challenges, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good life. A Good Life is based on reflections from a few years of my life with many changes and adjustments. It’s an album about human interaction in all its complexity," Marie elaborated.

Words by Nasko

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Wave 11 (Dec 18th)

Folamour - Manifesto


May 26th / FHUO

Over the years Folamour made quite a name for himself with his distinctive mixture of soul, funk, and house music. On Manifesto, however, he embraces electronic music so much more as his signature sound becomes adorned in synthesizers.

The 14-track record is groovy, luminous, and brimming with color. In fact, Folamour sounds like a completely different artist, and the track “Isla Nostalgia” is a beautiful example of his metamorphosis. We can hear the influence of French Touch and even Filter House shining through in the first half of the album.

Words by Lu

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Ta-ku - Songs To Come Home To

Aug 24th / Future Classic

One of the biggest news of 2023. The Australian mastermind, producer & singer Ta-ku dropped the bomb on his debut album Songs To Come Home To early June with a tweet, announcing an insane list of guest artists - Jay Prince, Sango, Xavier Omär, Panama, Billy Davis, ?uestlove, ROMderful & so many more.

If you, like us, have followed Ta-ku for the many years he’s been around, you know the title is a continuation of his previous Songs To Break Up To & Songs To Make Up To. Although it’s not his first LP per se, Ta-ku embraces the 20-track record as his debut album. Staying true to his unique production style, the project blends r&b, soul & jazz magnificently, with a pinch of nostalgia & dwelling on topics like growth & the complexities of life.

"This debut album is a celebration. A full-circle moment. An opportunity for me to express myself in the most complete way as an artist. A culmination of my musical & visual journey over the last decade. A homecoming and arrival to a place of calm and contentment. Featuring some of today’s most exciting new artists, as well as returning collaborators, all of whom I deeply admire, this marks my most ambitious project to date. This project is less about me & more about… us. A tribute to all those who make us who we are today. For the listeners, it’s a warm welcome and an invitation to reflect on their own journeys too."

Words by Nasko

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Reuben James - Champagne Kisses

Jun 23rd / Rufio Records

Another big news for the r&b and soul fans, especially in the UK. The Birmingham-born keyboardist & singer Reuben James unveiled his debut album Champagne Kisses, produced by the legend CARRTOONS, who is also on this list. 

For the 10-piece project, he invited names like Braxton Cook, Conor Albert, Ric Wilson & Roy Ayers who only made the picture more complete and diverse. None of the songs are over 4 minutes, which may come as a surprise to all those jazzheads - but this makes the album more easily digestible without having to compromise on a pleasant listening experience. 

The tracks vary from uplifting & groovy (like the title track & “Satisfaction”) to slow jams (“Means The World”  & “This Could Be”), all with a distinctive jazz & funk touch that show the perfect intersection of those genres.

Words by Nasko

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Fakear - Talisman

Feb 24th / Nowadays Records

Talisman is the first album Fakear (read our interview with him here) released in 3 years after his extraordinary body of work Everything Will Grow Again. Even though we’re acquainted with the signature organic sound of Fakear, Talisman takes on a cinematic allure that pulls listeners in. 

For the full run-time, Talisman feels like such a movie and stands as the only “electronic” album of it’s kind in 2023. His choice of samples is so captivating and fill the stereofield with color. This, paired with his electronic embellishments and upbeat drums creates a recipe for something that is dance-friendly and optimal for one to close their eyes and go onto a journey. One of the stand-out tracks here is “Alma” - a gem that’s decorated with vibrant percussion and jittery world samples. This is the perfect gateway into the new sound of Fakear.

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ODESZA & Yellow House - Flaws In Our Design

Jul 21st / Foreign Family Collective

South African songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Yellow House has injected a nostalgic kind of soul into ODESZA's EP Flaws In Our Design. The project collaboration also sees the popular electronic duo blend their epic brand of electronic music with an indie touch, which is quite reminiscent of their earlier work.

We’re welcome to introspective songwriting paired with the immersive soundscapes throughout Flaws In Our Design. The production is bright, it’s punchy, and what I absolutely adore is that Yellow House is able to offer a soulful charm while delivering catchy hooks. One of the brightest gems in this sonic treasury is the lush and dreamlike "Heavier". ODESZA adorns the stereo field with these luminous saw pads, and their intensity is matched by the heavy drums carrying the rhythm section. This is one of my favorite tracks of the year and beautiful to see it come from this project.

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Wave 10 (Dec 15th)

Larry June & The Alchemist - The Great Escape


Mar 31st / The Freeminded Records / ALC / Empire

This is certainly one of the most talked about rap albums of the year. The Great Escape is a collaboration between San Fransico rapper Larry June and producer extraordinaire The Alchemist. And it’s usually quite a significant event whenever The Alchemist decides to collaborate intently with an artist.

Throughout this body of work, the production is layered with gorgeous soul and jazz samples, thus giving The Great Escape an air of chic and elegance. This is contrasted by dusty drums that reflect the sound of raw underground hip hop. Larry June hops on these instrumentals in quite a relaxed manner thanks to his cool, calm, and collected demeanor which I’d say is an acquired taste. Although he makes up for his lack of dynamic flows in his stellar lyricism especially on “What Happened To the World?”.

If you’re into the kind of hip hop that Roc Marcio or even Boldy James offers, then this would certainly be for you.

Words by Lu

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Wakai - Some People Scream, Some People Talk

Jul 16th / THANKS Recordings

One of the most overlooked hip hop albums of the year, and one of the most exciting artists to watch in 2024.

US rapper Wakai made waves with his collab with Emmavie “Starter Jacket” from his debut solo album To a Dark Boy (2022). This year, he got back with a new full-length project, Some People Scream, Some People Talk which he called “my spiritual journey in 16 songs, therapy sessions with myself, and my overall healing in one.”

Sticking to his unique, hazy style, with a jazz touch and a flow somewhere between Isaiah Rashad & Chester Watson, the record oozes effortlessly throughout, with guest appearances from Fly Anakin, Flozigg, femdot., Frank Sativa & more. The perfect balance between new-school & old-school/jazzy, I think. There’s also a great documentary about the project (obviously also touching on the topic of the peculiar artwork), you should definitely check it out.

Words by Nasko

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Mick Jenkins - The Patience

Mick Jenkins - The Patience artwork best 2023 albums

Aug 18th

The Patience is probably one of Mick Jenkins’ most fierce and emotive projects to date by virtue of the general tone of the album.  

His vocal delivery on tracks like “Show & Tell” and “2004” exhibits that he's done being patient as he comes through with a sense of fury. Even the production matches his energy - either we’re served raw, hard-hitting drums or somewhat dark cuts throughout the project. It’s more so the personal stories Mick has to share though that make The Patience what it is. Plus names like VIC MENSA, Benny the Butcher, JID, and Freddie Gibbs not only bolster the album’s starpower, but their presence also makes this quite a rhyme-fest since they’re all top-notch lyricists.

Words by Lu

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Lord Apex - The Good Fight

Lord Apex the Good Fight artwork best 2023 albums

Nov 10th / E/M Worldwide

This is so inspirational. The Good Fight is the first time I’ve ever dived into a Lord Apex project and, trust me, by the end of it you’ll feel as if your soul is lifted - that’s how empowering his songwriting is. 

With a guest list that features names such as Freddie Gibbs, Madlib, and Greentea Peng, this serves as the UK rapper’s most important album at this stage of his career. Over boom-bap beats and soulful samples, Lord Apex takes us through some of the struggles that he is going through in life, in his career, and how he has overcome his obstacles. Of course, some is boasting here and there although what I appreciate is that it’s done with elegance and grace. The hit track off the album “Smokers Lounge” with BONES is fascinating as it LITERALLY sounds like “lofi drill”, something I’ve never heard before. I must say this is a project with NO SKIPS and it’s an experience that feels enjoyable to dive into.

Words by Lu

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Chester Watson - fish don’t climb trees

Chester Watson - fish don’t climb trees arwork best albums 2023

Jun 30th / POW Recordings

If you appreciate the unique styles of Tyler the Creator, Mick Jenkins, or even Toro Y Moi, Chester Watson's abstractness is sure to captivate your senses.

2023 saw the Atlanta-based rapper return with a brand new project and it personally got me from the get-go with the opener "fish don’t climb trees". Inspired by an Albert Einstein quote, the release delves into the connection between an individual's life philosophy and the intricacies of the society that envelops them.

2023 also marked Chester's debut on COLORS and I am so happy this guy gets the recognition he deserves. Been a fan of his since "Time Moves Slower Here", there's something about his delivery I just find mesmerizing. I don't listen to his stuff as often as I would like, but once I start it's hard to move on from it.

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Wave 9 (Dec 14th)

Cleo Sol - Gold


Sep 29th / Forever Living Originals

Ah, she did it again. Cleo Sol’s music is medicine for the soul and we got two full albums from her this year - Heaven followed by Gold in just three short weeks. 

The UK singer is the vocalist of the anonymous alt-soul collective SAULT, which makes experimental R&B, funk, and disco-inspired music. Over the past few years she has also released three neo-soul solo albums and all of them are so tender and smooth. From Sade to Stevie Wonder to Erykah Badu to D’Angelo, there are nods to some of the soul greatest in her music, but Cleo Sol adds her own gentle touch to it. 

Gold is a hopeful narrative, and it brings so much optimism and soul to the dark world we are currently living in. I will repeat this again, Cleo Sol’s music is the medicine we need.

Words by Anna

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PHABO - Don't Get Too Cozy

PHABO - Don't Get Too Cozy artwork best of 2023

Jun 16th / PHABO & Soulection

If we’re talking about the r&b scene in 2023, PHABO should certainly be at the top of the artist list.

His sophomore album Don’t Get Too Cozy is a level-up in his musical journey, both musically and release-wise (especially the latter, as it’s a self-release in promotional collaboration with Soulection). Conceptually, the 18-piece album swings between both under-the-sheets slow jams & upbeat, groovy tunes, “so that you don’t get too comfortable in any mindset,” PHABO shared in an interview for Rated R&B. However, he stays true to his sonic approach throughout the record - blending new school & jazzy influences. Don’t Get Too Cozy is produced by an absolute dream team - Troy Taylor (Boyz 2 Men, Babyface), Louie Lastic (Goldlink, Kehlani), and GRAMMY winner Eric Hudson (John Legend, Nas, Kanye West).

Undoubtedly, the 1st single from the record “Out Of Touch” Shaé Universe is the climax of the record but the whole project is a must-hear - having also Arin Ray,  Ambré, and Kalan.FrFr as guest acts.

Words by Nasko

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Houis - Outgrown


Aug 18th / Lekker Collective

2023’s most featured tracks from an album award goes to Houis with the whooping amount of 6 out of the 11 songs earning a dedicated spot on the Stereofox feed. I think that achievement speaks for itself and it won’t be a surprise that the New York-based producer earned a well-deserved spot in this year’s top 100 list.

With each single drop, Houis masterfully intertwined dreamy r&b elements with lo-fi beats, crafting a unique sonic canvas that led him to building a solid audience in 2023, us included. Through elaborate melodies, enchanting rhythms, and a meticulous blend of detailed components in all of his compositions, Gabriel created one of the most cohesive debut albums of 2023. If you need to start somewhere, dive deep into my personal favorite songs - “Fenetre” and “Baby’s Breath”. Both pay homage to jazz while living in a contemporary bubble of their own. Certainly, an artist to be excited about.

Words by Ivo

Oct 20th / Ninja Tune

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IKEN - Galatea


Oct 20th / self-released

IkeN's music consistently shines with two notable elements: the charming allure of his vocal harmonies and a daring approach to r&b production. His debut album Galatea is jam-packed with these moments and stories that provide us with a glimpse of IkeN as more than just an artist.

Born in Kenya and raised around the world, 19-year-old IkeN was inspired by artists like Alina Baraz, emawk, and Frank Ocean at a young age, leading him to pursue a music career. From start to finish, Galatea is marked with this atmospheric appeal, and this, complemented by IkeN’s vocals is a source of comfort for listeners along with his introspective songwriting. One of the prime examples of this is the 5th track on Galatea titled “Miss Me”. This gem is a soul-stirring ballad exploring the intricacies of a two-sided love that ultimately fades away. 

The storytelling on this project is sublime and each time, it feels like IkeN has a special way of being able to deeply relate with listeners through his lyricism.

Words by Lu

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Koralle - Insomnia

Koralle - Insomnia best artwork 2023

Jul 28th / Melting Pot Music

Easily one of my favorite jazzhop records in 2023, Koralle’s Insomnia feels like hanging out with your best friend on a Sunday morning, just catching up and talking about life.

The Italian beatmaker has managed to attract quite a few cool features on the record and they certainly add a specific flair to its sonic existence. Prime examples in my book are the jazz rap delight “Mission” featuring talented Kid Abstract, “Tell Me” with Kuranes, and “Blunotte” with the iconic beatmaker FloFilz.

Insomnia, as a whole, feels like a homage to the classic jazz hip hop sound of the 90s, with a few tracks like “U Do” and “Meditation” having a very mature and laid-back feel. One last shoutout for the percussion work on “Healing” which perfectly complements the funk synth energy of the beat. So tight.

This is not typical for me to say, but this predominantly instrumental album has no fillers and that’s where its true beauty lies.

Want to know something cool? Koralle is Lorenzo Nada, the guy behind Godblesscomputers who we already featured on this list.

Words by Ivo

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Wave 8 (Dec 13th)

McKinley Dixon - Beloved! Paradise! Jazz!?

McKinley Dixon - Beloved Paradise Jazz artwork best albums 2023

Jun 2nd / City Slang

McKinley Dixon broke through all the noise back in 2021 with his debut For My Mama And Anyone Who Look Like Her, a raw touching jazz hip-hop, which made me compare him in some ways with Kendrick Lamar. His  4th LP Beloved! Paradise! Jazz!? (named after three of Toni Morrison’s best works, a writer who Dixon calls “the greatest rapper ever”) shows his evolution as an artist, with very crisp and detailed production, but still filled with that signature personal touch. 

This album navigates the intricate tapestry of trauma within the Black American experience, employing the therapeutic art of storytelling. Yet, what captivates me most is the diverse musical palette at play. While Dixon's foundation lies in rap, this isn't confined to the typical boundaries of a hip-hop album. Instead, he masterfully weaves together jazz, soul, funk, and hip-hop to create a mosaic of sound. A prime example is the evocative single "Tyler Forever," where Dixon lays bare the heart-wrenching reality of losing a friend. The instrumentation unfolds like a cinematic spectacle, providing a rich canvas for emotionally charged rhymes that resonate with an anticipated intensity and passion.

This album is not to be missed.

Words by Anna

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Bokoya & Gianni Brezo - Minari

Bokoya & Gianni Brezo - Minari best albums 2023 artwork

Jun 30th / Melting Pot Music

A pinnacle of contemporary jazz music, Minari is a record that should not fall under the radar of anyone, who is open to exploring new sonic grounds. The album is a collaboration between the avant-garde hip-hop/jazz ensemble Bokoya and Cologne-based producer/guitarist Gianni Brezzo.

It won't be long before you absorb the improvisational feel of Minari and that's because that's within the foundation of its creation. The recording sessions lasted for just 3 days at Gottesweg Studios in Cologne, where they engaged in an unstoppable musical collaboration, building upon fundamental sketches and beats. Bokoya and Brezzo later edited and arranged the sessions without incorporating any overdubs.

A personal highlight of the record is the psychedelic feel of tracks like "Joomangi" and "Flutterby", but trust me when I say - Minari has a lot to offer to anyone excited about the contemporary jazz soul sound.

Words by Ivo

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Nas - Magic 3


Sep 14th / Mass Appeal

The collaboration series between Nas and Hit-Boy undoubtedly stands out as the most exciting rapper-producer combo in hip-hop at the moment. And this year we were treated to another incredible body of work from this dynamic pair.

Amongst all of the tasteful boasting we’re acquainted with from Nas, the Queens rapper also gives an insight into the lessons he has picked up from poverty and success. It’s quite fascinating how even at his age, his pen is still becoming sharper and he’s able to churn out refreshing flows. When it comes to the production, Hit-Boy predominantly showcases his talents as a boom-bap producer and briefly relinquishes his trap arsenal. This approach gives Magic 3 such a soulful allure, especially with all the soul samples scattered throughout.

Words by Lu

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Kiefer - It’s OK, B U

Kiefer - It’s OK, B U artwork best albums 2023

Sep 22nd / Stones Throw Records

My excitement for this record kicked off back in August when Kiefer released "August Again". 

Released via the legendary Stones Throw Records, It’s Ok, B U is the 4th studio album of producers, educator, and jazz pianist Kiefer Shackelford. Also, a worthy successor of 2021's When There's Love Around. Kiefer has long ago earned his stripes in the contemporary jazz scene and has repeatedly shown the depth of his artistry, creativity, and tirelessness. A list of the people he has worked with in recent years includes names like Anderson .Paak (on Ventura), Mndsgn, Kaytranada, and Moses Sumney. Enough said?

A smooth gateway (for me) into It's Ok, B U is "Dreamer" because of the underlying classic jazzy feel to the keys in the track. The track is perfectly followed by "High" and that gorgeous 1:16 switch where all comes beautifully together. When it comes to the album creation "I wanted to allow myself to go crazy and express myself in the biggest, loudest way possible". Kiefer certainly achieved that.

Words by Ivo

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SBTRKT - The Rat Road

SBTRKT - The Rat Road best 2023 albums artwork

May 5th / Save Yourself under exclusive license to AWAL Recordings

Now this was a pleasant surprise. After a 7 year-long hiatus, iconic electronic producer SBTRKT returned with an album that serves as a complete departure from what we know of him. The same year frequent collaborator Sampha returns with his sophomore album too, actually!

Not only that, but the list of features on THE RAT ROAD is a sight to behold. Who would’ve thought that it would’ve been SBTRKT to unite Toro y Moi, Teezo Touchdown, and even Little Dragon into a project? THE RAT ROAD continuously challenges listeners with glossy synth embellishments, jittery drums, and out-of-pocket beat-switches throughout and I enjoyed this! It’s glued together by a sense of absurdism combined with a soulful charm.

Words by Lu

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Wave 7 (Dec 12th)

Andre 3000 - New Blue Sun


Nov 17th / Epic Records

Say what you want, but André 3000 is someone who feels comfortable creating whatever he deems appropriate based on his own prism. I'm fascinated by artists who evolve beyond their initial pursuits and embrace something entirely new.

While the weight of his and Big Boi's legacy is undeniable, a distinct shift happened a few weeks ago. New Blue Sun marks not only his first album of fresh music in nearly two decades but was also prominently promoted as a departure from the realm of rap. I listened to the whole album in bed with absolutely 0 distractions and it felt therapeutic and I cannot find a better way to describe the album.

A mesmerizing 87-minute odyssey spanning 8 tracks, New Blue Sun navigates through minimalistic and experimental landscapes, exuding an ambient and tribal essence. It feels like a profound journey, a personal trip, at least for me. I do elaborate more on the whole thing in my review here, in case you're looking for a few more lines to read, that is.

Essentially, all you need to know before listening to that record is the title of the opener - "I Swear, I Really Wanted To Make A "Rap" Album But This Is Literally The Way The Wind Blew Me This Time".

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edbl & friends - Jackson Mathod


Oct 6th / edbl recordings via V2 Records Benelux

edbl has captured my attention for quite a while. I distinctly recall thinking, "This guy truly understands his craft," and to be honest, I'm a sucker for well-executed and consistent artist branding which he does extremely well. Add to that the allure of neo-soul guitar beats, and you've got my musical sweet spot.

In 2023, Ed seamlessly carried forward his edbl & friends series, achieving a flawless artistic synergy with the inclusion of trumpeter/multi-instrumentalist Jackson Mathod. Drawing inspiration from musical luminaries such as Miles Davis and Roy Hargrove, Jackson has consistently produced music that is both lively and captivating, infused with a delightful blend of fun and groove in recent years. A match made in heaven, if you ask me.

The 2 talented musicians are joined by a galaxy of insanely good singers including Nic Hanson, Sophie Faith, and Kieron Boothe. 7 tracks of happiness, bottled in a sound. As always, edbl does what he does - delivering "feel-good soulful tracks with hip-hop drums".

Words by Ivo

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Terrace Martin & Alex Isley - I Left My Heart In Ladera

Oct 20th / Sounds of Crenshaw

Terrace Martin consistently demonstrates his versatile talent in every collaboration. This year we saw a brilliant synergy between him and the incredibly talented Alex Isley which gave us a wonderful modern update to Sade's classic song "Paradise.", the opener to their album Left My Heart In Ladera. I think given how big both Terrace Martin and Alex Isley are, their joint creative child somehow stayed under the radar of a lot of people.

With this 9-track record, the Grammy-nominated producer demonstrates for yet another time his versatile talent and why he's a force to be reckoned with. Alex, on the other hand, is a beyond-worthy successor of her father Ernie, and his brother's legacy. Yes, I'm talking about some of the pioneers of r&b, The Isley Brothers. Her performance throughout the album is nothing short of breathtaking, especially on their Robert Glasper feature and the album’s title track.

After the seductive re-imagination of Sade's classic, the album continues to ebb and flow with a number of r&b-meets-neo-soul treats. I highly recommend swimming through the waters of Left My Heart In Ladera without any distraction, from the first to the very last chord.

Words by Ivo

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Laura Misch - Sample the Sky


Oct 12th / One Little Independent Record

It’s quite rare to hear neo-soul combined with jazz and downtempo, and that’s exactly what we’re welcomed to on Laura Misch’s new album Sample the Sky. 

What makes this body of work different is that Laura has taken a new-found route regarding her creative process. She’s not only embraced the influence of electronic music here, she has also opened up every aspect of the process to her South London creative community. Collaborators range from guest musicians, field recordists, painters, florists, dancers, and tapestry makers. This has resulted in a sonic collage that feels organic yet layered with beautiful synth textures to create one hell of a comforting listening experience.

Find out more in our Laura Misch interview from October this year.

Words by Lu

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James Blake - Playing Robots Into Heaven


Sep 8th / UMG

If you discovered James Blake at the height of his career, then this album might have come as a shock to you. In Playing Robots Into Heaven, Blake brings back the electronic influences that were present during the early phase of his career - albeit with a more raw and experimental flair.

The overall experience carries an eerie and dark ambiance, but it’s sweetened up by Blake's angelic vocal performances. However, on this project, his voice is distorted tastefully and quite frequently to the point where it doesn’t even sound like him at times. “Tell Me” is certainly the stand-out gem with its catchy stuttery synth line and its hard-to-ignore drums that explode in the mix.

Words by Lu

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Wave 6 (Dec 11th)

Sofia Kourtesis - Madres


Oct 27th / Ninja Tune

Sofia was one of the people we selected for our 2022 10 Female Producers Redefining the Future of Electronic Music article and her debut LP Madres is a damn good proof we've nailed our choice.

Bridging her home base of Berlin with her Peruvian origins, the record offers her unique take on dance music, infused with both personal experiences and the energy of the places she explores.

Following several critically acclaimed EPs over the years, Madres feels like getting to know Sofia for the very first time. For me, it felt like finding a confidante when it came to the kind of electronic music I needed at the time. Also, when writing about Madres I must stress that I find it as a true testament to her journey and evolution not only as a producer but as a singer and lyricist.

I think when consuming the record, it’s important to take into consideration the contextual environment that led to its creation. The album is devoted not just to Sofia’s mother but also to the neurosurgeon responsible for a life-saving cancer surgery and her emotive production is her gift back. She has been pretty open about recent life experiences and I believe it is the depth and polar-ness of those emotions the reason why Madres feels so multi-layered.

Words by Ivo

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CRi - Miracles


Sep 22nd / Anjunadeep

I've been keeping tabs on CRi ever since I stumbled on that faithful Moderat remix back in 2016. Since then, the Canadian producer has toured internationally, remixed artists like Bob Moses and Lane8, joined legendary Anjunadeep, and released his critically acclaimed debut album Juvenile in 2019. Impressing and a 100% well-deserved.

In 2023 CRi returned with Miracles - an absolute banger of a record, not only because of opener “I Can Make It”, which features his own vocals, but because of all 11 flawlessly curated compositions that throw the listener into the aerial world of Christophe. Upon immersing oneself in the album, it becomes apparent that CRi has mastered the skill of seamlessly intertwining cozy, dreamlike soundscapes with intricately textured, and beautifully crafted high-energy basslines.

I composed this album during the last three years in all four corners of the globe. The touring lifestyle forced me into a new reality. I had to create anywhere and everywhere; on the train, on a park bench, on the plane, in my hotel room and of course in my studio. The more it progressed, the less I felt the need to control my environment, the more I was attentive to it. Every little miracle that happened around me became a source of inspiration… Nightlife and the gatherings that come with it are a big part of my life (again) and I think you can feel it in my music.”, shares the artist.

Words by Ivo

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Icarus - Change


Oct 27th / Fly Boy Records

Icarus' captivating interpretation of house, breakbeats, and UK Garage music has truly captured my admiration this past year. The British duo is already on the rise, but I predict even great things ahead of them and wanted to highlight the remarkable work they've done with Change this past year.

There's a lot of emotion embodied in the album, whether that's quotes or other sentiments added as details to their electrifying production. "Dominoes" gave me a strong BICEP vibe and was instant love, but don't sleep on tracks like "Draw The Line" and the dance anthem "Forever" either. Inspired by classics like Jon Hopkins and Pendulum, I truly appreciate that Tom and Ian push the boundaries of the genre and you'll pick tons of various sounds throughout Change.

Lu interviewed Icarus for Stereofox back in November of last year, so if you want to know more about the two brothers, head here for more insights.

Words by Ivo

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Overmono - Good Lies


May 12th / XL Recordings

The first time I heard Good Lies in its full, it felt like an instant trip. After a long series of singles releases, lots of people had high expectations for Overmono's debut album and personally, I think the hype was completely warranted.

I think they effortlessly traverse a wide range of styles and manage to maintain thematic consistency throughout, showcasing impressive artistic cohesion. The album, having the stamp of XL Recordings, feels nothing short of intoxicating and you'll find traces of not only UK garage, but indie pop, breakbeats, and edgy 90s rave music. While I really love the album's more upbeat tracks, opener "Feeling Plain" is easily the most repeated track in my library.

The power-up you need in your playlists.

Words by Ivo

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Baltra - Where I End


Feb 3rd / 96 and Forever

While building a strong name in the lofi house scene, in my book Baltra is known for his distinctive blend of breakbeats and UKG. Where I End, which he officially released in February of this year, was one of my gateways into the currently exploding genre. 

The release skillfully blends irresistible party anthems like "Tell Me" with more ethereal downtempo tracks that seem to dwell on the experimental / serene side of things. We had the pleasure of interviewing Baltra on Stereofox where the producer not only delved into the themes connected to this project but also shared insights into the challenges he faced in the past on his journey to where he stands today. Released via his own label 96 and Forever, Where I End feels like a powerful collage of emotions.

Words by Ivo

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Wave 5 (Dec 9th)

ford. - Guiding Hand


Aug 11th / Foreign Family Collective

In addition to his profoundly emotive blend of electronica infused with elements of hip-hop, IDM, and lo-fi house, ford. has gained renown as both a Grammy nominee and the youngest member of ODESZA's Foreign Family Collective. Luc released high highly anticipated 3rd album, Guiding Hand earlier this year and catapulted into new heights when it comes to emotional electronica. 

One of my favorite songs on the album is "In Motion" with A Beacon School. The track exemplifies their powerful artistic synergy, showcasing the seamless blend of Smith's shoegaze-inspired singing paired with ford.'s intricate production. I love the album as a whole, but there's something truly authentic about this composition, I guess it's the feeling of being hypnotized by both music and vocals.

While the album is very atmospheric, if you’re looking for a rather upbeat ride, let "The Pace" and "EVERYTHINGSALRIGHT" guide you (pun intended).

Words by Ivo

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Yaeji - With A Hammer


Apr 7th / XL Recordings

I think I wouldn't be out of line by saying Yaeji's debut album With A Hammer was on many people's excitement list. The Korean-American electronic music producer and DJ gained popularity in the underground electronic music scene at the end of the last decade because of her unique blend of dance music, indie psychedelia and hip-hop influences. I thoroughly enjoy her 2017 Boiler Room New York set to this day.

With A Hammer came out in April via XL Recordings and reception was (from what I've seen) outstanding. As tradition goes, she effortlessly blends Korean and English lyrics and intertwines them with a seamless tapestry, like in the opener "Submerge FM". I've always found this fascinating.

Overall, throughout With A Hammer, she's masterfully playing with genres and it won't take longer than reaching the second track, "For Granted", to figure this out. The song starts very minimalistic and eventually belts into an upbeat alternative dance / drum&bass blend. Tracks like "Michin" do feel like bashing something with a hammer.

Yeaji is weird and I love this. A total grand slam of a debut.

Words by Ivo

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Pretty Girl - One Night, One Time


Apr 14th / LG105

In 2022 I discovered an artist that would end up becoming my favorite for that year, and that’s Pretty Girl. Since then, it’s been such a pleasure to watch her music reach new heights and her career blossom. 
One Night, One Time was her debut offering and it certainly did not disappoint.

We’re acquainted with the classic style of Pretty Girl albeit with more vocals, and more tracks that seem to be focused around live performances. The best way to describe her sound is “music to cry on the dance floor to” - it’s ravey, and upbeat, but also fleshed out by emotive moments such as her vocals and lush soundscapes. In 2022 we actually covered her in our 10 Female Producers Redefining the Future of Electronic Music article, and it seems like she's fulfilling that prophecy.

Words by Lu

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Alexander Flood - Oscillate


May 12th / Jakarta Records

Alexander Flood is an up-and-coming Australian drummer and multi-instrumentalist, whose record Oscillate takes you on a profound journey into the realms of contemporary and alt-jazz music. In 2023, this young artist solidified his position as one of the rising stars in contemporary music.

Intrigued by his distinctive style and skill, I found myself delving deep into the intricacies of the release over and over again. The result of 17 years dedicated to performance, study, and exploration, this 6-track EP breathes new life into the contemporary jazz scene. It seamlessly weaves in and out of classic jazz elements, showcasing powerful dynamics and funk grooves that are sure to evoke a visceral response.

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Relyae - Flow State


Oct 20th / PLYGRND

While we didn't get a new Steve Lacy or Toro y Moi release this year, we've got the next best thing! Relyae is someone we've had our eyes on since 2021 and it's time to pay respect to everything he does, and yes - this guy does it all.

In 2023 Shearaton continued to impress the whole team with his versatile and never-ending talents. The Brookyln-based multitalent delivered a collection of butter-smooth tunes that touch themes like self-discovery, resilience, and balance. 

Beyond showcasing impeccable guitar and bass skills, his vocal showmanship on his 2023 EP Flow State is truly admirable. Released via PLYGRND, the self-produced 5-track EP is the kind of stuff you need to put your friends on. A gorgeous collection of r&b and funk blends.

Words by Ivo

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Wave 4 (Dec 8th)

Yazmin Lacey - Voice Notes


Mar 3rd / Own Your Own Records

It's so cool to see so many debut records making it on our top 50 list this year! A lot of time has passed since we first featured Yazmin Lacey back in 2018, and it has been great following her evolution as an artist ever since her Black Moon EP came out in 2017.

Yazmin's Voice Notes is a fluid blend of jazz, soul, psychedelia, and electronica, with a splash of reggae. Yes, that's a reference to my favorite track on the record - the breezy confession "To A Lover". Production-wise, the album feels very minimal, which I like, as it gives a pathway to Yazmin's soothing and inviting vocals. Nothing over-the-top, just sensual music and her singing. The title Voice Notes perfectly encapsulates this record, described as a "sound collage" by the artist. It resonates like a personal note we leave to ourselves along the journey of life.

words by Ivo

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Sampha - Lahai


Oct 20th / Young

I would love to know whether or not Sampha thought about the Sophomore Slump when creating his masterpiece Lahai. Delivering a new record after winning the prestigious Mercury Prize with your debut must be a challenge to anyone. 

"My grandfather’s name, my middle name, my next musical chapter, my next album." Based on that statement alone, I think it's safe to assume that Sampha didn't think to play safe and re-create the recipe of success of Process. Something evident, as soon as you dive into the 41-minute long blend of genres Lahai. Tracks like "Spirit 2.0", "Only" and opener "Stereo Colour Cloud (Shaman's Dream)" add a certain vivid flair to and showcase his versatility and growth as an artist. 

While I probably won't be crying as much as I did when listening to Process (yes... "(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano", I am looking at you), I certainly fell in love with slow-burners like "Rose Tint" and its 8bit-ish elements. 

After listening to Lahai I could safely bet on Sampha becoming one of our generation's most impactful and long-lasting artists.

words by Ivo

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Meshell Ndegeocello - The Omnichord Real Book


Jun 16th / Blue Note

Meshell Ndegeocello's biography is nothing short of impressive and a dedicated feature won't be enough to go over everything she's done in her lifetime. She is a groundbreaking US singer-songwriter and bassist renowned for her genre-defying blend of r&b, funk, soul, jazz, and rock. With a career spanning decades, she has worked with a long list of impressive artists including Robert Glasper, H.E.R., Ibeyi, and Victor Wooton, to name a few. 

Besides all of the collaborations, the Grammy-nominated artist has released 13 full-length albums, each showcasing her distinctive voice and thought-provoking lyrics. 2023 saw the release of The Omnichord Real Book and her Blue Note Records debut. My introduction to the record was "Good Good", a track featuring singer Jade Hicks and saxophonist Josh Johnson. I don't know why, but it gave me a very Bon Iver - 22, A Million vibe.

She recorded The Omnichord Real Book during COVID while simultaneously recording scores for 3 different TV shows. I guess, constrained by the requirements, The Omnichord Real Book was her creative escape toward freedom. In solitary reflection with her thoughts and a skilled Omnichord at hand, she would write unburdened by expectations, allowing herself the freedom to discover things she hadn't intentionally sought. Something one would quickly pick up after listening to the record in full.

Some of my personal album's highlights, besides "Good Good", are tracks like "Vuma" and "ASR" and their funky groove. In a nutshell, I find the album a beautiful addition to the Ndegeocello legacy.

words by Ivo

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Mr. Käfer & Phlocalyst - Now / Again II


Mar 31st / Melting Pot Music

While we're well-aware of the single's nature of the beat scene these days, it's refreshing to experience a carefully curated LP in the jazzhop scene, and the work of Mr. Käfer and Phlocalyst is certainly that, and beyond.

The first Now / Again came out in 2021, but this second edition feels a lot groovier and colorful (not only because of the artwork). The two German beatsmiths create a beautiful aerial dome on the top of the jazz foundations they build thanks to Phlocalyst’s impressive trumpet skills and Mr. Käfer perfectly tight drums. The album is seamless and cohesive and that’s what I truly miss in recent years when it comes to instrumental beat music. A real afternoon weekend delight!

words by Ivo

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Daniel Caesar - NEVER ENOUGH


Apr 7th / Hollace Inc. under exclusive license to Republic Records

After a four-year hiatus, Daniel Caesar captivated listeners with a sound that blends indie and neo-soul in a manner that’s deep yet easily digestible on his project NEVER ENOUGH.

Daniel’s songwriting revolves around romance - specifically, the ups and downs that come with your heart belonging to another. This is expressed vulnerably and courageously too since Daniel’s flaws in the arena of love are put on display for us to hear. For many it’s his charming and ethereal vocal performances that pull them toward NEVER ENOUGH, for me it’s certainly the production. The project immerses you into an airy world colored by a range of organic instrumentation that complements Daniel’s harmonies and lyrical motifs. Whether it's the production or the songwriting that gets you, this record definitely can’t escape a mention. 

words by Lu

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Wave 3 (Dec 6th)

Yussef Dayes - Black Classical Music


Sep 8th / Brownswood Recordings

Yussef Dayes is one of the prime examples of the thriving UK jazz scene, including Alfa Mist, Kokoroko, Ezra Collective, and Matt Wilde, to name a few.

I can't count the number of times I've watched the Yussef Dayes Experience live at Joshua Tree, but we're here to talk about his highly anticipated debut solo album - Black Classical Music. The album also features one of my favorites - "Raisins Under The Sun" from that desert session.

To write a short blurb on this multi-faced record has been one of the most challenging things on this end-of-year list. While being his debut, Yussef has made a seriously profound impression on fans long before saw daylight. His collaboration alongside keyboardist Kamaal Williams, Black Focus, was one of the most talked about jazz releases in 2015. Since then, he has released a jazzy neo-soul record with Tom Misch, What Kinda Music, and worked with artists from the ranks of Kehlani and Kali Uchis.

"My debut album and an art piece that has been in the works since the beginning. Feelings of love, healing, grief, inspiration, more life, unity, groove, spirit and travels. This album is the embodiment of my life to this point. For everyone that has supported my art or is discovering my music now, I am grateful to be able to share this with you.", shares Yussef.

It's clear as day and night that Yussef takes a lot of pride in Black Classical Music and has carefully chosen every little detail in this 74-minute-long debut. The album is a beautiful homage to a number of genres and influences in his life including, but certainly not limited to jazz, soul, reggae, r&b, and Afro-Cuban jazz. Put shortly, I find the whole album an absolute work of genius.

words by Ivo

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CARRTOONS - Saturday Night


Oct 6th / Wichita Recordings

New York-based multi-instrumentalist Ben Carr AKA CARRTOONS is often seen with bass in his hands. I have the feeling he's one of the hardest working people not only in the soul and jazz scene but in music in general. You will frequently see him collaborating with many talented artists including names like MXXWLL, Mac Ayres, The Kount, Kaelin Ellis, and Reuben James, who's also featured on Saturday Night. Honestly, the list goes on and on.

Carr honed his love for jazz while studying at SUNY Purchase Conservatory, influenced by Thundercat and Madlib. Traces of that and much more can be picked in his 2023 record Saturday Morning, which is a natural build-up to one of his previous albums titled... yes, Saturday Morning (2020).

Packed with incredible features like Bad Snacks, Jay Prince, and Rae Khalil, the album is a wonderful journey into the creative mind of CARRTOONS. On it, Carr maintains his signature blend of jazz, r&b, and soul, infusing it with a nostalgic retro vibe that makes a superb weekend space-out soundtrack. My personal favorite must be "Another Time" featuring Jak Lizard's unique voice.

words by Ivo

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Killer Mike - MICHAEL


Jun 16th / VLNS and Loma Vista Recordings

Another hard-hitter on our list. Released on June 16th, MICHAEL is Killer Mike's 6th studio album to this day, and a damn good reason to stop and pay attention.

"DAWN BY LAW" and "SHED TEARS" are prime examples of fireworks when it comes to production. When I first heard it, I was instantly hooked and knew I would consume the record in one go. There's a lot of gospel, blues, and soul in both while being rather distinct from each other, with "DAWN BY LAW" and those 808s heavily designed to suck you into the world of Michael from the get-go. A beautiful showcase of his southern roots.

The 14 tracks on the album display a diverse and varied range, ensuring it never becomes monotonous. Given all the material he has written with Run The Jewels and the fact that MICHAEL is his sixth studio album, I think it's impressive how lyrically charged and compelling Killer Mike remains. The album features a rare guest appearance from Outkast's Andre 3000, which is always a great bonus!

words by Ivo

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Matt Wilde - Hello World


Jul 14th / Band On The Wall Recordings

Jazz is certainly on a rise in the UK in the past few years and keyboardist & producer Matt Wilde is a proof the genre lives on and evolves. Its intersection with beats music is a close second to my absolute favorite - jazz + hip hop, taking the “background genre” chillhop, to an absolute next level.

The debut album Hello World of the Manchester artist showcases his amazing piano compositions, as well as finely crafted beatwork which takes the best off both the instrumental hip hop & jazz worlds. 11 jazzhop songs that carry a nostalgic vibe & feel like a journey back in time, yet oddly present, too.

Matt is certainly an artist to watch in 2024.

words by Nasko

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Tapioca - Samba em Kigali


May 19th / Jakarta Records

Drenched in a distant, exotic groove, Tapioca mesmerized us with a remarkable album in the spring of 2023. The duo, hailing from Brussels and Kigali, comprises the lyrical prowess of rapper Le Tagarel and the compositional genius of producer SiKa.

Featuring 10 tracks, the album serves as an immediate feel-good journey to the Brazilian shores, adorned with crisp guitar chords, funky basslines, and vocals that echo like a call from a dear friend. Drawing inspiration from the realms of rap, jazz, MPB, and '70s/'80s funk, the duo's sound is undoubtedly shaped by classical Brazilian maestros such as Marcos Valle, Simonal, and Emilio Santiago, as well as contemporary visionaries like Anderson Paak., Mndsgn, and D'Angelo. Amidst the sonic cacophony, Tapioca's music stands out distinctly.

Samba em Kigali seamlessly continues the narrative from their debut LP, Voyage, serving as a tribute to travel and, more expansively, to the innate beauty of the African continent. The album is immersed in a sonic and visual aesthetic, exuding an overwhelming sense of pure joy!

words by Ivo

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Wave 2 (Dec 5th)

Barry Can’t Swim - When Will We Land?

Oct 20th / Ninja Tune

It's hard not to love Barry Can't Swim's masterpiece When Will We Land? with an opener like that. Hands down my favorite kick sound in 2023. This debut album has been "in the works" for a while with tracks like "Sonder" being released in 2022. Needless to say - many of us had high expectations and Joshua delivered. 

Speaking of "Sonder", one of the album's most popular tracks, the record feels like a trip around the world (don't sleep on "Sunsleeper", pun intended). The light and breezy vibe with subtle percussion allows the mystical vocals to shine, building up to a dancefloor anthem later on.

I appreciate that he didn't create just an emotional dance album and explored soulful and even disco elements with compositions like "Always Gets Through You" and "Woman", which features Låpsley’s chopped vocals. In my book, he's already up there with other fellow Ninja Tune label mates who are picking up the electronic torch like Maribou State, BICEP, and TSHA.

words by Ivo

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GiddyGang & Vuyo - Art Over Profit


Sep 20th / self-released

GiddyGang is a Norwegian 6-piece soul/funk band inspired by the legacy of the Soulquarians. Needless to say, insanely talented. They frequently collaborate with the Zimbabwe-born, Norway-based hip hop artist Vuyo and I couldn't think of a better match.

They entered 2023 with the bold statement of redefining the sound of modern neo-soul, jazz, and funk music and they delivered on that promise. Art Over Profit came out in September and it features collaborations with legendary DJ Jazzy Jeff, DJ Charli, and the skillful rapper Ivan Ave.

The 6-track EP is epic, unapologetic, and drenched in tight beats, lush soulful vocals, and bars to pay attention to.

words by Ivo

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Noname - Sundial


Aug 11th / self-released

A few weeks ago Noname returned with a second Tiny Desk performance, and it totally blew my mind. It is not very often that NPR invites artists to perform again, so you can imagine there was a damn good reason for that. On that new staggering live the Chicago rapper delivered groundbreaking verses from her third album, Sundial, and unveiled an unreleased single from the hip-hop trio Ghetto Sage, a collaboration featuring herself along with frequent creative partners Smino and Saba.

Sundial came in the summer of 2023 and immediately won my ears, notably because 2 of the albums' really strong tracks (for me, that is) - the very different from each other “namesake” and “beauty supply”. 5 years in the making, the follow-up to her critically acclaimed Room 25 delivers not only an outstanding performance but shows a look into what feels like a groovier direction on her side. Teaming up with artists like Common and Ayoni says enough.

words by Ivo

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Godblesscomputers - Faded Views


Sep 8th / 823 Records

Ta-Ku's 823 imprint is certainly becoming home to some of my favorite releases and I wouldn't be able to compile my 2023 suggestions without at least a few of the works he and his team put out this year.

Godblesscomputers is the creative outlet of Bologna-based Lorenzo Nada. In Faded Views, his sixth studio album since 2011, the Italian DJ/producer explores various genres united by the feeling of hazy groove. Each of the songs carries an emotion, perfectly associated with the end of summer - the moments when we hold onto the last moments of sunshine energy before the Fall kicks in.

If you're looking to shake off that feeling of cold with some lo-fi house ("You Feel Me" and "Burnt") or want to travel the world thanks to the exotic guitar grooves of "Farfalle", you'll find something to fall in love with. My highlight is "Changing" because of its mellow, yet groovy vibe. Ready to venture into a realm of discovered, repurposed, and synthesized sounds?

words by Ivo

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slowthai - UGLY


Mar 3rd / Method Records

slowthai is one of those artists who keep their audience guessing what he’ll do next. His previous body of work Tyron had a somewhat commercial edge to it along with a star-studded guestlist that included names like A$AP Rocky, Skepta, James Blake, and even Dominic Fike.

UGLY however is a complete departure from that approach. The UK-based artist buries his soul on punk-influenced instrumentals in a manner that challenges listeners. It’s clear that for slowthai, the creation of UGLY had been a cathartic process - we’re welcome to a waterfall of raw emotions and a side of his we’ve never heard before.

words by Lu

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Wave 1 (Dec 4th)

Butcher Brown - Solar Music

Oct 6th / Concord Jazz

Butcher Brown's Solar Music is hands down my personal favorite when it comes to jazzy, soulful music in 2023. It is also the band’s most well-rounded and multi-dimension work so far.

Released in October, Solar Music is a magic sound potion that blends equal parts psychedelia jazz, funk, hip-hop, dance music, neo-soul, and their creative intersections. The 17 tracks are a prime example of the creative force of the Virginia-based quintet and a wonderful selection of collaborators.

What I appreciate a lot about the record is the rhythmic execution that’s both impeccably tight and relaxed. The flow designed by Butcher Brown is really special in that it manages to be both familiar and groundbreaking at the same time. Each track is a wave of its own and once you start riding the record, there's no chance you'll hit that pause button.

The album absolutely floored me with how insanely good it was.

words by Ivo

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Medasin - Always In a Hurry


Apr 28th / Self-release

The re-emergence and evolution of Medasin was one of the most surprising (and positive) things for me in 2023. When Lu told me he was interviewing him for a new record that's about to come out, I'll be honest - had no idea what to expect. Previously, he has collaborated with Masego on an album which is can be described as jazztronic infused with hip-hop. Over the years, he has also crafted a myriad of "wacky undefinable" instrumentals, ranging from hard-hitting trap to straightforward ambient drumless soundscapes. So yeah, I had no bets on what's next.

I'm adding Always In A Hurry not only with great pleasure but with complete and utter respect for the sound direction taken by Grant. The work reflects him sprinting forward into creativity in a way he had never done before.

Medasin shares, "...with Always In a Hurry I just had way more time and bandwidth available to me to just simply explore as much creative territory as possible." The album's title track and opener, which has a Laxcity involvement, is an instant statement of what the listener is about to experience. Experimentation and free-floating. The follow-up "Star Song" and its ambiance beautifully fits the chaos of "Always In a Hurry", so at this point I feel I cannot experience the 2 tracks separately at this point.

The whole record is a cosmic and highly vibrant eclectic fusion of jazzy IDM and chaotic, bustling future garage beats. In case you care, my personal highlights are "Open Up" and "Elevator Music".

words by Ivo

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Amaria - All For You


Apr 28th / Amaria in partnership w/ Fashionably Early Rec

Certainly one of the most captivating emerging talents in the contemporary R&B scene, Amaria created ripples in 2023. Her musical approach effortlessly blends with the prevailing lo-fi alternative sound, while also incorporating elements reminiscent of classic neo-soul. Influenced by iconic figures like Erykah Badu, Sade, and Frank Ocean, her 7-track release, All For You, is undeniably mesmerizing.

The release includes the standout title track "All For You," featuring the skilled crooner DESTIN CONRAD, who made our list of 20 Emerging R&B Artists You Need to Watch in 2023, along with the powerful composition "Get Away."

words by Ivo

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edapollo - Technicolour Places


Jul 14th / Foreign Family Collective

 2023 was a fruitful year for UK electronic producer edapollo. He made his Foreign Family Collective (ODESZA's imprint) debut by releasing his third full-length album Technicolour Places. Ed is also taking the album on tour across Europe and the US in 2024! Very happy about everything happening for him, he's one of the hardest-working and most consistent people in the emotional electronic space. For a long time he also did everything by himself, so having the strong team of FFC behind him should take him to new horizons!

The album takes listeners on a 10-track sonic journey, seamlessly navigating diverse genres and rich soundscapes. While meticulously crafted with a specific vision (knowing Ed), this album signifies a departure for him, venturing into a more dance-like direction. A compelling illustration of this shift is found in the album's single, "Only You." All in all, just like Endless Cascades (2019) and Blue Spring (2021), this record is a real treat to any electronic fan out there.

words by Ivo

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Elaquent - Rediscovery


Nov 3rd / Mello Music Group

I've been following Elaquent since his 2016 Worst Case Scenario. With a truly vigorous presence in the boom-bap scene for 15 years, Sona is consistently leading the way in instrumental hip-hop.

While the works of the Canadian producer are abundant, to say the least, I truly believe Rediscovery deserves a special place in his discography as it's one of his best works so far. He not only excelled in curating a diverse range of collaborators but also presented them with the perfect beat stage, allowing each of them to truly shine. I guess that's why the 14-track record offers a number of different rap vibes and I'm confident everyone will find a track that hits close to their heart. That's why it's extremely hard to choose a few highlights.

True to expectations, Elaquent's production on Rediscovery is flawless, showcasing sultry keys, funky synth bass, jazzy improvisations, and intricate drum grooves.

words by Ivo

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