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Yr Welcome's top 20 vinyl of 2023

Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan Stevens

There were so many great albums released this year that I couldn’t limit this list to only ten. Here are my picks for the 20 best vinyl of 2023.

20. Sampha – LAHAI

The long awaited sophomore album from Sampha dropped near the end of October and I’m still wrapping my head around his new sonic developments. I suspect this record will continue getting spins well into next year. It’s hard to resist the sound of Sampha’s incredible voice.

19. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – V

UMO’s ambitious fifth album contains a variety of catchy songs sandwiched between adventurous instrumental tracks.

18. The Armed – Perfect Saviors

The Armed dial back the aural onslaught they perfected on 2021’s ULTRAPOP to bring a more traditionally balanced rock record. Not many other bands bring the cacophony like The Armed, but it’s the quieter moments on the album that help this record shine.

17. Travis Scott – UTOPIA

From music videos in a movie theater to a concert in Rome that registered on the Richter scale, Travis Scott’s long awaited follow-up to ASTROWORLD was near impossible to avoid this year.

16. Yo La Tengo – This Stupid World

It’s impressive that after nearly 40 years, this band can still release new music that sounds so vital.

15. Fever Ray – Radical Romantics

The solo project of The Knife’s Karin Dreijer returned with songs co-produced by her brother and other bandmate in The Knife Olof for a collection of songs that recalls their band’s high water mark (2006’s Silent Shout). Plus, there’s a song co-produced with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross about hunting down the bully of Karin’s child. What’s not to love?

14. M83 – Fantasy

A few soundtracks, an instrumental album and 2017’s Junk haven’t exactly lived up to the M83 that gave us “Midnight City” in 2012. But after eleven years, M83 returns to what he does best, with a widescreen sound that makes you feel like you’re watching an epic movie from the 80s.

13. Mitski – The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We

There was a brief possibility there was never going to be another Mitski record after 2022’s Laurel Hell. But a mere year later, Mitski returns with a more organic and natural sounding record that highlights her impeccable songwriting.

12. Animal Collective – Isn’t It Now?

I’d written off Animal Collective a long time ago, thinking they’d never reach the heights of their incredible run of albums in the 2000s. Last year’s Time Skiffs caught my attention that they still had the ability to amaze. But this year’s Isn’t It Now? really recalls the band’s original mastery of psychedelia. In short, Animal Collective finally made a 20-minute song.

11. Tim Hecker – No Highs

Tim Hecker has been quietly experimenting with noisy electronics and pianos across the world for decades now. No Highs finds him stretching out and tackling crippling emotions in an attempt to find solace. He still remains one of the best at crafting meditative instrumental music.

10. Lost Under Heaven – Something is announced by your life!

Lost Under Heaven tried very hard to beat the streaming music system and put “independent” back into indie rock this year. Bandmates Ellery Roberts and Ebony Hoorn released each song individually throughout the year, and the full length was only available through their Bandcamp from the beginning of June until just a few days ago when the entire record finally hit streaming. So now might be the first time you’ve even had a chance to listen to this glorious new collection of songs. They still know how to make life-affirming music of the highest order.

9. Mad Honey – Satellite Aphrodite

Mad Honey took me by surprise in 2022 on the main stage at Norman Music Festival, but it did not prepare me for their fully formed debut album released in September. I could instantly tell they did their homework in how to sequence a dynamic album experience from the 1-2 opening album punch that recalls the lift-off achieved on My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. Yes, it’s good enough to be compared to the shoegaze Rosetta Stone.

8. The Drums – Jonny

The Drums has been the solo endeavor of Jonny Pierce since 2017’s Abysmal Thoughts. This is The Drums' sixth album, but it’s the first time Jonny has perfectly bridged the catchy sounds of the original Drums albums with his vulnerable lyricism of his newest records.

7. Romy – Mid Air

Romy of the xx made a collection of dance floor bangers for her debut solo album. I wrongly assumed her xx bandmate Jamie xx would be her partner in crime for this record, but it was rising star Fred again.. that helped make this seamless collection of heartbroken dance songs.

6. James Blake – Playing Robots Into Heaven

One of my issues with James Blake’s 2011 debut album was that it didn’t feel like the natural progression from his early run of EPs he released in 2010. Thirteen years later, James Blake has finally made that record. One of the more brilliant return to form albums I’ve heard from an artist so deep in their career.

5. White Reaper – Asking For A Ride

On their fourth album, White Reaper get even closer to crafting their masterpiece. I’m still waiting for the rest of the world to catch on and make these gentlemen stadium rock lords. If one of your favorite parts of 2023 was the blink-182 reunion, then do I have a song for you.

4. Lana Del Rey – Did you know there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd

I’m pretty sure “A&W” is my favorite song of the year because the back half essentially flips into a Nine Inch Nails beat. But hearing my previous favorite Lana song “Venice Bitch” get remixed at the very end of this album was an easy highlight of the year.

3. Yves Tumor – Praise A Lord That Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds)

Yves Tumor is the full package. Cinematic music videos, ideal rock star fashion, incendiary live show and a new album with no skippable songs. Getting Yves Tumor to perform live in Oklahoma should be a top state priority.

2. Mandy, Indiana – i’ve seen a way

My biggest musical revelation of the year was discovering Mandy, Indiana’s debut album. Drums literally recorded in a cave and all lyrics sung in French may not sound like a winning combination, but that’s the point. You’ve never heard anything quite like this album.

1. Sufjan Stevens – Javelin

Sure, Sufjan has made more ambitious records. He’s even made quieter albums about familial death that will break your heart. On Javelin, I feel for the first time he perfected the balance between his best musical tendencies. It’s essentially formulaic how every song here starts quiet, then builds into a choral climax. But I love this formula because it feels like the best of both worlds. Every song feels like you’re getting everything Sufjan has to offer. What more can you ask for from a musician? How about a Neil Young cover to close it all down? A perfect record from arguably the most talented musician of the 21st century.

Listen to Yr Welcome, every Friday night at 9 p.m. on The Spy on KOSU.

Beau Brady hosts the all vinyl radio show Yr Welcome every Friday at 9 p.m.
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