The top 10 albums of 2023.

As the year 2023 is almost over, we can say that this was a good year for music. A lot of music dropped and we selected our top 10 albums of all genres.

At Platenspelr Records, we pride ourselves on curating a collection that transcends the ordinary, embracing the diverse and the extraordinary. Our passion for music knows no bounds, so we listened to most of the music released in 2023.

This year’s selection is a testament to the art of musical expression, featuring artists who have dared to push boundaries, challenge themselves, and craft albums that are better, bigger and more than what they used to be before. Whether you’re a vinyl fan, a digital explorer, or a casual listener seeking the next masterpiece, our Top 10 Albums of 2023 promises to be suprising.

10. Mickey Diamond – Smoke Face

Mickey Diamond, a rising star in the Hip-Hop genre. The Detroit rapper has been on a run since 2021. What sets Mickey Diamond apart in the rap scene? Well, beyond his ominous flow, deliberate delivery, and resonant deep voice, it’s the fact that each of the three albums he’s dropped this year has a distinct sound, yet not so different that he risks alienating his core audience. While one album may delve into references to American wrestling, another immerses the listener in the sewers of Manhattan, the very battleground of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Each of his albums comes with its own unique concept—a framework, sometimes highly specific and at other times expansively broad, within which Mickey Diamond allows his creativity to flourish. This brings a certain tension to his work.

Take, for example, the cover of “Oroku Saki” released earlier this year, paying homage to MF DOOM’s “Mm.. Food?!” artwork, while also signaling that Diamond steps into the shoes of Shredder to tell his story. With his ability to deliver compelling punches within his languid flow, Mickey Diamond secured a spot on my list of favorite rappers. So, you can imagine my excitement when he announced an album collaboration with Big Ghost LTD. The perpetually anonymous producer boasts an impressive track record in elevating underground spitters. Admittedly, much of his work in 2021 and 2022 didn’t quite catch the spotlight, but on “Gucci Ghost,” Diamond and Ghost proved to be a match made in heaven. Menacing, cold, and filled with fantastically bizarre loops—a 33-minute one-two punch. And just a few weeks later, we were treated to a second installment.

But this album is again different from his past work. He collaborated with the Dutch producer Oh Jay! and created a masterpiece. His grimey flow and deep voice fit perfectly over the beats from Oh Jay. We love the cover with Mickey Diamond holding a gun and his gold chains. The project has various types of songs, for example: in the song ‘Hot Pusuit’ is a super hard hitting beat with Mickey telling a story about when he was ditching the cops in a getaway car, and in the song ‘Super Bowl Rings’ he is spitting bars over a relaxed beat with a nice violin sample. The project is well executed and deserves its flowers, go check him out if you haven’t.

9. MIKE – Burning Desire

The album “Burning Desire” marks a significant milestone in the career of New York rapper MIKE, who gained recognition with his breakthrough project “May God Bless Your Hustle” in 2017. Since then, MIKE has consistently expanded and enhanced his catalog, solidifying his position as a key figure in New York Hip Hop’s underground scene. At 25 years old, he seems acutely aware of his role in the community and gives the fans a new piece of art.

“Burning Desire” showcases MIKE’s evolution as a beatmaker, with each song serving as a meticulously crafted blend of manipulated vocal samples, robust loops, and impactful drum patterns. MIKE’s adept rapping reaches new heights in the pockets of air he skillfully navigates within these beats. MIKE also has an alter-ego: dj blackpower. MIKE is releasing only beats under this name. Notable examples include “Zap!,” where he maneuvers between brass stabs, and “African Sex Freak Fantasy,” where his lyrics bounce off walls of distorted bass.

A noteworthy departure in MIKE’s production style is seen in the track “U think Maybe?” featuring Liv.e and Venna, incorporating live instrumentation for the first time in his discography. The collaboration results in a poignant harmony as London saxophonist and Liv.e contribute their talents. This is amazing.

Lets talk about the cover art. A beautiful painting by D.A. Jasper showing 3 totally different persons. The African man holding a knife over the man under him but this man also seems scared of the person who looks like some kind of werewolf. We love the cover ar, well chosen and well painted.

MIKE’s approach to his career is aimed at maximizing opportunities while maintaining a small-scale operation. “Burning Desire” stands out as a remarkable effort, offering over 50 minutes of consistently high-quality music. MIKE’s minimalistic approach, characterized by rarely including second verses and crafting impactful lyrics in just 16 bars, distinguishes him as an artist. Whether reflecting on life and the world or delving into intimate contemplations on loss and self-doubt, MIKE’s lyrical depth remains a defining and endearing aspect of his work. He is a great musician with a lot of talent as shown in this album.

8. Earl Sweatshirt & The Alchemist – Voir Dire

Earl Sweatshirt, a rapper with a slow flow and characterized by rusted, wavy, rap songs with a lot of lyrical content. The collaboration between Earl and the Alchemist, an old-school crate digger who has been collaborating with a lot of artists lately, was already out for a long time. Since 2019, Alchemist has been hinting at an album with Earl, claiming it exists on YouTube under a disguised name, waiting to be discovered.

The recently unveiled VOIR DIRE, whether related to the teased project, remains uncertain. It emerged via the unconventional platform of the streaming website Gala Music, complete with NFT purchase options and animated artwork for each track. Consequently, each song feels distinct, self-contained, and free from overarching themes. Alchemist’s signature precision is evident in his uniformly excellent, well-crafted beats, and the album maintains a concise 27-minute runtime and this is just enough for Earl to do his thing.

In recent times, Alchemist has shifted from concrete street-rap arrangements to fully embrace his eclectic ear for source material. On VOIR DIRE, samples are skillfully transformed into dreamy ear candy. Earl’s flow, like a whirlpool descending into a sinkhole, offers a compelling counterpoint to Alchemist’s sharp, repetitive beats.

The rhyme schemes on VOIR DIRE are delicate, presenting the album as a reflection on Earl’s past experiences. While still addressing themes of depression, substance abuse, artistry, loneliness, family, and death, the album appears to revisit the journey from darkness to redemption. Contrasting with the abysses of Some Rap Songs, VOIR DIRE feels like a potent and profound retrospective pondering on Earl’s life. True to its title, the album aims to convey the naked truth, showcasing a mature and clear perspective. The title is French and means: “Speak The Truth”. Unlike the dire grief and emotional harshness of Some Rap Songs, Voir Dire exudes a more hopeful mindset, openly revealing Earl’s improved mental health and maturity. While other releases may be artistically distinct, VOIR DIRE stands as an impressive and solid collection of tracks that is why it is on the 8th spot on this list.

7. Daniel Caesar – NEVER ENOUGH

Daniel Caesar, a Canadian R&B singer-songwriter released: “NEVER ENOUGH” this year. We are taking a deep dive into this album. NEVER ENOUGH stands out as Daniel Caesar’s most brutally personal project to date. Released on April 7, this marks Caesar’s third studio album, offering a melancholic journey into the Grammy award-winning artist’s psyche. The album explores themes such as death, romance, fame, and maturity. Notably, the production of “NEVER ENOUGH” is exceptional, emphasizing the intimacy and introspection of the entire project.

Tracks like “Toronto 2014 (with Mustafa),” “Cool,” and “Buyer’s Remorse (feat. Omar Apollo)” feature restrained instrumentations that provide space for Caesar’s vocals to navigate complex topics like regret, nostalgia, and longing. The beautiful chords of “Pain Is Inevitable” and “Vince Van Gogh” embrace the listener’s ears as Caesar’s distorted voice delves into existential anxieties, such as losing innocence and the desperate desire to be remembered.

At its core, “NEVER ENOUGH” is an album about new beginnings, a theme reflected in the context of its development. The pandemic in 2020 allowed Caesar to take on the role of a producer for the first time, adding an extra layer of intimacy to the project. In an interview with Variety, Caesar discussed how producing influenced his music-making process, stating, “I would [record instruments] first because that came easiest, and I didn’t have to think so much. Then, I had to think really deeply about the lyrics.” Although Caesar acknowledges being an amateur in production, he expressed that the timing was right, saying, “I’d been itching to [produce], and it was just the right time. I’m still stepping into it.” This is something that gives an artist the space for developing and getter better in making music.

While the album may not be groundbreaking sonically or lyrically, Caesar skillfully utilizes his talents to create a work that is delicately familiar yet captivatingly refreshing. Indeed, his latest album is a triumph, leaving listeners eager for the future of his music. In this season of new life, “NEVER ENOUGH” feels like a refreshing breeze, not only for the contemporary R&B scene but for today’s musical landscape as a whole.

6. Slowthai – UGLY

We’re not quite sure what it is, but we always find ourselves captivated by artists who clearly have a tortured soul. Maybe it’s because these people often create the most compelling music. Take slowthai, for example. Over the years, the artist from the UK has established himself as the person who fits in this picture, partly due to his grim lyrics and controversial actions, such as performing with the severed head of a Boris Johnson puppet during a prestigious award show. This has garnered him a fair share of haters, but also a substantial fan base, to which we undoubtedly belong.

With his formidable debut “Nothing Great About Britain” in 2019 and the more introspective follow-up “TYRON” two years later, slowthai has rightfully earned a place in our hearts. The question remained whether he would continue this trajectory with his highly anticipated third album, and today, with the arrival of “UGLY,” we finally have an answer.

Let’s not beat around the bush: “UGLY” (which stands for ‘u gotta love yourself’) is easily slowthai’s best album to date, boasting strong production and undoubtedly one of the best full-length releases of the year. Like “TYRON,” “UGLY” is an introspective album, but slowthai delves even deeper into his psyche than before. Slowthai is more honest and vulnerable than ever, unafraid to explore his darkest thoughts and feelings. Life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, it can be incredibly depressing, frustrating, and, above all, damn ugly, and slowthai doesn’t shy away from expressing this on “UGLY.” His feelings are often quite contradictory, evident from the opening track, “Yum.” The song begins with motivating words like ‘You are great / You are good / You are a king / You are a queen / You’re a genius,’ but soon darkness creeps in. Against a hard, disorienting electronic beat, he acknowledges that, despite therapy, he still exhibits self-destructive behavior. He’s a reckless alcoholic, constantly yearning for rough sex, and too often turning to drugs. It comes to an abrupt end with a raw scream from slowthai, underscoring his despair and frustration.

On “UGLY,” slowthai doesn’t hide the fact that he’s not doing so well. On the only true hip-hop track of the album, “Fuck It Puppet,” he confesses to dreaming about his death and contemplating suicide. He expands on this on the beautiful track “Falling.” Against a backdrop of guitars. Slowthai reveals that he constantly feels like he’s losing his connection to reality. He believes it’s sinking deeper and drifting further away from everything that means something to him.

This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t want to get better. On the fantastic track “HAPPY,” he repeatedly declares, ‘I would give everything for a smile.’ He wants to, but doesn’t know how.

“UGLY” is ugliness at its most beautiful. It offers an incredibly vulnerable look into slowthai’s darkest, most profound feelings and thoughts. It’s also a painfully honest, confronting portrayal of life with depression. Those who are fortunate enough not to experience this may not fully recognize themselves in “UGLY,” but those grappling with similar feelings will undoubtedly find solace, recognition, and understanding in England’s enfant terrible’s third album. He succeeds in combining rock, hip-hop, electronic, and punk into a distinctive yet highly palatable cocktail, without compromising the rawness of his emotions. “UGLY” doesn’t bore for a moment; instead, it completely captivates us throughout its twelve tracks. This album deserves this spot on the list and it is well earned.

5. Armand Hammer – We Buy Diabetic Test Strips

We Buy Diabetic Test Strips, the latest album marks the return of Armand Hammer, a collaborative musical duo consisting of billy woods and E L U C I D, both renowned rap artists celebrated for their exceptional uniqueness and standout quality. Armand Hammer’s music is deliberately indecipherable and marked by abstraction. On “We Buy Diabetic Test Strips,” they bring a lot to the table, this is music you really need to listen to.

The duo continues to navigate life’s indignities with absurdist humor and caustic wit, weaving disjointed stories through intersecting narratives that only can connect when viewed as a whole. Notably, the album features the presence of JPEGMAFIA, the Baltimore rapper and producer known for his abrasive productions and persona. This collaboration was unexpected because the duo and JPEGMAFIA had beef a while ago, this seems resolved. While contributing to a little more than a quarter of the album, JPEGMAFIA’s glitchy, warped aesthetic bookends the tracklist, shaping the overall mood.

Similar to their collaboration on “Haram,” billy woods and E L U C I D complement each other perfectly on this record. Woods showcases his stupendous flows in the verses, while E L U C I D champions each of the hooks. With a diverse and engaging lineup of creatively beats, the resulting concoction stands as a record that never ceases to be exciting, a true gift to listeners from the unstoppable force that is Armand Hammer.

Featuring a generous tracklist of 15 songs and a runtime of just under an hour, the album showcases the impressive productivity of both billy woods and E L U C I D this year. It stands as a testament to how these two artists reach their absolute peak when combining their talents. at this time, we consider them as a top 5 hip-hop duo.

4. JPEGMAFIA & Danny Brown – Scaring The Hoes

Scaring The Hoes, a collab album between Danny Brown & JPEGMAFIA. On “SCARING THE HOES,” we find two artists who defy the mainstream that relentlessly chases the lowest common denominator, reinforcing each other in the process. The album name comes from a meme that went around in the experimental music community. It was said that if you listen to Danny Brown and JPEGMAFIA you would scare the “hoes”, which would mean getting no girls because you listen to weird music.

For a comprehensive look at the intentions of the album, one need not look further than the title track. Danny Brown and JPEGMAFIA have always been contrary and boundary-pushing in their music. They often position themselves as rebellious freedom fighters, challenging the dictates of mainstream hip-hop with its formulaic singles and pre-digested refrains. Despite all the experimental elements, the album maintains an iron grip on melody and harmony. The soothing, gentle, and tender nuances are present but simply don’t yield to the chaos cutting through these moments.

JPEGMAFIA, as a producer, possesses the wondrous ability to make beats so unique with his dreamy, glitchy production. It’s this talent that shines through on every track, right up to the very end. From the amusing song titles to the blaxploitation-inspired album cover, it firmly grounds this album in a kind of modern, online world. Albums like this deserve praise not only – and perhaps not primarily – for their content but also for the attempt at something revolutionary.

Danny Brown does his part as well, when the first single dropped he had a short verse and it felt more like a feature artist. Because the JPEG influence is heavy on all the tracks (because he produced all of it), people tend to treat Danny as a feature artist but on the album he has a big influence. His exceptional voice and funny lyricism creates something amazing.

Scaring The Hoes really delivered something revolutionary and probably will grow on more and more people. The alternate cover vinyl is still available in our store, so grab that now!

3. Noname – Sundial

Sundial, the 3rd studio album from Noname. An complex album full of criticism and sensitive topics. With her smooth flow and velvety voice, she confronts societal hypocrisy in the world, as well as her own shortcomings.

Her trajectory to this point aligns her with the likes of Lauryn Hill and Nina Simone; she creates protest music in genres often reserved for hedonism and traumatic romance. Sundial serves as a call for a casual renaissance of revolution-driven storytelling in hip-hop albums, sonic upheavals that leverage the comeback narrative for momentum. Noname challenges the appropriation of Black intellectualism in rap by professional opportunists, aiming to reclaim its glory without dwelling too much on its impending erasure.

The lyricism on this album is amazing as spoken about before but the production is top-tier too. The sunny instrumentation almost contradicts the biting verses. Speaking of verses, Jay Elec’s – where he denies the war in Ukraine and attacks Judaism – was not something that was well received by the audience. Nevertheless, apart from that, Sundial is a record of the sublime kind. There is so much i would and can say about this record, but the best thing you could do is to start playing this album, sit down, really listen to it and pay attention to the music. Otherwise, you’ll still be reading this article tomorrow morning. It is a well deserved 3rd spot for an amazing album.

2. Sampha – Lahai

There are certain albums where we already know in advance that they will be very well-crafted. It’s not particularly surprising that such a thought applies to an artist like Sampha. The UK artist has been active in the music scene for over a decade, but is not best known for his solo material. While we don’t want to undermine the fantastic debut, “Process” – which rightfully won the Mercury Prize – it must be acknowledged that Sampha has been equally praised for his work behind the controls and for his features. Sampha is still very underrated and overlooked by many, this is something that needs to change.

And now we have “Lahai,” the second studio album under his own name, named after his grandfather and therefore deeply personal to him. This sentiment becomes even more apparent throughout the album compared to “Process.” It seems that Sampha has truly found his place in music; the beauty, however, lies in the fact that, according to the album, that place is not specific. Sampha is everywhere, at home in various markets, genres, and cultures. Familiar yet fresh, nostalgic yet innovative. It’s a futuristic space journey to the past, with the Brit’s life as a binding force, wrapped in layers of music. In other words, “Lahai” is much broader than anything we’ve heard from Sampha before. A kind of dreamy mist that makes the inaccessible easily approachable. Without fully understanding it, it all still feels effortlessly cool. The contrasts pile up like layers, shaping “Lahai” in various hues.

Genres, instruments, and influences blend in the mix, always coloring outside the lines but never going beyond. Beautiful to hear at one moment, a true discovery at another. Sampha has crafted an exceptionally strong album that, as predicted, is extremely well-crafted. And that’s the least we can say about it. You have to experience it to fully comprehend it.

1. Billy Woods & Kenny Segal – Maps

“Maps” is the latest album collaboration between NYC rapper billy woods and LA producer Kenny Segal, marking their first full project together since 2019’s “Hiding Places.” Reuniting after four years, the duo delivers a powerful narrative on the paths taken and untaken, the pursuit of dreams, and the yearning for an alternate life. The album explores the journey of trying to find one’s way home, having made a home wherever the head lays.

billy woods, known for his cryptic yet profound lyricism, shares a worldly perspective that is both sophisticated and street-smart. His verses, overflowing into the margins, vividly set scenes and convey a keen understanding that has been a hallmark of his work since 2018. “Maps” serves as a master class in rap lyricism, showcasing woods as one of the genre’s greatest penmen.

Kenny Segal’s production takes a jazzier direction compared to their previous collaboration, introducing clear melodies that invite the listener to lean in closer. Tracks like “Soft Landing” blend sludgy bass booms with acoustic guitar, drawing inspiration from Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good.” Segal seamlessly alternates between these elegant textures and the brittle, distorted beat squalls characteristic of woods’ style.

The album concludes with a poignant moment in “As the Crow Flies,” featuring a short, harrowing, and beautiful final verse from woods. Following a meditative opening verse by his Armand Hammer partner Elucid, woods reflects on a single moment at the playground with his son. As he pushes his child on the swing, he experiences a series of epiphanies, contemplating the fragility of life and the miracle of witnessing his son’s growth. In eight lines delivered in 20 seconds, woods captures the fleeting nature of parenthood, emphasizing the power found in even the most ephemeral moments. The verse is simple yet gentle and profoundly moving, highlighting that, in comparison, the roads not taken pale in significance to finding a home. This album deserves all the praise that it gets and is a well earned number 1 spot on this list.

There are some albums that we didn’t mention in this list that should get the attention. Our honourable mentions are:

Lil Yachty – Let’s Start Here
MIKE, Wiki & The Alchemist – Faith Is A Rock
Yussef Dayes – Black Classical Music
Larry June & The Alchemist – The Great Escape
Travis Scott – UTOPIA
Navy Blue – Way’s Of Knowing
Lana Del Rey – Ocean Blvd

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