Dork’s Top 50 Albums of 2023: 30-21

Twelve months. A whole load of great music. This is 2023 at its very best.

50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-1


30. Reneé Rapp – Snow Angel

‘Snow Angel’ marks Reneé Rapp’s emphatic declaration of artistic individuality.

From the first few notes of ‘Snow Angel’, Reneé Rapp dispels any notion of this being a mere side project. Opening track ‘Talk Too Much’ sets a defiant tone, with Rapp’s raspy and robust delivery capturing the attention. The album dances through moods, from the tropical vibes of ‘Poison Poison’ to the assertive ‘So What Now’, each song rippling with authenticity and raw, unfiltered expression​​.

‘Snow Angel’ is a deeply personal journey that stands out for its heartfelt honesty and storytelling. Tracks like ‘The Wedding Song’ and ‘Pretty Girls’ display Rapp’s knack for catchy, resonant music. Title track ‘Snow Angel’ is a standout, a piano-driven piece that evolves from poignant vulnerability to a bold declaration of self-assurance​​.

Rapp’s debut is more than a collection of songs; it’s a narrative of growth, self-reflection, and emotional depth. It’s a document of an artist’s rise, with Rapp proving that, actually, she has nothing left to prove. The start of what promises to be a significant musical legacy​​.

Key track: ‘Talk Too Much’

29. Poppy – Zig

A genre-defying spectacle, channelling raw emotion into a dance-infused odyssey that cements Poppy’s status as a chameleon of modern rock and pop.

‘Zig’ opens with a jarring juxtaposition of cheer and nihilism, setting the stage for an album that traverses a spectrum of emotions. Poppy’s exploration of comfort amidst chaos is palpable throughout the record, especially in the closing track ‘Prove It’, which leaves listeners in a state of “pretty euphoria”. Between the edges of rage and empowerment, the album delves into peace and ecstatic joy, showcasing Poppy’s versatility and her ability to upend expectations with each track​​.

The record is a testament to Poppy’s evolution as an artist, drawing on her rock roots while embracing her love of dance. Tracks like ‘Motorbike’ and ‘Hard’ are laced with confident pop energy, while ‘What It Becomes’ and ‘The Attic’ offer a more ambitious and narrative-driven approach. ‘Zig’ seamlessly integrates elements of garage rock and rave, particularly in songs like ‘Linger’ and ‘Flicker’, creating a complex yet coherent soundscape that is both innovative and assured​​.

Not just an album; ‘Zig’ is a multi-layered journey that reflects Poppy’s mastery of reinvention and an unapologetic embrace of self-assurance. With each song, she confidently steps into new realms of creativity, resulting in a work that’s as impactful as it is unexpected.

Key track: ‘Prove It’

28. Dream Wife – Social Lubrication

‘Social Lubrication’ is Dream Wife’s audacious charge into the fray, a raw and visceral album that captures the live-wire energy of their performances and channels it into a studio record brimming with attitude and connection.

Dream Wife’s third record, ‘Social Lubrication’, hits the ground running, as opening track ‘Kick In The Teeth’ sets a defiant tone. A pure, unadulterated expression of what Dream Wife stands for – it’s a record packed with fiery rebuttals to casual sexism and gender stereotypes, transforming frustration into anthemic sound bites that resonate as a soundtrack for this generation​​.

The album’s strength lies not only in its high-octane moments but also in its capacity to slow down and introspect. Songs like ‘Mascara’ reveal the band’s tender side, while ‘Curious’ celebrates the diversity at the heart of the band’s ethos. ‘Social Lubrication’ balances raw, thrashing energy with these moments of reflection, showcasing Dream Wife’s dynamic range and their ability to craft an album that truly embodies their explosive live reputation​​.

Key track: ‘Kick In The Teeth’

Rakel from Dream Wife’s Top 5 Songs of 2023

Tom Rasmussen – Dysphoria

The poetry of this song is astonishing. Tom’s super intimate holding of some big earth moving themes centring trans bodies and aliveness brings a tear to the eye. How amazing to have such tenderness in such a banging floor filler. 

Jessica Winter – Funk This Up

Our friend and Lucky Number label mate Jess is the best of the best when what you’re after is wonky, freaky hip thrusting pop. Great tune for a combination of activities. Funk This Up will get you moving whatever state of mind you’re in, it’s got a bit of an unhinged edge and a filthy beat. 

Elín Hall – Manndráp af gáleysi 

Loosely translated from Iceland to English as ‘involuntary manslaughter’ (it’s about a heartbreak) by newcomer to the Icelandic music scene that has been captivating audiences with her dark lyrics & charming melodies. This song was produced by Árni Hjörvar from the Vaccines. I, Rakel, actually introduced the two of them, they hit it off and this song is their first collaboration. And it’s probably my most listened to song of the year even though it’s only been out for a month. 

Dream Nails – Femme Boi

Dreamy eh? It’s a dream come true to have Dream Nails join us on tour next year! We’ve been playing their music in the van a lot on the road and this track is so much fun and really affirming and exciting to hear music expressing the desirability of femme transmasc-ness. Very hot, very sexy, very cool. 

Anohni – Sliver of Ice 

The legend Anohni is back with this blisteringly evocative and painfully beautiful track. In Sliver of Ice the icon, once again supported by full band, finds the power and enormity in the simple, sensual metaphor of ice melting on her tongue. Haunting and arresting all at once. 

27. Holly Humberstone – Paint My Bedroom Black

‘Paint My Bedroom Black’ captures the transformative journey of Holly Humberstone, intertwining her breathy, emotive vocals with a bold new sound.

Holly Humberstone’s debut album, ‘Paint My Bedroom Black’, is a narrative of personal evolution, reflecting the significant changes she’s undergone since her early days of songwriting. Forging a path of transformation, the album links the intimate, organic moments that defined her early music with a brighter, bolder sonic landscape. Tracks like ‘Kissing In Swimming Pools’, ‘Elvis Impersonators’, and ‘Room Service’ blend romantic nostalgia with courageous, candid lyricism, allowing Humberstone to express thoughts most shy away from​​.

Exploring new sonic territories, songs like ‘Flatlining’, ‘Baby Blues’, and ‘Into Your Room’ diverge from Humberstone’s previous work by incorporating dark electronica and beats. Peeling back the layers of human emotion, they invite listeners on a journey through her intricately crafted musical universe. ‘Paint My Bedroom Black’ stands as a chronicle of a pivotal moment, on the cusp of reaching new heights of stardom, and showcases Humberstone’s readiness to embrace the full extent of her artistry​​.

Key track: ‘Into Your Room’

26. Priya Ragu – Santhosam

A debut that fuses South Asian rhythms with Western pop sensibilities.

Priya Ragu’s ‘Santhosam’ emerges as a radiant blend of cultural heritage and modern pop. It’s an album that defies expectations with its fusion of Tamil beats and R&B, an auditory feast that Ragu describes as “total ear candy”. A testament to her skill and dedication, each track pulsates with confidence, vitality, and an unrelenting brilliance​​.

The album journeys through various emotions and themes, from the joyous and club-ready ‘One Way Ticket’ to the introspective and melodic ‘Mani Osai’. ‘Santhosam’ captures Ragu’s range, not just vocally but thematically, celebrating independence, life, and the joy of coming into one’s own. Each song is a unique facet of Ragu’s artistry, from danceable tracks that ensure repeat plays to those that showcase deep personal reflections​​.

Key track: ‘One Way Ticket’

25. Baby Queen – Quarter Life Crisis

‘Quarter Life Crisis’ encapsulates Baby Queen’s distinctive blend of alt-pop charisma and lyrical introspection.

Baby Queen’s debut album, ‘Quarter Life Crisis’, marks a significant evolution in her songwriting. Exploring themes of adulthood and the pressures of youth, Bella ventures across the pop dial with energetic tracks like ‘I can’t get my shit together’. The album’s progression signifies a maturation, with songs like ‘Grow Up’ revealing a new depth to her artistry, reminiscent of her idol Taylor Swift’s personal and vulnerable lyricism. ‘Obvious’, described as her saddest song, offers an introspective look at her past life in Durban and the sacrifices made for her music career​​.

As the album closes with ‘A letter to myself at 17’, it becomes evident that Baby Queen has not only created an album that resonates with coming-of-age struggles but also showcases a pivot to a more nuanced and personal songwriting style. This crisis looks more like a revelation from here.

Key track: ‘Obvious

24. Troye Sivan – Something To Give Each Other

An audacious night-out narrative transformed into a liberating musical journey, celebrating self-discovery and joy.

Troye Sivan’s latest offering is an immersive experience, a soundtrack to a night that promises both the thrilling high of freedom and the raw touch of vulnerability. A serenade to the dancefloor where muscles ache and emotions run high, it’s encapsulated in tracks like ‘Rush’, which captures the serotonin-induced highs of dance-pop, and ‘What’s The Time Where You Are’, with its disco beats that embody the yearning of a night’s transformative power​​.

The album maintains this electric energy in ‘One of Your Girls’, while also delving into the poignant depth of emotions in songs like ‘Still Got It’. It’s a journey that revisits the emotional weight of Troye’s earlier work in ‘Blue Neighbourhood’, yet with a more assured and mature perspective. ‘Can’t Go Back, Baby’ becomes a mantra for moving forward, urging listeners to embrace progress and the promise of tomorrow​​.

As ‘Something to Give Each Other’ progresses, it captures the cyclical nature of a night out – the intense emotions, the rallying recovery with friends, and the reinvigoration found in a favourite song. An album that invites you to be consumed by its slick, euphoric revelry​​.

Key track: ‘Rush’

23. Young Fathers – Heavy Heavy

A visceral and varied album that solidifies Young Fathers’ unique position in the tapestry of British music.

Young Fathers have long established themselves as purveyors of a sound that defies imitation. With ‘Heavy Heavy’, their fourth studio effort, the trio doubles down on this distinctiveness, delivering an album charged with a vital energy that is simultaneously direct and richly layered. It is an audacious journey through sound, blending punk’s raw power, cinematic expansiveness, and the immersive whirlpools of rhythm and melody that define the band’s unique aesthetic​​.

The album thrives on a thrilling tension, achieving a cohesion that explodes into moments of pure euphoria. This tightness is a hallmark of Young Fathers’ work, showcasing their ability to be outspoken, defiant, vulnerable, and raw in equal measure. ‘Heavy Heavy’ stands as a testament to their musical DNA, with tracks like ‘Rice’, ‘I Saw’, and ‘Tell Somebody’ highlighting their ability to pull listeners into a sonic landscape that feels expansive and extraordinary​​. Young Fathers remain true innovators and authors of our time​​.

Key track: ‘Tell Somebody’

22. Gracie Abrams – Good Riddance

A mosaic of delicate storytelling, weaving together moments of longing and profound introspection into a fabric of evocative songcraft.

Gracie Abrams has cultivated a universe brimming with poignant vignettes in ‘Good Riddance’. A debut that captures the essence of emotional turbulence with winsome charm, it stands as a testament to her ability to distil youthful desires and escapism into heart-stopping musical narratives​​.

A journey through a spectrum of emotions, each song blossoms from a whisper to a crescendo, encapsulating the most simple yet resonant feelings. Tracks like ‘Best’ offer a gentle touch that escalates to an exhilarating rush, akin to a film score’s climactic moment, while ‘Difficult’ sends a thrilling shiver down the spine. The core of ‘Good Riddance’, however, lies in its quieter moments, where the subtlety of Gracie’s voice and lyrics shine, supported by the sympathetic production of Aaron Dessner​​.

‘Good Riddance’ is not merely an album; it’s an immersive experience that showcases Gracie Abrams’ prowess in crafting songs that resonate with a rare depth and sincerity. It’s an album that illustrates the transcendent nature of her songwriting, inviting listeners into a world of introspection and raw beauty​​.

Key track: ‘Difficult’

21. Genesis Owusu – Struggler

A vibrant tapestry of genre-bending tracks, embodying a free-spirited fusion of hip-hop with the raw energy of live instruments.

Genesis Owusu has firmly established himself as a pioneering force with his sophomore album, ‘STRUGGLER’. The record defies conventional genre boundaries, melding the worlds of pop, rock, and funk into a relentless auditory thrill ride. Opening with ‘Leaving the Light’, an arpeggiated synth-pop track that sets the stage for a diverse and energetic journey through Owusu’s creative psyche​​​​, he harnesses a palpable energy that maintains a thrilling pace. This constant momentum is complemented by the use of live instrumentation, a decision that imparts the album with a distinctly human touch and a nostalgic nod to the angular indie sound of the 2000s. Tracks like ‘Old Man’ and ‘Tied Up’ highlight Owusu’s ability to craft music that’s not just heard but felt, commanding listeners to move with their groovy, off-kilter rhythms​​.

‘STRUGGLER’ is a record that celebrates the art of the chorus and the anticipation of the hook, with Owusu sometimes seemingly eager to rush through verses to unveil the chorus’s full bombastic potential. The album’s strongest tracks, such as ‘That’s Life (a swamp)’ and ‘Stay Blessed’, showcase the duality of his sound, blending deep grooves and post-punk bass lines that draw the listener back to the present.

Key track: ‘That’s Life (a swamp)’

Numbers 20-11 of Dork’s Albums of the Year 2023 will publish tomorrow, 21st December 2023. You can read the full thing in the December 2023 / January 2024 issue of Dork, out now.

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