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The Top 10 Best Indie Albums of 2023 (So Far)

Best Albums of 2023 So Far

I was talking to a friend a few days ago, and they posed a great question. What are the top albums released in 2023 so far? As we just hit the midpoint of 2023, it’s the perfect time to take a quick look back over the past 6 months and make a list. These are, essentially, my top 10 albums of 2023 so far. As always, I am focusing the list on items I have added to my collection.

Ready? Let’s go.

As always, here’s the video of the countdown followed by a highly edited transcript with embeds below:

10 | King Tuff – Smalltown Stardust

King Tuff Smalltown Stardust Loser Edition Vinyl

This is the newest item in my collection from 2023, and I’m here for it.

I’ve been a fan of King Tuff for over a decade now, and Smalltown Stardust continues to see Kyle Thomas pumping out hazy garage rock. It may not necessarily have the powerhouse hooks found in his previous albums — “Psycho Star” off 2018’s The Other, “Staircase of Diamonds” off 2014’s Black Moon Spell, “Sun Medallion” off 2008’s Was Dead — though it could be that I just haven’t soaked in enough Smalltown Stardust yet.

Either way, I’m still loving this record. Here’s “Portrait of God” off Smalltown Stardust:

9 | Beach House – Become EP

Beach House Become EP

OK, I know this is just an EP, but I have to include it. It’s just THAT good! A follow-up to last year’s Once Twice Melody, Beach House’s Become EP features five phenomenal tracks. The vinyl as well is crisp and rich with sound; it’s one of those albums you WANT on vinyl because it sounds so so good compared to the digital version, which, to be honest, is still extremely good. 

I covered their Become EP a few months back and noted that what you get within this EP is kind of what was missing from Once Twice Melody. Give “Holiday House” a listen below and let me know if you agree…

8 | The Men – New York City

The Men New York City Vinyl

I just covered New York City and highlighted that it might just be the best thing The Men has given us since their 2013 LP New Moon. The sounds here are familiar; they don’t stray into experimental or explorative territory, but they do give us a phenomenal, truly cohesive record. 

Plus, this has quickly become one of my favorite pieces of colored wax in my collection. (Though the one linked here for purchase is on Ultra Clear wax.)

My favorite from the album is closing track “River Flows,” which you can listen to below courtesy Bandcamp:

7 | Tennis – Pollen

Tennis Pollen Vinyl

Tennis continues to churn out better and better albums. Their music is — and always has been — weirdly nostalgic yet with this nerdy futuristic element to it. As such, the music on Pollen can be likened to filtering the future you through a hazy 1980s mall glamour shoot. There are a few vinyl versions of this, and I love that the translucent yellow swirl vinyl is essentially pollen on wax.

In my review of the album, I noted the following:

Pollen is a stunning addition to Tennis’s discography, showcasing the duo’s ability to continually churn out creative, captivating, and nostalgia-inducing indie-pop that’s both intimate and universal. It’s an album that will transport listeners to another time and place, and leave them yearning for more.

FensePost Review of Pollen

Check out the music video for “Let’s Make A Mistake Tonight” below:

6 | Yo La Tengo – This Stupid World

Yo La Tengo This Stupid World Vinyl

Taken in its entirety, This Stupid World is the best album You La Tengo has created since 1997’s I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One. Sure, one-off songs may top most songs on here, but collectively, this record is phenomenal. It’s one you SHOULD listen to on vinyl. 

In my review of the album, I liked the cohesiveness of the record to some of my all-time favorites. These are albums that topped my year-end lists when they were released. First was Blonde Redhead’s 23, which is among my all-time favorite albums. Then, there was Hey What by Low from 2021. Both albums hold a coveted top 5 position in my collection in terms of logged spins.

Yes, I do track that. I’m that level of nerd…

Yo La Tengo has since given us a music video for album opener “Sinatra Drive Breakdown:”

5 | Brian Jonestown Massacre – The Future is Your Past

Brian Jonestown Massacre The Future is Your Past

I’ve seen many calling The Future is Your Past the best Brian Jonestown Massacre album since Methodrone. Factoring in that Methadone was the band’s 1995 debut LP and they are nearing two dozen records under their belt, that’s a statement to pay attention to. I’m not sure I fully agree with it, but in my opinion it’s definitely an easy top 5 if not top 3 for BJM.

There’s only one vinyl variant here, and it is on clear wax. The cover is an illustration and it comes with a six-piece set of Brian Jonestown Massacre-branded crayons so you can color it in yourself. How cool is that?!?

Here’s “Nothing Can Stop The Sound:”

You can dig further into the album in my review from a few months back…

4 | Billy Woods & Kenny Segal – Maps

Billy Woods & Kenny Segal Maps Vinyl

In the past year, I went on a pretty big hip hop craze, which is kinda interesting as I haven’t really gone down that rabbit hole since the late 1990s. Like, seriously. It’s been over 20 years. One artist that dominated my playlist is Billy Woods. I love his style of conscious hip hop and his 2019 collaboration with Kenny Segal is truly amazing. So, when they announced they’d be joining forces again, I was beyond stoked. And Maps is what they gave us.

This album lives up to the hype of their previous collab, Hiding Places, and it features a number of prominent guests as well. Most notably, Aesop Rock on “Waiting Around” and Danny Brown on “Year Zero.”

You can’t find Hiding Places on vinyl for less than several hundred dollars. I don’t think Maps is going to have the scarcity of that LP, but it’s more than worth snagging a copy while it’s still a reasonable price!

Here’s “Soft Landing” off Maps:

3 | Belle And Sebastian – Late Developers

Belle Sebastian Late Developers Gatefold Sleeve

Back in January, Belle And Sebastian surprised me with their second studio LP in less than a year. I saw last year’s album, A Bit of Previous, as their best work since 2006’s The Life Pursuit. Well, Late Developers has taken now taken that pedestal thanks to songs like “Juliet Naked” and “When We Were Very Young” and “I Don’t Know What You See in Me.” What makes this even more surprising is that A Bit of Previous made it into my top 5 albums of 2022! 

Belle And Sebastian made “I Don’t Know What You See in Me” into a music video:

Dig deeper into Late Developers in my album review from late January of this year.

2 | The New Pornographers – Continue As A Guest

The New Pornographers Continue As A Guest

I just said this in my album review of Continue as a Guest: this album is, hands down, the BEST thing to come from The New Pornographers since 2007’s Challengers. I’m digging “Pontius Pilates Home Movies,” “Angelcover,” and the title track, though really, I’m struggling to find a song I actually don’t like on here.

There are a few vinyl variants of this one, including a standard black pressing, but I’m absolutely in love with my Green in Blue, which appears to be the most widely available limited edition colored variant. That means you can get one at a reasonable price.

“Really Really Light” is the opening track on the album, the only track that features Dan Bejar, and the only one I’ve found with a music video (so far):

1 | Caroline Rose – The Art of Forgetting

Caroline Rose The Art of Forgetting

Caroline Rose continues to reinvent themselves. They do it ever few albums, and this on is no different. The Art of Forgetting is deeply vulnerable and extremely personal. No surprise, it finds Rose creating their best work yet, despite the greatness of both Loner and Superstar

Recommended songs: “Miami,” “Tell Me What You Want,” and “Love / Lover / Friend”

This is the audiophile copy which comes on two clear discs and spins at 45 RPM. The cover has this cool holographic element to it that you just don’t see very often. The packaging overall is pretty solid as well. It will run you a pretty penny, but I’m sure the price will come down in time. I go deeper in my album review and unboxing of the record.

OK — to really demonstrate the power of this album, I recommend checking out the two videos below back to back. Start with “Miami.”

Next, watch “Tell Me What You Want.”

Plenty Great Indie Albums Missing…

It’s no surprise that plenty of great indie albums are missing from this early best of 2023 list. After all, I focused exclusively on albums in my collection, so anything NOT in my collection was ignored.

There’s the phenomenal boygenius album The Record, which I’d love to add but haven’t yet done so. After compiling the list, I picked up the outstanding Bunny by Beach Fossils (stay tuned for my review of that one). And, of course, so many others!

What would you add to the list that’s missing? I’d love to know! The only caveat for your answer: it has to have been released in the first half of 2023.

Looking forward, there is plenty of be excited about for the second half of the year as well! Already on order are new LPs by Kevin Morby, Slowdive, and Blonde Redhead! I’m sure all three of those are likely to be in the top 10 come the end of the year…

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