"Ethereal soundscapes that linger like the warm afterglow of fire. Best consumed with a pint of Guinness and a small selection of loved ones."
Rough Trade is nothing without the passion of our staff and their diverse listening tastes. Our annual year end wrap-up of favourite albums is testament to all the dedicated and vibrant personalities who work behind our counters and is a list that travels beyond our headline Albums of the Year campaign.
Explore true comfort albums, brand new classics, coming-of-age tales, and quite simply, a solid selection of long plays that can only be described as: 'all killer no filler'. Not just music which defined this year, but music we will continue to listen to beyond 2023.
Featuring the likes of Andre 3000, Lankum, ML Buch, Sampha, Nabihah Iqbal, Depeche Mode, Avalon Emerson & The Charm, The Golden Dregs, Tirzah, Joanna Sternberg and more.
Thanks for listening with us. See you in 2024!
PVRIS have been a favourite of mine since their first album, White Noise (hauntingly beautiful). You can hear their sound evolution over the years and it culminates in their fourth album, EVERGREEN, a wild and confrontational collection of songs. Whilst they still have roots in alternative and rock, I love hearing Lynn Gunn exploring other influences, pushing the band’s music into pop and electronic genres. SENTI-MENTAL is beautiful and catchy with poignant lyrics, and GODDESS is the hard-hitting feminist anthem you didn’t know you needed. The album is full of contrast, yet works as a whole. I can’t wait to see what PVRIS do next!
Sigur Rós came back this year out of absolutely nowhere with their first new album in ten years!! Arguably, their most ambitious and moving record since Valtari. The London Contemporary Orchestra are heavily featured on this record, more than any other album before, which takes the production to a whole new atmosphere. An accidental but serendipitous listen was on 33rpm (instead of 45) which turned out to be absolute ear candy! Amazing to hear some delicate production and vocal features you might have missed in other spins, particularly on Blóðberg. ÁTTA gets better with each listen, upholding true Icelandic beauty!
Sun-dappled production dripping in lush pedal steel compliments hard-won grit, grace and good-humoured self-deprecation in this lean late-career masterpiece from a slightly unsung country music legend.
Through Mid Air Romy reaches out a hand and invites you onto the dancefloor. With non-stop bangers from start to finish, how could you resist her?
Angel Deradoorian and Kate NV have conjured the most curious, otherworldly, sparkly bloops this side of the universe. Their dreamlike, quirky lyrics and shimmering vocals smooth out the experimental edges to reveal synth-pop at its most joyfully absurd. Decisive Pink cordially invites you to their surrealist disco, this is your ticket. Check your coat, let's go already!
Amber Bain wrote my favourite album of 2023 and it is brilliant. The music consistently captures what it was written to. It meanders and it drives. It considers and it empowers. Beautifully done.
Say She She - Silver
A pure slice of disco fun which has rocketed to the top of my list. The energy on this album is infectious - the harmonies and catchy beats will have you dancing whether you are in your kitchen or on the bus as if you were in Studio 54 in its heyday. Get some glitter on and let's dance!
The anticipated debut release from Bristol’s freak folk, post-punk pioneers has finally graced us, just in the knick of time to close out 2023! Though it’s a very recent release, this is absolutely my album of the year - a beautiful concoction of traditional instrumentation and genre-bounding experimentalism that could take you as far as to describe them as a ‘Medieval Massive Attack’...if you so desire. The album has been long awaited by many here in Bristol and arguably stands as a soundtrack to the South West.
A.S.O - A.S.O
A woozy and moody reflection of the past 12 months. All dreamlike and hazy like a smoky wander through the city at night. A bit Mazzy, a bit AIR, there's even some Lana in there too, but A.S.O have their own thing going on and I love it.
Incendiary - Change The Way You Think About Pain
If Host/Parasite doesn't make you want to start up your own hardcore band then I don't know what will.
The third full-length album from Orange County’s Movements is not shy from being an instant gem. Since its release, this collection of songs has been cemented as instant classics within the emo revival scene. Front to back, all that is to be expected from these guys is a vast array of multifarious anthems. And boy, does this album deliver. Not only does this LP cater to the classic emo genre, but also offers up softer tones sprinkled throughout often unfolding as sweet lullabies before crashing back down into menacingly, hard-hitting riffs. Have Movements done a good job with this pivotal change? I think so.
Pale Jay - Bewilderment
On my radar, since it arrived in August this is an album that screamed “listen to me”! the minute I gazed upon the red-masked figure on the sleeve. It shouts to both soul diggers and hip-hop heads alike. Pale Jays’ combination of blissfully soulful melodies stacked on top of groove-laden beats, creates a good vibes and party jams. Still resonating that classic 70s soul full of heartache and love that is the lifeblood in Colemines’ ever-expanding catalogue. This has quickly climbed to the top of my album list in such a short space of time, put on your mask and groove.
The first album from Spanish-born, London-based Alien Tango is full of the kind of maximalist tomfoolery I can't say no to. His eclectic brand of pop is full of personality (reader, he loves Mr. Bungle). The music is constantly changing but the hooks endure.
BDRMM - I Don't Know
An adventurous, experimental follow-up to 2020’s debut offering pushes the group into new, expansive territories mashing influences from Radiohead, My Bloody Valentine and Mogwai. The shoegaze badge is still proudly worn, but peppered with airy synths, immersive arrangements and electronic exploration.
Fiddlehead - Death Is Nothing To Us
Full of absolute bangers, Fiddlehead presents an album that develops on their hardcore and emo-tinged brand of alternative rock, with 12 songs wrapped up in just over 25 minutes, it’s immediate, catchy and has ear worms for days.
Supershy - Happy Music
Tom Misch is at his bass-boosted best with his EDM alter-ego Supershy. I love how his ear for great, catchy melodies can be heard in his sampling, and the funky/disco style of the beats feels both fresh and familiar. Great for a boogie, running with, or just setting a nice vibe in the background.
Depeche Mode - Memento Mori
I picked this as I feel that the album has somewhat been overlooked this year, at least outside of Germany. This is DM at its best. A nod to their dark industrial sound on Construction Time Again, Music For The Masses and Black Celebration. Add to that the flawless production and smooth vocals and you might just have their best work since Violator on your turntable. Fletch would have been proud!
Swans - The Beggar
Occasionally, when a great band releases their sixteenth album, it can ring alarm bells. However for Swans that is clearly not the case. Once again, they come back strong with this perfectly composed and expertly executed new studio album The Beggar.
Wednesday - Rat Saw God
Rat Saw God (love this title to begin with) was part of the album of the year campaign, and in my (humble(ish) opinion deservedly so. I instantly fell in love with the old-school production, Karly Hartzman's personable poetry and her amazing voice (both strong and breakable at the same time). I am keen to see how this band develops further but as far as I am concerned they have already delivered an alternative rock/indie/shoegaze/whatever classic.
I discovered this artist and record during my first weeks few at Rough Trade when I stumbled over it in Rough Trade East. BC's incredibly entertaining lyrics + funny album/song titles and his touch for sweet melodies stuck with me like no other in 2023, so he gets my nod for album of the year with The Last Rotation Of Earth.
Avalon Emerson - And The Charm
It's an album full of influences from synth-pop, to house, to indie, to funk. Its warm, its nostalgic, and it's a real delight to listen to over and over and over again.
It's been a long wait but every bit worth it. I was nervous the songs on this album wouldn't pull me back to them again and again the same way as Process but the nerves were not warranted. Sampha's vocals, arrangements and pure soulful energy is every bit as uplifting and completely heartbreaking as his breakout album. LAHAI has been that comfort album for 2023 - one I'll always fancy putting on. Moving at a faster pace to Process this album is so gripping thematically. It's poetic and reflective, with literary references and ideas of science scattered throughout alongside inspiration from therapy sessions. This is Sampha doing what he does best, opening a cosmic hole and allowing emotions to filter through, striking a chord with its listeners at every twist and turn.
ML Buch - Suntub
I struggled to pick between this or Tirzah’s trip9love…??? but ML Buch managed to swoop in at the last minute to claim the top spot on my favourite albums of 2023. I’ve seen Suntub described as “uncanny” which I think is perfect - as an album, it doesn’t really sit still, evoking a range of emotions that I can’t quite articulate. Her vocals are gorgeous, most memorably on the closing track ‘Working It Out’, but for me it’s the instrumental tracks like Whoosh and the Durutti Column-esque ‘Somewhere’, that really hit the spot. I need to hear these songs live!
Mega Bog - End of Everything
Heaven only knows how many times I've listened to this masterpiece from front to back this year. Not enough probably. Classic 80s synth patches meet wild, uncontrollable end-of-the-world narrative in an 80s pop fashion. Essential essential essential.
This really hit a chord with me this year. Maybe because I’m just about to hit my 30s, and a lot of the lyrics focus around a ‘second’ coming of age. There is a recurring theme of slight hopelessness wound up in what is essentially truly uplifting music. It's a really beautiful cocktail.
Joanna Sternberg - I've Got Me
Endearing, warm, intimate and packed full of beautiful lyrics, I've Got Me is a refreshingly stripped-down album. Sad yes, but comforting in its modesty. I'm so glad I stumbled across this and I will continue to listen way beyond 2023.
Falmouth is famous for its harbour. Together with Carrick Roads, it forms the third deepest natural harbour in the world and the deepest in Western Europe. Falmouth is also famous for being the place where Benjamin Woods gave birth to The Golden Dregs, who in turn gave birth to my favourite album of 2023. Ben croons as the band swoons and sways its way through certified bangers such as American Airlines, Sundown Lake and Vista. Roll up your trousers and come on in for a paddle, the groove is just fine.
Lisa O'Neill - All Of This Is Chance
I was never a Peaky Blinders fan so her cover of Dylan's All The Tired Horses passed me by until I saw her play in a church. She played for almost 2 hours (and I rarely give anyone that long) but she was incredible, finishing with that cover. Honourable mentions to Margo Price and Cilker, plus Wilco.
This record is bursting with absolute bangerz, catchy hooks, punchy melodies, sensational lyrics, and even better song titles! Tracks like It’s a Family Movie She Hates Her Dad, Cock Party 2 (Better Than The First), and Shhhh! Golf is On are the tracks that shine on what could easily be the best pop-punk/emo album of 2023.
En Attendant Ana - Principia
I've been mesmerised by the melodies of this Parisian gang since the moment I heard them. I'm in a sort of French trance (or a France, if you will). Let the sweet sounds swirl around your big brain as the energy ebbs and flows with tidal precision. C'est magnifique.
Beach Fossils - Bunny
Sun-kissed indie pop, this will forever remind me of an amazing time with Rough Trade On Tour. Always takes me back to sunny times. Every track a winner.
Tirzah - trip9love...???
Tirzah and Mica Levi strike again and this time the match is soaked in gasoline. Tender lyricism wraps around a cyclical trap beat that burns throughout the album while lo-fi piano and guitar phrases exchange conversationally. A comfort of noise and vulnerability.
Geese - 3D Country
An effortlessly cool sophomore from the so-called Brooklyn NYC "indie rock prodigies", made even greater for the fact it's a follow up no-one expected. A deliciously idiosyncratic album that gets better with every spin, helmed by Cameron Winter's assured lyrical workmanship.
Andre 3000 - New Blue Sun
It wasn’t meant to be this way, but a record as uncompromising and enchanting as New Blue Sun consumed me entirely at the end of this year. The music rewards your attention and I found it surprisingly diverse and explorative. Basking in the shadows, Andre comes and goes with moments of considered brilliance intended to never fully break out of the delicate audio space, but to move it gently forwards. In an industry which often demands evermore streamlined and digestible output from artists, more than anything, this record is refreshing in its frankness and refusal to play the game.
boygenius - the record
As a boygenius mega fan ever since their debut EP, my pedestal was high for ‘the record’ before it was even announced. Often that can lead to disappointment but in this case the album went above and beyond on every level. It’s almost already become a cliche to site this as a top record because it’s grown so fast, but I stand by every element of this album and this band. The magic created when Lucy, Julian and Phoebe put their heads together is a force to be reckoned with and there is no doubt that their Beatles-influenced SNL setup is closer to the truth than some might give credit. In 2024 let’s all just get matching tooth tattoos and wallow in the ecstatic sadness of boygenius until they do something new. No pressure (truly), boys.
Young Fathers - Heavy Heavy
This is possibly Young Father's greatest material to date. Their style is constantly evolving, diving into new territories and exploring what's there. There hasn't been an album I have been so eager for in years, perhaps I've been waiting for this since Cocoa Sugar? Joy & Mandindo are a phenomenal addition to the trio on this album by seamlessly weaving their vocals throughout, most prominently on Ululation, which literally means a 'howling or wailing' sound. It's impossible to listen to Heavy Heavy without feeling pulled into motion; Alloysious, Kayus and G's raw energy & emotion seeps through each song and into your blood. You're about to be possessed, so enjoy.
Minsky Rock Megamix II is a reworking of Working Mens Club's already brilliant second album "Fear Fear" by their leader Syd Minsky-Sargeant; what he managed to produce is something that is impossible to get enough of. This mix of the The Last One is hands down my track of the year - loud, snarling and in your face. It's kinda mental how far this band have come since Bad Blood / Suburban Heights. Onwards!
Just shy of 30 minutes in length, this album is all killer, no filler. What's impressive is how concise it is, without sacrificing any emotional depth. McKinley Dixon jumps from strength to strength in each track, touching on personal plights to the black American experience. On top of some of the most jubilant beats, this is handily one of the best rap albums of the year, while being criminally overlooked.
Shit and Shine - 2222 & Airport
Craig Clouse always comes correct and this is an absolute monster. No hipster shit here. This is the real deal. Minimal set-up. Maximum results. If you were lucky enough to catch him live earlier in the year you'll know exactly what I mean.
I Play My Bass Loud is the first solo album by Gina Birch, also a member of the iconic post-punk band The Raincoats, painter and filmmaker. I played it so much this year as it is such a wholesome listen. Musically creative with a bit of DIY, appearances from Thurston Moore and Ana Da Silva with Youth producing; Gina's strong feminist message throughout is delivered with artfulness, wit and fun. Glorious.
Osees - Intercepted Message
A surprising left turn from Dwyer and the boys but still keeping that classic Osees sound that we all know and love. Just when I thought proggy Osees was my favourite era, we have a new contender
Sven Wunder - Late Again
Piano Piano records have a stronghold on the jazz collecting world. The evolution of Sven Wunder is something to behold. Now sitting on 4 studio albums and a sample from Danny Brown in 2023, the sky is the limit. Incredible stuff. Shoutout to John at PPR!
In the words of the wonderful Lady Gaga, "Talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, show-stopping, spectacular, never the same, totally unique, completely not ever been done before, unafraid to reference or not reference, put it in a blender, s*** on it, vomit on it, eat it, give birth to it." Sam, Milkie, Eddie & Adam, I love you and I'm so proud!!
Nabihah Iqbal - DREAMER
This album truly has something for everyone. Ranging from post-punk influences to more electronically inclined shoegazey dreamscapes. Nabihah Iqbal has genuinely been the soundtrack to my year. An evolutionary second album from Iqbal, and an introduction of only what is to follow. Standout tracks include This World Couldn't See Us and Closer Lover.
Slauson Malone 1 - Excelsior
Excelsior slaps so hard, but unfortunately not hard enough. It's a close number 2. (For number 1 see Dylan's pick).
Lankum - False Lankum
Wonderfully hypnotic. Ethereal soundscapes that linger like the warm afterglow of fire. Best consumed with a pint of Guinness and a small selection of loved ones.
It was either this or 6 other Alchemist projects that all stole the show for me this year. Between the perfect laid-back production from The Alchemist and bars from modern-day West Coast royalty Larry June, no other album hit quite like this for me in 2023!
Gunna - A Gift & A Curse
Gunna returns bouncing back into the limelight after beating endless snitch allegations. A Gift & a Curse is the Atlanta native's most personal work to date. Gunna is open on this record, expressing his emotions while still celebrating life at every chance.
Ulrika Spacek - Compact Trauma
Ulrika Spacek have come back in from the cold with their first release in five years. Compact Trauma shimmers and swells, equal parts breathless and blissed out, spiralling through layers of beautifully anxious guitars before breaking the nervousness with wonderful warmth and comfort.
Jessie Ware -That! Feels Good!
I was equal parts excited and nervous at the announcement of this release. I loved Jessie Ware's previous album What's Your Pleasure? so much that I didn't think anything could top it. As soon as I heard the lead singles of this new record, my faith was completely restored. Jessie letting go of self-doubt and creative pressures and leaning into her love of disco and funk is the best thing to happen to pop music in recent years. There, I said it.