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Albums of the year of far

Covering the first half of the year, here are our favourite albums of the year so far. Featuring Shame, Grian Chatten, The Lathums and a few surprises!

From 1st January to 30th June, writers Matthew McLister, Karl Blakesley, Josh Robinson and Neil Renton have compiled a list of their favourite albums of the year so far.

So without further ado, here are 20 albums we couldn't get enough of in the first half of 2023!


20. Daughter - Stereo Mind Games

Stereo Mind Games is perhaps defined as being a tale of two halves. The first few tracks steal the show, possessing a range of beautiful and spine-tinglingly stunning songs best enjoyed whilst reminiscing about past romantic failings. From the mid-point on it’s difficult not to find yourself wanting something new, yet they manage to win us back with a stunning conclusion. Daughter do enough on their third album to prove why their music holds up after such a long absence. (Words by Matthew McLister)

Best song: 'Be On Your Way'


19. The National – First Two Pages of Frankenstein

First Two Pages of Frankenstein does not match the high of The National’s heyday, but achieves the status as their best piece of work in a decade. Of course, ‘Tropic Morning News’ and the pre-released singles are the tunes to revisit the most, though there are plenty of gems over this record to put it in the early conversation for album of the year contention. Not that you’d expect any different, but the production from beginning to end is beautiful, shining a light on Matt Berninger’s heartfelt woes and isolation. (Words by Matthew McLister)

Best song: 'Tropic Morning News'


18. Jessie Ware – That! Feels Good!

British singer-songwriter Jessie Ware released her fifth studio album titled That! Feels Good! in April. The record is a classic 10 songs, 40 minutes. The title track opener encapsulates the album’s nature. It’s groovy, dance-inducing, feel-good. The song, like the euphoric ‘Free Yourself’ and nostalgic 90s number ‘Pearls’ - grabs your attention instantly, with sexual undertones liberating your imagination. ‘Hello Love’ sounds like it’s been around forever. The vocal performance is beautifully smooth. ‘Begin Again’ flirts with jaunty piano & dreamy backing vocals. ‘Freak Me Now’ may remind you of Confidence Man and ‘These Lips’ is an enjoyable closer. (words by Josh Robinson)

Best song: 'Freak Me Now'


17. Foo Fighters – But Here We Are

Foo Fighters gifted us with their latest album in early June, one many of us were intrigued to hear following the death of drummer Taylor Hawkins and Dave Grohl’s mum, Virginia. But Here We Are is a record for healing penultimate track has Dave Grohl and co at their most adventurous. This is quite the feat considering they’ve long been written off as rock’s most formulaic band. ‘Teacher’ is a rollercoaster of emotion, swirling through heavy guitars to tenderness as Grohl deals the loss of two important figures to him. Other highlights include the haunting ‘Hearing Voices’ and the dreamy ‘Show Me How’, which features backing vocals from Dave Grohl’s daughter Violet. (Words by Matthew McLister)

Best song: 'Show Me How'


16. Afflecks Palace – The Only Light In This Tunnel Is The Oncoming Train

Channelling the spirit of ‘80s British jangle pop bands The La’s and The Stone Roses, Manchester band Afflecks Palace harp back to a sound which has become synonymous with their home city. The tunes on their second studio album maintain the hype which began with 2021 debut What Do You Mean It’s Not Raining. From beginning to finish, we’re offered an excellent selection of melodic guitar songs which brim with brightness and swagger. Afflecks Palace are named after a Manchester shopping emporium and they look and act every bit the part! Their sophomore release more than backs up their underground cult status. (Words by Matthew McLister)

Best song: 'I’m So Glad You’re On Ecstacy'


15. Shame – Food For Worms

Shame gave us one of the best albums of 2021 when they dropped Drunk Tank Pink. And with the release of Food For Worms they’ve only gone and done it again. Things explode with ‘Fingers of Steel’ the single released to acclaim last year, the taunt ‘Six-Pack’ snaps at it’s heels, while ‘Adderall’ stakes it’s claim for being ‘Food For Worms’ standout moment. It’s like old friends turning up at your door when you least expect it but need them most. The pals that make you hug and party and fall in love with life all over again.(Words by Neil Renton)

Best song: 'Six-Pack'


14. Paramore - This Is Why

When Paramore announced This Is Why last year and said it would be heavily influenced by Bloc Party’s classic debut Silent Alarm, it had me both terrified and intrigued in equal measure. However, I needn’t have been worried as Paramore showed just why they are one of the biggest alternative bands in the world right now. Shaking off their emo roots and the synth-pop of their previous effort After Laughter, Paramore once again proved that they are the masters of reinvention by delivering an indie rock record as good as any released so far in 2023. From the addictive stuttering riffs of the title track, the atmospheric takedown of 'Big Man Little Dignity' and Hayley Williams’ waltzing lullaby falsetto on 'Liar', this album has been a pleasant surprise that I haven’t stopped playing since February. (Words by Karl Blakesley)

Best song: 'Liar'


13. DMA's - How Many Dreams?

How Many Dreams? throws in the best elements of DMA's without committing to one single sound - euphoric rave tunes sitting next to tender ballads and radio-friendly indie bangers. It may be corny and soppy at points, but it's so easy to forgive them when there are so many thrilling moments. there's just something about this album which couldn't help but give us a buzz when returning to it. There are a couple of duds granted, but the high points really do create an ability to lose yourself in the music. (Words by Matthew McLister)

Best song: 'I Don't Need To Hide'


12. We Are Scientists – Lobes

We Are Scientists' late-night vision has funkiness in spades, finding the perfect balance in its retro disco feel and futuristic synth-pop style. Despite the change in approach, the charisma and punchiness still remain and despite the departure, the band’s enduring charm ensures it's a distinguishable We Are Scientists record. The underappreciated heroes of the indie sleaze era are here to lighten up your evening. (Words by Matthew McLister)

Best song: 'Operation Error'


11. Sad Boys Club - Lullabies From The Lightning Tree

2023 has seen some incredible debut albums already, but there's arguably been none more impressively accomplished and enjoyably eclectic than this one from London-based quartet, Sad Boys Club. Channelling the likes of The Cure, Death Cab For Cutie and The 1975, the band have introduced themselves with an all killer, no filler collection that is both warmly familiar in its influences, but also creatively unique. With standout moments like thunderous opener 'Peak', the Weezer-inspired parody of 'Coffee Shop' and the string-tinged tale of brotherly love that is 'Cemetery Song 20/5', Sad Boys Club will have you laughing, crying, moshing… and then reaching for that repeat button. An absolute blast of fun from start to finish! (words by Karl Blakesley)

Best song: 'Peak'


10. Chappaqua Wrestling – Plus Ultra

Plus Ultra is the debut album from Brighton fourpiece Chappaqua Wrestling. A collection of big indie bangers balancing the melancholy with the anthemic. The record opens with explosive opener ‘Full Round Table’, setting the bar at an unbelievable level which they manage to match throughtout. Second track ‘Wayfinding’ and the mid-album track ‘Wide Asleep’ (which I first heard on 6Music and became a regular on the station) are equally as epic. There’s so much to love on Plus Ultra, going down as one of the brightest indie debuts in recent times. (Words by Matthew McLister)

Best song: 'Full Round Table'


9. Arlo Parks – My Soft Machine

Over this record, Arlo Parks does a brilliant job in creating audience empathy. Even if you didn’t know anything about her before, you’ll still come out the side of the album rooting for her. So where Collapsed in Sunbeams was often helplessly bleak, My Soft Machine is far more lush and positive in sound. Arlo Parks is refreshingly open and honest, and her latest reveals a rising confidence in the 22-year-old singer’s work for all to see - she makes the “difficult” second album phase look effortless. A collection of soothing and uplifting tunes which continue Parks journey to becoming Britain’s most compelling indie pop songwriter. (Words by Matthew McLister)

Best song: 'Purple Phase'


8. Temples – Exotico

Temples are purveyors in psychedelic rock, taking us in a time machine to the 60’s and 70’s but do it with some nods to a sonic future. Exotico was produced under the guidance of Sean Ono-Lennon and it’s slightly overblown. Yet straight from the opening track ‘Liquid Air’ the whole thing grabs your attention and doesn’t let go despite running to almost six minutes. Temples are unique. They buck the trend of albums last more than forty odd minutes and their brand of psychedelic rock sets them apart from the majority of what’s currently on offer. (Words by Neil Renton)

Best song: 'Gamma Rays'


7. Boygenius – The Record

Every year we get that band, don't we? The type of act we all hear about before we actually know what any of their music is like. I remember when that was Arctic Monkeys. More recently it was Wet Leg. Now it's the turn of boygenius. They arrived as an indie super group made up of Pheobe Bridgers , Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker. They teased us with one of the best songs in years in '$20'. And they had the audacity to call their debut album The Record as this is a contender for 'The Record Of The Year.’ (Words by Neil Renton)

Best song: '$20'


6. The Lathums - From Nothing To A Little Bit More

From Nothing To A Little Bit More is an outstanding return from The Lathums: darker, rawer and more accomplished. Alex Moore portrays himself as a sensitive soul and the empathy you feel towards him is the album’s main strength. Especially as, like before, the tunes are heart-warming and infectious – the boys from Wigan discover a darker route mixed with moments of light. This is all done without losing the everyman appeal which drew so many to them in the first place. (Words by Matthew McLister)

Best song: 'Say My Name'


5. The Royston Club – Shaking Hips and Crashing Cars

The long-awaited debut album from The Royston Club, Shaking Hips and Crashing Cars, was released on June 2nd. Hit tracks ‘Blisters’ and ‘Believe It or Not’ flourish on this record. One of the Wrexham band’s biggest strengths is keeping each song tight, none overstaying their welcome. This is a welcomed indie trademark. There is no filler or indulgent breakdowns. There are definite parallels with Catfish and the Bottlemen in their youthful sound and naïve, nightlife-centring lyricism, most evidently on ‘I’m A Liar’. Shaking Hips... is good enough to beg the question: Could they be the next big Welsh band? (Words by Josh Robinson)

Best song: 'I'm a Liar'


4. Grian Chatten - Chaos For The Fly

Fontaines D.C. frontman Grian Chatten has taken some time out from his band to write his debut solo album Chaos For the Fly. Again working with his band’s producer Dan Carey, the end result is a beautiful collection of subdued and varied songs. He makes up for the lack of explosivity with depth and intrigue. Karl Blakeley summarised the record in his HeadStuff review: “While it may lack the raw primal power of those records, it more than makes up for it with a wealth of rich instrumentation, accomplished musicianship and engaging, vivid stories.” This one snuck in last minute and is well worthy of its place so high up the list. (Words by Matthew McLister)

Best song: 'Fairlies' 


3. Sigur Ros – ATTA

Who doesn’t love a sudden album release? Even better when it’s a band as celebrated and unique as post-rock icons Sigur Ros. On Friday 16th June, the Icelandic band dropped ATTA with less than 24 hour notice – their first record in a decade. Multi-instrumentalist Kjartan Sveinsson was back in the fold joining singer Jónsi and bassist Georg Holm for a truly stunning collection of songs. The orchestrations heard throughout bring a new level of beauty to their eighth studio album, giving us this overwhelming feeling which is hard to place, sitting somewhere between sadness and hope. As soothing an album as you’ll hear all year. (Words by Matthew McLister)

Best song: 'Klettur'


2. Gorillaz – Cracker Island

With the highly anticipated return of Blur, Damon Albarn has already had quite the start to 2023. He kicked it off in February with the latest release from Gorillaz: Cracker Island. Unlike 2020’s Song Machine, Cracker Island never outstays its welcome. The collaborations - which include artists as varied as Bad Bunny, Stevie Nicks and Tame Impala - compliment rather than overpower. A fun listen that moves in many directions, Albarn’s pop project sounds as fresh, funky and worthy of celebration as it did two decades earlier. (Words by Matthew McLister)

Best song - 'New Gold (ft Tame Impala and Bootie Brown)'


1. Young Fathers – Heavy Heavy

Heavy Heavy is fantastic and that's why it takes our top spot! The Edinburgh band have spent five years producing a record which has so much to shout home about: noisy, infectious, surreal and soulful in particular. If this doesn’t increase their mainstream standing, nothing else will. Heavy Heavy’s ten tracks weigh in at just under 33 minutes and this succinctness works a treat. Not a second is wasted. This is not to say there isn’t a lot going on, it just doesn’t feel overindulgent in a manner you might expect from an experimental difficult-to-define pop group either. Young Fathers' music deserves all the attention that has come their way since. (Words by Matthew McLister)

Best song: 'I Saw'


Here's the full playlist with the best track from each album:


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