best albums 2023 Danny Brown King Krule Boygenius

Danny Brown, King Krule, Boygenius

These are the best albums of 2023

Top 10 albums lists, best-concert picks and biggest musical disappointments of the year from our four music critics.

Whether you’re looking for suggested listening or want to compare notes, check out these lists of the 10 best albums of 2023, by four music writers at Cult MTL.

The Best Albums of 2023

Stephan Boissonneault

Scaring the Hoes by JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown
Best Albums of 2023
  • JPEGMAFIA & Danny Brown, Scaring the Hoes (AWAL)
  • Slowdive, Everything Is Alive (Dead Oceans)
  • John Cale, Mercy (Double Six)
  • Yves Tumor, Praise a Lord Who Chews but Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds) (Warp)
  • King Krule, Space Heavy (Matador/XL)
  • Puma Blue, Holy Waters (Blue Flowers Music)
  • Atsuko Chiba, Water, It Feels Like It’s Growing (Mothland)
  • La Sécurité, Stay Safe! (Mothland)
  • Somebody’s Curses, Somebody’s Curses (independent)
  • Activity, Spirit in the Room (Western Vinyl)
Best Concert

Slow Pulp at Bar le Ritz PDB, Nov. 6

Biggest Disappointment

This was tough, but one event that has kept irking me is the Bandcamp takeover by Songtradr. Bandcamp, an online music marketplace that is ridiculously important to emerging artists for not only cataloguing their music, but allowing music fans to discover new artists, was sold by Epic Games (who acquired the company only 18 months before) in late 2023 — resulting in half of the Bandcamp staff being laid off. Bandcamp Daily, a portal for really good music journalism that highlights Bandcamp releases, has already changed, making their articles smaller and smaller in the last few months. There is also less content and I envision more changes to Bandcamp on the horizon. It just seems like a shady deal and I don’t understand why a major label or even Spotify didn’t buy Bandcamp once it was for sale. Songtradr is more of a B2B music licensing platform and it seems like they’re only out for profit. I mean, could you imagine what will happen if they get rid of Bandcamp Fridays? Maybe I’m a jaded music journo, but I don’t foresee anything good here. 

Johnson Cummins

The Enduring Spirit by Tomb Mold
Best Albums of 2023
  • Tomb Mold, The Enduring Spirit (20 Buck Spin)
  • Liturgy, 93696 (Thrill Jockey)
  • Alice Cooper, Killer remastered, expanded (Warner/Rhino)
  • Alice Cooper, Billion Dollar Babies remastered, expanded (Warner/Rhino)
  • The Replacements, Tim (Let It Bleed Edition) (Warner/Rhino)
  • Syd Barrett, Vault #57 boxset (Third Man)
  • The Dream Syndicate, The Days of Wine and Roses (Expanded Edition) (Fire America)
  • Les Rallizes Denudes, Citta’ ’93 (Temporal Drift)
  • PJ Harvey, B Sides, Demos and Rarities (Universal/Island)
  • Swans, The Beggar (Young God)
Best Concert

The Swans at le National, Sept. 27

Biggest Disappointment

With many local venues having closed their doors due to ornery condo dwellers putting up stakes in our cultural hotbeds in recent years, the recent snuffing out of the Diving Bell in the Plateau really smarts. All the ingredients were there as it was run by people who are passionate about the arts and provided a great small room for new bands that would struggle to fill 400-cap spaces. It was the perfect encouragement for a bands just getting their first shows under their belts. Latest in this steaming pile of horseshit is Turbo Haus who are starting to get noise complaints despite having bands over by 11 p.m. and being at their current digs for years now. With venues still feeling the financial effects COVID, this is a dry shave indeed.

Dave MacIntyre

Boygenius The Record review interscope
The Record by Boygenius
Best Albums of 2023
  • Boygenius, The Record (Interscope)
  • Brent Faiyaz, Larger Than Life (ISO Supremacy/United Masters)
  • Gayance, Mascarade (Rhythm Section International)
  • George Clanton, Ooh Rap I Ya (100% Electronica)
  • Grian Chatten, Chaos for the Fly (Partisan)
  • Kelela, Raven (Warp)
  • King Krule, Space Heavy (XL/Matador)
  • Sampha, Lahai (Young)
  • Skinny Pelembe, Hardly the Same Snake (Partisan)
  • Slowdive, Everything Is Alive (Dead Oceans)
Best Concert

Man, there are so many I could choose from. Little Simz at MTELUS. Billie Eilish’s triumphant Osheaga headline set. Thundercat’s free Jazz Fest set. Lisa LeBlanc’s free Francos set. Amyl and the Sniffers kicking absolute ass at le Festif! in Baie Saint-Paul. The 1975 at the Bell Centre. All the short sets I saw at the Polaris gala in Toronto. Getting to see various Montreal artists across the pond at the Great Escape in Brighton, England.

That said, the most fun I’ve had at a show all year is unquestionably Gayance’s festival-closing set at POP, which went down at Entrepôt77 and was a joyous and truly invigorating spectacle despite being initially marred by sound issues. The vibes were immaculate, Aïsha’s stage presence and the contributions from her band/onstage collaborators were lights-out and the energy was infectious — enough that, if you were there, you likely saw me dancing up a storm across the floor. I probably made a complete ass of myself, but I’d do it all again in a nanosecond.

Biggest Disappointment

Boygenius not booking a show in Montreal on their world tour despite referencing our fine city on their album TWICE.

Darcy MacDonald

Killer Mike Michael review
Michael by Killer Mike
Best Albums of 2023
  • Killer Mike, Michael (Loma Vista)
  • Myst Milano, Beyond the Uncanny Valley (Halocline Trance)
  • MIKE, Burning Desire (10K)
  • Aesop Rock, Integrated Tech Solutions (Rhymesayers)
  • Danny Brown, Quaranta  (Warp)
  • Noname, Sundial (self-released)
  • Planet Giza, Ready When You Are (self-released)
  • FELP, Help (Bonsound)
  • Open Mike Eagle, Another Triumph of Ghetto Engineering  (Auto Reverse)
Best Concert

The Pharcyde at le National, Oct.4

Whether it was a sincere embrace or a free marketing hook, Hip Hop 50 allowed the genre’s old guard to celebrate longevity on the road as the culture observed five decades of influence. 

LL Cool J and the Roots’ The F.O.R.C.E Live Tour sold out Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena, which was a 2023 live highlight, as was Nas and Wu-Tang’s co-headlining siege on Place Bell this fall.  Openers De La Soul kept their flame alive minus rapper Trugoy, who died suddenly in February. 

In June, underground folk heroes Souls of Mischief packed the Belmont. More recently, POP Montreal witnessed a precision rhyme attack by Philly rap queen Bahamadia.

Influential L.A. weirdos the Pharcyde, though, pulled it all together at le National in October for my favourite live experience in any genre this year. The group commemorated 30 years since their iconic debut, Bizarre Ride II, with their first proper show in Montreal since the mid-’90s. The Pharcyde gave it all, the crowd gave it back, and hip hop was proven once more to be timeless, unifying and good for the soul.

Biggest Disappointment

AI cover songs and the people who make them.

For more Montreal music coverage, please visit the Music section.