Well, well, well, here we are again. It’s the arse end of the year, and you want me, to give you, a brief snapshot of my year in music. Well, who am I to refuse, right?!? Just remember though, if you are reading this, I expect, no, I implore you, to check out each and every album I mention, and actually make the effort to invest some time into each one, because that’s the point, right?
It’s been an insanely good year for music, and even when all else fails, music will ALWAYS pull me through, such is its power. Whittling it down to ten was hard enough, but the top spot, fuck my life, that was impossible… you’ll see.
So here’s my list, enjoy the ride, invest some time, find some new favourite’s… you’re welcome.
10. Fågelle ‘Den Svenska Vreden’
Released early in 2023, and all this time later, Fågelle’s Den Svenska Vreden is still a favourite, it’s this beautiful catastrophe. Created by one of the most underrated, and interesting musicians on the whole planet. With dark disjointed soundscapes, and what feels like the very soul of the artist, poured out, for the whole world to see her pain. Simply wonderful.
Label: Medication Time Records
9. Mad Honey ‘Satellite Aphrodite’
An accidental discovery, and the best reward. Creating something new, which sounds like something preexisting, is this trippy album, rich in ‘90s goodness, and overflowing with shoegaze love. Mad Honey have been a highlight of the year, and subsequently fully deserving of a slot in my top ten.
8. Unverkalt ‘A Lump of Death: A Chaos of Dead Lovers’
Well, well, well, this shouldn’t come as a surprise at all. My favourite Greek band, Unverkalt, are snuggly placed in the top ten with this fantastical album. Uniquely different, yet somehow familiar, finding these guys has been an absolute revelation, and has etched them a place in my heart with very little effort.
Label: Argonauta Records
7. Stoned Jesus ‘Father Light’
Stoned Jesus are one of my favourite bands of the last decade, against all odds, and waving the flag of FUCK YOU to Russia, these Ukrainians finally got to release this beauty in the spring of 2023. A poignant symbol of achieving against all odds, Father Light is yet another monstrous release, of one of the best kept secrets in the heavy music business.
Label: Season Of Mist
6. Esben And the Witch ‘Hold Sacred’
In at six, it’s an album which shows how versatile some artists are, and how with every evolution, they can nudge nearer and nearer to bliss like realms. Not as heavy as previous releases but possessing a depth and warmth that almost every other band strive to aspire to, Esben And The Witch harness this skill, and the resulting output has enthralled me all year.
Label: Nostromo Records
5. Dorthia Cottrell ‘Death Folk Country’
As one quarter of Windhand, Dorthia Cottrell already has a phenomenal legacy, and now, with this second solo album, there’s a separate, solo path being gouged into my heart too. Those dark moody melodies, over that midnight Americana send shivers down my spine, unlike anything else I heard in 2023. An absolute essential, I couldn’t imagine life now without this beautiful release.
Label: Relapse Records
4. Tar Pond ‘Petrol’
Well, holy fuck, if it isn’t Tar Pond, with the album that would have been number one on my list for this year, if the top three hadn’t been released. Petrol is, simply put, just absolutely fucking monumental. Like a slowed sludgy Alice In Chains, this album is absolutely epic. It should be the cornerstone of every metal fans collection, and if you like dark and heavy, and don’t know Tar Pond already, then go get some education as this primordial beast is the benchmark of heavy music in the twenty-first century.
Label: Prophecy Productions
3. Jo Quail ‘Invocation/ Supplication’
Perhaps one of the most obscure albums on my list, but a million percent an essential addition, there was no way I would, no, could compile a list of the year WITHOUT including these rituals. And that’s what they are, this isn’t just music, this is art, soul enveloping, outpourings of otherworldly magic, that only someone of Jo Quail’s ability and scope could conjure up. Slices of heaven, in musical form, given to us. Absolutely spellbinding, these moments are for stopping the world, and time, and embracing with your very soul.
Label: By Norse
Now, this is where it’s an equal split, there’s no number two’s here, just two equal number one’s for me. Both have made my year, for different reasons, but I couldn’t split them, both are gold.
So, without further delay, and only going in alphabetical order, first up is this…
1. OHHMS ‘Rot’
There was never any doubt that OHHMS would be topping my list. Even back in March of 2023, it was topping the list. Rot is a fucking sublime album and is the pinnacle of where the band have been aiming towards all these years. Each track is based around horror films, of course it is, why wouldn’t it be?!? It is a perfect snapshot of a band who have worked hard and achieved something truly monumental in this modern world, where music is so savagely trivialised. Going out with a bang, this album should be topping numerous ‘top ten’ lists, and rightly so, it’s a fucking banger!!
Label: Church Road Records
1. Slowdive ‘Everything Is Alive’
If there was ever going to be an album that would top my list, it would be a Slowdive album, and this one truly shows beyond a shadow of a doubt, who the true masters of shoegaze are. This album has grown with every listen, and after three decades of injustice, Slowdive are finally being given their moment in the sun, and rightly so. This album is timeless. It’s beautiful. It’s introverted, and ultimately it’s all-encompassing. This album has been everything to me this year, this is the ying to OHHMS’s yang, and I couldn’t have one without the other.
Label: Dead Oceans
OK, so no list would be complete without these head nods, so here goes…
Thank you Helve, Lie Heavy, Haurun, and Death Mantra For Lazarus, all of whom brightened my year in one way or another.
This isn’t to say that I haven’t enjoyed every moment of every album I’ve heard or reviewed this year. Compiling such a list is actually far tougher than people think, so I’ve tried to be fair and balanced and if no one else, worthy of my Shaman peers.
Thank you, every band, musician, and writer who have shaped my year, musically in 2023, here’s to 2024, a year filled with more hope and less hatred in the world… hopefully.
Scribed by: Lee Beamish