Sourhouse Albums of the Year 2023

‘Where to?’ for a world without direction?

A word from the editor:

In our times of endless uncertainty, the reliability of the album perseveres. Even as the claims that TikTok will soon dictate everything sonic and that our attention spans are rapidly shrinking, the vast majority clearly still believe in the format. Vague fears perpetrated in some corners of the internet would have you believe that the future is listening to 10 second snippets of tracks on video sharing platforms. No doubt soon, we’ll be hearing that AI can write and produce whole albums on its own, and relieve the need for music itself.

None of this explains why all levels of the industry continue to back what is frankly the definitive recorded music experience. I must admit, 2023 has not been a strong year for iconic album covers. But given the events of the rest of this orbit around the sun, I hardly think that’s a detriment. In the previous edition of this list, I noted that living through such wild, chaotic times makes it hard to let a record really get into your life. This year, I’ve made a concerted effort to counter that. 

The records that fill this year’s list are therefore each their own form of coping with what has been an emotionally bonkers year, both personally, professionally and in general. If world news hasn’t been depressing enough, the ongoing train-crash-cum-dupster-fire that is the British Government refused to let up. The pain and horror on display at every facet is hard to put down into art, not least when escape from it is a healthy necessity. Perhaps in years from now, the true scale of this period we’re living through will be captured in music.

For now, however, the following 20 records are the ones that best represent each of our own personal journeys in 2023, which for me, features the likes of Lana Del Rey, CMAT, Slowdive, Model/Actriz, Young Fathers and many more. Qualification is any album, EP or mixtape that was released from 1st December 2022 to 30th November 2023. The Debut of the Year is awarded to an artist’s first major release, and it must also be their first inclusion on this list. Without further ado, let’s count down the Sourhouse Albums of the Year.

-Munro Page, writer of Sourhouse Music

Positions #20-#11


Credit: Dead Oceans

It’s testament to Mitski’s indelible mark that even when she’s stripped back, rawer and sharper than ever before, she’s at her most powerful. Inhospitable introduces itself with little fanfare, as dogeared and weary in its delivery as its stories of loneliness are. Not so dogeared, however, are its strong Americana undertones. For an artist so prolific in crafting her own sound, resorting to American flavours to convey emptiness sounds like a cop out on paper. Far from it in practice; Mitski marries herself to the style with total smoothness, embellishing it with soft orchestration for good measure. It’s the lyricism that truly delivers the sucker punches, a painting of a forlorn world despised of hope. Nothing is overtly miserable however, even with an album title like that, instead relishing in the experience of melancholia.


Credit: Black Butter Ltd

The mastery of rhythm and movement that J Hus possesses is miraculous. Beautiful and Brutal Yard is his biggest studio effort today, a huge portfolio of his masculinity and his search to establish space for himself. East London is everywhere across its runtime, but it’s more prominently backdropped by masculinity, weaning its way in whether the subject is romance or criminality. Nothing stands out more than the beats, however; BABY is firm proof that when it comes to rhythmn and movement, no one gets it like Hus does. Not only capable of going between outright summer bangers and stone-cold Drill cuts with ease, the charisma and wordplay he injects into everything he touches is effortlessly charming. This is his self-pioneered Afroswing genre at its peak, inflections of High Life blending with unmistakably London sounds, features galore from the country’s finest, a sprawling effort where every cut is done with intelligence.


Credit: Westerman/Partisan/Play It Again Sam

I’m a newcomer to the Westerman clan, but to say I haven’t wanted to sing his praises for the best part of this whole year would be a lie. The man’s talent for image-rich narratives painted with a palette of gorgeous instruments is immediate. An Inbuilt Fault is the Greek’s second studio album, warmly textured and soothing in character. If soft music like this is too annoying for your taste, Westerman seems aware, delivering things with the odd tongue-in-cheek moment to prevent any of this from getting pretentious. Hearing him sing “Motherfucker” on the chorus of ‘Idol’ still makes me chuckle, even whilst its January 6th subject matter is no laughing matter. Having listened to a lot of his music whilst traveling this year, An Inbuilt Fault’s coloured and introspective tone made for an outstanding soundtrack, capturing something of the worldly feel you suddenly attain as soon as you’ve got used to slinging it from hostel to hostel.


Credit: Exact Truth

Read the reviews and interviews about Snake Sideways, and you’ll get the impression that lead singer Chris Bailey almost traumatised himself trying to write it. Do Nothing sit on the classier side of town when it comes to British and Irish Post Punk, bass tones smooth and vocals pronounced. Instrumentation is laid out neatly and played with care. They only let the guitars get a go on the overdrive on special occasions. That’s an awful lot of polish for a record that clearly came for a lot of tumultuousness. That tasteful album cover is certainly dressing the record in a suit too. But go past the veneer, and Bailey’s words can’t help but leak their anxieties. The off-kilter inflections, thrown in with an ease, help to make this something far more stylised and artsy than it might seem at first glance. Anecdotes about crap jobs, bored weekday nights spent alone and wishing you were drinking with yer mates all make ‘Snake Sideways’ quite deeply relatable too. Within a genre that can often be ruled by its politicalness, it’s refreshing to hear something so grounded in its presentation and attitude.


Credit: Perpetual Novice

In this glorious era of Pop we get the great pleasure of basking in, Caroline Polachek brings an especially eclectic offering. A delightful blend of quirkiness and sexiness, sounds delivered with a wicked intelligence, creating something that satisfies totally. Polachek treats her songwriting with exhibitionary quality, showing off the cool sounds and influences she’s discovered since we last heard from her. If it doesn’t linger in your mind, then it can’t be denied that her talent to meld a buffet’s worth of picks from the annals of pop history is worth sticking around for. Everything on Desire warms you up with a sense of satisfaction. The melodies hit just right. The songs progress in wonderfully satisfying ways. Even though not everything hits as hard as you might wish, it’s difficult to find anything that isn’t enjoyable. When she doubles down on the emotional side or pushes things firmly into quirkier territory, it’s hard not to be swept up in romanticisations of Polachek being the coolest artist in your collection.


Credit: Columbia

Billy’s raspy cocktail of tight guitars, melancholy synths and punchy drum machines is an awfully addictive one. The key ingredients of New Wave, reworked into something altogether uniquely her, especially when she’s on stage with just herself and a laptop. Cacti is the second studio album from the Bristol solo artist, and her most revealing work to date, a collection of internal monologue excerpts ranging from the pained and lonely to the drunken and angry. Few cuts don’t contain at least one fiercely dry one-liner from her. Billy’s strength is her creation of an ageless soundtrack for the downtrodden, unconfined by any need to be outright punk or indeed outright angry. Rage simmers in the background of ‘Cacti’, but it’s muted by the debilitations of depressive episodes and distractions of romantic failings, all of which work to make it something deeply contemporary and deeply relatable.


Credit: Heavenly Records/PIAS

Pip Blom are sharper, harder and more electric than ever before on their third studio effort. Bobbie loses none of their hip-swinging penchant, but also wants to swing a few punches along the way too. The beats are big, the choruses are riled, and Miss Blom is angrier than usual. Synths fill in for the twangly guitars of their past material without losing the sweet nature of their music, even if the intonation in the lyrics is far from tender. Angry though it may be, Bobbie is also emblematic of how far this band have come, relishing in its confidence and bright production. It’s only managed to land them Alex bloody Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand fame for a feature on ‘Is This Love?’, where it’s clear how much fun the band are having. As if that wasn’t enough, Blom’s partner Willem Smit (of Personal Trainer) makes an appearance too on ‘Kiss Me By The Candlelight’; talk about power couples, that’s the pinnacle of Dutch Indie all wrapped up in one right there.


Credit: EMI/Universal

In a world desperately in need of a male popstar we can actually believe in now that Harry Styles has abdicated on his duties, enter stage right Troye Sivan. Once upon a time, an album of his being on this list would have been laughable. I guess I’ll eat my hat on that one. Stylistically solid, packing 10 tracks worth of Kings-ready dance numbers, this is the kind of record I’ve been looking for a while now. Something To Give Each Other treats his sexuality, and queerness as a whole, with a grown-up attitude. It’s allowed to be sexy without having to be camp. Heartbreak and longing can be just the same as it is for anyone else. He is of course not the first artist to do this, but the fresh, youthful energy Sivan injects it with, just as lithe as he is in the many music videos dropped for the record, is instantly captivating. 

Don’t be fooled by the husky vocals either; Sivan has a wit about him that prevents any of this from becoming pretentious, especially when he’s including lines like “I think my mother might like you / Just not in the same way I do” (you dirty bastard). Oscar Görres’s deft touch is all over this one, creating a punchy yet warming sonic palette across its nippy 30 minute runtime. Something about this fills a niche that we’ve been missing since we lost George Michael, and with a manifesto this reputable, I’m happy putting my political capital behind the Sivan campaign.


Credit: Forever Living Originals

A follow-up to Sometimes I Might Be Introvert – Sourhouse’s 2021 Album of the Year – was never going to be straightforward. Not that Simzy was phased for even a minute. No Thank You solves the problem by slowing the pace down, letting her cuts venture well beyond the 5 minute mark, and taking things far more into the realm of Soul. Regular collaborator Cleo Soul shines as ever on her various features, drawing out Simz’s warmer side with dexterity. In place of the grandiose orchestration of SIMBI, No Thank You picks its moments to go bigger, and spends far more time letting those tenacious drums and her immutable flow lead the way. Most notable of all though is that even when she isn’t swinging for album of the century status, even her smaller projects are just so fully realised. Few moments don’t saw with sheer quality and cool, assertive through its instrumentation and glowing in Simbi’s gorgeous presence.


Credit: Rebis/Rough Trade

Marsha P. Johnson, radiant and full of life even in the low-contrast black and white photo on the cover of My Back Was A Bridge, stirs up both joy and rage in me. The world feels remiss without her presence, even though I was born 5 years after her cold case death. Much of Anohni and The Johnson’s newest album, back after 6 years with a name change, will instill the same upon listening, and indeed, they refuse to let you look away. Ed Lawson, in his review for DIY, says it best: “it’s the sonically softer side that hits harder”. Ruthlessly unforgiving in its most delicate and quiet moments, My Back is the epitome of channeling queer rage, processing the unresolved anger of past oppressions and tragedies and attempting to reckon with our present. 

Anohni’s age means that she is a conduit between the decades of open hostility to the queer community and the ‘better’ today. But she articulates the experiences of being queer in 2023 with ferocious clarity, in particular the inability to overcome the prejudices of the conservative attitudes that are still prevalent around the world. Delivered with a magnanimous maturity, the pain and seething such aspects of the queer experience create is unrelenting on this; a challenging and necessary listen.

Munro Page

Munro Page is a music blogger and former student radio host based in Cardiff, Wales. He likes: thrift stores, cooking and parrots. He dislikes: chain restaurants, the M25 and Simply Red.