Sourhouse Albums of the Year 2023

Positions #10-#1


Credit: Alcopop!

Heavy Lungs are one of the only truly loud bands around right now, and no expense is spared in filling every inch of All Gas No Brakes with noise. Thank fucking god. It’s been far too long without new material from them, and even if this thing is a grower, it more than pays off on repeated listens. Upscaling to a full size LP has been a blessing for the band, brandishing a fuzzier yet honed version of the bruising, dense-as-led sound that made them so exciting in the first place. Danny Nedelko is a riot of a frontman, well matched by the energy from the rest of the band, but given full clearance to display his prowess throughout. 

Although recorded back in 2021, the yellows and blues on that album cover are impossible to ignore with Nedelko’s Ukrainian heritage. The band’s rage remains unbranded, happier just to start moshpits than directed at anything in particular, even if their song titles give vague clues to the inspirations behind them. However, if that means that AGNB can serve as a racketing distraction to the horrors of the ongoing war, then I’m all for it. Years in the making and years in the waiting, the Bristolians at last have their true debut album.


Credit: EMI/Universal

Within the admonishing experience of living in Our Great British Nation, especially as a queer person, any forms of hope and joy can often feel deceptive. We’ve become very used to being let down. Not so with Jessie Ware though, who’s salmon pink follow up to the 2020 Sourhouse Album of the Year came riding in on a wave of pearls and champagne. “Pleasure IS a right!” she decrees, laying out an unequivocally gay soundtrack with which to lay out her agenda of love. Campness pours out of every orifice, whilst the vocals range from cabaret cheesiness to pride party dancefloor. 

By god though does it takes its craft seriously. Nothing here is cheap or forced; the production goes to the nines, whilst an intelligent reading of classic 70s Disco informs all the instrumentation. Its 40 minute runtime showcases meticulous pace and emotional balance, rollicking with the hard-and-fast firepower of ‘Pearls’, the slick French House cool of ‘Freak Me Now’ and the Chic-esque drama of ‘Begin Again’. That! Feels Good! is all ends of the spectrum and everything in between, a scintillating slab of Disco that commands you to dance and to love. We’re bearing witness to one of the pop artists of our age in their prime, and it’s a party that you won’t want to miss.

Read the full review here


Credit: Ninja Tune

Rocking without a question the hardest album cover of the year, Heavy Heavy lives up to its name in spirit, in form and attitude. Young Fathers achieves levels never before conceived in their discography, and that’s quite something for a band who already have such a rich back catalogue. The word ‘heavy’ has no negative connotations here; it’s a conception of the sheer weight this thing is able to sling around. Triumph runs brisk through every vein of the album, and few cuts don’t leave you punching the air. I’m still none the wiser as to what they might have overcome to relish in this sort of feeling, but more often than not, it feels like life itself. Victory in existence. Celebrations of the ability to be in this fucking world.

If that sounds too cheesy for you, don’t worry. The instrumentation and arrangements are as far away from contrived as you can conceive. The trio sit you in the middle of a valley of noise, booming choruses on one side and frenetic percussion on the other. Some vocals reach the ethereal, others are so restless the microphones can barely contain them. The Glaswegian trio underpin it all with a unique swagger that holds no bravado or brashness, but boasts sheer confidence in itself. It instills much the same in yourself, especially on the towering heights reached by ‘I Saw’ and Ululation.


Credit: !K7 Music

Pinning down Elkka’s particular flavour of mixes is tricky. Clash go as far as to say her work “defies categorisation”. It’s therefore no wonder that her DJ-Kicks release has such a multiplicity to its feeling, all at once continental, urban, afternoon, late night, trendy bar, basement club and more. The stunning album cover is the only clue for what you might expect from its 1h45m runtime, as Elkka stares back at you poised, rocking severely cool orange sunglasses, hair shining as those she’s just got out of the sea. Perhaps the summery colour palette demands warm weather listening only, but trust me, it’s right at home on the cold November day I’m writing this particular note. 

Out of what is a supremely tasteful and informed selection of cuts, ranging from Disco obscurities to fiercely grooving Techno selections, few don’t announce themselves without you going “Oh, this is so good”. ‘Can’t Stand The Night’, the early peak of the mix, has been rooted under my skin since I heard it, whilst Carli’s twinkling ‘Lights & Strobes’ is a real beauty. Nothing overpowers anything else here, not only making for outstanding consistency throughout, but a total ease of listening too. Elkka never relies on sentimentality or forced euphoria to demand your attention, allowing her DJ-Kicks eclecticness to stand firm without any pretentiousness.


Credit: Model/Actriz / True Panther Records

To paraphrase a good friend of mine, most of the songs on Dogsbody are about putting things up in places and going down on others. Model/Actriz are very good at telling you how horny they are, taking the slurried rage of Noise Rock and wielding it with sword-sharp accuracy. Its dirtiness is revealed in flashes, crawling out of Cole Haden’s lyrics as they fight not to be swallowed by the darkness of their instrumentation. Fans of Industrial will find much to enjoy here, but it’s their Post Punk sensibilities that add an unexpected compactness to the experience. Nothing about their flagrant sexuality is overwhelming, nor is the heaviness of their production too depressing. 

Ample room is left for depth too, thankfully; across the record’s runtime, Haden depicts his relationship with sex, hard desire to be taken doing battle with a yearning for softer connection. The balance of this is what has and will keep this record a favourite in alternative circles for years to come, and hopefully announces the start of a bold new venture in the world of Noise Rock.


Credit: PinkPantheress/Warner Records

Perhaps the greatest challenge PinkPantheress would have to face in her minute but already spectacular career was a full album. Her first EP, To Hell With It, was a short record filled with short songs. Any cut beyond 2 minutes in length seemed like it would be the making or breaking of her. Well folks, here’s a whole album’s worth of 2 minute-plus songs, and it fucking rocks. Not least because Heaven knows has translated her cutesy yet grounded appeal beautifully. Still dripping with early noughties nostalgia but never relying solely on her Gen Z imagining of the Urban room, her debut LP brims with hooks and energy. If the immediacy of her debut made her so engaging, the trend is continued with a stellar blend of blazing riffs and subtlety that gives an amazing depth of listening. 

It’s what she’s doing below the surface that really gets me though. Lyrical hooks are sampled on a number of cuts – the chorus from McFly’s ‘Five Colours In Her Hair’ on ‘True Romance’, Example’s ‘Kickstart’ being used on ‘Blue’ – creating an interaction with our past in stark contrast to the corporate laziness found in countless remixes and chart hits as of late. It helps to conjure up a world of her making, cooking with nostalgia like it’s chemistry to create something that speaks with total clarity to her young audience. Naysayers who might have written her off as nothing more than a wannabe 2-Step artist 20 years too late can get in the bin too when the NuDisco beat on ‘The Aisle’ is just delectable.

Pantheress continues to provide one of the most pertinent assessments of relationships in the 21st century, both real and unrequited, expressed through a sound that represents the tastes of the 2023 better than almost anyone else. The impact of the social media age is woven throughout, forging Heaven knows into something that will grow into a time capsule of our era in years to come. 


Credit: Dead Oceans

I’ve not been on the whole ‘Shoegaze is back’ hype of the last few years. It never really materialised for me, save for the renewed interest in the past works of the genre. Though Slowdive had their fantastic comeback back in 2017, their most recent effort shows not only are they still one of the greatest to ever do it, but that they know exactly what to do with the genre in 2023. Everything Is Alive needs no support from manufactured hype, a fully realised project that will give fans of the band exactly what they want. Newer synth elements are blended with a more minimalist vocals and guitars, reinvigorating their trademark style of horizon-filling scale and beautiful intimacy. But the youthful love that gave beauty to their sound has evolved; Slowdive are deeply aware of the passing of time on Everything, filling the record with a beautiful melancholia that feels bang on for where they are now as a band. 

In its bolder moments, the record gives you countless hooks to hum away on rainy days, whilst calmer moments are also given plenty of breathing space, especially on ‘Prayer Remembered’. It’s the tenderness of it all that is most memorable of all. Even with the regular acknowledgement of time’s passing – quite literally, “Time is running out”, as the chorus of ‘Alife’ repeats – a love persists beyond the confines of age. I’m off to see them in Cardiff in February, and no doubt hearing this all live will be just as spiritual as it is on paper.


Credit: Ninja Tune

Right from the get-go, Sofia Kourtesis has grabbed my attention. Not just because I’m a sucker for South American artists, but because her take on House is soaringly global. Ruled by an airiness that evokes the wild and varied terrain of her native Peru, yet spiked with enough Latin inflections to take it north of the equator. But then come the influences of Berlin, her current residence, delivering all this with a worldly polish that gives it even greater appeal.

No doubt this is most at home on a Boiler Room set, but any stereotypical vapidity you could associate with it for that reason is nowhere to be found. Madres is deeply personal, documenting the turmoil in the wake of losing her father and her mother going through serious health complications. It’s certainly the first time I’ve heard a song dedicated to a neurosurgeon who helped perform life-saving treatment on a family member, but that’s exactly what ‘Vajkoczy’ is. Interwoven into many of the tracks are recordings of protests from across South America fighting for queer rights, abortion rights and more, giving the record an almost diary-like quality with its stream of consciousness.

Musically, Kourtesis is breathlessly brilliant. Her beats are laced with illicit substances, yet never wear thin; they’re intelligent, delicate even, and severely danceable. The emotional mastery she possesses is especially prominent, willing to take you to the warm, the cool and even the uncomfortable if it means you’ll feel something. Her personal experiences chart the course, but space aplenty is made for whatever you want to bring to the table.

Naturally, in the face of the adversity she has dealt with and such a need to express feelings, music offers an emotional processing no other medium can do. Madres is a celebration pyre to the spiritual potential of dance music, a dedicated space for you to breathe forged from an emotional resonance that I’ve rarely seen House music achieve before.

Debut of the Year



Self loathing and romantic regret are hardly anything new in music, but I can’t say I’ve come across a concept album processing such feelings by imagining a future version of yourself traveling back in time to save you in the present. Thompson told Rolling Stone that much of her second album is about “what happens when you are still angry about something that happened 10 years ago”, a theme for which I’m finding much of your mid-twenties is defined by. 

CMAT arrived so quickly last autumn that I didn’t get a chance to get into her debut before the year’s end. Her impact has been immense, especially in the venn diagram of queer music and Pop Rock, which meant I wasn’t missing out when her second LP dropped. Thompson is a revelation of a songwriter, depicting brutally honest romantic and personal struggles with a creative voice capable of the most vivacious wittiness and bowling-ball-heavy pain. Not only is her voice twined with a beautiful quirkiness, her instrumentation matches it with its blend of Country and Soft Rock elements, co-opted with an indelible touch.

If her tactful references to Sex and The City and Vincent Kompany (yes, really) tie it down to our present pop culture literacy, it’s the way she talks of heartbreaks and anguish that truly soars. Far from letting herself become a hapless damsel tripping from one breakup to another, she presents her own experiences with a bright melancholy that commands strength. This is not just your typical 48 minutes of self loathing: it’s distinctly mid-to-late 20s self loathing, self loathing that recognises the beauty in life that still exists even when things are going to shit, self loathing that depicts the quietly harrowing realisation that your teenhood is a decade gone. “No one at this party knows I’m mourning” she sings on the Sourhouse’s #2 Tune of the Year ‘Where Are Your Kids Tonight?’, and no line this year has stuck with me more.

In trying to find a version of herself that feels real, Thompson only ends up with something as abstract as that watercolour album cover. Few expressions have spoken to me more in the year that I’ve had, her quirkiness not serving to cover up the pain, but rather to be the closest thing to a version of herself amidst a chaotic life. By the time the towering, dreamy ‘Stay For Something’ comes in to provide the emotional closure the album needs, CrazyMad’s wicked concoction of dexterous musical influences and admonishing anecdotes feels like you’ve had a feeling you’ve never been able to explain finally put to paper.

Sourhouse Album of the Year 2023


Credit: Polydor/Interscope

Well, this is something. The first time in Sourhouse history that the same artist has won both the Tune and Album of the Year award, and it may be the only time ever that both the title track and the album share the same title. For the sake of fairness, I really did try to think if Del Rey could have topped only on of the lists. But this is my blog at the end of the day, and it’s fundamentally about celebrating the music that speaks to me.

My word does Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd speak to me. A big Del Rey album, for which so much of my music taste is built around, more sincere and closer to the Elizabeth Grant behind the face than ever before. She takes her iconoclast character to territories previously unimaginable for her, more solemn and more vulnerable than ever before. Taking away the bold stylisations on the whim of a worry that along the way, she might have forgotten to tell us who she actually is.

Three opening songs all dealing with death and self-perception certainly set the scene that this is not going to be a record to inspire new Tumblr blog themes. Instead, we are presented with 16 vignettes of Del Rey’s current state of being, paying visits to her family, discussing her hopes, dreams, and what 13 years in the spotlight has done to her. The instrumentation is given more of a lead than ever, the record filled with gorgeous pianos especially that really do make things somber.

The cultural hardpoints of her past works are traded for beautiful melodies, whilst the production, led primarily Jack Antonoff’s never-ending brilliance, is exquisite and celestial. He puts her vocals across a thoroughly ethereal range; sometimes she’s on an empty stage in front of you, sometimes she fills the air like summer heat. Her America is disentangled across its sky, references made sporadically, and much of its setting driven by intonation.

I think it’s important to see Ocean Blvd as those 16 vignettes I mentioned. The big overarching romantic dramas of her earlier work are replaced with a search for meaning that needs to be able to dart about as needed. Amazingly, that doesn’t diminish the pacing of the record – indeed, it’s fucking brilliant – and more than anything else, it frames Del Rey entirely in the present. She’s older, she’s changed, and there’s a need to address that. For me as a life-long listener, at a point in my life where my sense of self and what I’m doing exactly on this earth has been tested throughout this year, no other record could possible have provided what I needed more than this. Truly, I didn’t realise how much I needed an album like this until I heard it.

For this to have come from one of the most culturally significant artists of the 21st century, one who has defined the concept of the modern pop star as not just a musician, but an entire aesthetic that you’re able to participate in, this is without a doubt her most intelligent moment to date. So much of this album speaks to me too personally for me to write in full – we’d be here for a long time – but her presentation of emotional impact in all is form is simply untouchable here. A songbook of self-discovery, draped in moody mists and twinkling with a ripened form of the magic that has always made Del Rey so captivating. 

Album of the Year 2023

Read the full review here.

Certification: Personal Favourite

Personal Favourite is the highest accolade I award to music, recognising it as one of my favourites of all time.

And with that, Sourhouse’s Albums of the Year 2023 draws to a close. You can check out the Tunes of the Year list here to see my 30 favourite singles from this year, and listen to the best tracks from the 20 chosen albums in this playlist:

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.