Revealing The 40 Best Albums of 2023

We’re back for the 15th annual list of the 40 best albums of the year, as compiled by the team at the AU review, bringing in music from Australia and around the world. It’s a packed list, with many artists making their debut on our countdown. Read on, and click on the album covers to listen to the record! We’ve used Bandcamp links wherever possible for your purchasing pleasure.

40. Invent Animate – Heavener

“With powerhouse vocals and deft guitarwork, this technically impressive effort showcases all sides of the Texan metallers. False Meridian has got to have the best breakdown of the year, hands down.” – Dylan Oxley

39. Nothing But Thieves – Dead Club City

“Nothing But Thieves’ new era is visual, vibrant, playful and meaningful. Creating a music universe that makes you feel like you’re there walking side by side the band listening to their stories. “Dead Club City” is now open and is welcoming new members daily.” – Victoria Lewis (from her June 2023 review)

38. Royal Blood – Back To The Water Below

Back to the Water Below is one of the year’s finest, as the Brighton duo – Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher – continue to level up the mastery of their craft. Songs like “Shiner in the Dark” and “Pull Me Through” are some of the best they’ve produced, and translated powerfully live with a third member (Darren Watts) on keys to elevate it all.” – Larry Heath (from last week’s Sydney live review)

37. Polaris – Fatalism

“The last recordings with late guitarist Ryan Siew make this album heavy in more ways than one, especially with its themes of existentialism. Blistering performances from each member and refreshingly provocative lyrics shine a light as to why they are one of the biggest bands in Australia right now.” – Dylan Oxley

36. Petey – USA

USA is Petey’s third album, and in my opinion his best, which is saying a lot considering the previous two are bloody fantastic! USA has been referred to as a “coming of rage” album and I think this sums it up perfectly. With introspective lyrics and vocals that are incredibly unique, I can’t get enough of Petey, or this album.” – Sarah Duggan

35. Taking Back Sunday – 152

“Taking Back Sunday’s triumphant return to the music scene is marked by their eighth studio album, 152 This long-awaited release, their first full-length endeavour since 2016, is a nostalgic ode to their roots and the memories of their formative years in North Carolina. The album’s title, a reference to the road connecting Highpoint, Chapel Hill, and Raleigh, where the band and their friends used to gather as teenagers, also serves as a recurrent Easter egg across their previous album covers.” – Sarah Duggan (from her original review).

34. Post Malone – Austin

“Post Malone can move from being a deep story teller to a raw energetic music machine. The opening track of Austin, “Don’t Understand” fits into that story-telling mold. Angst ridden and introspective, you can feel the pain. “Something Real” is almost a gospel tune, with soaring vocals and backing choir. Then we have “Chemical” which is a feel good pop song. Singles “Overdrive” and “Mourning” have a familiar Post Malone feel. A solid album showcasing the incredible voice and intensity of Post Malone.” – John Goodridge

33. the GOLDEN DREGS – On Grace and Dignity

“On Grace and Dignity is the third full length release from The Golden Dregs – the ongoing project of Cornish singer-songwriter Benjamin Woods. The album was born out of the COVID-19 lockdown when Woods was forced to move back to his childhood home, and is inspired by the realities of his home county, Cornwall. Tinged with melancholy, On Grace and Dignity is an affecting and assured release, full of engaging songwriting and a stunning soulful vocal.” – Simon Clark

32. The Regime – Love Funky Revolution

“There’s really not too much you can fault The Regime on here on Love Funky Revolution. It’s fun from start to finish, and completely satisfies on every re-listen. For a band who seemingly don’t appear to take themselves too seriously, you get the feeling The Regime really could be onto something special here. If you’re a festival booker, or just a music fan, invest some time and money into The Regime. The love funky revolution is here and it won’t disappoint.” – Dylan Marshall (from his album review)

31. Fanny Lumsden – Hey Dawn

“On Hey Dawn, the fourth studio album from Fanny Lumsden, the award winning artist straddles the line between the worlds of pop and country with remarkable ease. It’s an often upbeat and life affirming album; with a bit of heartbreak and emotion never too far away (“Ugly Flowers” is quietly devastating). Beautiful harmonies, stunning songwriting and great stories abound.” – Simon Clark

30. SZA – SOS

SZA has been on top of her game these last few albums, and this might be the deepest dive. It’s groovy and sleek, and packs in some featuring artists like Don Toliver and Travis Scott for good measure. While it’s certainly the style we’ve gotten used to, there’s nothing wrong with not fixing what isn’t necessarily broken. – Matthew Arcari

29. Bad//Dreems – Hoo Ha!

Another pub rock classic album from Adelaide’s finest.
Grab a coldy, sit back and listen to Benny’s take on Australian political and social issues while rocking out!
“What do think about that Jack” – Pete Dovgan

28. Beryl – Dry Peel Crack

“The voice of Gabriela King pulls you into this sparse, delicate and beautiful debut record. A myriad of sounds surround that voice as experiences of love, loss and experience are delivered. Saxophone, Clarinet, tender guitar and keys all bubble to the surface underneath the fragile exterior, but don’t be mistaken, this is confident and striking debut. Duet partner, Alex Jasprizza, combines seamless with King to create a partnership that feels like a free-flowing balloon in the breeze – sometimes changing direction, sometimes moving fast or slowing down, a burst always possible, but never arriving. Close your eyes and soak this one in.” – Mick Radojkovic

27. Holding Absence – The Noble Art of Self Destruction

“These Welsh rockers have evolved with each release and are at their peak in what frontman Lucas Woodley deems the final album of a trilogy. This instalment is replete with heart-wrenching lyrics, beautiful melodies and visceral guitars for a true emotional and sonic journey” – Dylan Oxley

26. Hot Mulligan – Why Would I Watch

“Catchy choruses? Check. Brilliant lyrics? Check. Pitch perfect melodies? Check. Song titles that err just on the right side of ridiculous? CHECK. Why Would I Watch is Hot Mulligan at the very top of their game, and it’s a banger from start to finish. Knocking it out the park for the emo and the pop punk kids alike.” – Jodie Sloan

25. Lana Del Rey – Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd

“I’m a sucker for the Lana’s soft, soothing voice, and this year’s latest studio album is really no exception. It’s also a much more personal album about many of the questions that have lingered over her personal life and troubles, but it never feels preachy or over the top. It’s definitely one of her better albums.” – Matthew Arcari

24. The Beaches – Blame My Ex

“The first time I heard Blame Brett, I knew I had just stumbled across something special. This album is mind-blowingly (making up words here) good. Every track is fun, energetic and downright enjoyable. Standouts for me are “Me & Me”, and “Edge Of The Earth”.” – Sarah Duggan

23. Jessie Ware – That! Feels Good!

“Jessie Ware admittedly took me by surprise in 2023, as I’d never really listened to her before. That being said, this high energy, disco throwback features plenty of instruments and some epic vocals, taking listeners on a well-paced journey from a different era.” – Matthew Arcari

22. Private Function – 370HSSV 0773H

Clever tongue in cheek & irreverent punk rock anthems at its finest. Genius album cover design, scratch to see if you win the one off prize! – Pete Dovgan

21. Sleep Token – Take Me Back To Eden

“The mysterious entity that is Sleep Token have delivered a truly unique work with Take Me Back to Eden that will inspire many to break boundaries and rethink what a heavy band can be.” – Dylan Oxley (from his May 2023 review)

20. The Japanese House – In The End It Always Does

“It has been a gorgeous year listening to incredible single after incredible single of The Japanese House in the build up to In The End It Always Does’ imminent release. The album is a perfect ode to queer love, heartbreak and gently turns Amber Bain’s sound on its head throughout the twelve tracks. In particular, I’ll be playing “Sunshine Baby” until I’m in my grave.” – Eloise Coomber

19. Cash Savage and the Last Drinks – So This Is Love

“How do you deal with pain, hurt and confusion? If you’re Cash Savage, you write it all down and record it into posterity to help you and everyone else work through it. This album is not always a comfortable listen, but that fact pulls you in even deeper. You are encouraged, through each listen, to understand and deal with how Savage has dealt with the last six years. Through Savage and The Last Drinks fifth album, you are pulled into a honest re-telling of what is front of mind and how to (try to) understand the world around us. Love is at the core of this, but how can you love or be loved if you don’t love yourself? There are questions, answers and a whole lot of raw emotion of this very real record. Beautifully recorded, at time spacious and others claustrophobic, but always sounding as real as the content within.” – Mick Radojkovic

18. Babitha – Brighterside of Blue

“Imogen Grist’s solo project Babitha provides the soundtrack to that perfect summers day. Take a road trip for an easy listening ride.” – Pete Dovgan

17. The Teskey Brothers – The Winding Way

“With anything in life, when you know you’re onto a good thing, you’d be a fool to change it up. Whether a lifestyle, relationship or career, for most people consistency in their life is key to success. This extends to musicians. And yet, sometimes even when you’re at the top of your game, change is what’s needed to continue staying on top. And for The Teskey Brothers, that’s exactly what they’ve done on their new album: changed it up just enough and still come through with the goods.” – Dylan Marshall (from his June 2023 review)

16. DZ Deathrays – R.I.F.F.

“Over the last decade, Brisbane outfit DZ Deathrays have published solid guitar heavy albums. Thie 2023 release, R.I.F.F. follows that trend, with the opening song “Paranoid” grabbing you by the throat and throwing you against the wall. “Tuff Luck” is a little more subdued, but the intensity never really eases up. A hot and sweaty mess.” – John Goodridge

15. Georgia Mulligan – Nothing Wrong

“A debut album that brings together a tumultuous and evolutionary decade for this Sydney artist who, given the space, time and opportunity has created an album to be immensely proud of. Topped off with Mulligan’s warm and welcome vocal, the delivery of self-reflected experiences of pain, doubt and acceptance that comes with age envelopes you in warmth and familiarity, even if you haven’t had a chance to dive into the artist’s music before. Take the time to breathe this album in and then you’ll be ready for it over and over again.” – Mick Radojkovic

14. Knuckle Puck – Losing What We Love

“Knuckle Puck’s fourth outing, Losing What We Love, had the good fortune of arriving in the year I retreated back into full pop-punk era Jodie – though both I and Knuckle Puck’s sound are much better dressed these days. I’ve honestly lost count of how many times I’ve blasted The Tower and the eponymous title track since October.” – Jodie Sloan

13. Cable Ties – All Her Plans

All Her Plans is the third album from Naarm/Melbourne punk-trio Cable Ties and is jam-packed with emotions. The intensity varies from the visceral “Crashing Through” to the tender “Deep Breath Out”, with a common thread of appreciation for loved ones, exasperation with healthcare systems and a thoughtful and honest exposition of mental health challenges. Gratitude, exasperation and frustration go hand-in-hand. This is a tour-de-force from a band that shares boldly.” – Bruce Baker

12. Foo Fighters – But Here We Are

11. Shame – Food For Worms

“The third album from the South London post-punk lords, Food For Worms is for the most part more melodic and accessible than their previous two albums. A band known for their rollicking live set, the tone of the album will undoubtedly translate well to the stage, with the varied sounds of “Fingers of Steel”, “Six Pack”, “Adderall (End of the Line)” and “All The People” likely live highlights.” – Dylan Marshall

10. Blink-182 – One More Time

“I absolutely love this album for a number of reasons. It’s so great to see Mark, Tom and Travis back together again, not only making great music but clearly having fun and falling in love with the band again, and One More Time encapsulates his perfectly. A stunning blend of nostalgic tunes and powerful anthems, with of course a couple cheeky tracks sprinkled in throughout, it’s a terrific return to form.” – Sarah Duggan

“The mighty return of Tom DeLonge on guitar and vocals has delivered the trio’s best work since their eponymous record 20 years ago. Travis Barker’s production is flawless and the title track is a front contender for the most moving song of the year, particularly for old school fans.” – Dylan Oxley

9. Olivia Rodrigo – GUTS

8. Caroline Polachek – Desire, I Want to Turn Into You

“Caroline Polacheck’s reign as dark pop princess, maniacal Mother and experimental artist has skyrocketed with her fourth album. With huge hits “Bunny Is A Rider” and “Welcome To My Island” garnering critical success on their own terms, Polacheck’s collection of genre-bending tracks has easily placed as one of my tops albums of the year.” – Eloise Coomber

7. The National – First Two Pages of Frankenstein

“The best album from the band since 2013’s Trouble Will Find Me, 20 years in and The National are still finding ways to change up what they’re delivering for their fans. While generally at their peak when down-in-the dumps (“Once Upon A Poolside”), it’s the surprising relatively upbeat moments (“Tropic Morning News” and “Grease In Your Hair”) that stand out on the album. With multiple big name guests spots on the album, including Sufjan Stevens, Phoebe Bridgers and Taylor Swift, First Two Pages of Frankenstein is The National returning to form.” – Dylan Marshall

6. RVG – Brain Worms

“The moment you hear Romy Vager sing, “I think I’m giving up” on the opener, ‘Common Ground’, you are pulled into an album of twists and turns in typical RVG heart-wrenching angst. But this album feels different to their previous two – both outstanding as well it must be said. There’s an audible air of confidence on this record that permeates through tracks like ‘Nothing Really Changes’ a steadfastly powerful anthem declaring, “I don’t wanna fight”. The song- writing, the band, the message are all given a chance to shine on this record and it sounds brilliant and makes you happy to be you.” – Mick Radojkovic

5. Teen Jesus and The Jean Teasers – I Love You

“Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers have nailed their debut album with the thirteen songs on I Love You. You can hear the fun and joy the band has in their music and with each other. The laughs smattered throughout many of the songs’ closing seconds adds charm and identity to the band and album, all the while bringing a smile to listeners new and old. I Love You is a belter from start to finish. I’m sure it’ll be the same in live settings.” – Dylan Marshall (from his October 2023 review)

4. Genesis Owusu – Struggler

“Genesis Owusu has returned with a sense of urgency and darkness on his second album Struggler. Where his last release felt like a culmination of years’ slowly chipping away at what eventually would become his groundbreaking debut Smiling With No Teeth, here on Struggler it feels like a body of work from an artist who might be in an in-between phase, coming to terms with his newfound success.” – Dylan Marshall (from his August 2023 review)

3. Young Fathers – Heavy Heavy

“The Scottish band’s return with Heavy Heavy was one of the most incredibly well-weighted albums of the year. Filled with passion and anthemic moments of reflection and discovery, its influence by African culture and sounds sets Heavy Heavy apart in popular music of 2023. Heavy Heavy is a little more than 30 minutes of joy and pure bliss, with highlights coming in the form of the opener “Rice”, the pulsating “Drum”, floating “Ululation”, “Geronimo” and “Tell Somebody”, while the gospel-influenced “Holy Moly” really ties it all together.” – Dylan Marshall

2. boygenius – the record

“I always wanna be in the middle of those set-closing hugs between Phoebe, Julien and Lucy. Listening to the record feels like the closest thing.” – Sarah Robbins

Some supergroups are damaged by competing egos, but this is not the case with Boygenius. The love, affection and intimacy, as well as fighting spirit unified by these three colossal talents, is mesmerising. – Bruce Baker

Baker, Dacus and Bridgers can, quite frankly, do no wrong. the record is pretty much an instant classic, but then what do you expect when you bring together three of the finest songwriters working right now.  – Simon Clark

Number 1 Album of 2023:
Angie McMahon – Light, Dark, Light Again

Light, Dark, Light Again is a step up in production, vibe and wholesomeness from Angie McMahon following her 2019 debut album Salt. McMahon has placed an emphasis on creating songs that are warm, cosmic and vast in their content, volume and vibe. The album is one of growth, confidence and acceptance. You manage to find something new and exciting in it with every listen. Light, Dark, Light Again will go down as one for the ages.” – Dylan Marshall

With thanks to the following contributors for their votes that compiled our annual list (in no particular order): Dylan Oxley, Jodie Sloan, Pete Dovgan, Matthew Arcari, Mick Radojkovic, John Goodridge, Bruce Baker, Sarah Duggan, Jennifer Quinlin, Eloise Coomber, Simon Clark, Larry Heath and Dylan Marshall. 

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.