Top Albums of 2023 According to ‘The Aquarian’ Staff

Debut albums finding their way onto our coveted year-end ranking? (Hi, boygenius. Hi, Mitch Rowland.) Musicians skipping the sophomore slump and standing tall with their second record? (Wolfgang Van Halen and Olivia Rodrigo, we’re looking at you.) Longtime legends celebrating their umpteenth release? (Paul Simon is on his 15th solo LP. Alice Cooper? His 22nd!)

This was the year of already strong artists becoming even stronger and legacy acts finding new ground to cover. It was glorious to witness.

What does one do when the classic artists they know and love become less classic, somehow? Now, this is not to say that their current releases will not become classics as time goes on. Someone like our own Everynight Charley Crespo says, “In my opinion, the Rolling Stones’ Hackney Diamonds was the only album that mattered in 2023. I would add that the Beatles’ ‘Now and Then’ was the best song/single of the year.”

The Rolling Stones and the Beatles coming out with new music in the same – 21st century – year? There was a time where most of us probably wouldn’t have believed that to be true. Keith Richards successfully and miraculously hitting 80 years of age last week was enough to stump the masses, so it makes sense that Gen Z couldn’t get enough of the fact that they were living through a brand new single release from John, Paul, George, and Ringo just like their parents and grandparents did five decades ago.

Were they groundbreaking releases, though? Did Hackney Diamonds challenge listeners? Did it resonate with fans more than other albums? These experiences and qualities matter. There’s a reason Kelly Clarkson told the aforementioned popstar Olivia Rodrigo, “I’m 41 and I felt empowered listening to GUTS,” on her talk show earlier this month.

Our writer Vinny Cecolini says that “2023’s best album is also its most polarizing: Avenged Sevenfold’s Life is But a Dream...” This record, unlike others, was what he calls “the most exciting, daring, rule-breaking, and original album of the year.” He explains, “While it alienated some longtime fans hoping to hear the same sound, the album is an abstract work of art; a masterpiece that will still the test of time. Yes, while most Top 10 records will eventually become musical footnotes or worse, fade from memory, Life is But a Dream… will be embraced by generations to come.”

There’s that word again – generations. An overarching theme of 2023 was nostalgia, but done so in a way that is tasteful and communicative, as means to bring people together emotionally and occasionally physically. Think: Barbie, Furbies, *NSYNC’s reunion, KISS’ final tour, Blink-182’s OG3 world tour,The Little Mermaid, any and all podcasts about your favorite childhood sitcoms, M&M characters, and Taylor Swift’s career-spanning Eras Tour. The newest of the new and the oldest of the old found common ground this year, in which music was far from an exception. Many of the following albums that our staff thinks take the cake for the last 365 days of EPs and LPs have something for everyone, and, ultimately, transcend generations.

Debra Schafer – Managing Editor

  1. Olivia Rodrigo – GUTS (Geffen Records)
  2. Foo Fighters – But Here We Are (Roswell Records)
  3. Paramore – This Is Why (Atlantic Records)
  4. Blink-182 – ONE MORE TIME… (Viking Wizard Eyes / Columbia Records / Sony)
  5. Mammoth WVH – Mammoth II (I Am The Sheriff, LLC / BMG)
  6. Metallica – 72 Seasons (Blackened Recordings)
  7. Kelly Clarkson – chemistry (Atlantic Records)
  8. Greta Van Fleet – Starcatcher (Republic Records / UMG & Lava Records)
  9. BlurThe Ballad Of Darren (Parlophone Records / Warner Music Group)
  10. Miley Cyrus – Endless Summer Vacation (Smiley Miley Inc. / Columbia Records / Sony)

Mike Greenblatt – Rant ‘N’ Roll Columnist

  1. Bettye LaVette – Lavette! (Jay Vee)
  2. Paul Simon – Seven Psalms (Legacy)
  3. Eric Bibb – Ridin’ (Stony Plain)
  4. Marc Broussard – S.O.S. 4:  Blues For Your Soul (KTBA)
  5. Todd Sickafoose – Bear Proof (Secret Hatch)
  6. Mike Zito & Albert Castiglia – Blood Brothers (Gulf Coast)
  7. Michael Blake – Dance of the Mystic Bliss (P&M)
  8. The Bluesland Horn Band – SIX (self-released)
  9. James Brandon Lewis – For Mahalia With Love  (TAO Forms)
  10. Yelena Eckemoff – Lonely Man and His Fish (L&H)

Bob Makin – Makin Waves Columnist

  1. Starling Arrow – Cradle (Starling Arrow)
  2. Eilen Jewell – Get Behind the Wheel (Signature Sounds Recordings)
  3. Joy Oladokun – Proof of Life (Amigo Records / Verve Forecast / Republic Records / UMG)
  4. Jackson Pines – Pine Barrens, Vol. 1 (Jackson Pines)
  5. Antje Duvekot – New Wild West (Antje Duvekot)
  6. Renee Maskin – Shimmer (Mint 400 Records)
  7. Megson – What Are We Trying to Say? (EDJ Records)
  8. Honey and the Bear – Away Beyond the Fret (Lucy Sampson)
  9. Ayla Nereo – Sovereign Kin — Book I: The Spark (Jumpsuit Records)
  10. Porangui & Liquid Bloom – Kuya Sessions: Sol (Sol Creation Records)

Robert Frezza – Staff Writer

  1. Royal Blood – Back To The Water Below (Warner Records UK)
  2. boygenius – the record (Interscope Records)
  3. Paramore – This Is Why (Atlantic Records)
  4. Lil Yachty – Let’s Start Here (Quality Control Music / UMG)
  5. Hozier – Unreal Unearth (Rubyworks / Columbia Records / Sony)
  6. Olivia Rodrigo – GUTS (Geffen Records)
  7. Summer Moon – Casino Days (The Arts Elektra Collective)
  8. Everything But The Girl – Fuse (Buzzin’ Fly Records / Virgin Music Group)
  9. Depeche Mode – Memento Mori (Venusnote / Columbia Records / Sony)
  10. Infinity Song – Metamorphosis (Roc Nation Records)

Valentino Petrarca – Staff Writer

  1. Hot MulliganWhy Would I Watch (Wax Bodega)
  2. CreeperSanguivore (Spinefarm Music Group)
  3. Fall Out BoySo Much (For) Stardust (Fueled By Ramen / Elektra Music Group)
  4. Trophy Eyes – Suicide and Sunshine (Hopeless Records)
  5. FireworksHigher Lonely Power (Funeral Plant Collective)
  6. Hozier – Unreal Unearth (Rubyworks / Columbia Records / Sony)
  7. AvatarDance Devil Dance (Black Waltz AB / Thirty Tigers)
  8. Heart Attack Man – Freak of Nature (Many Hats Distribution)
  9. Asking AlexandriaWhere Do We Go From Here? (Better Noise Music)
  10. Movements – RUCKUS! (Fearless Records / Concord)

Grace Prachthauser – Contributing Photographer

  1. Paramore – This Is Why (Atlantic Records)
  2. HozierUnreal, Unearth (Rubyworks / Columbia Records / Sony)
  3. Chappell Roan – The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess (KRA International / Island Records / UMG)
  4. PVRIS – EVERGREEN (Hopeless Records)
  5. Mac Miller – Watching Movies with the Sound Off (10th Anniversary) (Rostrum Records)
  6. Pierce the VeilThe Jaws of Life (Fearless Records / Concord)
  7. Tate McRae – THINK LATER (RCA Records / Sony)
  8. Renee Rapp – Snow Angel (Interscope Records)
  9. The Aces – I’ve Loved You for So Long (Red Bull Records)
  10. MäneskinRUSH! (ARE YOU COMING?) (Epic / Sony Music Entertainment Italy)

Vinny Cecolini – Staff Writer

  1. Avenged Sevenfold – Life Is But a Dream… (Warner Records)
  2. Greta Van Fleet – Starcatcher (Republic Records / UMG & Lava Records)
  3. Rival SonsDARKFIGHTER/LIGHTBRINGER (Atlantic Records)
  4. Fall Out Boy – So Much (For) Stardust (Fueled By Ramen / Elektra Music Group)
  5. Steel PantherOn the Prowl (Steel Panther Inc.)
  6. Mammoth WVH – Mammoth II (I Am The Sheriff, LLC / BMG)
  7. The Rolling Stones – Hackney Diamonds (Polydor Records / Universal International Music B.V.)
  8. Metallica – 72 Seasons (Blackened Recordings)
  9. The Winery DogsIII (Three Dog Music)
  10. Neil Young – Before and After (Reprise Records)

Brian Aberback – Staff Writer

  1. The Replacements – Tim (Let It Bleed Edition) (Rhino / Sire Records / Warner Music Group)
  2. OverkillScorched (Nuclear Blast)
  3. The Rolling Stones – Hackney Diamonds (Polydor Records / Universal International Music B.V.)
  4. Dog Eat DogFree Radicals (Metalville Records)
  5. Voivod – Morgöth Tales (We Are Connected Music / Century Media Records)
  6. Alice CooperRoad (earMUSIC / Edel Music & Entertainment)
  7. Metallica – 72 Seasons (Blackened Recordings)
  8. Metal ChurchCongregation of Annihilation (Rat Pak Records)
  9. Tommy Stinson – Wronger (Done To Death Music / Cowboys In The Campfire)
  10. Ghost – Phantomine (Loma Vista Recordings / Concord)

Veronica Rajadnya – Contributing Writer

  1. Avalon Emerson & the Charm – Avalon Emerson & the Charm (Another Dove)
  2. The National – First Two Pages of Frankenstein, Laugh Track (4AD)
  3. boygenius – The Record (Interscope Records)
  4. Mitski – The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We (Dead Oceans)
  5. HAAi – DJ-Kicks: HAAi (!K7 Records)
  6. Alan Palomo – World of Hassle (Mom + Pop Music)
  7. Josh Ascalon – A Day in the Life of a Mind (Cheree Cheree)
  8. Caroline Polachek – Desire, I Want To Turn Into You (Sony Music / The Orchard / Perpetual Novice)
  9. Jenny Lewis – Joy’all (Blue Note Records)
  10. Taylor Swift – 1989 (Taylor’s Version) (Republic)

Reader’s Picks

  • New Kids on the Block – The Block Revisited (Deluxe Edition) (Interscope / UMG)
  • Maisie Peters – The Good Witch (Gingerbread Man Records / Asylum / Warner Music / Felion Ltd.)
  • Low Cut Connie – Art Dealers (Contender Records)
  • Bruce SpringsteenThe Live Series: Songs of New Jersey (Columbia Records / Sony)
  • Circa Waves – Never Going Under (Lower Third / [PIAS])
  • Mitch Rowland – Come June (Erskine Records / Giant Music)
  • The Dirty NilFree Rein to Passions (Dine Alone Records)
  • Jonas Brothers – The Album (Jonas Brothers / Republic Records / UMG)
  • Sleep Token – Take Me Back To Eden (Spinefarm / Silent Room Recordings / [PIAS])
  • Crown The Empire – DOGMA (Rise Records)