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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

The best albums of 2023

This year’s notable albums have captivated fans and encapsulated their artists’ singular strengths.
Lexie Perez
Graphic depicting the nine mentioned album covers. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)

Music in 2023 was exceptionally bad — and good! Living in Music City, we have plenty of opportunities to catch new music, with some of the artists featured below hosting concerts in Nashville this year. The top albums of the year are all about personality and a crystal-clear sound. While we’ve been inundated with TikTok hit singles that flop within a month, the artists below have been perfecting their sound. My best albums are ones that are sentimental to me and show me something new. Most importantly, the top albums of this year had a magnetic effect on not only me but fans as well, bringing them closer to the artist and one another. In no particular order, here are my choices for the best albums of 2023.

Olivia Rodrigo – “GUTS”

I would be remiss to not include such a successful and acclaimed release from this year. As a skeptic of artists with meteoric rises, I had to take notice of “GUTS.” This album is incredibly consistent with a smooth emotional arc and a nice balance of ballads and bops. Olivia Rodrigo explores the trials of young adulthood with sincerity and self-awareness, avoiding any overwrought melodrama. Despite leaning into a new style, Rodrigo has refined her sound in the pop landscape. It’d be hard to live up to a debut as popular as “SOUR,” but she excels with a mature sound and bite.

Caroline Polachek – “Desire, I Want to Turn Into You”

Caroline Polachek had nothing of a sophomore slump with her latest solo record. “Desire” is another inventive, meticulously produced pop record from the critically acclaimed singer. Polachek excels at maintaining urgency and emotionality amidst her sometimes abstract lyrics. Among stunning production and ear-catching lyrics, her agile, angelic voice remains her signature feature. Her high notes and yodel-esque runs are so perfectly intonated that you’d think she relies on autotune (she doesn’t). I would list out my favorite songs, but it’d be half the LP. It was the album I couldn’t put down this summer and one I won’t forget from this year. 

100 gecs – “10,000 gecs”

I can’t count how many times I’ve listened to “Dumbest Girl Alive” this year. 100 gecs’ silly lyrics, rock-infused style and ridiculous visuals produce songs like “Frog On The Floor” — which sounds like it belongs in an afternoon special — and demented bangers like “The Most Wanted Person In The United States.” “10,000 gecs” blends experimental pop and rock to create something textured and playful and infectiously fun. Despite touring with acts like Nine Inch Nails and boygenius, their DIY personality remains in everything they do. As their fans know, 100 gecs is more than a hyperpop fad, it’s a lifestyle.


My first listen to JPEGMAFIA (known as “Peggy” by his fans) was this album. His eccentric, chronically online, ironic sensibilities were on full display, as well as his killer production. The beats are so energetic they can only be listened to at full volume. Danny Brown didn’t disappoint either; the pair had incredible chemistry throughout the LP with standout tracks like “Kingdom Hearts Key” and “God Loves You.” The album feels a bit like a tightrope act. There’s so much coming at you that — when you’re not completely engrossed — you’ll wonder if they’ll stick the landing. They absolutely do.

boygenius – “the record” 

The record” is here less because of the music (which is great) but for the beauty behind it. “The record” has an ethos; it calls upon the love of friends and urges us to love them back. Their friendship overpowers their “sad girl” stereotype, creating a space for reflection, joy and camaraderie. Even in a background harmony, the trio supports each other in the most delicate refrains and raucous crescendos. Everyone gets their songs to shine, yet no one is ever more important than another. Audiences have flocked to the earnest supergroup in droves. Despite their exponential growth over the past year, boygenius still feels tethered to the intimacy that brought them together.

Sufjan Stevens – “Javelin”

Steven’s latest album has all the heartache of “Carrie and Lowell” and all the masterful instrumentation from a decade of crafting his electronic and folk sound. His album, in honor of his late partner Evans Richardson, is a return to his signature style with a maturity only born from hardship. Stevens doesn’t hide beneath mythic metaphors. Instead, he shows his naked pain with so much warmth and wisdom. As autumn turns to winter, “Javelin” is a comforting reminder to be gentle, to hope and to wait patiently for spring. If you have never listened to this titan of indie music, “Javelin” is one of his best pieces of work.

Mitski – “The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We”

What Mitski describes as her most American album, “The Land” is a tortured and delicate record that centers around love. Mitski’s sparser folk approach to songwriting suits her uncomfortably honest lyricism in “I Don’t Like My Mind,” “When Memories Snow” and “I’m Your Man.” Each song feels like its own world and her largely fictional songs allow you to immerse yourself in her characters. If you’ve only listened to “My Love Mine All Mine,” the album has much more to give.

Kara Jackson – “Why Does The Earth Give Us People to Love?”

I only stumbled upon Kara Jackson when scrolling the internet, and I’m glad that I did. Her witty lyrics and unique voice give her debut album a genuine character within the oversaturated field of indie singer-songwriters. The album somehow moves from complaining that she mothers all the men in her life into a crescendo of grief in the final tracks with grace and continuity. Her advanced songwriting and storytelling make sense; she was the national youth poet laureate at 19. Jackson’s debut is likely the beginning of a shining career as a singer-songwriter.

Paramore – “This Is Why”

As the band has joked about, somehow Paramore got even bigger when they weren’t releasing music. Even so, the band didn’t buckle under the pressure of increased fame. The Nashville natives diverged from their last two albums but also returned to form. The band’s post-punk and heavier influences are brought to the forefront alongside the honest lyricism of a messy last six years. This combo was truly perfected on standout tracks like “Thick Skull,” “Figure 8” and “You First.” After almost 20 years of being a band, the trio is still putting out some of their best, freshest work.

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About the Contributors
Muthoni Kamau, Staff Writer
Muthoni Kamau ('24) is from Dallas, and is majoring in history and minoring in political science and sociology in the College of Arts and Science. When not writing for The Hustler, Muthoni enjoys walking around Nashville, finding new albums and reading. They can be reached at [email protected].
Lexie Perez, Graphics Director
Lexie Perez (‘26) is from Northern Virginia and is majoring in climate studies and human and organizational development and minoring in business in the College of Arts and Science. She enjoys listening to 70s and 80s pop music, doing the daily Wordle and rooting for the Nashville Predators and Cincinnati Bengals. She can be reached at [email protected].
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