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Llama's Favorite Albums of 2023

This year, I didn't really pay much attention to upcoming releases. I would honestly be surprised when a new album was released. It seemed to happen sporadically throughout the year. Nothing, then bam, like three good albums in one day. I was honestly surprised that I had more than nine albums available as contenders for this list.

Like every other half-ass music blog out there, here are the albums that I found myself going back to the most:


André 3000 - New Blue Sun

I distinctly remember my series of thoughts when I first heard André 3000 was coming out with a new album. First was the shock, followed by joy. The happiness would soon give way to utter confusion when I read it would be an instrumental flute album. All I could think about was the Pan Flute disaster from that YEMSG gag. I sincerely hoped this was some elaborate joke at one point, too. I took a minute, but finally, I just accepted it all at face value. By the time I read that the first track is titled "I Want To Make A Rap Album, But This Is Where The Wind Took Me," I found comfort. The title came off as reassuring to me, and by the end, I was actually looking forward to whatever this release was going to be.

And it is, exactly as advertised, a flute album. A really fucking good flute album at that. As someone who enjoys instrumental albums, this record captivated me from the first groove. Each song flows seamlessly from movement to movement while still challenging the listener. Overall, it's a perfect album to introduce an audience to a style they may not be familiar with.


Black Pumas - Chronicles of a Diamond

Black Pumas' second album is an absolute delight. Picking up where the Austin duo left off on the debut, "Chronicles of a Diamond" adds more catchy melodies and sing-along choruses. From the grooves of 'Mrs. Postman' to the soul of "More than a Love Song" this album will have you up and dancing in no time.


Dave Harrington - The Pictures

Dave is a busy man constantly playing in various lineups in LA, doing Taper's Choice stuff, touring with DARKSIDE, and yet still had time to create "The Pictures." This 27-track album sprawls acoustic strums to electronic beats with about anything imaginable in between. Personally, I feel the best way to experience "The Pictures" is to put on headphones and take a walk in your neighborhood. Soon, you'll feel your entire walk soundtracked by the album, and you can't help but feel like maybe, just maybe, you're in a movie.


Geese - 3D Country

This record starts with high energy and doesn't let up. A loose concept album about a cowboy's psychedelic trip, 3D Country blends together rock influences from the Stones to the Strokes. The result is a rock album that will get millennials and Gen-Xers alike dancing along. This album was my go-to album when I wanted to take a break from jambands. I couldn't get enough of it.


Grace Potter - Mother Road

I came across this album through a friend's love of it. Seeing her love for the album made me check it out, and I'm glad I did. The album captures the feelings of being on the road effortlessly, while Potter's bluesy style keeps your head bobbing. So, next spring, when the weather is nice again, and you can drive with the windows down, put on this record and just enjoy what "Mother Road" has to offer.


Hozier - Unreal, Unearth

I wasn't a big fan of Hozier's second album, so I didn't pay much attention to his third album, "Unreal, Unearth." Luckily, my wife gave this album a chance and brought it into our lives. Hozier returns to form on this album, successfully conveying intense emotions, sometimes in Gaelic if needed. While this album might not have something as prominent as 'Take Me to Church,' there are plenty of gems, such as 'First Time' and "De Shelby (Part II)" that will get you dancing and singing along.


Janelle Monáe - The Age of Pleasure

I'll listen to anything Janelle Monáe comes out with. The Age of Pleasure was a perfectly timed release this year that gave me a wonderful album to soundtrack my summer. The mixture of soul, funk, reggae, and AfroBeat cooks up a sizzling summer album. It's an album that is, above all, honest. I love it when an artist makes an album for themselves and their friends. Something about limiting the focus to one audience makes for a more nuanced record than one that becomes bland by trying to appease the masses.


The National - The First Two Pages of Frankenstein

Sometimes, things work out for a reason. Before this year, I had never seen the National live. Before this album came out, I had tickets to their Chicago show, and I was excited. When this album came out, my excitement dwindled a bit. I didn't really want to hear these songs live. I wanted older National songs, but I went anyway.


They put on a really good show. Those new songs, hearing them live made something click. The emotion behind the record didn't translate to the studio album for me until I saw it live. Fortunately, I am at a point in my life where I don't need the catharsis provided by sad songs, or at least I thought. That show had me sad for things that haven't even happened to me. Luckily, I've been able to carry that over this record. Although listening to their live shows on Archive/relisten doesn't hurt.


Sufjan Stevens - Javelin

This album seemed to come out of nowhere. I hadn't heard much from Sufjan's camp, and then all of a sudden, one day, there was an email that "Javelin" was available for order and streaming. So I blindly preordered the album, not prepared for the emotions that a Sufjan record brings. This isn't a put-on in the background and knock-out mundane tasks music. This is put on headphones and get ready to connect with the beauty within our tragedies type of music.


Taper's Choice - History of Taper's Choice Vol. 1

I remember thinking to myself, "I can't wait to hear a studio version of "Doner Wrap." They delivered in the most Taper's Choice way possible; a ONE-second "Doner" opens our album and seamlessly transitions into Let Your Eyes Adjust to the Light. In fact, the entire album flows from song to song effortlessly, taking the listener on an unforgettable sonic voyage.

"History of" combines the stellar musicianship of the Taper's boys with Harrington's production magic, resulting in the most enjoyable jamband studio album since Billy Breathes. For those who are on the fence about the Choice or just getting into the Choice, this record is the perfect starting place.


Overall, 2023 was a sneaky good year for music. Other albums that almost made this list / could be swapped in for others you don't agree with are:

  • Boygenuis - The Record

  • SZA - SOS

  • Durand Jones - Wait 'til I Get Over

  • Olivia Rodrigo - GUTS

  • The Kills - God Games

2023 was a year where I just let the music come to me instead of anticipating and building up releases to the point where they won't meet what I thought the album would be in my head. Sometimes, you just have to let music come to you, if it's meant to be in your life, it'll find a way.

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