Presenting the top 50 albums that really blew me away this year.

Endless Crate’s Favorite Albums of 2023

It was no easy task, but I’ve managed to narrow the plethora of amazing music down to the top 50 albums that really blew me away this year. The order doesn’t really matter here—each of these albums is fantastic in its own right.

sleepingdogs – i’m fakin’ my own death just to get some rest

A Philly duo comprised of MCs Andrew and Jesse The Tree, sleepingdogs hit home with a down-to-earth style that permeates throughout i’m fakin my own death just to get some rest. Catchy choruses and lyricism skillfully blend everyday realities with poetic imagery, while the beats bring out a raw emotional connection that’s impossible to ignore.

a.s.o. – a.s.o.

The self-titled debut album by singer/songwriter Alia Seror-O’Neill and producer Lewie Day presents an array of sounds, from ethereal dream pop to trip-hop with soul and dub elements that draw inspiration from the likes of Fleetwood Mac, and Portishead, while maintaining its own unique identity throughout.

Indopan – Yupana

A project spearheaded by Irish producer Andrew Morrison (also known as The Cyclist), Yupana delivers a unique soundscape of house, dub and breakbeats, all infused with a mind-warping edge. This nine-track journey is a cosmic ride through the fringes of perception, blending smoky horn harmonies, twirling basslines, and deep velvety laments with elements of exotic swing, vintage jack, and edgy acid.

Brother May – Pattern With Force

Co-produced with renowned musician Mica Levi, Pattern With Force is a heavy-hitting experimental mash-up of various styles from across Brother May’s musical spectrum. The sound is steeped in UK garage, jungle, and downtempo influences, bearing the raw poetic energy of May’s early drill and gangster rap days with traces of London sound system culture.

Maya Ongaku – Approach to Anima

With a capacity to resonate deeply and retain a refreshing sound, Japanese band Maya Ongaku’s debut album creates a unique listening experience that interweaves psychedelia, folk, and jazz. Released under Kikagaku Moyo’s Guruguru Brain label, Approach to Anima combines ethereal vocals with leisurely basslines, woodwind and percussion to craft a transcendent soundscape.

MIKE – Burning Desire

Building further on his meditations about fate and life’s coincidences, MIKE demonstrates versatility as both a rapper and producer by infusing Burning Desire with a potent mixture of raw urgency and relaxed flow.

Benny Reid & Havoc – The Infamous Live

The Infamous Live is a vibrant tribute to Mobb Deep’s iconic 1995 release The Infamous, presented as a collaboration between jazz saxophonist/producer Benny Reid and Havoc (the producer of the groundbreaking original). This re-imagining serves as a unique synthesis of Reid’s jazz inflection and Havoc’s iconic ominous beats.

AJ Suede & Televangel – Parthian Shots

Parthian Shots reaffirms the dynamic synergy between Seattle MC AJ Suede and Portland producer Televangel, following their 2022 project Metatron’s Cube. Televangel’s beats strike a resonant chord but are often quite minimal so you can hear every word of AJ’s verses, which seamlessly fuse abstract concepts with social commentary and rewind-worthy double entendres.

Gerald Bailey – Migration Climate

With Migration Climate, Gerald Bailey masterfully layers overdubbed horns, percussion, and keyboards, using a simple recording setup to create a “bedroom jazz” album of profound depth. Imbued with hard drums and a grimy edge, each listen unveils new details, marking a standout album that continually renews itself with each listen.

Headache – The Head Hurts but the Heart knows the Truth

A creative collaboration between producer Vegyn and writer Francis Hornsby Clark, Headache delivers AI-performed lyrics (written by Hornsby Clark) over a retro-tinged sonic landscape (produced by Vegyn). Together, the duo weave a tapestry of electronica and trip-hop sounds with surrealistic imagery.

Lukah – Permanently Blackface (The 1st Expression)

With Permanently Blackface (The 1st Expression), Memphis MC Lukah crafts an assertive exploration into the depths of his songwriting prowess, expertly delivering a powerful reflection on appropriation and identity. The album’s structure, accompanying noir-like beats, swing rhythms and shifting perspectives further accentuates the historical horror feel, resulting in a set of tracks that mark Lukah as one of the most innovative MCs in the game.

Speakers Corner Quartet – Further Out Than The Edge

With their debut LP, Further Out Than The Edge, South London collective Speakers Corner Quartet masterfully crafts an eclectic blend of sparse hip-hop rhythms, expressive jazz melodies and abstract orchestral flashes. Enriched by the collaborations of various London-based musicians (including Sampha, Tirzah and Kae Tempest), the album sprinkles the quartet’s semi-orchestral sound with diverse stories and ideas across 13 captivating tracks.

JJ Whitefield – Ethio Meditations / Drama Al Dente

Funk veteran JJ Whitefield of Poets of Rhythm and Whitefield Brothers fame (among others) flexes his songwriting chops throughout Ethio Meditations / Drama Al Dente, crafting a sound that encompasses influences ranging from Ethiopian jazz to 1970s Italian film soundtracks. The first release in The Madlib Invazion Music Library Series, these 19 tracks stand alone as beautiful pieces of music in their own right while also serving tribute to rare records coveted by crate diggers.

Qthree & BudaMunk – Peace of Mind

With Peace of Mind, Philly MC QThree delivers another work of abstract hip-hop that’s sure to please long-time fans and newcomers alike. Esteemed producer Budamunk brings the funk while QThree flexes his lyrical chops to create an immersive project that boasts experimental sounds and vivid storytelling.

Matthew Halsall – An Ever Changing View

Inspired by the likes of Pharoah Sanders and Alice Coltrane, Mancunian trumpet player/composer Matthew Halsall introduces a compelling arrangement of ambient electronica and jazz. An Ever Changing View crafts a hypnotic synthesis of varied percussive elements that create a mesmerizing and meditative sound.

Misha Panfilov – In Focus

Estonian artist Misha Panfilov once again cements his place in the rare groove scene after noteworthy releases like Days As Echoes and Momentum (which graced Endless Crate’s best of 2022 list). In Focus showcases his melodic finesse and wide-ranging rhythmic mastery, featuring 14 captivating tracks that seamlessly blend funk-infused beats with loop-based themes.

Armand Hammer – We Buy Diabetic Test Strips

With We Buy Diabetic Test Strips, the versatile duo of billy woods and ELUCID once again morph their style to deliver a sonically daring and expansive piece of work. Brilliance lurks in every corner – from the tape loops and glitchy nuances setting the stage in the opening bars to the robust interplay of experimental instrumentation as the album unfolds into a fusion of captivating soundscapes and storytelling bound to leave you spellbound.

Ironsides – Changing Light

The debut LP from The Ironsides delivers a sublime cinematic experience within the folds of its eight tracks, with orchestral arrangements, sweeping strings and tasteful horns uniting to create a widescreen ambiance imbued with psych-soul sounds. Evoking the film soundtracks of the late ’60s and early ’70s, Changing Light effortlessly leaps from soothing nocturnal reveries to tension-laden symphonic-funk numbers.

Harry James – Off The Record

Recorded on a Tascam 4-Track, Harry James’ third solo album maintains an intimate sentimentality, with warm, engulfing soundscapes that trigger a sense of nostalgia. With Off The Record, Harry takes things a notch higher with his unamplified electric piano, at times venturing into apocalyptically-inclined corners, but in a good way.

DJ Muggs – Notes & Tones

Constructed purely from samples of influential jazz composer Sun Ra’s musical catalogue, veteran producer DJ Muggs seamlessly blends jazz with a touch of hardcore hip-hop to deliver some of the year’s finest instrumentals with Notes & Tones. Teeming with Sun Ra’s dialogue and piano notes, Muggs introduces an undercurrent of grit to the jazz-infused ambiance with his signature hard-hitting drums and heady basslines.

Marlene Ribeiro – Toquei no Sol

With her debut solo album, Toquei no Sol, Marlene Ribeiro offers an intoxicating blend of psychedelic experimentation, folky timelessness, and ethereal dreaminess. Ribeiro showcases her versatility as a solo artists, bringing forth somber, enchanting vocals alongside audible textures from her surroundings to present a desolate, dreamlike ambiance that requires repeated listens to fully appreciate its subtle power.

ZekeUltra – Speak To The Jungle In The Hills

ZekeUltra’s Speak To The Jungle In The Hills was an unexpected gem in 2023’s underground hip-hop scene. Great guest features contribute throughout, but it’s ZekeUltra’s masterful fusion of soulful beats and commanding lyrics that solidify him as the show-stealer of this powerful mixtape.

Nicky Soft Touch & Eldon – TERRA INGOGNITA: Book One

TERRA INCOGNITA: Book One is a collaboration between Bristol-based producer Nicky Soft Touch and London lyricist ELDON that paints a vivid journey of two creative minds exploring uncharted terrains. Nicky Soft Touch’s versatile production—spanning from ethereal soundscapes to dynamic, boom-bap-inspired rhythms—gels perfectly with ELDON’s articulate narration, creating a resonant synergy between the lyrics and music.

Freak Heat Waves – Mondo Tempo

Canada’s Freak Heat Waves take listeners on an incredible sonic journey with their fifth album, Mondo Tempo. Their eclectic influences span across post-punk, shoegaze, dub, goth, Detroit techno, Japanese synth pop and German prog, creating an unpredictable musical ride.

Masahiro Takahashi – Humid Sun

Rendered primarily in polished digital strokes, the fifth album by Tokyo-born, Toronto-based producer and multi-instrumentalist Masahiro Takahashi is filled with remarkable melodic beauty and gentle textures. The result is a beautiful blend that teeters between the mellowness of balladic jazz and post-rock grandeur.

System Olympia – New Erotica Collection

New Erotica Collection curates key tracks from producer and NTS radio host System Olympia’s archives, including a selection of rare, limited-release gems. It delivers an exceptional journey through hallucinogenic new-wave vibes and 80s-style pop instrumentals, solidifying System Olympia as a vanguard within this type of distinct genre fusion.

YUNGMORPHEUS & Real Bad Man – The Chalice & The Blade

Prolific producer Real Bad Man and relentlessly creative lyricist YUNGMORPHEUS come together for an incredible album that presents a distinctively stoney and atmospheric ambience, infused with flavorful funk elements. YUNGMORPHEUS’ penchant for innovation and boundary-pushing lyricism seamlessly melds with Real Bad Man’s versatile production skills, elevating every track on The Chalice & The Blade to new heights.

Prins Emanuel – Diagonal Musik II

Prins Emanuel’s fourth album presents an enticing blend of avant-garde chamber music, folk, and jazz elements. Constructed through a “diagonal” approach to composition that Prins Emanuel likens to “drawing only shadows, and then finishing with the contours,” Diagonal Musik II offers a set of electro-acoustic abstractions marked by gentle melodies.

Rogê – Curyman

An exquisite fusion of cinematic samba-funk and warm psychedelia, Curyman stands as a testament to Rogê’s music and lyrics. With layers of depth drawn from new environments and collaborations, Rogê pays sincere tribute to Brazil’s rich musical traditions while looking optimistically into the future.

Surface Noise – Here: Extras

With Here: Extras, LA-based producer Surface Noise brings forward six reimagined tracks that deliver an assortment of auditory experiences, from trip-hop to jazz-and-ambient-imbued electronica, all ripe for repeat listening.

Milc & Televangel – The Fish That Saved Portland

As a follow-up to their 2022 collaboration Neutral Milc Motel, The Fish The Saved Portland further magnifies Portland rapper Milc and producer Televangel’s musical chemistry. Televangel’s knack for unique production provides an undercurrent of the unexpected for Milc’s audacious brags and personal reflections.

Gianni Brezzo – Soundscapes Vol. 1 – Music For Harlequins

Implementing harmonious and rhythmic traits typically associated with European or Folkloric sounds, Gianni Brezzo gives the music on Soundscapes Vol. 1 – Music For Harlequins the perfect blend of instrumental jazz, soul, and groove to keep you engaged and bobbing your head from start to finish.

Larry June & The Alchemist – The Great Escape

The unexpected collaboration between prolific producer The Alchemist and Bay Area rapper Larry June produced a series of hypnotic tracks. Highlighted by June’s unwavering chill and Al’s sharp precision, The Great Escape yields a sound that is distinctively rich yet soothing. Good job, Larry.

Nabihah Iqbal – DREAMER

With DREAMER, Nabihah Iqbal presents herself as an experimental avant-garde who tastefully fuses eloquent songwriting with an inherent love for dance music. The album’s 10 tracks offer a harmonious marriage of shoe-gazy indie rock with tantalizing danceable sequences, resulting in a rich, deeply layered sound.

B. Cool Aid – Leather Blvd.

As B. Cool-Aid, Ahwlee’s mesmerizing production beautifully harnesses undertones of nu soul and funk, which paves the way for Pink Siifu’s whispered vocals to seamlessly integrate with the album’s luxurious texture. Featuring cross-generational collaborators like Liv.e, Ladybug Mecca, and Denmark Vessey, Leather Blvd. is an immersive listen where nostalgia meets innovation.

Andrea – Due In Color

With Due in Color, producer Andrea maps out a dynamic zone where diverse genres coalesce, moving beyond the strict confines of ambient or dancefloor-focused music to create a hybrid that blends club potency with ethereal atmospheres. Recording during the pandemic shutdowns of 2020 and 2021, Andrea creatively explores the essence of clubbing while divorcing it from its physical reality.

El Michels Affair & Black Thought – Glorious Game

Set against Leon Michels’ soulful backdrop, Glorious Game serves as a canvas for Black Thought’s most personal story-telling to date. The album exudes a palpably organic aura as Black Thought deviates from his signature relentless lyrical approach to explore more introspective and thoughtful directions, recognizing that his experiences resonate more loudly than ever as he approaches his 50s.

John Haycock – Dorian Portrait

On his debut studio album, John Haycock presents an incredible intermingling of jazz and ambient. Putting his 21-string West African Kora instrument in the spotlight, Haycock crafts a gorgeous, contemplative album best suited for solitary headphone listening.

Pachyman – Switched On

Traces of dub pioneers like Scientist and King Tubby echo throughout Switched-On, as Pachyman infuses foundational sounds with facets of his own narrative to steering dub music into unexplored territories. The album intricately weaves the past and present together, featuring the Korg Poly-800 synthesizer along with the güiro—a traditional instrument from his native Puerto Rico—illustrating Pachyman’s capacity to marry tradition with modernity.

Oblé Reed – LINDENAVE!

Bucking the norm in today’s music industry, Seattle-based Oblé Reed’s independent debut album boldly emerged as one of the most all-embracing and enthralling releases of the year in any genre. Oblé’s vision shines through from start to finish, and every track bristles with the intensity of an under appreciated MC who’s poised to become a next-gen luminary.

Rahiem Supreme – Outer Limits

In collaboration with producer noface, Washington DC rapper Rahiem Supreme delivered an album that embodies the supreme confidence of an artist undeterred by opinions and secure in his craft’s excellence. The result is an album that’s as raw as it is exhilarating. Rahiem’s prowess is evident as he effortlessly flows over the most complex beats, making the challenge seem almost effortless.

Brendan Eder Ensemble – Therapy

Celebrated for his eclectic ensemble work and notable film scores, Los Angeles-based composer and drummer Brendan Eder dove inward for his third album. With Therapy, Eder delivers eight original compositions and two Aphex Twin arrangements for a a unique blend of New Age, ambient music, classical, and jazz influences.

Whatitdo Archive Group – Palace Of A Thousand Sounds

With Palace Of A Thousand Sounds, Reno ensemble Whatitdo Archive Group ventured deep within the genre of mid-century exotica and library music to craft an album that strays beyond mere homage for a harmonious fusion of pop, folk, world music, and vigorous funk.

Alikho Igama – Earth At My Feet

With Earth At My Feet, Philly MC and producer Alikho Igama delivered a poignant reflection on life’s transitions against a backdrop of tranquil, soul-infused beats that evoke a bittersweet, sun-drenched ambiance.

The Circling Sun – Spirits

Two decades in the making, The Circling Sun’s debut album is a stunning achievement that effortlessly blends Latin rhythms, spiritual jazz, and influences from the likes of Alice Coltrane, Yusef Lateef, and Pharoah Sanders. Spirits offers eight unique and captivating compositions that create an innovative and refreshing sound steeped in lush orchestration.

The Offline – La couleur de la mer

The Offline makes a striking entrance into the cinematic soul and funk scene with his debut album, weaving a sonic narrative that channels the spirit of renowned composers like David Axelrod. With touches of psychedelia, retro soul, orchestral elements, and hints of hip-hop, the album is both forward-looking and nostalgic.

BlkSknn & Soufend Music – Quiet Kid in the Corner

Seattle rapper BlkSknn presents an autobiographical work backed by a unified and cohesive sound via frequent collaborator Soufend Music. Consistently growing as an artist with each new release, Quiet Kid in the Corner marks a memorable milestone in BlkSknn’s musical journey.

The Gaslamp Killer & The Heliocentrics – Legna

Legna presents a compelling collaboration between genre-blurring UK ensemble The Heliocentrics and LA-based DJ/producer The Gaslamp Killer. Together, they unite for an unconventional amalgamation of jazz, funk, library music, psych rock, bass-dense instrumental hip-hop, and Middle-Eastern/Indian rare grooves.

Various Artists – If There’s Hell Below

If There’s Hell Below is a potent compilation of ’70s Black rock that unveils a unique and influential era in American music expression. The album’s 13 tracks capture the essence of blues mixed with psychedelia, embodying the spirit of Hendrix and Funkadelic.

Wiles Martyr & Groundskeepr – STYLE POINTZ V1

A full-length joint album by Philly rapper Wiles Martyr and producer Groundskeepr, STYLE POINTZ V1 serves as an impressive debut that fuels anticipation for future music from this dynamic duo. Groundskeepr’s soul-soaked beats create an ideal canvas for Wiles’ entendre-laced flow.

Kassa Overall – ANIMALS

Kassa Overall delivers a spellbinding fusion of cosmic jazz and rap with his third album. Continuing the audacious freeform blend of organic and electronic, jazz and hip-hop from his previous work, ANIMALS is a collage of innovate sounds and poignant commentary.