The Best Electronic Albums of 2023
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The 25 Best Electronic Albums of 2023

This year’s best electronic albums span the widest range of styles of any genre, ranging from melodic electro and warm house to the experimental outer reaches.

9. Ekiti Sound – Drum Money (Crammed Discs)

Under the moniker Ekiti Sound, producer Leke Awoyinka makes music with a bold and mindful commitment to the techniques of collage. His sense of craft has only grown since 2019’s astonishing Abeg No Vex. This year’s Drum Money is just as tight with an even smoother flow as Awoyinka strings together synths, samples, folk, and funk, among other things. Nigeria-born and moving between Lagos and London, Awoyinka has a tremendous range of styles at his disposal, and he deploys them with finesse on track after track. Brassy “Chairman” (one of the year’s all-around catchiest singles) evokes 1970s Afrobeat but draws extra power from its more contemporary EDM production.

The jazzy protest chants of “Ghost Leader” melt into “Raindrops”, a pastiche of downtempo balladry that swings gently between acoustic and electric. We move through philosophical spirals against the horns, back in full force, on “Home”. Tracks like “Fuji” and “Ku Ise” set traditional Nigerian percussion against rapid-fire electronic beats. By the end of the album, tracks like “Mami Wata” and “Eko Bridge” roll in on more relaxed, old-school hip-hop beats. Even with all that (and more) in play, there’s a cohesion to Drum Money that makes it a smooth ride from start to finish and one full of sonic gems. – Adriane Pontecorvo

8. Laurel Halo – Atlas (Awe)

Laurel Halo’s Atlas is one of her most personal, intimate albums to date. It’s also one of her most abstract, oblique, mysterious, and remote. Built around sparse, delicate recordings of acoustic piano, these spare recordings are then layered with string arrangements and snippets of ghostly vocals – courtesy of collaborators Bendik Giske, Lucy Railton, Coby Sey, and James Underwood – and all of which are wrapped in gossamer wings of cavernous reverbs and delay. It sounds like listening to Erik Satie through a hotel wall – or perhaps 100 years.

The roots of Atlas lie in 2020, with Halo exploring the piano as part of an Artist In Residency program in the Pacific Palisades. She quickly found herself alone, as nearly everybody else had left due to the pandemic. This period of isolation and the rekindling of her childhood interest in the piano serves as the nucleus of Atlas‘ hazy dreamscape.

Atlas has a similar bruised tenderness to Grouper’s Ruins, with a similar sense of isolation even while containing a yearning for connection like some glowing ember in a misty heart of darkness. It speaks to ambient music’s urge to soothe and connect as well as unsettle and alienate. It’s also one of the most ambitious albums in Halo’s discography, although you’d scarcely know it just by listening; the seams are so well hidden. It’s truly a remarkable achievement, made even more so by how gentle, relaxed, and organic it sounds. – J. Simpson

7. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Bauhaus Staircase

As far as 21st-century Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark goes, it contains some all-time highs and some all-time lows. Overall, that leaves it as the second-best of the bunch, behind the excellent English Electric (2013). They have honed their craft at creating towering, majestic synthscapes crisscrossed with bold analog melodies and shimmering sci-fi flourishes to the point where it seems like second nature. Indeed, OMD have never sounded better this side of their early 1980s heyday.

The undeniable pinnacle of Bauhaus Staircase is “Veruschka”. A stunning ballad, it combines downcast film noir-inspired verses with a soaring, empowering chorus that is devastatingly straightforward about life’s inherent dualities: “If you’re too afraid to die / How will you ever learn to fly away?” Beautifully orchestrated, it is top-tier Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark for any era. “Veruschka”, like the rest of the album, finds Andy McCluskey in fine voice. Seemingly ageless, it remains untouched by time. The frontman is as emotive, enthusiastic, yet tasteful as ever, even breaking into falsetto on the hopeful closer “Healing”. – John Bergstrom

6. Gazelle Twin – Black Dog (Invada)

Beneath the layers of dreamy synthesizers, a primal core is exposed. Gazelle Twin’s Elizabeth Bernholz uses many tribal components in Black Dog to create a more muscular tension. The title track is a prime example of this, a strange imagery half found in The Hound of the Baskervilles and then the other half projected through a cyberpunk kaleidoscope. The beats coming through the darkness build this subliminal approach, the circular motifs becoming more and more harsh and unkind. This strategy dramatically pays off in moments like “Author of You” with its disfigured pop and electronic elements.

While Black Dog dives mostly into the ambient, Bernholz still finds moments to reinvigorate some of Gazelle Twin’s other personas. Fragments of the brutal electronica from Unflesh come into view with “Unstoppable Force”. It is a twisted and unnerving recital, as the heavy beats are processed through Black Dog’s cinematic meatgrinder. Still, within this hostile environment, there are times when the nightmares allow some light to peer through. “Sweet Dream” offers a short respite from the harrowing and asphyxiating recital, while the closer “A Door Opens” highlights the beauty that can exist in sorrow as it calls upon Robert Schumman’s brilliance. – Spyros Stasis

5. Loraine James – Gentle Confrontation (Hyperdub)

In Gentle Confrontation, her most intimate album to date, producer Loraine James makes her finely-honed electropop something truly personal. She reflects on life, loss, love, and family against sharp dance beats, moody glitches, and thoughtful keys, sometimes taking turns and sometimes all woven together, a starlit universe of innovative and understated synths. The abstract patterns of uptempo tracks like “Glitch the System (Glitch Bitch 2)” and “I DM U” sit bright against the poignant vulnerability of “2003” and “I’m Trying to Love Myself”, both pieces that occupy different spaces within journeys between sorrow and healing.

Even the most straight-ahead pop moments, like lowkey RiTchie collaboration “Déjà Vu” and R&B ballad “Speechless” with singer George Riley, are more fascinating for the shapes they take in James’s hands and the frames she makes to hold them. Whether the sounds she makes are stuttering, lilting, or slamming, James tends carefully to each individual moment while she builds an immersive world. Gentle Confrontation is something both small and tremendous, operating on levels both immediate and immersive. Loraine James takes us to profound depths, and the plunge itself is as wonderous as its eventual destination – Adriane Pontecorvo

4. Quantic – Dancing While Falling (Play It Again Sam)

If there’s one constant in producer and musician Will Holland’s varied repertoire, it might be best expressed as warmth. Whether dabbling in retro funk, Colombian coastal folk, tropical jazz, or dubby pop, Holland, usually under the moniker Quantic, infuses everything he creates with a balmy kind of love. In Dancing While Falling, he continues to bring the light in troubled times, circling back to his early roots in 1960s and 1970s funk and soul with a new sophistication and, perhaps, slightly softer contours from 20-plus years in high-energy circulation around the globe.

Permeating the entire album is a sense of community in terms of sound and production. Beds of luscious orchestral arrangements, gospel vocals, and tempered electro-disco beats combine into buoyant soundscapes, often undergirding sparkling contributions from featured singers like Andreya Triana, Rationale, and Connie Constance. Their voices make for powerful bridges between the vintage vibes and contemporary pop sensibilities integral to Quantic’s overall palette. – Adriane Pontecorvo

3. Sofia Kourtesis – Madres (Ninja Tune)

Berlin-based DJ Sofia Kourtesis has spent almost a decade releasing EPs of funky bricolage, building eclectic scenes out of stylish samples and high-octane beats for worldly dance floors. Her full-length debut, Madres, is a little different. Dedicated in part to existentially important figures in her life–her mother, as the title suggests, as well as neurosurgeon Peter Vajkoczy, who helped save Kourtesis’s mother’s life during a battle with cancer–Madres glows, the edges and kicks that are so prominent in Kourtesis’ catalog to date fitting more tightly amid blissful electronic grooves. It’s an unexpected turn toward pathos and warmth, a move that serves her well. Madres is Sofia Kourtesis elevated, a contemporary work of EDM powerful on sonic and emotional levels alike.

Madres illuminates issues close to Kourtesis’ heart with tremendous empathy, grace, and skill. It is a clear culmination of everything she has released thus far and yet sees her continue to rise. Kourtesis pieces together all the samples, sounds, and roots she has brought us before in a tighter and more incandescent package than past EPs. Certainly, it’s a debut worth the wait. – Adriane Pontecorvo

2. Acid Arab – ٣ (Trois) (Crammed Discs)

The music of the Franco-Algerian Acid Arab, now a quintet working in collaboration with many guests, feels like music made by people who come by their geographic explorations naturally. Blending Algerian Raï and Gasba, Syrian Dabke, Turkish dance, and floor-shaking Chicago Acid moves, they make music that targets hips with surgical precision. Nothing they do feels appropriated; instead, Acid Arab weave sand-blown Korg synth filigrees in ways that would make Dabke keyboard titan Razen Said proud. On ٣ (Trois), their third album (of course), the pulses quake, inviting us all to the post-pandemic party.

It’s Acid Arab’s love of the beat that allows them to maintain club currency. Coming on with the drive of Belgian-Tunisian Ammar 808’s infectiousness or Zuli’s deep Cairo-based thump, it’s no wonder a track such as “Ya Mahla’s” foreboding clutch is so enveloping. Or that the monster-funk throb of “Halim Guelil”, complete with Cheb Halim’s Auto-Tuned vocal, demands surrender to the dance floor. – Bruce Miller

1. Barry Can’t Swim – When Will We Land? (Ninja Tune)

British producer Barry Can’t Swim creates warm and epic electronic music that draws from an exceptionally broad palette, incorporating jazz, Afrobeats, soul, deep house, and an almost classical approach to song structure. Barry Can’t Swim’s debut album, When Will We Land?, is a tour-de-force of 11 tracks that are so perfectly edited and composed that not a single note is wasted. Electronic music can tend toward too much repetition in less talented hands, but this artist’s record builds and moves through crests and valleys with a surehandedness.

Each track flows effortlessly to the next as we enter through the overture-like “When Will We Land?” and move on to hip-hop grooves on “Some Deadbeat Gospel”. “Sonder” brings Afrobeats to the fore with its sweet soul hug, and “How It Feels” ups the funk element. Meanwhile, “Sunsleeper” is one of the best singles of 2023, with its central leitmotiv melody leading to an infectious rhythmic theme that renders the tune the best pure dance song on the album.

“Always Get Through to You” possesses the most stunning melody rendered in gospel-drenched vocals and textures. The remixes of this track are also excellent as well since Barry Can’t Swim’s music is rich and loaded with depth. Electronic piano flourishes throughout When Will We Land? add a jazz element that adds further sophistication to his work. When Will We Land? breezes by because it’s so well-tracked and feels like a coherent artistic statement. Barry Can’t Swim’s first electronic symphony is that superb. – Sarah Zupko