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The POP Stream's Top 10 Vinyl LP's of 2023

10. BLAME MY EX by The Beaches

Break-ups are hard. There’s no denying that. But if there’s one thing that The Beaches very pointed album, ‘Blame My Ex’, makes clear, it’s that they’re easier to cope with when you’re going through it with friends. Released independently, the Canadian rock four-piece – lead by sisters Jordan and Kylie Miller alongside their closest friends Leandra Earl and Eliza Enman-McDaniel – explore themes of self-love, growth, accountability, and break-ups on their long-awaited sophomore album; the way they do so allows audiences to wallow in their own situations too.

Starting with the groups viral hit, ‘Blame Brett’ captures the uncertainty of moving on, something the whole band were experiencing together having all recently broken up with their partners. The pop-punk swagger of a track finds Jordan Miller (lead vocalist and bassist) confidently singing about the reasons she cannot be in a committed relationship whilst simultaneously making fun of herself in a light-hearted way. “Sorry in advance,” she sings. “I’m only gonna treat you bad.”

Both sonically and emotionally charged, it’s safe to say that ‘Blame My Ex’ is a bold and brazen record that shines a light on things that everyone needs to hear in their lives. Spanning life’s lowest lows and highest highs, The Beaches have managed to explore the hard notion of healing and self-discovery whilst enjoying what life has to offer and poking fun at themselves from time to time. It’s both liberating and empowering; the excitement felt whilst listening to the record will only manifest into a wider recognition for the band.

9. DEAD CLUB CITY by Nothing But Thieves

Nothing But Thieves'

Fourth LP ‘Dead Club City’ is distinctly Nothing But Thieves, but with a fresher, funkier twist and a concept album foundation. It’s cleaner cut, with more layers and the slightly poppier undertones the group began to exploit more on ‘Moral Panic’ (2020), heard on ‘Do You Love Me Yet’ and ‘Keeping You Around.’

And, as expected, it’s inundated with huge, floor-filling bangers, stunning falsetto and thunderous guitar riffs, from well-acquainted single ‘Welcome To The DCC’ to the gritty, absolutely massive ‘City Haunts’ and ‘Pop The Balloon.’

But historically, this five-piece haven’t just relied on rock bangers. From ‘Particles’ to ‘Real Love Song’, hard-hitting, emotion-saturated tracks have formed an essential part of their sonic arrangement to date. On ‘Dead Club City’, ‘Green Eyes’ is that expected slower piece, an utterly delightful love song that borders on lead singer Conor Mason’s cheesier side, opening with the classic line “I swear it’s true, the last thing I expected was to fall for you.”

One thing’s certain: this album is an instantaneous ear worm rather than a grower. Packed with immediately memorable tracks, it’s sure to get heads bopping and mosh pits going.

8. ECHO THE DIAMOND by Margaret Glaspy

Margaret Glaspy had only a couple of EPs to her name when she told an interviewer that she wanted to approach songwriting “like a job.” Whatever the Brooklyn-based, Northern California-born artist’s creative process, it paid off on her debut album, 2016’s Emotions and Math, a spare and spiky set of broadly rooted songs that showed off her electric guitar, spellbinding voice, and conversational lyrics. On her synth-oriented follow-up, 2020’s Devotion, the songs felt labored, but for her third album, Echo the Diamond, Glaspy has trusted her strengths. It’s a commendable reset—and a reminder that making good art needn’t feel like a struggle.

Produced by Glaspy and her husband, the jazz-leaning guitarist and composer Julian Lage, Echo the Diamond features only one fleeting appearance by the synths so prevalent on its predecessor. Instead, the new album homes in on the vibrant instrumental interplay between Glaspy and an accomplished rhythm section of drummer Dave King, best known for his work with the Bad Plus, and bassist Chris Morrissey, who’s played with an eclectic array of artists such as Lucius and Andrew Bird. Glaspy wrote the songs fast, and the musicians made the record in the studio together in three days; some of the finished tracks were first takes, and some were rehearsals. “Climbing uphill doesn’t always equate to things being good,” Glaspy told Paste. “Actually, you can just pick up the things that are right next to you, you can reach inside your own heart and pull out something that’s worthy. You’re allowed to do that.”

Echo the Diamond can be remarkably inventive within the confines of its narrow lineup and spontaneous origins. For anyone who enjoys a thoughtful singer-songwriter record with adept, minimalist instrumental backing and a powerhouse vocalist, Echo the Diamond is a worthy listen.

7. ALL OF THIS WILL END by Indigo De Souza

Indigo De Souza used to fear the reaper. Death haunted her first two albums, 2018’s I Love My Mom and 2021’s Any Shape You Take, lurking in all her relationships. Ruminating on our collective impermanence can be humbling, but for an artist preoccupied with existential doom from an early age (“Why do we die?” she asked in a childhood letter addressed to herself), it’s evidently also liberating. “Accepting you are a temporary thing is what gives way to meaning and intention and connection,” she said in a recent interview. The title of her third record, All of This Will End, is a mantra born from an obsession with finality and a reason to swing for the fences, pushing De Souza to elevate her once quiet bedroom recordings to their stadium-sized potential.

De Souza worked with local Asheville producer Alex Farrar and an ensemble of new collaborators who feel pivotal to the shift in her sound. Alex Bradley’s trumpet on “Parking Lot” adds triumphant warmth to a song about having a panic attack, and a chorus of whistles function like backup singers on “You Can Be Mean,” sharpening the daggers in her lyrics. John James Tourville weaves the gentle sigh of a pedal-steel guitar into the album’s latter half, and De Souza finds new depths to her songwriting in these plaintive moments.

In bearing witness to her agony, there’s a kind of transference of pain that occurs in her shredded screams—the sound of an artist stepping into her shadows in order to find her light.


Soon after booking the biggest concerts of their lives at Wembley Stadium, Damon Albarn played his Blur bandmates the demos for a prospective reunion LP. It was an easy sell: The Ballad of Darren would become the prettiest and tightest of their nine albums, elegantly arranged with lush harmonies, baroque flourishes, and a splurge of 1990s cosplay.

The Ballad of Darren’s title playfully honors Blur’s security guard and resident everyman Darren “Smoggy” Evans—but also riffs on the more melodramatic Ballad of Damon, suggests Albarn. That implied title aligns with the romantic split that has plunged Albarn, or at least his narrators, into mortal reflection. Comeback single “The Narcissist” surveys Blur’s history while reckoning with their legacy of addiction: Albarn’s call-and-response with Graham Coxon suggests fraternal sympathy with the guitarist’s own destructive alcoholism. Across the record, Albarn describes heartbreak and chemical temptations while the band drifts along in a crystalline reverie, insulated by James Ford’s double-glazed production. After hitting their anthemic cues, both “The Narcissist” and closer “The Heights” climax with guitar noise that threatens, or promises, annihilation.

Albarn plays the part of heartbroken confessor, but these meticulously polished songs conjure something more real than anguish: the dulling of losses, the warm aura of midlife decline, and the fading belief, with advancing years, that crisis serves to raise the curtain on your next act.

5. I WANT IT ALL RIGHT NOW by Grouplove

"I Want it All Right Now" is the sixth album from indie-rock favorites Grouplove. Built on a raw but incandescent sound that singer-keyboardist Hannah Hooper refers to as “resistance pop,” I Want It All Right Now explores that paradox with equal parts tenderness, curiosity, and exacting self-revelation — ultimately arriving at a body of work that leaves the listener newly awakened to the wisdom of their own intuition.

In a moment of unbridled expression emblematic of the Atlanta band, the album-opening All finds singer-guitarist Christian Zucconi listing off a litany of unmet desires, then explodes into a glorious outburst of longing and frustration. On Hello, Grouplove share an ineffable buoyant track they recorded their last day in the studio.

Produced by Grammy-winning producer John Congleton (Death Cab For Cutie, Wallows, St. Vincent), Grouplove’s first release since signing to Glassnote Records, I Want It All Right Now emerged from a period of intense transformation for Hooper and Zucconi, a married couple who are principal songwriters and lead vocalists for the band.

Largely informed by their experience in raising a daughter with sensory needs, the album’s 11 wildly kaleidoscopic songs document that shift from external searching to radical self-discovery, embedding each track with so much warmly articulated insight.

4. RAT SAW GOD by Wednesday

There was "a tear in every word," is how longtime producer Billy Sherrill once described Tammy Wynette's singing voice.

When Wednesday's Karly Hartzman sings, I hear a tear in every word. She's got a yodeling, folksy, country music cry. She can do it sweet and straight, and in country and punk styles too. There's pain in both kinds of music. It's at this border — of dramatic country sorrow and clever punk disaffection — where Wednesday's Rat Saw God exists. The Asheville, N.C., band's fifth album is a beautifully bleak record that spins up country, shoegaze, suburban nightmares and youthful debauchery into a thrilling work of distorted Americana. There's no pig's squeal in Hartzman's country warble, but listening to the music here you might feel the dread of waiting around to be slaughtered all the same.

Rat Saw God feels like the clearest incarnation of the band's vision, which is to say it's the grungiest. Its strength exists in its strikingly creepy — even grotesque — lyricism and the ways in which she and her bandmates build their twangy, layered sound to support it.

Death, violence, drug abuse and one gnarly "never-ending nosebleed" blur together against the backdrop of nail salons, Panera Breads, Sunday schools, Dollywood, Dollar Trees and sex shops tucked off highways with biblical names. "Heard someone died in the Planet Fitness parking lot," Hartzman sings on "Bath County." "Fire trucks rolled in and people stood around."

"If you're lookin' for me," she sings, in a lyric of stunning dirtbag beauty: "I'm in the back of an SUV, doin' it in some cul-de-sac underneath a dogwood tree."

It's that claustrophobic inability to find real freedom and the ways in which Hartzman wrestles within it, recreated in the way the band builds heavy, jarring walls of sound that threaten to subsume her entirely, that make Rat Saw God's sound of survival feel distinctly, youthfully, chaotically American.

3. MY BIG DAY by Bombay Bicycle Club

While you shouldn’t necessarily judge an album by its guest spots, the cast of Bombay Bicycle Club’s sixth seems to not only cement where the quartet are at themselves, but also how they’re viewed among their peers. Present and correct are modern guitar innovators from both sides of the pond (Nilüfer Yanya and Jay Som), a BRIT-winner (Holly Humberstone), and a bona fide music legend (Damon Albarn); BBC might have started life a decade ago as a fairly straight-up indie band, but now they’re the sort of ever-evolving unit whose little black book is bulging.

My Big Day’ is a record that feels effortlessly comfortable in its own skin whilst still managing to tread new ground, it’s the best the band have ever sounded. Whether in the buoyant, brass-aping keyboard motif that opens ‘Just A Little More Time’, or the more ominous drums’n’drones of ‘I Want To Be Your Only Pet’, everything rings with supreme confidence. ‘Turn The World On’ is classic, sparkling Bombay, whereas ‘Rural Radio Predicts The Future’’s two-minute instrumental concludes with almost hyperpop bleeps; the Albarn-featuring ‘Heaven’ is loose and trip-hoppy, while highlight ‘Meditate’ (with Nilüfer Yanya) climbs the guitar scales into a twisted climax. My Big Day is truly a monumental triumph.

2. CRYING, LAUGHING, WAVING, SMILING by Slaughter Beach, Dog

“The one I know isn’t here,” sings Jake Ewald, his voice laced by the twangs of a guitar. This line from “Surfin’ New Jersey” comes just a few seconds into Slaughter Beach, Dog’s album, Crying, Laughing, Waving, Smiling. The one he’s referring to remains elusive—it could be a companion, but there’s a sense that, as the album unfolds, one’s honest self may be just as hard to access. Slaughter Beach, Dog assembled at their Philadelphia studio, The Metal Shop, in July 2022 to record their fifth LP—a collection of songs Ewald had written over the past two years, after the release of At the Moonbase on Christmas Eve 2020. The band is caring towards each song, and the result is a well-crafted, half-awake dreamscape of melodic rock—with soft indie edges and more than a little folk influence.

On Crying, Laughing, Waving, Smiling, the band starts on the outside of something and doesn’t really try to get inside—instead, they meander around out there, seeing what they can find and, from time to time, peering in through the glass. The first single—and the album’s second track—“Strange Weather,” sets up this seeking early. “How am I still unsure?” Ewald questions, across an upbeat arrangement laced with rounds of percussion and scratchy, quietly moody guitar instrumentation reminiscent of Abbey Road-era Beatles.

Slaughter Beach, Dog seem sure of their sound, at least—sometimes to a fault, as the songs here are, at times, almost in danger of blurring into one another in their sure-handedness. There’s little risk taken, but it’s hard to count that as a fault against an album that’s so comfortable within itself—and such a marvel to listen to and spend time with. The sound is consistent, but also refreshingly confident and un-self-conscious and never overworked; each of these songs knows exactly what it is.

1. THE RECORD by boygenius

"In another life we were arsonists,” goes a lyric on this first album from Boygenius, the supergroup consisting of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus – three of the most thoughtful, wry and quietly powerful indie-rock songwriters of the past decade. It’s a telling line for music that blazes with feeling, and is unabashed about drolly skewering and examining the male ego (see: songs about internalised notions of masculinity and lines such as “And I am not an old man having an existential crisis at a Buddhist monastery writing horny poetry” on a track called Leonard Cohen).

On the unassumingly titled The Record, this formidable trio of singer-storytellers complement one another with their often harrowing, diary-like candour. When their strikingly pure vocals combine in folky, elegiac harmony they are extraordinary, as on the opener, Without You Without Them, or in starker, lyrical moments , when they address love, friendship, philosophy, self-effacement.

A recent Rolling Stone cover story was headed “Boygenius: The Supergroup We Need”. It feels valid: on The Record, Baker, Bridgers and Dacus pack layer upon layer into their sound, standing tall and exquisite.


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