SURG’s Best Albums of 2023

2023 was a big year for music, and what better way to wrap it up then to share our favourite albums. Forget the paid critics and big music magazines, SURG is bringing you the crème de la crème of this year’s record releases. Now read on!


Hackney Diamonds – The rolling stones 

REVIEWER: Will Thorpe

Hackney Diamonds joins a list of Rolling Stones “comeback albums” that stretches back to 1968’s Beggars Banquet. The Stones’ last album before this was a series of blues covers in 2016, and their previous album featuring original material was released in 2005. Most importantly, their new album is no rehashing of their output from previous decades, but is rather a fresh and stunning series of 12 tracks, though it does include a cover of the Muddy Waters song from which the Stones derived their name. Songs like “Whole Wide World” and “Sweet Sounds of Heaven” (the latter featuring Stevie Wonder and Lady Gaga) show the band’s incredible versatility, and deal with themes of jadedness and endurance that only the time-weathered Stones – who formed over 61 years ago – can deal with.

Will’s Favourite Track: Bite My Head Off

While the entire album is great from start to finish, this track featuring Sir Paul McCartney stands out for its breakneck energy, featuring a lightning-paced guitar solo, even as the youngest member of the band is now 76.


Live at Bush Hall – Black Country, New Road 

REVIEWER: Vance McDonald

A super eccentric and eclectic live record showcasing just how exciting BC,NR can continue to be as a group even despite the unfortunate departure of singer Isaac Wood.

Vance’s Favourite Track: Laughing Song


Desire, I want to Turn Into You – Caroline Polachek 

REVIEWER: David Balodis Serra

The first time I listened to Caroline Polachek’s latest album was while I was in Berlin earlier this year and it quickly became that weekend’s soundtrack. It took very little effort to convince the friends I was travelling with to listen along as it was one of the only things I would talk about. Caroline’s talent as a vocalist and songwriter is undebatable. Whether it’s the distant echoes on the song Crude Drawing of an Angel, or the longing chorus over a liquid dnb instrumental on the Grimes and Dido assisted Fly to You, Caroline is constantly the stand-out. Even now after months of listening to the album, all it takes is hearing the whistling melody on Bunny is a Rider or the romantic guitars on Sunset to take me right back to wandering around the streets of Berlin.

David’s Favourite Track: Welcome to My Island

Caroline’s soaring vocal intro is stunning to say the least and completely hooked me in to listening to the rest of the album.


Guts – Olivia Rodrigo 

REVIEWER: Bella Salier

I’m really not a pop girly but Olivia just gets it in a way that really makes me giggle (honorable mentions to “get him back!” and “ballad of a homeschooled girl”). Lowkey “vampire” is probably the actual best song, but “bad idea right?” is all vibes and that’s what I love.

Bella’s Favourite Track: bad idea right?

Because I’m basic, and also yes I’ve definitely seen much hotter men, but also yes I really can’t remember when.


PIXIEDUST003 – IX Fall$

REVIEWER: Guofei Li

Quite a good breakbeat + dnb album, really got a vibe!

Guofei’s Favourite Track: IN MY EYES (w/ vmrrobotic & TURQUOISEDEATH)

Hear the male vocals, such a relief!


Baby’s Teeth – Baby Beef

REVIEWER: Bella Salier

Just give it a listen and you’ll get it (also I’m tryna make up for nominating guts 😭).

Bella’s Favourite Track: Cruising 4 Barns


The REcord – boygenius

REVIEWER: Zoe Biggs

At some point in the year I was going to write an entire article dedicated to the genius (!) of this album. As a fan of all three artists individually (Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers), I just adore everything this record has to offer. Though perhaps not drastically different songwriters (though there is certainly an argument for that), each of ‘the boys’ have such beautifully unique voices which blend together like a dream, but also provide contrast when needed. This album has range: from an acappella ballad, to a soft acoustic track, to a rock number with crunchy production. But perhaps its greatest achievement is its treatment of vulnerability: of self-perception, of grief, of love, of friendship. Little imperfections seep through here and there (such as the shakey vocals on ‘Without You Without Them’), but these truly just add a sense of comfort to the album.

Zoe’s Favourite Track: Letter To An Old Poet

This track is a (sort of) sequel to ‘Me & My Dog’ off of boygenius’ self-titled 2018 EP. It’s GROWTH it’s HEARTBREAKING it’s BEAUTIFUL. “I wanna be emaciated / I wanna hear one song without thinking of you” becomes “I wanna be happy / I’m ready / To walk into my room without looking for you” and that is just gah! (No words just feelings).


The Ancient Truth – Maara

REVIEWER: Nausheen alam

The entire album is delicate in its sound, not contained within one genre. Melodic downtempo, and dubby basslines carry you through this album. The seductive femme vocals used throughout this album are captivating, and I’ve often found myself listening to the entire album beginning to end. Another stand out song on this album is Awaken, Plum Plum. Nourishing sounds and pulsating percussion lightly carry you away with the fairies.

Nausheen’s Favourite Track: Erotics of Betrayal

It’s the best song on the album because it’s fully genre bending; a trance-y dubby song with jazz elements throughout, and the soft sultry femme vocals will entrance you.


Gold – cleo Soul

REVIEWER: Jonathan Chalouhi

Cleo Sol’s second album of the year came as a surprise, being announced only days before its release, and has established herself as one of my favorite female artists. In a year of intense stress and action, Gold offers a break with 42 minutes of peace and space to enjoy Sol’s vocals and downtempo rhythms. The album offers deep storytelling and an eclectic journey in Sol’s life, bringing her peace to you.

Jona’s Favourite Track: In Your Own Home

This song brings a perfect mix of rhythm and groove with floating vocals and melodies, perfectly summarizing the album.


The Breath Between – David Francey

REVIEWER: Bella Rough

David Francey is my one-true-folky-celtic-guitarist-love. His beautiful Scottish accent and melodic voice float over dreamy acoustic melodies, but The Breath Between adds some mournful piano chords to the mix. A 90s singer-songwriter underdog, Francey’s 2023 masterpiece shows his maturity as an artist and person, with lyrics exploring grief, love, and family. He’s not afraid of sentimentality or even some cliche, and for this reason The Breath Between is a clear, honest exploration into the quiet beauty of life. I <3 you David.

Bella’s Favourite Track: Absolution

Acapella lament comparing the first snowfall of winter to the memory of a lost love?! Need I say more.


Unreal Unearth – Hozier

REVIEWER: Niamh Elliott-Brennan

I could (and may) write an entire article about this album – the literary and mythological references, the stunning clarity of Hozier’s voice, the ingenious ways he employs such a vast array of instruments, the elegance of his poetry combined with the stirring melodic swelling both in individual tracks (like “I, Carrion (Icarian)” and “Unknown/Nth”) and across the album as a whole. How powerful the reclamation of his butchered mother tongue is, listening to Gaelic drip like honey from his mouth, stark against this visceral undercurrent of grief – lost love, lost language, lost self – that is wholly encapsulated by the fact that he can sing only a few lines in Gaelic before falling back into English. But what I love most about this album – and all of Hozier’s albums – is their innate humanness. There is something so raw, so haunting about his work; it is so filled with life and love and lust and the collective pain of existence and to me that is the joy of music. To embody some aspect of what it is to be human. (The fact that I sat where Dante’s rock used to be in Florence – the rock he supposedly first saw Beatrice from – and listened to “Francesca”, and the fact that listening to this album reminds me of better days when I was in Europe, has absolutely no bearing on my love for this album.)

Niamh’s Favourite Track: To Someone From A Warm Climate (Uiscefhuaraithe)

How could you do this to me every song is perfect, also it is ‘to someone from a warm climate (uiscefhuaraithe)’ because it is disgustingly, painfully, transcendently cold and moving.


Exploited – Enjoy

REVIEWER: Rosina Carbone

Even though bass, guitar and drums are an instrumental tale as old as time, Enjoy never fails to take the classic lineup and keep it ars nova. The album strikes a genius balance between hollow, reedy guitar tones and full, warm bass reverb. Maybe its American June release might indicate summer vibes, but I can’t help but be taken back to cold fronts in Adelaide where I first heard Wyatt Shears nonchalantly drone over periodic cowbell.

Bella’s Favourite Track: Save My Soul, Not My Ship


Rush! (Are you Coming?) – MÅneskin

REVIEWER: Valerie Chidiac

This album was produced with Max Martin and involved Rami Yacoub who are notable for Britney Spear’s debut “…Baby One More Time” (1999) and the Backstreet Boys’ ever so recognisable “I Want It That Way” (1999). Rush!’s clever lyricism brought to life by Damiano David’s vocals never overpowers or takes to the background. It matches the intensity of the rock via Victoria De Angelis, Ethan Torchio and Thomas Raggis. Sometimes, I find myself thinking of random lyrics every now and then. For example, the double entendre of sexual intimacy as well as empathy and understanding in the lyric “dance in your shoes, read your diary to get inside of you” is one of many standouts. I loved the original edition of the album, titled just Rush! but was excited to stumble upon a reissued version, that was recently released on the 10th of November. Missed out on their Rush! Tour tickets in Sydney and hearing the songs live, but the album remains a staple in my playlist.

Val’s Favourite Track: Gasoline

If familiar with other songs named Gasoline (e.g. Halsey, Britney Spears), you will know that this a genre in and of itself.


Something to Give Each Other – Troye Sivan

REVIEWER: Victoria Gillespie

I’ve had some great dances with my friends to this album. And isn’t that the point of music? Thank you Troye 😘

Vic’s Favourite Track: Got Me Started


The Rise and Fall of A mIDWEST pRINCESS – CHappell Roan

REVIEWER: Zoe Biggs

I have no self control and could not resist adding a second album (sorry). This album is so incredibly fun. It’s queer, it’s camp, it’s heartbreaking at some points and an utterly unserious riot at others.

Zoe’s Favourite Track: Red Wine Supernova

The chorus is just *chef’s kiss*, those VOCALS.


And with that we come to the end of Best Albums ’23!

Want all our reviewers’ favourite tracks in one place? SURG is on Spotify (and you should totally follow us)! You can listen to our playlist here:

And if you still can’t get enough, neither can your editor (Zoe), so here are 10 more albums – The Editor’s Shortlist, if you will:

Bewitched – Laufey

DRUMMER – G Flip

I Love You – Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers

Javelin – Sufjan Stevens

Positive Spin – Gretta Ray

Snow Angel – Reneé Rapp

Struggler – Genesis Owusu

Sweet Justice – TKay Maidza

The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We – Mitski

The Winding Way – The Teskey Brothers


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