Skip to main content

DJ Mag’s top albums of 2023

In 2023, electronic music artists around the world used long-form works to showcase both range and specialism. DJs and producers best known for club-ready works explored personal themes through dream-pop, jazz and ambient, while others returned to the dancefloor with renewed vitality. Among fusions of hip-hop, amapiano, dub, dancehall and R&B we had dialled-in demonstrations of jungle, techno and deep house at their purest. Here, DJ Mag contributors select their personal favourite albums of the year, offering an unranked overview of the sounds that made the past 12 months so memorable for electronic music in all its forms

 DJ Mag albums of 2023 - A- C
'LXXXVIII' [Ninja Tune]

On ‘LXXXVIII’, Actress crafts an immersive sonic journey, blending ethereal melodies, haunting pianos and eerie voices with pulsating beats and deep subbed-out bass. The album’s dynamic range showcases a mastery of sound design, drawing the listener into its richly textured world. Each track carries a unique narrative, from introspective moments to high-energy crescendos (‘Typewriter World’ takes you to another place). The production balances complexity and accessibility, making it compelling for both seasoned fans and newcomers alike. MICK WILSON

African Head Charge
'A Trip To Bolgatanga' [On-U Sound]

African Head Charge albums always feel transportive — dub electronica works that transport us to far-flung locations, terrestrial and otherwise. But ‘A Trip...’ might be one of the few releases to reveal where we’re going, namely the Ghanaian town that project founder Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah now calls home. Tracks invoke a small town with a huge beating heart of diverse music, culture and dance, spanning loopy, hypnotic, drummy dancefloor drivers, surrealist slo-mo, squelchy funk, and earthy ambient jazz. A wild, unforgettable ride. MARTIN GUTTRIDGE-HEWITT

Al Wootton
'We Have Come To Banish The Dark' [Trule]

Al Wootton’s second album on his Trule label was posited as “a product of dystopic times”, and it certainly feels that way. Bubbling with oily, industrial tones that glitch into unnatural forms, it can be bleak at times — but there’s a primal anger under the surface, a sense of dancefloor resistance in its chunky, ritualistic rhythms and heavy dub bass. It may not paint a pretty picture, but it’s one peppered with hope — like finding a wildflower in a concrete wasteland. BEN HINDLE

'Work Of Art' [YBNL Nation / Empire Distribution]

Expectations for Asake’s follow-up album were as high as ever following his record-breaking debut ‘MMWTV’. His unique blend of fuji, hip-hop, Afrobeats and amapiano was a perfect addition to the global dominance of African music, and this proved no different. Asake dove deeper into his Yoruba heritage, his religion and newfound fame, affirming himself with feel-good anthems like ‘Sunshine’ and ‘I Believe’ alongside club faves like ‘Amapiano’ featuring Olamide. RAHEL AKLILU

Avalon Emerson
'& The Charm' [Another Dove]

‘& the Charm’ is far and away the dreamiest LP I’ve heard all year — rich pads, rueful melody and lilting vocals, it’s the kind of record you could turn to in all weathers and times of day. It also feels like a walk down memory lane, opening with a Cocteau Twins-esque guitars and, at other times, calling to mind early '00s indie-pop acts like The Postal Service and Fujiya & Miyagi. But in all this, it retains a soft and lulling undertone that feels very now, and fills my heart. RIA HYLTON

'INFINITY CLUB' [Innovative Leisure]

While BAMBII’s debut EP ‘INFINITY CLUB’ is technically not an album, the eight-track record has the far-reaching range and intensity of a long-player. Stellar tunes from the Jamaican-Canadian producer, like the fiery belter ‘One Touch’ and the summery beat ‘Hooked’ featuring Aluna, combine Caribbean elements and electronic music with prowess. Blending jungle, dancehall and R&B, each track ripples with frenetic energy, racy vocals and balmy atmospheres, displaying BAMBII’s extremely promising talents as a producer, songwriter and vocalist. NIAMH O’CONNOR

Barry Can’t Swim
'When Will We Land?' [Ninja Tune]

Scottish artist Barry Can’t Swim released his debut album ‘When Will We Land?’ via Ninja Tune in October this year, after sharing a string of singles, including the sultry, keys-laden ‘Woman’, the Trio Ternura-sampling, sunrise-suited ‘Dance Of The Crab’ and the technicolour, feel-good cut ‘Sunsleeper’. Fusing a range of genres and polarising sounds, the LP remains cohesive and immersive, showcasing all we’ve come to know, love and associate with Barry Can’t Swim’s DJ sets and productions over the last few years. AMY FIELDING

Call Super
'Eulo Cramps' [can you feel the sun]

On their fourth album, Call Super’s creative and introspective explorations culminated. Weaving colourful strands of jazz, avant-garde electronic music and spoken word around intricate percussion, their self-designed e-harp instrument, and luminous guest vocals, these nine tracks contain their most original work to date, casting only brief glances at the elaborate house and techno of their singles and EPs. Reflecting on their own development and their belief that, within us all, there are multitudes, it’s a personal document from a truly unique producer and DJ. EOIN MURRAY

Caroline Polachek
'Desire, I Want To Turn Into You' [Perpetual Novice]

Pop moved swiftly in 2023, with little proving as captivating as this paean to the many-faced god that is infatuation. Polachek daringly pushes the genre's boundaries, while remaining committed to its most delicious tropes, cementing her status as our most formidable artpop auteur. From the featherlight and freeform ‘Pretty Impossible’, and the vaporous ‘Smoke’, to the surreal ‘Bunny Is A Rider’, this album saw Polachek turn pop into playdough, and sculpt a modern masterpiece. TAZMÉ PILLAY

'Famous Last Words' [XL Recordings]

CASISDEAD followed up one of UK rap’s cult classics in October, expanding on the synthwave sound of ‘The Number 23’ by using pop hooks to punctuate his inimitable tone. Part sci-fi opus — building the world his character inhabits — the album also contains some of Cas’ most personal bars, blurring the line between his artistry and reality, dealing with issues including addiction and suicidal thoughts. The work of an artist with a singular vision, it’s nothing short of an instant classic. ROB MCCALLUM

 DJ Mag albums of 2023 - D - H
'Timeless' [Davido Music Worldwide / Sony Music Entertainment UK]

Davido's unique language of grief is the sound of renewed hope, as evidenced on ‘Timeless’, an album created on the heels of a monumental loss. Here, the Nigerian star goes back to basics and relies on a template of feel-good Afropop, moulding — not masking — his pain into feelings of faith, triumph, restoration and resilience. Touting an assured warmth that spreads across 17 tracks, ‘Timeless’ is a buoyant reminder of his relentless pursuit of joy, and the paradoxical nature of his healing. MAKUA ADIMORA

Deena Abdelwahed
'Jbal Rrsas' [InFiné Music]

Deena Abdelwahed’s debut LP blended traditional MENA instruments and genres with dubstep, ballroom, EBM, and techno. On her follow-up, ‘Jbal Rrsas’, Abdelwahed turns her attention elsewhere, introducing her audience to the complex rhythms and instrumentation of MENA dance music. ‘Jbal Rrsas’ is equal parts ferocious and funky, as dabke swing gives way to EBM ferocity. Taken as a whole, it's Abdelwahed’s best work yet and a record that breaks the usual orientalist binary between traditional folk instruments and contemporary club music. HENRY IVRY

DJ Bone
'FURTHER' [Subject Detroit]

With an aura that sits somewhere between cosmic vastness and inner-space intimacy, its emotion-rich melodies draped over precision- tooled rhythms, you’d be hard-pressed to find a 2023 album that’s as permeated with Detroit purity as the latest from DJ Bone. Released on his Subject Detroit, these tracks aren’t overly showy — Bone’s a master of techno control — but from the hymnal ode-to-joy of ‘Standard’ to the metallic shuffle of ‘Our Cosmic BBQ’, he captures the essence of what makes Motor City music so special. Few do it better; fewer still ever will. BRUCE TANTUM

DJ Trax
'Break From Reality' [Over/Shadow]

DJ Trax has been responsible for multiple classic hardcore and jungle cuts since the early ’90s. After dabbling with broken beat, hip-hop and downtempo rhythms on several releases, the stunning ‘Break From Reality’ sees him returning to bona fide drum & bass. Tracks such as ‘The Feeling’ show Trax’s beat-chopping expertise and gift for jazzy melodic riffs, while the flying drum shards and bass booms of ‘Reflections’ prove he can throw down with the best of them. Another win for Moving Shadow’s spiritual successor, Over/Shadow. BEN MURPHY

Double O
'Firm Meditation' [Rupture LDN]

Co-founder of label and party Rupture, Double O was flying the flag for jungle long before its current revival, keeping the vibe alive when few were. This debut 12-track album demonstrates his depth of knowledge, pairing it with razor-sharp production. From the deep subs, lush pads and soundsystem leanings of ‘Probe’ to the techy, darkside vibe of ‘Corsica Groove’, a tribute to Rupture’s home club, ‘Firm Meditation’ is a modern masterclass in jungle’s myriad styles, road-tested and refined on one of the capital’s finest soundsystems. JOE ROBERTS

Fantastic Twins
'Two Is Not A Number' [House Of Slessor]

Julienne Dessagne, aka Fantastic Twins, crafted an astonishingly apposite album for our times and for all times, a record that takes all the binaries we’ve been tutored in our whole lives — others and ourselves, creation and destruction, death and life — and suggests a complexity of mutual dependence and simultaneity that’s utterly mindblowing. Spontaneous yet hypnotically detailed, thrilling yet imersively engrossing, conceptually enthralling, sonically suggestive and deeply danceable — a moving electronic masterpiece. NEIL KULKARNI

'Eternal Mind' [PRSPCT Recordings]

FFF’S last album, 2022’s ‘Part Of The Order’, was a sprawling two-volume affair, and while it was well received, this year’s ‘Eternal Mind’ managed to be more sonically expansive within a more manageable package. Developing on his promising forays into footwork and downtempo, the Dutchman’s synth melodies and atmospherics are afforded as much weight as his already renowned drum programming, elevating the whole LP to a cerebral wonderland, while still making room for his signature breakbeat assaults. Pushing boundaries can really pay off. BEN HINDLE

Fred P
'States of Bliss' [Private Society]

Fred P has been one the underground’s most consistent performers for 15 years. His signature sound is as heady as they come and though he has veered into more crisp tech, ambient and techno, he is at his best making proper deep house, as this album showed. It continues down the same path first trodden by Balance Records, Larry Heard and Ron Trent in that it is steeped in jazz musicality, shimmering, candle-lit pads and a quiet artistry that makes an indelible emotional impact. KRISTAN J CARYL

'Drift' [Big Dada]

Brixton-born GAIKA’s talents range from exhibiting art to designing motorbikes for a film to writing about dystopian futures — he’s comfortable expressing himself and his politics in many forms. But music is his first love and where he’s been most direct, earning comparisons to Tricky and Prince with his Afrofuturist dark electronica. Here, he’s maybe at his most vulnerable yet, as he switches rapping for singing, incorporating guitar-based sounds and soul-searching lyrics that deliver both escapism and some comforting songs for troubling times. KAMILA RYMAJDO

'The Head Hurts but the Heart Knows the Truth' [PLZ Make It Ruins]

Officially, Headache was produced by Vegyn, with lyrics written by Francis Hornsby Clark and performed by AI. But who is Francis Hornby Clark? Is he Vegyn? Is he himself an AI? He sounds a bit like Ben Whishaw. Who cares? The album evokes, simultaneously, the finest sections of Moby’s ‘Play’, a work of audio fiction written by Nick Hornby, and the musings of a robot reckoning with death. All at once one of the most contemporary, futuristic and utterly timeless works of the year. SAM DAVIES

 DJ Mag albums of 2023 - J - O
James Blake
'Playing Robots Into Heaven' [Republic]

Released in September, ‘Playing Robots...’ sees the acclaimed singer-songwriter and producer trade in the straightforward ballads of 2021’s ‘Friends That Break Your Heart’ for something way closer to his electronic roots and the heavyweight sonics of his 1-800 Dinosaur label. Granted, there’s plenty of autumnal melancholy — like on penultimate track ‘If You Can Hear Me’ — but for the most part, Blake’s beautiful, ghostly vocals are chopped, sliced and inventively laid over spacious bangers. This is supreme sad boi music for the clubs. ROB KAZANDJIAN

'Love Makes Magic' [Vicious Charm Recordings]

It was a joyful high-point of 2023 to see one of UK dance music’s modern-day troubadours, Crazy P co-founder and dancefloor don Ron Basejam — Jim Baron — release such a wonderful album. A collection of Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter tunes, blue-eyed soul, nu-yacht and Balearica, full of gently strummed acoustic guitars, lush vocal harmonies, carefully constructed soulful melodies, and, even at its most introspective, hints of that Basejam dancefloor sensibility. Calm, deep and bewitching, ‘Love Makes Magic’ was the album we needed this year. HAROLD HEATH

'We Live 4 Our Music' [Mayonie Productions / Universal Music]

A producer/DJ that has gone from strength to strength each year, Karyendasoul has proven that hit making is in his DNA. After teasing the world with an expanded edition of his work through his EP ‘Imizamo’ in 2021, he laid his heart bare and gave maximum effort to expanding his musical skill-set on this LP. Songs like ‘Umthandazo’ speak highly to his power to move people in different parts of the world and connect us through the shared experience of his work. KITTY AMOR

'Raven' [Warp Records]

Kelela has always pushed boundaries with thought-provoking lyrics and soundscapes, crossing the borders between retrospective R&B and future-facing soul and electronic music. After her debut album ‘Take Me Apart’, she re-emerged with a follow-up that’s strong and defiant in its message. Written from the perspective of feeling alone in the industry as a Black woman, she revealed that it’s dedicated to “service the people who are there in the front row and have always been there: Queer Black people”. Powerful lyrics, and music that reveals depth and intimacy. ANNA WALL

KOAN Sound
'Led By Ancient Light' [Shoshin]

When KOAN Sound fired into the fray 15 years ago, busting balls with brazen basses, glitches and dubstep swagger, never in a million dystopias could you forecast them creating a beguiling opus quite as extraordinary as this. Made solely through cello, piano and drum sounds (plus plenty of processing and production sorcery), it’s a score to a sci-fi that exists only in their minds and through the accompanying artwork of Eelco Siebring. Epic, intimate, genuinely unique; few albums released this year pack such an acute emotional punch. DAVE JENKINS

Larry June & The Alchemist
'The Great Escape' [ALC Records / Empire Distribution]

More than a dozen albums into his career, Larry June had already scored fruitful partnerships with multiple top-tier hip-hop producers when he connected with The Alchemist for ‘The Great Escape’, but their pairing was something else entirely. The duo brought career-high performances out of each other: Larry with his humid, treacle-like flow and Al with soul-sampling beats draped in misty chill. A lightning-in-a-bottle album, it’s steeped in Bay Area swagger and the enduring influence of local pioneers like Mac Dre and E-40. JAMES KEITH

Lord Of The Isles & Ellen Renton
'My Noise is Nothing' [AD 93]

Mixing emotive ambient synths and sparklingly vivid spoken word, this collaborative album between Edinburgh IDM producer Lord Of The Isles and poet Ellen Renton builds on their sought-after 2020 AD 93 EP. Renton’s lyrics are a symbiotic match for Lord Of The Isles’ gorgeous and subtle melodies, with her words revealing further meaning with each listen. ‘For A Burning World’ is the centrepiece, with its painterly smears of electronics, crisp drum machines and breakbeat coda. Hopefully there will be more. BEN MURPHY

LP Giobbi
'Light Places' [Counter Records]

“Sometimes you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.” Contrary to the Grateful Dead’s tripped-out musings, we fully expected to find rays of brilliance scattered throughout LP Giobbi’s debut, which borrows its title from the band’s ‘Scarlet Begonias’ lyrics. A collection of epic range, it sees the ‘piano house queen’ meld deeply emotional 4/4 beats, fluttering keys and kaleidoscopic vocals into a pop-kissed package that makes existential dread melt away faster than an ice sculpture in a south-west El Niño summer. MEGAN VENZIN

Nathan Micay
'To The God Named Dream' [LuckyMe]

Upon returning to dance music after a film-scoring hiatus, Nathan Micay noted that things were getting a bit serious. Enter: ‘To The God Named Dream’, the Toronto-raised producer’s fifth studio album turned RPG-inspired melodrama, brought to life through live instrumentation, obscure plug-ins, and vintage library-music samples. The resulting 11 tracks — which swerve between acrobatic breakbeat and sci-fi-infused ambient — are soaked in interdimensional bliss. OLIVIA STOCK

'Good Lies' [XL Recordings]

As the walls between dance music tribes continue to collapse, Overmono are emerging as the poster child for post-genre clubbing. Their debut album crystallises their crisp fusion of bouncy 2-step and techno’s pounding bass and transcendent synths, which has captivated for years. Fleet-footed breaks frame earworm samples, the propulsive oomph of compressed drums invigorate rippling soundscapes, while ventures into the low-end almost graze dubstep’s cavernous depths. A love letter to UK dance culture’s myriad corners. BECCA INGLIS

 DJ Mag albums of 2023 - P - Y
'Changing Channels' [Hessle Audio]

When Pangaea released ‘Installation’ as summer sizzled into view, it felt like a come-up in the sunshine. Built on a fuzzy bassline, a deliciously simple synth lead and a hit-making melange of gibberish vocal chirrups, this giddy roller captured the gleeful anticipation of the months ahead. The album followed suit, delivering seven straight-up slammers packed with subtle hooks. There’s NYC-style garage, shoulder-swinging house, wriggly balearic trance, and dazzling happy hardcore, all served with blissful abandon and that unmistakable Hessle thrust. EOIN MURRAY

'Signs' [Peak Oil]

Among a flourishing new wave of artists exploring the bioluminescent depths of downtempo, ambient and dub techno, Purelink have found their own voice. Across this six-track, 39-minute suite, the Chicago trio stitch Chain Reaction-esque fibres into blankets of warm synth: a gentle kick pattern here, a full-bodied bass throb there, a fleeting melody, a faint crackle or fizzy glitch – all rendered in spellbinding soft focus. It’s music to sink into and float away with. A blissful soundtrack for the late-night/early-morning afterglow. EOIN MURRAY

'LOW ART' [Obsolete Medium]

In a world where major labels dominate, there’s something admirable about an artist self-releasing an album just because they love putting music out. Rockwell did exactly that with ‘LOW ART’ — a project of experimentation and adoration for drum & bass. After many fans thought he’d given up on music due to inactivity, it was a wonderful moment seeing an inspired Rockwell push music through his own label Obsolete Medium again. When it comes to drum & bass albums in 2023, ‘LOW ART’ deserves serious praise. JAKE HIRST

'Please Touch' [Eaux]

Seth Horvitz has been one of the decade’s most important techno artists. Having undergone a number of transformations over the course of their ephemeral career, it’s under their Marcel Duchamp-inspired moniker Rrose that the adopted Londoner has really come into their own, winning the hearts and minds of discerning audiophiles everywhere with their heady mix of crepuscular electronica. With tight muscular beats shining brightly through hazy atmospheric filters, ‘Please Touch’ feels like the culmination of everything Rrose was destined to be as a producer. REISS DE BRUIN

Sam Goku
'Things We See When We Look Closer' [Permanent Vacation]

Sam Goku’s second album is simply stunning. Building on the East-meets-West sonic fusion of his 2021 debut LP, ‘Things We See...’ is more cohesive and — while offering a few selections for club DJs — best listened to as a whole. Bound together by timbre rather than tempo, it’s full of twinkling melodies, radiant pads and the reassuring crackle of white noise, at times paired with a thumping beat, at others drifting in serenity. The music has an organic quality, as if soundtracking a rushing stream or the dance of shadows on a forest floor. BEN HINDLE

'Lahai' [Young]

After six years, Sampha’s sophomore release points to particular themes amongst others: community and interconnectedness. There are backing choirs, interspersed vocal snippets, and contributions from a myriad of collaborators: Yaeji, Ibeyi, Léa Sen, more. Even then, the voice that springs forward is his own. Strengthened by life changes, as well as those around him — the women in his life, who he gives thanks to on the airy ‘Suspended’, his family tree and relatives on ‘Satellite Business’ — he is maybe more powerful than ever. CHRISTINE OCHEFU

'trip9love​.​.​.​?​?​?' [Domino Recording Company]

Wrapping influences from R&B, indie rock, electronica and dance music in dreamy atmospherics and melodies, UK singer and producer Tirzah has crafted a distinctive style. ‘trip9love...???’ finds her working with longtime collaborator Mica Levi, and contains some of her most affecting material so far. Tunes like ‘u all the time’ rattle with thundering drum machine hits, hazy piano lines, and her harmonically layered vocals, while the melancholy riffs and megatonne-heavy trap beats of ‘Stars’ hit on both a rhythmic and emotional level. BEN MURPHY

Wata Igarashi
'Agartha' [Kompakt]

Anyone who’s been following Japanese DJ and producer Wata Igarashi’s career over the last decade will know that he’s a techno virtuoso, with a number of hypnotic, ambient and dub-slanted releases on the likes of Midgar, Delsin and The Bunker NY. With his first full-length he surpasses all expectations though, crafting a truly unique musical statement that incorporates krautrock and jazz, and winds up sounding a bit like the electronic album Pink Floyd never made. Hands down one of the best debut albums of the year. CLAIRE FRANCIS

'22° Halo' [untitled (recs)]

Sister duo Waterbaby have been a shape-shifting presence on the South-London DIY scene for over a decade now. On long-awaited debut ‘22° Halo’, Martha and Jessica Kilpatrick seem settled in their sound, carving out 10 tracks of speculative synth-pop with one foot in the cosmic ether and the other firmly in the realm of cold, hard hooks. Meticulously self-produced in a cocoon of Covid lockdowns, its melodies and vocal motifs will linger in your mind for many moons. OLIVIA CHEVES

'With A Hammer' [XL Recordings]

Six years on from her first EP, Yaeji’s debut album ‘With A Hammer’ saw the Korean- American artist break apart her sound in order to rebuild it. From pairing wind instruments with sugary synths to catchy lyrics with chaotic breaks, the LP is full of abstract fusion that feels authentically Yaeji, but also serves as an introduction to the new world she’s creating. Combined with her move from DJing into live performance, it not only delivers on the promise of her early work, but promises so much more for the future. AMY FIELDING

Young Fathers
'Heavy Heavy' [Ninja Tune]

CHILDHOOD friends from Edinburgh, Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole and G. Hastings dropped their Mercury-nominated fourth album in February, which veers from quasi-spiritual laments (‘Tell Somebody’, a transcendent ‘Drum’, the soulful ‘Geronimo’) to rousing rallying cries such as the raw ‘I Saw’, ‘Shoot Me Down’ and ‘Holy Moly’. It’s a mature, uncategorizable, sophisticated album that further affirms Young Fathers' edge and dynamism. CARL LOBEN