Hear the Best Albums and Songs of 2023


In the spirit of holiday excess and end-of-the-year summation, we’re about to make Amplifier history. Because today’s newsletter features — can I get a drumroll? And maybe an effect on my voice that makes me sound like one of those announcers at a monster truck rally? — our longest playlist everrrrr.

It’s 124 songs. Eight hours and 15 minutes of music! That’s longer than watching “Killers of the Flower Moon” twice in a row! (Do not recommend, that sounds emotionally exhausting.)

For the past few weeks, Jon Pareles, Jon Caramanica and I have been putting together our lists of the best songs and albums of the year. As usual, we’ve agreed on some things — the pop-punk princess Olivia Rodrigo’s punchy “Guts” and the rock absurdists 100 gecs’ outrageous “10,000 gecs” were the only two albums that appeared on all three of our lists — and diverged on a lot of things. For example, my esteemed colleague Caramanica believes that the second best song of the year is “World Class Sinner/I’m a Freak,” the vacant-eyed comeback hit from Jocelyn, a fictitious pop star from the doomed HBO series “The Idol.” To quote Adam Sandler in “Uncut Gems,” I disagree.

But that variety — even those diverging opinions — is precisely what makes today’s playlist so fun. There’s truly something here for everybody, whether it’s the kaleidoscopic sound of the K-pop It Girls NewJeans, the incendiary folk of Allison Russell, the xx singer Romy’s emotionally charged dance music, the British rapper Central Cee’s smooth cadences, the Nigerian star Asake’s optimistic Afrobeats, Bailey Zimmerman’s arena-sized country, the vivid, prickly indie-rock of Speedy Ortiz … I could go on and on (and on), but I’ll let the music speak for itself.

I won’t be providing commentary on each song, because there are 124 of them, but luckily we’ve already written about all of this music on our lists of best albums and best songs. (Non-Spotify listeners can find YouTube links there, too; and remember, Spotify offers an ad-sponsored tier, so you can always listen there for free, too.)

There are two ways to experience this enormous playlist. You can just press play and go through it in order, getting a sense of each critic’s individual tastes and sensibilities. Or — and I think this is the best way — you can put it on shuffle and allow yourself to be surprised. I won’t promise you’ll like everything you hear; in fact, I guarantee there will be at least a few songs on here that will make you wonder if the New York Times pop music critics should get our ears examined. But that’s part of the fun of year-end lists, too. If we all agreed on everything (like, say, Jocelyn), there wouldn’t be any point in making them!

What I will guarantee is that if you make it through this entire playlist, you will feel caught up on the music released in 2023. And, who knows, you just may discover your favorite song of the year.

Listen along on Spotify.

Drag racing through the canyon, singing “Boys Don’t Cry,”

Lindsay

Is this music not new enough for you? We’ve got even more recently released tracks on today’s Playlist. Listen to new music from Adrianne Lenker, Nicki Minaj, Idles and more, here.

Also, these lists focused on pop — in the widest sense of the word — but if you’re looking for even more variety, check out Giovanni Russonello’s list of the year’s best jazz albums.



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