Canadian Artists Name Their Favourite Albums of 2023

Photos (clockwise from top left): Allison Russell by Dana Trippe, Gayance by Floor Verhulst, Devours courtesy of the artist, poolblood by Jibril-Yassin

BY Alex HudsonPublished Dec 6, 2023

Here at Exclaim!, we've already had our say about the best albums of 2023 — but what do the artists themselves think?

We reached out to some of the year's stand-out Canadian artists to find out which new releases they had on high rotation this year. While there's some overlap with our own year-end list, they also shone a light on some eclectic deep cuts, from the overlooked indie pop album that kept on giving to the neo-classic composer giving cozy vibes — not to mention the band that's inspiring a reappraisal of nu metal band P.O.D.

Check out these Canadian artists' recommendations below, and read more about the best of 2023 here.

Bibi Club
trip9love...??? by Tirzah

"Mica Levi and Tirzah developed their own musical language. It's vulnerable and strong. It's minimalist with a lot of depth. It's captivating and transports us to our own humanity."

Helena Deland
I've Got Me by Joanna Sternberg

"This album is pure. Everyone should listen to it. I'm actually mad I'm not listening to it right now. A brilliant folk album harnessing the likes of Daniel Johnston and Joanna Newsom. Full of heart."

des hume
An Inbuilt Fault by Westerman

"This week I was in the Shoreditch Rough Trade, the type of mass market record store that doesn't really exist any more outside of very trendy neighborhoods in major metropolitan areas, looking for a copy of  Will Westerman's latest record — the cooing, contemplative and rich An Inbuilt Fault, which came out in May of this year to some minor critical fanfare and then was promptly forgotten (shame!). I'll admit that it left me a little blasé when I first heard it — it's a textually dense, rambling album that lacks the immediacy of previous Arthur Russell-esque pop gems like 'Confirmation' — but it has been the record that I've turned back to over and over again to this year, especially as I've had a bit of a renaissance with '70s–'80s Joni Mitchell records like The Hissing of the Summer Lawns and Don Juan's Reckless Daughter. An Inbuilt Fault slides in effortlessly into that zone: it's heady, but full of knotty burst of percussion (courtesy of Big Thief's James Krivchenia, who co-produced the LP), spry guitar lines, washes of trombone, etc., and lyrics that really would benefit from having them in hard copy to pour over while you listen. The sleepy Rough Trade clerk who reported that they had 10 copies somewhere in the store was as flummoxed as I was when nothing turned up in a search of the 'indie pop,' 'shoegaze,' 'alternative,' 'singer-songwriter' and other bins, and grumbled that he'd have to fill out some paperwork. I left empty-handed, but put it on again on my flight back, looking forward to finding something new in it on another listen, and ordered a copy through my local record shop as soon as I got home."

Post-American by MSPAINT

"My year-end lists are always a mix of big names and emerging/underground artists, but mainstream music was pretty boring in 2023 and almost everything worthwhile was underground. Vancouver had a strong year — MA$$ANK, Janky Bungag and SoyJoy released debut albums that I connected with. For me personally, my favourite album of the year ended up being Post-American by MSPAINT; released back in March, it still feels like the freshest, most vital thing I've come across in 2023. Creative, purposeful, genuinely inspired — it sounds like a band following their own path. Also, their frontperson sounds eerily similar to the singer from P.O.D., which launched me into the biggest investigation of 2023: was P.O.D. underrated?"  

Jeremy Dutcher
Multitudes by Feist

"Multitudes is the triumphant return of a power-folk vanguard, whose absence is only really felt once she releases a gargantuan offering such as this; a sound I had come to know and love so dearly in my teens, wrapped me up and sang me back to health this summer. For me, this album is a complete offering for the ages, and though one might get stuck extolling its sonic virtue alone, its visual language is equally as considered and beautiful. I had the pleasure of seeing the live show in Berlin earlier this year, and I was profoundly touched by how these songs translated to the stage. The inventive ways projection, storytelling, stagecraft and the engagement of audience were all inspiring to witness."

by Martha Da'Ro

"My Belgian friend came out with one of the most captivating projects in 2023. I was also happy to see her having a leading role in the latest season of Lupin." 

Hannah Georgas
Neo-Romance by Alexandra Stréliski

"An album that I've been excited about digging into this year, and have been listening to quite a bit, is Neo-Romance by Alexandra Stréliski. I loved her album INSCAPE, and was eager to hear her latest. Her writing has this cinematic quality to it and a way of making me feel at ease. I've been listening to a lot of instrumental music over the past few years, because I find I can still focus on other things while having it on. I have a tendency to get distracted when I'm listening to music in general, solely focusing on the specific details about it, and sometimes I don't want that. Her music makes me feel relaxed and cozy."

Nora Kelly
Pure Music by Strange Rangers

"This year, I fell in love with Strange Ranger via their second album, Pure Music. The band's genius lies in their ability to weave together so many musical genres, from shoegaze to indie rock, '90s club, electro acoustic and punk. Every song has a unique personality, and equally important to me, a catchy hook. I've spent many nights walking around to Pure Music in my headphones. The songs are intimate and I get lost in my head. Before long, I'm choreographing bad contemporary dance moves or imagining the earth shaking as I stomp along to the beat. If I have drawn extra attention to myself this year as a mentally unstable person, I blame Strange Ranger. They occupy sonic space so inventively that it makes me want to take up space too. Although the music I play in Nora Kelly Band (alt-country) could not be more different than Strange Ranger, their songwriting instincts inspire me. I was so sad to hear that the group disbanded and I won't be able to see them live."

Terra Lightfoot
Could Have Done Anything by Charlotte Cornfield

"Charlotte continues to best herself in her songwriting with each successive effort. This feels like her best work to me. Her voice has always reminded me of Karen Dalton's, who I love, and when you pair that with her microscopic-detail heartfelt lyrics about friends, cars, and past or current loves, it just hits right. Perfect for driving around to."

Lukas Cheung of Mother Tongues
Sit Down for Dinner by Blonde Redhead

"My favourite record of 2023 is Blonde Redhead's Sit Down for Dinner. They're one of my favourite groups, and this record definitely delivers. My favourite tune on it is 'Kiss Her Kiss Her.'"

Nico Paulo
Curyman by Rogê

"A gentle, timeless sound that ties the present and the past in such elegant way. I just love how this record makes me feel."

Rat Saw God by Wednesday

"My favourite album this year was Wednesday's Rat Saw God. The lyricism on this record is soo good  and it's like bangers central, like chosen to deserve and quarry. I've been a fan for a while and they just never miss!"

Population II
Since Time Is Gravity by Natural Information Society

"In 2023, there was some damn good music. We enjoyed Since Time Is Gravity, the latest album by Chicago jazz ensemble Natural Information Society. Led by Joshua Abrams with guest Ari Brown, this record, which features up to 10 musicians on certain songs, is a jazz album based on improvisation and the importance of repetition. The album cover (which is superb) is a painting of Lisa Alvarado, who plays harmonium on the album. All of this warms the hearts of Population II as a cold winter is upon us. Enjoy!"

Allison Russell
Joni Mitchell at Newport by Joni Mitchell

"If I had to pick just one album released in 2023 that I would wish everyone to experience, it is Joni Mitchell's At Newport (Rhino Records), produced by Brandi Carlile ( just nominated for Folk Album of The Year at the Grammys!, recorded live at Newport Folk Festival last summer. It was Joni's surprise return to that hallowed stage 54 years after she made her debut under the auspices of Judy Collins. This album is more than just another record — it is a precious artifact of a concert that felt like a miracle and a joyful communion. My prose is inadequate to describe it — my poem doesn't do it justice either, but I had to try!

"Joni Mitchell at Newport
Down Judas a new legend rises
From out of the mists that she conjured
10,000 strangers now kindred
What Brandi knew revealed
The Sacred Circle coalesced
In Blessing we are Blessed
A game, a song, a riddle, a round
Radiant Beings chanting as one
Jo-ni! Jo-ni! Jo-ni! Jo-ni!
Exultant, Transformed
Sometimes you can Return
Odetta must be smiling
I've seen shadows of clouds on the mountains
Shadows of clouds on the pines
I've seen shadows of ship's prows
Parting the Waters
I've heard the foghorn's low sigh
I've seen Joni, Our Lady Returner
Sing Both Sides and laugh and stop Time
There's no greater magic than music
There's no braver person alive
I am changed, I am charged, I am spinning
I am touching the hem of her Mind
Her Garments are Grit, Grace and Glory
Our Lady of Saskatoon Skies
She carries the Prairies within her
From the Canyon to Newport, Rhode Island
Our Lady of Divine Reinvention
Our Once and Future Queen
Our Lady of Death Thrice Defeated
Our Prophet, Our Holy Wine
Hate shall have no Dominion  
Fear and Despair Overcome
When Something's Lost
Something's Won
Love, Hope and Truth Abide
When Joni sings we cry"

Snotty Nose Rez Kids
Let's Start Here. by Lil Yachty

"Let's Start Here. really shows how an artist truly grows and evolves over the years. Yachty has always had a unique sound and is one of the first to show us how a SoundCloud rapper could really become something massive. This album reminds me of when Tyler, the Creator made Flower Boy. It reminds me of Kanye on his Graduation shit. This album to me is seeing an artist coming into themselves right in front of us."

Arielle Soucy
Some Unused Songs by Louis Cole

"I love everything about this album — the way the voice is used as an instrument, or the way it sounds like jazz and classical music at the same time. Also, The contrasts in depth and texture: sometimes it feels like you are listening to an ensemble from a balcony of a warm hall, and sometimes like someone is playing right next to you. It is 11 little windows into the essence of songwriting: strong melodic direction and intricate harmonic structure, understandable yet surprising. The warm vintage synths sounds and minimal arrangement constantly satiate my need for bittersweetness."

Lahai by Sampha

"I'm going with Sampha's Lahai because it fills me with joy. Released two days before my birthday, I've been going back to it over and over since."

Rachel Leblanc of Vanille
Everything Harmony by the Lemon Twigs

"From the first notes of 'Corner of My Eye,' the first single from the album released last January, I knew that the Lemon Twigs were going to fill my year with joy. With a '60s psych pop sensibility reminding me of the Beach Boys and the Zombies, this piece quickly became one of my favourite songs of all time. When the album finally came out in May, I was on the train from Oxford to Brighton to play at the Great Escape festival. I cried through several songs while looking out the window at the sheep on the hills. We find on the album everything that I like in music: surprising compositions, catchy melodies and fundamentally beautiful texts. The most beautiful song on the album, aside from the one mentioned earlier, is 'I Don't Belong to Me.' With its Brian Wilson-esque harmonies and heartbreaking lyrics, I sincerely believe it is one of the most beautiful songs I've heard in my life. It would obviously be a dream for me to one day work with the D'Addario brothers!"

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