Top 25 Albums Of The Year

Top 25 Albums Of The Year

By Penny Bennett

Dec 1, 2023 10:00

What a year 2023 has been. Aside from moving at a truly rapid place (and many social/political aspects we daren't touch here), the floodgates of new music were opened early doors. We've seen stunning debut albums, bands reforming to reclaim their place atop their genre, and a whole heap of delicious tunes that've kept us trudging through the monotony of life. From photographers to writers to editors, Team Punktastic have come together like a music-based Megazord to bring our top 25 albums of 2023. Grab some headphones and strap yourself in - it's a dynamite list.

25. Shit Present – ‘What Still Gets Me’

After two critically acclaimed EP’s (2015’s ‘Shit Present’ and 2016’s ‘Misery + Disaster’) and a five year wait, to say this album was hotly anticipated is an understatement. In the last two years, Shit Present have been ever present on stages, wowing audiences with their ever developing style of which this album is the crowning jewel. The lofi DIY of their previous recordings has been elevated in musicianship, production and, often, volume and intensity. This elevation has created an emboldened sound which take both musicianship and lyrics to a confident new level. The fuzzy guitars, rolling bass lines and spacious drumming ease the focus in and out of vocals that’re both powerful and punctuated by emotive vocal cracks. This is an album which offers strength, emotion and vulnerability through empoweringly open lyrics with no fear of the subject matters, travelling between mental health, sexuality and the political state of play with consideration and tact. The most striking thing about this excellent selection of recordings is the infectiousness of the hooks and choruses throughout, listeners may ponder on the lyrics but they’re also going to be humming these songs for days. Over everything, this is an accomplished and incredibly well-crafted album from a band who have found not only their voice but a sound that puts them at the top of a very strong DIY scene. [Ben Adsett]

Read our full review of ‘What Still Gets Me’

24. The Dirty Nil – ‘Free Rein to Passions’

On paper, The Dirty Nil make almost no sense. A garage punk band writing stadium rock anthems, fronted by the best thrash metal guitarist never to grace the genre – they defy any pigeonhole and, arguably, logic. Perhaps this is why they largely operate under the radar, despite having released three increasingly terrific albums since 2016 dĂ©but ‘Higher Power’. Packed with riffs and casually prodigious guitar fireworks, courtesy of frontman Luke Bentham, ‘Free Rein to Passions’ provides more of what we’ve come to expect from Canada’s most infuriatingly cool band. Sure, one could argue that they haven’t evolved since hitting their stride with 2018’s ‘Master Volume’, but when the songs are this good, they don’t have to. Truly invigorating stuff from an act who deserve to be much, much bigger. [Rob Barbour]

Read our live review of The Dirty Nil at The Boileroom, Guildford

23. Shower Of Teeth – ‘Eternal Gut Rot’

Shower Of Teeth Eternal Gut RotAfter an impressive showing with their debut album (can 7 songs be an album?), Shower Of Teeth’s ‘Eternal Gut Rot’ delivers even more noise, fury and delicious hardcore elements from the Geordie four-piece. Littered with thick riffs, technical fills and an ambience that both snuggles and suffocates, this is very much a band that should be on your radar. Highlights include the expansive ‘Wizard Of Loneliness’, the refined ‘Somebody’s Daughter’, and the peak-QOTSA-esque ‘DMT’, there’s enough scope throughout the record to get your fists pumping, your head nodding and your heart thumping. [Andy Joice]

Read our full review of ‘Eternal Gut Rot’

22. Pupil Slicer – ‘Blossom’

If you followed the (online) word-of-mouth talk that Pupil Slicer unexpectedly built off the back of their 2021 debut, ‘Mirrors’, then you always knew that its follow-up had potential. Nonetheless, ‘Blossom’ comfortably exceeded expectations.
Amongst the blaring metallic mathcore, ‘Blossom’ takes you on a sonic journey that’s expanded beyond Pupil Slicer’s aggressive roots. From the djent-esque grooves on ‘Departure in Solitude’ to ‘No Temple’s pulverising drums, to the haunting, ominous tones of ‘Language of the Stars,’ and ‘Dim Morning Light,’ the initial trio of Kate Davies, Josh Andrews and Luke Fabian served up an infectious record that shouldn’t be ignored.
The sci-fi/cosmic horror concept that threads these ten tracks together merely shows how far Pupil Slicer has come in such a short space of time. The narrative about a character who loses touch with reality, considerably an analogy for Davies’ experiences as a Trans person, lent Pupil Slicer the ability to expand their musical palette, providing ‘Blossom’ with a deeper emotional core. With additional guitarist Frank Muir on board, and Lewis Johns handling production, ‘Blossom’s quality comes from its ability to highlight each member’s musicianship with pinpoint precision. Whether that’s Davies’ versatile vocals or rapid riffs, Andrews’ domineering drum work or Fabian’s hammering bass lines, when it all came together, the end result is stunning. [SĂȘan Reid]


The snotty grunge-laced self-titled debut from Bristol quarter PEACH is a hell of a first showing. From Ellie Godwin’s powerful and distinctive vocals to the post-punk dissonance Jean-Paul Jacyshyn and Tim Cooke’s guitars, PEACH build an atmosphere that borders on uncomfortable but feels like a warm hug thanks to some exceptionally hooky melodies. Tiptoeing on the edge of collapse, it’s Andy Sutor’s drumming that keeps everything from plunging off a cliff into the abyss. Their aim to produce a record that captures the organised chaos of a live show was lofty but fully achieved, and deserved to be embraced at a volume described as “dangerously loud”. [Andy Joice]

20. Boygenius – ‘The Record’

The word “supergroup” is often bandied around when musicians of note get together, but it’s very rare that these projects are more than the sum of their parts. The same can’t be said of Boygenius; a combined effort from three incredibly talented songwriters – Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, and Lucy Dacus. This debut album has been highly anticipated since the group’s inception in 2018, and it has more than delivered on the fervent hype. Acapella opener ‘Without You Without Them’ absolutely oozes style and class; you could imagine it playing on a crackling gramophone in a plush 1950s mansion parlour. Things them immediately take a left-turn into grunge-pop with lead single ‘$20’, ending with screamed vocals over a cacophonous musical backdrop that highlights the members’ roots in punk and hardcore. Whilst the album never gets that visceral again, the quality never dips, mostly due to the exceptional lyrics. ‘We’re In Love’ is a beautiful tribute to the friendship these three talented and thoughtful women share, and ‘Letter To An Old Poet’ is a jaw-dropping exploration of a toxic relationship and how it feels to get away from that environment. ‘The Record’ is a pop album, no doubt, but it feels like it was written with the spirit of punk rock hovering over it. Bridgers, Baker, and Dacus are all fantastic solo artists, but together they have created something truly special. [Liam Knowles]

19. Movements – ‘RUCKUS!’

Determined to never make the same album twice, Movements returned in 2023 with their third and most ambitious album yet, ‘RUCKUS!’. Having teased a change in direction with the surprising standalone single ‘Cherry Thrill’ in 2022, fans had an inkling that what was to come was a little more bass-driven, a little more sultry, and a little more lively than the album’s predecessor, ‘No Good Left to Give’. Whether you agree with this bold change in direction or not, you can’t deny that the band have created something wonderfully sonically cohesive with ‘RUCKUS!’; not entirely denouncing their roots but pushing themselves to appeal to a wider audience and certainly feeling a little less morose and a little more hopeful than previous material. With a UK headline tour underway, their reach is only going to increase and we’ll spend 2024 dreaming of what they pull out of the bag next. [Yasmin Brown]

Read our live review of Movements at Slam Dunk

18. Code Orange – ‘The Above’

In 2017, Code Orange released one of metal’s most celebrated albums of the 2010s, the colossal and devastating ‘Forever’, becoming scene darlings almost overnight. Incredibly, this year they managed to top it with their most ambitious release yet. Elitists might balk at the Pittsburghers’ more melodic approach to songwriting on ‘The Above’, but the open minded will find a record that shows Code Orange at the best they’ve ever been – brutal, bizarre, and anthemic in equal measure. If we were living in 2003, Code Orange would probably be the biggest band on the planet off the back of this album. 20 years on, it remains to be seen where ‘The Above’ will take them, but you’ll want to make sure you’re along for the ride. [Ash Bebbington]

Read our full review of ‘The Above

17. Beartooth -‘The Surface’

This is the album where Caleb Shomo refused to romanticise the riptide that’s trying to drown him any longer. Thematically, t’s a departure from their previous work – no longer are Beartooth mired in misery, but at no expense to their musical intensity. A line has been drawn in the sand between where they were and where they’re going, and their struggle is now focused on improving themselves and refining their sound. You’ll fling yourself around the pit, and perhaps become a better person at the same time. ‘Riptide’ was the early herald of the latest iteration of their sound, but the hit’s sentiment and flavour is echoed in the glowing ‘Might Love Myself’ and ‘The Better Me’. Autobiographical insights covered with layers of shredding and thrashing drumbeats are the path to take in 2024 if this album is anything to go by, and bode incredibly well for their next run of UK tour dates. [Kate Allvey]

Read our full review of ‘The Surface’

Read our live review of Beartooth at Wembley Arena

16. Holding Absence – ‘The Noble Art of Self Destruction’

Holding Absence are fast becoming a favourite name among UK alternative fans. The band’s ability to tap into emotions you don’t even know you could relate to is both unnerving and reassuring, and this hasn’t stopped with their latest venture. A journey of self-reflection, this record is as devastating as it is comforting, reminding you that your cracks and scars don’t have to mean that you’re broken. TNAOSD is home to frontman Lucas Woodland’s most adventurous performance, stretching his vocals further than ever before, bringing even more power to already hard hitting lyrics. A beautiful nod to all those who have ever
struggled with their own minds, this really is a collection of songs that we all needed this year. [Yasmin Brown]

Read our live review of Holding Absence at Slam Dunk

Read our live review of Holding Absence at 2000Trees

15. The Menzingers – ‘Some of it Was True’

Is there a more reliably brilliant punk band than The Menzingers? If you vibe with their particular blend of gruff punk and Americana, every release of theirs is sure to be a winner and so it proves here. You could make a solid argument for album opener ‘Hope is a Dangerous Little Thing’ being the best song the Pennsylvanian quartet has ever put its name to, no mean feat at seven records and more than 15 years into an illustrious career. The album features a collection of songs that’ll go straight into the band’s setlist and sit comfortably alongside fan favourites, with tracks like ‘Some of it Was True’ and ‘There’s No Place In This World For Me’ providing cathartic singalongs galore. Just make sure you’re ready to nurse shredded vocal cords the morning after The Menzingers next visit your town. [Ash Bebbington]

Read our full review of ‘Some Of It Was True’

Read our live review of The Menzingers at Slam Dunk

14. Origami Angel – ‘The Brightest Days’

Is it a mixtape or is it a mini-LP? Who cares. For many, including members of the Punktastic team, Origami Angel’s ‘The Brightest Days’ was the soundtrack to their summer.
Vocalist/guitarist Ryland Heagy and drummer Pat Doherty have always shown their versatility. Last year‘s ‘DEPART’ single honed in on thrashy hardcore., yet on this outing, the Washington D.C. duo emphasized riff-heavy emo that they’ve carved out since their beloved 2019 debut album, ‘Somewhere City’. It’s combined with an array of infectious hooks, occasional blast beats, surf-pop harmonies, succulent ukeleles, and chunky riffs.
Partly fuelled by the political angst in their hometown (see ‘My PG County Summer’), ‘The Brightest Days’ is connected by Heagy’s lyrical sincerity. Whether that’s being the self-doubting third-wheel on ‘Kobayashi Maru’, the desire to be more than the ‘Second Best Friend’, or ‘Looking Out’s vulnerable rawness, Origami Angel show an earnest side.
With youthful halcyon-tinted glasses, ‘The Brightest Days’ exemplified what makes Origami Angel so appealing. Harmonious, contagious, emotional, but more importantly, so satisfying. [SĂȘan Reid]

Read our live review of Origami Angel at 2000Trees

13. Hot Mulligan – ‘Why Would I Watch’

In our album review, we said ‘Why Would I Watch’ would be in the conversation for one of this year’s best record. Seven months on and it still rings true; Hot Mulligan are the 2000’s emo band of your dreams. It’s not even that the Michigan group have managed to make their newest record sound like it was ripped from the golden days of Pierce The Veil and Taking Back Sunday (Though with track titles like ‘This Song Is Called It’s Called What’s It Called’ and ‘John “The Rock” Cena, Can You Smell What The Undertaker’, they certainly look the part). It’s that somehow Hot Mulligan have breathed new life into some arguably stale concepts that would otherwise sharply age this record for the worse. All the sharp guitars and sardonic, wailing vocals of your teenage years are still there such as in ‘Shhhh! Golf Is On’, with its oh-so-throwback radio-distorted opening riff, but the composition and production of everything here feels more in line with modern rock and alt; clean and sharp without feeling bland and sterile. It’s neither a generic modern pop-punk release, nor an aging nostalgia trip, but ‘Why Would I Watch’ will appeal to scenesters both old and new, a lovingly crafted tribute to a decade long gone, but very much not forgotten. [Fiachra Johnston]

Read our full review of ‘Why Would I Watch’

Read our live review of Hot Mulligan at O2 Forum, Kentish Town

12. Fall Out Boy – ‘So Much (For) Stardust’

Fall Out Boy struggle with one thing, consistency. The problem isn’t that they like to experiment, it’s that they struggle to decide just what they’re making, or who they’re making it for. So it’s a pleasant surprise that after two albums of flailing around they’ve regrouped with a clear sense of purpose. They made a pandemic record; deeply introspective and laced with references to the apocalypse.
Sensitive to the reaction to 2017’s ‘Mania’, it appears they’ve gone back to basics, but this bears little resemblance to their early work. The sounds are upbeat, danceable and lush, the very foundations of ‘Mania’ but cloaked in guitars. Each song has its own place, it’s doing its own thing but it’s building toward the whole. Of course, they worked with Neal Avron who produced the restrained and underrated ‘Folie a Deux’ which probably helped.
Meanwhile lyricist Pete Wentz absolutely deconstructs the songwriting process, stardom and the band itself. Lines like “all this effort to make it look effortless2 on ‘Flu Game’ and the irony of “smash all the guitars” on ‘I Am My Own Muse’ are a scathing attack on their detractors, and it’s hard not to see the theatrical ‘Heaven, Iowa’ as about anything other than the Wentz/Stump writing relationship. It’s a thoughtful interrogation of their music presented as really great songs. So much for being famous, so much (for) stardust. [Ian Kenworthy]

Read our full review of ‘So Much (For) Stardust’

Read our live review of Fall Out Boy at Heaven, London

11. Paramore – ‘This Is Why’

Paramore have been around the block once or twice, and with this comes the expectation for them to deliver another stellar piece of soon to be nostalgia. But instead of playing things safe, they broke new ground and gave us ‘This Is Why’, a more political, more punky and more modern take on their sound. The record has jagged edges and an unfinished quality, mirroring the raw lyrical content that leaves it feeling like a debut – and this makes for an intriguing first step into a new stage of the band’s career. The grungy, synthy flicks contrast with the rough and ready rock moments, but throughout singer Hayley Williams manages to pull through an element of vocal diversity, cutting through the darker elements, keeping it wholeheartedly light. Notions of maturity cause sparks to fly – what’s next, we can only hope. [Jessica McCarrick]

Read our full review of ‘This Is Why’

Read our live review of Paramore at The O2

10. Gaslight Anthem – ‘History Books’

“How I missed you, how I missed you, it’s good to be alive” sings Brian Fallon on ‘Positive Charge’. We’ve missed you, Brian. In the eight years since Gaslight Anthem’s indefinite hiatus, they’ve toured sporadically, but also become older and wiser. ‘History Books’ celebrates the little things like “black jeans in autumn, leaves falling down” (‘Autumn’) but also memory and place. Scenes are woven with the same threads which have been carefully tied through the band’s back catalogue. There’s a stunning longing on tracks like ‘The Weatherman’ and ‘I Live In The Room Above Her’, but also an engraved, reflective quality on ‘History Books’ and ‘Michigan 1975’. Plus, of course, there’s the Springsteen collaboration which we’ve always fantasised about on the title track. It’s a gorgeous new chapter in the Gaslight Anthem saga, full of hope, nostalgia and the feeling that somehow the boys from New Jersey just fundamentally understand being human. [Kate Allvey]

Read our full review of ‘History Books’

9. Din Of Celestial Birds – ‘The Night Is For Dreamers’

Moving into 2023, Leeds-based post-rock quintet Din of Celestial Birds were a relative unknown, but that all changed with the release of ‘The Night Is For Dreamers’, a stellar slice of instrumental loveliness that helped them win over sizeable crowds at both ArcTanGent Festival and Damnation Festival this year, as well as several smaller shows dotted around the UK. The opening twinkle of ‘Utopia’ sets the stage for what’s to come: cinematic soundscapes, expertly crafted textures, and a perfect balance of build-up, tension, and cathartic release. That said, don’t think for a second that this is a by-numbers post-rock record because it’s also deceptively heavy; the likes of ‘Junebug’ and ‘Laureate of American Lowlife’ contain some of the grooviest metal riffs you’ll hear all year. If DoCB can build on the quality of this essential debut, they could easily become one of UK post rock’s most important acts. [Liam Knowles]

8. Blink-182 – ‘One More Time

At a time where nostalgia for early-2000s pop punk has reached unfathomable levels, the reformation of Tom, Mark and Travis was the reunion to end all reunions. However, the question always lingered over any new blink-182 material – would it be any good? Fortunately, ‘One More Time
’ is an absolute triumph.
From the opening riffs of ‘Anthem Part 3’ – an intravenous needle pumping the listener full of nostalgia-laced dopamine – through the masturbation jokes of ‘Dance With Me’ and ending on the reflective ‘Childhood’, it’s like the blink-182 of 2001 are with us again. It is a band re-energised, back in a happy place and having a whole lot of fun doing it.
A powerhouse of a record that is just about three friends cherishing the times they have together again. The poignant title track buries all their old ghosts in a sombre acoustic number, ‘More Than You Know’ smashes everything before it and we even get the snippets of new wave synth on ‘Blink Wave’.
For diehard blink-182 fans, it’s the album they’ve waited almost two decades and, mercifully, it was worth it. [TomWalsh]

Read our full review of ‘One More Time’

Read our live review of blink-182 at The O2

7. Zulu – ‘A New Tomorrow’

Anaiah Lei may be a songwriter, drummer and frontman but he’s also a visionary. He’s seen the future. Over the last few years, the solo project known as Zulu has evolved into one of the most creative bands on the Los Angeles scene, and their debut album, ‘A New Tomorrow’, brilliantly encapsulates this. Their social media handle ‘blackpowerviolence’ tells you what to expect but also sells them short. While their base sound draws heavily on 80s hardcore punk and is blasted out in minute-and-a-half bursts, the genius is that the album also relentlessly shifts shape. Infused with samples, organic jam sessions and interspersed with poetry, it repeatedly dips its toes into other genres. Soul, jazz, and funk all make an appearance so that the overall sound is a rich tapestry of ideas and influences. It’s difficult to think of a band that goes this hard, makes songs this engaging, and spends the next few minutes noodling, it’s effortless.
The lyrics repeatedly addresses ‘Blackness’, what that means, what it could be, and amongst all the unbridled creativity it dares to ask; Why are we defined by our pain? However Lei’s careful curation means that it’s never just a message – it’s not what it’s about, it’s how it’s about it. Bristling with restless energy, Zulu are more than a message, more than a hardcore band and ‘A New Tomorrow’ is more than just a hardcore record, it’s a carefully constructed web of ideas supporting a message of hope. [Ian Kenworthy]

Read our live review of Zulu at 2000Trees

6. Creeper ‘Sanguivore’

A Creeper record that opens with a nine-minute homage to Meatloaf’s ‘Bat Out of Hell’? Sign me up. The Southampton horror rockers have always been one for the theatrical but their third full-length record ‘Sanguivore’ is one of the most ambitious, audacious and, frankly, brilliant ideas they’ve had to date.
Donning full leather and vampire fangs, Creeper go way over the top channeling everything from their inner Alice Cooper to Billy Idol with an added sprinkling of Gary Numan. The tracks are absolutely huge with hair metal anthem – ‘Cry To Heaven’ is an instant classic while ‘Teenage Sacrifice’ is oozing with the ‘80s style and swagger.
Naturally, there are still some quintessential Creeper thrashers in here such as ‘Sacred Blasphemy’ and the Misfits-inspired ‘Church Gates’. The whole record is just another feather in Creeper’s cap as being the most innovative, bold and interesting bands to tread the boards of the UK pop punk scene. [Tom Walsh]

Read our full review of ‘Sanguivore’

Read our live review of Creeper at Slam Dunk

Read our live review of Creeper at Download

5. Enter Shikari – ‘A Kiss for the Whole World’

This album accomplishes >the grounding of a new era for Enter Shikari; they’ve been rebranding their sound over their last projects and seem to have refound their footing. With the merging of distinct synthy reverb patterns that crescendo across the track list and a littering of tough love lyricism, it certainly paints a distinctly Shikari sounding record. Even with the dips in pace making room for respite and toned down shavings of instrumentation, there are still moments of grandiose to appease the heavier fans; a well balanced, easy listen. Not to be forgotten amongst their discography, this record sets a new precedent moving forward for the band who show no signs of slowing and given the content in ‘A Kiss for the Whole World’, they still have a lot to say.  [Jessica McCarrick]

Read our full review of ‘A Kiss For The Whole World’

Read our live review of Enter Shikari at Outernet

4. Spanish Love Songs – ‘No Joy’

With 2020’s ‘Brave Faces Everyone’, Spanish Love Songs delivered a flawless distillation of millennial ennui. The best way to follow up perfection? Don’t even try. ‘No Joy’ is not so much a departure from SLS’ signature sound as a strong indicator that there’s no such thing. Eschewing pop-punk power chords and major-key riffs in favour of heartland rock influences and understated synthesizers, Los Angeles’ finest set out to create an album interesting to them, rather than guaranteed to appeal to fans of their previous work. And while it was initially tough to reconcile the band responsible for modern anthems like ‘Buffalo Buffalo’ and ‘Kick’ with the acoustic rawness displayed on ‘Exit Bags’, singer-songwriter Dylan Slocum has a distinctive voice – literally and figuratively – which shines through ‘No Joy’ and ties it back to the band’s previous work. It’ll be this bleak forever, and we’re fine with that. [Rob Barbour]

Read our full review of ‘No Joy’

Read our live review of Spanish Love Songs at The Lexington, London

Read our live review of Spanish Love Songs at Slam Dunk

3. Empire State Bastard – ‘Rivers Of Heresy’

It started with a name; Empire State Bastard. For years it was just an idea shared between Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neill and the band’s touring guitarist Mike Vennart. However, during lockdown they set to work giving it form. Finally, it had a sound.
This awesomely-named monstrosity is an extreme metal project and it’s not for the faint of heart. While it’s misleading to say it’s the audio equivalent of being flogged into submission, it’s not entirely wrong. Though it’s easy to focus on the lashing vulture-like screams or to be driven to despair by the raw metal tones, there is so much else going on here. Despite Vennart being an accomplished solo artist and founding member of Oceansize, he still stretches himself to create astounding soundscapes. The aged guitar tones sound like they took years to concoct and there’s a real skill to making a chugging sound that’s so ugly and malleable it feels like he’s working clay. Every song has its own flavour, like the strange lethargic drums that drag ‘Dusty‘ along in a depressive march or ‘Stutter ‘ where the guitar becomes a massive pair of scissors. Neill’s voice is applied to the canvas with similar care. Sure, it’s often harshly abrasive but he mixes in spoken word and even singing so you can orient yourself in the tortured poetry. Nothing on this record is simple or one-dimensional. Empire State Bastard; the sound of majestic decay. [Ian Kenworthy]

Read our full review of ‘Rivers Of Heresy’

Read our live review of Empire State Bastard at Download

Read our live review of Empire State Bastard at 2000Trees

Read our live review of Empire State Bastard at ArcTanGent

2. Sleep Token ‘Take Me Back To Eden’

What a 2023 Sleep Token have had. While some have looked at Vessel and company’s appearance and performance style and written them off as a gimmick, their notoriously mysterious aesthetic has only ever been a small part of the package, and this year’s release proved how much more they can really be. Their previous records cemented the quartet as underrated darlings of the scene, but ‘Take Me Back To Eden’ was stratospheric in its takeoff, showing just how powerful new mediums like TikTok are becoming for music promotion as the jarringly funky closing riff of ‘The Summoning’ quickly put the platform in a chokehold.

So much of the album has these surprising moments of deviation from the norm; the R&B vocals and trap beats that weave throughout the otherwise rock-operatic “Ascensionism’, the rumbling pop electronica that coat the otherwise punchy guitar riffs of ‘Granite’, the ethereal chimes, acoustic guitars and piano in ‘Aqua Regia’, each track has these little unique touches you can appreciate. Even the heavier tracks, like the black metal-infused ‘Vore’ have moments of softness you wouldn’t expect would work as well as they do.

There’s nothing quite like it out there, and it’s no wonder why; the perfect storm of musical experimentation, presentation, and social media prevalence is completely inimitable. You can argue their particular style has become divisive in the scene, with Vessel’s exaggerated vocals and the soft alt-pop elements contrasting the harder sounds of the album not to everyone’s tastes, but you can’t deny how much of an impact this album has made in such a short time, and how Sleep Token’s success with such a unique production will influence newer bands to potentially experiment even further with it in the next few years. [Fiachra Johnston]

Read our full review of ‘Take Me Back To Eden’

Read our live review of Sleep Token at Eventim Apollo, London

Read our live review of Sleep Token at Reading Festival

1. Trophy Eyes ‘Suicide and Sunshine’

TROPHY EYES SUICIDE AND SUNSHINE artworkThere’s something special about music that allows it to connect with us in so many different ways. I mean, we all know this right? That’s exactly why you’re here. It’s why I’m here, writing this. Music impacted me so much when I was growing up that I got addicted to discovering it, to exploring it, to learning more about it and broadening my palette as widely as I possibly could. There are new releases every single year that still give me that butterflies in the stomach feeling, heavy records that hit me like a sledgehammer to a watermelon, delicate and fragile albums that make me question every decision I’ve ever made in my life. It’s rare that a record comes along and makes me feel all that and more, plucking every single one of my emotional strings and leaving me breathless and speechless.

One prime example of this is ‘Suicide And Sunshine’ by Trophy Eyes. The band have never been afraid of wearing their hearts on their sleeves and portraying honesty within their music, but there’s something about this album that just hits a little differently. Everything just feels a little more bleak than their previous output. They’ve always been a sad band, that’s been clear, but the way that sadness is presented here feels far denser. It’s almost inescapable, like a thick cloud of smog hanging over you and following you around as you explore the record’s themes. I think that resonates with me, and with so many others too, because things are a little bleak right now – especially in the UK. It’s a very conveniently timed record, grey and dull on the surface but warm, hopeful and ultimately uplifting at its core which is a sentiment that hits incredibly close to home.

Musically this feels like classic Trophy Eyes, but more refined. You can really hear the growth and maturity in their sound. Their previous album ‘The American Dream’ was certainly a more mature album than debut ‘Chemical Miracle’, trading out a lot of the aggression to make space for suspense and tension, but ‘Suicide and Sunshine’ feels like a masterful blend of both. There are flashes of youth throughout the record, most noticeable on tracks like the riotous ‘People Like You’ where the brilliant line “life’s not fair but it’s nearly over, dying’s cheaper than growing older” really touches the soul, but it’s presented in a far wiser way. There are some proper anthems on this album that show the band’s potential to perform in much bigger spaces. ‘Life In Slow Motion’ is a soaring example of that, ebbing and flowing from serene calm into towering rock with goosebump-inducing elegance. ‘What Hurts The Most’ is a soft but punchy smash that treads the fine line between anthem and ballad perfectly, serving as a perfect candidate for a mass singalong. There’s the grungy vibes oozing from ‘Kill’, the alluring and beautiful ‘My Inheritance’, the electric punk-infused belter ‘OMW’ – there’s so much variety here, but the thing that unifies them all is the power and charm that every single song possesses.

The softer side of the record though is where this record shines, though. Beyond the distorted high points and the high-octane moments that made Trophy Eyes’ earlier work so addictive, the more delicate tracks and the themes within them are just gut-wrenching. Seperation, distance, death, heartache, worry, pain, disassociation, suicide – it’s a proper sad-fest, but every tale is told in a way that really communicates its subject authentically. Floreani has a real gift for bearing his soul, something that I think is very clear on ‘Runaway Come Home’ where he details the feelings of sadness and guilt around being away from his family to pursue touring, and the moving ‘Stay Here’ where he confronts detachment and depression.

The centrepiece of the record, though, is the absolutely devastating ‘Sean’ where he candidly shares private moments and personal regrets that surround the tragic suicide of close friend and much-loved touring musician Sean Kennedy. Its rawness and unfiltered honesty made me cry, and if you’ve listened to this album there’s a high chance it did the same to you. This isn’t just the most important record in Trophy Eyes’ discography, but one of the most important of the year. In a musical landscape littered with artists writing about drinking, partying and many other things that they maybe aren’t invested in, this band has released an album that provides an incredibly deep look into themselves – deeper than most are willing to go.

‘Suicide and Sunshine’ strikes the perfect balance between the old and new eras of the band, pushing them forward into a more sophisticated, refined and mature space. I guess that ties into the title of the record in a way, right? Death, and being forced to confront mortality, really makes you revisit everything you’ve ever done, and when you look back you can see the journey you’ve been on much more clearly. Trophy Eyes’ journey has been tough, but this album guarantees that it’s far from over. A modern masterpiece. [Dave Stewart]

Read our full review of ‘Suicide And Sunshine’

Read our live review of Trophy Eyes at Slam Dunk