My 5th Annual Music “Year In Music” Review: Top 20 & 35 Honorable Mentions

I feel like every end-of-year list should begin with a series of apologies. I’m sorry for not listening to everything. And for not listening closely enough, for not fully attending, for not hearing what’s there, for not being enough to do any of this justice.

In other words, I am not worthy. 

And then there’s the second thought which is: Lighten up, Jimmy. Stop dithering. Nobody cares. So, yeah, these are just albums from the year that hit me, that stood out, that seemed distinct and fresh and different and valuable.

Mostly, it’s my hope that this annual exercise helps you find something that you like, just as it helps me clarify my own listening umwelt. What I hear within the confines of my particular bubble. 

I am struck, often, by how negative (and infuriating) some people are about music. So narrowly dismissive, closed off and elitist. It breaks my heart. So if, on the other hand, you arrive to this list as a springboard for checking out something you haven’t heard before, or if it prods you to listen again, maybe with fresh ears and an open heart, then . . . thank you. You are my kind of listener.

And third: Every list I read includes a too-long preamble that I almost invariably skip. So: more apologies for lacking the strength to resist that temptation.

Quickly about my process: I keep track of every full album I listen to, a practice I started five years ago. I listened to 131 (& counting) full-length albums that were released in 2023. Not nearly everything. 

This year, I listened to 505 (& counting) full-length albums overall. That number used to be in the 700s. Two factors: I’m more committed than ever to repeated listens, and I’m quicker to abandon an album that isn’t working for me. 

If I wait another week, or six more minutes, the contents here would likely change. There will be mistakes. Things I’ve missed or over- or under-rated. That’s why I embrace the “nobody cares” aesthetic. It’s liberating. I’m free. I’m not going for perfection. It’s all for fun, folks.

Here goes . . . 

TOP 20 (in alphabetical order)

Ahnoni, Antony & the Johnsons: My Back Was a Bridge

Ambrose Akinmusire: Beauty Is Enough

Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society: Dynamic Maximum Tension

Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die ((world war)) 

Julie Byrne: The Greater Wings 

Margo Cilker: Valley of Heart’s Delight

Feeble Little Horse: Girl with Fish

PJ Harvey: I Inside the Old Year Dying

Irreversible Entanglements: Protect Your Light

Jason Isbell: Weathervanes

Lankum: False Lanky

Lydia Loveless: Nothing’s Gonna Stand in My Way

Matana Roberts: Coin Coin Chapter Five: In the Garden

Jeff Rosenstock: Hellmode

Ryuichi Sakamoto: 12

Sufjan Stevens: Javelin

Veeze: Ganger

Wilco: Cousin

Yo La Tengo: This Stupid World

Youth Lagoon: Heaven Is a Junkyard





Altin Gun: Ask

Daniel Bachman: When the Roses Come Again

Blue Lake: Sun Arcs

Lonnie Holley: Oh Me Oh My

Blake Mills: Jelly Road

Tirzah: Trip9love . . . ?



Natural Information Society: Since Time Is Gravity 

The Necks: Travel

Gogo Penguin: Everything Is Going to Be Okay

Mette Henriette: Drifting

London Brew: s/t



Bar Italia: Tracy Denim 

Beirut: Hadsel

Bully: Lucky for You

Margaret Glaspy: Echo the Diamond

Hotline TNT: Cartwheel

The Lemon Twigs: Everything Harmony 

Mitski: The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We

Palehound: Eye on the Bat 

Ratboys: The Window 

Joanna Sternberg: I’ve Got Me

The Tubs: Dead Meat 

Water From Your Eyes: Everyone’s Crushed 

Wednesday: Rat Saw God



Meg Baird: Furling

Shana Cleveland: Manzanita 

Cut Worms: s/t

Iris DeMent: Workin’ On a World

Margo Price: Strays

Paul Simon: Seven Psalms

Kassi Valazzi: Kassi Valazzi Knows Nothing

Jamila Woods: Water Made Us


Janelle Monae: The Age of Pleasure

Noname: Sundial

Cleo Sol: Heaven

RAYE: My 21st Century Blues


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