Just like that the first quarter of 2023 is over and we’ve already been treated to some amazing releases. Whether you’re a fan of post-punk, R’n’B, rap, or anything in between, there will be something on this list you need to check out. So sit down, relax, and delve into our writer’s picks for the best music of the year so far.
Tara Folkes (Writer)
Best Song: Janelle Monáe FT. Seun Kuti & Egypt 80– Float
‘Float‘ is Janelle Monáe’s first lead single in two years. In this track, Monáe exudes an air of confidence as she sings a vibrant, empowering tune. Featuring horns by Nigerian collective Seun Kuti and Egypt 80, ‘Float‘ feels bold and brassy – inspiring listeners to be the truest version of themselves. So, if you are looking for a song to motivate you, this is what you need.
Best Album: Masego – Masego
Masego’s self-titled sophomore album is a mellow, sombre affair with touches of vibrant jazz and funk thrown in at moments. With compelling beats and relatable themes, this project shows the artist’s growth and development as a musician. On the LP, you will find a number of songs that stand out including ‘Black Anime,’ ‘What You Wanna Try,’ and ‘Remembering Sundays.’
Bethan Eyre (Writer)
Best Song: METTE-Mama’s Eyes
The uplifting, euphoric energy coursing through ‘Mama’s Eyes’ is the product of commercial dancer come musician METTE. The track was released on the 3rd of February, and despite it only being her second single to date, it sounds astonishingly polished. This is perhaps down to her being no stranger to the world of entertainment. In her breakthrough role for the iconic ‘Lemon’ music video in 2017, she got her head shaved by Rihanna. METTE since has worked with some huge industry names.
However, ‘Mama’s Eyes’ sees her performing in the leading position. The track blends flavours of R’n’B and pop to create an experience that transports you to a myriad of places. We are taken on a trip through the sound of hushed spoken word to harmonious pop vocals to this celebratory, theatrically running in the rain type beat. The sound reflects this all-encompassing feeling of safety and comfort when in the presence of your ‘mama’s eyes.’ It is an ode to that warm feeling associated with the mother figures in our lives.
Best Album: Wesley Joseph-GLOW
Britain’s latest rising star in the hip-hop/rap scene, Wesley Joseph, released his sophomore album, ‘GLOW’, on the 17th of February. The Birmingham-born songwriter, producer, and filmmaker takes an intimate, DIY approach with this project, giving us a real sense of his artistry and scope as a rapper and producer. Starting out in 2020, he was a real hidden gem but soon ditched the hidden component and has become a formidable creative force in the industry.
‘MONSOON,’ a pre-released track, finds Joseph forthrightly introspective to a dreamy R’n’B, jazz-inspired melody. Whereas ‘HIATUS,’ previously performed on the COLORS platform, takes an alternative approach, with his unstoppable flow in full effect on the track. He just wrapped up his time supporting Loyle Carner on the European leg of his HUGO tour and has a headline show at KOKO, London in mid-May. This project is sure to continue taking him to higher and higher places.
Peter Wellman (Writer)
Best Song: Gorillaz FT. Tame Impala and Bootie Brown-New Gold
As a taste of a new album, you cannot go wrong with sticking reverb on Tame Impala and then adding the tantalising and hook-heavy verses. The way Damon Albarn layers his own voice and Kevin Parker’s together at the end of the track brings it together alongside the driving dance beat, culminating in a cinematic ending. Whilst the whole album didn’t live up to expectations, this single is one of the best things from the project.
Best Album: Oddisee-To What End
With this being his tenth studio album, Washington-born, and Brooklyn-based Oddisee has absolutely cemented his style. Soft production with absolute pin-point bars taking apart his own life and ambitions. Through the LP are lines that hurry to each other before soft smoky jazz phrases and hooks that just ooze confidence. His rapping style is fast, but not typewriter sporadic, more like a pianist waltzing fingers in an ineffable dance over the keys. Each word is a load-bearing note: a thought-through decision. Any song with a horn or trumpet on is elevated to a new level, with ‘Many Hats’ a highlight.
Danielle Akparanta (Presenter/Writer)
Best Song: Kali Claire-Before the World Ends
If you don’t know about Kali Claire, let us quickly explain. She is a British singer/songwriter who was born in Hackney. Her genre of choice varies from R’n’B to afroswing and she never fails to deliver. She began her career by studying at the Brit school and being a part of Tinie Tempah’s Disturbing London label. Now, she is recognised for songs such as ‘Wild,’ ‘Temporary Feels,’ ‘Disrespekt,’ and more.
Her previous release was 2021’s “A MAN’S WORLD” EP and since then, she has surprised us with her latest song ‘Before the World Ends.’ As a listener, you love the harmonies within this song; it goes so well, providing an R’n’B vibe. This is definitely something to play around friends, so you can all sing along. It sets the tone, involving Kali speaking to a lover about a situation. It’s as if she’s revealing something that has been on her chest for a while. We here at IndustryMe love it and are ready for more of what she brings out this year.
Best Album: SZA-SOS
It’s been almost 6 years since her debut ‘Ctrl‘ and finally, SZA hit us with something new in the form of ‘SOS.’ She had us waiting, praying, and hoping and truly this album has delivered. Her music gets your attention with the swirl of emotion, her collaborations, lyrics, vocal work, and genre change. This always keeps her songs fresh and different, making you really take in her artistry. Her song ‘Blind‘ expresses overwhelming emotions and shows her feeling herself. SZA lets u into her world, showing us a glimpse of her journey.
Thomas Atkinson (Junior Editor/Writer)
Best Song: slowthai-Never Again
The best of an amazing bunch, ‘Never Again‘ really packs a punch lyrically and musically. The track documents slowthai running into an old partner back home, with both reflecting on their current place in the world. It’s a heartbreaking tale, with the emotional nature of the song matched by its melancholic instrumental and Ethan P. Flynn’s contributions. The passion and pain displayed in Frampton’s vocals cut deep, making for one of the album’s most personal and powerful moments.
Best Album: slowthai-UGLY
The third record from Tyron Frampton is his best and most personal to date. Furthermore, it provides a new sound to the introspective nature of his music. The mixture of indie-rock, post-punk, and electronic elements alongside his more rap-orientated cuts shows his versatility. This whilst still fitting the themes of the record and flowing nicely. Whether on the manic opener ‘Yum‘ or the opposition to pain that is ‘Feel Good,’ slowthai scores throughout the record. It’s a fantastic album that really divulges into the many states one goes into who has mental health issues and is bound to be one of this year’s finest releases.