This year has been a busy one — especially for those of us with the Campus Times. As a student-run university paper, we experience a lot of turnover each semester. We publish weekly online, with anywhere from 10 to 30 articles each week, and juggle the writing and editing process alongside our many responsibilities as students, employees, friends, and more. Thus, amongst all the busywork, it can be good to put on some music to de-stress.

In honor of the annual Spotify (or Apple Music, or YouTube Music, or whatever other streaming service that employs this technique that strikes your fancy) Wrapped trend, some of our staff has compiled their top albums of 2023 into a list. Amidst finals season or on your transit home for winter break, we implore you to bump our tunes. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy them as much as we do.

Alyssa Koh (Editor-in-Chief): “What Matters Most” by Ben Folds

In line with my a cappella dork persona, my top album this year comes from a man who has an album solely dedicated to collegiate a cappella covers of his own music. Ben Folds is someone I grew up watching on television (he was a judge on the season of the a cappella competition show “The Sing-Off” that our very own YellowJackets were part of, funny enough) but had only lightly touched on the discography of. He’s a pianist and songwriter, but his most popular stuff comes from an era when I was too young to appreciate the adult nature of his music — both in his humor and his thoughtfulness. For the uninitiated, this is the guy who wrote “Rockin’ The Suburbs” from the 2006 Dreamworks film “Over the Hedge.” 

On a particularly braindead doomscroll-type day, I stumbled across his National Symphony Orchestra performance of “Kristine From The 7th Grade” — the first of the songs I listened to from the album I’m covering here — and became so enamored with the song that I played it for three hours straight. The song is full of orchestral gravitas and melancholic violin solos, but it’s also a goofy semi-fabricated story from a songwriting class Folds taught about getting spam conspiracy theory emails from an old classmate. 

Being both funny and poignant is something Folds does well throughout his discography, but “What Matters Most” touches on both ends of the spectrum with a tenderness that comes with age. The lyrics “Some dude live tweeted as I run half-naked past a Cracker Barrel” and “Do you still believe in the good of humankind? / I do” exist in the same album, and both are treated with the same amount of importance and respect. 

As I contemplate the insidiously-looming end to my college experience, I feel like laughing and crying — like sighing, both in relief and frustration. I want to hold everyone as tight as possible, tell them I love them, and in the same breath, joke about how frustrated I am with my addiction to Google Calendar. I wish to take all these moments (good, bad, weird, unassuming) and write them down forever, but I’m often too tired to do so. Such is life. This album takes all that and puts it to nostalgic dad-rock chord progressions. What else could you want?

Sunahra Tanvir (Opinions Editor): “The Loveliest Time” by Carly Rae Jepsen

I am in love with Carly Rae Jepsen. She is a master of pop. Each album she releases is bursting with joy. “The Loveliest Time” is no different. This album came out at a time when I deeply needed joy and tenderness. Jepsen delivered. She has this uncanny ability to turn melancholy subject matter into dreamy pop perfection. This is ever present in “The Loveliest Time.” Jepsen sings about unrequited love and everlasting regrets over punchy 80s pop beats and floaty synths.

This album was the perfect backdrop for the romantic, dreamy summer I had. And it was wonderful to return to that feeling even after that summer ended. It is a piece of joy that we all need right now.

Alex Holly (Staff Writer): “SCARING THE HOES” by JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown

Drawn up in the sonic labs of JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown, “SCARING THE HOES” is an alchemical concoction of crisscrossing and never stopping sound. Produced by JPEG, the duo spins heavy rap over high modulation beats — a testament to their talent and incredibly smooth flow. The album itself is a sonic collage of almost perfect precision, mashing together car crashes, church songs, and even an anime soundtrack into an electronic cacophony. It’s an incredibly energetic listen, complemented to a T by the spirit of its vocalists, and unsurprisingly marks a renaissance in modern performance and production.

Kyle Chang (Culture Editor): “softscars” by yeule

Continuing their glitchcore aesthetic, yeule delves into the alt-rock space with “softscars.” On their interpretation of the project, Nat Ćmiel (the artist behind yeule) elaborates, “I saw a correlation between ‘mistakes’ and how much I tried to control my life… Each song is an intricate, detailed explanation of a certain trauma or thing that changed you.” 

Their poetic lyrics speak on these deep traumas, often alluding to internet-speak and post-human ideology. This particular palette evokes a strange feeling; one that is well explored in the sound of “softscars,” which Ćmiel describes as “cyber-twee alt post punk emo electronica” and if “My Chemical Romance was mixed with Arca.” Such influences are sonically apparent, plastered all throughout the project in the form of melancholic melodies, euphoric guitar tones, and ethereal textures that blend all too well for the mortal ear. What ties it all together is yeule’s voice, which ranges from angsty and grating on “x w x” to icy and soft on “ghosts,” a flexibility that is fitting for this album, not just musically but thematically; softscars represents the dichotomies that affect our generation — the clash between structure and fluidity, the pretty and distorted, and the digital and physical. For a painter whose music is just “a hobby that got out of hand,” according to an interview with independent music magazine The Line of Best Fit, yeule has released one of the most interesting albums of 2023, putting out some timeless, cathartic alt-rock and helping the terminally online get through the harsh cold of the indoors.

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