The Chronicle’s Favorite Austin Albums of 2023

Ten music writers reflect on the records they loved this year


Art by Zeke Barbaro / Getty Images

Through our headphones, turntables, and car speakers, these are the Austin-made albums Chronicle music contributors kept coming back to. Ten writers select 10 favorites each here, unnumbered, from thrilling debuts to decades-built career bests. Hear these promising and playful picks on the @AustinChronicle Spotify, or even better, support local record stores and the artists' online shops. – Rachel Rascoe


Carys Anderson: Die Spitz, Teeth

Fast-acting young punks Die Spitz graduated from playing regularly at Pearl Street Co-op to opening for L7 at Levitation within a year, so their debut full-length came as no surprise at the top of 2023. Though more polished than their riotous live act, the rage-driven Teeth reveals the instrument-hopping band's draw in 22 sharp minutes. Ava Schrobilgen leads "Hair of Dog" with a guttural "ruff," while Chloe Andrews realizes a revenge fantasy on "Groping Dogs Gushing Blood." "I'll break your fucking TEETH," she snarls. Fortunately, the music already has. (Read our feature on Die Spitz.)

More of Carys' favorites, alphabetically: alexalone, ALEXALONE TECHNICAL RESEARCH; Being Dead, When Horses Would Run; Black Pumas, Chronicles of a Diamond; BLK ODYSSY, DIAMONDS & FREAKS; Pussy Gillette, Permanent Trash; Stab, Quarter Life Crisis; The Stacks, Lay Me Down to Rest; Sun June, Bad Dream Jaguar; various artists, Texas Wild


Kevin Curtin: Malik Baptiste, PEDALS / PETALS (A Mixtape Narrated by Don Cannon)

(ARTium/Mass Appeal)

Deep in Malik Baptiste's first record in 2½ years there's a profound seven-minute epic titled "Never Going Home Again / Why? (Interlude)," in which the rapper/producer lays bare the arc of his life and art: ascending from service industry to Grammy-certified, stalling out in L.A., returning home to battle insecurities as a kid who almost made it, then realizing he has a lot to prove ... to himself. That path led to the Austinite's finest work, both on the mic and the mixing board – a sure-handed expression of self imbued with inspirational ad-libs from golden-eared producer/executive Don Cannon. (Read our feature on Malik Baptiste.)

More of Kevin's favorites, alphabetically: Batty Jr., DO A U E!; Being Dead, When Horses Would Run; BLK ODYSSY, DIAMONDS & FREAKS; Cactus Lee, Caravan; DAIISTAR, Good Time; Die Spitz, Teeth; Magic Rockers of Texas, Life's a Bowl of Cherries... and All I Got Was Stems!; The Point, BERTO'S BANQUET; Slow Pulse, No Room For Goodbyes


Doug Freeman: Various artists, Texas Wild

Rare that a compilation would top a best-of list, but Walker Lukens is rare, indeed. On commission for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, the local producer wrangled an eclectic bootful of Lone Star talent to reimagine some of the state's most enduring modern classics. Highlights include Fat Tony and Paul Wall tackling Doug Sahm, Ray Wylie Hubbard and Sir Woman burning Khruangbin and Leon Bridges' "Texas Sun," plus Adrian Quesada backing Spice and Uncle Roy for "Say My Name." Likewise, the Suffers slay "My Maria" and Luna Luna refreshes Selena's "Si Una Vez." A brilliant showcase of Texas' past, present, and future.

More of Doug's favorites, alphabetically: Croy & the Boys, What Good's the Medicine?; Evan Charles, Between Two Worlds; Harvest Thieves, As the Sparks Fly Upward; Lost Patterns, S/T; Restos, Ain't Dead Yet; Sun June, Bad Dream Jaguar; Tele Novella, Poet's Tooth; Tender Things, That Texas Touch; Wild Child, End of the World


Christina Garcia: Lucía Beyond, Airborne Fantasy: Unlimited

Here's coffee shop intimacy in gentle drum 'n' bass, noise, and pop. Wistful vocals and acoustic guitar strums meet satisfying hints at lost control: Like a wild night's mix gone off the rails, "Goth GF" presents a study in crunchy, blown-out bass and stepping out of phase. "Broken Wing" with typedeath, another of this year's standout Austin electronic producers, churns and whistles eerily in lovely acid. Lucía Beyond's sophomore release introduces deep house and R&B-meets-trap – but like sunrise after the rave, a sweet, longing core holds this spiky prism of an electronic album. (Read our past coverage of Lucía Beyond.)

More of Christina's favorites, alphabetically: Black Pumas, Chronicles of a Diamond; BLK ODYSSY, DIAMONDS & FREAKS; Holy Wave, Five of Cups; SEWA, Diva Pop; Single Lash, Ladida; Sun June, Bad Dream Jaguar; Redbud, Long Night; Tele Novella, Poet's Tooth; typedeath, typedeath, vol. i


Raoul Hernandez: Shinyribs, Transit Damage

(Hardcharger)

More peaks and summits than the Frost Bank Tower (check San Antonio's as well), Shinyribs scaled another Kilimanjaro with Transit Damage. Consider, too, that ringmaster Kevin Russell's Gourds logged back-to-back decades of Band-like roots mastery before the Gulf Coast shaman rolled solo on Well After Awhile in 2010. Each release better than the last, rib ticklers I Got Your Medicine (2017) and Fog & Bling (2019) hit a universal wall in pandemic hermeneutic Late Night TV Gold. Most mature rhythmically, lyrically, and metaphysically, eighth R&B LP Transit Damage gifts catchy ("Reconsider It"), romantic ("Simply Belong to You"), soulful ("All the Best Things"). (Read our review of Transit Damage.)

More of Raoul's favorites, alphabetically: BLK ODYSSY, DIAMONDS & FREAKS; Bridge Farmers, Cosmic Trigger; Como Las Movies, Como Las Singles; Die Spitz, Teeth; El Combo Oscuro, La Danza de las Sirenas; Jackie Venson, Ghost in the Machine; Kalu & the Electric Joint, Garden of Eden; Nemegata, Voces; Tele Novella, Poet's Tooth


Laiken Neumann: Being Dead, When Horses Would Run

(Bayonet)

Horseplay took on new meaning with the long-awaited debut album from giddy surf punks Being Dead. Traversing their own version of American folktales – from idyllic banquets ("Treeland") to eerie suburban nightmares ("Misery Lane") – the trolling trio evokes the wide, open West with sonic leaps just as expansive. The utopian jaunt of "Last Living Buffalo" descends into bleak, dissonant feedback, while jazz breakdown interrupts "Muriel's Big Day Off." Second to last, with oracles' age-old wisdom, shared vocals assert their name's antithesis: "Livin' is easy." Irreverent lust for life maintains Being Dead as the most laid-back, imaginative oddballs in town. (Read our feature on Being Dead.)

More of Laiken's favorites, alphabetically: alexalone, ALEXALONE TECHNICAL RESEARCH; DAIISTAR, Good Time; Die Spitz, Teeth; Exercise, Ipso Facto; Norman BA$E & !YADNUS, 2425; Pelvis Wrestley, Vortexas Vorever; Quiet Light, Blue Angel Sparkling Silver; Sun June, Bad Dream Jaguar; Tele Novella, Poet's Tooth


Rachel Rascoe: Tele Novella, Poet’s Tooth

(Kill Rock Stars)

Like video director Vanessa Pla's accompanying medieval maypoles and Harold and Maude nods, Tele Novella's third album never comes back down to the dreary contemporary. The Lockhart duo reaches for mythical figures, from a "Vampire Cowgirl" to "The Unicorn" (penned by outsider act Peter Grudzien), to ramp up longing, loneliness, and, ultimately, resolve. Never overblown, steely-eyed baroque pop winds up like music box parts – Jason Chronis strumming nylon strings, Natalie Ribbons sparkling a Garden Weasel landscaping tool, and producer Danny Reish mixing cricket chirps. Vocals triumph between Patsy Cline's yodel-ish curls and the Eartha Kitt influence of Ribbons' past band, Agent Ribbons, on this generator of idiom-ish terms (a "Broomhorse" and "Poet's Tooth"). Peak beyond-city-limits emotionalism: "Every little Texas town has a rodeo clown/ Is that me, what I am to you?" (Read our past coverage of Tele Novella.)

More of Rachel's favorites, alphabetically: Being Dead, When Horses Would Run; Blakchyl, Better Than I Imagined; BLK ODYSSY, DIAMONDS & FREAKS; DAIISTAR, Good Time; Fishplate, Next Time I Won't Cry; seina sleep & YoursTruuly, TRUUSLEEP; Sun June, Bad Dream Jaguar; Temple of Angels, Endless Pursuit; Wild Child, End of the World


Michael Toland: Nemegata, Voces

Anyone who's seen Nemegata in the last couple of years knew an album this good was coming. Following continued experience playing as a unit, collaborations across Austin's Latin music spectrum, and natural evolution as musicians dedicated to a cohesive vision, the Colombian expatriates poured a ton of melodies, ideas, and ingenuity into second LP Voces, with astonishing results. While the term masterpiece may exaggerate, the record's deftly balanced, expertly crafted mix of cumbia, psychedelia, and rock & roll sizzles with an excitement few of their non-Spanish-speaking peers – from anywhere – could match this year. (Read our feature on Nemegata.)

More of Michael's favorites, alphabetically: Alex Coke & Carl Michel Sextet, EMERGENCE; Atlas Maior, Hadal; Crocodile, The Tale of Otter, Thorn Eater, and the Colored Coyotes of Hidden City; JaRon Marshall, earth sounds; Magna Carda, Little Trumpet (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack); Megafauna, Olympico; The Rite Flyers, Butterfly on a Bomb Range; Single Lash, Ladida; Spirit Adrift, Ghost at the Gallows


Derek Udensi: Blakchyl, Better Than I Imagined

For years, Blakchyl has stood as an underground gem with a pen to rival anyone locally. But she's more than just a decade-built rapper. On latest album Better Than I Imagined, the 78702 luminary implements R&B elements to delve deeper into her romantic side. It's a detour that, combined with her usual stops offering bundles of fluid lyricism, paints a vivid self-portrait of an artist proudly representing those who look like them. (See closer "CarterChyl.") Another Eastside native, executive producer the Mask, lobbied for this project last year when Blakchyl was contemplating a hiatus. Thankfully, we don't have to imagine what would've happened otherwise. (Read our feature on Blakchyl.)

More of Derek's favorites, alphabetically: Abhi the Nomad & Kato on the Track, Abhi vs. Kato II: Gold Standard; Black Pumas, Chronicles of a Diamond; DotdotDotdotDotdot & Boots the Blessed, Bánh(dot)Mì; JaRon Marshall, earth sounds; Malik Baptiste, PEDALS / PETALS (A Mixtape Narrated by Don Cannon); Nemegata, Voces; TC Superstar, Static Dynamic; Tearjerk, Face to Face; Wiardon, ROAD MUSIC


Genevieve Wood: BLK ODYSSY, DIAMONDS & FREAKS

(Earthchild/Empire)

Soundtracking late-night Downtown drives and undercover linkups, BLK ODYSSY's sophomore effort holds a hands-down vote for the sexiest album of the year. A bona fide R&B powerhouse with the vocal chops and charisma of D'Angelo, Juwan Elcock strides over soul-twinged production while spinning caustic sagas of love and – more frequently – lust. Like smooth whiskey with a bitter aftertaste, the deceptively silky "Honeysuckle Neckbone" sees the singer yearn for a wayward lover, while swishy "Odee" drips with self-assured bravado. From a coveted Bootsy Collins narration to neo-soul wunderkind Grace Sorensen's satin harmonies, features flourish in Elcock's hip-hop underworld. (Read our feature on BLK ODYSSY or our review of DIAMONDS & FREAKS.)

More of Genevieve's favorites, alphabetically: alexalone, ALEXALONE TECHNICAL RESEARCH; DAIISTAR, Good Time; Die Spitz, Teeth; Felt Out, Until I'm Light; Institute, Ragdoll Dance; Lucía Beyond, Airborne Fantasy: Unlimited; Portrayal of Guilt, Devil Music; Temple of Angels, Endless Pursuit; Touch Girl Apple Blossom, S/T

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Top 10s 2023, Albums of the Year, Die Spitz, Malik Baptiste, Walker Lukens, Lucía Beyond, Shinyribs, Being Dead, Tele Novella, Nemegata, Blakchyl, BLK ODYSSY

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