Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Radio Milwaukee’s best albums of 2023: the second four

Courtesy of the artists

For this year’s “best albums” list, we opted for a different approach and asked our on-air team a seemingly simple question: “If you could only recommend ONE album from 2023 for people to listen to, which one would it be and why?” We already posted our first batch of four, and today we’ll round out the list with another quartet of LPs each person deemed as essential listens from 2023.

Courtesy of the artist

boygenius, the record

I fell in love with boygenius this year. Their album has been a gift to my ears and a reminder of who I am.

Like many other music consumers, the right sound can stop me dead in my tracks. I wasn’t paying particular attention to the music playing in the background the first time I heard “Not Strong Enough.” I was probably researching fun facts on another musician when a wave came over me. The perfect balance of three-part harmony with voices of such character tickled my brain. I shut my eyes and felt like I was floating.

I know this feeling well because it’s the choir girl in me: class of 1999 at Divine Savior Holy Angels and honored to be a member of the Angelaires. My years in that all-girl choir set the control for how I hear music. In fact, the Angelaires are the reason I work for Radio Milwaukee. It set me on a never-ending quest to find the perfect balance of harmony. If my brain feels tickled, it means that balance is present.

Boygenius are masters of such a skill. Each individual voice doesn't seek to overpower the others, but rather enhance them. It’s the ultimate compliment. I can’t help but hear each vocalist’s unique sound, yet not one is more important than the others.

When this kind of thing hits my ears, I get absolutely nothing accomplished. Unlike that first time, I know now I cannot allow myself to listen to boygenius until all tasks are complete. Is there any gift more valuable than this? I certainly can’t think of one. It’s a reminder of my love for pure, raw talent.

Technology can make it seem like singing in perfect harmony is easy, but it’s neither easy nor hard. It is a talent an artist has or does not have. Sure, you can use a computer to imitate it, but the end result will never tickle my brain. I can pretend songs here and there are wonderful, but the proof I feel comes as such a reminder of why I love music and why I love Radio Milwaukee.

I’ll always be a choir girl at heart. Thanks for the reminder, boygenius. I will love your album forever.

— Kat Froehlich, 88Nine On-Air Talent

Courtesy of the artist

Quantic, Dancing While Falling

So … album of the year. Is it how many times you have listened to it? Is it your connection to it? Is it how many others have liked it? Is it an album that is underrated? Is it an album to listen to? Is it an album to dance to? Is it an album that makes you feel smarter than everyone else? Am I trapped in my own universe?

I don’t know, but my album of the year from where I’m at today is Quantic’s Dancing While Falling. For me, it says yes to those questions above. It’s a banger with no hangar. I flew with this, and it soars. Even if you don’t listen to me, you should still hear this.

— Marcus Doucette, 88Nine Production Manager / On-Air Talent

Courtesy of the artist

Skrillex, Quest for Fire

Why hello there … What’s that? You want to know the one album I would recommend that came out in 2023? That’s easy! Skrillex’s To Catch Fire.

Waitwaitwait!!! Please don’t go. I’m sorry that’s probably not the recommendation you were looking for, but hear me out.

With To Catch Fire, Skrillex seemingly grew up. Gone are most of the “wubz” that were inherent with his dubstep releases of the 2010s. Also gone are his pop-leaning collaborations he produced with Diplo in Jack Ü. What is left is, in my opinion, some of the best electronic music and beat making I have heard in a long time.

Then there are the collaborations, Skrillex partnered with an eclectic mix of other artists for this one: Four Tet, Joker, Fred Again.., Missy Elliott, Porter Robinson and in particular Flowdan, who sounds like he was meant to make music with Skrillex. He's featured on “Rumble” and “Hydrate,” and fits so well into those tracks it’s hard to believe they weren’t making music together before that point.

By collaborating with established producers like Four Tet and Fred Again.. the album feels like a labor of love rather than just an opportunity to attach names to a track. Each producer’s influence can be heard on their respective tracks. It helps that many of them are his real-life friends, further contributing to the cohesion in their collaboration (in fact, they’ve been appearing live together at big-ticket events like the close of this year’s Coachella Music Festival).

I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed this album. So, when considering what I would select to represent my best of 2023, a shocking number of the tracks from this LP ended up on my Spotify Wrapped, making it my most listened to album of the year.

— Kyle Heller, Director of Operations / 88Nine On-Air Talent

Courtesy of the artist

Masego, Masego

I first remember seeing/hearing Masego around 2017 or 2018 on one of the cluster of music-video channels in my cable package (yes, I still have cable). I was enamored by the production’s off-centeredness and heavy knock, as well as Masego’s voice, which is similar to his ubiquitous saxophone, bursts, scats, and high and low notes. The man is a standalone talent, but his fellow musicians on the LP — and the mixing and mastering team on here and everything I have heard — all come with it, sonically.

His self-titled (not debut) album with bangers “You Never Visit Me” and “What You Wanna Try” kept the backyard patio vibes elevated from late March all the way through random high 50 degree days in November. “In Style” has so many dope transitions and a hard-ass drumline, echoing Masego’s fondness for the marching band.

Multi-instrumentalist (arguably the most pleasing word in the dictionary) is the way to describe these new-age, trap-jazz, hip-hop bred, ambitious artists who are genre-less yet so rooted in familiarity. The church is definitely weaved through Masego’s background, and the ability to play every instrument up in there weaves it right back into his music in a way that can be heard and not read.

My personal favorite, “Afraid of Water,” reminds me of the first time I encountered Masego. It’s funky with a slinky yet emphatic beat, and it features the honest player lyrics I enjoy immensely throughout the album. Thanks, Masego, for making a wholly listenable LP.

— Anthony Foster, HYFIN Account Executive / On-Air Talent