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Best Albums of 2023: SZA, Olivia Rodrigo, 100 gecs and More

Best Albums of 2023: SZA, Olivia Rodrigo, 100 gecs and More


Karol G turns heartache into ear candy on “Mañana Será Bonito” (“Tomorrow Will Be Beautiful”), 17 songs that work their way through a breakup to find a new start. Her voice sounds utterly guileless as she sings about lust, betrayal, revenge and healing. With an international assortment of guests, the Colombian songwriter brings pop tunefulness to reggaeton and also makes forays into rock, Dominican dembow, Afrobeats and regional Mexican music — claiming an ever-expanding territory in global pop.

Synergy reigns in boygenius, the alliance of the singer-songwriters Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus. On “The Record,” they seem to dare one another to rev up the music and sing candidly, or at least believably, about the many ways relationships — romances, friendships, mentorships — can go sideways. Meanwhile, their harmonies promise to carry them through all the setbacks together.

“Seven Psalms” comes across as a farewell album from Paul Simon, 82. It’s also an artistic leap, expanding his mastery of the three-minute song into an unbroken 33-minute suite that traverses folk, blues and jazz. Simon sings about mortality as a “great migration” and extols the presence and purpose of “The Lord,” as the biblical psalms do. He also ponders music, love, family and eternity. The tone is conversational and quizzical; the implications are deep.

Adolescence is complicated enough. Throw in celebrity, social-media scrutiny, headline touring and musical productivity, and it’s remarkable that Oliva Rodrigo, now 20, has kept not only a clear head but a sense of humor. The songs on her second album, “Guts,” combine pop’s concision and melody with rock’s potential to erupt. The production riffles through decades of crafty allusions as she deals with self-confidence and insecurity, misjudgments and comeuppances, and the relentless, contradictory expectations placed on a teenage female star.

Feist explores sorrow, longing, solace, new motherhood and the future of the Earth on “Multitudes.” Her latest songs are mostly quiet, but not always. They can take startling dynamic leaps: between unadorned acoustic close-ups and forays into orchestration or electronics, between lullaby and clatter, between intimacy and mystery, always seeking a compassionate path.



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