No Transmission's Favourite Albums of 2023

No Transmission spent most of 2023 writing about singles. We did, however, happen across some gems of albums from the world of alternative music. Here are ten of our favourite albums from 2023. We hope you find something that you will love and cherish forever. Jay

10. Torre di Fine - Girl On The Shore

Girl On The Shore is an album of softly-lit experimental music by Italian two-piece, Torre di Fine. From what they call "a decaying suburban area of north-east Italy", Torre di Fine operate on the precarious intersection of alternative and avant-garde musical styles. Bookended by two colossal pieces, "Vanta", which moves from harsh drones to gentle neoclassical arrangements led by electric guitar, and "Sorrow", which mirrors its title with stony-faced instrumental post-rock before falling to sparse and lethargic pockets of calm which in turn descend to the hottest depths of hell via brutal techno noise and industrial horror, this debut-album is as highly stylistic as it is wonderfully puzzling.

9. Natural Information Society - Since Time is Gravity

Natural Information Society's epic, carefree experimentalism rings out across Since Time is Gravity, an album of spacious and meditative instrumental music. This massage-like music features repetitive and drawn-out acoustic melodies, such as on "Murmuration". However, this masseuse can shove the elbows in deep, as seen on the tense ugliness of the off-kilter "Stigmergy". Joshua Abrams started Natural Information Society in 2010, and time has given the collective that has gravitated around him confidence, such as with the stunning tenor saxophone work by Ari Brown on the closing track "Gravity". Yet it's on the simple "Wax" and "Wane", where Abrams wails out guembri solos, that the project's boisterous spirit is best represented and executed.

8. Bodywash - I Held the Shape While I Could

I Held the Shape While I Could by Bodywash is a variegated album of explorative songwriting and production that investigates the precarious nature of human existence. It makes quite an indelible mark, mostly as the unassuming nature of the Enyaesque landscapes turn to jarring distortions and energetic breakbeat. These elements are loosely stitched together, and such freeform expression delivers a feeling of dreamlike ambiguity, like trying to hold onto disappearing shapes, legal status, or ideas.

7. Aki Yli-Salomäki - J​ä​i mieleen

Finnish neoclassical composer Aki Yli-Salomäki stretches his sparse compositions towards oceanic and blurred parameters on Jäi mieleen, an album of nine patient, thoughtful and colourful compositions for strings and synthesizer. "Jäi mieleen" translates into English as "It's stuck in the mind", and this title could reveal the artist's motivation; an attempt to iron out the creases of memory with compounded sonic structures that apply incendiary pressure across the base of the listener's unconscious mind. This highly effective album makes quite an indelible impression on your day. 

6. Hourloupe - Three Nights in the Wawayanda

Harnessing the visual qualities of condensed free verse and experimental music, US-based duo Houloup tote the past into the present with Three Nights in the Wawayanda. Imagery is rich across the collection, and the listener can find themselves fingering a lone pearl in a handbag or on a lake of ice with "throbbing dancers", all while bopping along to the dramatic downtempo style of "Postcard Found in the Woods" or the dark electropop beat of "Tortoise Boxing". Being a substantial release both qualitatively and quantitively, the experience of listening can feel novelesque, challenging to get through in one sitting, written in a language you need to decode before you can fully understand what's happening, and filled with world-sized imagery, storytelling, and knowledge.     

5. Rogue Jones - Dos Bebés

Dos Bebés by Rogue Jones is an altogether convivial listen. While Bethan Mai's crystalline vocals are a high point, there are many other redeeming factors, including the sheer astronomical scope of these songs. Although the album may not be instantly accessible or easily digestible, there's a wealth of musical treasure to be found here, whether in the form of traditionally beautiful songwriting or more gaga forays into alternative pop. This is a substantial album from two artists in full control of their curious craft. 

4. Johnny Wilkins - Heartleaf 

Heartleaf by Johnny Wilkins is a thoroughly enjoyable collection of blissed-out, ultra-minimal, folktronica-cum-modern classical pieces for acoustic guitar(s). Even if the sense of urgency is spread unevenly across all tracks, such is almost necessary for an album that relies so heavily on its idiosyncratic way of operating. Wilkin's intention of documenting Heraclitan philosophy via musical structures comes off in pieces that seem to cling to safety and repetition but ultimately fade into the ether, leaving one with an appreciation of how music can act as a bookend to our epochs, dangling between the past and future in a drawn out, and in this case, beautiful present. 

3. M(h)aol - Attachment Styles 

Attachment Styles by M(h)aol is a scorching, scalpel-sharp debut album which tackles sexual violence, feminism, sexuality, and psychosocial relationships with ironic anger. If nine years was a long time to wait to release their debut album, you get the sense that M(h)aol were keeping these songs in a pressure cooker for most of that time, only letting them out when they felt that they'd truly cut through. And they do. Every song on this album is angular, tough, important, and laced with cutting irony. Right from the get-go, from the opening lines and scuzzy guitars of 'Asking For It', you know precisely what M(h)aol are trying to say. They don't mince words. They're not here for wilful obscurity (which contrasts with many other post-punk bands in Ireland and the UK. We'll not name names). The song titles give everything away - "Bored of Men", "Bisexual Anxiety", "Period Sex" - while the lyrics are pared down to repeated refrains, rhetorical questions, graphic images, and rousing invocations. 

2. the soft form dissolves - Pattern Recognition 


Daringly original, Pattern Recognition by the soft form dissolves is substantial music which requires some concessions from the listener in return for layers of emotion and a worldview void of needless barriers. This expansive album is 16 tracks deep, and throughout, themes are reinforced by repetitive and quickly identifiable patterns, even as they perenially morph into strange passages of Midwest chamber pop. This album of explorative lo-fi experimentation is precariously built upon patterns of synthesisers, whispery vocals, piano, guitar, and odd bits. The pieces stretch from long, vague instrumental passages to explicit and accessible songs built with a delicate constitution. 

1. Tuulikki Bartosik - Playscapes

Playscapes by Tuulikki Bartosik is a delightful collection of transient works that bestow the joy of creativity to the listener through the virtue of Bartosik's imaginative edge. While its varied offerings might make the album a tad inconsistent, to listen is to journey; as any traveller knows, not all days are good days. Bartosik doesn't neglect this fact nor shield her listeners from the harsh truths of life. Instead, she presents them with a way of viewing the world that reimagines hardships as curiosities. Importantly, these sentiments balance her classical foundations with the uninhibited joy found in the traditional genres most likely to feature her primary instrument. A deeply rewarding listen.