This segment of 2023’s top Albums will cover from 25-11 on my list, Ending just outside of the top 10. This has been an amazing year for music and I spent hours picking which albums would make the list and which ones were just beyond the cut. In addition, ranking each album required a lot of changes, including some as the list was being written. I’m doing this as a 7 part series where 25-11 are only getting a few sentences about them. Of course, I am linking every band’s social media pages, links to their music, and a video to my favorite song of the album (or a spotify link if I can’t get a video). Tomorrow I will be posting albums 10-6 and there will be a more significant write up for each album and what I love about the album. The following 5 days will each be dedicated to my top 5 albums with complete write-ups for each album and what made them reach the top 5. Due to this format, I wrestled for a long time with each pick, and so many of the picks today deserve a spot in the top 10, or at least a deeper explanation into what makes the album great. I can’t tell you how much you should go out of your way to listen to these albums.
25. Goblin City Rat Boys: Rodent Rampage
This ska punk/ street punk album dropped with little promotion or fanfare, but features so great punk heavy ska with some great themes. With keys and synth, and a horn section consisting of just a saxophone, the album is great for punks that don’t like the horn heavy ska, but want something that gets your feet going. Perfect for the DIY punk and ska scene out of Pennsylvania.
Favorite track: thirteentwelve
24. Epic18: Stop Procrastinating
If laid back, mellowed out, relaxing ska/ jazz/ funk is your thing then this is your album. Nice keys and synth, simple melodies, and a smooth horn section make this album easy to listen to on repeat.
Favorite track: Feed the Fire
23. Odd Robot: Deathmates
The first non ska band on the list is Odd Robot with a power pop-punk/ rock album that is catchy as fuck. Short, fun songs that have you moving all over the floor with quick short poppy beats, great harmonies, and nonstop fun.
Favorite track: Temporary Bachelor does Mundane Things
22. The Abruptors: Noticeably Cheerless
This album took over 2 years from completion to release, and the wait paid off. The sped up traditional ska works brilliantly, and helps them stand out from traditional ska- with a pacing closer to ska punk but the rhythms closer to traditional ska, and a nice clean sound, this album really sets itself apart.
Favorite track: Who What Where
21. : Popes of Chillitown: Take a Picture
High Energy British ska punk infused with dub, rock, anger and effects. The pure energy on this album might be unmatched on my entire list. The fusion of sounds is distinct and unique and definitely worth checking out if you’ve never picked up a Popes’ album before, and this is every bit as good as their other albums.
Favorite track: Short Straw
20. Jeff Rosenstock: Hellmode
Jeff Rosenstock’s latest album is exactly as good as you would expect it to be. It’s his unique fast paced punk, this time a little more melodic and still as fast and as politically biting as always. Jeff plays with pacing more than I was expecting on this album, having slow, soulful, beautiful parts, juxtaposed against angry, chaotic screaming and heavy fast paced melodic pounding of chords.
Favorite track: Graveyard Song
19. Riskee & The Ridicule: Platinum Statue
I discovered Riskee earlier this year when they were featured in a Faintest Idea song, and wasn’t sure what to expect with their own music, but the clean political British punk, rife with anger and crisp rhythms and consistent aggressive blasting drums was an exciting surprise. The ability to blend rapped lyrics and an anger while occasionally screaming the rage of politically aware subjects makes this a must listen for the many non- Brits that may have missed the release.
Favorite track: My Name
18. Rust Ring: North to the Future
While my favorite genre is clearly ska, another thing I love in music is the ability to shake expectations, blend music in new ways, and to defy genre boundaries while exploring self doubt and explorations of self love. Rust Ring may best fit definitions as a punk/ emo band, but none of their songs easily fit either category, and all of their songs blend beyond either. The inclusion of keyboards and horns appeals to me, but it’s the message and the execution that makes this album so incredible. Three Sunrises really surprises the unwary listener with an power pop track that could fit on a David Bowie album that erupts in an 80s sax solo from nowhere, yet it fits perfectly.
Favorite track: Tiny Frame
17. Poindexter: Treats
This album, and every remaining album on today’s list, was very heavily considered in my top 10 albums of the year. I love this album, but this year was full of amazing albums. This album ranges from a grunge-like sound and shoegaze lyrics with absolutely terrific ska-punk rhythms, a little bit of 8 bit sounding keys, harmonica, banjo, and everything in between. This is just a phenomenal new ska album that has me dancing constantly, worth countless listens and should be a staple of my collection going forward. Picking a favorite track on this album is so hard because the songs are all so good. It’s definitely not a one hit wonder type of album.
Favorite Track: 11 to 8
16. Coolie Ranx: Days Gone By
Coolie Ranx released his debut solo album back in March and its full of his unique Raggacore styles. While the album features several interview tracks, he uses them to teach about the history of ska, about how ska, as a genre, has always been about making political and social statements, and is inherently bonded to the fight against racism and bigotry. Meanwhile the album tells the story of the struggle of the protagonist, fighting and struggling with poverty and violence, making mistakes, getting caught up in the wrong crowds in their youth, and trying to come through with positivity and strength on the other side. Smooth reggae, aggressive punk, and heavy Jamaican rhythms dominate this incredible album.
Favorite track: Incredible
15. Plastic Presidents: Good Times Can’t Last
This album starts with a blast and doesn’t slow down. It’s hard not to get pumped the entire time you listen to this album. Punk and ska in the purest fusion. Occasionally straying into heavier, almost heavy metal at times, but always keeping true to punk and ska. The one-two punch of “Chains” and “Ends Meat” are hard to match. At 8 songs, there is no waste or filler on this incredible album.
Favorite Track: Ends Meat
14. Eric Daino: Book of Spells
Eric Daino’s solo project album his on the two-tone, reggae, and rocksteady rhythms with some great rock and roll guitar and ska punk sensibilities, while focusing the songs on the political messaging that is pervasive through the ska music traditions. Incredible danceable ska rhythms are so pervasive through this album it’s hard to not be constantly moving. Bringing specific focus to the need for community and togetherness to fight for justice, to fight fascism, to the LGBTQIA+ fight and to police corruption makes this rank high on my list of albums this year.
Favorite track: Hex The Police
13. Atlas & Oracle: Greed and the American Dream
I cheated a little on this one. Atlas and Oracle put out 3 albums this year, and it was their 777 project, with each album having 7 songs. I included the entire project here, and gave the credit to what I consider to be the best of the three albums. A&O showed off their diversity by starting the year with a synth ska cover album, then they did a 7 song album with collabs with 7 different artist on 7 original songs, each with a different style of music blended with ska, and each a sad song that had a happy ending, because they wanted to create something that showed the importance of community and positivity. The final album was social commentary about capitalism and the current American state. This final album was the highlight of the three albums for me.
Favorite song: American Dream
12. Bobby Edge: Algorithm and Blues
Bobby Edge left the relative comfort of being in a somewhat successful punk band to branch out on his own and record something completely different, and this album is unlike anything else on the music scene today. 1950’s R&B, Doo-wop, and punk blended to perfection with beautiful harmonies and often down, depressing, almost dystopian lyrics set to beats that remind you of a lost past. If my only measuring stick was creativity, this would easily get album of the year. I can’t wait to see more from Bobby Edge, and to see if this helps inspire other musicians to pick up the mantle, I need more of this in my life.
Favorite track: Endless Suffer
11. Wicked Bears: Underwater
The three piece SLC pop punk band has put out what is easily the best pop-punk band of the year. This is the best pop punk I’ve heard in over a decade. It’s fresh and new and exciting, with great vocal harmonies, exciting pace changes, great crowd participation portions, fun gang vocals, and they even have a horn free ska song that begs me to dance. The lyrics seamlessly blend from seeming nonsensical to significant and socially critical, all while making you dance and sing along.
Favorite track: Lucky
Read tomorrow’s article for the next 5 albums in my rankings with longer write ups about each album.
Written by Gimpleg