The 50 best albums of 2023

In a just world, this album wouldn’t exist. And frankly, it’s staggering that it does. With wounds yet to heal – if they ever truly will – the fact that Foo Fighters were able to muster the strength and courage to make a record like this is testament not only to their friendship, but the restorative power of music. Coming as a direct response to the death of drummer and Dave Grohl’s best friend Taylor Hawkins, as well as the loss of his mother Virginia in the same year, grief encompasses But Here We Are in all of its confusing, consuming and confounding ways.

Rather than wallow and retreat into themselves – for which no-one would begrudge them – the band come out swinging, playing like their lives depend on it with a raging inferno in their bellies to make one of the best Foo Fighters albums in years. Taylor touched the hearts of millions and in tracks like Under You where Dave reflects on ‘pictures of us sharing songs and cigarettes’ and tries to navigate his mourning when it’s still so raw, he speaks for those unable to articulate their own feelings of loss.

Defiant in the face of adversity, the resilience in tracks like Nothing At All is palpable, and the stadium-sized title-track is the quintessential encapsulation of a band of brothers willing themselves to carry on – you can practically see the veins in Dave’s neck bulging at the ‘I gave you my heart, but here we are’ chorus. He needs to scream it to he heavens, giving it his everything, knowing he will get through this if he just pushes hard enough.

But there is also vulnerability to the point of devastation. In tracks like Show Me How with his daughter Violet on vocals, as both wonder who will show them the way now the family matriarch has passed, and the phenomenal 10-minute journey of The Teacher, Dave explores the countless challenging thoughts and emotions of the grieving process, admitting his own unpreparedness for the enormity of losing his mother, screaming goodbye as it descends into static.

Foos’ leader has been in the public eye most of his life, he’s experienced monumental loss in two of the most important bands in rock history, and we have all seen just how strong the bond was between he and Taylor. His death came out of nowhere, like Dave sings on Rescued, like it does for many of our loved ones. The world needs records like this, not just for the loss of a rock icon, but to be re-contextualised for our own heartache – to make us feel like we’re not alone, to be there in our time of need.

Whether you’re listening for the 10th time or the 100th time, there will always be one line or one moment that catches you, a lump in your throat, a quiver on your bottom lip, a slight gloss on the eye. Sure, there might be more experimental or adventurous records that came out in 2023, but no album has had the emotional impact or resonance of But Here We Are. It’s as pure as rock’n’roll comes and stands as a memorial to one of the all-time greats. (LM)