My Favorite Albums of 1983

12 new releases from the year I became a teenager

4 min readSep 19, 2023


They say that the music we listen to as teens sets our musical taste for the rest our lives.

In my case, it’s definitely true. Not only do I still love the music I listened to in the 80s, I often view new music through the lens of tracks and artists from my teen years. (“The sophomore album from the Wallows feels like Modern English meets Weezer.”)

I recently celebrated a birthday and I realized that I became a teenager 40 years ago. (Insert head-exploding emoji here.) So I thought I’d look back at my favorite albums from 1983—the year I turned 13—when my musical taste started to…solidify?…calcify?…cure? (The Cure!)

First up, a grateful nod the killer “best of” compilations of 1983. It’s a bit of a cheat to include greatest-hit collections in a run-down of the year’s best, but these albums played as big a role in forming my musical tastes as any new releases that year.

It’s hard to believe that there was ever a time before Legend — The Best of Bob Marley and the Wailers, but ’83 was the year it was released. For a white kid from the suburbs who really knew nothing about reggae, it was a revelation.

Other incredible collections released in ’83: Compact Snap!, all The Jam’s singles, What is Beat? the greatest hits from the English Beat, and even though it technically came out in late ’82, I didn’t discover Squeeze’s terrific Singles — 45's and Under until ’83 and fell in love with it.

There were some MASSIVE hit albums that came out in 1983 that were inescapable on the radio and part of my musical oxygen at the time: Let’s Dance! by David Bowie (I vividly remember it on repeat during a junior high dance in a friend’s garage), Synchronicity by the Police, Madonna by Madonna, and She’s So Unusual by Cyndi Lauper (which—fun fact!—I WON by calling into the local radio station and guessing that Duran Duran’s “The Reflex” was the #1 song of the week.)

A shout out to Kilroy Was Here by Styx, a concept album/rock opera that my 13-year brain couldn’t really unscramble. And whoever gave me the Def Leppard Pyromania album for my b-day helped confirm that I was NOT a “hard rock” guy.

But I was also itching to discover music that wasn’t being played on Bakersfield radio. These were the albums that hit the scene that year that scratched that itch:

The Hurting — Tears for Fears

“Mad World” became a hit years later, but I remember hearing the opening notes of the title track and thinking, “this is definitely NOT the stuff I usually hear on Top-40 radio.”

Speaking in Tongues — Talking Heads

“Burning Down the House” was the hit, but the whole album made me feel cool…like I was invited to a club that not everybody knew about.

High Land, Hard Rain — Aztec Camera

To be fair, I’m not sure I discovered this album in ’83, but several years later when my high school girlfriend put “Oblivious” on a mixtape. But it definitey qualifies as a 1983 classic.

Whammy! — The B-52s

Later in the decade, their big hits made them almost a caricature, but their early stuff was edgy and punk and this album was the gateway into all that weird goodness.

Construction Time Again — Depeche Mode

Depeche Mode was THE band for me in high school. Synthesizers and banging on pipes FTW!

Violent Femmes — Violent Femmes

This album became a badge of honor for anyone who considered themselves “alternative.” (And let’s be clear, NOBODY in suburban Bakersfield was alternative…but this album let us pretend.)

Mummer — XTC

Not to be confused with Murmur by R.E.M, which also came out in ’83, I probably discovered this XTC album in ’86 when I fell in love with “Skylarking” and I devoured XTC’s back catalog.

Naked Eyes (a.k.a Burning Bridges) — Naked Eyes

I can’t even count how many times I listened to “Always Something There to Remind” me, which was absolutley my favorite song the year I turned 13.

Soul Mining — The The

I’m pretty sure I didn’t hear this until a few years later when “Infected” came out in ’86 and I discovered The The, but it’s a low-key 80s gem, ahead of it’s time, bringing together a kaleidoscopic of musical styles into something coherent and unique.

Under a Blood Red Sky — U2

This was the year they released “War,” but it was their live album from Red Rocks released in November that year that made me first appreciate them.

True — Spandau Ballet

New wave romanticism! “True” pressed all the right pubescent buttons and I still remember thinking, “I’d really like to slow dance with a girl to this song.” 😂

You and Me Both — Yazoo
Power, Corruption & Lies — New Order

A “tie”…but really this is a bit of a cheat, because I’m sure I didn’t listen to either of these in 1983, but discovered them later when I fell for these band’s later albums (“Upstairs at Erics” for Yaz and “Brotherhood” for New Order.) But no doubt, these ’83 releases were the seeds of so much music that I loved in the 80s.

Bottom line: 1983 was a banner year for music. I’m glad I was there.

MORE : My Top 10 Favorite Albums from the 1980s.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Kovacevich is a writer and creative director based in San Francisco. Each December he counts down his favorite NEW albums of the year.