The 30 Best Albums of 2024 (So Far)

    We’ve reached the midpoint of 2024, which means it’s a good time to reflect on some of the best albums of the year so far. As far as pop music is concerned, we’ve already had major releases by Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, and Ariana Grande, but it’s Charli XCX’s BRAT, still fresh off its release, that has captured the zeitgest. In the world of indie music, Cindy Lee became an underground sensation, blog-rock favorites like Vampire Weekend and MGMT delivered some of their most heartrending material to date, and the Last Dinner Party managed to live up to the hype. Meanwhile, Adrianne Lenker, Waxahatchee, and Jessica Pratt put out some of the most affecting singer-songwriter records we’ve heard this decade. Check out our alphabetized list of the 30 best albums of 2024 so far below.

    Adrianne Lenker, Bright Future

    “We look at the world once, in childhood,” Louise Glück wrote in her poem ‘Nostos’. “The rest is memory.” The quote springs to mind each time I listen to Adrianne Lenker’s new album, Bright Future, which might, as its title suggests, be looking out on the road ahead, but allows itself the treasure of remembering, the freedom to linger on memories that both fade and harden with the coming of age. Lenker – lead singer of Big Thief and one of today’s most acclaimed songwriters, recording her new album in a forest-hidden studio with frequent collaborator Philip Weinrobe and friends including Nick Hakim, Mat Davidson, and Josefin Runsteen – perhaps has little reason to introduce her new record by dredging up past trauma. But in these fortunate circumstances, she finds the clarity of her senses awakened as they were when running through the woods as a child. Read the full review.

    Beth Gibbons, Lives Outgrown

    Over the past two decades, Beth Gibbons‘ recorded output in the past two decades has included Portishead’s starkly haunting 2008 comeback album, Third, a magnificent performance of Henryk Górecki’s Symphony No. 3, recorded with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra in 2019, and a memorable appearance on Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Mother I Sober’ in 2022. In her own writing, Gibbons, now 59, isn’t one to unpack intergenerational trauma the way Lamar does on that track, but her delivery of the chorus managed to perfectly encapsulate the tangled yearning at its core. Those great knots of time are threaded through her music, too, however inscrutable, and more than just feeling them keenly, Lives Outgrown is her opportunity to let them unfurl. Its somber, weighty, bone-chilling meditations never overstay their welcome, making brilliant use of both time and space. Read the full review.

    Charli XCX, BRAT

    Initially, the rollout for BRAT hinted at a rather single-minded focus: a return to the singer’s club roots with help from close collaborators well-versed in its language, namely A.G. Cook and EasyFun. In a live setting, CRASH’s mainstream flirtations also meant embracing her previous eras, whereas BRAT zeroes in on the present and is only interested in recontextualizing old hits that can slot into her set, the word “PARTY” looming behind her. But while it may be a party record, a club record even, Charli treats these spaces with the same nuance afforded by the singer that’s said to be the subject of ‘Girl, so confusing’. It’s perhaps too easy for an artist with Charli’s self-awareness to wink at her place in the pop landscape, gamified as it is. But none of the references on BRAT totally scan as such; even if they become cause for speculation, Charli focuses on the emotion, not the person or the world they belong in. Read the full review.

    Chelsea Wolfe, She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She

    The title of Chelsea Wolfe‘s new album might point to the continuation of a infinite cycle, but it also marks what the artist has called a “rebirth.” Though once again cloaked in a storm of noise, sound effects, and electronics, Wolfe’s music comes across as a meditative practice rather than an effort to chart an enigmatic and fantastical journey around the self. Rather than another resetting of musical boundaries or a simple regression to older, sludgier sounds, its aim is the reconciliation of “darkness and cosiness,” in her words, stepping toward the light in the converging paths of self-actualization and undoing. She’s has now found ways to separate the brooding, gothic nature of her past work from the perpetuity of toil and unrest, leading to her most spectrally cathartic and euphoric album to date. Read the full review.

    Cindy Lee, Diamond Jubilee

    As far as indie and underground music is concerned, Cindy Lee’s Diamond Jubilee is 2024’s biggest success story. Despite not being available on streaming platforms, the album gained traction via word-of-mouth and received Pitchfork’s highest score in four years following its release. Between high-profile releases from Beyoncé and Taylor Swift, it couldn’t be easier to root for Cindy Lee, the stage persona of songwriter and guitarist Patrick Flegel, who has put out several records under the moniker following a stint as the leader of the ’00s post-punk band Women. But when you listen to it on your headphones – it’s the kind of album that keeps you company as you look out the window on a long journey – the ghostly sprawl of the music seems bigger than whatever hype surrounds it: melancholy, arresting, brilliantly executed, and the only 2024 record other than Jessica Pratt’s Here in the Pitch deserving of the term “hypnagogic.”

    Crumb, AMAMA

    Crumb’s third album, AMAMA, is no less hypnotic and disorienting than the New York band’s previous material, but it longs to keep its feet on the ground. Singer and multi-instrumentalist Lila Ramani, keyboardist and saxophonist Bri Aronow, bassist Jesse Brotter, and drummer Jonathan Gilad remain wandering experimentalists, and the new record – produced in Los Angeles alongside Johnscott Sanford and Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado – hones that quality by restlessly locking into a groove and playfully straying away from it. But, abstract as it still is, Ramani’s songwriting is also tenderly introspective and emotional, threading together signifiers of her upbringing with memories from the band’s early touring days. But through these trips, down beyond what we might reasonably call memory lane, Crumb wake to a more solid and present understanding of home. Read our inspirations interview with Crumb.

    DIIV, Frog in Boiling Water

    DIIV‘s new album, Frog in Boiling Water, lifts its title from the “Boiling Frog” in Daniel Quinn’s 1996 novel The Story of B. The premise is well-known and self-evident – if you throw a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will instinctively jump out; but if you place it into lukewarm water and gradually raise the temperature, it will be lulled into comfort and boil to death. The results are neither entirely bleak nor hopeful, and Frog is less of an explicitly political album than a politically outward-facing one, following a series of albums centered around addiction and mental illness. As much it curdles with anxiety and existential dread, the record is alternately haunting, soothing, sour, and enthralling, a culmination of DIIV’s singular sound after their attempt to make a “proper” shoegaze album with 2019’s Deceiver. Read our inspirations interview with DIIV. 

    Ducks Ltd., Harm’s Way

    In essence, Ducks Ltd.‘s appeal or approach hasn’t changed too much: their brand of jangle-pop remains infectiously melodic, sneakily poetic, and surprisingly existential for how breezy it sounds. But with their sophomore album, they’ve found subtle ways to expand and open their already assured sound. Instead of self-recording the LP, the band went to a new city and collaborated with an outside producer, Dave Vettraino, who has worked on records by musicians who contributed to Harm’s Way, including Macie Stewart and Dehd’s Jason Balla. Louder and more dynamic as the arrangements may get, the newfound confidence only grounds the band’s most distinct trait: daring to make frenetically sugary, meticulously crafted songs about all sorts of collapsing structures. Read our inspirations interview with Ducks Ltd.

    Ekko Astral, pink balloons 

    Dubbing their style – an uncompromising mix of hardcore, noise punk, and no-wave – “mascara mosh pit” music, the Washington, DC-based outfit’s debut album, produced by Pure Adult’s Jeremy Snyder, is by turns galvanizing, raucous, and uneasy, but never totally dispiriting – confronting a world of suffering and disillusionment not only by pointing to it, but ceaselessly invoking and subverting what it feels like to inhabit it. As hyper-referential as they are exacting, Jael Holzman’s lyrics are also as riveting as the music that drives them forward. “I can see you shifting in your seat,” she intones at the very beginning, but Ekko Astral ensure you remain strapped in. Read our Artist Spotlight interview with Ekko Astral.

    Erika de Casier, Still

    The world of Erika de Casier feels effortlessly inviting. Up until now, the Portugal-born, Danish artist’s output has been marked by a rich interiority; she takes the idea of bedroom pop seriously, illuminating the space where pop music is commonly consumed and crafted, whether casually or with fierce passion. Sensual, textured, and elegant as her songs tend to be, she also displays a playful sense of humour that elevated her sophomore effort, 2021’s Sensational, whose title continued the tongue-in-cheek swagger of her debut, Essentials, while finding new ways to quietly exude confidence. By the end of the album, de Casier’s journey feels subtly defiant; she welcomes the listener by promising “a lot of fun,” then shows more sides to her than either new or returning fans might expect. Read the full review.

    Friko, Where we’ve been, Where we go from here

    Co-produced by Scott Tallarida, with additional production from Jack Henry, and mastered by Heba Kadry, Friko’s first full-length is a stirring and dynamic expression of their sound, balancing exhilarating freak-outs with moments of dreamy contemplation. Featuring contributions from Free Range’s Sofia Jensen and Finom’s Macie Stewart, the record is marked by a communal energy that animates it just when the songs veer into noisy, melancholy abstraction. “I’ll laugh, you’ll cry/ Our world inside a song,” Kapetan sings on ‘Until I’m With You’, his voice almost breaking. The song is lonely, yearning, yet commits – like the album as a whole – to framing music as a form of communion in itself. Read our Artist Spotlight interview.

    glass beach, plastic death

    the first glass beach album was audaciously maximalist and wildly inventive in the way it both fused and revitalized elements of pop-punk, bedroom pop, and art rock; the effect was by turns playfully cartoonish, bizarre, haunting, and hyperreal. Its long-awaited follow-up, plastic death, is similarly ambitious yet even more deliberate and immersive – not only in stitching together disparate styles that move beyond their original identification as a “post-emo” group, but also in the juxtaposition of catchy hooks and labyrinthine arrangements, deceptively simple song structures and multi-part, polyrhythmic epics. Emotionally and thematically, too, frontperson J. McClendon’s shift toward abstraction allows them to examine the relationship between aggression and tenderness, nostalgia veering into mania, the self through society, in a way doesn’t elude present reality so much as violently point at it. Read our track-by-track interview with glass beach.

    Good Looks, Lived Here for a While

    Following Good Looks‘ radiant debut LP Bummer Year, Lived Here for a While is an auspicious and sneakily triumphant record that highlights the Austin band’s dynamic interplay, even during the more contemplative moments. The songs are, however open-hearted and anthemic, still centered around healing, whether dealing with family dysfunction, heartbreak, or the fractured country they call home. Tyler Jordan is a painfully aware songwriter, and his bandmates know how to tap into his concerns; together, they push through. Read our Artist Spotlight interview.

    Grandaddy, Blu Wav

    Jason Lytle drapes the songs on his first Grandaddy album in seven years – many of them ballads or slow waltzes – in tons of pedal steel (performed by Max Hart), its sweetness balanced by off-kilter electronics, over a foundation of acoustic guitars, piano, and lush vocal harmonies. The sound of Blu Wav feels both old-timey and timeless, if not futuristic, and its warmth is almost as pervasive as the melancholy. If a song title like ‘You’re Going to Be Fine and I’m Going to Hell’ makes it seem like Lytle is treating bouts of heartbreak and depression with a dose of humour, there’s no mistaking the haunting vulnerability of songs like ‘On a Train or Bus’ and ‘Ducky, Boris and Dart’. It’s a ride worth sticking to, all summed up in the first lyrics of early single ‘Cabin in My Mind’: “Well, it’s a long and lonely road/ But there’s a safe and loving glow.” Read our inspirations interview with Grandaddy.

    Hovvdy, Hovvdy

    Their new self-titled album sees them continuing their collaboration with producer Andrew Sarlo and multi-instrumentalist Ben Littlejohn, who worked with the duo on 2021’s True Love and 2022’s billboard for my feelings EP. This time, all four were present for each session, giving Charlie Martin and Will Taylor the space to hone their collaborative craft while finding ways to honour their lo-fi origins. The result is a 19-track double LP of sprawling intimacy, one that allows big choruses to jump out and quiet moments to linger longer than you might expect. It’s a gorgeous record about the passage of time that keeps you hooked, ensuring no amount you spend with it feels wasted. Read our Artist Spotlight interview with Hovvdy.

    Jessica Pratt, Here in the Pitch

    If part of the songwriting process is like sleep talking, how can Jessica Pratt’s music sound at once of sleep and outside of it, swimming in the unconscious while also alerting you of all the things you missed when you were lost there? How come she’s both the one talking and waking you? Pratt is so singularly capable of tuning into that hazy space that when she puts out new material after so many years, it’s like realizing you’ve been missing something, been a little lost for a long time. This might sound like an exaggeration, but it’s the only way I can describe diving into Here in the Pitch, her first album since 2019’s Quiet Signs. It might be the most lucid and grounded record of Pratt’s career, but it’s still governed by that uncanny feeling: the ambiguity of time, how it blurs and slips one by, or simply slips, and how a song can suddenly pick it up. Read the full review.

    Julia Holter, Something in the Room She Moves

    Though steeped in abstraction, there is a stark physicality to Something in the Room She Moves, which stands as one of the most sensual and somatic works in Holter’s career. Though the music glides in different directions, she never strays from the central goal of “evoking the body’s internal sound world.”Whether breezy, dizzying, soothing, or bombastic, Holter’s output has always been immersive, and her latest is, too; what she does differently is remove the distance from the people, spaces, and ideas she interacts with. “In the past my records were more focused on the past or the future, about love from afar, as maybe more of an ethereal thing,” Holter remarked in an interview. But Something in the Room sees the present as an endless stream – of days and nights, of unresolved mysteries, of love and grief entwined – and keeps its hands outstretched for everything that passes through it. Read the full review.

    Kali Uchis, Orquídeas

    According to the singer, Kali Uchis’ first label didn’t give Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios) ∞, her previous Spanish-language LP, the proper promotional push. But after the success of ‘Telepatía’, which became her biggest hit yet, there had to be more support behind Uchis’ multi-faceted approach. But Orquídeas, which is named after the national flower of Colombia, also happens to be an overall stronger album than Sin Miedo, bolder and more dynamic in its embrace of different styles. She seeks not just to combine genres but, in her words, “re-define the way we look at Latinas in music,” and her take on traditional Latin styles like bolero and dembow are not only refreshing but integrated as fluidly as the way she switches between English and Spanish – which sounds seamless yet also has a way of punctuating her lyrical shifts and nuances. Read the full review.

    Katy Kirby, Blue Raspberry

    Katy Kirby‘s debut album, 2021’s Cool Dry Place, was full of clever turns of phrase, tender melodies, and hummable choruses that made it feel both genuine and instantly inviting. But what stuck with you long after its 30-minute runtime was the way it treasured human connection in different forms; Kirby’s natural tendency to home in and pick apart the little details made her songs feel special and effortlessly intertwined, even if they were written over long stretches of time. On Blue Raspberry, her sophomore effort and first for ANTI-, Kirby is even more intentional in fleshing out and untangling the similarities and contradictions between her songs and the people in them. Taking inspiration from albums like Andy Shauf’s The Party and Lomelda’s Hannah, it huddles moments of intimacy that are beautiful, yes, but also strangely playful, ominous, and crystallizing. Read our track-by-track interview with Katy Kirby.

    Kim Gordon, The Collective

    Kim Gordon didn’t invent SoundCloud rap, but she sounds like she just sort of stumbled onto a whole new sound. The Collective, the former Sonic Youth bassist’s second solo record, carries the fearlessly innovative spirit that has marked her nearly 50-year career, and though she knew early on she wanted it to be beat-driven, how much of it would sound like this particular strain of hip-hop if her collaborator wasn’t Justin Raisen, who’s worked with everyone from Sky Ferreira to Lil Yachty, Yves Tumor to Teezo Touchdown? The Collective is their second full-length collaboration following 2019’s No Home Record, which was dark and fractured in its own way, but not quite as thrilling or cacophonous. Gordon doesn’t sound like she’s absorbed a bunch of contemporary influences, or even dutifully acclimated herself in them, just daring to reel off them, hanging on to noise as the obvious thread to her legacy. Read the full review.

    Mannequin Pussy, I Got Heaven

    Mannequin Pussy have always recognized the power wrought from contradictions. Vulnerability has been as much at the core of their identity as their punk roots, making their music feel uniquely resonant when snuck between moments of searing aggression. I Got Heaven, their first album since 2019’s Patience, is an ambitious step forward that’s eager to express all different sides of the band: as rageful as it is hopeful, intense yet inviting, and altogether marvelous. Part of the record’s dynamism comes down to the way it was made: singer Marisa “Missy” Dabice, bassist Colins “Bear” Regisford, drummer Kaleen Reading, and newly added guitarist and keyboardist Maxine Steen decamped to Los Angeles to work on the songs with producer John Congleton, creating a collaborative environment that allowed them to revel in the nuances of Dabice’s writing – the intersection of pleasure and pain, fear and desire, the body and the divine – by adding new layers to their already versatile sound. Read our inspirations interview with Mannequin Pussy.

    MGMT, Loss of Life

    With their lates talbum, MGMT manage to cross the youthful naivety and exploratory tendencies that marked their early albums with the pervasive anxiety and newly streamlined sound of Little Dark Age. In that wandering, MGMT sound both settled and unburdened, which allows them to lean back into their roots, or reconcile them – the absurdism and genre-hopping of their early performances, the earnestness of the classic rock they’d cover in college. If anything, the template of Loss of Life is more faithful to the definition of classic rock that congeals when you listen to the radio as opposed to the obsessive classification of online music nerdom, so the ‘90s alt-rock influences of ‘Mother Nature’ and ‘Bubblegum Dog’ flow into the cinematic soft rock of ‘People in the Streets’ and the power balladry of ‘Dancing in Babylon’. Read the full review.

    Phosphorescent, Revelator

    “I got tired of sadness/ I got tired of all the madness,” Matthew Houck sings at the beginning of Revelator, his first Phosphorescent album since 2018’s C’est La Vie. It’s a killer opening line in part because it signals a fresh start, when really it ends up feeling like a grand return: Houck getting back down to the core of what so much of Phosphorescent’s discography has been about, only this time from a renewed vantage point. Though it only took him about six months to write and record Revelator, tuning into the flow of his own songs wasn’t easy. The song after which he named the LP was the north star. He enlisted collaborators such as Jack Lawrence of the Raconteurs and Jim White of Dirty Three, but a lot of time was spent alone, trying to get things right at the studio he’s built at home, dubbed Spirit Sounds. It’s hard to do, as Houck sings over and over on the final track, but the process proved constantly revelatory. Read our inspirations interview with Phosphorescent.

    Rosali, Bite Down

    On her fourth album and first for Merge Records, Bite Down, Rosali is once again joined by Nance, guitarist James Schroeder, and drummer Kevin Donahue, as well as Destroyer collaborator Ted Bois on keys. It’s a magnificent album that crackles with the energy of the band tracking the album live while also mirroring Middleman’s self-reflective and conversational – even in its introspection – songwriting, which can feel intimate, playful, patient, and deeply resonant in its simplicity. She fights the grief and resentment that’s built up over years of romantic entanglement with attention to rest, joy, nature, and slowness. “I’ll sit for hours/ Gazing at the light/ And I do wonder/ And waste my life,” she sings, taking a sweet turn at the very end: “No, I don’t wonder/ If I waste my life.” Read our Artist Spotlight interview with Rosali.

    The Last Dinner Party, Prelude to Ecstasy

    The marvelous thing about Prelude to Ecstasy isn’t the audience it’s already reached as a debut album, but the commitment to craft and world-building that’s apparent as soon as you press play. The whole thing starts with an orchestral overture, signaling the sort of theatrical bombast and ambition that bands – especially “post-punk” bands that grow weary of the descriptor – don’t embrace until much later in their discography. As a group that formed just before the pandemic, the Last Dinner Party have had to take the fundamentally uncool path of taking themselves seriously, fleshing out songs, and establishing a strong visual identity before transferring any of their ideas to the stage. Calling the record “an archeology of ourselves,” the group may like doing things the old-fashioned way, but the assemblage of historical fashion feels fitted to the intensity of the present moment, not a retread of the past. Read the full review.

    The Smile, Wall of Eyes

    On their debut, the Smile sounded revitalized and even impatient, managing to cram together disparate influences with an emphasis on groove. Its follow-up finds no use in harnessing the frenetic energy of tracks like ‘You Will Never Work in Television Again’, but it doesn’t mean their restlessness has subsided. For a record that can generally be described as more subdued than its predecessor, it’s strange how unsettled its restraint feels, each eerie detail and unresolved conclusion appearing to inch them out of, rather than sinking into, the ideal of graceful maturity. There’s no sense of complacency on Wall of Eyes, which abounds with proof of a band alive with ideas, curiously bending them to shape until it’s no longer of service. Read the full review.

    This Is Lorelei, Box for Buddy, Box for Star

    Written, recorded, and produced by Nate Amos (of Water from Your Eyes and My Idea) in the summer of 2022, This Is Lorelei‘s debut proper is sneakily earnest and playful at the same time, committing to the bit without veering into cliché. Prioritizing pure melody, it’s a collection of songs as shiny and gorgeous as it is disorienting; but unlike Amos’ experiments with Water From Your Eyes, the wry humour and chaos aren’t contained in the music so much as his lyricism, whose stream-of-consciousness sincerity is affecting as much as it can throw you off guard. But even when he shifts between perspectives and laces his voice in AutoTune for the sake of the song, the album’s romanticism and emotional pathos feel earned, precisely because of the funny, quotable ways Amos finds to present them. Read our Artist Spotlight interview with This Is Lorelei.

    Tierra Whack, WORLD WIDE WHACK

    Billed as her official debut, Tierra Whack’s much-anticipated follow-up to 2018’s Whack World is as whimsical as it is dark, disarming listeners with both its deceptive simplicity and musical experimentation. It’s a fun record, to be sure, but its layered, raw emotionality becomes impossible to ignore the deeper you dig in. “Separated by eerie piano interludes, the fifteen tracks of World Wide Whack showcase a darkly layered and emotional narrative on chronic depression — contrasted only by its near-constantly innovative off-piste R&B — and such depressive realism and intellectual commentary lends itself to Whack’s cartoonish fourth wall experimentalism,” Otis Robinson wrote in his Our Culture review. “Ultimately, World Wide Whack becomes the sort of record that cements artistic vision and legacy.”

    Vampire Weekend, Only God Was Above Us

    Making up for the gap between albums, 2013’s Modern Vampires of the City and Father of the Bride were both stylistic swerves: one darker and strangely haunted, the other sprawling and casually vibrant. But Only God Was Above Us is Vampire Weekend’s first album since Contra that’s more interested in merging and retaining qualities from different eras; though lyrically and thematically, strongest are the echoes of Modern Vampires, and there’s even a beautiful ballad, ‘Mary Boone’, that feels like a descendant of ‘Hannah Hunt’. The record is focused yet loose, joyful and noisy, anxious yet curiously unfazed. It finds a definition of “alternative” that’s entirely contingent on the band’s own trajectory and musical language, which it unsettles mainly by playing with two elements: distortion – whether sputtering through ‘Ice Cream Piano’ or abrading the bright touch of ‘Classical’ – and space. Read the full review.

    Waxahatchee, Tigers Blood

    2020’s Saint Cloud was a stunning balm of a record, one that saw Katie Crutchfield embracing the Americana aesthetic that carries onto the new record; she tried experimenting with more pop-leaning production for “a good six hours,” she estimates, but it didn’t stick. Reuniting with producer Brad Cook to record the album at Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas, this time with help from Cook’s brother Phil, Spencer Tweedy, and Wednesday guitarist MJ Lenderman (who plays on every song and provides harmonies on many of them), Tigers Blood leans into and refines its predecessor’s sonic palette in ways that make space for the growth in Crutchfield’s lyrics. If Saint Cloud aspired toward and invited the clarity that comes with getting sober, Tigers Blood settles into it without losing grasp on the melodic and lyrical acuity that makes Crutchfield’s music so impactful. Read the full review.

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