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Best of So Far

The Best Albums Of 2024 (So Far)

The best albums of 2024 so far

Amid a year already filled with blockbuster releases from superstars such as Taylor Swift, Beyoncé and Billie Eilish, sometimes the more innovative and left-of-center albums get pushed to the margins of our monoculture. We’re here to help by shining a light on the latest work from artists who certainly aren’t household names and veterans enjoying a later-career hot streak alike — but only if they were released between Jan. 1 and May 31, 2024. Your mileage may vary, but below, in alphabetical order, are our choices for the best albums of 2024 (so far).

Adrianne Lenker — Bright Future

Adrienne Lenker — Bright Future

On Bright Future, Big Thief vocalist/guitarist Lenker wrestles with the big stuff—life and death, sex and loss, seeing your mom cry—on songs so intimately recorded they sound like they were tracked on your back porch. “Vampire Empire” and “Donut Seam” offer definitive versions of long-gestating Big Thief live favorites, but opener “Real House” is the stunner, a trembling memoir-in-song that seems to stop time with its winding reminiscences. Lenker once complained about hearing her songs become playlist fodder in coffee shops, and “Real House” feels like an active rebellion against the norm of passive background listening. — Zach Schonfeld

Buffalo TomJump Rope

Buffalo Tom Jump Rope

Released on May 31, just in time for this list, Buffalo Tom’s 10th studio album embodies a warm folksy gentleness that the world needs now. Since forming nearly 40 years ago, Buffalo Tom haven’t been the type of band to follow trends, in fact, quite the opposite, seeming to make music in their own special Buffalo Tom World. And from the undeniably indie opening riffs of the album’s first track, “Helmet,” to the warm, sweet final track (“You’re On”), they’ve accomplished a record of uncompromised simplicity—and understated genius. – Liza Lentini

Carpool — My Life in Subtitles

Carpool — My Life in Subtitles

Looking for an emo album that moves from piano ballad to post-hardcore and back in a seamless fashion (aren’t we all…)? Carpool put out the best one of the year so far with this sophomore effort. Tracks such as “I Hate Music,” “Done Paying Taxes” and “Can We Just Get High?” are as much fun as you’ll have in the pop/punk vein this year, while the borderline hardcore “CAR” and the album’s two quietest moments (the title track and closer “Every Time I Think of You I Smile”) sound almost like a different band. My Life in Subtitles is a welcome rollercoaster ride in the best way, expanding far beyond the standard emo/pop-punk suggested by the well-written lead single “Open Container Blues.” – Josh Chesler

Charles Lloyd — The Sky Will Still Be There Tomorrow

Charles Lloyd — The Sky Will Still Be There Tomorrow

The 86-year-old Lloyd’s 51st album as a leader is a celebration of the creative energy that still drives him. Indeed, this expansive double album stands with his best. There are several new takes on old tunes and loving homages to Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk and Lloyd’s pal from childhood, trumpeter Booker Little (who died in 1961). As he has done throughout his career, he returns to the quartet format here, featuring scintillating interplay from pianist Jason Moran, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Brian Blade. But the emphasis is on the now, captured brilliantly in the playful title piece celebrating the majesty of all that sustains and survives us. — Steve Hochman

Chuck Ellis — Brainbox

Chuck Ellis Brainbox

If Tinashe’s “Nasty” is your summer jam, then Brainbox might just match your freak. This electro-R&B fantasy by L.A. songwriter Ellis luxuriates in a world turned upside down by divorce, abuse and heartache. Ellis, who’s worked with artists as opposite as Ricky Skaggs and Skrillex, knows how to get bodies moving with ear candy such as “Talk It Up” and “Stay Awake 4 Me” (co-created with BloodPop®). But the songs hit on a whole new level when Ellis gets back to his southern roots, as on “Hollow Horses,” which tries to make sense of why religion appeals to those he loves. It’s not for him to judge where anyone gets their fix (sex, drugs, Jesus), but Ellis offers Brainbox to make the ride a little smoother. – Sarah Grant

Four Tet — Three

Four Tet — Three

His profile may have been exponentially elevated thanks to improbable recent sold-out arena and festival gigs with Skrillex and Fred again.., but after 25-plus years in the game, Kieran Hebden is still the same lovably nerdy Brit making thoughtful, emotive electronica for the discerning listener. And although Three is his 12th Four Tet album, it might actually function as the best beginner-friendly primer to Hebden’s sound: crate-diggity drum breaks (“Loved”), exotic string instrument arpeggios dancing around giddy club beats (“Daydream Repeat”) and expansive, synth-powered beauties to thaw your freezer-burned heart (“Three Drums”). Best of all is “Skater,” where winsome electric guitar lines make out at the intersection of bittersweet and bliss. – Jonathan Cohen

Future & Metro Boomin – We Don’t Trust You

Future & Metro Boomin – We Don’t Trust You

This rapper/producer duo has been making hits such as “Mask Off” and “Karate Chop” for more than a decade, but nobody quite expected them to release two distinct full-lengths in 2024. On the first of the pair, numerous hip-hop titans lend a hand, from Kendrick Lamar calling out Drake on “Like That” to Playboi Carti and Travis Scott trading bars on “Type Shit.” Future himself is in a confrontational mood on the title track and “Ain’t No Love,” while late Mobb Deep rapper Prodigy serves almost like an arrogant spirit haunting the proceedings, with his sampled voice often ranting about “corny-ass rappers.” The duo salutes Prodigy one more time by creatively flipping the beat from the Mobb Deep classic “Quiet Storm” on “Seen It All” — a song that makes the convincing claim that Future and Metro are now “seasoned veterans at this shit” who can do and say whatever they want. – Al Shipley


Glitterer — Rationale

Glitterer was originally a solo project for Title Fight’s Ned Russin, and his first full-length as a band is so timeless that it sounds like it could have been made in 1994 or 2024. Russin may have cut his teeth in Title Fight, but Rationale sees him digging deeper into his shoegaze and post-hardcore pedigree to create something that exists outside of any particular “scene.” “Can’t Feel Anything” finds the bassist/vocalist embracing his vulnerabilities over a sea of distortion and hypnotic instrumentation, while “It’s My Turn” is a keyboard-laden rocker that, like much of Rationale, is deceptive in its simplicity. – Jonah Bayer

Grandaddy — Blu Wav

Grandaddy Blu Wav

It’s been 24 years since Grandaddy released their breakthrough album The Sophtware Slump, but you wouldn’t know it listening to Blu Wav. Indeed, group leader Jason Lytle might sound better now than when the group supported Elliott Smith back in the early 2000s, and his falsetto has never been more haunting than on meditations on loneliness such as “Long As I’m Not the One.” Elsewhere, arpeggiated keyboards and lap steel co-exist in perfect harmony on “Cabin In My Mind,” which evokes Grandaddy’s signature sound without feeling limited by it. – J.B.

Hot Water Music — Vows

On their 10th album, It would be understandable for Hot Water Music to rehash the Gainesville, Fl., punk sound they helped invent, but instead, they’ve transcended it. From the melodic grandeur of opener “Menace” to the syncopated sweetness of  “Chewing on Broken Glass,” the album showcases how much range the band has developed over the past three decades. Hell, there’s even a full-on ballad (“After the Impossible”) where guitarist/vocalist Chuck Ragan duets with City and Colour’s Dallas Green for a song destined for punk rock proms. – J.B.

Hurray for the Riff Raff — The Past Is Still Alive

Hurray for the Riff Raff — The Past Is Still Alive

With its wordy compositions, live-band crackle, and no-frills acoustic palette, The Past Is Still Alive recaptures the verve of Alynda Mariposa Segarra’s earlier, twangier albums. But it’s only superficially a return to form, even if it does come after two albums that more-than-gently nudged the artist’s music in new directions. Play these new ones blind, and Segarra’s tales of jumping trains, evading the police, assembling chosen families and trading songs around campfires will hit hard. Heard in the context of that dense, diverse back catalog, however, Past takes on the scope and impact of a Great American Novel. Just give Segarra a damn Pulitzer already. – Stephen Deusner

Jon McKiel — Hex

Jon McKiel Hex

McKiel writes songs like philosophical treatises, pondering ecological decay, existential jitters and the fate of humanity in an increasingly digitized world. Sounds like a blast, right? But Hex has the power of an actual hex, thanks to the way the Canadian singer/songwriter and co-producer Jay Crocker (JOYFULTALK) bend odd samples, akimbo beats and snaking guitar lines into weird shapes that carry the echo of folk music, tropicalia, exotica and various strains of pop. It’s an album heavy with vibe, simultaneously hypnotic and askew, drawing you in to keep you beautifully off balance. – S.D.

Kamasi Washington — Fearless Movement

Kamasi Washington — Fearless Movement

With Movement, this acclaimed saxophonist and composer furthers the glorious quest to develop new jazz languages he began with his ambitious, aptly titled 2015 triple album The Epic. This one starts in a different language (a prayer in the ancient Ethiopian language Ge’ez) before Washington and his dazzling collective band the West Coast Get Down revisit The Epic’s dense celestial echoes of Sun Ra, Alice Coltrane and other major influences. It moves through vibrant celebrations and styles from there, offering a genre-transcending continuum from gospel to jazz-choral to hip-hop to funk to fusion. Best of all, the music here is an invitation to dance. — S.H.

Mannequin Pussy — I Got Heaven

Mannequin Pussy I Got Heaven

By the start of last year, we already knew I Got Heaven was going to be something special. Mannequin Pussy made it very clear in their lunch with us that they weren’t playing around anymore, and they clearly followed through. Their fourth album is their most diverse, complicated, messy and (arguably) meaningful, trading the tightly wound punk rock of Romantic and Patience for a more evolved and sweeping sound. Thankfully, it’s been done without losing the edge, authenticity and intelligence that has made them one of the best bands around. I Got Heaven is an emotionally complicated album running the gamut of feelings from lust and love to anger and hatred. Plus, who else could pull off the line “what if Jesus himself ate my fucking snatch?” – Josh Chesler

Mary Timony — Untame the Tiger

Mary Timony Untame the TIger

Indie rock lifer Timony (Helium, Wild Flag) wrote her first solo album in 15 years during a rough period that included the dissolution of a relationship and the deaths of both her parents. The lyrics, understandably, get a little heavy: “In the end, loneliness, I guess you’ve been a friend / Am I driven to emptiness, or does it just come to me?,” she sings on “The Guest.” As always, Timony’s guitar playing makes even her saddest songs a joy to absorb, whether it’s an expressive slide lead on “The Guest” or the Tom Verlaine-style vibrato on the expansive six-minute opener “No Thirds.” Legendary British drummer Dave Mattacks (Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span) plays on a few songs, enhancing Untame the Tiger’s contemplative ‘70s psych-rock grandeur. – Al Shipley

Mdou Moctar — Funeral for Justice

Mdou Moctar, Funeral for Justice

Moctar is one of the more fascinating characters to come onto the rock scene in recent years — a self-taught guitar virtuoso from Niger who has been described as playing with the charisma of Jimi Hendrix while conjuring a heady brew of punk, Arabic and African music. What’s more, the cathartic joy of songs such as “Imouhar,” “Sousoume Tamacheq” and the title track comes in startling contrast to their messages, which urge Moctar’s Tuareg brethren to continue fighting against oppression and for the preservation of their dwindling heritage. There’s something at once ancient, sacred and ultra-modern going on here, and it’s a welcome psych-rock rallying cry against the imperialistic assholes with whom we can never seem to dispense. – Jonathan Cohen

Nathalie Joachim — Ki moun ou ye

nathalie joachim ki moun ou ye

“Who are you?” Nathalie Joachim asks, in Haitian kreýol, on the title track of this arresting album. That question sparks an intimate, urgent exploration by this Haitian/American composer, singer, musician and activist into her own identity. More questions follow (“Whose names are these?” “Who once owned us?”) as skittering electronic accompaniment heightens the charge. Joachim’s artistry is rooted equally in Haiti, her Brooklyn upbringing and her classical training. On the deeply yearning “Kenbe m,” she weaves in the voice of her late grandmother singing a hymn that translates roughly as “Thank you for holding my hand in yours.” And with that, one of the year’s most creatively and personally ambitious albums becomes one of its most moving. — S.H.

Pearl Jam — Dark Matter

Dark Matter

These Seattle rock standard-bearers haven’t sounded this consistently vital on record since 2006’s self-titled album, a fact attributable to the spontaneity with which this material was written and quickly put to tape with superfan producer Andrew Watt. Eddie Vedder and company also openly nod to their sonic past more than ever before, with the tense, huge-sounding title cut, the riff-driven, groovy Ten-era throwback “Waiting for Stevie” and the chiming earworm “Wreckage” leaping to life straight off of grunge’s back pages. Watt’s shiny, compression-heavy production takes some getting used to, but thanks to songs as superlative as opener “Scared of Fear” and the Police/Devo homage “React, Respond,” Dark Matter is a bright light in the barren wilderness of 21st century rock’n’roll. – Jonathan Cohen

Ride — Interplay

Ride Interplay

Ride were forerunners in the ‘90s shoegazer scene, but blazed out too quickly. Their restart in 2014 has worked out very well for the British group, resulting in some of their strongest material. On Interplay, the third album post reformation, Ride’s intense walls of guitar sound show up now and then, but that’s not the defining characteristic as it has been in the past. Instead, they explore strings and synths, leaving some breathing room, most notably on opener “Peace Sign” and closer “Yesterday Is Just a Song.” Where previous Ride albums found new heights during live performances, Interplay is best suited for solitary listening. – Lily Moayeri

Shakira — Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran

Shakira — Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran

Following a public breakup with longtime partner Gerard Piqué, the Colombian pop icon channeled her fury and resilience into an LP whose title translates in English to Women No Longer Cry. On heartbreaking ballads such as “Monotonía” and “Última,” she opens up about the dissolution of their relationship amid reports of infidelity. Shakira also joins forces with Argentine producer Bizarrap for the searing “BZRP Music Sessions #53,” where she tears into Piqué and his new girlfriend with clever wordplay. Then, through the surge of feel-good pop on the Cardi B-assisted “Puntería” and “Cohete” featuring Rauw Alejandro, Shakira reveals she is back on the prowl for romance. – Lucas Villa

Shannon and the Clams — The Moon Is in the Wrong Place

Shannon and the Clams — The Moon is in the Wrong Place

Once you hear the story of what inspired this album—frontwoman Shannon Shaw’s fiancé, Joe Haener, dying in a terrible accident—you might think you know what to expect. However, as I said in my May feature aligned with the album’s release, there is nothing funereal about this album. Rather, Shannon and her trusted friends/bandmates chose to create a collection of songs to honor Joe’s life (hence, the undeniably joyful “Bean Fields”). That said, smack dab in the middle of the tracklist lies “Real or Magic,” a certifiable gut-wrencher, and possibly one of the best singles of the year. – L.L.

The Last Dinner Party – Prelude to Ecstasy

The Last Dinner Party – Prelude to Ecstasy

Glamour and grandeur are the tentpoles for the Last Dinner Party’s irresistible melodies and sly lyricism, as the songs here are less about love and more focused on sexual encounters. A cleverly crafted amalgamation of aural and visual, the Last Dinner Party is musical theater and perfect pop. The lyrics beg to be acted out, with Abigail Morris’ gorgeous vocals serving as conductor. Case in point from “Caesar on a TV Screen”: “And just for a second, I could be one of the greats / I’ll be Caesar on a TV screen, champion of my fate.” Dramatic and polished, Prelude to Ecstasy is on repeat. – L.M.

The LibertinesAll Quiet on the Eastern Esplanade

The Libertines All Quiet On The Eastern Esplenade

If you read our April feature, it’s clear the notorious post-punkers are in a new, comparatively subdued phase of adulthood. All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanade, their fourth studio album, reflects an undeniable musical maturity, but they haven’t lost the piss and vinegar (I say this with love) that defined them as a band from the beginning. Songs like “Night of the Hunter” tell a raw and beautiful story in edgy, creative melody, while the song that precedes it, “Oh Shit,” reminds us they’ll forever be garage-band hooligans. Some (like me) could easily argue this is the band at their best. – L.L.

The Smile — Wall of Eyes

The Smile — Wall of Eyes

After emerging in 2021 as a Radiohead side project, the Smile have proven a sterling standalone band and then some. Season two of the Jonny, Thom and Tom show is lush, brilliantly layered and brimming with daring transformations. Booming, bouncing dub leads to a Krautrock cruise (“Read the Room”), rhumba rhythmics dissolve into celestial Eno (“Under Our Pillows”) and at the album’s apex, minimalist genteel jazz gives way to Hendrix fronting My Bloody Valentine (“Bending Hectic”). Radiohead’s status is now a moot point, since clearly these legends are having the time of their lives. Just join in already. – Jonathan Rowe

Waxahatchee – Tigers Blood

Waxahatchee Tigers Blood

Tigers Blood
, Katie Crutchfield’s latest album as Waxahatchee, grows more magical with every listen, with infectious melodies that evoke a warm summer day in the South. The record is a sweet yet sad reflection on relationships, family dynamics and the passing of time. From her mesmerizing duet with alt-country star MJ Lenderman on the love song “Right Back to It,” to the stunning slide guitar-led ballad “Crimes of the Heart,” Crutchfield has crafted some of the best work of her career. – Tatiana Tenreyro

Faye Webster — Underdressed at the Symphony

Faye Webster — Underdressed at the Symphony

Nobody makes the post-breakup haze sound as elegant as Webster. Across 10 mordantly funny vignettes, the songwriter flirts with contradictory desires (“But Not Kiss”), drowns her grief in eBay therapy (“eBay Purchase History”), cries at the local orchestra (“Underdressed at the Symphony”) and embraces little pleasures to keep the sadness at bay (“Feeling Good Today”). She also luxuriates in a mini-symphony of her own on lush, beautiful slow-burners like “Thinking About You” and “Lifetime,” which stretch out her sound into a kind of expansive, soft-rock melancholy. — Z.S.

Willow — Empathogen

Willow Empathogen

As the daughter of two movie stars, Willow Smith has grown up in the spotlight and seemed poised for pop stardom since her 2010 debut single “Whip My Hair.” Instead, she’s since embarked on a restlessly exploratory career, drifting from neo-soul to punk/pop. On her sixth solo album, Smith and frequent collaborator Chris Greatti pivot once again, from power chords to math-y, complex arrangements full of jazzy piano and a more nuanced, relaxed vocal style. Even Empathogen’s biggest hooks on “Big Feelings” and “Symptom of Life” ping pong around trippy 7/8 rhythms. Although guest spots from St. Vincent and Jon Batiste add a new element, Smith stakes out new creative territory that doesn’t quite sound like what anybody else is doing right now. – A.S.