Best 50 Albums of 2024 So Far

The 50 Best Albums of 2024 So Far

The 50 best albums of 2024 offer sublime music as major artists return with new work and brilliant new sounds bubble up from the underground and worldwide.

Night Reign

In terms of atmosphere and execution, Night Reign – Arooj Aftab‘s fourth solo LP following her acclaimed 2021 release, Vulture Prince – is filled with dark, mysterious corners and an intoxicating blend of jazz and Aftab’s Pakistani roots. Born in Saudi Arabia to Pakistani parents, Aftab moved to Pakistan at ten and then to the United States at 19, attending the Berklee College of Music. This blend of global upbringing and traditional music education has affected the music Aftab makes and her ability to blend a variety of styles without ever seeming forced. Making these disparate styles seem like an inevitable combination – speaks volumes about her musical talent and prowess. Throughout the history of recorded music, there’s a long list of works that are best experienced at night, under the cover of stars: Miles Davis‘ Kind of BluePortishead‘s DummyRadiohead‘s Kid A. You can add Arooj Aftab’s beautiful Night Reign to the upper echelon of that list. – Chris Ingalls

Musow Dance

(Real World)

On Les Amazones d’Afrique’s third album, Musow Dance, their lineup shifts again, and the energy is as vital as ever as the group continue to celebrate womanhood over some of their most engaging beats to date. Joining founder Keïta this time around are Fafa Ruffino (Benin), Kandy Guira (Burkina Faso), Dobet Gnahoré (Côte d’Ivoire), and new addition Alvie Bitemo (Congo-Brazzaville), with Nneka (Nigeria) making brief but welcome appearances. Each artist brings their own language and vocal color to a musical tapestry united by the production of Jacknife Lee.

Musow Dance makes for a brilliant third installation in the Les Amazones d’Afrique discography thus far. Recording isn’t the group’s only activity. Their personnel changes much more gradually from live show to live show, but for those of us out of reach of touring, each new release is a gift, wondrous and fresh. With so many important messages and vibrant artists in the mix, how could they be anything other than invigorating? – Adriane Pontecorvo

The Obsession With Her Voice

In The Obsession With Her VoiceErika Angell successfully dances between echoes of jazz, free improvisation, opera, and dark blues without ever being trapped in a single mode; her muse is sufficiently light-footed that she avoids being sucked into any single, predictable genre; her songs evoking a range of forebears without ever being anything over than unique. Angell has a deep track record of producing intriguing music across numerous different bands and outlets, but here, under her own name, it feels like she’s created her masterwork. At a time when there are so many talented women with something to say across all genres or busy collapsing any remaining lines between them, The Obsession With Her Voice deserves to be rated among the finest. – Nick Soulsby


Brat is a perfect pop record over a decade in the making, a distilled and bottled cool that sings with fully realized potential, the release of inhibitions, the kind of confidence that can only be earned through shame, and the sort of hooks that God touches you with. Brat is next-level Charli XCX, a miracle and an instant classic. It’s the kind of album that makes you feel lucky to be alive at the same time as it.

It’s a full delivery on the promise of Charli XCX: the coolest, finally recognizing that she is the fucking coolest. Rarely does a magnum opus come so late in a career like this, but seldom is there a career like Charli’s. Where Pop 2 and Charli were striving, tense, and too anxious to prove their worth, Brat is the sound of pure release. Dancefloors shake, tears flow, every path is exhausted, dreams shatter, and new ones are born, on repeat forever. Brat is an album for people who want everything on their terms, and if Charli XCX is any evidence, many of them will get it. – Nick Malone

Final Summer

(Pure Noise)

Few indie rock bands this century have been able to make one banger after another. Many flavors of the month have fallen off, broken up, or both. But for the past 15 or so years, Cloud Nothings have delivered record after record of catchy, energetic songs without getting stale or repetitive. While that might not get headlines every time, there’s something to be said for their ability to continue delivering hook-filled records with intelligent, sometimes heart-rending lyrics.

The latest installment is Final Summer, and the streak remains unbroken. Saying a group’s latest release is more of the same sounds like a backhanded compliment, but Cloud Nothings don’t have to reinvent themselves every time out. There is no need to fix what isn’t broken. – Brian Stout

Thoughts & Prayers


CNTS’ Thoughts & Prayers weds socially conscious energy to riotous punk rock crunch and songs that just wanna have fun. Who wouldn’t enjoy yelling: “I’m still a shit-talking smart mouth son of a bitch!” as a chorus line? The quintet of Matt Cronk (vocals), Koko Arabian (rhythm), Kevin Avery (drums), Rico Adair (bass), and Michael Crain (lead) have created a tight album that brings the hothouse vibe of a crammed club, bare concrete walls, bodies slamming in from all angles and crowd-surfers hemming you in from above – I mean that as a compliment.

The closer, “Drown”, stands out from its first moments as CNTS build one at a time into an all-in slam, then everything cuts to a spinetingling tap-tap-tap before returning with new levels of dissonance and discord matching the song’s sentiments. It’s intriguing how CNTS keep up the pressure on Thoughts & Prayers from start to finish, with each change of mood ratcheting the energy up. That ability to move in a direction beyond loud/quiet, fast/slow, marks out the group’s talent, which shows across this profoundly compelling marriage of words, music, and emotion. – Nick Soulsby

Le Futur Ça Marche Pas

(Bongo Joe)

Swiss duo Cyril Cyril hold nothing back lyrically on Le Futur Ça Marche Pas. Opening track “Le Mensonge” (translating to “the lie”) features a melancholy litany of complaints about the world’s unsavory qualities–it is, the Cyrils sing, spoiled, stingy, cowardly, violent, poisonous, and many other things–amid despondent verses on late capitalism and a worldwide proliferation of misinformation. It’s the first of many overt protests against the disasters of the status quo, with later tracks decrying lack of climate action, overuse and abuses of artificial intelligence, and all the other human-made and -aggravated crises leading the Cyrils to the dismal conclusion that, per the title, the future we’re moving toward as a species does not work. – Adriane Pontecorvo

As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again

(YABB / Thirty Tigers)

Portland indie-rock band the Decemberists are back with a bang with their ninth album, As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again. Indeed, listening to the record conjures up the feeling of as it ever was—if, suddenly, with one giant swipe, the recent past is erased. It’s a return to form, perhaps even at certain spellbinding moments, reaching the vertiginous heights of Picaresque (2005) and The Crane Wife (2006). According to Colin Meloy, the songwriter behind the Decemberists, it’s their best. What is certain, though, is that As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again works as a summation of the Decemberists’ rich and diverse 20-year history, touching on both their folksy ballads and their more ambitious sonic experimentations. Released as a double LP, each of the four sides acts as a separate chapter yet forms a cohesive whole when listened to as a whole, becoming an entry point for new listeners and a much-welcome addition for seasoned fans. – Jack Walters


(Fat Possum)

PoetryDehd‘s follow-up to Blue Skies (2022), takes their sound another step forward, as they have done with each successive record. The album was largely written on a road trip that took them from Washington’s Bainbridge Island to Taos, New Mexico. They regrouped in their home base in Chicago and recorded the LP with co-producer Ziyad Asrar. The result is that four albums in Dehd continue to deliver their signature sound while evolving slightly in some positive ways.   

The three-piece piece act conceal their complexity behind seemingly simple instrumentation. Dehd’s deception is that they often build sophisticated sound structures upon contrasting parts (“Mood Ring”, “So Good”). At any time, they can drop the entire weight of their music for maximum impact (“Alien”, “Light On”). Poetry is three musicians locked in but also willing to expand the confines of their sound. – Patrick Gill


(Greenleaf Music)

Gifts is a spectacular success. Douglas chose tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis as his partner in the front line on most of the tracks, putting the leader’s tart but tender trumpet in conversation with an improviser whose authority and flexibility seem to be everywhere in 2024. Given that Douglas has been paired with both Joe Lovano and Jon Irabagon in recent years, you can be sure that a strong presence like Lewis makes Gifts a promising release.

The music on Gifts is utterly specific to these four human beings, with their quirks, strengths, and impulses in the moment, who were encountering each other for the first time on this date. Rafiq Bhatia plays like himself, and his guitar sound and approach alter Dave Douglas’ trumpet as they dance — the same with Lewis and Chang — and the group become a living thing, and one even more marvelous and magical as they transform the Billy Strayhorn music that was imagined 75 or 80 years ago. Gifts all around, and a gift for our ears, not to mention our souls. – Will Layman