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.

Radical Optimism


With the help of Kevin Parker and Danny L. Harle, Dua Lipa’s Radical Optimism sounds like Tame Impala meets PC Music and goes to headline Glastonbury. It’s easy to focus solely on Parker’s production in Radical Optimism, which would not be correct. Still, writing only about Lipa’s authorship of this record would be equally unfair. Regardless of the percentage of contributions, this is a win-win for both the co-creators and, more importantly, for the indie scene and pop music. The former gains another precedent for the successful reinvention of stadium-worthy hits with indie music tools, and the latter is really diverse and sophisticated production. – Igor Bannikov

Audio Vertigo


Audio Vertigo, Elbow’s tenth studio album, is both a return to form and a step into new musical territory. The sound familiar to long-term listeners remains prevalent, while elements of funk and Eurodisco creep into the grooves. A few songs, especially “Things I’ve Been Telling Myself for Years” and “Good Blood Mexico City”, are the hardest rock the group has produced in years. The lockdown lyricism of Elbow’s previous album, 2021’s Flying Dream 1, is replaced by a new expansive energy.

For all the newfound drive in the music, Guy Garvey’s lyrics retain their usual bittersweet reveries. Single lines stand out like bolded text: “Here’s to walking into every room like ascending for an Oscar”; “You’re a slender and elegant foot on the neck”; “There’s no cocaine in this cocaine”; “When the sun goes down the night explodes in their eyes.” Conveying tenderness, frustration, and dark humor, such lines stand out amid the complex relationships and personal futilities revealed in the songs. – Peter Thomas Webb


(Little Human)

It’s rare to find a pop star who can claim to be genuinely revolutionary, but Tunisian singer-songwriter Emel Mathlouthi fits both descriptors equally well. Her 2010 song “Kelmti Horra” brought her work to a global audience when it became an Arab Spring anthem, and she’s continued to fight the good fight–creatively–ever since. As Emel, she makes genuinely global music, collaborating with artists worldwide and drawing on an even broader range of sonic styles in massively appealing ways. The new album, MRA (Arabic for “woman”), continues this body of politically engaged work and is perhaps her most expansive release yet.

Emel’s team across MRA is made up of women from the world over, including up-and-coming artists like Malian rapper Ami Yerewolo, Brazilian producer Lyzza, French singers Camélia Jordana, Penelope Antena and Katel, and many others. Each artist brings their own language, perspective, and style to a nonetheless cohesive mix of politically potent tracks. – Adriane Pontecorvo

Keeper of the Shepherd


“The brilliance of the day waits for you to wake again,” sings Hannah Frances at the beginning of “Bronwyn”, the opening track of her new album, Keeper of the Shepherd. “Patient in the way I waited for you to love me again.” A lilting but off-kilter time signature carries the song along as oddly tuned, slightly dissonant acoustic and electric guitars are intertwined. Frances maintains a woodsy, avant-folk sound that is both inviting and curiously unsettling. You can hear Nick DrakeJeff Buckley, and Joni Mitchell in these songs, but also RadioheadKate Bush, and the progressive folk of Pentangle.

Keeper of the Shepherd is a meditation on love and loss, “grief spurred by the death of her father”, according to the album’s press materials, “internalized patriarchal harm from years of religious trauma, and a collection of hollow, shorn relationships”. Frances is adept at crafting elegantly and eloquently poetic lyrics, but they are accompanied by lush, complex, and deeply felt music. On Keeper of the Shepherd, she places herself among eclectic, “complete” artists like Joni Mitchell and Jeff Buckley. She’s a keeper of the shepherd, sure, but also a carrier of the torch. – Chris Ingalls

People Who Aren’t There Anymore


Only a few weeks into 2024, the indomitable Future Islands gave us a new album that is neither escapist nor overtly social or political in its purpose or commentary. People Who Aren’t There Anymore provides a torch in dark times. It gives hope. This is a more introspective recording, as implied by the title. Across its 12 songs that reach three-quarters of an hour, loss and mortality are abiding themes. Songs like “Deep in the Night”, “Say Goodbye”, and “Give Me the Ghost Back’ construct spare worlds of disconnection, absence, and longing. In this manner, the unrequited sensibility of “Seasons (Waiting on You)” returns once more.

With its imagery and abstract sentiments, “The Tower” is one of the best tracks on People Who Aren’t There Anymore. Herring is known for his literary references – The Far Field is titled after a collection by Theodore Roethke – and other tracks allude to other poets. The excellent opening song “King of Sweden” may or may not be inspired by William Wordsworth’s “The King of Sweden”. Either way, Herring brings the force of his intelligence to bear on the musical proceedings, adding weight to the danceable beats that take listeners in another direction. – Christopher J. Lee

Lives Outgrown


Beth Gibbons’ Lives Outgrown faces the coming of death and its inescapability, a reality we all share. For Gibbons as a solo artist, 2019’s live collaboration with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, Henryk Górecki: Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs) mined the melancholy majesty of that death-saturated piece. Lives Outgrown, then, seems like an outgrowth of where Gibbons’ mind and talents have taken her in the past decade, which is to ruminate on how life is a vapor.

Lives Outgrown, focusing on life’s ticking clock, resumes the folk stylings of Out of Season but with some significant changes in instrumentation and production. “Tell Me Who You Are Today” is cleverly mixed so that Gibbons’ voice appears to call and respond to itself and emerge from different spaces. Her acoustic guitar and the string arrangement, here and in other songs like “Burden of Life”, are redolent of A Moon Shaped Pool-era Radiohead, a band Portishead and its members have always been in something of a conversation with, even if that exchange was mostly in mutual artistic influence. – Thomas Britt

The Collective


Kim Gordon‘s No Home Record and The Collective were produced by Justin Raisen, known for his work with Charli XCX and Sky Ferreira. The Collective is even denser, more unrelenting. Together, they further explore the loops and noisy guitars used brilliantly on that record. Thematically, this is an album of the times, influenced by SoundCloud rap and jumping from topic to topic. The lead single and opening track, “BYE BYE”, produced by SADPONY, is an alluring and addictive mix of stabs of guitar and drum loops. Gordon recites her packing list for a trip, and it is far more riveting than it should be as she name-drops designers and luxury items alongside mundane ones.

Who had Kim Gordon making a collection of trunk-rattling near hip-hop and industrial noise on their 2024 bingo card? The Collective is hard to pin down, but that is part of what makes it so compelling. –
Brian Stout

Deep Sage


Gouge Away’s Deep Sage delivers heavy hooks that recall 1990s alternative greats without losing that hardcore fury that put them on the map. Gouge Away’s debut, Dies, was a politically charged, straight-ahead hardcore record, and the follow-up, Burnt Sugar, was more focused on mental health. Deep Sage continues in that direction thematically but is more introspective, resulting from self-care and self-reflection. Musically, this is their most varied and adventurous record, embracing shoegaze and quieter vocals in some of the most affecting moments. In a different era, “Dallas” and several other Deep Sage tracks would find a home on alternative radio. Instead, we just have to appreciate bands like Gouge Away, who are so good at integrating a range of heavy sounds into something compelling and spreading the word. – Brian Stout  

Eternal Sunshine


Ariana Grande‘s Eternal Sunshine marries the dueling methods of processing pain presented on Sweetener and Thank U, Next, weaving heartbreak throughout an album that never lets the tears spill as freely as they did on “Ghostin”, a ballad from Thank U, Next. The even-handed approach of Eternal Sunshine reframes tabloid drama as hardship with a self-awareness that allows Grande to navigate it without alienating her fanbase. 

Ariana Grande became a definitive voice of her generation by stretching her persona to reflect the fallout of the tragic Manchester bombing. Although her breakout hits were rigid, formulaic pop, Grande has proven to be an amorphous public figure who can experiment musically. Eternal Sunshine strikes new ground by including confessional hits that don’t appear to have a goal beyond the act of confession. Pop music is meant to accomplish something: it’s a genre characterized by a rigid set of expectations for the purpose of commercial success. By definition, there has to be an ulterior motive. – Matthew Dwyer

Sonido Cósmico

(Easy Eye Sound)

Playing together as Hermanos Gutiérrez since 2015, brothers Alejandro and Estevan Gutiérrez made a global splash in 2022 with their fifth album, El Bueno y el Malo. Now, they team up with Dan Auerbach for another Easy Eye Sound release: Sonido Cósmico, an album as expansive as it sounds. In it, they take to the stars, evoking the open spaces of an imagined Wild West and the even greater mystique of the final frontier. Even on a celestial trip like this one, the brothers make do with a streamlined toolkit. Broadly echoing guitars and sparing percussion make up the bulk of the instrumentation, though delicate touches of plugged-in keys–Hammond, Rhodes, Mellotron, Juno, and Farfisa instruments all feature at various points–are vital to lofting the album from the earth toward the moon. – Adriane Pontecorvo