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.

Pull the Rope


There’s no weak entry in the Ibibio Sound Machine discography, and Pull the Rope is no exception. The London-based collective continue experimenting with different permutations of highlife, electropop, and funk on their fifth full-length release, making the most of every moment. This album, in particular, stands out as an exceptionally seamless blend of everything they do well, brass meeting beats and sending sparks flying. As is often the case in Ibibio Sound Machine’s work, there are plenty of retro moments, but the overall package comes across as chic and contemporary. In the last ten years, Ibibio Sound Machine have gone from being exciting transcontinental party upstarts to a soulful, sophisticated phenomenon. Pull the Rope is a refreshing new chapter for a perpetually vibrant group. – Adriane Pontecorvo


(Planet Mu)

Jlin uses 21st-century technology to craft thunderously percussive, often jittery music that swats genres away like flies. That it can still influence furious, spontaneous street-level dance moves only allows that particular physical expression further recognition for the high art that it is. On Akoma, composers long recognized for their innovations, such as Glass, the Kronos Quartet, and Björk, are pulled into her orbit. As if she needed any of their recognition for some sort of compositional validity her music hasn’t already insisted on. Jlin generates vivid visual music. She is constantly connected, consciously or not, with more rooted folk forms, from Ghanaian Ewe drumming and dance to Haitian funereal brass bands. Her results sound like none of that, but somewhere, underneath the layers of beats and snippets of melody, she tosses off like corn husks, dwells fossils, and bones with stories to tell us. – Bruce Miller



The sound of a musician is their signature and their center. In American music, you aren’t much until you have one of your own, and it’s abundantly clear that tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis owns an instantly recognizable sound that is blossoming into one of the most commanding forces in creative music.

I know that comparisons to John Coltrane‘s classic quartet with McCoy Tyner‘s piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums can be tiring and facile. But Transfiguration is so good that it compels the reference. Chad Taylor uses rolling polyrhythms to make many of the performances (“Empirical Perception” most of all) Elvin-ish in the way that the drums are constantly in conversation with whoever is “soloing”. In the same tune, Ortiz plays a rolling, roiling solo that updates the sound of Tyner/Jones to include the expressive abstractions of pianist Don Pullen and Cecil Taylor. At their best, the Coltrane quartet was a door opening to possibility rather than a singly-conceived and locked-in style. – Will Layman

I Got Heaven


Mannequin Pussy are an enigma if not for their name, then for their style. The Philadelphia rock outfit combines hardcore punk and power pop, two genres that couldn’t be more opposite. Yet, they make it work and have been making it work since their inception. I Got Heaven, their fourth studio album and second release on Epitaph, finds the group at their most mature, actualized, and invigorated with the help of studio subtleties, producer James Connoton, new guitarist Maxine Steen, and a more collaborative songwriting approach.

I Got Heaven has a little bit for everyone. If you enjoy a sugar pop song, they have it. If you like songs that move fast and vicious, they have that too. Mannequin Pussy can move seamlessly between extremes, but they don’t usually mix the two entirely. Songs either lie in the power pop or punk hardcore categories. Their ability to switch between the two is impressive. Hearing one of their pop songs, you would never guess they also write fast punk songs. – Brandon Miller

Going Through It

(Royal Mountain)

Eliza McLamb is an angry “Sixteen”. One might even say that she’s mad, although McLamb infers that’s what her mother should be called because of the mental illness that landed her in the hospital. The first-person narrator also has psychological issues: she suffers from an eating disorder and likes to slice her arms with razor blades in the bathtub. She gets through life by getting smoking pot and working at a perfumery in the mall. The explicit details express the superficiality of her individual experiences. There’s a refreshing bitterness to McLamb’s confessional diatribes that connects her self-admitted personal failures to the larger society’s communal failures. This is pop music spiked with something stronger than liquor. She knows that happiness is just an illusion yet can’t help but simultaneously want and reject it. – Steve Horowitz

Funeral for Justice


Prodigious guitar skills have always been at the core of Nigerien artist Mdou Moctar‘s outrageously dextrous rock music, a blazing take on the Saharan tishoumaren style associated with artists like Tinariwen and Bombino. On Funeral for Justice, Moctar and his band make music notable both for what it demonstrates of his creative palette and for its unyielding anti-colonial politics. These aspects are wholly inextricable as they drive Moctar and his group forward in making perhaps the most vital and certainly the most energetic work of their career so far. For an artist as brilliant as Moctar, that’s really saying something.

Even by Mdou Moctar’s high standards, Funeral for Justice is extraordinary. It is searing in music and lyrics, with messages that are essential in a world on fire and whose sounds can carry those messages far and wide. More than any previous Mdou Moctar album, it feels alive: Moctar and his whole band are in the room with their listeners, fanning the flames of righteous resolve and reminding us that if justice is dead, there’s no more fitting tribute to it than raising our voices on its behalf. – Adriane Pontecorvo

Up on Gravity Hill

(Sub Pop)

After a decade of relentless, pummeling noise punk reminiscent of the Jesus Lizard and bands from the late, great Amphetamine Reptile label, METZ deliver their most accessible work yet on Up on Gravity Hill. Even when the guitars pummel as they have on earlier signature tracks like “Sad Pricks” from their debut or “Mess of Wires” from Strange Peace, they don’t stay there, swirling into sounds that are downright cinematic at times. This is widescreen METZ, an unexpected gearshift from one of heavy indie’s most reliable bands, and a triumph.

Up on Gravity Hill opens with the massive, six-minute “No Reservation/Love Comes Crashing”, which starts off with a classic METZ mix of shouts and noise but builds to a pretty chorus and finally to an exhilarating finish. It also features violin from Owen Pallett. Not only is this one of the band’s very best songs, it sets the tone for the remaining seven tracks’ risks and rewards. – Brian Stout

Forest Scenes
(NNA Tapes)

Juilliard-trained cellist-turned-experimental sound deconstructionist MIZU employs “hyperreal” field recordings throughout her sophomore album Forest Scenes. But where ambient and ambient-adjacent forms of music often convey stillness, MIZU’s work nearly bursts with activity. At times, Forest Scenes mimics the clamor of nature waking up to the start of the day (or night) — birds, insects, breezes, and creaking wood all feature prominently throughout. 

At other times, though, MIZU captures the cold, mechanized grinding of modernity. She blends both modes in ingenious ways, the richness of her sonic constructions as mesmerizing as it is detailed. With Forest Scenes, MIZU stakes out bold, new ground for both the cello and electronic/electro-acoustic music. You probably haven’t heard the cello quite like this before, and MIZU’s ingenuity on the instrument is nothing less than a marvel. – Saby Reyes-Kulkarni


(Temporary Residence)

Steve Albini helmed the boards for much of MONO’s work, including their new LP, Oath. As a consequence, listening to this new release conjures an unanticipated sense of melancholy, especially given the title theme of faith and commitment that organizes the affecting instrumental tracks at hand. It appears that the idea behind Oath regards personal commitment and the connections we make with other people. One can understand this record as MONO reaffirming its devotion to a certain style as well as to its audience. Yet the unexpected passing of Albini makes this theme even more poignant. This isn’t a lachrymose LP – “Hear the Wind Sing”, “We All Shine On”, and the title track are all passionately uplifting – though it comes close in this recent, unforeseen context. With mixed, bittersweet feelings, you listen with both a smile on your face and a lump in your throat. – Christopher J. Lee


(Thirty Tigers)

John Moreland‘s last album, 2022’s Birds in the Ceiling, differed greatly from his previous folk-country efforts. Simply put, the record featured a host of electronic effects. His latest one, Visitoris a solo, acoustic effort featuring traditional instruments. It’s unlike both his earlier recordings and his digital one in fundamental ways. Visitor is basically a solo record. It is much more introspective and less narrative than his earlier recordings, and it’s personal and quiet.

The singer-songwriter saves the title track for last. John Moreland declares he is the “Visitor” who doesn’t feel at home on Earth. The musician is aware of the irony of having to be alone to discover he needed others—or at least one other—to belong. Moreland’s gift to listeners is rooted in his alienation. We visit his world as a way to find ourselves. – Steve Horowitz