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.

The Tortured Poets Department


Considering the balladeering second half of Taylor Swift‘s The Tortured Poets Department, which includes 15 additional tracks, most of which are really strong, almost-acoustic folk-pop numbers, it could be perceived as her magnum opus. If only Swift’s team had the courage and recklessness to release this version as the basic, its instant hit to modern classic alongside, say, Fiona Apple‘s Fetch the Bolt Cutters or Beyoncé’s Renaissance would be guaranteed.

However, the fact that they chose a different path doesn’t make our little discussion less exciting. The delicate and cunning songcraft of this record, even when being listened to without the second hour, becomes evident from the first word. In the best opening track in her career, buoyant Kavinsky/Chvrches-influenced synthpop with eight-bit synth plucks, Taylor Swift smartly uses this British term “Fortnight” to, presumably appeal simultaneously to two of her British exes, Joe Alwyn and Matty Healy, who allegedly became muses of this project.

Jack Antonoff finally reduced her bright pop sound to as minimal and synth-based tunes as possible. With Aaron Dessner’s and Taylor Swift’s help, he beamed her sonics up by laying all her signature pop structures into an almost National-like sound. Even the cover of The Tortured Poets Department’s standard edition is reminiscent of the light color palette of their later LPs. Sonically, Tortured Poets continues the synth-based direction with the intimate electronic production of Midnights, but in an even more lightweight way, as if it’s no longer midnight but early morning just after dawn. – Igor Bannikov

What an Enormous Room


Despite its reserved, dry, soft, and tranquil harmonies, Torres’ What an Enormous Room sounds even more poppy and self-confident than its predecessors, with its multilayered, luscious yet intimate arrangements and a lot of ringing void. If Brian Eno‘s Ambient 1 was music for airports, Torres’ offering is a soundtrack for enormous empty rooms. It’s noteworthy that Torres winks at David Byrne and Eno in two of her nearly most electronic songs. “Jerk into Joy” resonates almost like a deep house cut by way of a slightly slowed-down Romy, with a spoken-word part which calls to mind Talking Heads’ chants (“You may ask yourself, ‘What is that beautiful house?’”, Byrne echoes her). “Songbird Forever” is an utterly ambient-ish, birdsong-laden coda into which the entire album dissolves at the end, making one little “jerk into joy” at the threshold of a new life. Then there’s “Forever Home”, a lightweight art pop with almost St. Vincent-esque vocals. This triptych of tranquility, closing What an Enormous Room on a positive note, is preceded by a buoyant first half of the record, which does “hit a nerve”. – Igor Bannikov



On OrquisideasKali Uchis again proves she is the Queen of Concept, delivering a clever, thoughtful album inspired by the “timeless, eerie, mystic, striking, graceful, and sensual allure of the orchid”. If there’s one thing that becomes clear on Orquisideas, it’s that there’s no such thing as Latin music. More specifically, there are many kinds of music made by Latinas. The orchid is the national flower of Columbia, where Uchis spent a lot of time growing up. It’s a poignant image, in all its vibrant fragility, begging the question: what’s possible in a supportive environment? Orchids are some of the most beautiful, striking organisms on Earth.

The question Kali Uchis implies seems explicit – what would the world be like if Latinas were supported? She uses the sweet, fragrant delicacy of the orchid as a launchpad to explore her roots as well as, more broadly, the broad influence and impact Latinas have had on music. Orquisideas is a highlight in a career with zero misses. Uchis is clearly an artist on the ascent, coming in hot with two nearly-perfect pop records in less than a year. To see such a young artist – emerging from the underground, no less – couldn’t be more exciting. – J. Simpson

Pick-Up Full of Pink Carnations

(Thirty Tigers)

Pick-Up Full of Pink Carnations is the perhaps inevitable course correction, back-to-basics, return-to-form endeavor. Sonically, it is more like the Vaccines’ beloved debut, What Did You Expect From the Vaccines? (2011) than anything they have done in the interim. The songs are, for the most part, punchy and short; the ten-track album clocks in at just over half an hour. The tempos are mostly fast, the arrangements are watertight, and there is plenty of eighth-note strumming. Quiet/loud dynamics punctuated by thumping toms are employed generously and effectively. The drums are mixed to the verge of distortion, all the better to quite literally give the listener a buzz. Synths are used only for mood and embellishment. – John Bergstrom

Only God Was Above Us


Let’s start with the headline. In Only God Was Above UsVampire Weekend sound like Vampire Weekend again. Father of the Bride (2019) was a sunny folk-rock record where roughly half of the tracks felt like vocalist Ezra Koenig fronting a different band with Danielle Haim. Not only did guitarist Rostam Batmanglij leave the group before the record, but bassist Chris Baio and drummer Chris Tomson didn’t play on it either. Only God Was Above Us has plenty of interesting wrinkles, but it’s recognizably connected to what Vampire Weekend did over their first three albums. Only God Was Above Us demonstrates that melodic, clean guitars are welcome but optional and that they have plenty of other tricks up their sleeves. – Chris Conaton

There’s Always a Song

(Oh Boy / Thirty Tigers)

Singer-songwriter Kelsey Waldon hails from the small town of Monkey’s Eyebrow, Kentucky. She finds inspiration in old-time country music, which has given her self-penned compositions the patina of authenticity. Waldon performs some of her favorite songs from the past in their original styles on her latest album, There’s Always a Song. Waldon mostly lays down the tracks like one might empty an old trunk full of vintage clothes. She carefully preserves their archival beauty. For the most part, Waldon doesn’t update the words, speed up the delivery, or add contemporary instrumentation. She does add a few minor tweaks to the original material, but on the whole, she presents the songs in an old-fashioned way. – Steve Horowitz

Fearless Movement

(Young Turks)

The commercial survival of jazz often depends on artists transcending genres to draw in listeners from a broad musical spectrum. Fortunately, for tenor saxophonist Kamasi Washington, transcendence is a natural part of his musical vision rather than a tabulation of opportunity. His latest record, Fearless Movement, is less a conventional jazz album than a brilliant exploration of the hybrid potential in jazz, pop, hip-hop, and classic R&B. Fearless Movement, Washington’s first studio release in six years, continues expanding his influence range. Half of the album’s 12 tracks emphasize instrumental jazz, while the others encompass a wealth of influences, from classic soul to contemporary rap. Harmonized voices carry the melodies, wafting in and out of tunes like a Greek chorus shining encouragement on the vocal and instrumental soloists. – Peter Thomas Webb

Love in Constant Spectacle


Although Jane Weaver‘s music resonates most strongly at the avant-garde end of the British indie pop scene, her work is accessible enough to make it something of a mystery why mainstream attention has so far eluded her. On Love in Constant Spectacle, her 11th solo album (not counting EPs, collaborations, and soundtrack music with Fenella), Weaver inches ever closer to the kind of music able to transcend its idiosyncrasies.

Producer John Parish, best known for his work with PJ Harvey, plays a role in taming some of Weaver’s experimental instincts without sacrificing her uniqueness. “Emotional Components”, “Love in Constant Spectacle”, and “Univers” could all fit quite comfortably on mainstream radio or playlists without raising too many eyebrows. At the same time, Weaver’s maverick personality and love of obscure and arcane influences remain prevalent in her latest music. – Peter Thomas Webb

Where’s My Utopia?


Yard Act‘s Where’s My Utopia? is at once a mother lode of cool sounds, an incisive critique of late capitalism, a heartfelt meditation on the costs, promises, burdens, and futility of fame, and a forecast of apocalyptic change from Brexit to the climate crisis. Like the best pop music today, it straddles a knife edge between ironic mockery and earnest revelation. By refusing to resolve either way, Yard Act strive to puncture pop’s utopian aspirations in the same gesture that they want to live up to them. It’s an approach that wouldn’t have worked in the irony-laden 1990s they grew up in, but it’s ideally suited for our post-pandemic moment.

The results are distinguished not only by magpie sampling, talk-singing, and genre-blending but also by a new embrace of the emotional extremes offered by the coming apocalypse and the need for emotional openness and any form of consolation available. When this music works, as more often than not in the songs on Where’s My Utopia?, it reminds us not just that art can do nothing to stop the march of destruction but also that it actually can, somehow, more than most anything else. Yard Act tell us that they’re not so sure this is true, but they still desperately want it to be. – David Pike


(Real World)

Maisha is a triumph, an endlessly satisfying assemblage of textures and timbres. The Zawose Queens emerge as deservedly confident performers who know exactly how to deliver the messages on their minds, honoring the past and engaging every moment of the present with full hearts. Their voices are nimble, their collaborators masterful. Each instrument, human or otherwise, sings with a clarity that draws attention to how many sounds populate this ecosystem, from the metallic buzzing of ilimba and the soothing hollow of hand drums to the sharp pangs of wide-ranging strings and voices unbound. Pendo and Leah are capable culture bearers in their own right. On Maisha, they embody a bold sonic spectrum of traditions, which they present with vigor and grace. – Adriane Pontecorvo