The 50 Best Albums Of 2024 So Far

The 50 Best Albums Of 2024 So Far

In my decade at Stereogum, I’ve helped make a lot of lists. The first time I was asked to contribute to one back in 2014, I was so excited to stuff the proverbial ballot box with personal favorites from that year. (Mitski, LVL UP, Chumped — impeccable taste!) It felt surreal to have some say in a site that I had been reading since I was a teenager. I’ve participated in countless lists since then: biannual album ones, decade-spanning ones, Best New Bands ones, even my beleaguered attempts to codify the year’s best EPs. Throughout all that time, I’ve wavered on how much I value the whole endeavor of list-making, but I could never not vote.

As you might have heard, I have left this site and this is the last Stereogum list I will be directly involved in, at least as a regular staff member. (Who knows if they’ll invite me back?!) The process has become familiar, but I’ve never taken it for granted. Twice a year, we gather together and put forth our favorite albums. We discuss what should or should not be included, try to decide exactly where it should go. I’ve never paid too much attention to the ranking of it all; in my mind, lists have always been more a celebration than a competition, despite the numerical component.

I feel like, as time has gone on, our individual listening habits have become more disparate. But I also feel like, at least in this day and age, that’s the sign of a healthy music publication. Where’s the fun if we’re all listening to exactly the same thing? We do gravitate toward some consensus, which you will see reflected in this list, but I love that there are albums on here that I simply do not care about. That’s OK! We can’t like everything.

The attention economy is brutal. Even the world’s biggest stars are lucky if they’re in the conversation for more than a day. There’s more music than ever — it’s all over there, waiting for you to listen! It’s easy to get overwhelmed and tune out completely. That’s what we’re here for: to help you help you find the best of it. Or, at least I was. For a while.

For this survey, we considered albums from 2024 with release dates no later than May 31. (In past Stereogum midyear lists, June releases were eligible, but not this time.) The most important thing that you can do is champion what you love, and I think that we here at Stereogum have been doing that for a long time. You might disagree with some of our picks, but they’re ours. And we’re eager to hear yours! Please, share your own lists in the comments — I hope they look nothing like this one. That’s exciting.

That’s enough from me, thanks for reading. Dig into Stereogum’s list of The 50 Best Albums Of 2024 So Far below. —James Rettig


Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - Challengers (Original Score) (Milan)

Could it be … the song of the summer? Nothing got my pulse racing this year quite like Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ Challengers theme. It’s simply begging to be played loud and around as many people as possible. Niche, sure, but stranger things have happened. The NIN dream team’s soundtrack to Luca Guadagnino’s tennis sex romp goes beyond the title track, though — see the bratty confidence of “Yeah x10” or the frantic strobing of “Brutalizer.” Reznor is dipping into a well of industrial scuzziness that he hasn’t tapped into much since becoming an in-demand film composer, but it makes so much sense and sounds so good. —James Rettig


David Nance - David Nance And Mowed Sound (Third Man)

A steady stream of new David Nance music regularly arrives on Bandcamp, including lo-fi oddities and album-length covers projects. Those can be fun, but whenever the Omaha rocker and his trusty bandmates release a real-deal album, they do not miss. David Nance And Mowed Sound is 36 minutes of scruffy, no-nonsense rock ‘n’ roll with the vibe set to casual. It’s a surprisingly low-key collection, full of exploratory detours that don’t compromise the music’s grit even at their softest and subtlest. The jams, the riffs, the pop hooks, the country licks — they all fit together intuitively, pieces of the same off-kilter classic rock puzzle. —Chris DeVille


Oolong - Oolong (Sefl-released)

On 4/20, Long Island emo band Oolong dropped their self-titled album, the follow-up to their 2020 debut About Your Imaginary Friend. Within an hour-long span, Oolong crams as much energy as possible into its 21 songs, bursting with the capricious clamor of bands like Glocca Morra or Algernon Cadwallader. It’s hard to pick a specific highlight, as the chaotic anthems bleed into each other seamlessly; “S p a c e R e e s e” is a fun Fugazi-indebted detour, and “Boerum Haircut” is an endearing blast of mischief, grasping for maturity: “I never like to say/ What’s really on my mind/ But I should.” —Danielle Chelosky


The Marías - Submarine (Nice Life / Atlantic)

Submarine continues the Marías’ mastery of their own unique combination of psych, jazz, lounge, downtempo, dream-pop, and more. It’s a seamless blend in which brisk dance tracks like “Hamptons,” woozy rockers like “Paranoia,” retro torch songs like “If Only,” and hypnotic ballads like “No One Noticed” gorgeously coexist. Held together by María Zardoya’s sighing charisma and moonbeam vocals, the end product is suave, sophisticated, and as refreshing as a cold beverage in the summer heat. —Chris DeVille


Heems & Lapgan - Lafandar (Veena Sounds / Mass Appeal India)

Queens rapper Himanshu Suri long ago mastered the art of saying serious shit without taking himself seriously. Then he went away for nine years. With his triumphant comeback, Heems joins forces with producer Lapgan and guests from Saul Williams to Your Old Droog to Indian R&B star Sid Sriram. Lafandar gets into heavy topics about identity and racism, but it’s also got Heems talking his shit again, rhyming “Hugh Jackman” with “huge, jacked man.” It’s good to have him back. —Tom Breihan


Hurray For The Riff Raff - The Past Is Still Alive (Nonesuch)

Lest you forget, Alynda Segarra is a storyteller. Hurray For The Riff Raff’s The Past Is Still Alive is filled with narratives both rousing and raw. Many of Segarra’s songs take place on the road, traveling the dusty Americana landscape and hoping for the mirage to coalesce into something that feels like home. They capture inspirations (on the lovely, haunting “Hawkmoon”) and struggles (“Alibi”) with a careful eye. Segarra writes to maintain and memorialize — or as they put out on “Colossus Of Roads”: “No one will remember us like I will remember us.” —James Rettig


Tierra Whack - World Wide Whack (Interscope)

She finally released a normal album, but normal is relative where Tierra Whack is concerned. Official debut LP World Wide Whack shows off her instincts for pop hooks, clever wordplay, and beat selection, but its quirks are just as crucial to its appeal. On “Chanel Pit,” she plays the female Young Thug, melodiously darting and weaving while proclaiming “I am that shit you smell.” On “Moovies,” she gets deep in her “Hold On, We’re Going Home”-style retro pop-R&B bag. The “Imaginary Friends” instrumental could pass for Mac DeMarco. And for every deeply moody moment like “Numb,” there’s a charming, joyful outburst like that funky number about how great she sounds singing in the shower. —Chris DeVille


Glitterer - Rationale (Anti-)

Since 2017, Glitterer has gradually transformed from the project of Title Fight’s Ned Russin to a full-fledged rock band. Their sound sharpens and increases in volume with each new release, and Rationale begins with the blaring, confessional opener “I Want To Be Invisible.” Russin’s sagacious lyricism is at its peak, while wrapped up in colorful guitars and fluttering synthesizers. Rationale is Glitterer at their most infectious, especially on the invigorating “Plastic.” —Danielle Chelosky


Terminal Nation - Echoes Of The Devil's Den (20 Buck Spin)

“Fuck every fucking cop that’s ever fucking lived!” Political statements don’t get much more direct and visceral than that. The phrase itself has power, and it gains even more when Terminal Nation deliver it in a guttural hell-demon roar on their song “No Reform (New Age Slave Patrol).” On their second LP, the Arkansas band expands their crushing combination of death metal and hardcore, attaining thundering majesty. The gut-pummeling riffage would be plenty potent on its own, but Terminal Nation are using all that crunch to say something unmistakable. —Tom Breihan


Slow Hollows - Bullhead (Danger Collective)

Austin Feinstein clearly poured his heart into these new Slow Hollows songs, which move with grace and resonance. Perhaps the most striking element of the album is the amount of hushed gut-punches, such as in “Homebody” when Feinstein wonders in a whisper, “Where do you hide your quiet underworld?” “Dreams Go” is a timeless, beautiful waltz; “Tired” is a resigned folk-rock sprawl with a refrain that can make a listener’s heart sink: “So tired of everybody but you.” Bullhead is sinister but familiar, painful but rewarding. —Danielle Chelosky


Mary Halvorson - Cloudward (Nonesuch)

One moment, a giant ensemble is whipping up blustery chaos. The next, a pair of clean guitars are skittering around like a pair of mice racing toward a piece of cheese. Later, a walking bassline and bashed-out cymbal surge ahead into eerie melodic percussion, only to be interrupted by an outburst of distorted shredding. As a guitarist, arranger, and composer, Halvorson excels at crafting music that will appeal to jazz fans and experimental rock fans alike. There’s an air of mystery to these unpredictable tracks; Cloudward presents the kind of music that rarely resolves in conventional fashion but might lead to an epiphany anyway. —Chris DeVille


Vince Staples - Dark Times (Blacksmith/Def Jam)

Dark Times begins with birds chirping and ends with an enlightened monologue from Santigold. Dogs bark on “Étouffée”; on “Liars,” James Baldwin and Nikki Giovanni discuss the ethics of dishonesty, a recurring theme on the album. “Black&Blue” bursts with a groovy beat, a stark contrast from the bleak words emitted in Vince Staples’ signature deadpan: “Who can I call when I need help?” On “Government Cheese,” Staples reveals the weight of fame: “Just another day closer to my demise,” he sings drearily, but later repeats the refrain: “And don’t forget to smile, don’t forget to smile.” Dark Times lives up to its name, but it’s also full of clarity, light, and genius. —Danielle Chelosky


Nia Archives - Silence Is Loud (Hijinxx / Island)

Back in the ’90s, people invested serious time and money into marketing drum ‘n’ bass to the masses. The message was: This music is the future, and it will warp your brain. That campaign mostly just gave us car commercials and action-movie nightclub gunfights. But a new generation now employs those rushing breakbeats as quaint nostalgia-fuel. In the PinkPantheress tradition, UK producer Nia Archives has fused jungle breakbeats with sunny singer-songwriter bops, and the combination is shockingly addictive. Maybe drum ‘n’ bass really is the future; it just had to become the past first. —Tom Breihan


Soft Kill - Escape Forever (Cercle Social)

Soft Kill are one of the most hard-working, underrated bands out there right now. In 2022, the Portland crew released the infectious indie-rock masterpiece Canary Yellow, which was followed by the cold wave fever dream Metta World Peace the next year. Escape Forever is another banger from an ambitious group that sees no limits. ’80s influences make “My Section” glow; tracks like “Love, Sosa” and “Englewood” are pure adrenaline rushes. Escape Forever is a real treat. —Danielle Chelosky


Beyoncé - Cowboy Carter (Parkwood / Columbia)

It’s too long. It’s indulgent. It’s a term paper about race and genre masquerading as a big-event pop album. The “Jolene” cover is way too cute. There’s filler. Sometimes, it’s boring. All the cases against Cowboy Carter are valid, but none of them take away from the fun of hearing one of pop’s biggest stars launch herself into a sprawling investigation of Black country music. It’s a weird auteurist blockbuster that overflows with ideas and hooks and genial silliness. More superstars could stand to take big swings like this. —Tom Breihan


Julia Holter - Something In The Room She Moves (Domino)

Julia Holter searches for epiphany. Her music slides between concretely composed and wildly improvisational, seeking release in the weightlessness that music can provide. Spurred on by the exhausting ecstasy of motherhood, Holter found herself craving disassociation, the free float that comes with losing yourself in song. Something In The Room She Moves is all amorphous, billowing string arrangements and fluting, echoey calls that swirl into some of the most straight-up gorgeous pieces that Holter has ever composed. —James Rettig


Infant Island - Obsidian Wreath (Secret Voice)

It’s not easy to make epic spectacle on a DIY budget, but Infant Island pulled it off. The Virginia screamo band spent years working on Obsidian Wreath, a crushing blur of frantic heaviness and dazed beauty. They enlisted help from friends in bands like Greet Death and For Your Health, and they added swirling orchestral arrangements to their jagged, metallic attack. The end result is the kind of gracefully bludgeoning opus that demands, and rewards, deep immersion. —Tom Breihan


Willi Carlisle - Critterland (Signature Sounds)

“Chickens in the backyard/ Preserves in Mason jars/ Dry county dust has got me feelin’ kinda low.” So it goes in Critterland, the world so skillfully sketched out by Fayetteville country-folk singer-songwriter Willi Carlisle. There’s a trace of Jason Molina in Carlisle’s strong, quavering voice, but his perspective is all his own as he unpacks thoughts on addiction, religion, family heritage, and queer love in the Deep South. The album is full of images that will stick with you, delivered with passionate conviction. —Chris DeVille


Rosie Tucker - Utopia Now! (Sentimental)

Utopia Now!, the title of Rosie Tucker’s fifth full-length album, always reminds me of the classic Seinfeld episode “The Serenity Now” and its central exclamation. I feel like Tucker has an acerbic sense of humor that would even get a laugh out of Larry David. Tucker’s songs are sarcastic and wry and unbelievably catchy. They couch emotional truths and radical politics in hooks that are supported by lines like “I hope no one had to piss in a bottle at work to get me the thing I ordered on the internet,” ones that make you go hmm and also want to sing along. —James Rettig


Microwave - Let's Start Degeneracy (Pure Noise)

The earliest singles for Microwave’s Let’s Start Degeneracy date back to 2022. By the time it was released, practically the entire first half of the album was already out; still, LSD is shocking, powerful, and catchy. Lust reaches a fever pitch on the dazed title track. On the brooding “Ferrari,” Nathan Hardy blurs the line between freelance and unemployed while shouting into the void. “Omni” is a surfy, dream-pop oasis, on which Hardy exhales the poetic refrain “Pray to your favorite constellation.” LSD, as its name suggests, is a trip. —Danielle Chelosky


Liquid Mike - Paul Bunyan's Slingshot (Self-released)

Liquid Mike are doing blown-out guitar-pop better than almost anybody right now. The Marquette combo’s latest is laced with regional specificity — the title Paul Bunyan’s Slingshot, for example, is a reference to a local landmark — but there’s a universal appeal to its post-Weezer power chord sugar rush. Mike Maple’s melodies glide through each verse and chorus, gritty yet translucent. Those walls of harmonic distortion sound indestructible. And when they dial down the volume on “Am,” the songwriting holds up beautifully without the stompbox aggression. —Chris DeVille


Beth Gibbons - Lives Outgrown (Domino)

It’s not every day that one hears from Beth Gibbons; we’re lucky if it’s once a decade. Which is to say that we should not take Lives Outgrown for granted. It is, in fact, an album about not taking life for granted, as elucidated on the album’s majestic “Floating On A Moment,” which sweeps and sags as Gibbons reminds us that we’re all “floating on a moment/ don’t know how long/ no one knows/ no one can stay.” Working with producer James Ford, the Portishead singer uses that melancholy voice in endlessly fascinating ways, for an album that feels like it will be everlasting. —James Rettig


Rosali - Bite Down (Merge)

Backed once again by David Nance And Mowed Sound, Rosali Middleman delivers an elegant singer-songwriter record that isn’t afraid to get gritty and askew. Songs like the understated “Hills On Fire” inhabit the common ground between Yo La Tengo and Gillian Welch, while outright rockers like “My Kind” scrape and collide until they combust. Middleman’s song structures on Bite Down are not especially complicated, and her lyrics are mostly plainspoken, yet within all that simplicity is incredible nuance and damn good taste. If enough of us mythologize her, she could still go down as the Neil Young of her generation. —Chris DeVille


A. G. Cook - Britpop (New Alias)

A. G. Cook lives to overwhelm. That tendency is in his collaborations with pop stars, often brash and pummeling, and it’s also in the way he constructs his solo work. Britpop — his epic three-part album channeling the Past, Present, and Future — has a lot in common with 7G, his similarly exhaustive 2020 effort that spanned seven chapters and took nearly three hours to get through. Clocking in at a cool hour-and-forty, Britpop is downright breezy, comparatively. It’s also worth the commitment, showcasing the madcap British producer at his most off-the-wall. —James Rettig


Adrianne Lenker - Bright Future (4AD)

Music this beautiful and vulnerable is a precious resource. Adrianne Lenker’s prowess as a songwriter continues to develop at a startling pace, and she’s just as good at assembling the right team to bring her creations to life. Retreating to a remote woodland space in New England with her trusted recording engineer and three friends who’d never met each other, the Big Thief singer conjured an album that sounds supernaturally pretty while showing off an uncommon humanity. Freeform opener “Real House” is the kind of masterpiece that can overshadow the rest of a tracklist, but on Bright Future, the brilliance keeps coming. —Chris DeVille


The Chisel - What A Fucking Nightmare (Pure Noise)

The London band the Chisel started out as a conceptual project, a bunch of UK hardcore-scene veterans coming together to embrace the oi and street-punk sounds that were always their cultural heritage. Over the years, the Chisel have become a touring machine. These days, guitarist Charlie Manning seems more invested in the Chisel than in his own band Chubby & The Gang. For their second LP, the Chisel double down, playing faster and harder and catchier than ever before. They really mean it, maaaaan. —Tom Breihan


Myriam Gendron - Mayday (Thrill Jockey / Feeding Tube)

Myriam Gendron uses it all. The cultishly beloved Quebecois songwriter pulls from traditional folk songs and other people’s poems and blends them in with a mythic imagery all her own, and she’s bolstered by master-class musicians that build out the uncomplicated pure centers of her songs. Mayday was informed by the death of her mother, rendered beautifully on “La belle Françoise (pour Sylvie)” and throughout the whole album, which treats loss and life continuing with a gentle, comforting touch. —James Rettig


DIIV - Frog In Boiling Water (Fantasy)

Time and time again DIIV prove they don’t have a bad album in them. The Brooklyn shoegaze band has a knack for creating immersive, refreshing textures, and Frog In Boiling Water overflows with them. Singles like “Brown Paper Bag” and the title track prove the beauty of their menacing walls of sound; “In Amber” and “Reflected” possess the same dark, moving allure. Frog In Boiling Water is gently devastating, another success for DIIV. —Danielle Chelosky


Couch Slut - You Could Do It Tonight (Brutal Panda)

Sometimes Megan Osztrosits sounds like an unhinged human being, barely holding on and loving it. Sometimes she descends to black metal levels of demonic rasping. Her lyrics add to that sense of darkness, be it tales of self-harm with stolen scalpels on “Wilkinson’s Sword” or the details of a wild, unsettling night at the haunted waterpark on “The Donkey.” In both timbre and subject matter, Osztrosits matches the gruesomeness of her bandmates’ harsh metallic noise rock, an ugly synchronicity that makes You Could Do It Tonight hit way harder than your average sonic bombardment. —Chris DeVille


claire rousay - Sentiment (Thrill Jockey)

Depression, am I right? claire rousay’s stunning sentiment takes place in the lowest of lows, illustrated by the artist laying in bed on the cover and looking out behind a collection of bad vices. But the album doesn’t feel like a downer — its warbling electroacoustic experimentation instead lifts off into transcendence. Complete with voice memos recorded in commiseration and a requisite 2024 reference to a Broken Social Scene song, sentiment uses the signifiers of bad times to create something that feels like a community built around the recognition of people who feel just like this. —James Rettig


Shellac - To All Trains (Touch And Go)

On “I Don’t Fear Hell,” the last song of the last Shellac album, frontman Steve Albini envisions his own death: “If there’s a heaven, I hope they’re having fun/ ‘Cause if there’s a hell, I’m gonna know everyone.” Mere days before the release of To All Trains, Albini died suddenly at 61. That unsettling coincidence is now the record’s legacy, but To All Trains is also a document of a great American rock band, 30 years into its career, making the kind of spiky, scabrous post-punk that they always did better than anyone else. That’s a great legacy, too. —Tom Breihan


Fabiana Palladino - Fabiana Palladino (Paul Institute / XL)

If you grow up with an all-time great bass wizard in the house, you might learn a couple of things. Fabiana Palladino, daughter of Pino, has developed her own form of sparse, funky soul-pop that evokes Sade, Lisa Stansfield, Janet Jackson, and other people who could’ve plausibly come over for dinner when she was a kid. On her self-titled debut, Palladino’s voice glides over tricky beats and slippery keyboards. Future generations, take note. —Tom Breihan


Chief Keef - Almighty So 2 (43B)

In the early ’10s, teenage outsider artist Chief Keef brought the sound of Chicago drill to the world, and his influence continues to loom. Almighty So 2, the long-promised sequel to a cult-favorite 2013 mixtape, triumphantly recaptures the intensity of Keef’s classics while pushing that sound in different directions. Keef produced the tape almost entirely on his own. He flexes inventive new ways to flip soul samples, and his elemental growl has lost none of its power. —Tom Breihan


Ekko Astral - Pink Balloons (Topshelf)

Ekko Astral are serious about having fun, and they’re irreverent about their own seriousness. On their full-length debut, the DC punks veer recklessly from one idea to the next, singing about oppression, suicide, and deciding to take thirst-trap selfies instead of learning to correctly pronounce Bon Iver. Pink Balloons is a thrilling pileup of frantic noise-punk rage-outs and fizzy sha-la-la hooks. Jael Holzman sings that she’s in solidarity with all the missing murdered people, and she turns it into a joyous singalong. That’s urgency. —Tom Breihan


Madi Diaz - Weird Faith (Anti-)

Nashville singer-songwriter Madi Diaz has been in the game for nearly two decades, and her long résumé includes gigs writing songs and singing backup for people much more famous than her. She’s a professional, but the songs on Weird Faith are as conversationally diaristic as you’d expect from someone who just started writing. Diaz has a huge and polished voice, but when she addresses big questions and messy romantic situations, she sounds like she’s experiencing everything for the first time. —Tom Breihan


MGMT - Loss Of Life (Mom+Pop)

MGMT only come around every half a decade or so, and lately (“lately”) they’ve been making those returns grand. Loss Of Life is maybe a best-case scenario for the kids who made “Kids” nearly two decades down the road, bringing the duo’s quirky eclecticism into songs that can be warm, plaintive, and subtly strange. Songs like “Mother Nature” and “Nothing To Declare” are folk-pop nonpareil. And when they get a little goofy on “Bubblegum Dog,” it never detracts from the compositional splendor. —Chris DeVille


That Mexican OT - Texas Technician (Manifest / GoodTalk / Good Money / Interscope)

It can’t be easy to rap slow and fast at the same time, but that’s what That Mexican OT does. The Houston rapper’s style is immersed in decades of slow-motion Texas funk, but he’s got his own joyous berserker flair, full of rolled consonants and double-time jags. Texas Technician follows the 2023 breakthrough Lonestar Luchador, and it’s a perfect opportunity to hear the guy just rap for 40 minutes. He teams up with Texas veterans and flips Texas classics, but he never sounds like anyone else. —Tom Breihan


Sprints - Letter To Self (City Slang)

“Maybe I should do it better, maybe I should try it harder,” Karla Chubb rattles off on the opening track of Letter To Self, Sprints’ runaway success of a debut album. Not just an echo of a Daft Punk song, it’s indicative of the way that the band builds chants into their searing, invigorating songs. I guess you could call them hooks, they certainly are catchy, but Karla Chubb never sounds like she’s delivering choruses, more so like she’s repeating something over and over to make sure that you never forget. —James Rettig


Kim Gordon - The Collective (Matador)

It should feel like a gimmick, the idea of Kim Gordon jumping on trap beats by an alternative pop producer with Drake and Lil Yachty credits to free-associate about sex and consumerism until everything is immolated by distortion. Instead, The Collective is inspired. From the more-Carti-than-Carti opener “Bye Bye” onward, Gordon strikes a perfect balance between veteran swagger and sonic youth, pressing onward into new creative horizons at the dawn of her eighth decade. Listener beware: It’s dark inside. —Chris DeVille


Prize Horse - Under Sound (New Morality Zine)

Hailing from Minneapolis, Prize Horse are masters of brooding, spellbinding landscapes. Under Sound is an addictive dose of grungy shoegaze; macabre guitars drag you in and pull you under, especially on the enormous “Know Better,” whose refrain reverberates with a sense of prophecy: “I’ll know it’s real when I’m shown,” Jake Beitel declares with the sense of detachment that permeates the music, a captivating numbness as the instruments crash violently. —Danielle Chelosky


Four Tet - Three (Text)

How does he make it look this easy? More than two decades into his career, Kieran Hebden is releasing some of his best music and playing to some of his biggest crowds. There’s nothing showy about Three, but the warm, skittering dance beats and refracted, reflective melodies just come tumbling. The tracks on Three would sound just as great in a club, a field, or a mid-afternoon living room. It shouldn’t be this easy. —Tom Breihan


Future & Metro Boomin - We Don't Trust You / We Still Don't Trust You (Wilburn / Boominati / Epic / Republic)

Cue “The Boys Are Back In Town.” To a certain extent, the all-out war kicked off by “Like That” overshadowed the bounty of new music from old pals Future and Metro Boomin this spring: two behemoth albums, one leaning toward rap, the other erring on the side of R&B. Late-period Future has rarely sounded as vital as he does contorting his bluesy husk of a voice over not-so-young-anymore Metro’s beats, which remain hard even at their current blown-out blockbuster scope. These guys might not trust us, but we can count on them. —Chris DeVille


Mk.gee - Two Star & The Dream Police (R&R)

Two Star & The Dream Police is a vibe, and that vibe is something like an Instagram-filtered VH1 fever dream. The debut album from Dijon guitarist Mk.gee aligns him with the likes of Bon Iver, Jai Paul, and Women In Music-era Haim, presenting artisanal throwback soft-rock and R&B jams, distressed and faded yet oh-so-smooth. It could be heard as a kind of bedroom pop, if the bedroom in question opens up a portal to alternate dimensions of deep, nostalgic melancholia. —Chris DeVille


Vampire Weekend - Only God Was Above Us (Columbia)

It’s untrue, unkind, and unnatural just how good Vampire Weekend’s first new album in five years really is. Only God Was Above Us is a gift that keeps on giving. Its heavy distortion rewards repeated listens to untangle all the braided sonic references to the band’s own mythology that producer Ariel Rechtshaid has baked in. And Ezra Koenig has grown to rely less on clever wordplay, letting the music’s complexity speak for itself — from the sublime “Mary Boone” to the knotted pleasures of “Ice Cream Piano,” there’s more than enough here to stand the test of time. —James Rettig


Mannequin Pussy - I Got Heaven (Epitaph)

“I Got Heaven,” the lead single and title track from Mannequin Pussy’s third album, was evidence that the band had stepped up since the release of 2019 masterwork Patience. It’s fearless, fuzzy, and full of wonderfully blasphemous one-liners like, “And what if Jesus himself ate my fucking snatch?” I Got Heaven is a portrait of yearning, from the poetic horniness on shoegaze delight “Loud Bark” to the indecisive desire on indie-rock spurt “Softly”: “I yearn to give you what you want/ But I know that I will not,” Marisa Dabice sings magnetically, one of many satisfying moments on a wonderfully dynamic record. —Danielle Chelosky


Jessica Pratt - Here In The Pitch (Mexican Summer)

Timeless is a word that gets thrown around a lot to describe music. Maybe in Jessica Pratt’s case, it’s more accurate to say that she’s saddled with the expectation of the ’60s — like, if Pratt was around back then she’d be burning up the West Village circuit. Not an incorrect characterization, but I think that does a disservice to the music that Pratt makes, especially on Here In The Pitch, which feels so metaphysical that even though it’s a recorded product, it sounds like it might as well be taking place right in front of you, right now. —James Rettig


Erika de Casier - Still (4AD)

No one quite captures the twinkle of ’00s R&B like Erika de Casier. Still is the Dutch producer’s most assured yet, her third album in a row that transforms the crystalline perfection of the turn of the millennium into something prickly, autonomous, and effortlessly cool. There’s a deep yearning to her sultry songs. Whether she’s singing about romantic desire or grasping for something more profound, she’s always in control. “The Princess” in particular sticks out: “Is it wrong of me to want all the things I was shown all my life?” she muses, wanting it all and having none of your shit. —James Rettig


Cindy Lee - Diamond Jubilee (Realistik Studios)

Channeling a miscellany of genres from the golden age of FM, Cindy Lee’s Diamond Jubilee sounds like it belongs in another century. There’s an intimate, serendipitous magic to the two-hour symphony of nostalgia, and listening to it feels like stumbling upon Patrick Flegel performing candidly, as if we’re peering from around a corner and watching them with amazement as they piece together these songs in real time. Diamond Jubilee moves with a refreshing sense of slowness, meandering through sounds and eras the way one wanders through a museum. Diamond Jubilee is not merely a piece of art, it’s an entire exhibition. —Danielle Chelosky


Gouge Away - Deep Sage (Deathwish)

It’s hard to follow an album as perfect as Gouge Away’s 2018 masterpiece Burnt Sugar, one of the best hardcore albums in recent memory. It portrayed a riveting balance of macabre and rambunctious, standing as a perfect portrait of malaise. But the Gainesville crew have done it again with Deep Sage. “Stuck In A Dream” and “Spaced Out” are pit-ready, catchy anthems; “Idealized” and “Newtau” are bewitching slow-burners; “Maybe Blue” and “Dallas” are some of the greatest songs they’ve ever released. Deep Sage further cements Gouge Away as one of the most interesting heavy bands we’ve got. —Danielle Chelosky


Waxahatchee - Tigers Blood (Anti-)

Katie Crutchfield has always been brilliant, but in her thirties she’s truly found her groove. The clear-eyed and level-headed roots rock of Saint Cloud was a boon in pandemic times and beyond, meticulously crafted yet flowing from the speakers with an easy, natural grace. It would’ve been a career pinnacle for most artists, but Tigers Blood surpasses it.

Waxahatchee albums remain a goldmine of wise observations and sharp turns of phrase, Crutchfield suffering no fools but seasoning her lyrics with a hard-won patience and empathy. Yet in defiance of the idea that “mature” is a euphemism for “boring,” her songs just keep getting brighter, catchier, and more dynamic. And with the likes of Jake Lenderman, Spencer Tweedy, and Brad Cook in the mix, the supporting cast bringing them to life has never been more tastefully expressive.

The standout among standouts is “Right Back To It,” a masterful duet with Lenderman that shows off everything great about the current iteration of Waxahatchee, from the twangy harmonies and vulnerable lyrics to the rushing current of banjo and casually stunning guitar solos. It’s a portrait of the minor crises that interrupt even the most stable long-term romance, delivered with a steady hand that mirrors the assurance at the core of the song.

That one hit like an instant classic when it arrived at the top of the year, heralding a new album cycle. Months later, it still hasn’t gotten old. But with each spin through Tigers Blood, the rest of the songs sound more and more like old favorites too. The record depicts Crutchfield settling into normalcy after a youth filled with tumult, but there’s nothing normal about a set of tunes this spectacular. —Chris DeVille

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