The Best Albums of 2024 (So Far)

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Kendrick Lamar could easily have kept going and made a whole album of Drake diss tracks; you know he’s got more on the shelf, teed up and ready to go. But since Aubrey seems to have stepped aside for now, K. Dot won’t have a dog in the Album of the Year fight—at least for now.

As we approach the halfway point of 2024, it’s getting to be time to point out how lackluster rock and country albums have been this year. Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, and now Billie Eilish have dominated the conversation partly through sheer star power, of course, but also because they’ve risen to the moment with risk-taking and innovative projects. If it’s being left to pure pop to carry that weight—Rihanna, Gaga, where you at?

Below, find our running tab of the best music albums of 2024 so far.

Taylor Swift, The Tortured Poets Department

Yes, we know, it’s too long, too messy, too melodramatic—but we can’t stop talking about it, especially since the Eras Tour cranked back up and the “Tortured Poets Era” spotlighted the songs Taylor labeled “Female Rage: The Musical.” As fans remix the tracks, edit them into different playlists for different moods, and watch new favorites come in and out of focus, it’s clear that once again Swift knew what her audience needed before they did.

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Billie Eilish, Hit Me Hard and Soft

What’s immediately apparent on Eilish’s third album is the transparent musicality. It’s the most range, stylistically and vocally, that she’s displayed so far. After the electro-Goth of When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? and the intimacy of Happier Than Ever, she (and her increasingly impressive collaborator/producer/brother Finneas) leap from the acoustic ballad “Wildflower” to the explosive twist in “L’Amour de ma Vie,” often shifting gears and genres mid-song. It's a striking display of boldness from the two-time Oscar winner, whether that means more singing and less of her signature whispering or going with the queer anthem “Lunch” as the first single. Remember that Eilish is still just 22 years old; just think of the places she’ll go.

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Mdou Moctar, Funeral For Justice

Is Niger’s Mdou Moctar the greatest living guitar hero? Quite possibly—the soaring, screaming, psychedelic solos on his seventh album are unlike anything rock & roll currently offers. During his 2023 North American tour, a military coup back home made it impossible for Moctar to return to his country, and he resorted to a GoFundMe to enable the band to stay in the United States. Out of this incident comes Funeral for Justice, his most political album yet, excoriating both the impact of colonialism on African nations and the corruption of the local governments. You don’t have to speak the language, though, to understand the rage and confrontation in Moctar’s hypnotic, blazing fretwork.

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St. Vincent, All Born Screaming

Ahead of its release, Annie Clark described the album as “post-plague pop,” but for the most part she ditches any sort of high concept and, producing herself for the first time, delivers a set that’s both consistent and distinctive. The industrial yowl of the lead singles, “Broken Man” and “Flea,” is powerful but not as representative as her interviews indicated; images of death and loss pervade All Born Screaming, but the music draws on jagged indie rock, electronica, and even dance-pop, revealing facets of St. Vincent that are more complex and more accessible as her remarkable career continues to unfold.

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Various Artists, Everyone's Getting Involved

Tribute albums are mostly a losing game: If the new versions hew too closely to the originals, they seem redundant, but if they stray too far afield, they risk losing the point. Taking advantage of the momentum around last year’s newly restored rerelease of Talking Heads’s classic 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense, this collection gathers (mostly) younger artists, including Paramore, Lorde, and girl in red, interpreting the songs in the movie, not all of which made it to the soundtrack. Miley Cyrus’s Euro-disco “Psycho Killer” doesn’t really click, and The National are almost too easy a fit for the dreamy “Heaven,” but there’s plenty of fun to be found, from Blondshell’s laconic “Thank You for Sending Me an Angel” to a pulsing, unrecognizable “Slippery People” by Argentine band El Mato a un Policia Motorizado.

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Ariana Grande, eternal sunshine

Oh, I can’t keep up with the soap opera, either. But on her seventh album, and her first since 2020, Ariana Grande displays some new maturity while still playing to her pop strengths. Loosely read as her “divorce album,” the project’s theme is laid out in the opening “intro (end of the world),” in which she sings “How can I tell if I’m in the right relationship? / Aren’t you really supposed to know that shit?” Dipping into classic disco, ‘90s Madonna, and even some bedroom-pop acoustic guitar, Grande moves away from the mumbling delivery and the octave jumps that cluttered some previous releases, finding a steady and convincing range for her voice that’s a good sign for the upcoming Wicked movie(s).

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Liam Gallagher & John Squire, Liam Gallagher John Squire

A lager-lover’s dream come true, but hardly a sure thing. Oasis singer Gallagher always said that the Stone Roses were his biggest inspiration, so teaming with that band’s guitarist is a natural move—and if the album offers absolutely no surprises, that’s because it delivers the goods. Sure, some of the lyrics are stupid or lazy, and playing Spot-The-Beatle-Isms gets exhausting after a while (just add one letter to a White Album title and get “Mother Nature’s Song”—seriously?), but the songs are tight and punchy, and it’s great fun hearing Gallagher’s re-energized sneer play off Squire’s flashy, psychedelicized leads.

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Sleater-Kinney, Little Rope

Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker had written half of their new album before Brownstein’s mother and stepfather were killed in a car crash in late 2022, but a mood of loss and grief permeates the entire project. Their second record since the departure of drummer Janet Weiss in 2019, Little Rope marks a shift in tone for this remarkable band, retaining the catharsis of punk without aspiring to the assaultive energy of their early work. It takes some time to absorb these songs, but as demonstrated on Sleater-Kinney’s recent tour, even the most anguished material truly comes alive.

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Tierra Whack, World Wide Whack

This Philadelphia MC is one of the weirdest and most arresting new voices in hip-hop. Her 2018 EP Whack World introduced her with 15 songs, each exactly one minute long yet somehow fully realized. Six years later, her full-length debut features actual full-length tracks, but retains the spirit of innovative anarchy. World Wide Whack ranges from trap beats to sing-songy nursery rhymes, celebrating the joys of singing in theshower one minute and meditating on depression and suicidal thoughts the next. She’s drawn comparisons to the wildest moments from Missy Elliott, but Tierra Whack is her own kind of glorious, fascinating freak.

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Sierra Ferrell, Trail of Flowers

When she first appeared a few years ago—a busker-turned-YouTube-star with face tattoos, a pierced septum, and flamboyant vintage dresses—Ferrell may have seemed like an Americana novelty act. But if her music was sometimes more charming than convincing, her evocative, old-world voice was clearly no joke. On her sophomore album, Ferrell expands her sound to encompass multiple traditions (bluegrass, ragtime, even some Caribbean influence), brings in some legendary Nashville session players, and ratchets up her songwriting to deliver an impressively powerful step forward.

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