Every month, Uproxx cultural critic Steven Hyden makes an unranked list of his favorite music-related items released during this period — songs, albums, books, films, you name it.

1. Cindy Lee, Diamond Jubilee

In just a few short weeks, Diamond Jubilee became one of the most critically acclaimed and — among a small-ish but quickly growing cult following — intensely adored indie albums of recent years. I heard about it in early April, after my podcast partner Ian Cohen recommended it on our show. Over the following weekend, I quickly became obsessed. Here was an immersive LP that tried to encapsulate a pocket history of modern popular music — ’60s Motown, ’70s bubblegum pop, ’80s C86 jangle, ’90s lo-fi indie — in a way that felt warmly familiar and fascinatingly alien. It was like a record you knew you already loved but couldn’t remember ever hearing before. The lyrics were lovelorn and miserably romantic, endlessly dwelling on doomed affairs in the manner of all classic pop tunes. And the music evoked the underground rock of the 1980s (particularly the “Velvet Underground meets Phil Spector” girl-group goth-isms of The Jesus And Mary Chain), the ’90s (think Broadcast meets Belle And Sebastian) and the aughts era acts that were similarly drawn to collisions of pure throwback pop and droning noise (The Concretes, Camera Obscura, Saturday Looks Good To Me). The pileup of references and allusions were irresistible for a critic inclined to dissect pop songs, but Diamond Jubilee ultimately exists outside of time or carefully curated genres. That’s what so cool about it. It’s like listening to the best of the past harmonize with an exciting future, right here in our boring present.

2. Pearl Jam, Dark Matter

A truism of late-period PJ records is that the songs that attempt to rock the hardest are usually the least compelling, and that’s true of “Dark Matter” and the album’s other consciously “heavy” tracks. (I refer to the second single, “Running,” as well as the nondescript album openers “Scared Of Fear” and “React, Respond.”) The difference with Dark Matter is that even the weakest material still sounds pretty great. And that’s due entirely to Pearl Jam working with relative quickness and leaning on their chemistry as a live band. (It was recorded in just three weeks at Rick Rubin’s Shangri-La studio, where Martin Scorsese filmed interviews with The Band for The Last Waltz, a bit of trivia that naturally appealed to Vedder’s “classic-rock nerd” sensibilities.) The secret sauce of Pearl Jam’s classic albums in the ’90s was the presentation of their raw live sound with only a bare minimum of studio refinement. While Dark Matter never affects the raggedness of Vitalogy and No Code, it does approximate the flinty energy of those records in ways that their 21st-century output typically does not.

3. Vampire Weekend, Only God Was Above Us

The application of distortion immediately sets Only God Was Above Us apart from the other VW albums. In 10 years, there will be no question from which record “Hope” or “Capricorn” or “Mary Boone” derives. (Whereas the tracks from Vampire Weekend and Contra, in Strokes-like fashion, kind of blend together.) OGWAU is definitely different. At the same time, the lyrics immediately ground the LP in an East Coast milieu that was seemingly abandoned after the beloved third-album masterpiece. It sounds like the disaffected narrator of Modern Vampires Of The City with 11 more years of wisdom. OGWAU is definitely similar. HIPPIE/GOTH-ness has been achieved. The album-catalog-as-book, once again, evolves.

4. Cloud Nothings, Final Summer

How is it possible that one of the most reliable brands in indie-punk has been around for nearly 15 years? Cloud Nothings don’t feel like a band with that long of a resumé. And yet here we are, with their eighth (!) album and (in my mind) one of their very best. Attack On Memory will likely always be Cloud Nothings’ landmark, but Final Summer feels like a summation of their strengths that also manages to push their signature sound forward. Which means that Dylan Baldi’s angsty howl and serrated melodies and drummer Jayson Gerycz’s hellacious drumming are laser-focused like never before, giving the music an extra zip that makes Final Summer positively fly by. I’m going to assume the “final” part of that title is not a warning sign — Cloud Nothings sound like a band with plenty of highlights on the horizon.

5. Phosphorescent, Revelator

Matthew Houck makes music that is the opposite of Cloud Nothings in every possible way, but his work with Phosphorescent has been similarly consistent and enduring. Houck finally closed the too-long gap since 2018’s C’est La Vie this month with a new Phosphorescent LP, and it reestablished his easy way with gorgeous, contemplative folk rock. While Houck doesn’t drift much into the rockier side of Phosphorescent — there are no “Ride On/Right On”-style hitters on this record — he does show off his knack for mid-tempo stunners with sighing pedal steel and cinematic string sections.

6. Hovvdy, Hovvdy

This extremely likable Austin-based duo came on my radar with their fourth record, 2021’s True Love, an instant patio-music classic that reimagined the friendship anthems of Japandroids in the mode of Alex G’s URL-folk experiments. Hovvdy’s new self-titled record is their most ambitious to date, moving through 19 songs briskly in under an hour. Though the songs themselves often come across as modest and unassuming, moving along with just a jocular guitar strum, a drum-machine skitter, and two voices interacting sweetly. But the emotional impact is surprisingly strong. It’s the kind of record you wish you could hug.

7. Ben Seretan, “New Air”

One of my favorite songs of 2024 so far. The songwriting approach appears to be straightforward: Listen to “Spiders (Kidsmoke),” study “Spiders (Kidsmoke),” and write a song that evokes the best parts of “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” without directly ripping off “Spiders (Kidsmoke).” If that was the approach, it was genius and I fully endorse it. Either way, I am looking forward to the new album from Seretan — whose previous LP, 2020’s Youth Pastoral, was a pandemic era cult hit — due in July.

8. Lost Angel: The Genius Of Judee Sill

Judee Sill put out just two albums in the early ’70s, and then she died tragically at the end of the decade at the age of 35. Her passing was not deemed notable at the time — there wasn’t even an obituary printed. Forty-five years later, Sill is more famous than she ever was during her lifetime. Her baroque folk-rock songs are touchstones for the current generation of indie acts ranging from Fleet Foxes to Big Thief to Weyes Blood. But that’s only half the story, as this fascinating documentary (available now via VOD) explores. Most musician docs have low-stakes problems — artist gets popular, artist struggles with the pitfalls of popularity, artist learns how to navigate popularity. Sill, meanwhile, lived a genuinely extraordinary life. Before she recorded a note, she was a heroin addict who committed robbery and dabbled in sex work. Just a few years later, she was on the cover of Rolling Stone and palling around with L.A. music royalty like David Geffen and Graham Nash. It’s an incredible story. Lost Angel makes a convincing case that Sill is an all-time cult icon.