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. Waxahatchee, Tigers Blood

When I caught up with Katie Crutchfield via Zoom earlier this month, she seemed excited to talk about the albums she has made thus far as Waxahatchee. Perhaps she was already feeling triumphant over the reviews of Tigers Blood, the sixth Waxahatchee LP that wowed critics in March. A sonic and thematic sequel to her acclaimed 2020 release Saint Cloud, the new record continues Crutchfield’s transition from the noisy and confessional indie rock of early Waxahatchee to the wised-up country rock of her mature “thirtysomething” period. This pivot is obvious and, it turns out, self-conscious. Tigers Blood is another product of Crutchfield’s union with Saint Cloud producer Brad Cook, who helped the singer-songwriter assemble a supporting cast that includes MJ Lenderman (prominently featured on the instant-classic single “Right Back To It”), Spencer Tweedy, and Phil Cook. “Honestly, the way I look at my whole catalog is pre-Brad and post-Brad,” she told me. “The Brad era sits together and works together. And then the pre-Brad era, it was really one album at a time, and they weren’t really in any communication with each other.”

2. Rosali, Bite Down

One of my favorite singer-songwriters working today is Rosali Middleman, a 41-year-old Michigan native who records and performs as Rosali. I became a fan in 2021 upon the release of her tremendous third album, No Medium, a cathartic collection of stormy folk-rock tunes spotlighting Middleman’s remarkably tender yet tough vocals and the loose-limbed instrumental backing of the Omaha-based David Nance Group. It’s all raw vibes and electrified feels, like Sandy Denny jamming with Crazy Horse on a late night in the mid-1970s. Just as No Medium was one of my favorite records of 2021, her latest Bite Down is one of the best things I’ve heard in the first quarter of 2024. It’s her first release for Merge Records, who signed Rosali after the critical success of No Medium. She says the pandemic lockdown, and her move away from the city to more secluded and peaceful environs in North Carolina, inform the album. Whereas No Medium contains bracing songs about addiction, romantic loss, and mortality, Bite Down approaches those themes with a flinty, indomitable fighting spirit.

3. Good Looks, “If It’s Gone”

Good Looks is a band from Austin, Texas that has been described as “socialist heartland rock.” I can’t speak to the socialist part, but in the video for their debut single from 2022, “Almost Automatic,” they are shown playing in the middle of a cow pasture, which is certainly heartland rock-y. And the music, naturally, is girded by a mix of earthy strums and air-y solos that evoke wide open spaces. This month Good Looks released the first song from their upcoming sophomore effort, Lived Here For A While, and I can’t stop listening to it.

4. Wild Pink, Strawberry Eraser

For the past several years, Wild Pink’s John Ross has perfected a musical formula that can be described — reductively but more or less accurately — as the meeting point between The War On Drugs and Death Cab For Cutie. Each Wild Pink record has been progressively more experimental and expansive, as Ross elaborates his observational lyrics with grand sonic flourishes. The new EP Strawberry Eraser however suggests that Ross might be in the process of paring back. Recorded by Ross alone, the prominence of drum machines is felt immediately on this short but impactful record, creating an undercurrent of mechanical dread that contrasts with the bashful warmth of Ross’ voice.

5. Mannequin Pussy, I Got Heaven

When I interviewed Mannequin Pussy frontwoman Marisa Dabice in 2019, she was open about her ambitions after starting out in the underground punk space. “I really wanted to make a big-sounding rock record,” she said. “I love where we’ve come from and our other records, but I really believe in artistic progression and being able to challenge yourself.” At the time she was promoting MP’s third album Patience, which proved to be a prescient title. It took a lot of patience indeed for the band to put out LP4, I Got Heaven, at the start of the month. But the new album shows that Dabice’s commitment to artistic progression continues unabated. While Mannequin Pussy can still rage and stomp with the best of them, the music on I Got Heaven shows off a new level of musical sophistication that evokes the big-ticket albums of the grunge era.

6. Restorations, Restorations

Philadelphia punks Restorations have long specialized in setting the humdrum realities of everyday life to doggedly anthemic music, like Bruce Springsteen fronting Fugazi. There are plenty of bands who attempt to strike a similar balance, but few do it with the veteran skill of Restorations. Which is why new music is always welcome from them. Their new self-titled effort is their first in six years, but to their credit they pick up right where they left off, delivering the sort of consistently uplifting rockers that were made for post-work beers.

7. Hannah Frances, Keeper Of The Shepherd

This beguiling singer-songwriter welcomes Joni Mitchell comparisons due to her use of alternate tunings as well as the Hejira vibes that permeate her latest album, Keeper Of The Shepherd. But fans of aughts-era freak folk will also find much to love here, as Frances specializes in melodic and transportive musical eccentricity.

8. Adrianne Lenker, Bright Future

In 20 years we’re all going to look back at Adrianne Lenker’s songwriting run in the late 2010s and early 2020s as one of the great creative outbursts of this era. Lenker writes so many songs — and so many great songs — that she’s had to work outside of her otherwise prolific band Big Thief to accommodate them all. I can’t help but admire this, even when I have mixed feelings about the results. I put Bright Future on this list because I think it’s an undeniably impressive achievement by an artist who is increasingly willing to work without a net (or much refinement, for better or worse). There are some fantastic tunes here (“No Machine,” “Already Lost”) as well as plenty of fascinating experiments. What gives me pause is the wish that she had fleshed them out a bit more with her bandmates in Big Thief, who have proven that they can make magic with Lenker’s material. Perhaps that’s unfair. But Bright Future (for now) sounds to me like a batch of promising demos for a classic Big Thief record that will never exist.

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