People seem to be having fun with all the beef that’s been hanging over our heads lately, but isn’t all this hate exhausting? It would do us good to focus on positivity, so let’s embrace the occasion that is the midpoint of 2024 and do just that, by reflecting on some of the year’s best albums so far.

Icons like Ariana Grande and Beyoncé put out fresh work that stands among their finest. Newcomers like Tyla and MK.Gee successfully started carving out their own lanes with debut releases. Folks between those two extremes also came through with projects that will ultimately end up defining a packed year of music.

Do you feel like you’ve missed a lot this year? Or like you just want to see what your friends at Uproxx have liked most over the past few months? Either way, check out our alphabetized list of 2024’s best albums to date below.

21 Savage — American Dream

Slaughter Gang/Epic

21 Savage’s first solo album in over three years arrived at the top of the year to end a brief run of collaborative albums that included Savage Mode II with Metro Boomin and Her Loss with Drake. American Dream, his third solo album, presents all the sides of 21 Savage that we’ve come to love over the years. His menacing demeanor lives on tracks like “Redrum” and “Dangerous” and his charm is captured on “Prove It” and “Should’ve Wore A Bonnet” while honesty prevails with “Just Like Me” and “Dark Days.” 21 Savage’s long-awaited solo return checks all the expected boxes and elevates the rapper to a higher status, making an American Dream turn global and reach his birthplace of London where he performed for the first time at the end of 2023. — Wongo Okon

Adrianne Lenker — Bright Future

Adrianne Lenker bright future cover art
4AD

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. Bright Future is 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. — Steven Hyden

Ariana Grande — Eternal Sunshine

Ariana Grande Eternal Sunshine
Republic Records

Ariana Grande internalized Glinda The Good Witch to concoct Eternal Sunshine, which could accurately be called Eternal Dopamine. Grande cleverly captured a complicated relationship arc (or two) — alluding to her recent divorce and new love without exploiting either. Eternal is bookended by Grande’s uncertainty (“How can I tell if I’m in the right relationship?”) and Grande’s beloved Nonna’s wisdom (“Never go to bed without kissing goodnight”). The Billboard Hot 100 chart-topper “We Can’t Be Friends (Wait For Your Love)” and its video recreating Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind solidify that Grande (and Max Martin) executed a magical concept album. — Megan Armstrong

Ayra Starr — The Year I Turned 21

Ayra Starr 'The Year I Turned 21' cover art
Mavin/Republic

Ayra Starr ‘The Year I Turned 21’ cover art

On her second album The Year I Turned 21, Nigerian singer Ayra Starr is as much of the same singer as she is a different one compared to debut 19 & Dangerous. Her youth and free-spirit are still ever-present on the songs that make up The Year I Turned 21, which also introduces a new level of self-awareness. Her sophomore album is a coming of age story that captures the young singer embracing adulthood as much as she welcomes stardom. True to her name, Ayra Starr was made for this moment and she takes it on fully while letting go of the things holding her back. She discards an inadequate relationship on “Goodbye (Warm Up)” with Asake and expels bad energy from nearby on “Commas” and “Bad Vibes” with Seyi Vibes. “Woman Commando” with Coco Jones and Anitta puts women in the lead position while “Last Heartbreak Song” with Giveon puts an end to the tears brought forth by a one-sided relationship. With The Year I Turned 21, Ayra begins a new era that will surely be one to remember. — W.O.

Benny The Butcher — Everybody Can’t Go

benny the butcher everybody can't go
Benny The Butcher

Benny The Butcher’s Def Jam debut didn’t usher a change in style or approach for the Buffalo rapper. If anything, his new home allowed him to more comfortably do what we’ve seen him excel at for much of the last decade. On Everybody Can’t Go, Benny puts up a fine display of rapper alongside Lil Wayne on the haunting “Big Dog” all to deliver a riveting and championing tale of a double life on “One Foot In” with Stove God Cooks. “Pillow Talk & Slander” with Jadakiss and Babyface Ray unites different generations of rap for a moment of introspection and celebration. Everybody Can’t Go opens a new era for Benny and promises many more bright moments to accompany the ones he put forth years prior. — W.O.

Beyoncé — Cowboy Carter

Beyonce Cowboy Carter album cover artwork
Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia Records

Cowboy Carter became Beyoncé’s eighth No. 1 album and produced 23 Billboard Hot 100 charters — including “Texas Hold ‘Em,” “II Most Wanted” with Miley Cyrus, and “Jolene” in the top 10. More significantly, Cowboy Carter serves as Beyoncé’s magnificent declaration that she should never have been the first-ever Black woman to lead Billboard‘s Top Country Albums chart. The 27-track masterpiece is an ode to Black artists excluded from a genre built on their backs, like Linda Martell, and an invitation for young Black country artists (Brittney Spencer, Shaboozey, Tanner Adell, Tiera Kennedy) to join her in standing boldly — unshakably — in their artistry. — M.A.

Billie Eilish — Hit Me Hard And Soft

Billie Eilish Hit Me Hard And Soft

Hit Me Hard And Soft feels like Billie Eilish’s awakening from a five-year-long slog since debuting with When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?. With mature clarity, she needed just 10 songs. And maybe the highest compliment to Eilish and Finneas’ artistic genius? Depth wasn’t sacrificed for brevity. Yeah, all 10 charted on the Billboard Hot 100, led by the control-hungry, lustful “Lunch” at No. 5. But the album’s brilliance is best illustrated by “Blue,” a career-long-gestating song that cleverly references every Hit Me track to close out a cohesive statement of an album in a time defined by excessive hodgepodge. — M.A.

Bryson Tiller — Bryson Tiller

bryson tiller bryson tiller cover
Bryson Tiller

Bryson Tiller told Complex that his self-titled album would “probably be my last one for a minute.” Enduring another Tiller hiatus? Bummer. But Bryson Tiller‘s entrancing 19 songs eased the melancholy — reinforcing Tiller as a reliable rap/R&B reservoir. “Whatever She Wants” led the charge — peaking at No. 5 and No. 19 on Billboard‘s Hot Rap Songs and Hot 100, respectively. Save for excellent Clara La San (“Random Access Memory [RAM]”) and Victoria Monét (“Persuasion”) features, Tiller allows fans precious alone time with his perspective. “Hope you don’t get bored with me over time,” he sings on the ballad “Undertow.” We won’t. — M.A.

Buddy — Don’t Forget To Breathe

buddy don't forget to breathe
Buddy

In an era of so many rappers employing therapy and its associated lingo as a stylistic shortcut to being truly vulnerable, honest, and confessional on records, Buddy’s Don’t Forget To Breathe is, fittingly, a breath of fresh air. The Compton rapper not only takes the time to get to know himself after his decade or so in the game — letting listeners in on the process — but displays his expansive taste with a lush musical palette incorporating groovy R&B instrumentation over head-nodding hip-hop rhythms. “Buddy A Fool” is a self-aware self send-up, “Got Me Started” is a confident slick talk session, and “You 2 Thank” bridges the gap between post-G-funk and diasporic excellence. — Aaron Williams

Chief Keef — Almighty So 2

Chief Keef

There’s no denying Chief Keef’s impact on modern-day hip-hop. All of what exists today, for better or for worse, would be different or absent without Chief Keef. At 28 years old, he’s a rap veteran when many at that age are just a few years into their careers, and many who checked into the game at 17 years old, like Keef did, fizzled out shortly after they could legally drink. So Keef’s continued relevance for more than a decade is impressive, as is his fifth album, Almighty So 2. Originally announced back in 2019, the album’s arrival five years later is a great gift to fans. What makes it better are splashy features from Tierra Whack, Sexyy Red, Quavo, and others, as well as sharp bass-rattling production supplied by Keef himself. — W.O.

Conan Gray — Found Heaven

Conan Gray Found Heaven
Republic Records

Pulling inspiration from the ’80s isn’t novel, but what’s less common is for a mainstream pop artist to lean into it as heavily as Conan Gray does on Found Heaven. What’s even rarer in that subset is for it to actually be done well. Gray expertly captures the synth-forward sounds of the era but the songwriting is there, too; “Never Ending Song” would be expertly crafted and catchy even without its throwback aesthetic. Found Heaven could have easily been a shallow and gimmicky release in lesser hands, but Gray has tapped into something compelling here. — Derrick Rossignol

DIIV — Frog In Boiling Water

diiv frog in boiling water album art
Fantasy Records

DIIV’s excellent fourth LP melds the band’s cavernous, widescreen guitar atmospherics with lyrics that ponder a world in a permanent state of decline. But while the words are frequently downbeat, they are paired with the most flat-out beautiful music of DIIV’s career. (The band is also funnier than they get credit for, as evidenced by the Fred Durst-starring SNL parody in the “Brown Paper Bag” music video.) After the more muscular and aggressive Deceiver, Frog In Boiling Water marks a return to the gauzy tranquility of their droned-out 2012 debut Oshin, which established DIIV as one of the finest bands to be associated with shoegaze in the 2010s. — S.H.

Dua Lipa — Radical Optimism

Dua Lipa Radical Optimism
Warner Records UK

Radical Optimism debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, the highest-charting album of Dua Lipa’s career. Ironically, outside of “Houdini,” the album lacks hit singles, which sounds like an insult, but it’s a compliment because Lipa accomplished what she set out to do. Radical Optimism‘s cohesive, shimmering, psychedelic-pop palette is meant to be danced to — not dissected. “This could be the end of an era / Who knows, baby? / This could be forever,” Lipa sings on “End Of An Era.” This album could age as a timeless staple in Lipa’s minted discography, or it could be a blip in time. Who cares? Enjoy. — M.A.

Empress Of — For Your Consideration

Empress Of For Your Consideration
Major Arcana

After a four-year hibernation between full-length projects, Empress Of has returned as a creatively crystallized version of herself. The alt-pop music darling, heard on 2020’s I’m Your Empress Of and 2022’s Save Me EP, has returned with vengeance. Rather than abandoning her signature bilingual dance floor bangers, Empress Of’s latest album, For Your Consideration, is filled with meaningful bops. Similar to tucking medicine into a sweet treat, throughout the project, Empress Of ensures that her deep dives into gender performance and romance’s roots penetrate in both English and Spanish. Outsiders see pop music as a way to dull the senses: For Your Consideration does the exact opposite. — Flisadam Pointer

Faye Webster — Underdressed At The Symphony

faye webster underdressed at the symphony art
Secretly Canadian

Faye Webster has long been a master of doing her own thing. Just look at her new album, Underdressed At The Symphony: It opens with the near-7-minute “Thinking About You,” not long after that goes into a Lil Yachty collaboration, and has a song titled “eBay Purchase History.” Whatever playbook she’s following is a good one, as Webster has carved out an idiosyncratic but accessible lane over the past handful of years that now sounds anything but underdressed. — D.R.

Future and Metro Boomin — We Don’t Trust You and We Still Don’t Trust You

future x metro boomin we don't trust you
Future X Metro Boomin

In 2017, Future did something no other artist had ever done before: He released Future (a trap-heavy, bass-knocking rap album) and Hndrxx (a softer, more confessional, and R&B-inspired effort) in consecutive weeks, becoming the first artist to release a pair of Billboard 200 chart-topping albums in the same week. Fast-forward seven years, and Future and Metro Boomin’s We Don’t Trust You and We Still Don’t Trust You are modeled the same way, respectively. Future’s ability to channel both sides of his artistry and deliver the very best of them multiple times in his career is a feat accomplished by few and dreamed of by many. But for now, we can remember these albums as two of music’s best releases in 2024 and one being the catalyst for hip-hop’s biggest war in decades. — W.O.

Gunna — One Of Wun

Gunna

The current era of Gunna’s career is one nobody could have predicted five years ago. Once-guaranteed collaborations with Young Thug, Future, Lil Baby, and others are now a thing of yesterday. Today, as Gunna’s fifth album One Of Wun displays, the Atlanta rapper makes the most of his inner circle as the variety and availability of past resources have run dry. One Of Wun is as flashy, slick, and smooth as we’ve known Gunna to be. It’s confirmation that he can present that persona when he pleases. “On One Tonight” is one of Gunna’s best outputs in years while “Hakuna Matata” glides with ease and hits corners with impressive finesse. “Today I Did Good” is a surprisingly bright track that showcases the change in Gunna’s life. One Of Wun escapes the dark of yesterday and runs toward the light at the end of the tunnel, which remains bright for Gunna. — W.O.

Hovvdy — Hovvdy

Hovvdy cover art
Arts & Crafts

Austin duo Hovvdy have never followed the rules. On their self-titled fifth album, Charlie Martin and Will Taylor deliver on the classic Hovvdy sounds — glimmering percussion loops and breezy synths — but songs like “Bubba” and “Make Ya Proud” feature the guys tapping into heavier emotions. Though 19 tracks may be a lot for an indie-pop record in 2024, the stories of Hovvdy are ones worth hearing, with the friendship between Martin and Taylor being the through line connecting them all. — Alex Gonzalez

Jessica Pratt — Here In The Pitch

Jessica Pratt Here in the Pitch cover art
Nina Gofur

“Timeless” is the adjective most often applied to Jessica Pratt’s music, but it’s not really accurate. Like all of Pratt’s records, Here In The Pitch is very much rooted in a specific era, which is the opposite of “timeless.” A better descriptor of her sound is “dated but in a good way.” On Pitch, understated orchestrations commingle with featherlight bossa-nova rhythms and Pratt’s own expressive croon, which hints at a well of emotion held in check by a stoic, enigmatic chilliness. It is the best album of 1966 released in 2024. — S.H.

Justice — Hyperdrama

Justice Hyperdrama album cover
Thomas Jumin

Through light and darkness, Justice has created heaven for dance fans. Hyperdrama — the French dance duo’s first album in seven years — signals a gorgeous return to form by way of pulsating beats and hypnotic grooves. Guests appearances from Tame Impala, Thundercat, and Miguel may pull new listeners in, but equally exciting are the instrumental tracks, like “Generator” and “Muscle Memory,” which sonically make for a euphoric catharsis. With Hyperdrama, Justice invites us to the dance floor, on which we’re encouraged to simply feel. — A.G.

Kali Uchis — Orquideas

Kali Uchis Orquídeas cover
Geffen

Equal parts sexy, magical, and mysterious, Kali Uchis‘ fourth studio album Orquídeas celebrates her Colombian roots as she takes her artistry to the next level. Uchis gets more raw than ever before, sharing Spanish-language anecdotes on sex, heartache, and love. She has found solace in her muse, Don Toliver, and arrives to a point where she’s no longer avoiding falling in love — like on her 2017 breakthrough single “Tyrant” — but rather, inviting all of those feelings in. Delivering these poetic ruminations in her native language makes it all the more personal. — A.G.

Khruangbin — A LA SALA

Khruangbin A La Sala cover
Dead Oceans

Khruangbin doesn’t make ambient music, but their output does often fit Brian Eno’s oft-cited description of the genre: “It must be as ignorable as it is interesting.” To be clear, that’s a compliment: A LA SALA does an exemplary job of setting a warm and comfortable vibe that could score any cozy environment, but if you pay attention and peel back the layers, there’s fascinating depth, too. — D.R.

Knocked Loose — You Won’t Go Before You’re Supposed To

You Won't Go Before You're Supposed To Knocked Loose
Pure Noise

Want to run the fastest mile of your life? Want to feel like you can crack a brick with your teeth? Want to listen to an album that even on the lowest volume will give you a jump scare when the first scream on opener “Thrist” hits? Listen to Knocked Loose’s You Won’t Go Before You’re Supposed To. The brilliantly brutal fourth album from the metalcore favorites will take your breath away — because it sounds just like a punch in the stomach feels. — Josh Kurp

Kyle — Smyle Again

kyle smyle again
Kyle

The recent resurgence of jungle and drum & bass is making me feel young again, and a large part of the reason for that renaissance is Southern California native Kyle. Last year, his album It’s Not So Bad evoked the sounds of the Y2K British rave scene with a palette of 2-step and garage, and Smyle Again (named after his breakout 2015 mixtape Smyle) continued to mine that fertile era from a more hardcore angle. Like its predecessor, it borrows the skittering forceful riddims of 2000s UK EDM and pairs them with the sunny, beach-bred cheeriness Kyle is known for. The result is one of the year’s more innovative projects. — A.W.

Maggie Rogers — Don’t Forget Me

Maggie Rogers Don't Forget Me
Capitol

A private person, Maggie Rogers isn’t one to seek the spotlight, nor does she put her personal business on display for the world to see. Outside of the music, we know very little about Rogers, but her music tells all too familiar stories. Her latest effort, Don’t Forget Me, faces us with truths we must reckon with. We’re all getting older. And maybe we’re not cut out for that traditional, picket-fence fantasy. But we can all certainly have fun and hold onto those joyous moments while we figure it all out. — A.G.

Mannequin Pussy — I Got Heaven

mannequin pussy I Got Heaven artwork
Ian Hurdle

Mannequin Pussy lead singer Marisa Dabice described I Got Heaven as being about “the longing for something new and exciting.” The fourth album from the Philly-based punk group is new and exciting — and one of the best albums of the year. I Got Heaven catches a fired-up Mannequin Pussy taking the same confident leap as Hole did with Pretty On The Inside to Live Through This, or Turnstile from Time & Space to Glow On: it’s a softer sound than the 80-second rippers on their earlier albums, though no less furious. There’s catharsis in singing instead of screaming, too. — J.K.

Matt Champion — Mika’s Laundry

Mika's Laundry Matt Champion
RCA

Brockhampton went out with a bang, dropping two final albums in 2022. But now it’s time to move on and Matt Champion has done just that with his first solo album, Mika’s Laundry. The project shows off Champion’s range and dynamism as a creator. Look at “Slow Motion,” a collaboration with Blackpink’s Jennie: The song starts off as a tender piano ballad before shifting into a rapid, PinkPantheress-like beat. That’s not as jarring as it may sound and it’s an example of Champion’s confidence and ability to execute on creative ideas. — D.R.

MK.Gee — Two Star & The Dream Police

MK.Gee Two Star & The Dream Police
R&R

MK.gee has spent the past handful of years building a name for himself in the industry: He has collaborations with The Kid Laroi and Omar Apollo under his belt, and he even landed a credit on Drake’s Certified Lover Boy (via a sample). After all of this, he finally has a debut album out in the world, Two Star & The Dream Police, an intriguing effort that offers tight production, thought-providing lyrics, and clear evidence of MK.gee’s growth as an artist. — D.R.

PartyNextDoor — PartyNextDoor 4

Santa Anna/OVO

The PartyNextDoor of old — that is, the one from the mid-2010s — re-emerged thanks to his fourth album, PartyNextDoor 4. The signs for a return to classic days were there thanks to singles like the scornful “Her Old Friends” and the praising “Real Woman.” With PartyNextDoor 4, though the feel is reminiscent of the past, we’re presented with a story of the singer who wants to grow from the man behind the mic on past projects. Genuine strides for authentic love are made on PND’s fourth album, more so than we heard on past bodies of work. Though he slips into a shell of his past on a couple of occasions, the desire and effort to be better makes PartyNextDoor 4 an excellent listen, especially when it houses one of PND’s best-composed songs to date with “No Chill.” — W.O.

Pharrell Williams — Virginia (Black Yacht Rock, Vol. 1: City Of Limitless Access)

Virginia Black Yacht Rock, Vol. 1: City of Limitless Access
Pharrell

There’s so much to unpack when it comes to Pharrell’s new album. There’s the audacity of calling it Black Yacht Rock, a winking nod to that genre’s genealogy. There’s the way it was released, on Pharrell’s own website, an unspoken commentary on the brokenness of the modern music distribution apparatus. There’s the way the album was overlooked in the midst of the chaos between Drake and Kendrick Lamar (and between Pharrell and his former production partner). But, of course, the most compelling thing about this album is watching a master at work, with a focused goal, crafting some of the best music of a long and storied career in service of shedding light on an oft-maligned musical mode. Put it in the Louvre. — A.W.

Rapsody — Please Don’t Cry

rapsody please don't cry album cover
We Each Other/Jamia Records

In my interview with Rapsody about her new album, Please Don’t Cry, I called it her best and THEE best hip-hop album of the year so far. I may end up revising that opinion by December, but the bar is going to be really hard to clear. Combining lessons she’s learned from therapy, endless reiteration of ideas, and some of her production teams’ finest work to date, Rapsody has crafted a masterclass in vulnerability, honesty, and lyrical dexterity. “Stand Tall,” “Diary Of A Mad B*tch,” “A Ballad For Homegirls,” and “Forget Me Not” are the sorts of honest, “real” rap writing that fans have been begging for for years. — A.W.

Schoolboy Q — Blue Lips

schoolboy q blue lips
Schoolboy Q

At this point, few of us, if any, should be complaining about the long wait between Top Dawg Entertainment projects. The last few years have brought projects such as Ab-Soul’s Herbert, Isaiah Rashad’s The House Is Burning, and of course, SZA’s SOS after five-year gaps — an approach that seems to be the recipe for producing some of those artists’ most heartfelt, innovative works to date. Schoolboy Q turns out to be no exception. His latest also arrives five years after its predecessor, Crash Talk, bringing with it the very soul of Los Angeles’ experimental jazz history. An eccentric compilation that never stays in one vibe too long, Blue Lips presents a portrait of a matured, sophisticated gangster. — A.W.

Shaboozey — Where I’ve Been, Isn’t Where I’m Going

Shaboozey — Where I've Been, Isn't Where I'm Going artwork
Republic/EMPIRE

Shaboozey — Where I’ve Been, Isn’t Where I’m Going artwork

There’s a moment where staying true to yourself finally pays off. That moment arrived this year for Virginia country singer Shaboozey. Whether the spotlight was his own or one to share with an undeniable superstar, Shaboozey made it so that you remembered his name by the time the curtain closed. He shined on Beyoncé’s Cowboy Carter through a pair of features on “Spaghettii” and “Sweet ★ Honey ★ Buckiin” and earned his first top-3 entry on the Billboard Hot 100 with “A Bar Song (Tipsy).” The full Shaboozey experience lives on his third album Where I’ve Been, Isn’t Where I’m Going where he’s equal parts gunslinging, party rocker, and heartbroken romantic. In all scenarios, Shaboozey is at full speed, saddled up on his horse moving as fast as he can away from the pains of yesterday and toward the hoepful joys of tomorrow. Where I’ve Been, Isn’t Where I’m Going is a magnificent tale spotlighted by “Horses & Hellcats,” “Anabelle,” “Highway,” and Shaboozey who’s doing everything right. — W.O.

Tierra Whack — World Wide Whack

tierra whack world wide whack
Tierra Whack

World Wide Whack is perhaps one of the most anticipated hip-hop debuts of the last five years, and it doesn’t disappoint. Tierra Whack had the world in the palm of her hand after her EP Whack World introduced the public to the colorful inner universe of the Philadelphia creative, but then reality stepped in. Tierra’s experiences since then inspired World Wide Whack, which despite its whimsical stylings contains some of her most heartrending music yet. “Two Night” and “27 Club” deliver a one-two punch of empathetic pleas for a more measured reception for the sort of creative personalities that have suddenly become a quite endangered species. — A.W.

Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and Boys Noize — Challengers [MIXED] By Boys Noize

Trent Reznor Atticus Ross Challengers [MIXED] By Boys Noize
The Null Corporation

The duality of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross: They’re Nine Inch Nails, but more often lately, they’re award-winning film score composers. There’s not necessarily a ton of functional overlap between those two types of output either: Scores aren’t created with the album format in mind, so they don’t usually work well that way. Reznor and Ross had a great idea with their Challengers score, though: Hand it off to Boys Noize to remix it into something that feels more like a traditional album. The result is the best bridge we’ve had yet between both of Reznor and Ross’ worlds: an album that’s as cinematic as it is cohesive. — D.R.

Tyla — Tyla

Tyla cover art
FAX/Epic

Tyla’s self-titled debut album validated every award and accolade and every chart position she sat in before its release. Hindsight is truly 20/20, but the South Africa singer exhibited all the signs of a star in the making thanks to her breakout hit “Water.” The infectious record took over the world with a pulsating amapiano beat that turned all settings into a dance floor, and impressive songwriting upheld by lyrics with an NSFW double-meaning that only drew people closer to the song. With Tyla, this fun continues. “No. 1” removes men from the dance floor for a woman-empowering anthem with Tems while their invitation to return allows Gunna and Skillibeng to contribute to the album’s best moment with “Jump.” In Tyla’s world, your most free self exists on the dance floor, and in her case, so does a masterpiece of an album. — W.O.

Vampire Weekend — Only God Was Above Us

Only God Was Above Us vampire weekend
Columbia

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 to other Vampire Weekend albums. HIPPIE/GOTH-ness has been achieved. The album-catalog-as-book, once again, evolves. — S.H.

Vince Staples — Dark Times

Vince Staples

Hometown bias aside, I have long believed that Long Beach rapper Vince Staples has been one of rap’s most quietly insightful, innovative voices since 2014, when I first heard him on Common’s Nobody Smiling single “Kingdom.” Since then, his confidence in his artistic vision has only grown, while his already prodigious talents sharpened in his efforts to bring that vision to grungy, cinematic life. Dark Times is the culmination of that growth, presenting a version of Vince that pairs his photographic observations of life at the bottom of the American pyramid with a collection of instrumentals destined to shatter the last (stupid) arguments against him — you can’t say he picks bad beats now. — A.W.

Waxahatchee — Tigers Blood

Waxahatchee Tigers Blood
Anti-

Katie Crutchfield reckons her fanbase doubled following the acclaimed success of 2020’s Saint Cloud. What would she do for a follow-up? Make the breeziest record of her career. Waxahatchee’s Tigers Blood tackles thorny issues (“I make a living crying, it ain’t fair” is the third line on the album), but it’s delivered in a rootsy, country-tinged way that calls to mind Lucinda Williams or Wildflowers-era Tom Petty. Crutchfield belonged among the wildflowers all this time. — J.K.

Willow — Empathogen

Empathogen willow
Three Six Zero/gamma

When it comes to Willow, the public is having the wrong “nepo baby” conversation. Instead of wondering how she was ushered into the industry, we should be asking from which of her parents (Will Smith or Jada Pinkett Smith) did she inherit her musical sensibility? In a landscape filled with reboots, adaptations, and sampling fatigue, Willow’s latest album Empathogen is a fresh breath of original and boundless exploration. No genre goes left unexplored. No topic is too delicate to pen into a record. Willow is in pure artistic bliss, and her audience is on the receiving of this freedom. — F.P.

Young Jonn — Jiggy Forever

Young Jonn Jiggy Forever
Chocolate City Music

The first six months of 2024 have been rather quiet on the afrobeats front. Heavyweights like Burna Boy, Davido, Wizkid, Rema, and Asake have yet to begin putting their 2024 campaigns in full swing, leaving room for rising artists to jump into the spotlight. Still, even in a more active year, Young Jonn’s debut album Jiggy Forever would surely stand out amongst the crowd. According to Jonn, “jiggy” is a “lifestyle” that means “staying fly and trying to stay above the waters.” Through the 15 songs on Jiggy Forever, Jonn excels greatly at that whether it be through preparing to overcome potential heartbreak on “Aquafina,” or the ambitious “Big Big Things” with Seyi Vibez and Kizz Daniels, or the romantic “Sharpally.” Simply put, with Jiggy Forever, Young Jonn proves that he’s here to stay. — W.O.

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