Exclaim!'s 25 Best Albums of 2024 So Far

Photos: Bibi Club by Manoushka Larouche, Mannequin Pussy by Millicent Hailes, Mdou Moctar by Ebru Yildiz, Erika de Casier by Colin Solal Cardo

BY Exclaim! StaffPublished May 31, 2024

In recent years, the warm glow of poptimism has faded into toxic stan factionalism, as fans wage war on the internet in defence of massive-selling pop albums that aren't musically distinctive enough to merit such strong reactions. But even if 2024's biggest albums haven't been its best, there has been no shortage of incredible releases in the first half of the year.

Exclaim!'s list of the 25 best of albums of 2024 so far includes the swan song from an underground legend, a couple of Quebec's finest Franco-rock exports, a surprisingly melodic twist on hardcore punk, and a towering masterpiece of avant-pop that avoids traditional music channels entirely. It's been a year when taking bold chances has paid off with incredible art.

Here are our 25 best albums of the year so far.

25. Shellac
To All Trains
(Touch and Go Records)


Shellac's first album in 10 years, which is also sadly their final record, might be their best. For those who follow Steve Albini, Bob Weston and Todd Trainer's work, it has it all: comedy, rage, storytelling, pulsing bass, pounding drums, corrosive guitar and clever, provocative lyrics about everything from bonding at karaoke to writing songs and not fearing hell when you die. Steve Albini left us too early, but not before leaving us a grand statement.
Vish Khanna

24. St. Vincent 
All Born Screaming 
(Total Pleasure Records)


Annie Clark's self-produced seventh album is a return to form for the guitar-slinging art-pop rocker. Shedding the high-concept aesthetics of her last few records, All Born Screaming feels like it fits comfortably in the more guitar-forward early years of St. Vincent. Packed tightly with romantically wry lyricism, doomsday imagery and distorted sonics, All Born Screaming is potent enough to burn the house down.
Matt Owczarz

23. Myriam Gendron
(Chivi Chivi)


Myriam Gendron is a romantic at heart and on wax. Her discography is flush with graceful nods to poetry, literature and traditional folk music. On her third LP, the Gatineau, QC musician draws no line between "Shenandoah" and Sebadoh. It's a treat of earthly delights so enthralling that contributions from guests like Jim White and Marisa Anderson drift along seamlessly. Don't be surprised to one day see the next generation of romantics paying homage to the transcendence of Mayday.
Daniel Sylvester

22. Rosali 
Bite Down
(Merge Records)

Bite Down blends searing guitar licks with outright catchiness.  Once again, Rosali Middleman enlists David Nance & Mowed Sound to augment her singer-songwriter sensibility.  She and her band previously generated Laurel Canyon atmospheres, but now conjure rock 'n' roll energy.  Middleman is a serial hook generator, and they're all over this album, her finest effort yet.
Bryon Hayes

21. Erika de Casier


On her third studio album, Erika de Casier hones in on the minimalism that has characterized her sound thus far, fleshing out her production while anchoring each track with her coy lyricism and signature feather-light delivery. With sly callbacks to her previous albums, Still makes no huge leaps forward, but instead smartly focuses on everything that makes the queen of understated R&B a unique and quiet force in the contemporary musical landscape.
Scott Simpson

20. Blunt Chunks 
The Butterfly Myth
(Telephone Explosion Records)


Like its folkloric title suggests, the debut album from Toronto's Caitlin Woelfle-O'Brien is the stuff of everyday miracles. Co-producers David Plowman and Nathan Burley eschew the genre traditions of indie folk and jazz-laced soul to cultivate a timeless, sepia-toned bedrock for the singer-songwriter's lit-from-within lilt — and her frank frustration with the cost-of-living crisis and the fickle, fleeting nature of hope — through achingly organic instrumentation, capturing the quiet majesty of metamorphosis.
Megan LaPierre

19. A.G. Cook
(New Alias)


The final boss of hyperpop returns with his first solo project since retiring the influential yet polarizing UK-based record label PC Music in 2023. A sprawling triple album that travels the past, present and future of Britpop, A.G. Cook's latest continues to stretch and pull conventional pop music to its extremes, like a piece of sticky pink bubblegum. Long-time collaborators Charli XCX and Caroline Polachek arrive to help Cook craft a record that sounds as experimental as it does accessible.
Josh Korngut

A Chaos of Flowers
(Thrill Jockey Records)


Borrowing lyrics from poems by the varied likes of Yosano Akiko, Emily Dickinson, E. Pauline Johnson, Ether Popel and Renée Vivien, BIG|BRAVE carve out a standpoint of mental unrest and alienation with a sound as old as time itself. Together with guitarist Mathieu Ball, drummer Tasy Hudson, and a cast of guests including Marisa Anderson, guitarist-vocalist Robin Wattie's red-eyed recitations are lashed to humid dronescapes that call across borders and centuries, delivering communal healing.
Tom Beedham

17. Nia Archives 
Silence Is Loud
(HIJINXX / Island Records)


England's Nia Archives has breathed new life into jungle music with Silence Is Loud. Her lightning strike of creativity has been to write songs that would stand on their own as soulful, artful indie rock, then infuse them with peak drum 'n' bass beat work. This union of songcraft and textural dance catharsis is remarkable for how overlooked a form of musical fusion it is, and for just how spectacular the results are. Take either element away and you'd still be left with great songs or great instrumental dance beats. Seamlessly forged together, though, this is a unique and transcendent album by a major new talent that's sure to draw new listeners to both sides of her bold musical personality.
Scott A. Gray

16. Jon McKiel
(You've Changed Records)


A brilliant approximation of our dystopian reality, Jon McKiel's Hex is at once modern and timeless. The instrumentation is fittingly subdued — all greens and greys — reflecting the natural landscape of his beloved Baie-Verte, NB. Over a lo-fi, sample-heavy soundscape, McKiel tenderly croons, pondering the fate of this digital world. Lines at once cryptic and connective, it's a world-weary prayer to an unknown source. Yet for all its philosophical heft, there is no sign of resignation, as McKiel invites us to remember that "one song could kill the king".
Penelope Stevens

15. Four Tet 
(Text Records)


A steady drip of dewy synths play a game of contract-and-release over a hip-hop beat in "Loved," the introductory track of Four Tet's latest album — and first since his year of partying with Skrillex and Fred again.. — reintroducing us to the mellow beatmaker version of Kieran Hebden we know and love. With Three, the producer continues his reign of downtempo electronic music with even more brain-tickling goodness than that of his wingdings side-project. The album sees Hebden asserting his polymath status in stark contrast to his persona as the memelord who simply could not stop dropping "Country Riddim" into sets for shits and giggles in 2023. It's a beautiful reminder that we all contain multitudes, to get you a man who can do both, and that the fuck-around usually leads to someone (in this case, listeners) eventually finding out — the discoveries of this period being a hypnotic balance of organic and synthetic elements, daydream-inducing soundscapes (see aptly named "Daydream Repeat"), heady arpeggiations and, above all, a surgical attention to detail.
Allie Gregory

14. Jessica Pratt
Here in the Pitch
(Mexican Summer)


Jessica Pratt's music is inherently melancholy and familiar, like the half-remembered dream of a lost memory. Here in the Pitch is fragile yet defiant, composed of cracks in the pavement, oil on water, inky shimmers on a desert(ed) landscape. In exploring the psychedelic darkness hiding behind the Californian dream, Pratt has made her most ornate, eloquent and hazy work yet. It might also be her best. We're all a little lost; thankfully, Pratt's music is there to help guide us home — wherever, and whatever, that may be.
Marko Djurdjić

13. Corridor


An odyssey of post-punk, psych and pop, Mimi's staying power is in its ornamental swarms of sound. Backed by strong, melodic guitar lines and vocals that match, delay-heavy synths drop in quips that carry you through the chamber. There's familiarity in this infinity, making it a rewarding listen for those who waited five years for Corridor's return. It's a case study that indie rock is very much still breathing — through the scrungy nose of a blissed-out cat.
Sydney Brasil

12. MIKE & Tony Seltzer
(10k Projects)


MIKE only wanted the hardest beats from Tony Seltzer's stash when the two got together to make Pinball, and that's exactly what the producer gives the NYC-based polymath on this 11-track team-up. Following denser efforts like Burning Desire and Faith Is a Rock, Pinball finds MIKE bouncing clear of his seasoned experimentalism to make free and easy flips between lanes through lively drum programming, foreboding bell tolls, urgent symphonic samples, smooth early-aughts R&B leads and myriad pitch manipulations — all of which make for a high-scoring victory.
Calum Slingerland

11. Still House Plants 
If I don't make it, I love U
(Bison Records)


if I don't make it, I love u tests our understanding of what a band's chemistry can and should sound like. Understood within the context of rock music, Still House Plants' sonic interactions can often come across as confounding or strenuous, even for a genre with a rich history of pushing band dynamics to the brink. That's part of the heady yet soulful charm of this record. These songs have staying power precisely because they repeatedly invite us to consider how and why this guitar, drum and vocal trio have ended up with one of the most emotive releases of the year.
Tom Piekarski

10. Kim Gordon
The Collective
(Matador Records)


Kim Gordon will be the first to tell you she's unqualified — not truly a musician, not really a songwriter, a curator of feeling rather than a technical savant. But that ambivalence to form is exactly what makes her music so thrilling. With The Collective, Gordon's second solo album, she pushes her already boundary-bending instincts to new extremes, blowing out the other side in a shatter of digital noise, corroded rap beats and flailing guitar. Working once again with producer Justin Raisen, Gordon takes her long-standing affinity for and interrogation of hip-hop to its logical conclusion, fusing it with her improvised guitar maelstrom and sounding, somehow, more alive and forward-thinking than ever.
Kaelen Bell

9. Adrianne Lenker
Bright Future


Adrianne Lenker sings with tranquility and purpose on her devastatingly gorgeous sixth solo studio album, Bright Future. Her intimate vocals shine, from the melancholic "Real House" to the folky twang of "Sadness as a Gift" to the raw revisitation of Big Thief's "Vampire Empire." The album, recorded and mastered entirely on analogue equipment, is a stunning vessel of Lenker's masterful songwriting, solidifying her as one of the most extraordinary songwriters of this generation. Bright Future feels like that breathy sigh you take in as you gaze at the sun streaming in through a canopy of leaves, your face dappled in golden light.
Karlie Rogers

8. Mdou Moctar
Funeral for Justice
(Matador Records)


Ornate and imposing like a sultan's grand caravan, Funeral for Justice is a resolute rush of North African rock pack with AOR ambition. The group's third licorice pizza with their eponymous leader and all-star guitarist, Mdou Moctar have quickly ingratiated themselves among rock cognoscenti with their instrumental proficiency and sheer power. A potent blend of Tuareg blues (colloquially "desert blues") and sprawling, lysergic jam work, Funeral for Justice vacillates effortlessly between a cool strut and furious, reverberated rebel yell. Iconoclasts both in sound and as self-professed freedom fighters for the Tuareg people, Funeral for Justice propels the quartet into a modern rock stratum.
Matthew Teklemariam

7. Ducks Ltd.
Harm's Way
(Royal Mountain Records)


Ducks Ltd. specialize in songs about feeling stifled, but Harm's Way took shape from the Toronto band's experiences of seeing the world and connecting with people while on tour. For the first time, they recorded with an outside producer and collaborated with other musicians, resulting in the grandest guitar pop Ducks have ever written. The album's narrators wrestle with ennui and bone-deep melancholy, but Ducks have never sounded more confident — they barrel full steam ahead in a restless rush. Although their ultimate destination remains undefined, Harm's Way shows how far a person can go if they open themselves up to every opportunity the world offers.
Leslie Ken Chu 

6. Agriculture
Living Is Easy
(The Flenser)


"I love the spiritual sound of ecstatic black metal by the band Agriculture." This slightly tongue-in-cheek phrase has become something of a slogan for the band. However, it starts to take on a lot of personal truth after you experience their music, especially their most recent release, Living Is Easy. The EP shows Agriculture at their best: soaring and triumphant, with the Celtic-influenced guitar lines of the title track being a particular standout. Like their previous work, the quieter moments are the most powerful, particularly the closing spoken-word track "When You Were Born." By the EP's end, that slogan no longer feels tongue-in-cheek, instead feeling like a confident declaration by one of today's most essential metal bands.
Jeremy Sheehy

5. Mannequin Pussy 
I Got Heaven
(Epitaph Records)


Recurring imagery of pigs and barking dogs are all over Mannequin Pussy's I Got Heaven. A feral pulse thrums throughout the Philadelphia punk quartet's fourth studio album, and, like a wild animal with an uncontrollable bloodlust, listening to it feels like licking a fresh, open wound clean. Beneath the raging horniness, crude religious symbolism and the band's typical brash spirit is a deep longing — for connection, for something bigger than themselves. I Got Heaven contains some of Mannequin Pussy's most bare and exposing songs yet in a catalogue already full of shameless humanity. It runs free, and it wants you to ditch civility and run with it, too.
Jordan Currie

4. ScHoolboy Q 
Blue Lips
(Interscope Records / Top Dawg Entertainment)


Nearly five years after the mixed reception of CrasH Talk, ScHoolboy Q has triumphantly returned with Blue Lips. A collection of some of the West Coast rapper's most immaculate work yet, the LP is chock-full of highlights that are as varied as they are impressive. From the jazzy reflection of "Blue Slides" to the celebratory, hard-hitting "Thank God 4 Me" to the ever-shifting soundscape of "oHio," Q never walks the same line twice, but never loses his footing, dancing through the bevy of instrumentals, stylistic switches and topics at hand. It's a clear touchstone moment in Q's career.
Wesley McLean

3. Bibi Club
Feu de garde
(Secret City Records)


Bibi Club made an immediate impact with their 2022 debut LP Le soleil et la mer, earning rave reviews in Europe and grabbing a spot as Blonde Redhead's opening act in the US. Released less than two years later, Feu de garde reaches even higher with its addictive hooks and expertly crafted arrangements. Drawing from a wide range of influences — dream pop, shoegaze, post-punk, pastoral folk, and more — the duo of Adèle Trottier-Rivard and Nicolas Basque chart a journey filled with natural imagery and childhood nostalgia. Moments of pure beauty abound, from the seemingly out-of-tune guitars of opener "La terre" to the irresistible groove of standout track "L'île aux bleuets," all coalescing into a stunning collection of songs.
Bruno Coulombe

2. Waxahatchee
Tigers Blood
(ANTI- Records) 


"Run it back, boys," Katie Crutchfield hollers with a hearty twang at the top of "Ice Cold," a rollicking cut off her sixth album as Waxahatchee. That moment is a potent capsule of the record's energy: joyful and driven as it beckons others along. Tigers Blood is for everybody, totally steeped in the textures of everyday living. Crutchfield didn't achieve this by making amorphous songs that cater to an algorithm's hunger for a blur of background sounds; she did it by building an album out of balanced structures and lucent lyrics that consider how one might love a life of toil, and what it means when that toil is making art among systems that rarely respect and reward it. She digs her toes into the soil, looks around and finds the point anyhow, holding it out for anyone to share in its splendour.
Noah Ciubotaru

1. Cindy Lee
Diamond Jubilee
(Realistik Studios)

It begins with dusty, intertwined, looping guitars. Then come metronomic snaps, followed by what can only be described as a cello heard through a century-old phonograph. An ever-increasing snare drum builds before Cindy Lee's transcendental voice cracks through the lo-fi static with the emotional power of magnetic vice-grips. It holds you there, clutching your heart without reprieve for the remaining two hours of tape.

Diamond Jubilee is the masterwork of Patrick Flegel, working as/through/with Cindy Lee, basking in the ostentatious glamour of vintage pop, psychedelia, and the direct sleaze of rock 'n' roll.

Lee commands every song on Diamond Jubilee with breezy finesse. From the timeless melody and effortlessly evocative guitar solo of "All I Want Is You" to the danceable, vampiric "GAYBLEVISION" and the call-and-response vignette "If You Hear Me Crying," Lee moves through all 32 tracks like a dejected spectre, revealing the expansiveness of human emotion through music that feels as laboured over as it does organic and eternal.
Myles Tiessen

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