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Best Albums Of 2024: 20 Essential Releases Of The Year
List & Guides

Best Albums Of 2024: 20 Essential Releases Of The Year

From waves of neo-psychedelia to lashings of pop-punk ire, the best albums of 2024 prove this year has been packed with watershed moments.

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The music scene has been full of get-up-and-go in 2024, as proven by the array of exciting new albums we’ve been treated to, across multiple genres. From unexpected collaborations to rousing rock revivals, the best albums of 2024 find many artists embracing their most inspired and daring impulses. Whether it’s grime MCs expanding into new sonic territories or synth-pop visionaries reaching new artistic peaks, there is an abundance of riches that simply beg to be heard.

Celebrating the most mind-melting records of the year, here is our list of the best albums of 2024.

Listen to our Charts playlist here, and check out our best albums of 2024, below.

Best Albums Of 2024: 20 Essential Releases Of The Year

20: Ghetts: ‘On Purpose, With Purpose’

By branching out into other genres such as soul, R&B, Afrobeats and gospel, British grime MC Ghetts has delivered his strongest offering yet with his formidable fourth studio album, On Purpose, With Purpose. Fired up by watching Jay-Z’s 2004 documentary, Fade To Black, the UK rapper has let his turbo-charged creative process loose here, from the amapiano beats of Tumbi to the smooth nu-soul grooves of Double Standards, the latter of which features Mercury Prize-winning artist Sampha on guest vocals. “What I wanna say to people is: Find your purpose,” Ghetts said of the album’s meaning in an interview with Loud And Quiet. “’Cos we’ll all just live and die chasing money without finding the purpose.” Clearly, with On Purpose, With Purpose, Ghetts has finally found his.

Must hear: Double Standards

19: NewDad: ‘Madra’

Imbued with the ethereal vocal harmonies of Cocteau Twins and the gothic jangle of The Cure, Madra, the debut long-player by Galway-based indie band NewDad, channels Julie Dawson’s ghostly voice into a nocturnal spirit walk that guides listeners through the melancholic realm of dream-pop and more than earns its spot among the best albums of 2024. The grungy lope of Sickly Sweet sees Dawson embody the eerie tones of Pixies-era Kim Deal, while Nosebleed has the hallucinatory air of synthwave at its most chilling. “This album feels streets ahead of anything we’ve done before,” drummer Fiachra Parslow said in an interview with NME. “We may have been given funding and better equipment, but the fundamentals of our work? They’re the exact same.”

Must hear: Angel

18: Dylan John Thomas: ‘Dylan John Thomas’

Scottish singer-songwriter Dylan John Thomas seems to possess the innately catchy folk-pop sensibility of a free-spirited troubadour roaming the Glaswegian backstreets. Full of upbeat acoustic singalongs and more than a dash of freewheeling ska, his self-titled debut studio album mixes folky power-pop with melancholic wit, playfully plucking strings in the cheery style of Simon And Garfunkel, Fleetwood Mac or Dire Straits. “For me people like Paul Simon, Lindsey Buckingham and Mark Knopfler, they don’t get mentioned as proper great guitarists,” Thomas told The Line Of Best Fit. “I don’t think there’s many better guitarists than those three.” Easily one of the best albums of 2024, Dylan John Thomas seems to be picking up the baton from its creator’s fellow Scot Gerry Cinnamon and sprinting ahead with a winning songbook all its own.

Must hear: Fever

17: Liam Gallagher And John Squire: ‘Liam Gallagher John Squire’

This epic collaboration was always going to be a winner, bridging the worlds of Britpop and Madchester by uniting former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher with one of his childhood heroes, The Stone Roses’ guitar legend, John Squire. “I’ve always been rock, and I’ve always been roll,” Gallagher confessed to The Guardian. “But saying that, John inspired me to be in a band. So, maybe he gave me the rock and the roll.” After opener Raise Your Hands delivers a heavier twist on sunshine-pop, the Byrdsy jangle of Mars To Liverpool takes us into orbit, allowing the journey through the neo-psychedelic cosmos to continue thanks to the trippy acid-rock of UK Top 20 hit Just Another Rainbow and the bluesy, Cream-era Britrock of I’m A Wheel. All in all, with its adventurous soloing and retro-chic production, Liam Gallagher John Squire easily ranks among the best albums of 2024 by encapsulating everything that is so timeless and alluring about 60s-inspired rock’n’roll.

Must hear: Mars To Liverpool

16: MGMT: ‘Loss Of Life’

As their first studio album in six years, MGMT’s psych-pop comeback, Loss Of Life, sees Andrew VanWyngarden and Benjamin Goldwasser gazing over the precipice of middle age while clinging onto the last vestiges of youthful whimsy. “We both turned 40 while making this album,” VanWyngarden told Billboard, “and we wanted to find a way to retain our light-hearted, playful approach to things but to challenge ourselves to have more of a sincere and hopeful message.” From the dreamy aura of Mother Nature to the playful acoustic folk-pop of Bubblegum Dog, Loss Of Life sees MGMT turn in one of the best albums of 2024 by imbuing the idiosyncratic ethos of hippie campfire singalongs with the eccentric pop japery of Brian Eno, The Flaming Lips and Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett. Simultaneously VanWyngarden and Goldwasser’s most puckish yet well-rounded album to date, Loss Of Life is a pleasing return to form from one of the most unpredictable and delightful indie-pop outfits of the past twenty years.

Must hear: Mother Nature

15: The Black Keys: ‘Ohio Players’

Sonically vibrant and stridently upbeat, the 12th studio album by The Black Keys, Ohio Players, finds the garage-rock duo sliding down a rainbow of collaborative fancy. Bringing an array of colours to their sound by working with the likes of postmodern chameleon Beck, alt-rap producer Dan The Automator and Oasis songwriter Noel Gallagher, the group have worked up a dazzling jaunt through soul, funk and blues influences, resulting in a buoyant party record so bright you’ll be reaching for your shades.

“We ended up with close to 30 songs, like, done-done,” Patrick Carney told Classic Rock magazine. “But then we started pulling off any song that felt a little too midtempo or sad, putting them in the vault. Like: ‘This is not what we want right now.’” From the joyously sunny blast of Beautiful People (Stay High) to the Beatles-esque woolgathering of On The Game, Ohio Players easily ranks among the best albums of 2024 for proving that sun-speckled optimism is exactly what the world needs right now.

Must hear: Beautiful People (Stay High)

14: Schoolboy Q: ‘Blue Lips’

Five long years in the making, Blue Lips marks the highly anticipated return of Los Angeles rapper Schoolboy Q. A whirlwind of kaleidoscopic beat switches in which hallucinatory jazz and soul samples collide with trap textures and boom-bap grooves, the follow-up to 2019’s CrasH Talk finds Q at his most inventive and assured to date. “The pocket and the maturity, the style of rapping, the beats, the execution, the confidence,” he told Rolling Stone, detailing the artistic strides he’s made. “Just going in and just making an album with freedom, pretty much. That shit just feels good. I wanted to do it like this.”

Much online chatter has been generated by the track Blueslides, on which Q celebrates his sobriety by paying tribute to the late Mac Miller (“Lost a homeboy to the drugs, man, I ain’t tryna go backwards”), while the album’s lead single, Yeern 101, is hotter than a runaway forest fire. Bolstered by masterful collaborations with Freddie Gibbs, Ab-Soul, and Rico Nasty, Blue Lips finds its creator on peak form and has stands as a finely-tuned modern rap record among the best albums of 2024.

Must hear: Blueslides

13: Green Day: ‘Saviors’

Recorded in London’s legendary RAK Studios, Green Day’s 14th studio album, Saviors, sees the Californian punk-pop trio make a pilgrimage to the city their heroes John Lydon and Joe Strummer called home. Bidding farewell to the sun seems to have done the group the world of good, as Saviors boasts a gutsy and spirited clutch of gems that rank among the best Green Day songs, among them the Ramones-like spin cycle of Look Ma, No Brains! and the rollicking rehab reverie of Dilemma. “We were definitely trying to write one of the best records of our career,” bassist Mike Dirnt admitted on the CBC podcast Q With Tom Power. “We even held off on a lot of touring this year and said, ‘Look, let’s just really focus on giving these songs time to evolve.’” Ranking up there with Dookie and American Idiot, and reigniting the group’s mojo like a cluster of flies in a bug zapper, Saviors is one of the strongest albums the boys from East Bay have produced – and that’s just one of the reasons why it sits among the best albums of 2024.

Must hear: Dilemma

12: The Last Dinner Party: ‘Prelude To Ecstasy’

Winners of the Rising Star award at this year’s BRITs, all-female indie-rock band The Last Dinner Party served up one of the best albums of 2024 with their debut studio album, Prelude To Ecstasy, which peaked at No.1 in the UK. Veering from whimsical baroque pop to glammy rock hooks reminiscent of 70s duo Sparks, the album is “very David Bowie– and Queen-influenced”, lead guitarist Emily Roberts told Guitar.com. “It’s very Florence And The Machine and euphoric, and the idea is for the audience to feel a sense of catharsis when they’re listening.” Stirring and silver-tongued, singer Abigail Morris more than aids the collective release as she yo-yos from quirky falsetto on The Ronettes-style rumble of The Feminine Urge to bittersweet oath-uttering on Nothing Matters. With Roberts schooling us throughout with her stately art-rock riffs, The Last Dinner Party have left everyone hankering for another helping.

Must hear: Nothing Matters

11: Beyoncé: ‘Cowboy Carter’

An astonishingly eclectic attempt to restore the Black community’s place in country music history, Beyoncé’s eighth studio album, Cowboy Carter – the second entry in her “Renaissance Trilogy” – sees the contemporary R&B legend saddle up to explore new frontiers. From psychedelic soul opener American Requiem to the bluegrass stomper Texas Hold ’Em, we finally hear Beyoncé go to places she’s never gone before, delivering a jaw-dropping operatic aria on Daughter and bringing Aretha Franklin-style swagger to Ya Ya.

“The joy of creating music is that there are no rules,” she said in a press release. “I kept some songs raw and leaned into folk. All the sounds were so organic and human, everyday things like the wind, snaps and even the sound of birds and chickens, the sounds of nature.” Earthy and yet sky-scorchingly ambitious, Cowboy Carter’s appetising gumbo of country music, old-school R&B, blues, zydeco, folk and occasional flashes of hip-hop proves that Beyoncé is still at her barnstorming best. Bucking cultural trends as if she’s on a bronco ride through the deepest recesses of Americana, this is the sound of Queen Bey kicking the saloon doors in.

Must hear: Bodyguard

10: Allie X: ‘Girl With No Face’

If you have a fondness for gothic synth-pop with shades of early-80s art-punk, Canadian songwriter Allie X’s third studio album, Girl With No Face, brings the genre yipping and yelping into the 21st century. “I had a sound in mind right from the get-go, and it was basically my favourite genre of music and what I was listening to at the time,” Allie X said in an interview with PAPER magazine. “My flagship songs were Sweet Dreams [by Eurythmics] and Blue Monday [by New Order].” Also inspired by the dystopic bass grooves of post-punk pioneers Joy Division and the darkwave melodicism of Depeche Mode, tracks such as the wiry Yazoo-like thump of Off With Her Tits and the Day-Glo electro-pop of Black Eye proves that Allie X’s kooky vocal style is anything but gloomy, lifting as much from Kate Pierson of The B-52s as she does from Kate Bush’s eccentric box of tricks. An intoxicating work of synth-laden delirium, Girl With No Face ranks among the best albums of 2024 for proving why Allie X is an art-pop maverick at the top of her game.

Must hear: Black Eye

9: Hurray For The Riff Raff: ‘The Past Is Still Alive’

When Hurray For The Riff Raff songwriter Alynda Segarra’s father died at the end of 2023 – when Segarra was still wrestling with post-pandemic anxieties and the impact of COVID-19 on the music industry – it felt as if the world had been shaken to its core. “Grief is all over the album,” Segarra told Vogue of The Past Is Still Alive. “It’s about being present. It’s also about mourning loss, but it’s a lot about love in many different forms.” Across a captivating collection of poetic indie Americana songs dealing with weighty themes of bereavement and nostalgia, Hurray For The Riff Raff’s ninth studio outing ranks among the best albums of 2024 for framing Segarra’s life lessons with the spiritual and philosophical insight of an outsider artist seeking to find meaning in the immutable face of tragedy.

Must hear: Hawkmoon

8: Billie Eilish: ‘Hit Me Hard And Soft’

Once again working with her brother FINNEAS, Billie Eilish finally comes out of her shell on Hit Me Hard And Soft. Having been increasingly open about her sexuality over the past year, Eilish gave fans a taste of her new-found self-expression over the throbbing bassline that underpins her third album’s lead single, Lunch (“I could eat that girl for lunch/Yeah, she dances on my tongue”). “I feel like this album is me,” she told Rolling Stone. “It’s not a character. It feels like the When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? version of me. It feels like my youth and who I was as a kid.”

Vocally, Eilish is truly on her A game, smuggling her knowing cynicism into Birds Of A Feather while unfurling her creative wings, and taking her sultry jazz whispering into flighty realms on the acoustic ballad Wildflower. Featuring one of the best album covers of 2024 (one which has launched a particularly robust conspiracy theory), Hit Me Hard And Soft tempers its dark themes about the pitfalls of fame with moments of great beauty and insight, making for a genuine highlight among the best albums of 2024.

Must hear: Lunch

7: Dua Lipa: ‘Radical Optimism’

As the much-anticipated follow-up to her hugely-successful 2020 album, Future Nostalgia, Dua Lipa’s third full-length, Radical Optimism, had a lot to live up to. Thankfully, lead single Houdini saw Lipa break free from the hype straitjacket with a bona fide pop smash, while Training Season proved that radio-friendly earworms would still be on the menu.

With feel-good grooves boasting a disco-pop, funky house and Euro-pop feel, Radical Optimism easily earns its place among the best albums of 2024, tapping into a positive assured streak that makes Lipa’s self-help pep talks eminently danceable. “I think everything about this record has been [about] being in the chaos and remaining grounded throughout,” the singer told Variety. “This is radical optimism to me.” With diva house ballads such as Illusion summoning Balearic vibes as she ponders her increasing maturity (“Now I’m grown, I know what I deserve/I still like dancin’ with the lessons I already learned”), Radical Optimism proves why Lipa burns the brightest among British pop’s shiniest stars.

Must hear: Houdini

6: The Lemon Twigs: ‘A Dream Is All We Know’

There aren’t many bands who can revive the sound of 60s sunshine-pop without sounding bland or derivative, but The Lemon Twigs are most certainly the exception to the rule. Their fifth studio album, A Dream Is All We Know, is a retro-tinged delight among the best albums of 2024, seeing brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario wind the clock back and enthusiastically make Rubber Soul-style sculptures in the same sandbox as The Beatles. “We fully immersed ourselves in what we really love and think is the greatest music,” Michael D’Addario told The Line Of Best Fit, “which happens to be that 60s, 70s kind of stuff.”

What separates The Lemon Twigs from their peers is their impeccable songcraft, the sibling group proving themselves equally capable of locking in Beach Boys-esque vocal harmonies (In The Eyes Of The Girl) as they are tackling Byrds-like jangle pop (If You And I Are Not Wise). Elsewhere, the power-pop riot of My Golden Years sits comfortably alongside the Brill Building-meets-SMiLE workout of How Can I Love Her More?, which bops along like Paul McCartney sparring with The Love Affair. Musically, the time-travelling multi-instrumentalists stretch themselves with everything from cello and mandolin (Church Bells) to harpsichord (They Don’t Know How To Fall In Place) and theremin (A Dream Is All We Know). It’s all spectacularly accomplished, which makes A Dream Is All You Know a cut above most indie-pop albums you’re likely to hear this year.

Must hear: My Golden Years

5: Twenty One Pilots: ‘Clancy’

Giving their fans a fitting conclusion to the narrative lore they established on the albums Blurryface (2015) and Trench (2018), Twenty One Pilots welcome us back into their dystopian world of conceptual storytelling with their seventh studio album, Clancy.

Setting their songs in the fictional city of Dema, Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun reintroduce us to the narrative’s central character, Clancy, following his journey as a freedom fighter across a genre-hopping collection of songs that takes in alt-rock, emo rap and synth-pop. Begging to be adapted into a Hunger Games-style movie extravaganza, the album sets out its confident stall with Overcompensate, which dabbles in 90s-style breakbeats in a blast of exposition (“If you can’t see, I am Clancy, prodigal son”), before the duo careen into the punky campus-rock neurosis of Next Semester. From the hip-hop swagger of Backslide to the incredible synth solo on Vignette, Clancy sees Twenty One Pilots follow every eclectic whim to tie up all the loose ends of their decade-long story. Not only have the emerged with one of the best albums of 2024, but they’ve also produced what could well be their most solid effort yet.

Must hear: Next Semester

4: The Smile: ‘Wall Of Eyes’

Having experimented with everything from IDM to glitch-core with Radiohead, it’s refreshing to hear songwriter Thom Yorke and guitarist Jonny Greenwood embrace alt-rock once again on The Smile’s second studio album, Wall Of Eyes. That’s not to say the results are any less challenging than the duo’s earlier work; recorded at Abbey Road Studios, with producer Sam Petts-Davies and string arrangements by the London Contemporary Orchestra, Wall Of Eyes lives up to its status as one the most anticipated new albums of 2024 thanks to moments such as Yorke’s flirtation with hypnotic bossa nova textures on its title track and the lushly hypnotic folk that frames Bending Hectic. “I turn up with a bunch of phone recordings; doodles that are not even edited or formed and are fairly shapeless,” Yorke told NME of his songwriting process for the record. “We put them into shape then this thing appears that has this momentum.” Anchored by the welcome input of jazz drummer Tom Skinner (Sons Of Kemet), Yorke’s thought-provoking songs of ambient-pop despair and psych-folk melancholia carry surreal and atmospheric undertones, easily making Wall Of Eyes one of the most richly rewarding listens among the best albums of 2024.

Must hear: Wall Of Eyes

3: Charli XCX: ‘brat’

All killer, no filler, Charli XCX’s sixth album, brat, is stuffed with wall-to-wall club classics. As one of the leading purveyors of alt-pop for the past decade, there is nobody better placed to make hyperpop’s answer to Thriller, and here Charli launches headlong into a maelstrom of energetic dance-pop and hard-hitting electroclash packed with manic EDM grooves and oodles of bubble-gum bass.

“It’s kind of bitchy and gossipy and hardcore and very club feeling,” Charli said of brat in an interview with NME. “It’s definitely one for the girls who like to party and sweat and rave.” From the wash of pulsing EDM that accompanies the Taylor Swift diss on Sympathy Is A Knife (“This one girl taps my insecurities/Don’t know if it’s real or if I’m spiralling”) to the unbridled hedonism of electro house banger Von Dutch, brat is a masterclass of club-centric bedlam that allows existential thoughts to run rampant on the dancefloor. Wrestling with anxiety underneath the strobe lights, Charli has produced an intoxicating rush of endorphins among the best albums of 2024. Unlike most pop albums, this feels like the future, and Charli XCX is its architect.

Must hear: Von Dutch

2: Vampire Weekend: ‘Only God Was Above Us’

Now almost 20 years into their career, US indie-pop heroes Vampire Weekend have created a bravura encapsulation of their mastery of quirky art-rock and mind-bending baroque-pop. Perhaps their finest and most mature record to date, Only God Was Above Us sees songwriter Ezra Koenig turn his eccentric gaze back to the graffiti-strewn subway cars of New York City, with co-producer Ariel Rechtshaid helping to expand the band’s sound with gritty 90s-style hip-hop beats. “Maybe with this record, it’s about both pushing into true maturity, in terms of worldview and attitude, but also pushing back further into playfulness,” Koenig told The New York Times.

With afro-pop guitar hooks leaping around lush orchestral arrangements, songs such as Classical almost verge on free jazz, while the album’s masterful closer, Hope, imparts a stoic message of wisdom for aging millennials (“I hope you let it go/The enemy’s invincible/I hope you let it go”). On a par with 2013’s Modern Vampires Of The City, Only God Was Above Us is yet another fully cohesive masterpiece among Vampire Weekend’s awe-inspiring achievements.

Must hear: Classical

1: Rachel Chinouriri: ‘What A Devastating Turn Of Events’

Flaunting a homespun bedroom-pop style, Rachel Chinouriri’s debut album, What A Devastating Turn Of Events, is a songwriting marvel that has what it takes to tangle listeners in knots. With impressively deep lyrics tackling mental health, eating disorders and suicide, it’s a defiantly British record that explores Chinouriri’s London upbringing with both intelligence and street-smart flair, recalling the cynical wit of Lily Allen and the no-nonsense soulfulness of Amy Winehouse.

Proudly emerging from The BRIT School, Chinouriri is a delightfully fresh presence on the UK pop scene, defying easy genre categorisation by dabbling in indie, funk, folk and R&B. “For my first album, I wanted to go back to my core of what home felt like, being raised in the early noughties in the UK,” she said in an interview with The Cut. From world-weary post-breakup pop (Never Need Me) to alt-rock meditations on race and belonging (The Hills), What A Devastating Turn Of Events perfectly strings together all the musical touchpoints of the past 20 years and lets the spindle twist around thoughtful lyrics about Gen Z life as a young Black woman finding her place in the world – and that’s why it tops our list of the best albums of 2024.

Must hear: The Hills

Check out the best album covers of 2024.

Original article: 13 April 2024

Updated: 3 July 2024

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