The 20 best albums of 2024 (so far) - The Boston Globe (2024)


The 20 best albums of 2024 (so far) - The Boston Globe (1)

Beyoncé, “Cowboy Carter”

Queen Bey reimagined the genre of country in the most spectacular way possible with “Cowboy Carter.” The album, which made Beyoncé the first Black woman to top the country charts, gave a major boost to Black artists while utilizing elements of hip–hop, pop, and bluegrass throughout — making it her most exhilarating listen to date. Dolly Parton even makes an appearance to give her stamp of approval for Bey’s cover of “Jolene.” Choice track: “RIIVERDANCE” (Candace McDuffie)

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Jane Weaver, “Love in Constant Spectacle”

English songwriter and producer Jane Weaver’s 12th album pairs her attempts to find inner peace with her omnivorous pop appetite. The spectral “Motif” attempts to quiet insecurities with a meditative refrain, while the heady title track has lightning-strike guitars and increasingly resolute vocals. Throughout, Weaver builds a sensual world that’s as immersive as it is hooky. Choice track: “Romantic Worlds” (Maura Johnston)

Vijay Iyer, Linda May Han Oh, Tyshawn Sorey, “Compassion”

The rapport among Iyer (piano), Oh (bass), and Sorey (drums) is now so finely honed that you almost don’t notice how vast a range of moods and strategies they cover on their second release. The floating title track, the driving ostinato of “Maelstrom,” an ecstatic Stevie Wonder cover — all of it moves with unity and hits with a precise, joyous intensity. Choice track: “Overjoyed” (David Weininger)


Allie X, “Girl With No Face”

There’s boasting that you have lasting cultural relevance, and then there’s delivering an impeccable album that ensures it. On her first self-produced record, Allie X asserts her “Staying Power” with a stream of decadent synthpop that glides between hyperbolic satire and electric dance numbers. The Canadian artist’s shining moment behind the soundboard is lead single “Black Eye,” a wallop of New Wave catharsis. Choice track: “Black Eye” (Victoria Wasylak)

Neil Young and Crazy Horse, “Fu##In’ Up”

As a diehard Neil Young and Crazy Horse fan, nothing comes close to the raw horsepower of “Ragged Glory” for me — a lifelong heavy-rotation album. So to get a concert performance of it here in full — live, raucous, and wild — is a gift. Save for the cover of “Farmer John,” Young renamed all his originals. The vibe remains the same. Choice track: “City Life” (Lauren Daley)

The 20 best albums of 2024 (so far) - The Boston Globe (3)

Shakira, “Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran”

Breakup records can be trying, but Shakira’s highly publicized split from longtime partner Gerard Piqué has inspired some of her tastiest songs in years. The all-Spanish record effectively touches on nearly every contemporary Latin musical trend of the past decade, from reggaeton to regional Mexican. Revenge has rarely sounded this sweet or been this fun to dance to. Choice track: “El Jefe” (Noah Schaffer)


Jamie Baum, “What Times Are These”

When COVID-19 shut down a 2020 tour, the esteemed jazz flutist-composer Jamie Baum responded by writing music and reading poetry. The result is a sublime balance of texts and music, drawing from poets like Adrienne Rich, Marge Piercy, and Tracy K. Smith, and singers Theo Bleckmann, Aubrey Johnson, and Sara Serpa, plus Baum’s stellar Septet+. Choice track: “To Be of Use” (Jon Garelick)

English Teacher, “This Could Be Texas”

With Snail Mail, Wet Leg, and Horsegirl smoothing their path, Leeds quartet English Teacher delivers knotty, heart-tugging indie rock tempered by the questioning, conversational vocals of singer Lily Fontaine as she navigates young womanhood. The mathematically recursive basslines, time-signature shifts, and flattened guitar pings, meanwhile, turn the songs into live wires, where the next jolt could come any time, from anywhere. Choice track: “Nearly Daffodils” (Marc Hirsh)

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Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman, and Marty Stuart, “Sweetheart of the Rodeo 50th Anniversary — Live”

A marvelous document of a memorable tour (including a Boston stop) marking the 50th anniversary of the Byrds’ seminal “Sweetheart of the Rodeo,” this album draws on performances from across that tour, including one, “Eight Miles High,” that was played only on the final night. The result: not simply a reprise of the album itself, but a celebration that includes material made on the way to “Sweetheart” (“Old John Robertson”) and in its wake (“Drug Store Truck Drivin’ Man”). Choice track: “One Hundred Years From Now” (Stuart Munro)


Marika Hackman, “Big Sigh”

Hackman is unflinching on her fourth album of original material. That was true of the English singer’s previous albums, too, but “Big Sigh” feels like a leap forward. It’s a self-reflective collection of tightly written songs that are sometimes bleak, but always engrossing, from the relentless, thrumming bassline that powers “No Caffeine” to the dark-hearted blend of acoustic guitar and piano on “Blood.” Choice track: “No Caffeine” (Eric R. Danton)

The 20 best albums of 2024 (so far) - The Boston Globe (5)

The Black Crowes, “Happiness Bastards”

The title is irreverent, and so are snatches of this rejuvenating, return-to-rock album — the first in 15 years by long-feuding brothers Chris and Rich Robinson. It has flashes of their early, Faces-inspired sound. Chris has called it a “love letter to rock,” and the Robinsons even push the meter into AC/DC territory on a couple of tracks. Rich also adds some outstanding slide guitar to the album’s manic, blues-driven stew. Choice track: “Flesh Wound” (Steve Morse)

Mary Timony, “Untame the Tiger”

Prolific guitarist and songwriter Mary Timony (Ex Hex, Helium) confronts grief with sharp riffs and probing lyrics on her fourth solo album (and first since 2005). This collection of taut rock songs both showcases Timony’s prolific ax work and serves as an object exercise in the idea that the only way out is through, with cuts like the title track and the bird-on-a-wire “Dominoes” feeling clear-eyed yet tender. Choice track: “Don’t Disappear” (Maura Johnston)


The Soil, “Reimagined”

The indestructible vocal harmonies of Soweto might not get the international attention that Ladysmith Black Mambazo once earned, but at home the sound is thriving thanks to this South African a cappella group. With three voices that sound like eight, this trio mixes traditional singing with modern pop, R&B, and jazz influences, and also delivers some effective collaborations with instrumentalists like the pianist Nduduzo Makhathini. Choice track: “Abazali” (Noah Schaffer)

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Future & Metro Boomin, “We Don’t Trust You”

The first full-length collaboration between two hip-hop heavyweights was not just an album, it was a cultural moment. Metro Boomin’s ostentatious production is matched by Future’s sleek flow — and there’s no shortage of guests to bolster the project’s grandiosity. From Travis Scott and Playboi Carti floating on “Type [Expletive]” to Kendrick Lamar’s waging war on “Like That,” “We Don’t Trust You” is one of the best things to happen in 2024. Choice track: “Like That” (Candace McDuffie)

Kim Gordon, “The Collective”

When Kim Gordon deadpans “I don’t miss my mind,” perhaps it’s because she’s siphoned every fleeting thought into her second solo record. “The Collective” finds the former Sonic Youth frontwoman offloading various musings against a mutating tapestry of trap and industrial rock, wielding an abrasive clash of genres and stream of consciousness lyricism that reaffirms her position at the forefront of all things avant-garde. Choice track: “I’m a Man” (Victoria Wasylak)

Riley Mulherkar, “Riley”

This solo debut from trumpeter Riley Mulherkar of the genre-spanning brass quartet the Westerlies is a beguiling mix of old and new, tech-savvy and organic, mixing soulful live playing and studio manipulation, time-worn standards like “King Porter Stomp” and “Stardust,” sharp originals, and a hair-raising performance of the gospel hymn “No More” with South African singer Vuyo Sotashe. Choice track: “Chicken Coop Blues” (Jon Garelick)

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The Smile, “Wall of Eyes”

On their sophom*ore effort, Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, and drummer Tom Skinner give themselves free rein to get darker, more haunted, more spacious, and altogether weirder. If 2022′s “A Light for Attracting Attention” bore a family resemblance to an imaginary Radiohead album, here The Smile sounds, gloriously, like no one other than itself. Choice track: “Read the Room” (David Weininger)

Liam Gallagher and John Squire, “Liam Gallagher John Squire”

Fans of psychedelic rock should like this one. It pairs Liam Gallagher, the former lead singer of ‘90s stars Oasis, with ever-underrated Stone Roses guitarist John Squire. Gallagher turns up the volume on these moody but rocking songs penned by Squire. Liam shows his love of echoey, John Lennon vocals, while Squire is an encyclopedia of riffs, at times paying homage to Jimi Hendrix. Choice track: “Just Another Rainbow” (Steve Morse)

Wonder Women of Country, “Wonder Women of Country”

Kelly Willis, Brennen Leigh, and Melissa Carper have periodically combined their distinct talents in live shows, including a full-blown tour last year. Happily, they’ve now decided to give the collaboration a proper name and extend it to songwriting and recording this sampling of various country flavors. It comes with a tongue-in-cheek title, but this is seriously good country music. Choice track: “Another Broken Heart” (Stuart Munro)

The 20 best albums of 2024 (so far) - The Boston Globe (2024)
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