The Best New Albums of Spring 2024

One assurance of navigating the vast expanse of social media is that The Discourse never stops. It’s: death, taxes, and never-ending discourse. Mass consensus is all but extinct. More than anything, fandoms dictate so much of conversation today.

Even so, spring has been a particularly fertile time for music drops: Drake released a diss record that featured an AI 2Pac (it’s terrible), Taylor Swift issued her 11th studio album, The Tortured Poets Department (also not that great), and Pharrell, the ultimate polymath, quietly released an album that was available exclusively via a promotional website, forgoing the route of major streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music (which is probably why you are just now hearing about it). Oh! Song lyrics, apparently, are also getting dumber.

Chatter has only intensified around all of these things—and so much more—in the previous weeks. There are days where finding common ground feels like a concept of a bygone analog world. Of course, good music is all around us, despite what one study claims. Maybe even more so than at any recent time I can think of. I myself have a hard time keeping pace. What can’t be denied is the uncanny originality of the following seven albums on our Spring Music List. Each project is a showcase of distinct artistic evolution. Think of them as small leaps of invention.

This is what the future is meant to sound like—all potential and unlimited imagination.

When Kendrick Lamar decamped from TDE to start pgLang, a creative agency with his manager Dave Free, there was speculation that TDE’s best days were over. Even with an impressive roster—ScHoolboy Q, SZA, Isaiah Rashad, Ab-Soul and Jay Rock—there was no guarantee that the LA record label could preserve its dominance and reputation, a sizable portion of which was owed to Lamar’s prowess: five albums, 17 Grammys, and a Pulitzer Prize (the first for a rapper). With Blue Lips, an essayistic blend of Black history and brutal reality, Schoolboy Q confirms what we’ve all been wondering: he’s the future of TDE, and it’s in good hands.

The second installment in a trilogy of musical reclamation, Cowboy Carter is all high points. Spurred by confrontation and grounded in the lore of Southern tradition, the album unravels like the best Beyoncé records do: pure sensation, total astonishment. (Have you heard the operatic flex on “Daughter”? Chills.) Only, this time it’s personal. Years ago the scions of country music said she had no place in its walled garden. So she paved a path all her own and became the first Black woman to top the country albums chart as a result. What’s not to love?

Maggie Rogers will probably never make a better song than “Say It”—from 2019’s cosmic Heard It in a Past Life—but her latest, Don’t Forget Me, is a nirvana-inducing project full of transporting earworms. The swooping cinema of “It Was Coming All Along.” The serene contemplation of “All the Same.” The blissful regret of “On & On & On.” Don’t Forget Me is the high priestess of indie pop at the summit of her powers.

Canadian experimentalist BADBADNOTGOOD never plays it safe. Their music is full of big ideas, near-impossible swings, and arching feats of imagination that sometimes leave listeners woozy with delight. (Go listen to Talk Memory right now.) Throw Baby Rose into the mix—who is one of R&B’s most promising young acts, and sounds like Nina Simone (yes, that Nina Simone)—and the result is Slow Burn, a six-track opus of utter, unforgettable feeling.

None of it mattered. The historic placement on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. The inaugural Grammy win for Best African Music Performance. The fact that “Water” was on almost every 2023 best songs list. Or the whispers that she might be the second-coming of Rihanna. There was no album, and because there was no album, many wondered if she was just another one-hit wonder. But we can put that chatter to bed now. Sunkissed and sultry, the South African singer’s self-titled debut is a slow-winding hybrid of amapiano, R&B, and pop that courts themes of love, loss, and longing (to say nothing of its impressive guest list: Tems, Gunna, Becky G, and Travis Scott). Get comfortable, because Tyla’s not going anywhere.

“Earth Sign” is a rocket ship that kicks off What Now, Brittany Howard’s sophomore album, and lucky for us it only keeps ascending, soaring higher and braver into a cosmos of astrological tenderness. As frontwoman for the Alabama Shakes, Howard was an immovable force, with a quaking and transcendent voice. As a solo act, she has tapped into a new dimension of musicianship—one that feels more elemental than artistic. Vulnerable and supernaturally forward-moving, What Now may as well be a question, because it doesn’t get much better than this.

Hip hop’s resident trickster debut album is a mashup of sound, color, and sensation. There’s a reason Tierra Whack songs feel so lived-in: she wants to build a theater in your mind. One where you can roam, play or rest at will. World Wide Whack is exactly that, a funhouse of fantasy and swirling originality. “Accessible,” “Imaginary Friends,” and “Two Night” are my current favorites but there are no wrong answers. Go ahead and hit Play.

And because there is an abundance of good music right now, seven more albums worth your time:

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