The 50 Best Songs of 2024 So Far |

The 50 Best Songs of 2024 So Far

50. Faye Webster ft. Lil Yachty: “Lego Ring”

Faye Webster has long entranced audiences with her velvety blend of indie rock, country and R&B. And it’s that willingness to meld genres that has always led her to unexpected and cool places, the most recent case being “Lego Ring,” from her new album Underdressed at the Symphony. Webster pairs up with longtime friend Lil Yachty, and they both drift through loose slacker rock verses with swift transitions into lush R&B choruses. The contrast works well within the song, never feeling too abrupt that it halts the rhythmic drive. Webster and Yachty’s musical chemistry feels seamless, as they sing about desiring a crystal Lego ring. Their voices fluidly blend, each harmony sounding full and rich. The two musicians have known each other since middle school, which feels evident on the track. “Lego Ring” is lighthearted and fun with an edge of wistfulness; a collaboration none of us knew we needed until it happened. —Grace Ann Nantanawan

49. Pedro the Lion: “Modesto”

Though I’ve never been to Modesto, I imagine it has the same dreamlike stillness that Pedro the Lion creates in their new track, titled after the California city. “Modesto,” the lead single from the group’s new album Santa Cruz, canonizes David Bazan’s teenage years up until the first Pedro the Lion EP dropped. “Modesto” especially details a time when Bazan spent six months living in the city writing the earliest Pedro tracks, in a home he once saw as dull but discovered a vibrancy that would lead him to pursuing music. “I heard the perfect song at work today / Having asked if there were bands to see and spots to play / Jim said ‘Hell yeah,’ then he handed me a tape,” he sings, finding inspiration in the most unlikely of places. —Olivia Abercrombie

48. The Decemberists: “Joan in the Garden”

Portland folk ensemble the Decemberists are no stranger to putting out long songs. One of their most-beloved tunes, “The Mariner’s Revenge Song,” flirts with a nine-minute runtime and, 20 years ago, they put out an EP called The Tain that featured just one 18-minute track. Their mammoth introduction to As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again arrives to showcase just how far the Colin Meloy-led group has come since their last LP: 2018’s I’ll Be Your Girl. “Joan in the Garden” is 19 minutes and unrelenting, as it traverses through a half-dozen bodies, noises and altitudes before culminating in one of the best three-minute breakdowns you’ve heard in a while. Not since Bob Dylan released “Murder Most Foul” have we seen a revered artist climb this tall of a mountain for the lead single of a record, but the Decemberists pull it off with ease. Inspired by Joan of Arc, “Joan in the Garden” packs in ambient chapters and massive riffs and a hallucinating energy that registers like a fever dream. It’s a wall-to-wall thrill. —Matt Mitchell

47. claire rousay: “lover’s spit plays in the background”

On “lover’s spit plays in the background,” L.A. experimental musician claire rousay delivers a meditative apology song to a friend she almost lost to her own ego. The title references the Broken Social Scene track “Lover’s Spit” but explores an entirely different kind of human connection. Rather than creating her own oblique reference to a one-night stand, rousay uses the track as a point of connection between her and the love-worn relationship. “Lover’s spit plays in the background / Making me wish I had someone around / I hate me too / You hate me too,” she admits over fragile guitar plucks with her distorted, vocoded vocals drifting through the empty night she’s singing into and inviting us to explore. —OA

46. The Lostines: “Full Moon Night”

The lead single from the Lostines’ debut album, “Full Moon Night” is a dainty lullaby that transforms into a dreamboat orchestra of strings from Casey McAllister and Peter and Thomas Bowling, across five minutes of esoteric country touchstones reconfigured into contemporary vibrancy. Camille Wind Weatherford wrote the track at the genesis of the pandemic and, through fantastical longing, attempts to make sense of a newfound mirage of acute loneliness. “Full moon like tonight, make me feel young again,” she sings. “Like I could do anything.” The Lostines nurture every listener into a place where every note and every harmony ring familiar. “Full Moon Night” is cosmic, cohesive and full of fortune, color and wall-to-wall folk bliss, like a sock-hop in the swamps. The Lostines are storytellers, doling out vignettes about lost and longtime relationships, wandering above and below sea-level and watching cross-country nights be set aglow by stars. —MM

45. Hot Joy: “Folded Tongue”

St. Louis-based Hot Joy shot out of a cannon earlier this year with their debut EP, Small Favor. And the minute-and-a-half-long “Folded Tongue” was the first song that Austin McCutchen—formerly of Choir Vandals—wrote for his new punky outfit, and it’s a song reckoning with the battle between embracing confrontation to make life easier in the long run—even if you are deathly afraid of standing up to someone. Although the short track doesn’t leave much space for contemplation, the fuzzed-out arrangement hits us in the gut with a standstill opening line: “Don’t separate the fact and fiction / I need it in the world right now.” “Folded Tongue” is a quick blast of grungy energy and brazen lyricism from a blossoming lo-fi band you ought to look out for. —OA

44. Brittany Howard: “Prove It To You”

The third single from her latest LP WHAT NOW, Brittany Howard takes a striking new turn on “Prove It To You.” Rather than tap into the soul-inspired singer-songwriter cuts we’ve come to know and love about her work, she is instead embracing an electronic palate nurtured by a club-ready backbeat. It’s a beautiful, immediately stirring take, and Howard’s towering vocals are resigned to existing as a lush, methodical instrument as equally crucial to the arrangement as the synths and drum machine. Where “Red Flags” and “WHAT NOW” boasted funk-forward guitar and experimental percussion, “Prove It To You” aches and begs to follow its own fresh script. It’s unlike anything we’ve heard from Howard before, but it’s epic and necessary all the same. —MM

43. Caroline Polachek: “Coma”

“Coma” is a cover of “pharmacoma (for ben dietz)” by default genders, the obscure EDM project of Canadian musician Jaime Brooks. The beat on “Coma” is identical to the original, but it’s only elevated by the addition of Polachek’s heavenly vocals. The instrumental starts with a wandering piano and the beeping of a heart monitor before expanding into the most intricate and captivating jungle beats you’ll hear this year so far. The lyrics “If this is a dream / I don’t wanna wake up / It feels so good to me / Like I can’t get enough” fit perfectly into the themes of uncontrollable love and lust that Desire, I Want To Turn Into You explores, and the more I listen to the gospel of Caroline Polachek, the more I am convinced I’ll fall in love on a train. —Leah Weinstein

42. Dehd: “Light On”

“Light On,” the second single from Dehd’s new album Poetry, is a chill rocker contrasting the bold vibrancy of “Mood Ring”—with Jason Balla taking over vocals from Emily Kempf. The Chicago trio know how to keep us on our toes with their diverse sound, and the airy riffs on “Light On”—paired with Balla’s breezy vocals—create a warmth for the guiding beacon of the song to burn bright. “Every day, every night I will leave a light on / What you want, what you need, it won’t be a problem,” he promises in the chorus, crafting a comfort in the simplicity of the acoustic melody. “Light On” was the calming exhale after the rambunctious dynamics of “Mood Ring.” —OA

41. Matt Champion: “Slug”

Who could have foreseen that the best solo song to come from the Brockhampton universe would be Matt Champion’s “Slug”? And yet, the Woodlands native charts new, unfathomably catchy heights on the best songs from his recent LP, Mika’s Laundry. “Slug” is a sticky banger with perfect production and basslines soaked in reverb. Champion’s high notes on the song, too, stand out, bringing a disco color to the pop groove. “Slug” is one of the best dance tracks of the year, one I haven’t been able to turn off since I first heard it months ago. —MM

40. Armand Hammer ft. Benjamin Booker: “Doves”

On the heels of their powerful last album We Buy Diabetic Test Strips, which we named one of the 50 best albums of 2023, Armand Hammer—billy woods and Elucid—returned earlier this year with “Doves,” an epic, heart-fluttering, nine-minute song featuring New Orleans soul singer and shredder Benjamin Booker. Booker co-produced the track with Kenny Segal, and the instrumental features no percussion, no guitar and hardly any rapping. Instead, Booker gospelizes for a few minutes over a muted piano melody, glitchy background intoning and swarming, atmospheric static. As the crunchy distortion begins to build and Booker’s vocals fade, woods and Elucid come in with verses of their own, addressing the listener like it’s a spoken-word jam. “Doves” is particularly beautiful but equally haunted and touched with grief. On streaming services, it’s been included as the final track on We Buy Diabetic Test Strips, adding even more height to an already skyscraping rap triumph. —MM

39. Babehoven: “Ella’s From Somewhere Else”

The most epic track from Babehoven’s latest album, Water’s Here in You, is one of my favorite songs of the year so far. “Ella’s From Somewhere Else” was written by Maya Bon after seeing Ella Williams—aka Paste favorite Squirrel Flower—perform last winter. “When I got home from the show, I found some quiet space alone, I lit a few candles and kept the lights off,” Bon said. “I began thinking of all the places Ella takes me in her songs.” Likewise, “Ella’s From Somewhere Else” charts many dreams and many memories—cornfields, beached whales, spaceships, black holes, “in the magic,” “the place we said goodbye,” Bon’s childhood dog also named Ella and the flatness of loss. It’s backed by an acoustic guitar-heavy melody that slowly builds into a full-blown chorus of voices singing “you’re my brother, you’re my family, you are everything to me” over and over, as Bon’s bandmate and partner Ryan Albert lends his voice at the very end. But nothing can compare to Bon singing “Five years old, five years ago, I first loved you—your eyes like I’ve known them forever.” —MM

38. illuminati hotties: “Can’t Be Still”

Sarah Tudzin has had one hell of a year—most notably her engineering credit on boygenius’ the record nabbing her a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album. But in 2023, Tudzin brought her illuminati hotties project back into our hearts with the standalone single “Truck”—her first release since 2022’s “Sandwich Sharer” and her best piece of music since her 2021 album Let Me Do One More. Unsurprisingly, Tudzin one-upped her own one-upping on “Can’t Be Still,” a song so delightfully infectious and catchy that it very well might be one of the best illuminati hotties releases yet. With a sharp, riffing guitar echoing a slice of whistling, a melody of ooos and Tudzin’s steadfast, sugar-sweet lead vocal in tow, “Can’t Be Still” is rock-solid and appraised, by me, with a high replay value—I’m going to be humming that “I can’t be alone now, show me how” line all summer. —MM

37. Rachel Chinouriri: “Garden of Eden”

From the studio chatter over and fade-in drums, “Garden of Eden” is Rachel Chinouriri’s introduction to her stunning debut album, What A Devastating Turn Of Events, a collection of songs that capture the precarity and in-betweenness of young adulthood. “Too young but too old for this…Forever growing dumb to the bottom,” she sings, in a hushed lament that opens the floodgates for catastrophizing about the time she’s lost and the uncertainty of what lies ahead. As the fuzzy, droning guitars fall upon Chinouriri’s soft, shimmering vocals like the sunrise on the final hours of a party, leaving her to pick apart anxieties miniscule and existential: “No matter what your youth is gonna end / My God it’s sinking in.” —Grace Robins-Somerville

36. Beyoncé: “16 CARRIAGES”

On Super Bowl Sunday, Beyoncé teased her pivot towards country music with a pair of singles—“TEXAS HOLD ‘EM” and “16 CARRIAGES”—from her Renaissance sequel, Cowboy Carter. Much of the critical light had been draped around the former, as it more explicitly interrogates country instrumentation and motifs. But “16 CARRIAGES” was the superior song from the jump, putting Beyoncé’s vocal on range with a sparse arrangement that lends to her strengths through not doing too much. There’s a moment at around 2:05 where Beyoncé really leans into her pitch control, letting her voice run and coil around a backbeat of digital percussion and synthesizers. She laments being forced to grow up too soon, leaving home as a teenager and fearing how it’ll hurt her parents. “For legacy, if it’s the last thing I do, you’ll remember me, ‘cause we got something to prove,” she sings. “In your memory on the highway to truth, still see our faces when you close your eyes.” As the song takes pauses between verses, you can hear the subtleness of a lap steel humming about. “16 CARRIAGES” is a massively beautiful dawn of a new era for our greatest living performer. —MM

35. Wild Pink: “Air Drumming Fix You”

New York singer-songwriter John Ross’ band Wild Pink returned this year—and many of us rejoiced. The band’s 2022 album, ILYSM, was a Paste favorite, and for good reason: It signaled Wild Pink rising toward an apex you’d be a fool to ignore. Now, on “Air Drumming Fix You,” Ross and the crew pair diner jukebox-gentle drum machines and synthesizers with cresting saxophone scales and a spumante pedal steel—all while Ross sings about “shitting my pants in a VR world,” “baby breath” and someone, as the title aptly suggests, air-drumming Coldplay’s “Fix You.” Through vignettes of quick humor, however, come sharp lines that’ll gut you on the spot. “I guess the good life didn’t look like you thought it might” is going to be a lyric that sticks with me for a good while, especially, maybe forever. This Wild Pink track is handsome and sublime. Good luck getting me to turn it off anytime soon. —MM

34. St. Vincent: “Big Time Nothing”

The final single from St. Vincent’s new album All Born Screaming is a sea-change tempest catalyzed by a thick, propulsive and alien bassline. As Annie Clark told us in her recent cover story, it’s like “the actual harnessing of electricity, your circuitry molded by your own hands like you’re the God of lightning, that starts with real fire. It starts with chaos and you’re harnessing chaos and that is exciting.” On “Big Time Nothing,” Clark creates a new language for herself and remains in service to what the song demands of her—and, in this case, that means a distorted opening guitar riff not unlike her Strange Mercy era, but done in a way that mimics the industrial, doomtrodden, gnarly dance music of All Born Screaming. “I look inside,” Clark sings. “Nothing!” “Big Time Nothing” is fully engrossed in its own groove, and it’s one of the best St. Vincent songs since Masseduction. —MM

33. Ducks Ltd.: “When You’re Outside”

Ducks Ltd. wrote around 20 songs and finished about 15 of them for this year’s Harm’s Way before electing to use just nine on the final cut of the album. But in May, they released one of those cutting-room-floor leftovers: “When You’re Outside.” Speaking candidly, I think Tom McGreevy and Evan Lewis should’ve put it on the album. It’s an incredible track that brandishes one of McGreevy’s best fits of songwriting yet—including the knockdown “Victim of your own ambition, now you act like you invented being let down” couplet. The guitars on the track are a bit brighter than most of Harm’s Way, and McGreevy’s singing is higher and more anthemic. Imagine a world where this is track 10 on Harm’s Way—a career-best cut nestled in gently after the standstill immensity of “Heavy Bag” runs out. I’ll take that every single day, no questions asked. —MM

32. Hinds ft. Beck: “Boom Boom Back”

Best of What’s Next alums (and perennial Paste favorites) Hinds returned with the news of their long-awaited next record—VIVA HINDS, the follow-up to their massively beautiful 2020 album The Prettiest Curse, with a song so catchy it’ll make your eyes pop. Hinds have gone through some upheavals since 2020, as bassist Ade Martín and drummer Amber Grimbergen both left the band. Without a label or a management team, Hinds, quite literally, reworked themselves from the ground up. And co-bandleaders Carlotta Cosials and Ana Perrote sound as infectious as ever on “Boom Boom Back,” which features some vocals from Beck. It’s a collaboration that, as unlikely as it might sound on paper, works magically—as the track brandishes hypnotic double-layered chorus vocals from Cosials and Perrote and a mirage of guitar hues that radiate as brightly as Hinds’ always-gracious and upbeat stage presence. —MM

31. Mr. Sam & the People People: “Go Baby Go (Part One)”

The lead single from Sam Gelband’s—aka Mr. Sam and the People People—new solo album, Again! Again!, is a real gem. The New Orleans musician is ever the prolific player, joining in on releases from Chris Acker and the Growing Boys, the Sons of Ranier, Sam Doores and others, but here, Gelband is taking the mic for himself. “Go Baby Go (Part One)” is a tack-sharp Americana tune featuring a blistering lead guitar from Video Age’s Ross Farbe and backing vocals from Doores and Gina Leslie. It’s a communal track and sounds just like the Puget Sound oasis it was recorded in, with Gelband’s rough-around-the-edges-yet-soulful baritone guiding the arrangement’s current like a shepherd. “I glow in the light of my dashboard and I watch the parade,” he sings. “Grow in my rearview mirror, and I think of a place I’d rather be—just a good friend and me—so I slip away.” Do yourself a favor: Open your heart as wide as it can and let “Go Baby Go (Part One)” take up some space there. —MM

30. Rose Hotel: “Not Like That”

Take four minutes out of your life and just let Rose Hotel’s “Not Like That” wash over you. The project of Atlanta singer-songwriter Jordan Reynolds, Rose Hotel made an impression with her self-released debut in 2019 and is poised to breakout with her first album for Rolling Bones, A Pawn Surrender, which is out today (June 7). “Not Like That” is a perfect example of what she does best, layering spacey psych rock over addictive melodies and delicate vocals. The breakup song that begins with a a few acoustic strums builds and builds to a demanding final repeating wall-of-sound chorus that seems to carry all her heartbreak through the speakers. —Josh Jackson

29. Kate Bollinger: “Any Day Now”

If you heard the news about Kate Bollinger’s forthcoming debut album and thought to yourself, “Wait, Kate Bollinger hasn’t already put out a full-length record?,” then you’re not alone. Bollinger’s impending Songs From a Thousand Frames of Mind is, in fact, her big introduction—despite having racked up numerous guest vocal credits on songs from Paul Cherry, Drugdealer, Pax and others. She’s been steadily dropping singles since 2018, and “Any Day Now” is the big one. The song is sun-soaked, sounding like the environment it was written in: a drive around Los Angeles with a good friend. It, along with all of Songs From a Thousand Frames of Mind, was recorded at Sam Evian’s studio up in the Catskills, and you can hear that celestial, Upstate New York haze across all of “Any Day Now.” Bollinger’s vocals are as dreamy as ever, fluttering between a whisper and a mid-century croon. She’s a tycoon of timelessness, injecting her songs with tonal splendor that glows each note with bliss. —MM

28. Blondshell & Bully: “Docket”

Best of What’s Next alum Blondshell and former Paste cover star Bully teamed up earlier this year for a passionate duet about being reckless in love and life. We’ve all heard of romantic partner rosters, but Blondshell and Alicia Bognanno are bringing us the new and improved “Docket.” The grunge-pop track roars with a ‘90s energy done up in a silky blend of the duo’s individual sounds—combining searing fuzz rock with glimmering dream-pop. The two powerhouse vocalists have a knack for writing earworms, and “Docket” delivers the catchy chorus of the year so far with “He should be with someone who’s more in love / Not someone eating for free / My worst nightmare is me.” Packed with self-loathing and failing relationships, Blondshell and Bully gave us the perfect intro to a messy girl summer if you ask me. —OA

27. Nourished by Time: “Hell of a Ride”

The opening track from his recent EP Catching Chickens, Nourished by Time’s “Hell of a Ride” sounds like a time capsule of Luther Vandross and Boyz II Men-style R&B washed in slickly modern, brooding, glitchy synthesizers like an early 2010s dream-pop cut. Brown, time and time again, vaults himself into the echelons of throwback starpower. On “Hell of a Ride,” he’s balancing the dystopia of our modern day (“Children stuck in the matrix, they know when it’s fiction. Young breathing in them toxins, used to have a third place, now they got no options. And I was in there shoe shopping”) with a fleeting romance (“Still call my ex-girl when I go half-crazy, you know that’s still my baby”), and the collaged vibrancy offers a sugar-sweet amount of splendor that is unmissable. Put this song on in a club, in your car, in the bed, wherever—the glow knows no ceiling. —MM

26. Olivia Rodrigo: “obsessed”

It’s an absolute shame that Olivia Rodrigo’s best song is a bonus track. Her partnership with producer Dan Nigro has proven time and time again to be that of a pop powerhouse, and “obsessed” is their slam dunk. The star of the GUTS (spilled) deluxe-edition, “obsessed” is straightforward and overt in its sheer excellence. Rodrigo’s theater kid roots shine in her charmingly dramatic vocal delivery, as she vents about her fear of not living up to the perceived perfection of her boyfriend’s ex. “I can’t help it, I got issues, I can’t help it, baby” she pleads over panicked, layered guitars leading into the song’s explosive chorus. Olivia’s greatness lies in her ability to flawlessly execute her artistic visions, especially on these more punk influenced tracks. In my eyes, “obsessed” is a reminder that pop music is alive and well. —LW

25. Ekko Astral: “i90”

Ekko Astral welcome Josaleigh Pollett in to deliver guest vocals on “i90,” and it’s here that we get one final decree of hope that dares to break through the imperialism that hinders our endurance. “You know that my momma raised me to die young,” Jael Holzman sings, as Pollett gently chimes in. “Like the Torah says: Thank your ancestors, wash your hands, and believe in the desert. It’s getting rough out there, but it’s been tougher each day.” While Ekko Astral’s debut record, pink balloons, is, in many ways, a lesson in disruption, it’s also a painfully powerful eulogy of millennial and zoomer language and culture in the face of survival. The balance Holzman, Liam Hughes, Sam Elmore, Guinevere Tully and Miri Tyler settle on is one that thrashes yet never forgets to leave room for grace—because, too often, the world wants to silence you and the world wants to kill you. And, urgently, as the rhythms of pink balloons capsize into a singalong coda, Ekko Astral leave us not with an exclamation point but a necessary ellipsis that, through patience, still manages to knock the door clean off its hinges. —MM

24. Ben Seretan: “New Air”

Ben Seretan is the kind of musician who isn’t afraid to keep you on your toes. The music he makes, it flutters between genres and tones and colors—shapeshifting between indie rock and experimental and instrumental and, even gauzy, metallic, piercing noise. The New York singer-songwriter is chameleonic in that way, never resting for a second. On his new album Allora, which was recorded way back in 2019 in Italy with Nico Hedley and Adeline Hotel’s Dan Knishkowy, he’s taking a harder, more riotous avenue. Lead single “New Air” is a sensory overload in all of the best ways, as Seretan plugs an onslaught of imagery into an eight-minute, heat-seeking missile of rock ‘n’ roll. “Cough drops and bumblebees in syrup / Bare feet resting on the window / When we drove to San Diego / We swam in every flooded valley,” he sings. “Oh, we breathe new air for the first time / Build a stone wall in my rib cage / So long, glad I got to know ya / Burn your postcards in the kitchen sink.” This is what I want rock ‘n’ roll to be, with circuit-breaking guitar jams that’ll split your head clean down the middle and never apologize for it. —MM

23. The Lemon Twigs: “How Can I Love Her More?”

On the Lemon Twigs’ “How Can I Love Her More?,” it sounds like the percussion is coming from one stereo drum set in both ears. But, it’s actually two mono drum kits—one being played in each ear. Brian and Michael D’Addario harmonize like they’re singing up a spiral staircase, as Brian takes the baroque lead and reshapes the horn melody into a Holland-era Beach Boys arrangement. Likewise, he and Michael ham up the whirring, theatrical highs of the title track by resurrecting the discarded pop detritus of proto-synth-pop and meshing it with gliding guitars that zig and zag concurrently with vignettes of vocal harmonies. It’s here that the backbone of the Lemon Twigs’ ouvre comes to life: “Love isn’t something you know,” Michael sings out, with Brian sending missile harmonies into the sonic space behind him. “The more you choose it, you’re bound to lose it.” —MM

22. Cindy Lee: “All I Want Is You”

When picking a “best song” from Cindy Lee’s colossal, stunning new two-hour album Diamond Jubilee, you have about 20ish options to pick from. For now, let’s go with “All I Want Is You,” the two-and-a-half-minute gem tucked into the tracklist early on Patrick Flegel’s opus. With a haunted guitar solo unraveling slowly, Flegel turns his vocal into that of a densely layered girl group—manipulated to sound gauzy and jangly. While the track grows into its final interval, a bassline slowly creeps in and the percussion starts to throb, only adding to, as our critic Elise Soutar put it in her review, “the shambolic charm” of Diamond Jubilee. The “All I’ve got is the truth, all I want is you” chorus is my favorite of the year, as Flegel’s voice curls ever so delicately before each meter’s rest. —MM

21. Why Bonnie: “Dotted Line”

Why Bonnie fans, we have never been so back. The project of New York musician Blair Howerton is now signed to Fire Talk Records, and “Dotted Line” isn’t just an apt release to pair with such a celebratory career moment—it’s also a fantastic song. Merging her Americana singing with an arrangement that flirts with the indie-pop present on Why Bonnie’s early EPs, there’s a little bit of Sheryl Crow in here and a dash of Sharon Van Etten, too—but, really, “Dotted Line” sounds like Why Bonnie at their best. Is it country? Somewhat. Is it y’allternative? At some turns, certainly. It’s got some electronica elements, too—tossing a synthesizer line in there beneath the coastal, catchy warmth of Howerton’s lead guitar. “Give me something I can feel, give me something to make it real,” she reckons. “Won’t take too much of your time, ‘three easy steps to rewire your mind.’” From the first note, it sounds like Why Bonnie is breaking through a brand new ceiling. —MM

20. Charli XCX: “360”

On the fourth single of her sixth album BRAT, Charli XCX knows who she is and where she stands: She’s your favorite reference, she’s iconic, she’s tectonic. On “360,” Charli proves that her well of catchy hooks will never run dry. The minimalist production from A.G. Cook (who’s also referenced in the second verse) pulsates throughout the song’s short runtime, with layered Y2K-inspired synths accompanying some of Charli’s sassiest bars since “Vroom Vroom.” The only percussive element is an 808 clap, but the track’s potent energy allows it to still be strut-worthy. The single was released alongside a music video that has been described by many as Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” for internet gays, with a cast featuring several internet “It Girls” (like Emma Chamberlain, Julia Fox and Alex Cosani), as well as traditional film and TV figures (like actresses Rachel Sennott and Chloë Sevigny). While Charli may not be at her most innovative for this album cycle, that doesn’t stop these songs from being a blast to listen to—and “360” is no exception. —LW

19. The Ophelias: “Soft and Tame”

It is once again time for Ohio to rise up. The Ophelias—Spencer Peppet, Mic Adams, Jo Shaffer and Andrea Gutmann Fuentes—don’t consider themselves to be Cincinnati-based these days, but that didn’t stop them from writing the most heartbreaking homecoming anthem you’ve heard in a minute. “Giving up love in the South of Ohio, I hate it here, in the in-between,” Peppet sings out. “I wanna feel safe, I wanna feel seen. The curve of the hills when the sun is gone, a knot in my throat, another fucking song.” Fuentes’ violin rips through the noise of the track with a paradoxical, piercing delicacy that renders “Soft and Tame” into a brand new register of beauty. I am biased, as not just a born-and-raised Ohioan but as a born-and-raised Ohioan who, too, hates how uncomfortable and merciless it can be to live in this forsaken state—but the Ophelias are one of the best bands alive. —MM

18. Cassandra Jenkins: “Only One”

When I saw that Cassandra Jenkins was releasing a new album this year, I embarrassingly fist-pumped into the air in my apartment alone. It’s hard to quantify just how crucial Jenkins’ perspective is to the current state of music, as her 2021 track “Hard Drive” remains, in my opinion, the best song of the decade so far. Now, Jenkins’ next chapter—My Light, My Destroyer—finds the Brooklyn singer-songwriter reveling in a very subdued and sublime melody that boasts my favorite chorus of 2024 so far (“You’re the only one I’ve ever loved, the only one that I know how love,” delivered through a cadence that reminds me of 1990s R&B chart-toppers, oddly enough). What makes “Only One” so transformative, to me, is that it pairs Jenkins’ never-disappointing grasp on language with a vibrant sense of pop minimalism. For every “Everywhere I turn, everything adds up to your number,” there is a verse like “Stick figure Sisyphus behind mass parlor window glass—how long will this pain in my chest last? How long will it last?” waiting to emerge right after. —MM

17. Beth Gibbons: “Rewind”

Beth Gibbons’ first solo record, Lives Outgrown, is embroidered with raw, cherished instrumentation that duets with open spaces. It is sometimes beautiful, sometimes jagged and worrisome. The first minute of “Rewind” is gnarly, as Raven Bush’s violin and viola cut through the windswept, airy background—zagging whenever Gibbons’ vocals zig. “Empty with our possessions and trouble is, we still feel unfed,” she sings. “Hunting her down, sweet mother nature, ‘til nothing left if this goes on. And the wild has no more to give, makes no sense. This place is out of control and we all know what’s coming.” As the midpoint for Lives Outgrown, “Rewind” is cataclysmically resound. Producer James Ford employs destitute levels of droning feedback beneath a pile of acoustic and baritone guitars, and the inaudible sounds of children playing begin to linger in vignettes. It’s a breakdown that will turn your bones inside out, a resolution of a simple, well-worn truth: We can only go forward. —MM

16. Jessica Pratt: “The Last Year”

Jessica Pratt’s new album, Here in the Pitch, culminates in her greatest song yet: “The Last Year.” Nurtured by a bed of plucked nylon, she sings about “weird optimism” in the face of the “pitch darkness” that crops up throughout the record (and is so definitively evocative that Pratt named the record after it). As a closer, “The Last Year” is immediate and perfect, never stretching out but, knstead, reveling in its own playfulness. It’s solemn and never-ending—even though Al Carlson’s piano comes to a halt and Pratt strums her guitar with one last breath. Like the enduring tales and myths that drench her Los Angeles in such an attractive, curious, folklorish wardrobe, the days blow by and the characters all stick around in some form or another once “The Last Year” rings out. Life beats on, and Pratt sings it best: “I think we’re gonna be together, and the storyline goes forever.” —MM

15. Peter Cat Recording Co.: “People Never Change”

Last year, I wound up at one of Peter Cat Recording Co.’s shows on their sold-out, inaugural North American tour. The show was wild, and the Delhi fusion band absolutely blew the crowd away after gaining so much momentum with their sophormore album Bismillah. Now, their first record in five years—BETA—is on the way, and lead single “People Never Change” is a six-minute masterclass in direction. Weaving in and out of jazz, orchestra, psych-rock, electronic, hints of disco and vocals from Suryakant Sawhney that could very well be just as beautiful on a mid-2000s jazz-pop standard, Peter Cat Recording Co. are back. It’s a bit jarring just how good “People Never Change” is, as no moment on the track stumbles for even a second. It’s full-throttle vibes from the first note, and Sawhney’s voice ushers us across a soundscape made vibrant by Karan Singh, Dhruv Bhola, Rohit Gupta and Kartik Sundareshan Pillai. “I can walk away, spineless, pretend it’s a movie,” Sawhney sings. “I don’t want to face a crisis, or something that’s so real.” What is real, though, is how perfect “People Never Change” is. —MM

14. Adrianne Lenker: “Free Treasure”

Singer-songwriter Adrianne Lenker’s final single from her critical explosion Bright Future—which earned one of Paste’s highest album ratings since 2008—“Free Treasure” is crafted with delicate layers of finger-picked guitar and lilting harmonies wrapped in genuine affection. The folk track burns steadily in its tender, rustic sound, emanating a tangible nostalgic warmth. Lenker speaks of love in simple tasks and gestures, in moments rife with wild raspberries and apples, in cooking dinner and dancing. She sings, “You show me understanding / Patience and pleasure / Time and attention / Love without measure.” “Free Treasure” kindles a glowing sentimentality that stays with you long after listening. —GN

13. Fontaines D.C.: “Starburster”

Primed to make their XL debut later this summer, Fontaines D.C. returned with “Starburster”—the lead single from their forthcoming fourth LP, Romance. Ditching their snarling post-punk familiars, the five-piece breaks open new ground on the track—flirting with dance territory under the thumb of Grian Chatten’s unwavering vocal grit. “I wanna bite the phone, I wanna bleed the one, I wanna see you alone, alone,” he sings. The Dubliners unleash a laundry list of imagery, mentioning everything from striking with the SAG to the pig on a Chinese calendar—until all of it is tied up into a bow by Chatten: “It’s moral tyranny keeping it from me.” When a soft-spoken interlude hits, it becomes clear that Fontaines D.C. are firmly planted in a new era, catalyzed likely by producer James Ford. The quintet continue to be harbingers of a refined, delectable chaos. —MM

12. Billie Eilish: “BIRDS OF A FEATHER”

“BIRDS OF A FEATHER” sticks out on every listen. It very well might be Billie Eilish’s best song yet—the kind of career highlight you’d expect someone like Clairo to make, existing so far in the pop world that, on paper, it may seem out of Eilish’s wheelhouse altogether. But Billie attacks the track without fear, and it’s so bubbly that the era of Happier Than Ever all but goes extinct in a flash. The “birds of a feather, we should stick together” chorus is cliché in theory, but Eilish and Finneas land it colorfully. “I said I’d never think I wasn’t better alone,” Eilish continues. “Can’t change the weather, might not be forever. But, if it’s forever, it’s even better.” “BIRDS OF A FEATHER” is a no-frills pop hit that will only continue to grow in majesty and in likability. It’s summery and earnest, as the “I don’t think I could love you more, it might not be long, but baby, I’ll love you ‘til the day that I die” pre-chorus matches the lightness of Finneas’ synthesizers and looping guitar arpeggios, which, along with Eilish’s sugary-sweet singing, sound like a bouquet of immersive, frictionless pop ecstasy. —MM

11. Hurray for the Riff Raff: “Hawkmoon”

“Hawkmoon,” the final single from Hurray for the Riff Raff’s brilliant new album The Past Is Still Alive, is one of Alynda Segarra’s most personal triumphs yet—as they tell a stirring story about leaving home at 17 and soon finding shelter in the company of Miss Jonathan, a trans woman in New Orleans who Segarra would steal beer and sleep in abandoned refuge with. The track rests on the shoulders of a stripped-down, riff-centric rock instrumental, pinned into warmth by Segarra’s own Bayou pastoral of gender, community and class: “Watch out,” they sing. “I’m becoming the kind of girl they warned me about.” —MM

10. Florist: “Riding Around in the Dark”

Florist remains one of my favorite active bands, and my review of their last album corroborates as much. Em Sprague’s Brooklyn four-piece continues to release compelling folk music that rummages its way into the parts of your heart that needs it most. With Jane Schoenbrun’s new A24 film I Saw the TV Glow out now, much focus has been put on its soundtrack—which features Sloppy Jane, Bartees Strange, Caroline Polachek and many others. Earlier this year we got yeule’s cover of Broken Social Scene’s “Anthems For a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl,” and then we got Florist’s “Riding Around in the Dark.” Sprague’s voice sits atop a bedding of acoustic guitar, while faint keys and strings and glitches of horns surround her. “It’s the end of the world and we’re driving around,” she sings, and you don’t have to know the plot of I Saw the TV Glow to feel every single emotion in the tidal wave of Sprague’s delivery. The best soundtrack songs are the ones that can stand the test of time beyond the source material it’s written in service of, and “Riding Around in the Dark” will do just that. —MM

9. Mdou Moctar: “Funeral For Justice”

No musician has had a year quite like the one Mdou Moctar and his band have had. During their 2023 U.S. tour, a military coup in Niger forced the four-piece’s to stay stateside indefinitely, far from their homes and loved ones. In the wake of their postponed return, they released Funeral For Justice, a tapestry of fiery, blues-rock protest songs. On the title-track, self-taught lead guitarist and vocalist Mdou Moctar’s guitar licks are wordless rallying cries, his psychedelic shreds yowling alongside demands for African leaders to stop bending to the will of colonial forces: “Why does your ear only heed France and America? / Occupiers are carving up your lands.” “Funeral For Justice” grieves the West’s ongoing exploitation of Niger’s people and natural resources, it hammers home the crucial message that solidarity is the only way forward. —GRS

8. Waxahatchee ft. MJ Lenderman: “Right Back to It”

I swear MJ Lenderman never sleeps. Earlier this winter, he paired his talents with the shimmering country charm of Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield. “Right Back to It” was the first single of Crutchfield’s sixth album as Waxahatchee, Tigers Blood, and it continued to build on her Alabamian roots. Known for her heavy-handed approach to writing emotional songs, “Right Back to It” delivers another unromantic look at love, with Crutchfield singing, “I’m blunter than a bullseye / Begging for peace of mind.” The mellow track flows like a couple having a candid conversation about how to depend on each other once again, despite all their doubts. Yet even with the struggles of a longtime relationship, the duet between Crutchfield and Lenderman reminds us that things can always return to how they were, when the latter sings, “I’ve been yours for so long / We come right back to it.” —OA

7. Parannoul: “황금빛 강 (Gold River)”

In 2023, anonymous South Korean shoegazer Parannoul put out After the Magic, and it was one of the very best rock records of the year. The work encapsulates a new era in eyes-to-the-floor guitar-playing, as Parannoul infuses his shoegaze triumphs with bonkers electronica that upends any preconceptions we have about the genre in the first place. His single “Gold River” picked up right where After the Magic left off, fusing a backdrop of synthesizers with a banging wave of percussion and guitar melodies so damn colossal that you might just get lost in the tones. There are moments of pop perfection that skyscrape into an onslaught of blown-out, distorted sonic matrimony. It’s massive and, quite possibly, the best rock track of the year. —MM

6. Saba ft. No ID, Madison McFerrin, Ogi & Jordan Ward: “head.rap”

Continuing his evolving relationship with producer No ID, Chicago rapper Saba has been taking his time rolling out their collaborative project, The Private Collection of Saba and No ID—and “head.rap” is one of the brightest tracks of the year across the board, thanks to a resounding choir of backing vocals from singers Madison McFerrin, Ogi and Jordan Ward. In the verses, Saba contemplates Black hairstyles, growing out dreadlocks and self-expression. “Searchin’ for an avenue, ways to reflect my current attitude,” he muses. Views of the world / I’m Malik to my grandma, who used to braid my hair / But I had to cut ‘em at the school / And it was Black ran, I’m just a Black man lookin’ for a good day.” No ID’s production flourishes here, too, with flutters of guitar and hand-clap percussion. “head.rap” is a textbook summer gem dropped into the world at just the perfect time. —MM

5. Chappell Roan: “Good Luck, Babe!”

There might not be a pop musician having a bigger moment right now than Chappell Roan, whose latest single, “Good Luck, Babe!,” was a serious song of the year contender from the moment an eight-second snippet of it went viral on TikTok. There’s nothing complex or ornate about Kayleigh Rose Amstutz’ newest track, and that’s precisely why it’s perfect—“Good Luck, Babe!” catches fire because it’s a proper amalgam of ‘80s synth-pop and Y2K chart-topping glee. Not to mention, it’s queer as hell. (“You’d have to stop the world just to stop the feeling” is one of the best comedowns in recent memory, in my opinion.) Amstutz’ vocal performance soars here, too, gliding as high as the electronica enveloping her warbling falsetto. “You can kiss a hundred boys in bars, shoot another shot, try to stop the feeling,” she sings. “You can say it’s just the way you are, make a new excuse, another stupid reason.” “Good Luck, Babe!” is bulletproof and rebels against the campiness that often makes Chappell Roan’s music great in the first place. What’s different here is that Amstutz and her longtime collaborator Dan Nigro have figured out how to cut away the excess and get straight to the magic. —MM

4. Vince Staples: “Black&Blue”

The standout track from his latest album Dark Times, “Black&Blue” is already one of Vince Staples’ best songs. Combining samples from Thee Sacred Souls’ “Weak For Your Love” and DJ Screw’s “Pimp Tha Pen,” the beat on “Black&Blue” will put you in the air. It’s clear that Vince is at his most comfortable and his very best when he’s slowing down and letting a hook speak for itself—which takes flight through the “Weak For Your Love” sample. The mixing on “Black&Blue” is great, too, as Vince adds a bit of reverb/delay to his vocal on the verses. But what makes this part of Dark Times glow is how Vince reckons with the loss of Black loved ones and heroes, professing that not even the money and glory can patch up the holes left by his West Coast family, peers and friends who’ve passed. “Where did 2Pac and ‘nem go? Where Nipsey Hussle ‘nem go? Swavey and Drakeo? Richee and Slim Foe? I spent a lot of my time missing our kinfolk,” Vince raps. “Put ‘em inside of a rhyme hoping they live on.” —MM

3. Merce Lemon: “Will You Do Me a Kindness”

Shoutout to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Winnebago Man—seriously. Though I grew up a stone’s throw across the Ohio border near the state line, I still can’t help but feel anything but kinship with those ketchup heads. And with that, I have been listening to Merce Lemon’s “Will You Do Me a Kindness” over and over since it dropped. If the year ended tomorrow, this song would be #1 on my list with a bullet. At nearly six minutes, Merce channels one of the warmest, most compelling indie rock confessionals you’ll hear: “I cook dinner with some friends, tidy up the house, tie up loose ends / Now the sun has yet to set, a little staring at the ceiling, pick a book I never read / And I get lonely for a bit, comes in waves and then it split like a kiss that missed my lips.” The song is charming yet devastating—a hell of a paradox to revel in, but Merce holds no qualms with testing the strength of her own musical equilibrium. “The way a fly comes so quick through a door that’s swung open,” she sings. “Flung out chairs scatter the yard while the wind does its whipping.” The instrumental climbs like a skyscraper before exploding into a firestorm of emotions; the language is a sensory treasure trove that’ll crack you in half and then piece you back together with the way Merce sings “I’ll paint that hide cherry red.” And that guitar solo? Godspeed. —MM

2. This Is Lorelei: “Where’s Your Love Now”

Has a kiss-off from a jilted ex-lover ever sounded this sweet or this sheepish? Big-band balladry meets curmudgeonly slacker folk on This Is Lorelei’s post-heartbreak dirge, “Where’s Your Love Now.” Nate Amos contends with latent resentment that he’d repressed in the moment, waves of anger that don’t hit until the initial shock has worn off. It’s a track that confronts not only the hurt its subject has caused, but the nonlinear nature of heartbreak itself. “I’m healthier now, and I’m doing just fine,” Amos sings, in his rhapsodic, monotone drawl. “Long after our time is over, but I still wanna cry when I remember your lies.” Over a tinkering instrumental arrangement, Amos lets anger, shame, recovery, and gratitude exist alongside each other, embracing the contradictions that come with moving on without letting everything go. —GRS

1. Friko: “Where We’ve Been”

Chicago indie-rock duo Friko come into their own on “Where We’ve Been,” the raucous and ethereal opening song on Where we’ve been, Where we go from here. It’s a track about surviving life, and vocalist Niko Kapetan’s stirring delivery brings out a raw, searing desperation within the track. The lyrics describe a familiar hopelessness laced with silver linings of catharsis: “And your teeth hurt more than the day before / It’s time to get another job / Four feet between a wall and window make your wife a widow, oh / So throw your arms around me,” sings Kapetan on the chorus. The track gradually builds from its stripped-down intro, leading to a fleeting plummet of straining vocals and clamoring guitar propelled forward by ceaseless percussion. An emotionally potent epic, “Where We’ve Been” marks Friko as one of the most compelling up-and-coming rock bands, two brilliant friends whose talents explode at every seam. —GN

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