Favorite Songs of 2024 So Far

Favorite Songs of 2024 So Far

SOTYs so far, not counting people I’ve already featured in this newsletter or profiled elsewhere. That means no Ophelias (read the profile!) or Early Eyes (read the Nothing Deep To Say breakdown!), if only because I included another paragraph about either it would just be overkill. They should totally tour together though!

I also won’t include songs I’ve written about over on the revived Singles Jukebox – sorry to underground alt-country act Beyoncé - but I will include future guests on Nothing Deep To Say (acloudyskye next week!) and guests (Bess Atwell... eventually!) on an upcoming new series here that actually does delve into more personal topics, which I need a name for because "Something Deep To Say" is already the name of the bonus content.

Chappell Roan - Good Luck, Babe:

RIYL: Reneé Rapp, Kate Bush, hoping that one girl figures it out

The apotheosis of the queer-women-write-about-oblivious-'straight'-girls genre; Chappell Roan sings not to a pretty girl leading her on, but to the version of herself that thought she was straight. This is Roan’s best vocal performance, exchanging self-conscious wild-child yelps for a pretty head voice that actually suggests Kate Bush more than anything else. One thing I found from writing the Against Me! essay and Ophelias profile earlier this year was that both art and transition are inevitable and often inform one another — it’s all methods to self-actualization. "Good Luck, Babe" is about the consequences of someone knowingly choosing safety over actualization, repressing their true feelings for the sake of others. Do you really want close homoerotic friendships and emotional love affairs for the rest of your life, or do you want to at least try for something real? The bridge reminds me, ironically, of Taylor Swift’s “Wonderland”; you'll search the world looking for something to fill the void, but in this case, you've always known what you’re looking for.

I wrote a lyric very similar to “you have to stop the world just to stop the feeling” around last year, so if nothing else, this reminds me I have to work on my own music soon!

Lime Garden - I Want To Be You

RIYL: The Greeting Committee, Sorry, those "cuddling isn't close enough I need to be in his skin" TikToks

I'm obsessed with songs about obsession, and obsessed with catchy indie pop songs produced by Ali Chant (who worked on the Cloth album I loved last year), so this is extremely Hannahcore. "I Want To Be You" isn't as brooding or intense as other songs about the desire to turn into someone (nor as wildly ecstatic as “Welcome To My Island"), and that's to its benefit; Chloe Howard is just just very matter-of-fact about her identity crush. This whole album follows through on the song’s promise; an incredibly likable buzz band that earns the hype by, ironically enough, being themselves.

My Mind (Now) - Paris Paloma

RIYL: Hozier, Ethel Cain, listening to social media stars blossom into proper artists

By TikTok alumni standards, this song is practically avant-garde; a large portion of the song is just an acapella round. When it finally kicks in, producer Justin Glasco stacks Paloma’s glam harmonies and piles on the layers to a cacophonous degree. After Paloma’s lyrics, there's a full minute of Glasco showing off, with flying horns (from Bear’s Den collaborator Paul Frith), horror screams, and some chiptune synths thrown in for good measure — Paloma doesn’t even come back in until the very end. Respect to Paloma’s label Nettwerk for not forcing the team to remake the previous hit “Labour” and letting them make something so unconventional. 

acloudyskye - Surface

RIYL: Snow Patrol, Porter Robinson’s Nurture, SiriusXM Alt Nation in the 2010s, SiriusXM The Pulse in the late 2000s

One of the biggest “where the hell did this come from” surprises of the year, a recommendation from a longtime online friend (thanks Soda!) "Surface" - which came out late last year but I'm including it! - did not need more than that opening guitar riff to hook me; it took me back to loving songs like Local Natives' "Heavy Feet" and Boxer Rebellion's "Diamonds" in high school, but with a modern lo-fi edge. This is the kind of epic, windswept guitar rock I still love when done well, and Skye Kothari's take on it is as catchy as anything from that era. Kothari rarely put their vocals this far up in the mix before this album, but their voice (not far from Elena Tonra or Gary Lightbody) is a perfect complement to the bedroom-stadium-indie they've created.

Another Sky  - I Never Had Control

RIYL: Wolf Alice, Dry The River, early Anohni, feeling deeply

This quartet has been through hell since their last release in early 2021; personal betrayals, homelessness, a flooded studio. In the face of ego death, the band made an album in a literal crypt. If you're into that sort of gothic intensity, you've found your new favorite band. Beach Day processes years’ worth of grief and anger across its 13 tracks (alongside more playful moments like the mind-boggling falsetto of "The Pain" and the darkly comic lyrics of "Uh Oh"), but the greatest achievement of the record is its most uplifting song. “I Never Had Control” is a stunning mini-epic nodding to 90s Britpop, but with the theatrical storytelling and thoughtful arrangements that remain the band’s calling card. I won't say more here, except that I'm glad Another Sky is still here, still happening.

Clarissa Connelly - An Embroidery

RIYL: Aldous Harding, Maria BC, being utterly beguiled 

I have a pretty good ear and relative pitch strong enough to pass for perfect pitch; you play me a song, and I can reasonably translate it to the piano. It powers everything I do and write about. This song momentarily broke my ear — at no point could I figure out the chords, to the point where I spent a while working it out on the piano. I got there, but the song still never quite goes where I expect it to go, nothing conventionally resolved. I don’t understand this song or this upcoming record yet, but I will. Excellent video too, reminding me I really need to see Hausu.

Bess Atwell - Release Myself
RIYL: Brandi Carlile, Lucy Dacus, crying in a coffeeshop

This is the first Aaron Dessner album in years where he didn't have a hand in writing – normally, he shares sketches with collaborators – and here, he just lets Atwell's songwriting stand out. "Release Myself" isn't my favorite song on this upcoming record, but I love it for that chorus melody alone, SO Lilith Fair in the best ways. (What of my music taste isn't, though...)

Lucy Rose - The Racket

RIYL: Norah Jones, Hiatus Kaiyote, admitting you're unfamiliar with someone's game

You’ll hear more from me about this record soon, but I want to shout out this banger of a closer – a “Virtual Insanity”-adjacent jazz shuffle with shoegaze guitars and a chromatic piano line, but not as crowded or cloying as that sounds. Instead, it's pretty fucking great; if you only know her from "Shiver", check this out.

Nia Archives - Unfinished Business

RIYL: Nilufer Yanya, Jorja Smith, breakbeats all day every day

I’m getting a little sick of everyone adding D'n'B instrumentation to their music – you will never be “Off-World” or “Figure Drawing” – but Nia Archives adds shiny acoustic guitars and a gliding vocal performance to offset the digital backdrop.

Fletcher - Lead Me On

RIYL: Avril Lavigne, Girl in Red, other women

Fletcher does her own take on the straight-girl-crush song (see also, Reneé Rapp’s "Pretty Girls" and Baby Queen’s Dream Girl), but goes for arena rock bluster rather than the post-MUNA 80s synth pop everyone's doing. If the drums sounded less programmed this would be even better, but the aching melodies make up for it. I didn’t realize Fletcher could sing like she does on the outro, and I really like this direction for her. More this and less "I went and saw a psychic, went on a pussy diet", please!

Camila Cabello - I Luv It

RIYL: Charli XCX, Allie X, the major label system trying to emulate everything you liked five years ago

This song is so calculated to get a reaction and fails, but it accidentally succeeds as pure pop if not 'hyperpop' (whatever that word means). I think of Allie X’s ballad “Never Enough” as much as Charli, especially with the beautiful synth run towards the end of the track. Will say more about this next month on TSJ, but please know I do, in fact, luvit, inappropriate Gucci Mane samples and all.

See you next week!