Thankfully for me, the music of March was so good it helped me forget about all of the crushing failures that have piled up in my life so far in 2017. There were even a few albums I had to cut off that were on here originally. There were also three high-profile indie rock records that failed to make too much of an impression on me from Real Estate, The Shins & Spoon, the latter being my favorite of the bunch. There was also a Drake
album mixtape of songs in worldly styles he likes. It’s pretty consistent in being average, but like always, Young Thug saves the whole thing on a buzzer beater. But like I said at the beginning, March was very strong month. Top favorites from this month are Hurray For The Riff Raff, Jacaszek, Mount Eerie, Spirit Of The Beehive & Mono No Aware. Hope you find something you like.
Hurray For The Riff Raff – The Navigator [ATO Records]
New York-born/New Orleans-based/Puerto-Rican blooded Alynda Lee Segarra is Hurray For The Riff Raff and she makes some badass Americana music with a Latin edge to it. In my experience, her music has been a bit more straightforwardly blues-influenced folk rock, but this record in particular is especially steeped with latin flavor (see “Rican Beach,” “Pa’lante” & “Nothing’s Gonna Change That Girl”) thanks to a revolving concept of the Nuyorican poet scene of the 60s & 70s. I saw someone wrote that her sound is “carving out a new kind of Americana,” which I love. The sounds of new people & cultures coming to America combining with storied sounds that have stood the test of time, forming a fresh notch in this country’s cultural progression. And of course, you can’t have America without a good dose of Springsteen. Thankfully there’s some of that too in “Hungry Ghost.” It’s an honest, motivating, emotional good time. I can’t say there’s a bad song on it.
Jacaszek – KWIATY [Ghostly International]
KWIATY is an album that strongly reminds me of the amazing short anime film Magnetic Rose, where a space salvage crew respond to a SOS signal within an abandoned space station, only to find it inhabited by the malevolent ghost of a disgraced opera singer. The inside of the station looks like a beautiful, stately mansion frozen in time, with prepared feasts of rotten food and cobwebbed dressing rooms. The sound of things on KWIATY mirror those images almost exactly, as textures are distorted and crumbling but maintain a fine air about them, like a bouquet of roses drying out upon touch. The heavily reverbed and dreamy vocals of multiple female singers establish a constant voice throughout, sometimes acting as a guide, but sometimes become part of the engulfing madness of all withering distortion. The music carries the feelings of nostalgia from a universe we are not in. A preserved past life slowly coming undone. Floating particles made of treasured memories.
Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked At Me [P.W. Elverum & Sun]
This album is not for everyone. It is a heartbreaking set of songs about the passing of Phil Elverum’s wife, Genevieve Castree, who also performed as Woelv & O Paon. The songs are grief-wracked ramblings set to gentle, messy acoustic guitar that directly reference Castree’s final days and the fallout from after her passing on Elverum’s life. It’s not too poetic, it’s just real. There are no grand metaphors for life and death and love, just true feelings and facts. He sings about throwing out her old bloodied death tissues, seeing her old clothes being worn by friends around town, and receiving mail addressed to her. Unmitigated, splayed out for all to see. It will most likely make you tear up on multiple different occasions. I highlight it here because Elverum is one of my all-time favorite musicians and the way he was able to write 11 songs about this to try to exorcise the demons inside of him, all with his dry wit and morbid realism, is really amazing and brave. Again, not for everyone. Not a light listen. But something there if you would like to enter someone else’s world.
Planning For Burial – Below The House [The Flenser]
Planning For Burial is, for better or for worse, one of the bands I was introduced to in my 4chan music board-going days. Those days are long past. Planning For Burial would usually pop up along with mentions of great CT band Have A Nice Life, which got me to periodically check out what they’re doing. Both thrive on overwhelming amounts of bleakness haunting their music, usually a mixture of black metal, dark ambient, post punk, post rock, shoegaze… a bunch of spooky genre tags, essentially. On Below The House, Planning For Burial lets enough light in to allow a bit of an easier listening experience compared to their previous records. It’s heavy, especially the opener “Whiskey & Wine,” but there’s more room to breathe, and the air isn’t always real musty. It’s an intense winter record and I’m unsure if it’ll stick with me as things start heating up, but maybe if I’m feeling cold I can put it on at night or something.
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – The French Press [Sub Pop]
Now this here is some real catchy rock from North America’s favorite indie rock exporter, Australia. I’ve been following this band for a bit now and was pretty excited to hear they got signed to Sub Pop. They do this thing where they have really simple, prominent bass lines and let the rest of the song coil around it. The best songs on the EP do this, especially the lead single, “French Press.” Simple quarter notes or whatever, a steady running pace throughout, lets the rest of the band use this solid bass as a trampoline into jams, mimicry, etc etc.”Julie’s Place” has a killer chorus as well. Unfortunately in the year 2017 I’ve become quite the jaded individual, but these six songs bring me back to the feelings I had around 2010 & 2011 listening to indie rock. Overall a great splash on a major indie and timed perfectly for the coming of nice weather.
Saltland – A Common Truth [Constellation]
I gotta tell ya – ya boy loves some strings. I’m a string boy, which is why I like this record so much. Saltland is the project of Rebecca Foon, a composer & cello player who was most notably a part of the great post rock group Thee Silver Mt. Zion. Similar to Sarah Neufeld’s record from last year, Foon creates stark, moody soundscapes primarily using strings and her voice, stacking anxious layers of ominous noise on top of each other to a dramatic affect. Many of the songs are hugely cinematic in nature, ebbing and flowing from dark, dastardly knots of anxiety to light beaming down to breezy pastures from the clouds. I think the instrumentals, like the two “Forward Eyes” songs and “Magnolia,” and my favorites from the bunch. It’s pretty accessible too. I don’t know. If you find yourself listening to like, the Game Of Thrones opening theme on your own accord, you’ll probably like this, you stupid nerd.
The Spirit Of The Beehive – Pleasure Suck [Tiny Engines]
Philly band have made some good ole lo-fi rock n roll with great shifts in dynamics and plenty of catchy tunes on Pleasure Suck. It’s a record that’ll space you out and also crush you with molten space debris. In one moment it’ll be an everyday jaunt through ramshackle rock, then it’ll slap you with some harsh feedback and blistering guitars, and then it’ll melt back down into some pretty piano and warped conversation, voicemails and news reports. None of these large shifts in dynamics or sound feel out of place. The album walks a tightrope on edges of madness, shrugging and dipping its toes into bleary pools on each side of the spectrum. Think like, the feeling of dreaminess from riding in a car for too long. The quick-snap anger from hanging out with friends for too long. Pulverizing self doubt. It’s all here. Yeehaw.
Tonstartssbandht – Sorcerer [Mexican Summer]
According to some places I’ve read, this is the Florida bros of Tonstartssbandht’s 17th album. Holy smokeroonies. But after listening to their freewheeling jam schtick, I can see how it might be simpler than it seems to make that much music. This is not to slight them in any way, of course. Sorcerer may technically be only three tracks long, but each carries multiple movements and goes through various evolutions. A good portion of the album carries an improvisational feel, but then there are moments when heavy grooves lock in and it feels like every universe is cycling in sync with each other. Completely bonkers psychedelic jams, just the two brothers. Guitar and drums and voice. Very simple ingredients making something dense and multi-layered. So yeah, that’s what I mean. It’s easy to make that much music since the ingredients going in are so simple. From there the possibilities are limitless. It’s good. Listen to it and get in the zone.
Various Artists – Mono No Aware [PAN]
If you know me, you know I really love some great atmospheric ambient music. Not just calming, unassuming comfy music. Well, that’s great in its own right, but something gets extra points when it’s able to both transport the listener into its own world and simultaneously morphs into the listener’s world. Almost every song here succeeds with this goal, making it one of the best ambient listening experiences I’ve had since 2015’s 2814. Another great asset this has is that I only recognized one name on this compilation (Yves Tumor), so this has helped introduce me to a bunch of great, experimental artists that I’ll definitely be looking out for going forward. If you’re looking for an amazing companion to your commute or something to just chill out to, this is an amazing choice.
Various Artists – Outro Tempo: Electronic And Contemporary Music From Brazil 1978-1992 [Music From Memory]
Another various artists comp – this is a fantastic & interesting compilation of hidden electronic gems from Brazil and I think the original press release for the album describes it better than I ever could: “Outro Tempo is a double LP that explores the outer reaches of Brazilian music, where indigenous rhythms mix with synthesizers and where MPB mingles with drum computers. As Brazil faced the last years of its military dictatorship and transition to democracy, a generation of forward-thinking musicians developed an alternative vision of Brazilian music and culture. They embraced traditionally shunned electronic production methods and infused their music with elements of ambient, jazz-fusion, and minimalism. At the same time they referenced the musical forms and spirituality of indigenous tribes from the Amazon. The music they produced was a complex and mesmerizing tapestry that vividly evoked Brazilian landscapes and simultaneously reached out to the world beyond its borders.” A really magical, unique listen. Can’t say I’ve ever heard anything much like it.
OTHER NOTABLE RELEASES::
- Blanck Mass – World Eater : A grand, grotesque gesture of an album from the solo project of Fuck Buttons’ Benjamin Power. Cannon-launched electronic music delivered in punishing blasts. I say “grand” earlier because some instances are quite beautiful, like “Please” and “Silent Treatment.”
- Bonny Doon – Bonny Doon : Laid back rock n roll from Detroit. Perhaps the sonic equivalent of sitting in a screened-in porch with some people you enjoy being around.
- Jacques Greene – Feel Infinite : Engaging electronic listen. A balance of real memorable bangers and forgettable floaters. “I Won’t Judge,” “You Can’t Deny” & “Afterglow” are by far the best tracks.
- Jay Som – Everybody Works : California indie rock band taking a meteoric rise to the top of the blogosphere (if that’s still the accurate term) adds fuel to the thrusters with a collection of cute, upbeat songs. Very centered around a “young” perspective. Like, why does this thing make me feel old?
- JFDR – Brazil : Young Icelandic musical prodigy Jófríður Ákadóttir makes her first “solo” album, a record of deliberate silence and patience. Slow building, delicate songs. Long, spindly creations, as if they could break if handled incorrectly.
- Kelly Lee Owens – Kelly Lee Owens : Techno-minded pop with dark, trance-inducing instrumentals and vocals. For the most part very dreamy and simple. Great feature from Jenny Hval on “Anxi.”
- Nadia Reid – Preservation : New Zealand singer songwriter with a real strong voice. Lots of instrumental depth in these tracks, which I like a lot. When a song hits on this thing, it hits hard. First three tracks are flawless.
- Onra – Chinoiseries Pt. 3 : Final installment of Onra’s sweet beat compilation Chinoiseries, almost ten years in the making. Definitely a Dilla-style beatmaker mixed with a little Brainfeeder. Really consistent, solid stuff.
- Pallbearer – Heartless : Metal leaning towards the sludge kind, but there’s a bit of Baroness influence in there. Much more cleaner than their previous albums, though not as heavy. Got it’s good moments and plenty of epic, crushing guitars.
- Pile – A Hairshirt Of Purpose : Some good old rock boys making some off-kilter monster jams. They improve on everything that was wrong with their last album and bring back the intensity of their 2012 album. Great listen.
**NEW SEGMENT!** GR8 SONGS OF MARCH!::
- Beach Fossils – “This Year”
- Blanck Mass – “Silent Treatment”
- Chastity Belt – “Different Now”
- Drake – “Ice Melts (ft. Young Thug)”
- Fleet Foxes – “Third Of May/Ōdaigahara”
- Gorillaz – “Saturnz Barz (ft. Popcaan)”
- Jacaszek – “Soft Music”
- Jacques Greene – “Afterglow”
- Jay Som – “Baybee”
- JFDR – “Destiny’s Upon Us”
- Kelly Lee Owens – “Anxi. (ft. Jenny Hval)”
- Land Of Talk – “This Time”
- Lusine – “Witness (ft. Benoît Piolard)”
- Lydia Ainsworth – “Into The Blue”
- Nadia Reid – “Richard”
- Pallbearer – “A Plea For Understanding”
- Pile – “Dogs”
- Planning For Burial – “Whiskey And Wine”
- Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – “French Press”
- The Spirit Of The Beehive – “Future Looks Bright (It’s Blinding)”
- Tonstartssbandht – “Sorcerer”
- TOPS – “Petals”