Well, things aren't normal are they?
This is probably our biggest albums of the month list to date. But given we now live in a lockdown state and you’ve got nothing else to do for the foreseeable future, you may as well chuck these on and start revising some good conversation points for when we’re all eventually free to roam again. So, here are the 15 best albums from the weird month of March to do your daily exercise to, or to play quietly in the background of your next Zoom call. “What’s that playing quietly in the background of this Zoom call?” they’ll say. “Funny you should ask.”
Artist: Riz Ahmed
Title: The Long Goodbye
Label: Mongrel Records
What is it? His first album under his own name, giving a voice to the under-represented British Asian community with a cultural mélange of hip hop, bhangra, sufi and jungle.
L&Q says: “Ahmed and producer Redinho craft a three-dimensional model of the reality of the BAME experience in 2020, allowing emotional truth to be their guiding light, no matter the unhealed wounds it may expose along the way.”
Read Max Pilley’s full review here.
Artist: Stephen Malkmus
Title: Traditional Techniques
What is it? A departure from the stock image of Malkmus as Pavement slacker or self-assured leader of The Jicks, into the lush pastoralism of Bill Callahan or Bonnie Prince Billy.
L&Q says: “Traditional Techniques is simply an expertly written and performed exploration of muted psych-rock and various strands of folk music, with Malkmus stretching his legs apparently just because he can.”
Read Sam Walton’s full review here.
Artist: Hilary Woods
Label: Sacred Bones
What is it? A sonic, blood-mottled exorcism and hushed poetic healing in one, written about the experiential collapse of community, future uncertainty and childbirth.
L&Q says: “Where 2018’s Colt aped a little too much of Julee Cruise and Grouper’s obscured detachment – with songs like vague shapes suspended in moorland fog – Birthmarks not only denotes a figurative step forward but an almost literal one.”
Read Dafydd Jenkins’s full review here.
Artist: Porridge Radio
Title: Every Bad
Label: Secretly Canadian
What is it? The long-awaited debut from the confessional Brighton quartet born out of an open mic night, masking their sad stories with slacker indie and swelling post-punk.
L&Q says: “These mantras teeter towards the confessional but pull back by dint of her delivery, which rages with the power of conviction and a lack of self-pity.”
Read Susan Darlington’s full review here.
Artist: Shabaka & the Ancestors
Title: We Are Sent Here By History
What is it? An hour-long sonic poem about humanity’s inevitable extinction as a species following the approaching climate apocalypse.
L&Q says: “On their Impulse! label debut, the band break down the doors of the veritable South London Members’ Club to forge a spiritual jazz opus that feels fundamentally human.”
Read Tristan Gatward’s full review here.
Artist: Baxter Dury
Title: The Night Chancers
What is it? Grubby stories about the futility of clinging to the fag ends of the fashion set via soiled real life, social media-enabled stalkers, and sleep-deprived optimism.
L&Q says: “Dury is a bit of a wordsmith, but in a way that doesn’t alienate anyone. It’s matter-of-fact, anti-intellectual even. Above anything else, Dury shows us that a little bit of melody and a lot of honesty can go a long way.”
Read Hayley Scott’s full review here.
Title: Oasis Nocturno
Label: Young Art
What is it? A nu-hip hop record comprising songs written whilst TOKiMONSTA was recovering from a life-threatening brain disease, where she lost the ability to hear music.
L&Q says: “Echoes of the last few years’ events ricochet throughout this album. These can be traced through ‘Up and Out’, a track that takes its time, to the tender and sensual ‘Phases’, to the album’s closer ‘For My Eternal Love Dream, My Treasure’.”
Read Jemima Skala’s full review here.
Title: In Threes
Label: Upset The Rhythm
What is it? Former members of DUDS are back on the innovative Manchester scene with a cathartic debut on the fringes of art-rock and post-punk.
L&Q says: “Echoing the post-punk cytoplasm of Sextet-era A Certain Ratio and the frenzied drawls of ESG, the LP speaks to a higher power of sound manipulation and poetic formation.”
Read Esme Bennett’s full review here.
Artist: Half Waif
Title: The Caretaker
What is it? A reassuring one-woman account of being ordinary, through cinematic, pulsing arrangements that help you find your place in the world.
L&Q says: “It’s a ballsy pop record that often uses restraint and delayed payoff to create a deeper connection. Nandi Rose is good at writing choruses, but her songs keep their distance more often than not, like she’s meeting us on her own terms.”
Read Stephen Butchard’s full review here.
Label: Wharf Cat
What is it? A who’s who of the New York experimental underground, with an album of “human music for the 21st Century”.
L&Q says: “A proper Chimera of a record, Person walks a tightrope between well-trodden punk and industrial tropes yet remains fiercely original.”
Read Dom Haley’s full review here.
Artist: Daniel Avery & Alessandro Cortini
Title: Illusion of Time
What is it? A grimy and gritty left-turn for the big-room techno of Stopmakingme’s Daniel Avery, towards textural abstraction in collaboration with Nine Inch Nails’ keyboardist.
L&Q says: “a record that suggests Godspeed You! Black Emperor in drone mode, reimagining Music For Airports as if the runways were covered in gravel and air traffic control was on strike.”
Read Sam Walton’s full review here.
What is it? The debut album proper from the North London guitar band that’s more fleeting than the format usually feels. This is here and they’re onto the next one.
L&Q says: “it all feels distinctively, and refreshingly, out of step with the current proliferation of politico-post-punk. The sound has more in common with the mechanical thrust of Garbage’s ‘Version 2.0’ or The Cure’s Japanese Whispers than anything off, say, Schlagenheim.”
Read Greg Cochrane’s full review here.
Title: Saint Cloud
What is it? Through trauma and recovery after a riotous, exposed-nerve of a last album, Katie Crutchfield has crafted a quiet masterpiece from some overdue sobriety.
L&Q says: “The influence of country giants like Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt hangs heavy over the album, but Lucinda Williams is the most significant reference point; not just in terms of the bright and breezy Americana of the tracks, but in the way she evokes Car Wheels on a Gravel Road by painting such vivid portraits of her travels across America.”
Read Joe Goggins’s full review here.
Artist: U.S. Girls
Title: Heavy Light
What is it? A razor-pointed, sleek and poppy follow-up to one of the most critically acclaimed releases of the 2010s, recorded with 20 session musicians and members of Springsteen’s legendary E Street Band.
L&Q says: “Remy strives to marry the sharp politic of [her last album as U.S. Girls] In a Poem Unlimited to the unblinking introspection of her earlier work, and she largely succeeds.”
Read Joe Goggins’s full review here.
Artist: The Chats
Title: High Risk Behaviour
Label: Bargain Bin
What is it? The debut album from once viral Australian punk rock trio, built on bad taste and going out, just as we have to stay in.
L&Q says: “It takes a hell of a lot of intelligence to make music this dumb. As hook writers and storytellers, The Chats are masters of economy”.
Read Fergal Kinney’s full review here.
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