Best things we heard in March…

Kieran Cutting – The best (and by far the weirdest) thing I heard this month was Patrick Wray‘s Learning to Swim. It’s part of the 20×20 project which every 20 days, releases a 20-track album full of 20-second songs by one of 20 artists. So every song on Patrick’s album is 20 seconds long… and somehow he manages to make all of them differently interesting.

Every track has a life of its own, from the battle-cry of ‘Make More Art’ to the gentle tones of ‘Return to Childhood’. We go a lot of different places in 400 seconds, and each of them has a really distinct feel that I love. Some people might be tempted to say at this point “wouldn’t it be better if they were fleshed out into full length songs?”, and honestly – no – this really gives you the crux of every song, leaves you wanting more and shows what creativity can do when it’s intentionally constrained. The shortness of these songs really make you realise just how much some music tries to draw out what it’s saying – when really, you could say it in 20 seconds and it might be clearer.

Sam Atkins – ‘Safe Passage’ and ‘Church Girl’ – Laura Mvula: Looking back on what I’d actually listened to in March, it was heavily weighted towards the Grammy Awards that happened in the middle of the month, so I’ve barely listened to any ‘new’ music I really liked.

Instead I thought I’d pick out some singles I really enjoyed. Bruno Mars and Anderson Paak.’s collaboration ‘Leave The Door Open’ is a simple joy, while the unexpected ‘Petrified’ from Mette has fast become one of my favourite breakout songs of 2021.

My final choice has to go to two songs from Laura Mvula, an artist I already really liked from both of her Mercury nominated albums, but even I was shocked by the 80s synth straightforward sound here. Debuted on a brilliant live stream performance her completely unique voice still makes these songs stand out from the crowd. It has me very excited for what’s to come on the full album in July.

 

Tom Burrows: I read somewhere once that when human beings reach a certain age, they lose the desire to discover new music and instead rest upon old favourites into old age. It’s an idea that has become something of a waking fear for me. Every so often, like in late February, I worry that I have reached this point in my life, where my brain has become resistant to all new music and I fear that I’ll forever be stuck in 2016. Happily, March snapped me out of this funk with THREE great records.

One was a new release: Cassandra JenkinsAn Overview On Phenomenal Nature has been accurately described as “hypnotic” and I would urge you to be lulled into a trance by the exquisite ‘New Bikini’ or ‘Michelangelo’. Then there were a couple of slightly older albums. I’ve upgraded my opinion of Sharon Van Etten‘s Remind Me Tomorrow from ‘like’ to ‘love’, having this time noticed some wonderful bits of production (indie super-producer John Congleton is on the credits). And also from 2019, Brittany Howard‘s Jaime left almost no impression on me from a previous solitary listen, but after revisiting I’ve been completely enchanted with it, and incredibly moved by highlights ‘Short and Sweet’ and ‘Goat Head’. It has been a good month.

Pete Wild: My son steered me towards a song called ‘Cigarette Packet’ by a band called Sorry, which in turn has sent me over to their album 925 which came out in March. They’re produced by Tom Dring who produces Gorillaz if you need his bona fides. But we were talking Sorry – they sound a bit Girl on Red / Phoebe Bridgers whilst retaining something urgent and distinctive of their own. Check em out.

James Spearing: A selection of three songs from me this month. First up is an excellent recommendation from Fran, ‘Baby Grand’ from Anna B Savage. Fans of Jeff Buckley will enjoy her sound, infused with her knack for storytelling, unique delivery and brutally personal lyrics. Second is two discoveries from PBs joining forces. DJ Python has remixed Braids’ ‘Young Buck’. The sound is very Python, but is taken up several gears from his own work, completely transforming this cautionary tale from Braids. My final pick is ‘La Perla’ from Sofia Kourtesis. Sound of the summer.

Fran Slater: It was a bit of a bumper final Friday in March and I could have chosen any of the great albums from John Smith, Hannah Peel, or For Those I Love. Surprisingly, I also really got a kick out of my first listen to the new Ben Howard album.

But there’s a reason I recommended Anna B Savage to James (mentioned above) and in ‘Baby Grand’ he MIGHT have picked out the highlight from her stunning debut album A Common Turn. I’d like to throw ‘A Common Tern’ into the hat as well. That said, there isn’t a low point across the whole album and I have spent the whole of March being blown away by her voice, her words, her stories, and her experimentation. My favourite discovery of the year so far.

Yasmin DuggalChemtrails Over The Country Club – Lana Del Rey: Not without her criticism over the last year – between seemingly controversial comments surrounding the storming of the Capitol, to claims of her glamorising tales of domestic abuse – Lana Del Rey has always sworn by her authenticity. Unapologetically telling her own truth and the close-to-the-bone narratives of American female counterparts, she draws on the Coney-Island aesthetic of the 50s and cultural references of the 00s to open a discourse often sickly sweet and hard to hear in equal measures.

The singer’s new offering, Chemtrails Over The Country Club, is no exception, despite this time tearing away from the dreamlike quality of the LA coast and reaching out to the Midwest for her canvas. It opens breathy and ethereal with ‘White Dress’ and melancholies its way through sugar-dipped laments and longings of the American Dream, exploring new vocal ranges and tones all the way through to concluding ‘For Free’.

After the highly acclaimed Norman Fucking Rockwell, and with another record Rock Candy Sweet already announced for release in June, you’d be forgiven for thinking Del Rey was just recycling the same sad material – and to an extent the themes, lyrical landscape and general disposition remain firmly planted in that unique Americana model Del Rey has sown for herself. But she’s the only one in the field – and she continues to own the game again and again. Chemtrails Over The Country Club is nothing short of another poetic slice of stars-and-stripes-shaped pie served sweetly by our favourite Miss America.

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