Things in the music industry start to wake up come March, what with SXSW and the close of dreaded Q1. This month’s got no shortage of great indie (Real Estate, The Hold Steady, The War On Drugs) and pop (Kylie Minogue, Pharrell, Shakira) releases alike, the latter of which is a little surprising given its distance from bangerz season (i.e., summer). Regardless, it’s nice to see some variety on the schedule, though March could use more hip-hop and electronic releases (shout at us with those if you’ve got any we should get excited about).
Real Estate — Atlas (March 4)
When I call Real Estate’s new album some of the most quintessential indie rock of the year, I’m not using the term ‘indie rock’ as a catch-all to mean not a major label release. The Jersey-bred band’s third guitar-driven LP strives so much, even the haters couldn’t call it boring. They could, of course, call it breezy, but just lay off all the summery labels and they won’t have to drop the North Brooklyn nice guy act, k?
Eagulls — Eagulls (March 4)
Leeds newcomers Eagulls are so punk, one of ‘em got a prison tattoo of Bill Murray’s name to commemorate their Letterman appearance (above) the same night as the acting legend. RIYL Joy Division fueled by youthful aggression instead of tears.
Kylie Minogue — Kiss Me Once (March 18)
Not only is the lead single off Kylie’s first album in four years, “Into the Blue,” the best mainstream pop song I’ve heard all year, it sums up a bit of what gives Ms. Minogue so much staying power 25+ years on: a universal theme backed by a beat you can shake your ass off to in the gay club and in the streets. A highlight of the accompanying album: song titles including but not limited to “Sexercize,” “Les Sex,” and “Sexy Love.”
The Hold Steady — Teeth Dreams (March 25)
Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn is an exceedingly literary guy, and it’s always given the band’s straightforward rock an edge. Their music works for a party or a rowdy show, but you can really attach to Hold Steady songs, make ‘em your personal anthems. Ten years and now six albums later, the work remains consistent, albeit more mature.
The War On Drugs — Lost In The Dream (March 18)
They were co-founded by Kurt Vile and have opened for The National, but The War On Drugs are more than just cool by association. I expect this, their third LP, will take the rockers to new levels of exposure, thanks to the album’s wide-ranging jams that channel influences from Bon Iver to Bob Dylan to Bruce Springsteen, and all manner of folk hybrids in between.
Pharrell — G I R L (March 4)
Pharrell’s one of those rare pop culture figures whose universal appreciation feels truly warranted. It’s nice to see him directing some of his production talent into hits for himself; it’s even nicer that the music’s actually, you know, infectious as shit. JT, eat your heart out.
Future Islands – Singles (March 25)
Samuel T. Herring has always had one of the strongest voices in synthpop, though he rarely gets the credit. Future Islands should get a little more of the spotlight now that they’re on indie major 4AD, with an album that focuses more on oversize pop hooks.
Shakira — Shakira (March 25)
The pride of Colombia hasn’t put out an album in four years, which is practically an eternity in Rihanna years. Look, I’m not saying this will reinvent the pop wheel or even be good, but after regaining an American audience via The Voice and a video in which she (lamely) teases bi-curiosity with Ri-Ri herself (see above), it’s enough to be a little curious about. Plus, at least there’s this Céline-level power ballad.
Perfect Pussy — Say Yes to Love (March 18)
Perfect Pussy are to noise-punk what Deafheaven are to metal: a band that far transcends its polarizing genre. The Syracuse act is led by Meredith Graves, who shows that fronting a heavy band doesn’t have to mean sacrificing one’s femininity or losing power because of it. That, coupled with a commitment to positivity and a killer live show, makes Perfect Pussy worth the hype.
Johnny Cash — Out Among the Stars (March 25)
Posthumous and “lost” albums from deceased legends will never stop being a thing, but I can think of 50 other less legitimate ones than the Man In Black’s Out Among the Stars. The LP is not odds and ends, but rather, a full album Cash made in the 1980s before being canned by Columbia Records. Featuring duets with his lady June Carter and his pal Waylon Jennings, the album focuses on a time in his career about which the average listener doesn’t know much. Consider this your history lesson; there’s waaaay more greatness amidst Cash’s discography than “Folsom Prison Blues” and a NIN cover.
Also out this month:
Eternal Summers — The Drop Beneath (March 4) Never has someone sounded so sweet while asking someone to gouge her eyes out. It’s definitely representative of the hard vs. soft dynamics at play in the solid new LP from the Virgina rockers.
Nick Waterhouse — Holly (March 4) What I had hoped for when I first heard about Mayer Hawthorne.
Dean Wareham — Dean Wareham (March 11) The Galaxie 500 and Luna frontman finally drops a solo album, and of course it’s dreamy and psychedelic. Stream it now on KCRW.
Foster the People — Supermodel (March 18) More fauxtronic riffs optimized for co-ed ass-shaking, hidden behind Mark Foster’s claims that it’s polarizing! It sort of reminds me of how MGMT were doing that a few albums ago to make it seem like they were going to follow-up commercial success with experimental stuff (kinda like, “Now we got the audience, let’s get weird!!!1”).
Rick Ross — Mastermind (March 4) If you can put your feminism aside or something.
Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew — Darlings (March 18) BSS are no more, and their leader hasn’t released a solo record in seven years. By the sounds of his recent Pitchfork interview, it’s going to be what you’d expect: “I’m singing about bad business transactions, bodily fluids, and courage.”
Black Lips — Underneath the Rainbow (March 18) The gnarly garage-rockers go full Nashville with their latest, employing a producer who’s navigated those particular waters: The Black Keys’ Pat Carney. Nice to hear a change from these guys.
Tokyo Police Club — Forcefield (March 25) Sooooooo poppy.