Having already looked at my albums of the month for January and February, I now move onto March. The first two months of the year brought us some great music, and March continued in the same vein. Just like my previous posts, I’ll start with a quick update on the state of the world back then; it had imploded. Speaking of someone who lives in the UK, our Government started a shit show of a plan to prevent the spread of Covid-19, as we were shown numerous graphs of how to ‘flatten the curve’, and Boris Johnson reassured the nation by stating that “many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time”. He then set out plans to do absolutely nothing for weeks… Eventually, we were all ordered to stay at home, which led to a new outbreak which swept across the nation; boredom. Time was spent binge-watching the latest Netflix series, baking numerous amounts of banana bread, and attempting to learn new skills, as we began to settle into the ‘new normal’.
This extra time also gave us the opportunity to enjoy and listen to the new music that was being released throughout the month, with new albums from Jhene Aiko, Code Orange, Porridge Radio, The Weeknd, Childish Gambino, Nine Inch Nails, Pearl Jam, and Milk Teeth, to name a few.
Out of those, here’s my top 5 albums released in March:
Code Orange – Underneath
Code Orange have always liked to experiment with genres and different sounds, not afraid to keep the listener on their toes, as songs take sharp turns from one style to the next, mixing it up from hardcore to industrial, and everything in-between. ‘Underneath’ is their most experimental album to date, the distorted noises, growls and harrowing interludes are not for the feint hearted, as the Pitsburgh natives take it up a notch to deliver another electrifying listen. Skits and warped noises hit you like a short jab to the face, as the ear shattering cocophony of breakdowns and crunching guitars beat throughout the album, best shown on a swashbuckling start, on tracks ‘Swallowing the Rabbit Whole’ and ‘In Fear’. There are softer tracks interwined with the heavier sounds though, as we weave through the album songs such as ‘Who I Am’ and ‘Sulpher Surrounding’ stand out, showing the versatility of a band who ride the wave between intense and thrilling, to accessible and forward-thinking. On their fourth album, and their second release on Roadrunner Records, Code Orange prove once again why they are one of the most exciting bands in metal right now.
Porridge Radio – Every Bad
It would be very easy to paint Porridge Radio with the same tired old brush of ‘just another DIY indie band’ in a sea of countless bands coming out of this scene, it can be hard to breakout of these preconceived notions of what a DIY band is. Back in the day, DIY (do-it-yourself) was usually when one of your parents decided to fix a cupboard, paint a garden wall or build a flatpack from B&Q, but now the term has developed into a whole scene. It represents a liftestyle choice, that encompasses clothing, brands, artists, where you shop, and inevitably music. To call yourself a DIY band does bring with it a certain expectation of sound and style, but this has also allowed the scene to grow and prosper. The popularity of DIY magazine, amongst others, has shown that there is a strong demographic of fans out there, and has helped to promote some very talented musicians, who may not have found their audience and been lost in the mire.
One of the bands to benefit from this growing scene is Porridge Radio, a four-piece band from Brighton led by Dana Margolin. There’s nothing particularly new about their sound, the moody lyricism accompanied by shoegaze guitars and synths, the production clean but still rough around the edges. The difference between them and other bands is the subtle skill of the rearrangment of these familiar elements, alongside Margolin’s unqiue and utterly fantastic songwriting and vocals. It’s an album destined for the mainstream, and since its release it has been shorlisted for a Mercury Prize. All of this whilst still remaining resolutely uncommercial, DIY and avant-garde in nature – ‘Every Bad’ is an uncompromisingly brilliant album.
The Weeknd – After Hours
Throughout The Weeknd’s career he has always veered towards the melancholic and avant-garde nature of making R&B and pop. From his early days on House of Balloons, Thursday and Echoes of Silence, we saw an artist playing with the ideas of himself, Abel Tesfaye, and his alter ego character The Weeknd. The development of his music since those early mixtapes has been fascinating, seemlessly going from underground to mainstream, without compromising his views on creating conceptual art. Even when releasing more mainstream accessible tracks, such as ‘Heartless’ and ‘Blinding Lights’, the foundations of the project are always layed. The narrative of this record are of a self-loathing artist struggling with the excess of fame, the usual downfalls of drugs, alcohol and failed relationships are met with the unnerving reality of dealing with who he has become, and the fact that there’s no way out. The bloody mouthed and red suited character displayed throughout the album represents a kind of superhero villain, one who we love-to-hate. The album takes on a cinematic journey through this characters life, as he straddles the line between reality and fiction, and past and present. On his incredible fourth studio album Abel Tesfaye once again shows his irresistible capacity for creating stand-out hits, like the aforementioned tracks, and brooding gems, such as ‘Snowchild’.
Pearl Jam – Gigaton
A message of potent hope and change is the overriding theme that runs throughout ‘Gigaton’, the Seattle bands eleventh studio album and first in nearly seven years. After emerging out of the Seattle grunge scene in the early ’90s, the band have gone onto become an industry unto itself, with legions of devoted fans, walls of platinum records and a destination festival. They are one of the last groups to remain intact from that particular scene, so it wouldn’t be amiss to fall back on the tried and tested formula that has worked so successfully, especially after their last album ‘Lightning Bolt’ won a Grammy. Instead the band seek new inspiration on ‘Gigaton’, exploring new sounds and styles in a hugely ambitious artistic rejuvanation. Working with producer Josh Evans, the album is the longest record the band have released, at 57 minutes. This gives you an idea in the change of approach: the ballads are stretched out, with a Talking Heads vibe of drum loops and swirling keys that are adeptly accompanied by Eddie Vedder’s vocals. No less political, and no less thought-provoking, ‘Gigaton’ ebbs and flows but shows that Pearl Jam aren’t done yet.
Milk Teeth – Milk Teeth
After a complete overhaul of the original line-up, Milk Teeth return to their hustling and bustling best on their new self-titled album. Whilst the fundamentals on what made them rise through a competitive indie and DIY genre are still there, it does feel like a band reborn. Four years on from their hit debut album ‘Vile Child’, only lead vocalist and bassist Becky Blomfield remained in the group, aqcuiring Em Foster on guitar, and Jack Kenny on drums, from Watford indie-punk band Nervus. The album centres on the turbulent few years that led to the line-up change, with Blomfield drawing from the pain and anger she felt during this time, songs such as ‘Given Up’ and ‘Destroyer’ encapsulating this best. Despite this vulnerability, the album does have a sense of resilience to it, it would have been easy to call it quits, but with the added rejuvanance of new members and a sense of warm sincerity, the band seem in a better place than ever before.
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