March was another exciting month for music with a ton of great releases. These are the March releases that particularly perked up our ears.
Persica 3 – Tangerine (Hidden Bay)
Persica 3 is a fiarly mysterious project based in Paris who dropped a rather exciting mini-album via Hidden Bay Records early in the month. Awash with vocal delay, a gorgeous sense of melody and subtle electronic touches throughout it instantly recalls ‘chill wave’ artists like Atlas Sound and Panda Bear. Kicking off with the guitar-led “Water Lily” it’s clear that whoever Persica 3 is or are, they have a great ear for harmony.The arpeggiating underwater sounds of “Get By” are very Animal Collective-esque, without the Avey Tare shrieks, while “Faux Punk” features a very tasty guitar hook. There is more than a hint of Atlas Sound to one of the vocal melodies here too.
Giving the album title to perhaps the most inconsequential track on the album is an interesting move.
It’s a short ambient piece with a revolving piano line over some field recording and lasts just over a minute. The sensational “VHS” could have sit quite happily on Panda Bear’s “Tomboy” album, with its paired down instrumental and sweet harmonies.The range of instrumental approaches mean the album retains the listener’s interest while also not veering too close to any of its undoubted influences. “Elliott” has a touch of Mid-Air Thief to its dreamy, crackly, lo-fi before the closing “Unflattering/Untitled” drifts gently to the exit. The delicate instrumentation and melodies pulse to heavenly effect. There’s a touch of Animal Collective’s “College” towards the end.
’Tangerine’ is a beautifully worked mini-album that wears its influences on its sleeve, but who cares when it’s so well done?
You may enjoy this if you like:Animal Collective, Atlas Sound, Boogarins, Mid-Air Thief, Panda Bear
Bity Booker – Dreaming in the Morning (Freak Folk Records)
We’ve been tracking Bity Booker since hearing her 2019 album Songs From A Window. The London resident returned the month with a new EP ‘Dreaming In The Morning’. A relentless creator, Booker’s voice at times bears a striking resemblance to Joanna Newsom’s sharp but sweet caw. This is, however, inflected with her native Italian (via Australia) accent. The EP features four tracks in which Booker is accompanied only by her classical guitar picking. An instrument with which she seems entirely comfortable. The compositions are simple and minimal but packed with beautiful melodies. The songs are lyrically basic but very much encapsulate the mood of someone locked away at home, hoping for a brighter future. This is particularly the case on the sweet “Sad Song” and slightly plaintive “Summer will Return”.
Booker’s style would have fit perfectly within the early 00s “Freak Folk” scene.
Fittingly as I wrote the above I see the EP has been released on 7” vinyl by Freak Folk Records. “Gone Bushwalking” is perhaps the highlight of the set. It’s melodically beautiful, with Booker’s voice resonating spectacularly with glorious reverb. Her unusual cadence married with her ear for melody at times recalls the folkier elements of the wonderful Garden Centre (songs like “Sorry Feeling Heart”).Her songwriting approach in general also somewhat recalls the earlier, more minimal, works of Devendra Banhart. A gorgeous, wide eyed and utterly charming EP.
You may enjoy this if you like: Joanna Newsom, Devendra Banhart, Josephine Foster, Garden Centre
Pictish Trail – Island Family (Lost Map)
Johnny Lynch (aka Pictish Trail) has, like many artists, hit upon a prolific streak no doubt due to having a little more time on his hands. This despite living on the fairly isolated island of Eigg. ‘Island Family’, his sixth studio album, follows 2020’s Thumb World. Lynch’s larger than life character is evident throughout ‘Island Family’. The opening title track has a hard edge with heavy electronic beats and minimal keys accompanying one of Lynch’s more brash vocal performances. There’s a touch of Avey Tare to the verses while the warped choruses have an almost Gary Wilson-esque quality.
It’s quickly apparent that Lynch means business.
‘Natural Successor’ is a buzzing, almost glam, space rock monster with Beck-like bleeps and bloops, a touch of Spiritualized psychedlia and Thom Yorke-ish “oohs”.“The River It Runs Inside Of Me” is a dynamic joy. It crunches with the harshness of an oldschool internewt modem but twinkles in equal measure with psychedelic era Beatles/Beach Boys harmonies.
The juxtaposition between Lynch’s soft vocal and the 90s computer game blips of “In The Land Of The Dead” provides an interesting counterpoint to the morose subject matter of it’s lyrics and initially upbeat tune. A song no doubt inspired by raising children in the environment during the heavy loss of life the world has encountered over the last two years.This is certainly harder edged and darker than Thumb World. “It Came Back” marries brutalist lo-fi beats with the pop chorus sensibilities of Klaxons. It’s a club worthy anthem that sounds not unlike a remix in itself.
“Thistle” is far more gentle and provides much needed head space by this point.
Lynch creates a cavernous and dreamlike atmosphere with very minimal instrumentation. This neatly sets up a run of three songs that might just be the highlight of the album. The fidgetty “Melody Something” plays rhythmically like Grizzly Bear and absolutely soars melodically like Fleet Foxes in it’s chorus. “Nuclear Sunflower Swamp” offers up another banger. The powerful, almost militaristic drums and fierce bass are really exciting and, from here on things get even wilder on the sensational “Green Mountain”. It tears through with unhinged distorted guitars, explosive solos and a fantastic Mellotron breakdown. A Jekyll and Hyde track dynamically.
Closer “Remote Control” is perhaps even more crazed because it seems initially like a more generic pop song. However there are warped interjections a la Arthur amidst the Super Furry Animals backing vocals and funky guitars.Whilst there are many frames of reference to pick up on in Lynch’s work he’s made a sound world all of his own.
‘Island Family’ for our money is Pictish Trail’s most consistent album. Whilst often more serious in its subject matter the compositions are daring a joyful. It’s yet another exceptional release from his own Lost Map Records in 2022.
You may enjoy this if you like Animal Collective, Arthur, Beck, Gary Wilson, Super Furry Animals
Wesley Gonzalez – Wax Limousine (Moshi Moshi)
First he was an ‘Excellent Musician’ then an ‘Appalling Human’ now Wesley Gonzalez has returned with ‘Wax Limousine’. He has left the ragged lo-fi indie rock of Let’s Wrestle far behind him and has continued on his slick pop journey. This is, in some aspects, more of the same from Gonzalez but he still manages to pull out some magic tricks.
That he is not even the first voice we hear on the record is a statement in itself.
Perhaps a suggestion he is now beholden to someone else? “Greater Expectations” is almost nauseatingly slick, but that’s entirely the point. The bass and piano mix feel like something straight out of a 90s Harvester advert but Gonzalez’s character shines through. The vocal melodies are what saves this from tipping over the edge. If we didn’t say this on previous releases his solo sound has far more in common with Dexy’s Midnight Runners ‘Don’t Stand Me Down’ than it does his previous outfit.
The mad warbling synths of his past records make a return on “When I Fell For You”.
It’s also perhaps the first time I can recall Gonzalez baring his heart on a record. He’s always been honest with us. We’ve seen him previously bear his annoyance, admitting his lazyness but this is, lyrically, a love song. He’s let go of his self-consciousness. It’s now time to take him as he is.The added “huh, come on” is laughably clichéd but knowingly so. He’s not afraid to be cheesy and it’s all the more fun for it.“Protein & Perfume” is, simply, a great pop song and one in which we don’t feel Gonzalez is trying to construct something too carefully. It feels very natural. The swelling synth chords accompany a cracker of a vocal line. It’s less in your face but stands out for it.
The buzzy Chic bass and piano of “In Confidence, I’m Scared” again give a slick 80s funk pop edge, disguising what is, again, a love song. “1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Just Get Rid Of It” is a sobering and heartbreaking tail of loss. Gonzalez has grown up lyrically, honing in on the small details. It makes everything seem so much more sincere.
“I chew a piece of gum, and then I spit it out, no taste left in it now”.
“Wax Limousine” is a gloriously crooked soul song complete with backing vocals akin to Grizzly Bear’s “Two Weeks”. Gonzalez’s vocal performance is glorious here, pushing his voice to the verge of cracking, while the synth and guitar lines warble together wildly.He indulges in upbeat pop on the McCartney 2 referencing “A Taste of Something New” and a baritone duet on “Penelope Ditches Ulysses”.“It’s You” has a satisfyingly out of tune piano line and staccato beat and a surprisingly soulful vocal duet which is contrasted by the bizarre mealy mouthed phrasings of the funky “Drive You Home”.
Still, there are more sound sources to come.
The downbeat “Grateful” introduces what may be a xylophone or a toy piano and airy wind synth sounds akin to that in David Bowie’s “China Girl”. It’s also packed with exposed vulnerabilities “I didn’t think I was practicing my pain until you told me”.Closer “Waiting For Your Letter” is gorgeous and minimal. The “Walking The Cow” twinkling piano line and the scratchy guitar soloing are at odds, but they somehow work. The eschewing of drums really lay the pained lyrical content bare. It’s a moment of beauty on an album with subtle and surprising depth.
On ‘Wax Limousine’ Wesley Gonzalez seems comfortable both with his vulnerabilities and in his own skin. He’s a unique voice, not scared to do the dangerously uncool and is all the better for it.
You may enjoy this if you like: Pulp, Future Islands, Let’s Wrestle
Ex-Vöid – Bigger Than Before (Prefect Records)
Formed by former Joanna Gruesome members Lan McArdle and Owen Williams, we first encountered Ex-Vöid back in 2018. Expanded from a three-piece with Laurie Foster of Garden Centre to a four piece with Jonny Coddington on drums, their inspired indie rock is super catchy. It will no doubt provide the perfect tonic to those who have missed Joanna Gruesome in their absence.Williams and McArdle share vocals on opener “Churchyard”, which jangles and fizzes in equal measure. It has a New Pornographers-esque structure, pinging between great melodies.
They display a harder edge on the punky intro to “Chemical Reaction”.
That is, before it suddenly transforms into an upbeat Teenage Fanclub style indie rock song. The vocal harmonies are as beautiful as the lyrics are sweet. They pack so much into this two minutes it’s a shock to see the that’s it’s such a short length.”(Angry At You) Baby” continues the Teenage Fanclub vibes. The growling dual guitarwork is fantastic, McArdle’s vocal is sensational. The descending chord structure of “Boyfriend” again nods towards this influence.
To display this influence is one thing, but to pull it off with such a great sense of melody is another thing entirely.
Ex-Vöid are incredibly gifted in this department.
“So Neurotic”, despite the slightly cliched title, is a piece of indie rock magic with a pop punk edge. Melodically it recalls Lou Barlow in Dinosaur Jr mode. The dynamic between McArdle’s beautiful soft vocal and the grungy instrumental is exciting to behold. The tangled “Weekend” ties itself in wonderful structural knots without ever not feeling like a pop song. “I Couldn’t Say It To Your Face” again displays their knack for packing a huge amount of nuance into a short timespan. They don’t waste the time they have. They never over-extend their material.
Ex-Vöid return to a heavier edge on “(Lyin’ To You) Baby” which initially draws parallels to Williams’ other band Sniffany And The Nits (you may also know him as the singer in The Tubs). However, this is just a tease. They can’t resist reverting once again to their pristine pop. It’s rhythmically playful, the drums are insanely dynamic and you get the sense that this band could do anything if they wanted to.
“No Other Way” introduces keys into the mix, adding a new point of interest to their sensational harmonies. The only thing missing from this song is a huge ripping guitar solo, which I have no doubt either McArdle or Williams is capable of, judging by the intricacy of their playing.
The album ends on a softer note on “My Only One”.
This is the first time they really slow down and take stock, with McArdle just accompanied by a guitar. Perhaps one more song like this in the middle might have provided additional balance to the album and further impact to their giddy pop explosions.
‘Bigger Than Before’ is a sensational indie rock album, full of short, fizzing earworms that leave you wanting more.
You may enjoy this if you like: Joanna Gruesome, The New Pornographers, Teenage Fanclub, Dinosaur Jr
Holodrum – Holodrum (Gringo Records)
Holodrum are a supergroup featuring members of the disbanded Hookworms, the in vogue Yard Act and other celebrated bands Cowtown, Virginia Wing and Drahla. A 6 music DJ’s dream then. Their self-titled debut album is a collection of six rangey tracks. Opener “Lemon Chic” is a shockingly fun disco track with funky Stevie Wonder keys, a ripping sax solo, glistening atmospherics and ultra catchy melody.
It sounds like a remix of a long lost disco classic.
The six minutes just fly by. What’s clear already is this group is here to enjoy themselves and to make you dance your arse off, and “No Dither” is just as much fun. It’s cowbell heavy, features a guitar solo that sounds like it’s being played in a whirlwind and jumps satisfyingly between vocalists. There’s an uber-confidence on display. Holodrum are, in essence, a party band. And a very good one at that.
The atmospherics are what makes them truly exciting. The slick disco pop is impressive but the tasteful washing keys are transcendental on tracks like “Free Advice”. They take a different approach on “Stage Echo”, which gradually builds on a twinking arpeggio for two minutes, with dripping wet delays on the distant percussion. It’s like a club breakdown played live, as an intro. It then absolutely explodes into life with a ripping brassy bassline and phat drums, before reducing back down into another meditative state.
“Low Light” is four to the floor, with muted guitars, a simple staccato bass groove and expansive repetition. That wonderful sax jumps back in to add weight. It’s kind of like a mix between Love Is All and The XX if they actually sounded like they were enjoying themselves. The group vocals combine to joyous effect too.
The final 8 minutes of “Clean” is a jammier affair.
The groove is infectious, it’s ultra expansive but no less catchy. This is avant pop at its finest.
‘Holodrum’ is crystal clear in both vision and execution. Exceptional longform atmospheric disco pop.
You catch them at the tiny Servant Jazz Quarters in September. No doubt they’ll be playing far bigger stages very soon.
You may enjoy this if you like: Hot Chip, Cowtown, The XX, Love Is All
No Home – Warped Bow (self-released)
“Warped Bow” is No Home’s first release since 2020’s incredible album ‘Fucking Hell’. As you likely know by now we don’t often feature singles. This is one we just had to check out. It’s no less unnerving than their previous work, with a foreboding factory like drone flowing throughout. The constant bass drum beat and lightly percussive keys only add to the atmosphere while No Home’s soulful vocal melody and unusual harmonies drift through. It’s unsettling and no less brilliant. I’m excited by what’s to come.
You may enjoy this if you like Julia Holter, Rubie, The Silver Field
So those are the March releases that floated our boat. We’re already excited by what April has in store!