Indie Basement: Best Albums & Songs of March 2022
Indie Basement is a weekly column on BrooklynVegan focusing on classic indie and alternative artists, "collage rock," and new and current acts who follow a similar path. There are reviews of new albums, reissues, box sets, books and sometimes movies and television shows. I've rounded up March's best music, highlighting my favorite albums and tracks, plus links to relevant features and news, a monthly playlist, and more.
March was a very good month for music! I revisited all the month's releases to pick the five best albums, and also picked my 10 favorite songs from the month and wrote about each. Actually I wrote about 12 this month because I didn't want to narrow it down. Head below for that, as well as a playlist featuring all my favorite songs from March.
In Basement-related content, I revisited Ride's Going Blank Again and Pale Saints' In Ribbons for their 30th anniversaries, and I interviewed Destroyer's Dan Bejar, Ride's Andy Bell, and Kelley Stoltz.
The Indie Basement corner of the BrooklynVegan shop is well stocked with hand-picked vinyl, books and merch, including Fontaines DC's upcoming Skinty Fia on exclusive, limited edition translucent red vinyl, and albums by YARD ACT, Stereolab, Pavement, LCD Soundsystem, Aldous Harding, King Hannah, Sparks, Cate Le Bon, Spoon, Wet Leg, Slowdive, Roxy Music, and more.
Head below for the Indie Basement March roundup.
INDIE BASEMENT - TOP 12 SINGLES OF MARCH 2022
In alphabetical order...
Air Waves - "The Dance"
Nicole Schneit is one of the great undersung songwriters in NYC, and has been turning out wonderful understated guitar pop as Air Waves for more than 15 years. She's now signed to Fire Records and just released her first song for the label, a wistful mirrorball number about shortlived NYC club The Dance. "I went a couple weeks before it closed down, not knowing it was going to close," Nicole says. "There was something dreamlike about that night, I was dressed up after a performance I had done and the music they were playing was this crazy fast dance music. The flashing lights I'm referring to are the phones people were looking at."
Astrel K - "Is It It Or Is It I?"
I was a big fan of Ulrika Spacek's most recent record, 2018's Suggestive Listening EP, that found them moving away from drony psych and into more melodic territory. Frontman Rhys Edwards takes that even further on his debut album as Astrel K, which will be the first non-Stereolab-related album released on Stereolab's Duophonic label in 20 years. There's a whimsical, cut-and-paste style to "Is It It Or Is It I?" that suggests Broadcast and The Avalanches at the same time.
Destroyer - "June"
The centerpiece of great new album LABRYNTHITIS, "June" starts off as a typical modern day Destroyer song -- sophisticated, loungey funk somewhere between Earth Wind & Fire and Love Unlimited Orchestra with Dan Bejar spitting out Bejarian lines like "Fancy language dies and everyone’s happy to see it go / A snow angel’s a fucking idiot somebody made." But halfway through producer/collaborator takes things into serious psychedelic territory with Dan channeling Jim Morrison and Barry White at the same time as the cowbell kicks in and spaced-out trumpets swirl around. The video, meanwhile, could be pitched as "Dan orders a burrito on Grubhub" but like with most things Destroyer, it's so much more.
Fontaines DC - "Skinty Fia"
The concept of Fontaines DC's new album, Skinty Fia (preorder our exclusive variant), is a little beyond me -- the deer imagery representing Ireland and the country's image outside the country -- but there's no denying the title track is a banger. Grian Chatten's style of melodious sprechgesang talk-singing has a lilt to it that sounds especially great with more danceable songs like this. When he lets loose the "You can read it in the papers / We can talk about it later" hook, it's a melon-twisting moment worthy of Happy Mondays.
Gruff Rhys - "People Are Pissed"
Gruff Rhys has always had a way with simple protest songs, going back at least to Super Furry Animals' 1996 song "The Man Don't Give a Fuck" sampled Steely Dan's "They don't give a fuck about anybody else!" line from Gaucho deep cut "Showbiz Kids" and looped it into a powerful, rocking mantra. Now he's here with this jaunty, evisceration of Boris Johnson's response to Covid. He gets in a few pointed lines -- "Populist icons / Populate pulpits" -- but the song's title, repeated dozens of times amongst "la la la" backing vocals, really says it all.
Hollie Cook - "Full Moon Baby"
After loving Hollie Cook's first two albums, I was not as taken with her third, Vessel of Love, which swapped King Fatty's perfect, lush, string-laden Lovers Rock production for Youth's more trad reggae style. Hollie's honeyed vocals and harmonies didn't seem quite as sweet without the strings, it was a divine combination. I'm happy to report the strings are back on the gorgeous, transportive first single from her fourth album, Happy Hour.
Horsegirl - "Anti-glory"
They're not all out of high school yet but Chicago's Horsegirl seemed to have absorbed 40+ years of post-punk and indie rock and sound like they're already on their second album when their debut actually isn't out till June. (Preorder on vinyl.) The taut, hazy "Anti-glory" goes in for the kill in the chorus with some very angular guitars and shouts of "Dance!" These three have it figured out.
Jane Weaver - "Oblique Fantasy"
Jane Weaver's been spitting out great albums on the regular for 20 years -- most recently 2020's Flock -- but this new single on Dan Carey's Speedy Wunderground label is new Roxy Music-esqe territory for her, and a real feather in her cap. "Oblique Fantasy" was written and recorded with Carey in just 24 hours at London's Abbey Road studios, and you can feel the energetic rush in the song's snappy production that adds exciting new layers (synths, scratchy guitar, random electronic noises) as it goes.
Jane Inc - "2210"
The drum machine beat "2210" opens with is straight out of The Human League's "Don't You Want Me?" but Jane Inc (aka Toronto musician and US Girls live band member Carlyn Bezic) swerves when the bass drops in and simultaneously transports you into the future and past. It's a disco anthem at the hottest club in the metaverse.
Spiritualized - "The Mainline Song"
Jason Pierce has been writing the same three or four songs for Spiritualized's 30-year existence but they're good songs, and somehow he continues to make great new ones out of them too. "The Mainline Song," is one of the great ones and one of the most joyous on Spiritualized's excellent new album that's out April 22. When Pierce sings "I wanted to know if you wanted to go to the city tonight" against an orchestral rush of fuzzed out guitars, strings, woodwinds and choir, it's pure swoon.
Verity Susman & Matthew Simms - "It's in Our Hands"
Electrelane singer/keyboardist Verity Susman and Wire guitarist / It Hugs Back frontman Matthew Simms work together as composers/sound designers for film and TV, and this song is from documentary Women Against The Bomb about the women of Greenham Common Peace Camp in the 1980s. It's one of the few things Susman has sung on since Electrelane went dormant in 2007, but it doesn't sound like anything she -- or Simms -- has done before. Powered by jangly guitars and swirling organ, "It's in Our Hands" has an almost '60s feel by way of post-punk groups like The Monochrome Set. There's a whole album coming, too!
Working Men's Club - "Widow"
Lots of people in the UK are excited about Manchester's Working Men's Club but it hasn't quite crossed over the pond. (I thought their 2020 debut album was great, though.) Maybe the second time will be the charm when new album Fear, Fear drops in July. First single "Widow" is pretty terrific, the kind of mopey synthpop that has you dancing with tears in your eyes.
INDIE BASEMENT TOP 5 ALBUMS OF MARCH 2022
Destroyer - LABRYNTHITIS (Merge)
Bejar does it again and this is his best since Kaputt. From my review:
With more contributions from the rest of the band -- drummer Josh Wells adds immeasurable thump and thwock -- than any album since Poison Season, LABRYTHITIS falls somewhere between the rain-soaked swoon of Kaputt and Have We Met's computer-processed sheen. It's easily Destroyer's most danceable record to date, but Bejar's lyrics, written during the pandemic's first wave, give everything an undercurrent of dread.
Pick up LABYRINTHITIS on color vinyl and other Destroyer albums on vinyl in the BV shop.
Nilüfer Yanya - PAINLESS (ATO)
Nilüfer Yanya exudes an effortless, genuine, cool on her second album, the kind of vibe you can't fake. And her songs are great. From my review:
If you invested in Nilüfer Yanya's terrific 2019 debut, she pays out big dividends on Album #2, refining the sound of that album, parring everything down in a way that sounds bigger and brighter at the same time. The beats are jazzy, and so are the guitars when they're not melting into shoegaze and post-punk territory. It fits so well with Yanya's sly, smoky vocals that don't try to mask her London accent and are also capable of diaphanous harmonies.
Get PAINLESS on vinyl in the BV shop.
Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul - Topical Dancer (DEEWEE)
Charlotte and Bolis' debut album was a long time coming but worth the wait. From my review:
"Are you polite or political? Are you correct or cynical?" Belgian duo Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul ask a lot of questions you might not expect on their debut album. Especially for an act associated with DEEWEE, the mostly dance music label run by Soulwax's David & Stephen Dewaele (who co-produced and co-wrote the album). But with Topical Dancer, a very apropos title, Charlotte and Bolis are aiming to engage listeners from their head to their feet. Topics these dancers address include racism, cultural appropriation, social media obsession, wokeness, vanity and misogyny, but as they note, "no matter how painful the subject, we use a certain lightness and humor to address things. It doesn’t minimize the problem, it only makes it easier to process, accept and overcome." They also set the issues against some seriously forward-thinking club music. It's a unique hybrid that feels closer to '80s experimentalists Laurie Anderson, Art of Noise or Will Powers than what's being played at Berghain or Fabric.
Aldous Harding - Warm Chris (4AD)
Aldous Harding's Designer was nearly my top album of 2019 and when I first listened to Warm Chris I was a little disappointed. Then it really grew on me. From my review:
There are new voices heard on Aldous Harding's Warm Chris, her fourth album and third for 4AD. She sounds smaller, somehow; more delicate, almost like a different person than the one who made 2019's wonderful Designer. Warm Chris is an equally beguiling record, just different. It's more pastoral, almost faery folk at times, more subtle. Whoever is the subject of these songs also appears to be head-over-heels in love. "Cut it up, put it in my hand," she sings on the bright, airy opener "Ennui." "You’ve become my joy you understand." On "Fever," she sings "I had stars coming all around me / And you let me in where a mother’d invested."
Grab Warm Chris on vinyl in the BV shop.
Midlake - For the Sake of Bethel Woods (ATO / Bella Union)
For the Sake of Bethel Woods is the first Midlake album in nine years and it's their best since The Trials of Van Occupanther. From my review:
For the Sake of Bethel Woods is another gorgeous long-player, uniquely Midlake in their signature, highly orchestrated mix of '70s soft rock, prog, spacerock, komische, and folk. As usual, the album sounds incredible, especially if you have a fondness for Pink Floyd and the Alan Parsons Project, and it boasts one of their most memorable collections of songs to date, played with an energy not usually associated with the band. You wouldn't say "Bethel Woods," "Exile," "Meanwhile" or "Gone" rock, per se, but they've got real drive. They keep the mossy earthtones and fondness for vintage synths, mellotrons, flutes and lush vocal harmonies, but mostly jettison the lyrical preoccupations with the lives of people in 1891, for the here and now and personal. For the Sake of Bethel Woods doesn't feel like a history lesson, it feels like a homecoming.
And here's a playlist with my Top 12 songs, songs from each of my Top 5 album plus all the other stuff I liked in March (in Spotify and Tidal):
Looking for more? Browse the Indie Basement archives.
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