Best of March Music - Rock, Soul, Jazz

"Ingenue" Atoms for Peace: Amok (XL Recordings)

Thom Yorke, Flea, long time Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, session drummer Joey Waronker, and percussionist Mauro Refosco have conjured up some heady experimental rock and electronica juju on this album of Radiohead-like alt-dance and fragmented rock tunes. Much of what I hear on this album had its roots in Radiohead's Amnesiac -- vague lyrics, off-kilter rhythms, Yorke's falsetto vocal phrases. Get your groove on, like Thom does in the video above.

The Mavericks: In Time (Valory) 

Raul Malo has a voice as angelic as Roy Orbison's. He and his country-leaning Mavs -- original bassist Robert Reynolds and drummer Paul Deakin, along with the more recent guitarist Eddie Perez -- have regrouped and released their first new music in ten years, entitled In Time, including tunes co-written by former NRBQ badass Al Anderson. Last month I was lucky enough to catch them live and acoustic at City Winery on the eve of said release. It was a night of Americana music magic. This new album adds plenty of Tex-Mex and Cubano flourishes, and the singing and playing is as confident and stellar as ever. On tour and coming to a venue near you.

Matthew Shipp: Greatest Hits (Thirsty Ear)

I'm not sure one could do justice by picking tracks for a "Best Of" compilation for  avant-garde, free jazz pianist/composer Shipp. He's a virtuoso with so many nooks, crannies, shades, colors, and emotions in his playing and output that it seems like an effort in futility. Nonetheless for those folks who may have never experienced his majestic command of the piano on any of his 50+ albums, I suppose this 12-track compendium is as good a place as any to begin. You get him solo, with various backing band configurations, even hip-hop explorations; it will provoke further mining of his catalog. His song "Cohesion" (below) would not be out of place on a Radiohead record.

"Party Kids" Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside: Untamed Beast (Partisan Records)

Gotta love the raw '50s rock sound of Ms. Ford and her rootsy, primal beast Portand, OR-based quartet. A little Karen O filtered through The Cramps and Alabama Shakes and... Here's my favorite track from their sophomore effort. Dyn-O-mite.

Mark Kozelek: Like Rats (Caldo Verde)

Nobody does covers like Mr. Kozelek. Remember his album of AC/DC tunes, What's Next to the Moon? If you didn't know that Australian band's lyrics, then you wouldn't have recognized Mark's arrangements. While this is not entirely the case with his new solo effort, it still requires a music fan's appreciate for the songs he's chosen to cover. From the Bad Brains ("I") to Theodore Nugent ("Free-For-All") to Bruno Mars ("Wild Girls"), this is a sparse album dominated by Mark's beautiful nylon-string guitar playing and understated vocals. His double-tracked vocal on the Peter Gabriel-era Genesis track "Carpet Crawlers" is tops for me. Below is his live concert take on the Descendents' "Silly Girl":

Gary Lucas & Metropole Orchestra at Paradiso, Amsterdam (17 February 2013)

NYC-based guitar hero Gary Lucas shares his love/devotion of Beefheart any chance he gets. And with good reason. Not only did Gary manage Mr. Van Vliet, he played guitar for him at the tail end of his recording career. Check out this video from his most recent gig in Netherlands. Joining him on vocals was former Labelle vocalist Nona Hendryx, whose excellent solo albums should not be overlooked. 

Dor: Housekeeping (Self)

Ambient bass and drum electronica is typically not my cup of tea, but this is one intoxicating concoction. John Rutherford (bass) and Jacob Worden (drums) have turned down the volume but turned up the ambience and chillwave and in doing so have created sonic landscapes that engage without pummeling the listener senseless with just gigantic beats. This is more of a throwback exploration mining both New Order's Factory-days vibe and even the ambient music of the early Brian Eno and Cluster collaborations. 

Pere Ubu: Lady from Shanghai (Fire Records)

Speaking of throwback experiences... David Thomas, leader/vocalist of Pere Ubu since their 1978 debut, continues to share his brand of dada art-rock with nary a hint of slowing down. This may be one of their more challenging efforts, listening-wise, reminiscent of their Dub Housing days. Weird rhythms, the signature weirder synth bursts, and snake-like guitar bursts and riffs still dominate, and still plenty of tongue-in-cheek moments, too. Like David singing "go to hell" to the vocal melody of Anita Ward's "Ring My Bell" chorus on the opening track "Thanks." Thankfully smart music does not always have to be so serious.

"Evil Things" The Black Angels: Indigo Meadow (Blue Horizon)

Love 'em or hate 'em, nothing phony about the retro psychedelic rock leanings of this Austin-based (now a) quartet. Produced by John Congleton (Clinic, David Byrne & St. Vincent, Explosions in the Sky), there is more of an emphasis on streamlined songcraft but still plenty of heavy guitar riffs and swirling organ fills. This is off their upcoming album Indigo Meadow, out April 2nd.

dusty5a

Mr. Wright is a content creator and culture curator. He is a contributor to the Huffington Post, a DJ at David Lynch's Transcendental Music Radio, the former editor-in-chief of Creem and Prince's New Power Generation magazines as well as a writer of films, fiction, and music. He is also a singer/songwriter who has released four solo CDs and one with folk-rock quartet GIANTfingers. And before all of this he was a William Morris agent.

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