The Monthly RecommNeds: March 2021
Happy winter, freakers. I hope you had a chance to check out last month’s column, listen to some new music, and maybe even discover something you dig. If you missed it, the February column is here, and the accompanying playlist is here.
As a reminder, I’ll be using this column to highlight 10 new releases each month, mostly taken from new releases the preceding month, hopefully hitting at least one of your sweet spots along the way, and probably a few bonus picks thrown in as well. A couple months into the year and I’m already finding it hard to whittle my list of must-hears down to just 10 albums. As such, I’ll try to mix the featured albums up to hit as much of the stylistic and genre spectrum as possible, while concentrating on the great shit that’s likely not on your radar, and you can always hit me up for more recs of a certain stripe… always more where these came from!
I’ll also be putting together a special 25-track playlist each month: songs I’ve been digging, some from the monthly picks, some from albums that weren’t featured, some singles from upcoming releases and maybe a random blast-from-the-past favorite or two. This month’s playlist is here. I hope you enjoy it! With the new Monthly RecommNeds, there are lots of ways to discover new music in whatever form works best for you.
And a reminder that I’m always on the hunt for the good stuff that I might not be hip to, so never hesitate to reach out to me on Twitter @neddyo.
The Monthly 10
Ten under-the-radar albums released last month that I think you might dig.
Myles Cochran: Unsung
Cochran is a Kentucky-born-and-raised guitarist and producer, who spent some time in New York City, that now lives in England, with a studio in France where this gorgeous album was recorded. This is light-touch instrumental folk music, that spins the kind of musical tales that an artist with a passport like Cochran’s might tell. Engaging and cozy, this one is a must-listen.
Elephant9: Arrival Of The New Elders
These Norway jammers were first featured in the RecommNeds a couple years back when they put out two killer records back-to-back. Well, they’re back with some ridiculous psychedelic grooves in the MMW/Duo style. You ask us for awesome Eurojams, I give you the incomparable Elephant9. Dig it!
Hotels On Mars: Grief Museum
Is there enough sad music to fill the past year? This lo-fi indie-folk loveliness from Brooklyn’s Mathew Weitman might help fill that gaping void. I mean, what do you expect from a record called Grief Museum that opens (appropriately) with a track titled “The Worst Year on Record.” Still, there’s plenty of light at the end of this musical tunnel, with nice spats of spirit-lifting music to go along with the sads.
The Invisible Session: Echoes Of Africa
Let’s flip that frown upside down and get your body moving a bit, eh? Here’s a band from Italy, playing music inspired by Africa, for you to pop on the hi-fi regardless of your location. It’s never a bad idea to groove to some Afrobeat and Ethiopian funk, and The Invisible Session has it going on. This is the booty-shake good stuff, enjoy!
Timothy James: Team
Speaking of modern-day Afrobeat, it’s tough to top Antibalas, which is a great lead-in to my next pick, the latest from that band’s guitarist Timothy James. Over the course of 18 tracks, James dabbles, delves, and dives straight into a whole host of different instrumental motifs. From fiery funkers to kaleidoscopic constructions, mere ideas to fully-developed compositions, for the background or foreground, there’s a depth and breadth here that’s quite impressive.
You’d maybe never guess from their wonderfully tongue-in-cheek, somewhat modern-day name, but JKLOL is a dead-serious group playing a somewhat classic bit of folk music. The name is actually an acronym for the four musicians -– Jefferson Hamer, Kristin Andreassen, Lauren Balthrop and Lawson White -– and their music is rich in lush vocal harmony, lightly-strummed guitars, and pitch-perfect songwriting.
Rob Noyes: Arc Minutes
Another month gone by, another batch of pull-your-heartstrings guitar music. Plenty to go around, but I’ve just gotta recommend this scramble of 12-string genius from Rob Noyes. In a host of two- and three-minute tracks, Noyes crams overlapping concepts of confounding beauty and mind-racing playing. Lots to love in this one.
Taco Tapes: Trad Is Rad
With a set of time-tested traditionals, choice covers and a few fit-like-a-glove covers, Taco Tapes have, as their album title states, proclaimed that trad is, indeed rad. The Pacific Northwest-based folksters took their name from the famous Garcia/Grisman/Rice Pizza Tapes, and are clearly inspired by the old school who were inspired by the old school who were inspired by the … Well, you get the picture. Deeply rooted bluegrass, Americana, and traditional folk music done just right on all sides. Delish!
University Challenged: Oh Temple!
What’s that? You want some more sweet, under-the-radar Eurojams? Yeah, you know I’m good for at least one more. Why don’t you settle your ears on the expansive psychedelic wanderings of Holland’s University Challenged. These are some wonderfully mesmerizing jams that will take your mind to the Netherlands and then to Neverneverland. Trust me, this one’s for you. Absolutely.
Work Money Death: The Space In Which the Uncontrollable Unknown Resides, Can Be The Place From Which Creation Arises
The album title is a mouthful, but it’s announcing music that’s rather special, a masterful, sprawling piece of epic spiritual jazz. Two extended tracks: “Dusk” and “Dawn,” this UK ensemble will take your ears through the night, sparking and provoking, ideas and emotions. The music was recorded during the pandemic, each player entering the studio on their own and adding to what the others had already done, improvisation stretched over time, perhaps asking the question, what is time anyway? For fans of Kamasi Washington or just having your mind blown.
In addition to the Monthly 10, I’ll try to throw in a few other picks each month.
For my monthly live release pick, check out these jams from Escaper, recorded in NYC at a late night holiday-week aftershow back in the beforetimes, and absolutely capturing that energy (may we all feel it again sometime soon!).
Once again, a couple EP’s worth listening to: a fiery a-rockin’ four tracks of so, so much from Kid Congo & the Pink Monkey Birds and this delightful, dreamy debut of self-proclaimed psychedelic soul from ones-to-watch Los Sundowns.
And finally five more recommendations that may not be on your radar but are well worth a listen, presented without comment: Adeline Hotel, Badge Epoque Ensemble, Bloomypetal, Goat Girl, Psychedelic Porn Crumpets … what other good ones did I miss this month?
I think that’ll do, more next month.
All of the music mentioned in this column can be found in this March compilation playlist on Spotify. I’ll also keep up this running playlist with all the recommendations from 2021 so they’re all in one place for easy new music discovery at any time.