The Monthly Music Mix: March
By Drew Renner
Welcome to the one quarter mark of the year 2019. It’s always amazing how fast the time goes when you only focus on the media aspect of it all. Feels like just yesterday I was excited to listen to the new Maren Morris album and the day after yesterday that I was disappointed by it. While the big pop albums of the month let me down (would throw Sigrid in here as well), the music industry gave as much as it let go, with all 3 of the albums this month featuring new (to me) musicians. Which might be even more important. I’m not giving up on Maren and Sigrid quite yet, and now I can anticipate even more albums in the future. It’s like listening to playlist that has 20 mediocre songs in a row, but when you hit that one good one it makes the entire endeavour feel worthwhile and so very satisfying.
Before we get to March though, I want to give extra congratulations to those who are entering in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. Radiohead are one of the top 10 all-time great bands so I’m thrilled for them most of all. The Cure are also great and probably should have been inducted already. Janet Jackson seems like she would already be in there too, did she really come out around the same time as Radiohead? That doesn’t seem right. Stevie Nicks gets the rare double induction (she is already there with Fleetwood Mac), Def Leppard can now rock n roll forever and The Zombies can finally appreciate the time of the season after 29 years of waiting.
Ari was still the Queen B of the month, but her competition this month was .. let’s say unexpected. In the first week of the month, 7 Rings was knocked off the top by Lady Gaga and Bradley after their sexy performance of Shallow on the Oscars broadcast. So while A Star Is Born was mostly burned by the voters, at least they can add a #1 hit song to their resume. The next week would have been a total shock had we not already deduced that boy bands were In again. The Jonas Brothers are back with Sucker and the ladies of the world couldn’t be happier. Ari rounded out the month with two more weeks at #1, bringing 7 Rings up to 7 weeks total for that song, and she has spent 14 weeks at #1 overall since thank u, next debuted at the end of last year.
On the album side, we had a much more diverse set. Ariana Grande continued to stream well throughout the month, but never recaptured #1. Much like the hot 100, a steamy live performance was enough to put the A Star Is Born soundtrack at the top for the first week of the month. The next week followed suit with a surprise #1, but coming from Hozier with Wasteland, Baby! best known for the song Take Me To Church. I like Hozier, but didn’t realize they were that big, Gary Clark only debuted at #6 for instance. It’s good to have a rock-ish artist at the top of a chart though. Besides them, the only band charting well had been Queen. The rest of the month was ruled by Juice Wrld’s Death Race for Love, whom I don’t have much of an opinion so let’s just move on.
Cage The Elephant scored their 8th number 1 hit on the Alternative charts with Ready To Let Go. They just keep cranking out the hits, and I cannot wait for that album to hit next month.
Song of the month:
Karen O & Danger Mouse – Turn the Light
These two were originally going to be #3 on the album charts, Lux Prima is pretty darn good, but they got knocked out by a late entry. The good news is that they were still able to win the song category with a heavy dose of space-bass. This beat certainly isn’t far off from Danger Mouse’s norm, but as we’ve discovered through the years – it works much better with some artists than others. And if we can’t get a new Yeah Yeah Yeahs album, I’ll take this as a substitute anytime.
Runner-up #1: “Lo/Hi” by The Black Keys
The Black Keys are back with another rousing stadium anthem that would have felt in place with 2011’s El Camino. It’s weird that they haven’t put out a new album in five years, it feels more like they never went away at all. I guess pumping out 3 albums in the first 4 years of the decade gave them a stockpile of hits to lean on while they produced for other artists. Lo/Hi is just a fun song though, with some great lines to go along with the rockin and I imagine we will still be singing it in 20 years.
Runner-up #2: “No Plan” by Hozier
While Take Me to Church was a tolerable hit back in the day, it never made me curious enough to check out his album. Same with this year’s Movement, a fine lead single for his new record, but not really my thing. While most of his songs make me feel like I’m road-tripping across America, No Plan puts me in concert hall of a submarine. It is a both a claustrophobic sound and stadium-anthem sound at the same time. If Gary Clark had done the music for this I wouldn’t be shocked, but Hozier still keeps it as his own with lines like “the harder the rain the sweeter the sun”.
Album of the month:
“GREY Area” by Little Simz
Simz is a female English rapper who is on her third album, though it is the first time she has come on my radar. It is not too uncommon in British hip-hop to use beats that one would normally expect on an indie rock record. Simz never feels like she is rapping over a beat though, she is one with the rest of the music. I’m guessing she puts on a really good live show. To Pimp A Butterfly is the best recent comparison I can think of, with Kendrick Lamar turning a 90s bloc party into a revolution. Simz doesn’t quite hit those heights, but it’s really nice to hear somebody reach for them.
Runner-up #1: “Pretty Buff” by Angel Du$t
It was difficult finding any information about this band, they don’t have a wiki page and it instead redirects you to the german metal band who got the name first (thus an s and not a $). Apple describes them as a Baltimore based melodic hook-driven punk fronted by the guy from Trapped Under Ice (great song, never heard of the band). And their last album was called Rock The Fuck On Forever. So these guys are pretty cool. This album also reminds me of Canadian pop-rock group Sloan’s recent work, which involves each member writing a bit of the album, thus changing the sounds frequently.
Runner-up #2: “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” by Billie Eilish
This was the latecomer (released on March 29) who made herself impossible to ignore acknowledgement. Billie nearly whispers her dark-fantasy driven lyrics (my Lucifer is lonely she says in one song) , but her quiet nature balances nicely with the aggressive dance music behind her. At only 17 years old Billie has been on an entire adventure to the underworld and back already, with this album the product of her experience. Eilish making it on here over Danger Mouse/Karen O, Maren and Weezer was a bigger upset than Michigan State taking out Duke. Zion can listen to her while he is resting up in preparation for his Cavaliers debut.