Apr 012021
The Best New Songs of March
Aspetuck – Rescue Mission

Aspetuck (aka. Griff Fulton)’s bio says his music was inspired by immersing himself in the nightlife of New York and Los Angeles. Yet now he lives near where he grew up in rural Vermont, an area not exactly known for its club scene. Somehow I feel like that dichotomy comes across in “Rescue Mission.” You can imagine it playing on a dance floor somewhere, but it works equally well just sitting at home and vibing out.

Black Fly – Kingdom

Strictly speaking, not much happens in the video for Black Fly’s new song “Kingdom.” But what there is is supremely eerie. Black Fly is Vermont-based musician and visual artist Joseph Rittling. He said, “This is the first in a series of visualizers that were partially inspired by the artwork of Simon Stålenhag and his depiction of a dystopian suburban Sweden. I too wanted to create scenes where rural landscapes, technology, and people were intertwined. A sort of sci-fi depiction of where I live. It also feels representative of the music, a clash of organic and technological textures.”

Boys Cruise – House of Horror

Boys Cruise are the sort of punk band that has synchronized dance moves. (Actually, is that even a type? Maybe they’re the first.) In the dirgy first thirty seconds of their new single, the “grunge Sisters of Mercy” vibe made me wonder if they’re moving in a different, more subdued, direction. Then everything explodes and they’re back to shouting their anguish very loud and very fast. I look forward to live shows returning so I can see the choreo.

Clever Girls – Come Clean

Clever Girls released five of the ten songs on Constellations in advance. You might think only the dregs remained. Not even close. Opener “Come Clean” is a righteous explosion, frontperson Diane Jean delivering a bravura near-a cappella vocal performance for most of its runtime. But when the band kicks in, they kick in hard. One day soon this is going to make one hell of a show-opener.

Clover Koval – Chasing My Own Tail

When I first wrote about singer-songwriter Clover Koval, I mentioned “lyrics that echo Courtney Barnett over music that sounds like a lo-fi Best Coast.” The lyrics are still clever, but the music on her new song “Chasing My Own Tail” sounds more like drum-machine dreampop than Best Coast. Apparently I’m not the first to notice her trying on different genres. The lyrics includes the verse: “i joked for how my next song / i would sound like miss parton wrote a doom metal album / cuz i can’t decide anything anymore.”

Couchsleepers – All the Best Intentions

“Wait, didn’t Couchsleepers release this song already?” I asked myself. No, but you can understand my confusion – they released the similarly-titled “All the Worst Things” a few months back, and this new song includes lyrics about “worst things.” It’s very confusing. Couchsleepers’ Harrison Hsiang talked me through it:

“Worst Things” and “Best Intentions” definitely form a thematic couplet – actually one set of three on the upcoming EP, along with “Monsters” & “Creature Comforts” and “Just a Minute” and “After All”. In some sense they’re sides of a coin. “Worst Things” is about the self-destructive impulse, of seeking more emotional punishment and misery even though you know you shouldn’t. “Best Intentions” takes the opposite approach; it’s the “I know I shouldn’t but I’m going to do it anyway” moment, wanting the best for yourself when you don’t deserve it – wanting the perfect girl when you’re petty and cruel, or wanting the perfect reputation when all you do is get drunk and lie around all day. As a whole the EP is an exploration of my worst qualities, taken to their extremes – self-pity, greed, envy, addiction, conciliation, dispassion. All of which, thankfully, have always remained balanced in my life, but I see their potential to spiral out of control and I wonder what I might be like if they did. I hope not to be that person, but there are also times I wish I could be more like that person as well.

Dave Richardson – Keep Trying

Last time I wrote about Dave Richardson, I said he seemed like a super positive person. At the time, he had released a song called “It’s Gonna Be OK.” Now he’s back with another upbeat anthem, “Keep Trying,” about being a shy person who’s doing his best. Both songs come off his upcoming Palms to Pines, which feels like it’s bound to be the feel-good album of the spring.

Glorious Leader – November Moon

Good news, Sufjan finally did a third state in the series: Vermont! Only he recorded it under the name Glorious Leader. And…okay, no, it’s not really Sufjan. Glorious Leader is really Kyle Woolard, who recorded a tribute to his home in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. In a very cool touch, it comes with an entire hardbound book done up to look like an old Hardy Boys mystery, with the backstory plus tabs for oddly-tuned guitar, banjo, and ukulele.

Isabel Pless – Burn Out

Isabel Pless has a sense of humor. Her album title is Too Big for the Playground, Too Small for the Big Leagues. Her Bandcamp bio is “Former gifted kid, current broke college student.” And every lyric in “Burn Out” embodies that same energy. Here’s the chorus: “And I smoke out the window / When my parents are home / Leave a light on at night / If I’m sleeping alone / And my mailbox is full / But no one calls my phone / Anyway.”

Jade Relics – Start Over

New hip-hop banger “Start Over” sounds vaguely like an old Kanye production, with a dusty old soul sample flipped to form the hook and new rap verses added over top. Turns out, though, that old-soul chorus is new too, sung by Elder Orange aka. Matt Scott while rapper IAME aka. Ryan McMahon handles the verses. Producer Rico James rounds out the trio of local hip-hop favorites around their native Vermont.

Jake Ratelle – Take

Performed solo on an extremely effected-out electric guitar, “Take” brings a host of emo-esque emotion in a quieter package. Well, quieter until the songs throat-shredding conclusion. It’s Julien Baker meets Jimmy Eat World.

Liz Simmons – When the Waters Rise

Liz Simmons had logged time singing backup for Melanie. Yes, that Melanie, of Woodstock and “Brand New Key” fame. You can hear some overlap in her own new album Poets. Simmons stays more in the singer-songwriter Americana lane than Melanie’s ’60s pop, but she knows her way around a hook, and has a hell of a voice to deliver it.

Marcie Hernandez – Light a Torch (Urian Hernandez remix)

I first posted Marcie Hernandez’s bilingual ballad “Light a Torch” back in July 2019, and it formed the grand finale of her recent album Amanecer. Now it’s back again, in the form of a new dub remix from Urian Hackney. The fact that Urian Hackney is a drummer (for punk vets Rough Francis) will not surprise you, as the song gets a second (third?) life as a percussion-forward thump. From now on, I’m not considering any song’s journey complete until it gets a Urian Hackney dub remix.

Ruth Garbus – We’ll See Eachother Soon

Love the stage direction that opens the written lyrics of “We’ll See Eachother Soon.” It reads: “[to be sung in a British accent].” Sure enough, she does. As you’d imagine, this is not exactly a conventional composition. She said this and one other song were meant for an album to be recorded in March of 2020, but…you know. She held them back in hopes of “some imagined perfect release,” and came to regret it. “By holding back when the songs were fresh I maybe missed the opportunity to provide some solace during a really rough time,” she wrote. “Now that the vaccines are rolling out, I hope it’s not too late, and that these songs will still serve a purpose in this world!” I’d argue a song called “We’ll See Eachother Soon” actually hits better now, with a new note of optimism.

Ryan Montbleau – Ankles

The tasteful folk-rock opening doesn’t exactly scream “comedy song,” but then the first line comes in: “I am thankful for my ankles.” It continues like that for a bit before impressively pivoting back to not-a-comedy-song territory, as Montbleau delivers a sincere and heartfelt ode to music itself. Then, bam, we’ve boomeranged back to Montbleau talking about his pancreas. These is-it-a-joke-or-not transitions sound jarring on paper, but somehow when he sings it all makes sense.

Saints & Liars – Middle Sister

The song may have “Sister” in the title, but it reminds me of some bands called “Brothers.” – I’m talking about the Avett, Wood, Barr, and Felice variety. Maybe even a touch of Flying Burrito. Definitely not Isley though. Or Chemical.

Trackstar – This Old Life

Hello Easy is the title of Trackstar’s new ep, and “easy” is the perfect word. A little easy-listening, a little soft-rock, all filtered through a supremely chill delivery. Recordings likes that sometimes fall into the trap of being all vibe with no actual song behind them, but Trackstar buttressed all the relaxation with some solid hooks.

Check out previous best-of-the-month lists here.

  One Response to “The Best New Songs of March”

  1. This months is front to end burners. Damn!

    Really appreciate the collection.

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