Listen: 10 of the best releases of the month, March edition

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I'm enjoying wading through albums to try and pick ten or so for this page every month. March wasn't as strong a month as January or February in my opinion, and it's the first month I've been unable to pick ten albums with Spotify links. Happily, the three non-Spotify albums that I have included are fantastic and well worth seeking out.

Chromatics 'Kill for Love'
*no UK spotify available* but the album is still streaming via soundcloud, click here for more. This long awaited, highly anticipated album from the Portland based synth act is well worth the five year wait. Over the 91 minute running time it manages to sound cinematic and epic whilst retaining the thrill of well crafted synth-pop songs. It's early days but I've already heard the word "masterpiece" applied to this by a few people.

Andrew Bird 'Break it Yourself'
listen via Spotify
My review
'Break it Yourself' sits together very well as a set of songs. It's not a concept album but there is a sense that it is loosely about the passage of time, the ageing process and our own personal memories.
This time around he has recorded it mostly himself in his barn outside Chicago and at the heart of it, like most of his albums, is his deceptively simple song writing which gets constructed into something complex and clever because of his work with loops and his interweaving melodies.

Lee Ranaldo 'Between the Times and Tides'
listen via Spotify
my review (the 405)

This is a strong solid rock album that warrants repeated listens. It has enough familiarity for Sonic Youth fans to latch on to, but it also has plenty of surprises. If you were expecting an angry, experimental record in the aftermath of that group's demise you will be disappointed, because Lee Ranaldo has produced something that embraces his new solo status with an exuberance few would have predicted.

Julia Holter 'Exstasis'
*no UK spotify available*
An album which gathered such over-the-top gushing reviews that I couldn't bring myself to add to them! It is a beautiful album, a collection of experimental, ambient pop apparently inspired by Greek mythology. It would sit nicely between Joanna Newsom and Mary Margaret O'Hara, whilst not really sounding like either of them.

THEEsatisfaction 'awE naturalE'
*no UK spotify available*
Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White made their presence felt on the best hip-hop record of 2011 (Shabazz Palaces 'Black Up') and now they have come into their own on this brief but very impressive debut. With 13 tracks in just 30 minutes, it's a jazzier, more fun, flipside to the Shabazz Palaces album.

Grimes 'Visions'
listen via Spotify
Still only 21, this is Clare Boucher's third record as Grimes, and the first to get a major release (on 4AD). It's an impressive, genre-defying album, which manages to combine the sound and feel of left-field indie bands (Cocteau Twins in particular) with commercial RnB and underground lo-fi dance music. This is another one that is going to be around all year.

Fanuelle (re-issue)
listen via Spotify
I wouldn't normally include re-issues in this, but as this is a re-issue of an album from 2005 hardly anyone ever heard I reckon I'm allowed. This was the debut album by Matthew Fanuelle which disappeared soon after release, and it has been found and remastered by Swedish label Emotion. It's a mix of great songwriting, lo-fi production, movie samples and a wall of Casio keyboards. Imagine Daniel Johnson, Momus and the Magnetic Fields as a starting point, then go and investigate this lost gem.

Lost in the Trees 'A Church That Fits Our Needs'
listen via Spotify
A haunted but stirring album, written as a cathartic experience after the suicide of frontman Ari Picker's mother - that is her face staring out from the cover. It's a very beautiful, musically complex album. As you might expect given the subject matter, the lyrics are personal and very impressive.

White Hills 'Frying on this Rock'
listen via Spotify
my review (the 405)
I didn't rate this as highly as their last couple of albums, but there are enough highlights to warrant its inclusion here.
"Some of the song structures remind me of the likes of Loop, Hawkwind and Monster Magnet, although it is on the extended pieces that White Hills become something more distinctive and start to forge their own identity. "

The Bowerbirds 'The Clearing'
listen via Spotify
This is a more expansive and more strange than previous Bowerbirds releases, and none the worse for that. Apparently the couple behind the band, Beth and Phil, separated and got back together during this album's gestation period and Beth also suffered a mystery illness which nearly killed her. THey have been able to turn those hardships into something pretty beautiful.

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