The best album releases of the month, March 2013

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These posts are getting harder as 2013 maintains its already high standard for album releases. I managed to get through 27 different albums this month and none of them would've scored below 6/10. I am still limiting this list to ten because that is the rule I have set myself, but I think March has been the most difficult to decide on so far. Where decisions were close, I have gone with the lesser known act, as there were a few big-hitters this month, and every one already knows about them. (I am mainly referring to Mr Bowie's excitingly strong comeback.)

Chelsea Light Moving 'Chelsea Light Moving'
A perhaps surprisingly heavy and intense debut from Thurston Moore's new band.
my review (the 405)
"A four-piece rock band with his guitar playing and his distinctive voice will obviously sound like Sonic Youth, but this album is at times heavier and less complicated than them, and best of all it has a fire and an energy of its own that makes it well worth hearing."

John Grant 'Pale Green Ghosts'
Much has been made of the former Czars front man's new direction, but it doesn't seem that strange or dramatic to me. Overall it sounds more electronic thanks to JG's collaborations with GusGus in Iceland, although the songwriting has a direct link to the wit and detail of 'Queen of Denmark'. This is going to be one of those albums that stays around all year.

Youth Lagoon 'Wondrous Bughouse'
A gently psychedelic treat, reminiscent of the early 90s work of Mercury Rev and Flaming Lips, certainly in terms of feel and atmosphere. Mainly the work of Trevor Powers, this is more complex and less minimal than his debut 'Year of Hibernation', although tunes as strong as 'Mute' and 'Dropla' are bound to win new fans.

Hookworms 'Pearl Mystic'
An intense take on garage rock and Spacemen 3 era psychedelia, Pearl Mystic has anthemic touches and maybe even a hint of hardcore elements as well. Even better live, but this is still a hugely impressive debut album.

Black Pus 'All My Relations'

Billed as a solo album by Lightning Bolt drummer Brian Chippendale, this doesn't sound remarkably different from LB. You would expect the skittish frantic drumming, the distorted vocals, but you also get the overdriven riffs as well. I suppose the main contrast is within the song structure, as a lot of these pieces seem to have distant roots in pop music or even anthemic glam rock. If you like Lightning Bolt you should enjoy this, if you've never heard LB this has enough abrasive noise to frighten off casual observers.

Conquering Animal Sound 'On Floating Bodies'
Possibly the most left-field of my picks this month, CAS are a duo based in Glasgow who claim to "make music every day". This is their second album, and it is a collection of experimental pop music focusing on Anneke's distinctive and inventive vocal style and a collage of found sounds and electronica.

Low 'The Invisible Way'
'The Invisible Way' is a Jeff Tweedy production, though the Wilco influence isn't immediately discernable, and this comes across a superb attempt to capture the warmth and power of Low. Of course, it would be nothing without good songwriting, and once again they have kept up their own high standards.

Steve Mason 'Monkey Minds in the Devil's Time'

To be honest this is the first post-Beta Band release that I have really listened to, despite being a fan of then, and seeing their farewell tour, etc. 'Monkey Minds..' is a hugely ambitious, sprawling album which flirts with traditional song structures, spoken word, hip hop and pretty much pulls it off. One of those albums that rewards repeated listens.

Clinic 'Free Reign II'
It always puzzles me why bands feel the need to release remixes of a full album a few months after the original release. 'Free Reign' was a decent Clinic album from November last year, but this remix by the prolific Dan Lopatin (aka Oneohtrix Point Never) is subtle rather than dramatic. The songs are intact and recognisable, and if anything he has made them sound more like Can than they ever did before, which is a good thing obviously! It is perhaps a bit strange to put this in my ten choices given the strong field, but I had a feeling this was being overlooked.

Phosphorescent 'Muchacho'

Matthew Houck has stepped sideways from his classic folk and country influences for his sixth album as Phosphorescent, embracing ambient textures and showing lyrical inspiration from an extended stay in Mexico. Much like John Grant, this is another artist who has updated their sound with some success, and I expect this to turn a few heads over the rest of this year as well.

I feel duty bound to mention those that just fell off the page. David Bowie's The Next Day and Suede's Bloodsports have plenty of admirers elsewhere, and if I'm honest I wish Bowie's album was more like the excellent first single 'Where Are We Now?'
Daughter's debut 'If You Leave' seems impressive but hasn't quite stuck with me just yet, Devendra Banhart's 'Mala' needs more listens, although 'Daniel' sounds like a classic, and Suuns 'Images du Futur' is good but loses points for just being too derivative of Clinic.
Finally, I only heard Foot Village's latest, 'Make Memories', on March 31st and some of it blew me away, so maybe I will write more about that very soon. Meanwhile April is doing a good job of overwhelming me with new releases already...

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