The best new albums of the month, March 2015 edition

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Lightning Bolt 'Fantasy Empire' (Thrill Jockey) buy | stream | my review (the 405)
"In the five years away from the studio they certainly haven't stagnated. Fantasy Empire is the sound of a band modifying their sound rather than totally changing direction and whilst their spontaneity may have been tempered by their new ways of recording, their intensity and creativity remains very much intact."

Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat 'The Most Important Place in the World' (Chemikal Underground) buy | stream
The second album from the genial Scotsmen, and a worthy follow-up to the excellent Everything's Getting Older. Bill's arrangements (from ballads to wild jazz) complement Aidan's poetic words so well, and the genuinely alarming 'Lock Up Your Lambs' comes across like an unplugged Liars. This album will be keeping me company all year.

Sufjan Stevens 'Carrie and Lowell' (asthmatic kitty) buy | stream |
Sufjan's other two masterpieces (Michigan and Illinois) were expansive and ambitious records, and Carrie & Lowell sits proudly beside them, although it is a much more personal introspective work, focusing on his long distance childhood relationship with his mum and step-Dad. It reveals new raw details with every listen, and it is heartbreakingly beautiful.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor 'Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress' (constellation) buy | stream |
Avid fans will recognise the music here as the centrepiece from their 2013 tour, aka 'Behemoth'. It has been honed into four sections and trimmed to a mere 40 minutes - very short for a GY!BE album. Worth noting that this is the first fruit from the post-reformation GY!BE, given that the previous album was material that existed before their hiatus, so it's interesting to note the absence of any voice samples. Now they sound heavier, leaner and still totally essential.

Pile 'You're Better Than This' (Exploding in Sound) buy | stream |
The third album from this New England based bunch sees them in rowdy form, with vocalist Rick Maguire on the edge of a tantrum throughout. Bizarre, imaginative lyrics and an unhinged energy to rival prime period Modest Mouse, Fugazi, Pixies, it's that kind of vibe. Juddering, erratic and a whole lot of fun.

Lower Dens 'Escape From Evil' (Ribbon Music/ Domino) buy | stream |my interview with Jana Hunter from Lower Dens (the 405)
A shift towards left field 80s influenced pop and slightly away from the overtly experimental leanings of predecessor Nootropics. Shades of Motorik and Berlin-era Bowie are evident, but ultimately this is a collection of finely crafted songs with depths and layers underneath that pop sheen.

Matthew E. White 'Fresh Blood' (Domino) buy | stream |
It's fair to say that this isn't a massive departure from Matthew's superlative debut Big Inner - the seventies soul feel, the big arrangements, and his laid-back delivery are all present and correct, and serve to show what a talent this guy is.

Lonelady 'Hinterland' (Warp) buy | stream |
This contains one of the best three-song runs on an album this year, with 'Bunkerpop', the title track and 'Groove it Out' throwing the knock-out punches. The rest is good, if a little samey, but this long overdue second album makes a bigger splash than her debut and proves that Julie Campbell is onto something special.

Modest Mouse 'Strangers to Ourselves' (Epic) buy | stream |
It's almost as if they made Strangers to Ourselves extra-long to make up for time away, and there is the suggestion that they are resting on their indie-rock laurels a little here, but there are enough highlights to keep their fans engaged. The eccentric songwriting of Isaac Brock is something worth cherishing.

Ghostpoet 'Shedding Skin' (PIAS) buy | stream |
This album move from Ghostpoet, as he has left behind electronics and Afrobeat and has chosen to work with a traditional guitar-bass-drums backing this time around. The reasons are cathartic as Shedding Skin is a break-up album and both the instrumentation and his detached vocal delivery suit the bleak mood and make a big emotional impression.

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