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Sound On: The Best Music of March 2019

Women made some great music this month.

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Welcome to Sound On, where we’ll highlight the albums and songs that you should know about each month—from the hits that landed to the tracks you might have missed. We’ll even tell you which moods each album evokes, so you know just when to turn them on to maximize their effects. Happy listening.


Wow, if you overlook The Black Album (sorry Weezer, but how can we miss you if you won't go away?) then March was an incredible month for music. We got new releases from icons we haven't heard from in a while, indie darlings impressed us with their soul, and newcomers landed on the scene with extremely dope debuts. There's enough music from just the first quarter of 2019 to last the rest of the year. Let's revisit the best of what we were listening to in March, in no particular order:

Ex Hex, It’s Real

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Who:

The Washington, D.C.–based Ex Hex, fronted by rock journeywoman Mary Timony, released its long-awaited follow-up to 2014’s excellent Rips.

What:

It’s Real is riffy, glam, and infectious, winking back at some the best 1980s mall bands. That makes it nostalgic, but not in a sad way: Think Joan Jett mixed with The Go-Gos. Check out the deceptively mellow “No Reflection” and the singles “Cosmic Cave” and “Tough Enough” and you’ll see what I mean. Then check out their first record, and then play both of them on repeat all summer.

Best Time to Listen:

When you’re driving through your hometown to remember why you left; when you want to feel like a feminist music snob; during backyard BBQs in nice weather.

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Solange, When I Get Home

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Who:

Solange, the youngest mononymous member of a family of musical goddesses, who most recently graced us with 2016’s soulful, poignant A Seat at the Table.

What:

One of her most jazz-inflected outings yet (and that’s saying something!), with swirling instruments and a wide breadth of vocal styles—which she tries on for a minute before flitting effortlessly to the next thing. Experimental might be the right word, but don't take that to mean alienating or uncomfortable. “Binz” is one of the most immediately catchy tracks off the record.

Best Time to Listen:

When you’re alone and contemplative; when you need to take a breath and vibe the day off of yourself.

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Nilüfer Yanya, Miss Universe

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Who:

British singer-songwriter Nilüfer Yanya’s debut record is already getting a ton of buzz.

What:

Miss Universe is a little conceptual, insomuch as she spends a few interludes pretending to be a phone operator. Those are funny, but you’ll start skipping them when you realize just how thrilling the rest of this record is. It’s brooding but catchy, sparse at times and rollicking at others. It’s got layers is what I'm saying. “Paralyzed” has some spacey vocals but, instrumentation-wise, reminds me of a jubilant movie soundtrack song. Other times, Yanya gets downright melancholy (“Paradise” is full of wistful imagery and perfectly-timed pauses). I wish this album had existed when I was a teen, but I'm still glad it exists now.

Best Time to Listen:

Depends. You could work out to “Angels” but “Heat Rises” would be fun to dance to at a party; could just dance alone in your room in a state of rebellious whimsy.

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Dido, Still On My Mind

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Who:

Dido!!! You know, from “White Flag” and that creepy Eminem song that gave us the term “stan” to refer to megafans. (Fun fact: Did you know that Dido named her kid Stan?) This is Dido’s first record in six years, and the first one she’ll tour behind in 15. We stan a legend!

What:

If you associate Dido with her best-known songs from 20 years ago, you’ll probably be expecting some dentist office muzak. That’s always been an oversimplification of what she is, but to be clear, Still On My Mind is...not that. Her first single, “Hurricanes” pretty much exemplifies it: Songs that start out as straightforward, singer-songwriter balladry will more often open up into disco-y, ambient-ish anthems.

Best Time to Listen:

When you’re walking through a city with headphones on; when you need something that you and your mom can agree on; when you need something to play in the background as you’re running through an airport to stop your true love from getting on a plane.

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Karen O and Danger Mouse, Lux Prima

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Who:

Karen O (you know, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman) and Danger Mouse (you know, the producer of some very good Black Keys outings and the other half of Broken Bells) have teamed up!

What:

Danger Mouse has a pretty heavy hand, but this album sounds exactly like what Karen O and Danger Mouse put together would be: retro and lush, like the long-lost soundtrack to a James Bond movie that was never made.

Best Time to Listen:

I don’t condone all-female bank heists, but if you were going to engage in that and you needed a song to do it by, you could choose worse than “Woman.”

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Jenny Lewis, On The Line

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Who:

It’s been a while since Jenny Lewis appeared in Troop Beverly Hills (30 years to be exact). During that time, the Rilo Kiley frontwoman became an indie queen—evidenced by her string of excellent solo records. This follow-up to 2014’s The Voyager might be her best yet.

What:

Country-inflected, California sun-drenched melodies are really just the icing on her sharp songwriting. She builds whole worlds and colors them in with hyperspecificity. Jenny Lewis only ever sounds like herself, but when she seems to crib other rock queens—like Stevie Nicks, say, on “Red Bull and Hennessey”—I can never tell if she’s being tongue-in-cheek about it. It probably doesn’t matter, the result is so fully hers.

Best Time to Listen:

While you’re working; at a lively but respectful dinner party; on your headphones to make your morning commute feel faster.

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Billie Eilish, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?

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Who:

We endorse Billie Eilish! It’s wild to think that this is the 17-year-old’s debut album because she’s so steadily been releasing music on her own. But this is the first full one!

What:

Eilish has a gorgeous, lilting voice that she tries to distort and corrupt at every opportunity—like an ASMR video set to a malfunctioning drum machine and then played underwater. This is a compliment. Though she can get wrenching, I find her music is less about lyricism than it is about creating a mood, so I tried not to expend too much energy on wondering whether the words in “wish you were gay” were problematic or not. Instead, I enjoyed when she got really goth, with layers of distorted vocals and sinister beats and surprising turns that evokes Lorde—if Lorde had befriended Satan instead of Jack Antonoff. In fact, instead of "We'll never be royals," Eilish is all, "You should see me in a crown." Sonically similar, ideologically opposite.

Best Time to Listen:

When you’re in an emo mood; when you want your face to naturally fall into a “please don’t fuck with me” scowl (I call it “city face”).

LISTEN NOW


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