As 2022’s Q1 comes to a close, we’re already reclining on a pile of albums that would make some complete calendar years blush. Just take the month of March, which offered up everything from dance music laden with incisive social commentary to “experimental adult contemporary,” kaleidoscopic psych-pop to gut-wrenching hip-hop and hardcore. New records from Guerilla Toss, Soul Glo and Nilüfer Yanya stood out even from such a formidable crowd, but they’re just the beginning of the Paste Music team’s March picks. Take a look and a listen down below.
Listen to our Best Albums of March 2022 playlist on Spotify here.
Charlotte Adigéry & BOLIS PUPUL: Topical Dancer
Charlotte Adigéry and frequent collaborator Bolis Pupul make magic together, and the former’s straightforward, charming commentary and wit land even harder with the latter’s dense club-ready beats. Adigéry uses humor to shine light on issues such as sexism and racism, whether it be asking Siri to tell her where she came from or correcting a perverted man who comments on her breasts. Taking up influences from disco, funk and house, Pupul crafts a vibrant ecosystem for Adigéry to croon about some of the worst parts of humanity in a way that shines a light on the issues while still earning a smile. —Jade Gomez
“I don’t know / Where I’m going,” Dan Bejar sings on second LABYRINTHITIS single “Eat the Wine, Drink the Bread,” observing, “It’s insane in here, it’s a lunacy out there.” Destroyer’s 13th studio album is, indeed, a document of topsy-turvy times, written mostly in 2020 and recorded the following spring, with Bejar and John Collins working virtually from Vancouver and the remote Galiano Island, respectively. But then again, when has a Destroyer record operated according to any logic but its own? On LABYRINTHITIS, the band take disco, Art of Noise and New Order as their muses, disappearing further down the dance-pop rabbit hole they skirted on 2017’s ken and dove headfirst into on 2020’s Have We Met. Bejar and company are still indulging their quirks and seeking new horizons in their fourth decade as a band, and the result on LABYRINTHITIS is well-worth getting lost in. —Scott Russell
Drug Church: Hygiene
Albany- and Los Angeles-based five-piece Drug Church—vocalist Patrick Kindlon, guitarists Nick Cogan and Cory Galusha, bassist Pat Wynne and drummer Chris Villeneuve—are back with their fourth album, the follow-up to their 2018 breakout Cheer and acclaimed 2021 Tawny EP. As previewed via singles “Million Miles of Fun,” “Detective Lieutenant,” “World Impact” and “Premium Offer,” Hygiene is heavy and hooky in equal measure, as if Cogan and Galusha’s guitars and Kindlon’s vocals are two animals locking horns with ferocity. “There are things that you see coming / Rolling like slow-moving trains,” Kindlon barks over chainsaw guitars on “World Impact”—Hygiene was one of those things, as is Drug Church’s continued presence at the crest of the melodic hardcore wave, alongside the TURNSTILEs and Fiddleheads of the world. —Scott Russell
Fly Anakin: Frank
Rising rapper Fly Anakin’s debut album Frank is a love letter to the soul and R&B of his childhood, adding his own flair and painting a blank canvas with his picturesque lyricism. The Richmond rapper’s unique voice rests between snarling and singing, effortlessly delivering bars with a conversational tone that draws you in. Frank is anchored by Anakin, but is kept afloat with the help of his carefully curated set of collaborators, ranging from production legend Madlib and internet celebrity-turned-producer Jay Versace to underground rap stars Pink Siifu and Nickelus F. Frank is the perfect introduction to the thrilling mind of one of rap’s brightest. —Jade Gomez
Guerilla Toss: Famously Alive
“For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m finally comfortable inside my body,” Guerilla Toss’ Kassie Carlson said about the writing and recording of Famously Alive, and that sense of freedom comes through in spades on the band’s Sub Pop debut. Their brand of surreal DIY bubblegum and maximalist art pop are on full display here as they dodge any straightforward descriptors while still making some of the most accessible music of their time together thus far. Life (and all of its uncomfortable twists and turns) seems to pulse through the veins of the record, choosing the route of primal explosion over any type of measured consideration. Unusual production flourishes like the twangy guitar on “I Got Spirit,” the cavernous vocals on “Pyramid Humm” and the sound effects on “Excitable Girls” only expand upon the sense of fearlessness that permeates the whole record. In taking risks that shouldn’t work and making them assets on each track, Guerrilla Toss make a strong case for embracing that fearlessness. —Elise Soutar
Ho99o9 have enjoyed underground success for many years thanks to their exhilarating blend of hip-hop and punk. It sounds familiar, but the group bend the rules in their favor. Their new album SKIN, produced by legendary drummer Travis Barker, is the group at their peak. Lead singles “BATTERY NOT INCLUDED” and “NUGE SNIGHT” hit like closed-fist punches to the jaw, with dizzying transitions into trap beats and thrash-inspired instrumentation. It sounds like a lot, and it is—that’s the best part about Ho99o9. —Jade Gomez
Nilüfer Yanya: PAINLESS
We’d been looking forward to Nilüfer Yanya’s sophomore effort for quite a while, having hailed the London singer/songwriter as one of 2019’s best new artists on the strength of her debut album, Miss Universe. PAINLESS—as previewed via singles “stabilise,” “midnight sun,” “anotherlife” and “the dealer”—finds Yanya sharpening her sound to a piercing point. In place of the melodic art-rock, bluesy swagger and jazzy sophisti-pop that bloomed across her debut is a more tightly focused and carefully controlled sonic sensibility, defined by precise guitar work, punchy dance-pop beats, hooky vocals and atmospheric production. Yanya’s lyricism is also refreshed, leaving Miss Universe’s high-concept approach behind in favor of more direct, revelatory expression. It’s an exciting step forward from a young artist who has yet to take any other kind. —Scott Russell
It was hard to imagine how much further Spanish pop star Rosalía could stretch her chameleonic ability to create experimental music that’s still accessible enough to transcend language. Then MOTOMAMI arrived, and we no longer had to imagine. By seamlessly exploring sexuality and spirituality through an eclectic mix of reggaeton, flamenco and even elements of hyperpop, Rosalía once again emerges as a nearly peerless artist who can slip into any genre and execute it with ease. Who else would think to interpolate a Soulja Boy sample into “DELIRIO DE GRANDEZA,” a cover of a 1968 song by Cuban salsa singer Justo Betancourt? Or work jazz-inspired percussion into “SAOKO,” a track that turns around and explodes into a pop banger the second it’s sure we’re not paying attention? Rosalía’s ability to weave references together while still putting her distinctive stamp on the finished product has cemented her place as a figure for whom fans will drop everything the second they find out she’s involved. As much an extended confession as it is a celebration, a project like MOTOMAMI makes it easy to see why they feel that way. —Elise Soutar
Scott Hardware: Ballad of a Tryhard
Recorded on a trip to Spain and described in a press release as “a reimagination of experimental adult contemporary that tweaks the limits of Y2K rock and soft rock with curiosity and appreciation,” Scott Hardware’s third album Ballad of a Tryhard sees him set his own life experiences to sweeping, cinematic choruses with lush layers of instrumentation. On singles “Summer,” “Watersnake,” “Love Through the Trees” and “Underdog,” Hardware balances accessible hooks with complex melodies and arrangements that are never content to just let you settle in. Like the emotions described in the lyrics will often do, off-kilter details like the harsh percussive hits in “Underdog” or the time signature changes that swell and erupt with feeling on “Summer” knock you off your rhythm, delighting and confusing you all at once. —Elise Soutar
Soul Glo: Diaspora Problems
Philadelphia hardcore staples Soul Glo’s fourth album Diaspora Problems refuses to step off the gas, driving full speed ahead into another chapter of the band’s seething commentary and brutal riffs. The outfit take many cues from punk essentials like Black Flag and Bad Brains, combining speed with sharp, accessible lyricism. Lead single “Jump!! (Or Get Jumped!!!)((by the future))” is a perfect thesis for Soul Glo’s never-ending exploration of how far they can take their sound while also finding new angles from which to tackle deeper issues of social justice without sounding ham-fisted. Soul Glo are sincere, scathing and just what the world needs. —Jade Gomez
Listen to our Best Albums of March 2022 playlist on Spotify here.