Listening Ahead: Upcoming Releases for March 2014

Get the early word on some of March's most anticipated albums from the likes of the Hold Steady, Real Estate, and the War on Drugs.

Photo: Composition of headphones. Image via Shutterstock.

Apropos of a month when buzz and hype hit new heights with South by Southwest, March's installment of Listening Ahead collects some of the most eagerly awaited releases of the year so far. Our highlights for March range from the welcome return by fan favorites the Hold Steady to an uncompromising debut by vaunted newcomers Perfect Pussy, with strong, reaching-their-peak efforts by the War on Drugs and Future Islands in between. Beyond that, March's release schedule serves up intriguing offerings for a broad array of tastes, whether you're talking about the top of the pop charts with new albums by Pharrell and Kylie Minogue or off-the-wall efforts like Thurston Moore's black metal collab Twilight and hippy-folk cult hero Linda Perhacs' first full-length in 44 years. Now that's a lineup that SXSW probably can't even match for variety and eccentricity.

Artist: Real Estate

Album: Atlas

Label: Domino


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Real Estate

Anyone already familiar with Real Estate won't be finding any detours or sudden left turns on the New Jersey group's latest, Atlas. But continuing on the path that it's been going on doesn't mean that Real Estate is simply retracing its steps -- actually, if there's an overarching theme to Atlas, it's about feeling the pull of the past but still being able to push ahead and move on. An album shaped by fine-tunings and subtle adjustments, Atlas is a further exploration down a road Real Estate has traveled since its self-titled 2009 debut and 2011's Days. On the new outing, Real Estate shows a real knack at finding that elusive middle ground between doing what it does best and breaking just enough new ground for itself. So while the patient, inviting jangle that Real Estate made its name with is the starting point for all of Atlas' offerings, there are enough slight twists in inflection to keep things engaging, whether you're talking about the warm, Belle and Sebastian-esque twee of "Talking Backwards" and the instrumental "April's Song", or hints at cocktail-rock sophistication on "The Bend". And even when -- or, especially when -- Real Estate faces the unknown of what's to come, they have an ability to remain even-keeled and committed to the direction they've chosen, as Martin Courtney answers his worries about romantic circumstances and more existential concerns on "Crime" as he coos, "Stay with me / All will be revealed." Maybe some will hear Atlas and think same old same old, but listen more intently and you'll find the work of a band that's staying the course to advance step by step, steadily and surely. Arnold Pan

Artist: Perfect Pussy

Album: Say Yes to Love

Label: Captured Tracks


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Perfect Pussy
Say Yes to Love

The real reason why interest in Perfect Pussy has grown and intensified so quickly has less to do with the Syracuse group's almost un-Googleable name than its brand of furious, unrelenting hardcore punk that's more provocative and unapologetic than the name they happen to go by. Indeed, something as vital and unflinching as Perfect Pussy's proper debut Say Yes to Love could only have been conceived of by artists who take their work -- and themselves -- seriously. You can't help but notice that in the way frontwoman Meredith Graves' visceral, rapid-fire delivery matches the raw force of her incisive lyrics, as she unblinkingly spits devastating lines like, "I can try to hide from suffering / But I know now that won't save me." Or in the way Perfect Pussy's drive to perfect its hardcore aesthetic doesn't keep the newbie quintet from trying its hand at innovating, like when hints of infectious power-pop glee peek through on the pummeling single "Driver" or when the Sonic Youth-y "Interference Fits" uncoils the band's compact, compressed punk to give a little more breathing room for Graves' Kim Gordon-esque cadence. It's at these moments when Perfect Pussy proves it's not just a band that's looking to push buttons just for the heck of it, but, rather, to push itself and the limits of the musical form it works in. Arnold Pan

Artist: The War on Drugs

Album: Lost in the Dream

Label: Secretly Canadian


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The War on Drugs
Lost in the Dream

As the main force behind the War on Drugs, Adam Granduciel has crafted a discography of fascinating sounds, most recently on Slave Ambient. He's spent years twisting and stretching out American traditions of rock and folk into blurry-eyed yet vital soundscapes. But after bonding on the road for two years with his band, Granduciel brought more friends in to record Lost in the Dream. The results are a huge leap forward for an already ambitious project. This hour-long record spreads out in every direction, as guitars and synths melt over each other on "Under the Pressure" or wrap tight coils around each other on "Red Eyes" or ripple and skitter across the slick surface of "Disappearing". Behind these open sounds, the drums charge forward, echoing out into space but never losing their way. Meanwhile, Granduciel's voice has never sounded more self-assured, more rangy and powerful. He's up in the mix here and the connection to us is direct and affecting. He is our tour guide through the gauzy expanse of these songs. It's a sound that transforms the grit of the highway into the sublime of the astral plane. It feels big but never loses its shape. Lost in the Dream is inventive and thick with textures but immediate in its impact. Granduciel has managed to constantly grow from record to record, but this album isn't about growth for the War on Drugs, it's transformation. Into something both grander and more intimate, more epic and more tightly constructed. In other words, you may not be able to put your finger on what makes the record so brilliant, which is why you'll keep coming back to it, if only to let the sound surround you again. Matthew Fiander

Artist: Miles Davis

Album: Miles at the Fillmore -- Miles Davis 1970: Bootleg Series, Vol. 3

Label: Legacy


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Miles Davis
Miles at the Fillmore -- Miles Davis 1970: Bootleg Series, Vol. 3

Following Volume 1's look at the second great quintet in Europe and Volume 2's rare look at the "lost band", you'd almost be forgiven for feeling like Volume 3 is too obvious a choice, capturing Miles Davis' well-known Fillmore residency from 1970. That is, until you hear the bracing, surprising power of these sets. The four nights captured here were originally edited and condensed down into the two-LP Miles Davis at Fillmore album, but that set paid homage to the editing and studio work Davis put into Bitches Brew. It was an extension of the process. This massive and endlessly rewarding box set puts a spotlight on the brilliantly volatile music, the organic sounds under all that studio wizardry. It provides over 100 minutes of unreleased music and, more importantly, lets each piece of each set have its moment. The sets themselves share songs, but each has its own unique combustibility, as Davis and his band range from funky rumbling to dissonant chaos, from musical joy to channeled anger and back again. These are performances that can rattle in your head with intellectual vigor or rumble in your gut with pure emotive power. It's an exciting moment in Davis' career, with a new direction and hot off his epic Bitches Brew, and he claimed he always wanted all of these sets to be made public. Now that they are, we can see why, as it's one of the most powerful live sets available from one of the most dynamic live performers in music history. Matthew Fiander

Artist: Future Islands

Album: Singles

Label: 4AD


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Future Islands

You wouldn't exactly say that Future Islands have found their identity on their latest effort Singles, considering they've stood out for their own art-minded approach to synthpop for a while now. But it would be apt to suggest that they've hit their stride on Singles, which finds the Baltimore outfit boasting a batch of bolder, more confident songs than before. So even if not every track on Singles is a single per se, the title isn't a case of false advertising, not in the case of an album that's chock full of sculpted, expertly composed offerings. Indeed, all the components in Future Islands' mix come through with clarity and sharpness, be it the added heft of their substantial keyboard lines or the way Samuel T. Herring's husky baritone resonates more deeply than ever. Opener "Seasons (Waiting on You)" and the driving, melodic "Sun in the Morning" are leaps forward that really jump out, as Future Islands take advantage of a bigger, brighter palette that's available to them. And there's a rich soulfulness to the National-like "Back in the Tall Grass" and the '80s strut of "Doves" that's somewhat rare for the vernacular Future Islands work in. The progress Future Islands make on Singles after all these years might be incremental, but it's definitely discernable too. Arnold Pan

Artist: The Hold Steady

Album: Teeth Dreams

Label: Washington Square


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The Hold Steady
Teeth Dreams

Things haven't changed much in the Hold Steady's sound, but things have gotten more refined over time, and texture and mood have changed with those subtle shifts. Teeth Dreams may not have the upfront bile of Separation Sunday, but it's got its own smoldering fury. The songs move us away from the lost youth into wandering adulthood, where growing up isn't settling down with a family, but rather finding a new path through the city nights and the changing bar scenes. The songs are still full of characters setting the wrong fires to brighten their dark corners, but the stakes are different here, the pills and powders subbed out for more expensive drinks and more lasting worry. People come home for reunions ("I Hope This Whole Thing Didn't Frighten You"), try to connect in bars ("Spinners"), squat in hotels ("The Ambassador"), and Craig Finn's lyrics find the careful details in lives in search of some nameless next thing. The band itself has grown, its sound bigger than the sweat-wet bars they played for before. Here, there's a more wide-open dust coating the riffs, and the songs take their time building their tension, especially on epic nine-minute closer "Oaks". This is the Hold Steady are their most confident and thoughtful, building a wider landscape so that the characters aren't so clustered up. Even if they're still searching, even if the search changes just as they think they've found something. Matthew Fiander


Selected Releases for March 2014

(Release dates subject to change)

March 4

Anne, Pulling Chain (Run for Cover)

Arthur Beatrice, Working Out (Harvest)

A$AP Mob, L.O.R.D. EP

Ava Luna, Electric Balloon (Western Vinyl)

Axxa/Abraxas, Axxa Abraxas (Captured Tracks)

Lisa Biales, Belle of the Blues (Big Song)

Carla Bozulich, Boy (Constellation)

Brace/Choir, Turning on Your Double (Tapete)

Regina Carter, Southern Comfort (Sony Music Masterworks)

Chappo, Future Former Self (Rouse)

Clouder, Sister Raygun (Fleeting Youth)

Diane Cluck, Boneset (Important)

Comeback Kid, Die Knowing (Victory)

Cremator, Clear Air Turbulence (Series Aphonos)

DA and the Jones, Sirens

Bart Davenport, Physical World (Burger)

Bryce Dessner and Jonny Greenwood, St. Carolyn and There Will Be Blood (Deutsche Grammophone)

Drive-By Truckers, English Oceans (ATO)

Each Other, Being Elastic (Lefse)

Eagulls, Eagulls (Partisan)

Terry Emm, Starlight

The Wayne Escoffery Quintet, Live at Firehouse 12 (Sunnyside)

Eternal Summers, The Drop Beneath (Kanine)

Lorenzo Feliciati and Colin Edwin, Twinscapes (RareNoise)

Robben Ford, A Day in Nashville (Mascot/Provogue)

Frankie Cosmos, Zentropy (Double Double Whammy)

Free Nelson Mandoomjazz, The Shape of Doomjazz / Saxophone

Ghost Beach, Blonde (Nettwerk)

Giganticus (RareNoise)

Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs, It's Her Fault (Transdreamer)

John Gorka, Bright Side of Down (Red House)

Highasakite, Silent Treatment (Propeller)

Jupe Jupe, Crooked Kisses

Kimono Kult, Hiding in the Light (Neurotic Yell)

Krzysztof Komeda, Dance of the Vampires (Series Aphonos)

Laibach, Spectre (Mute)

Lakker, Conatining a Thousand EP (R&S)

Marian Hill, Play EP

The Mary Onettes, Portico (Labrador)

The Men, Tomorrow's Hits (Sacred Bones)

Lea Michele, Louder (Columbia)

Nai Harvest, Hold Open My Head EP (Topshelf)

David Nail, I'm a Fire (MCA Nashville)

Nothing, Guilty of Everything (Relapse)

Linda Perhacs, The Soul of All Natural Things (Asthmatic Kitty)

Pharrell, G I R L (Columbia)

Pink Martini and the Von Trapps, Dream a Little Dream (Heinz)

PINS, Girls Like Us (Bella Union)

Gemma Ray, Down Baby Down (Series Aphonos)

Mark Rivera, Common Bond (Dynotone/Red River)

Alfredo Rodriguez, The Invasion Parade (Mack Avenue)

Rick Ross, Mastermind (Island Def Jam)

Roman Remains, Zeal (H.O.T.)

Claudia Schmidt, New Whirled Order (Red House)

Sally Seltmann, Hey Daydreamer (Arts & Crafts)

Solex, Solex Ahoy! (Series Aphonos)

Spirits and the Melchizedek Children, So Happy It's Sad

Stepdad, Strange Tonight EP (Quite Scientific)

Stone Jack Jones, Ancestor (Western Vinyl)

Tanger Trio, Tanger Trio and Ensemble Mondaine (Series Aphonos)

These New Puritans, Fields of Reeds (U.S. release) (PIAS)

TRUST, Joyland (Arts & Crafts)

Ume, Monuments (Dangerbird)

Various Artists, The Grand Budapest Hotel original soundtrack (ABKCO)

Wake Owl, The Private World of Paradise (Vagrant)

Nick Waterhouse, Holly (Innovative Leisure)

We Are Scientists, TV en Français

Weekend (Allison Statton of Young Marble Giants), The '81 Demos (Blackest Ever Black)

Weeknight, Post-Everything (Artificial)

Amelia White, Old Postcard

WhoMadeWho, Dreams

Wild Throne, Blood Maker (Brutal Panda)

The Young Dubliners, Nine

March 11

Aloe Blacc, Lift Your Spirit (Interscope)

Alsarah and the Nubatones, Silt (Wonderwheel)

Architects UK, Lost Forever, Lost Together (Epitaph)

Barren Womb, The Sun's Not Yellow, It's Chicken (Spartan)

Battleme, Future Runs Magnetic (El Camino Media)

Biblical, Monsoon Season (New Damage)

Camcorder, Presence EP

Ekoplekz, Unfidelity (Planet Mu)

Elbow, The Take Off and Landing of Everything (Concord)

Elder Brother, Heavy Head (Pure Noise)

Sara Evans, Slow Me Down (Sony Nashville)

Joan as Police Woman, The Classic (PIAS)

Los Lobos, Si Se Puede! (Concord)

Lune, Music & Sports (Refune)

Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, featuring Edie Brickell, Live CD/DVD (Rounder)

Metronomy, Love Letters (Atlantic)

Our Last Enemy, Pariah (Eclipse)

Ozomatli, Place in the Sun (Vanguard)

Saintseneca, Dark Arc (Anti-)

Scraps, Electric Ocean (Fire)

The Shrine, Bless Off (Tee Pee)

September Girls, Cursing the Sea (Fortuna POP!)

Spotlight Kid, Ten Thousand Hours (Saint Marie)

Tensnake, Glow (Astralwerks)

Dean Wareham, Dean Wareham (Double Feature)

Warm Soda, Young Reckless Hearts (Castle Face)

Don Williams, Reflections (Sugar Hill)

March 18

The Belle Brigade, Just Because (ATO)

The Black Lips, Underneath the Rainbow (Vice)

Richard Buckner, Bloomed deluxe reissue (Merge)

Chimurenga Renaissance (Baba Maraire of Shabazz Palaces), riZe vadZimu riZe (Brick Lane)

The Coathangers, Suck My Shirt (Suicide Squeeze)

Dead Rider, Chills on Grass (Drag City)

Kevin Drew, Darlings (Arts & Crafts)

Lyla Foy, Mirrors the Sky (Sub Pop)

Freddie Gibbs and Madlib, Piñata (Madlib Invazion)

Eliza Gilkyson, The Nocturne Diaries (Red House)

Hark, Crystalline (Season of Mist)

Hauschka, Abandoned City (Temporary Residence Ltd.)

I Am the Avalanche, Wolverines (I Surrender)

Ibibio Sound Machine, Ibibio Sound Machine (Soundway)

Enrique Iglesias, Sex+Love (Republic)

Killing Sound, Killing Sound (Blackest Ever Black)

Kylie Minogue, Kiss Me Once (Warner)

Mother Falcon, OK Computer Live

David Novick, Your Sister's Hands (God?/Drag City)

Order of Isaz, Seven Years of Famine (Season of Mist)

Elvis Presley, Elvis Recorded Live on Stage in Memphis (Legacy)

Bill Pritchard, A Trip to the Coast (Tapete)

Ringworm, Hammer of the Witch (Relapse)

Dex Romweber Duo, Images 13 (Bloodshot)

Ruby the Rabbitfoot, New as Dew (Normaltown)

Shit Robot, We Got a Love (DFA)

Sisyphus (with Sufjan Stevens), Sisyphus (Secretly Canadian)

Taking Back Sunday, Happiness Is (Hopeless)

Twilight (with Thurston Moore), III: Beneath Trident's Tomb (Century Media)

Tycho, Awake (Ghostly International)

Unwound, Rat Conspiracy (reissue with Fake Train, New Plastic Ideas, and rarities) (Numero)

White Suns, Totem (The Flenser)

Woo, When the Past Arrives (Drag City)

March 25

Ages and Ages, Divisionary, (Partisan)

Asia, Gravitas (Frontiers)

The Bad Plus, The Rite of Spring (Sony Masterworks)

The Baseball Project, 3rd (Yep Roc)

Bent Denim, Epistolary EP

Bluffing, Sugarcoated Pills of Wisdom EP (PaperCup)

Johnny Cash, Out Among the Stars (Legacy)

Desert Noises, 27 Ways (SQE)

Faces on Film, Elite Lines

Simone Felice, Strangers (Dualtone)

Foster the People, Supermodel (Columbia)

Jimi Goodwin (Doves), Odludek (PIAS)

Golden Retriever, Seer (Thrill Jockey)

Howler, World of Joy (Rough Trade)

Jean Jacket, Jean Jacket (Decades)

Elton John, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road deluxe boxset (Universal)

Hiro Kone, The Unmoved Mover EP (Group Tightener)

Glenn Kotche, Adventureland (Cantaloupe)

Kwesi K, Lovely EP

Liars, Mess (Mute)

Memphis May Fire, Unconditional (Rise)

George Michael, Symphonica (Virgin)

Tony Molina, Dissed and Dismissed reissue (Slumberland)

Mr. Little Jeans, Pocketknife (Harvest)

No Man's Valley, ...And Four Other Songs EP

...Of Sinking Ships, The Amaranthine Sea (Broken Circles)

Owls, Two (Polyvinyl)

Jon Porras (Barn Owl), Light Divide (Thrill Jockey)

Prince Fatty and Mungo's Hi-Fi, Prince Fatty vs. Mungo's Hi-Fi (Mr. Bongo)

Sage the Gemini, Remember Me (Republic)

Seaheaven, Reverie Lagoon: Music for Escapism Only (Run for Cover)

Shakira, Shakira (RCA)

Sleeper Agent, About Last Night (RCA/Mom+Pop)

Throwing Snow, Pathfinder EP (Houndstooth)

Tokyo Police Club, Forcefield (Mom+Pop)

Tyrone Birkett, Emancipation

Various Artists, Bob Dylan in the '80s: Vol. 1 covers album (ATO)

Caetano Veloso, Abraçaço (Nonesuch)

Withered Hand, New Gods (Slumberland)

Young Matthew Fowler, Beginning






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