music / Columns

Ten Of The Best Albums Released In March: Queensryche, Billie Eilish, More

April 1, 2019 | Posted by David Hayter
Queensryche - The Verdict

March is in the books, so 411 has knocked together a little buyers guide to shed some light on the month’s best releases. It goes without saying there was so much great music released this month that we couldn’t hope to fit it all in – so if you’ve got a recommendation, shout it out below the line.

On The Line by Jenny Lewis

Genre: Pop/Rock/Country

Whether standing alone or fronting Rilo Kiley, Jenny Lewis has always exuded an effortless mastery of the sunny Californian pop of the 1970s. Despite her incredible refinement, cool and control, On The Line represents a staggering step forward for Lewis. Not only is her blend of indie, country, commercial rock and pop perfectly pitched, but, with a vocal that thrives in the grey area between Stevie Nicks and Kate Bush, Jenny delivers the most devastating lyrics of her career to date. On The Line is not a mere aesthetic delight or a charming soundscape, it’s a record of subtle insecurities and razor sharp glimpses into a deeply personal history (“wanted to please you/My dress was see through/As I looked through your phone/I was a coward/how could you send her flowers?”). Combine all of the above with a selection of immaculate should-be-singles (“Heads Gonna Roll”, “Red Bull & Hennessey”) and you have the best album of Jenny Lewis’ illustrious career. [8.5]

Miss Universe by Nulifer Yanya

Genre: Indie

One of 411’s Best New Acts 2019

The album might be littered with a series of playful faux-corporate commercials, but that’s as close as Miss Universe comes to anything resembling either structure or sonic coherence. That might sound like a recipe for an over ambitious mess, but Nulifer’s staggeringly rich and perpetually deceptive vocal manages to curate and co-ordinate a tour of skeletal alternative, bristling indie, brooding and shimmering synths (respectively), smooth Sade-isms and jagged drop out slackerism. The result is a magnificent jumble: every track feels like a confessional, highlighted by cripplingly frank admissions, but also a sense grandiose songcraft. This is an artist capable of producing pristine pop or arena-ready-rock, but who wants to explore the scratchy hollows and claustrophobic intimacy of her own bedroom. [8.0]

Grey Area by Little Simz

Genre: Rap

It’s been a long time coming, but GREY Area was well worth the wait. Little Simz has been a stand out on the UK rap scene for so long, it almost felt as if her moment had passed her by. Mercifully, we no longer have to discuss Simz potential while hoping she’ll somehow put it all together, her peak has arrived. In producer Inflo, Simz has found her perfect partner in crime. His dark edged, rump-rattling beats and ear grabbing samples are the perfect backdrop for Simz daggering lyrical onslaughts. Better still, she finally has a producer adept enough to zig when Simz zags – and boy does she zag. Flickering between hard edged self-aggrandizements and stories of the struggle to smooth, soulful, circumspect reflections on loss and confusion. Whatever Simz turns her hand to her delivery remains immaculate. [8.5]

Beware Of The Dogs by Stella Donnelly

Genre: Indie

It’s easy to read Beware Of The Dogs as a right-on ravaging of a sexist society (and the music industry in particular), but this diminishes Stella Donnelly’s achievements. Using a dreamy palette bolstered by considered synths, Donnelly is more than just an arch storyteller; she’s our crafty companion. Less a tour guide and more a life partner, someone capable of wrapping her arm around her listener’s shoulders and steering them through the world, peeling back the curtain at (in)opportune moments. Breezy, funny and at times shocking, Stella never runs short of careful observed and cunningly rendered material charged by either woe or revenge. Her greatest weapon remains her deadpan, the ability to drop out of key into a flat speaking voice to deliver the deathblow. [8.0]

When we all fall asleep, where do we go? by Billie Eilish

Genre: Pop

One Of 411’s Best New Artists 2019

Perfectly posed, oozing with attitude and boasting a host of brilliant neo-gohtic beats, Gen Z’s principle starlet has more than delivered on her debut album. WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP… is far from complete – many of its sonic and lyrical threads have yet to be resolved and Eilish is occasionally overwhelmed by posture – but more often than not this debut feels strangely profound and infinitely danceable. Despite possessing a sharp eye and a crafty turn of phrase, Eilish remains undeniably teenage as she lurches between melodramatic extremes, but – truth be told – she’s all the better for it. [8.0] [Read 411’s Full Review]

Psychodrama by Dave

Genre: Rap

The grime/UK rap revival finally has its great start-to-finish LP. Kendrick Lamar need not sweat, but in Psychodrama Dave has sculpted an unflinching analysis of black British experience from the street up and the institutions down. This exploration of psyche tackles both the  projection of aggressive masculinity and spousal abuse as well as the long shadow of historical oppression and unconscious bias in the present day. Psychodrama is the album the UK scene needed, at times it’s over produced and self-serious, but more often than not it’s simply brilliant.” [8.0] [Read Our Full Review]

PUNK by Chai

Genre: Electro-Pop/Indie Rock

One Of 411’s Best New Acts 2019

When we named Chai one of 411’s Best New Acts Of 2019 there was a worry that their joyful pop hooks and brazen blend of 80s gloss and rickety 00s rock would peter out into a Japanese parody of popular music. Well, I am ecstatic to report that while Chai certainly do not sound like bastions of profundity, their effervescent, insistent, gloriously addictive pop-rock-punk racket proves utterly irresistible. Perhaps surprisingly, the album format perfectly suits the Japanese four piece. Rather than having their shtick wear thin, the elongated exposure helps the listener enter their world, skipping to their beat, embracing both their faux naivety, sly subversion and their globe trotting worldliness. Blending joy and apprehension PUNK exceeds expectation and defies the “gimmickry” accusations. [7.5]

Pony by Orville Peck

Genre: Alt-Country

Well this was an unexpected delight. Canadian Orville Peck certainly knows how to make an impression with his Cowboy hat and boots contrasted with a selection of simultaneously alien and erotic long fringed masks. With a dead eyed stare he’s equal part idolater, fashionista and subversive. Pony perfectly reflects his look. On one level, it’s a glorious reassertion of core country aesthetics: big sweeping stories of resilient, harden men formed from the grandest of natural environments. On the other hand, it’s a coy inversion: is this a celebration of an outdoorsman’s virtues or just thinly veiled eroticism? Are these glorious tales or shameful stories of violence and repression? Of course, the latter idea isn’t new to country itself, but Pony remains noticeably other. Buoyed by a grand baritone that fliters between Roy Orbison, Matt Berninger and any number of 80s goth stars, the album toes the line between country, camp eroticism and 80s indie without succumbing to the conventions of either. Pony is a strange, but pleasing beast: a defiantly masculine response to Anna Calvi, perhaps? [8.5]

The Verdict by Queensryche

Genre: Metal

There’s no two ways about it, Todd La Torre’s pinched sky scrapping vocals could not be anymore at odds with contemporary trends in metal. The same is true of Queensyche’s love of crisp, cleanly produced riffs and cinematic tempo changes. The Verdict is big, brassy, ballsy and unabashedly mainstream – well, what was once the mainstream before metal splintered into a million growling micro-genres. If “Man the Machine” makes you feel queasy with its slick “insincerity”, then go no further, check out and leave, because Queensryche’s slide deep into the world of prog-pomposity is not for you. Luckily for the rest of us, the sillier things get, the better. After near-30 years in the industry the band, just like Judas Priest last year, know better than to care about cool and instead throw themselves headlong into each daft and delightful new-old idea. Whether thrashing, sliding or galloping the guitars prove ungodly satisfying and, while The Verdict is never anything but naff, the band’s accomplished execution (in practically every area) proves undeniable. [7.5]

No Words Left by Lucy Rose

Genre: Singer-Songwriter

No Words Left is destined to divide opinion. For some it will feel dreary and bereft, for others it will be unremittingly harrowing. But this is the album Lucy Rose simply had to release. After three albums of being good, well liked and respected, No Words Left is a stab at something approaching bruising profundity. Lucy lays her cards on the table early: “I’m afraid and I’m scared and I’m terrified/This is how it will be for all of my life”. This is a gruelling flagellation. Flesh will be ripped as we are left to linger in the depths of self-doubt and despair. The distance between No Words Left and her old material is relatively slight, but in a single step it feels as if the listener has been flung to unfathomable depths. Lucy is forcing her audience to dwell and that is an undeniable uncomfortable, but nevertheless rewarding experience. [7.5]