March's Best New Music

  • Comments: ↓ 4 user comments
  • Publish Date: March 31, 2011

The best albums released this month

Below, we look at the past month's best-reviewed new LP releases. For each album below, we list the percentages of "great" critic reviews (with an individual critic score above 80), "good" critic reviews (61-80), "mixed" reviews (40-60), and "bad" reviews (below 40).

Wounded Rhymes 83 (Atlantic)
by Lykke Li

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Critic Review Distribution:
Great bar 9
Good bar 15
Mixed bar 4
Bad 0

The 25-year-old Swedish pop star recorded this sophomore set in Los Angeles with producer Björn Yttling (of Peter Bjorn and John), who also co-wrote each of the ten tracks. The songs generally feature a much fuller -- and bigger -- sound than those on Li's debut.

Listen to "Get Some"

What the critics are saying: Several critics noted that Li's singing ability is merely average, and a few others commented on a lack of anything groundbreaking on the album. Still, most critics -- including some of the same reviewers registering those complaints -- found plenty to like on this dirty, sexy, tough, and powerful album, which at times evokes the girl-group sonics of Phil Spector. Indeed, its biggest strength seems to be its layered, percussion-heavy sound.

Also by this artist:
Youth Novels 2008 75

Scandalous 83 (Lost Highway)
by Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears

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Critic Review Distribution:
Great bar 2
Good bar 6
Mixed 0
Bad 0

The Austin-based blues and soul band, who first caught the attention of music fans at their hometown SXSW festival in 2009, return with their second album, produced by Spoon's Jim Eno.

Listen to "Livin' in the Jungle"

What the critics are saying: The A.V. Club and other publications note that Black Joe Lewis, unlike contemporary Sharon Jones, is not dedicated to precisely recreating the sound of classic soul music; instead, the vibe here is more contemporary, and, in the words of several critics, the result is a "party record."

build a rocket boys! 82 (Polydor)
by Elbow

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Critic Review Distribution:
Great bar 1
Good bar 18
Mixed 0
Bad 0

Currently available as a digital download only (the CD version hits April 12), the Manchester band's fifth album is their first new LP since their 2008 breakthrough The Seldom Seen Kid, which earned Elbow the Mercury Music Prize and finally brought commercial success to match their ongoing critical recognition. Many of the songs are based on frontman Guy Garvey's childhood.

Listen to "The Birds"

What the critics are saying: Longtime fans concerned that Elbow's newfound success would negatively impact their music should be reassured by the band's new album, which is not much of a departure from their previous work. But don't expect anything transcendent, either; instead, it's a heartfelt, arty, unfussy, low-key record, perhaps a slight notch below the previous LP.

Also by this artist:
Cast Of Thousands 2004 84
The Seldom Seen Kid 2008 82
Asleep In The Back 2002 82
Leaders Of The Free World 2006 78

Smoke Ring for My Halo 82 (Matador)
by Kurt Vile

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Critic Review Distribution:
Great bar 5
Good bar 17
Mixed bar 1
Bad 0

Incorporating folk and American roots rock, the second Matador release for the Philadelphia artist was produced by John Agnello (The Hold Steady).

Listen to "Jesus Fever"

What the critics are saying: Several critics find Vile's new album "chilled out" or "gloomy," and a few note that it's lacking some of the edge present in his prior albums. But the well-reviewed disc is also "intimate" and "personal" at times, with some critics finding it his best work to date, and others considering it more of a transitional work.

Also by this artist:
Childish Prodigy 2009 71

Last 81 (EMI)
by The Unthanks

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Critic Review Distribution:
Great bar 10
Good bar 1
Mixed 0
Bad 0

The acclaimed British folk outfit (once known as Rachel Unthank and the Winterset) returns with album number four, which includes reworkings of traditional folk tunes (plus Tom Waits and King Crimson covers) and one original. [Note that the album is not yet available in the U.S.; an American release is scheduled for April 19 on Rough Trade.]

What the critics are saying: The Unthanks seem to have another winner on their hands. While the production is generally sparse and restrained (though layered, at times, with a variety of instrumentation ranging from strings to piano to horns), the BBC finds such minimalism "imaginative," and Spin calls it "masterful." Other reviewers find the album "spellbinding" and "beautiful," if a bit "melancholy."

Also by this artist:
Here's The Tender Coming 2010 81

Civilian 81 (Merge)
by Wye Oak

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Critic Review Distribution:
Great bar 2
Good bar 12
Mixed bar 2
Bad 0

Civilian is the third album of folk-meets-shoegaze from the indie rock duo of Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack.

Listen to "Civilian"

What the critics are saying: Many critics feel that Wye Oak are improving with each album, with Civilian their most expansive and dynamic album to date, though it's not the happiest music you'll ever hear. But most reviewers suggest that from the production to the songwriting, everything is a notch better this time around.

Also by this artist:
The Knot 2009 75

No Color 81 (Frenchkiss)
by The Dodos

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Critic Review Distribution:
Great bar 3
Good bar 10
Mixed bar 1
Bad 0

The San Francisco indie-rock duo -- known for their frantic acoustic guitar-and-drum sound -- return with a vengeance after their disappointing third album, Time to Die, received uncharacteristically mediocre reviews in 2009. Perhaps not coincidentally, that previous album was their only one not produced by John Askew, but he's back for No Color. Neko Case guests.

Listen to "Don't Stop"

What the critics are saying: Though most reviewers consider No Color a stylistic retread for The Dodos, in this case, that's mostly a good thing, and more than one critic declared this album the band's best yet. While "noisy" and "busy" might be negatives for other bands, here, they are intended as compliments, the result of the band's impressive musicianship.

Also by this artist:
The Visiter 2008 83
Time To Die 2009 63

Losing Sleep xx (Downtown Records)
by Edwyn Collins

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Critic Review Distribution:
Great bar 1
Good bar 13
Mixed bar 2
Bad 0

The 51-year-old former Orange Juice frontman returns with his first collection of music recorded since recovering from a life-threatening cerebral hemorrhage in 2005. Released last fall in the U.K., the album finally made its way to the U.S. this month. Johnny Marr, Roddy Frame (Aztec Camera), and members of Franz Ferdinand guest.

Listen to "Losing Sleep"

What the critics are saying: Based on the description above, you'd expect the music press to be receptive to Collins' comeback, and, indeed, they were, with even the "worst" reviews finding Losing Sleep a solid album. Anyone familiar with the artist's past work will be at home in this collection of personal but concise, melodic, and urgent soul-meets-punk tunes.

More Well-Reviewed March Albums
Album Label Metascore
Last of the Country Gentlemen by Josh T. PearsonMute80
Pedals by Rival SchoolsAtlantic80
Anna Calvi by Anna CalviDomino80
All Eternals Deck by The Mountain GoatsMerge80
Constant Future by Parts & LaborJagjaguwar79
Cornershop & the Double-O Groove Of by CornershopAmple Play79
Blessed by Lucinda WilliamsLost Highway79
The Big Roar by The Joy FormidableAtlantic78
Several Shades of Why by J MascisSub Pop78
Welcome Home Armageddon by Funeral For A FriendGood Fight78
Reptilians by StarfuckerPolyvinyl77
Endgame by Rise AgainstGeffen77
Avoid these:
My Main Shitstain by Paris Suit YourselfBig Dada58
Goodbye Lullaby by Avril LavigneRCA58
Lasers by Lupe FiascoAtlantic57
F.A.M.E. by Chris BrownJive56
Live on I-5 by SoundgardenA&M56
United Nations of Sound by Richard AshcroftRazor & Tie37

The Metascore is a weighted average of scores from top professional critics, on a scale from 0 (bad) to 100 (good). User scores represent an average of scores assigned by Metacritic.com site visitors on a scale from 0 (bad) to 10 (good). All scores are from March 31, 2011.

What do you think?

What new albums or songs are in heavy rotation on your MP3 player? Let us know in the comments section below.

We're sorry, but comments are closed for this article.

Comments (4)

  • flip  

    Lykke Li very good. So is Kurt Vile. The critic review distribution should be for The Unthanks 'Last" should be in good section not the great through your criteria. On a separate matter PJ Harvey 'Let England Shake' review from Filter has been given a 78 on this website when the review is a 84 from their website. It needs to be fixed so all the numbers are correct. Ta.

  • caleb oakley  

    I love Lykke Li's new dark 60's pop sound!

  • Josh  

    Plan on picking up the Lykke Li and Joy Formidable albums up sometime soon. Broken Bells EP might be a pass for me.

  • Collin  

    Definitely giving the Strokes new album (Angles) a spin. It's not a complete success and doesn't work as a whole, but I absolutely dig three of the songs (with Gratisfaction probably being my favorite), and am getting into the others.

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