I’ve been steering clear of being online™ for a while, so I won’t try and say anything about the state of the world because you’ve probably already heard it. The music industry has more or less ground to a halt for social distancing reasons, so it’s unclear as to how that will affect the rest of the year release wise, but hopefully all those hard working musicians will find a workaround and keep gifting us with new songs.
Playing catch up here and I’ve listened to literal hundreds of new songs over the past month to bring you the most important/best ones that came out in March. The usual weekly service will resume next week. For the sake of both brevity and my sanity I kept it down to a neat 20 for these reviews, but there were loads more songs which I enjoyed and can all be found in the weekly playlists below.
Because I think people are more inclined to listen to songs that are presented in a ranking-based round up than alphabetically, I have duly ranked these equally fantastic and equally worthy tracks, but really you should listen to all 20 of ’em in full because it’ll only take you an hour and three minutes and what else d’you have to do right now? Happy listening!
20. X Ambasssadors – Happy Home
X Ambassadors continue to try and find that midpoint between Maroon 5 (isn’t this song more than a bit like This Love?) and The Killers that nobody really wants or needs, but once again Sam Harris’ vocal range is showcased to the point of delirium which makes this worth a listen.
19. Jada – Nudes
You’ve heard this vocal and melodic arrangement more than a few times, but if you, like me, are easily impressed by a good pop vocal performance, then this is a truly excellent one about becoming boo boo the fool for sending nudes to a boy who keeps you on read.
18. Noah Cyrus – I Got So High That I Saw Jesus
A christian country ballad for-fans-of-Kacey-Musgraves sung by the younger Cyrus sister that contains the line “And if the angels are the A.I./I’m gonna burn this whole thing down” is absolutely a must hear.
17. Little Mix – Break Up Song
Your favourite girl group have been listening to The Weeknd and decided to write yet ‘another breakup song’, which is the best thing they’ve done since this.
16. Bow Anderson – Sweater
Once you get over the initial shock of thinking you’re listening to a Jess Glynne song, this buoyant summer-with-your-pals anthem with it’s choir-backed chorus, huge vocals and big finish will have you yearning for the end of this lockdown so you can grab your annually prescribed day of summer and head to the beach/park/back garden for a bbq and some pre-mixed cocktails from a tin.
15. Peg Parnevik – Bad Bitch
An upbeat listicle of all the days your calendar app sees fit to remind you of, which are coincidentally also the days that Peg Parnevik is not specifically being a ‘Bad Bitch’ for, because she is a ‘Bad Bitch every day’.
14. Johnny Lloyd – Crash Site (Demo)
An excellent, understated acoustic ballad which sounds like Bruce Springsteen singing a Billy Joel song being played on an old guitar that needs some refurbishment work done.
13. Dua Lipa – Break My Heart
In case you missed it, Dua Lipa tearfully decided to bring her album forward after it was leaked online, and whilst her live announcement was a truly heartbreaking watch, Future Nostalgia is filled with disco-pop bangers, of which Break My Heart, which start off sounding a bit like Another One Bites The Dust, is the best.
12. Tones And I – Bad Child
I went to see Tones and I at the beginning of the month, or maybe it was last year hard to tell anymore, and there was a really awkward moment at the gig where she invited her pal Johnny, the subject matter of Johnny Run Away, who was back stage to come take an uncomfortable bow, we all clapped, he went of stage, then some girl started shouting ‘Toni! Toni! Toni!’ (Tones and I’s real name) and we all joined in, but she misheard it as ‘Johnny! Johnny! Johnny!’ so she summoned him back on stage for a second, even more uncomfortable bow. Anyway, she’s an incredible live performer and vocalist and Bad Child is another excellent song for her already heady setlist.
11. Lauv – Julia
Completely unsurprising to learn that this gentle ode to a lost love from Lauv’s excessive-but-good new album is about fellow songwriter and ex Julia Michaels. Pop balladry at its finest from one of the year’s most sound-shaping players.
10. Ava Max – Kings & Queens
I think that Ava Max will probably go down in history as the artist people discuss when they talk about ‘finding your sound’ when they need an example of someone who, during their ‘debut’ period, incorrectly thought that meant pumping out the same aong over and over. At the same time, I quite like Kings & Queens because it’s loud-and-in-your-face, and it’s been a while since I listened to Sweet But A Psycho and Freaking Me Out, so if she keep chucking one of these bangers out every five or six months then I’m willing to get on board.
09. Conan Gray – Wish You Were Sober
Conan Gray, who deserves to be propelled to the upper echelons of pop stardom for writing some of the best, catchiest songs and just generally seeming pretty cool and down to earth, has unleashed his debut album Kid Krow and it’s absolutely perfect. Wish You Were Sober has a massive chorus, impeccable rhymes, and sounds like it’s straight out of Taylor Swift’s 1989 which is reportedly the number one goal for every pop artist.
08. The Aces – Daydream
The girl group who should be your favourite girl group have been listening to all the good current pop songs and have created a sublime summery tune with some finely tuned and understated harmonies and a hook that will be in your brain for ever and ever – I warned you.
07. Tove Lo – I’m Coming – Spotify Studios Recording
This is a cover, but it’s a translated cover of a Swedish song from 2011, so we’ll allow it for effort. Tove Lo has updated the production value and made it more than a bit Robyn-sounding, and to be honest if all musicians decided to just take non-English hits from almost a decade ago, translate the lyrics and breathe a bit of Robyn into them, then it would probably be a better world. Inspired.
06. Dixie Chicks – Gaslighter
The Dixie Chicks, who were made cool again by Taylor Swift, have released this multi-layered song with a politically charged video which I’m sure is full of things that you can spend your time deciphering, but as a lover of fun and happy tunes and avoiding the state of the world and such I will be enjoying this melodically feel-good song for the feel-good melodies and satisfying harmonies it provides.
05. Niall Horan – Small Talk
The whole Niall Horan album is pretty good, but if we’re honest with ourselves we were all just looking for the spiritual successor to Slow Hands, and here we have it: Small Talk. It takes a second to really kick in, 50 seconds to be precise, which feels at odds with a song whose subject is all about skipping the titular small talk, but who are we to question whether the irony is intentional or not when the product is such a slow, satisfying banger.
04. Vistas – 15 Years
Few bands are on a par with the consistent output of flawless indie-rock anthemia that Vistas so consistently provide, and 15 Years will once again have you asking yourself why you are yet to buy a ticket for their live show. Buoyant and brilliant.
03. Emily Burns – Terrified
The regular giver of perfect ode-to-my-ex ballads and one of my favourite pop music artists has decided to shift gear and lift everyone’s spirits with a colourful, upbeat pop banger filled with peppy drumbeats, exasperated sighs, a brief but brilliant bridge section, and repeated cries of ‘oh fuck’. I will be opening my windows, turning my speakers up to 100 and playing this for my entire street at the first whisper of summer.
02. 5 Seconds of Summer – Lonely Heart
Whilst Spotify’s New Music Friday playlist would like to argue that the very good Wildfire is 5SOS’s defining song from their new album Calm, I would like to make the counterpoint that it is Lonely Heart, a slow building pop-rock banger that channels their prior hit Youngblood and features one of the biggest, chest-pounding bridges you’ve heard this year.
01. Kota Banks – Italiana
The real reason I decided to make a ‘top 20’ list is because I must demand absolutely that you listen to this ridiculous and incredible song, which is begging for someone to make a Tik Tok video about (?) it. In Italiana, Banks dips between innuendo laden lyrics about about ‘rich sauce’ and then after a prechorus in which she sings “I’d come home to nonna every afternoon/She said, ‘Amore the way to your cuore is to'” followed immediately by a sound bite of plates clattering together, she simply lists Italian foods including pasta, lasgna, gnocchi, penne, focaccia. It’s absurd, it’s pop musical theatre, and if you do nothing else today you must must take three minutes to listen to this impeccable piece of art.