Top 10 Tracks – March 2019

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Top 10 Tracks – March 2019

Jackson Wyatt, Digital Editor-in-Chief

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March has been a month full of met and broken expectations. Its promise of warmer weather and spring conditions will always be viewed as rocky at best. The time-change and slight bursts of balmier days are a nice gesture after such a long, unforgiving winter, but we are not quite in the clear yet. One expectation that was definitely met this month was music releases, though. With many mainstream and indie heavyweights teasing and dropping projects with excellent material, this month was surely the most competitive one so far for picking out only ten tracks. While some strong ones had to be shelved in the process, the following picks managed to beat out the wide sea of contenders.

 

  1. Michael Abels, ‘Pas De Deux’

When looking back at March 2019, one of the definite highlights is surely the release of Oscar-winning director Jordan Peele’s second film, Us. The film is a masterclass of tension and detail-oriented artistry, and the same should be said for Michael Abels’ score. It excellently balances a sense of enchantment with pangs of dread, and this dichotomy can be found on one of its highlights, the excellent ‘Pas De Deux.’ The piece samples hip-hop duo Luniz’s 1995 track ‘I Got 5 on It,’ taking its moody riff and slowing it down into something more sinister and enigmatic. Raining down in the careful plucks and long draws of different string instruments, the riff gains momentum in between excellently lopsided pauses like the careful steps of a ballerina, exploding into a thundering sea of instrumentation near its close. As the curtain falls, one thing is certain: ‘Pas De Deux’ has earned its spot in the pantheon of iconic horror movie themes.

 

  1. Solange, ‘Almeda’

When Solange dropped her fourth studio album When I Get Home on March 1st (notably the intersection between Black History Month and Women’s History Month), many wondered if it would hold up to her previous, critically-acclaimed LP. ‘Almeda’ proves that she is more than up to this task of self-improvement and forward-thinking artistry. Featuring vocals from The-Dream, a verse from Playboi Carti and production contributions from Pharrell Williams, the track is a synthesis of great minds into one compact, bold song. Sonically, it teeters between speaker-rattling excitement and a hazy kind of temperament thanks to the thumping but steady beat and cloudy synths. Alternating between words beginning in ‘brown’ and ‘black,’ Solange pays tribute to the strength of African-American culture and faith. ‘Almeda’ is a show of enormous strength in both themes and Solange’s craftsmanship, and its biggest accomplishment is being an extremely listenable one at that.

 

  1. Stef Chura, ‘Method Man’

Riding on a wave of gritty and squealing riffs, Michigan singer-songwriter Stef Chura’s recent single ‘Method Man’ whips itself into a frenzy like a cornered animal. Chura expertly holds the track back from being completely unhinged, though, utilizing a sense of precision in the madness. Her vocals peer out of the thundering mix with a rollicking pout somewhat akin to Gwen Stefani’s No Doubt days, shouting about ripping up books, spraining ankles and comparing life to an unravelling spindle. In the most electric section, a rolling drum beat is cut out and transformed into a march as an alarm-like riff cries out, abrasive and addictive at the same time. ‘Method Man’ is a wonderful slice of grungy alt-rock that is not afraid to raise its fists and stand its ground, cementing its place as one of this month’s strongest and most compelling heavyweights.

 

  1. Mac DeMarco, ‘Nobody’

Criticized for announcing a similar album title and identical single name to fellow indie-mainstay Mitski, Mac Demarco’s recent track ‘Nobody’ rode in on a wave of controversy and publicity. On the first listen, it may be surprising that such a slight and subtle track could be notable at all. ‘Nobody’ is a strong piece, though, and it finds this power through the genius use of minimalism. DeMarco’s simple, two-to-three-word lines make the lyrics almost instantly catchy, and the track’s soft sonics offer up their arms in a warm hug. ‘Nobody’ feels like an early-spring sunrise, slowly and patiently blooming in a blue-and-yellow sky. Its picturesque and tranquil qualities set it up as a spiritual successor to Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day,’ but ‘Nobody’ is a McConaughey-level chill-pill of a track that only DeMarco could formulate.

 

  1. ScHoolboy Q, ‘Numb Numb Juice’

Some of hip hop’s best material is borne from the prospect of aggression, and Top-Dawg-Entertainment-signed rapper ScHoolboy Q perfectly embodies this on his new cut ‘Numb Numb Juice.’ As his first release following a nearly three-year hiatus from his previous album, the track is a perfect wake-up call and reminder of Q’s fiery lyrics and delivery. Clocking in at just under two minutes, ‘Numb Numb Juice’ is a calculated, lean burst of energy from a rapper at the top of his game. It coasts on a skeletal but speaker-rattling beat, fitting in multiple verses and two hooks that will equally stick in your mind thanks to Q’s tight performance. He seems to leer into the eyes of the listener with each line, sizing you up and giving a self-assured grin before spitting another. The resulting effect is addictive, so do not hesitate from replaying the track a second, third, fourth or fifth time.

 

  1. Sam Fender, ‘Hypersonic Missiles

In a time of worldwide tension and volatility, how is love affected? English singer-songwriter Sam Fender plays with this question on his recent single, envisioning a protagonist that is equal parts doomsday-prepping nihilist and hopeless romantic. The track feels as anthemic and hulking as the imploding nations its mentions, pulsing with explosive guitar riffs and warm saxophone passages. It takes notes from 80’s British rock and melds it with the clean sonics of mainstream indie’s pop tendencies, creating a cut that is both thoughtful and effortlessly replayable. Fender’s lyrics are also an excellent blend, managing to make the threat of nuclear warfare both catchy and romantic (a particularly good line is: This world is gonna end, but ’til then, I’ll give you everything I have”). If the world is truly going to end, ‘Hypersonic Missiles’ assures you that we will at least be singing on the way down.

 

  1. Juice WRLD, ‘Empty’

Few artists seem to be monopolizing the attention of millennial audiences like Juice WRLD, and his recent album-opening track ‘Empty’ perfectly encapsulates why they are doing so. Over a piano-driven beat, the Chicago-area rapper blends extreme pathos with infectious songwriting, touching on his familiar themes of depression, drug use and success. While many would expect the typical flex-my-wealth mindset that is so common in the current hip-hop scene, Juice WRLD paints any extragences as ways to cover up his resounding emptiness. Thematically, the track wallows in dark emotions, hovering on the line between honest confession and emo melodrama. ‘Empty’ stays on the right side of the tracks, though, and the addictive chorus paired with Juice’s strong voice assures that the track is anything but its title.

 

  1. The National, ‘You Had Your Soul With You’

Coming off of their Grammy win last year for Best Alternative Music Album, The National’s lead single for their upcoming project I Am Easy to Find is a careful balance between their well-established sound and exciting sonic additions. The most notable incorporation into their wonderfully familiar, overcast palette is an alarm-like riff, circulating from ear to ear at the start before fitting itself into the track’s composition. It adds a Battles-esque, art-rock element that feeds into ‘You Had Your Soul’’s back-and-forth dynamics. This is also aided by the inclusion of guest vocalist and Bowie collaborator Gail Ann Dorsey, a welcome foil for frontman Matt Berninger’s romantic pleadings. ‘You Had Your Soul’ is an excellent example of how a band can tweak their trademark sound without losing any of its comfortability or magic.

 

  1. Kari Faux, ‘LATCH KEY’

Off of her recent EP Cry 4 Help, Little Rock rapper Kari Faux’s track ‘LATCH KEY’ is as low-key as it is shocking. The instrumental is simplistic but extremely effective, with a soft drum beat and melancholy pulses cycling behind Faux’s two verses. They focus the attention on her lyricism, giving way to let in word after word of excellent storytelling. Faux sums up all of the difficult emotions surrounding surely one of the hardest moments of her life, an accidental pregnancy and miscarriage that left her in need of affection she would not receive. Her transparency is surprisingly frank, unafraid to expose the darkest parts of her soul resulting from the event. Altogether, ‘LATCH KEY’ may be sobering and downtrodden, but it feels like a necessary work of art and beautifully-composed confession for up-and-comer Kari Faux.

 

  1. Tank and the Bangas, ‘Ants’

Sometimes, a music act comes along and manages to perfectly encapsulate an eclectic, undeniable kind of mad-scientist personality. New Orleans band Tank and the Bangas are just that, combining traditional elements of funk and gospel with spoken word, rap, vocal improvisations and long, jazzy jam sessions. Their recent single ‘Ants’ is an excellent example of their chemistry and wide scope of vision as musicians. Frontwoman Tarriona “Tank” Ball gives a lullaby-like chorus over soft piano notes before a lengthy verse on seeing an ex-boyfriend at the store, wondering if she should talk to him until the track explodes into a slick drum beat and shouts. Around five minutes long and featuring multiple sections, ‘Ants’ is expertly layered and well-composed, equally energetic and calming. Its title may be focus on one of the world’s smallest animals, but the track is an enormous statement of artistry. In a month as uncertain as March, it is best to appreciate both the little things and bigger picture.

 

(All sources from featured artists’ Genius and Spotify pages)

For more track reviews:

Top 18 Tracks of 2018

Top 10 Tracks – January 2019

Top 10 Tracks – February 2019