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The 10 Best Albums of March 2016

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The 10 Best Albums of March 2016

March saw modern acts (namely, the artist who created our No. 2 album of 2015) and classic, canonized musicians releasing a range of standout works. From b-side collections to decades-old live releases to new original tunes, here are the 10 highest rated albums that Paste reviewed in March.

10. Margo Price: Midwest Farmer’s Daughter
Rating: 8.5

Back in September of 2015, Third Man Records gave a teaser of the forthcoming Margo Price project. A few months later with the release of Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, there are songs that tug at your heartstrings, and there are songs that encompass the emotions that run the gamut of the human experience from love, loss, confusion, anger, resilience and fear. Price’s voice is equally as engaging as her writing, going from mournful to exclamatory, oftentimes in the same song. There have been comparisons to Loretta Lynn, which must be flattering to the up-and-coming singer. To write, sing and relate to your listeners as she does is a rare trio of traits. While Price has faced a number of setbacks to get where she is today, her talent beams golden bright on this album. —Eric Luecking

Read his full review here.

9. Glenn Jones: Fleeting
Rating: 8.6

Much like his 2013 collection, My Garden State, guitarist Glenn Jones finds inspiration completely outside of the contemporary mire, employing bucolic environments through which to guide his muses and record them. Stylistically, Jones is an ancient bard, peddling textured six-string stories that sound as if plucked directly from the musical residue of the Appalachian Mountains. Influenced as he is in the John Fahey school of American Primitive Guitar, Jones’ skills are anything but basic. Long ago eschewing the confines of standard tuning, Jones has reinvented the standard of the picked acoustic-stringed realm, forging new aural pathways for banjo and guitar, most undeniably so on his latest collection, Fleeting. —Ryan J. Prado

Read his full review here.

8. Bonnie Raitt: Dig In Deep
Rating: 8.8

Bonnie Raitt has always been a pilot light, powering hard love, broken love, lost love and yes, unrequited love. In the valley of the unfulfilled and yearning, her voice has warmed that want into something that infused with the blues with a whole lot of blazing red. What informs Raitt’s performance on Dig In Deep—like blues great Sippie Wallace before her—is the confidence of flexing how-to with savory gusto. Ultimately, Raitt remains utterly herself. With true blues-mama grit, she drops her voice to its earthiest for “Gypsy In Me,” a declaration of the independence that defines her 40-plus-year career, as well as the spirit of the picker in search of the song. —Holly Gleason

Read her full review here.

7. Matt Corby: Telluric
Rating: 8.9

Rural New South Wales, Australia may never earn a spot on the map as a soul music hotbed, but Matt Corby proves just how deeply — and convincingly – the American R&B tradition can seep into people who would otherwise appear too far removed from its source to join in its conversation. Throughout his full-length debut Telluric, the R&B vocalist tempers the passions that define his album with an often buttery-smooth delivery, even when he raises his voice. Corby’s lyrics paint pictures of flustered narrators reaching the edge of their patience but, along with co-producer Dan Hume and an ultra-suave cast of studio musicians, Corby clearly meant for Telluric to ease, rather than quicken, the listener’s blood pressure. —Saby Reyes-Kulkarni

Read his full review here.

6. Kendrick Lamar: untitled unmastered.
Rating: 9.0

Kendrick Lamar is a pretty varied guy, as horny as he is existentialist. His harrowed and ongoing metamorphosis into a butterfly is the narrative he’s chosen and is the story he’ll likely will stick with for the foreseeable future, but untitled unmastered. shows that the holes in his willed chrysalis might be more interesting than the beauty promised by the cocoon. Featuring many of the same collaborators, themes and sonic templates as To Pimp A Butterfly, untitled unmastered. necessarily lives in that album’s shadow. Each song is time-stamped and untitled, stillborn inside the To Pimp a Butterfly session in which it was conceived. But that’s precisely this album’s beauty: instead of shying away from the long shadow of To Pimp a Butterfly, untitled unmastered. happily embraces that shared DNA, reveling in the subtleties that set it apart. This isn’t just a collection of b-sides: this is Kendrick’s What If version of his own mythology, flaws as alternate histories, unrealized retcons. — Stephen F. Kearse

Read his full review here.

5. HÆLOS: Full Circle
Rating: 9.0

London synth band HÆLOS started as a synth rock trio putting together some bedroom beats suddenly grew to become a Matador Records artist with a massive following thanks to single “Dust.” The full album is meant to pull at the synapses of your brain like leaves from a twig. That Æ in their name is a clue about the mystery. It breaks search engines. It had to be promoted to the full status of a letter. No one knows the origin, which fits nicely with the lyrics about death, relationships and quasi-religious serendipity. Every song has fragments of other bands, and that’s not a bad thing. There’s hints of Massive Attack, Sigur Rós, Chelsea Wolfe, and Moby might even want to tour with these folks. But ultimately, Full Circle is a dance-hall record that grows on you and becomes more like a trusted friend who whispers wisdom from another universe. — John Brandon

Read his full review here.

4. Eric Bachmann: Eric Bachmann
Rating: 9.0

Eric Bachmann started out as one-quarter of the proudly abrasive indie-rockers Archers of Loaf. When that group broke up in 1998, he gave voice to his subtler, more tuneful side as the mastermind and sole continuous member of Crooked Fingers. Though he’s released music under his own name before, interspersed among the other projects, Eric Bachmann feels like the start of something new. These nine songs are among the most intimate he’s written, with lyrics by turns blunt and delicate, underpinned with the candor you’d expect from an old friend given to straight talk. Bachmann wrote most of these songs on piano, rather than guitar, and the different approach suits his vocals. The singer has changed the way he uses his voice over the years, and what was often a (purposely) strangled yelp in the Archers of Loaf days has become a warmer and more nuanced instrument capable of deeply expressive moments. What’s perhaps most impressive about Eric Bachmann is where the album falls in the arc of his career. It’s his 19th release since 1993. Few artists manage to get that far, and many of those who do have long since become calcified in terms of style and subject matter. By contrast, Bachmann sounds like he’s just getting started. —Eric R. Danton

Read his full review here.

3. Nada Surf: You Know Who You Are
Rating: 9.2

Even though New York-based indie pop group Nada Surf is nearing its 25th birthday and singer Matthew Caws is closing in on 50, the pain of heartbreak is still resonating within them. While the band has evidenced a welcome consistency to their work over the years, their last album, 2012’s The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy, and this new LP have benefited from the addition of guitarist Doug Gillard. The veteran player adds so much more punch and beauty to Nada Surf, as well as a welcome touch of the arch-psychedelia and skittish blues that distinguished his work in Cobra Verde and Guided By Voices. Listening to You Know Who You Are, or really any of Nada Surf’s albums from the past two decades, there’s the sense that Caws could knock out a collection of tunes with one hand tied behind his back. The music feels so effortless in that way. Yet, this new LP is only the eighth in the group’s history. That belies as precision and care that Caws and co. must use during their writing and recording sessions. The proof is in a finished product where nothing feels out of place or approached half-heartedly. It’s as perfect a pop album as you’re going to get this year. Savor every last bit of it. —Robert Ham

Read his full review here.

2. Johnny Cash: Man In Black: Johnny Cash Live in Denmark 1971/Koncert V Praze: In Prague Live
Rating: 9.4

American country music has been enjoyed by Europeans for almost a century now, going back to when acts would make their way across the pond during World War I, not to mention the likes of Roy Acuff and Minnie Pearl playing for the troops stationed on the continent during the Second World War when the Grand Ole Opry followed the USO circuit of army bases and barracks across the region. In fact, Johnny Cash formed his first band, the Landsberg Barbarians, with his fellow airmen over there while stationed in Germany during the Korean War. By the time Cash returned to Europe in 1971 on a tour of Scandinavia, it was with his famous Johnny Cash Road Show alongside wife June Carter-Cash and her famous family, guitar hero Carl Perkins and country duo The Statler Brothers, all of whom were also stars of the singer’s hit television variety program The Johnny Cash Show. These two records recording abroad during that era—Man In Black: Live in Denmark 1971 and Koncert v Praze: In Prague Live—are essential documents in the still-evolving relationship between American country music and European fans that rank right up there among the Man in Black’s finest concert recordings. —Ron Hart

Read his full review here.

1. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down: A Man Alive
Rating: 9.4

Gone are the John Congleton-produced horn arrangements and blues piano of Thao & The Get Down Stay Down’s excellent previous release, We The Common. In their place is tUnE-yArDs’ Merrill Garbus’ electronic organica, which elevates the most deeply introspective, experimental and well-formed release from Thao yet. A Man Alive is a dissection of Thao’s relationship with the father who left her and her family when she was young. And when the mish-mash of Garbus and Thao’s sounds come together, it can break you to pieces in the most powerful ways possible. —Adrian Spinelli

Read his full review here.

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