March was another strong month and began with my first gig of the year watching the brilliant Errors at Brudenell Social Club in Leeds. I’d had the pleasure of seeing them at the end of 2008 at The Faversham (also in Leeds) and was looking forward to hearing their new material live. Errors didn’t let me down and played with a new confidence and clarity showcasing just how strong a set of songs they have and how underrated they are. Listening to their debut album ‘It’s Not Something But It Is Like Whatever’ the day before the gig brought home to me how much I’d underrated it myself and how I’d misjudged it as having a cold, overcomplicated sound.

At the gig I bought the new album ‘Come Down with Me’ and it’s been a regular feature on my stereo since. Initially it seems they haven’t progressed much from their debut but repeated listening reveals a melodically stronger proposition imbued with the same confidence displayed during their set. If you enjoy post-rock and the more demanding genres of synth-led music and want to hear something different then I recommend Errors whole heartedly.

The following week I got my hands on the new Gorillaz album ‘Plastic Beach’ and was not disappointed by the contents within. It is some of best work Damon Albarn has ever created, representing a synthesis of all that he has learnt and experienced in the Gorillaz’s life span and his earlier career with Blur. The beautiful orchestral tracks that bookend the album and some of the arrangements across the album hinted at lessons learnt while composing the Chinese opera ‘Monkey: Journey to the West’ in 2007. While album highlights ‘On Melancholy Hill’ and ‘Broken’ hint at The Kinks influence that was so crucial on early Blur albums. The major differences with ‘Plastic Beach’ compared to other Gorillaz albums is that it never feels like Albarn is relying on his many guests, instead they are perfectly assimilated into the music and the album is composed as a conceptual whole and should be listened to as such. In the accompanying DVD, Albarn talks to Yukimi Nagano of Little Dragon, who guests on the album, about how listeners now consume music in a fragmented way and so he was trying to create something diverse enough so that tracks worked in isolation and as one suite. It wasn’t easy to pick but my favourite guest is Bobby Womack. He is probably the most surprising inclusion but a touch of genius and his contributions are not only musically outstanding but help cement the pieces together. I’ve yet to access all the on-line extras but can’t wait to as I feel this will complete the experience that Albarn and his creative partner Jamie Hewlett have realised.

Aside from this, I’ve begun to unravel one of the most frustrating bands I’ve ever encountered… Liars. The NYC-based experimentalists are a band I was drawn to on the release of their 2001 debut ‘They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck A Monument on Top’. I enjoyed it’s terse post-punk racket but I have pretty much ignored them since 2004, finding them increasingly difficult to like.

After recently stumbling upon their page I became curious about what they had done since and listened to three of their albums, still frustrated but intrigued by what I heard so I bought the 2CD edition of their new album ‘Sisterworld’ and these songs thrilled me. It shows the band emerging from the murky production that was so difficult to pierce and demonstrates their skills. From Siouxsie and the Banshees-style slivers of guitar to full on pulverizing punk, Liars have created a great record of depth, breadth and welcome unpredictability. The remix disc provides new perspectives on the material and though not all of them are successful, it’s certainly worth the extra money, as is the clever packaging. ‘Sisterworld’ drew me to listening to the old Liars albums and so far my previous conceptions of them were wrong, with the exception of their second album ‘They Were Wrong, So We Drowned’ (2004).

To round off March, I purchased February’s Gil Scott-Heron comeback ‘I’m New Here’ and Wire magazine’s Album of the Year 2008 ‘London Zoo’ by The Bug. Both interestingly have had the tag dubstep lazily tossed in their direction by some journalists. There is a hint of truth to this but it’s by no means an explicit influence. Scott-Heron’s album casts his voice in a blues mode, which he hasn’t previously explored and the production compliments this as well as playing on his influence on hip-hop and trip-hop – this possibly being the cause of the dubstep label. ‘I’m New Here’ explores an intense emotional terrain and is definitely a lights out at 3am listen.

The Bug (Kevin Martin) has as recently as November 2009 declared, when speaking about his King Midas Sound project with FACT magazine, that his music has nothing to do with dubstep. ‘London Zoo’ has more in common with ragga/dancehall yet Martin makes the sound his own with a unique production style and his understanding of reggae and how to execute it appears to, outside of Jamaica, be unequalled.

Somehow last month I had looked over mentioning Lonelady, whose album I have delved into. ‘Nerve Up’ mixes austere post-punk influences like early REM, Gang of Four and Joy Division with spare drum machine beats and her singular voice to immense effect.  I also failed to mention the new album by The Fall ‘Your Future, Our Clutter’ and though I haven’t heard it, they are always worth checking out.

Spotify playlist (HTTP link, then Spotify link):

March 2010 playlist

March 2010 playlist

Recommendations for April:

Nice Nice – “Extra Wow” – 5th April

Gil Scott-Heron – “Winter in America” (reissue) – 12th April

Caribou – “Swim” – 19th April