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Indie review March 2024: The best songs and albums

Updated: Apr 4

Our eight favourite indie albums and seven favourite indie songs released in March 2024 - featuring Yard Act, Elbow, Liam Gallagher & John Squire and more!



Welcome to the latest edition of a new blog which takes a look at the best new indie music released from the month that’s just been.


With contributions from Matthew McLister, Neil Renton and Josh Robinson, here's the best of the albums and songs from March 2024.


 

Albums


Kim Gordon – The Collective



The latest solo effort from a rock veteran in the latter stages of their career wouldn’t usually be one new music fans, like myself, would be rushing to hear.


The 70-year-old musician is best known as the co-founder of the New York noise rock legends Sonic Youth and on her latest outing, Kim Gordon keeps this spirit of experimentalism alive through a 40-minute collection of songs that wallow in abrasiveness, hip-hop beats and distorted guitars.


Overall, The Collective haunts and unsettles.  A marmite record that’ll be as equally loved as it will be as quickly given up on and written off as “just noise”. At least we rarely step into banal territory. The end result is a rock veteran adopting a contemporary aesthetic without ever feeling contrived.


Merging electronica, hip hop, industrial rock and noise rock into one cohesive sound, Kim Gordon has provided as challenging and captivating a listen I’ve heard in a long time.


Check out my full review of The Collective on the HeadStuff website(Words by Matthew McLister)


 

Elbow - Audio Vertigo



Elbow celebrate their 10th studio album with Audio Vertigo, released on 22 March. They have ensured this record won’t just be memorable for its landmark. It is a quality body of work. 


The Manchester band have prioritised quality over quantity, as they often do. With 12 tracks, Audio Vertigo boasts the highest number of songs since their debut (also 12). But it actually has the shortest runtime of their discography, at 39 minutes, 10 seconds. 


This information backs up your ears, which pick up that almost every song is of appropriate length. Track 8 ‘Poker Face’ is perhaps the only track where you feel it could have been longer. For a band who have mastered the art of producing grand, swelling music, they have leant more on instinct here. 


‘Things I’ve Been Telling Myself’ unveils the project beautifully, and the varied depth of first lead single ‘Lover’s Leap’ reassures the listener that there will still be some experimentation. ‘Good Blood Mexico City’ & ‘From the River’ are a strong finale, and up there as personal favourites.


Frontman Guy Garvey’s voice really is as soothing as ever and the LP’s breezy brevity makes it even more accessible to casual fans. (Words by Josh Robinson)


 

Yard Act – Where’s My Utopia?


Mercury prize nominations, Elton John collaborations and US chat show TV appearances: 2022 was quite the year for Yard Act following the release of debut The Overload. Repeat the same process again for album two then, right? Not quite. On Where’s My Utopia? their creative boots are strapped on for an new exploration of eclectic terrain, ending up as a fun, reflective exercise full of quirky charm.


Where’s My Utopia? leaps far beyond their, occasionally, one-note and undercooked debut. And soon into the record, you’ll be questioning if we can even call them a post-punk band at all. Yard Act’s sophomore record encompasses a wide range of genres into one coherent sound: from disco (‘Dream Job’) to art-rock (‘Fizzy Fish’) to baroque pop (‘The Undertow’), and, surprisingly, they even flirt with hip hop-beats. The highlight of the album has to be ‘Blackpool Illuminations’ and the mock therapy session which meanders between childhood nostalgia, comedy and new dad pride.


We just wanna have fun before we’re sunk” sings James Smith on ‘We Make Hits’, because, at the end of the day, Yard Act are aware of their flavour of the month status and hold a pressing desire to make the most of it before the bubble bursts. Where’s My Utopia? is a hugely enjoyable, self-aware record that, above all else, is playful and weird.


The creative leap forward marks a giant departure from their debut and the risk pays off big time. Yard Act smash through all expectations on album number two and some.


Check out my review of Where’s My Utopia? on the HeadStuff website. (Words by Matthew McLister)


 

Liam Gallagher & John Squire



As you’d expect, the Manchester legends collaboration is a nostalgic exercise for the most part, catering entirely for their established audiences and thus doesn’t explore any new territory worthy of recruiting new followers. Disappointing perhaps, but not entirely unexpected. Nor does it ever reach anywhere close to the peak levels of the Stone Roses or Oasis. Though we’d be deluding ourselves if we went in with those expectations.


Overall, you really can’t fault Liam’s vocal delivery on the album and he’s complimented by sprinklings of John Squire guitar magic, ensuring this is better than other Liam Gallagher solo output. The record itself is defined by heavy nods to the 1960s, through blues rock and psychedelic rock influences of Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Rolling Stones and, of course, The Beatles. Which, again, isn’t altogether too surprising that they’d play to gallery.


The highlight, of course, is psych-rock jam ‘Just Another Raindow’, anthemic opener ‘Raise Your Hands’ and ‘I’m So Bored’, the closest the record gets to packing in the punch of Oasis while closing on a delightful psych-rock outro. All in all a solid, if unspectacular record, showcasing the talents of both Manchester legends without blowing the roof off, nor have you wanting to throw money to see it live (in Glasgow people were paying over £75 to watch a 50 minute set, eek).


Read my thoughts on the record in my Liam Gallagher & John Squire review. (Words by Matthew McLister)


 

Mannequin Pussy – I Got Heaven



I can't say I knew too much about Philadelphia punk outfit Mannequin Pussy prior to hearing their latest album fifth album, one which dropped to a wave of universal acclaim from the music press. This included an 8.8 rating from the difficult to please outlet Pitchfork, who declared it “mouthy, messy and self-assured”. Difficult to argue there: ten songs over 30 minutes ensure not a minute is wasted, the tunes themselves punchy and fuzzy, and, most importantly, delightfully accessibile.


The record was sold to me by friend of the blog Karl Blakesley who felt Mannequin Pussy sounded like Wolf Alice at their heaviest, an assessment which immediately drew me in. I Got Heaven explores relationships, ageing and religious themes, and the punchy title track opener doesn’t mess about, with Marisa Dabice’s shouty vocals carrying the track (“I went and walked myself like a dog without a leash” she declares within the opening lines). ‘Loud Bark’ continues the chaos with tempered verses building up to an explosive chorus: “I got a loud bark, deep bite” Dabice repeats.


Despite their in-your-face reputation, I was most drawn to the sparse and regret-filled ‘I Don’t Know You’ which still remains catchy admist the dreamy melancholia. Not allowing us to ever get too comfortable, ‘Ok? Ok! Ok? Ok!’ increases the energy levels tenfold through its explosive hardcore punk and incoherence. The second continues in a similar vein, ‘Aching’ is another lovely raw slice of grunge rock, while closer ‘Spit Me Open’ is a midtempo, singalong anthem featuring irresistible “da-da-da-da” chanting lines to have us depart the album wanting more. (Words by Matthew McLister)

 

 

Another Sky - Beach Day


I’d always thought of prog rock existing in clips of The Old Grey Whistle Test with Old Grey Men self-indulgently boring everyone by playing songs that last longer than The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. Maybe that’s what put me off Another Sky. How wrong as was as there’s nothing dull about them.


Opening number ‘Beach Day’ lulls us into a false sense of security. The ethereal vocals of singer Catrin Vincent drift along and you’re thinking this is going to be an album you can comfortably have on in the background. Then it clambers up a notch and demand nothing less than your utter attention. ‘The Pain’ and ‘A Feeling’ have rock ferocity while ‘Psychopath’ stick two angst ridden fingers up at the world.


If anything there’s an early Smashing Pumpkins air about it all while galvanising the listeners. Closing track ‘Swirling Smoke’ leaves us with a chill out dance beat and a hint at a different direction. Don’t worry, they’ve still got a lot of mileage on the current material. Especially when they’re proving doubters wrong. Like me. (Words by Neil Renton)


 

The Jesus And Mary Chain - Glasgow Eyes



It’s been forty years since East Kilbride’s finest burst onto the music scene in a hail of noise and pop and feedback. A lot had changed in that time, none more so then the relationship of The Reid Brothers. Jim and William had had the sort of brotherly love/hate shared by The Gallaghers but they’ve buried the hatchet to bring us new material.


There’s something weirdly comforting about the comeback. ‘Venal Joy’ foams at the rabid mouth with the usual rebellious streak you’d associate with the group. ‘The Eagles And The Beatles’ name checks musical legends with it’s tongue in cheek and a heavy nod to Joan Jett's ‘I Love Rock N’ Roll’ while ‘jamcod’ details the bands turmoil split.


There are songs that slightly drag: ‘Chemical Animal’ feels quite grounded and subdue while ‘Pure Poor’ almost borders on self-parody.


But that’s minor grumbles. They came onto the scene all those years ago as they felt that there wasn’t any good songs on the radio at the time. There’s some decent music nowadays. Especially with the Reid brothers back. (Words by Neil Renton)


 

Real Estate – Daniel


This one was technically released in late-February, but I didn’t get round to fully enjoying it until March, so that counts, right? Over their acclaimed fifteen-year career, Real Estate have mastered a gentle, jangle-pop soundtrack for chilled beach days and sunny road trips along coastal highways. The New Jersey band’s sixth album follows a similar template by drawing strength in its familiarity.


‘Haunted World’ contrasts haunted lyrics with chirpy acoustic strumming and sun-kissed guitar riffs for a gorgeous earworm, while there’s an exciting psych vibe to the percussive-led ‘Freeze Brain’. On ‘Water Underground’, Martin Courtney explores the theme of song-writing creativity, a refreshingly infectious listen that, unsurprisingly, was picked up for heavy rotation on 6 Music upon release.


As the album was produced in Nashville, a country-influence pops up on occasion. ‘Flowers’ is self-described by the band as “the closest Real Estate will ever get to like a Shania Twain style country rocker”, albeit without betraying their typical jangly style. Later, they go all out on ‘Victoria’: a pedal steel guitar, rolling piano backdrop and Southern-fried singing from bassist Alex Bleekman holds the ninth track up as a welcomed, if a little ill-fitting, differential.


While the record only scratches the surface creatively, it’s hard not to find joy in these seemingly cheerful, beautifully crafted songs. Daniel makes for perfect Spring listening.


Check out my full review on the Stereoboard website. (Words by Matthew McLister)


 

Songs

 

Confidence Man & DJ Boring – Forever 2



Now for a change in style to the usual. Long-term readers of the blog will know I’ve been harping on about Australian dance act Confidence Man for a couple of years now and they’ve team up with fellow Aussie DJ Boring for their latest tune, ‘Forever 2’. As usual, they’ve delivered another upbeat, melodic dance track to follow other recent dancefloor bangers ‘Now U Do’ and ‘Firebreak’. Fresh from supporting Noel Gallagher and New Order, Confidence Man again prove why they’re many an indie rock fan’s (not so) guilty pleasure. (Words by Matthew McLister)



 

Girl in red – DOING IT AGAIN BABY


Norwegian singer-songwriter Marie Ulven Ringheim (aka girl in red) is back with the second preview single to upcoming second album Doing It Again Baby. The song of the same name reveals a complete change in tact from her earlier work, holding a more playful, in your face vibe over the introspective, anxious-filled songs that featured on debut If I Could Make It Go Quiet. Speaking of her new track, girl in red revealed, “This is the most fun track I’ve ever made. It was actually very hard to write because I was struggling with allowing myself to make a song that I just thought was f**king sick, cool and fun.(Words by Matthew McLister)


 

Pearl Jam - Running



Anyone thinking that the latest album from Eddie Vedder and Co would be a gentle affair played on pan pipes and soothing whale music didn’t have long to be put in their place. Two minutes nineteen seconds to be precise. That’s the, eh, running time of ‘Running’ the return that sees the elderly statesmen of grunge act with the disregard of musicians half their age. It rips the jugular with punk sharp fangs and doesn’t let up. If the rest of the new album Dark Matter snaps like this we’re in for a treat. (Words by Neil Renton)

 

Brogeal - Fly Away


Another month, another mention of everyone’s favourite Irish folk band via Falkirk. But Brogeal deserve all the praise and credit that’s being heaped on them by fans, critics and peers alike. ‘Fly Away’ sees the band develop a more mature style and in doing so produces a rapturous indie anthem. The theme of wanting to get away from your dreary existence might not be new but they manage to resurrect it. This will sound amazing when they’re playing the likes of TRNSMT this summer. And it’ll be even better when they’re headlining their own tour later in the year. (Words by Neil Renton)


 

The Libertines – Oh Sh**



I recently had the privilege of seeing indie legends The Libertines for the first time at the Oran Mor in Glasgow – a sweaty night to whet the appetites for their fourth album, All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanade. The singles thus far have surprisingly differed in style and they’ve gone back to basics on their latest one, ‘Oh sh**’. The fourth preview single is another earwormy, energy-filled indie banger which sounds designed for live shows and singalong enjoyment (“And she went / oh sh** / oh sh** / Let’s make some money / Just enough to get us byCarl Barat chants in the chorus). (Words by Matthew McLister)


 

Slow Fiction - Monday


Before you hit play on the latest single by New York five-piece Slow Fiction, you may wish to strap yourself in. The following three minutes are a whirlwind of crashing post-punk and anxiety-filled lyricism, exploring the crushing monotony of everyday existence. “I can’t stand my bad energy / I can’t stand my fake inner peace” repeats vocalist Julia Vassallo in 'Monday''s closing refrain, her panicked vocals matching the frenetic urgency of the rest of the band. Helpless despair never sounded so infectious. (Words by Matthew McLister)


 

SOFT PLAY – Mirror Muscles


Last year, I had SOFT PLAY’s (formerly Slaves) irony-filled, comeback anthem ‘Punk’s Dead’ amongst my tracks of the year and they’ve delivered again on their gym-commentating latest anthem, ‘Mirror Muscles’. The heavy-riffed single is another infectious effort to get us excited for their fourth album - a record expected towards the end of the year. Speaking of the song in a press release, the band said, “We love to work out. We frequent the local gymnasium. These are some thoughts we had while we were there.(Words by Matthew McLister)



 

For the best tunes of each month, listen to our Best indie songs of the month 2024 playlist below.



 

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