March felt like build up to a few great releases that we have coming up in April. Most notably, Drake dropped his “playlist” which was more focused than his last album, but still not solid enough to make this month’s list. . Gorillaz surprised everyone by releasing 4 tracks and a short film to promote their new album, which drops next month. Kendrick Lamar contributed to next month’s hype by announcing his album releasing next month and dropping two new songs including the first video for his first single, HUMBLE.

There were some really dope albums that dropped in March, however, including 3 debuts from very talented rookies. Here are our 5 best albums this month.

Spoon – Hot Thoughts

Album Of The Month

I have never been a big fan of Spoon. Neither of their previous 8 albums have really struck a chord with me, although I’ve enjoyed a few songs from them. In my opinion, Hot Thoughts can be considered the musical anti-thesis to their previous releases. Where as their past albums were filled with minimalist sounds and slight sonic repetition, their 9th album has a full spectrum of instruments and overproduction in almost every track.  WhisperI’lllistentohearit starts off with a very simple drum-less synth line which slowly builds up until it explodes to an infectious riff. Britt Daniel still delivers catchy melodies and hooks such as Can I Sit Next To You, which kicks off with a funky struts and is a perfect example of dance rock done right.

If you’re an old fan of the band, you might be conflicted as they have changed quite a bit with this project. Through out Hot Thoughts you see a band that leaves their comfort zone and experiments with electronic segments that add to their overall musical growth. Spoon has taken the direction that  started on their last album, They Want My Soul, and turned it up to 11, which results in their best album yet.

Stand out tracks: Do I Have To Talk You Into It, Can I Sit Next To You, Shotgun

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J.I.D. – The Never Story

Having already penned verses within his Spillage Village crew, including appearances on albums by EarthGang, it wouldn’t be fair to call J.I.D. a rookie to the game. The Never Story is his official debut under J. Cole’s Dreamville imprint, and J.I.D. comes out the gate with hunger seeping out his pores. After a short intro, the Atlanta MC steps into the mic on General weaving effortlessly in and out of different flows. This is followed by his first single, Never, a hypnotic banger with a barrage of fast paced wordplay.

Those that still sleep on a Southern rappers lyrical prowess needs to check the 3rd verse on Lauder, a simple Cole production which allows J.I.D’s verbal ability to shine: “You couldn’t kill it and take it out of me/ The ideology, this is the odyssey/ I’m Odysseus, you gotta follow me/ Watch how I maneuver, I influence the influencers/ The flow is like the flu is influenza join through the motion.” Guest features are kept to a minimum with only EarthGang, Mereba, and another Georgia newcomer in 6LACK. The latter joins in on the way too short 8701. This kid is special and a welcome reminder that the south got something to say.

Stand out tracks: Never, D/vision, LAUDER

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Khalid – American Teen

It’s been a pretty great year for new R&B talent, and it’s only March. Khalid keeps up this trend with a fantastic debut album, American Teen. The young Texas kid delivers an album that covers the R&B Pop market with melodic hits.  Like the album title track states, this is the life of an American Teen, Khalid writes coming of age anthems and he does it well. He gained tons of traction last year with his first single, Location, which currently hits at over 70 million streams on Spotify. Khalid’s warm vocals serenades a love interest to convince her to no “fall in love off sub tweets so let’s get personal.” A great love song that encapsulates the desire for physicality in an age where technology dictates our communication.

Khalid never gets into complex songwriting, rather he lets his honesty and relatability keep tracks afloat. Young Dumb & Broke proclaims this as an anthem for staying single and not getting into a serious relationship while young because we “still got love to give.” American Teen is one of the best debut’s that I’ve heard out of the R&B/Pop genre in a while, and his hits are bound to stay on rotation year long.

Stand up tracks: Young Dumb & Broke, Location, Shot Down

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Stolas – Stolas

It’s rare to hear a band that makes significant changes to it’s line up and becomes better for it. Two years ago, their lead singer/guitarist Jason Welche left the group. Stolas‘ 3rd release and self titled album is the first to feature the band as a trio, with Carlo Marquez on both vocals on drum duties. If you’ve followed these guys previously, then the change in vocals might take some getting used to. Gone are the screams and growls, replaced by Carlo’s high pitch tone slightly reminiscent of Cedric Bixler-Zavala (At The Drive-In/The Mars Volta). This similarity caused me to initially be skeptic about it but as the album went on, the vocals grew on me more and more.

Obviously, musically they remain very influenced by bands such as The Fall Of Troy and, even more so now, the aforementioned The Mars Volta. But it helps to have some very talented musicians come together with punishing guitars such as Damage Division. Both Carlo’s vocals and drums shine on Bellwether while the guitars and bass provide a truly mesmerizing riffs. This might be their third album, but Stolas seems to be once again trying to refine their sound with a new vocalist. Their self-titled project offers nothing but hope for the future of a talented band trying to reinvent itself.

Stand out tracks: Bellwether, Damage Division, Catalyst

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Smino – blkswn

Smino is an artist that has way more to offer than meets the eye. He’s far from a one dimensional rapper and he uses his debut album to showcase his versatility. Blkswn is littered with funky tracks such as Anita, which shows off not only Smino’s variety in flows but also his affinity for melodies. Though out his debut album, Smino will switch up his tone of voice while going back and forth from rapping to singing effortlessly. Spitshine highlights his vocals in falsetto, while interweaving humming that goes right into the following track, Netflix & Dusse, creating a completely immersive experience.

Listen closely because amid all the singable tunes you might miss the gems this kid spits. One of my favorite quotables is in Amphetamine where he bashes the appropriation of black culture: “Appropriating the fellas, sucking the fruit from my elders/ Don’t give Chuck ’bout no Berry, they’d rather listen to Elvis.” Smino is a rising star in St. Louis’ hip hop scene and with blkswn he will get the respect and acclaim he deserves nationwide.

Stand out tracks: Anita, Father Son Holy Smoke, blkoscars