March was a jam-packed month for music lovers. Between SXSW excitement, album announcements and tour kickoffs, all signs point to a busy spring as the weather gets nicer and the world opens up a bit more. Whether smiling along to the dry wit of Destroyer or moshing to Meat Wave, Paste made sure to deliver some of the best tracks amidst all the hustle and bustle. You know the old saying: March jams bring April…plans (for listening to even more music)? Pretend it works and check out Paste’s picks for the best songs of the month.
Listen to our Best Songs of March 2022 playlist on Spotify here.
Rising star Bartees Strange has signed to 4AD and released his first new single on the London-based label, “Heavy Heart,” with a music video directed by Missy Dabice of Mannequin Pussy. A press release refers to the new track as Strange’s “first hint of new music in two years,” suggesting that the follow-up to his 2020 breakout debut album Live Forever is on its way. Co-produced by Strange himself with Chris Connors, “Heavy Heart” is a sleek guitar-rock track that finds Strange grappling with conflicting feelings, recalling his “reasons for heavy hearts” only to realize, “Then I remember I rely too much upon / My heavy heart.” Propulsive drums, chugging guitars and even celebratory horns lend the track an irrepressible energy, as if buoying Strange’s lyrical efforts to consign his pain to the past. —Scott Russell
Ahead of the release of their new record LABYRINTHITIS on March 25, Destroyer’s third single “June” allows yet another layer of the world Dan Bejar and collaborator John Collins have created to unfurl. With influences including disco, Art of Noise and New Order, it’s not surprising that the tracks we’ve heard so far sound tailor-made for the dance floor, albeit with head-scratching lyrics characteristic of the band that only add to its absurd charm. “June” is no exception, closing with a two-minute spoken-word passage that distorts as the song collapses in a heap. Even while he’s rambling, Bejar doesn’t let his foot off the gas or his hold on your attention waver. Extra points just for the inclusion of the line, “A snow angel’s a fucking idiot somebody made / A fucking idiot someone made in the snow.” Guess we can’t argue with that, Dan. —Elise Soutar
Sam Shepherd’s work under his Floating Points moniker is endless in its potential to uncover the depths of electronic music. Whether it be his bass-inflicted techno or breathy ambient, Shepherd plays around with the dance floor and the emptiness of a back room and shows his versatility, most notably on 2021’s Promises. “Vocoder” flips the switch into true dance territory. A distant synth swells into a vocoder-treated groove, punctuated with chopped-up vocals and tingly percussion. Various eras of house music coalesce on the seven-minute-long dance floor romp. It’s Shepherd at some of his most straightforward and intense, leaving no room for reflection as he takes listeners on a speaker-shaking, body-moving journey into a new extreme for the veteran DJ. —Jade Gomez
Following Florence + The Machine’s heavily anticipated return with “King,” Florence Welch and company made quick work of sharing “Heaven Is Here,” another new single from their forthcoming album Dance Fever. The percussive, ritualistic battlecry of a track arrived with another video directed by Autumn de Wilde and featuring choreography by Ryan Heffington. Carrying confrontational lyrics and spare instrumentation over from “King,” “Heaven Is Here” sees Welch’s elastic voice provide a substantial amount of the backing track, letting shrieks and grunts dance around handclaps and timpani strikes, all warning whatever stands in the way of what she wants. The accompanying lyrics read more like an incantation than a song, exorcising any demon hiding between the lines: “I went to the water, drank every drop / I’ll turn your sea to a desert.” Despite the aggressive front, Welch gives the impression that the ceremony stemming from her pen won’t be enough to save her. “And every song I wrote / Became an escape rope / Tied around my neck / To pull me up to heaven,” she whispers before the song finishes with an abrupt drum hit that mimics the snap of a neck, perhaps sacrificing her own in order to create. —Elise Soutar
Anticipation continues to grow for Fontaines D.C.’s third album Skinty Fia, especially following the release of its first two excellent singles, “Jackie Down The Line” and “I Love You,” which were included on our lists of favorite songs from January and February, respectively. Now, ahead of the record’s arrival on April 22, they’ve shared a third single, “Skinty Fia.” The album’s title track is accompanied by a video directed by Hugh Mulhern. The band, which hails from Dublin, have turned homeward for lyrical inspiration on each Skinty Fia track we’ve heard so far, and the same is true for this latest single: the Irish phrase “Skinty Fia” translates to “the damnation of the deer” in English, and is often used to express annoyance or disappointment. Fittingly, the song explores the paranoid death of a relationship, perfectly captured by the video’s depiction of a surreal party fading away into a dark, disjointed dreamscape. —Elise Soutar
Horsegirl hive, assemble: The Chicago rock trio have announced their full-length debut, Versions of Modern Performance, coming June 3 on Matador Records, and shared the video for its lead single and opener, “Anti-glory.” Penelope Lowenstein (guitar, vocals), Nora Cheng (guitar, vocals) and Gigi Reece (drums) are best friends who met through Chicago’s youth arts programs—Cheng and Reece are college freshmen, and Lowenstein a high school senior, so “youth” is a key word there. They recorded Versions of Modern Performance at Chicago’s Electrical Audio with John Agnello (Kurt Vile, The Breeders, Dinosaur Jr.), saying of the LP, “It’s our debut bare-bones album in a Chicago institution with a producer who we feel like really respected what we were trying to do.” If “Anti-glory” is anything to go by, “bare-bones” may be a misleadingly modest framing of what Horsegirl have up their sleeves. The band’s output to this point, including their 2020-standout EP Ballroom Dance Scene et cetera (best of Horsegirl) and their 2021 one-off “Billy,” has skewed towards throwback shoegaze and no wave, but “Anti-glory” hits differently. Over Reece’s blunt percussion, Cheng and Lowenstein trade hard-nosed riffs and point/counterpoint vocals, as if they’re singing two parallel songs. Cheng’s dense lyrics evoke anxiety (“Feeding for a foe till it’s found”), while Lowenstein’s are like nihilism’s siren song (“Dance / With me please / If black / Turns to blue / Well, there’s nothing I can do”). The song’s two minds become one in its staccato dance-punk choruses, with Cheng and Lowenstein commanding us to dance as Reece stomps the kickdrum. —Scott Russell
As U.S. Girls member Carlyn Bezic gears up to release her second album under the moniker of Jane Inc., Faster Than I Can Take, she’s shared “2120,” a glimmering, disco-inflected track about existential dread and the environmental turmoil we continue to live through. It’s a combination that doesn’t really seem to work on paper, but the way in which Bezic brings it to life feels effortless and, more importantly, like something you can’t help but dance to. “I’ll pour my grief into this plastic crucible / Forge a new infinite fuel made of anger, and hope, and refusal,” she sings over a cascading wave of synths and drum loops that does Moroder and Summer proud, creating a sequin-covered shrine to the dread we all feel about, well, everything nowadays. —Elise Soutar
The first new material from Chicago noise-punk outfit Meat Wave since last summer’s Volcano Park EP, “Honest Living” is a hooky head-banger about the unyielding rigors of capitalism. Written while an unspecified member of the band was working days in a warehouse and nights in a bar, the track is played entirely straight, as if “Clocked in for the rest of time / Retire when I die!” were a rallying cry, rather than one of despair. “The system is not cruel / The system is not evil / There’s a better word for it / I just can’t think of it,” vocalist and guitarist Chris Sutter insists as Ryan Wizniak and Joe Gac’s low end, buttressed by subtle synths, pumps furiously along like an overworked set of pistons. The track’s thrumming energy alone is enough to help propel even the most stripped-bare cog through another day on the job. —Scott Russell
Leading up to the April 8 release of his forthcoming album Harp (via Saddle Creek), Los Angeles musician Chris Adams, aka PENDANT, has shared another new single, “Static Dream.” Following the album’s first two singles, “Blood Rite” and “Thorn,” the latter of which was just named one of our favorite songs of February, this third track arrives with a Trainspotting and Terminator 2-inspired video directed by Ramez Silyan (Lil Peep, The Neighbourhood). Pulling from ‘90s house and rave music, as well as the shoegaze that dominated most of PENDANT’s 2019 debut album Through a Coil, “Static Dream” takes a less aggressive approach than Harp’s prior two singles, but still hits on the emotional intensity Adams has his sights set on. Crawling through a dark dreamscape of electronic pop to match his surreal lyrics, the track captures the feeling of something slipping through your fingers. “I feel my eyes grow heavy / Counting back until another begins / I saw it all until I saw nothing / Through another static dream,” Adams sings, putting a refreshing spin on the cliché of waking up and realizing it was all a dream. —Elise Soutar
Sharon Van Etten is back with another new single and video, her second of 2022. “Used to It” follows the early-February release of “Porta,” and has us eagerly anticipating a follow-up to 2019’s terrific Remind Me Tomorrow. If “Porta” was a jab in the nose, “Used to It” is the hook you don’t see coming until it’s laid you out. Minimal percussion throbs like an irregular heartbeat, synths billow like smoke clouds, and Van Etten’s icy vocals float above it all, her fragmented lyrics evoking “haunted” memories and ruefully asking the song’s subject, “Are you used to it / Pouring out your life?” —Scott Russell
The first taste of Sophie Allison’s forthcoming Sometimes, Forever is a doozy, as befitting an album produced by Daniel Lopatin of Oneohtrix Point Never, and described in a press release as “Allison’s boldest and most aesthetically adventurous work yet.” First reactions online crowned “Shotgun” Soccer Mommy’s best song yet, and while it’s too soon—and Allison’s catalog is too strong—for us to jump to that particular conclusion just yet, the track is undeniably excellent. It’s a love song built around a simple concept: romance as an intoxicating high with no hangover. Meanwhile, Allison’s hooky and intimate guitar-rock melds with subtle synth work from Lopatin to create a new (and arguably improved) Soccer Mommy sound. “Uppers and my heart never meshed / I hated coming down / But this feels the same without the bad things,” Allison sings softly over a lurching guitar riff, swearing in the track’s soaring choruses, “So whenever you want me I’ll be around / I’m a bullet in a shotgun waiting to sound,” the killer hook at the center of a song we’ll be hearing for a long while. —Scott Russell
Tampa Bay production/rap duo They Hate Change have announced their debut album on Jagjaguwar, Finally, New, due out on May 13. On lead single “From the Floor,” Dre and Vonne team up with fellow Floridian DJ GAY-Z, combining U.K. drum and bass breakbeats, Miami bass pulse, Dirty South mixtape raps, and glitchy psych atmospherics as only they can. “Gulf Coast, we don’t give a fuck ‘bout your say-so,” Vonne raps, summing up both the duo’s sonic boldness and pride of place in a single lyric. —Scott Russell
Sarah Beth Tomberlin has shared the third single from her much-anticipated new album i don’t know who needs to hear this…, her follow-up to 2018’s At Weddings, coming April 29 on Saddle Creek. Like “idkwntht” and “happy accident” before it, “tap” finds the singer/songwriter taking a sonic leap forward, albeit in an entirely different way than those previous singles. Over shifting sands of hand percussion, hypnotic fingerpicking, and sparse flickers of electric guitar, bass, piano and strings, Tomberlin spends “tap” exploring the elements of daily life that make her feel alive—or do the opposite. Her mesmerizing vocals consider social media (“Tap the heart until I hate myself”) and nature (“Do you think about the trees in the breeze / How they swing and scream and talk and breathe?”), internet friends (“Talk to strangers like we already met”) and the communal gift of music (“I love the people playing songs in the park”), “movies that make [her] feel” and “trash TV.” Ultimately, she remembers that these pursuits are hers alone to prioritize: “Remind me that I don’t have to be anything.” —Scott Russell
Nashville-via-Boston band Twen, led by Jane Fitzsimmons and Ian Jones, made their buzzed-about debut with 2019’s Awestruck, but have since had to withstand “2 years of canceled tours and broken ties to all music-industry execs,” according to their website. Judging by their spate of recent singles, including December 2021’s “HaHaHome,” last month’s “Bore U” and their latest, this week’s “Dignitary Life,” the band’s abilities have been untouched by all that turbulence. In a perfect world, Twen would have a Sunflower Bean-esque career path—their polished, impossible-to-pigeonhole pop-rock is that good. The duo seem to reckon with their fickle industry on “Dignitary Life,” with Jones cautioning over sparkling jangle-pop, “You oughta know / As quickly as it comes / You’ll be sure to watch it go,” and Twen singing in unison in the choruses, “You are my kind / Our fates are tied.” —Scott Russell
The darkly hypnotic “Lost” opens Arkhon, singer/songwriter and producer Nika Roza Danilova’s first new album as Zola Jesus since 2017, coming May 20 on Sacred Bones. In terms of atmosphere, “Lost” is like a three-minute A24 film, with rhythmic breathing and digitally manipulated voices (sampled from a Slovenian folk choir) forming the backbone of the track. Danilova’s voice fills the void as she laments our “collective disillusionment,” her vocals multiplying to underscore the observation that “Everyone I know is lost.” The notion unsettles as much as it reassures: Wandering in the wilderness, we can only hope to find each other. —Scott Russell
Listen to our Best Songs of March 2022 playlist on Spotify here.