The Best Music Of March: NPR Staff Picks : All Songs Considered In March, we indulged R&B pleasures from Joyce Wrice and Solomon Fox, we missed our friends with a sweet song by Joel Young, dreamed of summer with Hirsch, bum-rushed IKOQWE's razor-edged boom-bap, and discovered the cosmic secrets of Floating Points and Pharoah Sanders.

Songs featured on this episode:
• IKOQWE: "Pele" from The Beginning, The Mediums, The End and The Infinite
• Joyce Wrice: "Losing" from Overgrown
• Solomon Fox: "Rockaways" from Solomon
• Hirsch: "Reaction" from Denihilism
• Joel Young, "Friend"
• Floating Points & Pharoah Sanders: "Movement 5" from Promises

Follow the Press Pause playlist for the NPR Music staff's favorite new songs.
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The Best Music Of March: NPR Staff Picks

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The Best Music Of March: NPR Staff Picks

The Best Music Of March: NPR Staff Picks

The Best Music Of March: NPR Staff Picks

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/982811622/982844852" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Clockwise from upper left: IKOQWE, Joyce Wrice, Solomon Fox, Joel Young, Hirsch, Floating Points and Pharaoh Sanders. Courtesy of the artists hide caption

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Courtesy of the artists

Clockwise from upper left: IKOQWE, Joyce Wrice, Solomon Fox, Joel Young, Hirsch, Floating Points and Pharaoh Sanders.

Courtesy of the artists

Every month, we ask the NPR Music staff: What's the one song you couldn't escape? What's the one album to which you'll return all year? In March, we indulged R&B pleasures from Joyce Wrice and Solomon Fox, we missed our friends with a sweet song by Joel Young, dreamed of summer with Hirsch, thumped to IKOQWE's razor-edged boom-bap and discovered the cosmic secrets of Floating Points and Pharoah Sanders.

Follow the Press Pause playlist for the NPR Music staff's favorite new songs.


IKOQWE: "Pele" from The Beginning, The Mediums, The End and The Infinite

Sometimes fantasy comes crashing into reality — the results teach us how far we've fallen, but also what we can build and mend. The debut album from IKOQWE takes "two beings from a distant time and space (or not)" and sets them on Earth to confront humankind's inequity. Featuring the Angolan rapper/activist Ikonoklasta and the Angolan-born, Lisbon-based producer Batida — with lyrics in Angolan slang, Umbundu, Portuguese and English — this is music that summons the ages. Field recordings of Angolan music are bum-rushed by thumping house beats, thick synth bass, rumbling dub and razor-edged boom-bap. —Lars Gotrich

YouTube

Joyce Wrice: "Losing" from Overgrown

Joyce Wrice's Overgrown exemplifies everything that I love in R&B music right now: there's a blend and balance of mid- and up-tempo two-steppers, peppered with a ballad here and there that keeps you dialed in. Also the production — handled primarily by D'Mile who's on an amazing run right now — feels really big, but Joyce's range keeps her right in lockstep. —Bobby Carter

YouTube

Solomon Fox: "Rockaways" from Solomon

I've been following producer and multi-instrumentalist Solomon Fox since his start with Young Bull, a soul collective out of Durham, N.C. Fox is still with the group but he took some time away to make this self-titled debut, a project he started while living alone in a cabin in rural Virginia. A few years later, he found himself waiting out the pandemic in London and took time there to finish it up. Dreamy and lush, this record is R&B just the way I like it: simple and clean; not overproduced, not complicated. Solomon Fox sings and plays just about everything on this record. He told me that it took a long time to finish this project because he spent hours layering drum loops and scrolling through drum sounds. After he found the beats and pockets he liked, he reengineered a lot of the tracks and tried to create a narrative that would connect them. He did that especially well in "Rockaways"; listen to the heavy bass line and how it weaves in and out the tuneful melody. —Suraya Mohamed


Hirsch: "Reaction" from Denihilism

Hirsch is comprised of actor-musician Emile Hirsch and producer The Frenchman. You'll recognize Emile from films such as Into the Wild, Lords of Dogtown and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. I fell in love with the synth-heavy new-wave sound. I can't tell if it's the end of a pandemic winter or the one-year anniversary of a global lockdown, but the music makes me hopeful of bubbly summer days ahead as the world begins to open up again. It put a smile on my face, and I hope it does the same for you. —Kara Frame

YouTube

Joel Young, "Friend"

Friendships tested in the icy fires of isolation have been on my mind for the last year. Many of mine survived and got stronger, while others... well, others faded into fond memories. When I heard singer-songwriter Joel Young's (pronounced Joe L) "Friend" for the first time, the opening lyrics punched me in the heart: "I've seen your broken soul / I've seen your whole heart break / I never let you go / As you found your way / You've seen my darkest hour." He guides us through the story of an enduring friendship, comforting us with the song's sweet simplicity: melodic guitar lines that feel like a warm hug, and drums that gently encourage you to sway and smile in your seat. The message is one of optimism, dedication, reassurance and the soul's most powerful balm: gratitude. —Nikki Birch

YouTube

Floating Points & Pharoah Sanders: "Movement 5" from Promises

Promises is a journey in every sense of that word; it's a journey within, it's a journey through the cosmos. It pairs Floating Points — aka Sam Shepherd the British electronic artist, multi-instrumentalist and composer — and Pharoah Sanders, a tenor saxophonist who has been at the forefront of the jazz avant-garde since the 1960s. Promises is a suite custom-fitted to Sanders voice both on saxophone and his literal voice. The sparkling music really defies classification — it combines classical orchestration with electronic music and the spiritual underpinnings of the jazz tradition that Sanders inhabits. It is inspiring, immersive and it rewards repeat listens. —Nate Chinen, WBGO