March 2017 Alt Col Picks

Plenty of great albums appeared in March, so here are our favorite releases of the month! (In no particular order.) Want a Spotify playlist? Click here!

  • Ed Sheeran – ÷

Singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran’s third major label release ÷ attests to his stylistic diversity, shifting from hip-hop occasions to sugary love ballads to casual acoustic serenades. While it is certainly not his best work, ÷ still does not fall flat on its face as another “white guy with an acoustic guitar” outing. Standout tracks include “Castle on the Hill,” “Galway Girl,” and “Supermarket Flowers.” ÷ will appeal to fans of Chris DuPont, Julie Byrne, and Noah Guthrie. Maybe.

Read our full review of Ed Sheeran’s ÷ by clicking here!

  • Can’t Swim – Fail You Again

The hard-hitting debut from New Jersey’s Can’t Swim is sure to put them on the map and solidify their position in the modern rock and pop punk scene! Rough vocals and impassioned musicality meld together for a compelling listen, bound to keep the record spinning for weeks to come. Standout tracks include “What’s Your Big Idea?,” “Quitting,” and “We Won’t Sleep.” Fail You Again is sure to attract followers of Seaway, Have Mercy, and Like Pacific.

  • Temples – Volcano

Psychedelic, spell-binding, and mesmerizing, Volcano grips you from track one to the end in a positively lenitive haze. Temples incorporates some electronic inflections to keep this emollient record fresh and separate from their previous material that echoes musical manners of the 1960s. Standout tracks include “Certainty,” “I Wanna Be Your Mirror,” and “Born Into the Sunset.” Volcano will capture listeners of The Shins, Hippo Campus, and Palma Violets.

  • Spoon – Hot Thoughts

The latest release from alt-rock band Spoon is sweltering and blistering, impish and jaunty. It’s sonically rich and lyrically captivating as it transports you to moods and places you can only imagine. Groovy at times and hushed at others, Spoon’s still got it. Standout tracks include “Hot Thoughts,” “Can I Sit Next to You,” and “Do I Have to Talk You Into It.” Hot Thoughts is sure to interest fans of The War on Drugs, Beck, and Silversun Pickups.

  • A Will Away – Here Again

Riveting melodies that blur the line between pop punk and indie rock infect this album from start to finish, in a good way, of course. From boisterous percussion and eccentric guitars to fervent songwriting and catchy hooks, Here Again is a pleasing change of pace in the world of pop rock. Standout tracks include “Caroline,” “The Shakes,” “Pay Raise,” and “Well-Adjusted.” Here Again will appeal to followers of Moose Blood, Boston Manor, and Turnover.

  • Heavy Things – Goner

Goner, Heavy Things

With sentimental libretto and singalong-worthy chants that make you want to shout the words with the windows down on the highway, Goner is animated and exhilarating at times and introspective all throughout. The blend of acoustic and electric guitars makes for a delectable texture and sound. Standout tracks include “Sold,” “Badge of Honor,” and “33.” Goner is sure to satisfy followers of A Will Away, Moose Blood, and You vs. Yesterday.

  • Creeper – Eternity, In Your Arms

Considered to be the saviors of modern rock, Creeper’s irresistible debut shakes you by the shoulders and doesn’t let go. From anthemic choruses to rhapsodic guitar melodies, Eternity, In Your Arms is a stellar release outlined by conviction and robustness all throughout. Standout tracks include “Hiding With Boys,” “Black Rain,” and “Suzanne.” Eternity, In Your Arms is bound to attract listeners of Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, Trash Boat, and Tiger Army.

  • Sorority Noise – You’re Not As _____ As You Think

You’re Not As ____ As You Think is intense, sincere, and unhinged. This is Sorority Noise’s most moving record to date and certainly a slice of pop punk emo you don’t want to sleep on. It discusses suicide, religion, loss, and self-esteem, trademarks of the heartfelt emotive genre. Standout tracks include “No Halo,” “Leave the Fan On,” and “Disappeared.” You’re Not As ____ As You Think will capture fans of The Wonder Years, Modern Baseball, and Citizen.


Honorable Mentions
  • The Shins – Heartworms

Mellow and hypnotically smooth psychedelia. Standout tracks include “Name for You,” “Mildenhall,” and “Dead Alive.” For fans of Deerhunter, Temples, and The Decemberists.

  • Stolas – Stolas

Piercing rock with an adventurous bite. Standout tracks include “Bellwether,” “Damage Division,” and “Catalyst.” For fans of A Lot Like Birds, Sianvar, and Adventurer.

  • Real Estate – In Mind

Entrancing, fluid soft indie rock. Standout tracks include “Darling,” “Stained Glass,” and “Holding Pattern.” For fans of Wild Nothing, Atlas Sound, and Ducktails.

  • Minus the Bear – VOIDS

Radiant alternative math rock. Standout tracks include “Last Kiss,” “Invisible,” and “Robotic Heart.” For fans of Bloc Party, Shiny Toy Guns, and Fang Island.

  • Knox Hamilton – The Heights

Velvety alt-rock bound to mesmerize you. Standout tracks include “Pretty Way to Fight,” “Washed Up Together,” and “Work It Out.” For fans of CRUISR, Colony House, and Bad Suns.

  • Remo Drive – Greatest Hits

Gravelly alternative punk with slick guitar melodies. Standout tracks include “Art School,” “Crash Test Rating,” and “Eat S**t.” For fans of Unturned, Yellow Ostrich, and The Noise FM.

  • Cold Climb It – Fade (EP)

Straddles the line between alt-rock and pop punk. Standout tracks include “There’s No Energy For Trying” and “Center City.” For fans of Modern Baseball, The Dangerous Summer, and With Confidence.

  • Softspoken – Pathways (EP)

Epic post-hardcore that demands your attention. Standout tracks include “Something I’m Missing” and “I Feel Fire.” For fans of Pierce the Veil, SycAmour, and Chasing Safety.


Let us know what you think of March’s releases down in the comments below!

Ed Sheeran – ÷ (Divide) 2017 (Album Review)

Ed Sheeran, the musical dynamo who stands as the mainstream poster child for the singer/songwriter “white guy with an acoustic guitar” genre, has released his third major label full-length album, ÷. Ed is acclaimed for his diversified styles, from upbeat hip-hop to syrupy sweet love ballads to campfire singalongs. His earnest lyricism and authentic intimacy is one of the many reasons to love this amiable redhead.

So what does this latest long-player have to offer?

÷ is a typical Ed Sheeran album, a mixture of those various approaches and then some. But unfortunately, ÷ plays it extremely safe, although he does tiptoe outside of his comfort zone on a few moments. This is his most noticeably commercial record to date, which thus sacrifices risk-taking and is ultimately underwhelming. After 2014’s phenomenal ×, touring the planet, and taking a year off social media, we set the bar high for Ed. We expected something more personal, something introspective and astonishing, but ÷ really does not meet those standards. It’s the same-old-same-old but yet not as stunning and gripping as his earlier material. Of course, ÷ is good; it’s not a terrible release by any means, but it certainly is disappointing in multiple categories.

First, the lyrics. At times, the libretto of this work can be profound and ardent, but most cuts either display the same tired-out romantic clichés from his prior albums or empty, dull subjects that simply don’t attest to his growth as a person since the last time we heard from him on ×. “Galway Girl” exhibits a night out at the pub, kissing an Irish girl and eating Doritos, and while this is down-to-earth and practical, is this really the height of Ed’s songwriting? Or “New Man” where Ed gives details of a stereotypical gym jock, someone we could easily picture and possibly put a name to of a similar person we know, and while this song is descriptive, is it really anything more than just scratching the surface? Or similarly, “Shape of You,” the most sexually charged yet undoubtedly catchiest song in the lineup. Or on tracks like “Happier” where Ed expresses some maturity by accepting an ex lover has moved on with someone new, but yet he ruins it all by stating at the end of the song he’ll still “be waiting here for [them].” We do manage to see some progression and communion on pieces like “Castle on the Hill” which describes Ed’s childhood and struggles of growing up and apart from old friends. The bonus track “Save Myself” is probably the most intimate, reflective tune on the album, which begs the question as to why it was merely tacked on as a bonus track. “Supermarket Flowers” is also one of the most personal and genuine songs where Ed recounts true events that occurred in his life.

EDIT: Ed Sheeran said in an interview with Zane Lowe that the reason why “Save Myself” was not included as an a-side tune was because the album had “too many slow songs.” Thus, the label requested that he swap “New Man” and “Save Myself” in the initial listing, making “New Man” a standard track and “Save Myself” a bonus track. This is understandable, and one must also consider that alongside the poignant ballads, Ed is known for his hip-hop-directed cuts, which ÷ lacked in some ways. Ed also mentioned that due to the rise of online music streaming services, bonus tracks still garner their deserved attention to an extent.

The musical assortment of this release is apparent when solely discussing the album, but compared to Ed’s past catalog, it is for the most part stale and trite. Hip-hop cuts like “New Man” and “Eraser” offer Ed’s clunky rap sequences and poor production quality. Sappy amorous ballads like “Perfect” and “Hearts Don’t Break Around Here” feel disingenuous and unrealistic. (Of course, this is assuredly subjective; some fans adore his hip-hop moments and/or his mushy romantic articles, but I personally have never found them interesting.) The overt love serenades, swelling with passion, virtually come across as just an attempt to pull at your heartstrings, which seems exploitative to an extent. (And trying to mimic the success of “Thinking Out Loud.”) The only tolerable romantic nocturne is “How Would You Feel (Paean),” which is embellished by the delectable piano accompaniment.

EDIT: Ed Sheeran said in an interview with Zane Lowe that his main motivation for writing “Perfect” was to prove that he could write fabulous love songs on his own and outdo “Thinking Out Loud,” which he wrote with Amy Wadge. This bolsters my feelings of insincerity in Ed’s latest songwriting.

However, pieces like “Castle on the Hill” and “Galway Girl” do illustrate some sonic variation not typically discovered on his previous albums. (With the exception of the stellar “English Rose” from ×, which is quite overlooked if you ask me.) “Castle on the Hill” follows in the bombastic vein of a Mumford & Sons-esque stadium epic, something new for Ed. “Galway Girl” and “Nancy Mulligan” find Ed exploring his near Celtic background and fondness for Ireland with an Irish band, something that truly stands out on this full-length. Bonus tracks like “Barcelona” and “Bibia Be Ye Ye” show him placing a toe outside his comfort zone with a more Latin leaning vibe, and he even roughly speaks Spanish on the former and Twi on the latter! Again, it’s a shame these tunes were attached as bonus material because it is the only minor evidence and incorporation of Ed’s travels across the globe. The impassioned love divertissements do offer some symphonic diversity with their orchestral inflections and female backing vocals, like on the soulful “Dive,” and Ed is cementing a somewhat unique sound with these timbres.

The easy accessibility and listenability of ÷ causes it to suffer in some ways. Ed’s pop sensibility seemingly dumbs down his trademark emotional contemplation and self-examination to appeal to a larger audience. The lyrics of this album plainly don’t punch the listener in the gut like his preceding projects did. He immolates auricular risk-taking over his traditional familiarity and generic acoustic timbre which has grown threadbare throughout his career. ÷ is not entirely atrocious or abominable by any degree, but it does not scrape the expectations we had set for him after his antecedent release, hiatus, and worldwide excursions. ÷ warrants a solid 6/10 for its lack of progression and variety, and I’ll personally only be revisiting a small handful of songs. (As opposed to my constant return to his full previous records!)

What are your thoughts on ÷? Let us know in the comments below!

  • Best songs: “Castle on the Hill,” “Save Myself,” “Dive,” “Supermarket Flowers,” “How Would You Feel (Paean)”
  • Worst songs: “Happier,” “New Man,” “Galway Girl,” “Hearts Don’t Break Around Here”