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NPR Music’s Top 10 (OK, 11) Albums Of March

Written by on April 2, 2020

Music affords an escape, takes us back in time to reflect on the present, mirrors our aches and joys and offers serenity. As relentless news about the coronavirus continues, these albums were gifts during difficult times.

This month, that included surprise drops from Childish Gambino and Jay Electronica, plus Waxahatchee‘s tender Saint Cloud. And because it was released on the leap year — Feb. 29 — we couldn’t let March pass without highlighting Bad Bunny‘s phenomenal YHLQMDLG as a bonus.

Below you’ll find an alphabetized list of NPR Music’s top 11 albums of March 2020. Be sure to check out our top 20 songs from the month, too.

 

Bad Bunny, ‘YHLQMDLG’

Bad Bunny, 'YHLQMDLG'

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Educated by the same old-school masters who appear throughout, Bad Bunny’s second album is a pop reggaeton record that breaks Latin pop’s reggaeton-lite formula. Across its 20 songs, YHLQMDLG nostalgically reanimates the genre’s nerve forged by the working class at marquesina parties across Puerto Rico, and yearns for childhood’s fandom and fewer expectations. — Stefanie Fernández

Caroline Rose, ‘Superstar’

Caroline Rose, 'Superstar'

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Superstar is a synth-pop opera lush with synthesizers and melodic earworms. Over 38 minutes, Caroline Rose’s lyrics about ambition, overconfidence, desperation and disappointment transform the moments of sonic tension and drama into a narrative drama that threads the whole album together. — Jon Lewis

Childish Gambino, ‘3.15.20’

Childish Gambino, '3.15.20'

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Childish Gambino warps through the best of his musical abilities to make 3.15.20 a different trip with each timestamp. As a legit successful writer, actor, comedian, director and singer, it’s the hodgepodge I expect and welcome. — Bobby Carter

Irreversible Entanglements, ‘Who Sent You?’

Irreversible Engtanglements, 'Who Sent You?'

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“Here comes the end!” warns Camae Ayewa, aka Moor Mother, in the title track of Who Sent You? — a gripping, cathartic second album by the experimental vessel known as Irreversible Entanglements. A knowing update to the revolutionary politics of 1960s free jazz, with attunement to what’s changed, and what still hasn’t. — Nate Chinen, WBGO

Jay Electronica, ‘A Written Testimony’

Jay Electronica, 'A Written Testimony'

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There’s a line on “Ezekiel’s Wheel” the next-to-last song on Jay Electronica’s mythically-delayed album that reveals why it took him 13 years to follow through with this near-biblical debut: “Sometimes I was held down by the gravity of my pen / Sometimes I was held down by the gravity of my sin.” A Jay-Z duet LP with a prologue from Farrakhan feels right on time for the coronapocalypse. — Rodney Carmichael

Jhené Aiko, ‘Chilombo’

Jhené Aiko, 'Chilombo'

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You can anticipate a few things from Jhené Aiko: She’s never going to mince her words, she’s bringing her friends and she’s going to unload a lot. The surprise here is the timeliness of Chilombo. As most of us sit in quarantine, her knack for the serene is what we all need right now. — Bobby Carter

Lil Uzi Vert, ‘Eternal Atake’

Lil Uzi Vert, 'Eternal Atake'

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No matter where you jump around in Eternal Atake‘s 18 tracks — or the supersized, 32-track deluxe version — each song oozes with an astral magnetic goop of bass, spunk and Lil Uzi Vert’s unfettered, inarguable swag. Uncharted, but exhilarating, it’s like taking a big swig from the mystery cup during a spaceship joyride, not knowing which galaxy you’ll end up in. — Sidney Madden

Porridge Radio, ‘Every Bad’

Porridge Radio, 'Every Bad'

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On Every Bad, Brighton, England’s Porridge Radio crafts a ramshackle masterpiece. The record’s 11 tracks sift through genre in a salted wash of angst and catharsis as Dana Margolin’s blackened howl polishes a lingering vulnerability with both glean and grit. — Emma Bowers

Shabaka and the Ancestors, ‘We Are Sent Here By History’

Shabaka and the Ancestors, 'We Are Sent Here By History'

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British saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings has a deep, thrashing bond with the South African musicians in the Ancestors, a band for our time. Their aptly titled sophomore release, We Are Sent Here By History, is an album of stark admonitions and unruly energies, anchored by the pull of an ecstatic communion. — Nate Chinen, WBGO

Víkingur Oláfsson, ‘Debussy – Rameau’

Vikingur Olafsson, 'Debussy - Rameau'

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With his trademark transparency and warmth, Víkingur Oláfsson facilitates a colorful dialog between two groundbreaking French composers born nearly 200 years apart. Like a mixtape, the Icelandic pianist juxtaposes Rameau’s expressive flourishes with Debussy’s ethereal harmonies to reveal striking connections between the two masters. — Tom Huizenga

Waxahatchee, ‘Saint Cloud’

Waxahatchee

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Katie Crutchfield’s fifth release as Waxahatchee doesn’t so much chase enlightenment as embrace the stubborn, quotidian work of seeking it. And while that work – finding self-acceptance, getting sober, committing to a romantic partnership – isn’t always pretty, Saint Cloud certainly is, as a softer, twangier sound gives way to some of Crutchfield’s most poetic lyrics. — Marissa Lorusso

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.