Katie Presley

The video for "Sorry" by San Francisco's The She's is the stuff dreams are made of. A beautiful duo frolics on the beach, the sun is shining, the sparks are flying, a sweet series of kisses are shared in the surf, and, as in so many dreams, the whole thing is tinged with a creeping sense of existential dread.

It's only sexy to be sick sometimes. Or more precisely, only some types of sickness are sexy. Passionate fevers. Tragic, romantic consumption. Artistic mania. Poetic depression. The spectrum of socially acceptable mental illnesses is about as wide as a pinky finger — paranoia and anxiety aren't even on the same hand.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

I recommend two ways of listening to Tanya Tagaq's latest record, Retribution. One is with eyes closed, given over wholly to the experience of a dense, immersive collection of sounds unlike any sounds on any other albums in your collection. The other is with eyes open, standing in front of a mirror, with one hand on your throat. The former is to better appreciate this record as a shockingly inventive achievement in music production. The latter is to better appreciate the marvel of the human body.

If Jenny Hval's music is the bramble, her message is the Disney castle nestled (or, depending on perspective, trapped) inside. The experimental singer-songwriter surrounds her vulnerable voice and razor's edge lyrics with spiky, disarming instrumentation and production that work to both belie and bolster the intensity and intimacy of her work. Blood Bitch, Hval's sixth album, is her first that offers a sword for cutting through the thorns.