Lars Gotrich

Sonic Boomerang: Is that, like, Sonic the Hedgehog's new weapon? A new shake from that burger drive-in? Psychedelic punk-rock whipped into the abyss and returned with aerodynamic force?

Haley Fohr meditates on existence with telescopic ears and eyes. In the decade since she began Circuit Des Yeux, Fohr has mapped herself onto a world alone, seeking connection through music that rumbles in tandem with her oaken baritone.

Pinegrove's Cardinal was a messy and charming debut that felt with exacting detail. There's a sense of restlessness in it, run through the twinkly pangs of emo-twang. Go to any live show, or just watch the band's Tiny Desk Concert, and the crowd's sing-alongs are more than just mouthing to their favorite songs — it's living them.

Marisa Anderson doesn't just play guitar — she sinks into bends and lingers over melodies, knowing when to light a fire under her fingers and when to wind like a creek. In 2013, she caught my ear for the first time with a pair of records — the raw and dusty Mercury, and the functionally-titled Traditional And Public Domain Songs.

"Speedruns" are a weirdly enthralling piece of video game culture, wherein a gamer takes on titles, often older ones like Super Metroid or Sonic The Hedgehog, using every trick in the book to beat their chosen game as fast as possible.

When we last left Godflesh, the mecha-mutants of industrial metal had returned after more than a decade with 2014's devastatingly nasty A World Lit Only By Fire. It was one of those reunion albums that wasn't only better than it should've been, but a reclamation and reinvention for Justin Broadrick and G.C. Green.

Anna St. Louis' fingerpicked patterns wander through John Fahey and Elizabeth Cotten fields, her voice soft and warm; tall grass in a long day's sun. Her debut solo release, First Songs, looks to '60s folk, but the L.A.-based singer-songwriter comes from Kansas City punk and the Philly art scene. Both her background and shifting locales are reminder that what we often call familiar — especially in regards to musical style — is almost always a collection of experiences. There's rarely a singular moment informing it all.

Red Death is a thrash band raised on hardcore — its metallic riffs not only smash a crusty d-beat but also shout a punk ethos.

Christmas carols needn't always be cheery and bright, and there's no shortage of seasonal irreverence and sadness.

Filmed July 14, just a week before Chester Bennington died in July, Carpool Karaoke has released its Linkin Park episode with the blessing of Bennington's family and the band, dedicated to the singer's memory. Ken Jeong hosts this particular episode, and, given the fervor in which he sings along to "Numb," "In The End" and "Talking To Myself," the actor and comedian looks thoroughly stoked to share his screams with Bennington, Mike Shinoda and Joe Hahn.

Advisory: The above video/song contains language that some may find offensive.


St. Vincent's "Pills" is the kind of psychedelic Franken-pop monster that could only be concocted by Annie Clark in a lab with a mess of mad scientists — which is exactly what happened.

It's not like John Darnielle isn't busy enough this year (or ever): He released the The Mountain Goats' keys-only Goths, published the novel Universal Harvester and has a

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame announced its nominees for the class of 2018 this morning, presenting a group of first-time nominees that might make up the institution's most sonically diverse list in years.

John Darnielle tells stories that make you care so deeply about the people in them that when Darnielle begins to scrape away the layers of grit and glory, you sink deeply, helplessly into their psyche and hope things turn out fine, knowing they probably won't. You find them in his songs as The Mountain Goats, and his novels Wolf In White Van and Universal Harvester. It's not hard to be a John Darnielle fan — and once you're in, you never leave.

The power in Wild Beasts' music has always been the drama, a dynamic seduced by complicated notions of sex and masculinity. Over 13 years and five albums, the English band has morphed from broody art-punk to, well, broody synth-pop, all the while finding beauty in dimly lit corners.

Snail Mail's sleepy songs have a way of waking you up. They rumble at a steady pace like a scrappy rock band playing to a small room, but then Lindsey Jordan, who just graduated from high school this past spring, drops a line like, "So if you look death right in the face, don't thank him / Because there's nothing and there won't ever be." You can feel the room nod in solidarity, and you could feel the NPR Music office do the same when Snail Mail performed "Slug."

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.

Gun Outfit has, finally, figured out a way to describe the cactus-chewing, smoke-signaled rock music that it perpetually rolls towards sundown: "Western expanse music." Henry Barnes (of Amps For Christ, Man Is The Bastard) coined the phrase while on a recent European tour with the band, boiling down the out-of-time essence of Gun Outfit to a cowboy poetry swirled in honky-tonk postmodernism.

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