Lars Gotrich

Bill MacKay's become a stealth fixture on the Chicago music scene over the last decade and change. The guitarist deftly glides through folk, experimental rock and jazz in his band Darts & Arrows and has worked with everyone from Fred Lonberg-Holm and members of Bitchin' Bajas to a blossoming creative partnership with with Ryley Walker — they released an album of guitar duets in 2015.

Call it math-pop, technical sugar-pop, J-punk, jazzy post-rock — whatever it is, the Kyoto-based Tricot makes sophisticated music that's as sweet and bubbly as soda. The band has self-released two albums in Japan, but is now getting some stateside shine from Topshelf with the simply titled 3. Here's the closing track "Melon Soda" — it's a compact piece of pop wizardry that finds hooks in weird corners, and someone should sync it up to the fizzy lifting drink scene from Willy Wonka already.

Buildings' noise-rock is like a burrito supreme sprayed across the windshield: gross, hilarious, awesome. On its third album, You Are Not One Of Us, the Minneapolis trio has become far more adept at wrapping its angular riffs around punk, noise-rock and post-hardcore with a certain amount of dexterity. Buildings' have a bit of that Jesus Lizard nastiness, but with the determined backbone and heady chops of Dazzling Killmen.

Bands reunite and it's not really a big deal anymore. Pavement's done it, like, 12 times already. Chicago's Riot Fest has made a regular habit of bringing back the '80s and '90s year after year, and scored some nice coups (The Replacements, Glenn Danzig with Misfits, among them). But here's one that no one in the punk scene saw coming: Jawbreaker.

We often label new music "out-of-time" when its touchstones are from the past. But what does that time mean when it spans decades and cultures, swirled into nonlinear pop songs that glide the spaceways?

There is regular brains rock music and there is broken brains rock music. No slight against the former, but sometimes squares gotta be oblonged and thought patterns obliterated. Mark Feehan and Kilynn Lunsford both made a regular habit of scrambling brains with Harry Pussy and Little Claw, respectively, but with their new Philly-based band, they rock the body manic.

Katie Crutchfield has been nothing but honest as Waxahatchee. Her careful words carry keen insight — and she writes sharp songs to match. Waxahatchee's fourth album, Out In The Storm, takes a hard look not just at broken relationship, but also at the spiraling aftermath.

Bert Jansch's percussive fingerpicking was rooted in traditional folk music, but he swung around melodies like a jazz musician, the rhythms swaying in his Scottish soul. Turns out that even skilled guitarists who admired Jansch couldn't figure him out.

Tell me if you've heard this one before: Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie walk into a studio... and actually make a record together. Fleetwood Mac's drama-filled history is the stuff of a "great play," to say the least.

Feist's first album in six years, Pleasure, comes out in just a couple weeks. We've only heard "Century" and the title track from it, so far, and today we get a visual companion for the latter.

When Mlny Parsonz rips into a phrase, you feel the wound. Over three albums, Royal Thunder's soulful hard-rock has very much been tied to a desperation to crawl out of darkness and find some kind of hope beyond. Over three albums, that drive has kept the Atlanta band hungry and humble. Its latest, Wick, is a sprawling account of a band still crawling.

The D.C. brewery Right Proper was like a cultural mullet during a recent visit: a posh baby shower in the front (complete with chocolate petit fours), a bunch of metal heads making beer in the back. Right Proper's head brewer, Nathan Zeender, was dumping a heaping spoonful of hop extract into a tank.

The history of '80s D.C. hardcore is extremely well documented; its importance doesn't need to be boot-stomped into the ground anymore. The '90s, less so, as the scene and Dischord Records, in particular, moved onto more melodic and angular ventures (see: Jawbox, Fugazi, Lungfish). But there were still those who held the torch for fast and unruly hardcore, and few ran with it as maniacally as Battery.

In the '90s, few NYC punk bands were as sleazy and bluesy and profane and funky as Boss Hog. You hear stories about confrontational live shows and the husband and wife's contentious stage personas. It was dangerous rock 'n' roll.

If you like a little dirt in your power-pop, Needles//Pins should already be on your radar. The Vancouver trio has been pumping out the punk-fueled pop jams since 2010, releasing albums and 7"s on labels that know a thing or two about scuzzy hooks (Portland's Dirt Cult, Germany's Erste Theke Tontraeger).

Can made music from an imaginary country, one with its own traditions and language — which means none at all. In its work, jazz, funk, electronic, psychedelic and minimalist music ran wild through impossible valleys and fantastic mountaintops. Some call it krautrock by virtue of the band's German home base in Cologne. Most just call it Can.

Debut albums aren't supposed to be this self-assured and sharp — but then again, H.Grimace did take its sweet time. The London-based, Anglo-Australian post-punk band formed in 2011 as a songwriting partnership between Hannah Gledhill (vocals/guitar) and Marcus Browne (guitar), along with Corin Johnson (bass) and Diago Gomes (drums). Self Architect — the culmination of a few promising EPs — explores identity and cultural power dynamics, led by Gledhill's gripping voice.

"Definitely cowboy poetry was something I got interested in." Well, that's one way to describe an ancient Greek epic.

The Texas Panhandle is windy and flat and full of sky, material ripe for country songs and buried Cadillacs.

Two Inch Astronaut works quickly! Just about one year since the release of Personal Life, the suburban D.C. post-punk band already has album number four in the bag. Can You Please Not Help continues the pop-focused mind-meld of previous efforts with monster hooks and a musicianship that only comes with a boatload of experience.

Slowdive's first album in 22 years is starting to come along quite blissfully, and now it has a name. A calmly geometric, geologic video for "Sugar For The Pill" announces Slowdive, not to be confused with the band's eponymous EP from 1990.

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