Lars Gotrich

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.

Robert Plant has no wasted no time in his 60s, releasing Raising Sand, Band Of Joy and lullaby and... The Ceaseless Roar all in the span of a decade. Carry Fire will be out next month, and has already proven to be a fruitful mix of blues-licked rock 'n' roll and rhythms churned from all over the world, heard in "The May Queen."

Godspeed You! Black Emperor makes wordless music that nevertheless shouts like a street-corner prophet. We use images — politically-charged ones, in particular — to describe GY!BE because its bleak drones, string-sawed dirges and guitar noise convey long-gestating dread, apocalyptic nightmares and a rare light of hope between the cracks.

We map our meaning onto GY!BE because, for the past two decades and counting, the Montreal-based collective has reflected and refracted dire circumstances in music that is at once beautiful and confrontational. For that, we call GY!BE political.

Its name alone suggests an explosive whizzbang of cotton candy pop — Pinkshinyultrablast makes shoegaze that yanks tufts of sound every which way in some kind of cinematically sped-up slow-mo. It's irrepressibly cool music — last year's Grandfeathered was a personal favorite, a sonic treasure hunt on every listen.

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