Lars Gotrich

Drive-By Truckers has always been a political band.

Justin Trosper's creative arc is as jagged as it is long. Through the '90s, his band Unwound brought an extraordinary catalog of noisy, desperate music to life. When Trosper returned with Survival Knife in 2014, it was a thoughtful and loud exercise in "regular" rock 'n' roll that was anything but. His music is a study in unconventional rock that, at its edges, makes its own conventions.

Don't Google Sex Stains unless you add some keywords: Allison Wolfe, '90s riot grrrl, Bratmobile. Formed in L.A. a couple years ago with Wolfe and choreographer Mecca Vazie Andrews, plus former and current members of Warpaint and Prettiest Eyes, Sex Stains just released its self-titled debut. This is hilarious, raunchy, sneering feminist punk rock to inspire spastic dancing — and everyone else can just piss off.

Crying exists in the ridiculous. The band's first two EPs took bright-eyed pop-punk and Thin Lizzy hooks and amplified it with the 8-bit, in-the-red cuteness of chiptune music.

It was way below freezing outside, a couple weeks before the holidays — the kind of cold that requires layers of long sleeves and flannel beneath your jacket. But in the basement of Songbyrd Music House in Washington, D.C., a swirling mass of hardcore kids leapt through the air, sweat flopping off heavy cotton since they had nowhere to stash their Bane and Judge hoodies. Heads narrowly avoided metal poles in a underworld dance of thrown elbows and knee-pumping swarm. Welcome to the gleeful insanity of a Turnstile show.

Taylor Ross knows his way around a melody. More specifically, he knows how to peep into melody's third eye, hug the fruit-striped void and send it sideways down the yellow brick road.

American Football's return to the studio was not just a surprise to those of us locked into the wistful, youthful feels of its 17-year-old debut album. It's also cause for reflection on what those feels mean now — for the band members about to enter their 40s, as well as for the fans who've grown in and out of them.

In tragedy, some of us turn to God, some of us spurn God, and a few of us find solace in nothingness. But it's possible to take all three paths simultaneously when caught in a maelstrom of desperation. Nick Cave has always existed in this realm, it's what makes his work so powerful, that in-between existence that seeps into our own.

If the band's debut EP (Treasure Pains) is any indication, Chicago's Slow Mass exists somewhere between Hoover's post-hardcore heft and Braid's weird hooks. Featuring members of Into It. Over It's live band (drummer Josh Sparks and guitarist Josh Parks), plus guitarist/vocalist Dave Collis (My Dad) and bassist/vocalist Mercedes Webb, Slow Mass isn't so much the sum of its parts, but rather part high-speed collision, part mutation.

Dusk is Ultimate Painting's third album in three years, but the London duo still sounds like it takes time to get moving. The guitars of Jack Cooper (Mazes) and James Hoare (Veronica Falls) loop in and out of each other like rubber bands, taut one moment and wobbly the next. Where past records crossed Velvet Underground's third album with a paradoxically easygoing motorik beat, Dusk expands the duo's pop sensibilities, finding tension in quiet melodies.

In the five years since the group reactivated, Witch Mountain's ascent has been swift and monumental. In 2011, the Portland doom-metal band was rejuvenated after a decade of dormancy by Uta Plotkin, a raw yet multifaceted singer. Three stellar albums followed before Plotkin left the band to pursue other projects, with bassist Charles Thomas exiting soon thereafter.

When Sadie Dupuis moved to Philly earlier this year, she returned to the creative headspace where Speedy Ortiz originally began: making music in a bedroom. Slugger is Dupuis' debut solo album under the Sad13 moniker, with playful, empowered and intimate pop songs that don't stray far from the weirdly liberating confines of a tiny room.

Our childhood haunts us. In playgrounds, forests, bedrooms and on neighborhood streets, we try to understand a new world as beings in constant formation — full of wonder, full of fear. It's there we first make ourselves human and, in many ways, that nascent humanity scars like an old wound never stitched.

Agalloch taught metal not only how to wander but how to wonder. Over two decades, the Portland, Ore., band released five albums and several demos and EPs that didn't treat black metal, post-rock and neo-folk so much as distinct genres but as a sonic continuum. There was a pioneering spirit to Agalloch's music, uniquely American in how it found communion in nature and pride in its city and culture.

To put a spin on the Albert Ayler album title, metal is a healing force of the universe. Its riffs, wails and screams bring not only catharsis, but also metallic salvation. This is a prevailing theme throughout Spirit Adrift's Chained To Oblivion, which was written and recorded by Nate Garrett, a musician who splits his time between Arizona (Gatecreeper, ex-Take Over And Destroy) and Arkansas.

There was only one copy of Athens, GA: Inside/Out in town, or at least that's what Vision Video would have you believe. You had to stake a claim to the VHS tape at Vision Video's Broad Street location (now closed), or know somebody with a bootleg, and then know someone with a VHS player. Until it was released on DVD in 2003, to watch this documentary about the '80s Athens music scene was a hassle, but vital if you cared about the history and culture of a Southern town that ran on its own time, and somehow still does.

All Songs Considered, Alt.Latino and The Record have teamed up to put on a show as a part of the Lincoln Center Out Of Doors summer program — and, oh yeah, it's free.

Zdzisław Beksiński, a Polish artist who was brutally murdered in 2005, surreally captured the darkness of humanity with hellish landscapes and nightmarish figures. His work adorns the cover of Mizmor's second album, Yodh: Two grim creatures float over a fading grey horizon, one with mouth agape, as if to swallow the earth whole. It's a fitting image for the existential dread in Mizmor's looming, blackened doom metal, which is both sublime and mesmerizing.

SubRosa's music is a ravaging deluge of the heart. The Salt Lake City metal band draws no line between beauty and doom, as crushing riffs and a sweeping duo of violins weave in and out of guitarist Rebecca Vernon's thoughtful meditations on love and death.

Love songs should be weird. Not that there's anything wrong with anthems that grab everyone's hearts in racing thump-thump-thumps (sup, RiRi), but more love songs ought to burst and break, fold and fall apart, move at an impossibly slow pace or -- gulp — not move at all. Warehouse set out to make a simple love song, but as "Reservoir" came together, the Atlanta rock band fell into love's contradictions and pulled out a tangled, jangled mess.

Since the early 2000s, Orion Landau has been the in-house designer for Relapse Records, giving the metal label a distinct visual identity that spans album covers for the likes of High On Fire's Surrounded By Thieves, Rwake's Voices Of Omens, Jucifer's L'Autrichienne and practically

The huggable power pop of Dogbreth's Second Home is the work of punks who write youthful, larger-than-life songs that still wrinkle at the edges. It's the second outing from a band — its members split between Phoenix and Seattle — that plays with doo-wop rhythms, jangly Britpop guitars and ramshackle Thin Lizzy twin-leads.

Coming in at just under two minutes, the snippy "Hoarder House" acts as a self-contained short story in just five lines.

I'm sorry babe

Punk is not immune to dudes lecturing women about womanhood. Truth is, the road to hell is paved with good intentions and well, actuallys.

In the book of Matthew, chapter 8, the demons in two possessed men fear the judgment of God when they meet Jesus on a road in Gadara. "So the devils besought him, saying, 'If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine.'" It's here that we curiously derive the adjective "Gadarene," which basically means to get involved in something in a hurry, with the potential for disaster.

Success never shields us from tragedy; it's just a barrier waiting to break down. While on tour in October 2014, vocalist Jeremy Bolm received news that his mother's cancer had finally taken her life. Touché Amoré's new album title, Stage Four, carries a double meaning; this is both the post-hardcore band's fourth album and an emotional autobiography that attempts to make sense of a lifetime with his mother.

Marisa Anderson's guitar is inextricably tied to the raw and seeking tradition of American music, even as she rolls and plucks and picks at the landscape with reverence and newness.

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