Lars Gotrich

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.

There's still power in three chords played loud and fast. With a name like Career Suicide, you'd better believe that's true. Now 15 years into the band's existence, vocalist Martin Farkas, guitarist Jonah Falco (who also plays drums in F***** Up) and a revolving cast of musicians crank out '80s-inspired hardcore with the passion of teenagers discovering D.O.A. and Circle Jerks for the first time.

When Agalloch broke up last May, it came down to a classic struggle over direction between the band's founder and the musicians who'd made it such a creative and somewhat mystical force in black metal. Aesop Dekker, Don Anderson and Jason Walton have since formed Khôrada with Giant Squid's Aaron Gregory, and are currently working on their debut album. Pillorian, the new band from guitarist and vocalist John Haughm, features members of Maestrus and Uada, and has just released its first single.

Trent Reznor promised new Nine Inch Nails material by the year's end, and has now delivered with Not The Actual Events. The EP, recorded with co-conspirator and now official band member Atticus Ross, is among Reznor's heaviest and most manic work. "Branches/Bones" and "The Idea Of You" team with chaotic punk, and the industrial doom of "She's Gone Away" and "Burning Bright (Field On Fire)" rivals Godflesh in its gloomy clank.

More love songs should sound like a vintage Dodge Charger slamming into a brick wall. The Sacramento noise-punk band So Stressed channels the chaotic scuzz of Spazz with ramming speed, but pulls a brooding melody out of a jam.

So Stressed announces its third album, Please Let Me Know, with a lovesick bruiser titled "The King's Wig." Guitar, synth and drums careen at incredible speed with surprising control until the sludgy anti-chorus, as Morgan Fox declares (threatens?), "I only think about you / I only write love songs, and I would not change it for anything."

Grouper's music exists between the hues of memory, reflected in quiet swirls of guitar and Liz Harris' voice. Her most recent album, 2014's Ruins, stripped away much of the ambiance (to chilling effect) and played with environment as an instrument.

The holiday-music canon is stuck in a vicious loop: Every year, FM radio seems to switch its programming over sooner, but no fresher than the year before. In malls, over car stereos, at parties — it's the same 10 to 20 songs, regifted as uninspired, yet inoffensively functional covers. But if the holidays promise newness and hope, shouldn't our music, too?

On weekends, I love to cook and listen to records. It's a ritual that began out of a necessity for meditation from the week — minding a pot of grits and sipping tea while Neil Young or Leon Thomas LPs spin in the background.

Here we are at the end of 2016, a year fraught with national strife and general WTF-ery. What better way to soundtrack the fraying of nerves of America than the first At The Drive-In song in 16 years?

There's always been something perversely funky about New Fries' freaky no-wave radiations. But the Toronto band's new mini-LP MORE significantly upgrades its weirdness by incorporating discordant synths and pronounced bass lines that recall ESG's mutant dance music.

There is no name for the music Krallice makes, only a sphere that encompasses it. In recent years, the band's mutant metal has become what can only be called extreme chamber music, with pieces averaging 10 minutes and an insatiable thirst for newness.

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

City Of Caterpillar was one of those bands that released one great album and then, like a mutant butterfly too beautiful and weird for this world, flew away. After a demo and a few split 7"s with pg. 99 and System 2600, the Richmond post-hardcore band released its self-titled debut album in 2002.

Lætitia Tamko's music exists in the spaces between memory and reality; in the spots where stories are misremembered and tangled up in our feelings. The Cameroon-born, New York-raised musician records as Vagabon, and her songs capture that ambiguity with somber clarity as Tamko's assured voice glows deeply and brightly like a new bulb.

The music Jaime Fennelly makes under the name Mind Over Mirrors creates a sense of everlasting wonder, driven by synthesizers and the Indian pedal harmonium. He finds the center of tones and timbres, then stretches them beyond their origins.

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

In music, we can escape the cruelties of the world or face them. There's no wrong way about it, but recently the members of Drive-By Truckers, a band that's long toed the line between a good time and a hard look at life, found they could no longer work purely in metaphor.

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

After much criticism around last year's round of '70s rockers and no women, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame announced its nominees for the class of 2017 this morning, which include first-time nominees Tupac Shakur, Pearl Jam, Bad Brains, Joan Baez and Depeche Mode.

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

What does a new album from The Rolling Stones sound like in 2016? If "Just A Fool" is any indication, it's a lot like the band's earliest recordings from more than 50 years ago. This cover of a Buddy Johnson and His Orchestra tune is the kind of harmonica-honked, barroom piano-plonked, dirty blues that introduced the world to the Stones, when the British band made a name for itself by interpreting American blues songs.

You will know her by the golden fishes she wears in her ears. You know will know him by the elephant ring on his finger. Both are covered in blood, attached by a length of string that's only to be broken by one last dance. In a new video, Khruangbin's soulful, breezy "Two Fish And An Elephant" becomes a wordless short film inspired by the likes of Quentin Tarantino and Hayao Miyazaki.

Brownout Presents Brown Sabbath was one of the coolest records to come out in 2014, with Ozzy-era Black Sabbath songs recast as heavy Latin-funk jams. But it's not just some joke made after a night of tequila, Master of Reality and Ray Barretto.

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