KTEP - El Paso, Texas

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?

If you stare into darkness long enough, your eyes adjust to the hidden corners, and begin to understand that whatever lurks was always there... waiting. Azar Swan's first two albums roamed in these corners of industrial-pop, inspired by Coil and Front Line Assembly, hypnotic in bleak and cutting electronics co-produced by Joshua Strawn and Zohra Atash, whose breathy-but-forceful vocals center the duo's music.

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.

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.

Loving pop music means loving all pop music, or at least our ambiguous modern definition of it. For every "Teenage Dream" there's a "Call Your Girlfriend," for every "Safety Dance," there's a "Cloudbusting" – it's all in the same breath, both exploding and refining sugar in a space that is made for everyone, even if we don't always agree on its refinement.

Ex-squeeze me? A-baking powder? Brian Eno and My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields have collaborated on a new track together (for Adult Swim's Singles Program)? It's nine minutes rising seismic euphoria, blasted through the center of a black sun, its horizon bent beyond all logic? Am I alive? Am I dreaming? Don't wake me up.

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.

Advisory: The above video and below language almost certainly contains content that some may find offensive.

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.

In April, a long list of musicians, comedians and visual artists were announced for 7-inches For Planned Parenthood, featuring new and rare tracks from the likes of St. Vincent, Feist, Björk, Bon Iver and Helado Negro. The box set is a response to "lawmakers with extreme views [who] are working hard to shut down Planned Parenthood," according to the creators of the project.

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

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

Karin Dreijer likes to play; the pitch-shifted vocals found on Fever Ray's self-titled 2009 debut forced questions of authorship, voice and beauty through ritualistic electro-pop.

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.

Welcome to fall, where everything is pumpkin spice, scarves are a necessary fashion accessory and, oh, all of your favorite artists who didn't release albums in the spring suddenly make a mad dash for your ears.

We're here to help — not with the pumpkin spice, that's definitely on your own terms — but with the brand-new albums that we, the NPR Music staff, are listening to this weekend.

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.

Whether fronting the blazing punk band Vexx or the synth-pop duo CC Dust, Mary Jane Dunphe inhabits her projects with a knurly otherworldliness — her voice contorts and screams like an alien sent to reset the planet with rock 'n' roll. Bedridden by an ankle injury in the winter of 2016, she teamed up with friend Chris McDonnell (Trans FX) to write a batch of country-rock songs that buck like an old pickup.

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