Lars Gotrich

Look: Big, dumb riffs are harder than you think. Palm-muted chugs and sidewinder pull-offs can rate on a scale of Honda Accord (safe, reliable, standard) to El Camino (muscular, mean, wild) depending on the driver who's stomping on the sonic gas pedal. Hair Puller was founded on this premise, and its 101 MPH sludge will pulverize your headbanging skull.

How can you remake a film like Suspiria? Dario Argento's 1977 surrealist horror truly has no peer — its weirdness is alluring, a fever dream of vibrant color and supernatural violence.

The staccato piano hits like concentrated bursts of firework, ambient tones stretching out the drama with dialogue: "There are moments in a rock star's life that define who he is. Where there is darkness, there is no you." Yup, it's a trailer for music biopic, all right, but cut with scenes of surreal fantasy. Enter: Rocketman.

Fay Milton and Ayse Hassan from Savages have a new band, except it's not a band, it's playground for all of their punk friends to rage.

Black Tambourine, Velocity Girl, Lilys, Lorelei, Stereolab — these are just a few of the artists who released 7-inch singles on Slumberland Records in the late '80s and early '90s. That's a helluva run for any label, but also remarkably prescient, considering the simultaneously softer and stranger indie pop that would follow.

It's not like Brody Dalle hasn't put her gritty-pretty voice to snarling use, but it's been almost a decade since her band Spinnerette's last release, and four since Diploid Love, her underrated solo effort. But now The Distillers, the L.A. punk band that gave Dalle's velvet scowl a platform to howl, is back onstage and making good on new material, after officially breaking up in 2006.

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

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.

Tokyo, Japan is Kikagaku Moyo's home, but the wandering band looks to the world to make its psychedelic music. Rumbling hard-edged rock and acid folk are dipped into motorik rhythms and sitar drone, developed through the band's five-year discography and extensive tours in America and Europe.

Its fourth album, Masana Temples, took the band to Lisbon to work with jazz musician and producer Bruno Pernadas, where Kikagaku Moyo truly encompasses a state of psychedelia rather than any one trip. You can hear that in the genre-skipping joy that is "Dripping Sun."

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


For more than a decade, Thou has taken existential rage and slow-moving sludge and wedded them to elegant melodies and Bryan Funck's serpentine scream. That mix, however ruthless in its display, has met with rapt response, as the Baton Rouge metal band evolves its heavy doom in steps rather than leaps.

You have not one, but several shades of black lipstick to match the varying shades of your dark void existence. You always rock Siouxsie Sioux eyeliner, even if it's just imprinted on your soul while you're staring listlessly in class or slogging away at a 9-to-5. You've had a comic-book crush on Dream from Sandman or "Hopey" from Love and Rockets for, like, ever.

For the past seven years, the Yokohama, Japan-based producer Takahide Higuchi (who goes by the name 食品まつり aka Foodman) has dug into the quick-cut textures of footwork, making the Chicago-born style of electronic music his own. But then, Foodman began picking apart his digital feasts.

Kindness should be fundamental to our being. But it's increasingly a battlefield, as respect for who you are and who you want to be is riddled with political landmines, trolls both online and in the streets and people who judge your worth based on gender and race alone. The Chicago-based artist, poet and activist Tasha wants you to be kind to yourself and others, and makes music in kind that feels like a quietly stoic challenger to a beastly world.

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