Lars Gotrich

The world is going to hell, and Tim Kasher is doing everything he can not to be swallowed up by the chaos.

High On Fire helped usher heavy metal into the 21st century. When the band began in 1998, the scene was adrift in all things "nu," which undeniably left its mark on young listeners, introducing them to more extreme sounds. But those who carried the torch for metal — the kind handed down from Black Sabbath and Motörhead — kept the sound alive and thriving, even if only the dedicated few listened.

Somewhere between dusk and nightfall, there's a point when the sky's deep reds and luminous notes of peach bleed into deep blues and silhouetted skylines. It's a somber, meditative medley of color, when the reflection of day turns dim; that's where the new record by Patrick McDermott, who records instrumental guitar music as North Americans, rests.

Nathan Bowles' clawhammer banjo music has always lived in three planes of existence: Rooted in the past, with a foothold in the present and an eye on the future. But as much as we think about folk music speaking across time — its seeking melodies and lyrics ever-resonant — Bowles wants to pluck sound from space itself.

There's a dancing bear slapped on the back of a station wagon cranking out a copy of Europe '72 — it's no deep dive from one of Dick's Picks, but it's a solid collection of live sets, with Grateful Dead at the top of its game. You exchange eyes with the driver, acknowledge the good-times jams, and counter with a '77 date. Soon enough, you're holding up traffic, but the songs keep on truckin'.

The Tree of Forgiveness, his first album of originals in 13 years, is not just classic John Prine. When so much of humanity seems closed off, Prine knows when to be a little goofy, too.

Roy Montgomery's music is like swimming through phantoms, each entity a haunting, illuminating new spectral phase. It was Montgomery's guitar work and deep, warbling vocals that have disoriented far-out New Zealand rock bands like The Pin Group, Dadamah and Dissolve, along with his solo material, since the 1980s. But Montgomery has always been self-effacing about his own voice: "It's lazy," he told Perfect Sound Forever in 2003.

The 7-inch sat in my college dorm room, unplayed but displayed — a bright pink foldover cover with red lettering and a crude drawing of two dashing men. There wasn't a way to hear the songs outside of a turntable (at the time, still sitting in my parents' living room), no digital copy available. When you mail-ordered a record, you listened to the record, not the MP3s from a download card.

When Beezewax first formed in 1995, its early records recalled the muscular yet melodic riffage of Hüsker Dü and Buffalo Tom — fuzzy guitar chords, fuzzier emotions, hearts on sleeve. What set the band apart, especially on 1998's South of Boredom, was a sweetness possibly gleaned from its Norwegian indie-pop locale.

A great power-pop song has one foot in happy-go-lucky hooks and another stomping a triumphant riff. That's a space occupied by The Toms' pop ballast, Shoes' handsome two-day scruff and Buzzcocks' sunniest kiss-offs. Spend just two minutes with Saturday Night's "Curse or Blessing," and it's immediately clear these 20-somethings live in power-pop's in-between, where the sugar is just as important as the grit.

It's in the name: returning a place to its proper condition. It's in the logo: a house tipped on an angle, in need of repair. Restorations, now 10 years running, is named for more than just architectural stability. It's emotional renewal for the members themselves and for anyone listening. The band's self-reflective, true colors are just as loud and bold as the layers of guitars galloping through each song.

Material Girls' glam-soaked, goth-smeared rock and roll struts and stumbles like a fish-netted pair of legs breaking in new heels. The punk ensemble from Atlanta released a promising EP last year via Henry Owings' venerable Chunklet label housing four songs dripping in danger and sweat, like a whiskey-swigging Nick Cave partying with Captain Beefheart.

Sometimes your dreams are bigger than originally imagined. After a successful crowdfunding effort, Cumulus was one day from pressing its debut album in 2013 when the band got an email from Death Cab For Cutie's Chris Walla. Walla not only wanted to work with the Seattle band, but also sign it to his label Trans- Records (also home to Now, Now).

There's more to quiet music than diminutive volume. It's an intent laid bare in arrangement and emotion with space for sound and feeling to grow outward to the listener. For the last five years or so, Katie Bennett has quickly — and quietly, of course — become one of indie pop's most thoughtful songwriters as Free Cake For Every Creature.

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