Lars Gotrich

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 Spotify or Apple Music 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 Bandcamp 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.

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.

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'.

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