Lars Gotrich

Sarah Louise must have a sick sense of humor, or just perfectly inappropriate timing: The second day of spring has been welcomed with heavy snow on the East Coast, and I am grumpy about it. But dangit, her new song helping keep the soul toasty.

Aisha Burns' heart was like a glass emptying and filling itself. Her mother had died, but she had also found love in a new relationship, all at once. The conflicting emotions would be enough for any heart to spill over with grief and joy, but Burns channeled it all into her new project.

Stella Donnelly has only one EP to her name, but that's been enough to make her sharp wit come through in sweet, quiet songs that rage loudly. The Australian singer-songwriter's Thrush Metal EP was recently reissued in the U.S. with a bonus track, "Talking," which she performs here surrounded by video of wires, a weaving machine and woolen yarns.

As Cornelius, Keigo Oyamada has stretched his vision across frenzied indie rock, lush '60s-style pop, psychedelic funk and glitched electronics, all deconstructed and reassembled like a neon cubist-pop sculpture. After a little more than two decades, no one can really imitate his complex cool.

The members of Wax Chattels introduce "In My Mouth" as "our homage to Auckland's best dive bar." If that's the case, this dive bar has been shattered, battered and fried into a post-punk surrender. No survivors, just a fluorescent strip dangling from the ceiling, flickering the remnants of a crazed brawl.

We toil with what's ahead, but know what's possible, what's futile and how it can distort — even control — our everyday. It is exhausting and forgets those who just need need to be in the present.

Over grainy and gray background, alternating a bubbly purple font with artistic block-letter script, a friend shared a hyper-specific meme on his Instagram stories recently: "I have no idea what Grouper is saying, but she makes me cry." I chuckled as I idly swiped by, but only because it's so damn true: Grouper's Liz Harris could murmur a play-by-play for a curling match over whispered guitar and leave me devastated.

Hawthonn's mystic drones seem to come from an ancient astral plane. Formed in 2014, the experimental duo from Leeds explores the metaphysical — dreams and ghosts — through music that seems to both wander through and embody the foggy English countryside.

Brooklyn's Wharf Cat Records doesn't keep to any one sound — from Gothic post-punk to country-rock and noisy electronics to hazy psych-rock — but hangs on dearly to a p

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.

Drowse is not only apt for the hazy ambience that Kyle Bates makes with creative partner Maya Stoner, but the medicated state from which it was inspired. Following a mental breakdown, Bates was originally prescribed antipsychotic drugs, and several unmedicated years later, his anxiety returned in heavy doses. His relief came in the namesake of this song, he tells NPR:

Bambara's post-punk has always had a sleek sort of menace to it, a taut rhythm section wrapped in psychedelic noise. It's mesmerizing to listen to, and seeing the band live is an experience wrought from sharp curves and frontman Reid Bateh's rapturous baritone.

The year is 3089. The world looks something like that scene from Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure where society meditates on the most outstanding music of a singular artist. But instead of smoove Van Halen licks, it's The Body, the extreme doom-metal duo who, by this point, have downloaded their brains into cyborgs.

You can hear the hum of the speaker, buzzing from a quiet bass line. You move closer to the riff; it beckons with mysterious portent like a smoking cauldron... and then the pot spills, the riff wobbling in distorted frequencies, a heavy hand on the organ and a voice singing a spooky fairytale. It's too late, you've met the "Three Sisters."

Romance isn't dead, it's just damn hard. We navigate gestures both small and grand like tributaries suddenly rushing into whitewater, and hope to hell that we come out the other side.

Angelina Torreano, the singer and guitarist for the Brooklyn-based Citris, had a particularly intense experience with one of the most old-fashioned romantic moves: a dude wrote her love poetry. And when the intensity wasn't reciprocated, things got weird, she writes an essay published with the song.

Giving Up sounds like a demolition derby crashed by a stolen school bus, a giddy smash of screw-eyed indie-pop and junk punk. Based out of Garner, Iowa, with members now spread out across the Midwest, Giving Up has been at this mix for over a decade now. Where its previous records touted lo-fi production and a wild abandon towards songwriting, Garner Cardinals gives the formula a bit of spit-polish, not only injecting some studio dynamics but also focusing the manic-pop into tuneful blasts.

Charles Baudelaire's "L'invitation au voyage" was originally published in Les Fleurs du mal in 1857, a book accused of being une outrage aux bonnes mœurs (roughly, "an insult to good manners" or "morality"). The poem is laden with a sensuousness that speaks beyond our temporal concerns, imagining love as a destination outside this world, perhaps an infinite one. And yeah, it's pretty hot.

Instrumental music speaks. Like a look from a lover or the clench of a fist, there is sometimes more (e)motion in the flick of a riff or the hum of an organ than words can supply. The Texas-based trio Khruangbin got its start digging on '60s and '70s Thai funk, gospel, R&B, surf, psychedelic rock and dub, creating chill instrumentals seemingly tailor-made for groove-seeking beatmakers and blissful dancers at outdoor festivals.

What would you say to your younger self? It'd probably be vaguely encouraging — "It gets better" and "don't stop being weird" — or something practical: "Avoid getting bangs at 16." Laura Naukkarinen, who makes beautiful and wandering folk music as Lau Nau, sings a gentle and poetic peace to "Elina."

Hot Snakes is a rock 'n' roll band. Just the name alone — Hot Snakes — sounds like a weathered 45 from the Nuggets proto-punk era, when no one really knew what they were doing. When John Reis started Hot Snakes with Drive Like Jehu bandmate Rick Froberg in the early 2000s, that felt like the M.O.: plug in and play as loud as possible. In 2005, they broke up.

I have a soft spot for Yo La Tengo's curiosities, like the cloudy bossa nova shimmy of "How To Make A Baby Elephant Float" or the spelunking drones and gurgling rock improvisations heard on The Sounds Of The Sounds Of Science, which soundtracked a series of underwater documentaries.

Anna von Hausswolff's voice has truly begun to equal her instrument. Like the pipe organ she commands at harrowing volumes and in disquiet drones, her howls rattle and shake with a sublime elasticity on "The Mysterious Vanishing Of Electra," the first single from Dead Magic.

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