Lars Gotrich

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.

According to Carly Rae Jepsen's new video for "Cut To The Feeling," Carly Rae Jepsen is really good at making coffee, because Carly Rae Jepsen is the queen of everything.

Snail Mail's sleepy songs have a way of waking you up. They rumble at a steady pace like a scrappy rock band playing to a small room, but then Lindsey Jordan, who just graduated from high school this past spring, drops a line like, "So if you look death right in the face, don't thank him / Because there's nothing and there won't ever be." You can feel the room nod in solidarity, and you could feel the NPR Music office do the same when Snail Mail performed "Slug."

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 Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.


Michael McDonald still plays county fairs and casinos. That's no knock — just honest work for a singer 40-some years into a storied career.

Gun Outfit has, finally, figured out a way to describe the cactus-chewing, smoke-signaled rock music that it perpetually rolls towards sundown: "Western expanse music." Henry Barnes (of Amps For Christ, Man Is The Bastard) coined the phrase while on a recent European tour with the band, boiling down the out-of-time essence of Gun Outfit to a cowboy poetry swirled in honky-tonk postmodernism.

Y'all made roséwave a thing — those of you who got the vibe ran with its slightly boozy, altogether summer-pop chill. NPR's Sam Sanders shouted out the lifestyle in his It's Been A Minute podcast, which, if you haven't been listening... what is your life? Someone made a blushwave spin-off.

Robert Plant has no wasted no time in his 60s, releasing Raising Sand, Band Of Joy and lullaby and... The Ceaseless Roar all in the span of a decade. Carry Fire will be out next month, and has already proven to be a fruitful mix of blues-licked rock 'n' roll and rhythms churned from all over the world, heard in "The May Queen."

Godspeed You! Black Emperor makes wordless music that nevertheless shouts like a street-corner prophet. We use images — politically-charged ones, in particular — to describe GY!BE because its bleak drones, string-sawed dirges and guitar noise convey long-gestating dread, apocalyptic nightmares and a rare light of hope between the cracks.

We map our meaning onto GY!BE because, for the past two decades and counting, the Montreal-based collective has reflected and refracted dire circumstances in music that is at once beautiful and confrontational. For that, we call GY!BE political.

If the producer and DJ Matthew Dear soundtracked our comedown earlier this summer with the goth-pop jewel "Modafinil Blues," he now returns to make sense of the season's revelry.

Its name alone suggests an explosive whizzbang of cotton candy pop — Pinkshinyultrablast makes shoegaze that yanks tufts of sound every which way in some kind of cinematically sped-up slow-mo. It's irrepressibly cool music — last year's Grandfeathered was a personal favorite, a sonic treasure hunt on every listen.

LCD Soundsystem's new disco-boogie song is about songs inspired, he tells Zane Lowe's Beats 1 radio show, by the hit singles James Murphy kept hearing in taxis set upon the same theme, that "we only have tonight."

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