Lil Xan: Total Xanarchy

In the annals of the Least Hip-Hop Shit Ever Documented, the headline “Lil Xan Flees Angry Tupac Fans… Cop Keeps Him Safe” is up there. If you didn’t know Xan from “Betrayed,” a red-eyed anthem for breaking up with benzos that last year cracked the Hot 100, your introduction to the 21-year-old may well have…

Cardi B: Invasion of Privacy

Cardi B is the new American Dream. Her rags-to-riches story is a product of living life out in the open, the answer to the question of how to be famous in the modern age. The Bronx-born MC parlayed a stripping residency into a social media empire before landing on reality TV, where she soaked up…

Makeness: Loud Patterns

Makeness is the name of a hilly ridge located south of Edinburgh, near the stone-barn studio where Kyle Molleson records his music. Certainly, the fact that the studio belongs to his father makes it an attractive (and presumably cost-effective) destination, but then Molleson is naturally at home in isolated spaces. Though he’s now based in…

Unknown Mortal Orchestra: Sex & Food

When he founded Unknown Mortal Orchestra in 2010, Ruban Nielson declared his intention to “hatch a new musical dimension,” using the language of psychedelia as a cover for old-fashioned solipsism. UMO’s insomniac psych-rock has an escapist quality, but it is the inward escape of burrowing so deeply into solitude that one’s own misery becomes abstract….

Goat Girl

June 24, 2016—the day Britain voted to leave the European Union—was a dreadful one. And yet something hopeful happened that day: Four teens who called themselves Goat Girl inked a deal with Rough Trade. Two years later, following a round of premature hype as one of the UK’s most promising bands, they’ve released their debut…

Johnny Cash: American Recordings

When people ask where my grandpa is from, he doesn’t name a town. He says he was born “across the river from Johnny Cash.” There’s only one story my grandpa ever tells about his childhood. It’s 1955, in Arkansas, and he’s standing on his motorcycle, prying a bathroom window off the wall with a pocket…

Paul de Jong: You Fucken Sucker

As one half of the the Books, Paul de Jong was responsible for some of the early aughts’ coziest, stoniest reveries. On albums like Thought for Food and The Lemon of Pink, the folktronica duo attracted a cult following with warm audio collages that stitched together left-field hip-hop, melancholic minimalism, spoken word, and emo’s self-seriousness…

Tink: Pain & Pleasure EP

Two years ago, Tink opened the fourth edition of her flagship Winter’s Diary mixtape series with a sketch in which a fictional therapist discussed her case: “Client seems very disturbed, extremely emotional at times/Seems to be a lot of pressure/A lot of pressure on her shoulders.” It had only been a year at that point…

Zeke: Hellbender

Seattle’s Zeke have long operated on what you could call the Motörhead Principle: They only play raw, fast, and loud. Subtlety is something they steamrolled over a long time ago, and far from limiting them, it’s made them one of America’s great underappreciated rock acts. While they tore through the ’90s in a way that…

Hop Along: Bark Your Head Off, Dog

If you listen to Frances Quinlan sing long enough, you will attempt to describe her voice. This is a trap, and you should not do this. The frontwoman for Philadelphia indie rock band Hop Along doesn’t have one voice—she might have 10. Listing them would yield no insight, only a deranged sommelier’s tasting notes: cat,…

Wye Oak: The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs

Wye Oak’s 2011 album Civilian was a major inflection point for the band. Supporting the record brought the Baltimore duo of Andy Stack and Jenn Wasner across oceans, onto “The Tonight Show,” and into the arsenal of Hollywood music supervisors. By the end of the year, after wringing every possible variation out of their setlist,…

The Voidz: Virtue

Fifteen years ago, Julian Casablancas opened the Strokes’ feverishly anticipated second album by declaring, “I wanna be forgotten.” At the time, it seemed like an all-too-knowing response to the band’s sudden fame. But everything Casablancas has done since—from the Strokes’ sporadic and scattered follow-up albums to his increasingly outré solo quests—suggests he wasn’t joking. Casablancas…

Empath: Liberating Guilt and Fear

Unlike, say, that famous “Portlandia” sketch, there is nothing twee or saccharine about the birds you’ll hear on Philadelphia noise-rock quartet Empath’s records. Take “No Attachment,” from their new four-song cassette, Liberating Guilt and Fear. It opens with a burst of frenetic hardcore drumming. With blunt ferocity, singer, guitarist, and sometime bassist Catherine Elicson proclaims…

Daphne & Celeste: Daphne & Celeste Save The World

In 2015, Daphne & Celeste—the bubblegum-pop duo behind such Y2K-era schoolyard hits as “Ooh Stick You!” and “U.G.L.Y.”—released their first piece of music in more than a decade: an uncharacteristically low-key song called “You & I Alone.” It was a comeback that came completely out of left field. Though technically American in origin, Daphne &…

The Shacks: Haze

It’s not easy to bring back the mood of a bygone era without coming across as a copycat, but that doesn’t stop new artists from trying. Take the Shacks, a trio of early-20s New Yorkers (singer-bassist Shannon Wise, guitarist-producer Max Shrager, and drummer Ben Borchers) who use British blues and rock bands of the 1960s…

Lindi Ortega: Liberty

Liberty could be a person. Or maybe it’s a place, or a horse. Whoever or whatever the name signifies, it’s the animating concept behind Canadian country singer Lindi Ortega’s seventh full-length—a narrative record that spins a wild yarn, not unlike Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger or Kenny Rogers’ Gideon. Ortega follows her unnamed protagonist through…

Various Artists: Uneven Paths: Deviant Pop From Europe 1980-1991

When punk first emerged in the mid 1970s, it promised revolution in the simplicity of three chords and the revelation that you too could start your own band. But as punk’s energy grew increasingly diffuse by the start of the 1980s, other musicians realized that even without three chords—much less a guitar—making music remained a…

Sevdaliza: The Calling EP

ISON, the debut album by the Dutch-Iranian vocalist Sevdaliza, was one of last year’s quiet standouts, in part because almost no one’s doing anything like it. For almost a decade now, artists have flirted with the (unfairly) maligned trip-hop genre, a bit embarrassedly and usually in the guise of something else: FKA twigs filtering breathy…

Czarface and MF DOOM: Czarface Meets Metal Face

Czarface, the hip-hop supergroup consisting of Wu-Tang’s Inspectah Deck and Boston boom-bap revivalists 7L & Esoteric, has never been apologetic when it comes to their nostalgia for the good old days. Drawing from a childhood love of superhero comics, the trio devised the robot ghoul Czarface to serve as their collective avatar. His mission? “[T]o…

Neneh Cherry: Raw Like Sushi

When Neneh Cherry’s brash “Buffalo Stance” crash-landed into pop in late 1988, the landscape had been primed. J.J. Fad’s fast-talking “Supersonic” and Salt-N-Pepa’s winking “Push It” had proven Top 40 radio’s remit, while still hesitant toward rap, was at least able to handle female MCs. Production outfits like the hip-hop/freestyle masterminds Full Force and M/A/R/R/S…

The Cars: Shake It Up / Heartbeat City

An anomic interzone at the nexus of disco and new wave, 1981 needed the Cars more than ever. While the hundreds of Steve Dahls working as programming directors stuck with ugly AOR bands, the Boston quintet had done their part to popularize carousel keyboards, blocky rhythms, and splashes of controlled guitar anarchy, as well as…

Entourage: Ceremony of Dreams: Studio Sessions & Outtakes, 1972-1977

If you’ve ever heard (or even heard of) the Entourage Music and Theatre Ensemble, there’s a strong chance you’ve listened to Four Tet. Nearly two decades ago, the British producer was rifling through stacks of records in a London flea market, digging for samples among the castaways. He happened upon The Neptune Collection, an unknown-to-him…

The Messthetics: The Messthetics

The music of Fugazi presented a series of overlapping conversations—between punk and funk, aggression and experimentation, the personal and the political. And those internal tensions became manifest in the frisson between the band’s two caustic yet complementary voices: the blare of Ian MacKaye and the sneer of Guy Picciotto. But if Mackaye and Piccotto were…

Mary Halvorson: Code Girl

Mary Halvorson’s ambition has followed a clear trajectory. On albums designed as showcases for her own tunes, the experimental guitarist has steadily added additional instrumentalists to her crew, beginning with a power trio, early in her career, and winding up with a group of eight players on 2016’s Away With You. As Halvorson has developed…

Amen Dunes: Freedom

Words have a way of blurring in Amen Dunes’ music. Over the past decade, Damon McMahon has led his psychedelic folk-rock project with an ear for transforming language, stretching and repeating simple phrases past the point of clarity. His voice, distinguished by a ghostly, soulful vibrato, has never been entirely intelligible, and that’s part of…