Genocide Pact: Order of Torment

Washington D.C. has had a storied impact on heavy music in this country, from the hardcore that emerged from the city itself to the doom metal from its outlying regions in Maryland and Virginia. You have to wonder why there aren’t more death metal bands from the area, too—if evil and corruption are your trades,…

Various Artists: Black Panther The Album

The film Black Panther is not the first black blockbuster, or even the first black superhero movie, but there has never been a movie on this scale directed by, written by, acted by, and designed by black talent. In the wake of campaigns to diversify cinema and disrupt the Hollywood hegemony by hiring more people…

Audio Push: Cloud 909

For the Southern California rap duo Audio Push, adaptability has been a double-edged sword. Oktane and Price Tag have been in the industry for nearly a decade, long enough for the “Tag” in Price’s name to have slowly faded into nothingness. Though they’ve been signed and released by Interscope twice since 2009, and have released…

OutKast: Stankonia

They always had chips on their shoulders, a grievance born of their distinctive authorship mixed with the civic pride of scrappy underdogs. They were André “3000” Benjamin and Antwan “Big Boi” Patton, but they went by an increasing array of colorful names—like Possum Aloysius Jenkins and Daddy Fat Stacks—which seemed to exist only to expand…

Harm’s Way: Posthuman

The philosophy of Harm’s Way is the best offense is as much offense as possible. The Chicago band began as a hardcore group with some powerviolence thrown in, but soon juiced it all up with beefcake breakdowns and got ready to brawl. Isolation in 2011 and Blinded in 2013 injected that hardcore with Swedish death…

Susanna: Go Dig My Grave

If one were to put together a list of songs that most discerning music lovers would never want to hear covered again, Leonard Cohen’s endlessly battered “Hallelujah” and Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” would surely contend for the top spots. It is almost impressive, then, that in 2006 Norwegian vocalist Susanna Wallumrød had…

Dashboard Confessional: Crooked Shadows

Chris Carrabba’s lyrics loom over today’s pop like a baffling relic of teendom. Taylor Swift, Paramore’s Hayley Williams, and Kacey Musgraves can sing some of these pained words by heart, but so can scrappy emo revivalists and maudlin rap-rockers. If you’ve been a teenager at any point in the 21st century, then perhaps you can…

Palm: Rock Island

Listening to the first 30 seconds of Rock Island, it might surprise you that Palm never really learned to play their instruments in the classical sense. Singer-guitarists Kasra Kurt and Eve Alpert, bass player Gerasimos Livitsanos, and drummer Hugo Stanley were all more or less amateurs when they converged at New York’s Bard College circa…

MGMT: Little Dark Age

This could have been MGMT’s last chance. The narrative around the duo is well known by now: College buddies stumble into a few fluke hits, capturing a generational mix of youthful exuberance and modern ennui. Then they rocket to stardom, only to spend the next two albums kicking against everything that fans, critics, and their…

Franz Ferdinand: Always Ascending

Given their avuncular status in British rock, it’s easy to forget that Franz Ferdinand swept into the previous decade as indie-rock insurgents. Driving their self-titled 2004 debut was a desire to “make records that girls can dance to,” a superficial pronouncement with subtext: Here was a band to reject British indie’s boys-club culture, slyly mock…

Dream Wife: Dream Wife

The London-based rock band Dream Wife didn’t mean to be taken seriously when they formed. In 2014, guitarist Alice Go, bassist Bella Podpadec, and Iceland-born vocalist Rakel Mjöll started the group as an art project while studying at Brighton University; it was only later that what began with a This Is Spinal Tap-esque documentary evolved…

The Soft Moon: Criminal

Over the course of the four albums he’s made as the Soft Moon, Luis Vasquez has slowly risen from a mire of his own making. His 2010 self-titled debut barely let his voice creep into the mix, focusing instead on pummeling post-punk rhythms, austere guitar riffs, and a bleak haze of distortion. The vocals were…

Christoph De Babalon: If You’re Into It, I’m Out of It

The timing couldn’t be better to reissue Christoph De Babalon’s brooding, groundbreaking album If You’re Into It, I’m Out of It. Ambient music is enjoying a widespread boom, dark drum ‘n’ bass has come back into vogue, and De Babalon’s record remains one of the few to successfully combine both styles. More than that, the…

Rich Brian: Amen

Brian Imanuel learned to be an entertainer online. Of Chinese descent but raised in Jakarta, Indonesia, Imanuel joined Twitter at 11 and started posting oddball, almost absurdist Vines that verged on black comedy. He learned English scanning random videos on YouTube and broadened his vocabulary watching Judd Apatow movies. He was intrigued by rap after…

Kilchhofer: The Book Room

To listen to Benjamin Kilchhofer’s music is to enter into an unfamiliar universe. Working with modular synthesizers, percussion, and the occasional field recording, the Swiss musician creates rippling, finely detailed soundscapes with one foot in the natural world. Repetitive but always morphing, never playing a given loop the same way twice, and interwoven with real…

Hookworms: Microshift

Feedback and distortion are the training wheels of indie rock—obfuscating agents that provide nervous upstarts with a sense of confidence as they face the public, secure in the knowledge that no one’s really going to be able to decipher what the hell they’re singing about. On their first two albums, Leeds quintet Hookworms rode those…

Kyle Craft: Full Circle Nightmare

Kyle Craft, it would seem, is someone to whom lyrics matter a great deal. “I hate the idea of conforming to shitty lyricism that happens nowadays,” the 29-year-old, Portland-based songwriter said in a recent interview. “It’s not everyone, but there is definitely a lower bar for what is considered good lyricism now.” Citing Bob Dylan…

La Monte Young: The Well-Tuned Piano

The story of La Monte Young’s solo piano composition “The Well-Tuned Piano” feels infinite. Though he hasn’t performed this massive piece in many years and he has never considered it finished, it is possible to quantify some moments on its timeline. After Young conceived “The Well-Tuned Piano” in 1964, a decade passed before he performed…

Anna Burch: Quit the Curse

The indie-pop musician Anna Burch was born for the spotlight; it just took several attempts to get there. After singing in the folk-rock band Frontier Ruckus, co-fronting the indie-rock act Failed Flowers, and joining other Michigan projects in her spare time, the Detroit singer-songwriter makes her solo debut with Quit the Curse, a record of…

Mammoth Grinder: Cosmic Crypt

Best known as the drummer and sometime guitarist in Dallas thrash band Power Trip, Austin’s Chris Ulsh has spent the last decade or so exploring variations on a simple truth: metal and punk are forces that work best in league with each other. He is efficient, deadly, and never starving for riffs, whether working with…

Steve Reich: Pulse/Quartet

During the last two years, each of the United States’ four masters of musical minimalism—Terry Riley, La Monte Young, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass—turned 80. They are all still composing, performing, and proselytizing for their own aesthetic visions. Their bodies of work are reminders that the “scenes” shaped by critics or mere circumstances are rarely…

Burna Boy: Outside

Burna Boy was supposed to get the coveted crossover cosign from Drake. The two had first linked up in London, where the rapper reportedly shared his vision for a “playlist” collecting sounds from around the world. The Afropop-dancehall hybridist ended up submitting five tracks for the project. Ultimately, though, only one, a song titled “More…

Justin Timberlake: Man of the Woods

It’s remarkable how few ideas are contained within this hour-plus Blue Ridge Mountains mood board of an album. Man of the Woods is a misstep large enough to merit relitigating Justin Timberlake’s status as a pop superstar. How much of his career should we chalk up to fortune, privilege, and an essential malleability? Is working…

Stick in the Wheel: Follow Them True

London’s Stick in the Wheel live up to their name: For the past few years they’ve been jabbing at the spokes of the English folk scene in their attempt to upend the system. With their 2015 full-length debut, From Here, they conceived of English folk music as something rooted in the past but not in…

Khruangbin: Con Todo El Mundo

Khruangbin craft atmosphere music that never fades into the background, like some endless curl of smoke that keeps pluming upward. Sprinkled with snippets of spoken word, faint vocal melodies, and ranging and impeccably performed guitar solos, the whole of their second record, Con Todo El Mundo is, in effect, a long and pleasant head nod…