Lars Gotrich

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.

Radiohead Made A Video For 'Lift' In A Lift

Sep 12, 2017
Sept. 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance

New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, will be forever linked by the grief of the 9/11 attacks of 16 years ago.  Soon, organizers are hoping to connect them with a biking and walking trails, as well as quieter roadways, that cover 1,300 miles. 

On Monday's anniversary, organizers cut the ribbon in Shanksville to open a new 21-mile segment of the trail.

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.

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.

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.

We're (hopefully) far enough removed from "emo revival" trend pieces to let this music grow as it should. That's not a knock against the bands that mine disparate '90s sounds, or others that seek to evolve it, just that the continuum isn't a straight line, but a spiral. Over three albums and a scattering of EPs, Prawn is a sterling example of emo's possibility, even as it continues to outgrow the genre's parameters.

Wailin Storms — the name alone conjures a howlin' hurricane, ominous and awe-inspiring. The Durham, N.C.-based band does a lot to live up to that name, swirling in the gothic post-punk croon of early Samhain and 16 Horsepower's fiery proselytizing. After a couple EPs and a debut album, the first single from Wailin Storms' Sick City indicates an unholy reckoning.

Listening to BIG BRAVE is like standing between a Richard Serra installation: massive and imposing, but curved to let the light shine on the edges. The Montreal trio's third album, Ardor, draws out their experimental and heavy music over three long tracks, including the heaving opener "Sound."

At this point, you're either with Converge or against it. Nearly 25 years after its debut album, the band's cyclonic buzzsaw is unmistakable — this is hardcore-fueled extreme music that simultaneously elevates and destroys; pity to those who don't experience an epiphany in the pit.

Pardoner can't stop saving us from 'blah' punk. That's what Uncontrollable Salvation means, right? Or maybe Pardoner's some kind of Judge Dredd, a combination of judge, jury and savior whenever a perp is making lame punk crossed with '90s alt-rock.

True to its name, Wolves In The Throne Room has always painted between the lines of barbaric and regal. For over a decade it has been this between-space that has driven WITTR's power; burning black-metal riffs communing with mystical folk and ambient music.

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