Abel Tesfaye delivers his jaded lyrics with such tension, and surrounds them with such heartless machinery, that the listener can't help but feel a little trapped in his matrix. It's an uneasy feeling, but also genuinely provocative.
Sarah Jarosz was still in high school when she signed her record deal, and she released her debut album (2009's Song Up In Her Head) shortly thereafter, but the versatile bluegrass star seemed to emerge fully formed. Hear Jarosz perform new songs as part of the 2013 Newport Folk Festival.
For Okkervil River's Will Sheff, it's been impossible to let go of Meriden, N.H., circa 1986. He pays tribute to that place and time in a nostalgia-fueled album that floats warmly in the soft spots separating childhood from adolescence.
The Julie Ruin returns Kathleen Hanna (of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre) to her rightful place leading a noisy bunch of smart pleasure-seekers. Singing about sickness and recovery, dumb nightlife and life-changing community, Hanna helps listeners better understand punk's past and future.
Tremor creates a mash-up of South American traditions and electronic music. Its new album, Proa, offers a fascinating exploration into a "digital folklorico" style that bleeps, echoes, thumps and dances.
If Justin Vernon never releases another record under the name Bon Iver — and he's publicly suggested that that might be the case — more albums like Repave would render the issue largely irrelevant. His second album with Volcano Choir is just that good.
Almost 10 years after "Take Me Out" helped the band break through commercially, win a Mercury Prize and craft a zeitgeist-defining sound — and two years after a rumored breakup — the Glaswegian dance-rock outfit returns with its first new album since 2009.
Case's gift for disarming commentary carries over to the quotable, thoughtful, frequently lovely songs on The Worse Things Get: She can be bracingly acerbic, boldly inspiring, or achingly tender while conveying equal, virtually boundless charisma.
Archy Marshall's voice is astonishing, a deep bellow clawed out of asphalt and street tar and yowled from the bottom of the resulting pit. On his first album as King Krule, he devotes himself to mapping the varieties of growl his open throat can muster.