KNBA - KBC

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.

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.

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