KNBA - KBC

Marissa Lorusso

There's a lot of heart in every project Maryn Jones touches. Her lyrics – which evince struggles with self-doubt and depression, and a penchant for self-reliance – are graceful and introspective. And her voice is powerfully expressive, whether combined with the muscular, fuzzy guitars of All Dogs – the indie punk band she fronts — or providing delicate harmonies for Saintseneca, the folk-rock group of which she's a member.

As Soccer Mommy, Sophie Allison makes sweet bedroom-pop songs built from deep introspection. Allison, a Nashville native and current NYU student, tends to write straight into the heart of the confusing space between adolescence and adulthood. As a result, Soccer Mommy's songs are deeply affecting snapshots of being young in a looming city and trying to find your footing.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released.

Palm does not write music for passive listening. Out of jagged edges and complex, interlocking pieces, the Philadelphia quartet makes off-kilter art rock that demands — and rewards — your full attention. Guitarists and singers Eve Alpert and Kasra Kurt write deeply intertwined melodies that seem to bounce off each other with razor-sharp precision; Gerasimos Livitanos' twitchy, punctuated bass lines mesh with Hugo Stanley's hectic, forceful drumming. The overall effect of cohesion is transfixing.

I am usually one to avoid bands with jokey names, but Cende snuck in with pretty, emo-tinged power pop before I could roll my eyes.

Three years ago, singer and guitarist Jenna Moynihan saw the words "Daddy Issues" written on the wall at a Nashville DIY venue and assumed — with what seems like utterly charming feminist optimism — that it was the name of an all-girl punk group. Sadly, it wasn't; fortunately, Moynihan chose to recruit some friends to take up the moniker themselves. The resulting trio — which also includes drummer Emily Maxwell and bassist Jenna Mitchell — makes stormy, grungey pop that can be charming and trenchant in equal measure.

There's bound to be a disconnect between our ideals and how well we live up to them, between our optimal self and our reality. This is especially true when our goals require us to sacrifice comfort for progress, or to politicize our personal choices.

The lyrics to "Just A Gwen," from Atlanta pop band Art School Jocks, may ring familiar to women. As guitarist Dianna Settles sings, over slinky, surf-y guitars and a dead-steady beat:

Carry your keys
Between your knuckles
You never know who's trying to follow you home
Smile back and
Say you're sorry
You shouldn't be out this late alone

Energetic and earnest, sweet and punchy — self-described "slop-pop" duo Diet Cig is nothing if not endearing. In "Tummy Ache," the first single from the band's upcoming debut Swear I'm Good At This, singer and guitarist Alex Luciano wields this undeniable charm while singing about the challenges of carving out her own space in a notoriously bro-heavy scene.

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