Lars Gotrich

While independent bands don't quite have the ability to make the earth stand still like Queen Bey — we all fall short of the glory, etc. — one lesson learned from the surprise-album release is how an artist and a fan trust each other. Album announcements, artwork announcements, teasers for single premieres, the actual premiere, a video for the same single, a teaser for the second single — you can understand why some artists who have been at this a while would rather skip the industry cycle and go direct.

Around the turn of the millennium, hardcore had to reckon with its weirdnessand the weirdness of — becoming a viable and commercial force. At The Drive-In played the Late Show with David Letterman, Thursday's "Understanding In A Car Crash" was in regular rotation on MTV2 and The Blood Brothers' absolutely manic ... Burn, Piano Island, Burn was produced, by nü-metal diviner Ross Robinson, for a major label.

It's not Christmas until I hear Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You." Originally released in 1994, it's a gingerbread house of a pop song, built on a gospel music foundation and a throwback to Phil Spector's wall of sound, as a sleigh-bell rhythm and countermelodies rush across the frosted rooftop and Carey lands a thrilling G5 above middle C.

Terry Riley's In C might be considered one of the seminal pieces of minimalism, but at its heart it's an open invitation. The score resides on a single sheet of paper with 53 phrases to be repeated by an indefinite number of musicians.

Sonic Boomerang: Is that, like, Sonic the Hedgehog's new weapon? A new shake from that burger drive-in? Psychedelic punk-rock whipped into the abyss and returned with aerodynamic force?

Haley Fohr meditates on existence with telescopic ears and eyes. In the decade since she began Circuit Des Yeux, Fohr has mapped herself onto a world alone, seeking connection through music that rumbles in tandem with her oaken baritone.

If you stare into darkness long enough, your eyes adjust to the hidden corners, and begin to understand that whatever lurks was always there... waiting. Azar Swan's first two albums roamed in these corners of industrial-pop, inspired by Coil and Front Line Assembly, hypnotic in bleak and cutting electronics co-produced by Joshua Strawn and Zohra Atash, whose breathy-but-forceful vocals center the duo's music.

Pinegrove's Cardinal was a messy and charming debut that felt with exacting detail. There's a sense of restlessness in it, run through the twinkly pangs of emo-twang. Go to any live show, or just watch the band's Tiny Desk Concert, and the crowd's sing-alongs are more than just mouthing to their favorite songs — it's living them.

Marisa Anderson doesn't just play guitar — she sinks into bends and lingers over melodies, knowing when to light a fire under her fingers and when to wind like a creek. In 2013, she caught my ear for the first time with a pair of records — the raw and dusty Mercury, and the functionally-titled Traditional And Public Domain Songs.

"Speedruns" are a weirdly enthralling piece of video game culture, wherein a gamer takes on titles, often older ones like Super Metroid or Sonic The Hedgehog, using every trick in the book to beat their chosen game as fast as possible.

When we last left Godflesh, the mecha-mutants of industrial metal had returned after more than a decade with 2014's devastatingly nasty A World Lit Only By Fire. It was one of those reunion albums that wasn't only better than it should've been, but a reclamation and reinvention for Justin Broadrick and G.C. Green.

Loving pop music means loving all pop music, or at least our ambiguous modern definition of it. For every "Teenage Dream" there's a "Call Your Girlfriend," for every "Safety Dance," there's a "Cloudbusting" – it's all in the same breath, both exploding and refining sugar in a space that is made for everyone, even if we don't always agree on its refinement.

Ex-squeeze me? A-baking powder? Brian Eno and My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields have collaborated on a new track together (for Adult Swim's Singles Program)? It's nine minutes rising seismic euphoria, blasted through the center of a black sun, its horizon bent beyond all logic? Am I alive? Am I dreaming? Don't wake me up.

Anna St. Louis' fingerpicked patterns wander through John Fahey and Elizabeth Cotten fields, her voice soft and warm; tall grass in a long day's sun. Her debut solo release, First Songs, looks to '60s folk, but the L.A.-based singer-songwriter comes from Kansas City punk and the Philly art scene. Both her background and shifting locales are reminder that what we often call familiar — especially in regards to musical style — is almost always a collection of experiences. There's rarely a singular moment informing it all.

Advisory: The above video and below language almost certainly contains content that some may find offensive.

Red Death is a thrash band raised on hardcore — its metallic riffs not only smash a crusty d-beat but also shout a punk ethos.

In April, a long list of musicians, comedians and visual artists were announced for 7-inches For Planned Parenthood, featuring new and rare tracks from the likes of St. Vincent, Feist, Björk, Bon Iver and Helado Negro. The box set is a response to "lawmakers with extreme views [who] are working hard to shut down Planned Parenthood," according to the creators of the project.

Christmas carols needn't always be cheery and bright, and there's no shortage of seasonal irreverence and sadness.

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