Lars Gotrich

Gloom can be thrilling. No, really. Rev up a morose guitar riff swirled in reverb with a mean rhythm section, and suddenly a dank basement show throbs. That's where Cleveland's Pleasure Leftists thrive, with former members of the hardcore bands 9 Shocks Terror and Homostupids joined by vocalist Haley Morris.

After a series of singles and EPs, "Protection" comes from the post-punk band's debut album, The Woods Of Heaven. It's a moody, relentlessly driving track with some glammy, palm-muted flair, spun out of orbit by a warbly bass line and vocals that wail sky-high.

Look at the liner notes to any record by The Go-Betweens, and every song is co-credited "R. Forster/G. McLennan." Perhaps it was out of mutual respect, perhaps it was out of creative solidarity, but as with "Lennon/McCartney," fans of the Australian rock band could always tell who wrote what song; Grant McLennan and Robert Forster's distinct songwriting, vocal and guitar personalities were always on full display.

Sometimes rock 'n' roll can be a load of bull, gamed by release schedules, promotion cycles and Twitter beefs that turn as tepid as a beer left swimming in a swampy cooler all night. Featuring two guys who've been through the grind — Zak Sally played bass with Low in the '90s and Dale Flattum was in Steel Pole Bath Tub — and Gay Witch Abortion drummer Shawn Walker, The Hand has decided to cut through it all: no records, no tours, no studios, just dirty, full-throttle rock 'n' roll how they want it, when they want it.

A serene figure is suspended in what seems like nothingness, and evaporates into a dream world that creeps far too close to reality. The black space looks worn and decayed, as if clawed by nails.

Cornwall looks like a pointy horn at the bottom of England, with a seaside that juts with geomorphic violence and beauty. Before moving to London, the folk band Red River Dialect called the region home for years. Those Cornish cliffs and raging sea waters are persistent metaphors for loss, freedom and reconciliation on Tender Gold and Gentle Blue, a quiet and desperate record that is always but a squall away from breaking apart.

The Lamborghini Countach was one of the most outrageous supercars ever made. It's an ergonomic nightmare, a pain in the ass to get into, has zero tolerance for pedestrian (hell, vehicular) safety and yet ... it's still so awesome. Those defiantly sharp angles, that ludicrous speed, that rip-roaring engine — that's also not a bad way to describe Brooklyn's STATS.

Myrkur's Amalie Bruun makes black metal that is at once savage and sylvan, capable of harrowing violence one moment and beauty the next. Last year's self-titled EP was full of unharnessed promise, but with members of Mayhem and producer Kristoffer "Garm" Rygg (whose mid-'90s work with Ulver no doubt informs Myrkur), the forthcoming M gives body to the Nordic folk song, choral arrangements and shoegaze that haunt Bruun's music.

There is an unrequited yearning to Red River Dialect's music that's steadfastly pinned to hearts as they run every which way. That feeling is even written into the English band's album title, Tender Gold and Gentle Blue, descriptive colors that are warm and inviting but also vulnerable and given to telling hard truths.

Chapel Hill's MAKE is all about the journey, man. The band thrives on heavy, atmospheric jams, inspired by the likes of Isis, Popul Vuh and Neil Young's Crazy Horse, all of which made MAKE's Scott Endres a perfect match as Horseback's guitarist on 2010's doom-and-gloom choogler Invisible Mountain.

For the sake of argument and reduction, let's say there are three ways to approach the architecture of extreme metal as it mutates and cross-pollinates genres: those who build blocks, those who construct M.C. Escher-like puzzles, and those who throw spaghetti against the wall. All are valid in their deconstructions, none are set in stone, and the resulting innovations eventually become their own signifiers for younger bands. The members of Chicago's Immortal Bird, for their part, are metallic mutant builders who hint at staggering puzzles.

Kashikura Takashi is a hell of a drummer. Fifteen years into the existence of toe, he's often been the focus of the instrumental Japanese post-rock band, and for good reason. Takashi is aerobic and musical all at once, capable of Questlove-level precision and soul one moment, and a cyclone of controlled chaos the next. But the thing that's always set toe apart from its technically minded peers is its ability to tell short, concise stories — ecstatic, noodly, complex pop songs that unfold in less than five minutes.

In the middle of a bunch of stage-dive-provoking hardcore acts at Damaged City Festival in May, one punk band set up in a straight line at the edge of the stage. It wasn't meant to keep the leaping kids at bay, so much as an equalizer that seemed to say, "Take 20 minutes and watch." Nervosas had a commanding presence, but also complex, melodic musicality. It was the kind of performance that sent several people — myself included — running to buy 2013's self-titled debut.

A simple guide to karaoke: Know your room, know your song, don't perform "Total Eclipse Of The Heart" unless you're ready to commit and, most importantly, sing it like you mean it. Or you could just incite a hedonistic karaoke mosh pit.

Let's talk about Frances Quinlan's voice for a moment. In "Horseshoe Crab," she whispers with a rasp that feels small, yet embodies the fears we try not to name; then, she throws her head back to ask, "Who is gonna talk trash long after I'm gone?" That gut-punching howl shatters like a plate on a concrete floor.

The Velvet Teen has always had a flair for the sonically dramatic. In its initial early-2000s run, the NorCal band was the kind of weepy and twinkly rock outfit that might have soundtracked the falling-in-love montage in a teen rom-com, but would also explode into a squall of feedback and Judah Nagler's pouty falsetto.

One of 2014's quiet surprises was Not So Deep As A Well, in which Montreal's Myriam Gendron set Dorothy Parker's poetry to little more than an acoustic guitar and a wry, wistful voice. Just when you think Parker's words have worn away Gendron, the singer twists or repeats a phrase in a way that unexpectedly cuts deeper, or even skews absurd.

False makes bracing black metal that, just when it seems like the band won't release its claws from your throat, suddenly drops you into the void. That's the sensation felt halfway through "Entropy," a 15-minute torrent of terror that knows its Scandinavian forbears — complete with dramatic, Emperor-inspired keyboards — but chugs and spits like punk. It's here that the feral transforms into the graceful, as a piano accents two guitars noodling on a forlorn melody that desperately climbs its way out of the chasm.

In just under three minutes, "Eclipses" will leave you breathless. It's as if the nine years since The Velvet Teen's last album, Cum Laude!, were packed into a single power-pop song that forgoes the formality of a chorus. Barely able to contain his heartbreak, Judah Nagler's verses bleed into one another as he sings "Your voice answers / But you are gone." "Eclipses" is layers of euphoric riffs upon sky-busting synth strings as Casey Dietz's drums expertly thunder and crash around it all.

Like a space opera built for two, The Receiver's "Transit" captures a universe of dreamy prog in keyboards and drums. On their third album, All Burn, brothers Casey and Jesse Cooper set complex, bright melodies and heartbeat-pulsing rhythms adrift. "Transit" sounds like a Pink Floyd ballad sung with a Peter Gabriel-like coo, as synths tug and move the track forward.

It was 95 degrees in unforgiving heat, with teenagers and twentysomethings packed under a festival tent that did little more than cover our heads. Inexplicably, the musicians onstage were dressed in full suits and turtlenecks as they hurled themselves into every beat, the vocalist punctuating every word with tossed carnations and knee-busting drops to the floor.

In Zhuangzi's Qi Wu Lun, the Daoist philosopher writes, "When the wind blows, every sound may be heard therein." Beijing's Chui Wan takes its name from that text — and similarly breathes in every sound to exhale a dazzling collage.

Daniel Bachman calls Durham, N.C., home now, but he grew up around the Rappahannock River in Fredericksburg. It's a quiet town in Northern Virginia that still has a pharmacy with cheap sandwiches and milkshakes; but, as Bachman pointed out to us, it has more tattoo parlors than music stores these days. That's not a judgment, just the way things are.

Rone, 'Acid Reflux'

May 19, 2015

If there's one takeaway from this video for Rone's "Acid Reflux," it's this: Don't eat the psychedelic sushi. (Or eat it, if that's your thing.)

Lucifer, 'Izrael'

May 19, 2015