Lindsay Totty

The band Shearwater is known for songs with picturesque lyrics and arrangements that range from the intimate to the epic. While on tour for the band's 2016 album, Jet Plane and Oxbow, frontman Jonathan Meiburg decided he wanted to try something new: writing songs for someone else's voice.

Even before Adam Granduciel was a touring rock musician with his band The War On Drugs, he had already seen a good chunk of the country — thanks to the time he and a friend, on a whim, traveled from California to Pennsylvania by train.

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.

Listen to songs by Slothrust, and you'll hear aggressive sounds that hearken back to early-'90s rock bands like Nirvana and Dinosaur Jr. Listen more closely, and you'll also hear elements of the blues that the band's members learned when they met in their college's jazz program.

The Canadian band Grindmother last week released its debut album, Age of Destruction. The group gets its name in part from the style of music it plays, known for short songs with blistering tempos and heavy distortion.

Kevin Sylvester says that when most people see a 6-foot-2-inch, 260-pound black man, they don't expect him to also be a classically trained violinist. A recent exchange with a woman in an elevator, when he happened to have his instrument with him in its case, drove that point home.

When singer-songwriter Josh Tillman started on his latest album, he set out to write honestly about love and intimacy.

"The things that emerge in true intimacy can be fairly brutal," he says, adding a joke: "That's why it's a metal album."