Marc Masters

When a band is capable of many musical styles, it can be thrilling to hear them all on a single album. But it can be just as fun when the group dives deep into one mode, focusing their musical experience and artistic imagination into a coherent vision. That's how the Heliocentrics' fourth album, A World of Masks, feels. The UK-based ensemble, which has included up to nine members, has in the past delved into hip-hop (first making their name on DJ Shadow's 2006 album The Outsider), jazz, psych, funk, Afrobeat and more.

Woods hadn't planned to make any new music in 2017, happy to rest temporarily on the laurels of last year's excellent City Sun Eater In The River Of Light. Then the election happened, and the Brooklyn band found itself — like many around the country — bewildered about what to do next. So it did what it knows best: it made more music. The songs on the resulting album, Love Is Love, don't directly reference politics or offer slogans or screeds. But they're clearly about the aftermath of Nov.

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.

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.

There seems to always be a time during winter when snow falls in slow motion, gliding to earth like a parade of tiny white parachutes. Many people hope that time will fall on Christmas, but if you're not seeing white in your neck of the woods this weekend, you can at least recapture a bit of the feeling by listening to Windy & Carl's "Christmas Song." The pair's patient guitar strums and shoegazing reverberations cascade down like gentle weather, the kind that takes its time while you watch from the warmth of your window.

Annika Henderson is still just in her 20s, but there's history in her voice. She began her musical career as Anika, with one "n," recording covers of Bob Dylan, Yoko Ono and the Kinks' Ray Davies. Her new group, Exploded View, plays original songs, but past genres ­— post-punk, new wave, goth, industrial — echo through their dark music. Anika's chilly intonations in particular evoke moody singers like Siouxsie Sioux, Robert Smith and Debbie Harry, artists who can convey mystery and emotion in a single breath.

Mogwai has never been afraid of drama. The music of this Scottish quartet – soaring instrumental rock, filled with swelling crescendos – has been called cinematic so often, it's surprising that they've been significantly involved in only three soundtracks over their 21-year career. But perhaps it's also wise: with a sound this theatrical (even bombastic, at times), a request to ratchet up the drama might cause Mogwai to collapse under its own weight.

Lyrics tend to be what we remember most about Christmas music, but a song doesn't need to have words to evoke the holidays. In the case of North Texas-based musician Derek Rogers, all he had to do was put Christmas in the title of one of his rich, suggestive drone pieces, and suddenly these thoughtful waves of sound conjure chilly atmospheres and faded family memories.

Mike Connelly has spent most of his musical life in the land of dissonant noise, primarily with his spectacularly cacophonous Kentucky-based trio Hair Police. But there's often been an undercurrent of drama beneath the din, especially during his seven-year stint in the pounding, industrial-tinged Michigan group Wolf Eyes.

Note: NPR's audio for First Listens comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.