With a name like Pity Sex, it wouldn't be wrong to giggle a little. But there's far more power in the Ann Arbor-based band than its self-deprecating, kinda-emo moniker suggests. On its 2013 full-length debut, Feast Of Love, Pity Sex unfurled a windswept blur of hurts-so-good distortion and frayed riffs. Submerged in sludgy, stormy songs like "Drown Me Out" and "Keep" were themes of anguish, disintegrating relationships and the desire for second chances, alongside lovely and winsome pop melodies that could mend broken hearts.

Liz Vice didn't grow up with gospel music, and she never really thought of herself as a singer. Things change: The 32-year-old from Portland, Ore. has now released an album called There's A Light, whose songs and sound challenge many of the stereotypes about Christian music.

The British band The Selecter began singing about race, gender and politics in the late 1970s. They were part of a musical moment that came to be known as 2-tone, which combined elements of early Jamaican ska with the styles that were bubbling up in the UK at the time.

Here's a phrase you don't hear a lot in the US: "Pakistani pop music." In fact, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has a thriving music industry — and singer Zebunissa Bangash, or Zeb for short, is one of its stars.

There has been violence and threat to Pakistani culture since the country was founded 68 years ago, both for political and religious reasons. Zeb was never subjected to that scrutiny: She studied art history at college in the US before returning home to form a band with her cousin, Haniya. Their accessible pop songs found a devoted following.

The harrowing noise-punk trio Bambara smears discontent with the gloom of the Birthday Party, the spit of Swans and the lysergic mystery of Red Temple Spirits, but understands those are only points of departure. Dreamviolence, from 2013, was a promising if limited debut, mainly because its Bushwick basement recordings were cloaked in a muddy atmosphere.

As technology rules the sound of the day, it's good to be reminded how powerfully a single voice can transmit deep emotion. Joan Shelley made one of the most beautiful records of the year with just her voice and two guitars.

"I think songs can have different lives," said Rhiannon Giddens in the conversation that flowed throughout NPR Music's "Songs We Love: Americana Fest Edition" panel on September 16 at Nashville's historic RCA Victor Studio A. "Each song has its own way that it likes to be done, but it can be more than one way," the Carolina Chocolate Drops multi-instrumentalist and singer continued. "If you tap into it, you can feel it."