KNBA - KBC

Lars Gotrich

What can stop the mutant psych of Sunwatchers? In the last two years alone, the Brooklyn band has released Sunwatchers and II, two live albums and 3 Characters, a double LP led by the truly impossible-to-pin-down guitarist and banjoist Eugene Chadbourne. Sunwatchers' sonic and sociopolitical fervor is palpable, as the band weaves a noise-induced trance given to ecstatic dance.

Balms' "Candle" unleashes an atmospheric bummer — the kind that billows ominously, only to reveal a dark scene once the shroud has dissipated. The San Francisco trio alternates chunky riffs and a plodding rhythm section with dreamy melodies, sudden screams and a voice that coos, "I want your soul." The forbidding effect is something like early Red House Painters' pretty moans set to the downcast punk seething of ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead.

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


Portrayal of Guilt exists in the extremes of hardcore, noise, grindcore, death metal, powerviolence and turn-of-the-century screamo — subgenres of heavy music that typically scream through the pain. On its debut album, the Austin band doesn't just want you to scream, but also to Let Pain Be Your Guide.

"I've made music under many brand names. It was a dumb idea," David Bazan jokes during his performance at the Tiny Desk, in his own particularly reflective and self-deprecating way.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify and Apple playlists at the bottom of the page.


In metal, lineage can be everything. These musicians are lifers — sworn to the riff, defenders of the faith. It's what keeps metal alive. But when the bloodlines cross streams, the lineage doesn't get broken so much as emboldened. Azusa contains decades of experience, but Heavy Yoke reaches across the metal spectrum for a debut album wrapped in rapturously beautiful discord.

For nearly a decade, Arctic Flowers' members have mined the identifiably gloomy sound attached to Siouxsie Sioux and Joy Division. But with each record, the Portland band has carved out its own identity through Stan Wright's whiplash riffs and Alex Carroccio's forceful howl. Straight to the Hunter, the band's third full-length album, once again expands and refocuses a punk sound that's made for dark corners.

The Marked Men will never make another album (or so the band says).

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