New music update, August 2017.

Big month for new music in multiple genres, with new music from a number of artists I didn’t think were still recording and a slew of brand-new artists working towards their first album or EP releases. I lead off with one of my favorite bands of the last few years and bounce around between familiar and new names, finishing up with a trio of metal tracks at the very end. If you can’t see the widget below you can click here to access the Spotify playlist directly.

Everything Everything – Can’t Do. E2 are part of a small movement of British art/indie acts, along with alt-J (who seem to have gone full commercial this year) and Wild Beasts, who engage in a sort of hysterical version of indie-pop, with lots of falsetto vocals, strange arrangements, weird tempos, and other things you wouldn’t expect to find in a four-minute song on the radio … but with compelling melodies that tie their best songs together. Everything Everything’s fourth album, A Fever Dream, dropped last Friday and I think it’s their best overall LP yet, although it doesn’t quite have a huge single like “Cough Cough,” “Kemosabe,” or “I Believe It Now.” “Can’t Do” is my favorite track from the album and the most likely to creep on to American radio.

Confidence Man – Boyfriend (Repeat). Speaking of weird, artsy acts, Confidence Man is an Australian quartet whose music is just … peculiar. Actually, the music is great; the lyrics and vocals are the peculiar part. I don’t love the flat affect the singer uses here, although it’s of a piece with the subject matter – and damn that’s a catchy beat.

Queens of the Stone Age – The Evil Has Landed. Villains is QotSA’s seventh album, their first working with producer Mark Ronson of “Uptown Funk” fame, and the influence is immediately obvious, as this is the funkiest output of Josh Homme’s career, although I think there’s been a soulful, groove element to lots of his work in the past.

Daughter – Burn It Down. Singer Elena Tonra gets angrier on this darker-than-usual track from the folk/electronic trio, which comes from their forthcoming album, Music from Before the Storm, the score to the brand-new episodic video game Life is Strange: Before The Storm, released today from Square Enix.

Birdtalker – Looking for Love. Birdtalker is a little bit country, and a little bit folk, and I guess there’s a little rock and roll in here, but I’m as drawn to the group’s lyrics as their music; I’m still waiting for a release date on their debut album One, the title track of which appeared on my June playlist.

The Pale White – Downer. A trio from Newcastle-upon-Tyne – that doesn’t matter, I just like saying it – the Pale White do guitar-heavy alt-rock, along the lines of other recent British acts with big guitar sounds like Drenge, the Amazons, and early Muse. Their debut EP is out later this month.

Death From Above 1979 – Never Swim Alone. If the White Stripes covered a Sleigh Bells track, it would sound something like this.

Wu-Tang Clan featuring Redman – People Say. Every time I think the Wu-Tang Clan is done, they pop back up, although I also couldn’t tell you exactly who’s in the Clan and who just keeps showing up on their tracks like Redman. (Does he need to go through some sort of initiation? Give them all his worldly possessions?)

Beck – Dear Life. It’s not “Dreams” – my #1 song of 2015, and probably my favorite song of his prolific career – but it’s a lot better than last year’s dismal “Wow,” too.

The War On Drugs – Nothing To Find. It’s a little long, as all their songs are wont to be, and I find it hard to listen to any of their songs without picturing Richard Belzer doing his Bob Dylan impression, but I like their uptempo stuff more and the new album A Deeper Understanding, which came out last Friday.

Starsailor – All This Life. I wasn’t aware this Britpop (or “post-Britpop,” as Wikipedia calls them, which I think is a question of time rather than genre) act had reunited until last week; their comeback album, All This Life, comes out on Friday, their first new material since 2009.

Maisie Peters – Place We Were Made. Just 17 years old, Peters built up a following on Youtube and has now released her “first proper single,” this worldly paean to home that feels like it should have been written by someone many years her senior. I’m projecting big things for young Ms. Peters, not least because of the evocative nature of the imagery in her lyrics.

Sarah Chernoff – Markings on You. Chernoff is (was?) the singer of the Superhumanoids, whose last album, Do You Feel OK?, was my #5 album of 2015, thanks to their combination of her powerful, multi-octave vocals and intricate electronic tracks. Chernoff just released her debut solo album, Warm Nights, which showcases her incredible voice – never more than on this track – in a new milieu, soft rock that wouldn’t be out of place on 1970s radio between 10cc and …

Anna Of The North – Fire. Anna Lotterud’s first album, Lovers, comes out on September 8th, featuring her electronic-infused indie pop reminiscent of The Naked & Famous.

Wolf Alice – Beautifully Unconventional. If you just heard the first few measures, you might think this was a lost Blur track from their Britpop heyday – at least until Ellie Roswell’s distinctive vocals kick in. By the way, the London quartet – whose second album, Visions of a Life, comes out on 9/29 – says they got their name from an Angela Carter short story, but really, it’s because their name is pronounced “wool phallus,” right?

Kate Nash – Agenda. Kate Nash looked like she was going to be a superstar after “Foundations,” from her debut album, hit #2 in the UK and won her great critical acclaim, but she never quite produced a hit to follow it up and has been releasing music on her own the last five years. She’s a clever lyricist, at least most of the time, and I can’t decide if this song is a parody of people who wear their activism on their sleeves … or just something very silly.

Liam Gallagher – For What It’s Worth. Liam keeps releasing these faux-Oasis songs and I fall for it every time.

The Horrors – Something To Remember Me By. “Sheena Is a Parasite” is a distant memory, and now they’re a sort of hazy, neo-psychedelic band, supporting whatever is left of Depeche Mode on the latter’s tour this year.

Bad Nerves – Radio Punk. An anthemic punk-pop track from this Essex quartet on their third single to date.

Mourn – Color Me Impressed. These Catalonian punks are prepping to release their third album, having appeared a few times on my lists before (“Gertrudis, Get Through This!” was #66 on my top songs of 2015); Hinds gets all the love among Barcelona indie bands, but Mourn is much further along in both songcraft and pure playing skill.

Quicksand – Illuminant. This incredibly influential post-hardcore band just released its first new song in 23 years, which is weird because…

Less Art – Wandering Ghost. The three members of Puig Destroyer are all in this new post-hardcore quintet, whose debut album Strangled Light reminded me a ton of Quicksand’s first two LPs from the mid-1990s.

INHEAVEN – World On Fire. This south London quartet have released a bunch of singles but no album yet; this was the first of their tracks to hit my ears and I like the hard-rock leanings (the main guitar riff has a great hook) and ’90s college-radio feel.

Ensiferum – Way of the Warrior. Folk or Viking metal kind of cracks me up – it seems like such a strange mashup, these heavy riffs and loud percussion merged with what sound like Irish dance songs. This Finnish band just changed keyboard players, replacing Emmi Silvennoinen with accordionist Netta Skog, whose instrument is front and center on this track.

Mendel – Descending Upon Hades. Instrumental, progressive/classical metal from the Dutch guitarist Mendel bij de Leij, who is also the guitarist for the Belgian extreme death metal band Aborted, whose “music” doesn’t even deserve that moniker. It turns out Mendel is a technical wizard, however, and this track shows off his shredding skills and his creativity.

The Haunted – Preachers of Death. The Haunted were born from the ashes of At the Gates when that band broke up in 1996, although they later reformed and released a new (very good) album in 2014. The Haunted are similar musically to AtG, melodic death metal with a little less emphasis on melodic elements and heavier riffing … but this sounds for all the world to me like an At the Gates song. And that’s a good thing if you like extreme metal.

Arch Enemy – The Eagle Flies Alone. I really like the guitar work in this track … but if it weren’t for the death-growl vocals, this would barely qualify as metal, let alone as death metal, right? It’d be a better song with clean vocals given the disconnect, although the lyrics are so trite that perhaps it’s better if listeners can’t understand them. After “The World Is Yours,” I was optimistic about these Swedish stalwarts returning to form on this album; now I’m concerned they’re going the path of In Flames towards metal irrelevance.

Music update, July 2017.

I’m going dark for a week, but I’ll tide you over with a new playlist, which you can access directly in Spotify or via the widget below.

Arcade Fire – Signs of Life. I’ve listened to their new album, Everything Now, and I can certainly understand why some people hate it. The lyrics are beyond pretentious; the too-clever-by-half songwriting we saw on Reflektor appears to be a feature rather than a bug. Social commentary and criticism by anecdote worked beautifully on The Suburbs, one of the best albums of the century so far, but their frontal attempt to ridicule their targets only leaves them looking ridiculous (“Infinite Content” comes to mind). But this song is good, “Creature Comforts” is solid, and the album’s title track is definitely the best thing ABBA has done in forty years.

Sløtface – Pitted. This Norwegian punk-pop act, definitely among my favorite finds of the last year or so, does what Arcade Fire used to do – they tell fun stories that seem frivolous but abound with meaningful details, and every song they’ve released has had a catchy hook.

Atomic Tom – Burn the Witch. Atomic Tom covered my #1 song of 2016, and managed to make it newly sinister via a different arrangement and the introduction of a heavy guitar line in the second chorus.

Allie X – Vintage. Almost too poppy for my tastes, but the chorus and the keyboard riff both stuck in my head after one listen.

Hundred Waters – Blanket Me. Hundred Waters had my top album of 2015, and this single is very much in the same vein of experimental, airy, voice-as-instrument music.

Foster The People – Lotus Eater. Didn’t love their new album, which dispenses with the stuff that worked (for me) on Supermodel, but this track does recall that album’s more rock-oriented moments.

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – The Punishment of Luxury. I can’t believe it’s 2017 and I put an OMD track on a best new music playlist.

Dan Croll – Bad Boy. I wasn’t familiar with this English singer-songwriter, who just released his second album, Emerging Adulthood. This seems like it has a good chance to be a big crossover pop hit if US radio gives it a chance.

The War On Drugs – Strangest Thing. I wish their songs were shorter, and maybe that the singer would stop wth the Dylan impersonations, but they’ve reeled off a bunch of compelling songs in a row now.

Wolf Parade – Valley Boy. I didn’t think these guys were ever getting back together.

Little Cub – Too Much Love. I felt like some of the vocals on this London trio’s debut album, Still Life, are just too precious, but the soulful electronica behind the words is simultaneously sophisticated and rapturous.

Nine Inch Nails – Not Anymore. I didn’t think much of NIN’s new EP; this was the best track of the five.

YONAKA – Wouldn’t Wanna Be Ya. Strong riot grrrl vibe here with a perfect putdown in the hooky chorus. This is the kind of track Mister Wives keeps trying to make.

The Night Café – Felicity. This Liverpudlian quartet is touring with Sundara Karma and sounds a lot like Sundara Karma.

Prong – Divide And Conquer. I’ve mentioned before how Prong’s Beg to Differ is both one of my favorite metal albums ever and a seminal record in defining my taste in music. New Prong kind of makes me sad, since they’ve long since morphed into any-metal act with only occasional hints of their former glory, like on this track, still angry if overproduced.

Arch Enemy – The World Is Yours. I thought Arch Enemy’s last album, its first with the band’s new lead singer, was formulaic and cliched, a far cry from the band’s heights as one of the most important bands in the Gothenburg school of death metal. This song, from their upcoming album Will to Power, is easily better than anything from that last record.

Music update, June 2017.

Huge month for new music – 31 songs on this playlist is a new record for me, but this is after I cut a few tracks just to try to limit it to the best songs I’ve heard since June 1st. You can access the Spotify playlist below or via this direct link.

Oh Wonder – High On Humans. I know a few of you are big Oh Wonder fans, but they’re pretty new to me, and so far I’m a fan – this is good, smart, alternative pop.

Portugal. The Man – Rich Friends. Their latest album Woodstock dropped two weeks ago and is really strong, their usual mix of bombastic, melodic rock, with more R&B influences than I’ve heard on previous records.

The Amazons – Black Magic. Fairly new English band from Reading who’ve gotten a ton of hype in the British music and mainstream press; I’m a fan of the huge guitar riff driving this song.

Sløtface – Nancy Drew. The Norwegian punk-popsters who gave us “Empire Records” last year are back with another subtly poppy track with slightly twisted lyrics.

Waxahatchee – Never Been Wrong. Katie Crutchfield’s next album, Out in the Storm, comes out on July 14th, and this track is more in the folk-rock vein of 2015’s “Under a Rock.”

The Preatures – Girlhood. This Australian quintet is about to release its first album since 2014, with a similar ’60s British pop/rock vibe. Also, I couldn’t figure out what the repeated line was in the verse, but according to my Internet it’s “a morning girl.”

Beach Fossils – Tangerine. Brooklyn indie-rockers Beach Fossils just released their latest album, Somersault, of stoner/surfer/lo-fi tracks, with this track offering the best hook on the album.

The Districts – If Before I Wake. I didn’t love the Districts’ acclaimed 2015 album, A Flourish and a Spoil, but this song is absolutely anthemic.

No Win – You’ll Be Fine. Apparently No Win is a side project of a member of FIDLAR, although I’m not a big fan of FIDLAR’s music so I was totally unaware of this, but hey, this song rocks.

Ride – Lannoy Point. The shoegazers’ first album in 21 years, Weather Diaries, starts out very strong and has probably four songs that would fit in very well with their vintage output, but I felt like it tapered off towards more maudlin lyrics and less inventive music.

Radiohead – I Promise. Radiohead has reissued OK Computer for the seminal album’s 20th anniversary in a two-disc set called OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997 2017, including three previously unreleased tracks from the recording sessions, including this melancholy acoustic track, which would have fit very well on The Bends.

Manchester Orchestra – The Alien. Speaking of melancholy acoustic tracks, one of two new singles from Manchester Orchestra off their upcoming album A Black Mile to the Surface, is a surprisingly melodic, gentle song from a band I typically associate with huge, crunching guitars and with Andy Hull screaming himself hoarse.

Birdtalker – One. Another acoustic track, this one more like vintage folk with some smart and incisive lyrics, from a new Nashville band founded by the wife-and-husband duo of Dani and Zack Green.

The War On Drugs – Holding On. At least this time, the boys kept the song under six minutes! The Bob Dylan overtones can still be a bit much but this song has a driving, memorable hook that really powers the track even when Adam Granduciel starts to sound more like Richard Belzer doing a Dylan impression.

Liam Gallagher – Wall Of Glass. Yep, that’s the former Oasis singer, with what sounds like a solid post-Be Here Now sort of Oasis track.

Death From Above (1979) – Freeze Me. They’ve dropped the ‘1979’ from their name, although it still appears on Spotify. After a decade-long hiatus, they’re about to release their second album in three years, with this lead single probably my favorite track from them yet.

Washed Out – Get Lost. To borrow a malaprop from my daughter, I’m just so-and-so on Washed Out, the nom de chill of Ernest Greene, whose latest album Mister Mellow drops on Friday. This song encapsulates what I like about Washed Out – a melodic, upbeat, highly layered track that brings more complexity than just calling it a dance song would indicate.

Sparks – What The Hell Is It This Time?. Sparks have been around since the early 1970s, although if you know them at all, it’s probably from their one-off collaboration with Jane Wiedlin, “Cool Places,” which reached #49 on the Billboard 100 and became a staple of new-wave compilations. Now aged 71 and 68, the brothers Mael are about to release their 22nd album, Hippopotamus, and this very catchy lead single finds them just as weird as ever.

Floating Points – Kelso Dunes (Edit). Experimental music is an acquired taste and I won’t pretend to be an expert, but I’ve liked some of Sam Shepherd’s stuff so far, and not just because he’s a neuroscientist who happens to make music.

Phoenix – Ti Amo. The title track from the Grammy winners’ latest record is a throwback to the two-step/garage era of the early ’90s on top of the new wave stylings they usually bring.

Arcade Fire – Creature Comfort. I liked “Everything Now” more, but that’s a top five track of the year for me, so that’s not exactly a slight to this second single from their upcoming fifth album.

Queens of the Stone Age – The Way You Used To Do. Anything from QotSA is an automatic inclusion. Their upcoming album Villains comes out August 25th.

Royal Blood – Hole In Your Heart. The duo’s second album, ?How Did We Get So Dark? , came out earlier this month and it really rocks – it’s a step ahead of their debut – with this, “Lights Out,” “Hook, Line, & Sinker,” “I Only Lie When I Love You,” and “Where Are You Now?” my favorites.

Wolf Alice – Yuk Foo. The first single from the British quartet’s upcoming sophomore album, Visions of a Life, is harder and harsher than anything I remember from their debut album, which had a great balance of hard, fast, driving rock and mellower passages that showcased singer/guitarist Ellie Rowsell’s vocal range.

A Giant Dog – Bendover. It’s so loud and obnoxious it’s almost shtick, but it works on this track.

Superchunk – Up Against the Wall. Not only have Superchunk not changed their sound in their nearly 30 years of recording, they don’t even sound like they’ve aged on their new two-track release (the other song, “I Got Cut,” is more of the same).

Jason Loewenstein – Superstitious. Hard rock from one of the guitarists in Lou Barlow’s Sebadoh and the Fiery Furnaces.

Big Boi with Troze – Chocolate. Big Boi’s album Boomiverse is … fine, I guess. I like his vocal style, but I think the album suffers from too many guest spots and from some mediocre beats. Highlights include this track and “Kill Jill” (with Killer Mike and Jeezy).

Ice Cube – Good Cop Bad Cop. A bonus track on the 25th anniversary reissue of Death Certificate, this new song has Ice Cube actually sounding a bit like his old self on a very angry track about police shootings of unarmed black victims and the blue wall of silence that protects the perpetrators.

Less Art – Pessimism as Denial. The new band featuring Ian Miller (Kowloon Walled City) and Riley Breckenridge (Thrice) of the old Productive Outs podcast and of the, uh, grindcore (?) band Puig Destroyer strongly reminds me of early ’90s post-hardcore acts like Quicksand. This first single is off their first album, Strangled Light, due July 28th.

Danzig – Skulls & Daisies. Here primarily for its novelty, as Glenn Danzig is now 62 and sounds it throughout his namesake band’s latest album, salvaged on this track by the guitar work of Tommy Victor, whose main band, Prong, also has a new album due next month.

Music update, May 2017.

My ranking of the top 100 prospects for Monday’s MLB Rule 4 draft is now up for Insiders.

If I don’t hurry up and post this, it’ll be a two-month update that has about 50 songs on it, so rather than wait for the time I’d need to do a full writeup, here’s my latest playlist of new music.

Tracks:

  1. alt-J – Adeline.
  2. Arcade Fire – Everything Now.
  3. The Afghan Whigs – Toy Automatic.
  4. Royal Blood – Hook, Line & Sinker.
  5. Portugal. The Man – So Young.
  6. Wavves – No Shade.
  7. The New Pornographers – Darling Shade.
  8. Japanese Breakfast – Machinist.
  9. machineheart – Shelter.
  10. Hoops – On Letting Go.
  11. Sløtface – Magazine.
  12. Sheer Mag – Just Can’t Get Enough.
  13. Fictionist – Lazarus.
  14. MisterWives – Coloring Outside The Lines.
  15. Are We Static – Heartbreaker.
  16. The Chain Gang Of 1974 – Looking For Love.
  17. WATERS – Something More.
  18. Cloves – California Numb.
  19. Courtney Barnett – How to Boil an Egg.
  20. Sundara Karma – Explore.
  21. Swet Shop Boys – Zombie.
  22. Danger Mouse, Run The Jewels, Big Boi – Chase Me.

Some quick thoughts: I didn’t love alt-J’s new album, Relaxer, as they’ve continued to move away from the minimalist approach of their debut album, but thought the new WAVVES record was strong, and liked the new records from Afghan Whigs (more than their comeback LP) and WATERS. I’ve listed to the New Pornographers’ Whiteout Conditions, released in April a few times; I think it’s solid but not as good throughout as Brill Bruisers. I’m looking forward to the upcoming releases from Royal Blood, Arcade Fire, and Cloves. The Courtney Barnett song is a one-off single, a song she said she wrote when she was much younger but had never recorded. I’ve ended with two hip-hop songs – the Swet Shop Boys (Riz Ahmed & Heems) returned with a six-track EP, while the last song is from the 30-song soundtrack to the upcoming film Baby Driver.

Music update, April 2017.

I wrote a book, Smart Baseball. You should buy it.

This month’s playlist has 24 songs, and started out over 30 before I started cutting back; I have usually tried to keep them under 20 songs or under 90 minutes but I reached a point where I didn’t have anything left I felt good about removing. A few songs are here because of who’s singing, but most are here just because they’re good songs (Brent … I need to stop using that line). If the embedded widget below doesn’t work you can access the Spotify playlist here.

Royal Blood – Lights Out. This British duo had my #1 song of 2014 with “Out of the Black,” and this new single from their upcoming sophomore album does not disappoint – it’s heavy, dark, and menacing, just like their biggest hit.

DJ Shadow, Nas – Systematic. Nas sounds as good as ever here on this track from the soundtrack to the HBO series Silicon Valley. I particularly like the part where Nas gives us a recipe, complete with directions on how long to cook the cranberries.

The Afghan Whigs – Demon in Profile. Afghan Whigs’ comeback album in 2014? didn’t do as much for me as their upcoming record In Spades, which I heard early thanks to the band’s publicist. Gregg Dulli still sounds great for 52 (!) and the album brings a strong mix of hard rockers and more midtempo tracks like this one.

Ride – All I Want. Another big comeback, as Ride’s first new album in 21 years, Weather Diaries, comes out on June 16th. I believe this is the third single from the new album and they all sound like classic Ride, who were among the most important bands in the first shoegaze era.

Anteros – Cherry Drop. This London quartet sound straight out of the 1979 London new wave/post-punk scene; you can hear Debbie Harry’s influence in the vocals.

Tigers Jaw – June. This punk-pop act from Scranton has apparently had some drama in the last few years over whether they’d actually broken up. This single from their album spin, due out May 19th, marries sweet, high-register vocals with distorted guitar work that sounds like math-rock acts (such as Polvo) for a power-pop result.

The Night Game – The Outfield. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, or some trick of the mind, but this song reminds me strongly of the band The Outfield, both in the style of music and lead singer’s voice. Anyway, this is a strong pop track with background vocals from Gotye. And I’m not the only one to notice the similarity to the band behind perennial walkup song “Your Love.”

The Aces – Physical. The Aces, an all-girl quartet from Utah who made my top 100 last year with their single “Stuck,” return with their second release, “Physical,” another solid pop song that just doesn’t quite have the same hook as their first track.

Splashh – Closer. This Australian indie-rock act’s second album, Waiting a Lifetime, came out on April 14th, more evidence of that country’s tremendous music scene right now, producing great rock and electronic music. The production has a real shoegaze quality, with the vocals mixed somewhat towards the back (but not incomprehensible like on My Bloody Valentine’s work).

WATERS – Molly Is A Babe. Van Pierzalowski’s main band will release its new album, Something More, on May 19th, with this track the second single and “Stand By You,” which just appeared in the last few days, the third. Good luck getting this song’s whining guitar lick out of your head any time soon.

Panama – Hope For Something. Here’s another Aussie act, one I first found with their single “Always,” which I put at #51 on my 2013 year-end list. “Hope for Something” is more layered, with ornate instrumentation and a slower build to the hook, but it’s still a big one.

Feist – Century (feat. Jarvis Cocker). I have mixed feelings on this song, but Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker makes an appearance, so here you go.

Joseph of Mercury – Find You Inside. This was the first song I’d heard by Joseph of Mercury, a Toronto-based singer-songwriter who debuted in 2015 with the song “Lips.” This song, his second single this year, combines a less-poppy sort of ’80s new wave with brooding baritone vocals, enunciated like Morrissey does. The result feels soulful without any evident R&B influences.

Sundara Karma – She Said. This may not be new to Sirius XM listeners, as Alt Nation has it in heavy rotation because Sundara Karma is on some XM-sponsored tour.

Black Asteroid – Howl (feat. Zola Jesus). I’m not a big Zola Jesus fan – her incredibly pretentious stage name doesn’t help matters – but her voice’s hollow quality and the stark production here perfectly match the sci-fi horror feel of the electronic music.

Foster The People – S.H.C. Foster the People just put out a three-song teaser EP ahead of their third album, which they’re promising for June or July. “S.H.C.” is the most recognizably FTP of the three songs, with a ’70s guitar riff and vague Latin influences in the percussion.

Portugal. The Man – Number One (feat. Richie Havens & Son Little). Their first single from their upcoming album, “Feel It Still,” might be my favorite song of 2017 so far. This song, though … I don’t even know what I think of it and I’ve listened to it at least a half a dozen times. It’s way out there even for P.TM, with samples from the late folk singer Richie Havens’ song “Freedom” and a collaboration from singer Son Little. The new album, Woodstock, is out June 16th, and they have my full attention.

Pond – Paint Me Silver. Spacey psychedelic rock from Australia. Recommended if you like Tame Impala. Recommended even if you think Tame Impala could stand to keep their songs under four minutes.

Sylvan Esso – The Glow. I am truly not a fan of Sylvan Esso, neither their music nor Amelia Meath’s overly precious vocal style, so it says something about this track that I included it anyway. Saying I think it’s the best thing they’ve done doesn’t tell you much, but there’s a great chorus here if you can get past the track’s opening sound of a digital file skipping.

Miami Horror – Sign of the Times. This Aussie trio has a little bit of a Foster the People vibe, mixing electronic and funk, but more decidedly out of the mainstream, especially with the spoken-word section towards the end of the track. Their latest EP, The Shapes, just came out last week.

Sepultura – Iceberg Dances. I understand people have strong feelings on post-Max Sepultura, but their newest album, Machine Messiah, features some progressive and technically impressive fretwork, most notable for me on this instrumental track.

SikTh – Vivid. I’ve read in a few places how important or influential SikTh have been since their 2003 debut album, but I find it hard to believe given how little I’ve come across their music or how infrequently they’ve recorded anything. Their forthcoming The Future in Whose Eyes? will be just their third album in fifteen years. This frenetic track seems to veer in style from progressive death metal to aggro groove metal and back again.

DragonForce – Judgement Day. DragonForce cracks me up, although I don’t know that this is intended to be funny. They’re just such an unrepetant throwback to the earliest days of thrash, where soaring vocals reminiscent of Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson were common, and fantasy and mythology themes were king. If you remember vintage Helloween with Kai Hansen, that gives you some idea of what DragonForce is about, maybe with a few shakes of Yngwie J. Malmsteen’s Rising Force.

Memoriam – Memoriam. This is some heavy, sludgy, old-school death metal, with the band and song a tribute to a deceased member of the seminal ’90s British death metal band Bolt Thrower.

Music update, March 2017.

I ended up missing about ten days of music listening while with the family in Arizona and getting ready for various trips, but I think the playlist turned out okay thanks to the volume of new stuff this month, mostly from bands I already knew from previous releases. It’s been a big year for comebacks from 1990s artists too, with three acts on here who have recently released their first new material in over a decade.

If you can’t see the widget below, you can access the Spotify playlist directly.

alt-J – In Cold Blood. It’s no secret that I’m a fan of alt-J’s work, especially their debut album An Awesome Wave, which is on the very short list of my favorite albums of all time, up there with OK Computer, The Last Broadcast, and Whitesnake. (Just kidding about that last one. Mostly.) I wasn’t totally on board with alt-J’s musical shift for their second album, where they eschewed the minimalist approach of their first record with what I considered very mixed results. This song, the second of two singles released so far in advance of their third album, has their trademark lyrical weirdness and interplay across vocals and instruments, but the same ‘big’ sound as we got on This Could All Be Yours.

Portugal. The Man – Feel It Still. This is the song Fitz and the Tantrums recorded in 2017 in an alternate universe where they didn’t become a shitty pop band. Portugal. The Man can be as weird and unconventional as alt-J, but bombast is their raison d’etre, and if anything I find them restrained here on this very old-school funk/R&B track.

Wavves – Daisy. I’m a fan of Nathan Williams’ brand of punk-pop, more so than of some of his predecessors in this California surf-rock sort of vein, which often was more obnoxious than actually good (Nerf Herder or New York’s Wheatus come to mind). Wavves’ sixth album will be out on May 19th and good luck getting that little high-pitched guitar line out of your head.

Basement – Submission. This track comes from Basement’s 2016 album Promise Everything, which was just re-released in a deluxe edition by their new record label. I’ve only heard this song so far, a hard rock track with grunge style but cleaner production.

Dreamcar – Kill for Candy. So, go figure: this is AFI lead singer Davey Havok and the three musicians from No Doubt, and “Kill for Candy” sounds nothing like either band to me. It’s new wave revival, like White Lies or Editors, and catchy without the cloying sound of No Doubt’s faux-ska-whatever they call it.

Grandaddy – Brush with the Wild. Grandaddy broke up in 2006, which I mention only because I wasn’t aware they’d broken up until I heard this song and read that it was their first new track in eleven years. I wasn’t a big fan in their heyday, but this song has a good hook and a strong “Shorter War on Drugs” feel.

Black Honey – Somebody Better. I think this is the third song I’ve included from Black Honey over the last year, and I’m still waiting (and excited) for the British quartet’s first album given the power-pop singles they’ve released to date.

The New Pornographers – Whiteout Conditions. TNP’s new album, also called Whiteout Conditions, comes out on Friday; you can stream it on NPR’s First Listen before that. In the meantime, the title track is another kick-the-door-open sort of pop gem; A.C. Newman can craft some potent hooks, and I love the way he plays with his vocal delivery here.

MisterWives – Oh Love. This second single from their upcoming album Connect the Dots is a step down from “Machine” in terms of hook and tempo, although Mandy Lee gets to showcase her voice a little more here.

Oh Wonder – Ultralife. I don’t think I caught this London duo’s self-titled debut album, which came out in the fall of 2015, but this title track of their second album, release date unknown, grabbed my attention with the lush instrumentation and apparent mix of influences from several different styles and even decades, back to ’80s pop.

alt-J – 3WW. Obligatory.

Earl St. Clair featuring PJ – Ain’t Got It Like That. St. Clair’s debut EP, My Name is Earl, dropped in early March, and it’s a serious throwback to ’70s soul and funk.

Tei Shi – Justify. Nothing against Tei Shi, who continues to churn out weird-but-intriguing music, but I can’t listen to this without picturing that overhyped Madonna video. (“There’s Prince!”)

Spoon – Tear It Down. I’ve heard three tracks off Spoon’s latest album, Hot Thoughts, so far, and I think … it’s a Spoon album. It’s good, but if there’s something novel here, I haven’t caught it yet.

The Kooks – Be Who You Are. I’d put this in the same category as Spoon’s latest – this is a pretty standard Kooks song, with a decent hook, but nothing we haven’t heard before. It’s like someone took peak Britpop and decided to add more ’60s to it.

Slowdive – Sugar for the Pill. This is more in the vein of Slowdive’s muttering, shoegazing past.

The Jesus and Mary Chain – Song For A Secret. I thought J&MC’s comeback album, Damage and Joy, was a bit tame, but it still had some solid moments like this track, which seems like a sequel to “Sometimes Always.”

White Reaper – The Stack. There’s a little sameness to White Reaper’s output now, but I like their punk-tinged power-pop sound and the main five-note guitar riff here is solid.

The Black Angels – I’d Kill for Her. Another band that’s been around for a while but that escaped my attention, the Black Angels engage in some heavy psychedelic rock, here punctuated by a whining guitar lick that gives the whole thing a Neil Young sort of vibe.

Mastodon – Precious Stones. I originally had “Andromeda” on this playlist, also from Emperor of Sand, but I prefer Mastodon tracks with clean vocals – their music is heavy, but progressive rather than extreme, and their best songs play the vocals off the music.

Dark Tranquillity – The Absolute. This song was a bonus track on DT’s latest album, 2016’s Atoma, and it’s a big departure from their recorded output to date. I’d put it more along the lines of Opeth or Candlemass than the typical melodic death metal that typifies Dark Tranquility’s discography to date.

Pallbearer – I Saw the End. I think it’s fair to say Pallbearer is the best doom band in the world now, although I understand there’s not a ton of competition and some of you are probably wondering what “doom” is in this context. I think they’re the spiritual heirs to Black Sabbath.

Ra’s Dawn – Inside Out. Is histrionic metal a genre? Ra’s Dawn seem to embody the term, combining progressive thrash with the bombastic vocals of early power metal stalwarts like Helloween or Hammerfall. I like the music here but could do without the disappearance of the guitars behind the verses.

Music update, February 2017.

Big month for new tracks, enough that I started out with 30 songs here and couldn’t cut any lower than 24 without taking out something I liked. I’ve got five metal tracks and two rap songs at the end, but before that we have returns from a bunch of my favorite artists, several appearing in new projects.

If you can’t see the Spotify widget below you can go directly to the playlist here.

WATERS – Hiccups. Friend of the dish Van Pierzalowski returns with the first new single from WATERS in almost a year and a half, and true to form it’s an upbeat indie-pop track with a big hook, definitely something to be sung by ten thousand people in an arena with the volume turned up to 11. (Because it’s one louder than 10.) WATERS’ third album, Something More!, is due out May 19th.

MisterWives – Machine. This NYC indie-pop outfit appears to be channeling Shakira with this funky, swirling, brass-heavy, stomp-along track that feels lush and intricate below the vocals. I think there’s real crossover potential here. The lyrics are a bit of a weak spot here, though, like rhymes from a teenager’s Poetry notebook: “Maybe I’m a dying breed/But I believe in individuality.” Yeah, no one else believes in that any more, it’s just you.

Johnossi – Hands. I heard this track, with lyrics about police profiling of African-Americans, and assumed Johnossi was an American singer of color … only to find out it’s a Norwegian duo singing rather well about an issue that I associated mostly with the United States. It should be a hit if for no other reason than the closing couplet “fuck them haters, we don’t care/put your hands up in the air.”

White Reaper – Judy French. White Reaper rocks your lame ass. Their second album, The World’s Best American Band, is due out April 7th.

Love Thy Brother featuring Ariel Beesley – Love Me Better. This actually came out last year, and I just whiffed on it because on first listen I couldn’t get past the singer’s weird pronunciations. The Montreal duo, actually brothers, teamed up with model/singer Beesley for a very catchy electronic track with an undeniable groove behind the verses, although I think when the music drops behind the choruses the song loses some momentum.

Ten Fé – In the Air. I think I’ve exhausted songs worth sharing from Ten Fé’s debut album, called Hit the Light, which has been my favorite new record of 2017 to date. (It’ll be surpassed shortly, with some big releases coming up this month and next.) Most of the songs I’ve liked from Ten Fé have had heavy new wave influences, but this one is just a straight pop song, something you might have heard on the radio as easily in 1980 as today.

Beach Slang – Bored Teenagers. These Philly punks supposedly broke up during a concert last year, then got back together and fired some members … I don’t know, I’m just here for the music. I do think it’s important that bands with “Beach” in their name deliver on that promise by playing punk or garage or even surf rock, as opposed to Beach House, who are basically just false advertising.

Bleached – Can You Deal?. They’ve doubled their membership over the last two years, adding a bassist and a drummer, and are about to release a new EP, with this punk-pop tune as the title track. It’s a bit of a slow starter, but when they hit the gas in around the midpoint it finally sounds more like a Bleached song.

Future Islands – Ran. I suppose they’ll never top their performance of “Seasons” on Letterman, but this is a good fascimile of that track, with the same pronounced bass line and ’70s soft-rock feel over a contemporary drum beat.

Depeche Mode – Where’s the Revolution. I’m a longtime DM fan, especially of their more goth-rock late ’80s heyday (think “Never Let Me Down Again,” not “Just Can’t Get Enough”), so any new single from them would make my list, but this felt a little soft for a lead single, like we got an album track instead of the song to make you want to run out and get the album.

Coast Modern – Comb My Hair. This LA duo reminds me a lot of WATERS and a little of Best Coast, with a dash of post-Pinkerton Weezer thrown in, which, uh, waters down the sound a bit. They could do with a little more complexity here, but from the handful of singles Coast Modern has put out to date I think it’s clear they have the ability to craft some solid hooks in the California indie vein.

Space Above – Let It Still. Space Above are a side project for The Naked & Famous keyboardist Aaron Short to do more experimental keyboard-driven songs, but there’s still a clear melody at work on this mesmerizing, textured single. The group’s debut album, Still, dropped on February 17th.

Strand of Oaks – Radio Kids. Timothy Showalter, who records as Strand of Oaks, seems to be at his best when writing nostalgic tunes about being a kid and listening to music. This psychedelic rock track, from his newest record Hard Love. reminds me of “Goshen ’97,” the best song off his previous album.

Mew – 85 Videos. This Danish group, whose singer calls their music “indie stadium,” is about to release its seventh album in late April, with “85 Videos” the lead single. The band has dropped the progressive trappings of its early career in favor of a more dream-pop approach with immaculate production and great technical skills, but without forsaking a good melody that wouldn’t be out of place in ’85.

Sarah Chernoff – Warm Nights. This solo debut from the lead singer of Superhumanoids shows off Chernoff’s incredible voice in a different milieu, over a bass-heavy, almost jazzy groove that’s evocative of a dark club or some sort of intimate venue for a concert. I’ll list just about anything she does on these updates.

Ride – Home Is A Feeling. Shoegaze has come back around again. Slowdive is back, Ride is back, Lush is back … I’m waiting for the Swervedriver/Catherine Wheel double bill. Ride hasn’t released a proper album since 1996, but have put out two singles in the last month – this and “Charm Assault” – presaging an album due out this summer.

Aristophanes – Humans Become Machines. Aristophanes (born Pan Wei-Ju) was introduced to the west on Grimes’ Art Angels album, where the Taiwanese rapper took the lead on the track “Scream.” It’s definitely disorienting to hear a high-pitched female voice rapping in Chinese, but Grimes produced this track, which is good enough for me.

Joey Bada$$ – Victory. The lead single from Bada$$’s upcoming second album is an ode to the NBA, which doesn’t do much for me itself, but his flow really stands out to me, even above other more popular “alternative” rappers like Kendrick Lamar or J. Cole.

CyHi The Prynce – Nu Africa. I’m not trying to change the world, I’m not looking for a nu Africa … wait, that’s the wrong song. CyHi, a frequent collaborator with Kanye West, is playing wordgames here as he tries to squeeze a slew of African country names into the lyrics (I counted 22), but there’s also a very old-school Native Tongues sort of Afrocentrism here, with an argument that black Americans should do more to help develop the “motherland.”

King Woman – Shame. You don’t see many women singing on doom metal tracks, but this is Kristina Esfandiari’s band and she is the dominant presence on this song, although I wish her vocals were produced more towards the front of the mix. It’s like Diamanda Galas doing guest vocals for Pallbearer.

Sleep – The Clarity. I didn’t realize this seminal stoner-rock act, best known for the single-track 2003 album Dopesmoker, had recorded any new material since that record, but this song first appeared on a compilation in 2014 and showed up on Spotify this week. It’s a nearly ten-minute dirge of vintage stoner metal, veering towards doom.

Ignea – Petrichor. A female-fronted symphonic/folk metal band from Ukraine, formerly known as Parallax, Ignea just released their debut album under this name, although several of these songs (including this one) have appeared previously. Their sound is fascinating, and also taught me a new word: the OED defines “petrichor” as “a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather.”

Havok – Intention to Deceive. Havok are an old-school thrash outfit that draws heavily on 1980s influences like Overkill and Vio-lence, the latter of whom could easily have recorded this song – which has very timely lyrics about authorities distracting the public with trivial controversies while greater ones go unreported.

Mastodon – Show Yourself. This might be the poppiest song I’ve ever heard from Mastodon, and I don’t mean that as an insult. It’s the shortest track from the band’s upcoming album, Emperor of Sand, which comes out at the end of the month, and still has progressive/technical elements but rides on a strong vocal hook that introduces the song.

Music update, January 2017.

My rankings of the top ten prospects by position are now up for Insiders, along with just about all of my offseason prospect rankings. I also have a new boardgame review, of the complex strategy game Forged in Steel, up over at Paste.

I couldn’t find enough new music to fill out a playlist at the end of December, but the last two months combined gave me more than enough material – twenty songs and nearly an hour and a half of new stuff. The beginning of this list feels really strong with singles I’ll have on the year-end list in ten and a half months, and there’s even some good new metal stuff at the end.

If the widget below doesn’t work, you can access the Spotify playlist here.

BNQT – Restart. This supergroup has members of Midlake, Grandaddy, Band of Horses, Travis, and Franz Ferdinand, and just announced their debut album this past week. This song is great, but I don’t think it’s necessarily unique – the main line reminds me of Tame Impala’s “Elephant,” which is a compliment but makes me wonder if having so many cooks in the kitchen will lead to a sound that lacks distinctive elements.

Bad Sounds – Wages. The Guardian named Bad Sounds their best new band of the week back in November, comparing them to early Beck and hip-hop, but I hear more Madchester and baggy sounds here, especially the groups that spun those into something poppier like the Soupdragons and Space Monkeys.

The New Pornographers – High Ticket Attractions. TNP are kind of an auto-include for me, but this is very similar to the better songs from Brill Bruisers, which I loved for its open embrace of pop melodies.

Slowdive – Star Roving. This is the first new single in 22 years from these shoegaze stalwarts, who were, I think, more critically acclaimed in their day than they were ever popular – but it’s good, a classic shoegaze song that doesn’t sound outdated.

Japandroids – True Love And A Free Life Of Free Will. I was not a fan of their 2012 album Celebration Rock, which made a slew of best-of lists for that year, but their latest record, the eight-song Near to the Wild Heart of Life, is cleaner, more polished, and more overtly melodic. The title track is good, this track is good, and the seven-minute “Arc of Bar” manages to fill its length with so much interesting material that I would have guessed it was two minutes shorter than its actual running time.

Spoon – Hot Thoughts. Another auto-include artist, and this song has a good Spoon hook, although the lyrics seem a little beneath them.

Lucius – The Punisher. Lucius put two songs on my 2016 year-end list, with one track at #10, and then rolled out this new single in December, which has a couple of really good melodic lines working in concert in the song’s second half.

Daughter – The End. This song didn’t appear on the Irish trio’s album Not to Disappear, released in January of 2016, but was a bonus track on certain later editions and then showed up as a single in October. It’s similarly melancholy, bordering on depressing, but with musical twists as the song crescendoes that almost hint at hope.

Heavy English – Shake. I loved this band’s first single, 2015’s “Twenty-One Flights,” but their full album didn’t quite fulfill that song’s promise; the whole record dropped in November and other than that song this was my favorite track, bringing in some of the bluesy riffing that made the first song grab my attention.

Slime Girls – Meteor Showers. Slime Girls’ Pedro Silva calls his music “laptop pop,” but this song rocks a little more with heavier guitar lines than that term implies. Apparently he’s been putting out records for years, with four longer releases, but this is the first song of theirs to cross my desk.

Ten Fé – Twist Your Arm. At some point, this electronic pop/rock duo has to release an album, right? I think this is now four great singles, and two I didn’t love, without a full-length record. I do love their sound, clearly – they’re in the same vein as White Lies, doing a more modern twist on synth-driven new wave.

Sundara Karma – Deep Relief. Their single “The Night” was #34 on my 2016 year-end list, and like that song, “Deep Relief” reminds me a lot more of Arcade Fire than the music of their stated influence, Bruce Springsteen. If they sounded more like Springsteen, I wouldn’t have any of their songs on these lists.

Arcade Fire with Mavis Staples – I Give You Power. All proceeds from the band’s first new song since Reflektor, a collaboration with Ms. Staples, will go to help the ACLU.

Goldfrapp – Anymore. This duo’s been around for 18 years, and I could swear I’ve heard some of their music before, but can’t figure out what song(s) that might have been. Anyway, their seventh album, Silver Eye, will be out early this year.

Tei Shi – Keep Running. This Argentine-born singer/songwriter is sort of Grimes Lite, mining similar territory but without Grimes’ vast musical reach, and I think aiming for a more atmospheric sound overall.

Gone Is Gone – Dublin. Mastodon singer/bassist Troy Sanders appears twice on this list, once here and once with his main band. Gone is Gone just released, Echolocation its second album in less than a year, and while I’ve yet to go through that whole album this lead single is strong and similar to the music (like “Violescent”) from their self-titled debut.

Black Map – Ruin. This heavy-rock trio will release its debut album, In Droves, in March; the first single, “Run Rabbit Run,” was #65 on my 2016 year-end list.

Overkill – Mean, Green, Killing Machine. Overkill were one of the better true thrash acts of the 1980s that never rose to the level of the big 3 or 4 (Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and maybe Anthrax) but have stayed very true to their original sounds while more popular acts have tried to evolve to chase more sales. Testament and Overkill put out the best records of any of those 1980s/1990s US metal stalwarts that released new albums in the last 24 months.

Mastodon – Sultan’s Curse. Good Mastodon songs are progressive without sounding prog-rockish. This is one of them.

Pallbearer – Thorns. These critically acclaimed doom metallers can get a little long – which is inherent in the genre – but “Thorns” is shorter, tighter, and thus really holds your attention without losing the heavy gloom that makes their music compelling.

Music update, October 2016.

October was just a fair month for new releases, albums or singles, so I stretched in a few places here, like including a couple of singles from earlier in 2016. You can go directly to the Spotify playlist or play it in the widget here:

Black Honey – Hello Today. I first featured this pop-meets-shoegaze act on a playlist back in March, but they’re certainly starting to break out in the UK and I think some airplay here is imminent. This is my favorite kind of pop track – highly textured music that offsets the sunny vocals. The Guardian compared them to Lush, one of the best pop/shoegaze fusion acts ever, which is high praise.

White Lies – Come On. White Lies mine the same territory as Joy Division, Interpol, Editors, and I’m sure a thousand teenaged English bands writing depressing lyrics, although White Lies at least contrasts the downer vocals with bombastic keyboard lines and driving guitar lines. Their latest album, Friends, dropped in October and was hit or miss; “Come On,” “Take It Out on Me,” and “Don’t Want to Feel It All” were my favorite tracks.

Regina Spektor – Grand Hotel. Either you’re going to love these lyrics like I do or find them too precious. I think Spektor’s at her best when she’s telling stories set to music, like this peculiar story of a hotel sitting atop a gate to the underworld.

Sneaks – Tough Luck. Sneaks is DC native Eva Moolchan, who makes very sparse, very weird music with terse lyrics over a bass line and a drum machine, reminding me of ’70s new wave artists like Television who had come and gone about twenty years before Moolchan was out of diapers.

Underworld – Ova Nova (Radio Edit). All the praise heaped on Daft Punk for their derivative, commercial Random Access Memories would have been better served to Underworld for their nearly thirty years of producing smarter if less radio-friendly electronic music. This edited version of a five and a half minute track from their critically-acclaimed March album Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future is just perfect – if I have a complaint about Underworld’s music it’s that their songs tend to wear their welcome out because they’re all so long.

Jagwar Ma – Slipping. This Australian band’s latest album, Every Now and Then, came out three weeks ago and remains on my to-do list, although I think this is the third track from the album I’ve included on a playlist this year (“O B 1,” “Give Me a Reason”).

Aquilo – You Won’t Know Where You Stand. A duo from Lancashire making electronic pop with vocals that sound heavily influenced by blue-eyed soul.

Temples – Certainty. The English band behind the 2013 hit “Shelter Song” will release its second album, Volcano, in March of 2017. This psychedelic-pop track is the first single and wouldn’t have been out of place in 1969.

Trashcan Sinatras – Let Me Inside (Or Let Me Out). One of my favorite bands of the 1990s put out a new album earlier this year, and it had a couple of uptempo highlights along with their usual slower, folkier stuff that never did as much for me. When the Trashcans hit on a melody, though, it seemed to elevate the band’s usual wordplay to another level entirely. I opened a recent chat with a line from their first hit, “Obscurity Knocks:” “I feel like a veteran of/oh I like your poetry/but I hate your poems.”

Little Monarch – No Matter What. Electro-soul? There’s a definitely ’70s Motown vibe beneath this electronic pop trio’s sound, despite their girl-group name, with a truly memorable keyboard riff following each chorus.

Sad13 – <2. That’s Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz, making similar music here as a solo act. Her debut album under the Sad13 album is due out on Veterans’ Day, and apparently she’s now based in Philly, so maybe I’ll run into her at Re-Animator or Elixr.

Hippo Campus – Boyish. This rousing alt-pop band from St. Paul will release its debut album, Landmark, in February of 2017. This is my favorite of their singles to date, a little rougher around the edges and less overtly poppy.

Sløtface – Empire Records. Formerly known as “Slutface,” an ironic name given the feminist bent of their songs, this Norwegian band does ’90s-style post-riot grrrl punk-pop as well as most of the American bands that tried to capitalize on the sudden commercial appeal of the Pacific Northwest, something they even parody when the singer says she’ll “play bass for Sonic Death Monkey.”

Pussy Riot – Make America Great Again. There’s been a whole slate of anti-Trump songs from rock artists lately, including an album of thirty of them, but most of the ones I’ve heard have been kind of … well, dumb. They’re condescending, almost pedantic, and unlikely to convince anyone who’s already decided to vote for Der Amerikanfuhrer. Then this Russian trio, who are really better known for getting arrested than for making good music, puts out a quirky, almost endearingly amateurish song that just sticks to the main points and follows it up with Trump’s main slogan.

NOFX – It Ain’t Lonely at the Bottom. This obnoxious punk-pop act has been offending people for over thirty years, since their first single “Thalidomide Child,” making this surprisingly tame song a little out of character. But it’s catchy.

Animals As Leaders – Arithmophobia. Highly technical, virtuosic instrumental metal. I bow before Tosin Abasi.

Testament – The Pale King. Aside from making heavier music than they once did, Testament’s sound hasn’t changed all that much over the last 25 years, and they still have the lack of clear, compelling melodies that kept them from breaking out like the Big Four of eighties thrash did. The riffing is the big appeal for me, in their classic tracks and in several standouts from last month’s release, Brotherhood of the Snake, but I know it’s a narrow appeal.

Metallica – Atlas, Rise!. Do we like this song? I actually think I like this song, even though I think it’s become uncool to like new Metallica songs (and I’m on record as saying I think their best work stopped after 1988’s …And Justice for All). It’s not a great Metallica song, per se, but it’s a good old-style thrash track that manages to justify its six-minute length.

Anciients – Following the Voice. This Canadian metal act bridges several subgenres – there are elements of thrash, progressive metal, and melodic death metal here – in a six-plus minute opus off their sophomore album, Voice of the Void. Recommended for Mastodon fans.

Dark Tranquillity – Atoma. The title track from this Gothenburg act’s latest album, due out this Friday, is straight-up melodic death metal out of that city’s school of rock, but with a strangely upbeat vibe to much of the album that it’s almost ‘bright’ compared to the rest of the genre.

Liquorworks – Then To Hell With You. I figured if I was going to put a seven-minute experimental (and instrumental) metal track on the playlist, it probably belonged at the end, because the audience for this stuff might total about twelve of us. It’s darkly atmospheric, with that low-tuned guitar riffing sometimes called “djent” that just sounds like heavy guitar work to me.

Music update, September 2016.

Just a not-very-subtle reminder that you can preorder my upcoming book, Smart Baseball, on amazon. Also, please sign up for my more-or-less weekly email newsletter, the latest issue of which went out yesterday.

September turned out to be a huge month for new tracks, from some of my favorite alternative acts to some major names in metal, and I struggled to pare this playlist to twenty songs. It’s good to get to be selective, though. Spotify users can link to the playlist directly.

Everything Everything – I Believe It Now. A one-off single from the group, who placed two songs very high on my top 100 of 2013 and whose third album, Get to Heaven, finally appeared in the U.S. earlier this year. Their music doesn’t really sound like anybody else’s, although in this case they’ve toned down some of the lyrical insanity of their prior singles.

Wild Beasts – Big Cat. Another English band that, like Everything Everything and alt-J, makes artful, unexpected music that’s definitely rock(ish) but defies many conventions of structure and sound within the genre. Wild Beasts’ album Boy King is one of the best albums of 2016, more melodic than their previous album, 2014’s acclaimed Present Tense. This track is one of among my favorites, not least for the line “big cat top of the food chain” in the chorus.

Van William – Revolution (feat. First Aid Kit). Friend of the dish Van Pierszalowski – no relation to A.J. Pierzynski – has released his second single under the Van William moniker, separate from his main work with WATERS, and it’s a very strong, hooky folk-rock track very much in the vein of the previous single “Fourth of July.”

Grimes – Medieval Warfare. This track from the Suicide Squad soundtrack, written from the perspective of character Harley Quinn, isn’t quite up to the caliber of Art Angels, especially since she sings so much of it in that little-girl voice that killed “Oblivion” for me.

Mt. Si – Oh. That’s Sarah Chernoff of Superhumanoids on vocals for her new project, named after a mountain in Washington state. It’s more ethereal – even spacey – than her work with Superhumanoids, but her voice carries the day whatever the music. Mt. Si’s debut EP, Limits, dropped back in February.

D.A.R.K. – The Moon. Featuring the Cranberries’ lead singer and the Smiths’ bassist, D.A.R.K. released their first album, Science Agrees, last month, an understated, bass-heavy record of gothic-electronic tracks like this one, which I thought had the best hook on the record.

Dagny – Ultraviolet. This Norwegian pop singer’s “Backbeat” made my top 100 last year and has been a steady favorite of my daughter’s since the song came out; I haven’t loved Dagny’s singles this year to that extent but she definitely has a ‘sound’ that I think deserves a wider audience here than it’s gotten so far.

The Radio Dept. – Swedish Guns. Sometimes I’m putting together these lists and come across a song by an act I’ve never heard of, so I assume they’re relatively new, only to find out that, as in the case of the Swedish duo The Radio Dept., they’ve been recording for over a decade. Their fourth album, Running Out of Love, comes out later this month, and this lead single is sort of a stoner/electronic track, like dream-pop without much pop.

Little Green Cars – The Song They Play Every Night. This Irish quintet had my favorite song of 2013, “Harper Lee,” but the rest of their debut album lacked the soaring hooks of that Mamas-and-Papas-inflected track. This song, from their March album Ephemera, is subtler but no less beautiful for its understatement, while still harkening back to the earliest days of folk music from the ’60s.

Preoccupations – Stimulation. The band formerly known as Viet Cong is back under a new, less-controversial name, although they still sound a lot like early Interpol and the early ’80s post-punks who influenced that band. Preoccupations is an intense, unsettling record where there’s almost too much going on to grasp it all at once – but I think, given the band’s and album’s name, that may have been their intent.

Nick Murphy – Fear Less. Another name-changer, as Murphy previously recorded under the (stupid) name Chet Faker. The slow build here from ambient electronica to drum-and-bass chaos is made more potent by the lack of a real resolution, a la Mercury Rev’s “Hercules” from All is Dream.

Lucius – Pulling Teeth. Lucius’s sophomore album Good Grief came out in March, with a pair of strong singles in “Born Again Teen” and “Almost Makes Me Wish For Rain,” but the Brooklyn band is releasing a two-song, 10″ single with two songs that didn’t make the cut, including this track about the writer’s block they encountered while writing the album.

La Sera – Queens. The main project from Katy Goodman, the former bassist of the Vivian Girls, La Sera put out an album in March that didn’t feature any standout songs for me, but this title track from their new five-song EP is one of their best … as is the EP’s closer, a bass-heavy cover of Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.”

Mona – In the Middle. This Ohio band hasn’t released anything since 2013’s “Goons (Baby I Need It All),” but this title track from a forthcoming EP sounds like they’re aiming for more mainstream airplay without losing that slightly grating edge that’s always populated their music.

Opeth – Sorceress. These guys used to be a metal band, I swear. I know their post-metal dive into prog-rock is incredibly divisive, but they’ve produced some brilliant moments across their last two albums with nary a trace of their extreme-metal roots. This song, though, goes even further back than their ’70s progressive roots, to late ’60s/early ’70s psychelic rock, married with Sabbath-esque doom metal riffing and drum work.

Ghost B.C – Square Hammer. The best track among the five new songs on the deluxe edition of their 2015 album Meliora, featuring the Grammy-winning “Cirice,” which I mention mostly because a black-metal band won a Grammy and its singer accepted the award in corpse paint.

Alcest – Je suis d’ailleurs. I wasn’t familiar with Alcest before this record, probably because their 2013 album Shelter saw them abandon metal for straight shoegaze, where prior to that they’d been dubbed a ‘blackgaze’ band that merged black metal with shoegaze, much as the critically acclaimed (and unlistenable) Deafheaven have since done. This song finds Alcest returning to their previous blend of post-rock walls of sound and heavy but not too extreme metal, sort of like My Bloody Valentine as a post-metal act.

Testament – Brotherhood of the Snake. In a fourteen-month span from September 2015 to November 2016, the five biggest thrash bands ever (Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, Testament) will release new albums, making me wonder if I’ve slipped into a wormhole back to high school. Unlike those other bands, though, Testament never broke through the way the Big Four did; they had the chops, but not the hooks. Today, though, they might be the best of the five, because their sound has evolved, incorporating heavier sounds like black metal and the regrettably-named “groove metal” into their traditional thrash, which gives Chuck Billy & company more shot at creating memorable hooks. I’m cautiously optimistic.

Insomnium – Winter’s Gate, Pt. 4. I really liked this Finnish melodic death metal band’s 2014 album Shadows of a Dying Sun, but their newest album, Winter’s Gate, is a single 40-minute track that I found a little hard to get my head around. On Spotify the track is broken into more digestible chunks, and this particular one stands out as something akin to a single. Insomnium mixes clean and growled vocals well, and aren’t afraid to use some less metal instrumentation, all of which is in evidence here.

Dark Tranquillity – The Pitiless. One of the forefathers of the melodic death metal movement and its Gothenburg scene, DT will release their eleventh album, Atoma, on November 4th, their first without founding bass player Martin Henriksson. Where fellow Gothenburg acts have disappeared for two decades (At the Gates), devolved into hackneyed thrash/death territory (Arch Enemy), or just plain suck (In Flames), Dark Tranquility have expanded their sound as much as the limits of melodic death metal might allow, evident here on this very heavy track, which is highlighted by some pedal-point guitar riffing between the growled verses.