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, 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.

Stick to baseball, 4/30/17.

My book is out! You can find Smart Baseball absolutely everywhere – online, in bookstores, and even in some libraries. HarperCollins has links to various online vendors, but if you prefer to walk into a bookstore like it’s 1947 and buy the book directly, well, I like to do that too. I know thousands of you have already bought it, so my thanks to all of you.

I went to MLB Network on Friday and appeared on MLB Now, the show hosted by my friend and former ESPN colleague Brian Kenny. You can watch our discussion of the book. I talked to SI’s Richard Deitsch about baseball on TV and about not sticking to sports on social media. I also appeared on my good friend Will Leitch’s podcast to talk about the book and mock his hatred of Fletch.

I also discussed the book on over 50 radio shows this week; highlights included a long chat with WNYC’s Leonard Lopate, talking to Connell McShane on the Don Imus show, appearing on the Felske Files podcast, appearing on the Fantasy Focus Baseball podcast (with Karabell! But no bias cat), talking to WBAL’s Brett Hollander, and talking to WABC’s Sid Rosenberg.

I do have some upcoming appearances as well: May 8th at Pitch Talks Philadelphia, May 16th at The Georgia Center for the Book (in Decatur), and May 18th at Moon Palace Books in Minneapolis. There are further readings/events scheduled in Toronto, Miami, and Brooklyn for June and July.

My other writing from the past week included ranking the top 50 prospects for this year’s draft for ESPN Insiders, a list I’ll eventually expand to 100. It wasn’t easy getting to 50, though. For Paste I ran through the best new boardgames of 2017, including a few titles from the tail end of last year.

OK, finally, let’s get to some links:

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, November 2016.

November was very strong both for new album releases and for singles that preview albums we will see in January and February of next year, but really, this was about the Tribe, y’all. If you can’t see the embedded player below, you can click here to get directly to the Spotify playlist.

A Tribe Called Quest – We The People… The Tribe’s return this month on We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service was a welcome comeback from one of the towering lights of the Golden Age of Hip-Hop, tinged with sorrow from the March death of founding member Phife Dawg, who died near the end of the recording process. Q-Tip sounds as good as ever, and Jarobi White’s first appearance with the Tribe since the group’s debut album provides a low-register voice to balance Tip and Phife’s higher deliveries. The album is full of rage, true to the quartet’s Afro-centric roots but with an angry, cynical worldview they didn’t have or need on their earlier albums. This is the record of the year, and it is very much a document of our time.

Ten Fé – Overflow. This London duo does a modernized riff on classic, synth-heavy new wave, and this single, which I believe is their fifth so far, is perfect if you like the music of White Lies.

Japandroids – Near To The Wild Heart Of Life. I did not share the industry consensus on Japandroids’ 2012 album Celebration Rock, which I thought was too much noise and not enough rock. This first single ahead of their next album’s release on January 27th shows better production values and a tighter sense of melody than anything I heard off their last record.

Sundara Karma – The Night. Sundara Karma are a quartet from Reading – the one in England, not the one near me – that seem to fit in somewhere between late Britpop and the sort of traditional American arena-rock now exemplified by Kings of Leon. “The Night,” from their debut EP Loveblood, definitely leans more toward the American half of that formula, with a blues-rock underpinning and the sort of yearning sound I associate with KoL’s slower material.

Milky Chance – Cocoon. After 2015’s “Stolen Dance,” I sort of assumed we’d never hear anything decent from Milky Chance again; between that song’s novelty sound and their awful band name, they had one-hit wonder written all over them. “Cocoon” is actually a pretty good song, though – not quite as catchy as their first hit but catchy enough to be a hit on its own.

Sleigh Bells – I Can’t Stand You Anymore. Sleigh Bells, like Japandroids, tend to be too noise-oriented for me, often reminding me of the worst sound excesses of 1990s “industrial” music. Alexis Krauss has a great voice that I’ve always thought ill-fitting for the duo’s musical style, but when they pursue a more pop-oriented direction, as here or on their first hit, “Rill Rill,” her vocal combination of power and sweetness provides the perfect contrast.

Cloves – Better Now. Cloves is an auto-inclusion after her 2015 song “Frail Love,” which made my top ten tracks of the year. “Better Now” is the first release from her forthcoming full-length debut, still raw and very dark but with some textural contrast between the chorus and the nearly a capella verses.

Grace VanderWaal – I Don’t Know My Name. I don’t know how you could have missed her, but VanderWaal just won the most recent season of America’s Got Talent and released her debut EP, Perfectly Imperfect, on December 2nd. She wrote the music and lyrics for all five songs on the record. She’s twelve years old. Simon Cowell said she’s the next Taylor Swift and I don’t think that was usual TV hyperbole.

Hey Violet – Brand New Moves. Formerly known as Cherri Bomb, this LA-based quintet has gone from opening for the defunct alt-rock band Lostprophets to opening for the awful boy-band 5SOS, neither of makes much sense if you listen to their latest EP, their first recording under their new name. This is funk/soul-tinged pop music, definitely smarter musically than you’d expect from a group touring with a boy band, with lyrics inappropriate for the tween crowds I assume they were facing.

FREAK – Nowhere. English singer Connar Ridd records as FREAK and toured with Sundara Karma earlier this year. I saw a review that compared this track to Nirvana’s Nevermind, but FREAK is more Mudhoney than Nirvana, or if you’d like a more contemporary reference, it sounds a lot like the better tracks from Drenge’s self-titled debut.

Lapcat – She’s Bad. A Swiss-American electronica trio, Lapcat just released its third album, and this title track has the same hynoptic vibe of Portishead and early trip-hop stalwarts like Massive Attack or Tricky, but with a more accessible sound than either of those latter two acts brought.

Peter Doherty – Kolly Kibber. The Libertines’ ne’er-do-well singer/guitarist is not dead yet and appears to have a solo album in the works. There’s no mistaking Doherty’s voice or his style, although he tends to pack better punches than this song delivers.

Gone Is Gone – Gift. This ‘supergroup,’ featuring members of Mastodon, QotSA, and At the Drive-In, appeared on my May playlist with their strong, stoner-rock debut track “Violescent,” part of an eight-song EP, and they’re already back with a track from their first full-length album, Echolocation, due out January 6th.

Run The Jewels featuring BOOTS – 2100. I’m also on record as being something less than a fan of Run the Jewels’ profane lyrics, most of which are boasting about what great rappers they are (they’re not) or about their guns. If you haven’t heard RtJ before, you’ve at least heard one half of the duo, Killer Mike, who delivered the middle and by far the worst verse on Outkast’s 2002 hit “The Whole World.” RtJ’s third album is due out soon and I can at least say that this is the best song I’ve heard from the group, boosted by the presence of producer/singer BOOTS, who helped produced the group’s last album and whose track “I Run Roulette” appeared on one of my monthly playlists in 2015.

Black Map – Run Rabbit Run. Wikipedia identifies Black Map as “post-hardcore,” and what in the fuck is post-hardcore music? This isn’t hardcore, or anything like it; it’s hard rock, just this side of metal. It would fit on Octane, and it wouldn’t be out of place on Liquid Metal. There’s a bass-and-drum riff in the chorus here that feels derived from more extreme genres, but there’s an actual harmony in the vocals in the bridge, and a better sense of melody than you’d get from most post-whatever bands right now.

Pissed Jeans – The Bar Is Low. So, this is a bad name for a band, and I don’t love a lot of their songs because the lead singer often sounds like he’s gargling a pack of razor blades. You can actually understand what he’s saying and tolerate his voice on this track, though.

Sumerlands – The Seventh Seal. A reader recommended this group, which brings the big guitar sounds of NWOBHM and early ’80s metal but doesn’t have the same strong melodies of classic Maiden or Priest. This track was my favorite off their self-titled debut album, thanks to the memorable opening guitar riff.

Animals As Leaders – Backpfeifengesicht. More instrumental metal wizardry from Tosin Abasi & friends.

Hammerfall – Bring It!. Hammerfall hail from Gothenburg, home of a specific type of melodic death metal known, but they’re a throwback speed-metal band that just released its tenth album, Built to Last, at the start of November. If you remember the first two albums by German speed-metal titans Helloween, this song could easily be a leftover track from those recording sessions.

Kreator – Gods of Violence. I tweeted about this song a few weeks ago – Kreator’s core members are all nearing or just over 50, and they dropped one of the year’s best metal tracks. Kreator was probably the first extreme-metal band to which I was ever exposed, thanks to MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball, which would play the psychedelic videos for their early songs “Betrayer” and “Toxic Trace;” I also remember hearing “Some Pain Will Last” in college but lost track of the band after their 1990 album Coma of Souls as they evolved away from classic thrash metal. It appears that they’ve gone back to their classic sound, but better production values and some real songcraft make “Gods of Violence,” which incorporates some death-metal elements but is still undeniably thrash, as compelling as any of their 1980s tracks.

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, August 2016.

First, some non-music links – my thoughts on the Yoan Moncada promotion for Insiders, and my review of the coop murder-mystery boardgame Mysterium for Paste.

August was pretty fertile for new releases – I ended up cutting a few songs from the list this time around – with a number of singles out previewing albums due to drop in the next six weeks. I feel like overall this is the worst year for strong albums in a while, but it’s at least a solid-average year for great tracks. We still have time for something to grab me as the clear album of the year, though, so I’m trying to keep a positive attitude and take it one playlist at a time. Spotify users can use this direct link to the playlist if the widget doesn’t show up.

Swet Shop Boys – Tiger Hologram. If the voice with the British accent sounds familiar, that’s Riz Ahmed, the actor who played Naz on HBO’s The Night Of, paired here with Heems (ex-Das Racist) over a beat that was the best bit of new music I heard all month. The New Yorker profiled the duo ahead of the release of their debut album, Cashmere, in October.

Dinosaur Jr. – Goin Down. This is my favorite track right now from their new album, Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not, mostly because it just rocks and that’s when I’ve tended to like their music and not find myself bothered by J Mascis’s vocals.

Dawes – When The Tequila Runs Out. This song is just goofy-fun, more upbeat than stuff I’ve heard before from the brothers Goldsmith, who’ve also been working with Van Pierszalowski on his new project under the name Van William.

Atomic Tom – Someone to Love. Atomic Tom is new to me, even though they’ve been around for a decade and released albums in 2010 and 2015, with the latter, ERA, including this incredibly infectious 1980s-style pop gem.

The Naked And Famous – Laid Low. Never has this New Zealand quintet sounded more like CHVRCHES than they do here – and that’s a compliment. Now I’m going to ruin the song for you by pointing out that the two notes in the chorus where she sings “Taaaaake me” are the same two notes of “Tell me” from the chorus of “Always on My Mind.”

Christine and the Queens – Tilted (Live From Spotify London). I don’t think I’ve ever included a live track on one of these playlists, but I didn’t highlight “Tilted” when it came out last year and the song has grown on me, especially with this strong live performance. I still don’t think the French language is well-suited for rapping, though.

Kate Nash – Good Summer. I’ve got mixed feelings on this pop song from Nash, who peaked commercially and critically with her debut album and UK hit “Foundations;” I still love her voice and her ear for melody, but these lyrics are such a step down, as if she’s dumbing it down for the sake of sales.

Tall Heights – Spirit Cold. This song was first released as a single last summer, with a video out over the winter, but there’s a new push behind it with their August release of a new album, Neptune; I’ve seen them called “prog folk” but I think that’s misleading. This song is more atmospheric, driven by the two singers’ harmonies and Paul Wright’s cello, with some influence from the late ’90s quietcore movement evident as well.

Jagwar Ma – Give Me a Reason (Radio Edit). This Australian outfit, now based in the UK, go full-Madchester with this second single from their album Every Now and Then, due out October 14th. I hear Soup Dragons, Charlatans UK, even a little Happy Mondays here, so needless to say it’s my favorite song by Jagwar Ma yet.

Coast Modern – The Way It Was. I’m not a big Cage the Elephant fan, so saying this sounds just like a CtE – boy, that’s an unfortunate acronym – track doesn’t explain its inclusion, but in this case I found the chorus stuck in my head for a while after my first listen.

Midnight Faces – Heavenly Bodies. Another not-new artist I hadn’t heard before, this trio started out in Grand Rapids where one of its members was in a band (Saxon Shore) with Father John Misty. “Heavenly Bodies” is dream-pop with a better tempo and that moaning guitar riff earworm that was enough to land it on my playlist.

American Football – I’ve Been So Lost for So Long. Apparently this is a big deal; I don’t remember American Football from their late-1990s activity, after which they were on hiatus for sixteen years. Nothing says “emo” like “If you find me/Please remind me/Why I woke up today.”

Softer Still – Bliss. A quartet from Surrey whose sound reminds me a ton of Real Estate and a little bit of the Sundays (without Harriet, though, so it’s not quite the same).

The Head And The Heart – Rhythm & Blues. This Seattle folk-rock act’s third album, Signs of Light, drops next Friday. I think “Shake” is still my favorite song of theirs, but this would be a strong second; they’re better when they rock a little more like Okkervil River.

Bloods – Bring My Walls Down. Modern punk with sweet, layered female vocals. It works.

Dinosaur Pile-Up – Nothing Personal. This British rock act put out their third album, Eleven Eleven, last October outside of the U.S., but it’s just appearing here for the first time. I know they don’t call themselves a metal band, but the dropped tuning and riffing here are strongly reminiscent of classic (pre-thrash) metal.

Prophets Of Rage – The Party’s Over. As with their previous single, Prophets of Rage’s riffs are stronger than their rhymes. I get the political motivation behind the group, especially in light of the upcoming election, but I wish we were getting more vintage work from Chuck D and B Real.

Sabaton – Shiroyama. This song is such an unabashed throwback to 1980s thrash that I love it in spite of all of its anachronisms – or perhaps because of them.

Metallica – Hardwired. Obligatory. The lyrics are dumb, the drum work is amateurish, but I do like the early 1980s speed-metal riffing.