• Body/Head at Noise Pop 2013 / Photo by Miikka Skaffari/FilmMagic

    Body/Head's 'Coming Apart': Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon Rises Snarling From the Ashes

    Kim Gordon is getting the last word. As each member of Sonic Youth has gone solo successively since the band's shocking 2011 breakdown, we've gotten a dissonant post-mortem, a better understanding of how the quartet's parts made the whole. So Coming Apart, her debut double-album with guitarist Bill Nace as Body/Head, feels like a glorious revelation of her strengths: It makes clear she was the soul of Sonic Youth, now standing free in sharp relief against that body of work, reframing what we thought we knew.It's hard not to view Coming Apart through the prism of Gordon's transformation these past two years: After decades of seemingly ceding the spotlight to former husband/bandmate Thurston Moore, we now get a New Yorker profile that recasts her as an empty-nesting cool mom with a chicken in her oven, Tim Riggins in her head, hip-hop on her stereo, and a philandering ex in her past.

  • The Julie Ruin / Photo by Aaron Richter for SPIN

    Kathleen Hanna Throws a Grown-and-Sexy New Wave Dance Party on the Julie Ruin's 'Run Fast'

    What a drag it is, getting old, or so Mick J. thought. But like seemingly every punk of yore, he stuck it out anyway, inspiring a fleet of aging rockers who continue to defiantly reinvent themselves and foist their former teen troubles on us as they breach geriatricism (never trust a punk over 45), turning every music fest into a nostalgia-milkin', three-chord Antiques Roadshow full of Fuck You Heroes cast in amber. Punx who stick around but dramatically (and logically) evolve as they grow up are scant: Think Ted Leo, Superchunk, or Ian MacKaye (who now shames the audience for texting, not moshing).

  • Superchunk, together through life / Photo by Jason Arthurs

    Superchunk's Sobering, Electrifying 'I Hate Music' Might Just Save Your Life

    Death is everywhere on I Hate Music, Superchunk's 10th studio album. Sidling right beside us, doing air-guitar windmills on his scythe, from album opener "Overflows" (where "dead" is the third word frontman Mac McCaughan sings) all the way to bittersweet-ever-after closer "What Can We Do." This is a record of grief, bristling with the anguish of what it means to survive, to re-evaluate your life after (someone else's) death: "Everything is different / Everything is the same." (The record is partially inspired by longtime band/family friend Dave Doernberg, who died of cancer in March 2012.)As if that wasn't quite brutal enough, McCaughan also dredges up a rhetorical question from that emotional swampland of punk-after-35: What does music mean in the face of mortality?

  • A still from Dead Girlfriends'

    Dead Girlfriends' 'On Fraternity': A Roundtable

    On Monday, James Brooks, formerly of the electronic-minded duo-turned-solo-project Elite Gymnastics, debuted his new alias, Dead Girlfriends, with a four-song EP called Stop Pretending. One song, 'On Fraternity,' immediately attracted a goodly amount of Internet praise, including an impassioned Pitchfork write-up; though the solemnly sung, noise-damaged track sticks to the ungendered second-person pronoun 'you,' critics and fans assumed that with lines like 'The way your heart speeds up when you notice someone walking behind you' and 'In their opinion you were always kind of asking for it,' he was addressing — or even trying on — a woman's everyday fear of rape and harassment.Brooks has since clarified that his new work is partly inspired by Grimes, the art-pop project of girlfriend Claire Boucher, and in particular her 2012 song 'Oblivion,' which also addresses sexual assault.

  • Natasha Kmeto

    Natasha Kmeto: Portlandian R&B Singer-Producer Grooves at Max Efficiency

    Who: Natasha Kmeto's sensuous, pre-dawn R&B is not what comes to mind when one hears the term "indie act from Portland." But the 30-year-old groove rider insists that the Oregon metropolis' "moody, mystical, and dark feeling" suits her work just fine. Both lush and luscious, her second album Crisis balances Imma-Do-Me confidence with Imma-Do-You lust. And she plays every part, as well, down to the handclaps and vocal samples. Working free of collaborators, the Best New Artist alumna distilled her twin loves of '90s R&B (Missy, SWV) and dystopian '80s synthscapes (Vangelis' Blade Runner soundtrack) into one of the best headphone albums of the year.Groove Is in the Heart: For Crisis, Kmeto gave herself an assignment, which helped focus the recording. "I wanted to write the entire album inside of two months," she explains.

  • The-Drum, Photo by Maria Tz

    The-Drum, 'Contact' (Audraglint)

    Despite the fact that The-Drum's debut album is largely instrumental and free of any vocals or narrative that explicitly states, "This takes place in the future, or maybe in outer space," you just know. The young Chicago underground-dance duo mean to transport us to another orbit, far from humanity. Opener "Heat" is about setting the scene: electric whirring, distant windstorms, footsteps crunching on a dry rocky surface, a code punched into a keypad, an electronic door opening, and all the world is quiet. Then: "Welcome. Systems online. Launching." And quite suddenly we are there, in a coolly dystopian nether-earth, some electro cosmos where Vangelis' 1982 Blade Runner soundtrack reigns as the sovereign lord, and the atmosphere is clouded by ultra-synthetic MIDI patches.

  • Liz Phair in 1994 / Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

    Girly Show: The Oral History of Liz Phair's 'Exile In Guyville'

    In 1993, no rock record was as divisive as Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville. With her 18-song double-LP debut, Phair pried the lid off her life and sang away secrets. Even though it landed right at the apex of the cultural moment for "Women in Rock" and riot grrrl, Phair was something else. Her feminism was not wrapped up in dogmatic choruses, her rage was articulated in quiet disses tangled up in sublime indie-pop. Guyville was all guile and jangle. Phair dispensed with the innuendo and explained exactly, and explicitly, what she was game for.

  • Laura Mvula, 'Sing to the Moon' (RCA Victor)

    Sing to the Moon begins with a florid blossom of vocal harmonies, of many Laura Mvulas, the English singer's flawless voice multi-tracked heaven-high: "Our love is... Like the morning dew." It's a bit of a set-up, this huge sweeping pinnacle of romance so pure, the heart swelling with possibility, because then, a second later, she bursts that bubble and reveals that she's actually at the bottom, enduring a moment of devastating clarity: "Then I realized I didn't belong to you." There once was a tether of love — or maybe worse, a mistaken belief in one — but that's all over now.The album's arc spans something not quite like a breakup — more of a 12-track emotional evolution with Technicolor orchestral-pop accompaniment, Mvula confronting the sad fact that there's no fixing what's broken, there's no love to return to.

  • Laura Mvula

    Laura Mvula: U.K. Soul Singer Shuns Diva Buzz, Spreads Love the Family Way

    Who: Laura Mvula, the U.K.'s latest diva export, was shortlisted for the career-making BRIT Awards before she'd even released a proper album. The buzz-crazed English press have made much of her unconventional pairing of neo-soul and orchestral pop, while her stateside performances at SXSW, alongside her big band, turned more than a few into true believers. Mvula, 26, begins touring the U.S. and U.K. this month in advance of the release of her debut LP, Sing to the Moon. Despite all the "Next Winehouse" chatter, Mvula is humble and only a little phased by the attention. "I am writhing in the wave of shock," she says. "At the moment, everything is happening so quickly. It's quite overwhelming."From Walkman to Discman and Beyond: Mvula grew up under the tutelage of a jazz-obsessed dad who — though strict about what she could listen to — gave her a thorough musical education.

  • Tyler, the Creator

    Tyler, the Creator, 'Wolf' (Odd Future/RED)

    It's easy to understand why the Internet swooned so hard when Tyler, the Creator first floated along and pricked our bubble. Back in 2010, hip-hop was largely a bunch of old rich dudes resting hard on their old-rich-dude laurels, whereas the Odd Future crew boasted all manner of teenage lewdness; they were fuck-you heroes with a surplus of talent and not enough dough. They were the punkest thing to happen in popular music since Jesus was a boy.

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