Lars Gotrich

There is a ceiling-gazing quality to Juliana Daugherty's songs — that's not an attempt at coining a new, fake genre, but a functional image. Light is the singer's first solo album after playing around the Charlottesville, Va. folk scene. Having spent a little time with Light, I just want to curl up in a circle of pillows and stare upwards at eggshell paint that could so easily be cracked by the quiet and contemplative poetry Daugherty sings with gentle, but aching lilt.

Wild Animals must have fans all over the world. No less than seven record labels spread across the U.S., Spain, Italy, Chile and Japan are co-releasing The Hoax; a lot of people really want you to hear the Madrid trio's new album, which recalls Superchunk's crunchy pop-punk and Bob Mould's triumphant, post-Hüsker Dü jangle with Sugar.

There is so much joy to be found in experimental music, with endless opportunities to experience sound and rhythm as pleasure, where discord becomes genuine discovery. Like, when you hear a synth emit a sound that could only be described as an amplified wet noodle slapping a thin slice of ham, that's funny.

There's a smoked citrus flavor to Sonido Gallo Negro, sour swirled in sweet and spice like a tiki drink splashed with mezcal and overflowing with pineapple chunks. Since 2011, the Mexico City ensemble has explored psychedelic cumbia, with an ear towards dive-bar grit. Mambo Cósmico is the nine-piece band's third album, expanding their sonics further with a Zappa-like whimsy — without sounding anything like that mustachioed Mother, mind you.

Sarah Louise must have a sick sense of humor, or just perfectly inappropriate timing: The second day of spring has been welcomed with heavy snow on the East Coast, and I am grumpy about it. But dangit, her new song helping keep the soul toasty.

Aisha Burns' heart was like a glass emptying and filling itself. Her mother had died, but she had also found love in a new relationship, all at once. The conflicting emotions would be enough for any heart to spill over with grief and joy, but Burns channeled it all into her new project.

Stella Donnelly has only one EP to her name, but that's been enough to make her sharp wit come through in sweet, quiet songs that rage loudly. The Australian singer-songwriter's Thrush Metal EP was recently reissued in the U.S. with a bonus track, "Talking," which she performs here surrounded by video of wires, a weaving machine and woolen yarns.

As Cornelius, Keigo Oyamada has stretched his vision across frenzied indie rock, lush '60s-style pop, psychedelic funk and glitched electronics, all deconstructed and reassembled like a neon cubist-pop sculpture. After a little more than two decades, no one can really imitate his complex cool.

This might very well be the ultimate lullaby. Right at the start of the 2018 SXSW Music Festival, Max Richter's eight-hour composition Sleep was performed overnight to an audience tucked into 150 beds. They — the audience, not the tireless group of musicians who performed the piece — slept, dreamed and sometimes snored through this trance-inducing experience.

I can't face myself. Becca Mancari repeats the line like a broken admission spoken through a pinhole camera, a whispered truth so potent it can't be looked right in the eye. The song that line comes from, "Dirty Dishes," is the introspective centerpiece of last year's Good Woman, and in this South X Lullaby, Mancari removes the clicking pulse of the studio version to underline the song's lonely atmospherics.

A laid-back disco cool and bouncing bassline groove don't make Natalie Prass' recent single "Short Court Style" seem like a natural candidate for quiet reflection — perhaps, instead, a hard-earned frolic betwixt lovers who work hard to make their love work.

The members of Wax Chattels introduce "In My Mouth" as "our homage to Auckland's best dive bar." If that's the case, this dive bar has been shattered, battered and fried into a post-punk surrender. No survivors, just a fluorescent strip dangling from the ceiling, flickering the remnants of a crazed brawl.

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