Tori Amos has spent the past several years exploring other worlds of music. She released two albums of classical-inspired work, including a collection of her earlier pop songs retooled as orchestral tracks. Most recently she helped write a musical for the London National Theater. But this month Amos is back with Unrepentant Geraldines, a new album filled with her signature piano-driven baroque pop songs.
The product of an unlikely pairing of musicians, Sylvan Esso works in equally unlikely ways: Singer Amelia Meath first surfaced as a singer in the largely a cappella Vermont folk group Mountain Man, while Nick Sanborn plays bass in the versatile North Carolina psych-rock band Megafaun.
Only on occasion does it make sense to praise music as scary, and somehow many of those occasions coincide with Swans sending new sounds out into the world. Since 1982, when the band emerged from the same New York "no wave" scene as noise-rock acts like Sonic Youth, Swans' seething intensity has been a default mode. Every element of the Swans sound is alarming, brutal, dark and sublimely beautiful for all the rage that gets articulated — and the sense of release that gets promised, too.
Mirah wrote Changing Light, her fifth full-length solo album, in the years-long aftermath of a punishing breakup. Maybe it's the amount of time it took for the material to gestate, or maybe it's the thoughtfulness and patience gleaned from a nearly 20-year career, but Changing Light keeps looking at her ache from wise angles. Nervy and sonically inventive in spots, tender and graceful in others, it's a breakup record that eschews childish outbursts and pointless wallowing.
It's been four years since Agalloch released Marrow of the Spirit, a spectacular record that exposed the cultish metal band to a wider audience seeking something ritualistic and caustic in heavy music. For all of its lengthy and textured songs, Marrow kept things fairly linear — thrilling in its momentum, for sure, but onward and forward.
There are so many "whoa, stop" moments in the first three minutes of Sturgill Simpson's second album. A few selected quotes, which Simpson delivers in a stretched-out Waylon croon: "I've seen Jesus play with flames ... met the devil in Seattle ... met Buddha yet another time," "Don't waste your time on nursery rhymes and fairy tales of blood and wine," "Marijuana, LSD, psilocybin, DMT, they all changed the way I see," and "There's a gateway in our mind that leads somewhere out there beyond this plane / where reptile aliens made of light cut you open and pull out all your pain." Wait, what?
If you're just joining us, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Arun Rath. What connects the films "Drugstore Cowboy," "Pet Cemetery," "Batman Forever" and "Frida?" You can skip Kevin Bacon and connect them all with just one name, composer Elliot Goldenthal.