Lars Gotrich

Valerie June's "Astral Plane" was already made to be a lullaby, a softly swaying, country-tinged soul song that scrapes the stratosphere. On the studio version from The Order Of Time, it's dipped in gauzy guitar and keys.

We started a tradition a couple years back where we invite musicians in Austin, Texas, during the SXSW music festival to sing us a lullaby.

Sometimes the hard-working, completely badass punks win. Downtown Boys signed to Sub Pop recently, an open invitation for a wider world to hear the Rhode Island natives' wild, bilingual, no-filler, can-still-throw-down punk rock.

Feist has been known to take her time between albums, but it has been a long stretch since 2011's Metals.

This is some nasty, nasty jazz. Featuring saxophonist Matt Nelson (Battle Trance), bassist Tim Dahl (Child Abuse), and drummer Nick Podgurski (New Firmament, Feast Of The Epiphany), GRID's debut album bubbles up from the East River like a toxic monster amalgamated from New York's improvised and extreme music scenes.

While we patiently await the follow-up to 2014's brash and bubbly pop smash Sucker — "Boom Clap" is still bedazzled on our hearts — Charli XCX has released a mixtape ahead of her as-yet-untitled third album. Over 10 tracks, Number 1 Angel plays out like a pop diary of the London songwriter's past few years, indulging in the margins of slinky R&B, hip-hop and bizzaro electro-pop. But it's also just a really stellar group of songs, tossed out like she hasn't written more pop hits.

Few records this year, so far, are as wondrous, pointed and odd as Mary Ocher's The West Against The People. Produced with Faust's Hans Joachim Irmler, there is a dreamy motorik groove that guides some tracks — especially those with percussion duo Your Government — but the album reaches across synth-pop, psych-rock, folk and ambient music with an obsidian glaze.

The Afghan Whigs embrace the sleaze and surreal in the first single from In Spades. "Demon In Profile" picks up where 2014's Do To The Beast left off, with smeared blue-eyed soul far more sinister than it lets on.

Pages