Lars Gotrich

On last year's Abyss, Chelsea Wolfe explicitly rendered the metallic tendencies that have always existed just below the surface of her music. Wolfe's soulful howl found its bite in gigantic riffs and devastating volume that suited some of her most significant songwriting yet. But at the Tiny Desk, Wolfe took her songs back to their primal form with just her voice, a muffled electric guitar and a loop pedal.

Beauty Pill's music is an invitation. In it, life whirs with plunderphonic glee and riffs are funky from the inside out, with rhythms that are equal parts hip-hop and go-go.

When listeners aren't writing to NPR to comment on a story, they mostly just want to know what music was played between segments. We call those buttons or breaks or deadrolls, and they give a breath after reporting a tragedy, lighten the mood after you most definitely cried during StoryCorps, or seize a moment to be ridiculously cheeky. How could you not play Katy Perry's "Hot N Cold" following a story about why women shiver in the office?

Let's talk about Frances Quinlan's voice for a moment. In "Horseshoe Crab," she whispers with a rasp that feels small, yet embodies the fears we try not to name; then, she throws her head back to ask, "Who is gonna talk trash long after I'm gone?" That gut-punching howl shatters like a plate on a concrete floor.

Baby-faced and rail-thin, Lee Bozeman didn't look like the kind of guy who would ram a microphone stand into the floor. But in the '90s, when Luxury got to "Flaming Youth Flames On" in its set list, the guitar came off and the sweetly gut-punching crooner flailed his body into the ultra-sassy punk song that teased, "Make you gasp / Make your heart skip a beat." It was an eye-opener to any teenager who witnessed it, especially since Luxury's spectacle was most often seen in church youth halls.

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