First Listen: The Bug, 'Angels & Devils'

Aug 17, 2014

Kevin Martin, the shadowy English musician behind The Bug, could make "Happy Birthday" come across as a brooding dirge streaked with reminders of inescapable entropy and death. In other imposing projects — the creeping industrial-metal group God, the seething electronic act Techno Animal — he's established himself as a furrow-browed master of musical heaviness taken to formidable extremes. But Martin has a way with finesse, too; a hold on his rage that keeps his furious sounds from turning into blasts from mere tantrums.

It's easy to feel the romance in the musical relationship between Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst.

First Listen: Ty Segall, 'Manipulator'

Aug 17, 2014

It's a shame that the rock record of the summer had to surface at the end of the season. Bay Area pop craftsman Ty Segall, who recently relocated to Los Angeles, has issued a parting gift to San Francisco that's more infectious and memorable than any of the hundred-plus tracks he'd cut in his past few years as a solo artist. Segall's masterful new double-album Manipulator is a gift to established fans and new audiences alike, and it's bound to push him to another level altogether.

As singer and guitarist for Dinosaur Jr., J Mascis presides over a sound that can be skull-splittingly loud and intense, especially onstage. It feels strange to describe Tied to a Star as a "quiet" record, even by simple comparison, but for the most part Mascis' new solo album feels downright delicate. Though not entirely unplugged, Tied to a Star showcases the soft intricacy of a veteran craftsman who knows when to hang back and decide to pulverize another day.

For every guitar band that goes down, two laptop acts seem to rise to take its place. What's a six-string fan to do in a MacBook Pro world? Try checking out The Wytches. The British trio internalizes 21st-century angst, letting it fester until it erupts in an outpouring of confused catharsis. You just might need AppleCare after listening to the group's debut album, Annabel Dream Reader.

Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo grew up in New Hope, Pa., and quickly became friends, bonding over their love of music one day in the eighth grade.

"I remember going to his house and he was writing, you know, these punk-rock riffs," Freeman says. "I just started screaming into the mic onto a cheap tape recorder cassette, and that was it."

At Life's Last Threshold, Choir Brings Comfort

Aug 17, 2014

The Threshold Choir brings music to those on the threshold of life — people who are dying. The first group started about a decade and a half ago. Now there are choirs in 120 cities, and even a few countries.

One of the newer chapters is in Nashville. On a recent day, Tammy Heinsohn and two other choir members were going room to room at a hospice there, introducing themselves and offering to sing some lullabies.

They waited at one doorway until 86-year-old Avis Moni told them to come in, then walked to her bedside and began singing.

The woman who pops up halfway through "Somebody That I Used To Know," hijacking the 2011 hit to tell her own side of its fractured love story, has been busy since then. Kimbra's breakout turn singing alongside Gotye gave a pop-world boost to an eclectic career; on her latest album, The Golden Echo, she explores soul, funk, jazz and even disco.

Smokey Robinson may know the formula to scripting the perfect love song. Over his 40-year career, he's has written thousands of songs — both for his own group The Miracles and for other legends of Motown, including Marvin Gaye, The Temptations and The Supremes.