Lars Gotrich

The arbitrary boundaries dividing music into genres, localities and charts have all but eroded. This month's collection of songs is a small, but tremendous, piece of proof.

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Look, some of us aren't caught up with Game of Thrones.

When singer Norah Jones dropped her much-beloved debut album Come Away With Me in 2002, she won over legions of fans with her soul-soothing croon and blend of jazzy pop and bluesy folk. In more recent years she's explored a much deeper and sometimes darker sonic landscape. You can hear this remarkable range on her latest album, Begin Again, an inspired and often moody collection of songs she wrote and recorded with a number of collaborators, including Jeff Tweedy and Thomas Bartlett.

If we write our own epitaph for the planet, Dead to a Dying World's dark metallic prophecies are there to provide a gracefully vicious soundtrack. Nearly a decade into its existence, the Dallas band has sewn together exquisite doom metal, soaring post-rock and searing crust-punk in its vision of an Earth ravaged by humanity. For all its despair, singer and lyricist Heidi Moore says "The Seer's Embrace," from the band's forthcoming Elegy, is about acceptance:

You know when a song belongs to J. Robbins. There's a jagged quality, with guitar riffs that seem to have been sharpened on stone, all grounded in oblique hummability. Robbins has been in D.C. rock bands like Jawbox, Burning Airlines, Channels and Office of Future Plans for more than three decades now, each with a different take on his signature style. But Robbins had never really been interested in a solo project until he started playing shows on his own, rearranging older Jawbox tunes and releasing new songs on Bandcamp.

Maybe it's been a few months and you've wondered: "Where's that dude who played the heavy and weird stuff?" First of all, thank you. It's nice to be missed. The answer: I've been at home, watching lots of movies, changing lots of diapers and taking care of my firstborn daughter. Did this stop me from listening to said "heavy and weird stuff?" Well, yes and no.

I still prefer music recommendations from friends online or IRL, or stumbling across a punk band cooler than the one headlining the show, or buying a record simply because the artwork rules, or falling down the rabbit hole of random clicks on Bandcamp. Algorithms serve a function, but never satisfy the hunt, at least for me.

You've donned the gay apparel and trolled the ancient Christmas Carol from Accounting, but the snow has turned to gray slush and whenever a mulled beverage is served, your uncle can't help but channel his inner Rob Thomas: "Man, it's a hot wine!" (The pun is solid, but the impression sounds more like Bill Murray's caterwauling howl in Scrooged.) You want to get in the spirit, but you're hardly dashing through the snow. What to do?

What can stop the mutant psych of Sunwatchers? In the last two years alone, the Brooklyn band has released Sunwatchers and II, two live albums and 3 Characters, a double LP led by the truly impossible-to-pin-down guitarist and banjoist Eugene Chadbourne. Sunwatchers' sonic and sociopolitical fervor is palpable, as the band weaves a noise-induced trance given to ecstatic dance.

Maxine Funke writes songs for the quiet corners of your dreams and fears, where her whispers float upward like warm air. Accompanied by an acoustic guitar and an odd noise here or there, she evokes tenderhearted singer-songwriters like Sibylle Baier and Vashti Bunyan, but also the subtle and strange songs of fellow New Zealander Alastair Galbraith, with whom she performed in the short-lived $100 Band.

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