NPR Music

Self-consciousness sometimes leads artists to reevaluate their approaches to music-making. They'll shift in directions they hope will cause their work to be taken more seriously and try to encourage the perception that they're saying things of importance. It's a familiar enough trajectory that Caroline Rose's inversion of it has mischievous appeal.

Dystopian art is all the rage these days. Shows like Black Mirror darkly question our relationships to technology and politics, while the cautionary literature of authors like Margaret Atwood and Philip K. Dick has suddenly become fodder for mainstream consumption. These works, and plenty of others in similar veins, turn a critical eye to our current social and political moment. What's become a rarity during this time, though, is apocalyptic art without an overt political agenda.

At once amiable and soaring, Mt. Joy's songs unfold like good political speeches: They amble and converse and pulsate fervently until it's time to get the crowd chanting along. Take "Silver Lining," which plays like a pretty straightforward rock and roll ramble — complete with a chorus in which singer Matt Quinn shouts out the phrase, "The drugs, the women, the wine, the weed" — until it gets to a more profound call to action: "Tell all the ones you love you love them."

Austin-based singer/songwriter Gina Chavez has always worn her emotions on her sleeve.

Her deeply felt ruminations on things like identity, love, life, fun and joy have made her music an Alt.Latino favorite for quite a few years now. Chavez's voice is perfectly suited to reflect all of those experiences and to take us to places where we dare to let our emotional guards down.

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Drowse is not only apt for the hazy ambience that Kyle Bates makes with creative partner Maya Stoner, but the medicated state from which it was inspired. Following a mental breakdown, Bates was originally prescribed antipsychotic drugs, and several unmedicated years later, his anxiety returned in heavy doses. His relief came in the namesake of this song, he tells NPR:

Early in her career, Brandi Carlile bent and broke Americana and folk stereotypes as an openly gay woman with outspoken progressive politics. Leading up to the release of her latest album, she posted an open letter on Facebook to the Baptist pastor who refused to baptize her because of her sexuality when she was 15. She forgave him.

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