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Maria Sherman

This essay is one in a series celebrating women whose major contributions in recording occurred before the time frame of NPR Music's list of 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women.

At the risk of hyperbole: London's La Vida Es Un Mus is one of the most exciting punk record labels going, possessing an unmistakable ear for innovative, dark sounds spanning continents, languages and style. There doesn't appear to be any method to when their releases become available, though its always an event.

This essay is one in a series celebrating women whose major contributions in recording occurred before the time frame of NPR Music's list of 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women.

There is a fine line between sensitivity and melodrama.

Petal, the musical project of Kiley Lotz, doesn't reveal specifics in "Comfort" to determine where she stands, but she makes her disquietude known. Her soft falsetto recognizes that the dissolution of a relationship, the space in which something intimate becomes ill-defined and romance starts to waver, is an idiosyncratic experience every time, for every stranger, friend and loved one. It also happens to be why "Comfort" is so heartbreaking.

There should be an industrywide rule that only acts of quality are allowed to name their project something wholly impossible to Google. Luckily for Sports — a Philadelphia-via-Gambier, Ohio twee-punk four-piece — it makes the cut.

Sincerity plays a key role in powerful pop music — candor is the catalyst for connecting an artist with their listenership. For indie-pop purists The Pains of Being Pure At Heart, that's never been a problem. From the band's dreamiest shoegaze influences to its most lucid lyricism, The Pains of Being Pure At Heart has found strength in heart-on-your-sleeve songwriting.

There are no clear-cut earmarks of success in independent music. Perhaps there shouldn't be: When bands find themselves inspiring attention beyond their basement-show aspirations, what looks good externally could chip away at the heart of something pure, something free of traditional capitalistic pressures.

From the first second, The Stevens sets us up for a letdown. In "Chancer," the Melbourne band assures us it's going to be a joyous and heartbreaking ride, a haze of indie-pop bliss defined by its sloping guitars. The song flirts with optimism as it moves upward without ever reaching a landing, creating a tension that power-pop has always known to be true: Darkness is best served deceptively, through happy sounds and complicated sentiment.

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