WRUR 88.5 Different Radio

Marissa Lorusso

Nandi Rose Plunkett is a seeker. As frontwoman of synth-pop outfit Half Waif, Plunkett writes songs that travel profoundly inward — asking questions about who we are and how we relate to each other — over beds of electronic instrumentation that expand and recede like ocean tides. There is a darkness that cuts through Half Waif's songs, hinting at a searching that is often born of loss and struggle.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

"Must Be Nice," the first single from Chicago band Varsity's forthcoming album Parallel Person, has a title that comprises a double meaning. The title phrase is habitually "bandied around sarcastically," says singer and keyboardist Stephanie Smith. But she says it can also be an ultimatum, as in: "I must be nice in order to be liked/noticed/not be considered a b****."

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.


Philly art-rock group Palm might look like a normal band: two guitars, a bass, drums, a couple singers. But if you listen to Rock Island (or really anything else the group has released), it becomes clear that any passing resemblance to normality is purely accidental.

The Philly art-rock band Palm seems to delight in being collaboratively weird. Bandmates Kasra Kurt and Eve Alpert bury their lyrics in singsong melodies and fractured, jittery guitar parts — both of which appear in constant, if antagonistic, communication with each other. The frenetic songs are made slightly more surefooted by bassist Gerasimos Livitanos and drummer Hugo Stanley, but the rhythm section's confrontational energy often undermines its own attempts at stability.

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