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Black Country, New Road, 'Chaos Space Marine'

Back in February, the London post-punk band Black Country, New Road released one of the year's gnarliest debuts. The genre-smashing For the First Time is an odyssey that encompasses rock, jazz, post-punk, spoken-word, klezmer and much more, in songs that could sprawl to the 6-, 8- or even 10-minute mark.

Now, just eight months later, the group has announced a full-length followup, called Ants From Up There. If its first single, "Chaos Space Marine," is any indication, Black Country, New Road has spent 2021 learning to shoehorn its zillions of sonic ideas into smaller spaces: The track runs a mere 3 minutes and 38 seconds, but still barnstorms through a thrilling transcontinental epic, punctuated by frenetic horn blasts and hairpin turns.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)