Jason Heller

"I'm going out in style," Joe Casey chants at the end of "Cowards Starve," one of the most riveting songs on Protomartyr's new third album, The Agent Intellect. Casey isn't being literal. An unassuming Detroit resident in his mid-30s who speaks more than he sings, he's helped Protomartyr become one of the most intriguing post-punk groups in a climate that rewards the younger, sexier and coastal. Not surprisingly, "Cowards Starve" isn't your typical danceable, punk-couture anthem.

Lower Dens' last album, 2012's Nootropics, dealt with singer-guitarist Jana Hunter's preoccupation with transhumanism — the notion that human evolution is far from over, and that we may have to alter our own species radically in order to survive the challenges of the future, both here on Earth and in the far reaches of space. It's far-out stuff for sure, although Hunter has decided to probe a little closer to home on Lower Dens' arresting new album, Escape From Evil.

"It was a great time for storytellers," says Matthew Biggs, the central character in Kenneth Calhoun's haunting debut novel, Black Moon. The irony of his comment comes with a horrific aftertaste: The world is suffering from a sudden, unexplainable pandemic that's made everyone a perpetual insomniac. Biggs is one of the few who can still sleep. Humanity's state of chronic wakefulness has caused mass insanity — in the noonday sun, dreams overflow and chaos reigns.