Lars Gotrich

YouTube

When Miranda Lambert regularly sells out arenas, Kace

Polvo imagined a language as thick and viscous as cheese grits. Here was an indie-rock band of Southerners, messing with alternate guitar tunings based on Indian and Middle Eastern drones, noodlin' on aberrant grooves that simultaneously repelled and sucked in ears attuned to a long-winded, surprisingly catchy weirdness.

New year, new choices. Call your friends, drink more water, watch movies with subtitles, and listen to more drone and hardcore. I can't help you with the first two, but I can recommend Ana Lily Amirpour's feminist vampire western A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night towards the third. (If you're fresh from my year-end All Songs Considered episode — hi there, by the way — I'm here every week with music of both extreme and soothing flavors.)

Some of us keep our grits simple: butter, salt and pepper. Some add sugar, which is just chaos incarnate. Some keep it real Maryland with Old Bay and the internet goes mad. Viking's Choice, as ever, welcomes and encourages unexpected dashes of this and that to make the mix a little weirder, a little louder, a little homey-er.

YouTube

Kesha's introspective turn has yielded two career-redefining albums — 2012's Warrior and 2017's Rainbow — ce

As we take a bottle cap to the lava-spewing volcano that was 2019, we're about to make sense of all of the music that it contained — or at least the parts that hardened on our hearts like pyroclastic rocks. Be on the lookout for our year-end lists very soon, plus my annual Viking's Choice episode of All Songs Considered, which comes out Dec. 31.

YouTube

You know what? Lizzo's "Good as Hell" deserves two music videos.

Absence helps the heart forget, the hard times get blotted with better ones; misrecollections become tall tales later canonized in the backs of bars. It ain't right, but as we soak up worry, euphoria and normal everyday B.S., the details can get squeezed out like crusty pulp from old grapes.

I used to be able to say that there wasn't a week where a Jack Rose tune wasn't winding through my head — his ramblin' ragas, sun-drenched drones and hiccuping blues guitar, picked with a big dang heart and even bigger hands.

We are made of star-stuff. Carl Sagan was a poetic-ass dude, and, by many accounts, he was right. When a star dies, off shakes gas and dust like cosmic dandruff, sometimes creating new stars and planets. Some of that space dust becomes part of living organisms, like us.

Are y'all subscribed to the NPR Music newsletter? You get the week's music news, Tiny Desks and personal stories from behind the scenes. I work here and I can't even keep up with everything we do, so that Saturday morning reminder sets up my weekend listening and reading.

YouTube

Do we really have Post Malone to thank for a new Ozzy Osbourne album?

You suddenly find yourself in a white room with no windows or doors. What adjectives describe how you feel? It's a personality test deployed by friends and psychologists alike as a way to think about death or the afterlife, should you believe in it. For years, my answers have typically been the same (peace, stillness, understanding), but lately, "mystery" is my lead response. In that hypothetical space, I'm drawn not so much what's outside those walls, but the creation capable within.

Record labels can be generous, quiet friends. You trust their taste, argue (one-sidedly) about the stuff that sucks, spend hours with each other late at night without speaking, but sharing a language nonetheless. There are a handful of labels like this for me, where the disparate possibilities of music can align in unexpected geometries.

YouTube

We live! We die! We live again! There's something remarkably pointed about the War Boys' rallying cry from Mad Max: Fury Road.

YouTube

The great and good Kesha just wants to party hard before she gets to heaven. Who are we to judge?

When I first started in public radio 13 years ago, there weren't too many peers playing "challenging" music. Here was a 20-something who, up until moving to D.C., spent nights vibrating to Japanese noise and weekends attempting to decode large-format Xenakis scores in the University of Georgia library. NPR Music wasn't even a proper entity yet, and here I was already planning to dismantle notions of what constitutes "public radio music" with brash zealousness. (Hey, I was 23.)

On my daily commute, I toggle between podcasts and music I want to consider for Viking's Choice (or, if I need a self-motivating wake-me-up before hitting the office, the first two albums by Rage Against the Machine).

Listen to this playlist on Spotify or Apple Music.

Ain't nothing minimal about minimalism. It's mind-expanding music within a limited frame, its attention to repetition and variation happens to be a sympathetic conductor for rock and pop music hypnosis.

YouTube

FKA twigs' elastic music feels at home in dark clubs, where neon lights shimmer on latex suits in a dreamlike display.

YouTube

Arthur Russell was a mutant of disco, a starry-eyed singer-songwriter and a relentless explorer, first heard in downto

Kim Shattuck, the guitarist, singer and songwriter of The Muffs, The Pandoras and The Coolies died Wednesday after a two-year battle with ALS, as confirmed to NPR by Omnivore Recordings co-founder Cheryl Pawelski. She was 56.

Listen to this playlist on Spotify or Apple Music.

Arizona's Gatecreeper has helpfully titled its new album, Deserted, for every music critic on deadline.

Whether the Tiny Desk is actually tiny is up for debate, but when someone leaps onto Bob Boilen's desk, the performance paints beyond the canvas. Here are five of the wildest Tiny Desk concerts — as chosen by me, whose opinion cannot be refuted — from Dirty Three's high-kick histrionics and George Li's piano-pounding performance to Gogol Bordello's vodka-fueled set, Cristina Pato's berserker bagpipes and Red Baraat's confetti cannon.


Released in late 2008, Lost Wisdom occupies a cherished space in Mount Eerie's catalog, where Phil Elverum collaborated with his favorite singer, Julie Doiron, and Fred Squire. Between that album and Dawn, released just a month later, it stamped a deceptively softer moment in time for Mount Eerie, where sparse, yet decorative arrangements were vessels for quiet echoes that grew with repeat listens.

Listen to this playlist on Spotify or Apple Music.

The fastest route to obsolescence is telling y'all that it was better in ye olde days. The truth is that while the mechanisms for music change — rapidly nowadays, it seems — the motivations for discovery don't. You dig because ya dig, you know?

YouTube

There was a time, around the turn of the century, when Mandy Moore the pop singer and Mandy Moore the actor existed simultaneously, touring with

There's a new, unreleased song from R.E.M. out today, with all proceeds going to Mercy Corps, an organization helping those in the Bahamas impacted by Hurricane Dorian.

YouTube

Strings buzz like cicadas muffled through insulated walls before an electric guitar strums and Angel Olsen, with resigne

Updated Sept. 17, 2019: This is weekly, updated playlist. So if you missed one, especially a themed playlist, just hit me up on Twitter and I'll hook it up.

On Saturday mornings, while roommates waited for coffee to drip or toast to burn, I'd take a cup of tea up to my room with a bowl of cereal, put on a record and open my email.

Pages