Lars Gotrich

On the edges and sometimes in the center of Jenny Hval's provocative avant-pop music, there's always been a bold vulnerability. The Norwegian musician constantly pushes the form, herself and her audience to examine complacency and identity, culminating in 2016's noisy, synth-driven Blood Bitch.

I always had WUOG on the radio back in the day — not just as a fan, but as one of the college station's music directors — to make sure there was a good variety of music in rotation. But when a DJ had to pee or take a smoke break, I knew: They'd play a long song — more specifically, Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Not that there's anything wrong with GY!BE, just that there's more to drawn-out music than apocalyptic post-rock.

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Who would've thought that American Football's fruitful reunion would include a children's choir at the Tiny Desk?

Is there a Sean Paul of metal or drone that Jake Gyllenhaal can enthusiastically shout out? A musical hype-person who "makes every song better," but over blast beats or long, ponderous synths?

In a statement posted to Twitter on Monday, drummer Janet Weiss announced that she is leaving Sleater-Kinney.

"After intense deliberation and heavy sadness, I have decided to leave Sleater-Kinney," she writes. "The band is heading in a new direction and it is time for me to move on."

Nothing is permanent — these meat sacks we call bodies, the weekly Viking's Choice playlist available on Spotify and Apple Music. Seriously, if you'd been sitting on last week's mix of metal, punk, drone and other misfit music for a late-night sesh, it's gone — like dust in the wind, dude.

For more than a decade, the Viking's Choice column has been a safe space (or a festering wound, depending on whom you ask) for metal, punk, drone and all sorts of "weird" and/or "loud" music on NPR. You've heard me on the All Songs Considered podcast, and gotten irregular doses of my sonic realms on this blog.

Our curation game is strong at NPR Music, from All Songs Considered to Alt.Latino, to memorials that pay tribute to beloved musicians, to roséwave's sommelier-level summer bops.

Viking's Choice

Jun 17, 2019

Where heavy metal, heady psych, dreamy ambient, furious punk, chooglin' rock, twinkly emo and cotton-candy pop music all come to freak out. All of these disparate sounds make sense in the brain of NPR Music's Lars Gotrich — and are documented on his Viking's Choice column — because why can't Converge get cozy with Mariah Carey?

"Angels, your mother is about to feed you new music for five months straight,"
Charli XCX tweeted in May. "You deserve it and you're welcome." Depending on your appetite for futuristic pop, that's either a treat or a threat.

Updated Aug. 23, 2019: Vagabon's new album is now self-titled and coming out Oct. 18. It was previously called All the Women in Me. "Flood Hands" is now titled "Flood."

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Efterklang needed a break, but that never stopped the Danish trio from working with each other.

Michelle Zauner's songs are tender, but perverse — there's a break in the sweetness barrier that expels unspoken desire with a forceful glimmer. That's what made Japanese Breakfast's 2017 album Soft Sounds from Another Planet, in particular, so riveting.

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Well, now we just want to hit up the nail salon with Rosalía.

Sleater-Kinney returned just before everything changed. In 2015, nine years after a hiatus, the trio made No Cities to Love in secret.

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

How many times has Washington, D.C. endured a Fugazi cover from a touring band? Specifically, how many times has Washington, D.C. endured a cover of "Waiting Room"? Too many times. It's okay, we get it: "Waiting Room" is a jam.

This week's episode of All Songs Considered is a show of contrasts — cotton-candy pop one moment (from mxmtoon), raging punk sung in Farsi the next (from Khiis) — and then calming, instrumental, prog rock courtesy The Quiet Temple. For All Songs Considered's nearly 20 years, we've tried to live up to our namesake and on this show, we consider more drastic ends of the song spectrum than we have in recent memory.

Appropriately timed for spring, this month's selection of best albums is tethered together by the spirit of evolution. On Orange, the prodigious, Pulitzer-winning composer Caroline Shaw offers a blossoming rendition of string quartet music, while Glen Hansard has opened up his lovely acoustic palette to color it with newfound, worldly flourish on This Wild Willing.

The arbitrary boundaries dividing music into genres, localities and charts have all but eroded. This month's collection of songs is a small, but tremendous, piece of proof.

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FKA Twigs didn't just launch a sound, but a way of moving through it.

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Look, some of us aren't caught up with Game of Thrones.

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

When singer Norah Jones dropped her much-beloved debut album Come Away With Me in 2002, she won over legions of fans with her soul-soothing croon and blend of jazzy pop and bluesy folk. In more recent years she's explored a much deeper and sometimes darker sonic landscape. You can hear this remarkable range on her latest album, Begin Again, an inspired and often moody collection of songs she wrote and recorded with a number of collaborators, including Jeff Tweedy and Thomas Bartlett.

If we write our own epitaph for the planet, Dead to a Dying World's dark metallic prophecies are there to provide a gracefully vicious soundtrack. Nearly a decade into its existence, the Dallas band has sewn together exquisite doom metal, soaring post-rock and searing crust-punk in its vision of an Earth ravaged by humanity. For all its despair, singer and lyricist Heidi Moore says "The Seer's Embrace," from the band's forthcoming Elegy, is about acceptance:

You know when a song belongs to J. Robbins. There's a jagged quality, with guitar riffs that seem to have been sharpened on stone, all grounded in oblique hummability. Robbins has been in D.C. rock bands like Jawbox, Burning Airlines, Channels and Office of Future Plans for more than three decades now, each with a different take on his signature style. But Robbins had never really been interested in a solo project until he started playing shows on his own, rearranging older Jawbox tunes and releasing new songs on Bandcamp.

Maybe it's been a few months and you've wondered: "Where's that dude who played the heavy and weird stuff?" First of all, thank you. It's nice to be missed. The answer: I've been at home, watching lots of movies, changing lots of diapers and taking care of my firstborn daughter. Did this stop me from listening to said "heavy and weird stuff?" Well, yes and no.

I still prefer music recommendations from friends online or IRL, or stumbling across a punk band cooler than the one headlining the show, or buying a record simply because the artwork rules, or falling down the rabbit hole of random clicks on Bandcamp. Algorithms serve a function, but never satisfy the hunt, at least for me.

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