Tracy Chapman's self-titled debut was in the tape deck, Sadie Dupuis' new poetry collection (Cry Perfume) was read in starts and stops and glasses of a Norwegian singer-songwriter's sparkling white wine were fizzing. There was a clear view of the mountain from the back porch, still green, but verging on fall colors. I've shared my love for this West Virginia getaway before: a simple, one-room cabin owned by family friends, just a short walk down to the river, with no cell service or internet. We cook, we hike, we restore. (But mostly we cook.)
But about that wine. Sondre Lerche, a shapeshifting crooner whom I've liked (even loved) over the last 20+ years, paired a new album with two varietals of natural wine. I brought along a bottle of his Cuvée PATOS to sip. It’s light and floral on the nose, so the experience was all in the flavor and carbonization. Crisp, yellow apple smacks the front, but there’s a grassy gin aftertaste — like an upscale Fresca cut with Sprite. The bubbles were the most fun, though: teeny, persistent little guys with just a little bite (a light ginger beer comes to mind), but not gassy, which is why I tend to avoid sparkling whites. As wine does, the flavor deepened over the hours, bringing out those ginger notes with a delicate, syrupy sweetness.
I swear this not a Pivot to Influencer, but I do genuinely like to curate experiences around food, music and drink; it's my love language! —Lars Gotrich
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Cheba Wahida, Jrouli (Nashazphone): I am a modest, even prudish dude who celebrates body/sex positivity, but mostly you'll find me at the back of the club, nodding along and taking in the scenery. However, I cannot be responsible for whatever happens should someone slip Cheba Wahida's Raï trance bangers on the turntable. There's little to no information about Cheba Wahida, but Jrouli gives me the same electric shock felt upon hearing distorted Arabic ravers for the first time. The rattling rhythms and pulsing arrangements — a psychedelic swirl of Gnawa, dancehall, Algerian folk — clash with fog machine-piercing synths as Cheba Wahida toasts in a voice that commands and coaxes.
Gimu, Sorrow was an embryo (The Committee for Sonic Research): If a blown-out bummer bliss-out titled "Don't Say Anything When We're Kissing" sounds like a good time, then read no further. I adored 2019's Finally Free, Gravity, a sad-sack ambient-drone heavy on glacially shifting tones and electronic detritus; Sorrow follows a similar route, opening bleak voids with beautiful noise, but offers a little more movement in the melody and even a techno-goth bruiser.
Autonoesis, Moon of Foul Magics (self-released): You know what my problem is? [Steps on toddler's toy box, stumbles, grumbles.] Multi-hyphenate metal tries too hard. I'm not saying genre-smashing ain't worth the work — smash away, please! — but, too often, blackened tech-death-future-slam-thrash-brutal-whatever overcompensates and, in the process, forgets the thrill of metal. Autonoesis understands that proggy Opeth bleeds through black/death/thrash like cotton on a fresh wound — these riffs and guitar solos have purpose beyond headbanging razzle dazzle, leaning into aggression without sacrificing melody, and successfully weave in acoustic passages that double the impact. Moon of Foul Magics hungers like old-school heshers in basements of yore, but with a pyrotechnic spark.
Cheem, Guilty Pleasure (Lonely Ghost): I wouldn't say that I hated the mall-punk and nu-metal era of rock radio, per se, but I was actively indifferent. As a teenager in the late '90s who rejected most mainstream music by college, it was a good time to embrace underground punk. All this throat clearing to say: Cheem rules. At first, I was baffled, then charmed by the somewhat recent movement to "reclaim the lame," as it were — partly in critical reevaluation, but mostly as younger bands raised on 311, Korn, Incubus, Fall Out Boy, Sublime and whatnot proudly boasted these influences. What Cheem does better than most is a heavy-handed wink as serious as the turntable scratches heard throughout Guilty Pleasure. These are outrageously dorky, pumped-up jock jams for nerds who maybe weren't around for Hot Topic's heyday, collaged from the most choice cuts of uncool that even the most jaded would groove on. (Lemme tell y'all, the hearty guffaw I let out upon hearing the goofball, Spin Doctors-y rap-rocker "Cheem Szn.") But mostly, Guilty Pleasure is it's-not-ironic-if-you-meant-it fun. (But I will not be digging out my checkered JNCOs anytime soon.)
The Rocky Valentines, The Rocky Valentines EP (Velvet Blue Music): Charlie is the son of Starflyer 59's Jason Martin and, wow, the songwriting gene is strong in that family. (He is also the spitting image of his dad — so, you know, a ruggedly handsome dude who will only get more ruggedly handsome with age.) In this tight, 13-minute EP, SF59 fans will recognize a studied compulsion towards aw-shucks classic rock played loud (see: Americana) and jumpy Brit-pop melody (see: The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Boo Radleys), not to mention a dry, self-deprecating humor. But for all the genetics baked in — and more than two decades of my own SF59 fandom — the Rocky Valentines feels less carbon copy and more like the next chapter of sunny-yet-nervy, SoCal power-pop. A song like "Driving Blind," especially, plays with a combination of rock-mode Pedro the Lion and The Killers' energetic arena-pop that makes me smile ear to ear.
Sarah Louise, Live at a Swimming Pool! (self-released): Nature's sounds, currents and textures have always been a part of Sarah Louise's music. She's best known as a guitarist, but her experiments with electronics and voice have coincided with techniques and philosophies grown from the Earth's hum. The 19-minute "Friends, Crickets, Frogs, Wind" cycles wordless vocal loops with ecstatic singing à la Alice Coltrane and Yoko Ono; it's music born from dissonance, stretching towards healing harmony. (Note: Sarah tends to take live recordings down after a while, so get it while you can!)
Stream the Viking's Choice playlist via BNDCMPR. Tracklist below:
Cheba Wahida, "Fel Nehar Akla Fe Lil Kbiha"
Gimu, "Don't Say Anything When We're Kissing"
Autonoesis, "Crypt of Thought"
Cheem, "Cheem Szn"
The Rocky Valentines, "Driving Blind"
Sarah Louise, "Friends, Crickets, Frogs, Wind"
The Veldt, "Sweeter"
Maral, "Feedback Jam"
Thumbscrew, "Survival Fetish"
more eaze, "Cold"
Maxine Funke, "South Dunedin"
A Glass Darkly, "The 15th Antiphon"
Tinariwen, "Arghane Manine"
Brody Price, "Dying When I Meet You"
Tin-ear, "Dress Up With Me"
John-Allison Weiss, "Different Now"
The Lord & Petra Haden, "The End of Absence"
Mali Obomsawin, "Odana"
Codeine, "Something New"
Jamaaladeen Tacuma & Mary Halvorson, "Situation Bender"
Ustad Noor Bakhsh, "Kalam Lolo"
Brad E. Rose, "Annular Silhouettes (excerpt)"
Fire-Toolz, "Verdic Software ~ Wet Interfacing"
Sondre Lerche (feat. Mary Lattimore), "Magnitude of Love"
Jivebomb, "Primitive Desires"
Deerhoof, "My Lovely Cat!"
Tigers Jaw, "Old Clothes"
Dream Unending, "Secret Grief"
Clarice Jensen, "Joy"
Mats Persson & Kristine Scholz, "I Sommarluft: VI. I Sommarluft"
Carl Stone, "Sumiya"