It's been a minute, but I wanted to say thanks for subscribing to the Viking's Choice newsletter! It's a constant work in progress! And it's going to look a little different in 2022! Slimmed-down introductions! The Bandcamp 6-Pack is now the Viking's Choice 6-Pack! There's still a weekly playlist, but it won't feature descriptions of every song because that takes too long! More essays and Q&As! Commissioned graphics for regular features! Other exclamation points!
Anyway, thanks for reading. I hope to make this newsletter somewhat weekly – or at least semimonthly – again. Life and work demand most of my hours, but I never stop digging for music. – Lars Gotrich
Follow my Bandcamp collection. Stream the BNDCMPR playlist!
Jeff Tobias, Recurring Dream (self-released): I will always know Jeff as the sweet screamer, bassist and keyboardist in the punky Athens math-rock band We Versus the Shark, which put out a balls-to-the-wall comeback record practically lost to the pandemic’s first wave. This is not that, yet is a gorgeously dense, sometimes nervous response to time lost… or at least time spent interrogating the interior. Jeff has spent the last decade in Brooklyn as a composer and member of the ecstatic psych-rock band Sunwatchers, but Recurring Dream is an avant-pop solo album squarely in the vein of Deerhoof, latter-day Beauty Pill, Sad13, Chris Weisman and that period in the Downtown NYC scene when the avant-garde twisted popular forms.
Kendraplex, Two Rivers (self-released): Kendraplex is Kendra Amalie, who put out Intuition a few years back, a record that split the diff between fingerstyle guitar and rippin' psych-rock. Two Rivers feels like stepping into someone's day – a roomy sound collage that's open, yet broken apart. These are fragments of field recordings, angelic voices, Terry Riley-style organ drones, modular synth gurgles and bedroom beats all strung together with yarn.
Lumpen, Corrupción (self-released): If you like your UK 82-style street punk seared in chorus pedal and en español, Barcelona's Lumpen is your band. Corrupción feels a little less unhinged than 2020's Desesperación 7", but banks on feedback when hooks threaten to overtake the venomous thrust.
Spider God, Black Renditions (Repose): Black metal covers of pop songs. If you've clicked play, then you understand why this screams Viking's Choice. It's one thing to upend the most tr00 expectations – and work up a gimmick – but another to understand what makes these Whitey Houston, Spice Girls, Britney Spears and and Twice tracks work as blast-beaten covers: What is black metal and Top 40 pop but over-the-top musical melodrama? This is especially the case on Kanye West's "Heartbreak" – 808s & Heartbreak is an all-timer for me – turned into a ridiculously, yet faithfully executed Emperor-style keyboard fantasy.
Swansea Sound, Live at the Rum Puncheon (Happy Happy Birthday to Me, Skep Wax, et al.): Swansea Sound is new, but its members are vets of Sarah Records and '90s British twee (Talulah Gosh, Heavenly, Pooh Sticks). These punked-up, anti-corporate indie-pop songs snear sweetly with the whip-smart lyrics and hooks to be expected from these folks – and they sound cracking as ever. (Yes, I have been watching Derry Girls.)
Switchblade, Blue Matter (Further Platonic): Debut from this Japanese emo trio on a pretty rad Japanese emo/post-hardcore/math-rock label. Switchblade works in a similar sonic euphoria as The Velvet Teen: Windmill chords interspersed with tricky riffs disguised as hooks, lead-footed-yet-mathy drumming, and a vocalist who croons like Rival Schools' Walter Schreifels. This one's sure to be a constant for my Subaru's CD player.
Stream the updated Viking's Choice playlist on Spotify and Apple Music via NPR Music's official accounts. Here's the full archive, including this week's playlist.
BNDCMPR features tracks only found on Bandcamp, with links to purchase the music, which is the best way to love music; you should stream the BNDCMPR playlist!