Japanese Emo, Spanish Street Punk, Blackend Top 40
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
Viking's Choice 6-Pack
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.
Playlist: Viking's Cult
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!