Bummer Jangle, Gnawan Blues, Reckless Hardcore
Let me know if y'all with me, y'all
By way of the late, great MF DOOM, welcome to Viking's Choice. (I'm still a mess about this… DOOM's music means the world to me.) Since my appearance on All Songs Considered last week, almost 300 of y'all are new here, so I figure it's time to re-establish and reconfigure the newsletter.
What to expect:
Personal essays, longer album reviews or lists of things (like this one, but hopefully less boring)
Bandcamp 6-Pack: six albums that you can stream or, better yet, buy directly from the artist/label
The Playlist: a new mix pretty much every week via Spotify
RIYL: generally but not always a non-music thing that I enjoy such as tea, a comic or another newsletter
Viking’s Choice Guide to Bandcamp Friday: as long as Bandcamp waives its revenue fees on the first Friday of the month, I’ll put together a list of Viking-approved albums released on or around that release date
What will change:
Not much. You'll still get music recommendations across metal, punk, drone, psych, ambient, underground rap, noise or whatever I'm into that week. I will, however, break up regular features so it's not all packed into one giant missive. I write this newsletter during breaks from work, on my notes app while walking the dog and, if family time allows it, after hours with a beer by my side. The goal is to switch up what I write to make time for other projects: a Bandcamp 6-Pack one week, a longer and deeper reflection on music another, maybe more self-released podcasts. This week has just about everything, for a taste.
One last note:
Viking's Choice aims to represent the spectrum of folks who make loud and weird music. I can't stress how much I've learned and loved from pushing myself to find underrepresented communities in metal, punk, drone and whatnot. If I discover that there are too many white dudes in a newsletter, for instance, I readjust. As you'll see below, this week features albums that I meant to share in 2020, but set aside (mostly) for the reasons above… so yeah, a few more dudes than usual. Consider this a clearing of the decks.
Bandcamp 6-Pack (+1)
A new sixer (almost) every week. Follow my collection on Bandcamp.
Bab L' Bluz, Nayda! (Real World): My first love outside an Anglo/American musical upbringing was Gnawa, the hypnotic and healing music of Morocco. Yousra Mansour, a massive force singing what's traditionally the male role, leads this Moroccan-French band. Like many Gnawan fusion groups, there's a heavy blues and funk pulse to these guembri jams, but I also detect a yé-yé chic throughout, which is probably and partly why Tracy hipped me to the album in the first place.
Faim, Hollow Hope (Safe Inside / Version City Blues): Here's a teeth-baring hardcore album that makes me yearn for a recklessly dangerous (yet somehow still respectful) pit in the basement of some punk's house.
Howard Stelzer, Invariably Falling Forward, Into the Thickets of Closure (No Rent): In 2020 alone, Howard Stelzer released collabs with Peter Wright, Astral Social Club's Neil Campbell and percussionist Tim Feeney. But at 3 CDs, this solo joint's the sprawling noise epic that journeys through motorik acid trips, euphoric drone doom and warped cassette dub. Surprisingly well-suited for solo road trips.
The Reds, Pinks & Purples, You Might Be Happy Someday (Tough Love): Glenn Donaldson (Skygreen Leopards, various Jeweled Antler groups, FWY!) has been dropping double singles from his jangle-pop project for a couple years now and they're all so freaking good. Bummer pop songs with major Go-Betweens vibes and a twee wistfulness (a la Sarah Records) perfect for staring out windows (while crying) on sunny days. Like 2019's Anxiety Art, this collects a bunch of those Bandcamp loosies as one album.
Jackie McDowell, Color + Sound (self-released): In the early 2010s, Jackie McDowell made witchy, droney folk music as Inez Lightfoot, most of which can only be found on OOP cassettes. She returns now and again under her own name, including this headphone-ready, midsummer meditation (mostly) on harmonium as long tones shift around pastel drones.
My Heart, An Inverted Flame, Plague Notes, Unnamed, Unknown, A Finger Dragged Through Dust (Zum Audio / Deathbomb Arc / tUMULt): Pinkish Black, but make it doom drone. Dungeon synth, but lose the fantasy. If you have any familiarity with Andee Connors' (A Minor Forest, aQuarius Records) taste for the weird and the loud, this synth-forward project not only satisfies but truly explores decades of doom obsession.
Ezra Feinberg, Recumbent Speech (Related States): If, like me, you loved Citay's intricate West Coast psych-rock, you'll recognize Ezra Feinberg's circular fingerpicking continued here, but transmitted over tranquil Terry Riley airwaves, loping ambient-country skylines and crystalline guitar melodies a la Ralph Towner, especially Towner's mid-'70s essentials Matchbook and Sargasso Sea. A sleeper hit of modern minimalism and psychedelia.
24 tracks. Pit-clearing rippers from Faim and Dreamwell. Circuit Des Yeux's Haley Fohr guests on Visionist's haunting ballad. Roséwave-ready French pop via the exclamation-pointed Panache! Black Nash's woozy and bluesy indie rock. Adiós Cometa's Spanish-sung dream pop via Costa Rica. I didn't know Renee Heartfelt before, but a discography-collecting comp highlights this early 2000s post-hardcore band that picks up where Rival Schools left off. Throwbacks to The Uniques, Bert Jansch, MF DOOM, Morton Feldman and Ralph Towner.
RIYL mutant mingle
What: Dead Man Logan (comic)
Why: I want to know more about Glob. I’ve been slowly making my way through Marvel’s post-superhero dystopias Old Man Logan and Old Man Hawkeye; they’re good mytho-fodder, but boy they are bleak. Turns out there’s also a Dead Man Logan (words: Ed Brisson, art: Mike Henderson), so I prepared for more doom and gloom until I met Glob. Who is this glowing pink goo of bones? Like a nice-but-nervous 20-something, they seem uncertain of everyone and everything around them, especially themself. What does Glob look for in a partner? Another humanoid blob or someone much sturdier, like a Colossus? I’m only one issue into Dead Man Logan, but Glob is all I care about. More Glob, please.