Lars Gotrich

New year, new choices. Call your friends, drink more water, watch movies with subtitles, and listen to more drone and hardcore. I can't help you with the first two, but I can recommend Ana Lily Amirpour's feminist vampire western A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night towards the third. (If you're fresh from my year-end All Songs Considered episode — hi there, by the way — I'm here every week with music of both extreme and soothing flavors.)

Some of us keep our grits simple: butter, salt and pepper. Some add sugar, which is just chaos incarnate. Some keep it real Maryland with Old Bay and the internet goes mad. Viking's Choice, as ever, welcomes and encourages unexpected dashes of this and that to make the mix a little weirder, a little louder, a little homey-er.

As we take a bottle cap to the lava-spewing volcano that was 2019, we're about to make sense of all of the music that it contained — or at least the parts that hardened on our hearts like pyroclastic rocks. Be on the lookout for our year-end lists very soon, plus my annual Viking's Choice episode of All Songs Considered, which comes out Dec. 31.

Absence helps the heart forget, the hard times get blotted with better ones; misrecollections become tall tales later canonized in the backs of bars. It ain't right, but as we soak up worry, euphoria and normal everyday B.S., the details can get squeezed out like crusty pulp from old grapes.

I used to be able to say that there wasn't a week where a Jack Rose tune wasn't winding through my head — his ramblin' ragas, sun-drenched drones and hiccuping blues guitar, picked with a big dang heart and even bigger hands.

We are made of star-stuff. Carl Sagan was a poetic-ass dude, and, by many accounts, he was right. When a star dies, off shakes gas and dust like cosmic dandruff, sometimes creating new stars and planets. Some of that space dust becomes part of living organisms, like us.

Are y'all subscribed to the NPR Music newsletter? You get the week's music news, Tiny Desks and personal stories from behind the scenes. I work here and I can't even keep up with everything we do, so that Saturday morning reminder sets up my weekend listening and reading.

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Do we really have Post Malone to thank for a new Ozzy Osbourne album?

You suddenly find yourself in a white room with no windows or doors. What adjectives describe how you feel? It's a personality test deployed by friends and psychologists alike as a way to think about death or the afterlife, should you believe in it. For years, my answers have typically been the same (peace, stillness, understanding), but lately, "mystery" is my lead response. In that hypothetical space, I'm drawn not so much what's outside those walls, but the creation capable within.

Record labels can be generous, quiet friends. You trust their taste, argue (one-sidedly) about the stuff that sucks, spend hours with each other late at night without speaking, but sharing a language nonetheless. There are a handful of labels like this for me, where the disparate possibilities of music can align in unexpected geometries.

When I first started in public radio 13 years ago, there weren't too many peers playing "challenging" music. Here was a 20-something who, up until moving to D.C., spent nights vibrating to Japanese noise and weekends attempting to decode large-format Xenakis scores in the University of Georgia library. NPR Music wasn't even a proper entity yet, and here I was already planning to dismantle notions of what constitutes "public radio music" with brash zealousness. (Hey, I was 23.)

Listen to this playlist on Spotify or Apple Music.

Ain't nothing minimal about minimalism. It's mind-expanding music within a limited frame, its attention to repetition and variation happens to be a sympathetic conductor for rock and pop music hypnosis.

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Arthur Russell was a mutant of disco, a starry-eyed singer-songwriter and a relentless explorer, first heard in downto

Released in late 2008, Lost Wisdom occupies a cherished space in Mount Eerie's catalog, where Phil Elverum collaborated with his favorite singer, Julie Doiron, and Fred Squire. Between that album and Dawn, released just a month later, it stamped a deceptively softer moment in time for Mount Eerie, where sparse, yet decorative arrangements were vessels for quiet echoes that grew with repeat listens.

There's a new, unreleased song from R.E.M. out today, with all proceeds going to Mercy Corps, an organization helping those in the Bahamas impacted by Hurricane Dorian.

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Strings buzz like cicadas muffled through insulated walls before an electric guitar strums and Angel Olsen, with resigne

After trickling out singles for more than a year, singer Lana Del Rey has finally dropped her sixth full-length studio album with the oddly comical title, Norman F****** Rockwell. On this week's New Music Friday, we dig into this expansive mix of slow-burning ballads and sometimes strange but profound, odyssey-length adventures.

When Kim Gordon dropped "Murdered Out" three years ago, her first single under her own name, she didn't ascribe it any significance. "It just kind of happened randomly," she told NPR at the time.

When Denzel Curry spits bars over a particularly decibel-shattering beat, there's a command of noise. The Miami rapper lives both inside and out of the mayhem ("Ricky," "Black Metal Terrorist"), but is just as comfortable revealing his soul ("Speedboat," "Clout Cobain") in productions and performances simultaneously hard and melodic. He's starting to come into his own as a rap chameleon, but lately he's been teasing another transformation as a shape-shifting rock frontperson.

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For reasons unknown, Chris Gaines is having a moment.

Nearly 40 years into their career, The Flaming Lips remain remarkably ageless and endlessly creative. They return this week with another heady, psychedelic pop record inspired by a surreal art installation by frontman Wayne Coyne. On this week's New Music Friday, we climb inside the band's kaleidoscopic new record, The King's Mouth.

Miranda Lambert really knows how to announce a new single. For "It All Comes Out in the Wash" — a cute-as-hell country bop that reminds us that "hard times do eventually pass," as she put it in a press release — Lambert filmed her shirtless husband doing laundry. You know, as one does.

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An industrial beat clangs as a low drone hums.

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When you have a voice like Brittany Howard, just about anybody looks good singing along.

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