Lars Gotrich

Elyse Weinberg, a late '60s singer-songwriter and guitarist once lost to time and later rediscovered by crate-diggers, died Feb. 20 in Ashland, Ore., after battling lung cancer. The news was confirmed to NPR through both her label, Numero Group, and close friend, Satya Alcorn. She was 74.

What better way to spend a beautifully sunny, long weekend than indoors on a liquid diet watching movies in a fever-induced haze? (Mashed potatoes and gravy count as liquid, right?) Between comfort viewings of Bob's Burgers and King of the Hill, I caught up on my queue.

It's not too late to make a musical resolution for 2020, right?

No, I'm not planning to spend any diaper money on rare 7-inches, or develop an unhealthy effects pedal habit. But I do need to get outside my musical comfort zone — and I want to get into calypso music.

Gonna keep it 100: I absolutely judge an album by its cover. Does it have a sick wizard? A most-pleasing font and color combination? An impossible and-or nightmarish fantasia?

When I scroll through Bandcamp, on the hunt for hidden corners of punk, metal and outer sounds, the first sense is always sight. Maybe a killer band name will catch my eye, or a trusted record label, but amid a bloated glut of music, image is queen.

"There will never be another one like him. Peace to his family and all of his fans around the world. Listen to Sean play his drums and hear his heart sing," Cynic's Paul Masvidal wrote in remembrance of his bandmate Sean Reinert, who died last Friday at the age of 48.

Polvo imagined a language as thick and viscous as cheese grits. Here was an indie-rock band of Southerners, messing with alternate guitar tunings based on Indian and Middle Eastern drones, noodlin' on aberrant grooves that simultaneously repelled and sucked in ears attuned to a long-winded, surprisingly catchy weirdness.

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.

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