Lars Gotrich

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.

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.

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We live! We die! We live again! There's something remarkably pointed about the War Boys' rallying cry from Mad Max: Fury Road.

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.)

On my daily commute, I toggle between podcasts and music I want to consider for Viking's Choice (or, if I need a self-motivating wake-me-up before hitting the office, the first two albums by Rage Against the Machine).

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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