I recently asked a friend to contribute to a team-review of a charity compilation, and suggested they write to whatever word limit they want, that they ‘go off on one’ about life in these times if they wish. They were happy to do the review, but feared it would be inappropriate to whinge about their sheltered life, when the compilation was raising money to provide NHS staff with PPE. I’ve thought a lot about others people’s experience of these strange times, having interviewed 20 Samaritans volunteers for a research project anout their effect on our lives. This made me want to write about my own quarantine experience less, simply for the sake of head space.
But then I published this great article from a writer named Minna. It documented a 10 song playlist she made, which I listened to on a long, sunlit walk. She structured it in the loose format of a day, songs that perfectly suited her own situation. I thought this was a great way of sharing music, in a way that’s related to what’s going on, to make something escapist whilst also getting some perspective on your own situation. I recommend that you do the same, if only because it’s important to remember what these times felt like.
I've also gathered these songs (along with a few other spiritual bangers) in this here spotify playlist. Enjoy.
The first time I ever listened to this song, or artist, was in the morning, on an increasingly rainy walk. It rung in my mind for hours afterwards. This is partly because the rain played havoc with my headphones’ buttons, tapping away through my hood, so I took them off and walked in silence. Its memory beautified the rain, a perfect emotional mirror. I felt calm, and thanked the friend who sent me it, who told me to thank Annie Mac. Thanks for genuinely caring about amazing music Annie, you’re priceless (as is this song).
I heard this for the first time a couple of weeks ago, it was posted in a facebook group comments section, responding to a request for members to share songs along the following vibe: 'Schools out for summer and you are happily licking a 99p flake in the back seat of a car. Suns out so you are heading to the seaside... You're happily gazing out the window at a clear blue sky then THAT tune comes on the radio, the ultimate feel good anthem... What is it?'
I immediately had to send it to a couple of particular people, it's just too good not to, perfect for shaking off any the cobwebs.
In the new, fantastic Miles Davis documentary, Herbie Hancock says ‘Miles had a way of playing like a stone skipping across a pond. It just touched the waves’, whilst this 1954 song plays. Another man comments that you could go to see Miles perform and happily leave after the first note; perfection. Frank Sinatra did a version of this track the same year, on his amazing 1954 breakup album In The Wee Small Hours, but Davis speaks so clearly with his trumpet’s tone that words are unnecessary.
This might feel a bit languid for 3 songs into the day, but this is a quarantine day playlist, so the pacing is funny like that. The cobwebs come off, then the blues seep in.
My favourite track on his album, I love emo stuff like this, particularly when balanced against enough scene-setting to make certain lines particularly devastating. Like Eugene, this is another track that rang in my mind after listening, riding my moods’ waves.
By this point you might want a little bit more rhythm to keep the blood flowing. I know I feel this way when working, at one point I took a little break to strut around my room to Charli XCX’s Next Level Charli, imagining I’m DJing at a party to my friends, real tears welling up behind my eyes. It felt great. Charli requires a very different playlist though, instead I give you this slice of absolute perfection, a collab between Fatima, one of London’s most underrated singers (I’ve put a few more of her cuts at the end of the playlist) and Floating Points, a producer translates the open attitudes of Jazz into electronic form, also essential.
I caught Still Woozy’s first UK gig in Camden last year. I had never listened to any of the music before, going along with a dear friend (and massive fan) of the artist. It was an incredible, wonderfully positive gig, fans screaming back those tender pleas, noodling riffs and punchline rhymes (my favourite is probably ‘you know I love it when you hit the L an’, run around yell’n' in Lava). This is their first new track in some time, and it’s great to see them up the emotional ante without losing that quirky warmth.
Absolutely perfect production here from Skepta, just like his beat for ‘Praise The Lord’, this has a mad combination of serene musicality and pure party, bringing up images of some hyper futurist party where the orchestra are decked in Marine Serre. The emo vibes here might not be as immediately obvious, but they’re definitely there; the three rappers present bonded over the fact that each of them happens to have tattoos of the word pain; Young Adz’ forehead, Chip’s shin, Skepta’s wrist. They play off each other joyfully on this track, full of hope, faith and excitement.
If you like sad songs, you’ll fucking love Phoebe Bridgers. You might not like this track immediately though; her new single slides the seriousness in beneath the skin of a joyful romp, the kind perfect for giddy fans to pogo along to at gigs. Again, an amazing quarantine song in the way its mood slips all over the place, especially once you actually look up the lyrics, which are amongst Bridgers’ heaviest, thrusting you into a deeply personal situation (fans think it’s about her Dad).
And suddenly the energy dips, the sun's down and the kettle's on. Laura Marling released her seventh album months earlier than planned due to Covid-19, cutting out the time that would usually be required for music videos. Thank the lord she did, it goes amazingly well with these times.
She discussed Phoebe Bridgers in an interview, “She’s so comfortably assertive – I just found her extraordinary”, which makes sense. Both writers look unflinchingly into darkness, but they write in totally different ways; Bridgers songs are often brutally literal, whereas Marling’s songs are totally different, taking flashes of memory and swirling them into poetry. The result is something oddly comforting.
This album was released a couple of weeks into quarantine, and as with Laura Marling’s LP, it represents a new level of perfection for its artist, Nils Frahm. I remember listening to this album with my headphones on whilst my brother was watching Ru Paul’s Drag race next to me, turning and watching tears stream down Widow Von’Du’s face. Enchanté, you stay.