28 songs to reflect any and all of your feelings during this unusual time
This week we’ve decided to put together a playlist of songs that relate to this current “situation” we find ourselves in – i.e. stranded inside, unable to see our friends or family, while a killer virus runs rampant outside our doors.
There can be many reactions to this situation, changing daily – or even hourly. From loneliness, to anger, to paranoia, to claustrophobia, to boredom, and cycling back to loneliness. We’re sure you’ve felt them all and more at this point. There’s one thing that we turn to for a reflection of each and every one of our feelings, and that’s music.
Below you’ll find our list of tracks that are reflecting all the myriad ways we’re feeling right now. Check out the playlist on Spotify right here.
From the fifth studio album by psychedelic haze-makers who are never in a hurry. At almost 12 minutes long, the song has all of the trademarks of the Bardo Pond sound – meandering and ever so slightly out of tune guitars with Isobel Sollenberger’s languid vocals that fall somewhere between Kim Gordon and Anna Karina.
[Sub Pop; 2010]
There’s a lot of advice going around about things we shouldn’t do (go outside, shake hands, etc.), but one thing that’s easily overlooked is something we should do: look after ourselves. So, follow the title of Beach House’s finest work and “Take Care”. And if you can’t look after yourself, then take five minutes and let the warm A.M. glow of the song nurse you into a calm. Take daily and regularly as required.
“House vs. House”
[Sacred Bones; 2019]
The best track from Blanck Mass’ recent Animated Violence Mild rips and roars away and seems to tear at the very fabric of time itself. A tense, layered beauty of a track that has an optimistic feel from a man who now seems to be permanently self-isolating from Fuck Buttons. Dedicated to all those currently looking out of their window and wondering if you’re doing this isolation thing better than your neighbours.
Boards of Canada
“Pete Standing Alone”
Though the title of the 14th track from Boards of Canada’s seminal Music Has the Right to Children refers to a documentary about an actual individual — Pete Standing Alone of the Kainai Nation — this song operates with equal power when read simply as, “Peter, Standing Alone”. With hazy, warm synths and crunchy break beats tethering listeners to a place of seclusion and vague memories, Boards of Canada summon the appropriate atmosphere for being cooped up in a time and place where days and weeks bleed into one another.
The Boy Least Likely To
[Too Young To Die; 2013]
The Boy Least Likely To make sweet music, the kind that people of all ages can enjoy. “Lonely Alone” is no exception, and while singer Jof Owen might be talking about things from the perspective of astronaut Michael Collins here, there’s no denying how much we’re all feeling the lines: “You think it’s only you who feels lonely like you / But so many people I know are scared of being on their own / You’re never gonna be lonely alone,” right now.
Need someone to turn that indoor melancholy into an anthem? Brandon Flowers has got you covered, and with “Lonely Town” he’s turning those grey, nameless days into jittery synth blasts and overdone multi-tracked vocals. As they say: go big or go home – but the good news is that you are probably already home in this instance.
The opening two words of this song – “dark days” – perfectly reflect the current situation we find ourselves in. Not that you’ll be able to easily make out what Jacob Bannon is hollering. An angsty song with a killer riff whose repetition beats you into submission.
“Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”
Not just an anthem for thousands of swing dancers across the world who miss their regular social dancing time, this classic hit from the Duke toes the line between serene jazz melancholy (thanks to Johnny Hodge’s gorgeous alto sax) and swinging pep to get you dancing about your house.
[Tan Cressida; 2015]
“I ain’t been outside in a minute,” Earl Sweatshirt confesses early on in “Grief”. It’s a situation that we all find ourselves in at the moment, and the song’s drugged-out, slovenly beat certainly captures the mopeyness that comes from continued confinement. Ultimately, though, “Grief” is about Earl using the isolation time to dedicate himself to pushing himself to greater artistic heights – something we should all aspire to be doing during this period.
Sung and performed with seven years’ worth of deliberation, Fiona Apple’s plea to the world with curdled, impressive lines makes for a defiant anthem for the indoors. When you’re trapped inside from self-isolation and you’re pacing the room with frustration, all you want to do is yell at the outside world for putting you there. Fiona Apple is there yelling with you on “Left Alone”.
“Wherever you are / Whoever is there / You know that I’ll be here / Wishing I could be there.” This is Alex Kapranos issuing solid self-isolation advice some 11 years before we would need it, even if it does come with an air of alluded infidelity. Regardless, stay home and wish you were able to transport yourself into the arms of another, be it your significant other or your secret lover.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
“Blaise Bailey Finnegan III”
America is rapidly devolving into a third-world country, and a large portion of its citizens are suspicious of the government’s motives. Most of us will just indignantly and quietly grumble about the situation to friends and family, but once in a blue moon a person will come along that stands head and shoulders above ordinary citizens. This guy doesn’t follow rules, he makes his own. He does what he wants, when he wants, and he’ll tell you all about it after he’s done it. While you’re sitting at home alone watching TV and eating your favorite pint of ice cream, this guy is out there listening to Iron Maiden, kicking ass and taking names. Say hello to Blaise Bailey Finnegan III, keeping America great.
“Morning Dew (Live in London, 1972)”
[Warner Bros.; 1972]
The nuclear holocaust never came around, which gives an unfair dated quaintness to decades of art grappling with impending disaster. Listening now, it’s easy to hear newly relevant echoes in the “Morning Dew” narrator’s hallucinations of people outside the shelter’s doors, and the simple wish to go outside and walk in the grass—and the narrator’s partner’s wry advice to not worry, “you never see those people anyway.” Grateful Dead made “Morning Dew” a staple song and earned it, growing Bonnie Dobson’s acoustic 1964 original into a long brewing storm of serene despair, but it’s been a fruitful source of covers for others too, including a biting blues rock rendition by Jeff Beck, and a gloriously bombastic wall of sound treatment from Lee Hazlewood.
“Running The World”
[Rough Trade; 2006]
Jarvis knows. Maybe once we get out of this we can start to build a different world together. Here’s hoping.
The closing track from Jon Hopkins’ exceptional album of the same name is a slow, shuffling track of introspective piano work. The soundtrack to the time when the klaxons sound to signal the all clear and we can all go outside, stumbling and blinking as we go.
Ah yes, the pinnacle of all expressions of paranoia and yes—isolation. More than any other song Joy Division ever released, “Isolation” is a kinetic ball of nervous energy, fully sunken into the abyss of a ramshackle psyche. Recorded during the final stage of his mental decline, “Isolation” is Closer’s initial reveal of Ian Curtis, per usual, on edge, desperate and yearning for something he cannot put into words himself. Leaning into an eerily catchy sound that’d soon be realized by New Order, this synth-driven instrumental acts as the perfect juxtaposition to Curtis as he tosses and turns, entrapped within his own mind.
“Alone is Okay”
Mesita’s “Alone is Okay” is for those who pine for the outside world while stuck inside. The sunlight refracts through the window and your eye catches a glare of a hundred colours. One day you’ll be out there again, feeling that sunshine on your face. But until then let this crystalline ballad keep you company on the inside.
“Whenever You Breathe Out, I Breathe In”
[Sub Pop; 1996]
I fancy myself an adventurer. So, if anything, this Coronacation has been revealing to me as to just how comfortable I am doing nothing for extended periods of time. We in South Korea began the relative quarantine from the virus rather earlier than many of you in the West, so I’ve been at this for weeks and weeks now. It’s an eerie experience, knowing the world is coming apart around you, but having nothing better to do in your own little hole than catch up films, music, and aimless attempts at that novel I’ll never write.
If anything speaks to all these things, it’s “Whenever You Breathe Out, I Breathe In”. A song that was once a level of imagined isolation and greyness that I aspired to in high school has suddenly become a stark reality. This extended homestay has yet to make me delusional enough that I’ll express the sentiment better than Mr. Isaac Brock himself, so:
“Hey, haven’t seen you around in a while
I didn’t go to work for a month
I didn’t leave my bed for eight days straight
I haven’t hung out with anyone
‘Cause if I did, I’d have nothing to say
I didn’t feel angry or depressed
I didn’t feel anything at all
I didn’t want to go to bed
And I didn’t want to stay up late”
I hear ya, man. These days, I think we all do.
“I am satisfied hiding in a friend’s apartment / only leaving once a day to buy some groceries,” Kevin Barnes confesses in “Gronlandic Edit”. It’s the tale of an agoraphobic – but at the moment it’s the tale of all of our lives. Barnes weighs up whether or not he should use this time to commit himself to a god (“but which one do I choose?”), but ultimately realises that science is the only power: “physics makes us all its bitches”. Amen.
“Behind Closed Doors”
I’m a Team Peter kind of guy, always was and always will be. This song is apparently about his relationship with recently bankrupt ex-model Katie Price. Who cares? It has a great title for times like these. And his wife is a doctor and doctors are bloody heroes.
[Valentim de Carvalho; 1987]
The second track from Rádio Macau’s third album O Elevador da Glória — the one that catapulted the Lisbon-based quartet to success due to singles “O Anzol” and the LP’s title track — “Cidade Fantasma” (“ghost city”) is a fine introduction to the band’s melancholic new wave/pop, the Paisley Underground guitar approach of Flak joining Xana’s laid-back vocals for a Siouxsie-meets-Pretenders result.
If there ever was anyone who could make a plague of any sort sound epic, dazzling, and strangely life-affirming, then Scott Walker is surely up to the task. This B-side from the 1967 single “Jackie” is unlike anything else in Walker’s discography, but it’s galloping Spaghetti Western drums and female backing vocals make it a widescreen thrill to listen to over and over.
“Alone, Jealous and Stoned”
The stately opener to Secret Machines’ Ten Silver Drops is a swirling dreampop song that finds Brandon Curtis sitting at home, getting high and being filled with regret at a lost relationship. Having found ourselves alone, without physical contact, and smoking probably too much, we can certainly relate to this one.
“Honk If You’re Lonely”
[Drag City; 1998]
When constructing a list of sad and lonely artists, David Berman’s name will almost always appear near the top. So it is only fitting that the second-to-last track from Silver Jews’ most notable album, American Water, finds itself on our quarantine playlist. Tinged with hopeless, romantic innocence, “Honk If You’re Lonely” displays Berman’s distinguished poetic simplicity in perfect form: “I smile and I wave and I hide all my pain / But the sign on my bumper gives me away.” If you’ve already become bogged down by the dog days of being alone at home, it’s highly unlikely this track will make you feel any better. But cheers to loneliness anyway!
[Rough Trade; 1986]
There’s something going on outside my door and I don’t like it. I turn on the news and they tell me to stay home, or as they like to put it, “shelter in place.” I can go to the supermarket or the hospital and that’s about it, but what’s the point of going to the store since the shelves are empty. I haven’t seen toilet paper in a month. But you know what I hate the most? I turn on the radio and I don’t hear anything that I can relate to. Alright, I’m a music snob, but would it really be so difficult for the DJ to play songs that say something to me about my life? Say what you will about Morrissey, but that guy knew what he was talking about 34 years ago, and yeah, sometimes I’d like to hang the DJ too.
Released in 1985 as a standalone single in the aftermath of their hugely successful first two albums Taxi and Cairo, “Sozinho” is a slow tempo post-punk ballad featuring an imposing bass presence and João Grande’s vocals drenched in glistering reverb. Literally translating as “alone”, the track celebrates passive contemplation and introspection in a nocturnal sort of way, distancing itself from frantic hit singles “Cairo”, “Chiclete”, or “Vida de Cão”.
“Another Night In”
[This Way Up; 1997]
A bleak and despondent song about lost love. Stuart Staples’ voice perfectly encapsulates the loneliness, despair and shifting moods that come with a broken heart/being human. A wonderful song from a wonderful band. FAO miserablists everywhere.
The White Stripes
“I’m Lonely (But I Ain’t That Lonely Yet)”
This piano ballad tucked away at the end of arguably the best White Stripes album (fight me) is what you need for when the isolation has worn you down. You might be longing for others, and want to hop across the city or state to see them, but you’ve got to hang in there. You might be lonely, but you ain’t that lonely yet.
Listen to all of these songs in the Spotify playlist right here.