Well, I cannot say that circumstances here in my home area have gotten any more settled since last week.
In fact, since I published my last post, cancellations of in-person meetings for my college classes and internship shifts have been extended, and I have been isolating fairly strictly–with my only trips in the great suburban outdoors being to take walks, return a movie to the public library, pick up food, and vote in the primary election (*whispers* which probably should have been postponed). Now, promising effects on day-to-day life that will seem greater for those who have not been practicing social distancing already, a shelter-in-place order will be enacted tonight and remain through at least April 7.
I must recognize that I am incredibly lucky to have the ability to stay home throughout this spread of COVID-19, and in turn, I commend and offer my greatest gratitude to all of the healthcare workers, first responders, grocery store employees, public transportation operators, postal workers, non-profit staff, trade workers, and others who are and will continue to be keeping our society running in the process. Furthermore, I send my greatest condolences to those who are facing hardships with their and their loved ones’ physical and mental health conditions, employment, finances, and the like.
While keeping my privilege in check, I am here today to share some of the records that have accompanied me through this first week of social and physical distancing.
In short, as a routine-dependent person who utilizes class meetings, internships, and even just solo trips to the library as my primary sources of self-assurance, stability, and social engagement, my family and my music library are presently my greatest forms of camaraderie over the past week. As such, due to the ability of specific albums to help validate my turbulent emotions, empower me, and/or soothe my soul over this staggering period of time, I will now share these musical projects with you all, in hopes that they can provide similar outcomes (also, there are many other playlists out there that you can try out). If you would like to check them out, please feel free to use the links I attached to each of the titles.
Without further ado, let us begin!
The Softies – Holiday in Rhode Island
(indie pop, twee, minimalist pop, the musical equivalent to Gilmore Girls)
Truly, the timing of my rediscovery of The Softies was incredibly lucky. Approximately 20 months after I first heard this duo’s record called It’s Love (thank you for the reminder, Last.fm), I stumbled upon and returned to their discography on Wednesday, March 11, while browsing through the list of artists I follow on Bandcamp. While I did remember enjoying the aforementioned album on my first listen, I can say that I became absolutely enthralled with The Softies on this second go-around, which began with a play-through of the lovely Holiday in Rhode Island. Soothing, emotionally reassuring, and friendly in both lyricism and performance, the entire base of output from Rose Melberg and Jen Sbragia (both of whom have other great projects, by the way) under the apt “Softies” name has continued to feel like a friend to me. But in an audio format. Which is fine for me right now.
Phoebe Bridgers – Stranger in the Alps
(folk, indie rock, ~”*emo*”~)
Speaking of albums that have captured my heart, the selection in question is one to which I have somehow become increasingly attached on an emotional level since 2017. I was first introduced to singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers by way of her fantastic Tiny Desk Concert released in December 2017, and ever since then, every listen to Stranger in the Alps has allowed this cathartic, emotionally #relatable, and personable record to become more and more of a source of comfort and inspiration to me. Consequently, I am not too surprised to see that Stranger in the Alps has become one of my most-played albums of the past few years, with 2019 and the first three months of 2020 already having hosted more spins than 2017 and 2018 combined (thanks again for the information, Last.fm). With even less shock, then, I can admit that I instinctively flew back to this solo debut from Bridgers–plus her wonderful record with Conor Oberst under the Better Oblivion Community Center name– this past Saturday, and felt the urge to replay each cathartic song immediately afterward.
Excuse 17 – Such Friends Are Dangerous
(punk rock, is “riot grrrl” considered a genre?)
Who does not want to delve into the musical output of the “riot grrrl movement” at this point in time?
In all seriousness, despite having known about Carrie Brownstein (and Sleater-Kinney, of course) for years and having read her memoir titled Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, I had never given Excuse 17 proper attention until last Saturday evening. Perhaps because of this odd omission in my music library, my experience of becoming acclimated to Brownstein’s former band with Becca Albee and Curtis Phillips was all the more exhilarating; in any case, I can say in complete honesty that Such Friends Are Dangerous surprised and electrified me on my first listen. Featuring pointed lyricism, brash instrumentals, and impassioned performances, said record (and especially “This Is Not Your Wedding Song”) had me on the edge of my seat, and I believe that this capability can be helpful for any of you who desire a sense of release.
Joe Hisaishi – The Castle in the Sky soundtrack
(classical, soundtrack, pure whimsy)
Okay, now this is not really a traditional album, but please bear with me here.
Over the past couple of months, a new tradition of sorts has solidified itself in my life, calling for me to enjoy Studio Ghibli film soundtracks on Sundays–the days when I am in the greatest need of the sort of elegant whimsy that Hisaishi bestows upon listeners. As a consequence of my viewing of Castle in the Sky over spring break, I finally plunged into its musical accompaniments last Sunday, and as anticipated, this closer listen precipitated my adoration of the entire soundtrack. Whether you have never watched a Studio Ghibli movie before, are a relative newcomer (like myself), or are a devout fan, I would highly recommend taking heed to any of Hisaishi’s contributions.
(jazz, big band, swing, near-excess sentimentality)
Okay, please allow me one more diversion from the regular album format.
For those who are not engaged with the community of Disney Parks fans who share and revel in the “background music loops” that are played all throughout the resorts (quelle horreur, who is not?), just know that there is in fact, a community of Disney Parks fans who share and revel in “background music loops” that are played all throughout the resorts. As one member of this group, I must divulge that over the past two weeks, I have used a couple of such ambience-setting compilations as sources of whimsy (a word of the day, I suppose), namely, the loops that play in the Jungle Cruise queue and throughout the BoardWalk Resort at Walt Disney World. The latter of the two is the one I find to be most accessible, and as a result, I will proclaim to you all that my latest session with the big band-infused playlist this past Sunday evening reaffirmed its power as a pleasant mood-setter…and a wellspring of nostalgia for my Disney College Program experience. (By the way, I feel terrible for the group that had to leave early because of the virus).
Resavoir – Resavoir
(psychedelic jazz, lo-fi jazz, other jazz variants, I suppose)
The power of Resavoir strikes again!
To be honest, the capability of Resavoir to instantaneously grant me a sense of calm, warmth, and community is almost alarming. A summer record through and through, this debut full-length release from Chicago jazz collective Resavoir initially captured my attention last July, and due to the substantial joy that hearing the album in full for the first time in months granted me in December, I have been lending an ear to this group through the remainder of the winter season. Naturally, while working on a frustrating project that is not due for a month (as one may be inclined to do with excess time) last Monday, I chose Resavoir as my soundtrack; sure enough, each track inserted some much-needed brightness and refreshment into my afternoon.
Seriously, if you have not already done so, please give this album a try!
Slowdive – Souvlaki
(shoegaze, dream pop, a weighted blanket)
Indeed, my inevitable retreat to “the weighted blanket of music,” as an objectively correct tweet put it, occurred by Tuesday of this past week. Commencing with a cleansing marathon through My Bloody Valentine’s albums titled Loveless, Isn’t Anything, and m b v, my latest shoegaze phase culminated in my appreciation of Souvlaki, an iconic record from Slowdive that grows on me more with each and every listen. This time around, on a suitably rainy Wednesday morning, the dreamy and emotional tracks that constitute Souvlaki really began to stick with me, as expected, with the opener (“Alison”) and closer (“Dagger”) being my favorites so far. What better soundtrack could there be for a time at which one is inclined to pile on blankets–weighted or not–and immerse themselves in alluring atmospherics?
Vashti Bunyan – Lookaftering
(folk, psychedelic folk, my savior)
As I explained in my latest “Monthly Monday Music Melange” installment, my first dive into Lookaftering, the 2005 album from singer-songwriter Vashti Bunyan, occurred when I had felt quite submerged in self-doubt this past January–so, in other words, at about the best time possible. Despite the associations formed with Bunyan’s discography in my psyche, every ensuing play-through of her projects has continued to grant me impossibly-comforting folk, and my most recent listen to Lookaftering on my dreary Wednesday surely was no different. I hope this record can do the same for you all!
Joan Shelley – Over and Even
(folk, Americana, my sanity)
To supply an example of the power of this record and the bond with which it is able to create with the listener, around 4:00 AM this past Thursday, I happened to find out that an animal lives in the attic space right above my room. Fun! Due to my frustration and delirious fear that the animal (which I have been told is likely a squirrel) would fall through the ceiling, I soon plugged my ears and attempted to quietly grab my phone and earbuds on my way downstairs, where I would attempt to make myself comfortable on the couch. To block out the eerie–and shockingly loud–noises from above, I decided to play some background music, and instinctively, I went right to Joan Shelley’s Over and Even (although I later realized that any ambient Brian Eno record would have worked well too). This record is one I first discovered by way of NPR Music’s All Songs Considered podcast in the summer of 2016, and ever since that anxious time between high school and college, Joan Shelley’s discography has consistently provided soothing antidotes to my bouts of stress. Such a capability surely was apparent once again this past Thursday morning, as proven by my ability to garner sleep as I (quite loudly) played Over and Even continuously over my phone.
…Which is not to say that the album is tiring by any means, let me be clear. In fact, I loved being able to pay greater attention to the lyrics as I started to settle back down!
So, whether you are generally in need of calming music or are in the midst of an alarming visit from a mysterious animal, Over and Even just might hit the spot.
Brian Eno and Harold Budd – Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror
(ambient, good for falling back asleep to after being woken up–yet again–by a mysterious animal in the attic)
Sure enough, the animal returned to the crawl space above my room on Friday morning–or, upon waking up a couple of hours earlier than usual, my brain led me to believe that something was scurrying around in the attic. In any case, after attempting to ignore the “noises,” I succumbed to my fright and subsequently grabbed my phone and ear buds, stumbled down the stairs and over to the couch, and started (quite loudly, again) playing the album that had crossed my mind the previous morning: Harold Budd and Brian Eno’s Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror.
Did I need to do so? Probably not. Did I really just want an excuse to fulfill my inkling to immerse myself in a Brian Eno record? Probably, yes.
Let me just say, though, that attempting to give my undivided attention to Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror as I fell back asleep proved to be a heady, pacifying experience that I would recommend to any restless individual.
In fact–even though this point does not matter at all–this album has gone from simply having one of my favorite ambient tracks in “An Arc of Doves” to being a veritable competitor to Ambient 4: On Land as my favorite project in the Ambient series!
- “TT” and “Yes or Yes” by Twice (K-pop, pure joy, songs with choreography I am inadvertently learning over time)
- “Crime” by Real Estate (indie rock, jangle pop, the softest rock of all)
- “Good Intentions” by Magdelena Bay (synth pop)
- “We Will Become Silhouettes” by The Postal Service (synth pop, indie pop, eerily relevant content)
- By the way, Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab for Cutie–a band I have been exploring more lately–and Postal Service fame) is performing on YouTube livestreams every day
- “Waking Up Down” by Yaeji (electronic, house, apt mantras)
- “Bitter with the Sweet” by Carole King (soft rock)
- “Bottle It In” by Kurt Vile (indie rock, folk)
- “Guest House” by Daughters (noise rock, legitimately terrifying in a cathartic way)
Well, thank you for reading this blog post! I hope you all could find some enjoyment in this collection of songs and stories, as I know that taking the time to share them has brought me some sort of reprieve.
Please be safe and healthy, everyone!