By Epigram Music
With pubs soon to reopen and social bubbles growing – for better or for worse – lockdown seems to be lifting. At its peak, the period of isolation and detachment left many of us hankering for some genuine connection, to plug the gap that Zoom just couldn’t reach. Thankfully, we had music. Here are the songs and sounds that guided us through.
Skee Mask – Compro
Lucas Arthur, Music Editor
Bristol during lockdown was an eerie place. Empty streets under sodium lights were quiet but for the intermittent sirens, in stark contrast to the usual nightlife. Bustling queues and packed venues seemed very far away. Compro captured this feeling.
In the opening tracks, synths ebb and flow as though softly breathing, offset by skittering breakbeats and bass that’s better felt than heard. Munich’s Bryan Müller draws inspiration from across the spectrum of electronic music, be it the midnight ambience of UK Garage (Burial fans will find much to love), the blissed-out landscapes of 90’s IDM or the frantic rhythms of jungle and hardcore.
His production is immaculate. The warm, subtle textures of ‘Cerroverb’ and ‘Vli’ reward attentive listening, whereas ‘Via Sub Mids’ and ‘Dial 274’ submerge you beneath the bass and reverb.
It’s easy to get lost in the music, in the same way one does when dancing in a crowd; that feeling of solitude in a loud and crowded place, not so dissimilar to feeling isolated within a city of 600,000 people, lies at the centre of this album. It was played frequently over these long months.
Carissa’s Weird – Songs About Leaving
Flora Pick, Deputy Music Editor
Songs About Leaving should, for all intents and purposes, be an exercise in abject misery. Seattle's now defunct (though still beloved) cult band, Carissa's Weird, hone in on their rare brand of chamber rock slash plausible-deniability emo on this 2002 release.
Comprised of a series of vignettes on the exact topic you'd expect from the title, this album is less an exercise in navel-gazing self-pity than a song cycle attempting to reconcile the necessity of walking away from something you love.
The obvious stronghold of sad boy with acoustic guitar is subverted with a lean to the symphonic, with menial strumming giving way to layered orchestral piano and violins. Hazy vocals are obscured by rich orchestration, giving the distinct impression of listening in on something very private.
The album’s ability to feel so grandly conceived, yet simultaneously so personal – an oversized glut of human emotion localised entirely within your bedroom – made it ideal for lockdown.
Eugene McDaniel’s – Outlaw
What can be said of the current unrest that has not already been said, in words far more eloquent and powerful than mine? In an attempt to fully understand the rage and grief felt by those protesting, I’ve been listening to Outlaw by Eugene McDaniels.
Strife and soul, fear and funk, manifest in the sexual licks of ‘Reverend Lee’ and softly psychedelic, Zeppelin-esque beauty of ‘Black Boy’. A song that stands out from the others is ‘Welfare City’; timeless and cheerful, you could swear you’ve heard it played a million times by other bands – it wouldn’t surprise me to find that modern artists have sampled it.
Featuring themes of struggle and exhaustion, the song is perfect for a summer of protest. Similarly, ‘Silent Majority’ a satirical take on the American political muscle, cries out with funky guitar licks and hilarious lyrics.
Released in 1970, McDaniels’ album transcends time: his vignettes of race, sex, and freedom in a fractured state go some way to painting a picture of the issues faced by the African-American community today.
The Big Moon, Walking Like We Do
Katie Hubbard 2nd year Geography
Indie-pop four piece The Big Moon released their sophomore album Walking Like We Do in January, when the idea of a UK-wide lockdown was merely a dystopian nightmare. The album brilliantly showcases The Big Moon’s aptitude for catchy choruses and down to earth yet uplifting lyrics.
Lines such as “Days like this I forget my darkness and remember your light” seem to be deliberately written for our quarantined times, while the album also contains some of the groups most popular songs to date, Your Light’ and ‘Take a piece’, in particular.
Slower and more reflective than the Britpop-inspired indie of their debut, Walking Like We Do demonstrates a more mature and nuanced sound whilst still retaining the groups youthful exuberance.
A combination of this optimistic, indie-pop bliss, and the fact that The Big Moon were the last group I saw live before lockdown, have made this the perfect album for me throughout these confusing and overwhelming times.
Charli XCX – how i’m feeling now
Greg Evans, First Year History
Quarantined in her LA apartment, Charli XCX gave us how i’m feeling now, an ultra-zeitgeisty album that marries fast car, electropop with a grinding, mechanical composition style. Written in collaboration with her fans (mostly via Instagram Live) and progressives like A. G. Cook, the album creates a perfect binary between iconic pop culture and highly technical production.
After effectively “Boom-Clapping” her way to autonomy in the industry, how i’m feeling now is as much a product of the lockdown as it is Charli’s journey to creative freedom in her own work. Following her formative 2019 release, Charli, there’s an irony in that the more heavily produced and electronic her music sounds, the more authentic and unfiltered her artistic vision becomes. With glimmering, post-ironic pop melodies and PC-ravaged musicianship, how i’m feeling now is music that’s about as subtle as a brick to the face.
Despite this, the lyrics retain a softness that navigates the emotions of social isolation; it’s this clarity amongst the noise that has really resonated with me these last few weeks.
Featured: Unsplash / Atlantic Records / Charli XCX
What have you been listening to this lockdown?