Quarantine Jams!

Will Talbot, Contributing Writer

Quarantine is a time that we were thrown into very quickly as a society. One day, we were meeting new people, visiting new places, having new experiences. Two weeks later we were stuck at home, physically distanced from many friends, and not allowed to gather in large groups in-person. This was a really hard transition for many of us, especially because it occurred in the context of a worldwide pandemic.

As a person with anxiety, I was no exception. Although I was very fortunate in that my family and friends remained healthy, I felt like the world was slipping away from me at both a large-scale and a small-scale. I feverishly read of heightening cases and death counts as George Floyd’s death sparked a second world crisis as protesters marched against excessive, tragic uses of police force against black people. At the same time, I witnessed our family dog pass away and saw both world crises hit close to home. With many friends deciding not to come back to campus, and my fellow students having their own reckoning about the role of police and the state of racial injustice at Clark.

I now want to look back, weeks after my return to campus, after health-conscious socialization with my friends has helped boost my mental health. I want to reflect on the music that got me through the many dark weeks as I dealt with tragedies near and far, languishing at home and trying to finish my classes, often just trying to get by. I had a lot of time to listen to new music as I tried to work and rest, and although many of my summer plans were cancelled, I remember fondly the accomplishment of finding many of these wonderful songs. These songs speak to what I or we as a society were going through, and still are going through.

“Trampoline” by Kero Kero Bonito: I originally interpreted this fun, quirky, insanely catchy electropop song from the eclectic British band as a literal song about jumping on a trampoline, which reminded me of a video my mom showed me of my cousins jumping on a trampoline (one of their quarantine gifts from their parents) with joy. But when I read the lyrics closer and realized that they had a second, deeper meaning about bouncing back from the hardships in life, the song clicked even better and I gave it more and more spins.

“Fever Dream” and “Lessons” by mxmtoon: This Californian singer-songwriter, who has achieved considerable success on Youtube and TikTok, released by far her best project yet, “Dawn”, this year. “Fever Dream”, in which she excellently uses her lower register, includes the lyrics “I want something more than, more than restless mornings, getting by’s so boring.” These lyrics are incredibly relatable, as I struggled to get motivated and start the day’s tasks at a decent hour throughout quarantine. On top of well-crafted bedroom pop production, both “Fever Dream” and “Lessons” give needed, encouraging messages of positivity and hope while acknowledging that we all make mistakes. The lyrics of “Lessons” helped me realize that I can look at my struggles with anxiety during quarantine as a learning experience, and not as a failure.

“Lonely Generation” by Echosmith: The title track on the newest Echosmith album is solid but not incredibly groundbreaking sonically. The production has a mix of bass and mallet-led retro-80’s production that is popular today and Sydney Sierota gives a folk-tinged chorus that harks of the early 2010’s indie boom. Sierota’s lyrics exceptionally sum up the experience of young people nowadays, who have access to more information and ways to communicate than ever before, yet still struggle with isolation regardless. The line “Looking in the wrong place for something right” speaks to how I spent hours searching the internet trying to find solace in information about the world, when real solace is actually found in being with family and friends, reading, cooking, walking, and relaxing.

“You Come Into My House, While I Sleep” by Look Mexico: I first got into this Floridian midwest emo band’s song “We are Groot” (I’m a big Guardians of the Galaxy fan), but they won me even more with the opening track from their 2007 debut album. Backed by intricate, jangling guitars, singer Matt Agrella unabashedly relays about the benefits of sleep and dreaming. I realized the full importance of my sleep schedule for my mental health this summer. My sleep schedule, however, got quite messy, with many extremely late nights, so the line “The day is just a time to sleep with the lights on” was both hilarious and relatable. I also love the lyric “You can’t start changing minds until you’ve changed your own”, because it helped me realize that you can’t carry the problems of the world on your shoulders constantly, and it’s sometimes best to rest, and dream, so you can be refreshed and reinvigorated with new ideas.

“Black” by Dave and “The Bigger Picture” by Lil Baby: I am white, so I am not the right person to talk in-depth about these conscious hip-hop songs nor the black experience. But as protests over racial injustice have been a huge part of the 2020 quarantine experience, I wanted to mention that both of these songs really resonate with me. I really like both MCs’ tone of perseverance through struggle, Dave’s rapping about black history, and Lil Baby’s inclusion of sampling that relates the song closely to the events of this year.

“Farewell” by Covet: The usually-instrumental Californian math-rock trio included two tracks with vocals on their new album, “Technicolor”, harking back to frontwoman Yvette Young’s solo acoustic work. One of these tracks, album closer “Farewell”, is my top song of the year. Much of my love for the song comes from Young’s adventurous guitars and the rapid, mind-bending drum fills at the climax of the song from Forrest Rice. However, the lyrics, in Young’s signature simple, wistful style, perfectly encapsulate the attitude of living one day at a time and keeping your values and loved ones close in hard times such as the quarantine. The music video for the song, although hyperbolic in depicting a party during a zombie apocalypse, fits very well with the song’s musical structure and the experience of good times with friends during a rather dark year for the world.

“Give it Time” by Tyrone Wells: One of the coolest music-related experiences I had this summer was trading playlists with a good friend, and this gem of early 2010’s singer-songwriter music was one of his recommendations for me. I first heard this song as I was beginning to emerge from my darkest weeks of quarantine, and I needed the lyrics “You gotta give it time, gotta give it time, you’re gonna be alright / You gotta give it time,  gotta give it time, and you’ve got the rest of your life” to move past the guilt for my mistakes during these weeks and improve my routine and attitude for the summer. I’m glad to say that largely succeeded, as the song does with its hopeful message and sunny, rich production!

“Let Go” by Frou Frou: This slice of early-2000’s electropop with driving production full of synths, strings, and pianos from Guy Sigsworth, is the song on this list I have known of and enjoyed for the longest. My parents are big fans of the film “Garden State”, and this song is on its soundtrack, which got many spins on road trips as I grew up. Vocalist Imogen Heap relays the important message of letting go and embracing the small moments of joy that come during tough times. The lyric “It’s so amazing here, it’s alright, cause there’s beauty in the breakdown” played through my head with its wondrous backing soundscape as I cathartically enjoyed reading an interesting article or just sitting back and listening, despite knowing of the overwhelming amount of tragedy and discord occurring around the world.

“Your Light” by The Big Moon: The up-and-coming British band provides an 80’s-influenced, sometimes bombastic, sometimes smooth, continually driving track with highly quotable, reassuring lyrics for our times. Lead vocalist Juliette Jackson sings about good times with a special person and is pretty relatable. I connect to a lot of lyrics throughout, such as “Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t say another sorry today, one more time is more than you mean anyway” (I relate because I have a habit for excessively saying sorry), and “what you’re doing for me, I just wish I could do, I could do it for you” (I have some really good friends and family members who have helped me so much during quarantine, and I often feel like I haven’t done enough to reciprocate).

“Because” by Jizue: Like “Farewell” from Covet, “Because” is an example of a mostly instrumental band creating a track with vocals, and like “Farewell”, the lyrics are somewhat simple. The Japanese band swells up so much emotion with their simple set up of guitar, piano, bass, drums, and vocals, through masterful use of dynamics, rhythm, and chords. The repeated refrain “I feel safe in your arms” speaks to how having people to care for me and help me through tough times was so crucial during trying times this year.