For many, music is practically medicine. Given our time in isolation, I’ve been shrinking into my earbuds, absorbing as much music as possible. It’s easy to get caught up in the negative, and music creates the kind of escape I need since I’m forbidden to leave my home. Before this, I had never considered what the sounds of isolation were, let alone what atmosphere could fit with such a bizarre time in history. Below are two collections of songs by various artists and genres: one composed solely of what I’ve interpreted as music that exudes isolation, and another of music that has helped me cope with quarantine.
Listen to the Isolation Blues playlist here.
5 Isolation Songs
Squarepusher- “Detroit People Mover” – Lamental EP
I might not hold much affinity for Michigan, my home state, but right now it’s hurting. A lot. Detroit especially, where the largest aggregate of confirmed COVID-19 cases are, seems like a place of nightmares. I haven’t looked at pictures. I don’t really want to. I don’t want to imagine Detroit as a ghost city akin to something from “28 Days Later.” Though normally the electronic/drum ‘n’ bass of Squarepusher is rarely desolate and fear-inducing for me, “Detroit People Mover” showcases the artist at his most vulnerable. Or, rather, it’s just me who’s sensitive, and the ambience of this song penetrates what was once all my resilience.
Pinegrove – “Old Friends” – Cardinal
I miss my friends. I’m sure everyone misses their friends. “Old Friends” by Pinegrove reminds me of everything I don’t do often enough: call my parents, tell the people I love that I love them. If I didn’t already feel distant enough due to seclusion, then folky emo songs like this are what make me miss the before-times, when friends were friends and not just voices dislocated on the other side of my phone or computer screen.
Idealism – “how many stars are there” – rainy evening
April and May have brought on rain-filled days, pouring nights. Sure, it’s perfect reading weather, but sentimental lofi hip-hop tracks like Idealism’s “how many stars are there” only further drown me in the dull atmosphere of the indoors. As someone whose hobbies are mostly situated indoors to begin with, it makes me wish my home was like Billy Pilgrim’s in “Slaughterhouse-Five,” just a snowglobe with clear view to the outdoors. “Wall” and “ceiling” aren’t colors in the visible spectrum, but they might as well be at this point.
Eli Keszler – “We Live in Pathetic Temporal Urgency” – Stadium
A chaotic doom ruminates through Eli Keszler’s brand of muted, percussive jazz. Songs like “We Live in Pathetic Temporal Urgency”—and the entirety of his most recent LP, “Stadium”—shove me into my anxiety, nagging me that I’m not being productive enough, that every waking minute of my time could be utilized with more economy. The nihil of Eli Keszler is on caps lock with this track, and the way the horns and snare coagulate cacophony make me feel unquestionably finite.
Bell Witch – “Beneath the Mask” – Longing
What kind of person will I be when the world is allowed outside again? Perhaps that’s a hyperbole—we are not the world. Bell Witch, unequivocal in their brand of funeral doom metal, yield no truths in their song, “Beneath the Mask.” I often wonder what it will be like for everyone to breathe again without masks in front of our faces. Will we step outside all together, and, without giving it any thought, inhale all the air on Earth in just one gulp? Is that to be our actual penance? A flood without an ark. A flood without any water.
5 Fun, Coping Jams
Cirith Ungol – “The Fire Divine” – Forever Black
An unexpected newfound love of mine, Cirith Ungol are a traditional heavy metal band who have returned with their first new full-length record in nearly 30 years, “Forever Black.” In particular, “The Fire Divine” is a paradise of old school riffs and stoner rock howls that make the sword and sorcery lyrical content shamelessly fun. If you want to play Dungeons & Dragons during quarantine (I’ve been playing an unseemly amount), throw anything by Cirith Ungol on amidst a battle, and let your inner Tolkien emerge.
In Love With a Ghost – “Healing” – Healing
In Love With a Ghost remind me of the spring we’re losing, have lost, to the pandemic. “Healing” is aimlessly cute, vibrant, blending electronic downtempo with a kind of childhood wanderlust signature to the aesthetic In Love With a Ghost has crafted in recent years. I’m a young person to begin with, but tracks like “Healing” makes me feel like a kid again. It should seem so far away, an age where I meandered with daydreams of fantasy worlds in the woods behind my parents’ house. An age I’ve had trouble recalling memories of. An age where I didn’t know what lost meant. An age where there was no pandemic.
Our Place of Worship is Silence – “Chronicles of Annihilation” – With Inexorable Suffering
Death metal has been a genre of solace for me recently. When I need something mindlessly fun but technically proficient, when I need music that is easy to binge yet unforgiving, I can always go on a deep dive through Spotify for the best of today’s death metal groups. “Chronicles of Annihilation,” by Our Place of Worship is Silence, constructs a cavernous atmosphere that beckons me to wander from song to song hoping they continue to pathe the way for new bands to come. To ease the stress of being isolated in the cavern of my own apartment—where, admittedly, I don’t let much light in through the windows—the obscure denizens of bands like Our Place of Worship is Silence are much welcome company.
Dua Lipa – “Cool” – Future Nostalgia
My partner informs me I use the word “bop” too much. They remark: “You won’t stop saying it. ‘This song is such a bop,’ you’ll say. ‘This artist can’t not write a bop,’ you said just yesterday.”
I don’t think of myself as a person who utilizes hip lingo—only ironically, if ever. But honestly, when it comes to Dua Lipa releasing songs like “Cool” or “Don’t Start Now,” I can’t help but say the word “bop” like it’s contagious.
Sorry, that was too soon.
Regardless, Dua Lipa has put out THE pop record this year with “Future Nostalgia.” There’s no other music currently that makes me want to dance but the disco-synth infused eroticism of “Cool.” Oh, if only there were places open to dance.
The Strokes – “Why Are Sundays So Depressing” – The New Abnormal
It should go without saying that “The New Abnormal” is the best album by The Strokes in the last decade. Front to back, The Strokes have made a 2020 magnum opus akin to The Killers’ “Hot Fuss.” This is my most listened to record of the year, notwithstanding how it lessens the existential burden of quarantine. “Why Sundays Are So Depressing,” the title alone, attracting my feelings toward any day of the week, captures everything I adore about synth-laden indie rock in a nutshell.