As everyone adjusts to new realities amid the , we asked some of our favorite artists about the music they’re gravitating to at this anxious and isolating time. From meditative drones to nourishing R&B to classic jazz, here are their selections:
by is almost too convenient, in a way—check the title itself, perfect for this very strange moment of empty streets and restless minds. I listened to it again on the third day of lockdown, and it soothed me somehow—the sense of time working by cycles, the trippy production. Landscapes over landscapes over landscapes where I could reflect. It’s full of nostalgia, mended narratives, and uncertainty about the future, but it never stops being tender and inventive. I like the fact that I can get high on the sensations, laying on the floor like a teenage boy, at the intersection of every possible life I could have lived; it’s a perfect time to try and investigate how time is also just a blatant lie.
I am always searching for music that is so heavy in mood that it immediately shifts the situation. ’s buzzes on such a specific frequency that you are transported right away. I’ve been putting it on when I need it and just rolling around very, very slowly in the house.
In this time of forced world reflection, I’ve been cooking a lot, going through old demos, and looking at photos from the time I was living in Chicago. Though I don’t consider myself a city person anymore, I definitely met and worked with some really special people in that scene, and it was very integral to who I’ve become.
I’ve been listening to my friend ’s , some of which was recorded in 2013 in my old room in Chicago, among many other places over the years. Well, this year he finally got his shit together and put it out. Eric was in a band called Cellmates before he went on to make his solo music, and when I moved to Chicago, before I knew anyone, I had heard of a house show in Wicker Park, and Cellmates were playing. I went alone. I didn’t know then how much of an inspiration that time or that person would be on my life and music. I sang backup on his song “Long Way From Home” before I was signed to any label or working with anyone.
’ No Need to Argue got me through my childhood and it’s getting me through these quarantine times too.
’ is great isolation music. Just a guy with a nylon string guitar. It was originally recorded for the Folkways label in the ’50s. I have this tiny studio I set up in a feed shed on a farm in Virginia, where my family and I are currently living. It’s filled with straw bales and horse feed, but it’s actually a little bit cozy. I was trying to play along with this album there last night—I got a ways to go, but I sure do have a lot of time to practice.
I’ve definitely been running of C0N$TRUCT!0N... by , especially the songs “” and “” and “,” and “” by . The Maassai series is all about reclaiming space as a Black person and, from her perspective, a black femme. A lot of her internal lyrical back-and-forth about subverting expectation in execution of sharper communication is a sonically hot and artistically warming ride.
The KeiyaA joint has quickly become one of my favorite songs of all time. It’s an affirmation of the divinity-gesturing persistence and endurance of Black self-love and sustenance. If nothing else, it proves comforting in such a time—the creamy, layered vocals and thematic lean on African staying power does the trick.
I’ve been listening to the album by the band in the evening when we cook dinner. It makes me want to dance and feel some semblance of buoyancy. I’ve been watching of with her band in the ’90s too. It’s giving me inspiration, reminding me that we’ll all be back on stages and at concerts some day hopefully soon. I’ve been trading demos and lo-fi home recordings with my friends who write songs a lot as well. Right now feels like the time to channel energy into something creative and virtuous.
To be fair, I’d been in a zone of buying old and records on Discogs for a little while before the pandemic. And ’s “Etenraku” continues to feel exactly right for the long sitting in one place, the mandatory peace. I balance my chances to listen to this stuff with the chaos of living in a small house head to head with a 5-year-old. We go outside a lot and listen to air.
is the soundtrack to the 1970 Czech New Wave film, which follows the sexual awakening of a 13-year-old girl who’s preyed upon by some horrific characters, and loved by some intense ones too. The film is esoteric, tragic but funny, just like the album. Fišer takes the listener on a journey of love, tenderness, and the macabre all at once. This is the music I am hoping to make, so this album is giving me the inspiration and the tools to work on my next project. This music restores what has been broken inside of me.
My current situation is not too different than normal. I don’t like to go out, so I am very happy right now. I am blessed and I hope that in the new post-virus world, humanity is forced to stay home at least once a week. We are the real virus.
Over the last five years music has been a salve for me during difficult times and sudden dislocations. And now here we are, all together, facing a new crisis. It’s no surprise, then, that I know exactly what to turn to: ’s music, more than any other I know, lives up to the potential ascribed to music to unite and heal us. It is a hug in musical form. If you are feeling anxious or scared or sad, listen to this over and over again.
Avery Tucker: I have been listening to “” by in the morning while I work out—actually his discography dominates my playlist. I love you Bruno if you see this. Releasing energy in the a.m. is very important while quarantining.
Harmony Tividad: This song “dRiVe” that my friend Jeremy put out under his moniker, , sounds like driving early in the morning and has lots of movement in it, which is uplifting me in moments where I am feeling stagnant and sort of in a purgatory state.
played at Zebulon in Los Angeles two weeks ago yesterday—March 8th. My brother brought me to the show because he’s been obsessed and thought I’d love ’em too. I did. That’s probably the last show I’ll get to attend for a while, but the upside is I’ve been bumping their 2019 pretty nonstop. What a beautiful and amazing record!
The new album, , has been a really comforting and inspiring listen for us, especially the last song, “Mama Teaches Sanskrit.” To me, it’s about family, about the passing on of knowledge, about the relationships we hold dear and how they’re inherently temporary. It will make you cry and feel alive and call your mom.
I’ve never really listened to metal before, but when we found ourselves hauling ass across the country after the tour we were on was abruptly cancelled, ’s “Impulse Crush” brought me a lot of comfort. Every part of my mind and body was screaming, and to hear that feeling coming through the speakers of the van provided me with a release I wasn’t able to find elsewhere. Now that I’m home I’m planning on trying to discover more metal that I can connect to and learn those riffs on guitar.
I’ve been talking about a lot lately—they’re probably gonna file a restraining order soon. I keep thinking about this scene in the documentary Mayor of the Sunset Strip where, when asked what music means to him, [famed L.A. radio DJ] Rodney Bingenheimer says, “It’s positive. Makes you happy. Makes you wanna do more things.” That’s how I feel about Mope Grooves’ innovative DIY sound. There’s a mood-elevating, nostalgic warmth to their music; a commingling of contentment and grief that feels relevant to my headspace at all times—but especially now.
and formed a co-headlining musical partnership from, roughly, the mid-’60s to the mid-’70s. I’ve been compelled to revisit their albums during this time of lockdown because they always projected a vision of a bright future to me. Their music explores a modern, architectural sound, but with a lot of moving parts that fit together. It’s almost as if you can see structures forming as you listen. My favorite album among their collaborations is , which features the brilliant vocalist and lyricist Eugene McDaniels, along with a large ensemble, including electric guitar, a vocal chorus, and the L.A. Philharmonic Orchestra.
I often turn to the gospel bliss of when I am in need of inspiration, and I’ve specifically been finding solace in ’s cover of Annie Lennox’s secular B-Side “Step by Step.” A sweet and poignant dance track, this song has been my companion for daily walks. It helps me to not get swallowed in the anxiety of the unknown, but rather focus on maintaining a positive spirit and take everything one day at a time.
I’ve taken this as an opportunity to go through my records and find music that helps me get through—I think I’ll record a mix of it this week. This morning, the birds are singing atop this beauty of an Italian record by .
A couple months ago I got invited to see at the Bell House in Brooklyn—I hadn’t been to many comedy shows and was really moved by how intimate and heartfelt the experience was. The show focuses on his mother’s untimely death and his desire to make something of himself in the wake of her loss. As someone who also lost their mom at a fairly young age, it resonated with me. The set was recently released as an HBO special called , shot at a club in Alabama where his mother used to play with her band. It came out with an album of songs that are strewn through the set, and it has to have one of my favorite first lines of an album ever, which feels like a timely sentiment: “IT FUCKING HURTS TO BE ALIVE, ALL THE DISPOSABLE FRAGILITY OF LIFE!”
I’ve been finding a lot of solace in live records ever since I’ve been self-isolating and social distancing. The record I’ve turned to most is a 1974 live recording of and the L.A. Express called . It’s such a fascinating snapshot of where Joni Mitchell was as a songwriter and artist in the mid-’70s—there’s a bunch of reimagined material off of Blue and Ladies of the Canyon—and there are some extended solo sections that hint at her later forays into jazz and improvisational music. Perhaps hearing the ample crowd noise on the LP is giving me some light and positivity, and acting as a reminder that any gathering where humans join together in groups for shared aesthetic experiences should never be taken for granted.
’s sounds like both the root of doom and the solution for it. It feels apt right now because it conveys this sense of yearning urgency while also opening space for slowing down.
I listen to by when I need my mind to shut up. I often listen to it on planes, and it has quelled my panic a few times the past couple of weeks.
’s whole discography—but especially the new song “The Absence of Birds”—is on repeat. It has the right weight for me right now. Anything heavier feels like too much, and with anything lighter my mind wanders all over. It’s helping keep the balance.
The songs on ’s feel simple in their complexity, like drawing your own maze. I was hooked by “I Couldn’t Say It to Your Face.” His voice has an effortlessly reedy quality to it that draws you in.
’s “This Is Far from Over” is the essence of the magic of music to me. It speaks to that ideal alliance between loss and hope. I have found this last week to be a crash course in distilling the essence of why life is important and what is important. I have moved all of my energy to those that I love, to getting food gardens started, and finding the words that can help someone, or myself, return from the void of despair and fear. This song has pulled me back to nowness and hope more times than I can count, and he only just released it this year. Thank you Will.
kotonoha by is my most-listened-to album to come out in the last year. It’s got a magical quality that relaxes and transports me exactly where I need to be whenever I put it on. Beautiful, meditative nature ambient.
’s 2010 album is a timeless classic from start to finish. George’s voice is soothing to the core and each song is vibrantly lush and uplifting.
Some people I know have set up a YouTube channel called that streams live performances, and I’m finding it really comforting to just have that on in the background; sometimes I forget that shows are scheduled, and then it starts playing out my laptop, and I see a bunch of people watching and commenting.
Other than that, I really love by . It’s a really good one for when you are feeling isolated and confused, and it’s definitely made me feel less alone over the years. I love Leah [Wellbaum]’s lyrics and the way she plays guitar, and how all these songs are this weird combination of depressing and extremely playful at the same time.
For the past few nights I’ve been listening to ’s Unicorns in Paradise to help me fall asleep. It’s a beautifully improvised piece of music on electric keyboard and zither that helps reduce my anxiety. It’s also great for meditation.
I’ve been finding a great deal of comfort in the power and softness of ’s album .
Ali Carter: Anytime I’m in a dark place looking for peace and understanding, an artist I return to again and again is . In her songs, discomfort and beauty, weariness and resilience, memory and reality, the physical and the emotional coexist. For me, pure escape doesn’t work. There’s always something gnawing at the back of my brain reminding me of hard truths. Solange doesn’t evade hard truths. She gives them a poetic place to breathe and sink in.
Al Creedon: I’ve been listening to ’s “” on repeat. It’s a dissonant, jarring song for most of its duration but finally gives way to major key bliss at the end. Branca somehow takes you from a sense of Hitchcockian dread all the way to a near religious experience. These are uncertain times where everything can seem like a threat, but this song is a reminder that there is light at the end of the tunnel and we will arrive there in time.
Alex Lichtenauer: The current state of the world is amplifying my tendency towards anxiety and depression. Music has always been a source of comfort to me. I’ve found myself listening to ’s collaborative album with , . During these strange times of isolation, I’ve been trying to practice a more meditative and peaceful mindset. This album helps me feel at ease and relaxed.
Today I watched from that instantly brought warmth and reassurance into my heart. :) It helped me remember that even though we are going through a huge change in the world right now, spring is still happening and new life is still growing.