Back in the day you’d put a record on and listen to it from start to finish. The minute you put your needle down on the groove the sounds coming out of your speakers would keep you captivated for hours. But, in the digital age we are accustomed to skipping songs without even thinking about it or jumping around on a playlist compiled of songs in a random order.
We are slowly forgetting the fun that comes with listening to one record on its own. While in quarantine try to find sometime to sit back, turn on a record and just lose yourself in it. Here are suggestions for ways to help you pass the time and get back into the habit of immersing yourself in one artist’s musical journey.
Charli XCX – How I’m Feeling Now
Songwriter, producer and pop queen Charli XCX has bestowed upon us the electro-pop record we needed right now. Starting with “pink diamond”, you already know you will be turning your living room into a makeshift club. Charli’s distinctive production style is captivating, electric and unapologetically human.
Songs like “detonate” and “7 years” have the qualities of a pop song with dark, haunting lyrics. While you’d think it would be hard to balance that, Charli does it easily. The beats and lyrics complement each other and are one in the same.
I cannot think about Charli’s lyrics without the musical accompaniment which just shows the high level of her artistry. There are kinks, a variety of sounds that you might think do not work but inevitably do.
Along with her own production style, she also knows how to pick the perfect collaborators to execute her vision. “claws” produced by 100 Gecs’ Dylan Brady, is a standout track touching on elements of 100 Gec’s style but turned totally Charli XCX.
The album is another tour-de-force which adds to Charli’s already successful career. When I think of pop music that makes me emotional in the right way, intrigued and in the mood to dance I turn to Charli.
Charli sums it up perfectly in her tweet, “how I’m feeling is pop 2’s frantic emo younger sister”. Each Charli album is a passion project and fuels our need for an upbeat depiction of the human condition.
Frank Ocean – Blonde
Frank Ocean’s Blonde is the album you just want to sink your teeth into. The expert production and Ocean’s signature sound have created an album for the centuries. Blonde dips, dives and intertwines so many different elements, it is a whirlwind of voices and sounds.
“Ivy” is a personal favourite off the album, Ocean’s melodic voice is perfectly combined with the breezy guitar sounds. You then have the extremely personal “Solo”, which puts hard truths right there in front of your face then whisks them away with delicate piano chords.
Blonde takes what we love about Channel Orange Frank Ocean, but more confident. Music fans loved Ocean’s signature R&B style and knowing that Blonde was able to unapologetically showcase that.
“Self Control”, “Nights” and “Pink + White” could not be made by any other artist, and that is what keeps me coming back for more. Both exciting and delicate, this album is a cascade of sounds and lyrics that make it all the more apparent that Ocean is one of the best artists of our generation.
Perfume Genius – Set My Heart On Fire Immediately
Most of us have been looking for ways to get lost, to find a place vastly different from the one we are in. Perfume Genius does just this on his new album Set My Heart On Fire Immediately. Somehow Perfume Genius’ natural sounds become the nature tunes we are desperate for, with qualities that remind me of erratic winds and uncontrollable water.
Listening to “Borrowed Light” and “Whole Life” I am lifted out of myself and feel like I am soaring amongst purple twilight clouds. There is an ethereal quality in all Perfume Genius’ work, but it is even more apparent on this record.
I can have “Nothing at All” play and I feel as if I am transcending my current state. I am no longer in my flat, contained by four walls but in a new reality where feeling stuck is no longer looming over my entire existence. The abstract quality to Perfume Genius’ work is what makes him one of a kind.
I can play this record from start to finish, getting myself into a headspace that is free to explore new heights. Perfume Genius knows no bounds and pushes himself and his vision on Set My Heart On Fire Immediately. For a time where we feel locked in, Perfume Genius can help you escape even if it is just for a little while.
Bad Bunny – YHLQMDLG
Bad Bunny’s latest album YHLQMDLG is a welcome escape from quarantine, reminding us that one day we will be swaying back and forth in clubs and living life to the fullest. His specific style of Latin trap and reggaeton gives us exactly what we want in 2020.
The album showcases Bad Bunny’s singing style and creative use of electronic music. Songs like “25/8” and “La Zona” are immediately reminiscent of classic Latin-style tracks, but then you hear Bad Bunny’s voice and the past becomes a shadow.
“Soliá” is a favourite of mine, taking beats I am used to but on a track that sounds modern. He brings a new flavour to a style that has him standing out amongst his peers. “Bichiyal” is another perfect example of a Bad Bunny track, as it has something you know you like but turned on its head.
Bad Bunny’s ability to cater to a loyal fanbase while catching the attention of new listeners is testament to his success. On his sophomore album, Bad Bunny gives us the quintessential style we have come to associate with him but elevated to a higher level. Whether you want to dance or sit back and get lost in the tunes, YHLQMDLG is the record to turn on.
The Strokes – The New Abnormal
As someone who isn’t a fan of The Strokes, I can unbiasedly say that this is one of my favourite albums of 2020. I have always found myself liking certain songs off their old albums, but overall, I have never been on the ‘The Strokes are Rock gods’ bandwagon.
The New Abnormal is a new side to the band, both a complicated and fun album that reminds me of the good times living in New York City. It might help that they included a Basquiat piece as their album cover. This album has definitely shown that these rockers have it in them to put out a solid studio album, with back-to-back stellar tracks.
Their signature sound of Julian Casablancas’ raspy voice and complex guitars is still there, but better. It is “The Adults Are Talking” is a welcome introduction to the record, followed by standouts like “Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus” and “Eternal Summer”.
Listening to this record I am nothing but impressed. The Strokes have grown into themselves and released an album that some fans might not have expected, but we as music fans definitely needed.
Words by Claudia Arnoldo // Photo by Andrea Piacquadio