In a time of uncertainty and anxiety, a familiar album can feel as comforting as a warm sweater or a hug from an old friend. While we are all sitting at home wondering when things will go back to normal, music can serve as the perfect escape. For your consideration, the albums that are getting us through quarantine.
Adrian Gonzalez: “After Hours” by The Weeknd
Ladies and gentlemen, he’s done it again. For the second time in his music career, The Weeknd broke his own 2015 record of earning the No. 1 album and single in the U.S. at the same time. Selling 444,000 copies in its first week, there’s a reason that so many can’t get enough of the Canadian singer’s one-of-a-kind R&B vocals.
Personally speaking, “After Hours” is an album I’ve had on repeat since its March 20 release date. Everything about this album is mesmerizing. From its synth-heavy instrumentals and ‘80s-pop influence, The Weeknd’s smooth vocals can easily gel with every track – no matter the mood of the song.
Some standout tracks include “Heartless,” “Blinding Lights,” “In Your Eyes” and “Until I Bleed Out” all of which have accompanying music videos with the same ‘80s Hollywood aesthetic as the album. Whether it’s about expressing the sadness that comes with heartbreak or, the opposite, boasting about not having a heart or referring to the blinding lights of both the highs of fame and the lows of being in an ambulance, the album has a song for everyone.
If you haven’t listened to it by now, I highly recommend doing so. The entire tracklist has its own mood and listening to it all the way through is like being let into the world that The Weeknd has created through his music videos.
The Weeknd has proved that he is one of today’s biggest stars and his timeless talent should be appreciated. He continues to evolve as an artist and has found ways to reinvent his sound and image for each step in his musical discography. And “After Hours” is one you won’t want to miss out on.
Nina Martinez: “Along Way From Your Heart” by Turnpike Troubadours
We’re slowly but surely turning back the clock to simpler times. I don’t mean politically or culturally. No, I mean enjoying the little things in life. The small details we tend to overlook, which turn out to be the most beautiful, are coming back to the surface.
Every morning I wake up at 6:45 am to watch the sunrise, or at least I try to. The birds are back to chirping and the smell of gardenias overwhelm my senses. Now this, this is what I missed. And the perfect album to serve as a soundtrack to these oddly beautiful days in uncertain times is hands-down Turnpike Troubadours’ “A Long Way from Your Heart.”
With similar voices to Garth Brooks and the instrumentals of Kenny Rogers, this album is definitely close to my heart. It’s making the harder days much more bearable. The wistful tunes rewind the home videos of dancing on my daddy’s toes in the kitchen to George Strait and slicing the lemons for the sun tea my mother made in the backyard.
Memories like driving down Highway 90 in my uncle’s navy blue Ford, with my feet up on the dash while he softly played George Jones’ “Tennessee Whiskey” revisit my mind. These seemingly abnormal days are becoming my new norm. While it’s taking some adjustments, songs like “Sunday Morning Paper” and “Unrung” keep me going. So, thank you Turnpike Troubadours- while your band may be broken up, you’ve managed to keep me even closer with my loved ones during these uncertain times.
Jacob Bryce: “Band of Gypsys (50th Anniversary/Live)” by Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix is often looked up to as the pioneer of guitar virtuosity and psychedelic rock. One part of his discography that is often overlooked are his recordings from his Band Of Gypsy’s group. Due to his early death, the band never recorded their works in an actual studio; however, the live recordings do justice in being able to hear how truly amazing the band’s sound was.
The recordings from this performance also show a different side of Hendrix in terms of his sheer talent for writing lyrics. As he once described in an interview, “I just write things with a clash between reality and fantasy. You have to use fantasy in order to show different sides of reality. That’s how it can bend.”
The lyricism of the songs on this album focuses more on Hendrix’s political stance against issues such as the Vietnam War while still painting across the lines of reality and science fiction. This can be heard in songs such as “Machine Gun” and “Power to Love.” These songs, along with Hendrix’s extra-long uni-vibe filled solos, paint a picture of a similar time in the U.S. filled with political anger and division.
John Walker: “Currents” by Tame Impala
If I am going to be quarantined in the house all day, I need an album that will cover all the basic needs. I want something I can play while I do my homework, rock out to when I’m not working and help me relax all at the same time. For me, one album fits the bill, and that’s Tame Impala’s 2015 album “Currents.”
For starters, “Currents” is my favorite Tame Impala album. It’s a great alternative album that blends psychedelic rock elements with Kevin Parker’s smooth vocals.
The album is ideal to play while you work. Keep the volume low and let the many instrumental breaks and serene vocals and melodies melt into the background as you finish your homework or chores. Turn the volume up and rock out to the many dance-worthy songs or relax with its slower side. “Currents” fits all moods and occasions while stuck in the house.
Tame Impala takes listeners on a fifty-minute journey that is the perfect escapism during this uncertain time. It features some of the band’s all-time greatest hits, like “Let it Happen” and “The Less I Know the Better,” and deep cuts, like “Disciples” and “Past Life,” that are sure to impress even the most surface-level fans.
“Let it Happen” opens the album in a psychedelic clash of long instrumental breaks and stretched vocals. Then, “The Less I Know the Better” brings it around for its dominant guitar playing that fits any quarantine mood. The album ends with “‘Cause I’m a Man” and “New Person, Same Old Mistakes,” two slower songs that bring two different vibes to the album, both perfect to relax to at the end of the day.
Parker’s vocals, coupled with the most iconic rock melodies of the last 10 years, make “Currents” a must-listen during long quarantine days.
Sammy Jo Cienfuegos: “Electra Heart” by MARINA
MARINA, formerly known as Marina and the Diamonds, released her album, “Electra Heart,” in 2012. Some might say the album release stopped the world from ending and let us enter a new era — an era filled with black eyeliner hearts and bleach blonde curls.
“Electra Heart” is all about empowerment. It’s about 2 a.m. dance sessions in front of your mirror wearing nothing but your favorite band tee from high school and some worn-out underwear your mom bought you three years ago. “Electra Heart” is about letting all of your exes know you’re over it, and yes, “exes” includes that waiter from two months ago, and that girl who doesn’t quite grasp that you’re flirting with her under her Instagram posts.
This album is filled with bop after bop; there’s not one track you’d want to skip. During such an uncertain time, Marina helps us feel thirteen again —when there was no pandemic, when there was only reblogging photos of cigarettes and Doc Martens onto your Tumblr account with approximately 153 followers. When we were thirteen listening to “Electra Heart,” we were daydreaming of the life we’d lead at sixteen, not knowing that life wouldn’t really start until two years after the fact. It’s nice to escape our current circumstances and enter a space of total yearning.
To quote Marina, “All I ever wanted was the world.” All I ever wanted was the world to be together again, but we can’t do that just yet. It’s important to continue social distancing and quarantining until it’s safe to go out. I hope “Electra Heart” will let you relive pure teenage angst and heartbreak for one hour and five minutes. And who knows? The album once stopped the world from ending; maybe it can stop this, too.
Sierra Rozen: “For Emma, Forever Ago” by Bon Iver
I’m sure if you traveled back to 2008 and told Justin Vernon that his debut studio album would be helping someone get through a global pandemic, he would be disappointed but not surprised.
In a time where isolation is on everyone’s mind, what better way to embrace it than to dive into an album recorded during the artists’ peak of isolation? “For Emma, Forever Ago” has quite the mythic legend behind it, seemingly made up just to pique indie music bloggers’ interest.
Vernon, under the moniker of Bon Iver, recorded the entire album after drawing away from the rest of the world and seeking shelter in his father’s hunting cabin. It was there that he started forming melodies and later set lyrics to them.
What came out of what must have been a very transformative time was a painfully beautiful record from an almost unknown artist at the time. Sitting back home at the place where I grew up and listening to the quiet guitar strings playing under barely-there vocals probably isn’t the healthiest way of coping, but it gets the job done.
Most people remember this album for its single, “Skinny Love,” but allow me to point out the haunting, tranquil track, “The Wolves (Act I and II).” Clocking in at just over five minutes, the song is the most direct and complex on the album. At one point the sound of raindrops hitting a metal roof can be heard. Couple that with lyrics like “With the wild wolves around you/In the morning I’ll call you,” and you’ve got yourself a tear-jerker.
If you need an album to help you escape (or at least enable your escapist tendencies), pop in your earbuds and let Vernon’s 12-year-old album take you away to the vast Wisconsin wilderness.
George Murray: “Insomnia” by Skepta, Chip and Young Adz
“Insomnia” is a collaborative effort from three UK rap artists – two veterans (Skepta and his contemporary, Chip) and an upcoming star (Young Adz from the group D Block Europe) — at a time when it is needed most. The 12-track album is both suitably titled and reflective of the current mood, with three different styles of rap blending together in perfect harmony.
It subconsciously confronts the uncertainty of the time and was undoubtedly released to provide U.K. rap fans with a groundbreaking sound and give its music scene a fresh, adaptable sound.
Whether it be the melodic, uncharacteristic harmonies of Skepta on “Golden Brown” or the more conventionally high-speed trap beats of “Waze,” there is a transparent freedom throughout in talking about drug use.
Generally, this occurs over the backdrop of prominent psychedelic soundwaves, as is the case on the jumpy track “Waze,” produced by Texas-based Cardo. The trio also make time for a “Mic Check” halfway through the tracklist, along with a tribute bar to the late Kobe Bryant on “Insomnia Interlude.”
As the project transitions to its conclusion, moments of introspection occur that provide variety in “Traumatised” and “Sin City.” During an extended period of lockdown, particularly experiencing the COVID-19 crisis living at home in the U.K., “Insomnia” has been essential listening.
It discusses important issues of our time, and serves as a defiant message from three London-born artists, representing their city and their musical genre during an unprecedented period of our lives.
Kelly Salinas: “Norman F—ing Rockwell!” by Lana Del Rey
Isolation and panic seems not to draw me towards fear and anxiety, but yearning and fantasy. I’ve centered my days not on what I miss about college or Austin, but rather the parts of myself I don’t allow myself to uncover in the typical hustle and bustle.
This quarantine period has been characterized by the growing trends of reaching out to an ex or searching for the love and connection you once had in the midst of current distancing and coldness. It’s a different sort of longing, one that Lana Del Rey’s latest album, “Norman F—ing Rockwell!,” seems to understand.
During this pandemic, contemplation is at an all-time high. This includes focusing on who’s wronged us, who’s intrigued us, and the relationships that have impacted us in formative and constructive ways. The album combines sweet fantasy with bitter reality. Sugar and salt.
The song “Norman F—ing Rockwell!” really taps into the emotions behind the fantasy of a person who’s crumbled into nothing. It explores a love interest who seemed like everything, but is simply mediocre. “Love Song” captures the longing and for a perfect love and connection in a time devoid of it. “The greatest” is an ode to the seemingly perfect past in the midst of a frenzied and fearful future.
The element that makes this album a perfect pair for the pandemic is its minimalism. It’s not the heavy fantasy that can come with Del Rey’s work, but it’s poignance and realness. It’s authentic. The music behind the lyrics serves to enhance. It is an environment for emotion to be supported and a platform to validate the feeling. In a time where nothing is certain, it’s hard to validate the fear, longing and sadness we feel when we don’t have anyone to connect to. “Norman F—ing Rockwell!” has been my connection.
Christine Sanchez: “Speak Now” by Taylor Swift
During isolation, I’m not interested in getting into my feels too much. That’s why Taylor Swift’s “Speak Now” is the perfect “quarantune” for me.
“Speak Now” was released in 2010. I remember listening to it in middle school (specifically the track “Better Than Revenge”). It reminds me of riding home from school and watching the “Twilight” movies. It’s nostalgic, yet painless because the lyrics didn’t mean anything to me then; it was just catchy.
“Speak Now” is one of Swift’s more underrated albums, but it gave us hits like “Mine,” “Sparks Fly” and the title track, “Speak Now.” I remember watching the music video for “Mine” on TeenNick on a summer afternoon when I had nothing to do but watch music videos on TV all day.
The sadder songs, “Back to December” and “Dear John,” weren’t my favorites back then, but I always found myself going back to them at different points in my life.
“Never Grow Up” reminds me of quinceañeras. It’s a reminder to teenage girls that life will get lonely when you get older and it’s important to embrace your youth as long as you can instead of trying to grow up too quickly.
While these songs have simple messages and clear lyrics, there’s a comfort I find in them and Swift’s voice that makes me feel better. Because I’m not attached to most of the songs, they just exist for me as throwbacks from a simpler time. I didn’t experience love or even heartbreak in 2010, so they simply remind me of being young and not having a care in the world, which is the opposite of how life feels now.
“Speak Now” is my nostalgic album. Whatever that is for you, I suggest listening to it and forgetting about the present for a while. Because we could all use a break.
Gianni Zorrilla: “Swimmer” by Tennis
While Valentine’s Day bestowed us with love, lightness and, for some, pain, the best gift of them all was the release of Tennis’ fifth album, “Swimmer,” which takes these very feelings and transmutes them sonically.
With album art that seems excavated from the haze of an ‘80s dream, Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley’s love and misadventure is palpable.
Guided by piano, Moore’s voice is beguiling as the album opens. “As the sun slips over my shoulder/I can tell I’ve been getting older/Drawn to you like the horizon…” she sings on “I’ll Haunt You.”
From gentle to upbeat, the kick of the drums signal “Need Your Love.” A wailing guitar break that trails the first chorus is enough to crown track two a favorite.
Tennis’ sound puts a warm, subdued filter on life — not quite like rose colored glasses, but a hue that blends escapism and realism artfully.
“Echoes” is a hauntingly beautiful centerpiece that begs to be analyzed beyond its nostalgic instrumentals. “Once I was young/Those days are gone/Suddenly I’m thirty-three/And on a gurney,” Moore sings.
Visiting themes of mortality and the transience of life, the duo is unafraid of lacing hardship with ethereal sound.
There is strength, maturity and beauty in Moore’s vulnerable lyricism. It acts as the buttress of an otherwise fragile-sounding record. Similarly strong, what has endured throughout trial and tribulation is Moore and Riley’s bond. Through the peaks and troughs of partnership, their love is as natural as “a bolt of lightning from the sky above.”
The nine-track album flows like water down a river while providing the same range of emotions that floating upon it evokes: serenity, and the uneasiness that comes with pondering its depths.
“Swimmer” is the type of dream that brings revelation. It feels like the type of love that lifts you from the ground, but also brings you to your knees. At a time where reality seems off, “Swimmer” is the dreamy escape we all need. Life is beautiful and fragile. But it is also ugly and torrential. Tennis acknowledges the full spectrum.