The perfect songs for every quarantine mood
This is so sad, Alexa play whatever you like I just need to feel something
Ever since quarantine began I have relied on music more than ever as a means of escape, a companion to work and even just a way to avoid boredom in these long, empty days. I would by no means consider myself an expert on music or even anything close, but I do listen to a ridiculous amount (according to Spotify, last year I spent 158 hours listening to The Beatles alone; a frankly depressing statistic); plus I got an A* in my music GCSE, which together seem to me to be pretty analogous to musical expertise, right? I hope somewhere in these suggestions you find a gem or two to help ward off your pining for Wednesday Cindies (please Boris, the people just want to dance).
For trying to fall asleep even though you can already hear the birds singing outside
I can’t actually think of anything more depressing than the realisation that your alarm is going to go off in literally three hours but you don’t feel even vaguely tired, having been scrolling your TikTok fyp for the past four hours.
In this desperate situation, Julia by The Beatles and Float Forever by Peace are ideal in their glittering, gentle sadness; while I always lose myself in the faraway utopias dreamed up in Love in the Time of Cholera by Yellow House. Friday Night Saturday Morning by Nouvelle Vague makes me long for messy, ridiculous nights out, with its weird imagery and ecstatic hopefulness, and Nowhere Near by Yo La Tango is murky and hypnotic and drowsy. Finally, You Take My Breath Away by Queen is fragile, whispered and aching, i.e perfect for 5am when reality starts to not really matter so much anymore.
For your daily government-sanctioned exercise
I am making the most of the empty locked-down streets by pretending I’m in some coming-of-age slash zombie apocalypse indie movie, so as I walk I like listening to songs that make me feel like maybe everyone else has disappeared. In this circumstance the absolute best song is The Only Living Boy In New York by Simon and Garfunkel; a song that makes you feel like a suffering artiste in an urban metropolis despite living in decaying concretey suburbia in which the nearest attraction is Swindon’s truly unmagical magic roundabout.
Archie, Marry Me by Alvvays, Higher by Rihanna and Circle by Soccer Mommy are all also true bangers that make a bog-standard walk feel almost electric, while Let It Loose by The Rolling Stones manages to articulate this exact feeling of being lost and not really feeling anything about it, with its rolling, soul-filled verses. Nico’s dolorous, raw vocals in her song These Days reflect almost exactly the current feelings of listlessness and absolute fixation on a future that currently feels like it might never happen.
For when you feel like you could float away
Some people might enjoy this quarantine, using it to reconnect to family and relax without social pressure or FOMO, but I have come to the conclusion that it is decidedly not for me. Every single day I think of the lost summer and that first day of Michaelmas in October, and dream of crowded dance floors and friends and crystal-clear impossible seas a million miles away.
She’s So High by Blur and She’s Not Dead by Suede are both pure shimmering 90s escapism, with weirdly similar names and levels of teenage angst, perfect as I inevitably regress back into my 15-year-old self while stuck at home (Sometimes I Feel I’ll Float Away by Suede is equally almost upsettingly beautiful). Juvenescence by Verzache is naive, simple, and yearning, while Powa by Tune-yards always knocks me out with its rich lyricism; “Baby, bring me home to bed/ I need you to press me down before my body flies away from me”. Ugh, how great is that!
Lonely Planet Boy by The New York Dolls is vulgar and camp and diaphanous, ideal for reveling in the absolute alienation that quarantine provides. My favourite, however, when it comes to wistful music that feels much too sorry for itself is The Velvet Underground; literally anything that this band has ever created is flimsy, cobwebby brilliance – in particular Heroin’s breathtaking crescendos, Oh! Sweet Nuthin’s dark, murky hopelessness and Candy Says’ pretty, rocking sadness and crushing high notes are essentially required listening in these unstable times.
Personally I find it quite unfair that we’re literally in the middle of an #unprecedented global historic event and I’m still pulling all-nighters to get my work done. Something in that simply doesn’t make sense. Everyone knows that the only acceptable soundtrack to late-night essay or revision stress is early Kanye.
Listening to all the acceptable Kanye albums, starting from The College Dropout all the way until The Life of Pablo and absolutely no further, provides exactly the right amount of energy and motivation to plough through the most difficult and irritating of essay questions. Plus, I am convinced Kanye may be magical or even a god, proven by the one time I caught the last train from London by mere seconds after listening to Ultralight Beam, without which I would have been stranded in Paddington and inevitably have perished. Kanye prayed for me, Kanye saved the day and Kanye can get you through any late-night essay crisis I promise.
For weird lazy days
Every moment in quarantine seems filled with this certain nothingness; you sit in a hot, perfect patch of sun, trying to work or reading or just kind of existing and before you know it three days have gone by. I can barely remember what happened last week, but I’m sure it was nothing exciting.
Time seems to drift now, hazily, lazily, in a daze, and I like listening to songs that reflect and enhance this specific feeling, of being both comfortable and a bit lost. I love Just Like Honey by The Jesus and Mary Chain for this, with its fuzzy guitar accompaniment that dizzies and envelops you with hot, sleepy noise. Similarly, Peach by Blur is as rich and sticky as you might imagine, summing up in simple, pretty nonsensical words, this intense feeling of being stuck in one place and time.
Drown by Chastity Belt and (David Bowie I Love You) Since I Was Six by The Brian Jonestown Massacre both seem to slow down this already sluggish world with their treacly, devastating stillness, while Where’s My Lighter by Lil Simz is smokier and more relaxed, but just as perfectly blurred.
For dancing around your kitchen at 3am
There’s something about the very early hours of the morning that fills me with a sudden burst of energy after a day spent mainly lying on the sofa thinking about how much work I have to do. The hushed stillness and dark of night never fails to generate a sort of pseudo-bacchanalian, optimistic thrill as elaborate plans are thought up, the essay I’m working at suddenly seems not just mediocre but maybe a work of genius, and I feel an urge to dance like an idiot while boiling my fifteenth cup of tea of the night.
In this situation my music of choice is almost exclusively by trashy, flashy glam rock and roll bands with 70s curls and platform heels; All the Way from Memphis by Mott the Hoople, Suffragette City by David Bowie, and Metal Guru by T. Rex are all absolute tunes, glossy and breathless and pulsating with energy. Just Like Heaven by The Cure might just be my favourite song to dance to of all time, and I always play it on repeat to make the most of its ecstatic lyrics; “You, soft and only/ You, lost and lonely/…You’re just like a dream.”
For sunny days when everything starts to feel okay for a while
As everything slowly turns from weird quarantine spring into weird quarantine summer the sky is getting bluer and the sun is getting hotter and work is getting more and more impossible as all I want to do is lie in that little rectangle of grass outside in sweaty, sun-creamy bliss.
Angel by Loyle Carner, Soft Porn by Puma Blue and Nothing Even Matters by the incomparable Lauryn Hill all have a dreamy, low-fi beat drenched in sunlight, while Here, There and Everywhere by The Beatles is like a jewel, quiet, gleaming and perfectly formed, written by McCartney, fittingly, next to a pool in the summer heat, strumming on his guitar and whispering the lyrics so as not to wake a sleeping Lennon. Pink Moon by Nick Drake is a thin little wisp of a song, with a quiet, rocking sadness that always breaks something inside me. But, like, in a good way of course. If you prefer your summer music more sunny and cheerful, try Gemini by Princess Nokia, Mr Wendal by Arrested Development or Peach by Kevin Abstract, all juicy, fresh and sparkling like fanta.