From Sports Team to Idles and Disclosure to Laura Marling, these tracks have been on hand to perk us up during lockdown.
When Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on March 23rd that everyone should “Stay home, Protect the NHS, Save lives.” in response to the coronavirus pandemic, an unprecedented lockdown situation began in the UK. Our freedom to come and go as we please was taken away from us and we had to conduct our lives under strict rules. “Self-isolation” and “Covid-19” became part of our everyday lexicon, hugs and handshakes were out, “Zoom” and “social distancing” were in.
In such an unfamiliar and volatile environment, fuelled by the media enveloping us in an acute sense of fear, we craved a constant; something to provide an emotional crutch, something to connect to, something we could rely on to get us through. And that constant was music, be it old or new. Whether finding solace in favourite tunes that reminded us of better times of misspent youth or festival summers or discovering new tracks to lift our mood and help us on this “coronacoaster” that we found ourselves riding, it was music that broke the anxious silence, fed our emotions, gave us the semblance of normality.
Featuring electro, punk, pop, funk and folk, here are 10 new tunes that soundtracked the lockdown experience.
1 – Bicep – Atlas
‘Atlas’ is the first new music released by the Belfast duo since their successful self-titled debut album dropped in 2017. Mixing a sense of euphoria tainted with melancholy reminiscent of Lifeforms era Future Sound of London, with an early Aphex Twin sounding acid synth and an on point breakbeat, it’s another classic Bicep track. There’s a yearning quality to it that speaks volumes about the times.
2 – NZCA Lines – Pure Luxury
NZCA Lines is producer and multi-instrumentalist, Michael Lovett and this is the titular track from his third album released on July 10th. Early Prince influenced funk combined with a dash of modern Hot Chip make this an electo-pop sugar rush that whips you out of any malaise.
3 – Sports Team – Going Soft
‘Going Soft’ is the first single from Sports Team’s debut album “Deep Down Happy” released on June 19th. With Blur-ish jangly guitars and off kilter Parquet Courts style goofiness, the ex Cambridge University graduates knock out a song that is just a whole lotta slacker fun! (Pictured)
4 – Khruangbin – Time (You and I)
Taken from their third album “Mordechai” released on June 26th, ‘Time (You and I)’ is a strutting piece of blaxploitation funk from the Texan trio of Laura Lee, Mark Speer and Donald Johnson. The vocals aren’t a million miles away from the Chemical Brothers’ ‘Got To Keep On’ which is no bad thing and another reason why you are subconsciously drawn to this feelgood track.
5 – Fontaines D.C – A Hero’s Death
With an ever growing need to release all the pent up frustration brought about by cabin-fever, anxiety and boredom, Dublin punks Fontaines D.C provide this in the gloriously splenetic “A Hero’s Death”, the first release from their second album of the same name due for release at the end of July. Singer Grian Chatten espouses advice in his thick Irish brogue such as “Tell your mother that you love her/Go out of your way for others,” over Strokes-ey guitars, with the refrain of “Life ain’t always empty,” offering reassurance. Hope born out of angst sums up the times perfectly.
6 – Times Like These
From Gaga’s Global Citizen and the Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watt’s “not drumming” drumming, to charity singles from UB40 and Sir Tom Moore/Michael Ball to the Kaiser Chiefs’ Stay at Home edit of their 2005 hit ‘Oh My God’, music was starting to reflect the times. The pick of these has to be the Live Lounge Allstars and their cover of the Foo Fighters ‘Times Like These’. Garnering the majority of the current popsphere including Bastille, Dua Lipa, Mabel and the ubiquitous Chris Martin, the song pulls together all the artists through video-conferencing to deliver a slowed down emotional take on the Foos original rock classic. With an appearance by the man himself, Dave Grohl and Biffy Clyro representing the rock fraternity this really “hits home” and came at a time when hope and solidarity were sorely needed.
7 – Idles – Grounds
Another track to vent your spleen to, Joe Talbot shows us the way on Idles latest track ‘Grounds’ off their forthcoming second album “Ultra Mono” due in September. Talbot’s proclamations punctuate dizzying guitar riffs as he leads the charge for change “Do you hear that thunder? “That’s the sound of strength in numbers: I am I, unify!” And whose going to argue with that?
8 – Laura Marling – Strange Girl
This is the first single off Marling’s seventh album “Song For Our Daughter” released in April. Delivered in a Joni Mitchell care-free vocal style, even down to the little laugh midway through, ‘Strange Girl’ is a foot-stomping Dylanesque shuffle that puts a smile of your face.
9 – Disclosure – Energy
‘Energy’ is the first track off brothers Guy and Howard’s titular third album due for release at the end of August. The duo’s latest track features a sample of a speech made by hip hop preacher Eric Thomas – who featured on their 2013 track “When A Fire Starts To Burn” – pitched against some Brazilian rhythms giving it a carnivalesque flavour. Just what is needed to get you out of a lockdown slump!
10 – Matt Berninger – Serpentine Prison
With the easing of lockdown and shops and pubs re-opening again, we are now heading out into an uncertain future. With stringent measures lifted and social bubbles now becoming our redefined safe space we now need to get used to the “new normal”. We enter it in trepidation not knowing when, where or how the virus may strike again and cause further upheaval to our lives. Matt Berninger’s ‘Serpentine Prison’ is the perfect track to capture the zeitgeist. Fronting The National for 20 years this is his first solo release, with an album due in October. It’s barely sung, Leonard Cohen style vocals ease us along on a jazzy beat with snippets of Hammond organ and harmonica colouring the simple tempo. And with the lyric “cold cycnicism, blind nihilism, need a vacation from intoxication” he sums up the whole bizarre experience with the wisdom of a sage.
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