This article is part of our ongoing series 'Lockdown Listening' in which our writers share what they've been listening to during the London Coronavirus lockdown(s).
To listen to our writers' songs, follow and listen to our Spotify playlist.
What's more interesting? My washed hair or the washed clothes? - February 2021 (Lockdown 3)
With each lockdown, tier 4, Downing Street briefing, tier 3, cabinet firing and tier 176 blurring into the other and each morning confusingly identical to the one before, music has been one of the few things that has kept the monotony of lockdown life from getting to me (too much). It feels only right to create a list including the most important tracks that have kept me going.
1. Kansas - Carry On My Wayward Son, 1978
Part of my 'sicco mode' playlist (absolutely no relation to the song by the same name - I just found it funny), which includes a kaleidoscope of 60s and 70s rock, this is possibly my favourite. Whether it's played on one of my very rare outdoor walks, or when alone in the kitchen, the song never disappoints. And although I embarrassingly don't know absolutely all of the lyrics yet, it doesn't make me rock out any less. In retrospect, I now realise that I've kept coming back to the song during all of London's lockdowns. For me, it is a timeless hit. Maybe because anything over 40 years old becomes automatically old and unable to age (sorry parents), but also because it is a style and genre that has been dear to me for as long as I can remember. And in representing something that will not change, it is a sure fire way to bring me up.
2. W.A. Mozart - Don Giovanni, ye olde days
Not going to lie, this isn't just out of personal choice. I am currently organising a virtual rendition of the opera (shameless plug), so it's necessary for me to know it inside out. Nevertheless, I have enjoyed the process immensely, and it is has led me to listening to some of its parts completely voluntarily. Not surprisingly, for those who know the opera, one of my favourite scenes is the last, or the more colloquial 'Commendatore scene'. And more specifically, my favourite bar in the whole opera is exactly bar 461 of the 2nd Finale, which can be heard at 1:22min in the recording below (it's the chord on the syllable 'le' of 'celeste'). ANYWAY. We are not here to list our favourite bars of music in 3 hour operas, but rather our favourite songs/works. In light of this: my other favourite arias include Leporello's "Madamina il catologo è questo" and Don Ottavio's "Dalla sua pace". Again, for those who know the opera, they are not particularly unique choices, but they are nevertheless beautiful works.
Realism = Pessimism
3. Tom Petty - Face In The Crowd, 1989
Lockdown has absolutely made me feel like 'another face in the crowd'. A melancholic choice, it reflects well the rather pessimistic reality we are living in. It's almost as if now, realism = pessimism. Or maybe I'm just being pessimistic... But honestly, give it a listen. It may make you cry, but it will be a good cry, I promise.
4. America - A Horse With No Name, 1971
Also in my infamous 'sicco mode' playlist, this is an all time classic for me. I listen to it often and even outside of worldwide pandemics (shocking!). I love the simultaneous complexity and simplicity of the song. It contains basically the same chord progression throughout and uses nothing more than some guitars, vocals and a bass. Nevertheless, the lyrics are magnificently poetic and nuanced, my favourite line being "the ocean is a desert with its life underground and the perfect disguise above". It balances a unique mixture of reflection and optimism unparalleled by any other song I can think of. And so in times like these, it simultaneously feels down to earth enough as not to make it seem like we are escaping reality, while also lifting us up. A good combination, I think.
5. Michael Jackson - Stranger in Moscow, 1995
Above, I stated that one of America's song's positive aspects was its ability to make us feel like we are not escaping reality - because that could almost seem like 'giving up'. But I can't ignore that this is also necessary from time to time. And it doesn't mean we are 'giving up'. Jackson's song does this for me. It is a magical combination of unexpected harmonies, atmospheric sounds and crystal-clear rhythms. As can always be expected from the King of Pop, production value never disappoints. With noise-cancelling headphones and extra bass, it is unlike anything else. The only downside of the song is Jackson's American pronunciation of 'Moscow' with the 'ow' and not 'oh' ending. I don't know why it irks me so much. Just pronounce it correctly please - yours sincerely an EU citizen wanting to stay in a post-Brexit UK by unapologetically upholding English values.
6. Brian Eno and David Byrne - My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, 1981
This collaborative album by acclaimed producer and composer Brian Eno and Talking Heads' legendary singer and songwriter David Byrne is a serene marrying of both musicians' styles. I strongly suggest listening to the whole album, although a few standouts are "America is Waiting", "Regiment", "Come With Us", "Pitch To Voltage", "Two Against Three" and "Defiant". Unfortunately "Regiment" was removed from Spotify, so I have supplied you with the video below. This album completely transports you to a land of unknown sounds, noises and effects. Byrne's disjointed and quirky rock/funk basslines and characteristic irony are amplified by Eno's unique knack for production and the creation of otherworldly sounds. It is a great passageway into knowing Eno's music, all while celebrating Byrne's.
7. Jefferson Airplane - White Rabbit, 1967
I've always loved this song. But the reason it is on this list is again not strictly voluntarily. In experimenting with different sounds and accompaniments to my production of Don Giovanni, this song suddenly came to my mind as something able to accompany one of the opera's more hypnotic scenes. Outside of the opera, I have now begun listening to it again. Because what better way to escape reality than by listening to others doing exactly that.
"I just like it"
8. Adriano Celentano - Gelosia, 1986
I listen to this song because it makes me feel cool. You should listen to it too.
9. Chris Cornell - You Know My Name, 1992
Originally released in 1992 by Audio Slave lead singer Chris Cornell, the epic song was made famous as Casino Royale's theme song in 2006. I can't remember how I came about listening to it again, I think I just randomly remembered I liked it and thought I should listen to it again. And what better way to finish of this list. Because that's basically how much of our lockdown playlists have come about, isn't it? Lockdowns have made us recall music we didn't have the time to remember before. It's made us reflect on other times of our lives through the medium of music. And I don't know about you, but music is intimately linked to understanding every bit of my life. Because without it, I wouldn't have one.
Rita Fernandes, February 2021
Other articles in the 'Lockdown Listening' series:
Go to this Spotify playlist to listen to all the songs mentioned throughout the series!