With the coronavirus pandemic keeping many of us home a lot more, we've been asking artists to make us playlists of the music they've been listening to in isolation, and this one comes from Midwife (aka Denver multi-instrumentalist Madeline Johnston), who released her great new album Forever on The Flenser last week.

If you haven't heard Forever, it's a haunting, atmospheric, beautiful-sounding album that puts dream pop, goth, ambient music and more in a blender. (It's not a million miles away from Grouper, and Grouper fans should definitely not sleep on this.) The album was inspired by Madeline having to abandon the venue/co-op she lived in, Rhinoceropolis, after the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland created "high tensions surrounding the safety of DIY spaces," and also by the unexpected death of fellow Rhinoceropolis resident Colin Ward, whose voice is heard reading a poem on Forever and whose music Madeline included on her isolation playlist. Here's some more background on the album:

The album is informed by Denver-based multi-instrumentalist Madeline Johnston’s experiences during + post-Rhinoceroplis, a local venue/co-op where she lived until 2016, when its doors were shuttered due to high tensions surrounding the safety of DIY spaces (not coincidentally following the Ghost Ship tragedy in Oakland). Residents were displaced around Denver and artists like Midwife were forced to start over.

It was at Rhinoceropolis that Madeline became close with Colin Ward, an artistic confidant and friend to whom her new album, Forever, is dedicated. Madeline comments, “He was my roommate and was the embodiment of that place [Rhinoceropolis] in a lot of ways. We became really close friends there. I was always learning so much from him, about life and being an artist. He was an amazing teacher and friend to me.” When Ward passed away unexpectedly in 2018, she turned towards sound to express the indescribable feelings that partnered with her grief and these mournful sounds ultimately developed into her new album, Forever.

[...] On the track “C.R.F.W.,” we hear Colin Ward reading a poem that speaks of a leaf falling from a tree in autumn: “imagine the way a breeze feels against your leaf body while you finally don’t have to hold on anymore.” Johnston responds with slowly radiating tones, branches stretching out to hold the leaf one last time. “I wanted to write him a letter. I wanted to make something for him in his memory,” Madeline says of Forever.

Midwife was one of the many musicians whose touring plans were cancelled by coronavirus, but she'll play a virtual record release show on Friday (4/17) at 7 PM ET on Facebook Live. More info here.

Stream her album:

In addition to Colin Ward's music, Madeline's playlist also includes Loren Connors, Windy Weber (of Windy & Carl), Linden Pomeroy, and Algae Guck, and she provided commentary on each pick. Read on for her list...


5 Albums For Social Isolation (by Madeline Johnston)
March - April 2020

Loren Connors - The Departing of a Dream Vol. II

Loren Connors is a master of patience and open space. I get lost in this record. I adore it. Connor’s relationship with the electric guitar is something to envy and be inspired by. The record is full of sublime tension. Chords and noise hover around you, shrouded under a blanket of tape hiss. Floating around. A dance about dissonance and release. A fragile glimpse into another world that I desperately want to live inside of.

I’ve been using some of my free time during quarantine to delve into his enormous catalogue of recordings. The first one that got me into LC was Airs. I think that’s a great point of entry for understanding his music.

Algae Guck - Curtains

This just came out a few weeks ago, but Curtains already feels like a pandemic classic.

“It’s Curtains For Us All”

Curtains cover windows, curtains keep the world out. Curtains provide privacy. Curtains shelter, hide, and contain us.

Curtains feels like confronting your self doubt, and what it means to inhabit yourself.

You are your own parasite, your own host.

Pop anthems that are as equally catchy as they are provocative.

Bonus points for an amazing cover of "The End' by Sibylle Baier.

Windy Weber - I Hate People

There is a heaviness and a beauty in this album that is hard to describe. The theme of isolation here seems especially fitting for the times. The record is about wanting to be on an island alone - Because only other people can destroy you.

"At one time or another, in everyone's life, each one of us wants an island…..a place to be away from the rest of the world, a place where no one can hurt or betray us. This record is about that island."

A gorgeous record that captures, engulfs, and devours you.

It’s terrifying, but you can never bring yourself to look away.

A perfect look into the psyche of a sick world.

Killd By - Neotropical

A new compilation of Colin Ward’s B-sides from 2014-2017. This is his first posthumous release since he passed away in 2018.

This work is very near and dear to my heart. <3 the collection expands on his previous b-sides record, which is one of my favorite releases from killd by project. < p>

Listening to Neotropical, I feel closer to Colin, and at peace.

I hope that his music will soon begin to reach a larger audience, and that more people will understand, be inspired by, and appreciate his genius.


You can find more of Colin’s music here:

Linden Pomeroy - Resurface

I began quarantine with this tape - And will most likely finish it with it as well.

Got into Linden’s music after hearing Maybe It’s Our January Heads, a split with Lonesome Blood.

I’ve been very inspired recently by Linden Pomeroy’s spacious and intentional guitar playing.

Resurface feels like jumping into a cold water pool. Coming up for air after you realize you’ve been underwater this whole time. Listening to this record really calms my anxiety and allows me to breathe again.

A place where time will resist.