Quarantine playlists: what the BrooklynVegan staff is listening to in isolation
With the coronavirus pandemic keeping many of us home a lot more, music (and TV) is perhaps more important than ever. It provides solace during these crazy times and an escape from the endless scroll of news, and fortunately -- despite no concerts happening -- there is no lack of music to get us through. We've been posting several musicians' livestreamed performances on a daily basis and some of our favorite live concert videos every week day. We've also asked several artists to make playlists of the music they've been listening to in isolation, and several BrooklynVegan staff members/contributors have made our own isolation playlists too. If you're looking for something new to listen to, or old to revisit, maybe one or more of these playlists will do the trick.
Andrew Sacher (senior editor)
More so than any particular piece of music, playlist-making has been getting me through quarantine. On a personal level, it’s a way to immerse yourself in something creative instead of getting caught up in the mundanity of life in quarantine or staring at the news all day, and when I’m able to share them with someone else who’s interested, it’s a way of establishing some sort of connection during life in isolation. This playlist has some Ben Gibbard, as his daily livestreams have provided a lot of solace for me during these times, as well as plenty of new songs and a few other older faves that recently popped back into my life for whatever reason. If the songs themselves relate directly to the world we’re living in, that was either a coincidence or a subconscious thing, but the overall mood of the playlist is a reflection of the mood I tend to be in lately: mostly somber with the occasional moments of lightness.
Bill Pearis (senior editor)
There are times when I want music to match the way I'm feeling. Lately though, with so much enraging bad news, I like listening to things that makes me feel better. Few songs do the trick for me more than The Style Council's "My Ever Changing Moods," so that kicks off this mix of some of my favorite songs, and a few recent cuts as well. I do throw in a couple melancholy numbers, like closing track, Flo & Eddie's "Keep it Warm," which is 44 years old but could've been written yesterday.
Anxiety... Jason Isbell's 2017 song is a true anthem for these times, and Mazzy Star has forever been my go to music for its calming nature but also its ability to bring me back to a happier time and place. Building on this mood and resisting the urge to just submit an entire Mazzy Star album as my "playlist," I chose a mix of new (three songs are from 2020 albums) and old favorites that I hope inspire music discovery in addition to your own peaceful state. Ends up, the act of making the playlist was itself therapeutic -- a mindful and focused way to get lost in my own music library, and a reminder of how much I always loved making mixtapes in simpler times. Special shout out to "Makes Me Wonder" by Tricky who has been recreating the magic of his 90s music lately, as I think you can hear in this 2019 track with newer collaborator Marta.
Amanda Hatfield (editor)
In these strange times I've been craving mellow sounds and the comfort of my old familiar favorites like Elliott Smith, Sufjan, The Weakerthans, and Fiona Apple but I included some newer stuff I've been digging here too. Bonny Light Horseman's album, in particular, has been a regular companion in my down-time activities of re-reading Stephen King novels and painting doll heads. Waxahatchee's Saint Cloud has also been in regular rotation on my headphones and I've been obsessed with "Lilacs" since hearing it for the first time last month.
Jeffrey Bergstrom (contributing writer)
I moved to the Netherlands just before Coronavirus’s proverbial shit hit the proverbial fan. In a foreign land where nothing but essential shops are open and where I have no friends, no job, and no cats, I have had ample time to throw on my headphones and zone out to the offerings within my iTunes library. When asked to do a playlist for BV, the two halves of my brain struggled to create a single playlist that could adequately articulate where I’m at music-wise. So I present to you two playlists; HardQuarantine and SoftQuarantine. HardQuarantine represents what I need in my more manic moments; heaviosity spanning 30+ years of metal. This includes everything from vintage Death and Deicide to contemporary masters Tombs and All Pigs Must Die, and everything in between. SoftQuarantine is a representation of what sates my static-addled brain in moments of panic, anxiety, stress, and depression. Here, you can get lost in lush, dense ambience by artists such as How to Disappear Completely, Eluvium, Alva Noto, and more.
Jeremy Nifras (contributing writer)
These are stressful times, and I’ve been coping in the best way I know how: hunkering down and spinning some records. Some of these songs I’ve loved for years and give me personal comfort during times of anxiety, while others are more on-theme with isolation and loneliness. Including “Stay Home” is definitely cheating here, but it’s a classic tune that fits both those aforementioned categories.
Nick Masi (BV SiriusXM host)
Ben Stas (contributing photographer)
My isolation survival strategy has depended on a healthy balance of paranoid post-punk, comforting classics and good old-fashioned bum-out music, combined with keeping an ear on new releases to maintain some degree of normalcy. Lots of things are bad right now but the new Huntsmen and Empty Country records are great!
Ester Segretto (contributing photographer)
Most of us have found ourselves with a lot of extra time on our hands in ways we’ve never expected. You’d think this would be the perfect time for me to immerse myself into discovering new music, but with everything being so uncertain at the moment my brain has been in complete recovery mode. I need my comforts. Apparently in the middle of a pandemic I’m comforted by all the goth and industrial music that got me through high school. Without even trying, my playlist went from the total calm of The Cure’s ”Plainsong” to the complete chaos of Ministry’s “Burning Inside,” much like our isolation days I suppose.
James Richards IV (contributing photographer)
I have two go-to playlists since staying inside, one is full of my go-to songs throughout my life and the other being the same theme but strictly hip-hop. I want to thank everybody on the front lines of these uncertain times all across the world. I urge everybody to be safe and smart. I hope to be in all the photo pits when the time is right, until then I am staying inside.
Angela Owens (contributing photographer)
I didn't mean to make a bummer playlist, but it's a bummer playlist. I've been alone with my own brain for too long. Ends on an upbeat track though.
Toby Tenenbaum (contributing photographer)
I’ve spent this past week listening to County Line Runner (real name Adam Day) and Another Sky.
Canada’s Basement Revolver are regulars on my Spotify along with Kenny Becker’s project, Goon.
Alexandra Savior was one of the last artist that I had the pleasure of seeing before Corona. Her producer Sam Cohen’s Spinning Love from 2019’s “the future’s still ringing in my ears” feels like a good pairing.
City of the Sun who were denied a triumphant homecoming at BK Steel by the Corona shutdown. I was so excited to see them perform their latest post-rock masterpiece, Barcelona.
West Coast’s Ruby Haunt’s signature eery sound felt appropriate for the lockdown. Brooklyn’s Post Nobles have an uplifting trippy sound worth checking out to counterbalance it all.
Canadian superstar, The Weeknd’s album release was a ray of light during what has been a pretty dismal time for everyone. “Faith” is a genuine banger.
Coldplay “started” the at-home Instagram concerts (before Kevin Morby and Waxahatchie perfected it) and Trouble in Town really is their career-best song.
GovBall cancellation means we won’t get to experience Tame Impala this summer. Tame’s album is still settling in but hard to look beyond Posthumous Forgiveness for its best track.
Air’s own Nicholas Gordon releases his solo album last month and The Border sounds like a classic Air Track from the new decade.
Jai Wolf (on Mom + Pop) is coming to Brooklyn Mirage later this summer. I’m praying we don’t get robbed of that experience.
I’m counting down the days until Other Lives release their new album and tour thru NYC. This is the teaser single from their forthcoming release
Kenneth Bachor (contributing photographer)
Stay off the streets and stay inside with the beats! Welcome to ISO-JAMS, a funky playlist designed to get you groovin' in the comfort and safety of your home. Fun fact: this playlist is comprised entirely of songs sampled by both MF Doom and Daft Punk. Enjoy!
Wei Shi (contributing photographer)
Quarantine drove me to nostalgia and escapism—I needed throwbacks to simpler times. I've been unabashedly blasting guilty pleasures from the 90s and 00s, slowly spiraling into madness as I scream, "What's up with these homies dissing my girl?! Why do they gotta front?!" to my cat who clearly is too Gen Z to know Weezer lyrics. Also, don't tell me the music video for "Torn" by Natalie Imbruglia isn't a quarantine vibe; she's literally throwing a tantrum in an apartment set. Who knows, maybe I'll finally get my hair to look as good as hers in that video after watching all these hair cutting YouTube tutorials during quarantine.
Sachyn Mital (contributing photographer)
The pandemic has added a lot of fear to our society, giving rise to some end of the world weirdos and a general sense of doom. Then there is the notion of social / physical distancing or getting away from people though in many regards, it's also good to get away from the 24/7 news cycle to and try to clear your head during this time. Finally, and hopefully, in the end we must come out of this stronger (a little political optimism here) because we've been pushed onto a different path but we will come out of it stronger. The songs in my playlist similarly convey a cycle of despair and darkness, distance and warmth, then strength and positivity.
Greg Cristman (contributing photographer)
I go in constant cycles with my musical tastes. Lately, I’m very deep into electronic/ambient music again and have amassed a sizable collection over the years. During this “self-isolation” period electronic music, to me, is the perfect thing to listen to. You can sit back and listen and travel the spaceways allowing the time and boredom to dissipate and drift into sleep or you can actively do things and still enjoy it in the background. Not everything here is pure electronica though so, here we go…
Craven Faults- Vacca Wall from Eccentrics & Uncomformities (17:36)
Stumbled across this in the Wayside Music new releases email and the description drew me right in. This limited edition (1,000 copies) 3CD sold out extremely fast and I’m very glad I grabbed a copy. This is some of the most hypnotic and powerful new electronic music I’ve heard in some time and this thing has been looping in my player quite regularly.
Daniel Davies- Destructive Field from Signals (4:40)
I absolutely love both the Lost Themes albums by John Carpenter. Daniel is in John’s band, so I naturally was curious, and I grabbed this from the good people at Sacred Bones and I’m glad I did. This is very different than Carpenter’s electronics, but this album has its own wonderful sound and textures.
Myrkur-Ella from Folkesange (3:55)
I’ve been a Myrkur fan right from the get-go, black metal purists be damned because they’re missing out. My favorite Myrkur album is clearly Mareridt where her phenomenal voice soars and the music is both crushing black metal and soft acoustic ambience. Anyone following Myrkur will know that it was only a matter of time before she would do an all folk album using her native instrumentation. This record is soft and gorgeous and so open that it allows for Myrkur’s vocals to be up front and fully exposed showcasing just how magnificent she really is.
Insect Ark-Tectonic from The Vanishing (6:17)
Dana Schechter has been a friend of mine for many years now and has been a member of both Angels of Light and Swans. Her solo project Insect Ark has been around for about seven years now and the first time I saw her perform under this moniker in early 2013 I was totally blown away and knew then this band had a great future ahead. Her latest album is The Vanishing and it beautifully captures her vision of “instrumental, experimental, cinematic doom” and I love this opening track.
Eluvium-Virga I From Virga I (19:55)
Matthew Cooper has been churning out magnificent albums as Eluvium for many years and is always trying something different. Virga I was made while Matthew and his wife were unexpectedly isolated to their garage while work was done on their home. Music written in isolation for isolation, it doesn’t get more appropriate than this.
Underworld-S T A R from Drift Boxset (3:44)
I had recently dusted off Underworld’s magnificent Dubnobasswithmyheadman and Second Toughest of the Infants and was rediscovering just how brilliant and timeless they were. Around the same time, I learned about Drift, a series of tracks and EP’s recorded and released once a week for a full year. These tracks were assembled into the massive, 8-disc Drift boxset and I managed to get a copy at a great price. The first time I heard S T A R I had the darn thing looping through my head for days, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
King Crimson-The Devil’s Triangle from In The Wake of Poseidon (11:37)
King Crimson is one of my favorite bands of all time and just had to include them on this list. To go along with the dark times, we’re currently living through I give you an old classic, The Devil’s Triangle, a long, slow march towards oblivion that derails into chaos and it will rip your face off. Listen to this at full volume and watch the world as you know it fall apart.
Nurse With Wound-The from Trippin’ Musik (18:38) (Can’t find a link for this one but wanted to include it)
I first discovered NWW in 1985 through my old friend Ron Lessard, the owner of RRRecords in Lowell, MA, and I’ve been an avid collector ever since and my collection is now over 200 pieces and growing. Trippin’ Musk is the first truly new music put out by NWW in some time and it was worth the wait. Ambient, droney and mysterious it is a classic NWW recording.
Now put on your headphones and get your isolation on!