Music, in my opinion, is the most expansive and varied artform to ever exist with thousands of genres and practically millions of bands and artists to dig through. Now that most of us are stuck inside due to the COVID-19 pandemic, now is the perfect time to travel the depths of music exploration. Many may be wondering where to start, but I am here to guide everyone through this amazing and mind opening journey. Here are 10 albums that everyone should give a spin during their stay in quarantine (in no particular order).
10. “To Be Kind” (2014)-Swans
Swans have been in the music game all the way back since the 1980’s, holding the award for one of the most consistently amazing discographies in all of music. However, I believe the peak of their brilliance comes with the band’s 2014 album, “To Be Kind.” Spanning around 2 and a half hours long, this album can be a struggle to get through on first listen. Additionally, I would say the average length for each song on this thing is around 10 minutes. Do not let these things scare you, because if you give this album the patience and focus it deserves, it is one of the most psychedelic, punishing, and mind bending musical experiences of all time. This is easily the best album of the last decade!
9. “In Rainbows” (2007)-Radiohead
Released for a “pay-your-own-price” fee in 2007, Radiohead’s 7th effort “In Rainbows” became not only the band’s, but one of the most critically acclaimed albums of all time. With this album, Radiohead moved to open up their sound to something more bright and lighthearted; a far cry from their cold and anxious works from previous years. This album is perfect for the depressing nature of this COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine, with its lush atmospheres and soul fulfilling production. This album just generally encapsulates happiness in the most perfect way; like a perfect hug, or the sun beaming down after a long rain.
8. “Remain in Light” (1980)-Talking Heads
One of the most revolutionary and game changing albums ever. Mastermind songwriter and frontman David Byrne and producer Brian Eno, along with the other amazing “Talking Heads,” created something truly spectacular with “Remain in Light.” This is the most groovy, mysterious, danceable, and fun album I have ever listened to. Plus, it is not very long, making this a short and exciting listen for your time at home. If you really like this and want to check out more Talking Heads material, I would recommend their “Stop Making Sense” concert movie. To review it shortly, it is life changing.
7. “And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out” (2000)-Yo La Tengo
Sadness, loneliness, heartbreak, and despair. These are all the wonderful things you will find when listening to Yo La Tengo’s masterpiece, “And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out.” Another lengthy affair, this album holds no drawbacks when it comes to creativity, variety, and interesting musicianship. Honestly, this album also has an incredibly unique sound to it; almost as if Yo La Tengo captured what midnight on a lonely New Jersey street would sound like in music form. Though overlooked and generally not as popular as some other entries on this list, “And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out” is the perfect experience to indulge yourself in while locked inside for weeks.
6. “Ambient 1/Music For Airports” (1978)-Brian Eno
If you are not a fan of 20 minute ambient songs that take hard patience and relaxation to enjoy, then just skip down to the next entry on this list. However, if you do fancy this type of music, then Brian Eno’s revolutionary “Ambient 1/Music For Airports” is the album for you. Spanning over 4 extremely long movements of minimalistic droning synths, this album was nothing like anyone has ever heard at the time. If you are the type of person to be paranoid and worried about COVID-19 and our quarantine state, this is the perfect album to calm you down.
Key Tracks: The whole album functions as one entire key track.
5. “The Lonesome Crowded West” (1997)-Modest Mouse
Before their mainstream success with the pop-rock classic known as “Float On,” Modest Mouse was creating anxious, rageful, aggressive, and quirky rock music. Their peak of this phase in their careers comes from one of the greatest sophomore albums of all time, “The Lonesome Crowded West.” From varied lyrical content about heartbreak, loneliness, and even cowboys, with an almost hour and a half runtime, there is so much to hear and enjoy during quarantine by listening to this album. Unlike the last entry on this list, if you are looking for something fast paced and abrasive to make time fly by, Modest Mouse has you covered.
4. “The Glow Pt. 2” (2001)-The Microphones
“The Glow Pt. 2” is one of the most disturbing, saddening, noisy, and somber albums ever made. What better time to listen to it than in quarantine! This strange indie album tells the tale of a man whose relationship has failed, and runs off into the woods for a dangerous and life changing experience. Dealing with themes such as depression, existentialism, and death, if somebody was looking for a casual listening experience, this may not be for them. However, for those who want an album with an investing story to keep their ears occupied during quarantine, “The Glow Pt. 2” is the album for you!
3. “Vespertine” (2001)-Bjork
Aside from having the most unique singing voice ever, with her childlike intonation mixed with aggressive growling, Bjork made one of the most mind-expanding and grand albums of all time with her 2001 classic, “Vespertine.” This is a concept album particularly about how much in love Bjork is with a possible partner in her life. In general, this will either make you feel in love, or strengthen that deep depression of never finding true love before death. Nonetheless, the production on this album feels like it’s from another planet, as it combines these orchestral soundscapes with synths and IDM (Intelligent Dance Music). It is quite possibly, the most unique sounding album ever. While in quarantine, I think it’s time for you to give it a deep listen.
2. “Spiderland” (1991)-Slint
Slint was a very short lived band, creating two albums and then never doing anything again. While their first album is nothing to write home about, their sophomore effort “Spiderland” is now a cult classic phenomenon in underground rock. This album is not only short and sweet with only six songs, but it also contains some of the best riff work and lyrical content in the rock genre. Every song on here accomplishes the emotions it wants to achieve to the highest degree, with emotional spoken word vocals, explosive guitars, crunchy bass, and complicated drums. This album is for the people locked up who just want something short, but filled to the brim with emotionally heavy songwriting.
1. “Red House Painters 1” (1993)-Red House Painters
Although I said this list was in no particular order, I think I have saved the best album to listen to in quarantine for last. Every album on this list has either been extremely happy, or extremely sad. I am thrilled to present the perfect middle ground with Red House Painters’ melancholic masterpiece, “Red House Painters 1.” With an album that is not too long and not too short, this is by far the best album on this list. This is perfect for anyone looking for something to dive deep into, but not waste too much time. Combining spacey instrumentals, introverted vocals, and sparse production, this album has no restraints in the varied sound department. For those looking for something that is the perfect, middle of the road, just, amazing album, this is the right place to kick the quarantine listening off.
With the death and case rate of COVID-19 rising at a massive rate, life can start to become overwhelming and stressful really quickly. I hope that with this list, you are able to find some sort of escape with the power of music. Hopefully, I was able to put your mind at ease with these expansive and powerful albums. After all, that’s what music is best for, providing windows and doorways into other worlds we couldn’t even imagine through the power of sound and melody.