In this first Life during quarantine playlist of 2021, Nick Triani looks back at his favourite and most listened to music from last year.
2020 was a year where we were all forced to find a new way to live and be together (or be apart.) I found a small part of me relishing that break from routines. Although, as the year ended, my endurance levels waned. I love my family, but sometimes distance is good, no? I miss some level of social activity, the freedom to just go where the hell I want without fear of infection.
The flip side to this are those kindred spirits of Liam Fox, Ian Brown, Donald Trump, Van Morrison and every other sad conspiracist who somehow think this time we are living in is an affront to their freedom. Why is it always white men who appear to be the most stupid and feel they can flaunt the vast privilege they already live?
Currently, Trump is living his final chapter. A real-life American coup played out on my screen just this week. I always feared something like this. But he will surely be gone soon, if not his crazy followers. Oh yeah, Brexit happened too, for real. Bye bye former home, aloof and drifting.
So far in 2021 nothing has really changed. Seriously examining the confines of one’s home, testing worn relationships and keeping a lid on it is our immediate future. This time we’re all tired and waiting for vaccines (most of us), a way out, or back or somewhere.
Culture, what is it good for?
Comforting sounds were my order of the day in 2o20. I consumed and devoured more music than ever. My Last FM tells me I scrobbled 34,000 tracks. I probably listened to as much music on vinyl as via streaming. Discogs and various local record stores were my constant companions. The CD shelves are also full and I bought a tape machine this year. These quarantine playlists have been as good a barometer as any to how my 2020 sounded.
I gave up following trends a long time ago, my instinct keeps me sharp where music is concerned. I know what I like and in these times I wanted relative calmness. Women playing emotionally charged music, often quiet and subtle was the order of the day. Mellow sounds. I listened to a lot of jazz and English folk music of the late 1960s. While infrastructures crumbled and the music industry struggled, listening to music was still a balm and an inspirational shoulder.
Pop music however (or the mainstream), generally felt off-kilter and trivial for me personally. Pop stardom and the idea of it felt like an unnecessary excess when everyone were tightening their belts and the stage lights remained off. Musically pop reached its limit, with any kind of innovation and expression of emotion happening elsewhere. Pop’s non-Covid expression further devalued the cultural relevance of popular music as something substantial and meaningful. Perhaps my expectations were always too high?
I read some books this year too and streamed countless series and films, but music kept me sane and pulled my heartstrings like nothing else. This playlist reflects most of the music that kept me in check during 2020 and some personal forever favourites. Happy New Year!
Nick Triani is an editor and contributor to One Quart Magazine.