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Music

Enjoying Music at the End of the World

New ways of thinking about music in a "new normal"

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ERIN MOORE
  • Erin Moore

Thinking about music in any serious way has been a challenge these few months—and it's an everyday struggle even for this music writer. These past months of the pandemic have found me enjoying music in new and strange ways I never thought I would, from gazing up at a rooftop where some friends play music obscured to finally getting pop music. Below is my haphazard guide to enjoying music at the end of the world, based on some of my own chaotic adaptations.

Let Quarantine Releases Release You. Many artists have forged on with release dates despite the pandemic—Lucinda Williams, The Strokes, Thundercat, The Weeknd, Fiona Apple, Chloe X Halle—and their otherwise ordinary releases can either gain new meaning and strength, or perhaps feel unbearable to engage with in their "normal" themes. Under more typical circumstances, I'd blast the new Phoebe Bridgers release on repeat and let her brand of supermarket sadness wash over me, but lately that inclination has been absent. It feels hard to connect to more emotional music like hers, or even emo pop like the May-released Notes On A Conditional Form by The 1975. Whether it's because the world is too fucked in every direction to indulge in emotional music for fun, or because other kinds of quarantine albums feel more relevant, is hard to say.

This other kind of album is the kind that has been both released and made during quarantine, such as Charli XCX's how i'm feeling now or more recently Taylor Swift's folklore (something about quarantine seems to make artists omit capital letters). While the brand of pop favored by these two—experimental club pop for the former, country-turned-radio pop for the latter—has never been my go-to, these latest albums were crafted under tight, chaotic timelines within the bounds of quarantine, bringing out looser elements in their music that are strikingly organic, thus wholly converting me to even their more typical pop oeuvres. So, despite losing touch with enthusiasm for indie favorites, I'm starting to understand pop music for the first time—and indulging in bops.

Get Thee to a Yard Show. Here in City Weekly's music section, we've been explicit about our desire to keep promoting outdoor and virtual/streamed performances, since COVID-19 is still indeed doing her thing (killing people). As the summer has worn sweatily on, it's been impossible not to miss seeing live music, though, especially at outdoor music events.

Luckily, we've been covering many outdoors options for enjoying music at a distance from others in our Music Picks, and I can personally attest to how fun going to a small open-air show actually can be. Before the world ended as we know it, I habitually viewed music via the small lounge sets at the Twilite Lounge. Now, those artists have shifted their sets to outdoor sites that are somehow more intimate than an enclosed bar. At one private gathering in the yard of a friend, the band plays on the flat roof-top, obscuring themselves behind a tall weeping birch. The small cluster of people below are all former bar regulars, and it's strange to view them in a sunset's light rather than bar neons, but easier to talk and listen to the music, and cheaper to drink too since it's obviously BYOB. This group of musicians also plays down in front of Boozetique on Sundays around sunset, where they've set up socially-distanced metal chairs—though sitting across the street or elsewhere on a curb with a picnic blanket is also a good option. If you've yet to get out to an outdoor concert, this is one great option for getting your live music fix and some socializing, all in one go.

Talk to Your Friends. If you're taking the time to read this section, you probably care about music. And if you care about music it's a fair bet you've got some people in your life who do, too. After checking in with my own friends about what they're listening to, it's clear I'm not the only one in a weird rut (listening to Taylor Swift over and over and over, then taking one turn around the room with a Bill Callahan album before returning to reputation). But, one man's weird rut could be another man's... new weird rut?

When asking my own people, I got a myriad of responses about what they've been stuck on: a four-month binge of a southern Gothic playlist; a livestream from acclaimed weirdo producer and 2019 breakout SOPHIE; David Bowie, disco and 2000s pop; internet lounge music, high school throwbacks and '90s dance music; the discography of Japanese cult-followed Harumi Hosono; '60s revolution music (wonder why?); and, last but not least, no music at all, just ASMR soundscapes. Talk about some wild vibes for strange times. My slacker rock-obsessed ex-boyfriend is mining Bandcamp's troves of vaporwave. My best friend said, "All music is garbage," even though they are a local musician busy making music of their own. If none of this appeals to you, ask your own friends what they've got on repeat. Whether it's ASMR blasted from YouTube or a sudden country music obsession, chances are they've got strong reasons to recommend their own obsessions.

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