Let’s face it — quarantine sucks. These days we’re all swimming in a lovely cocktail of social isolation, fear and uncertainty. It’s enough to drive anyone nuts. Despite that, keeping our human contact to the barest minimum is so, so essential to limiting the spread of COVID-19, and we must all do our part to flatten the curve. So to keep myself sane, and to keep myself hopeful, I’ve turned to music, the natural mood enhancer. To help you also stay sane and hopeful while self-isolating, I’d like to share some of my favorite quarantine bops.
This song is so perfect for quarantine that I think Mitski must have taken a peek into the future before she started writing it. “Nobody” is in a major key, undeniably upbeat, with rippling piano chords and bright guitar riffs, but the lyrics express a deep-seated sense of isolation and loneliness.
“My God, I’m so lonely / so I open the window / to hear sounds of people / to hear sounds of people” — an experience to which I’m sure many of us can relate. Even though the song will have you tapping your toes, the melancholy lyrics and slightly eerie chord progressions convey that sense of seclusion that so many of us are currently experiencing.
If you’re looking for a tune to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, look no further than “Dream in Green.” John Rhee’s smooth voice slides up into dramatic crescendos and back down into various melodic wanderings, never losing the breathy hopefulness that makes the song feel so ethereal, like the first tender blossom of spring.
“What makes life so hard / but still so free,” the song muses. “We don’t have the reasons why / it’s hard to see.” Life is hard right now, yes, and it may not feel free, but we can still breathe the fresh spring air and watch the flowers bloom and listen to the music that brings us joy.
Brimming with EDEN’s typical drama and emotion, this triumphant track is the first on his new album, “No Future.” Even though I, of course, recommend you listen to the entire album, EDEN has poured all his most forceful, blaring optimism into “Good Morning,” layering his powerful voice to create a jubilant masterpiece. The song is about EDEN overcoming his own struggles — a reminder that we can, and we will, overcome our current struggle.
This track’s driving beat and irresistibly strange drop will latch onto your brain and never let go. The chorus will lodge itself in your head for weeks, telling you over and over: “This is real / and that’s okay.” The simplest messages can be the most comforting.
Linying’s voice is gentle and delicate, her lyrics poetic, her music gorgeously arranged. “Sticky Leaves” starts off soft and subtle, building slowly; even at the song’s climax, it is still so very tender — perfect for relaxing at home, watching spring sun streaming in through the windows. And Linying presents us with yet another hopeful message: “For every wreck I still believe / in the greatest lives / and the stickiest leaves.”
Settle down with a steaming mug of tea — perhaps some chamomile if you’d like to be particularly relaxed — and give this track a listen. S.lyre’s style may strike you as a bit strange at first, with tiny electronic flourishes and quiet vocals, but the silly lyrics and warm synths are sure to make you smile. “Don’t move too fast now,” the song reminds us, and indeed, quarantine is the perfect time to slow down and savor small, everyday activities — like brewing yourself a soothing cup of tea.
For those of you working or studying from home because of quarantine, here’s an instrumental piece that would be perfect in the background of a work session. In true lo-fi fashion, the beat is low and slow, the melody groovy and cute video game-inspired touches proliferate. If you’d like more low-key study instrumental study tunes in the same vein, I’d also recommend “Blind Faith” by Haywyre and 밤 12시에 쓰는 편지 (The Letter Written at Midnight) by moxmox.
And for those who may not want to think about work at this particular moment, here’s a song encouraging us all to be lazy. For the past few weeks, I’ve been buzzing with stress about this and that; despite classes shifting online, I have as much work as ever, and piled on top of that is the tension of inhabiting the world at this present moment.
It can be nice to be reminded that even though I’m not cooped up inside by choice, I can take this opportunity to be lazy for once — and that’s okay. If you’re having trouble focusing, or you’re feeling this immense pressure to take up a productive hobby, try to be generous toward yourself and remember that this is an exceptional time. You’re allowed to be a little lazy.
9. Any Nostalgic Song
Though overindulging in nostalgia can be dangerous — we all must live in the present, after all — a small dose here and there can remind you how good the world can actually be. I would recommend turning on a track that you were obsessed with in the recent past, before social distancing and self-isolation found their way into the vernacular.
If you listened to it enough, that song might contain a little nugget of the past: a brief vision of your favorite study spot, or a reminder of what it felt like to walk to class, those small joys that we can’t experience right now. For me, nostalgia manifests most powerfully in “Good Morning (Blues)” by Kid Karma, evoking images of the last snow in Pittsburgh, stacks of houses on a distant hill glowing white in the setting sun.
Just because a sacrifice is necessary doesn’t make it any less painful. We have all had to sacrifice, in one way or another, many far more painfully than myself. I hope that some of these songs can help soothe the hurt and fear that we are all feeling. I wish for you to stay sane, I wish for you to stay hopeful, and I wish for you to stay healthy.