By now, most of us are a combination of stir crazy, anxious, and eager for some good news. We pine for the bygone era of attending pro sports games and music festivals but know that these things won’t likely be the same for some time. We’re antsy but we understand that things like wearing a mask and mostly staying put are helping others in tremendous ways.
In music, there have been extremely creative responses to the current climate. Some, like the fantastic latest record from hip-hop duo Run the Jewels, feel like boiling point anthems, calling out systemic racism as it continues to unfold nationwide. Others, like OK Go’s All Together Now are inventive and emotional. Some are just plain playful (like Rick Astley — yes, that Rick Astley — doing an amazing covering of Foo Fighters’ Everlong). And some, like the live weekly work from gifted kids musician Red Yarn, educate, entertain, and empower our kiddos through song.
In that vein, here are some of the best videos, livestreams, and more offered by the music community since the pandemic erupted.
Katie Crutchfield, aka Waxahatchee, has been underrated for sometime. She quietly released St. Cloud in late March, an album that beautifully blends indie rock with folk and Americana. If not for some incredible efforts from fellow musicians like Fiona Apple and Run the Jewels around the same time, the record would very much be in the album of the year conversation. Amid the pandemic, the artist has been playing in full the varied records of her outstanding discography on Monday evenings via NoonChorus.
Tiny Desk Concerts
NPR’s live performance series stopped inviting guests to its offices a while back, but it’s still turning out great performances. The newest incarnation, Tiny Desk Home Concerts, take us into some of our favorite artists’ bedrooms and home studios for intimate sets. Some of the best include a family singalong orchestrated by Hamilton Leithauser and a feel-good set by KIRBY. It’s a little different without the NPR Music staff applauding each song, but it’s still worth your eyes and ears.
Canadian artist Drake seems to have this quarantine thing down. His latest video, Toosie Slide, manages to tackle so much in a way, and with a sound, that comes off as effortless. Like an eerie version of MTV’s hit show Cribs, the video walks us through the musician’s massive Toronto home. But it does so in a crafty way that champions social distancing, examines the latest viral dance trend (what the song is named after), and shows us all how to wear a damn mask.
Sometimes you just want to thrash around your place in a few moments of sonically charged bliss. Goldfinger promotes just that through a quarantine version of its hit Superman. It shows that the ’90s are still very much alive, ska remains catchy, and playing loud is always the best option. The tracks will have you dusting off your old skateboard almost immediately.
The State of Music
Australia has had a mostly effective campaign against COVID-19. It’s owed mostly to an aggressive quarantine and plenty of testing but it might also have to do with great live entertainment for at-home enjoyment. The State of Music series is exactly that, offering a who’s who of the country’s impressive music scene and high-energy performances. Standouts include Andrew Stockdale of Wolfmother rocking out and some compelling new sounds from Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever.
Premiere Portland music festival Pickathon is not doing its traditional get-together this August but that hasn’t stopped the music. The festival is doing A Concert a Day to fight the pandemic, releasing and streaming full sets from Pickathon’s storied past. There’s a wealth of sound here, including remarkable sets from Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and the jumpy electronica of Divine Fits.
Personality, producer, DJ, journalist, and Roots drummer Questlove has been keeping busy amid the madness. In between hosting virtual potlucks and making music, he’s been spinning choice sounds. This lengthy and well-curated set, appropriately named the Questlove Quarantine Qoolout, is the antidote for shitty times and spans a host of grooving genres. It’s also inspired countless dance parties all over the globe through new-normal platforms like Zoom and Facebook Live. Good luck replicating a set this strong, not to mention the fine banter.
The track from Beyoncé dropped on Juneteenth. Like the artist itself, the song is incredibly powerful. The video is a still black screen while the track beams with humanity and so many hooks. A little bit jazz, a little bit trap, and all kinds of intoxicating, it’s a single that will have you dancing in front of the mirror.
Build a House
This song shows that musicians can still play as a band from afar. Featuring Yo-Yo Ma and Rhiannon Giddens, “Build a House” is a touching and poignant track showcasing two talents very much in sync. It’s part of a #songsofcomfort campaign that’s offering some restorative vibes right now and pulling in musicians from all over the globe.
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