As we all get ready to spend more and more time in self-isolation over the forthcoming weeks and months, there's no better time than now to lie back on the sofa, drink in hand and fully absorb yourself in an album.
With that in mind, but with a little twist and a fair bit of self-debating, our writers have picked out the one album from their collection they'd take with them into quarantine.
The Clash – London Calling
The order of my record collection betrays my sometimes brief flirtations with various genres over the past 16 years – from cringe, teenage indie (my first record was Costello Music by The Fratelis), through hip-hop, grime and house up to dark techno (ask any of my mates now). But throughout my changing tastes, The Clash's London Calling continues to connect with me unlike any other in my collection.
I've always been fascinated with storytelling in music, and in particular its unique ability to portray, connect and inspire. To me, London Calling's relevant and sharp exploration of society, race and politics is the peak of that.
Musically too, the album is a delight. It marked the band's growing interest in genres beyond their punk roots, resulting in just over an hour's worth of punk, reggae, ska, jazz and soul. LN
The War On Drugs - Slave Ambient
Though their subsequent work garnered critical acclaim in abundance, it’s 2011’s Slave Ambient that stuck with me. A crossroads between finding their 80s-inspired heartland rock aesthetic they would embody later on more popular albums Lost In A Dream and A Deeper Understanding, this album’s stylings and sentiment never bore.
When The War On Drugs released Slave Ambient, it was a time in my life when I forged valuable, life-long friendships and though the next chapter in my life seems uncertain, there was plenty of cause for wide-eyed optimism. The collection paints a picture of urban decay (which, ironically, I’ll actually miss while confined to my flat for months on end), feeling unsettled, but crucially, new beginnings; whilst nostalgia saturates the lyrics, it’s a warmly positive album with eyes firmly on the future. Just the ticket to get me through to the other side. TCH
Cocteau Twins - Heaven Or Las Vegas
It is times like these that generate the desire to escape, and whilst we can’t physically do this for obvious reasons, listening to your favourite albums is unquestionably as therapeutic.
Cocteau Twins’ Heaven Or Las Vegas for me is an otherworldly masterpiece, with jangly glimmering guitars, and spectral floaty vocals which are near impossible to make out - almost angelic. It’s this which makes the album sound so heavenly, unique, and innovative, paving the way for other shoegaze successes such as Beach House and Slowdive.
Personally, this album never grows tiresome, becoming more pleasurable each listen when you discover new stunning murmurs or shimmery melodies. A perfect album to put your feet-up and float away. JH
Burial - Untrue
A lot has been written about this record, and with good reason. Without wishing to re-hash Pitchfork or Resident Advisor too much, it truly feels like a generation defining piece of work.
At first glance it may seem like a slightly dark and melancholy choice for a quarantine soundtrack, and it’s certainly not without those aspects. The dark-garage shuffle, the police sirens, and track names like ‘Homeless’ and ‘Dog Shelter’ don’t exactly conjure the most hopeful of images. But there’s so much light, hope, and optimism amid the atmospheric world-building of the crackly 2-step and pitch-shifted samples (perhaps never more so than on ‘Shell of Light’, the emotionally uplifting highpoint of the album and a truly beautiful track that one commenter aptly described as “like staring at the sun”, such is its majesty and otherworldliness).
Since hearing the album for the first time, probably aged around 15, I’ve sort of always had this image in my head that it’s a record made for listening to through headphones as you walk alone through a city at night, by virtue of its apparent darkness, mystery and introspection. But I’ve come to realise that it’s so many things besides.
When Jackmaster and Oneman brought their back-to-back ‘Can U Dance’ show to Bestival in 2014, they dropped ‘Archangel’ to rapturous response in a set otherwise populated with dancefloor fillers.
At We Out Here Festival last summer, as the heavens opened above a packed crowd seeing Mala & The Outlook Orchestra, ‘Archangel’ once again soundtracked a moment of shared, near-hands-in-the-air, euphoria.
It was the record I put on in a friend’s living room after getting back from my first ‘rave’ as a fresh-faced 18-year old. It’s an album I bought on vinyl despite having no means to play it because it felt like something I should own. And most pertinently right now, it’s an album that bears repeated listens, and one to remind us that we’re isolated but not alone. JK
Pink Floyd - The Dark Side of the Moon
There are, of course, a lot of ways to approach choosing one album for these unprecedented times. Pragmatists might look at album length or variety of sounds represented, romantics might go with something that has specific meaning for them, realists, like myself, go for quality.
Pink Floyd's 1973 culture-defining The Dark Side of the Moon has everything I look for in an album for close listening. First and foremost, it is a cohesive piece of work. Its tracks seamlessly flow in and out of one another, creating a complete and immersive listening experience. Perfect for allowing your mind to travel while your body can't.
Secondly, the album's lyrical themes astutely tackle issues central to modern life such as mental health, capitalism, conflict/division, and time. The substantive concepts dissected throughout are engaging food for thought, which not only give you something to chew on long after the album is finished, but also lend themselves to repeated listens.
Thirdly, the album features a bold sonic pallet that mixes standard guitar, bass, drums, and piano with still-rare-at-the-time electronic instrumentation, blazing a trail for synths and the like to find their way into rock music. Dark Side features a lot of experimentation, including tape loops, vocal sampling, and sound collage, which, almost 50 years later, still sound fresh.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the album features some of the best songs of all time. When choosing one album to take with you no matter what the circumstances, bangers are a must. "Money", "Us and Them", and "Breath (In the Air)" are all pristine examples of what popular music can be and in these dire times it is important to remember the heights of what art can achieve. AW