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(Credit: Far Out/Katy J Pearson/Orlando Weeks/Kevin Morby)

Music

Five lockdown masterpieces you may have missed

@TomTaylorFO

There was a period not so long ago when WhatsApp groups the world over lit up with messages about how we seemed to be living perpetually in the final frame of a film before the ‘2 years later’ screen appears. Gags of that sort are now an almost forgotten memory, just some distant dream of the past, as we come to terms with the fact that we are actually amidst a very fat chapter in the pages of history. Or at least that we are hopefully, finally, turning onto the next page. 

When the cogs of society started to slow the jokes dried up; pensioners started to shop at different times to everyone else, which they were doing anyway but this time it was official; then the pubs got closed and we knew for certain that this was serious! Despite the fact that throughout the various lockdowns we endured, most of us resided in our fetid private domiciles (and some continue to do so), culture was oddly easy to miss.

As we watched every single fall on YouTube to the point that the collective internet conscious may well consider that old free taco tumble to be a metaphor for the prelapsarian slide of society, and Netflix even stopped asking if you’re ‘still watching’ anymore, our minds travelled elsewhere beyond great new music. In fact, our minds began to wander towards some much-needed mundanity. We stared teary-eyed out of the window observing neighbours’ takeaway habits and learnt about the lives of our saintly local delivery drivers.

All the while, music was a constant boon, but it was also an oddity. How exactly does music tackle something so unprecedented? Well, as it happens, music was the medium perhaps best suited to give a response. Such is the immediate and simultaneous introspection and escapism that it can offer, it proved to be the perfect outlet in a variety of ways, even if studios were a struggle to get to. We are yet to see any great cinematic works tackling the tragic period and the great ‘lockdown novel’ awaits. 

However, music was a first responder. Even still, its response was muted amid the ensuing malaise. Naturally, this meant a lot of masterful records sadly slid under the radar—they always do at the best of times but when the news was this mental, finding the time to chance a new LP was tricky for a lot of people. Thus, we have collated five records that came out during the lockdown period that you all should know—and to know them is to love them. 

Five lockdown masterpieces:

A Quickening – Orlando Weeks

From The Gritterman to his latest album Hop Up, everything that Orlando Weeks has offered up so far as a solo artist has been excellent. However, of all of those solo efforts, A Quickening is the one that slipped under the radar the most due to the release’s unfortunate timing at the height of the UK’s first lockdown unrest. For those who still caught wind of the record, the swarming atmosphere was dreamy medicine that helped to make sense of the dire situation even if the subject matter drifted elsewhere. 

When we spoke to Weeks he explained: “Being an artist can be a very indulgent pastime, and I always felt the way of justifying that indulgence was to try and process something very heavy,” he earnestly adds. “There’s a truth to that in some ways, but I also think that’s not the only way, and other people have figured this out a lot quicker than me, and it’s taken me the experience of Hop Up to learn that’s not the only way to achieve sincere expression.” In truth, there is a cushiony silver lining amid the depth of A Quickening that transfigures the sincere experience he speaks of with a sort of fly on the wall novelistic quality. 

(Credit: PIAS)

Return – Katy J Pearson

Katy J Pearson’s stunning debut album is a front-to-back patchwork of bliss-bleached belters. Laden with more intricate hooks than Alnwick’s Fishing Tackle Museum and a mystically muscular ethereal quality, she somehow makes spiritual ditties highly danceable. The record is as at home with the Monday morning brew as it is soundtracking a Friday road trip and that’s the mark of a masterpiece that should rightfully be cherished by society forevermore. 

Bridging the abyss from pillow-propped folk to the visceral edge of the far reaches of seamlessly flawless pop-rock that Fleetwood Mac offered up with Rumours, the record is a rarity in a number of waysWith horns and strings seamlessly entering the musical mix, nothing ever treads out of place as discordance is shunned in favour of perfect pop sensibilities. And what a voice she has too, it never strains beyond silken and without any pretence, it remains alluringly original. In short, as a star of stunningly sincere reliability, she lets us all cut loose in shimmering style.  

(Credit: Heavenly Recordings)

On All Fours – Goat Girl

Great art endures and some of the best of that great art changes over time too. This is a sorry reality that has left many critics red-faced as they focus on immediacy and struggle to see the swell. With On All Fours, the London quartet Goat Girl produced a record that just keeps giving as you fall for it one hundred times over the more it reveals itself to you. 

This is an opinion shared by Conor Curley of Fontaines D.C. Recently when we were discussing our mutual love for the record, he told me: “I love that album On All Fours,” he said of Goat Girl’s 2021 swirling wave of genre-blending brilliance featuring anthemic tunes like ‘Sad Cowboy’. “I listened to it when it came out but since then I’ve got so much more into it. I feel like it’s made sense to me more, I feel like I’ve gotten to the place where I understand it more. It’s amazing, man.” This truth offers up a glimpse of the amorphous sound of the record and the depth of sensibility behind it. 

Sundowner – Kevin Morby

In time, we will be able to say, ‘That was my lockdown record’. The dogeared album sleeve of Sundowner may well be testimony that this was mine. The strength, for me, is in the arrangements. The album is composed in such a way that when you’ve got an itch, it reaches out to scratch it—the second you need a chorus it arrives, when a solo would suit the bill, it is sumptuously offered up, and the geyser of sound forever remains swirling.

If you read into album artwork, then Sundowner said an awful lot. A sepia-toned bedroom is perched in the middle of an open field, under a moody but somehow summery sky. This mix of quilted introspection and the great American outdoors is the mindful cocktail that makes the album seem bottomless and beguiling. This seemingly strange tableau actually captures a feeling we all know – something akin to when you catch a crescent of burning orange sun seeping beneath the doorsill and you’re reminded of life beyond four walls – and it does it with such alluring fidelity that it proves a feeling you will frequently want to revisit from start to finish.

(Credit: Dead Oceans)

Afrique Victime – Mdou Moctar

As the current premier band of the Desert Blues movement, Mdou Moctar are not only one of the best guitar bands around, but there is an argument that they are one of the most important ever, period. They are the pioneering frontier that captures the sound of an almost monolithic past colliding with the uncertain presentiment of climate change. This means the music’s significance is not psychosomatic, nebulous or ascertained after the fact, but a glimpse into the hereafter. The output is a bold invocation of a future that is estimated to soon affect a billion people directly. Yet, it offers a glimmer of glistening hope from this glum situation.

They are not a band who found international acclaim the easy way, but now that the world has heard their songs, the message is an inviolable triumph. Behind the scintillating arpeggio guitar work and bluesy rhythmic riffs, is a sense of depth that proves transcendent. Afrique Victime might be more produced than previous efforts, but the added gloss erodes none of the rustic weight in the welter of this spiritual collection of trance-inducing melodic tracks.