Let’s be honest the last year has been an abomination, there are no two ways about it, and here at Far Out we’re more than aware of how abrasive some cliched ‘chin-up and look on the bright-side’ epitaph can prove to be, but similarly we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t also acknowledge the undeniable boon that music provides.
The virus and its resultant lockdown have lingered over the last year like an ominous cloud, but it is a cloud that music, unlike almost anything else, can permeate like an assegai into the blue of brighter days beyond. Whether summoning colour back into dimming memories, blasting out the glory of days yet to come, or offering simple comfort that ‘All Things Must Pass’, music has been a constant benevolent companion of suffering throughout history and it has far from abandoned us during this latest diabolical dirge.
With worries mounting, a bombardment of bad news and sinister statistics it can be easy to feel trapped in more ways than one during the lockdown, however, music has offered refuge away from the gloomy insular world of our own domains and with the simple tap of a play button, drop of a stylus or strum of a guitar, the suburbs and cities can rest like a sleepy ocean as guitar solos, drumbeats and soaring vocals offer a small but mighty escape in a coracle of unimpeachable hope and exultation.
They’re some songs that can achieve this medicinal quality through melody alone, an upbeat boogie in the kitchen can offer an ample alternative to a bar, as we’ve all come to know. Other downbeat tunes can offer a morose place to meddle and in their own way offer comfort by illuminating that you are not alone. But that nugget of hope that we are all searching for is more often than not elucidated in lyrics, those gilded little lines of tuneful poetry that land just right and resonate just enough to offer that glowing ray through the clouds.
Below, we’ll be joyfully going through the most warming of them for you to bask in…
The 10 best lyrical verses to get you through lockdown:
10. ‘Let it Shine’ by Randy Newman
To begin proceedings, we take a look at the often-curmudgeonly songsmith Randy Newman who put his more satirical stylings to one side for the 1972 track ‘Let It Shine’ taken from his Sail Away album.
Just as this article began with a note of dark acknowledgement, Randy also starts his most optimistic song with a touch of realist lamentation. It is this honest acknowledgement, however, that makes the hope he offers thereafter sing out the all the louder. Lockdown may not have offered much else, but it has offered up new starts, Randy encourages you to embrace them with hope and he does it so joyfully that it is impossible not to nod along to the Dean of Satire’s more sincere side.
Whatever happened to
The things you used to do
And all the dreams you dreamed so long?
Stop livin’ in the past
The good times never last
Well now’s the time for movin’ on.
Let It shine
Let it shine
Let it shine
If there’s hope in your heart
Then let it shine”
9. ‘Ride A White Swan’ by T. Rex
Marc Bolan offered up many a belting anthem in his short time with us, so much so that it was a short time that brought to mind the notion that the light that shines brightest lasts half as long. ‘Ride A White Swan’ was released as a stand-alone single back in 1970 and it proved so gleaming that it spawned glam rock.
The song is a blinding light of hope and exultation, almost too bright for lockdown, but tempered just enough not to come across as clashing. It is this poetical opening verse cut over a scintillatingly upbeat guitar riff that urges you to take dominion over your mood when and where you can. Of course, the symbolism is fantasy, but if you catch it at the right time then it sometimes doesn’t feel that far from the truth. Take it with a cup of coffee in the morning, and it’s bound to bounce your day off in the right direction.
Ride it on out like a bird in the sky ways
Ride it on out like you were a bird
Fly it all out like an eagle in a sunbeam
Ride it on out like you were a bird
8. ‘The Running Styles of New York’ by The Tallest Man on Earth
In 2019 Kristian Matsson, aka The Tallest Man on Earth, released a revolutionary new sort break-up album, I Love You. It’s A Fever Dream, a hopeful look forward and dignified look back, as ever, full of poignancy and heart.
It is this coupling of sombre reflection and graceful moving on that champions the song as a gentle lockdown breeze. He croons the below verse out with a meek but nonetheless fortified hope that the past is not wholly regrettable and brighter days are ahead. “Moving on into the days of our grace returning,” is the gem that remains when the murk of lockdown is sifted through the pan of time passing, and it gains all the more traction when he croons it out in powerful Dylan-Esque tones.
We’re running out
But moving on
Into the days of our grace returning
7. ‘We Have All the Time In the World’ by Louis Armstrong
It can seem pretty hard to put the cares of the world behind us at this present moment but listening to Louis Armstrong is pretty much a short cut to doing so. The man himself is a big cuddly trumpet-blowing ray of sunshine with undeniably the most comforting pipes in the business. Written by John Barry and Hal David, Armstrong’s silky tones brought this Bond song soothingly to life like the sun of a summers dawn.
Listening to the song is an act of escapism to brighter days no matter what your current circumstances may be, which makes it a particular boon in lockdown. The verse below floats along on a gorgeous melody and tears all terrors asunder. Let’s stick to the rules, keep going and soon, those cares really will be a distant memory, then we have all the time in the world to crack on with the rest of Armstrong’s awe-inspiring back catalogue.
We have all the love in the world
If that’s all we have, you will find
We need nothing more
Every step of the way
Will find us
With the cares of the world
Far behind us
6. ‘Over Everything’ by Courtney Barnett, Kurt Vile
In 2017, musical friends Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile teamed up for an LP of duets, Lotta Sea Lice, and inadvertently in ‘Over Everything’ they captured the essence of one of the better days you can experience in lockdown.
Although it might not seem that way at the moment, I am sure there will come a time when we are able to salvage some glinting positives from the wreckage of this last year. Hopefully, a greater appreciation for the environment and the outdoors will be one of them. Music has long been cherished as a cultural balm to subversively grease some of the mechanical oppressions of life, but last year for many people long-walks came into their own – couple to two together and you’re onto a winner, just as the most loveable duo of indie elucidate in verse below.
When I step outside to a beautiful morning
Where the trees are all wagging, my hair flag waving
The scenery raging, my life love cascading and the smog hangs
When I’m outside in a real good mood
You could almost forget about all the other things
Like a big old ominous cloud in my periphery
5. ‘Let It Be’ by The Beatles
Where would an uplifting list be without the fab four and, more specifically, without ‘Let It Be’? The titular song from their 1970 final release is a bemouth message of peace and love that the music scene of the ‘60s stood for.
An ode to Pauls mother, Mary, who passed away when he was only 14, the song not only offers exultation from loss but represents the powerful force for transfiguration that it can become in time. The song itself came to Paul in the midst of an anxiety dream in which his late mother appeared and imparted a message of hope to him. As McCartney puts it himself, “She was reassuring me, saying, ‘It’s going to be ok, just let it be.’ It felt so great. She gave me positive words, [..] So I wrote the song ‘Let It Be’ out of positivity.”
And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted, there is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be
4. ‘A Hero’s Death’ by Fontaines D.C.
Not to put it in overtly blunt tones but part of living a hopeful life in lockdown has to do with not rolling over and letting it grind you down. On 31st of July 2020, Fontaines D.C. followed up their ground-breaking debut Dogrel at just the right time and served up the perfect lockdown message in shouted illumination.
On a personal level, I owe a lot to this song and I’m sure there’s a legion of fans who find themselves in the same shoes, to those struggling I can confirm that the song’s mantra is true – brighter times are possible. Like ‘Ride A White Swan’, this song beats the drums of taking dominion over your mood, but it furthers it in forceful tones to also take charge of the circumstances that surround you and even lists off ways to do so. The song is a tour de force in unapologetic youthful energy and optimism, every stanza is a mantra and you can take your pick, because below just happens to be the first one…
Don’t get stuck in the past
Say your favourite things at mass
Tell your mother that you love her
And go out of your way for others
Sit beneath a light that suits ya
And look forward to a brighter future
3. ‘Nature Boy’ by Nick Cave
‘Nature Boy’ takes no time getting started, blasting into life with a blitzkrieg of embalming ensemble music and the lyrics, likewise, waste no time in getting to the heart of it in trademark Cave style. Taken from the 2004 double album Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus they’re many upbeat songs on the LP that could have been chosen, but ‘Nature Boy’ is the one that offers the most instant blast of brutality and beauty.
There is a level of lucid imagery to this introductory verse that echoes scenes that have no doubt occurred throughout lockdown. The news is bleak and unavoidable, but beauty can usurp it. If that sounds a little otiose then listen to the track and you’ll hear Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds ram it home with more magnificent force than any printed word could. Just as quickly as Cave acknowledges the darkness, he eviscerates it by flicking on a light of shining beauty. Cutthroat and brutal but never unconsidered, the kid gloves are off and the issues are tackled head-on with the same simple intelligent philosophy that Bob Dylan declared some decades earlier, “Love and only love”. The song not only offers hope during lockdown but presents a different path to take once its lifted, one adorned with pink and purple wisteria’s.
I was just a boy when I sat down
To watch the news on TV
I saw some ordinary slaughter
I saw some routine atrocity
My father said, don’t look away
You got to be strong, you got to be bold, now
He said, that in the end it is beauty
That is going to save the world, now
2. ‘I’m Not My Season’ by Fleet Foxes
This is another song that came along at just the right time to offer us an escape in its enveloping benediction. The album Shore was a gorgeous little gift back in September of 2020 that reconfirmed Fleet Foxes as the perfect band to enjoy those more wistful days trying to capture your own little piece of cathartic release through the priceless elements of life.
‘I’m Not My Season’ is sung by Robin Pecknold in such steady and gentle tones, cut over an equally soothing strumming melody that it whisks you off elsewhere. The metaphor of changing seasons provides a much more literal escape at the moment, away from the dogged Northern Hemisphere winter in a very literal sense. In the line “we’re weak but a leaf is turning,” there is a message that time will sort this mess out and its a message emboldened by the deliverance in the power of the music. (The live version below proves to be even more sumptuous).
Can you catch a thrown line
Tied around neat
Circle once about, please allow me
I see the pall coming off of our cheeks
We’re weak but a leaf is turning
1. ‘New World Coming’ by Nina Simone – (darkDARK remix)
The song was originally penned by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and first became a hit for Cass Elliot back in 1970 before Nina Simone adapted it for her 1971 album Here Comes the Sun and made the song her own. The track received a remix by darkDARK in 2020 and the result secured the songs place as the most ideal piece of lockdown music that there is.
As we reconcile our current situation it can be easy to be dragged into the unavoidable murk of it all. This song soars above that murk and drags you up from the slump with it. It is the joyous affirmation that this will all pass soon enough, no matter how unlikely that might seem at the moment, the spring will eventually break and with it our salvation. Simone suffered through a multitude of hardships in her own life and in her performance of these lyrics is her defiant hope, a hope inviolable to whatever challenges amassed around her. There is more than optimism in this song but rather a sort of spiritual certainty and thanks to the magic of music, her vision is one that we get to share in. It is a vision of ‘joy’ and ‘peace’ and ‘love’ and she assures us that it is not all that far away.
There’s a brand new mornin’
Rising clear and sweet and free
There’s a new day dawning
That belongs to you and me
Yes a new world comin’
The one we’d had visions of
Comin’ in peace, yeah
Coming in joy, yeah
Comin’ in peace now, yeah
Comin’ in love now, yeah