2020 has had its fair share of twists and turns, but at least we still had music to keep us sane. Here are ACRN’s favorite tracks that we listened to while locked inside.
Kiah Easton, Editorial Director: Danny Sunshine – “Never Thought”
2020 has undeniably been a darker year and at points I think it has been hard to see the sunlight peeking out from behind the clouds. Never Thought by Danny Sunshine was my little bit of light that kept me popping off during the heavier moments.
It’s the kind of song that can actually force you into a better mood regardless of your surroundings. Like an on/ off switch for my brain, the sonic power held within these three minutes of audio is truly beautiful. Bright and bouncy synths shine down from the heavens, flowing into a driving bass that makes you want to get up and dance, despite the dimly lit bedroom that has become your seemingly permanent habitat.
Addictively re-listenable, I put it on I find myself listening multiple times in a row. Once I decide to move on, I often search for something that makes me feel equally rejuvenated and giddy, but I’ve yet to find anything with quite the same effect. It’s the perfect song for any dark moment desperate for some light.
Its lyrics sum up its sonic effect, especially now that everyone is craving human connection. “Don’t know what I feel like / Crazy, think I feel like / Happy, feel like crying / Maybe, and I think I wanna dance with you / Can I tell you something? / It might sound like nothing / When you are around me / It’s like you turn on my electricity.”
Kwase Lane, Features Editor: Smino – “Fronto Isley”
When we first received the news that in-person classes were canceled in the spring, I was on a mountain in Colorado. Suddenly, I was rushing to get home and wondering if it was even safe to take a plane back there. The whole situation was so surreal and it continues to be, even today.
In what I can only describe as some sort of cosmic balancing act after a month of quarantine, Smino dropped She Already Decided. The mixtape is packed with stunning samples that would have never gotten cleared had this been an official release. The most noteworthy piece among this project that was too popular for Soundcloud is definitely “Fronto Isley”. The track begins with the familiar melody and crooning of The Isley Brothers’ “For the Love of You”. Smino masterfully blends his voice with the Isleys’ in ways that rattle my soul and soothe it the moment after. His voice drips with contagious confidence and his percussive delivery adds an amazing amount of drive to a sample that begs that you sit back and relax. Occasionally, I still catch myself humming it beneath my mask.
Lauren McCain, Columns Editor: Fiona Apple – “Fetch The Bolt Cutters”
Released right in the thick of quarantine, Fiona Apple’s album couldn’t have come at a better time. Like many of us, I was spending a lot of time locked up inside my room in my parents’ house attempting to make peace with the insanity of the world around me. From the hours of 11 p.m. to 3 a.m., I could be found in my room painting, drinking tea and listening to this album to de-stress.
While there isn’t a single bad song on this record, as I continued to play the album on loop, the album-titled track “Fetch The Bolt Cutters” became my favorite. The dissonant sounds of pots and pans banging accompanied by Apple’s raw rambles about being confined to head-space that society placed you in resonated with me.
“I grew up in the shoes they told me I could fill / Shoes that were not made for running up that hill” Apple croons, “And I need to run up that hill, I need to run up that hill / I will, I will, I will, I will, I will.” It is rare for the gritty realities of a woman’s experience to be expressed so frankly in music, and it is because of this that I fell in love with the song (and honestly, the entire album). Apple’s work is not graceful, it is not polished, it has no “bangers” to text your friends about, but it is incredibly raw and you will never hear anything like it.
Jonah Krueger, News Editor: John Prine – “Hello In There”
March of 2020, which, in reality, was just a few short months ago, feels like a different world. Coronavirus, at the time a foreign threat, had made it to America and most of us were uncertain, confused and scared shitless. Despite the low number of cases, states started shutting down and people started staying home. Then, just as questions of legitimacy were gaining traction, one of the first celebrity deaths occured on April 7, 2020—John Prine.
“Hello In There” is a detailed portrait of loneliness; its inevitability and profound power. Prine inserts himself into a life where boredom and routine have thoroughly demolished any semblance of passion. His friends and family have been lost to their own lives or death. Even if he did reach out, what is new to do or say? If the parallels to today aren’t already obvious, the final image is of hollow, ancient eyes—as if a mask covers the rest of the stranger’s face, leaving only their eyes to communicate.
Listening to “Hello In There” in April, shortly after Prine’s death, felt like a plea for empathy. Now, in October, after the handling of the virus has been fully fumbled and fewer and fewer people even seem to care, the song’s call is even more essential. So, if you’re walking down the street sometime and spot some hollow, ancient eyes peeking out from under a mask, please don’t just pass by and stare as if you didn’t care. Say, “hello in there.”
Lane Moore, Reviews Editor: SOPHIE – “Infatuation – Litchbogen Dreamin’ Remix”
“Don’t you wanna dance?”—It’s a phrase that has all sorts of new connotations, and for those who already don’t like dancing, the idea of a night on the dance floor is only more anxiety-inducing—and dangerous—during 2020’s quarantine. I certainly don’t count myself among those who love to show off their moves, but when I listen to SOPHIE’s “Infatuation – Litchbogen Dreamin’ Remix,” a remix of a track from her own OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES, I feel regret for each time I’ve refused to at least try to dance prior to quarantine.
Taking a step away from her original “Infatuation” mix, where she emphatically combines rising layers of ambient synths, hyperkinetic grinding and ultra-glossy crooning, SOPHIE’s 2019 “Infatuation – Lichtbogen Dreamin’ Remix” embodies the classic trance and house sounds one would expect to hear from 909 drum machines and keyboards older than those belonging to gen-z. However, SOPHIE makes each of these classics sounds something uniquely her own, and a steady line of sleek, non-stop piano chords resemble something akin to Sonic R’s amazing dance soundtrack.
Infatuation – Litchbogen Dreamin’ Remix is undeniably a track for PC Music fans yearning to get back on the dance floor, and like all of her work, it remains an example of SOPHIE’s unreal flexibility as a producer.
Lauren Patterson, Copy Editor: Crosby, Stills & Nash – “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”
“It’s getting to the point where I’m no fun anymore / I am sorry” is easily one of my favorite lyrics of all time. These words are the opening lines of Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”, which has remained in every one of my playlists since March. It’s an experience, and it always needs to be played in full because a snippet simply is not enough. Luckily for me, there has yet to be a time where I haven’t wanted to hear it, absolutely all of it.
The formula for the track is as follows: it’s written by Stephen Stills and sits as not only the first but also the longest track on the group’s debut album. While broken into 4 parts, classic CSN harmonies fill the song’s entirety. I haven’t stopped listening, it’s soothing, painful and it allows me to feel every emotion possible. This has been necessary to have, and has served as a great form of release. I’m sure this song will make my Spotify 2020 Wrapped because of how often I have played it, and I certainly will not be angry to find it there.
Ben Lindner, Contributor: Dizzy – “The Magician”
This song is perfect for the quarantine mood: upbeat enough to jam to if you want to block it all out, yet sad enough to have a little cry to if need be. A song that captures loss with a refreshing child-like innocence somehow just feels perfect.
It’s a really clean, simple song that slowly builds to a big conclusion. It also features a percussion sound that was actually made from random junk from the lead singer’s mom’s basement, including a vase and Christmas decorations. Isn’t that just delightful!
“The Magician” was the second single from Dizzy’s sophomore album “The Sun and Her Scorch” that came out in July, so there are plenty of other good tunes to listen to from Dizzy.
Ethan Bloomfield, Contributor: Teen Suicide – “The most beautiful thing in the world”
The song that I’ve always come back to during quarantine when things got tough was a song off of a collection of rarities from Maryland-based indie project Teen Suicide. This song is called “The most beautiful thing In the world” and what attracts me is how little of a song it is. The instrumental cuts out when the vocals begin and it’s barely sung, more resembling a whispered spoken-word piece. The shreds of melody and feelings of someone giving their last words into a broken radio haunts me. The name doesn’t lie, it is a short, sweet, beautiful song that keeps me coming back.