Most of us are locked in, all of us have lost the chance to socialise, to meet and drink and talk and eat and see music and work out and enjoy things outside the house. But music doesn’t have to stop and The Great Confinement has opened up a chance to explore at home, to dig up old favourites and find new pleasures.
In this series we ask: what music is making you happy. Today, author James Bradley.
WHAT ALBUMS OR ARTISTS HAVE YOU BEEN PLAYING SINCE BEING CONFINED TO HOME?
I spent the first part of the lockdown driving back and forth to the hospice to see my mother, who was very ill. Because it was more than half an hour’s drive each way, and I was often there twice a day, I was in the car for several hours most days. I suppose given the situation I might have been expected to reach for music that reflected the awfulness of that moment, but I didn’t: instead I found myself listening to upbeat things like the new Beach Bunny and Cornershop albums (both of which I played over and over again), and early Springsteen, in particular Born To Run and Darkness On The Edge of Town.
Since then I’ve been playing more various things - a lot of Dylan, especially albums from the second half of his career like Time Out Of Mind and Tempest, Jesus Aand Mary Chain, the new Strokes album, Ezra Furman’s soundtrack to Sex Education, a lot of Fountains of Wayne.
Lined up like this, they might seem a very disparate selection, but I’m not sure they actually are. Just as with Beach Bunny and Cornershop and Springsteen, all of them are music that’s in dialogue with the pop of the late ‘50s and ‘60s that I loved when I was a teenager: the early rock of Elvis and others, the girl groups, the deceptively simple beauty of surf music and the saccharine grandiosity of Spector's Wall of Sound.
I’m not quite sure why that’s what I want right now - perhaps it’s about going back to something safe that I know I love, perhaps it’s because I respond to the simplicity and perfection of those old songs - my musical life began with the Beatles and the New Wave, so perfectly crafted pop tunes were my first love. But either way I’ve found their odd mixture of urgency and theatricality and vulnerability oddly sustaining.
WHAT ALBUM FROM YOUR PAST HAVE YOU REDISCOVERED? WHAT DO YOU STILL LOVE ABOUT IT?
Patti Smith’s Easter. I love a number of Patti Smith’s albums, but for some reason I hadn’t listened to Easter for the longest while. Coming back to it I’m struck by its electric intensity, and the skill with which it melds the ferocity of her lyrics to the clarity and directness of rock and roll.
HAVE YOU FOUND NEW MUSIC? WHAT'S EXCITED YOU ABOUT IT?
I'm not sure it counts as new, since I’ve loved all her albums, but Katie Crutchfield’s new album as Waxahatchee, Saint Cloud, is a beautiful, beautiful thing. It’s got the poppy gorgeousness of her last record, Out In The Storm, but there’s so much intelligence and vulnerability in the lyrics. It’s a wonderful album. WHAT'S THE BEST MUSIC TO FLATTEN YOUR (ANXIETY) CURVE?
Something joyous that helps me forget everything that’s wrong in the world. Just at the moment that often means old Motown and Stax, but it also means the Beatles, Wilco, Teenage Fanclub, and more recent artists like Alex Lahey, Hayley Mary, Valley Giant and Alvvays.
James Bradley’s Ghost Species is out now, from Penguin Random House.