At this point in the current pandemic, most of us have gotten over the shock, made some adjustments, and are hunkered down in survival mode until we’re told to do otherwise.
Even as some businesses slowly start to reopen, we’re all spending a lot more time at home than we’re used to — which means we may have exhausted our normal music selections.
So the team at GRAV pitched in to suggest their top albums for quarantining. We’re a pretty diverse group of people, so this list ranges from pop to metal, mainstream to unconventional. There’s something here for just about anyone, but we encourage you to give all of these albums a try — especially if they’re out of your comfort zone.
Maybe we can all end the quarantine a little more open-minded then we began it.
1. Boogie - Everythings for Sale
If you want to wallow in fatigue and ennui...
Hip hop artist Boogie’s 2019 album Everythings for Sale is an honest and unaffected look at a young man’s flaws. The Compton rapper’s somnolent rasp takes us along as he explores themes of love, death, and insecurity with a vulnerability that’s both refreshing and sad.
There’s something surprising in every track, from a heart-stopping gunshot in “Tired/Reflections” to a wailing horn in Whose Fault to the relentless ramble of “Self Destruction”. The entire album is worth a listen, and then a few relistens. What else do you have to do?
2. Thievery Corporation - The Mirror Conspiracy
If your quarantine needs a soundtrack…
The Mirror Conspiracy is a 2000 release by electronic/lounge/trip hop duo Thievery Corporation. The beats are steady, repetitive, and pleasant. You may recognize “Lebanese Blonde” from the Garden State soundtrack. (Fun fact: Lebanese Blonde is a kind of hash. Topical!)
The album has international flair, with influences from Indian, Jamaican, Brazilian, and French musical styles. It sounds a bit like a soundtrack to an early 2000s international thriller, and I’m not complaining about it! Listen while working from home, or while tailing your target through a market in Marrakesh from a safe 6-foot distance.
3. Lana Del Rey - Born to Die
If you want to lounge around the house in a silk negligee drinking a highball like a melodramatic 1960s starlet…
Lana Del Rey’s 2012 album, Born to Die, is not an outlier in the world of pop music — generally panned by critics but adored by fans. A bad SNL performance just before its release combined with a whole lotta misogyny led many critics to lambaste what they claimed was an “inauthentic” album.
But obviously there was something in this mid-century-inspired album that spoke to the people, because it was the fifth best-selling album of 2012. Suck it, critics.
Del Rey’s timbre is low and lazy, void of quick runs or vocal gymnastics. It’s like she just woke up and decided to sing a few tunes before drifting back to sleep. There’s a dreamy lethargy to her voice that’s endlessly appealing, especially in our current climate where everything is weird and time has no meaning.
4. The Black Angels - Passover
If you want to protest a long-ended war...
As an Austin-based company, we get all giddy over local music. And we have plenty to choose from, like Austin psychedelic rock band The Black Angels. Their anti-war album Passover was released in 2006, several years into the war in Iraq. The album has a Vietnam-era feel with songs like “The First Vietnam War” and “The Sniper at the Gates of Heaven.”
The band’s rock vibe has a steady, slightly sluggish drone a la The Doors. It brings you back to a time when people would smoke a bowl, lay on the ground, and absorb the music. And quarantine is a perfect time to do just that.
5. Beyoncé - Lemonade
If you want to stand in the presence of a queen...
Unless you were born like, 20 minutes ago, you’ve heard of Lemonade. And if you were born 20 minutes ago, sorry. Shit’s cray right now. But we live in a world with Beyoncé, so it’s not all bad.
Lemonade is Beyoncé’s 2016 “visual album,” released alongside an hour long film that illustrates the album’s themes of betrayal and reconciliation. Although much of the album was inspired by Jay Z’s infamous infidelity, it’s also an important exploration of black womanhood in America. If you haven’t listened to the whole thing top to bottom, now is the time.
6. The Sword - Age of Winters
If you need a soundtrack to your D&D or Risk game...
Age of Winters is the 2006 debut album of Austin stoner metal band The Sword. Heavily influenced by classic bands like Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden, this album is all demons, swords, goddesses, and crunch. The band has three guitars, because two just aren’t enough to carry the weight of these riffs.
The album was controversial among metal circles when it was released. The Sword was considered “too hipster” with songs appearing on Guitar Hero and in a few TV shows and movies. But haters are gonna hate. The album slays, so just enjoy it.
7. Portishead - Dummy
If you want to live in a 90s movie...
Before Thievery Corporation (see #2) there was Portishead. The Bristol band’s 1994 debut, Dummy, was instrumental in popularizing trip hop and electronic music in the 90s and beyond.
Even if you’re too young to remember this legendary electronic album, you probably know “Glory Box,” the last track and by far the most famous. It’s been used in 90s films like Stealing Beauty and The Craft, as well as numerous TV shows. More recently, it was sampled in Alessia Cara’s song “Here,” which got a ton of radio play in 2015 and 2016.
But the whole album is great, an experimental dive into blues-y triphop with one-of-a-kind instrumentation. Released when grunge was the thing and ska was the other thing, there was nobody like Portishead.
8. Chilly Gonzales - Solo Piano II
If you want to bring a little sophistication to your quarantine...
With a name like Chilly Gonzales, it just has to be chill, right?
Chilly Gonzales is a Canadian piano player who had a hiphop career in Germany in the early 2000s. But he also plays the piano like an angel, and has released several piano albums including the cleverly titled Solo Piano II. Chilly’s elegant piano compositions have a gentle pop vibe making them approachable and relaxed, perfect for a quarantined work session over a cup of coffee.
If you like what you hear, there’s also a Solo Piano and Solo Piano III for triple the Chilly.
9. Little Dragon - Nabuma Rubberband
If you want to drift through quarantine on a cloud...
Little Dragon’s brand of Swedish electropop is at its best in their 4th studio album, Nabuma Rubberband. Showing elements of funk, soul, and a little Janet Jackson, this quartet’s digital sound is poppy but mature in their 2014 release.
<Dreamy, ethereal and a little melancholy, the album oscillates from slow jams like “Cat Rider” to occasional frenzy with “Klapp Klapp”. Singer Yukimi Nagano’s breathy vocals sit atop synth tracks that make you want to take a nap and go dancing at the same time.
10. Orville Peck - Pony
If you want to feel the freedom of the old West...
Orville Peck’s 2019 debut Pony fills a niche I didn’t know we were missing. Face masked by leather and fringe, Peck writes country ballads for the misfits. His heroes are drag queens and prostitutes, the heart broken and the outcast.
With a theatrical-yet-sincere Roy Orbison warble, every song makes me want to ride a motorcycle through the desert, bottle of Jack Daniels in hand. This album is my personal addition to the list, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Learn all the words and sing at the top of your lungs.