Charli XCX to Taylor Swift: 10 of the best albums made in lockdown

Anxiety, escapism and noise complaints from neighbours all feature in the work musicians have created while house-bound

How I’m Feeling Now

Charli XCX

Announced on 6 April in a Zoom call with fans and released just six weeks later, Charli XCX’s fourth album of metallic agit-pop bristles with the anxiety and suppressed energy of early lockdown. While the undulating lead single Forever scrambles for intimacy, there is a manic need for vital escapism permeating the happy hardcore of Anthems.

Quarantime: The Lost Files

Yxng Bane

Narrated by shouty DJ Charlie Sloth, this second mixtape from UK rapper Yxng Bane is loaded with sweaty, bass-rattling party anthems for a long lost summer. Started before March’s lockdown but released in May, it features a plethora of London rap talent, from Lewisham’s D-Block Europe to Tottenham’s Headie One.

Barney Artist.
Lo-fi highlight… Barney Artist. Photograph: PR HANDOUT

Lofi Lockdown

Barney Artist

On this freebie mixtape, the east London rapper peppers his jazz-tinged hip-hop with quotes from his fans detailing their lockdown experiences (“Giving my all, working hard at Tesco,” says one). “Here’s a new tape for your balance,” raps Barney smoothly on opener Lofi Brother in a Lockdown, cementing the mixtape’s much-needed air of calm.

Documenting Sound series

Boomkat Editions

In May, Manchester record shop Boomkat’s Editions label started a series that encouraged a more esoteric lockdown deep-dive, highlighting new material by Sarah Davachi, Hilary Woods (pictured) and others. Its aim was to promote work unhindered by “too much pre-planning or concern for convention”.

Lockdown Sessions

The Coral

Lockdown has likely seen a rise in acoustic-guitar-in-the-living room action, both from professionals and amateurs, and there’s more than a whiff of 3am at a house party about this collection of acoustic ditties. Like all good singalongs it features an Oasis cover, Married With Children.

The Black Hole Understands

Cloud Nothings

Self-released on Bandcamp in July after their touring schedule was wiped out, the Cleveland alt-rock quartet’s seventh album was conceived mainly by singer Dylan Baldi and drummer Jayson Gerycz. Sending files to each other across the US, they eschewed the harsher sound of their previous albums in favour of charmingly lo-fi, Creation-era indie pop.

White Denim.
Waiters… White Denim. Photograph: PR HANDOUT

World As a Waiting Room

White Denim

Written, recorded, mixed and mastered in 30 days, Austin, Texas rock troubadours White Denim’s 10th album benefits from the creative restrictions of lockdown. Its nine tracks zip along in just over 30 minutes, with each song infused with a pent-up restlessness that feels timely.


Taylor Swift

In a parallel universe, Swift would still be riding high from a series of festival headline slots, including Glastonbury, in support of 2019’s career-restabilising Lover. Instead, with her schedule scrapped completely, she started writing songs remotely with the likes of the National’s Aaron Dessner and ex-woodsman Bon Iver, the results being 16 songs of hushed, intricately woven chamber-pop.

Multiple EPs


Launched on Bandcamp on 22 March with the sensibly titled 1: Bulbils, there have now been 48 (!) EPs from Bulbils, AKA 50 percent of Hen Ogledd, AKA musical couple Sally Pilkington and Richard Dawson. Started to help ease the stress of lockdown for both the duo and the listener, the EPs feel like impressionistic snapshots of a period of time that stretched on for ever.

Drop 6

Little Simz

“I ain’t slept good in days,” raps Londoner Little Simz on the opening track of this self-produced five-track EP. Recorded at home throughout April, Simz had to overcome bouts of self-doubt as well as noise complaints from new neighbours also stuck at home. It makes for a minimalist, often claustrophobic meditation on self-reliance.


Michael Cragg

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
The 50 best albums of 2019: the full list
Our pick of the year’s finest albums brings American dreaming, teenage dynamism, heartbreak, barbed rap, impetuous indie and beautiful soundscapes

20, Dec, 2019 @9:41 AM

Article image
From Weezer to Missy Elliott: 10 of the best difficult second albums
Dismissed at the time for being pretentious, bloated or way too WTF, these are the second albums that deserve return visits

Michael Cragg

06, Nov, 2020 @9:00 AM

Article image
From Daria to BoJack Horseman: 10 of the best cartoons for grown-ups
These adult animations ponder big questions and growing pains, mixing locker-room gags with existential musings

Ammar Kalia

14, Aug, 2020 @7:00 AM

Article image
From Daft Punk and Beyoncé to the Band: the best ever live albums
Can’t get to a gig? No problem. Here’s a collection of classics that evoke the sweaty euphoria of the real thing

Leonie Cooper

26, Feb, 2021 @9:00 AM

Article image
The 10 best things to do this week: The Florida Project and Taylor Swift
Sean Baker’s much-anticipated film features incredible child-star performances, while the queen of pop unleashes her sixth album

The Guide

03, Nov, 2017 @9:00 AM

Article image
From Beyoncé to David Bowie: 10 of the best Glastonbury sets ever
Ahead of a livestreamed version of the festival, here are some of the biggest and best performances from years gone by

Dorian Lynskey

21, May, 2021 @8:00 AM

Article image
Spat’s entertainment: 10 of the best celebrity feuds
From Bette v Joan to Axl v Kurt, these very public rivalries have featured lyrical disses, scuffles and vindictive cakes

Fiona Sturges

13, Nov, 2020 @9:00 AM

Article image
From Prince to Joy Division: 10 of the best posthumous albums
The best records from those lost too soon, including a heavyweight hip-hop opus, a collection of intriguing demos and a haunted swansong

Michael Cragg

23, Jul, 2021 @8:00 AM

Article image
The 50 best albums of 2021
And finally – a deserving winner, whose second solo album is a truly relatable, pin-sharp pop classic. We reveal our No 1 album of 2021

Ben Beaumont-Thomas and Laura Snapes

17, Dec, 2021 @6:52 AM

Article image
From Massive Attack to Miley Cyrus: Adam Curtis’s favourite cover versions
Radical rewirings and weird new realms – reinterpretations of old classics can give us hope for the future, says the film-maker

Adam Curtis

05, Feb, 2021 @9:00 AM