How I’m Feeling Now
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
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.
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
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 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
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.
World As a Waiting Room
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.
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.
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.
“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.