Quarantunes – Schultzie’s Ten Essential Quarantine Songs.

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It has been cold to the bone, and it has rained and it has snowed – all within a few days here in Michigan. Things feel rather bleak, so why not top it off with a mix of emotionally stirring songs as well as a healthy dose of heartbeat increasing tunes? With the world being in its current state of confusion, the only thing I can think to turn to is music and poetry, so I’ve created a playlist that combines the two. Here is a list of 10 songs that have been keeping me sane on my way to and from work. Hold these songs close to your heart and enjoy!

•1•

Song – Stranger Than Kindness

Band – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Album – Your Funeral… My Trial

Genre – Post-punk, Rock

Release Date – 1986

Stranger. Than. Kindness. This track comes from the Bad Seeds fourth studio album “Your Funeral… My Trial”. Upon creation there was no input from Cave himself and was written by Cave’s then girlfriend Anita Lane and former Seeds guitarist Blixa Bargeld. It’s within the first milliseconds of this song that my attention is immediately ensnared. That trembling, wavering guitar flickers up and down like an oil lamp burning on a dark night, just barely lighting up darkened corners and drawing in any moth within a two mile radius. The subtle, low boom of a bass guitar. The strange lyrics about “bottled light from hotels,” and the gaunt fruit of passion.” The low-voiced whispers that are a few seconds behind Cave’s singing, hanging onto his ankles like a stubborn shadow. The train track chugging drums to Cave’s sorrowful, seemingly drug-induced delivery of Lane’s lyrics. This song is like no other.

Keys rain like heaven’s hair

There is no home there is no bread

We sit at the gate and scratch

There’s mystery laden within these lyrics, but also a warm familiarity of being far removed from something you want. Regardless of what it all means, this song sounds like you’re in a seedy alleyway lit by faint neon signs, knocking on back doors and kicking over empty discarded cans.

 

•2•

Song – Digital

Band – Joy Division

Album – Substance (Compilation)

Genre – Post-punk

Release Date – Originally released in 1978

Starting off with such a gritty tone layered over a simple, but effective beat, “Digital” emits a well-contained chaos. It’s fast paced and begs for your feet to tap along to it, but contained within its lyrics are the torture of monotony looming within everyday life.

I feel it closing in

I feel it closing in

Day in, day out

Day in, day out

Day in, day out

Day in, day out

Day in, day out

Day in, day out

Written by Bernard Summer, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris and Ian Curtis, these four have created a song that feels absolutely manic. Having Curtis yell, “fade away” into your ear as you’re flying down the highway to work is a way to beat those 9 to 5 blues (or possibly make it worse). Ian Curtis himself has used the line, “routine bites hard,” and I feel as though this song embodies that feeling well.

 

•3•

Song – Southern Eye

Band – Marriages

Album – Salome

Genre – Alternative Rock

Release Date – 2015

Marriages is the project of Greg Burns, Emma Ruth Rundle and Andrew Clinco. In 2015 they released their debut full-length “Salome” and I strongly believe it is a solid 10/10. From beginning to end it is full of breathtaking shoegaze-like soundscapes and emotionally driven anthems. Everything on this album is sheer beauty, and this is why it has accompanied me to work nearly every day for the past two months. One song that really draws me in is “Southern Eye.” It begins with Burns providing shimmery synths, then a galloping beat kicks in, followed by Rundle’s flickering ambient guitar in the background leading into Clinco’s pummeling drums. The drum work on the song is utterly phenomenal and adds such a dense layer of sheer power and intensity. The emotion contained within this song is so clearly palpable and it surrounds you with such a unique atmosphere. It’s heart-wrenching, powerful, electric. Anything Emma Ruth Rundle is involved with is bound to be brimming with raw, unfiltered emotion. The lyrics to the chorus are tragic and ugly and they are brought forth with an irate fierceness. I cannot imagine listening to this song without being made to feel empowered or invigorated. 

I am called daughter

I am not there

To look at God

You, too, came here

They cut off my head

Look back and yell

Are you still somewhere inside that well

 

•4•

Song – Like a Stone (Recorded Live At Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Toronto, ON on April 20, 2011)

Artist – Chris Cornell

Album – Songbook

Genre – Acoustic Rock

Release Date – 2011

The stripped down version of this popular Audioslave song is unmatched and I am unafraid to admit that I prefer this one. This rendition sounds very Led Zeppelin inspired and it feels like you’re listening to a friend play guitar for you. The lyrics to this song are pure poetry and Cornell delivers them in such a powerful, moving way. He starts off describing a dreary afternoon and being lost to the pages of a book (most likely the Bible in this scenario), then moves along into what the band members themselves have described as “waiting around to die.” As someone who focuses heavily on lyrics, I appreciate how well put together the words are on this one.

And on my deathbed, I will pray to the gods and the angels

To the pagans or anyone who will take me to heaven

This song is desperation. It’s a last ditch attempt to make amends with the harm and wrongdoing you may have caused. There’s a feeling of comfort found in this version, thus why I’ve been listening to it rather frequently. The entirety of the Songbook album is a gem and it is well worth the listen when stuck at home.

 

•5•

Song – Death Valley ‘69 (W/ Lydia Lunch)

Band – Sonic Youth

Album – Bad Moon Rising

Genre – Noise Rock

Release Date – 1985

Though this song is about the Manson Family murders, I can’t get rid of the imagery of teenage hooligans soaring down dark, rain-slick roads wreaking havoc upon a neighbourhood, bashing in mailboxes and screaming at the top of their lungs. It’s all rather Halloween-esque. The riff on this song is just the best and the crashes of the drums that drive it forward give it a charged-up atmosphere. Lydia Lunch’s voice on this track is spine-tingling and she lends a distinct eeriness that pairs well with Thurston Moore’s description of being “deep in the valley.”

Deep in the valley

In the truck of an old car

In the back of a Chevy

I got sand in my mouth

And you got sun in your eyes

Blinded and you wanted to get there

But I couldn’t go faster

And it couldn’t go faster

With its noisy screeches, wavering screams and scenes of desert wrongdoing, this song is a fine accompaniment to a lacklustre drive to work.

 

•6•

Song – The Ocean of Mercy

Band – Sightless Pit

Album – Grave of a Dog

Genre – Experimental

Release Date – 2020

Sightless Pit is comprised of Lee Buford, Kritsin Hayter and Dylan Walker. I’ve already done a full review of this album when it came out, but I keep coming back to the song “The Ocean of Mercy.” The short-breathed chanting and shuffling of chains that opens up the track provides a short, but effective buildup. There’s the organ that booms out loud and clear behind the repetition, and then there’s Kristin Hayter’s voice shooting down through the haze, lending a farewell to the nature found far beneath her.

Farewell to the mountains I’ve covered with snow

Farewell to the straits and the green valleys below

Farewell to the forests and the wild hanging wood

Farewell to the torrents and the loud pouring flood

It all feels very apocalyptic, but in a beautifully poetic way. The song trails off with Hayter’s vocals being chopped up to waver in and out. It gives me shivers every time.

 

•7•

Song – O Ruthless Great Divine Director

Band – Lingua Ignota

Album – O Ruthless Great Divine Director (Single)

Genre – Experimental

Release Date – 2020

In your head, imagine this scene: There’s a woman standing alongside an empty road with hate in her eyes, weight shifted to one side, lighting up a cigarette. Her face briefly glows before the tiny flame. The smoke floats up and curls around her wild hair. She’s staring, glaring, at a point across the street. A building that doesn’t belong to her. There’s a long dark trail of liquid that glistens on the asphalt. Gasoline. It starts at her feet and leads right up to the door. She flings the lit cigarette onto that shining oil and watches as the black catches colour. The line of fire burns blue, and she waits for the explosion that is seconds away.

This is how I would describe Lingua Ignota’s latest single. This song is superb and holds absolutely nothing back. The song opens up with the line, “Everyone I know’s a fucking cop, so land your fatal blow, take your fatal shot.” Beginning with Hayter’s voice spitting malice atop a simple, bouncing piano line, this piece expertly builds up at a pace so perfect that it really does feel like you’re patiently waiting to see the result of the destruction you’ve caused.

Everyone I know is gonna burn

But I’m a patient man

Wait for the wind to turn

Everyone I know

Everyone I know

There’s the rumble of drums, the clanging of metal. A foreshadowing. Hayter howls the words “endless ruin” above a chorus of anguished voices. There’s a sorrowful high-pitched wail in the background and a low-hanging hum. Hayter barks out fuming questions.

Have they told you that I’ll take you for everything you’ve got?

Ungoverned by any master

Unloved by any God

Before anyone could even answer, there’s an iron wave of incessant drumming met by another round of Hayter’s “endless ruin.” It comes down without warning and catches you completely off-guard. If this song doesn’t give you a well-needed boost, nothing can.

 

•8•

Song – Cold

Band – The Cure

Album – Pornography

Genre – Goth/Alt Rock, Post – Punk, New Wave

Release Date – 1982

Beginning with a forlorn cello line, the beat comes thudding in like fat rain drops dripping onto an oil drum and shifting, layered synths that bring on an atmosphere full of both wonder and despair. Though I can’t say this is my favourite song off of Pornography, I have found myself listening to this song quite a lot lately. It’s the pounding drums and the creepy lyrics that keep drawing me back in.

Scarred, your back was turned, curled like an embryo

This phase of The Cure is my absolute favourite. It’s bleak and nonsensical, but also has some of the best Gothic imagery and unsettling sounds. From “One Hundred Years” to “Siamese Twins” to the title track “Pornography,” this album contains arguably some of their best songs.

A shallow grave

A monument to the ruined age

Robert Smith has unsurprisingly said this song is about drug use (which is pretty much the entirety of this album), and he doesn’t shy away from painting a terribly dark picture of a life wasted. Down to the last lyric this song is total gloom and devastation.

Everything as cold as life

Can no one save you?

There’s one more crash of the drums, glimmering synths, and then silence.

 

•9•

Song – Wicked World

Band – Black Sabbath

Album – Black Sabbath

Genre – Heavy Metal

Release Date – 1970

Coming from Black Sabbath’s debut album is one of my all-time favourite songs of theirs. Nestled between “N.I.B.” and the “A Bit of Finger/ Sleeping Village / Warning” medley is “Wicked World.” Everything about this song is just perfect. The pacing. The opening riff. The bluesy tones. The lyrics dealing with unjust priorities. It’s perfect.

The world today is such a wicked place

Fighting going on between the human race

The bass line beneath the verses moves along with such a solid groove and the drums roll along with swaggering force. There’s a brief, unexpected psychedelic section that gets stripped away into a shredding solo, which is then forced away by the thwacking of the drums until we’re met by the final verses.

A woman goes to work every day after day

She just goes to work just to earn her pay

This song was written nearly fifty years ago, but can easily be applied to current situations of unbalance and unfair treatment in the world. If things don’t change for the better soon, I’m sure I’ll be able to say the same when I’m in my 70’s in another fifty years.

 

•10•

Song – Seven Heads

Band – Cloud Rat

Album – Pollinator

Genre – Grindcore

Release Date – 2019

I literally have no words for this one. Just listen.

Overall, though this is a website dedicated to metal and my list of essentials is a bit lacking of the genre, I hope these songs can provide some sort of comfort or emotional outlet. Nick Cave has said that the best response to a crisis is to create. So whether that be to create emotions within you when listening to music, creating an analysis to the lyrics of your favourite song, or creating your own work of art to release (or to keep), I hope everyone can keep their sanity and their humanity during this time.

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