By now, you are likely to have read some of the many fantastic articles my hardworking colleagues from the film and TV reviews section have created to shape your viewing habits through this unique time in societal history. Only a few months ago, you sat in front of your AV system eating crisps was going to be the undoing of modern healthcare. Now you’re the saviour of it.
Fantastic though the recommendations are, they are less immediately useful to people caught in the weird limbo of still trying to work from home. It’s hard to give Better Call Saul the attention it deserves when you’re making at least some effort to demonstrate your productivity. Equally, for those of us with small children - often literally - climbing the walls, the second season of Kingdom is probably not going to fly for daytime viewing even if you have been able to turn off Disney+ at any stage since it went live.
Music is very much here to help in situations like this. I could delve into a list of albums you should drop everything and listen to (and if you really want me to I can in another article) but to start with, I thought it would be more appropriate to consider how you might use music in a more general sense to help you through this. This is because music is a more personal experience than TV and film. There are a small number of artists whose new releases can genuinely be seen to be mass events but for the most part we concern ourselves with different artists genres and styles. Our musical tastes are extremely personal and one size fits all recommendations are unlikely to work brilliantly.
The personal angle matters because the right music at the right moment is an exceptionally potent tonic. Music can lift us at low points and calm us during moments of stress. More significantly, it can be actively engaged with or used in a more passive sense to fill in the background in a world that is very quiet all of a sudden. It also doesn’t require access to the main hardware in the house. If the telly is currently on its 325th showing of Frozen, you can retreat to a safe distance (ie, a different room) with a tablet or laptop and a pair of earphones and seek refuge in music.
There is also something else I need to make very clear. This situation is a response to a medical emergency. Nowhere in the instructions issued by the government has it been stipulated that this should also be a journey of self-improvement or even the broadening of your horizons. If you want to listen to absolutely nothing new in this time, you do that. I have been drawn back to albums from the eighties and nineties of late because they speak of an easier more carefree time where only the lingering threat of nuclear annihilation served as a distraction. We will all have our audio comfort blankets for times like this. I suggest we use them.
If you do want to find some new music though, boy have you picked the right time to be sat in a room with your carefully hoarded loo rolls. Film releases are being pushed back, TV execs must be wondering just what level of reruns we’re prepared suffer given the holes appearing in the schedules but new music continues to appear both in quantity and a commendable level of quality too. Some marquee releases are being pushed back but, for the most part, new material continues to arrive daily. Subscribe to any streaming service and the edited highlights will be there for your perusal. If you simply want to find more music of a style that you like, the related artist and curated content is there to help.
Nowhere in the instructions issued by the government has it been stipulated that this should also be a journey of self-improvement or even the broadening of your horizons
Sure, not all services are created equal. It might still only be a compressed service but Spotify’s ability to pick apart your listening habits, drill down into the data and bring you new things that conform to the same data points is still hugely impressive. In a straight fight between Spotify and the technological magnificence of Roon; which has some equally sophisticated software and can leverage two different streaming services for content, I would still give the honours to Spotify. The reality though is that any of the streaming services has both the library and the means to make your lockdown a flurry of new content.
Then of course, there is the hardware side of things. Now, given that I am perpetually surrounded by great bits of Hi-Fi, you might take the following comment to be as ill judged as Madonna sat in a bath the size of my lounge full of what appears to be leaf litter saying that COVID19 is ‘a great equaliser’ but here we go. The hardware you have to hand for this is not terribly important. All it needs to be able to do is engage you. I genuinely mean it when I say that a laptop and a pair of earphones is sufficient. I can (and have) listen to Talk Talk’s The Colour of Spring on pretty much anything that can squawk it out in recognisable fashion and get the dopamine hit of euphoria from doing so. At the time of writing, you can still get a budget classic delivered to your door in short order for a little over £30 and that might be one of the savvier purchases you make during lockdown.
If you do have a more extensive system and haven’t surrendered its use to the rest of the household, make the most of it. Get speakers set up for performance, not décor (got many visitors coming over? Thought not) and make sure everything is connected properly and working as it should. You can choose to critically appraise it if you wish but right now, I think you’d be better off celebrating what it can do on its own merits. Even the most basic of equipment is capable of generating a little delight with the right music and the right mindset.
The hardware you have to hand for this is not terribly important. All it needs to be able to do is engage you
Of course, if you can securely afford to make some improvements, there are a host of retailers out there who will be delighted to speak to you. This is an industry that lives a gently precarious existence at the best of times and the current situation will be painful for them. Likewise, musicians that exist below megastar level (which is to say almost all of them) will be hurting from cancelled gigs and festivals. If you can buy content direct from them, I’m sure they’ll be very happy to hear from you. The world turns on small acts - good and bad - and in the same way that I and the rest of the editorial team at AVForums is delighted that you come here to read our content, I am sure that everyone will be grateful for a little custom right now.
Anyway, as noted, music is a deeply personal thing that works in different ways for different people. Nevertheless, here is a short (one hour) playlist of music that has been helping me - a perpetually anxious human being - through the process of working when all I really want to do is stare in mute horror at the news unfolding in front of me. I hope it helps.
Spotify (try Chrome, Firefox or Opera if link doesn't open in Edge browser)
Qobuz (frustratingly, missing the last track)