The Indie Queer’s Guide to Quaran-tunes

Buddies-at-Home is a series of content shared by Buddies staff, working from home during physical distancing – from recipes, to playlists, to musings on living in isolation. This contribution is from our Cabaret technician, Steph Raposo.

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but we’ve recently fallen into the experience of a life-changing pandemic that has left a significant amount of us with a lot of unexpected free time. I’ve used this time to put together a fun list of activities that I like to do every day, alongside some tunes that set the mood for each occasion.

Though you certainly don’t have to, I highly recommend listening to each track as you go.

You can find the playlist here.

1. Artistic Endeavours

“What You Don’t Do” – Lianne La Havas (Blood)

Album cover for "Blood" by Lianne La HavasI’ve been seeing a lot of performers sharing their work online these days, and it has been simultaneously wonderful and absolutely dreadful. By no means is this negative feeling due to the quality of work – which has actually been astonishing in its creative approach to digitizing what has, in most cases, been a previously analog medium. Instead I think I get this sense of dread because I’m not currently using my free time to increase my creative output. If anything, I’ve actually been straying even further from artistic endeavours than I normally do.

I feel it myself regularly, and hear it from my artist social network possibly even more, that there is a huge amount of pressure on us to use this time to be artistically productive. And sadly, this pressure is usually self-inflicted. If you’re anything like me, the pressure you’ve put on yourself is more than enough to LITERALLY CRUSH YOU. In an attempt to ease this burden I’ve been trying to keep the mood light when I do approach a creative project, and I’ve found music to be a huge influence on my mood. This song has been especially good at keeping it light.

If you’re like me and are finding yourself at a bit of a standstill creatively, just sit and listen. If this song doesn’t reinvigorate your will to put pen or paintbrush to page, it will certainly lighten your mood. La Havas has a stunning voice, and uses it to hit some very pleasurable notes in this track. It is very difficult to not come out on the other side of this song without a smile. Take a breather, sing along, and then get back to work.

And if you are somehow managing to find yourself on an artistic roll, I think this track will help you keep your momentum. You’ve got the keys keeping a steady rhythm beneath Lianne’s exquisite vocals, and then drums kick in with a beat that is smooth as hell. Add in that beautiful build in the pre-chorus and it’s practically impossible not to feel like you’re moving forward.

2. Exercise

“Love It If We Made It” – The 1975 (A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships)

Album cover for "A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships" by The 1975I like to make sure that this activity contains a much different energy than the rest of my day; I want to keep it kind of frantic in order to make sure I’m keeping my heart rate up (I called my doctor, turns out anxiety-induced heart palpitations do not count as cardio).

Now even though the tempo of this track doesn’t indicate a frenzy, the subject matter certainly does. If the state of the current world doesn’t get you furious enough to lift some extra weights, or run that final 5k, or…hold that yoga pose…for longer, then this cutting take on the racist prison institution, the western world’s tragic immigration politics, and Trump’s presidency CERTAINLY WILL. I actually find the slower tempo beneficial to thoroughly channeling my rage into each and every rep.

Just put this shit on repeat and get ready to sweat it all out. Hopefully by the end of your workout, you’ll be too temporarily exhausted (both physically and emotionally) to ruminate on the world.

On another note, I think The 1975 did a pretty cool thing to make their political stance so publicly known through their work. I was definitely a little sceptical when I listened to the white boy from Colonialism Central preaching about world issues, but when you consider their potential fan base I think it means a lot for them to be very clear about their politics. Hopefully they spread some good socialist love to those who may not have considered it before.

3. Relent to My Overwhelming Thoughts

“Chesapeake” – Better Oblivion Community Center (Better Oblivion Community Center)

Album cover for Better Oblivion Community Center by Better Oblivion Community CenterListen. I can’t fight this battle against worry forever. Sometimes I have to fold into the fear and let myself acknowledge that what we’re currently experiencing is incredibly difficult. I’m not often excellent at accessing or relenting to these feelings on my own, so I like to use music to guide me into them. And is this ever the song for that.

It has the simple, yet heart-wrenching G-C-D chord progression that falls into the A minor in the chorus, the signature angelic voice of Phoebe Bridgers, Conor Oberst’s downtrodden tremble, lyrics nearly drowning in nostalgia for a time that used to be, and a theremin-sounding synthesizer that lays low but sneaks into a beautiful climax at the bridge. Can you ask for anything more?

The answer is no. No, you cannot.

I adore this song. It aches of a hollowness that felt full only moments ago. I’m not sure who is lyrically responsible (as Bridgers and Oberst are both credited as songwriters) but I spend every second of the glorious four-minute song bathing in their memory of an innocent and joy-infused childhood. Simpler times, that’s what this track pines for, and I can’t help but get caught up in it all.

Honestly, if you want to dwell in some nostalgic sadness for an extended period, I highly recommend this pair’s entire debut self-titled album. Definitely good for a reflection on some harder times and a deeply revitalizing sob.

4. Get Outside

“On + Off” – Maggie Rogers (Heard It In A Past Life)

Album Cover for Heard it In a Past Life by Maggie RogersConsidering how long this quarantine is likely to last, I find it important to acknowledge that I’m lucky to be able to leave my apartment for the time being.

Every couple of days I get very irritable. It’s a strange sensation, but it feels like the room is shrinking and no matter where I look the wall behind me starts slowly creeping closer. And as the walls seem to close in, there is nowhere to push that spare air but down on my shoulders. Getting outside is sometimes the only thing that can leaven this sensation, and it makes sense – fresh air and separation from your claustrophobic apartment will do that.

I like to spend my time outside going for walks, but however you’re able I sincerely hope you get a chance to be outdoors. And while you’re there, I hope you give this track a listen. There is something incredibly freeing about Rogers’ high vocal register, especially in the beautiful layering that happens in the chorus. This song helps me find my lungs again. It’s full of small builds and releases that give me an excellent sense of catharsis, from each verse dropping into the chorus, to the extensive bridge that gains traction over its 30 second accumulation of instrumentation. The whole track makes me feel like I am being surrounded by music, lifted up and dropped down safely and with beautiful ease.

In this time of quarantine I like to think of it as a love letter to the sky.

When I feel like I’m drowning / And then I see you
It’s okay, it’s okay, I’m okay, I’m all right again
It’s okay, I’m okay, it’s okay

I’ve been trying to repeat this mantra just as often as Rogers does.

5. Check In On A Friend/Myself

“Shelter” Joy Oladokun (Carry)

Album cover for Carry by Joy OladokunChecking in on your friends and co-workers these days is not just a friendly thing to do, it can sometimes make a huge difference. I am aware and grateful that I carry the privilege of not suffering from serious mental health issues during this crisis, which would understandably exacerbate any pre-existing conditions. And yet, despite this, there are still days that send me to a pretty dark place – seemingly for no reason, and often without any idea of how long it will last or how to get out of it.

The world is heavy right now, and we are all carrying that weight, but some folks’ burdens may be even greater than we realize. Friends who live alone, friends who are older, those who are currently unemployed, who are not Canadian citizens and who may not have access to financial support, those who struggle with mental health or are immuno-compromised – any who experience one or any combination of these things, and likely many more, may be particularly affected at this time. I know that when I am at my lowest, the distraction of a friendly conversation can sometimes flip the otherwise distraught script. Because of this, I like to check in on people. Whether it’s just to say hi, to strike up a conversation about a project, or to have regular digital meet-ups, it’s really amazing to see how folks are giving and receiving support in whatever ways they’re currently capable.

When I’m reaching out to someone I like to send a text, or an article that might be an interesting read, or a song that made me think of them. Lyrically, Shelter might not be a great song to send without a message to accompany it: telling someone you can’t make them love you even if you try reads as a little finger-pointy. That being said, in listening to Oladoku’s song I am reminded to apply this same unrelenting love and care to myself. I think it stands as a beautiful method of self-reflection and offers a reminder that,

I’m not here for a moment
I’m in this for life

Joy Oladokun’s entire full-length album, released in 2016 and entitled “Carry”, is absolutely packed with her powerful voice and emotional tunes – many of which are very politically charged. Poison is a love song that subtly flows with the passion of the fight for gay rights and self pride. Young showcases Oladokun’s ability to tell a story that aches for justice, and takes listeners on a journey from colonial infiltration to now, demonstrating her devastation with how seemingly little has changed. All of them are overflowing with love.

Send yourself a love song.
Send a friend a love song.
Listen and be kind.

6. Date Night

“Blue In Green” – Miles Davis (Kind of Blue)

Album cover for Kind of Blue by Miles DavisThere’s nothing quite like a good jazz track to help create an ‘atmosphere’. (Take those quotation marks as you will. And then keep taking them that way because I’m going to keep using them.)

I am a firm believer that whether you live alone, with roommates, or a partner, you’re likely going to have to ‘treat yourself’ at some point. I am a big fan of the dinner and a bath approach (or, for those of us living a tub-less existence, a shower). Both can easily (and should be) accomplished from the comfort of your own home.

Get dressed up, sit down to a nice meal, light a candle, pour yourself a glass of wine or sparkling water, and listen to the smooth blues of Miles Davis. And when dinner is done, run yourself a hot bath and ‘enjoy’. This entire album has a very film-noir vibe, but this track in particular is very sexy.

It starts us off with some soft piano, the upright bass hanging heavy behind it, until suddenly that trumpet comes in on the F# like a siren. I truly cannot explain the utter ~v i b e~ this song offers, but I urge you to listen to it if you’re ever looking for some ‘alone time’.

Just because you’re stuck inside doesn’t mean you can’t have some fancy jazz-infused fun.

7. Do Literally Nothing

“More Of The Same” – Caroline Rose (LONER)

Album cover for Loner by Caroline RoseAt some point in the day I always find myself with ‘nothing to do’. Similar to the experience of opening the door to a full fridge and finding ‘nothing to eat’, this is not actually the case. But I assure you, it feels like it. When I reach this point in the day, I actually like to take the moment to pause my music and truly bask in the nothingness I’ve surrounded myself with. Sometimes this looks like sitting quietly at my desk, looking longingly out the window, or standing in the middle of the kitchen with my head down. It’s anyone’s guess on a day-to-day basis.

If you’re experiencing a similar aspect to your days but silence is a little ~too much~ for you, I suggest Caroline Rose’s “More Of The Same”.

Not only is it lyrically drowning in the unsettling apathy of a slightly depressive episode, it manages to remain funny and catchy as hell at the same time.

I don’t often like to compare artists’ styles to each other, but this track gives me an excellent Mitski vibe and I think Caroline Rose deserves the same kind of attention. Though she apparently started as more of a folk/country artist (kind of visible in her 2014 album I Will Not Be Afraid), Rose’s 2018 album LONER has a much heavier pop/punk feel. Her newest album, titled Superstar and released earlier this year, has a much more electronic aesthetic, and it’s truly impressive to see her excel in every single one of these realms.

There’s a lot of content with Caroline Rose, so in theory you could listen and do nothing for like…a long time. I was going to add up the hours of her work on spotify…but instead I did nothing.

8. Cry

“Reminders” – Danielle Knibbe (The Ribcage & The Heart)

Album cover for The Ribcage & The Heart by Danielle KnibbeThis is a similar vibe to relenting to my overwhelming thoughts, but with a touch more apathy. I no longer need to reflect on the possibility of things lasting this way for a long time, I’ve given into that fact. And now it’s time to hopelessly cry about it.

I actually have an entire playlist called Songs To Cry To, but I’m not sure if wallowing for 50 minutes is helpful in this climate, so I’m trying to stick to one good song to let it all out.

Danielle Knibbe is a local singer-songwriter who released her second full-length album last year and boy howdy, does it ever hit. It’s an excellent combination of songs from two varying perspectives (where the album gets its title), giving us a fun and upbeat approach to a subject, followed by a more emotional reflection on the same.

Most of the tracks are love songs, or out-of-love songs, but this one (and its pair) aches with deep familial grief. Throughout, Knibbe reflects on beautiful memories of her childhood while assuring the listener that the current moments of sterile and cold hospital visits “won’t be the things that remind me of you”.

This track is heart-wrenching but hopeful. Despite the weight of this long-standing hardship, Knibbe refuses to let it overpower and stain her memory. After all, the good in life “has to be worth so much more”. Maybe, through the gentle guitar and delicate lyrics, we can join her on the other side of sorrow.

9. Prepare for Fun Summer Vibes

“Parents House” – Kid Bloom (single)

Single cover for Parents House by Kid BloomNow that I’ve had a good cry, it’s important to get back on that positivity horse. I am currently creating an entire playlist dedicated to summer, and though I’ve mostly given in to the fact that I likely won’t be able to enjoy it with others until 2021, it does greatly improve my mood when I’m missing sunshine and bike rides and park beers and Toronto island treks.

This song has been particularly enjoyable in my nostalgic remembrance of The Good Times. It is steeped in the kind of ease and listlessness I haven’t felt since probably the summer between my first and second years of university. A feeling that I regularly pine for, especially now.

Though I certainly don’t have any experience in sneaking into any of my romantic interests’ parents’ houses (this is a sentence that I am grammatically appalled by but simply cannot figure out how to fix), I always reflect fondly on what one could call ‘young love’. In queer culture especially, I think we’re very familiar with the “Do They/Don’t They” vibe that is so prevalent (and vaguely anxiety-inducing) in the early stages of a crush. Kid Bloom skips the jittery beginnings of it all and jumps right ahead to fooling around at your parents’ place, and they do it all with a very fun funk-meets-surfer-rock feel. If you have the privilege of taking a sunny day to jump on a bike and hit a very lightly populated bike trail, I suggest blaring this track through your headphones and letting it take you back.

10. Relent to My Fate of a Love-Hate Relationship With My Existence

“Young Glass”Hey Rosetta! (Seeds)

Album cover for Seeds by Hey RosettaThis pandemic is hard. Life right now is big, and scary, and no matter how nice it is to go for a walk whenever I want, or binge watch Tiger King without feeling guilty, or have a lot less of life’s responsibilities shoved down my throat on the daily, nothing changes the fact that it is very easy to feel scared and alone during all of this.

Attune it to empathy or whatever you want, but our brains take music and feel it in very real ways. In this current stagnant lifestyle, I often feel an overwhelming sense of apathy and find it very difficult to access what emotion I’m actually feeling at any given time. And because of this I regularly want to feel a lot just to get something – anything – out of me. So I try to listen to a song that lets me feel a lot of big feelings and gets my adrenaline going. I chose this track for a few reasons, the first may be obvious from the beginning: Tempo. Increased tempo means an increase in heart rate, and that makes me much more prepared to get those big feelings up and out of me. After a brief one and a half bars of crunchy guitar, the drums kick into a simple but driving beat. I’m not a music theorist by any means, but it feels like the relentless kick drum hitting primarily on half beats has the effect of keeping you on your toes, sneaking up on you with those heavy thuds when you’re not expecting it.

The second, and personally most impactful reason, is the lyrics. The first verse begins by taking the listener on an actual journey through a childhood home and into Central Park. There is a sense of momentum in words that carry you to a new location. Even more importantly than this push of movement, the chorus is so emphatically apt to how I feel in quarantine, it might as well be my anthem.

Even though I thought I was all alone I was wrong
Even though I thought I was all alone – I am not
Even though I thought I was – I was wrong – I am not

In the absolutely obliterating second chorus where everything breaks down around Tim Baker’s raspy screams, where the accent hits on the first and third beats throw us into the crashing waves of what is somehow simultaneously a plea for escape and a revelation of freedom, where the horn and string sections build and evolve to hoist us up to a place that feels like vindication – my god! Doesn’t it make you want to run and kick and laugh and scream until you just can’t anymore?

It even has this excellently-timed bridge that slows at the 3.5 minute mark for us to catch our breath – or cry – before picking up again and carrying us to the end with a raucous, layered orchestral closing.

I could write this entire post on this one song, so I’ll stop before I get truly carried away, but please – for the love of all that is holy – listen to this song.

Turn it up real loud and get ready to breathe again.

Whatever it is that helps you get through the highs and lows of quarantine life, I hope you find it in abundance. Hopefully this playlist can offer a small respite in what may be an overwhelming time. In case you like these songs and are curious as to what else I’m listening to right now, here’s a little list:

Soccer Mommy
Tash Sultana
Charlotte Cornfield
Margaret Glaspy
Leif Vollebekk
Beach Bunny
Big Thief
Snail Mail
Hop Along
Julia Jacklin

Edited by Dylan Tate-Howarth

Steph Raposo

Steph Raposo (they/them) is Buddies’ Cabaret technician.

“Most of my first memories of buddies are a little bit blurry, as I’m sure most of ours are, but my very first memory as a staff member was the very first event I worked in the Cabaret. This was in September of 2017, and it was a Friday night late night slot filled by none other than Strip Spelling Bee. Back in the day, nakedness was still a bit of a shock to me, and I just remember obsessively averting my eyes while trying not to miss cues, and wondering if I was supposed to clean the chairs that had a bunch of naked butts and ballsacks in them.”

Read all posts by Steph Raposo