10 Essential Albums for Lockdown

Updated: May 9, 2020

1. What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye

When will people start gettin' together again

Are things really gettin' better, like the newspaper said

Never has a time been more suited to listen to Marvin Gaye’s magnum opus. Filled with vocals and melodies that slap you BANG in the face, Gaye’s album is a cry for help, a call to action, his warning to you to take a look at the world.

Released in 1971 in the midst of rising angst about war, poverty and climate change, and increasing frustration at governmental incompetence, Gaye endeared himself to the hippie youth of his time with lyrics such as ‘War is not the answer, because only love can conquer hate.’ One of the few albums that achieves the miracle of hitting hard 50 years on.

2. Untrue – Burial

‘Raw, rolling drums and sub is the sound I love... and if you don't get that then you won't ever get it.’

Ghostly vocals covered in hazy shades of music, an echo of a word stuck on loop in the background, mysterious statements sliding in and out – ALL set to the backbone of heavy, distorted beats. This dark album paints a picture; the decay of the city, the emptiness of night, all a symbol for real life. Burial creates a chaotic electronic collage, which serves as the backbone for an ineffable array of emotion.

Recorded using Sound Forge over two years, and released in late 2007, Burial’s second album catapulted him to undesired fame, forcing him to finally reveal his true identity as South London resident William Bevan, stating "I’m a lowkey person and I just want to make some tunes". - An essential album for the loneliness and despair lockdown can bring onto us.

3. Jazzmatazz Volume 1 – Guru

‘Man made the money, money never made the man’

Laidback beats, mesmerising vocal samples, and grooving, authoritative bars blended into the genius melodies of a live jazz band – all expertly produced by Guru, whose brainchild this is. With the speed of Charlie Parker and the lyrical precision of Tupac, each track offers a fresh take on this fusion of jazz and hip-hop.

A close relative of A Tribe Called Quest, this landmark album in jazz-rap was released in 1993 featuring names such as Branford Marsalis, MC Solaar and Donald Byrd. An album that has somehow escaped the clutch of even seasoned hip-hop fans; that should actually be at the top of their list of all time favourites.

4. The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society – The Kinks

‘We are the Village Green Preservation Society

God save Donald Duck, vaudeville and variety’

This quintessential British album by the most quintessentially British band has the delightful power of evoking afternoons spent with a cold pint in a beer garden, strawberries and cream, fish and chips, football and the excitement felt at the sight of the sun on a warm summer’s day.

Perhaps the first ever concept album, the Kinks released this banger in 1968 to commercial failure only for it to gain a cult following as the years went by. Filled with melodious vignettes on British life, prose poems on the glories of a summer fete and a charming ode to old photo albums.

5. In a Silent Way – Miles Davies

"the kind of album that gives you faith in the future of music.’

Eerie bits of trumpet bouncing between walls, trembling echoes of odd toots of sax, extra-terrestrial guitar jangles, hybrid electric piano whirls, silicon metallic drums… this album broke whole new boundaries! From start to finish, the singular most powerful expression on this album is strict adherence to modernity, the potential of the future, looking forwards (as Miles is doing on the cover).

Recorded and released in 1969 – amongst growing disenchantment with jazz, and the rise of a new generation that only listened to rock - the album alienated traditional jazz fans for the same reason it attracted a whole new listener base; young rock fans. It transcends any musical label, any genre, and in its raw, conserved passion is ready to be absorbed by any fan of music.

6. DJ Shadow – Endtroducing

‘The album flips hip hop inside out all over again like a reversible glove’

The first ever album made entirely of samples, DJ Shadow’s 1996 debut album revolted against all previous rules of music making. Slick, feisty, trippy and funky, DJ Shadow reveals himself to be the KING of sampling, taking bits of funk, rock, jazz and even metal to make a record that is filled to the brim with a rollercoaster of sensations.

For an album so diverse in its samples, so varied in its musical influences, it is testament to its genius that somehow through each and every track permeates a strong rhythmic unity, as if DJ Shadow is telling us to ‘Forget genre. All music is ONE.’ One of the most seminal works of instrumental hip-hop.

7. New Morning – Bob Dylan

‘So happy just to be alive

Underneath the sky of blue

On this new morning’

Crooning vocals, wild poetry and a LOT of optimism rare in Dylan’s work, this album is essential to keep your moods up during lockdown. This record is a beacon of hope with elements of folk, blues and country completed with the joyous sound of organs and horns and weaving guitars.

Not the best known of Dylan’s works, this 1970 record was seen as a triumphant return for the master poet leading Rolling Stone magazine to proclaim, ‘WE'VE GOT DYLAN BACK AGAIN.’

8. In the Aeroplane over the Sea - Neutral Milk Hotel

‘And it's so sad to see the world agree

That they'd rather see their faces filled with flies

All when I'd want to keep white roses in their eyes’

‘I would go to bed every night and have dreams about having a time machine and somehow I’d have the ability to move through time and space freely, and save Anne Frank,’ said vocalist Jeff Mangum who wrote the album, as he spent three days - delirious - crying after reading Anne Frank’s diary. Possibly the weirdest album you’ll ever listen to…

This 1998 release combines confusing surrealistic lyrics, nasally wailing vocals and a mix of the ODDEST instruments (singing saw, zanzithophone, and Uilleann pipes) all plastered with swathes of heavy distortion to make this an American alt-rock classic. A MUST-LISTEN for fans of indie rock.

9. Careless Love – Madeline Peyroux

'Take a chance, play your part

Make romance, it might break your heart

But if you think that time will change your ways

Don't wait too long’

With the most heavenly voice, a mix between Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, Madeleine Peyroux communicates the most intimate emotions. Supported by a lively backing band, this American jazz singer is loved worldwide by fans of modern jazz.

An album of mainly covers, from Leonard Cohen to Hank Williams, Peyroux’s critically acclaimed 2004 release covers tense topics such as heartbreak, love and loss.

10. The Boy with The Arab Strap – Belle and Sebastian

'Everyone suffers in silence a burden

The man who drives minicabs down in Old Compton

The Asian man

With his love hate affair

With his racist clientele’

To end with – my favourite album OF ALL TIME. Every single day I continue to be bewildered by the fact that no one knows this album or band even! The most underrated band of all time.

Full of insightful lyrics equal to Morrissey and musical wisdom expressed through jazz improvs, violin solos and piano interludes – this 1998 record is perfect for a sunny day in the garden.

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