Rhodes found her Spotify account 'Infinitely more eclectic' as she moved into 2021Pixabay

As our champagne flutes clinked at midnight and we heralded the start of 2020, nobody expected it to play out quite the way it did. The pessimist that I regrettably am would write off 2020 as a blip in the system where I learnt little and the world universally and unjustifiably suffered. Yet, something saw us all through it, and for me, that something was music.

As 2020 began I was irretrievably hooked on Harry Styles’ Fine Line, released in December of 2019 – on the day of my Cambridge interview. I sat on the train home afterwards and listened for the first time to the album that, still now, takes its place as one of my all-time favourites; a melange of the intoxicating first stages of love, and desperately melancholic pain. Little did I know the range of emotions that the album evoked in me would come to mirror the rollercoaster of the year to come. It was all fine (line) for a while – until everything ground to a screeching halt. However, it was unpredictably music that kept me going.

“Whenever I listen to that song now, I can still smell the flowers that filled the garden then”

At first I stuck with what I knew, including a nostalgic revisitation to the songs of my early teens, ranging from the sublime (Florence + the Machine, whose album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful is an underrated masterpiece) to the ridiculous (One Direction will forever be my guilty pleasure, and naturally I celebrated their 10-year anniversary in 2020 like I was thirteen again). Spring became summer, and in the throes of a heatwave when I couldn’t sleep, I sat in front of my open window, as strings swelled in Melody Gardot’s exquisite yet gut-wrenching “Once I Was Loved”. Whenever I listen to that song now, I can still smell the flowers that filled the garden then, and am transported back to that infinitesimal moment of stillness in a year that seems devoid of such peace.

“New releases energised me, a reminder that the world hadn’t stopped”

Contrastingly, new releases energised me, a reminder that the world hadn’t stopped. Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia pulsed with ebullient ’80s influence, the ultimate addition to a workout playlist. In a rupture from the signature diaristic nature of her previous albums, Taylor Swift entwined fiction with reliably opulent lyrics in her July release folklore, an album that was acclaimed by fans and critics alike. Rippling with beating hearts, mountain landscapes, and champagne-filled swimming pools, I found it to be escapism of the highest order. Fast-forward to November and evermore was released, quenching our unfortunately still prevalent urge to escape the real world, giving us new narratives to delve into and fall in love with.

Dua Lipa, pictured here performing in 2018, provided the 'ultimate addition to a workout playlist'.Justin Higuchi

For me, though, the music-related discoveries of 2020 were not limited to new releases – rather, catalysing a deep-dive into the music of decades gone by. Perhaps it was the impulse to look back, because to look forward was so discouraging, or perhaps it was just a craving for something new (to me, at least) in a time when everything felt overwhelmingly, monotonously repetitive. From the arbitrary yet unanimously perfect ten tracks of Fleetwood Mac’s classic Rumours, to the inimitability of Pink Floyd, or the heartbreaking lyricism of Jeff Buckley, listening to older music was addictive and incontestably haphazard, not least because it seemed limitless. That musical legacies such as these can survive the decades is testament to how some creatives truly are icons for a reason.


Mountain View

Making Music and Community in Isolation

In a year rife with inconsistency and unpredictability, music remained a constant. It provided the soundtrack to a life in lockdown, to exploring the city that has become my second home, to an essay crisis in the early hours of the morning. Sometimes it’ll tell you just what you need to hear: ‘I know it seems like forever, I know it seems like an age / But one day this will be over, I swear it’s not so far away’ in Florence + the Machine’s beautiful “Various Storms and Saints” became newly apt for obvious reasons. As we begin 2021, my Spotify account is infinitely more eclectic than it was this time last year. My aforementioned pessimism could take over as we are plunged into lockdown again, but at the very least, the music is there still, as it has always been: there are some things even a pandemic can’t touch.