Phoebe Bridgers had a breakthrough 2020INSTAGRAM/PHOEBEBRIDGERS

It goes without saying that music has been a vital companion during the COVID restrictions that have dominated our recent history, but what about as we look to the not-so-distant future? This isn’t another albums-that-got-me-through-2020 article: instead, you can consider this to be an informal albums-to-get-you-out-of-lockdown article. As we hopefully make our way back into reality, music will serve as a tool for many of us to reconnect with our identities, reassess our relationships, and emerge out of the pandemic in a way that fulfils us. There’s no better place to find that music than 2020: the year that saw Coronavirus grip the world and shatter our perception of the society we inhabit.

Lido Pimienta's 'Miss Colombia' fuses many different musical styles Instagram/Lido Pimienta

At the moment, Cambridge is buzzing with the collective excitement and anticipation we feel about the return to normal life: a feeling that becomes palpable when you take a stroll in the sun down a bustling King’s Parade. However, for many of us, this eagerness for normality is underpinned by an inability to let go of the past year. Even as restrictions ease, we need to recover from the loss we endured in 2020 and have continued to endure this year. I can testify that music is a catalyst to this process. Last term, while frantically trying to manage a degree 200 miles away from my university, I started to engage with music criticism online, when I should have been sleeping, ending each day with a new musical discovery.

“We recall 2020 with collective dread. Yet its music has allowed me to see past both personal anxiety and global trauma”

Choosing to trawl through last year’s catalogue felt especially significant. I keep returning to the way comedian James Acaster begins every episode of his music podcast James Acaster’s Perfect Sounds by saying, “In 2017 I had a breakdown, and I dealt with that breakdown by listening to as much music from 2016 as I possibly could.” This is how I have treated 2020’s music, except, where Acaster looked to the previous year with fondness, we recall 2020 with collective dread. Yet its music has allowed me to see past both personal anxiety and global trauma, by delivering all the good that came out of last year right into my headphones.

Pimienta's performance at the Grammys was spectacularYOUTUBE/RECORDING ACADEMY / GRAMMYS

An example of cathartic music is Miss Colombia, the second full-length release of Canadian-Colombian singer Lido Pimienta. The album sees her master her fusion of Cumbia (traditional Colombian music), afrobeats, and pop to explore her identity. The opening track “Para Transcribir (sol)” almost sounds like an incantation: her melodic voice a powerful, sliding instrument. It’s a meditative song, one to lose yourself to, but the album also progresses into tracks such as “Te Queria”, which offers a dance-worthy chorus. Lyrically, Pimienta relates her own struggle for independence with that of her ancestral home, addressing topics such as female suffering head-on. She emerges victorious on the track “Coming Thru”, which announces her new-found strength and self-conviction – a great mentality to head out of lockdown with. Also, her recent Grammys performance is a colourful testament to the spectacle of live music, which is something we should soon be enjoying again.

However, Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher, filled with heartfelt, ear-worm indie pop songs, was by far the album from 2020 that has had the greatest emotional impact on me. Bridgers’ soft voice is perfectly understated as she sings with an emotional fluency that I can only envy, covering strained relationships, loneliness and the ephemeral nature of personal memories. Many of us, finding ourselves trapped in outdated childhood bedrooms over the past year, almost exclusively surrounded by our family, have undergone a similar process of rediscovering our identities. While the album is charged by the remnants of emotional turmoil, it sees Bridgers trying to move on. This is particularly evident in the album’s last track, “This is the End”. The song finishes with a crescendo, as the line ‘The end is here’ is repeated by a chorus of desperate yet hopeful voices, which feels particularly appropriate for approaching the end of lockdown. We’ve been promised normality, and we’ve been promised our freedom by summer – but there’s no guarantee. With this song, and her whole album, Bridgers is here to tell us that whether or not that happens, one thing is certain: we’re going to be okay.


Mountain View

How My Brass Band stayed together in Isolation

Listening to the music of 2020 has been a cathartic process, a process of making peace with one of the most difficult years in recent history. It will allow us to rise above it, surging into life out of lockdown with the full force of our feelings. And there’s no need to hold back: we have a web of great music there to catch us if we stumble.