Electronic dance

The Escape Sounds of 2021


What does learning to sit with yourself mean? I don’t know, because I’ve spent the last year of my life doing the exact opposite and rejecting silence at all costs. Thanks to the devilish ingenuity of my trusty AirPods, I spend most of my waking hours with a continuous drop of content in my head. I write about music professionally, but often music, especially pop music, doesn’t seem appropriate for the mundaneity of walking around my apartment or shopping. Fortunately, there is no shortage of alternative types of music and audio that will help create a barrier between my brain and reality. Call it ambiance, background noise, forms of distraction, imaginary friends, it’s podcasts, YouTube channels, and electronic or ambient albums that have kept me company this year. Silence is overrated!

“Medieval woman” (album)

I’m listening to this Fatima Al Qadiri album, which came out in May, when I’m ruminating, or want to tap into a sense of private melodrama. Al Qadiri is an American Kuwaiti who has made the most captivating and transporting electronic music of the past decade.

2021 in review

New York writers reflect on the ups and downs of the year.

While there are plenty of artists who claim to transcend the boundaries of genre and geography, Al Qadiri actually does – she has made moody, high-level electronic renditions of everything from Gregorian chants to stereotypes. Westerners on an “imagined China”. (It makes sense that French Senegalese director Mati Diop recruited Al Qadiri to produce the soundtrack for her 2019 film, “Atlantics”.) For “Medieval Woman”, Al Qadiri drew inspiration from 7th century Arab poets, namely a woman. named Al-Khansa ‘. She was known for writing about death and loss, and “Medieval Woman” – Al Qadiri’s most solemn record to date – does these themes justice.


Is the four trillion dollar global wellness industry a scam or a legitimate force that helps people get better? Is Gwyneth Paltrow a cynical snake oil salesman or a visionary? Do any of these skin care products actually work? None of these tedious, unanswered questions are relevant in the world of “POOG“—Goop, spelled backwards — a podcast from two of my favorite comedic minds, Kate Berlant and Jacqueline Novak. The weekly show is recorded as a free chat between close friends (“ two indomitable minds, ”they joke). who are far more interested in the often absurd journey of self-care as a self-investigation than any potential outcome.No topic is too minor for a philosophical riff, and every conversation inevitably takes a number of twists and turns. If Berlant and Novak could bottle this podcast and sell it as an expensive serum, I would happily buy it.

“The Watch” (podcast)

“The Watch” is my favorite place to learn more about TV shows that I might not have thought of in line. The Ringer’s Andy Greenwald and Chris Ryan approach their podcast with a formal rigor you won’t find on most pop culture talk shows, which isn’t to say the hosts are too serious or humorless – they are. also incredibly spiritual. But they express their views with a clarity and skill that is increasingly hard to come by as the podcast boom continues.

“Studying at Hogwarts” (ASMR videos)

I don’t remember how I came across these videos, since I don’t even really consider myself a Harry Potter fan. Yet I listen to one of these videos almost every day when trying to focus on a cognitively demanding task. There are dozens of them – some with millions of hits, obviously designed for high school and college students in terror of the final exam – each designed to look like a different place associated with Harry Potter’s alma mater. . Hear the fireplace crackle gently in the Great Hall! Enjoy the gurgling of potions and the shuffling of papers in the Slytherin common room! Let yourself be lulled by the sound of the train on your way to Hogwarts! Sure, that’s silly, but I find adding imaginative scaffolding to any solitary activity makes it more joyful and rewarding.

“Celebrity Book Club with Steven and Lily” (podcast)

Obviously, the podcast format of two close friends riffing on topics they are passionate about is the one that works for me. On this show, best friends and comedians Steven Phillips-Horst and Lily Marotta read a celebrity’s memoir weekly and then explain them. They’ve covered everyone from Andre Agassi and Shania Twain to Peggy Guggenheim and Ulysses S. Grant, but the topic from week to week doesn’t matter much; each memory is just a platform for the duo’s sensibility, which is irreverent, dizzying and so, so funny. It’s also the one podcast that you absolutely don’t want to jump fast in credits or ads for. Marotta and Phillips-Horst take special care in recording these segments with added comedic flair and attention to detail.

“Specter” (album)

I first met French electronic musician Para One (born Jean-Baptiste de Laubier) last year, when I learned he was the originator of the intensely hypnotic song played during the stage of the bonfire in “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”. De Laubier is a staple of the French dance-music scene, but on his new record, “Specter”, his music leaves the dance floor and heads for the horizon. While working on the soundtrack for “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” de Laubier says he “discovered a family secret” that prompted him to “spend time on the road looking of responses “. “Specter”, the resulting album, is a psychedelic and contemplative electronic record that incorporates many influences and collaborators from Japan, Bali and Bulgaria. As I’m back in post-travelCOVID, I enjoyed listening to this record at the airport and on the train. It’s a journey.

“Our fight” (podcast)

I’m currently on the second book in Karl Ove Knausgaard’s “My Struggle” series, which means I’m a newbie to Knausgaard. But it also means I’m in the honeymoon phase of my Knausgaard readership, and I’m desperate to talk, think, and obsess over the series. It’s not the kind of thing I want to overwhelm people with – run for cover when you see me! Knausgaard. (A UK publication wrote that “Our Struggle is the worst idea ever for a podcast – and that’s awesome.” I agree.) The show, which features a new guest every week, includes an actual discussion on “My Struggle”, but it is also very degressive and sinuous, that is to say that it is the perfect companion of Knausgaard.

2021 in review