Laid Down in Lockdown

Written by on December 5, 2020

One of the positive things to come out of the carnage handed out to the music industry in 2020 was the Lockdown album.


You know you have a phenomenon on your hands when Kylie’s management put out a statement that “the star [was] forced to buy recording equipment and learn computer software so she could record her vocals at home.” Now Kylie’s always struck me as an intelligent woman, so I doubt the needed that rather patronising pat on the head, but the kit needed to record an album is easily available and not much more complex than most Smartphones. So, with the tech available and plenty of time on their hands it’s no surprise that many artists turned out new work while stuck at home.

One of the standouts in the lockdown album chart was Kate Rusby’s ‘Hand me Down’. On her website she says: “After playing a version of Oasis’ ‘Don’t Go Away’ on the BBC Radio 2 Jo Whiley show, about 5 years ago, it dawned on me that not just the very old songs are handed down through the generations, but also favourite songs of any age, of any generation. It was always the plan to make this album this year, lock-down just made it more intimate.” The album has a lovely homemade feel to it. A couple of reviews were a bit sniffy about her choice of covers, and the drum machine and synths. For me it just felt like a collection of songs from growing up in the 80s that meant something to her. Rusby puts her own spin on the songs and includes her children on backing vocals, which seems like a pretty good bit of home schooling to me. The song that got the radio plays was ‘Manic Monday’, but her version of ‘Three Little Birds’ is wonderful.

While Kylie, Taylor and Charli XCX all produced albums over lockdown, they have the resources to produce albums not much different to those they would have made in “normal” times. Others, like Rusby had to improvise. Alt. rock band Cloud Nothings contribution was ‘The Black Hole Understands’. Made by sharing files between Cleveland and Philadelphia, it’s their best album for some time. ‘World as a Waiting Room’ by White Denim is another back to basics and back to their best album. It seems that being stripped of the usual recording studio time and tech has pushed the creativity instead. London rapper Little Simz has produced an E.P. ‘Drop 6’ that was described in several reviews as “Claustrophobic” ‘you should call mum’ is the standout track and feels like listening to someone’s private pandemic panic.

The lockdown bonus will continue into 2021 with many artists having focused on writing and working slowly on new material. One of these was Paul McCartney who has produced McCartney III, out in December 2020, which follows his 1970 and 1980 albums which were also created mostly alone. Even in lockdown it seems, the Beatles did it first.


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