Since the majority of us will be in some form of isolation for at least the next month, I’ve put together a list of some of my personal favorites. Modern, classics, whatever you’re looking for.
I don’t usually write about music I enjoy on this blog, since this site centers on books and movies for the most part, but today I’m gonna do a little bit of each. Keep in mind, like most people, the stuff I enjoy is fairly limited. Example: my music taste generally revolves around bombastic indie rock or just general rock, so that’s most of what I recommend. With books and movies there’s a bit more diversity.
Some of these recommendations are more recent, and some are albums, movies, or books that I’ve enjoyed for a long, long time. Whatever the case, try what you want and let me know if anything sticks.
I wanted to include some of my favorite lyrics from the albums I picked and also quotes from the books/movies. However, I can remember the lyrics off the top of my head and not any quotes from the books or movies. So, because I do the minimal amount of research as possible, no quotes for you. Sorry. Push the like button to show your disapproval 😉
I’d love to know what you all are into and what you’re enjoying during this period of isolation. Comment on the post or on Facebook and get the conversation started.
Looking for Alaska
This is a book that I’ve heard a lot about, like most of you likely. It’s a fairly short read, with a really quick pace the first half and a more thoughtful tone for the second. John Green’s writing is always very approachable and easy to get through. The story itself is fascinating and fun. Well, fun for the most part.
Besides some stints on the banned books list for a “sex scene” (it’s not) and the usual detractors of teen’s being portrayed as the smoking/drinking emotional wrecks they usually are, this book seems to be well-loved. I certainly enjoyed it and it’s set me in a different frame of mine since. The way you think about life, death, and grief is changed over the course of the book and it extends way beyond a simple teen drama.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
–Robert Louis Stevenson
I don’t remember exactly when I decided I wanted to read this. Of course I’ve seen the many pop culture references and knew the basic story line. (Not to mention a peculiar Veggie Tales spoof.) But the actual book is way more enticing. Robert Louis Stevenson isn’t always that fun to read. Example: Swiss Family Robinson is a drag for parts. But in his story about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, there’s never really a moment of calm.
I’m not sure when the actual beginnings of “horror” books was, but this is one the oldest that I’ve read which still entertains. However, it’s not likely to give you nightmares, partially because of the outdated language. (Unless you watch the old films that are scary in their own kind of way.) But this book is better if you think of it as a character study on the man, Dr. Jekyll, who is so much more than he seems and so much more than just a monster. He’s something complicated, entrancing, and a real pleasure to think.
The Little Stranger
Ah, this book. I’m working on a long form piece really diving into it, but if you want a quicker synopsis of my thoughts just check out this book review. I called it, in that review, as close to a perfect book as I’ll ever find. I stand by that. Let me explain.
This book is a hair under 600 pages, an extremely slow-burning novel. There’s beautiful descriptions of the Gothic mansion where it takes place. A bubbling romance. Sinister happenings in the house itself. A complicated family history. I’ve read long books before, but there’s nothing that has so much packed into it like this. It’s not a fast-paced book and it’s certainly challenging lengthwise, but it’s also an incredibly important book to me. I’ll talk more about that in my upcoming post, but seriously. I encouraged everyone to attempt it.
P.S. This book has the single greatest last two paragraphs I’ve ever read. If you think you have me beat, tell me your favorites and I’ll say you’re wrong.
Also Read These:
Dracula, Bram Stoker
Death on the Nile, Agatha Christie
1984, George Orwell (book review link)
Follow You Home, Mark Edwards
One day earlier in this quarantine period before I completely lost track of days, I listened to this album probably six or seven times through in that one day. I love almost everything Arcade Fire’s ever done, but their first album has been especially fitting. The album isn’t long, not even 50 minutes, but it has very distinct highs and lows. Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels), Wake Up, and Rebellion (Lies) seem like three high points to me, without a single bad song on the whole track list.
The whole album has a sense of restlessness, of unbound energy mixed with no desire to move. There’s parts in the songs where Win Butler goes wild and other moments when it’s just slow, beautiful orchestral music. The whole thing fits perfectly with at least how I feel in this quarantine, and maybe it can be an equally cathartic, insightful experience for you too. And if not, then it’s not an absolutely amazing album.
Chosen Lyrics: Purify the colors, purify my mind
And spread the ashes of the colors
Over this heart of mine
A Real Good Kid
Of all the albums on this list, A Real Good Kid is the one I wish more people listened to. The background of the album is that Mike Posner wrote it while and after caring for his dad who passed away in the same childhood house where Posner grew up. And you can tell. My girlfriend suggested the album sometime after my grandpa died and I was still living with my grandma in their house. Between A Real Good Kid and The Little Stranger (see above), I started to adapt to the grief and to the reality that I had to leave that “safe place,” you could call it.
When I moved out of that house a few months later, the album continued to resonate with me. I haven’t heard an album that deals with grief and loss better and more honestly. There’s parts with no sound, parts with endless sound, and parts when the album just rips you open. It’s definitely not for every emotion. Even the more upbeat songs contain some devastating lyrics. Nevertheless, this is an album I’ll never forget and one you should check out whenever you’re in the right state of mind.
Chosen Lyrics: The cops came, they did not take off their shoes
People hug me, I smell like 10, 000 perfumes
Gave away the wheelchair, you’re gone, but I’m still here
January in Detroit is cold as fuck
Teens of Denial
–Car Seat Headrest
This is one of those albums that leans closer to hard rock and I only really heard about it because of the many music podcasts I listen to. It popped up on a lot of “Best of 2010’s” lists and deservedly so. This is Car Seat Headrest’s first label album and while they have more I’ve been stuck on this one since I heard it. One day I’ll move on to the others but for now I’m just enjoying this.
While not as good as the two above and not as good as some of those below, this is another one I think more people should listen to. It’s fun, it’s flamboyant at times, and they’ve got the right kind of sound to fill any mood. If you want to dig deeper, they have some really cool lyrics, but I know that’s not for everybody. But hey, what else do you have to do? (Besides watch the movies I listed below.) Go ahead and start with “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales.”
Chosen Lyrics: We are not a proud race
It’s not a race at all
We’re just trying
I’m only trying to get home
Also Listen To These:
Abbey Road, The Beatles
Bank on the Funeral, Matt Maeson
A Black Mile to the Surface, Manchester Orchestra
Cleopatra, The Lumineers
Everything All The Time, Band of Horses
For Emma, Forever Ago, Bon Iver
Wilder Mind, Mumford and Sons
New Planet of the Apes Trilogy
So for this one, I’m talking about the Andy Serkis, 2011/14/17 trilogy. You know, the ones that are the best trilogy made since Lord of the Rings. The best movies you’ll watch involving this many monkeys. And the third one has Woody Harrelson in one of his better roles and the first one has James Franco, so, yeah. Just do it.
Long story short, these movies show the gradual decay of the world from a disease not at all similar to coronavirus. It’s way, way scarier. And almost every human you meet will die. The growth in Caesar’s character, leadership, and sort of mythical figure is astounding to watch. Andy Serkis is fantastic like usual. There’s some really good writing, good directing, all of it. It’s just a huge missed opportunity if you pass it up.
Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
On a more subtle note, this movie is the classic Agatha Christie novel adapted with a star-studded cast into one of the best mystery movies I’ve seen from recent years. (I recommended one of her books above, but reading this one and watching the movie is another great choice.) Hercules Poirot is one of my favorite adaptions of him and there’s another movie coming out in 2021 with the same actor in that role.
This book focuses on the classic murder-on-a-train trope, the sort of locked-door mystery that writers still use today. Only this time, there’s snow, beautiful scenery, and so many accents. I honestly love the accents more than just about anything. And of course the mystery. But those accents…
The Quiet Place
Ah, yes. I recently called this the best horror movie of the past decade. And it still is, in my opinion. Not that any new movies have come out in 2019. Anyways. Here’s my review of it when I first watched it.
It’s much more than a horror movie and with John Krasinski you can’t go wrong. So settle down for this in broad daylight, try not to think about your own mortality, and enjoy it. Or, if you don’t want this, watch something a bit happier below. Like Monty Python! You uncultured heathens. Just kidding. You’re all wonderful people for having read (or skipped) to this part in the article.
Also Watch These:
Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Phantom of the Opera (2004)
Much Ado About Nothing (1993)
Not a movie but, binge watching The Office!