In these trying times, looking to art and history gives me a temporary feeling of solace. It not only lets me search the ideas of the past that have enabled humanity to survive this long, but it also provides me a kind of shelter in this storm the way that fiction always has. At this point, I turn to Surrealism, the idea of our unconscious states taking over — the dreamlike hallucinations and encounters produced in art that offers a distraction and even meaning in our current quarantined state.

About a century ago, a cultural movement was starting to take…

Elliott Smith — Elliott Smith (1995)

During my teenage years, I read many books from the Beat Generation, a literary movement of artists and writers from the ’50s that romanticized and glorified recreational drug use. The way they portrayed their effects and the lifestyle that emerged from its usage — from the use of alcohol to heroin to prescription pills — made me imagine different worlds I could access, and escape from whatever mundanity the “real” world had to offer.

In contrast, 1995’s Elliott Smith, the folk singer-songwriter’s bleakest album from his consistent and excellent discography, makes drug use evoke the feeling of never wanting to…

Photo by David Lee is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Living through a harrowing period in our lives, music can be the salve that heals our damaged wounds.

One particular genre of music stands out in engendering peace of mind.

By turning to the undemanding nature of folk music, you are provided refuge in moments of distress and solitude.

When I talk about “folk,” I describe contemporary folk music — American folk that was “revived” around the mid-20th century, and its evolution and branching out into the present.

Think of what music might have sounded like in the 40’s — then think of Dylan and Young in the 60's —…

My friend and I walked into the venue excited to attend Nas’ Illmatic Anniversary Tour back in 2014. We were 20, restless, and avowed Illmatic fans who listened to the New York MC back in high school with zeal in our hearts. We observed the crowd, talked about how we were one of the younger audience members (that’s a lie, we talked about how old everyone was), and told ourselves we were true budding hip-hop connoisseurs. …

“Teenage angst has paid off well / Now I’m bored and old.”

Kurt Cobain’s opening lines on In Utero opener “Serve the Servants” can’t get any more real as I turn a year older. After purging away negative emotions during the early months of the pandemic through listening to a lot of depressing music, I feel like an old man now, whose quarantine habits have enveloped his existence. Sometimes, writing, going for walks, meditating, and journaling every day can seem mundane despite being a boon for my mental health, but I’d like to think I’m getting through the anxiety anyway. …

Photo by Bryan Derballa for The New York Times

Our past year was clustered with death — COVID-19 victims, old friends, more black and brown people from the police, Kobe, and more recently, MF Doom. 2020 was a fever-dream set in a reality I couldn’t fathom. Like many avid, daily music consumers, we participate in an annual reflection and recollection of the music that’s gotten us through the muck of it all. This was a challenging year to get into anything new (even if there were undoubtedly great records that necessitated a listen). Given the difficulty that marked the start of a new decade, I sought comfort, relief, and…

On the Trans-Canada Highway, we headed west. Drifting between the state of somnolence and serenity, everything felt in its right place. Kevin Morby’s Singing Saw was on, playing at a level proper enough to hear the road beneath us. “And, oh, I’m drunk and on a star / Hangs above just where I was / Going now, mouth full of laughter / Eyes like beams / Head full of dreams,” sang Morby in Rome’s cramped pickup truck. Folk music never felt so tender on a drive like this.

I half clutched my drum sticks in the passenger seat with a…

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez from Unsplashed

Happiness is only real when shared

— Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

It’s tough to write about something as complicated as death. A friend of mine passed recently, and my mind and my body have been in shock. The spectre of death surrounds us all, as a pandemic flanks the human population at a faster rate than it’s ever been. We’re all on the edge of living on borrowed time at this moment, and so I don’t want to write about death. I want to write about life.

My friend lived a full life. I saw him every so often…

In the shrinking landscape of lo-fi indie rock, beach pop has moved to the sidelines. Instead, lo-fi hip hop and the “lo-fi-ification” of every song ever — just YouTube your song of choice + “lo-fi,” and you get a barrage of remixes from aspirational producers just wanting to make some beats — has become the norm. Only ten years ago, as hip-hop was yet to eclipse rock as the peak genre, the use of production software like GarageBand and the proliferation of cheap recording equipment pushed musicians to make more music in their bedrooms. …

Photo by Daniel Watson from Pexels

It’s one of those phases again. Once or twice in the year, I’ll get into a deep depression. Something small will usually trigger it — a comment made by one of my parents, something on the news, or even silence from a friend. All of a sudden, the spiraling thoughts circle its way into my head — I’ll start to think of my inadequacies, compare myself to my peers, and blame myself for not getting far enough.

Growing up in a very fortunate situation, I didn’t realize that I was lucky at a young age. I was probably spoiled and…

Anton Astudillo

music inquirer, and other things — find me on http://www.antonastudillo.com

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