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Illustration by Mahgul Farooqui

Earwormz: Quarantine Tunes

An introduction to some short and crisp, genre-bending productions.

In these testing times, the arts offer an escape into familiarity. Our music libraries are like familiar friends — comfortable soundscapes that harmonize the same mental images. It’s almost as if it’s the only thing that has not changed since the changing economy, flattening curves and online classes. Chain-consuming media, if binge seems too connotated of an adjective, has been a staple of many quarantined lifestyles.
However, as easy as these exits from reality may be, it is just as easy to get lost in boredom. Between re-watches and re-listens, we try to watch a new pilot or listen to a new EP. The former seems a lot easier, thanks to Netflix’s soul-burning algorithm and YouTube’s mind-reading recommendations. But what about music? How do you commit hours of your time to stare at the wall listening to an album or production that you may not even like?
If you feel like you’re on this boat, we have just the right recommendations for you. These artists literally come from an earshot away from you. From the sounds of Washington Square Park to those on the Highline, here are some short and crispy EPs and bite-sized albums from our favorite genre-bending, signature artists.
Bluesberry Jam - Aquamarine
Photo courtesy of Aaron Marcus Willers
Filled with dreamy riffs, this band is not afraid to wear their psychedelic rock influences right on their sleeves. The inspiration for their songwriting comes from “both highly produced bands like Pink Floyd and more stripped-down singer-songwriters like Neil Young and his contemporaries in Laurel Canyon”, says Aaron Marcus-Willers, class of 2022, who is the guitarist for the band. Their story is fascinating: one of independence and improvisation. “Since we only had the studio time to record and mix four songs, we had to make sure that each track offered its own unique character while still existing within the broader sonic environment of the album as a whole” adds Marcus-Willers. They also wrestled with the temporal and institutional constraints of debuting with the EP format. Marcus-Willers claims that “when writing music for a short EP like “Bluesberry Jam,” especially being the first recorded material for the new band, we made sure that our sound walked a fine artistic line; to release songs that sounded too similar would confine and misrepresent our musical range, but if each song tried to explore a completely different creative realm, the album would not be cohesive and would be less effective as a whole.”
This 19 minute EP features a gem by the name of “Waves of Green”, weaving together a hazy feel-good dose of nostalgia. Another track, “Flying Colors” works around swirling melodies, flirting on the fringes of alternative psychedelia. Wedged between these tracks is the instrumental “Bluesberry Jam”, a sunny, blues-rock studio jam reminiscent of The Velvet Underground’s “Foggy Notion”, filled with 32-bar rhythms that sets a distinct sound palette for these talented artists. This EP is short and sweet; a modern introduction to classic psychedelic punk and rock. Find more of their discography here.
Day 1 - Flowmingos
Photo courtesy of Flowmingos
Released on Jan. 1, this EP collects the sounds of Washington Square Park’s brassiest gang of musicians. These boys always managed to make us take our headphones off and listen to them during our mid-summer, brown-bag lunches at NYU New York. This EP is a potpourri of sounds inspired by rap, jazz and Latin music that they played in the NYC subways. “Day 1” is an original that fills every space in a four measure soundscape with matching jams racing against a tight percussive bassline. The story of this song starts at an MTA station, where the first thing they played together ended up being this jam. “I think it captures the essence of us really well,” the band said. Working in a self-identified trap funk/trap jazz tradition, the distinctive sounds of “Shelter” immediately exemplify the comfort of familiar jazz, withstanding innovation in hip-hop inspired bar-like progressions. The final track, “Story”, is probably their most iconic production, with the saxophones gliding through an intensely energetic and groovy trombone-drum combination. This brilliant quartet promises a catchy introduction into a world born out of jazz and hip-hop. Stay tuned for their two more upcoming EPs in 2020.
Skiptracing - Mild High Club
Photo courtest of
At times, Alexander Brettin’s sounds are a lot like this pandemic — unbelievable. Out of time and out of place, this psychedelic pop band paints on a canvas filled with colors of woozy indie-pop and laid-back alternative rock. The flagship track, “Skiptracing” genuinely exudes feel-good vibrations, while “Homage” and “Chasing My Tail” bring in synthesized, wavy melodies that crack a smile through the smoothest rhyme schemes. As you drop into the clinical guitar work on “Tesselation”, it’s hard to not imagine better days. This album feels like a belly rub or a pat on the back, reassuring you that you’re gonna come out ok.
direct line to My Creator - duendita
Photo courtesy of
Candace Camacho, better known as duendita, is not one to shy away from using her artistry to celebrate and exercise self-love. The NYU Clive Davis graduate and Queens-raised artist take us on a personal reflection and journey in her debut record from 2018. Duendita is spiritual and creates with utmost soul, combining conversations with her loved ones, herself and God. It’s truly magical when an album successfully magnifies the inner heart of its artist, with duendita using deep bass and jazz-influences to comment on reality. Whether speaking about societal misogyny in “I’ma Get You” or protecting women of color from police violence in “Blue Hands”, duendita’s direct line journey invites a conscious, yet smooth, soulful listening experience.
Lost Future - Efence
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And for a melancholic, minimal synthwave exploration into space, look no further than Efence’s debut album, “Lost Future”. Deliberately cut-back to emphasize every note and element, “Lost Future” is an ideal 41 minute instrumental ride to either accompany you in the background or to be a focus in your foreground. While synthwave’s rising popularity has been one that focuses on immense percussion, Efence is able to instead isolate us in the moment by using both futuristic synth sounds as well as nostalgic elements from 90’s electro. And when better than self-isolation to groove out to sounds that sound both fresh and oddly comforting?
Aravind Kumar is Features Editor and a columnist and Reema El-Kaiali is a columnist. Email them at
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