In these challenging times, individuals engage with music in many different ways and often enact its emancipatory potential to escape everyday life, to find comfort and to foster a sense of community, amongst others. This playlist aims to highlight the emancipatory potential of music as a cultural and aesthetic experience in the COVID-19 era. In other words, this playlist unravels the political aesthetics of music asylums (DeNora, 2013), that is the ability of music to ‘feed processes of concern, sympathy and engagement, against helplessness and isolation in a world that is significantly marred by injustice, inequality, alienation and oppression’ (Hesmondhalgh, 2012: 368).
The playlist lends its title from a 2011 album by M83, a French electronic music project formed in 2001 and includes a selection of indie music artists, bands, and songs. Indie music culture has long been associated with a range of alternative oriented music styles (Hesmondhalgh, 1999) which cut across its association with the DIY ethos and authenticity discourses of the post-punk era (Hibbett, 2005), and its subsequent establishment as a popular music genre (Skandalis et al., 2020). Independent music offers ‘a testing ground for the achievement of vernacular cultural opposition in the era of neo-liberalism’ (Hesmondhalgh and Meyer, 2014: 109).
This playlist aims to navigate across these lines by highlighting the emancipatory and socio-political aspects of popular music in helping us make sense of neo-liberal society amidst the pandemic. It incorporates elements of dream-pop and shoegaze, which entail dreamy aesthetics, ethereal vocals, and reverberated feedback, and represent ‘umbrella’ terms covering a wide range of music styles largely influenced by British post-punk guitar music scenes (Wiseman-Trowse, 2008). From Joy Division and and The Jesus and Mary Chain to Beach House and Spiritualized, this playlist invites listeners to immerse themselves into dreamlike sonic utopias and construct socio-political narratives of optimism and hope.
Hurry up! We’re dreaming: A sociological curation playlist
14. DIIV – Doused
Dr Alex Skandalis is a Lecturer in Marketing and Consumer Culture at Lancaster University. His research interests revolve around music, cultural sociology, consumer culture, and cultural industries, amongst others. A key aspect of his research relates to aesthetics and musical taste and the phenomenology of music spaces and experiences in various social fields. His work has appeared in several academic journals and one of his recent research projects on musical taste and place-dependent capital in the indie music field was published in Sociology.