The No. 2 story of the year was produced in quarantine by Local Spins writer Troy Reimink, who concocted a mid-March, elbow bump-worthy soundtrack for the viral apocalypse.
EDITOR’S NOTE: As the year winds down, so does our countdown of the most-read Local Spins stories of 2020. Today, we rewind to a feature first published on March 17 for No. 2 on our list: writer and music maven Troy Reimink’s apocalypse-themed playlist inspired by the COVID pandemic’s new protocols, quarantines and shutdowns. It generated 4.5 times more views than No. 3 on our list and ranks as the second most popular story of all-time at Local Spins. So plug in those earbuds, put on your mask and turn it up.
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Greetings from the end of the world. I made a playlist for you.
I had a whole bunch of jokes written down for an intro, but they seemed to get less funny with each hour that passed.
For example: “Just got off a month-long cruise with no access to the news, and I’ll bet it’s a good time to check the old 401(k)!”
“Good thing I was ALREADY collecting jars of urine in the burned-out fuselage where I’ve constructed my doomsday bunker!”
“Social distancing is what I call my dating life!” Rimshot!
Actually, it’s possible they weren’t funny to begin with.
Anyway, please stay home, stay safe, read news from credible sources, listen to music and support your family and friends — especially those who make a living performing or who work for businesses that have been forced to shutter.
OK, hope to see you on the other side. Until then, here are some songs.
LOCAL SPINS’ COVID-19 PLAYLIST: By Troy Reimink
1. Muse, “Apocalypse Please” – Muse was making preposterous stadium rock about the end of the world long before anyone was paying attention. Their commercial breakthrough, 2003’s “Absolution,” begins with “Apocalypse Please,” a thunderous, melodramatic power ballad about the end of the world — or, as Matt Bellamy puts it, “The END…of the Woorrrrrlllllllllld!”
2. Peggy Lee, “Fever” – If it’s any consolation, Lee’s eternally cool version of this jazzy, noir-inflected classic would have outlived all of us anyway. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGb5IweiYG8
3. Disturbed, “Down With the Sickness” – I’m sorry to interrupt whatever you’re doing, but…OOOOOOOO-WAH HA HA HA!!!! OK, carry on. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09LTT0xwdfw
4. Johnny Cash, “The Man Comes Around” – What’s that noise? The distant sound of hoofbeats just beyond the horizon? Whatever could that portend? Something good, I bet! Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9IfHDi-2EA
5. Mudhoney, “Touch Me I’m Sick” – The sentiment expressed in this early grunge classic is non-compliant with recommendations promoted by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention for the avoidance of COVID-19. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nGsT_qFMBs
6. Nine Inch Nails, “The Day the World Went Away” – Trent Reznor has been preparing us for decades, so let’s not let him down. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfKTgx15jag
7. The Verve Pipe, “The Freshmen” – Updated pre-chorus lyrics for 2020: “Can’t be held responsible / She was touching her face…” [*freshperson immediately contracts coronavirus due to irresponsible face touching.] Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1umEXpGHc0E
8. Belle & Sebastian, “Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying” – Quite a few gentle early-2000s indie-rock songs get a lot more harrowing if you decide to interpret their lyrics literally. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-aB4wtWiYI
9. Blur, “Ambulance” – “I ain’t got nothing to nothing to be scared of.” – Damon Albarn, many years before learning about coronavirus. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_aZME1L8Ihc
10. Bad Religion, “Infected” – The punk legends’ brief flirtation with mainstream radio was as improbable as it was glorious in the mid-1990s, back when “infectious” was a favorable way to describe a catchy song. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x40nZkkP8vw
11. Ghost Heart, “Sick Black Lung” – I promise the whole point of assembling this list was not just to plug my own former band and put it ahead of Bruce Springsteen. But, hey, good jam, huh? Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZSNXlc7H1Q
12. Bruce Springsteen, “Empty Sky” – Written in the wake of 9/11 for the Boss’ comeback album “The Rising,” this track evokes the eerie feeling of a world on edge — figuratively and perhaps literally, since a cessation of domestic air travel seems inevitable. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9b-zxmuhfS8&feature=youtu.be
13. Sylvan Esso, “Die Young” – Raise your hand if you guessed wrong about the likeliest cause of your premature demise under the current administration. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Gh8hdjcU4E
14. Midlake, “Head Home” – Midlake’s 2006 album “The Trials of Van Occupanther” represented a peak of post-Fleet Foxes pastoral beard-ness that would be easy to caricature if it wasn’t often so good. Listen to “Head Home” and try not to yearn for a simpler existence, even if it’s one forced upon us by extenuating circumstances (i.e., the end of civilization). Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dQMHBy3NvQ
15. Travis Scott, “Sicko Mode” – “Sicko Mode” here refers to a state of hyper-productive creativity that corresponds to cold weather. That’d be an ideal use of all this involuntary downtime. Moog and Korg are among the manufacturers of audio equipment that are making various apps available for free during the coronavirus outbreak. Go nuts! Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ONRf7h3Mdk
16. The National, “Afraid of Everyone” – What was otherwise a piercing critique of a media culture that thrives on fear now sounds like a prescient end-times prophecy. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZFK2lhJJXA
17. The Cranberries, “Zombie” – Evoking zombies as a stand-in disaster scenario might seem like a lazy way to minimize a real danger, but their use in pop culture usually corresponds to the timeless anxiety that a mindless threat — war, capitalism, climate change, pandemic disease — will overwhelm us sooner or later. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ejga4kJUts
18. The Clash, “Lost In the Supermarket” – A more logical choice from “London Calling” might have been “Four Horsemen.” But this one makes sense if you’ve done a grocery run in the past four days, tried to find hand sanitizer and wondered if you might be, you know, lost in the supermarket. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZw23sWlyG0
19. Metallica, “Four Horsemen” – Abandon all subtlety, ye who enter here. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4nCy5CITc8
20. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, “(I’ll Love You) Till the End of the World” – From a singer who can’t blow his nose without summoning fire and brimstone, a love song about the end of the world is pretty much mandatory. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzp8I-naJOg
21. Crowded House, “Don’t Dream It’s Over” – There are two polar-opposite ways to interpret the chorus. Neil Finn is either saying don’t bother dreaming because it’s over, or don’t dream that it’s over. I’m including it here because it appeared on the soundtrack to the 1990s TV adaptation of Stephen King’s post-apocalyptic novel “The Stand,” if that tells you anything. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9gKyRmic20
22. David Bowie, “Five Years” – Several Bowie songs probably belong here, but let’s go with the ominous table-setter from “Ziggy Stardust,” which describes the panic that sweeps the world upon the imminence of its demise. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWm03wYBTbM
23. Europe, “The Final Countdown” – It’s about time we rescued this apocalyptic 1980s hair-rock staple from its permanent association with tragically amateurish magic performances. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jK-NcRmVcw
24. Queens of the Stone Age, “Sick Sick Sick” – Not a great deal of ambiguity to sort through here: classic QOTSA, in other words. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHDaKtx6bGY
25. Wilco, “A Shot in the Arm” – I don’t quite think a flu shot is what Jeff Tweedy was talking about, but it’s nice to imagine he’s discussing socially responsible inoculation rather than intravenous drug use. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iof2IAnQKwI
26. Radiohead, “Idioteque” – The most apocalyptic song from the most apocalyptic album by a famously pessimistic band, “Idioteque” is as chilly and foreboding as the coming ice age it predicts. “We’re not scare mongering, this is really happening,” Thom Yorke sings, a potent reminder that if a sudden calamity doesn’t overwhelm us, there’s still climate change. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svwJTnZOaco
27. Antony & the Johnsons, “Hope There’s Someone” – This is sort of the “Eleanor Rigby” for my generation. There’s nothing more elemental and human than the need for contact at a time of stress and fear, and the most basic fear of them all — what lies over that final horizon — has seldom been expressed with more gutting sincerity than what the artist formerly known as Antony Hegarty achieved here. That lump you feel in your throat, that means you’re still alive. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyMGEq82uL4
28. Sufjan Stevens, “4th of July” – It’s the most breathtaking moment on “Carrie & Lowell,” Stevens’ gorgeous concept album about the death of his mother: That stunning repeated coda — “We’re all gonna die” — demonstrates that in the hands of a genius artist, the simplest ideas often are the most profound, and vice versa. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTeKpWp8Psw
29. Mountain Goats, “The Plague” – There’s at least one excellent John Darnielle song for every bummer situation. How about the end of humanity: “And all our great schemes and plans will slip like fishes from our hands.” Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1-sCJiZeqw
30. Iron Maiden, “The Number of the Beast” – Everything is fine. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-iRf9AWoyE
Plus, Three More ‘End of Times’ Tunes for the Heck of It:
Deltron 3030, “Virus” – The effortless precision with which the all-star hip-hop team of Dan the Automator, Del the Funkee Homosapien and Kid Koala sketch out society’s unraveling following a global pandemic is…not all that comforting. Occam’s Razor: the most predictable outcome is the one that’s probably going to happen. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrEdbKwivCI
The Cure, “End of the World” – You’d think a band with the word “cure” in its name might be a source of optimism during such a scenario, but alas. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4JukIrRxcU
REM, “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” — This 1987 single re-entered the iTunes chart in March and rose fast, not surprisingly. Anyone feeling fine yet? No? Same. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0GFRcFm-aY
THE LOCAL SPINS COVID-19 PLAYLIST ON SPOTIFY: By Troy Reimink
MICHIGAN-MADE VIDEOS INSPIRED BY THE PANDEMIC
LOCAL SPINS PLAYLIST: TRIBUTE TO HEALTH CARE WORKERS
Copyright 2020, Spins on Music LLC