There’s something extremely cathartic about songs that crystalize into the momentum of my anxiety. I feel this particular giddiness with “The Difference,” the collaboration with Australian producer Flume and magical being Chaz Bear aka Toro Y Moi. It opens with iridescent synths that sound like harp-adjacent chords shattering into icicles of cubic zirconium. There’s a melodic, Bugle rallying cry, and then Flume jumpstarts the track with BBE (Big Beat Energy). I’m reminded that I have to run, that I want to run. “I don’t know about you, but I got to get out and I don’t know how soon,” Chaz Bear sings, running alongside me. His voice is still calm and straightforward even when it exists on a urgent level. Oh look! Down there! Mr. Flume is running in a vibrant jumpsuit.
The outro of the “The Difference” feels like the chorus of our current time. “Just another world that I gotta get a grip of and hold on to,” Bear repeats over the scampering background. The lyrics reek of unease and suffocation. “Who cares about a game, when it’s all been replaced. Each level feels the same,” he sings on the second verse. Switching between room to room, trying to get a change a scenery as much as possible without leaving the house during a pandemic is the new normal. Feeling completely lost. Reminding myself that majority of the world right now feels the exact same. Hefty layers of anger, confusion, and numbness. My emotions are obnoxiously trying to take over the wheel from the backseat, causing me to swerve in and out of focus.
The world is still moving on the outside, even when I’m not moving through it the way I used to. Even if summer still feels sticky like melted popsicles, the humidity fogging my mind, this is a new world. “The Difference,” is parallel to the acceleration of my anxiety, and it embodies the gross narcissistic paradox of change: I can’t actually hold onto it, and even if I could it would eventually change.
Another song on par with my anxiety is Jamie XX’s “Idontknow.” When it first dropped, I found that I enjoyed it when it was blasting through my headphones. I needed for its scattered drums and hemorrhaging beats to be as close to me as possible. I wanted for the song’s magnetism to be pulsing through my veins. Maybe my anxiety will exhaust itself alongside the pounding drumbeats. The repetitive, almost inaudible delivery of the song’s mantra “I don’t know,” feels euphoric in its indecisiveness. That same restlessness is captured beautifully in its accompanying video.
The choreographer and performer Oona Doherty shot the video the night before Belfast went into lockdown. She stumbles and catches herself in the middle of a fall. Her limbs flail and swing as if just being set on fire. The air is filled with irritation, like remembering you forgot something yet unable to know exactly what it is. As the track is about to reach a rebirth, she sits on a bench to check her phone. Anguish, anger, frustration, and disbelief cross her face in a matter of seconds before she jumps into another walk around a dimly lit park. Her movements pivot from graceful and angular to blunt and militant. She, at times, arches her body in urgent, squareish shapes like a Keith Haring painting. Doherty’s dance is one of grief. She’s finding her way in the dark. In the middle of her furious and mighty dance, she comes across a vibrant blue and outstretched arms. She sprints to rejoice in a hug.
I think about this video almost every day, it’s so beautiful and potent.
Not only do these songs remind me how out of shape I am, but to exercise the internal chaotic movement of my mind. Neither of these tracks supply an answer to their discomfort. There is no grand conclusion, only the realization that the surroundings are constantly changing, possibly without any purpose. We can either keep running, and hopefully find an eventual stillness. Right now, the latter is hard to embrace, especially when hugging is off the table for the moment.