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Nearness Playlist: uncanny valley

Jul. 14, 2021

For the past year, things have felt more than a little off. Some of us adjusted so well to the "new normal" that we can't even recall what life before COVID-19 felt like. For others, life as we knew it before didn't fade away enough to be forgotten. As we all inch closer toward the light at the end of the vaccinated tunnel, however, the excitement I feel about returning to the things I love—people, parties, indoor drinks, and hugs from grandma—is laced with worry about transitioning back to my previous life. Call it the "new old normal," or call it the future: the next few months may well be an unsettling blend of the long-awaited familiarities of the past and the yet-to-be-charted obstacles of the future. But different can be good, in its own way.


The songs on my playlist celebrate the "slightly off"—all twelve songs are covers of tracks originally by other artists, some more distant from their originals than others. Some I heard for the first time out with friends before the pandemic. Others I discovered deep in quarantine. Whether it's Jeff Buckley turning a Van Morrison song into a gorgeous solo or Kamasi Washington adapting Debussy for jazz, these songs demonstrate the power of the uncanny: they are recognizable but different, and beautiful for it.