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Graphics by Ella-Mae Earnshaw

Welcome to the second edition of ON REPEAT, Strand's round-up of all things music for the first half of September.


1) Vinyl sales outpace CDs for the first time this century

When was the last time you listened to a CD? Probably a long time ago, if findings by the RIAA are anything to go by. In the first half of 2020, 62% of all physical music revenues were made up by vinyls, far surpassing those by CDs. Nowadays, vintage-effect record players look more modern than the dinosaurs that are CD players.

2) BLACKPINK x Netflix

Prepare the popcorn for 14th October. Netflix has announced a feature-length documentary with unstoppable K-pop stars BLACKPINK. It will reveal behind-the-scenes footage as they work on their upcoming, inventively titled album The Album. Collaborations with Lady Gaga and Selena Gomez under their belt, western audiences can’t get enough of their high energy sound.

3) Sign language WAP goes viral

In the next instalment of the WAP saga, the divisive track has been translated into sign language. It wasn't long before it went viral. Libbey Ketterer, an American Sign Language Interpreter from Ohio, posted a video of her signing the entire song on YouTube, reaching 1.3 million views to date.


Phoebe Bridgers takes over the Oval Office for her Tiny Desk (Home) Concert

It’s 2008 and NPR’s Bob Boilen is frustrated. He’s in a bar watching Laura Gibson perform live, but he can barely hear her over the noise and bustle of the crowd. After the show, fellow NPR editor Stephen Thompson joked that she should perform Boilen’s desk instead. But what started as a joke turned out to be genius. Boilen arranged for her to do exactly that and posted a recording online – the infamous NPR ‘Tiny Desk Concert’ was born.

Fast forward to 2020 and we all long for the noise and energy of a live crowd. Like all things in music, NPR has adapted to the pandemic to bring us Tiny Desk (Home) Concerts, filmed by the artists themselves behind their desks at home. Over the last 6 months, they’ve aired intimate performances by the likes of Declan McKenna, Tiwa Savage, Billie Eilish, Tame Impala, John Legend and Lenny Kravitz, to name a few. Last week it was the turn of Phoebe Bridgers. But rather than her own desk, she chose Donald Trump’s presidential haunt as her backdrop.

It’s a shameless statement about the chaotic reality of American politics. By far, it’s the most sense to come out of the Oval Office in the last four years. The artificiality of the green screen gives the show an eerie yet comedic effect, enhanced by her ghostly vocals. Prepare to be both mesmerised by her melancholy lyrics and stifling bouts of laughter.

Bridgers performed three tracks from her highly acclaimed album Punisher released earlier this year. She opens with Kyoto, taking us on a nostalgic journey through cherry blossom in Japan. Moon Song brings the mood to despairing lows, as Bridgers sings in her soft, country-lilt about the travails of loving someone who doesn’t love themself. Yet the energy soon picks up with her final song, I Know The End. As the green screen falters and their true backdrop is exposed, Bridgers swaps her acoustic guitar for an electric and the mood turns to rock and roll. The show ends with a cathartic scream. Videos of fans in their homes, cars and graveyards appear on screen. They mime her words together and close the show with one final energetic shout.

Of the hundreds of Tiny Desk Concerts posted over the years, this is the most genius. Despite its virtual format, Bridgers captures the buzz and community of a real gig, much to Boilen’s disdain. Bridgers has been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic to stay connected with her fans. Check out her deeply moving performance for Radio 1’s Chillest Show with Phil Taggart, where she performed Radiohead’s Fake Plastic Trees in a church. The rich, lofty acoustics pair perfectly with her sweet vocals and icy piano played by Arlo Parks.

Phoebe Bridgers might have found the secret to virtual concerts – have fun with the backdrop.

NEW RELEASES - Emma's playlist

Do It (feat. Doja Cat, City Girls & Mulatto) [Remix] - Chloe x Halle

Freak - Shygirl

For The First Time - Live at World Cafe / 2020 - Best Coast

The Recipe - Aluna, KAYTRANADA, Rema

Rapture - Declan McKenna

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