Student analyzes her quarantine experience through the lens of a band

Maggie Petersen, Staff Writer

With each song or genre, I am reminded of a certain time of my life, and the themes and feelings and context of that memory can never be erased from those songs. Long story short, I’ve found my quarantine band. 

The first song I heard by The Mountain Goats was “No Children,” an upbeat and entirely cynical song about a marriage turned toxic. The pure shock value of its lyrics made me laugh in horror upon first listen, and that reaction has been mirrored by every person I’ve shown it to yet. “No Children” is the quintessential representation of a dysfunctional home; it is a seething, bitter declaration of hate to the person you want to kill yet can’t live without. What’s worse is this song struck me as more relevant to the present day than even the cringy cover of “Imagine” by a handful of privileged celebrities.

We find ourselves in an isolating situation yet shoulder to shoulder with the people we kiss on the cheek everyday before packing up and heading for school or work. Currently, America is balanced on a precarious pyramid of family units stacked head to toe in close quarters. At this point, what family hasn’t manifested a dysfunctional brick or two? For better or for worse, in sickness or in health, we are in this together so long as we don’t want this Jenga tower of a country to collapse. 

The Mountain Goats possess a folksy tone that I’ve avoided my entire music listening life. Whether that be out of my natural inclination to despise any remotely country-esque song or my aversion to the pitchy-whine singing style of works like “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” I surprisingly found myself bypassing the voice and being captivated by the multi-layered lyric meanings and raw, relatable emotions. From their song “Love love love,” which explores the darker side of the most hallowed emotion through biblical, pop culture, and personal experience references, to the frankness of “You were Cool,” which reflects on the struggles of being young and vulnerable, The Mountain Goats paint a shaky yet raw image of tragedy set to a catchy tune.

I expect to still be listening to this band years down the line, but it will always carry the emotional branding of my time in quarantine. Their song, “This Year,” will remind me of being 17 and feeling as though the whole world is out of my control. I suspect it will boom out of many speakers in the future, memories of 2020 keeping time with the claps, and the final words echoing into the endless years to come:

“There will be feasting and dancing

In Jerusalem next year.

I am going to make it through this year

If it kills me.

I am going to make it through this year

If it kills me.”