Fighting Dumpster Fire With Fire: Songs That Got Us Through the Last Year

Themes and variation
Themes and variations

Music can affect us in so many ways. It can toy with our perception of time when customer service puts us on hold. It can motivate us to push through the last leg of an early morning run. It can even say everything we’ve been failing to articulate to our lover.

And in the case of 2020, music can fully help us process and heal from the effects of a mind-boggling year.

In our 18th episode of Themes and Variation, I’m joined by two marvelous members of the Soundfly community, Carrie Herbert (composer, doctoral candidate, Soundfly student) and returning guest Sırma Munyar (artist, producer, course instructor) to discuss the theme “Songs That Got Us Through the Last Year.”

During the episode, we discuss cathartic tracks by Tom Misch and Yussef Dayes, BLACKPINK, and Ólafur Arnalds. You can hear our full conversation here:

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If you’re enjoying this episode, and you’d like to learn more about some of the musical topics we touched on, you can also check out Soundfly’s free companion course for songwriting prompts and additional resources. From scale modes to melody-writing and even audio production tips and tricks, we’ve curated some extra resources for listeners who want to go the extra creative mile and put stuff from the episode into action.

For more on this subject, you can also read this previously published post on Flypaper, “Pandemic Song Book: Artists Who Capture Covid Perfectly In Song.”

Episode 18 Highlights

1.  Carter was hooked on the “subtle build” of “Nightrider.”

Carter: “The main thing I wanna talk about with this track is the subtle build of it. It doesn’t peak too high, the lows aren’t too low. It’s just a very steady, steady five minutes of like warmth and gooey goodness…”

2.  A ton of work went into the formation of BLACKPINK.

Sırma: “You have to watch the dance performance video. The way these girls, I mean young boys and girls train in the K-pop industry, I don’t know if you know about this but there are all these big entertainment companies that audition kids at the age of like 9, 10, 11, and they go to these training sessions as if they’re like training in school, almost like a conservatory. So they take lessons for rapping, singing, and dancing, there’s like a bunch of stuff that they do. And, these girls they’ve been training for I don’t know how long, but it wasn’t a coincidence that they came together, I mean they started the group in 2016 and that doesn’t feel that long ago, but before that there was a lot of work that went into this project.”

3. Carrie on JFDR’s transcendent performance.

Carrie: “It’s like she’s channeling something, you know the way that she’s so embodied when she sings this particular version and the way that she’s moving, it’s like she is the song, she is the, you know the way she phrases it it’s got such a characteristic quirkiness to it that lends itself to this sort of magical realm that she’s able to access vocally. I mean I’m such a fan of Ólafur’s compositions because they’re so spacious, it’s like she’s got space to breathe and articulate these absolutely exquisite lyrics.”

Join Our Collaborative Playlist

Just like we do every time we launch a new episode, we’ve created a collaborative Spotify playlist in order to share every song mentioned in this episode and explore many others that fit the topic. We need your help, we want your help, and we can’t wait to hear the songs that helped get you through this past year!

Go ahead and add your selected songs to the playlist!


We’ll see you in two weeks with a new theme, new guests, and some new songs to break down. If you have any comments, questions, or theme suggestions, drops us a line at [email protected]!

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