PLAYLIST: Jess Williamson’s Songs That Are Getting Her Through the Quar

Stream the stay-at-home sounds of Fiona Apple, Debussy, and Bobbie Gentry ahead of Sorceress’s release date this Friday.

The first lyric on Jess Williamson’s new LP Sorceress is “We like staying home,” clearing up any doubt in the listener’s mind that the latest from Mexican Summer is, indeed, a quarantine jam. Though “Smoke” soon fills out from an acoustic number to a Americana-tinged, full-band anthem, lessening the sense of intimacy introduced in the opening seconds, the successive tracks double down on the themes of introversion—yearning to be unburdened by loneliness like the birds, declining wedding invitations, wishing to be home rather than taking in the sites of the Gulf of Mexico.

Though it was written before we were in lockdown, Williamson crafted her video for “Smoke” post-Quar, aiding our visualization of the record with a home-confined clip for the single. Listening to the remaining track list almost feels like reading a novel after watching a movie based on it, your memory of the music video constructing a visual narrative through the track’s succeeding ten songs based on the homey imagery displayed in the video’s increasingly psychedelic four minutes.

To complement this stay-at-home aesthetic she’s achieved across Sorceress, Williamson put together another eleven-track project—one documenting a handful of songs that have been getting her through Quar. From Debussy to Big Thief, you can stream along to the collection and read about her picks below before hearing Sorceress in full this Friday. 

Claude Debussy, “Clare de Lune”

Debussy has been getting me through the quarantine. Listening to this music helps me calm down and feel grounded, more present, and even grateful for the stillness and the pause we are all in. This music can infuse a moment with magic.

Sam Burton, “Nothing Touches Me”

This is a new song from my friend Sam Burton, and it features another friend, Kacey Johansing, singing backup vocals. The way their voices work together with the lyrics is transcendent. This is a great driving song, and I’ve been going on a lot of drives.

Fiona Apple, “Ladies”

The new Fiona Apple album Fetch the Bolt Cutters is blowing my mind, and this track in particular is one of my favorites. On her new album she covers a lot of conceptual ground that we don’t often hear talked about in songs. In this song, she sings about women being connected because of having been involved with the same man, and how that link is what keeps them from ever “getting through” to each other, as Fiona puts it. So good.  

J.J. Cale, “Wish I Had Not Said That”

Been on a bit of a J.J. Cale kick lately. This one’s always in my head. And I relate to it. There’s a lot I wish I hadn’t said! Sagittarius problems. 

Waxahatchee, “Hell”

I love St. Cloud, the new Waxahatchee album, and have been listening to it a lot during the Quar. It’s really hard to choose a favorite song—I love them all. But this one has one of my favorite lines from the whole album: “I hover above like a deity / But you don’t worship me.”  

Guy Clark, “Anyhow, I Love You”

The quarantine is making me love LA more than ever. There’s no traffic, the air is clean, flowers are blooming. But I still find myself homesick for Texas a lot of times. This song, and this whole album really, remind me of home so much. 

The Band, “I Shall Be Released”

Yes it’s a bit on the nose, but this song is really hitting home lately. It’s been nice, and I’ve learned a lot of great lessons, but I’m ready for the Quar to end. Been singing this one a lot around the house, loudly. “Any day now, any day now, I shall be released”. 

Big Thief, “Not”

My go-to song to run to—and I’ve been running most days since this all started. This track is fierce and emotional. It’s a perfect song. Lyrically, we never learn what it “is,” we only learn what it’s “not.” And somehow that says so much. 

Bobbie Gentry, “Courtyard”

The first interview I did about my new album, Sorceress, the journalist mentioned this song to me and said it reminded him of my new record. Then a couple days later a good friend sent me this song saying the same thing. Usually when things come up repeatedly like this, it means I need to pay attention. It’s a great song, off Bobbie Gentry’s concept album The Delta Sweete, which is one of the strangest records in existence. If you’re not familiar with Bobbie Gentry’s mysterious back story, I highly recommend looking into it. 

Grateful Dead, “Morning Dew” (Live in London, 1972)

Among the great gifts of the Quarantine is that I’ve finally begun to embrace the Grateful Dead. I knew a few of their records, but the whole catalogue overwhelmed me. I never really had an entry point before, but with all this time on my hands, I’ve been watching the six-part documentary series on the Dead called Long Strange Trip. This song in particular, and this recording of it, is really special. It’s about the end of the world, so the lyrics are particularly resonant right now.

Mary Lattimore, “Wawa By the Ocean”

Instrumental music has been getting me through this time, and Mary Lattimore is one of my favorites. I listen to her music almost every day, especially in the mornings. I like to wake up, light incense, put on Mary Lattimore, make matcha, and do my morning pages. It’s the best way to start the day.


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