An album just as chaotic as 2020
Joe Cardamone, vocalist of the former band Icarus Line, recently released his second solo album Quarantina. The album is nothing short of intense; it feels like the soundtrack for a horror film. The sound is experimental and even uncomfortable at times. With commentary on politics, social justice, personal struggle and life during a pandemic, this 20-track project is nothing if not distinct.
Presumably in reference to the tarot card, “Nine of Swords” is impassioned. It opens with a pulsing organ, strings and Cardamone’s wailing vocals. To heighten an already disturbing piece, the song ends with what sounds like distorted screams and one final lyric: “the dream is just a dream.” Although arguably unpleasant, it does fit well into the themes of this album.
Given the earlier reference, “The Tower” is likely also related to tarot. The song doesn’t have vocals. Instead, it features the sound of intense wind and a shrieking string instrument. The noise builds throughout its three-minute span for an incredibly disarming and unsettling effect. Given the meaning of The Tower card in traditional tarot is one of chaos, upheaval and disaster, one could say Cardamone really captured that essence in this track.
“Yeshua” is one of the more laidback songs on Quarantina musically, but lyrically it still packs a punch. It’s melancholy and nostalgic, with lyrics such as “if this is the past/ I don’t want to move so fast” and “the future has a way of becoming the past.” The soft organ and slow tempo drum beat allow the lyrics to shine and really transport the listener into a space of existential questioning.
“Baby Blue” is one of the better songs off this record. It uses many of the same electronic instruments heard in the rest of this album but with a dance beat that makes this song livelier than the rest. Whereas many songs off this album feel like a sort of stream of consciousness with no clear path, such as “Lisbon” and “New Moon,” this one follows a more typical song structure with verses and a chorus, giving it a more cohesive feel. That being said, there is a sort of apocalyptic undertone to this track that allows it to feel right at home on Quarantina.
The final track off Quarantina is titled “USA,” a commentary on America in the year 2020. It references historical moments from the year such as the murder of George Floyd, protests against police brutality and, of course, the lockdowns, to which the title of the album alluded. Lyrics such as “all the cops are still bastards,” “a black man dies just for a front/ two pounds of flesh/ wash ‘em down with tears” and “oh baby I’m trapped inside” paint a very real picture for anyone living in the U.S. in 2020. Like most on this album, this song has that thriller-like intensity to it, which seems pretty fitting given the way the last year went.
Quarantina is all over the place, but, to be fair, so was quarantine. One could leave it up to the lockdown insanity so many faced throughout the pandemic, but, regardless, this project is messy, hard to follow and slightly sinister. While the majority of the album is pretty horrific, there are still a couple of saving graces–“Yeshua” and “Baby Blue” are two solid pieces of work that are actually enjoyable to listen to. Overall, a disappointing release from such a powerhouse like Joe Cardamone.