Tunesday: Scenes from a Thanksgiving

Illustration for Tunesday playlist, with a phone, vinyl record, and earbuds
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For a lot of people, Thanksgiving is going to look very different this year. With Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines advising against large social gatherings due to the increasing spread of COVID-19, many families won’t be able to meet in person for safety reasons. The pandemic has changed the course of the holidays for everyone — for Thanksgiving, that generally means there will be more leftover turkey than usual this time around. These are songs for an unprecedented holiday season, whether you’re enjoying your family dinner alone or with your household, or joining in on the celebration over a video call. They evoke feelings and memories from Thanksgivings past and remind us that the love we have for others — no matter how far the distance — is what the holiday is really all about.

“Young Pilgrims,” The Shins

November moves at a crawl, nearly frozen by winter’s frigid breeze and trapped beneath a gloomy sky. Its languid pace invokes both loneliness and isolation, two things too familiar to us all in quarantine. Yet, even if we’re as stuck as “the kind of kid who goes down chutes too narrow,” it’s important to keep our heads up as James Mercer does. To that effect, Thanksgiving has always served as welcome respite, bringing a dose of holiday cheer that we could all really use right about now.

“Our House,” Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Gentle piano and harpsichord descend upon the ear along with the warm vocal harmonies of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. “Our House,” originally written about the sense of home instilled in every little object, is as timeless as they come, nostalgic and friendly in a way that evokes the times spent hanging holiday decorations with family. The song highlights that ordinary moments are just as special as big holiday gestures; it’s the feelings beneath that truly make the memories.

“Come Together,” The Beatles

Thanksgiving has always been about togetherness: It’s the ultimate American family celebration. In good times and bad, coming together with family has always been a constant. With the comfort of our loved ones, we’re able to look back on a year well spent. Even virtually, this year’s festivities will be no different. The Beatles’ classic embodies this spirit so well: Though the COVID-19 pandemic has us down below its knees, it can’t keep us truly apart.

“Home,” LCD Soundsystem

For many of us, Thanksgiving ushered in a week of holiday travel. At home, we’d celebrate with friends and family, shutting the door on terrible times. This year, however, is different. With a global pandemic still looming over us, heading home is a luxury we can’t really afford. But that doesn’t mean we should be alone. We’re all still connected, if only virtually. And as James Murphy puts it: “Look around you, you’re surrounded/ It won’t get any better.”

“Mad Sounds,” Arctic Monkeys

Picture this: You’ve arrived at your family’s Thanksgiving from last year. The living room is buzzing with commotion — little cousins race across the carpet, older cousins rage at the football game on the TV. Heated political debates from aunts and uncles fly across the room along with the wafting smell of turkey, as trays of food come pouring out of the kitchen at a breakneck pace. Taking your jacket off, you move to greet and hug all of your relatives, though you won’t be able to keep track of everyone who’s here. As the swaying, sincere melodies of the Arctic Monkeys come into focus, the noises of the holiday blend into one singular “mad sound,” calming and comforting as you remember the feeling of simply being together. When the song reaches the bridge and “out of nowhere, somebody comes and hits you with an/ Ooh la la la,” a smile arises across your face. It was all chaos, anyway.

Vincent Tran covers music. Contact him at [email protected].