Even if you were never physically intimate with anyone, it was easy to miss touch during the quarantine days of the pandemic. It’s the little things you didn’t notice, or even actively disliked, before they went away for a while: the accidental touch of hands when giving someone a pen, the brush of elbows when two people walk down the same hallway, sitting next to somebody on the train. For months (years, for some), we lived in an ersatz Zoom reality: we worked and socialized through bad camera angles in clammy autopsy-table lighting. We briefly tried to convince ourselves that it was just as fun and rewarding as face-to-face interaction, before realizing we were kidding no one but ourselves.
The pandemic, of course, is not over. Misinformation, carelessness, and good old-fashioned stubbornness have made sure of that. But for those of us who are vaccinated, we can enjoy a tentative normalcy, a level of comfort around other people that we could have only dreamed about in May 2020. It’s easy to be cynical about our progress against the virus, but surely that’s something to celebrate.
Quinton Brock does just that on his new song, “Touch,” which is all about shaking off the loneliness and ennui the pandemic brought about and going back to feeling things again. There is some sexual subtext–you don’t often tell anyone to “touch me slowly” outside of the bedroom–but there’s a sense of optimism and excitement to this song that feels more general. Sex may be a part of what Brock missed, but it’s certainly not the only thing.
“Touch” bursts with joy from its opening notes. A sharp, jumpy indie-rock guitar riff is immediately joined by rolling, hyperactive drums, and it has the kinetic energy of the last day of school: the doors fling open, and you barrel out, laughing with glee at your newfound freedom. And is there any sound that better represents the post-pandemic, whenever it comes, than that?
Quinton Brock’s vocals are another distinguishing touch. Indie rock is a wonderful genre, but it’s been sorely needing more Black voices, both figurative and literal; luckily, Brock is more than up to the task. It’s become a pernicious cliche for critics to mention R&B influences in music by Black artists who have nothing to do with the genre, but Brock undeniably has them. His voice, dreamy and crooning with just a touch of AutoTune for artistic effect, is a little like Miguel, particularly when he harmonizes with himself on words like “you” or “true.” He’s a friendly, charming presence, admitting to his anxiety (“if you think I’m nervous, that’s because it’s probably true”) and empathizing with his partner (“I know what you feel right now, cuz I can feel it too.”)
In the video for “Touch,” there are implications of sex, but there are also moments of simple, chaste touching: a hug, for example, or just sitting near someone without worry. “Touch” is about all the things we took for granted before the pandemic, and all the things we’ll savor whenever we feel safe enough.