Back at it again with those songs that make me reach for the “repeat song” button on iTunes/Spotify. I’ve pumped out a lot of these recently, it’s because I’ve been trying to do a ten km walk daily and I’m all up to date on my podcasts – this is essentially my walking mix of the past week. As always a Spotify playlist can be found here.
Overwatch is finally here!
I honestly can’t remember the last time I was this excited about a game. I played stupid amounts of the beta, and I’ve spent most of this week playing the full game. I love it! I initially wanted to sit down and write a review but I realised what I like about the game is actually quite simple; it plays brilliantly, it’s colourful aesthetically and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The absolute best thing about Overwatch however is its character design – which is just fabulous. So in lieu of a full review, I’ve instead decided to discuss what I consider to be my three favourite characters and why I enjoy them so much. It was extremely hard to cut the roster down to just three – sorry D.Va and Roadhog – but eventually I settled on the characters who combined brilliant designs with abilities, that are in my mind, are the most fun to use.
Back again with more of the songs I listen to on repeat. But this time I return with a Spotify playlist of every song I write about, with more added with every post I write.
Freaks and Geeks – Childish Gambino
“The beat is witches brew but beware that shit is potent, E.E. cummin’ on her face now that’s poetry in motion”
I can’t overstate just how much I love Gambino. Yes he’s the “hipster” rapper, but there’s no-one that combines a solid beat, clever lyrics and laugh-out-loud wit like he does. He’s become one of those artists that friends have come to associate with me, just through the sheer amount I listen to and discuss him. Years of social anxiety has resulted in me naturally talking extremely fast. It’s a habit I’m working very hard on breaking, but it has its uses when singing along to songs like these. I’ve been listening to a lot of Gambino recently as a reminder of the times I have tried to teach other people to talk as fast as I do. I’ve tried to teach at least two people – my sister and my friend Bryonny – the lyrics and beat to this song, and although they never picked it up fully, the attempt was actually a lot of fun.
The Feud – The Front Bottoms
“She says you, you should admit it, but she knows I, I probably won’t, that he is the sound you want now, and I’m just the noise you don’t”
Yet another mention of this band in this recurring blog! Their angsty, introspective lyrics speak to my cynical, twenty-something lifestyle; but also the acoustic guitar based sound is incredibly catchy. These are songs to loudly sing along to. Yes this is a song about a break up, but when you’re belting it out as loud as you can (sorry neighbours) do you really care? I highlighted the lyric above because I really enjoy how it plays with language. You would consider “sound” and “noise” to be synonyms, but when directly compared their inherent meanings change. It’s an interesting way to look at the changes you face as you go through life. One day the sounds you enjoy may eventually turn into the buzzing noises that you don’t.
Damaged Goods – La Dispute
“My girl, you must understand that fear is not some product that I made, it crept unwelcome in my head the day they had her torn away”
Speaking of angsty music, I think it’s time to discuss my absolute favourite band of all time – La Dispute. This summer I am determined to get their rose logo tattooed somewhere. It’s a design I like I lot but it would act as a reminder of the friend who first introduced me to the band, who has been good to me over the years, but also my mother and sister who have Rose as their middle name. This song really stood out to me the first time I heard it, and continues to do so to this day. Increasingly, I think that society is getting better at discussing mental health issues and anxiety but I can’t think of many other songs that deal with masculinity, anxiety and fear in such a frank and honest way as this song. Mental health does affect the relationships, that’s just an unfortunate fact. This song then is a response to those who turn to you and tell you to “stop being sad for the sake of it”; it’s an attack on those who claimed they tried to help when they did nothing of the sort.
Corn on the Curb – Skepta
“Never been a punk never been a victim, wanna hate on me? Hate on Storm? Fuck that, let the kings in”
I’ve been on a bit of a grime wave recently. It’s a genre I’ve always been aware of but not necessarily paid enough respect to until recently. Also as someone who primarily listens to American skate-punk and folk-punk, it’s nice to listen to a genre that’s so intensely British. I chose this song specifically from Skepta’s latest album because it’s such a personal song. It’s all about how much work Skepta has had to put in to achieve success for himself and his label, BBK, and all the costs of prolonged exposure in the public eye.
Plateau – Nirvana
“There’s nothing up top but a bucket and a mop, and an illustrated book about birds”
This song may be a cover, but it shows just how innovative Nirvana could have been as a more acoustic/folk band had Kurt Cobain lived. Kurt’s voice carries this song. It’s so distinctive and sand paper raw. Just listen to the song and hear how he pronounces the word “birds” – it gives me goosebumps, and I’m not entirely sure why. This cover is quite a melancholic song. In my mind, it’s about the failings of a goal orientated culture. People try to scale these grand goals, but find no prize – just a “bucket and a mop”. So they throw themselves into the next goal, the next plateau, without ever realising that the true value is in the climb, not reaching the top.
I feel like I should start this by saying that Fallout 4 is a game I enjoy thoroughly. I have spent a lot of time within its representation of post-apocalyptic Boston, and am just one ending short (Brotherhood of Steel) from getting the platinum trophy. I eagerly await the first proper expansion, Far Harbor, to be released later this month. In April, Fallout 4 won the BAFTA for best game of 2015. Despite my fondness for the game, I cant help but think this is a mistake – whilst it certainly is an enjoyable experience, it’s also an incredibly disappointing one.
I’ve been working on a blog post for quite some time about my disappointment with Fallout 4 winning the BAFTA for best game this year because quite simply the game does not hold up when compared to something like The Witcher 3. However, I did enjoy Fallout enough to purchase the season pass before it’s price hike, and have started to play its first full DLC – Far Harbour.
To my absolute delight, I’ve found myself enjoying a great deal. I’m approximately two hours into the new storyline, but it already seems to be a departure from all of the flaws of the base game. There’s already been an stand-out moment in a very early side quest – “Brain Dead”. (Note: what follows will contain full spoilers for a very delightful quest, if you have any intention of playing the DLC I suggest you do the mission before reading on).
I’m back again with another look at the songs I’ve left on repeat in the past few weeks. Here’s hoping this one, ends up happier than the previous column!
Shut Up – Stormzy
“I’m so London, I’m so South”
Ever since Kanye brought a host of grime artists on stage with him at the Brit awards in 2015, much has been written about how grime is going to have it’s big moment on the global music scene. Given the huge popularity of this freestyle, maybe all those music journalists have a point. I am hopelessly addicted to this song as a confidence booster, as it’s just three minutes of Stormzy arguing that he has worked for and therefore deserves his new found relevance and success. Also, as a South Londoner not only do I love hearing people who use slang that I actually recognise, but I love listening to amazing covers by different nationalities giving the accent a go.
Smoke – Brian Fallon
“And you never ended up coming home, you just became something like smoke that I tried too hard to hold”
I’ve previously discussed how much I love Brian Fallon’s voice; it’s rough sandpaper tone combined with his wistful lyrics and Springsteen/Tom Waits aesthetic is a brilliant thing. His debut album Painkillers is one of my favourite albums of this year, and a return to the brilliant form of earlier The Gaslight Anthem work like The ’59 Sound or American Slang. This song is yet another break up song (who hurt you Brian?) but it’s not necessarily that sad of one? It’s not a song about trying to get a lost love back, but rather a statement on it being over.
Backflip – The Front Bottoms
“And there is nothing wrong with my lifestyle, no matter how many times I tell myself to breathe in, hold it, hold it, now let it out”
When The Front Bottoms played The Joiners Arms (one of the best venues in the UK), the listings described the band as a mixture of Joni Mitchell and Green Day which is one of the best descriptions of this band I’ve ever seen. In my mind, Backflip is a song about reconciling the tension to grow up with wanting to keep living the waster lifestyle. It’s an ode to those pointless days just sitting around smoking with friends – but the song argues that these aren’t days wasted, “there’s answers here, they’re just harder to figure out”. One day you’ll look back on days like this and maybe regret them, but that’s a problem for another day and in the moment you should just sit back and enjoy it.
Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy – Jack White
“Call me whatever you may, I ain’t stopping the train, I got a pill for the pain, hip eponymous poor boy”
Another one of those weird pseudo-breakup songs, this track is just straight up an attack on Jack’s ex-wife and bandmate Meg White. But that’s not why I’ve been listening to this song recently. It came up on shuffle whilst I was on my way towards a job interview. The line I highlighted above is why it has stuck out for me. In the past two months I have been more driven than I have ever been, but naturally there’s been many things that could have derailed me. Perhaps none more than my disability, which is why it’s nice to have a reminder to just pop a pill, deal with the pain, and keep the train barrelling on forward. It’s become my personal anthem of self-determination.
Smiling At Strangers On Trains – Frank Turner
“It was the strangest thing today, I saw new footprints in abandoned pathways”
This cover is probably one of my favourite Frank Turner songs (it’s a cover of a song he wrote, so it still counts). This is a refreshingly honest song about feeling lonely despite being surrounded by people. It manages this theme whilst somehow being upbeat. Look at the line I highlighted above – even when relationships completely break down, sometimes something stirs again later down the line. I’ve always been bad at maintaining long distance friendships, yet recently a shitty situation put me in contact with a close friend I had many moons ago. Today I officially finished university and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified of saying goodbye to all my new friends. But this song makes me feel just a little bit more positive about the whole thing. Even if our relationships won’t be the same for a while, there may be footprints down an abandoned pathway sometime in the future.
(Get it, ’cause my name is Dan White. I wish I could say being this unfunny was effortless)
I received my first MP3 player (A Creative Zen Touch) when I was around 11/12, and since I don’t believe that there’s been a single day that I haven’t listened to music. I try to listen to as much as possible, and I think I have fairly broad, open music tastes. However, I am notoriously bad for just listening to one single song on loop for about thirty minutes/an hour. You know those times where shuffle offers up a song that so perfectly encompasses your current mood that you just leave your music player of choice on “song-repeat” for a bit? Well the idea of this (hopefully recurring) theme is to talk about those songs. Let’s get into it!
Poke – Frightened Rabbit
“And now we’re unrelated and rid of all the shit we hate, but I hate when I feel like this and I never hated you”
Frightened Rabbit’s latest album, Painting of a Panic Attack, is one of my favourite albums released in 2016 so far. This prompted my return to this track, which is my favourite FRabbit song. It’s a wonderful piece; the juxtaposition of very lyrical Scottish singing and a very soft guitar, with such bitter anger and emotion in response to a break up. It’s a very beautiful song, that just happens to contain the word “cunt”.
Tears Over Beers – Modern Baseball
“All I can hope for is me to get better, because all I can take is no more”
The song found its ways into rotation because it’s finally getting to summer, and this skate-punky, emo-y music just reminds me of wasted days drinking in the sun with friends. The line I highlighted from the chorus is what gets me though. The song is about a breakup, but the meaning of the line is unclear: does she mean to get “better” by moving on, or is she hoping to “better” herself and get him back?
Play Crack The Sky – Brand New
“And I wish for one more day, to give my love and repay debt, but the morning finds our bodies washed up 30 miles west”
I think Deja Entendu should be held up as the gold standard of album art; the whole spaceman floating in a burning sky thing is very striking. It’s a wonderful album, full of emo sentiment and smug lyrics. But then “Play Crack The Sky”, the closing track, stands out in its honesty and introspection. Yes the emo/alt-rock aesthetic is still there within the lyrics, but this acoustic ballad is a softer look at endings and your own mortality than anything else offered by Brand New.
The Navesink Banks (live) – The Gaslight Anthem
“And your first sin was a lie you told yourself”
Brian Fallon’s raw sandpaper voice does stuff to me. The special edition of Handwritten ends with four tracks pretty much intended to make you sob, “National Anthem” followed by live versions of “Great Expectations”, “The Navesink Banks” and “Blue Jeans and White T-shirts”. Another song about break ups and moving on (I promise this wasn’t an intentional theme), I love that it doesn’t deal with these issues by looking at the other partner. Instead the inability to move on is centred around the narrator, and the little lies he told himself that prevented him exorcising the ghosts in his life.
Mrs Robinson – Simon & Garfunkel
“Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you”
There’s a pretty simple reason for this ending up on permanent rotation recently. I officially graduate in two months, and in my “oh shit the real world is coming” moment I watched The Graduate again. I mean if you’re struggling with having to leave your teenage angst behind, you may as well watch the film that invented the modern teenager! This is another quite sad song, an open call back to the glory years of old that you left behind you. But god is this song catchy. Depressing or not, if you can listen to this song and not spend all day singing it you have a much more willpower than I.
So that was the first White Noise blog post on this site. I didn’t realise until I was writing it that all of these songs were actually quite depressing; maybe this says something about my life! This is just the first five songs on my initial list of 10 songs from the past few months, so expect another blog soon. I’m still quite new to this blogging thing, so again I’d be very grateful for any comments/feedback.
I recently finished writing my dissertation which, to cut a long story short, was an argument about the value of drug literature within post-modern discourses. One of the chapters focused on the work of Hunter S. Thompson and how he explicitly explored the empty void left within the American cultural psyche once the hippie movement of the ’60s burnt out.
Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas is beautiful prose. Honestly, if there was just one book I could recommend that everyone read it would be this. But unfortunately, due to the strict word count of the dissertation process there were several wonderful passages that I couldn’t include within my work; there’s parts of it I’m just dying to discuss! This includes my favourite part of the novel, from Chapter 12:
I recognise this feeling: three or four days of booze, drugs, sun, no sleep and burned out adrenalin reserve – a giddy, quavering sort of high that means the crash is coming. But when? How much longer? This tension is part of the high. The possibility of physical and mental collapse is very real now…
…but collapse is out of the question; as a solution or even a cheap alternative, it is unacceptable. Indeed. This is the moment of truth, that fine and fateful line between control and disaster – which is also the difference between staying loose and weird on the streets, or spending the next five years of summer mornings playing basketball in the yard at Carson City.
No sympathy for the devil; keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride…and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind,well…maybe chalk it off to forced consciousness expansion: Tune in, freak out, get beaten.
I love this passage. It’s one of my favourite pages within the whole of the English language. I’m just so taken by the hedonism and nihilism of it. In the 1960s, the psychedelic movement made an argument that drugs allowed you to understand more, to see the hidden beauty in the world around you. Charismatic hippie leaders like Ken Kesey or Dennis Leary, spent the decade promoting widespread LSD use as a means of reimagining the world around you free of spatial relationships; they sold the idea that you get high to better your perception and yourself.
But here, just three years after Kesey’s biography, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, was published Hunter S. Thompson offers a very different drug experience. This trip has absolutely nothing to do with improving oneself. It only cares about self destruction, pushing yourself further, taking the high beyond your contemporaries into new unexplored realms. In Thompson’s world once you “buy the ticket” of psychedelia, you need to fully commit to the ride even as it takes you hurtling towards the crash. But what I enjoy so much about this passage is, the concept of a complete and utter collapse isn’t necessarily a negative one. It presents a strange form of comfort to be found as you straddle the blurred line between order and complete disaster. The tension that the trip might be about to go too far is the “high”, not the hallucinogenic experience itself.
Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas is a novel primarily devoted to finding the “American Dream” after the death of ’60s counter-cultural movements. Much like men like Kesey or Leary, Duke (the fictionalised version of Thompson with the text) intends to take huge amounts of drugs and use the perceptual changes to better understand the point and purpose of life. But Duke never finds a meaning. The text argues that Nixon’s America is so inherently postmodern that there’s no value in anything anymore. This is why I love this passage so much: in a postmodern society, so focused on beating you down, there’s a comfort in deliberately choosing to feel empty. There is always the possibility of a complete mental and physical collapse, Thompson just presents the beauty of choosing to flirt with it via a hedonistic use of drugs rather than waiting for society to take you there.
Netflix recently informed me that the latest season of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, one of my favourite shows of all time, has been added to it’s database. But before I commit to a five hour binge, I thought it’d be worthwhile to briefly return to my favourite episode in it’s 10 season run.
To anyone who doesn’t know, Always Sunny is a show about five friends who own an Irish bar in Philadelphia. Standard sitcom fair yes, but it adapts the format by making every single one of it’s central characters an awful human being. This isn’t bullying for the sake of “banter” but rather genuine cruelty performed by psychopaths. The reason the season nine opening episode – “The Gang Break Dee” is my favourite episode, and one of the finest of the series as a whole, is because it explores the depth of this cruelty and elevates it to previously unexplored levels.
The episode opens with a disheveled Sweet Dee drinking whisky from the bottle and eating a month old cake she found in the trash. Years of abuse from everyone she knows has finally taken it’s toll, and she is unable to fight against the tide of abuse. Finding themselves without their punching bag, the rest of the gang attempt to fix the issue that they admit they might be slightly to blame for. Charlie, Mac and Frank encourage Dee to return to comedy, because she now “straddles the line between suicide and actually dying where comedians often thrive”. On their suggestion Dee begins to thrive on the comedy club circuit, transforming her self-loathing into a brutally honest, “the jokes on me”, styled comedy routine.
The best character within this episode is undoubtably Dennis. Often hinted to be the most twisted, vile psychopath of the group, he refuses to encourage Dee to try and better herself. His solution to the predicament is for her to accept her place as human trash, and settle for a husband who can take her off their hands forever. But when his twin starts to succeed as a a comedian, he is unable to contain his jealousy. In Dennis eyes, Dee is: uncultured, unintelligent, ugly. His narcissism is unable to reconcile the fact that his talentless sister is finally achieving more than he is. This prompts Dennis to question why he seems to hate his sister as much he does, why he’s so determined to control her and keep her in her place. The answer? He loves her, and this repressed incestual attraction has manifested as cruelty over the years.
But here comes the kicker, the whole time “the joke” wasn’t just on Dee but Dennis as well. Of course Dee didn’t succeed as a comedian, it was all a prank conceived by the other three. Every audience member, potential manager, make up girl etc. were actors paid by Frank to build up her hopes and perpetuate the lie. There solution to Dee being on the brink of a mental health crisis was to commit there most elaborate cruelty yet as a reminder that you can always sink lower. The only person not in on the joke was Dennis; his heartbreak, and soul-searching attempts to understand repressed emotions were genuine. It’s implied Dennis has opened up a part of himself that he won’t be able to ignore again.
The punch line of the episode is “he might go kill himself”, and everyone on screen laughs. Always Sunny has always been a show about cruel people performing evil acts, but “The Gang Broke Dee” takes this to it’s extreme. It is the single episode that perhaps exemplifies the social dynamics at the heart of the show the best; three of the characters explicitly break the other two for the own personal delight. Sunny has always been about finding the humour in cruelty, this episode is brilliant because it is still able to find comedy when the cruelty is as extreme as pushing someone to suicide.