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.
Keep it Simple – Raleigh Ritchie
“Love on the Thames, can we do it all again tomorrow?”
I know this song came out about January time, but it’s the sound of my summer. It’s just such a mellow song that worms into your head. I discovered this thanks to the wonder of student radio. Basically, if you do a show during the day (which we did) you had to play a certain amount of current music for all the students using the union at the time. We weren’t sure of this song on our first week after Christmas, but we played it consecutively for the next 6 weeks of shows. This song is a virus, it infects your head and you’ll sing it for days. Also, as regular readers of this blog will know I adore Stormzy and his guest verse on this track is just brilliant.
The Opening Acts of Spring (acoustic) – Frank Turner
“Oh the clouds are gathered thick, and in my stomach I feel sick, and I have all this drive and no idea what I should do with it”
The name of this album, Positive Songs For Negative People, is a brilliant description of this particular song. It is built around an upbeat acoustic guitar riff, that calls association to those “chipper”, obnoxiously happy folk songs. But lyrically this is song about a relapse into mental health problems or self destructive tendencies. Spring is the season of beginnings, and new starts. The storm clouds have gathered, and the rain is falling hard, but summer is coming (sorry Starks!). This song is Frank acknowledging that getting better is hard, but “cruel April” will always eventually turn into May. You will get better.
FML – Kanye West
“See before I let you go, one last thing I need to let you know, you ain’t never seen anything crazier than, this n***a when he off his Lexapro”
Kanye has this stigma around him as an egotistical jackass. The media want to laugh at him, play up his sense of self to present him as ridiculous. It’s a system to sell papers and drive Adsense revenues. But how many people who read all the stories leading up to the release of The Life of Pablo even listened to the album? Who listened to him pour out his soul on “FML’? Look at the lyric I highlighted above – Lexapro is a drug used to treat severe anxiety and depression. Does that sound gloating to you? I feel like the media, or people who don’t listen to Kanye, want to define him as something he’s not – it’s just one big circlejerk. Strangely what this song reminds me of is Brand New, specifically the lyric “my secrets for a buck, watch me as I cut myself wide open on this stage”. In my formative years I loved alt, emo and punk music for it’s introspection and honesty in looking at the darker themes of life. It amazes me that Kanye, in arguably the biggest album release of the year, does the same.
In One Ear – Cage The Elephant
“They say the devil is my pal, I do a lot of drugs, the crowd will only like me if they’re really fucking drunk”
Speaking of my old love of punk music, here we have a big fuck you to the music establishment and armchair critics from 2008. I adore Cage The Elephant. I remember watching Matt on Never Mind The Buzzcocks around the time this album was released. Then, “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked” was the title track for Borderlands; I’ve been hooked since. Sometimes you just need to listen to something that will get you pumped up. This funky, garage-rock song is a blistering attack on those who stand on your way. It’s fast, angry and energetic. The perfect song to get you going on a lethargic day.
Flashlight – The Front Bottoms
“When I’m sad oh god I’m sad, but when I’m happy, I am happy. There’s just no place in between for us to meet”
I’m learning something about myself in writing this column: I am drawn predominantly to songs that are about deeper things, but specifically themes of introspection and dealing with the emotional fallout of shitty situations. Maybe that’s why The Front Bottoms are one of my go to bands? Seriously, at the rate I’m going I’ll have covered their entire discography within a few months. This is a song about an existential dread following a break up; it deals with anxiety, panic attacks, reading meaning into pointless things etc.
But I’ve been listening to this track a lot recently because of the line I highlighted. It’s exactly how I’ve been feeling. My life sort of imploded in March, with the sort of messy break up this song describes as well the start of health issues that will follow me for the rest of my life. But I don’t think I feel this way because of that situation y’know? I’m not dwelling on it, it happened and I’ve worked hard on moving on in a healthy way. I’m just at such a crossroads within my life. I will officially graduate university in just over a month; from then it’s a summer devoted to applying for disability benefit, finding a job, paying of debt etc. From this moment of my life there are numerous paths I can walk down. But what if I don’t want to walk down any of them? There is a comfort in the ability to start again, go into adult life on a new path, but choosing this path means saying goodbye to a place I love and people I care about more than they will ever realise. There’s such a cognitive dissonance towards my future: I want to move on from a painful few months and improve my situation, but I know that doing so will be an ending of sorts. There’s been too many of those for me this year all ready.
I don’t know, maybe I’m just being a Holden Caulfield-esque wanker about this whole growing up thing. But for me, this song reflects the state of mind of twenty-something life (at least for me): When I’m happy, I feel immortal, but when I’m sad, I’m broken. And there’s no grey area between the two.