I’m resurrecting a dead feature! In White Noise I collate a playlist of all the songs that I find myself playing on repeat – I’m bringing it back with a more detailed written explanation of the songs, and less of an emo-wankfest vibe. As always a link to the full playlist can be found here.
I’ve Given Up On You – Real Friends
I know I said I wouldn’t be as emo this time around, but this song is what follows ‘Real Friends’ by Kanye on the Spotify Search, honest!
This song initially sounds very similar to much of this current wave of American Pop-Punk, with it’s reliance on sad vocals layered over a soft, arpeggiated guitar. It would be very easy to take the lyrics on surface level on an ex-lover; the sort of wistlful romantacism of a break up that completely ignores the fact that the jilted lover should have moved on by now. But ‘I’ve Given Up On You’ has a depth perhaps missing in similar songs. Despite the title being an open attack on a lost lover, Real Friends instead uses this bitterness as an exploration of the narrators loneliness. The song is angry yes, but it’s also frank and truthful.
Can’t Stand Me Now – The Libertines
The Libertines really are such a special band aren’t they? It’s so easy to get lost in all the media spin – the heroin, Kate Moss, the bitter split and eventual reunion – that it’s very easy to forget that the music is inherently good.
“Can’t Stand Me Now” is a microcosm of everything the band did well. Guitars, played loud and fast, accompanying the lyrics that thinly disguise an argument between Carl and Pete. All that Libertines were in their first two albums is there somewhere. This song reminds us that there’s two sides to every story and that perhaps a destructive impulse can be seen as a “cornered boy kick[ing] out at the world”. Just don’t forget, the world kicks back harder.
Let Me Out – Gorillaz
I’ll concede that Gorillaz latest album, Humanz, is something of a grower but it’s perhaps flawless thematically. Conceived in early 2016, Albarn wanted to create an album reacting to a theoretical Donald Trump government. This concept was settled before even the republican primaries, it was beyond the realms of possibility that the album would release in 2017 to a President Trump. Humanz therefore exists in a weird sort of “uncanny valley” as a reaction to theoretical injustices that actually turned into a reality.
This is perhaps best encapsulated by “Let Me Out” which is in my opinion the best song on the album. For the song Pusha T was told to envision how he would react to a Post-Trump world. Thus “Let Me Out”, an attempt to escape from an unequal America, is born. Building on the inherent racism and classism of the Trump campaign, Pusha T laments the increasing inequality in American society; “if the change don’t come, then the change won’t come”. In looking towards the future, Gorillaz envisions a society which has gotten worse. Time will only tell if their prediction was right.
So Lonely Was The Ballad – Jamie T
This album was 10 years old this year, how mental is that?!
I was too young to really appreciate Panic Prevention for what it was back when it first came out. I just remember it was such a unifying album at the time; I was around 11/12 when it came out, the age where kids start to differentiate and define who they are as people, but regardless of emerging tastes everyone seemed to appreciate this album.
But the reason this album is so important to me, besides how it transcends genre, is how it deals with anxiety and mental health. As a twenty-something man born and raised in South East London it’s incredible to me how open Jamie T was about his own struggles with anxiety a decade ago at a similar age. “So Lonely Was The Ballad” literally contains an extract from a tape the artist used to help him learn to get on top of his panic attacks. But that’s not to say it’s a sad song, or deals with mental illness in a way similar to the usual post-punk/emo I usually put on this playlist. No “So Lonely Was The Ballad” is an upbeat and sing-a-long song about life in London, it just so happens that modern life contains panic attacks; Jamie T just isn’t shy about discussing it.
Scenes From Highways 1981-2009 – La Dispute
Couldn’t return to this playlist without another discussing of La Dispute.
They remain my favourite band just because Jordan Dreyer’s lyrical style invites exploration – it demands you pick it apart – and the ex-English Lit. student in me can’t resist it. “Scenes From Highways 1981-2009” is a particularly fascinating track. The album Rooms of The House is built around the concept of historical fiction; the band are revisiting their family histories, particularly about their grandparents relationship. As an album its primary themes are family, physical spaces and how the two intersect.
But the dates 1981-2009 from the songs title are too early to deal with the grandparents relationship, so this perhaps suggests it’s about Jordan Dreyer’s parents. The song tells the story of a couple who meet when a young man falls in love with his bosses daughter. But it’s not a love song rather it’s about the desperate need to travel, a deep wanderlust and the need to escape. Immediately the familial home of the couple in the song is places at odds with the wild, the mystical in the world; having had a child the man wants to leave normality for “where it glows, all those places where your watch doesn’t work”. Through the “historical fiction” Jordan is exploring the idea that his own birth may have been a mistake through the conflict between the physical space of the family home and the highway; the family is a psuedo-trap that prevents freedom, yet the father can’t bare leaving.