Sometimes I have bad days.
Not all bad days are equal. However, there are ways to make them better and ways to make them worse.
I might not be pleasant on my bad days. It’s not you.
I repeat, it is not you. And trust when I say, I don’t mean to be mean.
You have the power to make a bad day better.
It’s pretty simple really. Just hold my hand, literally and figuratively.
Try not to get angry.
Try to understand that sometimes I just can’t help it.
Do not feed me beer.
Do not laugh at me, I’m really not kidding.
Know that it will pass and that I will love you all the more for still being there in the morning.
There are a few things you should know before you commit.
You’ll notice the dancing, the tapping of feet, the wiggling of the head to a beat out of reach of human ears. You’ll be looking around and straining to find the source of the sound.
It’s just the soundtrack in my head playing constantly. Every day, all day.
Many times, so many times, I’ve thought my iPod or radio was playing only to find it wasn’t. It’s the radio station broadcasting in my brain. Sometimes it plays fragments of songs, sometimes whole tracks, once or twice a whole album.
If you find it difficult to get my attention it’s because the music is too loud. To be honest it gets pretty noisy. It makes it difficult to concentrate on occasion.
The only way to block it out is to hold my full attention (you know what that means)… or to put some music on.
But hey, it could be worse, at least I don’t hear screaming voices…plus there’s always something to dance to.
I’ve read a couple of Penelope Lively books before, one by force at school and the other on the recommendation of a friend. They were very good indeed. So having stumbled upon her 2011 novel How it all began in the sale section I thought I was in luck. Earlier this year I read the 1987 Booker Prize winner, Moon Tiger, and I was floored by it. Such was its impact that if I’d discovered it aged fifteen then my life would have taken a very different path. I purchased How it all began with high expectations.
The first warning bell sounded with the cover. Many books get mis-packaged, that’s not unusual but this was an author of literary fiction bound up in a chick lit wrapping. In the rather prosaic photograph on the front there are piled paperbacks on view and almost all are Lively’s. It’s just an odd cover.
But I didn’t buy it for the cover.
The plot follows the butterfly effect of the mugging of an elderly lady resulting in a broken hip. Her subsequent hospitalisation and rehabilitation in her daughter’s home forces events into motion, upsetting a half dozen strangers’ lives in the process. A third person narrative sees each of the ensemble cast having to deal with the chain of consequences, some merely inconvenient and others more destructive. It flits back and forth between contemporary domestic settings giving acutely observed character portraits. I can’t fault the writing.
There’s something missing though.
The story moves too sluggishly from one cosily upholstered location to another. It has none of the harshness of Moon Tiger, there are no sharp edges to cut oneself on and no dirt and grit. Whether you loved or hated Claudia Hampton, she was an interesting character and bold enough to hang a whole novel on. I’m not emotionally invested in the people who populate How it all began. They are likeable but there’s a lack of passion in them and without that there’s little to hold interest.
Conceptually, How it all began is a great idea, a single event setting off a domino rally of domestic upheaval. If the concept was executed with the same brilliance as Moon Tiger then this would be a superb novel. It may, of course, be a slow burner and build to a dramatically fulfilling climax. I will have to keep reading to find out, sadly, so far it seems unlikely to reach that conclusion.
Santigold is a rediscovery. First heard a few, maybe five, years ago and re-entering my life via an unusual medium; the Gossip Girl soundtrack. It seems I have a weakness, not just for quality tunes, lagers and ladies, but also for trashy teen TV. (I WAS ILL OK! I was one step from Jeremy Fucking Kyle!)
Regardless, my earholes are grateful for the return of Santi and her shimmering electro-ness. She remains above genre, not quite hip hop, not quite dance, not quite pop. Santigold is on the edge of punk influenced electronic music, the kind that sits comfortably in any playlist which doesn’t include Mumford & Sons or Rumer. By that I mean, my mother would hate it. I love it. There’s hard edged half-rap vocals which manage remaining melodic and a slightly sleazy rhythm guitar. It’s kinda sexy.
So here is your opening Santigold number, “L.E.S. Artistes”. I would have included “Disparate Youth” but I don’t want you all running out to buy insurance you don’t need. Yeah, thanks for ruining that track Direct Line.
It was one of those, “How the hell did I miss this one?”, moments.
After several hours of internet-based musical perambulation, hopping from one YouTube channel to another Soundcloud profile via the wonders of The Quietus and CoS, I tripped over Shura’s new track, Touch. A chilled electronic track with a mainstream appeal; it’s fringing on pop with very well placed Janet Jackson-esque production elements. Love the lyrics, love the video.
Following further perambulation, I found Shura had been doing the vocal duties on a few DJ Hiatus tracks too.
They are beautiful together.
Hiatus’ tracks deliver an emotionally dark tone contrasting perfectly with Shura’s breathy, delicate voice. The beats aren’t heavy and there’s enough piano, guitar and strings to counteract any potential synth fatigue. Hiatus’ album Parkland is quite lovely. It has a movie soundtrack quality to it in the same way that Massive Attack do. And like them, listening to an entire album might be OD-ing on a good thing but a few select tracks really stand out, single-worthy. One of them is River and another is Fortune’s Fool both featuring vocals by Shura. Both cut through with a seam of achingly bittersweet lyrics, like a layer of 80% cocoa dark chocolate. Both delicious. Here they are:
Death from Above first assaulted my ears back in 2005 with Romantic Rights. Dirty distorted bass suited the mood, which was decidedly unromantic. Many happy times were spent jumping around to that track and screaming the lyrics. This was of course prior to their hiatus from my playlists and prior to a reformation and slight name change. I’m not sure that adding your year of birth on the end of the band name really qualifies as a name change but hey…Who cares they are back and this sweet sweet sound was released last month.
It’s throbbing with dirty bass and rough hewn vocals backed with sugary oooo-ing at the chorus. It was never going to be profoundly poetic and it’s not meant to be – uncomplicated works best. The track barrels along like a fucking freight train, taking out everything that strays into its path.
Yes, Sebastien, I want it all, I can’t get enough…
And I’m jealous of the impressive button badge collection displayed in the video, obviously.