January Playlist

The second half of January has been a bad time for me, with a lot of very difficult things to deal with. I’ve been low on energy for doing anything much creative. Here’s a playlist of songs I’ve been listening to lately though.

 

1) Queen of Borrowed Light- Wolves in the Throne Room

I was really disappointed with the most recent Wolves in the Throne Room album. I mean I guess it’s nice that they stopped trying to be a pale copy of Brian Eno, but the new stuff was really generic. Enjoy this instead.

2) Mouth Breather- Jesus Lizard

This song is about Britt Walford from Slint. He might be great at drums and songwriting, but don’t let him mind your house. There will be plumbing incidents.

3) I Am Living Death- Institute

Great new punk/post-punk from Texas.

4) Real World- Hüsker Dü

Great old punk from Minnesota. RIP Grant Hart.

5) Cross the Breeze- Sonic Youth

6) Закрой за мной дверь (Zakroy za mnoy dver’ / Close the door behind me) – Kino

This song from the 80s is incredibly well-known in Russia. Viktor Tsoi is kind of their Bob Dylan and Kurt Cobain rolled into one. In the early 80s he was repressed for his music- they had stopped sending people to the Gulag or falsely imprisoning them in mental institutions, but if you did anything to displease the authorities suddenly you would lose your university place and your job applications would always be unsuccessful. Tsoi was kicked out of art school and given a job as janitor of his own block of flats for lyrics like “well this train isn’t going anywhere anyone wants to go” and continually pushing the very tight limits of what was allowed in public performance. By the late 80s under Gorbachev he was allowed to get away with lyrics demanding outright political change and became hugely successful in the USSR, but then died in a road accident less than a year after the Berlin Wall came down. You can see the lyrics in Russian & English here.

7) Abschied (farewell)- Nico

Nico on the other hand was a deeply unpleasant person, even if I enjoy her music. I’ve never really understood why people call the Marble Index “unlistenable” or an “ordeal”. It’s quite a soothing album really. I like the baroque style of this song- which extends to the lyrics, full of old-fashioned literary words like harren and verzehren. The words and translation are here.

8) Master Song- Leonard Cohen

I listened to Leonard Cohen non-stop when I lived in Budapest, and it fits the city and its atmosphere pretty well. I miss Hungary a lot, but no way could I live there under the current far-right (and increasingly actually fascist) government. The sooner Viktor Orbán is out the better.

9) Translate- Suuns

The soundtrack to walking over frozen rivers in the Czech Republic last year

10) Oh Yeah- Can

11) Pig- Sparklehorse

It’s still sad what happened to Mark Linkous.

12) Corpse Pose- Unwound

13) Night Goat- Melvins

14) Chromakey Dreamcoat- Boards of Canada

15) Etna- Sunn O)) & Boris

Around the Winter Solstice I always seem to want to listen to nothing but Sunn O)) and Earth. Let your ears take a soothing bath.

16) I Troldskog Faren Vild- Ulver

I like Ulver but am also aware that they are in some (many?) ways cheesy. The lyrics on this album are in Ye Olde Fairy Tale Norwegian and are actually pretty ridiculous (but let’s let them off, they were teenagers when they did this album). Enjoy them here.

I’m Curious To Know Exactly How You Are

I had to put a Hüsker Dü song in this list, as they are one of my all-time favourite bands, but it was hard to decide which one. In the end I went for a really obvious choice- the first song of theirs I got into.

Hüsker Dü started out as a straight-up hardcore band in 1980, and became more and more melodic as the years passed until they split up in 1987, I think hitting the point of perfect contrast between the two around 1983/4. Both guitarist Bob Mould and drummer Grant Hart sang and wrote songs- this being one of Grant Hart’s.

As well as the pure momentum and harsh joy of their music, I’m also very appreciative of the fact that Hüsker Dü were a band with two semi-out gay/bi men in, which was a pretty difficult situation to be in, in the ultra-macho world of American punk in the early 80s. (When Grant Hart sadly died recently I was however overjoyed to find out that Grant was short for Grantzberg. Grantzberg).

Candy Apple Grey was the first album I ever bought on vinyl around 99/2000, when I was fourteen to fifteen. I was a big Nirvana fan, and used to read old interviews and reviews and follow up on the references from them, discovering bands like the Pixies, Wipers and the Vaselines in that way. I had the internet at home, but it was essentially useless for actually listening to music as it was so slow and there was hardly any audio actually available, so often you could hear a lot about a band before ever hearing their music.

This was the case for me with Hüsker Dü. I had dusted off an old record player found in a cupboard at my dad’s house (contrary to many dads he has no interest in music), and started going to the excellent local second hand record shop near me- the much-missed Magic Discs in Gillingham, where I spotted Candy Apple Grey. I had already picked up the idea that Hüsker Dü and SST were important, so I had to get it. (This was before Our Band Could Be Your Life came out- a book very much worth reading, about some of my all-time favourite music)

I immediately loved it, and tried to get other people into it too. Unfortunately at that time the majority of my school friends were into Nu Metal, and they weren’t that fussed (the same story for the Pixies). You win some, you lose some. I just kind of ploughed my own furrow of loving Hüsker Dü alone. I couldn’t get hold of an actual Hüsker Dü t-shirt locally, so I made a really bad home-made one in Textiles class (see also bad handmade NIN patches made at the same time). About ten years ago I got a real Hüsker Dü shirt off of eBay, and it remains one of my most worn items. I’m feeling sad lately though as I seem to have misplaced it while moving house. I’m sure it will turn up somewhere. The only disadvantage of it however is that it makes strange men come up to you and fire Hüsker Dü trivia questions at you, like they suspect you of having bought a t-shirt of some 80s punk band you’ve never heard of because you are just so desperate to impress them. Hey guys, you ain’t that interesting. Even worse when I like to wear it with a flowery dress. This is against the rules of early 80s punk apparently and will incense them worse.

Here’s a photo of me on my 26th birthday in 2011 wearing it (and also drenched from a hailstorm- the joy of a January birthday). Yes, that is a banana fritter with a candle in it.

As a bonus, here’s a short Spotify playlist of some personal Hüsker Dü highlights. They’re just in chronological order as they appear on the albums. Metal Circus/Zen Arcade-era Hüsker Dü is probably my high-point.

Your suspicions I’m confirming, as you find them all quite true

1) Continental Shelf– Viet Cong
One off the radio at work. I’m not that fussed about the whole album, but I really like this single.

2) Kingdom of Heaven (Is Within You) – The 13th Floor Elevators
From the True Detective soundtrack. The seedy side of the late 60s. It really fitted the show well.

3) Be Quiet and Drive– Deftones
The only nu-metal band I ever had any time for. They would probably baulk at being described as nu-metal though. No-one wants to be associated with Fred Durst.

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Wake and walk and talk and take

More like wake and talk and work and talk and work lately. I’ve been working teaching on a residential course in an ex nunnery near St Albans this week. I’ve worked for the company for a few years on and off, teaching the odd course here and there. Most of their work is residential, so I just do it occasionally. They hire out beautiful historical buildings and teenagers from abroad come for 2 week holidays. You take them out on field trips, give them lessons about cultural topics, and to improve their practical use of English, and do a creative project with them. This time we have been doing film-making. Last week they did a detective story, this week horror stories. No, you can’t see them, because of child protection rules at the job.

The hours are long and you live in work and see no-one but your students and co-workers for 2 weeks, but the work is satisfying and well-paid, and meals and laundry and cleaning are taken care of, so all you have to do is concentrate on the work. The food at this place has been surprisingly good too. I couldn’t do it long term though, you’d feel like you’d been institutionalised. I return to London on Saturday and start a new Summer teaching job on Monday. It will be good to be earning proper money for a while.

1. Circumambient- Grimes
<3 Claire Boucher.

2. Anyone Can Have a Good Time- Owls
Owls! Owls! They’re playing in London in September! Also Kingston in a pub, I’m not sure why. I’ve always wondered why this song isn’t on the album though, it’s great.

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The more you use it, the more it works.

Februrary has been a deeply weird and confusing month, for various reasons. I had to go to hospital with gastritis and a kidney infection. I didn’t have to stay in or anything, but I had to take loads of different medications and was pretty ill for about a week and a half. I had to also follow the most boring diet possible until my stomach healed up (like, literally nothing was allowed). I was basically eating the diet of a fussy toddler. I never want to see another quorn nugget as long as I live. My stomach is fine now, and I’m reintroducing various foods and drinks, but it’s weird to have to try to remind myself to eat proper meals again. I also lost weight. Society wants to tell you that you should always be happy about that for whatever reason, because women aren’t supposed to take up space in the world or something, but actually my weight was fine before (they definitely don’t want you thinking that). Now my clothes are a bit sad and loose looking. Hopefully now I’m back on proper food that will be sorted out quickly.  


Anyway, here’s one of my monthly playlists, with some comments about each song.


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