Favorite Song: Findlay ‘Stoned and Alone’

So, I am watching “Working Moms” because it’s a very funny comedy and I recommend it, and suddenly there’s this tune like Grace Slick back in the 60s but lyrics that are definitely in the here and now because back then, you didn’t just say you were stoned, you made up some bullshit analogies that were kind of awful but who cares, everyone was stoned who listened to the music and when you’re stoned, EVERYTHING seems deep.

 

Oh my gosh, I LOVE this song. It has swagger from the get-go, like a smooth brighter version of the Black Angels and then there’s Natalie Rose Findlay with her voice, that voice, holy mother, this song is from 2014, how did I miss this? It found its forever home on Findlay’s debut album (and so far, only studio album) “Forgotten Pleasures”, which I guess, I have to really obsessively get into now (I took a few peaks and can just say: highly recommend for people who like very British, very loud indie music > it = me).

The song itself seems to be a patchwork of a messy on/off whirlwind romance, the kind I never had (luckily, I am not made for whirlwind) but watched a lot in indie movies and soapy dramas. The title suggests that all this takes place in the memories of the narrator who is – you guessed it – stoned and alone. Oh, to have such a life that you can look back at past romantic adventures and not cringe right back into the floor. Look, that sleazy electric guitar at the beginning alone and that epic big production politely weaving in and out in the background, like a looming storm making way for Findlay’s voice that’s like that really sharp fresh smell that the air has before all hell breaks loose and the raging sea comes down on everything. Oh, and it’s so fun, this song! It’s been a while since I’ve heard these cool, psychedelic bluesy heavy sounds, which … probably is my fault. If you like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Jefferson Airplane and the Black Angels but with a dash of cheeky cheer and pop music, this will be a gorgeous discovery (if you haven’t already, if so: good for you).

Also, if you look for Findlay, don’t confuse her with the Google search result number one which is the University of Findlay, a private university in Ohio. And also, don’t confuse her with the Music page of the university because apparently, it has a non-audition choir open for all interested students. Yeah, Findlay the artist is 28, she doesn’t have a homepage like old people, she’s on insta (that snark is not meant for her, by the way, but for old crusty people like me who still have a BLOG in the holy year of 2020).

Favorite Song: Low “Congregation”

So, the other day, someone said that they didn’t like “Devs” because it had such a great sci-fi-idea but concentrated too much on just a few characters instead of thinking bigger and I thought ‘oh, nice, I love getting intimately close to a few characters and see how they reflect the world, whether fictitious or real’ and dived right in. First of all: “Devs” is weirdly unnerving, it has a certain constant uncanny feeling, like watching an Ari Aster movie.

From the looming statue of a little girl as a symbol for the silicon valley-like development campus that is the setting of the show to the use of music (the soundtrack is stellar) and the weird, sometimes out-of-rhythm cuts that are kinda jarring, I felt … odd … watching the first episodes. I am not yet through because it’s a little heavy and right now, I am not exactly keen to wallow in heavy but it peaked my interest and there is a certain warmth to it, in the middle of all this uncanny silicon valley.

ANYWAYS! In episode two, the last few scenes are held together by this beautiful song “Congregation” by Low. I am not quite sure what to make of the lyrics.
Sung, they are beautiful. But reading them, there is a lot of rhyming for the rhyme’s sake (it feels like). Still, I like to think of the song being about deeply ingrained thoughts, ideas and rituals of a group (congregation) being shaken up by the group itself that holds them. “An inquisition of familiar lies”, like something that always has been, finally reaches a breaking point in the present, can’t live on tradition anymore and needs to face the truth, or another truth.
The second verse sounds more sinister, like how even small doubts can confuse the group and upset it (“the implication is its own device in the middle of a salient fight”).
And in the third verse, there’s a certain sense of disruption in the differences of ages, how the young and the old sometimes just can’t get together because the young need to look forward, while the old ones often prefer to look back (“generations like their ways and times”).
It’s like how weird group think moves, sometimes in harmony, sometimes in dissonance and sometimes in clear, parallel lines, easy to be distinguished but still part of the same group.
Or maybe, it’s about something completely different.
But where’s the fun in not even trying to find meaning in a song you like?

Playlist: Welcome to the Shitshow

So, I was in the mood for a playlist but I wasn’t in the mood for a “real” topic, so I figured, ‘what are the songs I would play in a situation like this that are somewhat adressing the total shitshow we are in right now but are not super depressing’? Enjoy (or don’t, see how I care).

Hawksley Workman – we will still need a song

One of the most underrated albums I own is “Lover/Fighter” by Hawksley Workman who opens it with a song that is like “replace your anger with music” but the song is played and sung with so much anger that it’s more a hymn for anger & song instead of just the song. Which, honestly, just because you can be kind to each other, sing and look at the bright side, doesn’t mean you can’t also be angry, raise your fist and scream into the void. People contain multitudes, you know.

Plants and Animals “Crisis”

Remember when our only problems were that everyone else had their life figured out, got together, got married, got a house and kids? Good times. Even though, we’re way past that, Plants and Animals’ amazing, gorgeous, bitter song “Crisis” still kinda works. The whole accompanying album “The End of that” is a great ode to the frustrating confusion of growing up but not really. There’s a feeling of helplessness, a sad directionless wandering throughout most of the songs, that I can truly relate to in these horrible, no good times.

Alanis Morissette “Reasons I drink”

Although the production is a smidge too clean, I am absolutely in love with Alanis’ new single. The song is basically about all the things that lead to all those other things we don’t want to do, don’t want to be but that we (or the poet’s self) do and are because life is fucking hard, ok, even if you’re Alanis Morissette. And it’s not even that you want to miss out on all of it or that you would rather have a different life. It’s just that life is messy and things are shitty but that’s kinda part of it, as well as all of our (not always smart or healthy) coping mechanisms. Heavy stuff.

Alex Cameron “Happy Ending”

How do I even choose these songs? I have no idea. Let’s take this favourite song by the amazing, confusing Alex Cameron. This alter ego former kinda-has-been singing about all his plans to get back on his feet, even though it really sounds like he is not. I always wonder whether that boring old life I lead might be much better than having had a time in your life when you were IT (like, in popular, not in the sewer-clown-way) but then lost it again. How do you go about life when you peaked in High School or in your twenties or as a children-murdering clown and then look ahead to a whole lot of nothing?

Marina and the Diamonds “Numb”

Yes, this song can be about the awful road to stardom, however, it can also be a big-ass metaphor about that weird notion that we always have to strive for being better, more productive, always productive, don’t you dare to spend time on things that don’t produce or better yourself. I mean, one thing most of us can relate to, the other … not so much, tbh.

Neko Case “Bad Luck”

What better song to start every single of these horrible days than a song that has lines like “woke a dog from a running dream and that’s bad luck”? This song nearly didn’t make it onto the album “Hell-On” because Case thought, it sounded too weary and cold but after her house burned down (wtf), her engineer Lassam Yorten told her that this is just how you sound when your fucking house just burned down (via NPR).

Modest Mouse “Dashboard”

My favourite band to listen to when everything is kinda shit but I am not depressed (yet) has created the perfect song to dance super ugly but also very cathartically to. When everything always goes wrong and nothing ever works the way you planned it, then maybe it helps to see those tiny spots of light that can be found in a lot of shitty situations (although some are just shit stacked on other shit).

The Decemberists “Everything is awful”

I love the Decemberists, but I don’t know whether I love this song. There’s something kind of annoying about it but that also fits because if everything is awful, than that’s a thought that just permeates all your thoughts, no matter what you try, it seeps in, it’s ruthless just like this line “everything is awful” in this song that will get stuck in your head and it will be awful.

Gilda Radner “The Audition/I love to be unhappy”

What better way to ruin your day than to remind you that Gilda Radner was amazing and charming and funny and she died and is not here anymore. Also, I really could relate to her admission in her autobiography that humour is a great way to completely cover up your insecurities because being “the funny one” also means that you can slyly control your image in a group setting without giving too much insight into your true, horrible self. It’s the only trick I got to cover up the trainwreck that I am. HEY!

Elbow ‘Dexter and Sinister’ – oh, what a time to live in the void

Goddamn, there I was, on a roll with my blog entries and then a pandemic crushes every spark of inspiration because honestly, everything is even worse than it was before and it was kinda bad already.

So … here’s Elbow with “Dexter and Sinister” which was actually an emotional snapshot from Guy Garvey concerning Brexit but it’s also kinda fitting right now.

 

It has a bit of old I am Kloot/Elbow-magic, this slow and heavy repetition, those sharp disruptions, Garvey pleading into the sky (or the void, whatever you prefer) and with lines like “loss is a part of life this long”, we all “stare with Eastwood eyes  at the horizon (or at empty chairs, if you know what I mean). Additionally, the always fabulous Jesca Hoop offers her siren call to Garvey’s wish to “fade by the seaside, where dead men go to die”, so her diving and swimming, lurking and luring songs can drown us all, what a blessing that would be, instead of that vast sandstorm of drilling numbers that awaits us every single day.

Favorite Songs: First Aid Kit ‘Waitress Song’ – who’s up for escapism?

I’ve had this blog for so long, that I no longer know what songs and bands I’ve written about and what I’ve – weirdly – missed even though it’s a regular on my playlist. “Waitress Song” by First Aid Kit is one of my favorite melancholic songs when the Fernweh strikes and whispers into my ear that it would actually possible, let alone financially realistisch to move into an American small town, become a waitress (or librarian, depending on the mood I am in) and just settle down.

 

Now, the song is a sad breakup song, where the escapism is the result of a lost relationship. It’s therefore also – by law – a country song in its purest form. Remembering those wild nights together and then looking on, lonely and poetically, musing about joining the circus or looking at the ocean – that’s country.

However, personally, those dreams of just up and leaving rarely have to do with love or lost love but rather with that unnerving sense that maybe there’s something else out there, that maybe the life I live right now is just what I was thrown into and if I only take that big step, I will become someone completely new, the person I always was supposed to be, someone from a novel or a movie, someone who knows all the regulars and fills their cups and who always so easily chats up the grumpy truck drivers and travellers, gets them to tell their stories, fills their mornings and evenings with a smile and some good pie.

Now, that’s a load of bull, of course. You kinda take yourself with you, wherever you go, besides, the wages of a waitress in the US are abysmal and I am not sure, it would even cover health care AND a flat. But you know, for those four minutes, I can dream that it’s all as easy like in a movie, like in a song.

Favorite Song: Agnes Obel ‘Broken Sleep’ – forever a dream

Agnes Obel’s recent single fits perfectly in my 2019 playlist of songs about dreams and sleep. Her song was written after Obel herself had trouble sleeping, something that always seems like a nightmare itself, since sleep is so crucial for our physical and mental well-being. Trying to find a cure, Obel read up on the big ole metaphor of sleep and death, that old mythical fear that to fall asleep always is a dance with mortality, after which you might wake up or not.

 

In fact, one of the worst German children’s lullabies has the line “in the morning, if God may, you will be woken again” – thanks for that traumatic image right before being forced by parents and grandparents to apparently be left to the whims of a cruel, homicidal god.

“Broken Sleep” is a lot sweeter, even with it’s darker imagery. Sleep as a malady, smoke shapes like humans that “grow, like titans” and falling, into sleep, in a dream and out of our reality into something else. I am very much in love with this song, which is like a Kate Bush-fairy tale itself (it is a great companion to “waking the witch”). Those tender, tip-toing strings* and whispered background vocals, coming from the dreams or from the waking world, in that middle stage when you’re not yet asleep and still not awake anymore. Gorgeous.

*Violin: John Corban, Cello: Kristina Koropecki and Charlotte Danhier

Obel’s new album will be released on February 21st and I for one am looking forward to its twisted knots.

Favorite Song: Orlando Weeks ‘Safe In Sound’ – waiting for creation

It’s been a while and a half since the Maccabees parted ways. It’s not like Orlando Weeks left us on our own since then, there’s been “Gritterman” and quite a few views into his visual arts (re: his Instagram). But I am still over the moon that there’s something else now, something that has those tender, light notes of “Given to the Wild”, especially “Child”.

But “Safe in Sound” is not a Maccabees song, even though it might start like one. There’s a certain restless moving, expanding, kaleidoscope-movements of sounds, bits and pieces of Weeks’ vocals cut together with drums and a horn section, a guitar, synths maybe, like an ever-blossoming collage (which Weeks also dabbled with on his Instagram). I love the ending which is such a departure from anything that the Maccabees would ever have done. It’s just a little moment but this Kate Bush-like dissonance and whispering is really interesting because it might hint and something more to come.

 

The lyrics are gorgeous but also evasive. If it weren’t for the rather sharp ending (“cut to pieces, torn to ribbons, caustic in your criticism”), I would have leaned towards a song about waiting for something that builds, grows. I even thought of pregnancy, with lines like “now this endless slow passage to wait” and “a growing pain but it’s holding us so nearly”).

In fact, there’s so many little things in the whole song that allude to expecting a child (“sleeping on a name, I would wait forever, to hear that sound you’ll make”), that the ending threw me so much, that every other idea is submerged under this imagery of waiting for a child.

But of course, just because one school essay interpretation can’t get out of its rut doesn’t mean that you can’t. It might be about so many things. Pregnancy and children in themselves can be metaphors for creating things. Waiting for something to evolve can happen in all areas of life. It could even be a song about the creation of a song, that journey from that first idea that is such a safe thing inside your head, to the first timid movements, the long way to a song that feels complete, up to the moment you have to show it to others and bear their thoughts. Or it could be something completely different.

There’s songs that perfectly capture that one feeling or moment in life and then there’s songs that capture so many of them.