Friday, 6 December 2019

it's gonna be okay, baby: MUNA at club academy

fresh from my latest Existential Crisis - brought on by another exhausting round of job interviews that included my third trip to london in two months - my motivation appears to have returned from war long enough for me to write about muna's incredible gig at manchester's club academy last night. 

in such a tiny venue it was easy to make my way to the barrier where i had what i consider the perfect view; slightly off to the left so i'm not facing anybody head on, as the pressure to be word perfect in front of the person singing some of my favourite songs can get a bit much sometimes. 

after an agonising few minutes, the trio took to the stage to rapturous applause before they'd even played a single note, a true sign of devotion from the loyal crowd who've waited what feels like an eternity to see the band live (me included). 

they launched straight into number one fan, the first single from their second album saves the world, and as always it was a joy to sing every word of this bouncy bop back at singer katie, whose blunt red bob shone under the spotlights, perfectly complementing her red lipstick and equally blinding smile. 

it was followed by stayway, a synth-driven Trauma Banger that hits a little too close to home every time i hear it. the next few songs felt a little unfamiliar until i realised they were from their debut album about u, which i haven't listened to for a shamefully long time. that will definitely change though, as i re-discovered my love for songs such as crying on the bathroom floor, around u and promise

next up were a couple of songs from saves the world that i didn't love when i first listened to the album, but hearing them live changed my mind, and i know i'll be playing navy, never and taken on repeat in the next few days. 

i found myself in my feelings as they played Sad Bops everything and winterbreak before changing gear and encouraging everyone to dance to the next few songs, which included pink light and hands offmy favourites from saves the world - and good news (ya-ya song); yelling the chorus at the top of my lungs was another highlight, especially considering this was one of my least favourite songs before the gig. 

after taking a moment to thank the crowd and declare manchester their "favourite city" of the UK tour, they played loudspeaker - another song with a deeply personal meaning for me - and self-acceptance anthem i know a place, the first song of theirs i fell in love with and played endlessly after seeing them support harry styles back in 2017. it'd been some time since i'd listened to it so i definitely wasn't word perfect, but it provided the perfect moment for some self-reflection as i thought about everything that's happened since then. 

i expected to be an emotional wreck for their final song, as i've cried every time i've dared to listen to it's gonna be okay, babykatie's ode to her younger self - but possibly thanks to my new antidepressants (!) i didn't shed a single tear. this newfound emotional stability still feels strange to me but i realised that this is probably how most people feel on a day-to-day basis. however, it meant that i could fully be ~present~ in the moment and as the lights went up, something strange happened; a sense of calm washed over me i realised that it is going to be okay. 

a world away from the glitz and glamour of cher's elaborate stage show i saw a few weeks ago, muna's stripped back approach relied heavily on their free-flowing on-stage banter and of course, their blend of euphoric melodies and deeply personal lyrics which filled the tiny venue with hope. as the future becomes more uncertain every day, the healing power of pop music can never be underestimated, and muna's live show is testament to that. 

Friday, 1 November 2019

new (and old) music friday #46: dua lipa, cher, vardaan arora, kitten

at the time of writing my last post i was preparing for a city break to malaga, which mostly involved drinking copious amounts of lemon fanta and trying not to sweat off all my foundation. 

since then, several exciting things have happened, including:

a) the arrival of cher's world tour in manchester: twenty years (!) after i first heard believe via one of the cassette tapes that came with my much-loved barbie karaoke machine, i finally got to hear it live and as predicted, it was a life changing experience. it was a Proper Show which included dancers, several (excellent) costume changes, the infamous elephant and a speech about the "two times" she turned 40 which ended with the already-iconic quote "what's your granny doing tonight?". highlights included the slept-on club banger woman's world, the disco-inspired strong enough, incredible power ballad i found someone and karaoke classic if i could turn back time. there was also her tribute to ABBA, where she reprised her role as sophie's grandma in the second mamma mia film, donning a blonde wig to perform fernando, waterloo and SOS

b) charli xcx's gig at the albert hall - it goes without saying that she was incredible and a full review will follow soon - followed by my second pilgrimage to girls night out, which was by far the best pre-birthday celebration i've ever had. i've already bought my ticket for their final event of 2019 which includes entry to a lady gaga club night in the venue upstairs; this is truly what dreams are made of

c) speaking of which, i turned 24 (!!) the day after and remarkably didn't feel bad at all, despite all the horror stories i've heard about how hangovers become even more unbearable as one enters their mid 20s (help). seeing as 24 isn't a particularly significant age, it was a fairly low-key occasion, made a tad more exciting by...

d) the news that my chemical romance are performing in LA this december, which sent the entire internet into meltdown. if more tour dates don't follow i'll be devastated, as i can barely remember any of the gig when i saw them in 2011. my glow in the dark band t-shirt has been sitting in a drawer patiently waiting for this moment, though if my reaction to yesterday's news was anything to go by, i'm not sure i'll be able to handle hearing their back catalogue again. 

i'd also like to take this opportunity to remind you that i wrote about my love of danger days for vibbidi a few months ago and have started writing for them again, making my return with a review of charli's latest self-titled album.  

it's safe to say i've had a wild few weeks but any fears i had about getting older have vanished and been replaced with a sense of clarity about where my life is heading. i'm still hesitant to talk about Good Things after the dreadful year i've had, but for the first time in months i feel excited about life again and this week's new releases definitely reflect that. 

1. dua lipa

ever since she made her debut with new love back in 2015, i've been largely underwhelmed by dula peep's musical outputs, but today she finally blessed us with a decent banger by the name of don't start now. a departure from the subdued electro-pop she cut her teeth on, dua began teasing the song a few weeks ago, sporting a newly blonde bob in the promotional images, and as soon as i heard the disco-tinged, ten second teaser i knew we had a banger on our hands. the full track doesn't disappoint and i'm prepared to hear it at least twice when i go out later. 

2. vardaan arora

i've been keeping tabs on this LA-based newcomer for a few months after i fell in love with his song dance like you last year. his latest release famous perfectly captures the pressure we all feel to cultivate an engaging internet presence, but he takes it one step further as he ponders whether his friends "would like me more if i get famous", bringing to mind lily allen's iconic track the fearreleased in 2009, the song undoubtedly foreshadowed our obsession with fame and celebrity culture. 

in a 2008 interview with the observer, she said the track was about "being scared that there’s never going to be anything real anymore that isn’t sponsored" and with instagram scrambling to establish new guidelines which force influencers to disclose whether the products they're promoting are paid for advertisements and trips to the maldives "gifted" by a brand, it would seem her fears have become our day-to-day reality. 

this isn't the first time arora has been so candid about the pressure millennials feel to have our shit together; the electro-pop bop thirty under thirty vocalises those worries we all experience while scrolling through social media in the middle of the night, bombarded by yet another "i said yes" announcement and smug-looking soon-to-be homeowners posing with the keys to a house that their parents no doubt helped them buy. luckily social media has allowed us to be more open about our fears and while there are some terrifying statistics floating around the web about how much worse off we are than our parents, at least we know we're all in this together


the last time i wrote about haim was in 2017 following the release of their single right now, which i was incredibly disappointed with. things continued on a downward slope with the lacklustre want you back and little of your love, so by the time they returned with the jazz (?) inspired summer girl, i feared their glory days might be over. luckily they've redeemed themselves with new single now i'm in it, which features a thudding bassline and frenetic lyrics detailing the sisters' struggle with depression; they took to twitter to elaborate further, urging fans to "take care of yourself". there's nothing i love more than a Sad Banger, so this message has been much appreciated and i can only hope their next album will prove that days are gone wasn't just a flash in the pan.

4. kitten

if there's one track i've been yelling along to at the top of my voice this week, it's ME by the alt-rock LA band kitten. sitting somewhere between MUNA, pale waves and the 1975, the track combines an 80s-inspired synth refrain with a huge guitar-led chorus and a smattering of autotuned vocals to create something new that still manages to pay homage to the past. lyrically it speaks to that part of me which still feels ~misunderstood~ as i attempt to justify my life choices and desire to pursue my dreams to family, friends and total strangers on a regular basis, but with songs like this blasting through my speakers it reassures me that i'm on the right path.

5. NCT 127

my foray into k-pop began with BTS and their alarmingly catchy track boy with luv, and i now have another obsession thanks to NCT 127 and their track highway to heaven. forget all the heavy stuff, this is pure pop perfection featuring a Huge Chorus and lyrics about a blossoming love affair. they were also kind enough to record an english version of the song, so i can yell along to it at full volume. the ten-member (!) group has collaborations with ava max and jason derulo under their belt and have appeared on good morning america, so BTS-style world domination could be on the cards. 


once again i have popjustice to thank for my introduction to this danish pop sensation. her latest track leave is pure 80s pleasure, with one of the best choruses i've heard in a long time, and after bemoaning the lack of same-sex pronouns in pop music in my last post, it's so exciting to hear MOODY sing them with pride. elsewhere, taboo is a crying-in-the-club banger in the making (camila cabello? i don't know her). 


as well hitting the road as a backing dancer on dorian electra's latest tour, CHAV is establishing themselves as an artist in their own right with the release of two impeccable tracks; kickin' on the floor and the super-spooky patient zero. while i'm not sure how well their stage name will translate to UK audiences - "chav" has historically been a derogatory term for working class people - this rising star might just be the one to reclaim it. 

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

dreaming, disappointments and desire: swim deep find their feet on emerald classics

as previously mentioned, i was lucky enough to hear emerald classics two months early and as soon as i pressed play i knew it was special. somehow the birmingham band have managed to create an idyllic blend of modern indie-pop that still pays homage to their debut album and the psychedelic sound of their second release, mothers. the ten tracks - a perfect number for a full-length album if you ask me - all have their own unique backstory. 

though the band hail from brummy, they've clearly taken inspiration from the rich musical history of my native manchester. world i share is a happy mondays-inspired track that could have been the official world cup song for england back in the 90s, capturing that sense of infectious optimism which swept across the nation, much like new order did with world in motion in 1991. interestingly enough, 0121 desire also evokes the sound of new order. musically this was my favourite track straight out of the gate, but a closer look at the lyrics further cements this as the band wrestle with conflicting feelings about their hometown. 

the album is named after a pub called the emerald, which frontman austin williams describes as "a classic irish pub" with a jukebox in the corner, and "everyone knows each other by their first name". it's the epicentre of an album that sees the band reconcile their teenage desires for success with the reality of life in a suburban town, something i know all too well. my conflicted feelings about home are perfectly summed up by the line "you wouldn't wanna leave here / you wouldn't wanna stay". though i feel like it holds me back at times, i truly can't imagine being anywhere else. 

this theme of home and family is explored further on never stop pinching myselfa dead ringer for oasis' 1998 track all around the world, it serves as a reality check of sorts. when the band took a break from touring in 2017, they struggled to balance part time jobs and making an album without the support from a major label, losing two of their original members in the process. 

nevertheless, they're able to look back on their success in a much more measured way than their teenage selves; "i'm not there but i got out / i ain't rich but i left town" muses williams. they also reflect on how much the world has changed since they first made it big in 2012, and the line "our technology is more important / our feelings are digital" perfectly sums up how our lives are now lived online.

though it seems like an upbeat 80s-inspired bop at first glance, sail away, say goodbye contrasts a euphoric melody with lyrics about williams' grandma losing her memory as dementia takes hold. having lost my own grandma to the disease this year, it's refreshing to hear it being spoken about in such positive terms. "you see life much differently / and you see things people don't see" goes the second verse, proof that it's not all doom and gloom. 

there's more of the same with top of the popsan ode to the families they left behind when world tours came calling. it's obvious they still have more they want to accomplish though,  as williams makes a pledge to his mother:"i wanna show you new york city in the snow / i wanna buy you a brand new car that just goes"

emotions run high on happy as larrie, the opening lines - "here you are, you've arrived / there's nothing here that you should fear now, you're alive" - bringing tears to my eyes as i realise that i have everything i need right here and running away to another city won't solve anything (been there, done that). this sentiment is echoed in the chorus, which reminds me that "you don't have to swim forever / cause everything is gonna be okay", while the bridge urges me to "put your arms around this house" and fully embrace the place i call home. 

lead single to feel good is a trip down memory lane as williams recounts his teenage years, which much like mine, included many trips to the job centre. the spoken word verses remind me of the streets, a garage group whose songs fit but don't you know it and dry your eyes were major hits in the UK in 2004, with the latter reaching number one on the charts, while the backing vocals from the margate social singing choir give it an almost reverential feel. 

lyrically it hits far too close to home, the chorus in particular - "it's the only reason that i do this / it's the only reason that i'm here" - serving as an ongoing reminder that it's not about the money and doing what makes me feel good will always be my number one priority.

this album has allowed me to see home in a completely new way and given me a new-found appreciation for it all over again,as i continue to grapple with the idea of leaving for a job in london, should such an opportunity arise. coupled with my new-found positivity, it reassures me that there's nothing wrong with continuing to pursue what i really want. 

the optimism of swim deep's early releases has been given a much needed reality check that fame and success don't protect you from life's ups and downs, but a little dreaming never hurt anyone. 

Friday, 18 October 2019

new (and old) music friday #45: harry styles, LIZ, miley cyrus, mabel

this week i've experienced everything from almost getting a rescue dog to yet another frustrating almost-interview, in which i arrived only to be told the digital marketing position i'd applied for had been filled and my CV had somehow been mixed up with the people who were applying for another job that involved assisting the receptionists and answering phones, i.e. my worst nightmare. 

i also returned to the job centre, something that would have devastated me a few months ago, but with my new-found attitude of Not Having A Breakdown About Every Tiny Thing, i'm trying not to let it bother me. luckily i'm heading to malaga tomorrow until tuesday, and though i'm not someone who cares about going on holiday regularly, i think some time away is definitely needed. 

but before that i have a backlog of bangers that need to be discussed.

1. harry styles 

it's hard to believe that two years have gone by since harry styles released his incredible self-titled debut album, but new single lights up picks up where he left off, albeit slightly more mellow.  
his "step into the light" could have many meanings. first, the literal feeling of stepping into the morning light when a party ends, still slightly drunk. secondly, it could be seen as an opportunity to tell the world who he really is after years of speculation about his sexuality.

fans took this idea and ran with it after the song and its (excellent) video were released on national coming out day, but by this point we really should know better than to expect a straightforward answer from him. either way, it's definitely helped me to be more comfortable with my own sexuality, and when he asks "do you know who you are?" i feel like i'm edging ever closer to an answer*. 

(*this could also be thanks to tegan and sara's newly-released memoir high school, which i read cover to cover in just two days. it's easy to think of successful artists as just that, any struggles they've previously experienced erased once they sign their names on the dotted line of a recording contract, so reading about sara's ongoing struggles with her sexuality reassures me that Coming Out isn't a singular moment that solves all of one's problems but a lifelong process. it also lead to several revelations about my own high school experiences as i realise that i actually did have feelings for all the girls i simply "admired" and "wanted to be friends with".) 

2. miley cyrus

miley cyrus has been making headlines lately thanks to her divorce from liam hemsworth and rebound relationships with both kaitlynn carter and cody simpson, all of which coincided with the release of slide away. the song was largely unmemorable, but when i saw a youtube comment about how it was like the modern equivalent of her 2008 track bottom of the ocean, i immediately felt compelled to re-listen to the accompanying album, breakout.

my 13-year-old self played this on repeat, and i'll always be of the opinion that it's miley's best work to date. 

there's something for everyone, from karaoke-friendly bops such as her country take on girls just wanna have fun, title track breakout and of course the iconic 7 things. there's also a largely unchanged remix of see you again, which is undoubtedly the best song from the hannah montana 2/meet miley cyrus album, which i owned on CD (!).  

forget greta thunberg, as wake up america proves that miley was the true inventor of climate change protests. the inspiration for the song came from an episode of the miley and mandy show, a youtube series created by cyrus and her friend mandy jiroux, which i vividly remember watching as a teenager and being devastated about its ending. in this particular episode, the duo encourage everyone to recycle, save and reuse plastic bottles, and use organic products with no harsh chemicals. perhaps if more people had followed their advice back in 2008, we wouldn't be in such a predicament now. 

most millennials have become well acquainted with the idea of "burnout" thanks to an article by buzzfeed writer anne helen petersen, but miley was once again ahead of her time as this concept is explored on the track simple song. the constant pressure cyrus experienced during her hannah montana heyday forms the basis of this track, which also features a piano backing to rival elton john (yes, really).  

there are still plenty of classic break-up songs though; highlights include these four walls, goodbye and my personal favourites, the driveway - with its avril lavigne-inspired electric guitar and fantastically dramatic chorus - and full circle, which was written about her on again/off again relationship with nick jonas 

3. SOPHIE/starrah

by far my most played this week, lock it up is yet another unreleased SOPHIE bop from 2016 which resurfaced online after being played on BBC radio 1's TNGNT show last week. why she refuses to release such bangers is beyond me, and several youtube channels have been set up as a place to find all of her unreleased songs in one place. perhaps she wants to be seen as a more ~serious~ artist as her debut album oil of every pearl's un-insides had a far more experimental feel and was nominated for a grammy this year. 

it's a world away from the carefully crafted bubblegum pop that sends fans into meltdown every time she unveils a new track, and this is no exception. featuring charli xcx collaborator starrah on vocals, my favourite thing about lock it up is the fact she uses female pronouns to describe her ~love interest~, something still rarely heard in pop music despite all the progress being made. whether we'll ever be blessed with an official version of this track remains to be seen, but for now i'll be playing it on loop and keeping my fingers crossed. 

4. kim petras 

miss petras came THROUGH with some more spooky bops with the release of turn off the light. rather than release it as volume 2, she decided to combine the songs from volume 1 to create a full length album, and i'm living for it. it's about as much enjoyment as i'll ever get from halloween, which is also my birthday, but to most people's amazement i despise dressing up and any kind of themed party. luckily death by sex, wrong turn and my favourite track there will be blood will make the occasion slightly more bearable this year, and i'm praying they'll be played at girls night out, the unofficial after party of charli xcx's manchester gig the night before halloween.  

i must also give an honourable mention to the impeccable video for icy, which is quite possibly my favourite song of the year so far, and after getting a ticket to see kim live next year i have a feeling this track will be the highlight of her set. 

5. mabel

i've never paid much attention to mabel as she's been releasing incredibly mediocre songs since 2015, and am still baffled as to why she supported harry styles on tour in 2017. her rather dull mix of pop and R&B felt totally at odds with the glam rock sound of david bowie and marc bolan which he channelled on his album. 

but everything changed with god is a dancer, a recent collaboration with tiesto. as soon as i heard this i knew it had potential to be a Huge Banger, and i can confirm that it Fucking Slaps, though that could have been thanks to the three (3) drinks i'd consumed before it was played in Tha Club. 

it's also an excellent walking-around-town song, guaranteed to make you feel like That Bitch, so i'm praying her next album will contain more of the same.

6. LIZ

last but not least it's LIZ, who i never fully got into her until i heard sunscreen a few weeks ago. it's yet another unreleased bop with SOPHIE on production, but that could be set to change as LIZ replied to charli xcx's already infamous tweet asking if anyone had a link to taxi (part of me wants to believe she could be gearing up to release it but i'm trying not to get my hopes up) saying "it’s with sunscreen in PC purgatory". she later tweeted herself that she was "just kidding" as the song is "thriving" and "getting ready for its debut". this seems like a far more sincere statement than that of miss XCX, who has always enjoyed trolling her fans, so hopefully sunscreen will actually be released soon.

in the meantime i've been loving a)lottery - which is inspired by slayyyter and blackout-era britney spears in equal measure and features a flawless cameo from drag race alumni aja - and b) her latest release laguna nights which she described as "teenage dream and the one that got away mashed up together" (anyone with taste knows teenage dream is one of the best songs from the last decade) and was inspired by "the idea of lost and rekindled love, on the beach, and for one night only", while sonically it reminds me of fame-era lady gaga

Friday, 27 September 2019

new (and old) music friday #44: slayyyter, hannah diamond, VINCINT, charli xcx

why i decided to make another anchor "podcast" when my throat feels like it's closing up is beyond me, but nevertheless, i'm (sort of) pleased to present 38 minutes of me rambling on about the new albums from charli xcx*, slayyyter and MUNA, as well as two (2) tangents about ticket prices and why bridesmaids is still one of the best films ever made.

listen to it here, but maybe read my last post first for some ~context~ about why these songs have been important to me.

(*i'm horrified that in the podcast i neglected to mention next level charli, the impeccable opener of charli xcx's third album that could easily be considered one of her best songs. think of it as Classic Charli: plenty of references to partying and fast cars over a beat that absolutely BANGS.)

Monday, 23 September 2019

rollercoaster ride, in the fast lane: rejections, reflections and the healing power of pop

disclaimer: this post contains very little in the way of music and is instead an accumulation of my thoughts and feelings over the past two weeks that i needed to get out of my system in the only way i know how; an unnecessarily long blog post. usual service will resume next time as i talk about the mix of Bops and Bangers i had on repeat while all this was taking place.

i’ve been obsessive for as long as i can remember: perhaps it’s the taurus in me.

famous for being “creatures of habit”, once we like something, we tend to stick with it.

obsession has taken on various guises throughout my almost 24 (!) years on earth, be it music, fashion, unrequited crushes, and of course My Career.

in my birth chart, the earth sign taurus represents my midheaven sign, which according to wikipedia represents “career, status, aim in life, aspirations and public reputation” and could explain why it’s a topic i’ve covered at length on this blog.

after an incredibly stressful two weeks, one of my refinery29 horoscopes for this week asked me to “write your career goals and accomplishments down to get perspective on what you’ve accomplished this year”, so here i am attempting to do just that.

i started out the year struggling to complete my news associates course and writing for about manchester, before being offered the job at VIBBIDI in april and later writing for conversations about her.

in the meantime, i’ve also been attempting to find a Proper (i.e. paid) Job, and it dawned on me that in the last two months i’ve had six (!) interviews, none of which have led to said job.

two weeks ago, one of these interviews saw me travelling to london for the first time in two years (!!) after applying for a copywriting job at a fashion brand and completing a written test which they seemed to like the look of. in the words of lizzie mcguire, this is what dreams – specifically those of my 15-year-old self – are made of… or so i thought.

i boarded the train to euston filled with a mixture of dread and excitement, which upon arrival at brick lane - an area that has remained largely unchanged since i first set foot in this slightly pretentious section of east london aged 16 - descended into full on disassociation as i browsed the excellent vintage market, sat in the window of a pret a manger pretending to enjoy an overpriced salad and tried not to die from the 26 degree heat. 

after so many rejections, i couldn’t quite process the idea that the Dream Job my teenage self once envisioned could be in my grasp if i didn’t fuck up the interview; no pressure then.

overall i think it went okay, but i couldn’t help feel intimidated by the CEO of the company - who also happened to be interviewing me - and found her incredibly hard to read. despite reassuring myself that there was nothing more i could have done, it was impossible to shake the nauseous feeling that descended on me once i left the building and it followed me around for the rest of the day.

sadly, i never heard back from them, and if it had been any other job, i would have brushed it off and continued to scour indeed for more positions, but this was the one job i could seriously imagine myself doing, despite the slightly frosty reaction i received.

over the last year, i’ve been following a self-prescribed course of binge-reading ask polly letters and absorbing every word of jessica dore’s daily tarot card readings to try and force myself to become more ~positive~ and see the good in all of these rejections, but though i now accept that failure, embarrassment and rejection are normal parts of life, i still find it incredibly hard to apply these pearls of wisdom to my own predicaments and continue to assume the worst in 99.9% of situations.

in fact, it was a recent ask polly letter that truly had me In My Feelings. despite describing herself as “successful in my creative career” and “social and hardworking”, the letter writer was obsessed with the idea that her boyfriend would eventually leave her, despite there being no obvious problems in their relationship. while i’m none of the things described above and have been single for approximately 350 years, her fears instantly resonated with me, and when i read polly’s response, i felt both attacked and validated.

there were a few paragraphs that really resonated with me but particularly this one:

“working very hard and being focused on your career can be a way of trying to feel whole. people who are successful at creative careers often have a long history of funnelling their obsessive energy toward some goal: they socialise with a vengeance, they work hard, and they channel their insecurities and longings into figuring out how to be persuasive and entertaining. their intense emotional insecurity drives them to crack the code: this is how you entertain people and win their love. this is how you charm people and convince them to put their confidence in you. this is how you seduce new friends and new lovers. this is how you squeeze every last ounce of love out of this broken world.

it pretty much sums up how i’ve lived my life for the last eight years; trying desperately to achieve my dream of working in fashion and moving to london as i was convinced that it would fix all my problems. however, reading letters such as this one has made it clear that achieving these particular goals doesn’t stop you from being anxious and obsessing over things out of your control, and the interview made me realise that perhaps the ultra-competitive world of fashion isn't something i truly want. nevertheless, the day after the interview, i felt like i was on a comedown of sorts. having seen what’s possible made it even harder to return to my small bedroom in a small suburban town and i found myself in the midst of yet another existential crisis.

it was then that i stumbled across an article from the cut, titled “what makes ambition come and go?” where the author reflected on how her ambitions have changed since her early 20s. 

this paragraph about her “job ambitions” felt particularly significant:

“i wanted recognition, to earn a spot at a particular table, to impress a certain segment of people. at one point when i was 27, i had a blog post go viral, and watching its traffic numbers rise on chartbeat, i felt like i was high. i remember thinking that everything in the world could go wrong from then on out, but no one could take this one thing away from me. it seemed like the beginning of something, but also felt like an ending — an item i was subconsciously crossing off my list.

i had an extremely similar feeling last year when one of my posts was retweeted by lily allen. seeing the endless stream of likes, retweets and messages from people telling me how much they liked my writing was a feeling unlike any other, but i also knew it wouldn’t last forever. a few days later, my moment of ~viral fame~ came skidding to a halt and i was left thinking “what now?”

thanks to my positivity crusade, i now have the emotional intelligence to realise that a moment is just that; it happens and life goes on. however, it feels like my life has been an endless roller coaster of dizzying highs (see: the work-related achievements i’ve had this year) and devastating lows (see: the various rejections and jobs that felt like they were in touching distance, only to escape my grasp).

this brings me to my final article, which i read last week.

man repeller’s nora taylor wrote about drastically overhauling her life in her late 20s by leaving a job she wasn’t happy in and the joy of feeling “regular” once she'd found it, her life no longer dictated by the extreme highs and lows of trying to Follow Your Dreams.

once again i found myself relating to her story of running from one job to the next, making and breaking friendships and leaving one big city for another, all in the hopes that it would fix everything. like me, she spent several years pressing the self-destruct button before realising that the only person who can change things is you, and the answers can’t be found at the bottom of a shot glass or on the lips of strangers.

picking a favourite paragraph is hard, but i went with this:

“growing up the second time, where my desires and my life are layered on top of each other and not on parallel tracks, has been a thrilling type of puberty. i am finally free to live my life instead of observe it. how nice it is to revel in the mundane. to sit with a friend over coffee and pause to be thankful for where we are, for the life we live.

it gives me something to aspire to, but something about this particular dream feels different.

for so long i believed those highs and lows were completely normal and almost enjoyable; who wants to live a boring life? but as i find myself on the cusp of 25 (help me), all i really want is a sense of stability. this desire has always been there, and it’s probably what prompted me to take various antidepressants during my time at uni, only to be horrified by their ability to completely dull any and every emotion i attempted to experience.

so i stopped taking them, choosing the sambuca-soaked nights and questionable decisions that everyone in their late teens chooses to make while away from home for the first time over that sense of stability.

while i can no longer deal with the hangovers and that delightful cocktail of shame and anxiety i often feel the day after a big night out, ironically last saturday turned out to be the best night out i’ve ever had.

following my second time seeing hannah diamond at soup kitchen, i experienced an exhilarating high that can only be achieved with the music of charli xcx, kim petras, slayyyter and SOPHIE, courtesy of girls night out.

the club night first started in london and made its way up north for the unofficial hannah diamond after party, and it was there in the company of some very kind strangers who danced with me all night that i felt a semblance of peace.

when used in the right way, alcohol can enhance my experiences and give me that slight boost of confidence i lack in my everyday life, and that night was a perfect example. 

yelling the words to unlock it at the top of my lungs, it was a world away from how i used alcohol at university to take the edge off my emotions and deal with various traumatic experiences which occurred around that time. 

i’m not sure if time does heal all wounds; while some of them have started to form a scar, an ever-present reminder of a particular pain i’ve experienced, others very much still feel like a gaping hole. these are the ones i’m trying to repair, while acknowledging that it’s not something that can happen overnight.

in summary: the last two weeks have been a wild ride and though everything feels uncertain right now, i now know that i can use all the knowledge i’ve acquired this year and the series of rejections i’ve endured to Keep Going and create the life i truly want, without compromising my own boundaries and integrity. 

Thursday, 29 August 2019

throwback thursday #1: sky ferreria - night time, my time

nobody asked for it but here it is: a brand new series called throwback thursday, in which i discuss some of my favourite albums from years gone by. 

as time is hurtling by at a disturbingly rapid pace, i find myself reminiscing about the albums my teenage self loved between 2007 (!) and 2014, and after re-discovering some of them on my old ipod (!!) i felt compelled to take a break from my usual new music focused posts and write about them. 

*peter dickson voice* in no particular order, the first album i've chosen to write about is sky ferreria's iconic 2013 debut, night time, my time. 

this was inspired partly by her recent collaboration with charli xcx and an ongoing sense of frustration that her follow-up album has yet to materialise. 

but first, some background: ferreira first came to public attention as a model sometime around 2010, and her single one was released in august of that year with a fresh-faced, brunette sky on the cover. a fan of all things electronic - bearing in mind this is when lady gaga was revolutionising pop as we know it - i instantly downloaded it to my ipod. 

obsession followed in september, accompanied by an incredibly homemade looking video; this one also made it onto my ipod and i remember playing it endlessly. 

from there, sky's career trajectory was anything but smooth. a series of disputes with her record label and frustration over her creative direction meant her debut album wasn't released in january 2011 as planned and an EP called as if! was released in march that year instead. 

i was totally unfamiliar with it before i started writing this post, but listening back to the tracks, it's clear why sky hated her early work, something she talks about in one of her early interviews for notion 

though it retains the electro-pop sound favoured by gaga, robyn and marina around that time, the lyrics feel like they were written by a 45-year-old man trying and miserably failing to conjure up that same magic. 

according to wikipedia, ferreria's label EMI retained complete creative control over her, but it seems their efforts to mould her into a "perfect little pop robot" were unsuccessful and after they lost money trying to promote obsession, the budget for her debut album was cut. on reflection, that seems like the best possible outcome for sky, who clearly wanted to cultivate a more alternative sound. 

after a few more stops and starts, she released a second EP in 2012, titled ghost. immediately i gravitated towards sad dream, a stripped back acoustic track that sees sky reminisce about the strained relationship with her father. i remember playing it on repeat in the middle of the night, dreaming about crushes who didn't even know i existed. 

another highlight was everything is embarrassing, a sentiment that definitely resonated with my teenage self in my clumsy interactions with said crushes. though still very much in the realm of electro-pop, there's something much cooler about the dev hynes-produced track

lost in my bedroom is also backed by a heavier electronic beat that wouldn't look out of place on robyn's album body talk, while ghost sees sky at her most melancholic, channelling born to die-era lana del rey

not keen to stop experimenting there, red lips embraces the grunge sound of garbage frontwoman shirley manson, who was a songwriter for the track. 

while the overall direction of the EP was unclear, there was definitely something for everyone and it was a much-needed departure from the sickly sweet pop being pushed onto sky by her label. 

it would be another year before her debut album finally made its way into the world, but it was well worth the wait. 

lead single you're not the one remains one of my all-time favourite songs, yet another one which soundtracked the endless hours i spent dreaming about unrequited crushes. production-wise, things had definitely evolved from her early releases, featuring the cure-esque guitar riffs and a thumping bassline. 

sky described you're not the one as a "super-poppy version" of david bowie's excellent 1977 album low and upon reflection i can certainly hear traces of his work in the song; anyone who references bowie - especially his early albums - is instantly in my good books. 

elsewhere, the album sees sky processing the public's perception of her, particularly on the track i blame myself. as someone who's had anxiety pretty much my whole life, this track hit a bit too close to home, especially the line "how could you know what it feels like to be outside yourself?" because when i'm in an incredibly anxiety-inducing situation, i tend to disassociate, my thoughts in another place entirely. 

nobody asked me (if i was okay) also resonated with me for similar reasons as i've always struggled to ask for help and on the rare occasions when i did it felt like nobody was really listening, quick to dismiss my worries and tell me to "get over it". the third verse feels especially poignant as sky complains that "you don't seem to care if i'm feeling lost"

in times of uncertainty - of which there were many - this album felt like one of the only constants in my life, and the title couldn't be more spot on, as it's one that just begs to be played through headphones in the dark of night while everyone around you sleeps. 

while there are some lighter moments on the album - see: boys, 24 hours and love in stereo - my favourite track has always been heavy metal heart, arguably one of its most dramatic moments. 

flawless from start to finish, it's actually a fairly heartfelt song underneath the heavy production, as sky tells her lover how much they "make me feel the pulse of my heavy metal heart". she also speaks of how she loves "losing myself in the dark"; exactly what this album was designed for. 

in the impeccable bridge, sky declares that "the way i was before, i'm not her anymore", which could be a reference to how much her image had evolved from her very first release, both musically and aesthetically. 

the cover of night time, my time featured an image of sky in the shower, and while her decision to appear topless was a defiant one that demonstrated her lack of innocence, there's still a sense of fear in her eyes, perhaps about how this radical new look and sound would be received by fans and critics alike. having been shelved by her label numerous times, the youthful naivety was all but gone, her long wavy hair replaced with a short peroxide cut. 

while ferreria isn't the only artist who's faced difficulty conveying her creative vision, her unwillingness to conform to what was expected of her - both as a young woman and a pop star - at a time when super-polished stars like katy perry and beyoncé dominated the charts certainly reflects the way independent artists were treated in the mid-2000s. 

with social media still in its infancy and years before having a "personal brand" was considered important, sky's struggles with her label seem a world away from the hordes of artists who now have the freedom to release music independently, such as dorian electra and kim petras, who have amassed huge fan bases through social media and without relying on a major label. 

sky's defiant streak shone though on i will, as she warns anyone who ever doubted her that "i'm gonna teach you a lesson", a sentiment i also tried to embody as i left school and attempted to embark on my own career away from everyone who asked me why i "didn't talk". 

this track really is the best of both worlds; the electro-pop from her early songs merges perfectly with the scuzzy guitar riffs that came to define night time, my time, resulting in yet another exquisite bridge. 

sadly it wasn't all plain sailing for sky after the album's release. while she received critical acclaim for her efforts and supported miley cyrus on her 2014 bangerz tour, she was also arrested alongside her now ex-boyfriend - DIIV frontman zachary cole smith - for drug possession. 

the following years saw her star in a couple of films and become the face of jimmy choo's illicit fragrance, but she continued to reassure fans that her second, "more aggressive" album masochism was on its way in this billboard interview. 

fast forward to 2019 and it's yet to materialise, leaving hordes of twitter stans in a perpetual state of disappointment and anticipation. the blow was softened slightly with the release of downhill lullaby back in march, a super dark string-led track that, according to ferreria, aimed to capture the sound of "the birds in snow white, singing underwater, while slowly being suffocated by plastic"

bubblegum pop it is not, but sky's unwillingness to stick to one genre and compromise her creative vision has always been incredibly inspiring to me. 

the climate of pop music has changed so dramatically that when it eventually arrives, masochism will be received a thousand times more positively in an era where soundcloud and streaming has allowed both artists and listeners the freedom to create and consume in whatever way they want.