Wednesday, December 31

Happy new year, or whatever

New Year’s Resolutions:

1. magically transform into a better, cleverer, more beautiful, physically fitter, healthier, more amazing human being
2. stop making resolutions I’ll never keep
3. shift this stupid cold (a month of nose blowing is just too much)

seriously tho, what goes up must come down, and all my childish over-excitement for Christmas definitely turns into a Scrooge-like disgust for ‘New Year’s Eve’ and all the dumb pressures that come with it. Yes it is a great excuse for a party, unless your friends (like mine) are scattered across the globe and you (like me) can’t last ten minutes without having to cough/blow nose/nap. I feel like everybody suddenly falls under this great delusion that everything they do on New Year’s Eve is going to dictate how their life will be for the next year and if they don’t do something super exciting with their night then they’ve failed.

I also find January a strange time to call a ‘fresh start’ - right at the bottom of the muddy icy ditch that is winter, and a long way to climb before you finally haul yourself out into the sunshine. It’s cold and dark and all I want to do is neglect all responsibilities, hide under the duvet and eat vast quantities of carbohydrates. If I’m actually going to make any resolutions, then springtime (brighter mornings, the first warm sun, salad weather, breton stripes and flowers and all that) or September (academic upbringing has instilled me to think of this time as new) are the times to write them.

I do dream of the new year turning me into this excellent human being who looks and dresses like Hepburn, is adept at yoga and can run for more than 3 miles, eats like a goddess or whatever but also makes burger-eating look elegant, who doesn’t just get firsts in her university assignments but always does them with creativity and originality, who has a fun social life, a part time job that magically earns enough to pay London rents, who is efficient and productive at least 90% of the time and always has something interesting to say/write/draw. But I know that this kind of existence is unattainable, that there will always be something that isn’t perfect. I guess if I were pressed to make new year’s resolutions tonight, mine wouldn’t be a list of rules but just some reminders - of positivity, productivity, less control freakery, fewer of the cripplingly high personal standards, more spontaneity, and no more doughnuts for dinner.

(pics taken with my geriatric iphone 4, all from the christmas holidays)

Saturday, December 13

moments from home

I'm going home tomorrow. It's been three months since I moved to the city centre. "Home is a state of mind," I keep repeating to myself, and there is some truth in it. Home is a feeling, a group of people, an occasion, a sort of nostalgia. A house might not be a home; sitting at a bus stop with a loved one might be. There's something tangible there too though. Home is an emotional space, but it's usually also a physical one. Something constructed out of thoughts and senses and moments. And roast dinners.

Thursday, December 11

The War on Drugs, Roundhouse, Guy Fawkes Night

A low reverberating thrum starts up as the band members slip onstage. The lights glow blue, brighter and brighter. The audience is gradually submerged into the “daydream Springsteen” world of Philadelphia’s The War on Drugs. 

Their latest album Lost in the Dream is still, eight months on from its release, enjoying a well-deserved spot in the limelight. And it is light which defines this band and their presence in the Roundhouse tonight. The stage lighting is wonderful throughout the show, fulfilling the music’s hints of hazy skylines, transcendent American sunsets and a measured, muted transition between colours. Add in front man Adam Granduciel’s sincere singing, the wistful yet snarling guitars, the wandering snatches of synth, saxophone and harmonica, and the recurring piano chords, and the effect is mesmerising. The music, like the lighting, immerses and illuminates the audience completely. 

Opening act and fellow Philadelphian Steve Gunn deftly introduces the type of sound which permeates the night; a captivating sound, the result of the way The War on Drugs blur and elongate their American rock influences, weaving them into something new and open-ended. The band’s indefinite, dreamy qualities provide an interesting contrast to the crisp November evening outside. Some of this earnest autumnal cold seems to be summoned onstage by the six-piece group: tonight they play a louder more powerful sound than is generally heard on their records. 

Perhaps it’s because of the size and diversity of the band that the music is so energetic - at one point, during the song An Ocean in Between the Waves, all the players jam together in perfect synchronicity - or maybe it’s because underneath the meandering notes lies the urgency of Granduciel’s lyrics. “I’m just a burning man trying to keep the ship from turning over,” he sings. (With essay deadlines looming I sort of know how he feels.) 

The live energy of The War on Drugs is certainly not down to any extra-ordinary showmanship on Granduciel’s part; apart from a few brief words now and again, he lets his songs do the talking. And this is fine. Hearing an extra kick to records which, as Laura Barton put it, “wrap you up in the wonderfully sticky web of their music,” creates a sensation which is as powerful as it is light. 

Steve Gunn's album Way Out Weather is going to be my spring 2015 soundtrack, I can feel it