Fade into love. Repeat.

Fade into love. Repeat.

Another month, another plane ride to Germany. Like the George Clooney film “up in the air” I pretty much know exactly how to get through airport security without ever getting my bag (or myself) searched. But, boy, can I spot those who are going to get caught out. Like a clockwork mouse I know exactly where to go, the quietest and best place to get a coffee at the airport and exactly what time to get on the plane and the best place to sit (3A if you must ask). I know exactly what the Ryan Air air stewards are going to say, they stick to their script like robots. Once we land I head to the EU only section wave my Irish passport through in Germany so avoid all the hassle of passport control interrogating non-EU British people (why are you here? where are you staying? show me your return ticket?) . In actual fact I can’t be bothered to renew my British passport, I’ll stick to Ireland. In another country I effortlessly slip into my other life – my German life, where it’s just me and two teenage boys, causing havoc in the controlled German cities with only a spaghetti eis to keep our dreams alive. Late nights, early mornings, walking walking walking looking for fun wherever we might find it.

Then, before I know it, I’m home again and life is stable. it’s school runs, drama and music clubs, baking cookies, reading Haffertea hamster books and nursery rhyme records spinning with crazy girls dancing and stepping on lego. Days off school because “it’s boring” as life moves pretty fast….when you’re 6 years old.

Meanwhile and mysteriously there’s still music and books and art and love. Driving home from the airport the other month the radio was playing an incredible song by someone called CMAT. It caught me off guard and I had to stop the car to experience the full blazing effect. I’ve now bought her cassette, it’s rad. She’s rad. Everyone should support her. This is the song

The Welcome Wagon are one of those special bands, so beautiful and tender yet as they have only released 3 albums in about 15 years, any new release is to be savoured and appreciated like the piece of art it is. I was lucky enough to get given a copy of their latest album – Esther – on my birthday. Every song is magnificent. It was hard to pick one, but I went for this

Another song by somebody I’ve never heard of is I can’t get my head around you by Billie Marten. This is another song I heard on the radio late one night driving home fro the airport, it’s perfect for late night confusion – something I’m prone to – and I just dig the gentle breeze and laidback vibes I get from this track.

The final song is a gloomy as hell, it’s probably one of the most depressing albums of all time. All about a broken marriage. Old Frank Sinatra is stuck in a boring town trying to raise 2 kids on his own and his wife has left him. There is no happy ending in this album, only more heartache when Sinatra realizes he will never see his beloved wife again and life aint got much meaning anymore. So, if you’re feeling kind of emotional it might not be the best time for this music, but sad songs are my friends. Enjoy…if that’s the right word…each song is a masterpiece, and I guarantee you won’t get through it without noticing your eyes getting a little bit moist. If you thought you knew Frank Sinatra thing again….

I’ve been reading a couple of quite extraordinary books recently. First one is Summer before the Dark, a snapshot of a little seaside town in Belgium where writers and intellectuals (including the brilliant Stefan Zweig and the hopelessly flawed Joseph Roth) spend one last summer together in 1936 with the world falling apart around them and their dreams of a united liberal and free Europe evaporating day-by-day. It reads like a novel, it makes you feel you’re sitting their at a cafe watching Roth get drunk and Zweig pretend everything will be ok. Throw in a few crazy eccentrics thrown in too for good measure. Best book I’ve read for quite a while. After this book is done I’m going to finally start Meg Mason’s “Sorrow and Bliss”

Zweig (l) and Roth (r) frenemies

Back in the early 90’s I got really into Star Trek – the next generation as a tween kid, I liked the weird kind of intellectual aspect of it, and the slightly odd romances and loneliness of the characters. I also dug the little fun things like a machine that would make you any meal you wanted instantly appear, and a virtual reality holiday deck. So I was strangely happy when I saw old Picard was back on tv. I’m a bit slow as it’s been out a couple of years now, but I’m starting at season 1. It’s really very much in the spirit of the star trek stuff and it’s pure escapism at it’s best.

That’s all. Keep on dreaming of a better tomorrow ūüôā

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Think fast, act slow.

Edging into 2023, neither triumphantly or anxiously, the dust has now settled so I’ll allow myself to look back. Waking up the other day on the first day of 2023 I didn’t feel like I did 23 years earlier, where the world feltfresh and open, and just being alive seemed exciting. On that bright new morning, 1/1/00 my then-girlfriend and I tuned into the radio as soon as wewoke up just to ensure there was no 2k meltdown, then we wrapped up warm and took a train to have a champagne breakfast at the coolest cafe (now sadly closed) in St. Benedicts Street. Everything felt possible. A new century. It was our century….Happiness and hope was in fashion Easy to say we’ve messed things up. But I won’t say that. Change ispossible. Life is possible. Love is possible. If not now, then soon. The ideaof tomorrow is intoxicating if you make the right choices. Now it’s a few days into 2023, and I’m off to Germany – actually to the best town in all of Germany – for a few days, but before I go, it’s time for my yearly highlights….
ALBUM OF THE YEARMarcus Mumford (self-tilted) – In what feels like another world I use to write music reviews. There was a new band called Mumford and Sons, and I gave it 9/10. However I didn’t really listen to their subsequent albums much and I had pretty much forgotten about them. Then one autumn evening I heard Marcus Mumford on the Jo Whiley radio show and his new songs completely blew me away. A few days later he was on Jools Holland and I was hooked. I picked up his cassette. This was honest and raw music, and emotionally almost too difficult to listen to, if it wasn’t for the heartbeat and love flowing through the album.
TRACK OF THE YEARthe beths “expert in a dying field” – swirling indie rock from New Zealand, but what sets it apart are the poetry and feelgood guitars that rattle through the album. I’m still saving up (?) for the album, but this song has kept me in high spirits all year long. The beths along with soccer mommy are the most exciting bands around at the moment.
LIVE ARTIST OF THE YEARremember sports. I saw them on a rainy slow Monday in Brighton, and the crowd was kind of annoying and uninterested, but sometimes that creates the best concert. This little lo-fi punk rock group effortlessly write dreamy and catchy love-gone-wrong songs and melt even the hardest hearts.
BOOK I’VE READ THIS YEAR – I haven’t quite finished Kerouac‘s original scroll “on the road” so instead I’ll say Dave Eggers “The everly”. Reading it means you’ll very likely to throw your smartphone away and that can only be a good thing….
FILM OF THE YEAR – As a beautiful summer drew to a close, I went to the cinema with my 2 teenage sons and we saw Elvis. I hope it wins lots of Oscars, as a cinematic event it was perfect. The best film I’ve seen all year though was a 2019 social=-realism Irish film called Rosie about the impact of poverty on an ordinary and loving family. About as different as Elvis as you could possibly get.
TV SHOW OF THE YEAR – the tourist. As good as tv gets, and super cozy evenings watching this over coffee and flipping out over the wild storyline. As the year ended we’ve been watching the old Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice which is perfect winter watching too.
VIDEO GAME OF THE YEAR – I’ve got a soft spot for Denmark ever since I went on a little road trip there with some friends back in 2002 and not only was it one of the best holidays of my life, I also had the nicest hot chocolate I‚Äôd ever tasted that I find myself still talking to my wide-eyed small children about. So Gerda, a Flame in Winter is an old fashioned point and click adventure game set in 1944 Denmark under nazi occupation during a bleak midwinter and it gets my vote. I’ve got a PC but I think it’s out on whatever system you play games.

things are changing

i had to escape. I moved far away, to a very old house down a little lane, where there are no cars, and not many people either. I live here where when you wake up, and it’s snowing outside, there’s no button to press for heating, you’ve got to go outside and gather some logs to make a fire to keep your family warm. It’s so quiet here, it’s a cottage lost in time. A place where you heat the water with coal, and a beautiful area where I’ve got a job at the little rural school across the fields.

It’s not a place to hide away and accept loss, and to cry about things gone wrong, it’s a place to re-connect with the world around you, and to be creative and to fight for believe in life and in love.

I feel home here. It’s where I’m suppose to be, hidden in a country cottage reading newspapers, writing poems, listening to music and embracing life for what it is, not to call it harsh or hard, but to accept the beauty of a single day. Walking home from work, I’ve never seen such epic stars above me which illuminate life. I have no choice but to look up and lose myself in the wonder of it all and marvel at Creation and Gods love for all of us.

Then there is music. I can’t get by without it anymore. We drove into the city today, for I still love the pulse of ¬†electricity around me, and I picked up these albums.

 

Nights of Love

Been so caught up in the merry-go-round of school/children/domestic bliss/regretting regret/to-do-lists that I’ve not had time to capture much in writings, either poetic or here. Doesn’t matter, as I read in an essay by the American essayist Mark Grief that people ¬†waste their time trying to write diaries or take photos because people like that…like me….he argues do not fully experience life, but merely live¬†in a fantasy escapism trying to catch time before it rushes on to the next experience. He says better to just drift through…Well, Marky Mark, I’ve been doing that a bit too much recently, and it somehow doesn’t quite fulfil me. Maybe I’m into escapism as I need to record words more than ever these days.

For my birthday I had a HMV voucher so I picked up the latest albums by Neil Young (Peace Trail) and Thurston Moore¬†(Rock ‚Äėn‚Äô Roll Consciousness)¬†Neil Young is ¬†here is railing on in an enjoyable way about how he doesn’t understands the modern world, and he’s angry with too about people messing with nature, native Americans and the workers, and it’s full of energy and protest. Thurston Moore is a nice collection of breezy 10 minute songs, with flowing guitars and a relentless drumming by good old Steve Shelley. It’s got Debbie Googe on too, and it feels like early 20th century sonic youth. That’s not a bad thing. I’ve been listening to it a lot driving to and from work, and it’s got the right balance of escapism and interesting lyrics to keep you focused after a crazy day working in a little school.

Been reading lots of interesting things. Really like this Dutch magazine called Flow. Also got a copy of the always brilliant and funny PJ O Rourke “How the hell did this happen” in which he attempts to understand how the hell Trump got elected. Also the new Gwendoline Riley “First Love” which I’m hoping will win the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction this year, because it’s the best modern novel I’ve read in ages. It’s sad and brutal though, but as I watch “Neighbours” everyday for 20 minute blasts of escapism in sunny Australia with nice happy one dimensional characters, I need to counter it with something like Gwen Riley.

under the April skies….

Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s I use to get the Hits and the Now That’s What I Call Music compilation tapes, I use to play these all the time, and dance and sing along to bands like Duran Duran, INXS and New Kids on the Block. Then something strange happened , on one of these tapes in between Tiffany and Debbie Gibson was a weird Jesus and Mary Chain song called Reverence which just felt strange, loud swirling guitars and someone screaming “I wanna die just like Jesus Christ, I wanna die just like JFK”. At 10 years old it didn’t make any sense and freaked me out, so I’d always press fast forward on my tape to find Pet Shop Boys “Always on my mind”, and sing “Little things I should have said and done I never took the time” wildly with a hairbrush in my hand to my bemused looking border collie. Anyway…

Fast forward a couple of decades, and I no longer sing to a dog. In fact I don’t even have a dog, but I do have the Jesus and Marychain, and I absolutely adore them. They’ve got a new album out called Damage and Joy which you can also get on cassette, but their back catalogue is just unbelievable. In a dorky way I need to admit that their 1987 album darklands is one of my favourite all time albums. For no other reason than to celebrate their brilliance here is a collection of some of their best songs. Enjoy.

 

Album of the Year

This album completely knocked me out.¬†I remember reading late last year how Conor had to cancel a tour due to exhaustion and was sent back home to Omaha to recover. Turns out he was suffering a full on breakdown. Every single song on ruminations ¬†is amazing, and nothing else could touch it. Beautiful, heart felt songs about a guy losing everything and trying to find peace in a world he doesn’t recognise or understand…

Track of the Year

I’m so happy it’s¬†the julie ruin, and this was almost my album of the year. I’ve written so much about Kathleen Hanna there’s little more to say, so here is the single. She still has the coolest voice around. The album, hit reset, which strangely enough I bought on cassette, has so many amazing songs on, I think it’s one of her best albums to date.

EP / Cassette of the Year

Processed with VSCO with c2 presetUber-hip and occasionally annoying Thurston Moore said something silly this year like “I only buy tapes these days”, and of course that’s a ridiculous way to live, but it’s true there are an awful lot of amazing bands that only release things initially or on cassette. A few years ago I’d be scoring tapes at little charity shops getting over excited by a copy a early 7o’s Elton John tape for 25p, whereas I get things now like the new julie ruin album and twin forks on cassette and hardly ever pick up old¬†stuff on tape anymore.

So, it’s no surprise that the best EP of the year is out as a download and on cassette too. It came out in October and by it’s a little New York band called Wild Pink. The title may not be the most exciting (4 songs), but the songs are. Calming, instinctive and soft. It’s reflective beautiful music, and that’s where I am right now, and I think where a lot of people are after all the craziness. “Don’t let the fear of losing me keep you from moving on….I’m the one that goes away”. Poetic daydreaming songs for daydreamers. What more do you want? Not only EP of the year but a close contender for track of the year too, to find out who gets that title come back in a few days.

 

 

 

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music video of 2016

So turns out I needed a 6 month break. Everything fell apart, but then it started to grow again in a different way, full of light so strong it could blind me. So, I turn back to music and books, and it’s a good time to reflect on the past year. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be celebrating my favourite music video, song, album and EP of the year. Going to start with video.

It’s been a crazy dark year, and it certainly seems like every music video reflects that. A couple of years ago there were lots of fun bright, breezy videos of people going surfing, or falling in love in the summer. This year it’s all about the end of the world, darkness and people falling apart. Even Lily and Madeline have a horror film for their new video! I’m still trying to make sense of the world in 2016, but I know, like Fontane wrote, there’s no way back. We’re in a Brexit, Trump, broken world. Now need to find the happiness and hope, and joy of everyday life. I’m hoping the music videos next year help bring some of that.

Anyway, here’s the best video I’ve seen. Radiohead. For anyone, like me, who dreams of moving to Camberwick Green…or maybe not, if this is what it’s become in 2016.

 

next week >>>> EP of the year.

 

where the dragonflies play

15 years ago since the first day of a new century and I had a “champagne breakfast” at a little caf√© in Norwich, and everything seemed possible in that new century. I was dating a girl from art school and we were just kids, and everything soon fell apart. I had a little shop in the indoor market but that closed down too. I left the country and moved to Germany not knowing what would happen but there’s always been hope in my life.

This is a music and books blog. But today I’m going to diverse a little, so bare with me and don’t despair, normal service will resume but…but….but there’s something I need to say first.

I’ve been looking for adventures all my life. Sometimes things work out, sometimes don’t. I make lots of mistakes. I get hurt. I then focus my energy on happiness and fun, but then I can’t ignore the broken world all around me. It’s a constant balance to do something constructive to help others and not just to whirl away the hours reading books. I realized I can’t do one without the other. Maybe some people can, but I can’t.

I was in Germany for a week. It was very enjoyable but¬†intense,¬† and I¬†went to bed most nights at 3am. I went to Bremen and drank a lot of coffee and made new friends. I¬†spent hours talking about books and poetry. I took my kids for a long walk around the park and we watched the skateboarders. I laughed and laughed with my friends¬†and made silly jokes.¬†I had fun. That’s part of who I am.

But then there’s another part. I get so sad about the world sometimes. I feel so disconnected from modern life I think there’s something wrong with me. Technology bores me. Entertainment makes me nostalgic for purity. I read long magazine articles but I still don’t understand why the poverty gap is so big in England, let alone the rest of the world. Sure I have a charity, we work hard on it every day, and yes it’s rewarding but that’s not the end. I want social justice for the masses. You can read as many complicated books as you like but I’ll sum it up for you in two works – inequality sucks. I’m a member of the Green Party here in England, I’m going to a debate on social inequality in a few weeks. Like I said, it’s all about hope.

It’s crazy but there are moments when you realize how beautiful life is and how precious moments in time are.¬†I try to capture those¬†fragments in poems or short stories. Sometimes I succeed, often I don’t.

I don’t know what’s going to happen to me , you or anyone. Things fall apart, and nothing seems secure in life anymore. But I’m addicted to hope.

Ok. Back to the music and books posts from now on.¬†Thanks for sticking with this rambling little post. no comments anymore, but you can always contact me at the e-mail address on the top right spmaughan@wildmail.com ūüôā