Give yourself a hug: Avoid spontaneous combustion, and other things learnt during the past week…

Chimpanzee Melissa huddles forlornly over her baby, shielding him from a downpour. National Geographic | December 1965
Chimpanzee Melissa huddles forlornly over her baby, shielding him from a downpour.
National Geographic | December 1965

I gave myself a well deserved hug the other day. I think I’ve been beating myself up too much about things that aren’t in my immediate control, so I wrapped my arms around myself and was like, “Thanks, me. You’re doing just fine.”

After what had been a particularly stressful day, I got home to write up something for a competition – was so not up to it – so then went out for a drive (I am still learning post-first-fail), and ended up getting so angry that Dad was like: “Slow down! You’re gonna crash into that girl on her bike!” And I was all snotty and teary-eyed like: “I don’t even care!!”

I was basically in one of those moods when you literally cannot even right now, and there was no signs of it going away.

(I have since found that when you feel so anti-everything that you cannot literally even anymore, if you listen to ‘Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)’, things seem much easier to comprehend.)

This week I phoned my boyfriend DEMANDING that he sing ‘Hypnotize’ by The Notorious B.I.G until I felt better. It worked.

The hardest thing about bad situations is that you have to feel all of the things you are feeling, even the horrible, sad stuff that you’d rather fast forward.

Caitlin Moran wrote in her Times Saturday column yesterday (2 May) that her biggest advice for teenage girls is that you “only ever have to deal with the next 60 seconds of your life.”

When someone very close to you rips your heart apart, there is no way around it. (I am reminded of the children’s book, ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’: “We can’t go under it; we can’t go over it – We’ll have to go through it!”)

It took me 18 years to realise that – and I’m no good at bottling stuff up. (JOURNAL KEEPER FOR 14 YEARS.) Cry about it, write a letter to whoever it is, trash their house minorly (make sure it’s reversible – no smashing or breaking. Trust me – I’ve KNOWN this)

Figure out how to deal with the stuff, and try it out (preferably without hurting anyone further, that can just re-lousy everything.)

Things aren’t going to be amaaaazing all the time, especially if you’re going through something that’s emotionally tough. You don’t always have to be the best version of yourself; so if you’re going through a hard time, cut yourself some slack. The happiness you’re aiming for needn’t be a constant state of ecstasy, but rather a middle-ish sort of OK. A great article about this way of thinking, written by Tim Lott, can be read here.

My biggest argument against suppressing these feelings (that make your head feel like it will pop off) is that there are ACTUAL reports of HUMAN SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION, so just take NO risks honey. It is not worth your beautiful hairdo.


I’ve been listening to Sufjan Stevens’ ‘Carrie and Lowell’ a lot recently because 1) it’s addictive and oh-so-moreish, and 2) He’s headlining at End of the Road this year.

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I had meant to write a proper review of it a few weeks ago but have been really busy doing other general life things; now I don’t think I could serve it justice.

I wholly admit I was not a fan of Sufjan before this, so I have nothing to compare it with, or do that ever-so-important music journo thing of citing his biggest influences – cause quite frankly kiddo, I just don’t know.

All I know is that it was written about his mother and stepfather, and, after a unanimous discussion re: SS by my friends, we came to the conclusion that he could write about rotting fruit or dog shit, or BOTH, and still make it sound beautiful.

For those real-melancholic types around here, check this out:

It both slows your heart down and speeds it up. It’s a wonderful record, and apparently his best.


I went to the National Theatre last night to see ‘Behind the Beautiful Forevers’ Again – this play has been on since November of last year, so I can’t say I’m bringing you cutting-edge, hot-off-the-press reviews, but I get cheap seats, and for cheap seats my friends, you must seriously book WELL in advance.

It was set in Mumbai and focused on the lives of a community living in the slums near an airport, and the conflicts they faced with police/money/each other/etc.

I took a tonne of notes, as there was a lot to take in (I felt the play was longer than it ought to have been, but the pace was still excellent) and the writing was very human – of course – as is the writing of David Hare.

For your ease, and my ease: (I don’t need to write a long review – I am now v. hungry) Some – most are illegible – of my notes are included below:

  • incredible set – reeks of money. National Theatre.
  • Meera from the Kumars? Excellent
  • Feisty female roles
  • Prosthetics – burn make up good but v. gruesome
  • shows how extreme poverty can make people lose sense of morality
  • bit on the long side?? Am i tired??
  • baddies: “let them fight among themselves, then they won’t fight with us”
  • general audience consensus- good
  • Actor playing Abdul: Very sexy

I thought it was great to see a play that took a genuinely very humorous and human take on an awful situation (one that I admit I wasn’t aware of.) One minute you were laughing at the ‘look how ridicularse corruption is, darling!’ due to the witty, observational quips in the text, and then you were covering your eyes from somebody having their eyes gauged out after stealing scrap metal.

All in all, it was clear why this play has been running for so long. And even towards the end of the run, you wouldn’t have believed it. It’s not my usual choice of theatre – but I think it’s something that will stick with me for a bit. If you want to read a proper review, please divert your browsers to the search engine, ‘Google.’


In other news, I have started rehearsals for King Lear, been accepted into the National Youth Theatre and got tickets to Glastonbury! So there’s that. Also lined up is a trip to Belgium, Belle & Sebastian next week, in three weeks, and in seven weeks (lol) and my birthday! I’ll be writing about it all.

T.A.L x

“Keep those eyes wide” : First impressions of Laura Marling’s ‘Short Movie’

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Artwork for Laura Marling’s new release, Short Movie

Hello, there! Hope you are well, anonymous internet presence. Since my last post, I have begun a ‘proper’ editorial job and am training with a lovely group of journalists, working for a trade publication. This means I have a bit more money in the pot; I can finally start listening to music again! It’s not that I’m completely opposed to the free distribution of file sharing/music online, I’m just not tech-savvy enough. Sad, I know. I’m like your dad. Although I lie, the following record was sent to me by a very generous music journo in the business, whom shall not be named lest I get stuck in a sticky legal situation. Thanks for reading! – T.A.L x


It’s important background information for you to know how big a fan I am of Laura Marling before you start reading.

I was sent the download file for her newly-released album, Short Movie, last week – and had to restrain from listening to it for three whole days – lest my heart couldn’t cope with how good it could be (last week was full of numerous pulled heartstrings.) ((NB: Not to be confused with hamstrings, having not exercised since 2013.))

Laura Marling’s music was solely responsible for the reason I begged my dad to get me a guitar for my 13th birthday. Up until now, the cheap-ish acoustic-electric model has sufficed, emulating (attempting) her style and learning all of her earlier, folkier sounding stuff, dedicating evenings after school, to record, re-record, film and then NEVER show to the world. Carpe diem! Rock n roll!

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On this album, we begin to hear a more plugged-in, electric direction, on tracks such as False Hope and Don’t Let Me Bring You Down along with some wonderfully placed microphone synth effects on the opener, Warrior. I’m a total sucker for an opening track – something I’ve pretty much disclosed to everyone I’ve ever met – and this opener totally sucks me in (ha ha, writing!)

Warrior hooks me in with its confident minor chords and fantastically year 8 angst-sounding introductory lyrics:

“I stumble some way on, licking my sores,
Tasting the memory of pain I have endured
Wondering where am I to go?”

I wrote the opening track of an album called ‘Hard to be Human’ when I was 12, with a lyric of MINE  I distinctively remember as:

“The nights are not getting any brighter,
To face you life you have to be a fighter
And I guess that you always knew that,
It’s hard work to be human”

 ALMOST on the same level, RIGHT?!

Anyway, I digress.

 Track 2, False Hope, is Laura Marling really sounding like herself – and as a long-term fan – this makes me fist pump and feel an immense sense of pride in someone only a fan who’s-never-met-the-person gets. Ironically, the lyric “Is it still okay that I don’t know how to be at all?” leaves me flabbergasted, as I have never heard a song about uncertainty sound quite so certain.

The third track, I Feel Your Love, demonstrates the intricate, guitar picking style that she’s become well-known for, further mastering her skill as both a gifted musician and songwriter. Is this sounding like the most biased piece of writing ever? I tried to write this last night but had to go to bed with a flannel on my forehand because:

LM

“She’s just everything.”

The track ‘Strange’ has Laura RAPPING (almost) which sounds really fresh and feels very inspired by her time spent in LA. There’s something a little Kimya Dawson about the spoken-wordiness of it all, The Moldy Peaches being a band I’ve read she’s felt influenced by. The open chord sounds she reverts back to in this song hint back at her third album, A Creature I Don’t Know, which took a lot from Joni Mitchell, whom I love, too.

For me, Don’t Let Me Bring You Down is a huge stand-out track, for no other reason other than: I just keep playing it.

“Are you really not anybody until somebody knows your name?” – how wonderfully concise yet right on the spot.

This song has made me bookmark electric guitars on eBay, with lots of 7th chords and blissful Sunday-appropriate progressions. Five years later, I’m still buying my guitars based on where Laura Marling is musically.

Gurdjieff’s Daughter, track 8, is a song that I can imagine a band like Belle & Sebastian covering. There’s something about the wide, orchestral sound that would suit Stuart Murdoch’s voice perfectly, combined with a cheesy fade out at the end. Still very much sounding like her, but a very pleasing shift in direction.

Track 9, “sending shivers down my spine” is Divine, and is divine (ha ha, writing!) Being raised on early-mid Beatles, my head swoons at any seventh chord, especially in a love song: “You’re fine – I’m yours and you’re mine.”

All in all, the real sentiment of this album is summed up on ‘How Can I’ with: “I’m taking more risks now / I’m stepping out of line / I’m putting up my fists now, until I get what’s mine.” She also sings on the track about “going back east where I belong” which makes me feel like pinpointing her directly and welcoming her back with my very own open arms, right into British festival season that’s approaching at a very exciting pace. I look forward to seeing her at this year’s End of the Road, my third time at the Dorset festival, where I’m sure she’ll bliss me the hell out and I’ll feel particularly lucky to be alive for an hour amidst yurts and frozen yoghurt tents.

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Short Movie is a total success; I’d give it 4.5/5 for its confidence and ability to both empower and reveal vulnerability all at once – something Laura has become expert at – as heard in her past 4 albums. She said in an interview recently that as a teenager she was often branded as ‘elfin’, ‘innocent’ and ‘good for her age’ – but this record proves she is, oh, SO, much more than that. SO much. Can she be my sister? I’ve always wanted a sister.

If anything, this review shows that I can sneak the word ‘flabbergasted’ into a piece of writing, (no mean feat, I assure you!) – my first ‘proper’ music review – one of which I hope will be the first of many.

“Can I write a piece about you now that you’ve made it?” – A review of Belle & Sebastian’s new record!

(Caitlin Moran said something once about if you want to be a writer, you must learn how to be a writer on a treadmill, lest you will die from eating biscuits. I feel the same applies to a gap year.)

A still from the band's new video, Nobody's Empire.
A still from the band’s new video, Nobody’s Empire.

Hi hello hi! I haven’t written for around 2 months, but I’m back today for a specific reason- we have had the new Belle & Sebastian album unleashed to us, and I couldn’t help but take a listen, in the same way that I can’t help but eat another biscuit. It’s called Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, which we so do, and it’s released on Matador next week. I feel guilty, and ashamed as J pre-ordered the LP for me for Christmas, but I still couldn’t help but take a listen. In a way that a New Year often promises a feeling of fresh starts and beginnings, it seldom does compared to the excitement behind a new album, especially when it’s their ninth studio album, and the previous 8 have been highly regarded as ‘my jam.’

I saw them play in Paris, Halloween 2014, where they played some of the new material- much to the approval of myself and Ella, and these 2 or 3 European guys who we befriended for the night, quietly discussing beforehand which was our favourite B-side as we sat on the ground in our cardigans so we were near the front (we weren’t in cardigans but let’s just create the twee dream.)

The album opens with Nobody’s Empire, and although not initially loving it, I now really really rate it, especially as an opening track. I think I wasn’t listening to it at all at first, I was just playing it as background music, tossing my hair back like ‘Zzuuh, nothing will ever beat The Model, or whatever.’ But then I played it, thought about it, listening to the lyrics along with the lovely Marx-and-Engels-y piano, and decided I was into it, really hard. Essentially, an autobiographical song about the frontman of your favourite band, is the best thing ever in a fangirl sense. The song talks about Stuart’s struggle with ME, dealing with a chronic illness, lying in bed feeling all useless,

“I was like a child, I was light as straw
When my father lifted me up there
Took me to a place where they checked my body
My soul was floating in thin air”

Very cool. A great opening choice, it reminds me of Thunder Road, the notorious opener of Born to Run by Springsteen, with it’s storytelling-y, piano-y beginning, into a big sounding, life affirming sound as the song builds and builds. Also he sings, “If I had a camera I’d snap you now, cause there’s beauty in every stumble”, which makes me swoon- BECAUSE I AM ALWAYS STUMBLING, METAPHORICALLY AND PHYSICALLY.

Track 2 is called Allie, supposedly the female perspective in which Stuart writes from for this album. I can’t possibly comment on this track as it opens with Stevie, ‘ba-da-da’ing, which is too much for a fangirl. You’re just like, OMG! It’s Stevie! And he’s ba-da-ing!

Anyway. What I can disclose about this song, what I like about it, is the same old, trusted B&S formula- which is all like, ‘Angry girl gets angry about things and we sing about it with pretty 60’s melodies and instruments.’ It just works, “You made a list of all your heroes & you thought about what they went through/ It’s much harder, much darker than anything that happened to you.” I can relate to that, I’m ashamed to admit. That frustration of being a teenager and wanting anything ANYTHING to happen to you, no matter what, it’s just something that will trigger you to move out, or write a song, or get a haircut. Kind of wanting to pursue the *ahem* struggle of something to get a story, if anything, out of it- but then in reality just sitting around in your pants eating Wotsits watching Netflix. Adolescence.

Next up, The Party Line! This is the first single released from the record, so if you haven’t heard it already, you probably already have in H&M or something. (I’m not denouncing them as sell-outs, I did actually hear this in H&M, and internally squealed, bopping my head in a nervous, twitchy sort of way for 3 minutes, probably looking like I’d shoplifted something.) I totally hated this song when I first heard it, and mourned the loss of my band- before the curse of the fangirl hit and I was like- HEY!! GUYS!! CALM IT! IT’S JUST A DIFFERENT DIRECTION!’ I thought it was too repetitive and tinny-sounding, and nothing *sigh* like Judy and the Dream of Horse *sigh*, but then I got over it, and now it’s my alarm. It dances me out of bed, every day. Favourite line goes to: “Where were you when I was king in this part of town?” I love the idea of fallen popularity, the more local the better; being ‘famous’ within the teenage population of your hometown. Just for wearing a cool leather jacket, shaving your head, etc.

The Power of Three is lovely, and Sarah is singing. The Cat With the Cream has some lovely, beautiful melodies with some sacred sounding strings. Enter Sylvia Plath is a total mess, and sounds like the Pet Shop Boys, but hey, I’ll probably love it by next week. The Everlasting Muse is a fantastic load of fun, with a Greek sounding chorus, a sound favoured by me and my friends, who happily danced to Zorba the Greek and Dominick the Donkey, on repeat for a long time on New Year’s Eve. Before I get quoted on that, it doesn’t sound remotely like Zorba the Greek, but hey, I am not equipped to write serious, proper album reviews. It just reminded me of NYE. This is a first listen, OK, guys.

Perfect Couples has the perfect (lol) Sympathy for the Devil sounding introduction, before it explodes into BASICALLY THE BEST PARTY SONG OF 2015. Maybe not a party party song, but the song to play as you set out the cheese before the party. It could so be in a musical. Oh, a Belle & Sebastian musical. They played this in Paris to a background montage of a very stylish, very choreographed scene of a living room party. It was all just très cool, bèbè.

The next song, Ever Had a Little Faith?, was so perfect for today, and is good, old fashioned B&S, with lyrics so perfect for rainy bus journeys, “Something good will happen, wait and see/ Do you spend your days second guessing fate?” & “Drop your sad pretence/ You’ll be doing fine, you will flourish like a rose in June.”

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Aural proof new albums provide more hope than a new year ever could. (The last 3 tracks also exist for you to stream, along with all the above tracks I’ve spoken about, but I have a to-do list the length of my leg. Also, with my ideal album at 35 minutes, the running time of just over an hour is too much for my ears and their poor stamina)

Stream it here:

In other news, I’m glad Christmas is over, spent 4 nights  in 2 different hotels in the past 7 days, was in Dublin last week, am in London twice this week and in Cambridge at the weekend to see First Aid Kit, again. Things could be worse.

Thanks for staying with me, if you did (which if you’re reading this- you did! So like, uh, thanks!)

T.A.L x