My lovely friend Jess has always, for as long as I can remember anyway, done a sort of summary of her year in CD form. Usually beautifully decorated/created, talented lady that she is. This year, more than ever, music has really meant something to me; these songs have been pivotal to my understanding of situations, feelings, and have just taken on whole new meanings. So this is my 2012, sonically mapped out (late, as I perpetually am, with just about everything), in mostly chronological order.
Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in E minor, Op. 85: I. Adagio. Moderato – Jacqueline du Pré & Daniel Barenbiom
Obviously this is by Elgar, but you know. This version. It’s beyond description, really. This song featured mostly in the beginning part of my year, maybe around April? That’s when I started listening to it after ages of not having listened to it (wow, really on a roll with words tonight!). But I figured that it starts it off quite nicely, as a playlist. Oh, god, the cello. Some days I think that there is nothing more beautiful than this piece of music, and how she played it.
Dog Days Are Over – Florence and the Machine
I have to start by saying that actually, I hate Florence and the Machine. Well, Florence. I guess I don’t hate her, but she annoys the tits off me. This song, however, has been a massive part of my year. The ‘happiness hit her like a bullet in the back’ line hit me just like that on so many occasions throughout the year, every time in a completely different guise. This is one of those songs that reminds me of walking in the sunshine feeling really, really happy.
Run fast for your mother run fast for your father
Run for your children for your sisters and brothers
Leave all your love and your longing behind you
Can’t carry it with you if you want to survive
Paper Bag – Fiona Apple
Christ, this song. I have been listening to it for many, many years and it still throws up new stuff for me. I used to listen to When the Pawn… a lot when I was 17/18 and absolutely loved Fiona Apple, in that nobody-else-understands-me, Tori Amos fan sort of way. Now I listen to her occasionally because I still like her music, but it doesn’t ‘mean’ as much anymore. Well, aside from this song, as I have found out this year. Almost every line has meant something at some point, from “Hunger hurts but starving works, when it costs too much to love” (the anorexic’s anthem – not food related for me though) to “I thought he was a man but he was just a little boy”. I have walked and walked and walked to this song, often on repeat (have talked about my relationship with incessant song repetition before) and have literally stopped in my tracks on the odd occasion where a line has slapped me in the face with some new, profound meaning. So here are the lyrics in their entirety. It’s not only the lyrics that make this song brilliant, though; the music complements it perfectly, right from the off with those beats, then the piano and her voice swooping in, to be joined later on by those magnificent horns. I adore it, and like a fine wine (whatever that is, I am shit with wine) just gets better and better as the years mosey on by. Her voice is absolutely exquisite.
Suspended in Gaffa – Kate Bush
My darling Kate. This woman is the musical love of my life, I think. The Dreaming is an album like no other (who else brays like a donkey on a song and gets away with it, come on), and this features on it. Again, like most of the songs on this playlist, it began to take on a different form, shapeshifting until it started to mirror me and what I was going through. I realised that this is a sort of theme song for me, and I called it my ‘therapy song’ for a while, because certain parts reminded me of the therapeutic process and what it means to go through it, specifically these lines:
I try to get nearer
But as it gets clearer
There’s something appears in the way
It’s a plank in me eye
With a camel
Who’s trying to get through it
Am I doing it?
Can I have it all now?
I pull out the plank and say
“Thank you for yanking me back to the fact that there’s always something to distract…”
But sometimes it’s hard
To know if I’m doing it right
Can I have it all now?
I can’t have it all
So anyway. This song has possibly been my most played song of the year (the word possibly is only due to the amount of very worthy contenders) but definitely the most consistent. People for mock me for my Kate Bush love, but only because they don’t understand. Heathens.
Soft Revolution – Stars
Stars feature twice in my end-of-the-year playlist. I am a big Stars fan, or more specifically, a big Set Yourself on Fire fan (in my top 5 albums without question). This song was never one of those ones that I immediately connected with, unlike Your Ex Lover is Dead, which I had a love-at-first-listen reaction to. This one was a slow burner, and another one that became a ‘therapy’ song (those songs were all around March/April/May when everything started to Get Serious in my sessions and it was difficult and scary and there was a shift in how I felt, about everything, and it actually felt like I was getting somewhere rather than just ‘talking about my problems’). There is also something really hopeful in this song. It sounds like it’s trying to buoy you up, that yes, it’s scary, but it’ll be ok, just you wait and see.
We are here to make you feel
It terrifies you but it’s real
It will keep you up all night
And in the flood of morning light
Spilling out across your room
You’ll say the words
“We’ll get there soon”
God Made Me – Shearwater
Another slow burner. The album that this comes from, The Golden Archipelago, takes you on this huge, awe-inspiring arc of a journey, and this song is no different. That album, to me, really embodies nature and I feel as though I understand what it all means. I can’t explain it any better than that…I just feel like I ‘get’ it. The first time that I saw them was at a lovely, tiny, now-defunct venue in Brighton called The Freebutt, and I was blown away by their performance, which included a hypnotic glockenspiel duet (as you can see in this video, which is not the gig I was at, but was from that tour). They are one of the most talented bunch of people that I have ever had the pleasure of watching. Tangent aside, this song didn’t hook me in with its lyrics, as songs often do, but almost purely with the music – the ‘climax’ at 3 minutes became something absolutely profound and I used to quickly rewind it to hear it again, holding my breath. Not a lot of music can honestly be described as magnificent but I think that this is worthy of that adjective. And I’m not religious at all, but this made me sort of feel like I am, or at least like I understood what that might feel like.
Good Fortune – PJ Harvey
I remember that there was a period of about a week, in April, when I felt as though I was floating as I walked. Things were brilliant. I was so in love with Nick, with the world, with everything, I was understanding myself a bit more. And then it all started to go wrong. If my 2012 had been made into a film, this would have been in the ‘dramatic irony’ bit. “Everything’s amazing and it’s all going to be ok!”. Lollerskates. This was the song that summed up that time, how I felt. Listening to it gives me a lump in my throat with the knowledge of what happened after that, and the ridiculousness of my yo-yoing, extremes of emotion throughout that fucking year. I remember walking along one of my favourite roads into town, basking in the sunshine, looking at the sea, looking at the beautiful houses, looking at the flowers, and honestly believing that every good feeling coursing through my veins at that moment was there to stay.
And I feel like
Some bird of paradise
My bad fortune slipping away
And I feel the innocence of a child
Everybody’s got something good to say
Manchester – Kishi Bashi
This song was also around that time. I’d been to see of Montreal with Nick, and the support act was this guy, who I had never heard of. I was giddy with love and feeling, again, like I was floating. This song reminds me so much of that time and makes me want to cry remembering the feelings. Was it all fake? Was it a smokescreen to my actual feelings, which turned out to be almost the opposite? Desperately grasping at straws maybe? I don’t know. All I do know is that Kishi Bashi began playing his violin and my heart seemed to grow and grow until it felt it would burst with love, shooting out rainbows and kittens and covering everything in glitter.
I haven’t felt this alive in a long time
All the streets are warm today
I read the signs
I haven’t been this in love in a long time
The sun is up, the sun will stay
Yellow Halo – Goldfrapp
Another from the time mentioned above. Nick and I used to sing this to Smudge, our elderly feline fellow…we used to sing a lot to him, changing song lyrics. So most songs ended up becoming Smudge related, one of the more memorable ones being Muffin Man by Frank Zappa: Thought he was a man, but he was….SMUDGEY!. The most memorable one was this; it started off as “Yellow Smudgey”, which became “Yellow Smudgey, you are jaundiced”, because why else would he be yellow? Bad? Funny (but maybe a bit bad also) and again makes me feel that lump in my throat. I really love the video too, featuring the beautiful Alison (although not just because of her) – it captures the dreaminess of the song perfectly.
Wagner: Das Rheingold – Vorspiel
I went to see Wagner’s Dream on a whim after seeing on Twitter that it was showing at the local arthouse cinema. I was the only person there under the age of 60, and there were only about 7 people there, including me, and I felt really sad that not more people were there. I really enjoyed it, I love Wagner and this just cemented that. I got the whole of The Ring cycle on Spotify afterwards and on one glorious day, stayed in the park listening to Das Rheingold, lying on a bench, sunshine on my face, wood pigeons cooing in the background. It was difficult to get past this first track, the way it slowly builds and builds (this video is brilliant in showing and explaining that).
So that’s the first half. It definitely feels like it should have two halves, or sides, like a record, because the second half of the year was where everything blew up. The first half was like the warm up to that, I guess.