Some of you may have noticed by now that each one of my posts is accompanied by an image that I throw together on Photoshop or Illustrator. This one is no different. This was the first time I was conscious however of being walked in on by my fiancée while meticulously cutting a pink rear from a red background. I probably could have used a different image but it wouldn’t have had just the same impact that this one has so I stand by my choice. So please enjoy this image, I courted danger and outrage to bring it to you.
My Album of the Year
I had planned on writing this before The Guardian beat me to the punch by naming this their album of the year. (Coincidentally if you want to read some quality ‘Music Speak’ from The Guardian about it click here) They have their reasons and they explain them eloquently and professionally. I have my reasons which I will hereby incoherently try to explain to you. This album, Masseduction, came to me by accident. This time last year I had heard the name St. Vincent but was blissfully/ignorantly unaware of her music. I knew she had collaborated with David Byrne but I had never really taken the time to listen to that album. Shame on me, I know. The problem is that I’ve gotten staggeringly lazy when it comes to finding new music. I can find songs on my Spotify Discovery playlist every week that I like but the trick is that those songs usually have banjos in them and are sad songs written by men about growing up, death or women. But truly new music that I was interested in, for me, was hard to find.
A fortuitous thing happened. I was presented with the opportunity to go see St.Vincent in the Olympia in October. Rachel, my aforementioned fiancée, is a big fan of hers and I was to accompany her to the show. I agreed to go knowing absolutely nothing of what I was getting myself into. I had never even seen a picture of her at that point so I clearly needed some educating and knowing how temperamental and closed off to new music I am we devised a plan. I would take two old St. Vincent songs that Rachel chose for me and mix them in with the music I had on rotation at the time and try to gradually get to know the songs. These are the first two songs she picked.
I thought ‘Cruel’ was good. I have listened to it a bunch more times and I really like it now. But the very first time I heard ‘Digital Witness’ I felt like such an idiot. How can this music have existed in the world and I hadn’t heard it? From when she sings “get back” I thought it was fantastic – it was so funky and made me want to dance and even though doctors have told me not to dance, I am willing to put my knees on the line for this song. Since it was introduced to me, myself and my dog Molly have gone on many, many walks and when we needed a pick me up or a burst of energy to get us home we would put on ‘Digital Witness’ on the earphones. The song choice makes no difference to Molly – she just zigzags in all directions no matter what I’m listening to.
Then the new album came out. Masseduction.
This was the new music that I was looking for. This was nothing like anything that I already listened to. It’s quirky, it’s cool, there’s so many layers of sound and emotion in the album that each time I listen to it I pick up on something new. That’s a fundamental of a great album to me, when you’ve heard it an absurd number of times you can still find something you either didn’t notice was in there, overlooked, or didn’t fully understand.
It was also different for me to be as invested in a female artist. Because I had gotten so entrenched in my taste profile, I had somewhat unwillingly ignored female artists. I do understand that that sounds dismissive and ignorant but it wasn’t an intentional thing and I feel like I can explain it a little bit. Like I said, my tastes are my tastes and what I listen to most often is music that I feel personally connected to. And what music could I feel more connected to than white dudes playing guitar and singing about girls? So that makes up the majority of the music I listen to. There is a new year coming and because of this experience I’m going to try to make an effort to listen to a more diverse selection of music.
My Gig of the Year
I guess somewhat unsurprisingly considering the St. Vincent roll I was on, the gig turned out to be my gig of the year.
We queued up in the rain to get into the pit which is absolutely the best place to see a gig like the one we were going to. I had some reservations though.
Reservation 1: I’m tall. I’m not aggressively tall, just over 6 foot, which isn’t out of the ordinary. But at a gig I sometimes feel like I’m a slender Andre the Giant or Stephen Merchant and without fail, a small person will somehow find the spot right behind me. Or worse, when walking into a crowd before a gig starts, when the lights are still on, I can see people, short people, looking at me from the corner of their eyes.
“This lanky eejit is going to stand right in front of me isn’t he? This happens every time.”
I imagine being a short person at a gig is a lot like being an antisocial person on a bus that’s filling up with people. You don’t want someone to sit beside you. You want a nice comfortable journey undisturbed and peaceful. You do everything you can to give off the impression of someone who doesn’t want a bus companion but you know that as soon as you make eye contact with the weird sweaty guy with a complete lack of social boundaries, that he is going to be sat beside you, encroaching on the middle of the seats and invading your personal space the whole way home.
Please listen to me short people. We tall to very tall people do not intentionally set out to block your view. We just want to see the gig the same as you but genetically we have an advantage over you in this situation. You can make eye contact with me if you want, you can ignore my presence all together. But just know, it’s not personal. We tall people just want to enjoy the gig. Plus there’s usually someone equally as tall as me with wild bohemian hair that slowly edges their way over the course of a couple of hours to right in front of my face. So we all struggle.
Reservation 2: I felt like I was in the land of the superfan. I was nervous when I was left on my own in the middle of the pit with the real and true St.Vincent super fans that one of them might ask me what my feelings were on the extra track that appeared on the Japanese-only imported version of her debut EP…”It’s good?”
There were people there who according to their Instagram feeds (which I was looking at over their shoulder) lived only for St.Vincent. Now as a rule, I do love those type of people. But I’m also aware that I am not one of those people.
We had spied the set lists from her previous shows on tour and it turns out her set lists rarely if ever changed. We knew that the first portion of the show would be songs from her previous albums, performed chronologically from her first album to her last. Then in the second half of the show, she would play Masseduction from beginning to end. What we didn’t know at the time was that there would be no band on stage with her, the live music from the band would be pumped in through speakers, which I had never seen anyone do before. The more I thought about it though the more I thought that I wouldn’t have been watching some random person playing drums or bass, I would have only been watching her. Every moment in the gig seemed to be a picture-perfect piece of art. I really don’t like taking loads of photos at shows, I don’t mind if someone else does, but I really felt like when this one was over that I wanted to go back and look at it all again.
What the set up of the show did emphasise was how much of an amazing guitar player she is. In almost every song there’s a wow moment when you see her playing something that you didn’t actually think was a human being making those sounds with a guitar. There’s a lot to be said for her being the sole focus of attention. She is the artist that has created all of this and seeing her standing there on her own made you realise how talented and unique this particular artist is.