Wednesday, December 30

Songs to Save My Year

HERE IS A LIST of songs that, for want of a more artistic phrase, have gotten me through the past twelve months in one piece. These are songs that, I suppose, define my year. They are not songs that came out this year – I don’t think any of them have – but they have served their purpose. I do not listen to as much music as I used to, yet since I became single I have listened to a great deal more (four times more, apparently, than when I was in a relationship). These songs mean something to me; I don’t care whether you enjoy them or not.

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Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away), Deftones
The path that came from the main road ran, in a lot of darkness, next to a fenced-in field up to the hospital. One could tell, from the ignorance of the illumination, that the route was not a popular one; careful attention was essential to ensure that one did not trip over any ripples in the hundred yards or so of tarmac. My grandmother was dying. My relationship was dying. In two weeks, both would be dead. I don’t care where, just far. The song carried me along, picked me up, put me somewhere else. Over and over I listened to it. After I had listened to it completely, I learned it on my instrument. Arriving home from work I played it on guitar as loudly as I could, pulling the muscles in my back. I am unsure if the song made me weep, or whether it allowed me to weep, but, either way, each time I heard it I felt like I was escaping from something in life; which is what good art should do, maybe.

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The Sinking of the Titanic, Gavin Bryars
It was a particularly miserable Saturday when, to cheer myself up, I went to the record shop. This was found completely by random, and, being intrigued by the cover art, the producer (Brian Eno), and the fact that it was contemporary composition, I bought it. I listened to it as soon as I got home and was broken by it. The motif repeats on and on. I researched the track and as I read I listened. It is one of the most beautiful pieces I have ever heard, and it often accompanies when I write at night. Finding sanity in the evenings is very important to me, and this piece helps. It knocks me out with sadness.

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Mantra, Earl Sweatshirt
This was the first song I listened to in my new flat; such an honour requires careful consideration, and this is completely deserving. Sweatshirt is my most-listened to artist of the year; his album I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside is head & shoulders above any hip hop album I’ve heard in over a decade. Every time I hear the album, I fall more in love with the guy. I can just listen to the album on repeat and not get bored, nor realise that it is on repeat. I just want my time and my mind intact / when they both gone, you can’t buy them back. Because I listened to the album every night walking home from work, I quickly knew when and where different parts of the song would happen, so that now I cannot walk past those places without starting to sing a particular line or tapping a particular beat. It is good to map songs across the place you live.

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The Lost Song, The Cat Empire
There was an empty seat next to me when I saw this band in June. As this particular song began ringing out in the concert hall, I turned to my friend and said, quite candidly—‘I fuckin’ love this song. I listened to it every day after L— broke up with me.’ Of course I wept, what do you expect me to do? My mind lost the colour of direction. I do not know why I had made such a declaration, but by then I was quite drunk and enjoying myself, hoping all evening that they would play that song. All through the performance, and with every listen, I feel slightly less terrible about not having a fucking clue what I’m doing with my life.

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I’m A Fool To Want You, Billie Holiday
I first started listening to Lady Day when I was a teenager; when I was seventeen I found something very comforting in the old sound of her. This year, as soon as our relationship was over and I was living alone again, I listened to this song constantly: first thing in the morning as I walked to the tube station and on endless walks around the city as I tried to cope with the loss of my lover & best friend. The lyrics helped me so much, the softly damaged voice of Holiday keeping me company. The song is difficult to listen to, it’s always difficult to listen to. I’m a fool to want you. Perhaps it helps me come to terms with my own foolishness and the futility of my feelings, but most of all it is a beautiful song. Listening to it now I see the exact moment I approached the spot where I stood in Bow Rd station waiting for the District line, every morning; a different place, a different time, a different person.

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