Iris Recommends: “Spiders” by the Editors

I have bad days of all sorts at work.

Bad days when “don’t talk to me before I’ve had my coffee” is everything but a joke.

Bad days when all I want to do is curse loudly, and to add insult to injury, I have to spend hours being polite on the phone.

Bad days when my patience is a ticking time bomb, and composing resignation letters in my head is the only thing that keeps me from writing real ones.

What becomes of all these bad days? They blend into one another, cancelled by all the good that happens in between, until they stop mattering altogether. And then there are the Very Bad Days: the ones that strike like a summer storm on a quiet day at the beach, the ones I still remember years after the fact.

A Very Bad Day has nothing to do with being hit by more deadlines than I can handle, sacrificing lunch breaks to meetings, or having to suffer through a client’s power trip. A Very Bad Day is when the Fraud Police comes knocking, knowing I’ll open the door and let it announce my list of crimes: warming up to the idea I’ve earned my spot, making mistakes no amount of wits or skill could save me from, forgetting I’m only good to let myself and everyone else down.

I don’t have all the words, or enough of the right ones, to describe what hearing my own voice play my catalogue of failures in a loop feels like, but the Editors’ “Spiders” most definitely does. Like many of the tracks that precede it in An End Has A Start, it takes the hurt, confusion and betrayal I keep dishing out to myself, and sings them out loud, in the face of rationality, in the face of the voice of experience and its indifferentthis too shall pass”.

There’s spiders in your room
But there always will be
There’s people to be fooled
And there always has been

Hold out your hand
Hold out your hand, or we’ll carry you
Hold out your hand
Hold out your hand; come back to me

With your back to the wall
You’ve got one place to fall
Sometimes it’s all
Better on your own

Played as loud as practicable through my headphones — I work in an open plan office, where sound leakage causes more ripples than a brooding face — “Spiders” is like hearing a loved one’s voice say I see you, I understand, I’m hanging in there with you. Or perhaps it’s the voice of the part of me that loves me in spite of everything, that will always put up a fight. It takes a whole album to summon it, and by the time I do, I’m almost ready to crawl out of the black hole.

(Song recommendation by Federica S.)

K Recommends: “Lonely Weekends” by Wanda Jackson

A bouncy, upbeat ode to love gone wrong, Wanda Jackson’s awesomely feisty vocal just kicked me in my sads. I tapped a toe or ten. Seriously, this should be required listening for breakups, breakdowns, and breakthroughs.

This lively bop takes us through heartbreak and our ability to forge ahead. Even though “lonely weekends” are on the horizon, we can get through the week then see how lonely the weekend is without a suitor. Chances are you won’t feel so lonely with this on your playlist! Certainly we have to get through stuff to see the silver, but even in her reflection as a potentially jilted lover, Wanda Jackson’s infectious little growls insist that we don’t have to long for someone to come back to us… “[we’ll] make it all right!!!” The emotional rescue in this song is ourselves. We may be knocked down by jerks or the crap of life but we can make the best of anything.

“Said you’d be good to me… our love ain’t never gonna die… you’d be true… you didn’t even try!” I love the punch of those lines; how even though she wavers a bit to a sigh, she ends on a “LOOK OUT!” that is less dread of being alone and more of a positive outlook to keep going.

Having a song like this to refer to when I feel isolated, I am reminded of how I fought hard for a life that may not be as it was before… overloaded with social demands and constant interaction with someone… anyone… all day and night. It’s okay to enjoy your own company or go out alone and not exist in the context of someone else. Relationships of all sorts are wonderful! But codependent, weighty relationships where you lose yourself or cling to the small positives in the midst of turmoil just to “be with” someone aren’t healthy. In this song exists the possibility of a clean slate to reset and do your thing before deciding where your true intentions fit.

I’m not wearing heart-shaped, rose-colored glasses again!

(Song recommendation by K Weber)

Emery Recommends: “Miss Misanthrope” by Jealous of the Birds

Recently I gave notice at the job I’ve had for over two years.

When I finished my master’s program in 2017, I knew I couldn’t go on to a PhD right away, but I was sure I’d be working on campus in some sort of administrative/student support role. So the silence (and one awkward video interview) that followed the many, many, many applications I submitted was brutal.

I finally looked elsewhere; soon I found work with a startup. I enjoyed the ease, the creative freedom, the growth. The company evolved and eventually I became the sole employee. Several months ago we ditched the office and went fully remote.

Working from home sounds like the dream, doesn’t it? My dogs and cat love having me around for belly rubs and snacks. I can stay in pajamas all day if I want. Scheduling doctor’s appointments presents no problem. I should be content, right?

That’s what I’ve been trying to convince myself of for a long time.

There’s a lot I could say about my general dissatisfaction/disappointment/state of ennui, but the isolation of my remote job is one thing I’ve found a song for.

“Miss Misanthrope” by Jealous of the Birds somehow manages to put my loneliness to music in perfect form.

The song is beautiful, and beautifully sad, and there are lines that just get to me, like:

She said I care too much these days
About my place in this ball of yarn
There’s not a lot that I can boast
I water plants and make french toast

I’ve grown tired of the reclusiveness of my job. (The dogs and cat provide fine company, sure, but they’re not great conversationalists.) Isolation and burnout have spilled over into other parts of my life, sapping my creative energy, rendering me lethargic and disconnected. While there are many reasons I’ve decided to work elsewhere, one thing I’ve learned is that I do need human connection.

I get the sense that’s what this song is about, too. Despite the misanthropy and the solitude, the song ends by reaching out. And when she sings, “It makes me smile to know you’re alright,” I always smile, too.

(Song recommendation by Emery Ross)


Erika Jane Recommends: “Yesterday” by The Beatles

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away…

Singing the first line in the lyrics made the whole song catchy enough for me to channel my emotions. Today it’s the year 2019, and I know nothing will always be the same.

All that I had in mind right now is that I miss the previous school year, and it seemed to me like it was yesterday. The second half of 2018 drove me to euphoria, and it has been a year after, but I felt it like it was just a day ago. Happiness made it infinite, but now it was time for another drama session of my life: a run-over of memories and sadness, alone.

Maybe, being in a new atmosphere was quite a big mistake. I had problems adjusting with their personality and everything, something I’m different from. They count my mistakes, but never my deeds that are supposed to be for their good. I kept asking myself, “What have I done? What was wrong about it?”

I said something wrong, now I long for yesterday…

Honestly, it wasn’t my problem. I’ve had enough. Now, I am longing for the presence of my seniors to seek guidance and help amid this unexpected struggle.

I remained loyal to my old batch of classmates, so is everyone to their own. Yet, I continued with my battle-cry for my moving on, and for the unity and respect of my new team, which was already present in my previous year.

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away,
now it looks as though they’re here to stay.

Oh, I believe in yesterday.

(Song recommendation by Erika Jane Roble)

Sam Recommends: “Inside My Love” by Minnie Riperton

Minnie Riperton (aka Maya Rudolph’s mom!) was an amazing singer/songwriter who was taken from this world much too soon.

You probably know her best from her incredibly popular 1975 single, “Lovin’ You,” which you may even remember being featured on a Burger King commercial for mini cinnamon rolls a few years back.

But that’s not the song I’m here to recommend to you all today. Nope. Instead, I’m bringing you “Inside My Love,” a soulful, seductive track about sex.

Scratch that. This isn’t just a song about sex; it’s a song about making love. A song about two strangers, who despite just meeting, are soon to know each other as intimately as two people can know each other — literally getting inside one another.

It’s as suggestive as it sounds, and I wouldn’t recommend listening to this song with your parents. In fact, just to avoid any confusion or awkwardness, I wouldn’t recommend listening to it with anyone you aren’t actively trying to seduce. Think I’m exaggerating? Check out the chorus:

You can see inside me.
Will you come inside me?
Do you want to ride inside my love?

While the lyrics are X-rated on their surface, and the song might sound raunchy in another artist’s hands, Minnie’s execution of this song is almost otherworldly in its beauty. If this song doesn’t make you want to light some candles, pour some champagne, and slip into something more comfortable…then you probably need to check the quality of your speakers.

(Song recommendation by Samantha Lamph/Len)

Seigar recommends “God Control” by Madonna

70s disco diva wants gun control.

Seigar, the photographer, is back.

Madame X is the album that gives me everything that I have been looking for in other musicians for years; addicted to Pitchfork I must admit. Being a Madonna fan since I was a kid, I can tell this record is epic.

It’s “world music 2019”. Madame X sounds like many singers and musicians so different among them that it’s a delicious and explosive cocktail: Ibeyi, Daft Punk, Nneka, Liz Wright, Kali Uchis, Ayo, Uffie, James Blake or Richard Russell. She has elevated her music and style with these songs. God bless Portugal for the inspiration she got there.

It’s a concept and political album, but she also keeps a quite personal view about global issues. It’s full of hopeful messages in its lyrics and it has an outstanding production and sound. It’s her most experimental album ever I’d say! What fans didn’t expect, at least now.

The best tracks in the album are Dark Ballet (experimental collage), God Control (religious music meets 70s disco ball), Killers who are partying (fado 2019) and Come Alive (world music summer song). However, there are other great compositions like Medellin (Latin hedonism), Faz Gostoso (Michael Jackson), Extreme Occident (Evita meets Mer Girl), Crazy (sweet perfect pop) or I rise (epic final song).

Before the fans listened to the whole album, there was a backlash about Madame X. First single songs weren’t completely understood, and in fact, the Eurovision song performance didn’t help. But finally, when the album was released we all got it. There is a consensus among fans but also among music critics that “this is it”. Some critics talk about her best album since Confessions, others say since American Life, but what is clear is that it is a decisive moment for her and her music.

This is a masterpiece all together. It’s an album that must be heard from the first to the last song, no just individual songs, because they all work as one.

Madonna 1 — Fans 0.

Enjoy her protest song about gun control in which she becomes a writer and a 70s disco diva. Madame X can be everything she wants/we need.

(Song recommendation by Seigar)

Juliette Recommends: “Kill This Love” by BLACKPINK

Image via Consequence of Sound

I never thought I would be into K-pop. Like, ever. Korean pop groups were literally half a world away, and I try to avoid large groups of screaming fangirls at the height of something’s popularity (not that there’s anything wrong with loving something that much— I’m not one for noise and crowds generally!).

Then, my sister started listening to almost exclusively K-pop groups: EXO, BTS, NCT … and BLACKPINK. I’ve quickly lost track of her long list of favourites, but BLACKPINK stood out to me from the start.

On the one hand, they were the very first girl group she showed me. It was honestly a refreshing sight after weeks of watching groups of men dancing in brightly coloured suits (usually without a shirt underneath).

On the other, they’re simply talented. Not only is this group of girls absolutely stunning, but they’ve got more than enough talent backing it up. Singing, dancing, rapping — they’ve got it all.

Like most K-pop hits, their music is catchy. I’ve grown to like many of their songs (and, I’ll admit it — my sister made me a full K-pop playlist that I listen to frequently). But Kill This Love was the first of countless BLACKPINK songs my sister introduced me to, and it’s remained my favourite.

As said sister so kindly puts it, “This is the one song you can kind of sing along to.” In this, she’s referring to both my absolute ignorance of the Korean language and a rather lengthy section of English lyrics in this song in particular:

“Let’s kill this love!
Rum, pum, pum, pum, pum, pum, pum

We all commit to love
That makes you cry, oh oh
We’re all making love
That kills you inside, yeah

We must kill this love (yeah, yeah)
Yeah, it’s sad but true
Gotta kill this love (yeah, yeah)
Before it kills you, too”

Contrary to my own expectations, yes, I’ve gotten into K-pop, however mildly. Thanks to BLACKPINK, I’ve been able to share in one of my sister’s biggest interests as of late, and it’s actually brought us closer along the way. Not to mention, I’ve got some new favourites to get stuck in my head!

(Song recommendation by Juliette Sebock)

Tom Recommends: “Andrew In Drag” by The Magnetic Fields

In case you’ve never tried it, writing is really fucking hard!

So if you ever need to be reminded how bad you are at it relative to the abilities of others, might I suggest listening to the song Andrew In Drag by The Magnetic Fields. In two minutes (and while rhyming the end of every single line of the lyrics in a simple “-ag” stressed syllable), Stephin Merritt puts on a clinic on how to establish, develop, and pay off characters across a core narrative conflict that illuminates themes about personal identity and love.

I, on the other hand, one time was able to semi-coherently express my feelings to my wife.

Oh, and I wrote a couple of books that maybe, maaaaaybe achieve a sliver of the narrative impact and clarity this song achieves in TWO GOD-DAMN MINUTES!!! What, exactly, did I ever do to you, Stephin Merritt? Seriously. I want to know. Touché, motherfucker!

This is the part of the recommendation where it would make sense for me to synopsize the song’s narrative, but it truly cannot be said any better than it’s said in the song. So I’m not going to take the bait and drag my stank all over it. No. I’m just going to politely stand back and recommend the song with the added disclosure that listening to it and really thinking about the effortless efficiency and complexity of its storytelling might make you give up on using words ever again. In fact, if it doesn’t, then listen to it one more time. You’ll get there. And if we all listen to it, then you’ll be living in a silent world, Merritt. A lonely, desolate and silent universe just like the one my soul is now trapped in when all I wanted to do was write!

(Song recommendation by Tom Stern)

Sam Recommends: “Hard Times” by Paramore

I was never a huge fan of Paramore. Not even in high school, when their earliest releases were solidifying themselves as one of the most iconic pop punk bands in that genre’s heyday.

In the decade that has lapsed since those days, I can’t say that much has changed between me and Paramore. I’ve never purchased one of their albums or gone to one of their concerts. But what I have done is become obsessed with one of their most recently released singles, “Hard Times,” from their 2017 album After Laughter. 

I was still relatively new to Los Angeles the first time I heard the song. A friend played the music video for our group after an epic night out that included a lot of alcohol and a trip to Jumbo’s Clown Room. I couldn’t deny that — despite the sadness conveyed in the lyrics — the song was catchy as hell. The music is peppy and upbeat, and the visuals in the music video are just as dazzling. It’s the musical embodiment of a dark cloud’s silver lining. Except this silver lining is actually a technicolor rainbow that pops and glimmers like lightning.

Since then, “Hard Times” has become one of my standard go-to tracks on bad days when I need catharsis in the form of musical commiseration. I hope it can bring you some joy, light, and color on your own dark days.

(Song recommendation by Samantha Lamph/Len)

Venus Recommends: “Venus” by Sleeping At Last

The night sky once ruled my imagination.
Now I turn the dials with careful calculation.
After a while, I thought I’d never find you.
I convinced myself that I would never find you,
When suddenly I saw you.

The year was 2017. I had hated my name for years upon years. As a child, I assumed it was just because my name was common.

I won’t tell you the exact name but think along the same vein as “Jessica”, “Megan”, or “Kelly”.

I wanted to feel special and different and like my name meant something, something I could identify with. Every time someone called my name — I just felt fear and disgust. Coincidentally, I happened to have Sleeping At Last’s “Atlas: Space” album recommended to me around the time that I started heavily questioning my name and gender.

Each song is named after a different planet and the lyrics embody this kind of broad intensity that can only be captured by thinking of something celestial. I remember staying up late one night with a close friend and telling him about how I didn’t feel like a girl, how I hated my name. I told him that I wanted to be called something unique but was afraid of being judged or made fun of for my choice of name. I jokingly said, “I can’t just go by a name like Sunflower. People would tear me apart for that.”

I remember he just looked at me and laughed. He told me that a sort of hippie name would suit me well. That’s when it clicked, I wanted to be called Venus. I played “Venus” by Sleeping At Last constantly in my dorm room and while I was out and about. The decision didn’t feel spur of the moment or rushed at all. It just felt right.

I came out as nonbinary and texted my friends about my name change and from then on — I was Venus. Suddenly, I saw myself in a way I never had before.

Maybe, if you give this song a listen, you will find a piece of yourself in it too.

(Song recommendation by Venus Davis)