Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015: my year in lyrics

2015 has been a good year for lyricists: Kendrick Lamar and his masterpiece To Pimp a Butterfly, whose social and political significance has been endorsed as an anthem by the Black Lives Matter movement across the USA; Sufjan Steven's extremely intimate and heartfelt goodbye to his mother; Titus Andronicus' 29-track, obsessively detailed dissection of the bipolar disorder.
Impossible to top these three, but there's still a lot to talk about: Father John Misty on love, Sun Kil Moon on pretty much everything (no wonder the album's called Universal Themes), Viet Cong, Courtney Barnett and many more on predictably postmodern themes such as depression, nihilism and loss of meaning.
Here are just a few examples.

Wouldn't you know
We been hurt, been down before
Nigga, when our pride was low
Lookin' at the world like, "Where do we go?"
Nigga, and we hate po-po
Wanna kill us dead in the street fo sho
Nigga, I'm at the preacher's door
My knees gettin' weak, and my gun might blow
But we gon' be alright

Kendrick Lamar, Alright

I forgive you, mother, I can hear you
And I long to be near you
But every road leads to an end
Yes every road leads to an end
Your apparition passes through me in the willows
Five red hens – you’ll never see us again
You’ll never see us again
Sufjan Stevens, Death with Dignity

It was 1989 when I lost my mind
For the very first time I went down in the mine
Going down in the mine I didn't know what I'd find
But whatever I'd find, say that it was mine
And I brought a little bird, it was short lived
And I lost my mind when the little bird died
Because as I stopped to cry for the little bird's life
For the moment my mind was out of my sight
And I turned back around to a terrible surprise
I had lost my mind for the very first time
Since I was a child, they tried to let me slide
Then I lost it twice, they said it was a crime
And my hands were tied, I was read my rights
It was a real short list written in little, tiny type
And they built their perfect prison and locked me inside
I cried, "this is so wrong," they said "It's alright"
And then a plate full of pills, I swallowed them dry
I was displayed in a cage, they claimed, in the name of science
And they probed, prodded, realigned my spine
'Til they said I could walk in a straight enough line
And then they pushed me back out into the bright sunlight
I didn't know what it meant to be institutionalised
Yeah I begged for readmission, it was denied
Where do you reside when you've lost your mind?
Where you gonna hide when you lose your mind?
Titus Andronicus, I Lost My Mind (+@) 

I feel alright, I feel alright, I feel alright, I feel alright
I feel alright, I feel alright, I feel alright, I feel alright
Well, how's the family? How's the family? How's the family? How's the family?
How's your health been? How's your health been? How's your health been? How's your health been?
Fancy seeing you here, fancy seeing you here, fancy seeing you here, fancy seeing you here
Time and off again, time and off again, time and off again, time and off again
Beautiful weather today, beautiful weather today, beautiful weather today, beautiful weather today
How's the church? How's the job? How's the church? How's the job?
How's the family? How's the family? How's the family? How's the family?
Beautiful weather today, beautiful weather today, beautiful weather today, beautiful weather today
Fancy seeing you here, fancy seeing you here, fancy seeing you here, fancy seeing you here
Time and off again, time and off again, time and off again, time and off again
It's all that we have, it's all that we have
Just that and the big, beautiful blue sky
Ought, Beautiful Blue Sky 

There’s no connection left in your head
Another book of things to forget
An overwhelming sense of regret
Relay, reply, react, and reset

Relay, reply, react, and respond
The simple task of turning it on
Only receiving electrical shock
Not everything can stay interlocked
Maybe too late will be much too soon
It isn’t something that’s safe to assume
And anyone can disappear in a spark
Viet Cong, Silhouettes

My internal monologue is saturated analog
It's scratched and drifting, I've become attached to the idea
It's all a shifting dream, bittersweet philosophy
I've got no idea how I even got here
I'm resentful, I'm having an existential time crisis
Want bliss, daylight savings won't fix this mess
Under-worked and over-sexed, I must express my disinterest
The rats are back inside my head, what would Freud have said?

Courtney Barnett, Pedestrian at Best 

It took so long for me to see it
Hope’s a burden or it sets you free
Wandered through the void of you
Wandered through the void of me
I’ve grown afraid of everything that I love
Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love

It's a sad world we were raised in
You could hate it but what's the use?
Elvis Depressedly, Wastes of Time

I remember when I first heard Led Zeppelin's "Tea For One"
Laying by my bedroom window on Valium soaking up the warm afternoon sun rays
And in those minutes, hours, I was totally content
And I'll take that memory to my grave as one of my happiest moments
Sun Kil Moon, With a Sort of Grace I Walked to the Bathroom to Cry

One summer I fell in love
For the first time
It would change my whole life
I would learn to love someone
And not be alone

So slowly the love went away
And I was frozen
I didn't want to lose that love
I didn't want to leave behind
Part of myself

I was lonely
But I felt afraid of being loved
I thought I didn't need the pain
I thought that in my heart
I had to be on my own
Majical Cloudz, If You're Lonely

I haven’t hated all the same things
As somebody else
Since I remember
What are you doing with your whole life?
How about forever?
Father John Misty, Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)

Where the hell have you been?
I want to sleep with you until winter comes
And then wait for springtime
And then wait for winter again and again

Any Other, Sonnet #4 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

American Football + TTNG live @ SWG3, Glasgow

A few pictures from the live show played by American Football and opened by This Town Needs Guns (TTNG) in Glasgow on 17/5/2015. The light was terrible (especially during AF - why oh why), so I tried.

There's no copyright on these photos; if you want to use them, please give credit to Claudia Viggiano or @thisiswater_ (both on Twitter and Instagram).

This Town Needs Guns

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Mad Men: I won't have my heart broken

My favourite tv series of all time has just come to an end, and I thought it appropriate to bid my farewell to Mr Draper and the rest of the Mad Men (and Women).

There's lots I'd like to say, but first I think Erica Cantoni on Bright Wall/Dark Room said it best:

I have forgotten all the major stories, and yet I could carve in bone my memory of a dozen tiny, quiet scenes:
Betty, sitting in a late-day Roman glow, her hair whipped and molded into a European chignon. Looking so modern it was as if she alone dragged in the backdrop change, inventing the ’60s. As if she’d finally shed the kids like a dead skin or a fire and emerged, victoriously golden. Reborn. How the Italian men hit on her and insulted Don when he approached, as a stranger. Which was perfect, right? Because how long had it been since they’d known each other at all? I’d etch in how he fell back in love, madly so, with Betty for two days. With this restored, empowered version of her. All cold upper class beauty, all superiority, all linguistic-flexing power. Too good for him, which is the key to everything.
I’d etch the repose of Roger’s tired face when he calls Joan late at night, with Jane, the regrettable wife, passed out beside him.
Peggy’s hand on Don’s after Anna dies. This single brief touch a complete swelling orchestra composed to explain the depth of their bond and its tenuousness. How vital and still wildly vulnerable this tie is in the possession of a man so accustomed to scorching any tenderness entrusted to him.
Everything encompassed in the moments Don calls Betty “birdie.” The whole rattling film projection of their courtship and marriage and children and infidelities and lies and second tries and reheated dinners. And the end that Betty pretends comes with the bang of Dick Whitman’s betrayal, and not years of whimpers. Every aching sweetness remains in “birdie,” somehow fossilized and surviving but useless as a mate-less bull.
The literal restraint of the characters—their buttoned-up loneliness. The moments of elegant non-response and suffocated reaction. The things they do not tell each other, the fights they don’t finish, the slaps that aren’t delivered. The communicative release they never allow themselves (even as it might be their salvation).
Sometimes, I find myself watching  Mad Men through a sort of fantasy lens, as if it were an underwater ballet. A cold, slow-floating drift of Asian dance and sad, silent theater.
It’s hypnotizing.
There are a few more moments I could add to this carousel: Don and Peggy's slow dance in season 7, Roger's "you're okay" to Don the last time they meet in the series, Peggy's fierce and smug catwalk in season 7 as opposed to the Peggy carrying her box in season 1, not wanting to make a noise, to go unnoticed. And then there are the funny ones: Pete's exclamations ("Hell's bells, Trudy!", "Not great, Bob!"). Freddie playing Mozart with his trousers' zipper. "I'm Peggy Olson and I want to smoke some Marijuana." Bert's "She was born in 1898 in a barn. She died on the thirty-seventh floor of a skyscraper. She's an astronaut."

But really, the beauty of Mad Men comes down to this: it's more about what's not said. There is a distance - between the characters, and between you and the characters - a void you can never even imagine to fill, and that's where the unsaid and unwritten goes to settle and die (or does it ever?). It doesn't die, it lies there and stays suffocated, that "communicative release." You get it at times, you get a brief disruption every now and then, just like Don's breaking in tears in the very last episode, but that's not a change in character--it's rather a piece of the puzzle, where you get to see a side of something that, however, remains puzzling.

Don's distance is the most fascinating aspect of what makes his character what it is, and what makes it one of the best characters in the history of television. It's this distance that allows us to see beyond the contradictions encompassed in the character, and leads us to accept him as a man. Don is despicable, but it's because of his restraint that we can't really see him as such, because it's what makes him hover above all kind of judgement.

I have learnt to love despicable characters, but in the end I really wanted Walter White to die. Don, instead, lives on. Mad Men's "underwater ballet" continues, and it looks a bit like Bert Cooper's farewell dance.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Twilight Sad live @ O2 ABC, Glasgow

These are some of the photos I took at The Twilight Sad's gig in Glasgow on 19/12/2014. I was standing right in the middle so I could only take decent pictures of James (the rest are shite, too dark).
It was beautiful and mesmerising and it only confirmed what I had previously said: Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave is the best record that came out this year.

Enjoy the pictures.

There's no copyright on these photos; however, if you want to use them, please give credits to Claudia Viggiano or @thisiswater_ (both on Twitter and Instagram).


Saturday, December 13, 2014

2014: my albums of the year

2014 has been a long year, but music has kept me company through productive, creative, stressful and lazy times. So I'll honour music my way.

This is my first ever end-of-the-year celebratory list. Twenty names, a few runners-up, a few absentees: it's a very subjective list, and it mostly reflects the genres I've listened to throughout 2014, so pardon me if there isn't much electronic music represented this year.
I'll also try to spend a few words on why I liked each album. Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

1) The Twilight Sad - Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave

Because this album is a journey. Into darkness, gloomy Scottish landscapes and an existential angst that's not that of teenagers, but rather a "tired melancholy," as DiS suggests. It's a concept album, which is why I called it a 'journey', and therefore it should be taken as a whole: "it’s not until you assemble the whole thing, that the jaw-dropping brilliance of the album reveals itself."

2) Damon Albarn - Everyday Robots

Because there is a maturity to this album that I hadn't seen in Albarn before, and although it explores and deploys various genres it is in melancholic tracks that his voice and lyricism work best together; You and Me might be my favourite track of 2014.

3) Cloud Nothings - Here and Nowhere Else

Because Cloud Nothings know how to reach the perfect balance between noise, misanthropy and catchiness, and because this album sounds incredibly powerful live. 

4) Pianos Become the Teeth - Keep You
Because they're exploring a different genre which suits them; more precisely, they're experimenting with a mixture of genres, and the result is a solid piece of work whose punk, emo, post-rock, post-punk, slowcore and shoegaze influences create 43 minutes of pure bliss.

5) Owen Pallett - In Conflict
Because everyone knows I've got a (ridiculously) soft spot for Mr Pallett, but also because experimenting with a band helped him broaden the scope of his music. Owen's music sounds like nothing you've heard before, and this album sounds like nothing Owen Pallett has ever done before.

6) Cymbals Eat Guitars - Lose
Because despite every track being different from the previous and the next one, there is a cohesion to this album that I can't quite explain. Still, this means that they can play (and play with) any genre they want and still demonstrate they're great at it.

7) Nothing - Guilty of Everything
Because can you really expect anything bad coming from a band called Nothing?! And because it's a troubled work that's the product of a troubled past and there was probably no better way to express that than by using noise and shoegaze.

8) Perfume Genius - Too Bright
Because it's a perfect album: it is technically perfect without sounding like he's trying too hard, BUT still manages to sound genuine, sentimental, and catchy.

9) Sun Kil Moon - Benji
Because this record is a novel, and one told by a bright and talented writer.

10) We Were Promised Jetpacks - Unravelling  

Because WWPJ are one of those bands it's really hard to label, but easy to sing along to. That, and a very well-produced and cohesive album, full of instrumental crescendos and great imagery in the lyrics.

11) Weezer - Everything Will Be Alright In the End

Because they're genuinely going back to the shack, and "rocking out like it's '94." Yet, the albums sounds so new: not because it's new, but because it's so different from the music that's around right now, it almost feels like something you haven't heard before.

12) Sharon Van Etten - Are We There

Because, as suggested by the title, this album is also a journey, a heartbreaking yet cathartic one, and because Van Etten is simply a great songwriter.

13) Royal Blood - Royal Blood

Because I didn't expect something so powerful coming from such a harmless-looking duo (yes, so much noise, but still a two-piece band!). It's a great debut album.

14) East India Youth - Total Strife Forever

Because this is another stunning debut album, with a character and elegance to it that show a maturity we wouldn't expect of a debut album.

15) Mogwai - Rave Tapes

Because Mogwai never disappoint, to be completely honest with you. And it sounds great live!

16) Joyce Manor - Never Hungover Again

Because Joyce Manor make quality punk-rock, and because I like pretending I'm 17 inside.

17) The Hotelier - Home, Like Noplace Is There

Because it's visceral, painful but never overly dramatic, and because look at that title!

18) Johnny Foreigner - You Can Do Better

Because this albums sounds much more mature and cohesive than the previous ones, and they've been playing with a few more influences. You rock, Birmingham!

19) Young Fathers - Dead!

Because Edinburgh rocks too. To be fair, there's a lot of Scotland in this playlist, even though Young Fathers are the least Scottish of the four. The album is powerful, it has character and it's never boring; it just sounds good from start to finish, and he Mercury Prize was well deserved.

20) Interpol - El Pintor

Because, however disappointing, an Interpol record is still an Interpol record. And to be honest this wasn't even disappointing; it's a good album, and you can tell there's an attempt to go back to their older sound while trying to get something new out of it.

Other albums I liked: 
  • Swans - To Be Kind
  • Real Estate - Atlas 
  • Against Me! - Transgender Dysphoria Blues
  • Future Islands - Singles
  • Kiasmos - Kiasmos
  • A Winged Victory for the Sullen - Atomos
  • Ronin - Adagio Furioso
  • Angel Olsen - Burn Your Fire for No Witness
  • Keaton Henson - Romantic Works
  • Grouper - Ruins
  • The Antlers - Familiars
  • Fucked Up - Glass Boys

"I don't get what the fuss is all about" albums (I don't necessarily hate them):
  • FKA Twigs - LP1
  • Mac DeMarco - Salad Days
  • Aphex Twin - Syro
  • The War On Drugs - Lost in the Dream
  • Ariel Pink - Pom Pom
  • Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 2
  • EMA - Future's Void
  • Taylor Swift - 1989 (oh yes I hate this one).

Finally, here's a Spotify playlist with my favourite tracks from 2014: