7 Day Writing Challenge - Day Six: Favourite Song

I don’t have a favourite song. I know everybody says that, but I really don’t. I have a collection of songs that have always meant a lot to me over the years, there are certain songs I dance most to and songs that relax me. There are songs that pull me back in to my memories and songs that make me think about the future. There are new songs in the charts that I can’t stop listening to and old songs that I rediscover every once in a while. There are songs I grew up with and songs I found purely by accident. Actually, I think my music taste is made up from just a large collection of my ‘favourite songs’ – but then, isn’t everyone’s?

So…I’ll go for a song that I love at the moment.

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How to Save a Life by The Fray. Like REM’s Everybody Hurts people think this is one of those pointlessly depressing songs. Well, if you think that then it means you’ve never needed a song like this – and you should think yourself lucky for that. The truth is that this song actually contains a lot of hope. If you’ve even seen the video you’ll know it goes through some of the steps of experiencing and recovering from loss, depression, sorrow, guilt etc. It’s a comfort, really, almost a sort of ribbon that ties together those lost in themselves and those who feel left behind. If you’ve ever lost someone close you’ll know that no matter what the circumstances of that loss, you feel a tremendous weight of guilt. This is one of, if not the only (mainstream) songs I know of that addresses that feeling. There are plenty of songs for those still clinging on, but this track is a beautiful and real apology for those who feel like they didn’t reach their hand out further enough.

I know a lot of people think that listening to ‘sad songs’ when you’re going through something traumatic and hurtful will only hinder the process of recovery and drag you down further, but that’s not the case at all. These so called ‘sad songs’ are often the ones that bring us the most release. The words can push things in to your mind that you’ve shoved to the back for perhaps longer than necessary, forcing you to feel what you obviously need to feel.

How to Save a Life is real, honest and moving. It works for people in different ways, as music generally does, but for me it’s a reminder that I’m not in this alone, because no matter how we acquired our demons, we fight them off the same. 

So, here it is. I’m back from my month long trip around the US. It’s strange to be home - both a good and unsettling kind of strange. It’s nice to have the routine of day time in my own house again, good to know that those I love and need are only just a few miles away (instead of thousands). I missed my bed and my cats and my kitchen and my shitty couch. I missed cooking and cleaning and complaining about being the only person who does the dishes. I missed my big TV and my laptop and that kind of secure feeling that comes from an over familiarity with one place.

But at the same time I haven’t missed this place. Travelling was amazing. The places, the people, the food and the smells. Crossing what felt like a million time zones, closing your eyes and still being able to feel the soft sway of a plane as it comes in to land, waking up in a new city every few days. I can’t wait to do it again. The trip has made me so unsure of who I am and what I want to be, but as much as that is one of the most terrifying thoughts a person can have, I seem to be ok with it.

Leaving for that trip was scary. Having those who usually bail me out of the shit be thousands of miles away made me feel a little sick and before I left a month felt like the largest measure of time. But I did it. I left and I saw and I lived and I tasted and I was scared and I was happy and I flew and I fell and I survived. And that’s awesome.

7 Day Writing Challenge - Day Five: Someone Who Fascinates You

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I find Salvador Dali (or Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dali i Domènech) to be a terribly fascinating human being, and mostly because he was and is such a mystery to so many people. From his quotes and interviews it seems as though he never did like to give clear answers, almost as if he himself wanted to appear as surreal as his work.

I’ve loved Dali’s work from a very young age. My dad had two small prints framed in our old flat, and I used to sit and stare at them, before I had any serious concept of art or its many variations, and wonder what could be happening. The piece I remember staring at most is ‘Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening’. My imagination, as young and limitless as it was, didn’t know what to do with such an image. Before I learned the title of the piece or its meaning, I used to wonder what this woman had done to anger all these strange creatures that were apparently after her.

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As I grew older I began to look more in depth in to Dali’s life and work. Some of his early life was actually quite heartbreaking, and like most artists it was the parents that loosened the first few screws (I’m not saying Dali was crazy – just that his parents helped him get a little fucked up – as parents so often do). Despite this, he loved his parents a great deal, and when his mother died it tore through him with a pain I am all too familiar with. Art helped him to cope. It helped him to create his own world when the one around him made no sense. It was his escape. He could make up his own rules, show whatever side of himself he felt like and display his emotions with any imagery he wanted – without having to explain himself to anyone.

I can relate to Dali and his work quite a lot. Getting lost is something writers, like artists, live for. It’s our strongest tool but also our greatest downfall, and it can often be hard to keep a hold of yourself. He taught me to make things for myself, to not care if it made sense to anyone else as long as it made me happy. I live by some of his quotes.

“Have no fear of perfection. You’ll never reach it.”

“I don’t do drugs. I am drugs.”

“Everything alters me, but nothing changes me.”  

I think Salvador Dali is one of the most fascinating artists and people who ever lived. He took the complexity of the human brain, of life and emotion and everything that makes a person move and turned it in to some of the most magnificent art.   

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7 Day Writing Challenge - Day Four: Favourite Movie

I know I’ve been a little bit heavy on the last three challenges (“Really? You? Never!”) so I’m actually pretty excited that this subject has come up – because talking about movies is something that really makes me happy.

People who love movies usually have problems pinning down their favourite, because cinema is such a vast and diverse world that it can be hard to pin down just one. Not for me. There is one clear winner when it comes to my favourite movie and it’s always been right at the top of the list since I first saw it at the ripe old age of seven.

 

Jaws! I absolutely love this film. Admittedly, I’ve never read the novel by Peter Benchley. I think I’m scared of it taking something away from the film – and I love it far too much to let that happen. I can still remember the very first time I ever saw it. I remember being totally entranced by it, the music, the suspense and the terror of finally seeing the shark (which doesn’t actually happen until about half way through the movie). I remember the look of excitement on my dad’s face as he kept his eyes glued to my every expression. I imagine it’s the look I’ll have when I show my kids this movie for the first time.

One of the things that makes Jaws so great is its production. Nothing like this had ever been done before from the camera work and sound to the building of the shark itself. The actors are incredible and I couldn’t imagine any other people playing these characters. There are so many scenes and lines that are just perfection. One of my favourites is on the Orca, at night, just before Jaws attacks when the Chief, Hooper and Quint are laughing and singing and swapping scar stories. The speech Quint gives about being on the Indianapolis was actually re-written a few times, the last being by Robert Shaw (the actor who played Quint) himself. The atmosphere as he speaks, the tension and sadness in his voice, and the silence from the others, makes that scene truly brilliant.

 

Jaws is such an atmospheric film and I don’t think a lot of people really appreciate that. I suppose it takes something away from it with each generation, but still that movie is a masterpiece of suspense. John Williams, who wrote the music for the film, did such an epic job. He created a theme tune recognised the world over, a beautiful and completely haunting introduction to one of the most destructive and terrifying monsters in movie history.

For me, the scene where the chief is shooting at the air tank in the shark’s mouth is one of the most amazing, gripping, thrilling, seat grabbing scenes in cinematic history. You feel every shot he misses and the restless urge for him to kill the monster is enough to make any movie lover crazy. I still feel it, even after watching the film god knows how many times.

 

Jaws is a classic, and there is nothing out there like it – nor will there ever be. It’s timeless. Perfect, made even more so for the flaws and struggles it took to get the film finished (something I guess you can’t appreciate unless you know the whole tale). It was bigger than The Sound of Music, Gone With The Wind and even bigger than the Godfather movies.

To me, it’s a representation of what makes a movie amazing – blood, sweat, tears and one hell of a story line.

Frank, Cherry and Lily Iero - B.F.F. Single Review

Frank Iero just might be the most genius parent that ever existed. How many other parents, when asked by their children just what it is they do all day, get to let their kids have a first hand experience in creating what their parent creates? Well, Iero has done just that and a few days ago he and his twin daughters, Cherry and Lily, unleashed B.F.F. (Best Friends Forever) on the world.

Now this is the part where Frank’s years in the world of music business and his talent at cunning child rearing combines. All proceeds from this track go to his three children’s respective college funds. GENIUS! Why, you ask? Well, there are several reasons. The most obvious being it helps him save for three children’s college funds. College is pricey as hell and getting in to the good schools is like trying to find the Black Pearl when your name isn’t Captain Jack Sparrow. Another reason is that saying the proceeds go towards his kids’ education will make you feel like a horrific human being for any illegal download/uploads/pass the parcels of this track (when usually we have little to no reservations about doing so). It’s not candy you’re stealing from a baby, its royalties and education, and it’s from adorable balaclava clad children!

My final and favourite reason for this stroke of genius is – imagine the family meeting if one of these kids start to slack off in college. Their parents can literally print off a list of the thousands of people who helped to get them in to college and threaten to make the rebellious little rug rat call each and every one of them, and explain why their money is being flushed down the metaphorical toilet. Once again – GENIUS!

The track itself is a wonderful little listen. Stripped back and laid bare, there’s a lot of honesty and feeling which goes to show these kids would have no problems if they chose to follow in dad’s footsteps. It’s acoustic and raw and still rough around the edges, but in the best way possible. Home grown and house proud, this song (and the accompanying video) is a laid back and curious little insight in to a very creative household.

Cherry and Lily, I think you could have a very bright future in music, once you ditch the old fart…

…just kidding!

You can listen to the track and watch the video at Frank’s website: frank-iero.com

7 Day Writing Challenge - Day Three: Views On Religion

Religion is a tricky subject. I think it started out as a good idea but then, like most good things, someone came along and ruined it.

I like the idea of someone or something guiding me through life, having my back and helping me learn life’s many lessons. I think it’s great that people have something to turn to, someone to talk to even in an empty room. In a way, I envy them a little because they never feel truly alone. However, I just can’t get on board with the rules and the punishments. Most religions have them.

When I said things are good until someone comes along and ruins it, I’m talking about people who hide behind those rules. They use them as a shield as they stand high on their own sense of self importance, looking down on everyone else and judging whoever they want, because they’ve got text in a book that says they’re allowed to do just that. The fact that people believe that other people deserve pain and death, just because they don’t fit in to a certain margin of how to live your life, is fucking disgusting. I think people who hold their faith that close make it turn in to a black slime that covers them, smothers them and blinds them. I think people who follow rules set so very long ago and think that they all apply to life now need to be studied.   

As much as I would like to believe in heaven for the sake of everyone I have loved and lost, I’d have to believe in hell to do so – and the reasons that put a person there. That’s something I can’t do. It’s the fact that as humans we are flawed, and that has nothing to do with sins or who we were in a previous life. Its human nature and the complexity of the human brain. I don’t believe people are born bad. I don’t believe murderers and rapists were born that way. I think it’s a combination of nature verses nurture. We’re all born with the ability to turn in to any kind of person but it’s what happens inside and out that influences where we go and why.

I don’t think religion is all bad and I do find it truly fascinating. I think the rituals and festivals and celebrations can be beautiful, the colours and the atmosphere and the bringing together of people, from all walks of life, who find themselves the same when joined in faith is a remarkable concept. I think all the different gods and their stories and their messengers and messages can be wonderful.

Personally, I don’t believe in any god. I don’t believe in fate or luck or living by someone else’s rules. I believe we’re here to exist and to make the most of the time we have. As for what happens after that, I guess I’ll find out when I get there.

No Ordinary Love by Memphis May Fire (Review)

Since first striking the match in Dallas, Texas three years ago, Memphis May Fire has been burning up the US rock scene. Grabbing listeners by the throat, the band have been impressing rock lovers and gaining invites to some of America’s most loved alternative music events. Selling over a staggering 130,000 records, their previous album Challenger gained a well deserved #16th spot on the Billboard charts, and fans are now eagerly awaiting the next installment from this unstoppable band.

Memphis May Fire new album Unconditional

Its good news as there’s not long to wait! The band will be releasing their new LP Unconditional on 24th March via Rise Records, and have already graced us with the new single, No Ordinary Love.

A flip through any rock music channel or radio station will tell you that this is the kind of sound that moves the rock generation of today. Its guitar thrashing, bass thumping verses building to screaming choruses, songs that transfer well from the headphones to the moshpit. This track flows perfectly from start to finish, flawless in its production and musical construction from the tightness in the guitar solos to the seamless switch between melodic vocals and raw screams.

Lyrically this song is what all of us love about music. It’s just the right balance of dark of hope, of self hate and self worth. Basically it’s the rock world’s version of Katy Perry’s “Roar” or the latest Beyonce ballad. Setting sail for the UK in April, Memphis May Fire will be touring our cities with their head banging, chest grabbing rock, hoping to start a fire like the one that’s still burning across the US.

You can listen to No Ordinary Love here.

7 Day Writing Challenge - Day Two: Something You Miss

I miss being a kid. I miss everything about being a kid. I miss the lack of responsibility and the complete and utter ignorance towards real life. The lack of concept of time, where the six weeks holidays seemed like years. The excitement of dirt hills left by the council in local parks and riding towards them full speed on some Toys R Us reject bike – the ones where the chain would come loose at least six times a day. Summer evenings, sunlight at 8 o’clock and playing out until you hear your name bellowed from the kitchen window. Being totally unaware that puberty was lurking right around the corner, snarling and waiting to make your life a fucking misery.

I miss not paying bills and not worrying about jobs and the most stressful thing in life being where to hide on sports day or why Louise Cosgrove invited Sarah Smith to the sleepover when she teased me for being shit at rounders and promised to never ever, ever, ever, ever speak to her ever, ever, ever again.

I miss looking at eighteen year olds like they were middle aged and feeling like school was going to last forever. I miss it being totally acceptable to sit from 9am until 6pm in front of the TV, watching cartoons and shouting requests for nourishment to your mum (“No, mum, I cannot go and get my own packet of Skips. We’re at the pivotal plot point in this episode of Scooby Doo and I don’t want to miss it when they unmask the creepy janitor. Also yes, I do have rag arms. Had them since the day I was born in that barn.”)

I miss the simplicity. I miss looking forward to growing up and being totally unaware of all the drawbacks. I miss stupid, pointless arguments with parents and questions to friends that make absolutely no sense - but getting answers anyway. I miss the thrill of rebellion and knowing that when you fuck up it’s not you who has to clean up the mess.

I also miss playing Sonic the Hedgehog on Sega.

7 Day Writing Challenge - Day One: Your Earliest Memory

I’m not entirely sure if my earliest memory is actually real. I read somewhere that psychologists say you can’t remember anything before the age of about four or five, anything before that is something your brain has just made up and then convinced you it’s a true memory. I’m not really sure if I believe that. I think some things are so powerful that our brain soaks the images up and holds them there, hides them until we choose to unlock them.

My earliest memory is from when I was two, right before my parents split up. Its early afternoon and I’m stood in the dining room, looking in through the open kitchen door as my mum chops vegetables for dinner. My dad appears and wraps his arms around my mum’s waist before kissing her cheek – and that’s it. That’s the whole memory.

Like I said, I don’t know if it is real or I made it up. My parents split up before I turned three, so I don’t have any memories (other than this one) of them being happily married. Maybe, if my brain did in fact make it up, that’s why. Maybe I just wanted to know what it was like to be in your typical mum – dad – kids – pets family.

I like to think it’s a real memory and I will probably always tell myself that it is. After all, psychologists, like most doctors, are often wrong – so why not this time?

amalieart:

A few shots of my postcards series! You can get them at my Etsy Shop!

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Shit. I can’t even get in to words my love for this woman’s art, and I’m a fucking writer! Seeing her talent grow and her creativity take shape over the last 5 years has been nothing short of a true honour. To know the passion, time, soul, sweat, back ache, talent, coffee and effort she puts in to each piece makes me feel both excited and blessed that I get to be a part of her future and watch her career grow - just as I have watched her grow.

Seriously. Follow her blog. Buy her work. Don’t miss a step.

Landlocked by Fanfarlo (Review)

London based Fanfarlo have been collecting praise from the likes of NME and Rolling Stone with their hypnotic and breezy retro sounds. This month sees the  release of their new album, Let’s Go Extinct, and in light of said musical venture  the quirky four-piece have released a surreal video for the equally magical track Landlocked.

Review of Landlocked by Fanfarlo

Review of Landlocked by Fanfarlo

From the first few moments of the intro the mind automatically pins this track under the ‘retro’ or 80’s title. It’s that light, poppy intro and the almost Bob Geldof sounding vocals that does it, I think. There’s indie and folk thrown in there too, something very carefree, like that space in time between hippies and hipsters.  Still groovy, but now with melodic purpose. The synths and vocal harmonies work together to create a dream like feel, like the soundtrack to some strange part of the subconscious.

Though the video is set against a backdrop of white ground and bare trees, the track has much more a lighter feel – not quite the warmth of summer but definitely the change of spring, like cold sunlight and soft rain showers. This is ever more present in the colours in the video, hues of blues and reds, like a sunrise.

Altogether, this is a track which takes the most desirable of the quirky sounds of the past and spins them towards the future. An interesting listen and a curious preview of what’s to come.

Fanfarlo will be breezing through Europe through this month and the next. You can watch the video for Landlocked here.