SUNDAY #95 – Mice On The Underground

This blog comes to you from a sofa in Essex, from a non-hungover human, who’s petting a miniature dachshund. It’s the first post since January of this year, and it’s about the tiny mice you see in the tunnels of London’s Underground stations.

No matter how bad the day has been, when I see the mice darting between the tracks and the platform, I feel better. It’s odd how something so small, brings me so much comfort. It’s also odd how I deem what’s technically “vermin” exceptionally cute, but I’m willing to live with that. If that little mouse can thrive down there, I can certainly survive whatever’s happened to me up here on the platform.

Part of it is nostalgia, as a kid I owned pet mice, and that desire came from watching (and reading) the Brambly Hedge series, written and illustrated by Jill Barklem. My brother and I named our mice after the characters – we had three pairs of mice over the space of a few years – Snowy & Primrose, Wilfred & Blackadder (the latter not a Brambly Hedge character, obviously), and Snowy II & Primrose II (imaginative, I know). The last pair even had a litter of babies, which absolutely made our childhood. We kept one, and I called her Bramble.

It’s the memory of Bramble’s fur colour that makes me smile when I see those little soot-covered mice skitting around on the train tracks. I love the way they brave the edge of the platform, pausing cautiously, before cruising past my Dr Martens to get to wherever they’re going. It all looks like a game. They look hassle free and oblivious to the tonne of metal that routinely flies above their heads. They’re content to exist in the darkness and chaos – filthy, feral, and free.

You could apply that to living above ground in London as well. Living here is hard. It’s expensive, overcrowded, and at times it’s unfriendly. I moved here less than two years ago, and at times I have doubts about whether I really fit in here. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made some great friends, met my boyfriend here, and I have a great life in this city – but it often leaves me stressed and pent up. Sometimes I spend my weekends sitting in my room because I can’t be arsed to deal with the busy streets and lack of greenery. London often makes me feel anxious and occasionally, really bloody lonely. But strangely, whilst I was away in America for two weeks for my Brother’s wedding last month – I pined for London. I guess it takes something as big and brilliant as going to America to make me realise that I do love living in this city, and that something as small as a rogue mouse in a tube station is what I need to keep me going (among other things, of course).

So, next time you see a mouse on the tracks, I hope it makes you smile. I hope it helps you to realise you do fit in, and despite all of the stress and worry, it’s well worth living here. If the sight of the mouse makes you shriek however, fair play. Hopefully you have another form of distraction in this smoky, sublime city.

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SUNDAY #94 – Bowie

I was alone in my living room back in Essex when I first heard the news David Bowie had died. My Dad & Brother left early for work, so when  I switched on the TV and saw the headline on BBC news, I felt cold.

My head was lead-heavy all day. I couldn’t concentrate properly at work, so I listened to Lauren Laverne’s special broadcast on BBC Radio 6 about the icon and tried not to cry. I thought about my Mum, who has loved him most of her life. As a teenager, she ran off to Milton Keynes with her friend to see him live, then got stranded and had to sleep at the train station. There’s not many people who are worth that kind of effort.

I’d only just got in to Bowie (even though friends had been recommending him to me for years) and I felt like my efforts to finally understand and love him had blossomed too soon. For months after the news, I’d get tearful when I got pissed up and heard ‘Let’s Dance’ playing out in a club or a bar. I felt silly for having such a strong reaction to the death of someone I’d never met, and who’s music I’d only been listening to for two years.

When someone like Bowie has such life-affirming appeal, it’s hard not to attach yourself to his ideas and his art. He has a song for every occasion, every emotion, every moment; even those gin-soaked few seconds in night clubs when you lose yourself and realise you still miss him.

Fortunately, his diverse and extensive discography means there’s always plenty of tracks to listen to, dance to, and be comforted by. Here are my favourites…

Lady Grinning Soul
The opening piano gives me goosebumps every time. I still pirouette around my room regularly to this. Aladdin Sane is probably my favourite Bowie album.

I’m Afraid Of Americans
An apt title and a belting chorus. The video shows Bowie being pursued by Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, who helped him remix the track.

Rebel Rebel
The red hair, the red trousers…got me (and my Mother) in a whirl.

Let’s Dance
Still makes me tremble like a flower.

Heroes
I defy anyone to not feel better after listening to this. I played it after I handed in my final Open University assignment and felt infinite.

Life On Mars
Still hooked on this piece of cinematic, sweeping, blue-eyeshadow wearing glory.

Personal Highlights of 2017 (aka more musical ones…)

You’re probably sick to death of these ‘Highlights’ blogs, but I love making lists and reminiscing…so get on board, or get over it.

I spend 99% of my time listening to, looking for, and writing lovely things about women in new music, but – contrary to popular belief – I love writing about men in new music too. WHAT?! A FEMINIST WHO LOVES MEN?! SHOCKING! *keels over from this unexpected revelation*

2017 was a turbulent and frightening year (and I’m not just talking about my Glandular Fever diagnosis), but it would’ve been far worse if I hadn’t discovered these bands/artists. So, if you want a quick distraction before you wave goodbye to 2017 soaked in gin and your own bitter tears, take a look at the musical offerings that made my 2017 so bleedin’ good…

Everything Twitcher Records released this year melted my mind.

The independent label based in Brighton has a penchant for all things strung-out and unsatisfied, and I smiled like the Grinch who stole Christmas each time an email holding precious musical cargo appeared at the top of my inbox.

If you’re in to scratchy guitars, delightfully droning vocals, and introspective lyrics, you need to check out the bands on their roster. It was hard for me to pick a favourite, but I listened to Collapse Of An Easy Sunday, the debut EP from the weird and wonderful Honey Creeper multiple times when I was hungover/bored at work. Check out Ezeikel Doo, Slabtoe., and Die Mauer too.

Wolf Alice’s ‘Yuk Foo’ was one of the first pieces of new music I heard after my 21-day-Glandular-Fever headache finally subsided.

I’ll never forget the sheer sense of simultaneous joy and relief I felt hearing Ellie Rowsell shout the words “you bore me to death!” the first time I heard this song. It’s since become a personal anthem.

Don’t think I’ve mentioned a band called Ho99o9 before? (LOL JK. seen them 5 times this year)

My anticipation for their album United States of Horror was palpable, and it sparked what most people would deem a borderline inappropriate obsession with the rap-punk duo. Their political, aggressive, racially charged lyrics align perfectly with the manic drums and thrashing guitar samples.

Each time I’ve seen them live I’ve emerged with all sorts of physical damage – a black eye, swollen knees, bruised hips, ripped fingernails – and I left their Sebright Arms gig topless. What can I say? They bring out the be(a)st in me.

(Ho99o9 also led me to find Bob Vylan, who is 10/10)

I listened to Bjork’s divine new album Utopia, thus keeping my 2016 New Years Resolution to “listen to more Bjork“.

NO, YOU’RE CRYING AT THE BEAUTY OF ‘The Gate’. PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER. FFS.

We launched the Get In Her Ears website alongside our radio show and live night, and it might just be the best thing we’ve ever done.

On the eve of the launch of the Get In Her Ears site, there was a part of me that felt genuinely concerned. What if people didn’t read the blog? What if no-one shared the link? Have we made a mistake branching out on our own? Fortunately, I’m glad to report all of these anxieties subsided within 24 hours. We’ve received so much interest, love, and support from bands and fellow journalists, that it’s wiped away all the doubts I ever had.

I hope 2018 is just as prosperous and proactive for us.

SUNDAY #92 – Truly

Hangover rating: 6.5/10

Can’t stop listening to: Nova Twins  ‘Mood Swings’ & Cigarettes After Sex’s ‘Truly’.

Gigs attended: Mac DeMarco @ Coronet Ballroom

I’ve just emerged pink and clean from a steaming hot bath, and I’m feeling sentimental about all the old faces I’ve seen in the last seven days.

I went back to Southend on Tuesday to throw myself around a mosh pit for Suspect‘s video shoot (fell flat on my arse – 250 quid forYou’ve Been Framed ) and I’ve just returned from Brighton after spending the weekend with my best friend John and his pals.

I’ve had about 4 hours sleep and 60+ cups of tea, so I imagine I’ll conk out after writing this.

Not really sure what I want to say, other than thanks, and sorry for taking about a century to write another boring blog. New (slightly less) boring blog coming next week…

SUNDAY #91 – Dreams

Yesterday, I got dolled up and spent the afternoon with the ultra cool Dream Wife girls at their fake prom video shoot. Today, I scrubbed away the mould growing in the grout between the bathroom tiles and didn’t put any make-up on.What an eclectic weekend.

I replied to their call out on Facebook for people to get involved in their shoot for upcoming track ‘Let’s Make Out’, and before I knew it, I was in Dalston, slightly pissed at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon, wearing a dress I wish I’d worn to my real school prom back in 2006.

Walking in to the venue was surreal; the Dream Wife girls greeted me in costume with flame eye make-up, and there were balloons and streamers all over the place. I took a seat and watched a group of very trendy young things dancing around and making out with each other, and it felt like the coolest hallucination.

I didn’t have a make out partner (much like at my real Prom lolz), but I had a sparkly dress and a few sparkling glasses of Prosecco, so I was 100% loving life on the sidelines. Sod going back to reality.

SUNDAY #90 – Only

I said I wouldn’t talk about Glandular Fever any more (#getoveritKate), but when I returned to the office in July after a month off sick, one of my senior managers asked how my recovery was going. Physically, I’d completely recovered, but when he asked “How about mentally?” I decided to tell the truth and say “Not all that great”.

Post-fever, I naively expected to pick up where I’d left off and go back to my old self. Instead, I spent weeks feeling like I was sat behind glass, separate from situations I would normally be engaged in. If I managed to experience a drop of emotion, it was overwhelming, and it often brought on a panic so severe that I’d feel paralysed by it. Weirdly, I hid these panics exceptionally well, so I imagine anyone who’s reading this who knows me in person will be surprised to hear I almost wept at my desk (and on the tube) on a daily basis.

I didn’t tell many people I felt this way. My sisters knew, I told a few close friends, and I wrote pages of notes in my diary about it when I couldn’t sleep at night (despite being fucking exhausted). I read the entries back recently, and it made me sad that I felt such a strong and strange need to keep my feelings a secret. That’s madder than anything I was feeling at the time.

What gave eventually gave me comfort and some perspective was that my senior had been through the exact same thing when he contracted Glandular Fever years ago. He told me that for months after his initial diagnosis and recovery, he would burst in to tears for no reason, and couldn’t regulate his emotions. Even on the worst days when I’d come back to the flat after work, wrecked internally by nerves and paranoia; the comfort in knowing I hadn’t “gone wrong” (as I put it to my flatmate Kelly) and that this state was only temporary, was immense. That’s why I’ve written about it here. It’s important to tell people if you’re struggling.

Do you know what else helps? Music. Endless amounts of it. Even when you don’t want to dance to it, cry to it, or feel to it – music is always there to distract and eventually, to motivate you back in to health. We all need something to lean on when we feel weak; and Nine Inch Nails’ desolate, raging, brutally honest lyrics have been medicine to my ears on the most toxic days. I’m also grateful to my older brother for not being mad at me for ignoring his suggestion to listen to them five years ago.

Whether you’re feeling low due to poor physical health, or just generally out of sorts; put on a record, whack your little diary out, and write until you don’t make sense anymore. Read it back when you’re feeling better, and cut yourself some slack. Life can punch you right in the tits sometimes, but if you tell someone how you feel (or write a blog about it), you’ll be surprised at just how much relief it can bring.

I can’t wait to show you what the spoils of shaking off Glandular Fever look like for me. Keep your eyes peeled for more news, and listen to this vital tune in the meantime.

SUNDAY #89 – Dead Souls

If you don’t agree that ‘Dead Souls’ is one of Joy Division’s finest musical offerings, then we’ll have to cease contact immediately. The ominous guitar riffs, brooding bass lines, and angry anthemic lyrics make my soul feel anything but dead when I hear the opening drum beat.

I don’t own a copy of Still, the compilation album the track is featured on, and it’s not the first place I heard it either. I was (and still am) obsessed with the film The Crow, and ‘Dead Souls’ is covered on the film’s official soundtrack by Nine Inch Nails (aka Trent Reznor). I thought Reznor had penned the track himself, and it wasn’t until I watched Control – Anton Corbijn’s 2007 biopic about Ian Curtis – that I realised my mistake.

Whilst Joy Division’s rendition of ‘Dead Souls’ is incredible, I still regularly listen to Nine Inch Nails’ version because it resurrects the feelings of sheer escapism I experienced the first time I watched The Crow. Whichever way you manipulate it, ‘Dead Souls’ sounds great; and there are two more cover versions of the track I can’t get out of my head either.

The first is a cover by one of my favourite new bands, Manchester post-punks PINS. They featured ‘Dead Souls’ on their recent EP Bad Thing because it sat comfortably with the record’s theme of bad dreams and nightmares, and I think the girls’ echoing vocals are as haunting and foreboding at Curtis’.

The final cover comes from soon to be industrial icon Hate Vessel (aka my older brother Joe). It’s probably not cool or good for his reputation for me to talk about him on this blog, but fuck it. He’s covered ‘Dead Souls’ and he’s done a blinding job. I only have this live video that’s on Facebook, but I think you’ll get the gist