2016

DON’T PANIC: This isn’t a ‘2016 you bastard!’ rant or a ‘New Year New Me!’ type of blog. It’s just a list of albums I’ve treasured over the last 52 weeks and some small sentimental paragraphs.

Like most mildly anxious 26 year olds, I’m slowly realising it’s the things you don’t do that you end up regretting, not the things you do do. I comforted myself with this thought on Wednesday morning as I sat at my desk battling an aggressive hangover, doing my best impression of a responsible adult (and not a juvenile doink who’d been out drinking and dancing to 80s music until 1am).

I’ve spent many an hour feeling intensely sad and guilty about some of the things I’ve done, or things that have been done to me this year. Too many fucks have been given to all the wrong people, but generally, it’s been another blinding year filled with surprises, surfing, and even an appearance in a music video…

I just need to get my priorities right. 2017 is all about priorities. I mean, is it more important to a) mime Kate Bush’s ‘Hounds Of Love’ to the next clubbing generation, or b) get a full nights sleep so I can look mildly human the next day?

Lucky I had records like these to help me make these crucial decisions…

DAUGHTER – NOT TO DISAPPEAR

It’s hard to articulate how beautiful I think this record is, but I won’t shy away from trying to explain my obsession with it. Not many bands can write songs about dementia, loneliness, and apathy like Daughter. On Not To Disappear they seamlessly blend these themes to paint a desperately sad, but beautifully moving musical portrait of hidden lives and un-nurtured feelings.

I’ve returned to this record throughout the year, and it’s still a poignant emotional listen.

Favourite Track: ‘Numbers’

Favourite Lyric: “Fighting over the way something was said / Well, I’m still here like a cheap threat” – ‘No Care’

ISAAC GRACIE – SONGS IN BLACK & WHITE

I spent all of 2016 talking about this guy and I’ll probably spend all of 2017 doing the same, so you might as well get on board now.

I was swept away by his ‘Last Words’ when I scrolled across his name on The Great Escape Festival’s website earlier this year, and I’ve seen him live three times since then. Each time has been remarkable, but watching him sing to a packed Waiting Room in Stoke Newington with my sisters really was a goose-bump inducing experience. He recorded that session and released it on vinyl, so now my siblings and I can cry to his desolate, beautiful voice whenever we find it convenient.

Favourite Track: ‘All In My Mind’

Favourite Lyric: How reckless is the heart that bleeds for love / That knows the warmth / that knows the taste / And how blessed is the diamond in the rough / who would offer her embrace” – ‘Burn My Clothes, Bury My Crown’

SAVAGES – ADORE LIFE

Whatever your question is, Savages are ‘The Answer’. I’ve been bounding down London streets and across my bedroom floorboards to tracks from this incredible album. Equal parts aggressive and sentimental; Adore Life is an aural knockout. My attention is forever focused on Jehnny Beth’s cool vocals, Faye Milton’s intense drumming, Gemma Thompson’s abrasive guitar, and Ayse Hassan’s primal bass lines.

When I saw them at The Roundhouse this year, Beth told us that when it comes to uneasy feelings about love we should “fucking do it anyway”. I swiftly adopted that as a personal mantra, and have been trying to build up the nerve to copy her dress sense (bralet and bomber jacket) ever since.

Favourite Track: Torn between ‘The Answer’, ‘Sad Person’ and ‘Something New’.

Favourite Lyric: “I’m not gonna hurt you / ‘cos I’m flirting with you” – ‘Sad Person’

MOURN – HA, HA, HE.

My friend Mari (Gigslutz Editor and all round top human) introduced me to this Catalonian band in 2015, and their second album made an instant mark on my ear drums when I listened to it in June. It blurs chaos and calm in to punk-inspired, grunge-soaked tunes that turn head-thrashing and scowling in to highly enjoyable past-times.

Favourite Track: ‘Irrational Friend’

Favourite Lyric: “If you need someone to trust / You don’t have to involve / A body and a hole” – ‘Gertrudis, Get Through This’

RIHANNA – ANTI

I’m as surprised as you are to find Rihanna on this list. I gave up on her post-Good Girl Gone Bad because I was under the impression she was all out of bangers. With the aid of my friend Rachel, and a press ticket to see her live at V Festival, I soon realised my anti-Rihanna attitude needed some serious re-addressing. Anti was heavily criticised for being a bit ‘confused’, but I genuinely liked it (even if the second half of the record went a bit..soft)

I definitely prefer the angry, apathetic Rihanna who dominates the first half, and I hope her next record goes in the same direction.

Favourite Track: Torn between ‘Consideration’ and her Tame Impala cover ‘Same Ol’ Mistakes’

Favourite Lyrics: “I got to do things my own way darling / will you ever let me? / will you ever respect me? / No” – ‘Consideration’ Ft. SZA

KANGA – KANGA

My brother insisted I give this a listen a few weeks ago, and it’s an industrial pop GEM. Kanga’s deceptively sweet vocals give her lyrics about self control and sanity extra edge, and the crisp recording of the electronic elements and pounding drum beats make this album impossible to sit still to.

Favourite Track: ‘Going Red’

Favourite Lyric: “Part of me missing but what can I say? / I don’t need you anyway” – ‘Vital Signs’

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SUNDAY #73 -“Thank you for existing”

I visited the David Bowie mural in Brixton this weekend and it’s left me a bit choked.

My friend Rachel and I spent some time reading the messages left by fans and amidst the lyrics and expressions of love and sadness, there was a simple message that warmed my little walnut heart: “Thank you for existing”.

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English teachers tell you to avoid using the word ‘nice’ but sometimes it’s the perfect word to describe acts of kindness. I think this message is ‘nice’ because it rings true whether you’re as extraordinarily well known as David Bowie, or if you’re only known to a small but important minority of people.

Your existence might be small, but it’s powerful and it matters. Sometimes it takes something as shocking and sad as the death of David Bowie to remind you of that.

SUNDAY #53 -UEA ‘War Of Words’ Speech

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UEA hosted their first progressive media conference yesterday, entitled ‘War Of Words’. I cautiously/gratefully accepted their invitation to speak alongside Sophie Van Der Ham (Young Greens Co-Chair) and Tori Cann (UEA Lecturer from Norwich Feminist Network) on a panel discussing ‘Women, Politics and the Media’, chaired by Asia Patel. I’d been invited on behalf of Belle Jar, an online magazine I began writing for in 2012.

Although I perform in front of audiences in improvised comedy shows, I find public speaking a bit of a nerve shredder. Fortunately, both the panel and the audience were clued-up and compassionate; so it was an intense but incredible 60 minutes of discussion and debate. Tori, Sophie, and I spoke about female politicians, the lack of respect for female voices in the media, and my personal favourite; female anger. The post-debate adrenaline has flushed my memories away, but I wanted to share the speech I prepared (and nearly screwed up multiple times whilst reading aloud).

I urge you to follow Belle Jar, The Norwich Radical, Tori and Sophie on Twitter too!

*** For those who prefer pictures to words, Antony Carpen kindly recorded the speech. Video is at the end of the blog!***

“I would not be here at this event today without the encouragement, enthusiasm, and efforts of other women. I am speaking on behalf of Belle Jar; an online publication created in 2012 by two university students, Louisa Ackermann and Juliette Cule.

Louisa & Juliette created Belle Jar to provide a safe online platform for feminist discussion and debate. Belle Jar exists to inform and inspire; covering the humorous to the humanitarian. The magazine has 2,716 likes on Facebook, and 1,921 followers on Twitter. The site was also nominated for a Guardian Student Media Award, and was the only publication of its kind to be considered in the student website category. As a team, we have been to The Houses of Parliament to discuss issues surrounding the representation of women in the media, and our website continues to publish news updates and articles which seek to inform and challenge our readers.

But Belle Jar is more than a website; it is a support system; a network of voices that work together to help counteract the misogyny which dominates the national media, and impacts our everyday lives. When I submitted my first article to the site in 2012, I had no idea it would bring me to this stage today. Without the internet, I may not have found Belle Jar. Without Belle Jar, I would not have found Louisa or Juliette who have given me the courage to use my voice here today.

I believe in the power of small stories; they are crucial to the structure of larger narratives. My small story is that I used to fear the potential in my own voice. As a teenage girl, I was forever anxious about its volume and its content to the point where I rarely spoke up in school, the playground; anywhere. When Louisa & Juliette suggested I speak at UEA today, my initial reaction was “I’m not qualified for that, I can’t” – Juliette kindly told me not to listen to my imposter syndrome, to go, use my voice, and spread my story. This is the encouragement many young women are lacking in their teens and early twenties. No-one is saying “Go for it, learn as you go!” – instead, it feels like they’re whispering “You’re a girl, what do you know?”

Like many young women, I hesitated when I initially began identifying with feminism. It was intimidating; a movement with an extensive and difficult history which people often told me had ‘gone too far’. It’s easy to believe these things when there’s an absence of support, or no voices offering you an alternative outlook. Fortunately, through social media I found a corner of the internet where girls and women were having similar kinds of experiences. They were being open about their anxieties by speaking about personal experiences of sexism on the internet. Juliette affectionately dubbed Belle Jar as ‘baby feminism’ – a place where those who are at the start of their interactions with the movement can read, discuss, and write about what it means to them. This kind of interaction is essential for modern girls and women. It keeps us connected, inspired and most importantly; comforted in a world where misogyny overshadows many of our attempts to assert ourselves.

To quote Jude Kelly, (Arrtistic Director at The Southbank Centre & founder of the annual Women Of The World Festival); the media is “amoral at best, or immoral at worst, with regards to women”. Women’s appearances, achievements, and mere existences are often undermined by journalists and editors. Just last week, The Sun Newspaper reported the alleged rape of deceased soldier Cheryl James as a ‘romp’, and insulted her death by branding her a ‘Suicide army girl’. Once my initial disgust had subsided, I shared the post on Belle Jar’s Facebook page, and Juliette posted a link to the The Independent Press Standards Organisation website, so our readers could complain about this insulting attempt at journalism. The speed at which social media allows people to distribute information, and act on issues such as this is incredible, and Belle Jar and other publications like it utilise this tool effectively.

It’s easy to dismiss efforts like this as acts of ‘keyboard warfare’ and reduce them down to ‘trying to look like we’re doing good’ without actively striving to change women’s representation in the media. Even small publications like Belle Jar are not free from critics and trolls. We have been labelled ‘anti-men’ and I have personally been branded both a ‘superficial little girl’ and a ‘dumb chick cunt’. Internet abuse is equally as real and damaging as street harassment, and women on the internet are subject to higher levels of vitriol in comparison to men. Louisa, Juliette & I went to an event about ‘Outspoken Women’ with featured classicist Mary Beard, and journalist Laurie Penny. Mary said she found the internet ‘revelatory’ because it exposed the pre-existing misogyny inherent in society, and Laurie dubbed modern women’s online opinions as ‘the mini-skirt of the internet.’

Being an outspoken internet feminist can be both confusing and exhausting; but there is so much to support, and so many supporters who are ready to incite change, that you don’t have to apply yourself to every area of the movement. There is no such thing as a perfect feminist. As women, we are taught from a young age to burden ourselves with the responsibilities of others. Whilst compassion is not to be discouraged, it also leaves us little time to explore our own ideas and develop our own beliefs. Feminist scholars and activists have repeated the phrase ‘the personal is the political’ and it is an essential thing to remember whenever you feel that sexism is undermining or devaluing your opinion.

Belle Jar gave me the support I needed in my early twenties when I was starting to engage with feminism and its goals. It was my spring board in to politics, and introduced me to the issues surrounding abortion, FGM, Sex Education, and street harassment. In the introduction to Laura Bates’ ‘Everyday Sexism’ Sarah Brown writes that “Girls who read, lead.” I began reading Belle Jar articles, which then led me to contribute ideas of my own to the site. I stand before you now as a representative for the magazine, and a friend of its fearless and dedicated creators.

Something as simple as reading an article on the internet can set you on a path of discovery and empowerment. Belle Jar are always looking for new writers, and welcome all kinds of contributions. Please get in touch, and if anyone would like one of our sassy business cards; feel free to come and see me at the end of this discussion.”

SUNDAY #46 – 2015

Wild, weird, wonderful – that was my 2015.

I’ve decided to list my five favourite albums of the year, because I’ve discussed the highs and lows of the last 12 months regularly on this blog, so you can always scroll back through and laugh at my life if you have a spare ten minutes.

Someone recently said they liked my ‘don’t give a f**k’ attitude when it came to dancing under a strobe light in public on a Saturday night. The following five albums have 100% contributed to this behaviour in 2015.

Foals – What Went Down

I am part of a friendship group which finds the release of a new Foals album more exciting than Christmas; we share every teaser, every scrap of information up until the release date. We collectively decided we were in love with Foals’ fourth record, What Went Down, and we all got the chance to see them at their exclusive Village Underground gig in August. On that beautiful night, I realised I had a stellar set of friends, that Foals are one of my all-time favourite bands, and I’ll do almost anything to get to the front as Yannis sings the final part of ‘What Went Down’.

Favourite tracks: ‘Night Swimmers’, ‘Snake Oil’ & ‘What Went Down’

Favourite Lyric: “I fell for a girl with a port white stain, I knew her initials but never her name, I tried and I tried and I was never the same” (What Went Down)

Grimes – Art Angels

I’ve made no attempt to confine my feelings about Grimes this year. I wrote an ‘Open Letter’ about her for Gigslutz, and I even dyed my hair [unevenly] purple, because I was convinced I was an Art Angel. I’ve bleached the dye out, but my head remains full of Grimes’ manic pop sounds. Art Angels is delightfully fizzy and furious, and I’ll be spinning in circles to it for most of 2016.

Favourite tracks: ‘Flesh Without Blood’, ‘Scream’, ‘Kill Vs Maim’, ‘Pin’ & ‘California’

Favourite lyric: “You hate, you bite, you lose, after all – I just don’t like you. It’s nice that you say you like me, but only conditionally. (Flesh Without Blood)

Slaves – Are You Satisfied?

Condensing the greatness of Slaves in to one paragraph will be difficult, but when I heard Are You Satisfied? in May, shortly before my 25th birthday; I was on the punk equivalent of cloud nine. Laurie & Isaac have a no-nonsense, honest, humorous outlook on the mundane things in life. Whether it’s noisy neighbours (Feed The Mantaray), 9-5 employment (Cheer Up London), or failed romance (White Knuckle Ride) – Slaves are the cure to frustration and disappointment. I played the album on repeat for a month, and still listen to it at my local watering hole most weekends. I’m going to learn how to play the drums purely so I can be the female equivalent of Isaac (laugh all you like, I will find a way to combine a love of punk and Downton Abbey).

Favourite tracks: ‘The Hunter’, ‘Sockets’, ‘Feed The Mantaray’ & ‘Sugar Coated Bitter Truth’

Favourite Lyric: “Are you quite done?” (Cheer Up London)

FKA Twigs – M3LL155X **

From January to July, I danced to FKA Twig’s debut album LP1 at least twice a week. The wisdom in her lyrics and her mind-bending choreography offered me an escape route on a bad day; and when she released M3LL155X in August, that escape route widened further. What a sound. What a woman. When I saw her at Bestival I nearly cried – I was captivated by her movements, her control, her ability to hold the crowd’s attention. I fan-girled to the max about her for Gigslutz, and I’ll talk to anyone who has time for her sound.

Favourite tracks: ‘In Time’ & ‘Figure 8’

Favourite Lyric: “The way you dismiss me will turn into missing me like I am yours”(In Time)

**I’m fully aware that this is an EP, not an LP; but it was far too important a listen to leave off the list.

Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool

I am telling the sturdiest of truths when I say I listened to My Love Is Cool in its entirety, twice a day, for approximately a month. The mix of quiet and loud songs made it the perfect album to escape to on the commute to work, a walk home in the rain, and a vodka-loaded bedroom rave before a night out. Seeing Wolf Alice live at Brixton this year with my sisters was also a golden experience. We were in our own little circle, dancing away to ‘Bros’ before I threw myself in to the mosh for ‘You’re a Germ’ and pogo-ed my way through ‘Storms’. I’ll be following their every move in 2016.

Favourite tracks: ‘Bros’, ‘Your Love’s Whore’, ‘Lisbon’, ‘Silk’, & ‘Giant Peach’ (so basically, the whole album)

Favourite Lyric: “If fear is in the mind, then my mind lives in fear; as deep and as vast as the dirty British sea” (Turn To Dust)

SUNDAY #36 – London & Emilie Nicolas

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It is with great smugness & pleasure that I announce I now work full-time in London. For the next 9 months, I will be commuting to and from the capital with a spring in my freshly graduated step.

My day starts at 9:30 and finishes at 6:00pm – so rather than face the rush hour queue to get in to Holborn station, the inevitable pigeon steps all the way down to the platform, and the sweaty sardine-style journey on the tube – I walk from Holborn to Liverpool Street when my working day is done.

With my earphones in, the rush of the city becomes romantic instead of enraging. Emilie Nicolas has kept me company on my 40 minute walks to Liverpool Street this week. I bought her album Like I’m a Warrior as a present to myself when I found out I’d secured the permanent position as a ‘Presentation Scheduler’.

I’ve been fortunate enough to see Emilie live at Somerset House – she supported Chvrches last year – and I reviewed her album for Gigslutz. Listening to ‘Grown Up’, ‘Charge’ and ‘Fail’ as I walk past St Pauls Cathedral sends shivers through my bones. I hope these shivers continue for the next 9 months (I’m sure they will, winter’s on its way). If they do start to fade, however, I’m sure a gin & tonic will perk me up…

MONDAY #1 – What I Learned From Watching The E! Channel, 30 Hours a Week, For 2 Months

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For the last 34 Sundays in a row, I have written a post for this site. Granted, the posts have not always been literary gold – but I’ve kept this solid commitment, and I feel terrible that I missed what should have been my 35th post yesterday.

Unfortunately, I was away from the computer for most of the day (and I was asleep. Top Tip: I was hung-over). I then spent the evening in emotional turmoil with my friends watching the final episode of This Is England ’90. If you’re wondering how this might have affected my ability to write; you clearly have no idea how devastating Shane Meadow’s work is.

I had planned to talk about my recent job as a channel monitor watching the E! Entertainment Channel. It was the most surreal, and oddly enjoyable job I’ve held to this date. I try to avoid watching any kind of reality TV because I heard a rumour (probably on E! News) that it splits your soul in half, but I was being paid to watch Keeping Up With The Kardashians and other such programmes for 30 hours a week. Only a fool would turn that opportunity down.

Unbelievably, I grew to really quite like The Kardashians (I’m as shocked as you are), but there were some programmes which really made the job….difficult. Ultimately, I learned a lot from my time as an E! Entertainment channel monitor, and I’d like to share my knowledge with you now:

1. I Am Cait was an amazing platform for unknown trans women to talk about transgender issues, and Caitlyn’s transition nearly made me cry at my desk on multiple occasions.

2. Kendall Jenner is an absolute sweetheart, and one of the most naturally beautiful people I’ve ever seen.

3. Khloé is my favourite Kardashian, a hilarious person, and the best aunt in the world (see this list for further proof of her greatness)

4. Paige from WWE Divas is a porcelain predator.

5. E! News should be re-named ‘This is E! News and we have sensationalised everything to the point of fiction, but will be selling it to you as stone cold fact for the next 60 minutes’

6. There is such a thing as a ‘Revenge Bod’, and Kourtney Kardashian apparently has the most ‘smokin’ example of one right now…

 7. Hollywood encourages both hatred of the self and hatred of others. Whether it was ‘disguised’ as comedy on a vicious episode of Fashion Police, or as an article on E! News about a celebrities weight/status/sexuality/relationship – Hollywood seems to rely on playing on people’s anxieties in order to thrive.

8. Most importantly – none of this really matters – turn off your TV, go outside and get some Vitamin D. Reserve E! for hung-over Sundays, employment opportunities, and Kardashian catch-ups.

(Image courtesy of: http://weheartit.com/entry/121472793)