When I took two weeks off back in April, I went to buy a new notebook.
I was feeling a little lost, like I was floating through my days without direction. Everything was foggy; I kind of knew what I wanted to work on and what kind of things would make me happy, but I also couldn't quite figure out how to make these things happen. So I did what all Millenials do when we're facing a crisis of identity as mild as Sour Cream & Chive pringles...
I bought some new stationery and made fuck loads of lists.
One of the things that kept coming up was how much I love music. Secretly I'm fuming that I wasn't born with a voice to rival 'Yonce because I think songwriting could have been my calling in life, but my hands are too small for instruments and when I sing I sound like I'm trying to squeeze my own nasal passages out of my nostrils, so this avenue is probably one that is best left untraveled (for everybody else's sake, at least).
Okay, so if I can't DO music, can I at least find a way to talk about it? This was what I needed to figure out, and actually, all of the dots were already there. They just needed to be connected.
So here we are! A new monthly feature on what to listen to (with an accompanying Spotify playlist, woo!), what to read, and, eventually, what to eat (I'm hoping to get a café/restaurant/recipe recommendation in here, but since June is drawing to an end and I haven't had a chance to capture any nice snaps, I'll save that for next time). I'll be including a little round-up of what books and or articles I've been enjoying, along with a whole host of song ideas from new finds and old favourites, all in a super quick and easy format. No fluff, just the important stuff.
Let's get it.
I'm a lover of short stories. Whether that's owing to my desperately short attention span or an actual preference in terms of literature is still up for debate, but whatever it is, I always find myself gravitating towards collections of short stories. Boring fact coming up: I even wrote my dissertation on short stories, more specifically on Katherine Mansfield and Silence, Suggestion and Symbolism (or something like that???). Sounds like a rip-roarer of a read, doesn't it?
Anyway, I have to confess that whilst I'd heard of Murakami's works before, I'd never actually picked up one of his books. I stumbled across Men Without Women by chance whilst wasting time at London Liverpool Street station, and given that my hols were coming up and I needed something to chew over whilst shoving homemade cheese baguettes down my throat at the beach, I thought I'd take a chance. The woman who served me complimented my choice, too, so I instantly felt v. smug and cultured.
In Men Without Women, we momentarily intrude on the personal lives of various different men (and a few women) . Each is of a different age, different profession and different nationality, but one thing connects them all: their relationship with the women that have entered, and somehow moved out of their lives. Some died, some moved on to other lovers, some existed only temporarily and some simply ended a conversation. Despite their differences, however, Murakami weaves together a tapestry of stories which, in their own right are quietly moving and subdued in their emotion, but which also work together on a wider scale to document the intricacies and nuances of male/female relationships. Some stories are more modest than others but each offers only a snapshot of presence, before ultimately tailing off into a 'life' that continues to exist beyond the pages.
I love anything which touches upon interpersonal relationships without explicitly dissecting them, so this was right up my street. If you're looking for a thrill or tonnes of raunchy romance, then this certainly isn't for you, but if you're looking for something which focuses on the person rather than the situation around them, then it's well worth a go. I always find short stories a lot easier to digest too, so on a practical level if you're travelling around a lot like we were then it's satisfying to be able to consume a whole story in a short amount of time. Great for those who take pleasure in the little intricacies of living and life.
"Only Men Without Women can comprehend how painful, how heartbreaking, it is to become one. You lose that wonderful west wind. Fourteen is stolen away from you forever. (A billion years should count as forever.) The far-off, weary lament of the sailors. The bottom of the sea, with ammonites and coelacanths. Calling someone's house past one a.m. Getting a call after one a.m. from a stranger. Waiting for someone you don't know somewhere between knowledge and ignorance. Tears falling on the dry road as you check the pressure of your tires."
Doe-eyed and dangerous: Jorja Smith is most certainly one to watch. If not that, one that should have been watched already, as she's surely about to officially B L O W after the release of her long-awaited debut album, Lost & Found. Featuring a tracklist of 12 songs which includes the already adored 'Teenage Fantasy', 'Where Did I Go?' and 'Blue Lights', Jorja sings with a maturity and individuality which reaches far beyond her age of 21.
Jorja started to seriously gain traction after featuring on Drake's 'Get It Together' from the More Life album (fucking love that song), and her collaboration with Preditah on 'On My Mind' as well as with Stormzy on 'Let Me Down' long-established her as a known name before Lost & Found was finally released. My love for Jorja really blossomed through her cutting acoustic performances, however, particularly 'Lost' by Frank Ocean which she performed during one of my favourite Spotify sessions to date. There's a tone and clarity to her voice that I've seldom heard elsewhere, and I feel like even if you're not into her new-wave R&B sound, you can still appreciate the beauty of the delivery.
The tempo of Lost & Found is relatively slow paced, but there are elements of the ballad woven in with backing vocals, echoing percussion and steady, simple drum beats. The focus really, though, remains on Jorja's vocals as well as the stories she tells through her lyrics. 'February 3rd' is a personal favourite, culminating in ethereal riffs whereby she reaches high notes which almost make you feel ~ spiritual ~. 'The One' is another standout track for me, speaking of vulnerability and self-protection to the backing of a painfully beautiful violin (reminds me a little of 2013 Emeli Sandé, if you know what I mean).
For me, this is June's must listen. Even if this genre isn't normally your cup of tea, I think this album is the prequel to Jorja legit popping off, so if anything it's at least a moment in cultural history to bear witness to. I would have maybe appreciated a few more up-tempo bangers a la 'On My Mind', but I trust the gals vision and I trust in what she's shared. Exciting stuff.
Follow my Spotify playlist here. It's called Bougie Queen Chill, with the only entry requirements being that you're a bougie queen and you like to chill. Un-bougie behaviour will be detected immediately and you will be asked to leave the party. Get your rolling shoulders ready girl.