one sunny sunday, we followed fins ara to a piano in an empty auditorium in north london, for slow gloom dancing and, as he would say, “hope amidst confusion”. “veer” is the first song off his debut ep a love, elusive, which will be unfolding song by song over the summer.
i had good reasons to look forward to seeing conor oberst‘s gig at the london palladium on 1st february 2017. his latest album ruminations, released in october 2016, caught me off-guard with its shaky basement sounds, lonesome insomniac vocals, lines like “everything ends / everything has to”, “i’m worn gossamer thin” and “i don’t mind my head when there’s room to dream”, and just a guitar, harmonica, and piano. it was like emotional time-travel: it felt as important to me as fevers & mirrors did when i was a teenager.
so i went into this gig with high hopes and, oh my giddy aunt, i left exuberant. also because of the musicians conor brought along. miwi la lupa, whom conor introduced as his best bud and omaha roommate, hung a cold moon from the ceiling. phoebe bridgers just about killed me singing radiant songs about smoke signals, funerals, and not feeling anything with her rainy day voice.
i am not surprised that, as conor said, omaha labels are arguing who gets to put out her upcoming debut album. the musical respect he expressed for her is mutual – she said she had some friends in the audience whom she would not introduce to conor, for they know how much of a bright eyes fan she was and still is – to prove her point, she covered “bad blood” (and owned it!). miwi accompanied conor throughout, beautifully and affectionately. for a bit, there was a harmonica assistant with a fish bowl. and oh, all the songs. especially “gossamer thin” (in which “read poetry” became “sipping tea”), “counting sheep”, “lenders in the temple”, “you all loved him once” (which conor said was about lennon, jesus, “fill in the fucking blank”), “the ladder song”, and a cover of the replacements’ “here comes a regular” which his brother taught him when he was about 12. and then phoebe joined miwi and conor for “lua” (luckily for you someone caught this and shared it online). they also covered “jack at the asylum” by the felice brothers (whose music makes conor happy, he said, and less embarrassed about being from america*). i nearly had a heart attack it was so lovely to hear these three together.
not only had i gotten what i came for, and been introduced to new favourite songs and musicians, but then conor and miwa also ended on “the big picture” – which i had never heard live – and “at the bottom of everything”. with conor screaming his heart out and all. boy, was i happy. when the lights came on and the canned music set in, it was like being kicked out of the only place you feel at home.
p.s. on march 17, saluations, a companion album to ruminations, will be released. it features full band versions of the ruminations songs and seven additional songs. gillian welch and maria taylor are on it, too!
*at one point, conor apologised for trump and noted that it’s the same story everywhere, racism, xenophobia, islamophobia, sexism all crawling about. although he was inclined to hide under his bed, he said, if we all stand up, “they can’t fuck with us”. and maybe stand up with the kind of lovely community feeling that was evident in all the hand-holding and hugs between the three musicians throughout the night (conor even, if perhaps jokingly, told miwi “holding your hand in vienna meant so much to me” – aw!). and, while conor seemed embarassed by his country, he also said that “it’s where the felice brothers are from” so it can’t be all bad.
when i was about fifteen, i fell for the line “give me a leonard cohen afterworld, so i can sigh eternally” in nirvana’s “pennyroyal tea“. i asked pa whether he had any leonard cohen albums – he said no but i did find a best of leonard cohen cassette tape in his shelves. and oh. i played it over and over. on a class trip i made my friends listen to it on a walkman. i used the line “we are ugly but we have the music” in an english exam in school. i made friends with so many lines in leonard cohen’s songs. so much so that when someone says “new york is cold”, i can’t help saying “but i like where i’m living“. i learned “hey, that’s no way to say goodbye” on the ukulele with one friend and have sung it with many others since. i read beautiful losers and book of longing, not always following but always inspired. and inspired by the places he went, too. turning from literature to music in his thirties, living in a monastry in his sixties, going on tour again in his seventies.
considering how long he’d been around for, i never thought i’d be able to see leonard cohen play anywhere. until i did. once on my own in stockholm in 2008. i cried and laughed, especially during “tower of song” (you’ll hear some of the wonderful audience giggles, as well as a leonard cohen secret, in this video). and shaking with excitement and surprise at hearing “suzanne” and “avalanche” and “take this waltz” and “the partisan” and “heart with no companion” and “famous blue raincoat” and basically almost every song that means the world to me (look, what a setlist!). leonard cohen also charmingly spoke of walking through stockholm earlier in the day and finding that everyone was taller and more handsome than himself. and in that moment, it was difficult to believe anyone could be. and then i saw him again, with my parents, in berlin in 2010, where he even sang “chelsea hotel” and “lover lover lover” and literally skipped across the stage with such delight that we were all love.
it is awfully sad to lose leonard cohen. 2016, you really have gone too far. but there is so much to remember, to read, to look at, and to listen to. like this lovely bittersweet two pints story on leonard cohen by roddy doyle, this picture of amanda palmer, and these words by first aid kit. like leonard cohen’s last album you want it darker, which is a fine companion for getting lost and finding cracks where light gets in.
we are lonely but we have the music ♥
once upon a time, elias åkesson from falun in sweden played with the wizzkids. since 2011, he has been telling stories as elias one man band, with a suitcase drum, a 12-string guitar, and a harmonica. we caught him with just a guitar in a quiet moment in london.
and here’s what happens when you give him a piano:
aurora dances her words with her fingers when she sings, and seems to be both a lovely human being and a wonderfully weird tough cookie.
aurora aksnes sings about being a warrior of love, being attacked by the dark, climbing runaway trees, and demanding to be treated with respect instead of bending over too far. her brilliant voice and radiant way with words are moving both mountains and mole hills of feelings. her covers of “wrecking ball” and “life on mars” are equally inspiring. when she dances, she trips the northern light fantastic with gay abandon and giddy soul. also, she started a record shop gig in london by cheerfully talking about food stuck between her teeth and, in an episode of the talk show skavlan, she spoke thoughtfully about being sensitive, about not being interested in fame, and about how she wasn’t very good at being a teenager, seems to have skipped her teenage years, and, instead, is now a bit of a child and a bit of an adult. deadly all around!
and now aurora’s gone and made a documentary about things that inspire her, among them her hometown bergen, her family, and her friends. the cinematography is wonderful and aurora speaks with wisdom and kindness, for example on music being for sharing:
“music is not something you should keep for yourself, you can’t put it in a cage because it’s wild and alive.”
apart from wild music, there’s also magic apples, dancing in streets and forests & a lotta luminous heart. nothing is eternal, as the title of the documentary states, but everything can be fascinating. you ought to watch this, it might make your day.
aurora is on tour – make yourself some happy news and see her if you can!
the wave pictures catch surreal moments and disappointments with silly lines and sad hooks. they like words and amateurism, designed all but one of their album covers themselves, and in their music videos, they’ve been known to walk on glasses, eat spaghetti while singing and play polaroids.
we met david tattersall, franic rozycki, jonny “huddersfield” helm and their friend david beauchamp for an interview before their daylight music gig at the union chapel. they told us about a birthday tradition, apologising to hull and an unsuccessful joke; debated whether or not they are grown-ups, and shared a couple of daydreams.
they also played us two songs from their upcoming album and a grateful dead cover for stockholm clouds (lookee here) and drew us a baffled cat! much love from us to the wave pictures for all these saturday morning adventures ♥
before their daylight music gig at the union chapel, we traded david tattersall, franic rozycki and jonny “huddersfield” helm of the wave pictures three bananas (with their names on, as in their song “canary wharf“) for an interview and three songs for stockholm clouds. together with their friend david beauchamp, they played “remains” & “a letter from hull (dom’s song)” off their upcoming vinyl-only album a season in hull (out tomorrow!) and “friend of the devil” by grateful dead.
“a letter from hull (dom’s song)”
“friend of the devil”