gaelynn lea makes music with violin-loops and kindness, “under the influence of coffee.” her vocals grow lyrics fierce as weeds, swaying awesomely like ocean waves. she’s also a disability rights activist.
after having been introduced to her music when she won npr’s tiny desk contest with “someday we’ll linger in the sun” in 2016, i was dead excited to see her play at the windmill in brixton, london, on 23rd august 2017. and oh my days. accompanied by dave mehling, gaelynn played fiddle tunes as well as her own songs, such as “watch the world unfold“, “someday we’ll linger in the sun”, “let it go“, and “grace and a tender hand”, which walked broad smiles across my face. her protest song advocating for disability rights was brilliant, their neutral milk hotel cover great craic, and the birdsong singalong with the audience was beautiful and lasted forever. though not as long as in kilkenny, where people would not stop singing, she said.
in between their london gigs, i asked gaelynn and dave to come out and play. it turns out that dave collects facts on their tour; his encyclopedia includes information on the bee population in amsterdam and borrowed grass for a george washington statue in london. and gaelynn not only drew us the picture above to go with the song, but she also believes that instead of becoming grown-ups, “everyone’s a work in progress.” here are these lovely human beings playing “grace and a tender hand” in hoxton square:
“grace and a tender hand” will be on gaelynn lea’s upcoming album, which will be released in autumn 2018. you can support it via gofundme over here. until that album comes out, we have gaelynn’s 7″ “all changing tides”, out on 10th november 2017, to look forward to.
here’s the second song in fins ara’s summer song trilogy, “alone”, which he also played for us in that hidden auditorium up a london hill. for the third song, “lagom”, out on 8th september, keep an eye on here.
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.
what to do if it won’t snow, if 2016 won’t stop, if you need some ♥? follow our advent calendar mixtape – we’ll add a new song every day until 24th december.
❄️ songs of jolly gloom and wistful cheer vs winter of discontent ❄️
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!