What I’ve been listening to lately

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Okay, look people, I’m of the opinion that if there weren’t any music in this world, there would pretty much be no reason to exist. At all.

Imagine we had to wade through our lives sans soundtrack.

No soppy love songs to accompany the mushy first flutterings of butterflies-in-the-stomach.

No epic oeuvres to guide us along winding coastal roads at sunset.

No palm muted punk rock to soothe our angsty teenage souls (and take us right back to those best-of-worst-of days unexpectedly on a Tuesday night in our late twenties.)

No Alanis Morisette (or Taylor Swift/Adele/death metal if you’re that way inclined) to blast at top volume when those butterflies suddenly turn into sharp little shards of ice.

No Bohemian Rhapsody to… actually just that. No Bohemian Rhapsody.

Doesn’t that just sound unbearable?

In fact, I’m quite partial to the idea that if there weren’t any music in this world we probably wouldn’t exist in the first place. At all.

An age old concept Bruce Chatwin highlights poignantly in his amazing Australia travelogue, The Songlines:

 “Aboriginal Creation myths tell of the legendary totemic beings who had wandered over the continent in the Dreamtime, singing out the name of everything that crossed their path – birds, animals, plants, rocks, waterholes – and so singing the world into existence.”

 

Don’t you just love that? The idea of everything being sung into existence!

So, I guess it’s no surprise that discovering the kind of soulful music we crave is always a rejuvenating, life-giving experience.

Here’s what I’ve had on repeat in my ears for the past week or so:

Ambient Electronica

m83

After months and months of pretty much listening to only to various forms of indie, indie folk and folk music, I suddenly had an overwhelming craving for really pretty, ambient, almost ethereal electronica.

So, I decided to dig around a bit and get some recommendations. Within a few hours I had constructed a Grooveshark playlist that comes pretty close to perfection, featuring Felix Laband, M83, Andrew Bayer and Air. Give it a listen, yo!

John Wizards

JohnWizards

It was a blog post by the lovely Emma-Jane that introduced me to these local lads earlier this week.

Originally from Cape Town, this six-piece band has been making quite a name for themselves overseas with their delighful eclectic electronic reggae.Their songs have a very definite African tinge to them both in sound and name – there’s one called Muizenberg, another Lusaka by Night as well as a Limpop and iYongwe.

According to their website they will be traversing Europe till deep in November, but I really hope they do a little December home run!

 

Milky Chance

Milky Chance

This super cute German duo’s sound has been described as alternative pop folk rock with reggae and electronic undertones. Which means their tunes are actually quite similar to John Wizards. But then there’s the voice. Oh the voice! Slightly gruff with that sexy folky twang. Hmmm… and the man behind it isn’t too bad either.

Okay, yes. I have a huge crush on the singer dude. HUGE.

Thanks to my friends Marli and Bronwyn for introducing me to my new obsession with this song that just makes one want to boogie.

Also check out this super cool video for their song, Down by the River.

Nahko Bear and the Medicine People

nahko bear

I’ve been listening to Nahko Bear for a while now and fall just a little bit more deeply in love every time I hear one of their songs. It’s difficult to describe their sound, but guess it comes down to a vibrant blend of a little bit of everything – jazz, folk, hip hop, Native American tribal, surf rock… All I know is that it’s full of good vibes and happiness.

It really makes you “believe in the good things coming,” as ‘Black as nigt‘ professes.

Oh and Nahko is just gorgeous!

These are my two favourite songs:

 

Last, but not least… an assortment of vinyl

After wanting one for close on forever, I finally took the plunge and invested in a record player about a month ago. It’s a super cute little thing – a pink Crosley Cruiser the size and shape of a suitcase, with tiny built in speakers that make a big sound.

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Currently I own only about 15 records, which I picked up for dirt cheap at flea markets and second-hand shops. And unfortunately most of them don’t sound that great.  But ever willing to help me pursue things I’m passionate about, my parents kindly lent me some of their old vinyls to get me into the swing of things so long.

My current favourites include an assortment of greatest hit collections, including Queen, Beach Boys, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Leonard Cohen, Peter Sarstedt and the Eagles, as well as Dire Straits’ Making Movies.

On a mission, though, to build a mighty collection!

I absolutely love the ritual of it – getting home after a long day at work or waking up on a lazy Sunday morning, opening up the suitcase lid, lifting that little arm, picking a record, placing it gently on the turntable and carefully letting the needle drop just right to crank some old school tunes.

It’s my best!

If you’re looking for a little Crosley of your own, check out Superbalist.com

My playlist lately

Fairy lights

I’ve listened everything to death.

Everything.

Each and every one of my favourite albums has lost its lustre. Songs that used to make me spin around spontaneously while doing mundane tasks around the house now get nothing more than an eye roll out of me. Ballads that used to reduce me to a weeping mess now leave me feeling nothing more than *meh*.

It’s depressing. Like realising your once passionate love affair has fizzled. Like waking up on the last day of your holiday and knowing there won’t be another one for a while. Bittersweet, I guess you’d call it.

But the truth is, not having any songs that really turn your insides upside down and/or set your feet on fire is infinitely worse than losing a lover or knowing something good is about to end.

Because, simply put, along with comfort food and driving really fast with the windows rolled down so your overthinking disappears into a swirl of crazy hair for a little while, music is an essential healing agent. Also a party starter, a mood lifter, an aphrodisiac (could there be anything sexier than live blues?)… and life is really boring without it.

When I realised my music collection and I had hit a bit of a dry patch, I decided that the best way to rekindle the spark would be to practice a bit of musical promiscuity. Nothing like a bit of distance to make the heart grow fonder, or what?

So, I’ve been delving into friends’ music collections (a mix CD Jana lent me really put me back on track, as I blasted it through my car’s speakers on repeat for over a week) and listening to a lot of music online, mostly on Grooveshark, but also sampling playlists on 8tracks every now and then.

And I’m happy to announce that I’ve come up with a brand new list of songs to listen to death. They range from good old folky ballads to epic electronica, melancholic surf songs and even a bit of straightforward indie rock.

Here are my 10 favourites right now:

1. All for you by ISO (they’re a local band from Pretoria!!)

2. King and lionheart by Of Monsters and Men (sweet female vocal folk)

3. Dress up in you by Belle and Sebastian (this song makes me irrationally happy)

4. Outro by M83 (totally epic – should be listened to at top volume while driving a winding coastal road at sunset)

5. Like the dawn by The Oh Hellos (I just love the lines “at last, at last
bones of my bones and flesh of my flesh, at last… and you will surely be the death of me but how could I have known?”)

6. Fake Empire by The National (gosh, this band really knows how to make music that fills one with nostalgia for no particular reason. I love this song and this line: “tip toe through our shiny city with our diamond slippers on”)

7. Depth over distance by Ben Howard (a man with a talent for tugging at those heartstrings you thought had withered a long, long time ago)

8. Heroes by David Bowie (if you’ve seen The Perks of Being a Wallflower you may recognise it as ‘the tunnel song.’ It was also reworked and used in Moulin Rouge’s famous Elephant Love medley. I have big love for this song)

9. Santa Monica Dream by Angus and Julia Stone (“Goodbye to my Santa Monica dream / Fifteen kids in the backyard drinking wine / You tell me stories of the sea / And the ones you left behind” – you get the gist)

10. End transmission by AFI (Okay, I actually rediscovered this one in my own collection. I love the Bonnie and Clyde theme, I love Davey Havock’s famous “Oh”s and I listen to it really loudly when I’m driving at night)

So, there you have it. What have you been listening to lately? 

Quote: The girl who reads

Books

My friend, Meg, posted this article called “You should date an illiterate girl” by Charles Warnke on Facebook the other day. Sensing the sarcasm in the title, I thought I’d give it a quick squiz and soon found myself completely consumed.

In the first part of the essay, Warnke describes a mundane life that never really comes to much. A life with a girl who doesn’t read. A perfectly comfortable life.

In the second part of the essay he explains *why*, despite the boredom and monotony, it’s so much better to date a girl who doesn’t read than dating one who does. Do it, he says, “because nothing sucks worse than a girl who reads. Do it, I say, because a life in purgatory is better than a life in hell.”

Do it, because a girl who reads possesses a vocabulary that can describe that amorphous discontent as a life unfulfilled… A girl who reads lays claim to a vocabulary that distinguishes between the specious and soulless rhetoric of someone who cannot love her, and the inarticulate desperation of someone who loves her too much.

Date a girl who doesn’t read because the girl who reads knows the importance of plot. She can trace out the demarcations of a prologue and the sharp ridges of a climax. She feels them in her skin. The girl who reads will be patient with an intermission and expedite a denouement. But of all things, the girl who reads knows most the ineluctable significance of an end. She is comfortable with them. She has bid farewell to a thousand heroes with only a twinge of sadness.

Little prince quote

Sometimes I think I’ve made myself too familiar with stories. Like other people who read I’ve immersed myself in words and plots and syntax and, as Warnke says I’ve “spun out the account of [my] life and it is bursting with meaning. [I] insist that [my] narratives are rich, [my] supporting cast colourful, and [my] typeface bold.”

And sometimes I wish I was a girl who didn’t read, so that I didn’t always have to try and figure out the plot with all its intricacies beforehand.

Maybe if I’d never fallen in love with ‘story’ I could have lived an easy life in shades of faded pastel spilling carelessly over flimsy pencil sketch outlines, instead of this one that’s always bursting with Amazon green, Kalahari red, flamingo pink, just-before-dawn purple sky, that electric blue you sometimes see in lightning – all burgeoning within stark black curves and contours. This terrifying and wonderful, hilarious and heart-breaking life, a constant contrast… never a dull moment.

But would I want to? Sometimes for a moment I think yes. But deep in my bones, I know it’s an absolute no.

Vividly Vietnam

It is impossible to come back from one’s journey; there’s always someone else coming back“.

I don’t know who said this, but I know it’s true.

Especially if your travels take you somewhere so foreign it feels like you stepped through the looking glass… or fell down the rabbit hole.

I went to Vietnam and someone else came back. Not someone vastly different, just someone a little adjusted and hopefully slightly better. Maybe someone with brighter eyes and a more grateful heart. Perhaps someone a little happier and a little less stressed out.

Whatever the case may be, getting to immerse myself in a sultry and exotic destination for 10 whole days was nothing short of an exquisite sensory overload.

Our adventure started with an upgrade and the most comfortable flight EVER in Qatar’s 5-star business class, complete with champagne, linen serviettes, pajamas, plush eye masks and seats that turn into beds. (Not sure if I’ll be able to go back to cattle class now!)

A good 20-something hours later, including a two-hour stopover in Doha and another hour in Bangkok, we arrived in hot and humid Hanoi on a Saturday afternoon at 3 pm. We were met by a Vietnamese man with a broad smile and an energetic wave. It was Le Van Cuong, our guide and one of the most charming people I’ve ever met. A Viet Cong veteran who fought in the famous American-Vietnam war, he regaled us with incredible stories from his years living in the jungle throughout the journey and often brought an unexpected tear to our eyes.

Once we left the airport, we spent the rest of the day and night in a daze of overwhelmed disbelief.

People wearing conical hats (they really wear them!!) waded around in rice paddies next to the road, legions of scooters rushed past our bus – some carrying families of four, some trailing farming equipment and fresh produce in little carts, some carrying miscellaneous loads such as a large bag of soft toys positioned precariously behind the rider and yet others playing steed to petite masked girls (apparently they’re quite paranoid about keeping their skin pale, so they wear cute little masks that look a bit like doctors’) in high heels and the latest trends.

That night we watched the sidewalks come to life as Hanoians of all ages gathered outside little cafes, sitting on tiny plastic chairs, eating ice cream, drinking beer and chatting. A slight man in jeans and a black t-shirt pushed a mobile sound system down the street, dodging the crazy scooters, and crooned what must have been a love song into a microphone.

We defied jet-lag and rose at 6 the next morning to experience the communal exercise routine next to Hoan Keim lake at the center of the city. Even at this early hour the lake shores teemed with solitary old men and women completing slow tai chi routines, while just across the road an energetic aerobics class attracted the younger at heart, kids were racing around on bikes and some adults indulged in more mundane activities such as jogging or strolling along. Already the air was thick and humid and the mercury had hit the twenties. Without a breath of air the lake was a mirror, reflecting grey skies and a bright red flag.

From Hanoi we headed to the fantasy world of Halong Bay for an overnight junkboat cruise. Each of us got a gorgeous cabin, just big enough for a double bed, a little basin, a shower, a toilet and a tiny balcony looking out over the placid waters. We were canoed out to one of the floating villages and took a dip in the clear, warm sea.

It’s impossible to tell every single magical moment we experienced along the way, but in an effort to keep it short, here’s a point form list of some favourites that came after:

  • Cruising on a dragon boat down the Perfume River in Hue and visiting a Buddhist pagoda at that strange hour when day starts melting into night.
  • Getting soaked through while exploring the magical old-school streets of Hoi An in search of gifts and mementos.
  • Drinking strong coffee and condensed milk, the real Vietnamese way.
  • Swimming in a clear blue pool at dusk while piano strains floated through the air and tropical life burgeoned all around the Victoria Hotel in Can Tho city, in the Mekong Delta.
  • Cycling to Tra Que village just outside Hoi An and playing farmer-farmer in a brown shirt and conical hat.
  • Soaking up the New York-like bustle of Saigon/Ho Chi Minh city.
But words start failing, so I will show you some pics instead… Unfortunately it isn’t one of those rad click through galleries, so if one of these tiny photos tickle your fancy, click on it to see an enlarged version.

 

Thought: Deliberate imperfections

navajorugsblankets.com

navajorugsblankets.com

In a Navajo rug there is always one clear imperfection woven into the pattern. And interestingly enough, this is precisely where the Spirit moves in and out of the rug! – Richard Rohr

Known as the “spirit string,” this imperfection is an integral part of the traditional Navajo rug weaver’s art. You see, they believe that during the rug making process – a particularly time-consuming and creatively rigorous one – part of their spirit or soul gets woven in. So, in order to find its way out again, they purposely leave a small piece of yarn sticking out slightly from the surface of the rug. In this way, the soul/spirit can follow this piece of yarn from deep inside the design right to the exit.

Interestingly, it appears that this is not only the practice with rug-making, but also with other pieces of Navajo handiwork. One site explains it like this: “the Navajo believe that only God is perfect and that what humans do cannot be on the same perfect level. Therefore, they will make sure some little imperfection is part of anything they create. Usually, one has to look very close to find the imperfection, so it does not detract from the beauty of the item. On a Navajo rug, it’s the loose piece of yarn. On beaded handiwork, one of the beads might be threaded differently”

And, guess what, this is not only a Navajo tradition, but also common in Islamic art, Persian rugs, Greek sculptures, Amish quilts, Turkish ships, Orthodox Jewish houses and Japanese Zen ceramics.

So, perhaps it’s time we let go of our obsession with perfection, or what?

Just some words

By now you probably know that I am quite a sucker for quirky (some would call them corny) quotes and words of wisdom.

Writing miscellaneous phrases down has probably been a hobby of mine since the very first moment I could form barely legible letters and construct wonky sentences.

Naturally my collection of quotes has spilled over from a variety of bedside books and pocket diaries, to my Pinterest account and blog. Naturally.

So, here are a few of my favourite latest web finds.

redheadjessica.tumblr.com

redheadjessica.tumblr.com

http://pinterest.com/injeanneous/

http://pinterest.com/injeanneous/

From: http://notetosarah.tumblr.com

From: http://notetosarah.tumblr.com

http://www.writeclickscrapbook.com

http://www.writeclickscrapbook.com

http://marycorder.blogspot.com/

http://marycorder.blogspot.com/

http://pinterest.com/meganwiz/

http://pinterest.com/meganwiz/

http://glitterglueandfireflies.blogspot.com

http://glitterglueandfireflies.blogspot.com

Inspiring, no?

Now tell me, do you have any of your own to share?