Playlist: Girl power

Yesterday was the shortest day of the year for us here in the southern hemisphere. And also the longest night. Mid-winter.

It’s been cold and stormy and I keep finding myself closing up tight into a bud, instead of blooming where I’m planted (as the motivational wallpaper on my work computer says I should).

Self-care comes in many forms: exercise, meditation, craft and music. This week, music has been my physician of choice. And the songs that seemed to grab me most had one thing in common: strong female vocals shot through with vulnerability and a good measure of fun.

Maybe you’ll enjoy it too…

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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


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


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

A rustling in my chest, a longing for somewhere

Piano play at sunset - Streets of Queenstown, New Zealand at the end of one more day filled with adrenaline. Calming and doleful scene with piano sound in the background. (Nikola Smernic/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)

Piano play at sunset (Nikola Smernic/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)

This photo. It gets me right in the gut. There’s something about it that just makes me feel all sorts of things. Longing, wanderlust, nostalgia… but more than anything, inspired to pursue a life less ordinary.

I came across it among the winning images of the 2013 National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest and have found myself gazing at it quite often over the past two days.

It’s called Piano play at sunset and the official caption that accompanies the image reads: “Streets of Queenstown, New Zealand at the end of one more day filled with adrenaline. Calming and doleful scene with piano sound in the background.”

I want to be there.

Check out more of the winning images on the National Geographic Traveler website. They will also be published in the Dec. 2013/Jan. 2014 issue of the magazine… so if you can get hold of it, do.

My playlist lately

Fairy lights

I’ve listened everything to death.


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? 

I woke up with this song in my head

beach house

So after being battered by dreams of huge waves constantly crashing down on my head all night, I was so relieved when I woke up with a rather soothing song in my head this morning.

At first I couldn’t quite place the band to which the melody belongs and, for one magical moment, thought I may have become a musical prodigy overnight.

However, after washing my face and sipping some coffee I suddenly remembered a snatch of the lyrics (in no particular order): “Black and white horse, you run before us.”

Then it all started coming together.

It’s a song by Beach House called Zebra, and even though I’ve only heard it once or twice, it seems to have made quite an impression on me.

Give it a listen. It’s pretty, and like I said, quite soothing.

Beautiful bearded music

Scrolling through my Google Reader this morning I came upon a post on See Hear Say that caught my eye. Mostly, I guess, because there was a picture of a curly-haired man peeping over the body of a guitar and below it a YouTube video, showing that he did, in fact, also have a beard. And looked a bit like a young Cat Stevens. I swooned.

And then I pressed play and  swooned even more as I watched him sing a beautiful song using only his voice, mouth and body for musical accompaniment. As See Hear Say’s Laura points out: “i don’t understand a word he’s singing but this is so beautiful i could cry.”

Well, the man’s name is Alaa Wardi and he’s pretty much a genius when it comes to recording, editing, producing and releasing soul-soaring songs, using nothing much more than his voice, body, a small selection of instruments and a computer. Amazing!

alaa wardi2

I checked out his website, and this is what he says:

“For me, that’s more than enough reason to keep doing what I do till I die, and I hope for more people to share with me what their souls have to say. I’m honored to be your soul mate… my listener friends.

Now here’s what you think you need to know!!: My name is Alaa Wardi, I’m 25, I’m Iranian, Born and raised in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Studied music and sound engineering in Amman, Jordan, and currently living in Riyadh.

My religions point of view is none of you all’s concern ;)”

A charmer, methinks.

So, with no further ado, Alaa Wardi’s Ma3gool for your listening pleasure.

And the good news is… THERE’s MORE!! Check out the rest of his songs on YouTube.

Pics from ansam & Design Taxi

Cool internet finds

Friends, today I experienced one of the most ass-kicking internet days of my entire life. It’s true.

There was just so much goodness finding its way onto my screen, as though I had been manifesting “lols,” “awws” and “awesomes” for months on end, a-la followers of/believers in The Secret, only to have it all culminate in one spectacular day!

It’s been so overwhelming, I just had to share the cream of the already very creamy crop with you.

Rock ‘n Roll bride

Rockabilly brides with red shoes and tattoos, grungy grooms, pink hair, leopard print, skulls and all sorts of wayward wedding paraphernalia feature on this bouncy blog. And while not all the weddings are equally aesthetically pleasing, it’s cool to see gutsy people doing something different. Go check it out and tell me your thoughts!

Naming James

Photo: Naming James website

I don’t know how this swashbuckling singer/song writer/string breaker from Johannesburg has been scooting around under my radar for so long, but it kind of feels like time wasted! Listen to a few of the sample tracks from his/their (not too sure) first full length album, ‘The Butcher’s Knife,’ and then come watch him/them perform at Zula Bar on August 18. Peachy Keen will be there too!

Buttermilk, the bouncy goat

Just a video of a cute little goat with waaaaaaaaaaaaay too much energy. Even his brothers and sisters don’t know what hit… or actually, kicked… them! Found by the lovely Jerusha on Jezebel.

Dapper creatures

Pics: Honestly WTF

Check out artist, Ryan Berkley’s illustration of genteel animals donning suits, bow ties, fedoras and other feathered hats.

He even has a story for each. Here’s the eye-patch-wearing cheetah’s: “After cataract surgery ten years ago, this cheetah realized that an eyepatch can be a real conversation starter with the ladies. His eye has long since healed but his social calendar remains quite full.”

Found on Honestly… WTF.

Chad le Clos’ father

Ah, and I couldn’t leave this one out! A heart-warming interview with the father of our Olympic athlete of the moment, Chad le Clos. It’s the sweetest thing I’ve seen in a long time: he calls his sun beautiful, rubs his belly and can’t quite find the words to express his love and admiration. Truly a tear-jerker. Check it out on 2OceansVibe

The Fox, the Crow and the cookie

I discovered a mewithoutYou song this morning and it made me smile. As with most of their songs, I’m not entirely sure what exactly it means, but it’s based on one of Aesop’s Fables that warns against listening to flattery.

While mewhithoutYou is often not the easiest music to listen to, I have cultivated quite a taste for it over the past few years. I think it has much to do with the simplicity of life we’re all yearning for that they portray so poignantly in their songs.

Lots of the words they choose hark back to days of yore, pastoral settings, and their imagery is often Biblical or derived from fairy tales, fables and the like.


Here you go… video and lyrics for a Thursday smile and ponder!

Through mostly vacant streets a Baker from the outskirts of his town earned his living peddling sweets from a ragged cart he dragged around.
The clever Fox crept close behind, kept an ever watchful eye for a chance to steal a Ginger spicecake or a Boysenberry pie.Looking down was the hungry Crow:

When the time is right I’ll strike and condescend to the earth below and take whichever treat I like!
The moment the Baker turned around to shoo the Fox off from his cart, the Crow swooped down and snatched a shortbread cookie and a German chocolate tart.
Using most unfriendly words that the village children had not yet heard, the Baker shouted threats by Canzonet to curse the crafty bird:
You rotten wooden mixing spoon!
Why, you midnight winged raccoon!
You’d better bring those pastries back, you no good, burnt-black-macaroon!!!
The Fox approached the tree where the bird was perched, delighted, in his nest:
Brother Crow, don’t you remember me?
It’s your old friend Fox with a humble request.
If you could share just a modest piece, seeing as I distracted that awful man…
This failed to persuade the Crow in the least, so the Fox rethought his plan:
Then, if your lovely song would grace my ears, or, to even hear you speak would ease my pains and fears.
The Crow looked down with the candy in his beak.
Your poems of wisdom, my Good Crow, what a paradise they bring!
This flattery pleased the proud bird so, he opened his mouth and began to sing:
Your subtle acclamation’s true, best to give praise where praise is due.
Every Rook and Jay in the Corvidae has been Raven about me too!
They admire me, one and all… must be the passion in my ‘Caw’, my slender bill, known through the Escadrille, my fierce, commanding claw…[the cookie drops, Fox retrieves it — there is commotion in the town as the Baker gives chase. Crow is humiliated, realizes he’s been tricked, continues his song]

Ah, I’ve got a Walnut-brownie-brain and Molasses in my veins, crushed graham cracker crust, my powdered Sugar funnelcake cocaine.
Let the Crescent Cookie rise!
These Carob-colored Almond eyes would rest to see my Cashew Princess in the Swirling Marble Sky.
We’ll rest upon the Knee where all divisions cease to be and rootbeer float in our Banana Boat across the Tapioca Sea.
When letting all attachments go is the only prayer we know.
May it be so, may it be so, may it be so, oh…


Snippets: Sunset cycles in Sea Point

They always say that at the close of a day, it fades. But in Sea Point, just the opposite seems to happen. Instead of gently waning, the day seems to reach a surreal crescendo of saturated blues, stark salmon pinks and oranges the tint (or is it tone) of ripe summer citrus.

It’s this seductive sky that always beckons, winking, calling me to come out and play. So I do. And so does everyone else.

The serious joggers with their sculpted arms and calves, and the beginners in their ill-fitting gear – plaid shorts, flapping shirts and skating shoes. The tired-looking new moms pushing prams filled with wriggling bodies, waving arms and wide awake eyes. A dad strolling patiently as his pint-size, pink-clad little girl with her bobbing ponytail and flower in hand chats happily away – probably giving mom an end of the day breather.


The dogs, all rushing about in a multi-sized confusion of wagging tails and tongues, flapping ears and glazed eyes, some picking out an almost invisible ball among the grass and diligently dropping it at a far-off owner’s feet.

The lovers, blissfully unseeing, unaware of the carnival playing itself out all around. An occasional old man staring out to sea – unreadable emotions etching themselves ever deeper into the lines around his squinting eyes.

Then there’s the intriguing couple at the bus stop whose uncanny punctuality, not to mention dress code, always makes me reel with a Truman Show type of Dejavu: a clean-shaven middle aged man wearing a dark button-up shirt tucked into tight black bootleg jeans, a pair of boots short only of a shiny pair of silver spurs and to top it all off, a velvety black, gold-trimmed cowboy hat; next to him, his lady friend (or maybe wife), a Liza-Minelli-lookalike perfectly groomed in a tight-fitting top-to-toe ensemble of rich fabric and dark colours. Which bus and where to? I can’t help but wonder.

But of all the people on the promenade, there is only one pair I would actually shuffle my schedule to see: the frail-looking old man playing his inconsolable bagpipes while his ever-adoring consort watches from a bench close-by, a pair of faerie people, more ancient than they look or maybe indeed much younger than we’d even know.

Whisps of tragic notes wafting on the wind had led me to them on that first fateful dusk, but even when the music was resonating loud and clear, so close I could feel it rattling in my bones, they were nowhere to be seen. And then I caught a glimpse. Through the holes in a hedge I saw him on the corner of a lawn, pouring heart and lungs into his nostalgic song, and she sitting serenely on a nearby chair, eyes closed head lifted just so.

No such shyness tonight, however, as I came across them in plain sight: him standing tall and proud next to a Palm Tree and she on the wooden park bench with a little brown blanket arranged across her knees. I watched him play for a while, letting the notes penetrate my chest and rise up to my head. I watched her watch him. And watched how when he stopped playing she got up, shawled her shoulders in the throw, and met him half way. Then I watched as her arm hooked into his, and they slowly edged their way back home, as if time were irrelevant and night held no threat.