Mid-20s Malaise

Struggling against the inevitable since 1986!

Ugens Sang: The Sound of Arrows – Nova

The Sound of Arrows make my heart sing. The Swedish duo are like Pet Shop Boys without the snarkiness. Now, I love me some sarcasm and wit, but The Sound of Arrows simply make joyful, uplifting electropop. Their debut single, M.A.G.I.C., was – if you’ll excuse me going to the most obvious place – magical, all glockenspiels and children’s choirs. Follow-up single Into The Clouds was an absolute corker, a dreamer’s anthem of rising above yourself and your circumstances. I have fond memories of walking through my then-new home of North Kensington in London with this song on repeat – the perfect soundtrack for a boy who felt his life was about to take flight in the most extraordinary way.

(Ha! I’d love to go back in time and mock that boy and his dreams.)

I love the band’s unique visual style: silhouettes and fantasy landscapes, it matches the “epic twee” sound of their music.

Anyway, the band have been silent for close to two years now (excepting a Lady Gaga remix that I prefer to the original) and it’s destroyed me. Finally, this song has been released. It didn’t grab me like their other two songs, but it’s still wonderful: a euphoric track, with the beats pushed up further in the mix and the odd but welcome addition of trance synths.

It’s a stupid and outdated strange way to release a song, though: the video debuted on Popjustice this week (unusual in itself – most bands these days release a song and wait a few weeks to unveil the video) and the single isn’t to be released for more than two months. That’s silly. We live in the information age. The Sound of Arrows can count on me to throw them all my money at the time and place of their choosing, but I imagine most people would take a video rip of the song and forget about it by the time legal purchase came around.

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Småsnak

I was making a cup of tea in the office kitchen yesterday, when one of my various superiors wandered in. She set about making a cup of tea, and asked, “How are you, Liam?”

(This has always impressed me about her: she was introduced to me just once, at a very busy day of team building exercises during my first week with the company, and she’s never forgotten my name. It’s a skill that I, as someone who can put names to faces as well as he can build a bridge to New Zealand, can only dream of.)

I told her I was good, but tired. She made some comment about it being a Monday, and I sympathised, but pointed out that the day was over. Neither of us asked the other what we did over the weekend, what we were working on, or anything else specific.

It was quite impersonal.

And it was great.

See, I love small talk, but I didn’t realise how much until I went travelling. Having worked in hospitality and retail, I’ve tired many times of saying “Hi, how are you?” (although during busy periods, this turns into “Hihowareyou” or simply “Hhhhhhhhhhh”). But I like being on the receiving end: chats about the weather, asking if the other’s day has been busy, finding out if they’re working an early or late shift. That said, I totally understand people who dismiss it as meaningless prattle (but have no tolerance for those who are aggressive or rude to some poor underpaid teenager who is only trying to be polite as part of their job).

When travelling, I could go several days as a functional mute. Communication often became a series of mimes, or an insulting approximation of the local dialect. And it wasn’t just the language barrier: I thought that the sneers delivered to me by Dutch checkout chicks were mine alone, but they were just as dismissive of my Dutch friend’s banter. Getting to England was no better, where the checkout chicks won’t smile, let alone have a chat with you.

The first morning I woke up in Australia, I went down to the bank. I realised I’d forgotten my PIN during my year away, and went inside to rectify the situation. The woman was stupendously friendly: asked how she could help me and, when I explained the problem, she asked me where I’d been and how it was. I was ready to smother her in kisses, having braved the indifference of the staff of Morrison’s at Shepherd’s Bush just days earlier.

And so, no matter how often I miss Europe, small talk reminds me that, no matter what other problems my country has, it’s a friendly place full of friendly people, where someone will smile at me for simply buying a bottle of milk.

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Månens Sang: Enya – Anywhere Is

I’ve been slack. Again. I really should give up the pretence of blogging, but I keep hoping it will click for me. Work has been really busy for me, and Danish classes have resumed. Not too mention I’m three months into a relationship, and that takes up a lot of time and energy when you’ve spent a quarter of a century being single.

Anyway, this is the song of the month, rather than the song of the week: since the end of January, I’ve been obsessed with Enya. South African hip-hop outfit Die Antwoord recently released a remix cover of Orinoco Flow, arguably Enya’s most famous song. My friend Clem enjoyed it, but commented that it wouldn’t be as great as it was if the original version was so magical.

And so, I asked my mum to bring down her Enya CDs when she next visited me. Mum played a lot of Enya when I was growing up, so I’d subsequently dismissed her music as naff. But do you know what? Clem’s right: this stuff is magical. Nobody else sounds like Enya does. The way she layers her voice and instruments is gorgeous, and surprisingly intricate. A lot of the music brings back memories for me: Mum would always play Watermark and Caribbean Blue at dinner parties, so the songs bring back memories of her 90s perm, her puffy sleeves and the smell of her Opium (the fragrance, not the drug).

I’ve listened to Enya hundreds of times in the last few weeks, but this is the one I love most. I love the cyclical vocal melody and the gently booming percussion. I even love the rather trite lyrics. I really love the hilariously literal video clip: “the moon upon the ocean” = shot of the moon over the ocean; “the shells upon the warm sand” = shot of a girl holding a shell to her ear. Amazingly, it reached the top ten in the UK. (Enya is actually a fascinating commercial force. She has become incredibly wealthy, despite never performing concerts, which is damn near impossible in today’s music industry.)

Anyway, enjoy or scoff.

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