Several artists released new albums this month, including the Swedish sisters known as First Aid Kit. I came late to their second major label release, The Lion’s Roar, but I made up for it by playing it non-stop last summer. This summer’s album, Stay Gold, has the same producer as Lion’s Roar, Mike Mogis, and amps up the sound to include strings and other orchestra parts.
image via Pitchfork
The album is just as insanely listenable as their last album, though I’d argue that the singles, Cedar Lane and My Silver Lining, aren’t as immediately catchy as the previous album’s Lion’s Roar, Emmylou, and Wolf. That said, this album certainly illustrates a progression–the harmonies are still incredibly strong, particularly in the song The Bell, and the lyrics are more confessional than previous efforts. The album seems to want to capitalize on the popularity of the dancier singles of the last album, Emmylou and King of the World . . . there certainly seems to be a greater sense of ‘this is what we want to be producing’, for whatever reason. The sisters seem to have a greater sense of artistic control, and lends a more grown-up sound. But they maintain the incredibly appealing 70s mild-psychedelia, traipsing-through-a-meadow-in-a-gunne-sax-dress feeling, particularly in My Silver Lining and the title track Stay Gold.
While I like this album very much, it doesn’t quite have the innate always-on-repeat nature of the last album. But it does keep my interest peaked to see where they’ll be going next, and I’ve already bought tickets to see them at the Royal Albert hall in September.
Best tracks: My Silver Lining, the Bell
Label: Columbia Records
As someone with very little routine at the moment, I found Maria Popova’s article on Letters to a Young Artist by Anna Deavere Smith compelling. Intended to discuss creativity and lifestyle of an artist, I believe that the points made within the book (via the article) could be easily adapted to most lives.
Much of what I read on the internet emphasizes mindfulness, the need to pause and actively think about the progression of the day. But these posts and articles often present ‘mindfulness’ in a somewhat new age-y manner, like we need to pause and reflect for our own health and well-being. As a rather ambitious and driven person, I usually try to pick-up and leave behind my mindfulness on the yoga mat.
Smith and Popova highlight discipline–not solely the need to show up and work hard, but the manner in which we do so. They describe discipline as ‘the unflinching commitment to ourselves, to our own sense of merit and morality, to our own ideals and integrity.’ The article argues that our daily routine directly impacts what we bring forth to the world–that our smaller actions impact our presence in the larger scheme of things.
While this seems like a rather daunting concept on the surface, in reality it allows you to break ‘mindfulness’ into smaller, more practical units of time. And that’s something I can get behind.
This December, as I keep saying every time I reflect on my continuing life here in London, is so vastly different from the previous. Last year I spent the weeks leading up to the holidays stuck in the library, nose buried in a book with 5 more stacked on the table. But still, of course, I saw how magical London becomes around the holidays. London does Christmas very well (which is good, considering they completely ignore any other winter holiday). The trees sparkle with white and blue lights, and each part of London pops with their own particular decorations. Last December I accompanied my friends on a botched ice skating trip (not that I would ever ice skate myself . . . phobias abound) and looked up into a giant tree decorated by Tiffany’s. I wandered around Christmas tree selling points and drank hot chocolate in coffee shops.
This year, the Christmas trees are in friends’ homes and our new (centrally located to our flats) local. As much as I love the twinkly trees and Christmas cheer in shops, I much prefer my red and green paper garland and the holly fairy lights strung across my mantle. Hot chocolate is drunk at home, Christmas gatherings planned at my flat (curry takeaway for dinner and cider cocktails for drink). And celebratory wine is drunk, the spoils of victory from second place at the Christmas pub quiz.
Christmas shopping is still difficult. The mix of shopping from my American amazon for American family and UK amazon for UK friends and shopping in person/fighting crowds is decidedly difficult. Of course, it’s made more difficult when the cat decides to help.
But in 3 short days I’ll be boarding a plane to the States, to spend two lovely weeks with my family and friends back home. And then it’s back again. For more of whatever this is.
I’m in a dead sprint to finish my dissertation, so all I can give you is this:
There There (The Boney King of Nowhere)-Radiohead