Caroline Polachek at the Roundhouse

It was so good to be visiting London again to see a concert.

I had never been to the roundhouse before and it is a beautiful venue.

‘Pang’ by Caroline Polachek was released in 2019 and it is one of my favourite albums of the last few years. It is full of beautiful songs, that sound utterly gorgeous. It’s a masterpiece through and through. There’s an ethereal quality to each and every song, some of which relate to dreams, others of which capture the disorientation of a relationship gone awry or emotional pangs related to shock or grief. It is a deeply reflective and contemplative album and it’s albums like this that really resonate with me.

So I jumped on the opportunity to see Caroline live and the show had sold out in an hour.

Oklou opened to a very respectable crowd and ‘Galore’ is also a lovely album and one I’ve repeated since it’s release in 2020.

And by the time Caroline was on, the place was packed and you could barely move in the venue. Speaking of the audience…

The audience was very diverse. Loads of the LGBT community were there and Caroline Polachek, similarly to Charli XCX and Christine and the queens really strikes a chord with them. As a music lover, this scene is where some of the most exciting pop and electronic music is happening. So, I was impressed by the flamboyant fashion on display and the effort people had put in! There was also a few metal heads there as well! It was genuinely lovely to be part of a diverse and adoring crowd because as far as my love of Pang was concerned, I had been on my own with this for two years! Such is the world we live in, where weird and wonderful, and I also may I say more sophisticated music appeals to more niche audiences.

I don’t quite remember an audience this appreciative of an artist, it was great!

And Polachek can sing live. Her voice is amazing and the sound was amazing. It was great to see her backed by a drummer and guitarist as it’s often the case that pop artists just have backing tracks. She also had occasional guests on board including Sega Bogeda and Danny L Hare.

So the music itself was captivating enough but this was further enhanced by an absolutely gorgeous backdrop. A gate with an enthralling lighting design for the entire show.

So this concert was wonderful, and if you haven’t heard ‘Pang’, I thoroughly recommend that you do.

Team vs individuals

Paul Scholes is one of the best pundits out there when it comes to football.

I’ve seen enough former Manchester United players cranked up on emotions. I’m not particularly fond of Liverpool pundits doing it either, or any ex players of any team for that matter.

But Scholes saw how Manchester United played against Atalanta and straight away saw the warning signs and made an objective observation on BT.

And he was so right!

And I couldn’t be more delighted. I’m a Liverpool FC supporter in case that’s not obvious.

I watched the game in utter delight but also bafflement. There’s never been such a glaring disparity between the two rivals. 5-0 does say some of it but the manner in which Liverpool won and Manchester United lost is also extraordinary.

And the analysis has become more like a post mortem when it has come to the latter team.

You can certainly look at the tactics and take issue at the Red Devil’s half hearted attempt at pressing, gaping holes in defence, and calamitous errors but fundamentally, you have a team of individuals verses the best Liverpool team I have ever had the joy of watching.

And Man U supporters and pundits were rubbing their hands when they saw no Fabinho or Matip or Mane before the game but that didn’t matter, and here’s why.

Because Liverpool play as a team with a cohesive system, a well drilled squad so whenever anyone else steps into a position, they can fulfil the job. Henderson bossed midfield, Jota and Keita got involved with a goal and assist each and Konate was cool and collected in defence.

They have a world class manager in Klopp who I run out of words to praise his demeanour on and off the pitch.

And then there is Salah, who is currently the best player in the world and puts himself in a very strong negotiation position with his contract, courtesy of a hat trick, but that’s only part of the story. Every single player representing Liverpool yesterday made that win happen and no matter if you are the best player or were the best player in the world, you can’t win consistently without the collective in football. Everyone deserves praise at LFC for yesterday’s chapter for the history books.

Manchester United on the other hand need reflection, and I respect opposing sides but my patience ran thin when Pogba dives in for a red and plenty of other players were lucky to walk away with just yellows.

And Ronaldo’s sore loser antics with Curtis Jones is one of the reasons I have always rated Messi higher in my books.

I feel for Van De Beek and especially Sancho, who was chased by the club in comedically embarrassing fashion for two years only to be shafted by a veteran legend who steers the reins by emotion above all else.

Which leads me on to the wider point.

Ego and individualism is worth putting aside sometimes for the collective effort and reward involved with being a team. Objectivity is sometimes the better thing to consider than subjectivity. What’s the philosophy, what’s the plan moving forward and how do you (as in we) achieve it?

And if you can answer those with clarity, conviction and quality, you have a chance at being competitive.

Art is not a luxury.

I still don’t know what the conservatives mean when they say ‘levelling up’.

And I’m sick of our current government painting art as merely a trivial luxury.

Reading the Guardian article on the government’s desire to limit student numbers for creative courses for the sake of reducing student loan debt is profoundly infuriating.

It isn’t just about reducing student loans. It’s about limiting opportunity, discrimination against the poor (which they always do!) and quashing down any voices that speak truth to power.

The Fatima advert should still be prevalent in everyone’s memory about how tone deaf Boris Johnson and his crew are.

Not everyone is meant to be an engineer or a scientist.

And every single time I see a student, steered away from their love of the arts for the sake of pursuing science, it’s at the cost of regret, time felt as wasted and disillusionment. I’ve lost count of how many times I have had this conversation.

To any progressive society, the arts play a pivotal role in the culture. The arts besides providing the opportunity to entertain us, has every potential to enrich our lives, encourage us to think and see the world in different ways and make positive changes moving forward. And all of this can happen in tandem with EVERY profession.

Instead, the Tories would rather everyone be a cog in a system, exasperate inequality and have a country that is coarse and inward looking.

There is more to life than economic growth.

And you can’t sell the idea of levelling up if you plan on reducing the amount of opportunities for education.

Pushing those around you further.

Today, I had an awesome and very musical day collaborating with a friend of mine and we’ve not only worked together on one but two records this year…his and mine.

And after a good 10 hour session programming synths and exploring sounds I said that I wouldn’t have created these kind of ideas if he wasn’t in the room.

The modern musical adventure normally gives the image of a person working away on their ideas in their bedroom studio on their own.

But often, I get better results through collaboration and conversations with others that critically reflect on the material and make more informed decisions going forward. It’s also more inspiring and fun too.

Music certainly can be enjoyed in solitude, but the value of sharing ideas and bouncing of others should never be underestimated.

Popular doesn’t mean better

The top 50 charts of music today are filled with an endless amount of vapid drek. The music reflects the culture and for the most part, people don’t use music like they did in the 60s and 70s, as a means to find their identity, learn and discover about themselves and see what was going on in the world. Instead, people use music as a means for escapism, or passive noise to drown themselves in sound whilst other media forms have come in to the fray to take up our attention.

It’s a shame in some ways, and I can only see the music business as a race to the bottom. But I remember that that’s the music business and not music.

And I’ve gotten rather resourceful when it comes to finding the music for me. I go out of my way to discover new music I love and my favourite records of the last few years comprise of artists that no else I know directly, knows of.

Caroline Polachek, Arooj Aftab, Julia Holter, Natalie Prass, Steven Wilson, the list goes on. I love the work these people do, and so do a lot of others out there, but they are not popular by any stretch of the mainstream media focus.

But they resonate with a viable audience. And this can happen on an even smaller scale.

There are over 300 million people in America. Target 1% and you still have 3 million. Even 0.001% is a large audience to someone!

Sometimes, it’s easy to obsess over the stats and the numbers but we should never let that supersede the quality of that which we like and admire. And it doesn’t have to be popular for us to like or engage with it.

Anticipatory dread

Alfred Hitchcock once said that it’s not the bang that gets you, it’s the anticipation of it.

When we experience something in the workplace, the process is usually fine and we adapt ourselves in the situation to deal with any challenges.

But if we are preempting the challenges themselves in advance, that can create a lot of anxiety, purely in anticipation of the thing itself.

This can manifest itself physically. For me, it’s a sensation in my chest as if my heart is starting to race. Sometimes this is so influential that it defies any logic your brain is trying to present back to you.

So the solution is to either duck from the challenge, and quite or face it. And normally when I face it, it’s okay.

And with that, we gain more experience and a chance to adapt to challenging situations and deal better with them.

And if that doesn’t change or even gets worse, best to walk away from it.

Avoiding assumptions

As soon as we start to interact with someone new, we can start to make assumptions, including age, orientation or occupation.

Although, not everyone is quite as they seem. People are nuanced and in some ways incredibly interesting and complicated.

People are also sometimes very surprising, in positive ways for sure.

I try my best to keep my sub conscious in check when meeting new people and be as empathetic and open minded as I can.

There’s too much judgement made by people based on their background or things that are merely circumstantial such as where they come from, or what they look like, as opposed to who they actually are.

It’s better to look up to people as opposed to look down on them.

Questions over judgement.

I’ve never really come across a time when calling someone a moron had a benefit going forward.

And as easy as it is to fall into the default of doing that, especially when something as divisive as Brexit is concerned.

There is an issue of misinformation, false sense of truth and assumptions out in the world but that’s always been the case. It’s called gossip, and the advent of the internet has amplified gossip to an enormous extent.

So we live in a world where people convince themselves that what they conclude in their hard is self-ceiling, self fulfilling and an incontrovertible fact when the actuality is that they are probably not and there is more nuance in all things.

So what’s the solution?

Attempting to teach critical thinking is a start, and encouraging everyone of every age to consider nuance and detail in every heated topic and debate.

Secondly, our interactions, especially those online need to be less hostile, and we need to employ empathy and a curious investigation into why people think the way they think.

Thirdly, media outlets and social networks need to regain trust and not allow falsehoods to be spread and advertised so wildly. They fall short of the mark in the meantime and aside building better interactions from the ground up, the facilitators of our online social media need to own up and step up too.

Back on the bike

I’ve spent nearly two weeks dealing with a cold. Conventional viruses decided to come back with a vengeance since more mixing is going on, and I really suffered for it, as is a lot of people I know.

And what didn’t help was that I was rather heavily scheduled with teaching, sessions and meetings and I felt debilitated throughout the entire thing.

I then felt burnt out, because I was trying to push myself when I was feeling rough, and mentally, I was seeing everything through a much more negative lens.

So this weekend, I took a step back (not to be mistaken with admit defeat) and spent time with family, focusing on other things, namely enjoying myself and today I finally felt fit enough to get back on the bike, which always does me good.

I’m a sucker for falling into the trap of trying to continue working when mentally and physically I need rest and leisure.

And this post, serves as a reminder to myself take the time out when I need it, and for anyone else reading this that needs it too.

Finding the sweet spot.

If you’re cooking a recipe. You need just the right amount of ingredients. Too much of one thing can upset the balance of the whole.

Very often, when we our creating art, the temptation is to fall into the trap of adding layers and layers without letting the work we do breathe. Or on the contrary, we do too little and then don’t consider the levels of detail we can add to bring a level of sophistication to our work.

Depending on the intent, finding the sweet spot matters. Adding harmony shouldn’t be just done because it can be done. It should be done because it feels right to do so.