Monday, 24 August 2015

Music Speaks: Part One
With the risk of sounding cynical, clichéd or old fashioned aside, I have to stick by my guns and confess that the lyrics of most popular songs of the recent decades just don't do it for me. What makes so many songs a hit it appears, is how it's produced; how it's artificially moulded into being a catchy duplicate of last weeks number one. Everything sounds the same, nothing feels authentic, lyrics fade into insignificance. Before I continue, let me clamber off my high horse for a moment and admit that I am only a mere mortal, there are days where I listen to Carly Rae Jepsen, Selena Gomez and Rihanna, or on a bad day all three in succession! I am a complete novice to the technicalities of music, having never taken up an instrument nor able to hold a pleasant note in my life (Don't you just loath those people that insist "Everyone can sing?!") That being said, when I discovered Keaton Henson, a London based musician, several years ago, I instantly fell in love with his music.  For someone who is passionate about language, his lyrics feed the soul. Every word has a poignancy, an elegance and a sincerity brought to life and enhanced by the fragility of Henson's voice. Many people have likened him to the late Jeff Buckley and indeed the two have a notable "hauntingly beautiful" characteristic to their music and distinct voices.
Until I heard Henson's music, I could never really empathise with people who felt 'moved' by music; I was always wowed by the talent of certain musicians and thoroughly enjoyed listening to music, but that was about the extent of it. When I stumbled across "Small Hands" a few years ago, I instantly fell in love with the song. Something about the arrangement of it, the sincerity of the lyrics and the unique voice was my first fix of what was to become a burgeoning addiction. As I listened to more songs from his debut album "Dear", I was not disappointed. They all shared the same raw, pure quality. Many of the tracks have a sombre tone, most having been inspired by a relationship that soured, one which Henson was heavily invested in. Unrequited love is a well hashed theme of so many songs, but Henson's brutal honesty and articulate lyrics makes everything feel very fresh. Critics of his music are quick to tar his albums as a "depression session", but I feel this is an oversimplification. Sadness can often have a certain beauty.
When Henson released his third album last year, I was taken aback to discover it was orchestral. I expected not to like it as much as his two former albums, but was pleasantly surprised to find it is equally as beautiful, equally as moving. I travelled to London to an intimate gig in which Henson performed songs from "Romantic Works" and was moved to tears (it was the smoke machine, I swear!) Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to see him perform in the National Concert Hall in Dublin, where Henson performed songs spanning his three albums and I genuinely think I have a new found appreciation of life! Hehehe! I joke, but it was seriously intense, an amazing night. What makes Henson even more special, is that he suffers from acute anxiety and stage fright; he is unassuming about the immense talent he has and appears to be such an authentic person. He writes and creates for the love of his music and art, not for the fame or the capital. Below are a collection of images inspired by my favourite lyrics from his songs, unedited; just natural like his music :)
Miss your small hands in the palm of mine,
The fact they're good at making,
Miss you sitting up incessantly
And the fact you're always waking in the night
 Work to leave some part of you on this earth
There's something about the simplicity of this lyric that just sticks. It says a lot in just a few words. To me, it could mean simply leaving a legacy of kindness. To leave a legacy of kindness is an amazing thing and should never be underrated. Kindness has such wonderful ramifications, it radiates out from a person which is why this image is inspired by the lyric.

Hold me tight in your arms, give me glimmers of hope,
Do not love me though
One of my favourite of Henson's songs, "Strawbear" articulates the difficulties of allowing oneself to be fully loved, or perhaps committing to someone who you don't truly love. The speaker assumedly sees himself as a teddy bear, unable to be fully functioning in the relationship. The metaphor used is very clever as the teddy connotes affection and warmth, yet it is not a sentient being and cannot reciprocate the love given to it.
My body's weak,
Feel my lungs giving up on me,
I'm worried it might just be
Something my soul needs
 Like the two intertwined branches, sometimes you can get inextricably linked to a person. You build such a connection to them that they almost become a part of you. They become a necessity rather than just a desire.
Does his love make your head spin?
 Of all Henson's songs, this seems the most personal. It addresses the new man of the woman who he was in love with. It's mournful and pining, but at the same time accepting and not spiteful. It's heart-breaking as he details  how well he knew her and how much he loved her.
This stunning piece of music is my favourite track from Henson's orchestral album. It has a slow build and becomes very uplifting. Anytime I listen to it, I become quite reflective. To me, the song is about growth and positivity, about moving upwards.
I do hope you have enjoyed this week's post. Thank you so much for reading (well done if you made it to the end!)
Love always,

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Awkward Turtle Alert


This week I confess that I have found myself enveloped in a feeling of inadequacy; unshakable and corrosive. Author Dorris Lessing once said “when writing about oneself one is writing about others”, which is why I feel it may be cathartic for me as well as possibly beneficial to others to articulate this feeling of inadequacy. For some unbeknownst reason I have always drilled into myself the idea that speaking to somebody else about your worries and those subterranean issues/anything deeper than trivial conversation to be weak. Although I know this is a standard I only employ for myself and would never label anyone else as less than for reaching out to another, it remains immensely difficult for me to follow suit. Old habits die extremely hard, which is why I am using the outlet of my blog as a personal pensieve.

Newton’s third law tells us every action has an equal and opposite reaction, so what caused this feeling of dissatisfaction to descend over me like a very grey and unwanted cloud? Well my fellow socially awkward turtles, it was of course a series of social gatherings. I want to preface this by explaining that whilst I would definitely class myself as an introvert, this does not mean that I am incapable of being an outgoing person on occasion. I can only speak for myself and what I find accelerates my anxiety and sometimes this in itself can be a murky issue to define. Sometimes I will find myself getting anxious in a social situation I envisaged as being unproblematic, other times events that I dread turn out to be perfectly fine and enjoyable. Amongst friends and a certain network of people who I click with, I think I am very outgoing and chatty, but frequently when I’m around new people, people I haven’t seen in a long time, or people whom I deem superior to me, I withdraw into my little turtle shell. When I get like this, I feel paralysed. I fear I come across as disinterested or dismissive when in reality I’m internally panic stricken. I often think of anxiety as like being in a car that accelerates from 0-100 in five seconds; blitzing down a motorway when you’re not even in the driver’s seat and feeling completely out of control.  I know there will be people reading this that really cannot empathise with the feeling at all. To those pure extraverts, my anxiety and the feeling of inadequacy that often ensues is an anomaly, like when people tell me they don’t find Friends funny or don’t like Stephen Fry; it simply cannot be comprehended. On the odd occasion I have tried explaining why I find some social situations difficult, it’s reciprocated with a non-committal shrug of the shoulder and a clichéd “Ah these situations are all part of life” type phrase, which only serves to further exacerbate my feeling of frustration towards myself. Why can’t I just get over it and not care about what people think?

In the space of a week, I found myself in numerous situations where I felt awkward and uncomfortable. An unexpected situation arose whereby extended family where all gathered together and the inevitable “so what are you doing with yourself?” type questions ensued. I immediately felt talentless, dull and painfully self-conscious. As I have gotten older, I seem to have lost the ability to small talk. I find it absurdly difficult to talk about myself to new people or acquaintances, instead I do my best to quiz them about themselves and often feel like I’m grasping at straws in an attempt not to look idiotic. My social ineptitude felt further highlighted when I looked around the room at the ease at which others seemed to converse. In particular I paid attention to the confidence some of my female relatives had. Everything just appeared so effortless, their beauty, their demeanour and their ability to express an opinion without fear of judgment or worrying about looking stupid. Is this profound confidence a gift from birth or is it FedExd to you on your 21st birthday in a box with a red ribbon? If the latter is true, I’d like to request priority posting on mine, please.

I think perhaps the worst part is the personal ramifications after these social events. The anxiety lingers even when I am removed from the discomfort of the event. Even though I know it is futile, I find myself replaying the situation over and over and over in my head. Dissecting every minute and beating myself up over perceived stupid remarks I may have passed, or scolding myself for not making enough of an effort to converse; I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place.

I’m afraid this post is lacking in the inspiration department, but if I crack the code on how to master these social situations, I shall let my fellow awkward turtles know ;) Perhaps this blog post is the first step to success, admitting that I have a problem! Perhaps like the old story of the turtle and the hare, us awkward turtles will finish first in the race to becoming a contented, carefree socialite ;)

Until next Monday,

Love always, Amy. x