words by tom johnson
Our full end of year coverage – including recommendations, personal essays,
and interviews with Damien Jurado, Lucy Dacus, Advance Base –
is released in January as part of our new physical publication,
which is available to pre-order here
The town and the city, the loneliness offered by both, so different but so alike; an ache somewhere deep inside that can’t be replenished, that can’t be patched up forever. So we keep moving, both inside or out. Searching for a place that feels like home, where can hear the trains, and no the way the rain falls. Looking for answers, out where the boundaries bleed, among the lights at the edge of town that give way to the darkness surrounding. Answers we’re not even sure we’d recognise if we found them.
Vivid and illusory, a testament to the acuteness of its delicate absorption. Before the end of the first track it had started to snow, the flakes outside my window dancing in weird, audacious movements, stirred and shaped by the wind, one of those funny little moments where everything seems to align itself, so beautiful and perfectly accidental.
Another year, another gem, like a string of pearls, each one reminiscent but different to the last, to the next one that will follow. See this one, so sharp and pretty but dulled too, weathered by age, by the process that led from the idea to the finished piece. In the sun it sparkles, but look at it closely, see it in the cold light of day, and it no longer gleams, it tells a story so well known, of something lost and never found, but one that finds a way to carry on.
Believe in imagination, is what you said. Believe in poetry and self-care. Believe in a bed. Believe in these seven songs that float and sting, grinning and gleaming, a honeybee with a message to deliver. Fly far and wide, fly positive and true, and spread a message from your wings, before they’re clipped, before the weight of it gets too much. But for now, just fly, into the golden light that stretches on for mile upon mile, day upon day.
Run For Cover
I remember the front door, the noise it made when you pushed it shut behind you, exactly where the creak was. I remember the noise of your footsteps, along the hallway, over the floorboards I righted when one fell out of place. I remember the way the light fell in the evenings, the corner window of the living room, dying in the fading light, the last place you could see the sky before it was swallowed by the night. How we lay there, you and I, watching a day fade, waiting for a new one to come. I remember how it changed the day you brought the dog back, how the house felt like it must have always been so lonely and empty before she joined us. I remember how she waited for you while you showered, sleeping in the bedroom but with one eye waiting, listening for the rush of water to finish, for you to return, for things to carry on.
Delicately poised, like the tiniest of movements could break the whole thing in two, ‘Years’ is a stunning exhibition of cadence, a display of the many ways a voice can be used. You wonder quite how it all comes from the same lungs, through the same set of eyes. Sometimes golden and tingling with life, elsewhere lost in a deep well of yearning, a pure desire for things lost, loss that can shape a day as powerfully as the weather, as the things we grasp for in the silence of our minds.
From the top of Burger Hill, I see smoke that leaves through chimneys, drifting across the town where I grew up, the places and people I know, or once knew, who stay there, lost in time as memories of mine. I see the smoke turn into shapes we could name, if you were here too: a bear, a heart, you and I. Because love it better than most things, better than all the things we take for granted, better than a world without it. We know this, even as the smoke fades, white into white, now no different than the clouds that surround.
Mama Bird Recording Co.
Find the prettiest memories you can, uproot them from the dark corners and replant them. Deep in the soft soil, but not so deep as to bury them. Plant them somewhere near the window, so you can watch them grow from afar, so you can see how different they look as they years roll by, as their features change, as the shapes change, as the colours begin to fade. Colours that will one day remind you of this day, of you sitting on your knees, the rain beginning to fall, and the noise it makes, as you take the roots gently and push them into the soft dirt. The dirt that stays on your hands for hours, days, weeks, and years. Dirt that you’ll one day swear you still occasionally find in the tiny cracks of skin that nobody else knows.
Double Double Whammy
A soft sigh of regret, the dull ache of a summer falling away before your eyes, a season shifting into a season before you ever got a chance to say what it was you wanted to say. We would stop it if we could. Send the impending cold back into the sun. But you said you’re tired from sleeping. I’m tired from sleeping too. So let’s try sleep again, here and now, before the day is over, so that we can keep it with us, so that it can be preserved, so we can carry it until we can no longer remember why we’re doing so.
Woozy, lovelorn, plaintive, playful, tender. You make a list of those things. This could be any of them. It could be all of them. All and so much more. Love is never normal but it’s all I wanted us to be. Normal people, together and apart, finding comfort in the small things: a candle on a birthday, the click of the latch on the door when you return with the groceries. Plaintive components of a spellbinding journey, small cogs across the breadth of a relationship, from learning to love, to watching it all fall apart. Slow and inevitable, like the light coming in.