I hope that Valentine’s Day wasn’t too gut-wrenching for you. After January, which I seem to class as the worst month of the year, winter depression really takes hold of myself, like a mild seasonal affective disorder of sorts. I believe most people suffer from it to some extent, even to the point where snow simply becomes a bore and tarnishes a mood; making people more uncomfortable at their core than in previous months. But anyway, Valentine’s Day is all about love, sharing, giving, happiness and a chance to express your gratitude to a loved one, that, or neck a bottle of Pernod alone in bed and resent everything.

Doing the latter, I tried to find the silver lining and take some solace in all of this, and think about songs that remind me of girls. I came up with this idea a few months back, either hoping over time I would think of more girls and more songs, or have the chance to meet new people to help bulk out this column, but sadly, unless someone has a major impact on my life, I try not to associate things with them; things I like, songs I like, etc.

For example, I had a girlfriend that idolised Amy Winehouse, but not being mucho of a wineo myself, I can’t really talk about it, or her. I genuinely have nothing to say. Nor was I listening to Winehouse at all during our relationship. It was only after I decided to give her a try, and that was because Nas appeared to do a song with her on Lioness. It was something I related to her, but not something that reminds me of her – that I can listen to and be drawn to that moment of my life... If that makes sense...

I started to heavily get into Childish Gambino roughly this time last year after my most recent break-up. I was always a fan of Donald Glover since watching Community, and was aware he made music, gave it a few tries, but it never really spoke to me. I had ‘Freaks and Geeks’ on my iPhone, largely because of my love for the television show (!), but that was the extent of our relationship. Camp was released and, as it was something new, I started to play it on repeat in hope this would open up some doors. As the weeks went by, I took a strong liking to ‘Kids (Keeps Up)’ and ‘Heartbeat’; they became my favourite songs from the record – musically, lyrically, and how they made me feel.

Come March, I began to see someone. Or I thought I was seeing someone. To this day, I don’t know. It was all very confusing, and I think that’s why ‘Heartbeat’ began to play such significance. I don’t mind writing this, because I know she won’t read it; I believe part of her charm was that she didn’t care, and she was so detached. Nonetheless, out of respect, I won’t say her name.

The lyrics of ‘Heartbeat’ began to echo my thoughts, intentions, or rather desires – what I wanted. The lust, the slight of upper-handness, the adult real life issues. I wanted to be desired and a man who seemed to have power of some sorts – be it over a woman, or elsewhere that attracted women. Instead, I found myself simply left with the spite and resentment that the song also discusses. Despite ‘dates’ to the cinema, dinner or films round hers, meeting up for coffee, even on my birthday, nothing really coalesced; suggestive tweets, days without texting and consistent confrontation left me dumb-founded and utterly hopeless; hopelessly lost and confused. The most notable and relatable line in the song for me became the final words uttered with annoyance and hate: “Are we dating? Are we f***ing? Are we best friends? Are we something? In between that?” (‘Heartbeat’, Camp, 2011). After nearly a year of on-off, hot-cold phases, I gave up trying and called it a day.

A person who had more importance in my life, and a much better song that meant more to me came about in 2010, despite the song itself being released in 2008, but I wasn’t aware of it back then... Or her.

The Honorary Title, or rather their front man, Jarrod Gorbel, covered Alicia Keys’ ‘No One’ for fun, and the video was put up on YouTube by their friend, which ended up receiving just under one-hundred-thousand hits and critical appraisal. The style was rustic, sombre, splendid and sweet. Gorbel’s rendition and alterations ended up (to me, anyway) enhancing the song and allowed the lyrics to stand out more and have more of the sentimental impact I believe the songwriter initially intended. It’s stripped down and not overdone or glamorous like the original. The song made me feel good, but even more knowing that I began to associate it with falling in love for the first time.

The song ended up being put on the Tour EP, the final record the band put out together, before Gorbel set off to pursue a solo career. A direct audio rip from the video, which let the track remain with its spontaneous charm and ‘realness’; nothing was forced and it was very heart-felt. This song reminds me of my then girlfriend and never ceases to make me smile and think back to a specific feeling, along with the moment where it felt like everything was falling into place.

It initially brings me back to the first day she and I spent together properly – that was the trigger. I had cancelled on her about three times because of my terrible, terrible sleeping pattern (I’m sure there was another reason too) and we finally re-arranged things to meet up on a Friday, when she’d be off work. I went out that Thursday night with a load of friends, but left half way through the night because I just wanted to see her, so she met me in her pyjamas and slippers by the city’s college and we went back to hers; me barely able to stand or slur out a possible ‘Hello’.

On the Friday (afternoon, obviously), we spent the majority of it lying on her sofa, watching One Tree Hill (her show, her ‘thing’) and she was determined to get me into it. I was hooked instantly. Of all the guest appearances they could’ve had on for the first episode I was to watch, they had The Honorary Title (episode 7 of season 5, entitled In Da Club). I got so enthusiastic, I was like a child, and started to talk about them and Jarrod for ages. I think I annoyed her that she couldn’t pay attention to the story! I had only discovered the band roughly two weeks prior, and they were hot on my iTunes, and I had spent a lot of time researching them and closely analysing their Wikipedia pages.

I remember when I left hers later that day to return to my friend’s house to collect my things, I had this feeling: I really, really didn’t want to go. Walking further on back into the city centre, with my mind in check, everything just felt right as Gorbel’s “No one, no one, no one-on-on-on-on-onn” rang through; it made so genuinely happy. That fantastic feeling, that sensation you get… It stuck with me.

James Joyce famously said: “Her image accompanied me even in places the most hostile to romance”. I can’t say I remember the road I was walking down when this all sank in, or how to get there, but I certainly do remember the feeling; and the steel gate by the side of me, and the mini island roundabout up ahead; the traffic brushing past, the school kids passing me, staring at the messy heap on my head that I called a haircut. I can close my eyes and picture it, down to the clothes I wore. It’s funny really, that exact moment saw me write, what I find to be, my favourite and best line to date; my finest piece of writing that I am so proud of – maybe because I love the imagery, maybe because I reflect back to that moment, maybe because I think of that song and see two people waltzing in my head… But I’ve never written truer words that mean so much to me: “Knowing that this moment would be a prevailing sentiment; she filled me with undeniable ecstasy”.

Like a moment that exists outside of time - no birth, no death, just an animalistic moment and divine; pure, thoughtless, infinite, where you can loose yourself in perpetual bliss…

I have several musical heroes, and Gorbel is one of them; it was this video that started that ‘obsession’.

Even listening to it right now as I type this, I have this warm, fuzzy feeling, in my stomach and all over, an odd sensation; I feel happy, and I feel sick, and I feel sad it is no more. I’ve only been able to stomach listening to it once a day whilst writing this column due to my mood, and how her and I are now, but it truly is a brilliant and beautiful song... It’s funny, ‘No One’ is one of my favourite songs, but I can’t stand it.

To capture my loneliness, and her departure, I found myself turning to Kevin Devine and Keaton Henson. Henson (or Adrien Brody from The Pianist, heh) was a new find for me, whom I associated heavily with my break-up, but in the past I had always turned to Devine to be solemn and to find comfort. His cracked voice and soft acoustic guitar sang me to sleep often, and healed my invisible wounds and supplied sufficient background music to allow me to carry on with my musing and brooding. As I began to write lines like “I miss you, I thought, like a soldier’s last cigarette of military monogamy”, hoping that would ease the pain, and convert it to written word to help make a novel. Devine began to take such a significant role, that I then decided to use him actually finish my novel on, taking an introspective line from ‘Heaven Bound and Glory Be’ off of his 2006 release Put Your Ghost to Rest, to help perfectly portray everything I had been aiming to achieve:
I still remember the pattern on your back that your birthmarks make, I thought, as I raised my arm up, and traced it in the air with my floating finger, squinting through heavy eyelids. Kevin Devine playing solemnly in the corner: “The King looks for his castle; Heaven bound and glory be”.
About a year and a half later, she came back to me. I won’t go into any details, because I don’t see the point; they’re irrelevant, and it’s too personal – but I found myself flooded with ease, and washed with almost-relief of sorts and calming. Henson’s ‘About Sophie’ had just been released, or rather I had just acquired it, via. the deluxe edition re-release of his debut album Dear…, and it felt like a case of coincidence and right timing: “She's as stubborn as winter and as kind as the sun”; “And nothing is said unless it needs to be, I'll watch a movie, she'll fall asleep” (‘About Sophie’, Dear… (Deluxe Edition), 2012). The emotion of the song captures my mood and everything perfectly, the scene, whatever.

This is all getting a bit weird and deep, so I’ll sum up with a passage I found in an old journal of mine. I hope it’s something you too can take home with yourself:
But I’m trying to look past that, and realise that those thoughts I am having were of the past. And so what I should do is simply smile. Smile knowing that I went in all guns blazing and loved someone the best I could. Knowing that I had the best friend anyone could ask for, for those short months. It’s only selfish of me to want more, or to think I deserve just one more moment to talk things out - when what is there left to say?
We’re different people, with different lives. I’m stronger because of the experience, wiser, and Hell, happier, because of the experience! I got some f***ing brilliant writing out of the whole thing too. It’s weird when I have my low moments, but I just need to remind myself that, in the words of In Remembrance, “We’ll always have the memories”, and leave it at that.

Morrissey once sang “We hate it when our friends become successful”, but for me, I can’t help but be on the other side of the spectrum (or plectrum, am I right?), and thankfully, We Are Fiction are not northern. My incredibly talented friends found themselves bewildered at acquiring airtime on BBC Radio 1, with their phenomenal single ‘My Dream Are Haunted’, which was initially released around Halloween two years ago – odd how time flies. The penultimate week of January saw the single become a regular feature to the station’s playlist, deservingly reaching a wider audience. The response and aftermath was tremendous.

Shaw commented on the wonderful opportunity:
“It’s great for an independent band like us to get this kind of opportunity. It really ignites my faith in genuine, home grown music becoming recognised by a massive influence like the BBC; and with bands like Mallory Knox and Deaf Havana being received so well, I can see 2013 being a huge year for UK rock music – and we’re ecstatic to be given the chance of being part of this”
I sent bassist Chambers a text saying that 2013 would be his year, and now, I can’t see how it won’t be. This fantastic achievement could not have happened to more-hard-working individuals who have done nothing but push themselves and in their own words, they “never let go of [their] dreams”.

Also, I would like to give my side-congratulations to guitarist and backing-vocalist Marc Kucharski on marrying the love of his life, a beautiful woman known as Ruby, on Saturday 19th January. It was a true love affair and a splendid white wedding, as snow was scattered and descended from Heaven above to bless them. I eternally wish them all the best.


Mid-January: I limped along the cold, damp streets of Hoxton in London and as my footsteps echoed when the street lights flickered. My breath before me swirled up into the sky as I stood outside The Macbeth pub, unable to locate the entrance to ostentatious venue. Inside, on Thursday 17th, Vinnie Caruana of I Am the Avalanche (and most recently Peace’d Out) returned to play an inmate acoustic show whilst on ‘holiday’ in England, largely to see his beloved Liverpool FC play (my boys) Norwich City FC (we lost 5-0, it was awful), so why not play a show when you have the day free?

There was support from two bands I did not have much time for, but the opening act, Name Your Heroes, rippled a less-Lifetime influenced The Rookie Lot, whirling up that old-school emo with modern day screams like a new-age pop-punk frenzy. Them, them I enjoyed, though I spent the majority of the night sitting at the back of the venue in the comfy sofas drinking Red Bull.

- As nice as they were, the bartenders did not know how to make drinks
- The loos sure took a page from CBGB’s book
- The DJ would’ve better suited a Geordie Shore party. I wonder what drug(s) he was on
- £2.50 for a small can of Red Bull sucks

Opening with regular choice ‘Symphony’ and concluding with ‘Brooklyn Dodgers’ as homage to his friends and family, Caruana unleashed an arsenal (football puns aplenty) of I Am the Avalanche songs, The Movielife classics, a Save the Day cover, and a song from his debut solo record, ‘Somehow the World Keeps Turning’, which went down a treat. With no set-list produced, simply a piece of paper with a list of songs he knew, Caruana took requests and chose songs that he fancied whilst simultaneously necking as much beer as the audience would give him.

I was lucky enough to be right at the front for the entire set, seeing Caruana often step away from the microphone to let the crowd scream the words out in unity: Man Utd. I had lost my voice by the end, whilst his, rustic and true, continued to belt out stripped down renditions of his back catalogue. I didn’t really think that seven years ago, I would be hearing those songs that I grew up listening to live, in such an environment – the thought made me smile. Caruana also stated that, with regards to a reunion of The Movielife, he couldn’t see it happening, as the band is like an ex-girlfriend to him, but “never say never”, and it is something he’d like to bring across the pond once more.

An hour set left me stoked (I’m trying…), filled with football jokes, and heckles from the crowd. I utterly devoured with admiration and loved ‘Clean Up’, ‘Sailor Tattoos’, ‘Hey’ and ‘I Took a Beating’ in particular. I found it an absolute privilege to witness a hero of mine perform in such a small pub. An intimate set to roughly one hundred die-hard fans, all for a mere £7 entry fee – The Macbeth was ful(ham) – Damn, I’m trying hard now, filled to the brim.

A day before departure, Caruana said a package arrived at his door; a box of his records had appeared of all things. So he had brought over a small loot with him. My friend bought a copy, and lent me it a few days later. So, whilst visiting my parents, after being well-fed, I settled down onto a sofa, and put my father’s gigantic headphones on (which I actually bought him several months back, having broken his original pair), and gave City by the Sea a good listen.

Like a mature ‘Sailor Tattoos’ (The Movielife, Forty Hour Train Back to Penn, 2003), but extended over six songs, City by the Sea is a record that Caruana should be proud of. The music is never over done; the drums are simply there to softly and subtly accompany the strong notes and harsh tones in Caruana’s voice and deep-impacting lyrics, whilst the folk style guitar and piano riffs merge in and complete the package. I know that it will feature heavily in the playlists of my 2013.

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