Friday, 16 January 2015

The soundtrack to my life

It feels like it's been years - in fact, it actually might be years - since I last wrote about music here. When I started the blog, my regular Music Monday posts were a big part of what I did, but since that finished the music content has sort of petered out. 

Music is and always has been a massive part of my life: my parents met when they performed together in a Gilbert & Sullivan opera in Johannesburg and between my dad's organ-playing and my mum's guitar and piano, there was always music at home. My siblings and I were all musically involved as children, whether it was learning instruments, singing in the church or school choirs, or putting on shows at home (I used to harangue my brothers to be my back-up dancers in performances of Jesus Christ Superstar).

When I hit my teens I gave up on church and discovered rock music: grunge, indie and Britpop were the soundtrack to my youth. I started a music fanzine and got the chance to meet my heroes, bands like Placebo and Gene, Ash and Longpigs; acts mostly long-forgotten except to 90s kids like myself. At university I started listening to the somewhat weird combination of heavy rock - Marilyn Manson, Deftones - and conscious hip-hop - Common, De La Soul, Mos Def. Then, in my mid-twenties, I was introduced by my brother to American folk and alt-rock, artists such as Grizzly Bear, Sufjan Stevens, Joanna Newsom, which is a large part of what I still listen to today.

All of which is to say, if I had to make a true soundtrack of my life it'd be a very confused playlist, running the gamut from my parents' Simon & Garfunkel records to my current favourite band, chillwave duo Tennis, via Take That, Hole, Blur, the Manic Street Preachers, Korn, Dr Dre, Bjork, Ben Folds Five and The Smiths. But when I saw the Soundtrack to My Life tag on Elettravelle, I knew I wanted to at least give it a go.

I'd also love to know the soundtracks to your lives - use these tag questions or hit me up in the comments.

Song you listen to when you're happy?
This changes constantly but at the moment I really like Mean The Most by Nehruvian Doom, which is just the loveliest and most romantic slice of chilled-out hip hop.

Song you listen to when you're sad?
It depends whether or not I want to wallow in my misery. If I'm content to lie around and weep, then Beck's Golden Age is one of the saddest songs I know. If I need something to cheer me up, then nothing is better than pure pop music. I still love 2012 Eurovision winner Loreen's Euphoria, and my 2014 obsession was Nobody To Love by Sigma.

What song will you have at your wedding?
I've long wanted Aretha Franklin's beautiful version of the soul classic You Send Me but I also have a soft spot for At My Most Beautiful by REM. Unfortunately, The Boy is most fond of quite terrible 80s hair rock ballads (think Bon Jovi, Poison, Alice Cooper) so god only knows* what we'll end up with.
* Also a lovely wedding song.

What song do you dance around the house to?
Party Hard by Andrew WK. I honestly don't think it's possible not to grin while headbanging away to it.

Song you play on your headphones when out and about?
Beach House's Bloom album makes a great soundtrack, especially in sunny weather. Same goes for any of Tennis's three albums. If I had to narrow it down to one song each, I'd go for Beach House's Troublemaker and Marathon by Tennis.

Song you listen to when you're angry?
Gutless by Hole is a great song for getting the rage out by singing along to. All together now, "Just you try to hold me down, come on try to shut me up."

Song you'd have at your funeral?
My brother and I used to play this game where we'd try and name the most vastly inappropriate song to play at a wedding or funeral. Shoot The Head, Kill The Ghoul by Jeffrey Lewis might be pretty funny.

Song that makes you lose your shit at a party?
Ah, so many! Boogie Wonderland by Earth Wind & Fire (that bit where he sings, "All the love in the world can't be wrong..."? Musical perfection) can always get me dancing, as can Test Icicles' indie disco classic Circle Square Triangle or Reptilia by The Strokes. And, more embarrassingly, Papa Roach's Last Resort.

The last song you listened to?
Playing on the iPod as I write is Of Moons, Birds & Monsters by MGMT. Completely random shuffle choice, but it's reminded me of how much I like MGMT.

Your karaoke song?
I've only ever done karaoke once and it's not a performance I'm proud of. Picture the scene: a bar full of my fellow trainee teachers - one too many white wines - a karaoke machine - the Devinyls song I Touch Myself. I'll allow you to fill in the details.

What song do you work out/exercise to?
Arctic Monkeys' Brianstorm is great for picking up speed on the cross-trainer.

Song with the most memories attached?
It's a great sadness to me that the beautiful Last Goodbye by Jeff Buckley is forever tainted by memories of my awful ex-boyfriend.

Song that makes you cry?
Weird, because I'm an atheist, but Oh Holy Night gets me every time. Pretty much any version, but bonus points if sung by an angelic child or if it's Sufjan Stevens' arrangement.

Song you hate the most?
There are a few songs that, if I hear them on the radio, I'll turn straight over. Blurred Lines, obviously, Timber by Kesha and Pitbull, or anything by Chris Brown.

Your favourite song of all time?
This is completely impossible to answer. I could just about give you a favourite song for each year of my life, but we'd be here a long time. So I'm going to throw out the first few that come to mind and then internally curse myself for missing other stuff out. So...
Cosmia by Joanna Newsom
Olympian by Gene
Elephant Gun by Beirut
Rocket by the Smashing Pumpkins
Hot Fun In The Summertime by Sly & The Family Stone
About Face by Grizzly Bear
The Shining by Badly Drawn Boy
Sonnet 29 by Rufus Wainwright
Dry Lips by Lightspeed Champion
Grown Ocean by Fleet Foxes
Branches by Midlake
To The End by Blur


  1. Hehe I enjoyed your karaoke memory!

    I am definitely with you on Party Hard! (And Last Resort come to think of it haha).

    They're showing a new fan-made Manics documentary at the Broadway next month, I might try and go (let me know if you fancied it if it's not playing in Leicester: My friend Rich is conducting the Q&A!) x

    1. Oh wow, that looks ace - would you mind if I tagged along? Can't see it anywhere listed for the Phoenix here AND Tuesday is my day off so it would be easy for me to come up that afternoon.

      Ah, there's nothing like rocking out to Party Hard!

    2. Yes most certainly! I had trouble convincing Tom to come to be honest so I'm happy someone has said yes ;-)

  2. I've been following your blog for ages but the mention of a zine made me wonder if I might have purchased it long ago,I vaguely remember being in touch with a Janet who wrote a Manics zine in the mid-90s,can't remember the title though,what was yours called?

    1. That'd be a pretty weird coincidence - I hope it's true! I had two zines, Venus - which was Britpop but heavy on the Manics - and Release The Pressure, which was a poetry/perzine.

  3. Brilliant, loved reading this :)

    Totally agree with your most hated songs, and both Olympian and To The End make me cry (not really sure why as I have no direct memories associated with them - think its just a weird, 90s teen angst-y thing....). And Party Hard is awesome, its great for, well, partying hard to ;)

    1. Last time I heard Olympian without warning on 6 Music, I sobbed ugly tears. It was one of 'our' songs for my teenage girlfriend and me, so weird to react like that almost 20 years later!

  4. Ooh I might do this tag. I always find music questions tricky (THERE ARE TOO MANY SONGS) but I guess that's part of the challenge! x

    1. TOO MANY SONGS is exactly the problem. If I come back and read this in a month or two I will CURSE myself for missing stuff out.

  5. Excellent post, as always, Janet! Miss 'Music Mondays', but this was a nice tip of that hat to those days and also a great read, especially for me, today.

    1. Looking back at some old Music Mondays did make me want to restart them... just need to think of some new songs.

  6. Great post. I was obsessed with music when I was a teenager but now I rarely make a conscious effort to sit down and listen to my favourites, and worse, seek out new ones.
    For my wedding I came into Here Comes the Sun, which was pretty vain of me. We signed the register to Let's Stay together which we worried was a bit cheesy but it was fab and we left to The Beach Boys Wouldn't It Be Nice which was just joyful! We shuffled along to Something Changed by Pulp for our dance.
    P.s. I'm totally with you on Papa Roach!

    1. Ah I love Wouldn't It Be Nice. Yeah, I've not been great the past few years about seeking out new music. And as I haven't been to a festival for a while I'm not discovering new music that way like I used to. Need to do better.

  7. I feel your pain with the 80's rock power ballards, Rob is rather fond of "More than feeling", "Don't stop believing" and all the rest! I might have to have a go at this quiz myself. As ever loving your answers! x

    1. The overjoyed look on Thomas's face when I told him that maybe we could have 'More Than A Feeling' on the wedding playlist was too cute... but not cute enough to let him have free reign adding other terrible rock ballads to it!

  8. Great post Janet , I might have a go at this! I'm with the boy on the 80's Rock ballads though!! :p

    1. Haha! I can see that they might actually be good fun at a wedding party... maybe

  9. Replies
    1. Couldn't miss them off - they're my favourite band ever! I could basically have a Pumpkins song for every one of these questions...

  10. ah I love this! Strangely I don't listen to music a lot (and have pretty terrible taste in music) but I know the answer to each of these questions without having to think about it (OK, maybe with the exception of the last one...) I might just have to find the time to answer these on my blog

    1. Do! I love having a nosey at other people's answers.

  11. I love reading about other people's musical tastes. I love Badly Drawn Boy too but was sadly tainted/traumatized when he stormed off stage in one of his huffs the one time I got to see him at a festival - I was beyond devastated! I can relate to having good songs ruined by bad romantic associations too, it's the worst! I remember when the Hole album came out (I am old ;-) and playing it on repeat, enjoying the joyful rage of it :-) Would it be ok if I attempted this post? I could use the prompting. x

    1. Help yourself! I love reading other people's answers.

    2. Ok I've had a go thanks!...I got a bit carried away, it's quite long! :-0

  12. Love this - I think we have similar musical histories. I might nick this if you don't mind and do one for my list? I'll attribute of course x

    1. Yes of course - I look forward to reading it x