#1 - WHAT IS THE ONE ALBUM (OR EP OR SONG) THAT YOU THINK SHOULD BE THE VERY NEXT MUSICAL THING THAT EVERYONE PRESSES PLAY ON THE NEXT TIME THEY FIND THEMSELVES THINKING “WHAT SHOULD I LISTEN TO NOW”?
It came out a few years ago, but I am still constantly listening to “The Fox, The Hunter, and Hello Saferide” by Hello Saferide.
HS is Annika Norlin's [a Swedish singer/songwriter] English-language project, and I just adore all of her albums. She has such a quirky writing and production style – it's often called “twee,” but I find that dismissive. I'm totally blown away by her songwriting talent – I am fluent in Italian, but I could never pull off an Italian-language album the way she does time after time in English.
The first song off the last record, “I Forgot About Songs,” brings tears to my eyes about half of the time I listen to it, because it perfectly captures the way it feels to walk away from doing music for a while, and then rediscover your love for it. I also ended up doing a cover of her song “Last Night Bus” (from the same record) after the 2016 election, because I just thought it was so timely and I wanted more people to be aware of it, and the message is just outstanding. She's the kind of songwriter for whom albums (CDs or vinyl) are made; it's great just to sit back in an armchair and follow along to the lyrics while you listening, because you'll get one ah-ha moment after another that you might otherwise miss if you were only listening casually in the background.
#2 - WHAT IS THE ONE MOVIE OR TV SHOW THAT YOU THINK SHOULD BE NEXT IN EVERYBODY’S NETFLIX QUEUE (OK, DOESN’T HAVE TO BE NETFLIX, WE’RE ALL INTERNET ADULTS HERE AND KNOW HOW TO FIND ANYTHING ONLINE, ONE WAY OR ANOTHER)?
I have cut way back on my TV watching – probably in part because I'm always on the road these days and after a show I just PTFO as soon as my head hits the pillow.
When I'm home, I usually binge-watch a series to catch up on everything I missed over the previous seasons. I just caught up on The Good Place and Better Call Saul (loved both), and I'll probably go back into TV hibernation for a while since I'm about to start touring again.
#3. I (AND BY “I” I MEAN “THE PERSON THAT IS READING THIS”) AM GOING TO THE BOOK STORE (OK, PROBABLY AMAZON) TO FIND THE VERY NEXT BOOK THAT I WILL BE PUTTING SOME EXTREMELY VALUABLE ‘ME-TIME' ASIDE FOR. WHICH BOOK WOULD YOU GET, IF YOU WERE ME (AND, I SUPPOSE, YOU HADN’T ALREADY READ WHAT YOU’RE ABOUT TO SUGGEST)?
I could spend a few paragraphs on this one but I'll try to narrow it down. I usually oscillate between literary fiction and detective/spy novels. One of my favorite books of the last few years was “All the Light We Cannot See,” which I found to be just beautiful but also gut-wrenching. I can only read a few books like that a year, and never back-to-back, because I've just found that if I poke my tender bits too much (read: pretty much all of me, I am a total softie), I get sad and reclusive and a bit depressed. So I've been trying to balance that with lighter reading and/or music (i.e. I don't wallow in Elliott Smith like I did once upon a time).
I'm currently on the third book of the Red Sparrow trilogy, which I'm really enjoying, and I adored the Fiona Griffiths detective series last year – just powered through them from start to finish, didn't want to read anything else.
The other obvious one (obvious for anyone who knows me) is “The Great Gatsby.” It's still one of my favorite books – I love Fitzgerald's style of writing – and it was one of the major inspirations behind my latest album, “Foxhole Prayers.” We are re-living the 20s and 30s in so many ways, and this book really shines a bright light on shallow, moneyed society and the way that corruption and grift can warp every last one of us if we don't actively fight it.
#4 - WHAT IS THE ONE WEBSITE (OR JUST ANY OLD INTERNET THING: APP, GIF, SERVICE, WHATEVER) THAT YOU WOULD GET REALLY DOWN IN THE DUMPS ABOUT IF IT WERE TO SUDDENLY GO AWAY?
This is sort of an “anti-internet” recommendation maybe, but a friend suggested this plug-in extension for Chrome that allows you to block your news feed on Facebook. It's called News Feed Eradicator, and it has saved my bacon over the last few months.
I was getting into really angry (and totally useless) Facebook debates that did nothing to change anyone's mind and only served to poison mine, and were also obviously a total time-suck, and I was ready to walk away from the platform entirely. This was a great compromise – I can still visit friend's pages, see their photos, etc but I don't have to fight the feed. It has improved my daily mood tremendously – I hadn't realized how much it was dragging me down.
#5 - AND FINALLY… PLEASE GIVE ONE COMPLETELY UNAIDED RECOMMENDATION THAT YOU THINK EVERYONE SHOULD START DOING / USING / WATCHING / EATING / THINKING / QUITING / ETC-ING TO MAKE THEIR LIVES A LITTLE BIT MORE BETTER AND/OR BEARABLE.
Go back to listening to an album from top to bottom! Streaming services are a great intro to an artist's work, but man, listening to an album start to finish will help you understand each individual song so much better. We (musicians) keep being told – we're living in a world of singles now, you've got to constantly be producing singles! Release release release! - and I just think that's bullshit. I mean, great, maybe it works for some people. I hate it. I like to make records. I like all of the songs to live together as one piece of cohesive art, like the chapters in a book. I like a common thread.
And I found that I had started to stray away from that more and more in my own listening habits, and recently I started making a conscious effort not to shuffle, not to playlist, but just to pick a record and focus on it. And I'm enjoying music again much more than I had been in the last few years. I still absolutely use playlists to discover new musicians – but when a song hits me, instead of starring it and going back to it later (which I always forget to do), I try to go right then and there and just listen to their whole album, top to bottom, to see if I connect to it.
OK folks, there you have it. Things that Vanessa Peters thinks you should consider incorporating into your day/life. Before you log off to go do some old school front-to-back record listens, make sure to follow Vanessa on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram and maybe pop over to Vanessa’s Bandcamp page for a round of those front-to-back listens we were just talking about?