Discover more from warm cups of tea
leave all your love and your longing behind
nostalgia, melancholies + ribs by lorde
It has been a while! I kind of skipped over the idea of a regular newsletter for this year but that was fun when it lasted. Now I just have thoughts and ideas and they will float in my head until I actually feel like sitting down to articulate them. I hope everyone has been well in the first few months of 2023 <3 Have some pasta and a glass of iced tea as we step into the limbo of a strangely turbulent autumn.
every perfect summer’s got to take its flight
When I was thirteen years old, I listened to Pure Heroine. I couldn’t tell you how I first came across it. I know I meticulously downloaded every song, including the deluxe tracks and ‘No Better’ which I just assumed was a bonus track, and in turn transferred the album onto my red iPod touch to listen to on the bus to and from school. It was 2013. I was in Year 8. I was lonely. I had just one or two language classes with friends, whilst in my ‘core’ classes everybody had other friends, really. It wasn’t so bad. I made a friend in maths class. Still, later I would talk to various friends and get a sense that none of us had a very good year that year.
Yes, this is another stream-of-consciousness glorified-diary-entry personal-reflections type missive. Just a lot on my mind lately. I have been trying to put this together for two weeks now, and this whole time I have haunted by what I have decided to term The Melancholies.
Many of you might know that I recently saw Florence + the Machine / Lorde / Carly Rae Jepsen — Florence’s Dance Fever tour on March 8; Lorde’s Solar Power on March 11; Carly’s So Nice on March 14.It’s a lot for me to process because all three (four including Muna opening for Lorde!) have been some of my favourite artists for years, and then all three shows were spectacular. I love a concert. Dance Fever was all about a connection with each other, a concert as a kind of communion. A few songs into the setlist, Florence requested that everybody put away their phones and give her and each other our full presence, and it really did change the energy throughout the arena. For me, Solar Power was all about connection with a past version of myself, amplified by the gorgeous evening — an outdoor, open air venue (that stressed me the hell out as a new environment but I got through it) with 11,000 people giving themselves over to the music on a clear Saturday night. And then So Nice, at my friend the Forum. This one was exhilaration in a dense and unnecessarily tall crowd; Carly writes pop songs wrapped in heartbreak and desire, and here she guided us through falling in and out and in of love against a shimmering stage backdrop. Call it a connection to the feeling, if you will. I was not expecting her to play so many songs from Emotion. God. What a time.
It did take a lot out of me both physically and emotionally. Now, on the other side of it all — time! it keeps moving forward and in circles! — I am left feeling grateful. Grateful for these experiences that I can hardly begin to capture in words. Something magic about concerts and the communal experience, the knowledge that nobody here has the same relationship to this music and yet we are all here together sharing in it, etc. A little bit grateful for being alive. It’s hard for me to really think about my life but I’m happy that this is my life and happy that I have wonderful friends in it.
Since the Lorde concert, I have found myself turning back to Pure Heroine with an intensity that I haven’t felt for years. In particular, I have been struck by the idea of loss in this album, specifically the attention to moment spiralling out of reach even while you’re still in it. Time slipping by like water in your hands (god! image of all time!). In a facebook post, Lorde described Pure Heroine as “a way of enshrining our teenage glory, putting it up in lights forever so that part of me never dies”. It’s an album as time capsule, when music is already so good at invoking sense memories.
Opener ‘Tennis Court’ is an ode to bored, reckless youth; Lorde is keenly aware of that youth, singing I am only as young as the minute is where the minute is always changing, always chasing/being chased by the next minute. The lines everything’s cool when we’re all in line for the throne / but I know it’s not forever, echo across the album to the closing track ‘A World Alone’, I know we’re not everlasting / we’re a trainwreck waiting to happen. In between, we get glistening love and guts and glory. The dizzying idea that we’ll never go home again / place the call, feel it start, favourite friend (‘Buzzcut Season’, the song of all time) and we might be hollow but we’re brave (‘400 Lux’, also the song of all time). ‘The Love Club’ is an EP track included at the end of the deluxe album but oh, everything will glow for you. And, through it all: promise I can stay good (‘Still Sane’).
And there’s ‘Ribs’. Hearing ‘Ribs’ live was a bit life-changing. I want to live inside that moment forever — and that feeling in itself does feel ironic and a little lovely. I’m yearning for a song about enshrining a moment (a night, a few days, a period of weeks or months or even years) in your memory and wanting it back and knowing that you will never return. I know exactly what she’s talking about because it’s how I feel. The lines we can talk it so good / we could make it so divine / we can talk it good / how we wish it would / be all the time has really been rotating in my brain lately; the idea of making something divine together, wishing it could be this good forever. And not all memories fall into place like that, but once in a while you get those magical nights that make the rest of it worth it, and you want to memorise everything but know you can only trust the feeling to stay. Add the pulsing beat and slow build all the way to an anthemic bridge and frantic, repetitive outro.
In Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, there is this moment when Francesca is leaving school camp and she reflects: “I feel a wave of sadness come over me. I want the bus driver to turn the bus around and I want to spend the rest of my days in a whirlwind of the last few days.” Part of it is that it was so good; another part of it is that the bus is taking her back to reality, where it can’t be that good all the time. That’s where I think It’s not enough to feel the lack encompasses this feeling so astutely, where ‘the lack’ is never specified beyond itself; it could by the lack of anything, the lack of everything; all we’re told is that we feel it, and it’s not enough, but it’s all we have. To put it another way: you can’t slow down time, you can’t capture it except in images and videos that will never be the same as living it, you can’t go backwards, you certainly can’t repeat the past. But you can repeat the refrain you’re the only friend I need / sharing bed like little kids / and laughing ‘til our ribs get tough / but that will never be enough, over and over and over until that, too, fades out.
I found a video somebody posted of the song from that night. I guess that’s my way of trying to go back, in my room in the early morning. (My only recordings are bits of Buzzcut Season + The Louvre + Ribs, which is really all I could need, fantastic job by me.) In introducing the song, Lorde talked about how she wrote the song at 15 and is now 26; she asks us to dance for our fifteen-year-old selves, and I think we did.
Teenagehood is quite unique, in that it is everything when you’re in it. Sure, entering your 20s is just new ways of trying to survive, but this comes with more maturity and more perspective. The world is hopefully less insular, life feels less do-or-die. At least that’s my experience with it so far. And also, how much of that confusion is spent trying to untangle and make sense of your teenage years? Yeah exactly. Fucked up. For my high school yearbook, we were asked to design our own page which gave us free reign, pretty much. Being a little guy in real life as well as online, I used an image from Winnie the Pooh along with the line, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” At least once a week, I’m grateful for not being in high school anymore. I’m mostly hit by this feeling when I see schoolchildren out and about in the city, because wow is it fucked up to see reminders of people in high school. My younger brother graduates this year, and that in itself is a wild marker of time passing. Sometimes I’ll hear him and his friends talk about exams and ranks and scaling and I’m struck by how it really is their world. These dudes are planning for their whole future, and right now that only stretches forward another three or four years. They have no idea. All this to say that I don’t think anybody misses being in high school ever. Yet I do remember those final days and how bittersweet it all felt, to be done with this part of my life and moving forward into something terrifying and unknown.
And isn’t that it? We’re all constantly moving forward. On ‘Stoned at the Nail Salon’, Lorde sings, ‘cause all the times, they will change, it’ll all come around. That same idea of time slippage but here it is about the circularity, and there’s even a certain sense f comfort in that. I do have my opinions on Solar Power as an album but I simply cannot begin organising them, much less getting into it. I did enjoy the songs more when played live. I hope the next album brings back instruments that actually sound like themselves. Maybe even a piano.Maybe I need to give the album another two years. Anyway. I like this line, a reflection from a calmer, more mature Lorde. She tells us in the same song: it's time to cool it down, whatever that means.
I’m personally terrified by the idea that this is just my life. I try not to compare myself to my own unnecessarily smart and accomplished high school cohort because it is ultimately useless. This is my life, after all. I think often about ‘Real Thing’ by Middle Kids, where they ask, are you like me, do you lie awake thinking ‘is this the real thing?’ — I do, I do find myself wondering whether this is the real thing. Truly top song to have a crisis to. Like, apparently this is it and it’s all I have I just have to live it and have all these experiences. And the whole time do it as myself. Still, I think that day-to-day can make it hard to realise all that you have survived until you take a step back. I don’t know. I need to change my entire life but at the same time I think I would be okay with this being my life, actually. Like, I’m struggling right now at this period of time but if I set that aside, what I have is not bad and it will be better — already is better, in ways — and these melancholies will pass too. It’s just that I’ve been caught in a rush of it lately, so many things that I have done and felt. It’s always a lot to take in, because with it comes the idea that I have come this far, and that in itself is wrapped in sorrow for a past self and with it the image of myself as a tiny little person with so much behind me and far more ahead.
It’s me, sitting with Pure Heroine and barely knowing enough to even dream this current life for myself.
It’s me, sobbing to ‘Dog Days Are Over’ in an arena on a Wednesday evening. Song that reminds me of so much and a song that I truly take a lot from and have clung to quite fiercely at times. What if happiness hit you like a train on a track, coming towards you, stuck, still no turning back? What if all you could do was run into the future, surrender to it, what if you had to let go of the past if you wanted to survive? Again and again and again? It’s literally every day.
Always, always, that final monologue from Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Harper Price looking down at the clouds as she herself hurtles through the sky to somewhere new:
Night flight to San Francisco; chase the moon across America. God, it’s been years since I was on a plane. When we hit 35,000 feet we’ll have reached the tropopause, the great belt of calm air, as close as I’ll ever get to the ozone. I dreamed we were there. The plane leapt the tropopause, the safe air, and attained the outer rim, the ozone, which was ragged and torn, patches of it threadbare as old cheesecloth, and that was frightening. But I saw something that only I could see because of my astonishing ability to see such things: Souls were rising, from the earth far below, souls of the dead, of people who had perished, from famine, from war, from the plague, and they floated up, like skydivers in reverse, limbs all akimbo, wheeling and spinning. And the souls of these departed joined hands, clasped ankles, and formed a web, a great net of souls, and the souls were three-atom oxygen molecules of the stuff of ozone, and the outer rim absorbed them and was repaired. Nothing’s lost forever. In this world, there’s a kind of painful progress. Longing for what we’ve left behind, and dreaming ahead. At least I think that’s so.
It’s painful! It really is! ‘Longing for what we’ve left behind, and dreaming ahead’ — it’s a delicate balancing act. Time keeps moving and bringing with it difficulties and joys :-( Time keeps moving and bringing with it difficulties and joys! :-) But there’s friends and there’s connection and there’s books and music and there’s the reminder that survival is a little bit every day. No choice but to keep going, baby! And in the meantime, we can make it so divine!
a science to walking through windows
Rapid-fire media updates time. I am watching Buffy with Jordan, which is obviously delightful because I love my friend Jordan and I love Buffy Summers. A Florence + the Machine show followed by both parts of ‘Becoming’ the next day might just account for the entire spectrum of accessible emotions concentrated in a period of less than 24 hours. Currently getting into season 3 and wow what an excellent season. I love season 3 it is very brilliant to me. We shall also be partaking in Monday evening Succession viewings with anticipation and dread.
Reading has slowed lately, which is what it is I guess. I am currently reading Brideshead Revisited as a physical book and American Psycho on my phone, and also picked up Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi which I am enjoying immensely this time around though I’m not sure how far I will actually get.
Listening to Florence/Lorde/Carly, of course. Other times, I keep slipping into only listening to The National for a few hours, which would be The Melancholies. I had ‘Asking for a Friend’ by Chvrches on repeat for a while, and ‘Triptych’ by Samia a bit before that — I get what I want and your girlfriend too / make a predator of me, I’ll be good to you is such a line. I have been listening a lot to ‘Yes I’m Changing’ by Tame Impala which is very . . . I’m not a Tame Impala listener but I have Tame Impala Songs That I Listen To and this is one of them. This song encompasses that moment of needing to step into another life which is very relevant to everything else I have been saying; in general I retread so many of the same ideas here on the Joanne Substack, because well these are the thoughts I have. Unfortunately, I also think Spike of Buffy fame does this song (‘you’re alive because I saw you change’ or whatever) but it happens. I like that there’s a pretty clear volta around two-thirds of the way in when Kevin Parker says, There’s a world out there, it’s calling my name / and girl, it’s calling yours too; here, the song switches from first-person introspection to a second-person address that carries the rest of the song, with the ‘you’ directed to a specific person but at the same time inviting the audience into the space of the song, and into the world.
That’s it from me. All over the place but it was nice for me to think through. Remember to drink water and get some sunshine if you can.. Here is a playlist if you would like it:
P.S. if you liked this, you might like: PTCDTPSOTFDAM;
Jordan and I will say ‘Jack Antonoff I’m in your walls’ but perhaps it is Jack Antonoff who is in our walls.
me the day after the Lorde concert:
all i’m saying is why don’t you experience the joys of communal singing and live music and seeing an artist who meant a lot to you at a formative point in your life and holding hands with your friends and being alive and the human experience and reconciliation with your past self(s) and then maybe you’ll feel an entire spectrum of emotions at once
The problem is that the production actually suffers from similar afflictions to the Red rerecords to me, which is that the layers of sound feel quite distant from one another and the instruments especially are like they are being played underwater from another room and then it does also feel derivative and specifically similar to Clairo’s Sling and Lana’s Chemtrails, both from the same year. This correlates pretty closely with my own feelings on Jack Antonoff production, which truly has staled since the 2017 glory days. And I’ll listen to the Clairo album! But god I miss instruments. I also hope she exits her bottle blonde era and her delusional era with it because I also just remembered the initial quirky-white-girl-run-away-to-untamed-nature framing but at least she seemed to pivot away from that. Believe it or not these are condensed thoughts.