Hi guys! I know it seems like I’ve dropped off the face of the earth- sorry!- but I promise you I haven’t- I’ve just been writing! (#thirdnovel, people!) I’ve been suffering from a little bit of writer’s block lately though (*sighs, grits teeth*) so while I get back into the swing of things, I thought I’d aim to do a run through of the music, books and films that I’ve most loved from 2015 for this blog-especially as it’s coming up to a whole new year. So why not kick off with music? As some of you may know, I’m a lover of all things retro, and usually won’t listen to anything that doesn’t come on second hand vinyl. So to kick things off, let’s start with my favourite album of 2015!
Without a doubt, my standout album for 2015 is the debut EP from James Byron, ‘Long Road out of Nowhere.’ It’s free to listen to on YouTube, and I’ve been clicking repeat on the songs for a months now. Some telly-lovers might recognize the name, as Byron was a contestant on 2014’s ‘The Voice’, where he got on to ‘Team Will.i.am’ and wowed everyone (including other judge, Kylie Minogue) with his rendition of Janis Joplin’s ‘Cry Baby.’ (Umm, because who DOESN’T love Janis Joplin?)
He didn’t win the competition (*sniff sniff*) but he definitely stood out for me, not only because of his exceptional voice, but also because of his utterly amazing look. Byron is openly androgynous, with long hair (and enviably flawless) rock-and-roll makeup, inspired by Nineties icons such as Courtney Love. In an interview with ‘The Mirror’, Byron explained: ““Androgyny is part of my style. I really respect women a lot and I don’t see any shame in looking like a woman.’* I love the fact that Byron is not scared to express who he is, particularly in a sector that seems to want both male and female singer-songwriters to fall into a neat ‘cookie-cutter’ category of thin, beautiful, marketable, commercial, and definitely definable as one gender. Byron is, in my humble opinion, unique, brave and bold for defying this not only visually, but also in his music. His debut EP is full of powerful, tender, heartbreakingly beautiful songs, and lyrics that are a bowlful of soulful.
On songs such as ‘Good Enough,’ we not only hear the brittle pain of heartache in lyrics such as ‘but you couldn’t stay for my love, even though you know it’s good enough’, but we feel it too, in the rawness of his voice, at once both plaintive and condemning. Songs such as ‘Rage Through Me’, ‘2 Days’ and ‘Love You Less’ have a faster tempo and quick-fire lyrics that wheel around your mind for days (trust me on this one,) but each one showcases the androgynous quality of his voice.
‘Jigsaw’ is, by contrast, softer and slower, a soothing lullaby of a song, perfectly paving the way for- in my opinion- the very best song of all: ‘Thin Ice (You Took My Everything)’ – a wonderfully snarling, angry, clever, articulate anthem for everyone who’s ever been disillusioned with a lover. ‘I’ve opened my eyes to your drunken mess/, Byron half-sings, half-snarls, his voice at once strong and vulnerable. You feel the pain and the anger of lines such as: ‘I should have listened to my friends/ but you’re so good at messing with my head’ so viscerally, it could be a blues song, except that it is delivered with a barnstorming rhythm that you can’t help lip-syncing along to. At not one point does the song get bogged down in ‘oh, woe is me’ sentimentality. Even for its biting lyrics, it is by no means a dreary ballad- instead it powers through with the gusto of a freight train to become something meaner, keener and bolder. The persona within the song is not a victim, but a phoenix rising from the ashes of a broken, busted-up relationship- for as Byron sings achingly, ‘need is not love.’ Love itself is arguably one of the key themes of this EP, along with sexuality and identity, but all explored in a fresh and memorable way. All I can say is, please please please get yourself on down to YouTube and check out this awesome album.
*Please note: I tried to link to this article SEVERAL times, but every time it made my computer freeze, and lost my work, so I gave up. (Usually I would always credit quotes wherever and whenever possible, so sorry about this.) If you would like to read the article, it’s from 2014 and is available to read on ‘The Mirror’s website, http://www.themirror.co.uk.
ALSO: Sorry about the font changes on this post, I couldn’t get it to all be the same font. Grrr!!