Sia - Breathe Me (Four Tet remix)

This isn’t a passing phase. It’s not the footless tights you better laugh over one day, sugar-sweet alcopops and gingerbread lattes – set forever in a Perspex memory bubble: distinct, defined and wholly of that time. No, this something still in motion; a song that coils around your spine, lightly scratching at the back of your chest with dull nails and a low, insistent percussion. This is a constant, the even intake of breath until despite yourself, your pulse quickens and you wait for something – anything – to claw deeper. But nothing comes. There is no kick, no grab to satisfy that shiver; instead the wounded vocal just winds onwards until you have no choice but to exhale and sink into the slow rhythm, resigned to the itch that lingers, just behind your ribs.

The original version’s piano refrain is too pretty for me. It is sweet, complete – it softens the need in her voice and that desperate restlessness into something simple. Crescendo, conclusion. Mylo fills the sound, Ulrich Schnauss pulls the fibres apart into mere whispers, but this, this remix is infused with something closer to the light self-loathing of vulnerability. Lipstick smeared into a pale reflection, that careful machinery inside you paused for just a second. When all that you are is all that there is; and oh, how you wish it was something easy and pure.

A beat, a melody, a steady helplessness – hypnotic in its repetition, yet somehow a comfort all the same. No, this is not a passing phase, and so you sink into it all over again.

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Robyn - With Every Heartbeat

It struck me one day, doodling idle post ideas in the back of an economics lecture. Station concourses and high school back steps; half-hearted phone calls and holiday apartments – the places and faces change, but a break-up is always the same. Love, you see, is a zero-sum game.

No matter how mutual it claims to be, regardless of the amicable smiles that get beamed about, somebody always loses. Somebody always hurts the most. Somebody always wins.

And. It. hurts. With. Every. Heartbeat.

Robyn knows she’s lost. Even her opening chords are laced with melancholy, the lines are dragged and dog-tired, stretched with the kind of weary resignation that only echoes when you’re close to collapse. And so it goes. One smile dimmer, one voice not quite so full of relief; we’ve all been there, either side, every side. We’ve all flicked our eyes away for safer ground, picked that public spot for minimal damage. We’ve all dug angry half-moons in our palms to keep back those tears, held ourselves together with nothing more than the simple intake of breath and a few silent prayers.

And oh, how we know this final refrain. Every strained syllable forced from her lips is short with desperate self-control. Half a gasp, the jaw clenched, yet still she clings to the pained string melody; kept afloat by the bubbling synth waves.

And. It. hurts. With. Every. Heartbeat.

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Damone - What We Came Here For

Shuffle doesn’t usually pay out, but, oh, this time it did. My knees were cramped, my mind was cranky – six hours stuffed into the bus with nothing but old playlists and new ARCs and then, and then…

Boston swooped into view the moment those thrum-ta-tum beats shuddered through me. Chords thick with fanfare, the city lights dangling over my highway trail, and that sweet voice spiralling away into the night over a looping, decisive riff. A moment in action: the flick and writhe of something twisting into life. Possibilities hissing as I stepped into the dry, air-con terminal.

We thought we were so damn cool.

Youth and irresponsibility and pained self-righteousness, bound up in a vocal and strung along over sound that doesn’t sit back, confined to the airwaves, but exists. Thick and tangible around you; reeking of smoke and damp and beer and sweat. Sound from a time when drama and power chords set out to shake the stadium; sound sliced and shined and mixed and thrown into the loop with a hair-toss and reckless simplicity.

I could tell you about the production niche, so glaringly modern. I could tell you about 80’s hair-rock legacies, about Meatloaf, about Max Martin. I could diagram the outline this song makes as it punches through the page, or attempt to graph the thunder of beats and chorus chanting.

But all I’ve got is those few days, half a year ago. Neon lights, bright on the horizon; suburban streets, a borrowed car and new friendship cluttering the dashboard. Sherman’s, soul music, apple trees and bad teen movies. Half a world away.

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Avril Lavigne - Girlfriend

Don’t be fooled. This song may try and trick you into thinking it’s a harmless cherry popsicle – all spring quickstep double-handclaps, dripping sweet sugar rush – but those jubilant cheerleader hi-kicks are only a distraction from the ice shards that will hit your poor, tender brains in oh, five, four, three…

Then you get it. Don’t you? That while you were off, merrily chanting your hey!heys and your you!yous with a flip and a bounce and a daffodil shimmy – the sky clear, the world green & lush & full of spirit fingers – they were taken. Snatched away into the arms of someone with shinier hair that fell sighing of scenes and cigarettes, who made mixtapes with hand-scrawled playlists and read all the Jonathan books you hurled across the room in defeat. Someone who, most importantly, made ohso sure the world knew they were damn precious in a way you could never dare.

And they were humming this song as they did so.

Sure, when your rage is gasping for air and you’ve shattered those ice shards, you’ll have to admit that they weren’t so much snatched as gently led astray, but shh! that won’t make you hate the taste of cherry any less, or shy away from ‘Bring It On’ reruns forever more.

This is probably just a holding pattern. I’ll be experimenting with layout, and content, and life. Although, as you’ve guessed, my word means nothing and this same post and this same layout may well be here in six months.

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