Monday 28 December 2015

My Greatest Influences of 2015

Girl in a Band - Kim Gordon
A kickass memoir from Sonic Youth's bassist and frontwoman Kim Gordon about the New York music scene in the 60's & 70's, falling in love with good art and bad men, and what it truly means to be a girl in a band. Making music myself, reading this book felt like I had a mentor lookng over my shoulder, assuring me from decades of experience.

Lolita - Vladmir Nabokov
Mr. Humbert is a handsome, well-educated and highly-revered scholar with a dark secret who meets his unravelling at the hands of  his precocious 12 year-old lover, Lolita Haze. What truly struck me was the heartbreaking sincerity with which he discusses his undying love for her, and the tact in which carnal matters are discussed. Dark as hell, but unapologetically beautiful.

Wild - Cheryl Strayed
A young woman who hits rock bottom after the death of her mother and breakup of her marriage embarks on a soul-searching mission hiking the treacherous Pacific Crest Trail alone. I must admit I did see the movie before reading the book, but the dual narrative of revealing her dark past with her present struggles on the trail works so beautifully.

Smashed - Koren Zailckas
Memoir of a recovering alcoholic about how dependency on alcohol shaped her life growing up in suburban American, from getting her stomach pumped in Middle School through to sorority life in college and then moving to NYC as a grad. I picked this book up of a market stall outside NYU over summer, and can't ignore the beautiful serendipity which lead me to this incredibly raw and relatable book.

Places I Stopped on the Way Home - Meg Fee
A collection of true short stories about all the men blogger Meg Fee met and fell for in New York City. I discovered this through one of my favourite bloggers & friend Laura Williams, who wrote the introduction to Meg's book, and has been her transatlantic confidante over the years. I almost found it difficult to read at times because it was so heartachingly beautiful, I couldn't help but think of those I've loved and lost too.

#Girlboss - Sophia Amuroso
The ultimate fist-pump motivational manifesto from Nasty Gal's founder about how she built her multi-million dollar clothing company from an ebay business. The pace is just delicious and it's SO easy to read, you can't help but feel like you can take on the world. 

Bossypants - Tina Fey
Tina Fey's memoir charting days behind the counter at a YMCA right through to becoming one of the leading ladies of comedy. I don't think I've ever read a book that has made me laugh aloud in public places as this has. So much wit, it had me in constant stitches.

Not That Kind of Girl - Lena Dunham
Mostly insightful, sometimes dark, always real memoir following the girl-to-womanhood of the worlds favourite feminist, Lena Dunham. I think this was the first real memoir I read and the non- chronology threw me a little. But the stories and lessons are simply fascinating. 

Big Magic - Elizabeth Gilbert
I'm gonna go ahead and call this a spellbook, for the contents truly are magic. For anyone feeling a little lost, listless or on the verge of giving up completely, this book will soothe all your woes and realign your perspective. I particularly loved the discussion between passion work and money-earning work. Big love for Big Magic. 

The Odd Woman and the City - Vivian Gornick
Seasoned writer and NYC veteran Vivian Gornick reflects back on her time growing up in the city, the people and characters she met, and how the face of the city has changed in all the years she's walked its streets. I read this whilst living in NYC and it filled me with joy and profound gratitude to be stood on those same streets.

Just Kids - Patti Smith
My absolute favourite book I read this year, and the most recently completed too. This memoir follows internationally renowned artist, musician and writer Patti Smith from the moment she stepped NYC and fell in love with a man, through their trials and tribulations as struggling young artists, and right through until his untimely death which shook her world. A poetic masterpiece. Will read over and over. 

(I wonder if you can spot a theme with my book choices?!)

Django Django for your absolute masterpiece of a first album which blew my face off when I discovered it early this year, and have blasted 'Skies Over Cairo' more or less daily since. Slow Club for forever teasing me and making beautiful weird and glorious noises. Amy Winehouse for continuing to break and heal my heart with every syllable you posthumously utter. You were all I listened to when I was alone in NYC and your film made my cry so hard I could barely breathe. The Beatles, because late 2015 was the first time I ever took the time to really listen to you, and is it too late to say that John Lennon fella sounded like a pretty wicked guy? Sleigh bells for having the album 'Treats' which to me is the perfect sound I've always lusted after, and have never seen replicated since. For fuelling my dark side and giving me that boost to be a bad bitch daily. Best Coast for having the dreamiest, most nostalgic sound ever and for being supported by Honeyblood who blew me away when I saw you guys play in Camden. Also shoutout to your boyfriend's band Wavves who we saw in NYC and who KILLED IT. The Runaways, when I sat in a kitchen in Manhattan drinking whiskey whilst Chloe cut all my hair off I listened to your words and your angst and it fuelled my blood. Mac Demarco whose house we went to in Far Rockaway, the beautiful, relaxed simplicity in your artistry and your life is perfection.  Bikini Kill and Kathleen Hanna, for being the first to remind me of what I mean as a female, as a woman, as a riot grrrrl. For, of course, Larry and the Babes you wonderful son's of bitches. We saw you by chance when we won tickets to a gig, and you rocked our fucking worlds. We bought all your EP's and listened to them daily when we lived in NYC. You were the anthem of our Bushwick days. And finally, the most ridiculously yet I couldn't not mention, to The Sims Hot Date Soundtrack, which I still vehemently declare is the greatest jazz album of all time, and know every riff and rhythm like the back of my hand.   

Reply All
A self-described 'podcast about the internet', Reply All discusses a plethora of fascinating angles about the online world, from pensioners trying to friend old friends on Craigslist, and how people talk about, and document, mental health issues online, to how racist trolls are tackled when anonymous, and even dissecting One Direction 'Larry Shippers'. It's simply amazing. Plus I got featured on one of their episodes this month (!!!!).

Women of the Hour
One of my favourite things about this year was the explosion in popularity of the podcast, thanks in large part to Serial. A trend that rose from this was some of my favourite writers of all time starting their own podcasts, which just made me love them even more. Women of the Hour is a collaboration between Buzzfeed and Lena Dunham, and ranges from intimate moments in Lena's life, loves and friendships, but also features a whole host of badass, hilarious female voices I wouldn't have heard from otherwise.

Girlboss Radio
Following in the thread of writers starting podcasts, this year also saw 'Girlboss' author Sophia Amoruso starting Girlboss Radio, and extension of her debut book which features a new interview each week with some of my favourite women ever, including actress Charlize Theron, Best Coast frontwoman Bethany Consentino and vlogger Grace Helbig.

Start Up
From the same family as Reply All, Start Up is 'the business origin story you never normally get to here' about one dude who wants to start a business that will change the world. I actually wrote a whole post on why I love Start Up which can be found here.

Ted Radio Hour
Do you love TED Talks but don't really have the time to search through to find ones that interest you? That's where radio hour comes in. Each week there's a different theme, and host Guy Raz collects together the best lines from the best TED Talks on that theme. My favourite of all time is a two part episode called 'Screen Time' which discusses how technology will be interact with our lives, and even our human minds, in the very near future. Absolutely fascinating stuff.

Mystery Show
Exactly what it says on the tin. Mystery Show is hosted by one girl, who solves people's mysteries for them, mysteries that cannot be solved via the internet or library. From that one car spotted on the highway with the license plate 'I LOVE 9/11', to the monogrammed belt buckle found in the gutter 15 years ago, to the mystery of how one completely unknown author's flop of a book ended up being papped in the hands of Britney Spears... Mystery Show gets the answer every time. And the stories are always absolutely unbelievable, and more often than not, will bring a tear to your eye.

The beginning of my obsession with podcasts, as I think is the case with many, as Serial has become the greatest, most successful podcast in the history of the medium. I doubt I need to so much explaining here, but each season of Serial follows one true crime story over the course of it's episodes, trying to crack, or at least understand the seemingly unsolvable crimes of this world. Sarah Koenig's storytelling is second to none.

Magic Lessons
Lastly, Elizabeth Gilbert's 'Magic Lessons' follows up from the release of her aforementioned book 'Big Magic' which she released this year, which discusses many of the topics she writes about, featuring some wonderful guest voices. My favourite episodes where with 'Wild' author Cheryl Strayed, and author Brene Brown who has been on my 'to read' list for way too long.   

Amy for reaffirming my adoration for my greatest inspiration of all time, for helping me to understand her demise, to learn from my own mistakes and remind me I need to be at peace with myself to move forward. Mad Max for blowing my fucking mind and giving me those drum beats my soul is so starved of and has searched long and hard to find. Carol for giving the world the most beautiful, tactful and important love story of the year. Manhattan, I saw you at midnight whilst actually in Manhattan, and I fell about laughing as quickly as I fell in love. Modern Woody Allen doesn't do a lot for me, but this was life-changing. The US Office, I know, I know. Late to the party right? But shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit. It's great. The Punk Singer in conjunction with listening to Bikini Kill and hanging out with Chloe, you helped me discover the kind of artist I want to be, and what I want to stand for. The Grand Budapest Hotel my first foray into Wes Anderson had me falling about in tears of laughter whilst simultaneously marvelling at the pastel aesthetic beauty.

Broad City for providing genuinely the most accurate depiction of living in New York City I've ever seen. The memories of streaming endless episodes whilst sprawled out in the heat on the laminated floorboard of Chloe's apartment will always been among my fondest of this year.  The Duff for having what I genuinely think is one of the most important protagonists of the year I've ever seen in a comedy. It Follows for being the most beautiful horror film ever made and having the BEST score ever. Whiplash for being the most musically inspiring film I saw this year, which struck a chord of dedication within me. Almost Famous because, as I'm sure you can see, music films are important to me, and watched whilst tired poor and broke in our little beach hut in Far Rockaway. Birdman for being a hilarious, delusional masterpieces. And those long shots. Brooklyn for reducing me to tears of appreciation as I was so moved by the beauty and familiarity of what it's like to have to move home after living in NYC after falling in love with a man across the pond. Interstellar, I know I saw you in 2014, but the day after we got back from Iceland in March, we got to attend Interstellar live at the Royal Albert Hall to see a Q&A with Christopher Nolan, Hans Zimmer, Kip Thorn, Stephen Hawking and Brain Cox, and then watched the film in front of Hans Zimmers live 80-piece orchestra which had me in floods of tears. What an experience.

The Lobster for being delightfully, hilariously absurd as it was disturbingly dark, but a bizzare masterpiece nonetheless. Diary of a Teenage Girl for perhaps the same reason I loved the book Lolita. An illicit and perverse romance between a young girl and her Mother's boyfriend, but set in the backdrop of 1970's San Francisco, with a heavy dose of artistic daydreaming and illustration a la Juno. Scott Pilgrim Vs The World which is the ba-bomb, and we watched with a slice of pizza and a beer in the Prince Charles Cinema in soho as soon as we returned to the UK. Montage of Heck which I watched on the plane back to the UK after living in New York, as with Whiplash, you reaffirmed my need to make music and taught me the importance of dedication to make things important, purposeful and meaningful. A tragic story, but insightful and powerfully moving. Lastly, Boyhood, filmed over 12 years, for being an absolute testament to not only film-making but also humanity and the glorious, complicated mess of adolescence.

Reykjavik, Iceland
The place I visited toward the very start of the year in early March, where we saw the Northern Lights, bathed in the blue lagoon, and took an expedition into the mountains to watch the total solar eclipse. After, we were given a sacred Nordic rune stone and I got the symbol tattooed on my right hand. Reykjavik was so beautiful, pure and surprisingly arty and cultural, I DEFINITELY see myself spending more time there in the very near future.

Bushwick, Brooklyn, NYC
The neighbourhood I lived in during the last stint of my time in New York. From Amancay's 24 diner on our doorstep, to Max Cellar where we played our first ever NYC gig, to Morgan Ave subway which was a stones through form our house and was 4 stops to central Williamsburg and 5 into Manhattan, Elmo the little bodega where we got coffee ice cream when we were feeling sad, having four thrift shops in less than a mintues walk from our front door, The Swallow Cafe and Kave where we'd go to sketch, the mexican restaurant of dreams El Cortez just around the corner, and 'Hollowgraphic' lighting up over evenings, Bushwick truly was perfection.

Rome, Italy
The city I visted most recently just before Christmas, which absolutely took my breath away with the radiant beauty of it's historic monuments and glorious splendour. It was fascinating and intoxicating, a true marvel to behold. I'd love to return in a few years and spend a couple of weeks truly doing it justice.

Greg Burns, James Kilpatrick, Emma Gannon, Laura Jane Williams, Chloe Gray Smith, Victoria Mackenzie-Childs, Hannah Louise Farrington, Noah Stone, Gregory Levy.

Whether or not you know it, each one of you have profoundly changed something about me in the past year, some through negative experiences, some through positive ones, but all beautifully, perfectly and necessarily important ones. No matter what, each one of you have changed me for the good. So thank you. 


And so concludes my list of things I have loved, been inspired by and been influenced by this year. I hope you've enjoyed this long rambly list, and if you have any recommendations for any music/books/podcasts/movies you think I'll enjoy, I'd LOVE to hear below.

Thank you, for just... listening. Being there. Allowing me to grow and discover myself so openly, publicly and vulnerably.

Thank you.