“When perfectionism is driving, shame is riding shotgun.”
Happy New Year!
Welcome to the new and improved being. If you caught our last issue (December), you’ll know we realised that, while we’re life-long print fans, we could no longer justify using so much paper (even the recycled kind), especially as there are already so many great print publications out there. So, we decided to stop making a print version of the zine and publish it solely online. We’ve created something shorter and simpler than the last online offering, but with the same heart, careful curation, and intention: to encourage us all to slow down and consume consciously. We like to think of it as a kind of newsletter you sit down with at home on a quiet Saturday morning or just after lunch and, crucially, don’t have to subscribe to.
Now, onto this brand new year. Here we are in 2023, a mere 977 years away from the year Busted predicted that we would live underwater (not farfetched, terrifyingly) and women would have three breasts (a bit more farfetched). Luckily, we’re not there yet.
CORSTORPHINE WOOD, being
A N O T E
All about the bunny
We’re about to enter the Year of the Water Rabbit. It’ll be in action from 22nd January (when the year’s first new moon graces our skies) until next February — and won’t happen again for another 60 years! In Chinese astrology, the rabbit represents patience, peace, and luck, which may make this a calmer, more fruitful year than the last 12 months for those of us who tend to be impulsive.
A L B U M S F O R W H E N E V E R
five seconds flat (2022)
Lizzy McAlpine’s second album is the perfect salve for the transition from festive excitement to the reality of the dark, cold, often overwhelming January days ahead. As well as her signature thoughtful lyrics and acoustic sound, this 14-track record is infused with gnarly distorted guitars, dreamy swelling strings, and curious electronic melodies. Ballad “ceilings” paints a gorgeous picture with a twist, while “called you again” layers voices beautifully and gathers slow, organic momentum. The crashing chorus of “all my ghosts”, the driving beat of “orange show speedway”, and the plucky strings of “an ego thing” add an appreciated bite to the record. Then there’s “reckless driving” (driving style being a clever metaphor for unrequited love) featuring Ben Kessler. There are other featured artists, too, most notably Jacob Collier; together they created the first single “erase me”.
L O N G R E A D
A highlight of growing up in the '90s was going into HMV, Virgin Megastore, or later, supermarkets, at the weekend and buying an album. Often, you’d only heard one track from the album in question — the released single — but it was enough to make you want to hear more. It was a leap of faith.
The average number of songs on an album is between 9-12, but plenty of artists give convention the boot. 2pac’s All Eyez on Me is a double-disc album with a total of 27 songs and a play-time of just over two hours. Contrastingly, soul singer Isaac Johnson’s Hot Buttered Soul consists of a mere four songs — although two of them are over ten minutes long. Luther Vandross’ Never Too Much (featuring the title hit) spans only seven songs which seems short and somewhat ballsy for a debut solo album (it paid off — hello, critical acclaim). Nick Drake’s Pink Moon contains 11 songs but plays for only 28 minutes.
Since the pandemic began, it seems that artists have felt freer in their creations resulting in a lot of unexpected, unprecedented, and frankly fantastic works. This newfound freedom can be seen in the lengths of various recent projects, e.g. Taylor Swift’s Folklore and Evermore which each contain 17 songs.
Buying physical albums as the only means of listening to an artist’s music was not just a leap of faith but also a commitment. The fact that you had gone out to get the album and paid money for it forced you to listen to the whole thing. It was rare to listen once, decide you didn’t like it, and never try again; you’d press ‘play’ again and again to find something you might’ve missed the first few times. Of course, you could still skip songs on CDs, but there weren’t infinite songs afterwards to satisfy our specific whims like there are today.
It didn’t go from physical to digital in one foul swoop. On the timeline between physical albums and Spotify were download sites like Napster. Even though you listened to downloaded music on Windows Player or iTunes instead of a CD player, you were still forced to acquire whole albums as it was rare to find individual songs.
A 2019 survey found that 15 percent of under-25s had never listened to a full album. It’s not just youngsters who get cold at the thought of an album, though. Research also found that 54 percent of people surveyed listened to fewer albums than they did five or ten years ago. This isn’t particularly surprising given that Spotify rose to its true zenith in the late 2010s. Music streaming platforms are all about quantity and flexibility; you can listen to millions of songs, and you can search, skip, and fast-forward after the first five seconds. The latter isn’t a bad thing: sometimes a song just isn’t doing it for you. But there’s a case to be made for albums being created intentionally as complete, contextual packages and being listened to that way. From a broader, personal-growth perspective, perhaps there’s also something to be said for practising slowness and openness, and releasing control, especially in these rushed, divisive times.
Most of us can name individual songs that have soundtracked the major moments in our lives; a first kiss, a holiday, the moment a friendship clicked. But if songs memorialise vignettes, then albums store short films of our lives; specific periods of time and everything within them. A certain album always reminds me of waiting on a tube platform in south London, summarising the years I spent in that neighbourhood, job, and headspace. Albums let us see beyond the vignettes, to gain context and the feeling (both culturally and personally) of the time. It’s often why we recall albums before the songs on them, remembering them as a complete contained experience rather than disparate parts.
Songs are deliberately put in a certain order on albums. Sometimes this is obvious, for example Silk Sonic’s debut, An Evening with Silk Sonic, pays homage to funk artists’ recordings of live shows; it opens with “Silk Sonic Intro” and closes with “Blast Off”. My Chemical Romance’s rock opera album, The Black Parade, opens with “Welcome to the Black Parade”, and via each song proceeds to follow the band’s alter ego as he, terminally ill, enters the afterlife. Ben Platt’s Reverie begins with “King of the World Pt 1”, sets “King of the World Pt 2” in the middle, and closes with “King of the World Pt 3”.
On many records, it might not be quite as obvious, but it can often be felt. John Mayer’s Born and Raised closes with a Randy Newman-esq reprise of an earlier song (the album’s title song, “Born and Raised”). The first track on Ed Sheeran’s Equals, “Tides”, is a mix of thrashing, upbeat verses and quiet, spare choruses symbolising the two dynamics of his life and also perhaps the blend of new and familiar sounds that follow. The album closes with “Be Right Now”, an upbeat but undoubtedly conclusive tune, repeating that ‘nothing else matters, stay here and be right now’.
To find out how an album is put together, there are tons of interviews online in which artists talk about their new releases (Zane Lowe interviews are particularly good for getting granular).
B O O K S F O R W H E N E V E R
Dishoom — Shamil Thakrar, Kavi Thakrar, and Naved Nasir
The cookbook from Dishoom, the popular restaurant serving up food inspired by the Irani cafes of 1960’s Bombay, is much more than a collection of recipes. Penned by the founders and head chef, it’s travel guide meets memoir meets history book. If there was any doubt that food is inextricably linked with politics, heritage, and history, Dishoom sets it straight, beautifully binding it all together to give readers a complete picture of Mumbai through the ages. With a map, photographs, and directions woven throughout, the book also offers readers something of a walking tour, wending down historic streets and popping into cafes established in the 1930s. This is the perfect book for those who love Dishoom’s dishes (we can confirm that the recipes deliver) — whether they’re fortunate enough to live near a branch or not (we do, and we still can’t get enough at home).