Sad Synth Sundays

I present to you 3 of my favourite synth-pop pickings for your emotional indulgence. 

 

Depeche Mode – Blasphemous Rumours

The Kings of synth are the Essex boys who England forgot.

Back in 2011, an old friend studied Art at St Martins. She despised it for reasons that made me smile on the sly…such as the fact a budding artist displayed a painting of her own vagina for no reason other than ‘artistic licence’. Amazing.

In her defence, the only point of pretention my friend had to her name was a fondness for Depeche Mode.

One afternoon, the St Martins undergrads’ were tasked with commemorating the victims of the recent Japanese tsunami. Most people chose to draw the monster that claimed the lives of the innocent, but in my friend’s eyes there was no more fitting tribute than a blank piece of card containing these lyrics, hand-written. Its’ simplicity made it the most poignant response of them all… and arguably just as pretentious. We all have a shadow side, I suppose.

Professional optimist Martin Gore’s chorus is compromised of cheery refrains almost certainly lifted from a 14 year old’s diary:

“I don’t want to start any blasphemous rumours but I think that God’s got a sick sense of humour, and when I die, I expect to find him laughing.” 

But it’s the synth that really wraps it all together. Depeche Mode are all shadow and no sunshine in their lyrics but that mid-80s synth sound could strike a chord of pure euphoria in even the most disaffected of souls.

It’s magical what a few misfit musos can do with the right technology.

Robert Palmer – Johnny and Mary

Formulated to give your goosebumps, released in 1980 and just shy of 4 minutes long, everything about Johnny And Mary is lovable.

If and when I hear the intro’ on the radio, my ears prick up: tune into the right station and yours will too. It’s haunting tune grabs you and holds you – there – in the present moment. Who needs meditation, anyway?

If the melody wasn’t enough, its’ third person story-telling grants you a few minutes of escapism into a 20th century reality where very few people felt liberated enough to explore their emotions, and even fewer were able to leave unhappy domestic situations. Like your parents, perhaps? (I’m just giving out ideas to connect with).

On the other hand, its’ narrative of feeling disenfranchised from the very things you are supposed to glean enjoyment from is universal. And the music will make you feel it.

Very little pleases me more than gratuitous music videos, and the interpretative dance on display is the perfect accompaniment to the big theme of despondency.

INXS – Don’t Change

 

I can’t help but feel this cloying tune played while John Hughes sat down to construct another coming-of-age classic.

Feast your peepers on a (very) young Michael Hutchence with all the swagger of Mick Jagger. He quite literally affects his movements to match Mick’s posturing in what must be the go-to experimentation of all new frontmen.

New to the airwaves at this time, its’ keyboard-led intro’ is reminiscent of the success New Wave bands were enjoying between ’79 to ’83 as mainstream music grew a lot more poppy past this point. And Hutchence grew a lot more hair.

The ethereal, introspective vibes must’ve clashed with the ‘rock’n’roll Aussies’ image too much for their A & R man’s liking, unfortunately. We know this because INXS veered away from this sound for the remainder of their career.

Profound synth sounds were the reserve of the New Romantics at this time in musical history so I feel privileged to be privy to this random rocky gem.

*slow fade in the minor key* 

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How To Care Less About What Other People Think Of You

I was tempted to click-bait the title with the alluring promise of ’How to stop caring about what people think of you’ but you can never conquer the curiosity entirely.

Of course, there are some who claim to never give thought to their reputation, social standing, likability etc… and those people are lying. Ironically, the intent is to manipulate you into seeing them as a badass mother’ because they seek to control how they’re perceived just as much as you do. Clever eh?

I have a few points to keep in mind for when you’re feeling low or unloved.

1. You have no way of ever truly knowing what someone thinks about you. Can you see into somebody’s mind? You cannot, so therefore the only evidence you have is based on how you want to believe someone sees you. You can waste time trying to piece together evidence of attraction, indifference, dislike, etc. and you can still be entirely wrong. You can manipulate people into seeing you in a certain way and they could be pacifying you the entire time. That might sound scary but it should come as more of a relief.

2. Most of what people say is a projection of how they see themselves and not a reflection of you. Unless it’s constructive, criticisms are born from what people either fear or seek within themselves. This is especially true for people high in narcissism as they aren’t introspective. 

3. People don’t have to like you, and you don’t have to care. Much of our upbringing and socialisation revolves around the idea you have to be codependent on external validation. If we’re always focused outside of ourselves we’ll buy more products to make us look good, chase status, and act in line with how others want us to behave. But how you experience other people matters more than how they experience you. Instead of wondering ‘do they like me?’ start asking ‘do I like them?’This is especially true in new situations, where we tend to care even more about perceptions.

4. You have no right to control how people see you. If someone dislikes you and you can’t fix or make sense of it, realise that some people are more comfortable with judging then coming to an understanding. A lot of our decisions are made on a subconscious level and not everyone understands themselves, let alone you. Take comfort in the fact they don’t really know you anyway, only fragments from interactions. And on that note…

5. Some people have to pretend you’re a bad person so they don’t have to feel guilty about how they’ve treated you. The ego is a powerful protector of our feelings and subconscious motivations. In these situations, going non-resistant is your best bet. Sometimes you have to put up boundaries because toxic people just want to exploit you so they feel better about themselves. 

6. Psychologists have found research to suggest people are too lazy to change their first impression of you. That’s why it’s said to matter and it’s also how people get easily manipulated by false charm. Not everyone is like this and you only want to care about the opinion of those who think as an individual.

7. Opinions are impermanent and you can only exist in the present moment. We all change, including our feelings and thoughts. More often than not, people take you as you are. It’s up to you to believe you are enough so it can be mirrored back to you. Any control you think you have over others is an illusion, ultimately. Judge yourself less and enjoy yourself more where you are, with what you have, right now. I promise you’ll get many happy returns.

 

 

 

 

 

How To Tell The Signs Fancy You: Scorpio Thru Pisces

Scorpio – Oh, you’ll know. Scorpio’s may be private people but their determination to have you will be crystal clear. To clarify, if a Scorpio bothers to strike up a conversation with you, you’re interesting at least. If they talk to you exclusively and bestow personal information upon you, you’re in, Flynn. You’re a mystery they want to solve. It’s a good idea to keep a little intrigue but a bad idea to play games deliberately: mind games are this natural psychologists’ territory and only they are the puppeteer. However, once you show them you’re a genuine person with good intentions, they’ll make you feel like the only person in the room. You’ll be surprised with romantic gestures (yes, even in 2017) and there won’t be any shortage of devotion. Their aura is one of sexual magnetism so watch out for sparks flying between you. It’s all or nothing with these ones.

Sagittarius – These guys aren’t shy! Energetic and boundlessly optimistic, they have a lust for life that’s hard to beat. Bearing that in mind, the Sagittarian love style is straightforward with a no-frills approach. Time is of the essence so your texts will be replied to at lightning-quick speed; I once dated a Sagittarian guy who got annoyed because I didn’t respond in less than a minute on Whatsapp. There won’t be much second-guessing because the golden rule here is: are they planning adventures with you? It’s not just a stereotype – the Sagittarius is future-oriented so if you’re included, good news! The only catch is their intense need for stimulation so make them laugh and shower them with attention. Take it one step at a time…

Capricorn – You’ve just stumbled upon the most mature archetype in the zodiac wheel. A Capricorn wants a partner to build with or a casual plaything for the crumb of free time they have on Wednesday evenings… and nothing in-between. They’re happy to live without love but if an alluring prospect comes along they will get to know you slowly. The key here is a steady build of mutual respect. At first they will avoid you because flirting doesn’t come naturally to them but once they trust you enough…prepare for their devilish side to show. Is the once shy Capricorn showing you a side of them nobody else sees? You’re in the running. But tricks won’t get you far unless you’re a grounded soul with patience and similar ambitions.

Aquarius – Ah, so you’ve got a thing for the social scientist that is Aquarius. Independence is their strong suit and a poker face is their protection. As an air sign, they seek connection through conversation but are happy to keep it light…unless you’re worth investing in. If at all physical with you, I would take this as more than casual flirting. If they want to figure you out, they’ll stalk your social media accounts, ask your friends about you and place you on a pedestal. Here’s a crucial clue: the water-bearer is proud of their individuality so odd remarks and unconventional personal questions are all tests to see if you live up to their standards. When an Aquarius goes beyond skin-deep with you, they’re into you. Don’t be deterred if the dates are more like hang-outs because any special effort to spend time with you should be called upon…

PiscesShall I compare thee to a summer’s day? If you want an indication of how romantic a Piscean can be, Jon Bon Jovi falls on this season… then again, so does Adam Levine, a notorious lothario. Easily the most emotional sign of the zodiac, a Pisces will turn to mush around you if you’re the apple of their eye. They can’t help it. Emotional support will be freely given along with an empathetic ear because it’s in this intuitive sign’s nature. A cynical Pisces is one who has been hurt badly but the silent hope of an everlasting lover is never far from their mind. To compensate for feeling things deeply, Pisces have a silly sense of humour so expect them to win you over by excessive giggling and pun-making as well as more traditionally romantic methods. In order for them to sleep with a person, there must be an emotional connection first! Something to watch out for is how much they open to you instead of merely listening…then you’ve earned their trust, and should tread carefully with their timid hearts.

How To Tell If The Signs Fancy You, Aries Thru Libra

A useful checklist of egoistic behaviours each sign displays when attempting to seduce someone into their starry force field of lurrve.

Aries – If a Ram is into you, they won’t be shy about showing it. Do their eyes light up when you walk in the room? If so, they’ll quickly initiate conversation with their best friendly face forward and an aura of pure adrenaline. I also wouldn’t be surprised if you catch them surveying your anatomy as they make the bee-line towards you. Don’t think you’re Columbo, though. It was an accidentally-on-purpose move to signal their interest. Fueled by a lust for life, expect some play-fighting and don’t be offended if they say something they thought would be funny but is actually just mean – they’re trying to show you some affection without looking weak. It’s a delicate balancing act for a sign who hates feeling vulnerable.

Taurus – It’s all in the eyes. Is your Spring-born friend burning a hole into your back? I get you’re facing the opposite way but…you can feel the glare. A Taurus lives firmly in the material world so once they have a crush on you, you’re basically already their possession. Dependent on the depth of feeling, it will take some time before they make a move officially because steady relationship-building occurs in the meantime. Please, don’t bother explaining that your aunt Deborah just got married again because they Facebook stalked your profile pictures and basic info’ section as soon as the first butterfly fluttered inside their belly. Any flirting will be done through getting more tactile with you as you’re shown their softer side. These Bulls will win you with slow dedication.

Gemini BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH. Are you hearing a lot of that on a regular basis? Excellent. You have managed to sufficiently sustain their attention for more than 2 minutes! You must be a hoot. Their nervous disposition will magnify in your presence. If a Gemini is talking to you the most, you’ve got to keep their interest with your conversational skills. You’ll receive a lot of messages that vary from the mundane ‘hey’ to the extravagant ‘I remember you saying you liked ___ and I also like ____’ because they crave an intellectual bond above all things. Then they’ll go off the grid for a few days while they change their minds about you. Weirdly, inconsistency is a good sign because it means you’re being considered, and not just anyone will do for picky Gemini!

Cancer – How are you feeling today? Is your mum feeling better? Can I offer you some advice on that minor issue so I can gain your trust as a reliable stepping stone to winning you over? Cancerians are in-tune with their emotions and as such, emotional support comes first. All texts are returned reliably and well thought-out, with emojis and a gradual release of private information they don’t just tell anybody. You’ll receive ‘hello and goodbye’ hugs too. It’s always a sweet affair when they want to woo you. As a sensitive sign, watch out for them being off with you for being slow to respond on Whatsapp or something else seemingly insignificant. Sentimentality is a part of their genetic make-up. Be gentle: to them, love is everything.

Leo – Are you ready to enter into a grandiose love story? Good. So is your Leo crush. They are experts on how to flirt and it’s all textbook moves: fluttering eyelashes, charming remarks, expressive body language… What you have to understand is that you can’t just say ‘thank you’ to a compliment. That expectant look on their face? It’s in danger of turning into a flustered eye-roll if you don’t admire them right back. Their fantasy is to be in a power couple so they’ll push you towards that dynamic by acting as if you’re already long-time lovers. When you’re around they’ll put their best show-stopping theatrics forward so they have your full attention. If they have money, they’ll buy you gifts. If not they’ll convey affection through their most lusted-after commodity: their time.

Virgo – It’s all in the details. A Virgo is emotionally detached by proxy of their perfectionism and fear of failure. When you speak, they’ll ask a lot of questions to determine whether you tick all the boxes on their ‘Potential Human Mating Partner‘ checklist. Incredibly thoughtful types, they’ll remember every minute of conversation you have. Here’s an example of them digging you: “Don’t you have to drive to Liverpool this Saturday? It’s forecast to snow so avoid setting off until 11am. If you want, I’ll help you de-ice your car so you can get away quicker.” It won’t all be sweet gestures of doting service, and here’s where you scratch your head – they’ll openly criticise you. You’re slicing that lemon all wrong, your hair isn’t as neat as it was yesterday, you don’t know how to spell ‘occasionally. Frustrating though it may seem, it’s a sign they care. If a Virgo is speaking to you, it’s likely to be exclusive. Go easy on the displays of affection.

Libra – Watch out for that infamous charm offensive. People pleasers to the core, a Libra flirts with everybody so they can win their favour. If they flatter you, I wouldn’t take it personally. Deep down, every Libra believes they have player potential. But away from the superficiality, they have idealistic fantasies about harmonious partnerships where nobody argues & nobody gets hurt. If genuinely interested, their earnest side shows. Cue sweet smiles (instead of the pacifying saber-toothed grin), laughing at every joke you make, and interesting conversational pieces. That band you mutually love will be slipped into conversation. Logic is their lover, and you are the mistress they blow hot and cold with while they disguise their commitment issues in pursuit of other pleasures. Like hanging with their buddies; friendships don’t come with messy feelings. If you’re special, you do. And if you’re patient, you’ll have a loving partner to build with. Just give them space, and keep up your appearance while you’re at it. It’s important to these Venusians.

4 Easy Ways to De-Stress

❄️ Meditate.

It’s easier than you think. I used to wonder whether it made a difference and then I tried listening to guided meditations, where you’re lulled into a relaxed state that helps to distract from the background chatter littering your mental landscape. If you have something of a ‘monkey mind’, the key is to observe your thoughts and let them pass you by. Remember: what you resist, persists. Meditation helps you change your brain wave frequency so you’re operating on a meditative Theta state, whereby you can integrate fully into the present moment – something that is often hard to do!

❄️ Epsom Salt Baths

Soak in the tub for at least 20 minutes in order to detoxify the body, relieve muscle pain and allow for the magnesium to be absorbed into your body so your adrenaline levels can decrease while your serotonin increases at the same time.

❄️ Get Physical.

What’s your go-to sport? Do it! We’ve all heard that running gives you an endorphin rush but it’s not the only option. Even dancing around your room will get your blood pumping and release you from the clutches of overthinking.

❄️ Grounding.

We’re raised to live our life in pre-occupation of what we ‘should’ have, who we ‘could’ be, what ‘might’ happen etc. It leads us into disappearing into our heads. In order to get back down to Earth, force yourself to be boring for 10 minutes. (Forcing yourself to be boring is a great life tip in general). Turn your attention to what you can see, feel, or hear. Read some fiction. Paint your nails (I don’t care what your gender is, it looks cool). Overall, distract yourself and remember that no matter the event, this too shall pass. The faulty desire to control external circumstances is the cause of stress and approaches like these can act as a remedy for your over-worked mind.

On Age, Empathy and Class – Billy Bragg, in review

As Billy began to approach the chorous of  ‘Scousers Don’t Buy The Sun’, audience members rose to their feet and at the songs end, Bragg showed his trademark compassion by raising a fist of solidarity for those affected by the Hilsborough disaster, “Justice for the ’96!”

Sporadic standing ovations were a footnote of the evening. When Billy Bragg’s name is on the ticket, every utterance gets an enthusiastic response.

Sexuality’ had been repeating on loop in my head ahead of gig day and as fate would have it, it was his opening number. He squeezed in a cheeky “Don’t threaten me with Morrissey” lyric-change to keep things topical and segway into Brexit talk when the time was right.

There’s a distinct lack of social commentary in today’s music so thank Marx he doesn’t rely on his prior success to sell tickets. Once musicians reach super-stardom, they go one of 2 ways: exclusively play new material and only begrudgingly play old hits, or try to incorporate as many fan favourites as possible inbetween the new tunes. Of course, the bard of Barking went the way of the latter. Most of his new set was proceeded by succinct explanations of the recent political motivations behind their inception: King Tide and the Sunny Day Flood came about after recent Climate Change discoveries, and Saffiyah Smiles was inspired by a muslim counter protestor at an EDL rally in 2016.

When he did mention Thatcher it was a clever recontextualisation of the phrase ‘it doesn’t feel like my country anymore’,

“I can understand that sentiment because that’s how I felt in the 1980s when Thatcher got in again, and again, and again.”

The sincerity of his down-to-Earth demeanour is transparent by the pathos of his speaking voice: he hasn’t lost his Essex accent! None of his impassioned words tugged on my cockney heartstrings more than his send-off, “I’m Billy Bragg from Dagenham, Essex. Goodnight”. I grew up a stone’s throw from his hometown so I was most looking forward to basking in the nostalgic comfort of over-pronounced d’s and t’s. And I was by far the youngest face in the crowd. My sister and I guessed the average age would be 46 but we were as misguided as my attempt to locate the toilets after 2 cocktails and a fruity cider.

“At one of the gigs the crew were handing out bottles of water and I thought ‘Hmm. It’s a 2 hour show, and well… my audience…”

He’s genuinely funny. Like any outspoken activist with the audacity to care, he balances self-depreciation with earnest ruminations on the big stuff so as to avoid the inevitable eye roll of the cognitively dissonant. I nodded ferociously as he highlighted how unpopular it is to be empathetic and the absurdity of cloaking yourself in cynicism so you can appear ‘cool’, “the enemy isn’t the Daily Mail or conversativism – it’s cynicism.”

It’s difficult to vocalise these thoughts without facing the obvious backlash of being ‘on your high horse’ from people who would rather protect their insecurities and project their fears. Again, Billy pre-empts such judgement in his re-telling of a forward-thinking environment he played in,

“I was disappointed because it really took away from my moral superiority.”

It’s very clever how our self-serving society has shamed us into complacency but for those few hours we were free to care as much as we wanted about things that matter, yell out ‘there is a power in a union’, and there was no defender of stagnation present to sneeringly say ‘get over yourself’ as if the ‘self’ is the operative point. He also waited until the very end to play ‘A New England’, with a loving inclusion of Kirsty Maccoll’s additional verse to commemorate his friend.

In the words of the middle-aged balding man behind me, “Nice one Billy!”

 

 

World Mental Health Day – Why Social Stigma Still Exists

Like a lot of people, mental illness is something I’ve been well-acquainted with my whole life. Close family members have suffered daily since before my birth and the stigma of societal shame is rooted so deeply that I feel uneasy speaking about it, even now. Some stories aren’t mine to tell; I may be experiencing a climate of mental health awareness but generations before me weren’t as lucky. They have been mistreated by ignorance, mishandled by health services and misunderstood for so long that the damage seems irreparable. I grew up with impossible fantasies of ‘saving’ those around me: if only I did this or said that, or X, Y, Z happened, things would be different. Normal. It took me years to realise I needed to look after myself first. Messages like “You can’t pour from an empty cup” are not easy to internalise. I still get the urge to control the uncontrollable, to ‘save’ people, and I’m still far away from accepting that self-care is not selfish.

My mind has been a sea of fog for too long so I made a choice. I can stay frustrated at injustice or I can use the knowledge I’ve attained over the years to shed some enlightenment. There are only so many times you can lie on your bed listening to The Smiths, after all. (That’s a lie, The Smiths are timeless, and self-compassion is important!).

Until very recently, secrecy around battling with your mental health was advised for fear of prejudice. 1 in 4 people struggle with a mental illness at any time and yet the mental health spectrum is yet to be common knowledge. There’s an unconscious separation between mentally ‘well’ and mentally ‘ill’ as if it were black and white. Several factors play into this:

The Sociopathic Model of Society

From a young age we are taught our worth is defined by material things and that success is a result of being ruthless. Ideas such as “It’s dog eat dog out there” and “every man for himself” are presented to us as ‘facts of life’ so we internalise the script. It becomes our inner reality. We are taught to honour our ego and battle with our emotions: we don’t learn to have empathy for ourselves, let alone anybody else. The illusion that you are solely responsible for every fact of your life corresponds to individuals seeing their mental health as entirely within their control, and therefore suffering seems like a personal weakness. Of course, this is untrue. When we live in a culture that labels unorthodox behaviour as ‘insane/nutty’ etc, we force people to repress their feelings out of self-preservation. The notion that normality equates to a constantly ‘happy’ or well-balanced mind is unrealistic and ignorant. You are not an anomaly if some days are harder than others. That is normal. That is human.

Masculinity and Misogyny

The bogus ‘battle of the sexes’ is indoctrinated into us as children. Gender roles limit us in numerous nuanced ways, from men being told to ‘man up’ when upset to women being routinely objectified. Our society is patriarchal so the fact of gender as a performance is more obviously superfluous and thus ridiculed in women, who are labelled ‘crazy’ as a consequence of ‘othering’. Allegedly, feelings are ‘feminine’. Realistically, all of us are emotional beings. Male suicide rates are high, in part, because the pressures of toxic masculinity – where people are forced to live through their ego and stuff their feelings as though they aren’t there, place an unfair burden on a person. It’s only in the 21st century that we are beginning to change the conversation: to allow people to let their guard down. Again, we have suffered at the hands of separatism. The age of information is allowing us to bridge the gaps and offer support to healthy self-expression but subconscious beliefs are hard to shift, especially when they have media support. The work continues.

A Lack of Understanding

There’s still an unspoken idea that all brains are created equal. We have to seek out information that gives our greater opportunities for self-awareness, such as the fact some people are genetically predisposed to depression or psychopathy, or that a toxic environment in youth can alter the way your brain develops. Likewise, traumatic events can trigger chemical imbalances at any stage in life and it’s necessary to acknowledge how your mind works. The way a person’s brain operates is not their fault and I hope you never fall into the trap of judging yourself for it. It is what it is, and more importantly, it can change. Our brains are incredibly powerful.

These are a few reasons as to why I think mental health has been misunderstood for so long. In a future post I’m going to dispense some ideas of how you can look after your mental health, no matter who you are. Or, at least, I’m going to share what’s worked for me.

May the force be with you.