Thursday, February 10, 2011

Five Nice Things

The following are Five Nice Things that I am currently enjoying. I've often seen people write lists of things they think are nice, and I seldom think these lists are very nice. They always only have one or two things that are truly uniquely nice and then they just fill in the gaps with cutey points about toast and basset hounds. Which is fine, I suppose, but I'd like to talk about five things that are more critically, tangibly nice. So here you go.

1. Ryan Adams - Heartbreaker

Embarassingly, I discovered Ryan Adams after watching the partially terrible, mostly average film Elizabethtown. The film stars Kirsten Dunst and Orlando Bloom, and features a mortifying tap-dance solo from Susan Sarandon.

Despite all this, the movie bizarrely manages to have an excellent soundtrack, including one of my favourite songs, by The Hollies, Jesus Was a Crossmaker. Also buried on the soundtrack is Ryan Adams's "Come Pick Me Up". The song is frankly pretty, pointedly bitter and bitingly affectionate, but its not something you'd notice on your first listen. The pace goes from droopy to euphoric quiet often, and for awhile it was on the skiplist on my iPod. However I soon got hooked on the lines

"Take me out, fuck me up, steal my records, screw all my friends, they're all full of shit, with a smile on your face, then do it again. I wish you would."

I eventually caved and bought the album Heartbreaker. And it's wonderful, worth the few quid if just to gush over the opening sound bite, entitled "Argument with Dave Rawlings concerning Morrissey" and the achingly lovely "Damn, Sam, I love a woman that rains".  The latter contains my absolute favourite lyrics right now, which is "I'm as cold as a fruit stand in New York, and maybe as strange."

2. Roy Orbison - "She's a Mystery to Me"

I don't know how the mass populace feel about Roy Orbison these days. All I can figure out is that on the popularity scale he is somewhere above Neil Diamond and very much below Bruce Springsteen. And I suppose that's alright. He is dead, after all, and that isn't his fault.

I like Roy Orbison a lot, in the way that anybody likes a musical artist that is influential yet peaked and died before they were born. I like him in the way people like The Shangri-La's or The Beach Boys (except I hate the Beach Boys. The Beach Boys fucking suck.); with kitsch appreciation, but with a certain level of distance.

However, with "She's a Mystery to Me" I get a totally different sensation. The song is eerily breathtaking, like the most attractive of sex offenders. It crawls into your heart and shakes you, like the most creative of sex offenders. Everytime I hear this song I want to curl up into a ball and let it put its big Orby arms around me, and you should too. And yes, I know it's written by Bono. And yes, that does make you a snob if you don't like it for solely that reason.

3. F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby

I know it's a massive cliché for an English student to love this book, but for some reason I managed to not read The Great Gatsby before yesterday. Which was utterly retarded of me, because it is truly wonderful. I've not finished it yet, but i'm at the part where Daisy tells everybody she doesn't and in fact, never did love Gatsby, and I want to tear her hair out and feed it to a hungry bird.

There's no reason to talk about The Great Gatsby anymore. I'm sure there are other English students gushing about it elsewhere, probably two blogs over.

4. The Cold War Kids - Mine is Yours

I think this is the third album from The Cold War Kids, but I'm not entirely sure. All you really need to know about The Cold War Kids is that they had an extraordinarily catchy debut album, called Robbers & Cowards, and then they were average for awhile, and a few weeks ago they released this album, called Mine is Yours.

And it's fucking good. The whole album just seems to soar above what I expected their potential to be. I really feel something for bands like The Cold War Kids; bands like The Gaslight Anthem or I Am Arrows. Bands that can craft a damn good mainstream indie-pop song yet can never manage to break through to the increasingly bland Brandon Flowers or Arcade Fire plateau of fame. In my opinion, the three former bands far outshine the two latter, and it's a pity that their sales seldom seem to reflect that.

Anyway, I hate it when people lament stupid crap like that, so let's just skip that part entirely. Suffice to say, have a listen to "Royal Blue" on the Mine is Yours album and brighten up your day.

5. Andrew Sean Greer - Story of a Marriage

I picked up this book second hand about eight months ago, and then completely forgot about it until a fit of characteristic insomnia led me to picking it out of my shelf last week. It's no mystery as to why I forgot completely about it: just look at the cover. Ignoring for a minute, the obvious crapness of the title, the picture on the cover looks like an informational pamphlet about dealing with post-natal depression. Bummer.

EXCEPT I WAS TOTALLY WRONG. The book is fantastic, telling the story of a marriage (duh) against the backdrop of a post-war, pre-Civil Rights Movement America. When I say that, you probably imagine a cheesy memoir illustrating a load of hefty black chicks banging on about sweet potatoes and segregation, but nothing could be further from the truth. In terms of style, think Dave Eggers meets Richard Yates meets Toni Morrison. Sound awesome? Well it is.

I really can't say enough in praise of this lovely book without ruining it's various plot twists, so just buy it. Ok? Ok.


  1. You just couldn't resist the Beach Boys bashing could you? Second post in.

    And Elizabethtown is offensive in its sheer ordinariness. It never achieves a "so bad its entertaining" level despite the noble efforts of Ms. Sarandon to re define the term "fleet footed". I wish i could hate it but I'm sad to say I've visited worse towns.

  2. I refuse to see anything with Orlando Bore in it (leave LoTR out of this!) so I can happily report that I missed Elizabethtown. Thank fuck. Also, that is the first actual listening to Roy Orbison I've ever done. Loved it. Really liking the blog and the easy, amusing read. And now, to go hunt down the Great Gatsby and add it to the enormous pile of things I have to read...