My top books of 2017.

Looking back on 2017, I read a lot of great books. Making the list of my favourite books from last year was incredibly difficult but I present you a collection of books that really left an impression on me in 2017.

Before I start my countdown, I want to list some honourable mentions. Here’s some great books I read this year: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein, Ten Years in an Open Neck Shirt by John Cooper Clarke, Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, The Best Minds of My Generation: A Literary History of the Beats by Allen Ginsberg, The Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud’s Complete Works, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and The Sellout by Paul Beatty.

Anyway, onto the countdown:

6. Nausea – Jean-Paul Sartre.

I’ve been meaning to read Sartre’s fiction for years and my friend Rachel loved this book so I decided to pick it up.

Nausea follows a historian called Antoine Roquentin who becomes immersed in existential thought. After completing his paper, he struggles to find meaning in writing anything else and it basically all spirals from there.

This book is essentially an extension of Sartre’s existential philosophy and I have not stopped thinking about it, especially after finishing my undergraduate dissertation.

5. Autumn and Winter – Ali Smith.

Okay, I’m cheating. I’ve paired two books together here. I read both Autumn and Winter by Ali Smith this year – both are part of her seasonal quartet but you do not have to read the books in order as they are only loosely linked.

Autumn centres around Elisabeth Demand and a man called Daniel. Daniel is in a coma and is visited by Elisabeth but after Elisabeth finishes her visits she has to navigate herself around a post-brexit world. The novel is eerie as there are no explicit references to the EU referendum but there are subtle details sprinkled across the book which suggest the divide in the UK post-voting.

In Winter, Smith tackles the idea of Post-Truth. The basic plot holds some very Ali Smith tropes – a family in Cornwell spend Christmas together in a large house and a stranger attends the dinner. I do not want to give too much away about the story but Smith swaps from different character’s perspectives and they all weave together very neatly.

I read Autumn at the beginning of the year and Winter in December of 2017. I think Winter is my favourite because some of the passages were just haunting. Smith’s references to news are more obvious in Winter and I found that very unnerving.

Anyway, read both of these books.

4. Chavs – Owen Jones.

I reviewed this on my blog a few months ago so I won’t go into too much detail. Jones’ book takes a look at the demonization of the working-class in the UK. This book was published in 2011 when the UK claimed to be a “classless” society yet every strives to be middle class. Chavs challenges this idea and argues the class system is more present than ever. Living in the UK in 2017 the class-divide is so obvious no one can really argue against the existence of class anymore. Some of the arguments in the book are products of UK politics in 2011 but some chapters are more relevant than ever.

3. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

If you have not read Crime and Punishment yet, you are in for a treat. Everyone kinda knows the plot of this book whether they have read it or not but I cannot recommend it enough because it is so dramatic. By page 80 something major happens and basically it is just absolutely brilliant and I am obsessed with Raskolnikov. It is a wild ride and that’s all I’ll say.

2. Madonna in a Fur Coat – Sabahattin Ali.

I recommend this book to everyone when I am in a bookshop.

A twentieth-century Turkish novel that has just been translated into English, Madonna in a Fur Coat begins with a man and his co-worker. It is essentially a story within a story as it unfolds Berlin’s 1920s art world. It is about a painting and how art can change you.

This book is only short but the prose is absolutely poetic. The 1920s, art, and Berlin – what’s not to love?

1. High-Rise – J. G. Ballard.

I cannot stop thinking about this book. This book was so unsettling and addictive to read.

The high rise is a dystopian world where the higher up the high rise you live, the more privileged you are. A class-war erupts as the people at the bottom of the high rise demand the same treatment as those at the top. The result is absolute chaos.

I really enjoyed analysing this because there’s so many layers that can be applied to Ballard’s work. Of course there’s Marxist theory, but there’s also Freudian readings of the book and theory of space and architecture.

Honestly, I think High-Rise has to be my book of the year – it’s brilliant.

So overall I had a good reading year! I’m excited to see what my reading year looks like in 2018. I’m currently reading Lizzy Goodman’s Meet Me In The Bathroom and it’s already a five star read which is a good sign.

Happy reading!





A year in review: bookish reflections and 2018 reading goals.

As we sit in limbo between Christmas and New Year, I have decided to use this time to reflect on my year in books. According to goodreads, I have read 93 books and over 27000 pages. I feel like that is quite a lot considering I have had a very busy year.

At the beginning of this year I made some bookish goals I wanted to complete; now that the year draws to a close, I thought it is now time to see if I completed them.

My first goal was to read three Shakespeare plays. I am just putting it out there I didn’t even try to attempt this goal. One day I will return to Shakey’s words but it is not going to be any time in the near future.

My second goal was to read five new plays and I actually completed this goal! I read: Waiting for Godot, The Crucible, Death of a Salesman, and The Three Theban Plays. I completed this goal quite early on in the year and then didn’t read any plays after March which was quite bad. Hopefully I will get into the habit of reading plays more regularly.  Reading more plays also completed my goal of reading more ancient classics. Although I would’ve liked to have read more ancient literature, I still read more than what I had in 2016.

In my blog post I also said I would read a Dickens novel and read Les Miserables in 2017. When typing the post I knew I would not complete these goals and I was correct – I did not complete these goals. I am one step closer to reading these books though. I downloaded Oliver Twist on ebook and I found a copy of Les Mis in the charity shop so now I am more likely to read them. However, I can confirm 2018 will not be the year of Dickens and Hugo.

Probably the most important goal on my blog post was the ‘read 2/3 of the books I own but have not read’ task. I organised my goodreads and made a folder for all the books I own and have not read yet, I cleared my bookshelves and put my unread ones on one shelf, and I change the orders of my books on my shelves so they are always fresh and new. I have done both very well and quite badly with this task. I have read a lot of my owned books; however, I have managed to buy quite a few books in 2017. I have managed to read 95% of my new books (MA life means my new books pile is a bit larger than usual because I have not had time to read the books I got for my birthday but at least I don’t buy as many books now because I have no time to read for pleasure) and I have managed to tackle quite a lot of books that have been sat gathering dust on my shelf for the last couple of years. I want to continue this goal into the new year because I think I can accomplish it.

Upon reflection, I managed to meet a couple of my goals I made at the beginning of the year. I managed to achieve a lot of things such as reading lots of poetry and reading more non-fiction. I used my university library more for pleasure reads and I will continue to use libraries more in 2018.

Now that I have signed off the goals for 2017, it is time to look forward to 2018. Here are my reading resolutions:

1. Read my ‘tbr’ shelf.

I am carrying this goal into the new year. I really want to have a 0 ‘to be read’ shelf either in the year 2018 or 2019. Thankfully my unread books do fit on one shelf on my bookcase which makes the task less intimidating but I would really like to read everything on my bookcase.

2. Read some genre fiction.

I read a lot of classics and literary fiction. Until this year I thought I would not be a big fan of genre fiction but hearing some of my friends talk about sci-fi (*cough* Jess *cough*) and fantasy has made me want to explore the genres. I would really like to read one sci-fi novel, one fantasy, and one horror novel this year.

3. Tick off two books from my reading list in my journal.

Every year I like to write down a list of books I would like to read in the upcoming year. Last year I did not do this because I had a lot of reading goals and I really wanted to focus on reducing my to be read shelf. However, I have decided 2018 is the year I will tick off some books I have wanted to read for years.

Here’s the list of books I would like to get to this year:

  • Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
  • 2666 – Roberto Bolano
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand
  • Labyrinths – Jorge Luis Borges
  • The Complete Cosmicomics – Italo Calvino
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X
  • East of Eden – John Steinbeck
  • The Book of Disquiet – Fernando Pessoa

These books have managed to stay on my wishlist through all of my reading phases so 2018 is the year to start reading them.

4. Read more American Literature.

During my MA I have transitioned from reading English Literature to reading American Literature. I feel quite well-read in English Literature and have read a lot of texts spanning the centuries of British culture, thanks to my BA modules, but I feel like I have a gap in my knowledge when it comes to American literature and culture. I know a lot about certain time periods and have read a lot from certain literary groups, but I want to have a broader knowledge of American literature. As I am specialising in twentieth and twenty-first century American literature, I want to read some key texts so I can understand the references the authors I read make. I want to read at least one pre-1900 text, a Toni Morrison novel, and a Steinbeck novel. I need to make a list of work I would like to read. If any one has any suggestions, I would love to hear them!

Anyway, those are my goals for the new year. I think I can achieve these goals but I do think a couple of them will be carried into 2019.

In January I will post my top books of 2017. I have a list drafted but I am waiting because if I finish the book I am currently reading, it will make the list. I’m not sure if I will finish it before January 1st but fingers crossed!

If you have any reading goals planned for next year, I would love to hear them!

Books I have no time to read.

A little life update: I have moved to a different city, I have moved to a new university, and I am now doing a Masters degree. The only way to describe the step-up to Masters level is by saying it is like getting hit by a bus and then multiple buses and a train drive over you and then a plane lands on you. It’s a massive jump.

I did not bring many pleasure reading books to university with me because I knew I would have no time. A part of me secretly hoped I could slowly read a chapter a night of a book for pleasure and get through my little pile. That is not going to happen.

I brought five books to university with me that I hoped to read at some point. They are staring at me on my shelf and I know I cannot read them but I am excited about these books so I’m going to talk about them here.


1. Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison.

Probably the book I am most excited for. Invisible Man is an existential novel about an unnamed black man and his battle with being invisible in society due to the colour of his skin.

The story follows the narrator through his life as he enters different movements such as the jazz age and the Black Power movement.

If I had the time, I would pick this up right now. I feel like this book is going to be an instant favourite of mine.

2. Doctor Zhivago – Boris Pasternak.

I bought this in a bookshop lock-in because these editions are so beautiful. This is the last Russian classic I have unread on my shelf and I really want to get to it soon.

Set alongside the backdrop of the Russian revolution, Yuri Zhivago is a physician and poet and wrestles with the cruel experience of the new world order and the changes it brings to his life.

Doctor Zhivago was banned in the Soviet Union until 1988. From what I have heard it is going to be a complicated read and I will have to dedicate a lot of time to it.

3. The Age of Reason – Jean-Paul Sartre.

I read Nausea at the beginning of this year and it was brilliant. The Age of Reason is an existential novel following a Parisian philosophy teacher through the cafes and bars of Montparnasse over two days in the summer of 1938.

Sartre deals with the concept of freedom as the ultimate aim of human existence in this novel .  I love existential literature and cannot wait to pick up another Sartre book.

4. Compass – Mathias Enard.

Fitzcarraldo Editions is an independent publisher of translated contemporary fiction and essays. I love the simplicity of the covers – blue for fiction and white for nonfiction. Compass was shortlisted for the International Man Booker Prize in 2017.

Compass is about Franz Ritter, who is an insomniac musicologist, and one night he takes to his sickbed and drifts in and out of dreams and memories. He thinks about his fascination with the Middle East and, to quote the plot synopsis, his mind is occupied with “various writers, artists, musicians, academics, orientalists, and explorers”.

The novel appears to deal with dense and philosophical material and is told in a stream-of-consciousness narrative. I have a feeling it is going to be a difficult read.

5. Go – John Clellon Holmes.

Go is described as the first novel to depict the Beat Generation. I really do not have much to say about this. Think of anything written by the Beat Generation and it is probably the plot of this book.

I read Allen Ginsberg’s lectures earlier this year and he mentioned John Clellon Holmes’ influence on the literary movement so I’ve had to pick it up.

I have not read these books yet so I cannot form an opinion but I cannot wait to read them. All the books I have left on my to-be-read shelf are quite dense reads (well done, Amy) so I understand they are books I cannot just pick up and read passively.

If you have read any of these books, I would love to know your opinions!

This is just a quick book haul post. Hopefully when I am no longer drowning in uni reading and essays I can write more discussion posts. I really enjoyed writing my Westworld blog post and want to continue that series of blog posts. I have a few drafts analysing some of my favourite films I cannot wait to post. Stay tuned.

The Player Piano: Music in Westworld.

Before I begin, I want to say this article contains spoilers. Please do not read this post if you have not seen Westworld and you do not want any of the plot ruined for you. I discuss some key plot twists.

Westworld is a show rich with philosophical debates, literary allusions, art references, and the discussion of science. All of the areas stated in the previous sentence are large topics the human race tackles – and will continue to tackle – throughout time. What makes Westworld such a revolutionary piece of TV is its many layers. It is a TV show within the sci-fi genre. It is a show about love. A show about villains. About the Renaissance man. About current developments in science. And so much more.

This blog post will focus on how music is used in Westworld. Music is an important element in the show and interweaves tradition with the contemporary. Music is the glue that holds multiple plots together and if the soundtrack for Westworld was not so well thought out, I would argue the show would not be as brilliant as it is.

In general we are reminded that the word heimlich is not unambiguous, but belongs to two sets of ideas, which, without being contradictory, are yet very different: on the one hand it means what is familiar and agreeable, and on the other, what is concealed and kept out of sight. Unheimlich is customarily used, we are told, as the contrary only of the first signification of heimlich and not the second. – Sigmund Freud, The Uncanny.

I want to start with a quote from the father of psychology – Sigmund Freud. The quote above explains the psychological term “the uncanny”. For something to be uncanny, it must make the familiar become unfamiliar and therefore eerie. Westworld plays on this concept insanely well as the soundtrack is full of instrumental songs by famous bands. What is interesting is that the creators have not only chosen popular songs by artists but slightly more obscure pieces that only fans of the bands would probably recognise. If you love Radiohead, you will notice they appear everywhere in this show. If you are a casual Radiohead listener, you will probably be able to pick up the change in music the player piano in the saloon plays from classical to a more contemporary sound.

One of the most iconic scenes in episode one of Westworld is the massacre by Hector and his gang. As the hosts are slaughtered, a familiar tune plays. Eventually you realise it is Paint it Black by The Rolling Stones. A popular song becomes alien due to the orchestral rendition and the added intensity the song carries when paired with this scene. Go and listen to the orchestral version of Paint it Black afterwards and you will find it difficult to disassociate the song with the scene.

Another example is in episode eight when the piano (which is a motif throughout the series) plays Back to Black by Amy Winehouse. As a contemporary audience, most of us will already have a pre-existing relationship with this song. We hear it on the radio when we drive home, it is in the background of adverts on the TV, we have the album on our MP3 players but hearing the song slightly altered (as a piano piece) and in a nineteenth century setting makes the song uncanny. Winehouse’s song juxtaposes the classical music played during the series. Despite not hearing Winehouse’s voice, you as an audience who is familiar with the original song can layer the lyrics onto the scene and relate the words to Mauve’s narrative. This shifts the scene being about a prostitute in the nineteenth century to a being facing contemporary issues.

The alternative versions of modern songs (House of the Rising Sun is haunting) work as signifiers to automatically grasp the audiences attention. Shifting the music to the unfamiliar familiar causes active viewing during key scenes, such as Mauve’s epiphany in the scene above. It emphasises the complexity of the show that it is not simply a period drama, or a sci-fi, or a hybrid of the two genres. Just like the timeline of the show, the music allows the show to float in time and space to create a sense of uncertainty of what is actually happening and where we actually are in both the story’s timeline.

Now for the big spoiler.

The two examples of modern music I have mentioned in this post contain the world “black” in the title. Analyse the lyrics and names of multiple songs on the soundtrack and a lot of imagery about darkness and night will become evident. Of course, this links to the idea of dreams – which are vital to the plot of Westworld and deserve another blog post entirely dedicated to them – but the repetition of darkness alludes to the big reveal in episode ten.

We follow Black Hat (played by Ed Harris) throughout the park in season one and only really know he wants to find a deeper story-line to the park. Episode ten reveals Black Hat is William and making the theme of darkness even more significant. Again, an entire blog post needs to be dedicated to this plot twist.

This is just a brief analysis of music in Westworld. I could say a lot more about the use of Radiohead in the series or the use of classical music, but I wanted this to be a brief introduction to the contemporary music in the series. The music in Westworld definitely acts as a glue to keep the layers of the show together and allow complex ideas to be played with.

I am planning on making this the first post in an ongoing series about Westworld. It is such a complex show and has plenty of themes to analyse. I particularly want to talk about the use of clothing in the show. Let me know if you would be interesting in reading that!


Post-Truth: a response.

Welcome to the Post-Truth era, where facts no longer matter and emotion rules. Since 2016 the word post-truth has been an increasingly fashionable word littering online and print media.

The book mainly focuses on Brexit and Trump’s inauguration and also touches on legitimising conspiracy theories. D’Ancona discusses how the right-wing and extremist views on both sides of the political spectrum have become favourable. Emotion has a higher importance than facts. The Remain party in the UK Referendum in 2016  had all of the cold hard facts, but the word we should focus on is ‘cold’. The Leave party pulled on people’s emotions and that ultimately swung the vote despite the facts being questionable.

Slogans such as ‘Take Back Control’ and ‘Make American Great Again’ may have won votes, but are also insultingly hollow.

What does it mean to ‘take back control’? Control of what? The statement is vague and lacks a foundation. It means something different to each individual reading or hearing the statement. Maybe that’s why these statements won votes because they are attractive to a wide range of people yet it fails to give them a common, physical goal. Everything is abstract and up for debate. But that can be discussed after the party wins, of course.

Who needs university education when search engines have all the answers? D’Ancona discusses the idea of the ‘University of Google’ and how anyone can be so called educated on a matter because they searched it on the internet. The issue with relying on Google is all information is available at the click of a button, despite how factual it is. People want quick answers to questions and the top result is not necessarily the most informed webpage.

Using search engines must be treated like writing an essay for university. You would not use an article that was not academic to back up your argument; you would read articles from popular people in the field of research and check if the article had been peer-reviewed. Information from the internet should be treated the same way. Even when a breaking news story occurs. Check multiple sources and find the overlapping information from each website to find the difference between fact and fiction in these pieces.

Although it takes more time, it is the best way to filter out opinions. Reading widely reduces the censorship of information from a certain news source. News can be biased. Feeding the audience only certain information can manipulate an individual’s outlook to see an opinion as fact. With institutes putting research behind paywalls and the elitism of academia, it is difficult to receive facts on current issues such as how much Brexit will cost.

In saying many important academic articles are behind paywalls, or not accessible for many people, it does not mean to say the content is correct. It is very easy to be convinced by a charismatic speaker, take for example the popular extreme right-wing Youtubers, and facts without sources. Despite your education, any one can be fooled by what they read. Conspiracy theories in the past couple of years seem more convincing as the world becomes more absurd. A conspiracy theory can explain the strange occurences and give logic behind random acts. Matthew d’Ancona highlights holocaust deniers and the whole developed conspiracy theory behind the holocaust. They ignore facts and try and find a logic explanation behind an absurd events – and it seems the only answer is to deny the horrifying event in human history actually happened. It is sickening and insulting but some highly educated people believe this theory. With the world seeming stranger as the days go by, it is important to understand the absurdity of life and not everything has a logical explanation. Donald Trump is not a lizard (even though I sometimes struggle to believe that).

Overall d’Ancona’s book was a very interesting read in this current political climate. I would like to remain optimistic and hopefully return to this book in a decade’s time and see this as a beacon of hope and that we overcome ‘post-truth’. For now, we must watch the situation unfold and remain alert and active in our political interests.

For more information about resisting conspiracy theories, watch School of Life’s video:

Chavs by Owen Jones: A response. 

“A surge of right-wing populism, mass political alienation, cynicism and apathy could have devastating consequences for British democracy. It is not just the future of the working class at stake.” – Owen Jones

Before picking up this book, I knew it was going to be a struggle to read. Coming from a very working-class town, I am more than familiar with the chav stereotype. I read Chavs with two of my friends, Rachel and Lauren, and we all seem to feel the same political rage when we read each line of the book. 

Middlesbrough was crowned the worst place to live in an infamous episode of Location Location Location in 2007. In 2016 we were the worst place to live if you are a girl. Discouraging figures; yet where is the influx of support and finance to improve the town?

Both studies failed to highlight the growth the town is going through. It failed to mention the North does not seem to exist past Leeds. The 2016 study failed to acknowledge the achievements of women from Teesside. The girls who get into university, become scientists, run a business, learn a trade, finish school…the list is endless. Of course there are many alarming issues that need to be addressed but the media points the finger at the wrong people. How can you change your community when you barely exist in the eyes of the government?

Jones highlights the sheer inequality working class Britain face from middle and upper-class politicians. The class system apparently no longer exists yet we should all aspire to be middle class. We should laugh at the idea of council estates and assume everyone who lives on them is Vicky Pollard. 

The media’s portrayal of working-class communities is one of the most alarming and disturbing. Jones explores Shameless, Little Britain‘s Vicky Pollard, and Catherine Tate’s comedy sketches. I noticed in these programmes the aim is to laugh at you and not with you. As a working-class person laughs at the ridiculous caricatures, they remain oblivious to the mocking value these characters actually represent. 

Taking the case study of Middlesbrough, Top Gear visited the town to test if cars in an art gallery would attract more attention than the actually art. Instead of focusing on the art gallery’s assets, the show filmed a long ‘humourous’ piece where Richard Hammond is shouting people for directions by saying “excuse me, you in the tracksuit bottoms” multiple times. The show became less about cars and more about poking fun at the working-class or “chav” culture. As everyone in the film wore tracksuit bottoms, that seemed like plenty of evidence to suggest everyone in the town wears track suits as uniform. 

The working-class are essentially “poverty porn”. The endless amount of programmes about people on benefits suggests no working class person has or wants a job. Shows like these help fuel hatred and further alienate a class of people. 

“Rise, like lions after slumber

In unvanquishable number!

Shake your chains to earth like dew

Which in sleep had fallen on you:

Ye are many – they are few!” – Percy Bysshe Shelley

Conditions of the working-class are often compared to nineteenth century work houses in both the book and in current media. The fairly recent Sports Direct scandal was often described as a Dickensian work setting. Jones mentions how the working class are censored out of novels and if they appear in a nineteenth century novel they are usually caricatures. Although this statement is true to an extent, I want to acknowledge the works of Elizabeth Gaskell, George Gissing, and several of the Romantics. Many nineteenth century authors cared about the portrayal of class. George Gissing’s The Nether World is a glum account of working class living – arguably too tragic – but it attempts to highlight the harsh conditions people have to face to make ends meet. Gaskell’s Mary Barton takes place in working class Manchester. The romance plot overtakes the political plot at the end of the novel; however, Gaskell does give some of her working class characters the happy ending of a society figure in a typical romance novel. The issue is not authors creating two-dimensional working class characters, but those voices being silenced from the literary canon created by middle to upper-class critics. 

Moving away from media portrayals, Owen addresses the pay gap and how the loss of jobs make living near impossible. Job insecurity causes multiple issues from affording the rent, whether or not you can have a holiday, and the food your children eat. If fast food costs less than organic food and you have barely any money, you would feed your children the fast food. In some cases this can lead to obesity and other health issues but this is not due to laziness from the parent. Money, or lack of it, is at the centre of these issues. 

With wages not being enough to live off and the introduction of shop apprenticeships so individuals can be paid even less, the future looks bleak for the working class. It is difficult not to get angry when reading this text as you realise this “middle class utopia” is actually difficult to reach for many. Instead of allowing people a better quality of living – and by that I mean afford to run a family and have a bit of money to spare – they are mocked for not affording middle class lifestyles. 

Even since Jones’ 2016 preface, the political climate of the UK has changed rapidly. Since Brexit, the world has seen Trump’s inauguration and the rise of far-right parties across Europe. As mentioned in Chavs, the far-right seems appealing to some of the working class because it supposedly addresses them. Take UKIP supporters in the 2015 elections. The news showed Nigel Farage having a pint in a pub but that doesn’t make him “one of us”. He is using the working class as a stepping stone to get where he wants. 

This was an amazing read and I could talk about the issues it addresses for days. 

We are thinking of creating a political book club if you would like to join. I’ll leave the details below when the group is set up. 

Follow Rachel:

Twitter- @rachelatkin_

YouTube – Rachel Louise Atkin

Blog –

Follow Lauren:

Twitter – @Cooks_Books_

YouTube – Cook’s Books

Consumerism and Arcade Fire’s Everything Now.

The darkness of the modern age engulfs Arcade Fire’s music. Their latest album, Everything Now, seems dystopian – but it’s not. Everything Now presents a cold, hard look at the twenty-first century Western consumerist ideology. 

The first song, and album’s title, ‘Everything Now’ lays out the agenda for the upcoming tracks. ‘Everything Now’ has an upbeat tone but makes for an uneasy listen as the lyrics emphasise the need for consumption. The lyrics describe a world full to the brim. Our minds are landfill as we store too much information: ‘and every song  that I’ve ever heard is playing at the same time it’s absurd’. Everything is one click away and information is available 24/7. We ‘can’t live without’ it. 

The ‘cool kids’ of ‘Signs of Life’ echo the rebellious youths of a Godard film yet they ‘[spend their lives] waiting in line’ and become prisoners of capitalism. If you cannot fight the system, you must escape the system. 

Instead of celebrating a youthful state of being, ‘Peter Pan’ stresses the need to escape the ‘American Dream’. If the uncertainty of what the American Dream is representing adulthood, Peter and Wendy must fly away and find a new destiny. 

Youthful pessimism looms over media language. Arcade Fire observe the toxic storylines of the ideal lifestyle presented in media and show the nasty consequence of that language in ‘Creature Comfort’ and ‘Good God Damn’. The girl filling up the bathtub in both of these songs screams ‘God make me famous. If you can’t just make it painless’. The band write about a very upsetting matter yet highlight the damage media can have on mental health. 

Although portraying touching messages, the lyrics have been marked as simplistic by some fans. However that is an ill-informed argument to make as the repetitive lyrics resemble two things: the pattern of product placement and punk. It is ironic as the two ideas should be on opposite ends of the spectrum. The track ‘Infinite Content’ is short, catchy, and repetitive. It would fit alongside a Ramones song, who represent a transgression from societal norms, therefore Arcade Fire place themselves in the punk philosophy. In contrast the repetition also nods to the constant stream of advertisements surrounding us in the hope we will be brainwashed to buy a product we do not need. 

‘Infinite Content’ and ‘Infinite_Content’ are identical songs and the album has three versions of ‘Everything Now’. Some fans found this lazy when, in fact, it is genius. We are the fools for buying the album with duplicates of the same track. 

The entire campaign for the album has been incredibly meta – from the band spreading fake news about themselves to the Russian spambot account. The Everything Now encorp account managing the band and their merchandise and even creating dress codes for gigs. There’s multiple album covers depending on where you are in the world and they are all slightly different. There’s even a £100+ fidget spinner you can buy. Although it is all one big joke, people are buying all of this stuff. 

Purchasing the album is an act of ‘pledg[ing] allegiance to Everything Now’. I picked up my copy after work and received a free ‘Everything  Now’ tote bag. Wearing that bag makes me a walking advertisement. Handing over my money, I felt foolish as I am the message of the album – and so are you. ‘I need it. I want it. I can’t live without’. I bought it on the day of release as I didn’t want to preorder in case my copy didn’t arrive on time. It’s absurd. 

This album is a work of genius. It’s message extends from the record into the wider world. Out of all of Arcade Fire’s albums to date, this one teaches us the most about ourselves and how we absorb our surroundings.