It’s only rock ‘n’ roll (and feminism).

Rock ‘n’ roll and feminism make a beautiful combination. During the 2010’s there has been a rise of the female rock memoir. A lot of the voices being heard are from the latter half of the twentieth-century. As we have praised male musicians for opening up about their careers, it is time to listen to the women of rock and the powerful stories they have to tell the world. I have selected three of my favourite female rock memoirs to inspire you to pick one up.

1. Just Kids – Patti Smith.

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Smith’s memoir is a coming-of-age story showing how difficult it is to make a living as an artist. Just Kids is Smith’s recollection of her time with Robert Mapplethorpe in 1970s New York. Photographs chosen by Patti Smith decorate the entire book, which transports the reader to the Chelsea Hotel and the bohemian lifestyle which came with it.

The thing I love about Just Kids is it’s a social commentary of the era, to an extent. Comparing it to what Andy Warhol writes in Popism and America, Smith’s account of Greenwich Village is life is much grittier and certainly a product of a Warhol world. A passage I find particularly interesting is when she cuts her hair and is asked if she is androgynous. The mid-twentieth -century was a time to explore sexuality and to break down gender binaries. Smith captures this shift in opinions perfectly through this book.

2. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl – Carrie Brownstein.

If you are in your teens or in your twenties, read this now. I read this when it was released last year and it perfectly summed up how I have felt for the last eight years of my life.

In Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, Carrie Brownstein discusses: anxiety, depression, not feeling like you belong and the rollercoaster ride of doing something you love. Even if you are not familiar with Brownstein’s band, Sleater-Kinney, or the Riot Grrrl movement of the 90’s, it is still a story of feminism in a male-dominated environment which is empowering to read. Although there are some issues with punk/post-punk music and diversity, which I would love to talk about in a separate post in the future, it is still an educational read on a major movement in America.

I love Carrie Brownstein, okay?

3. Girl in a Band – Kim Gordon.

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The name of this memoir perfectly sums up what it is like to be a female rock musician. It is so easy for critics to dismiss a woman’s work to just being ‘the girl’ in a band made up predominantly of males. Why should female musicians receive different questions to male musicians? Why ask what it’s like to be a mother in rock? Why is that the only thing that matters?

I did not know that much about Kim Gordon before reading Girl in a Band. I was a casual listener of Sonic Youth but I didn’t know much about them.

Towards the end of the memoir there is a chapter commenting on music performance and the relationship between audience and band in a pre-internet world. This was definitely the highlight of the book and raised some interesting ideas about the musician as an artist in more aspects than just performing songs.

However I found some aspects of this memoir slightly problematic. There was a lot of name-dropping of other musicians which I found uncomfortable to read. That is the only problem I had with this memoir. If Kim didn’t drag some people in her book, I would appreciate it more.

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There are more female music memoirs out there, but the three listed above a personal favourites of mine. Only last year I started reading female rock memoirs and I am confident many more will appear on my book shelves in the future.

The Washington Post published an article in 2015 title’Rise of the female rock memoir and stated,”[t]here is […] generally a different way that women rockers tell stories — with more humility and vulnerability than their male counterparts”. That vulnerability is what makes these books so moving.

To read The Washington Post article in full, follow this link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/music/rise-of-the-female-rock-memoir/2015/09/04/64db029e-5097-11e5-933e-7d06c647a395_story.html

 

 

 

Your existential summer mixtape.

What is a summer holiday without an existential crisis? All this time off certainly gives you time to reflect on what you are doing with your life.

Here’s your existential summer soundtrack you didn’t need:

  1. Spring / Sun / Winter / Dread – Everything Everything.

This song is super catchy and has most of the characteristics you want from a summer song: repetitive, sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs lyrics, poppy drum beat, and a surreal music video. You will catch yourself screaming “I don’t want to get older” along with the band whilst at a party at 2am and freaking out because you are, inevitably, getting older.

2. The Bourne Identity – The Last Shadow Puppets.

This is the bonus track on Everything You’ve Come to Expect and is basically an existential crisis bottled into 3 minutes and 5 seconds. Again, the upbeat aura released from the song, the tambourine in the background,you cannot help but think you are watching the end credits of a rom-com where everything has figured itself out. However if you listen closely to the lyrics, such as,  “I feel like the sequel you want to see but you were kinda hoping they would never make”, you cannot help but relate. Turner’s moments of self-doubt are very human and remind you of your own struggle with identity.

3. Sleep Forever – Black Honey.

Summer is for sleeping. You spend your waking hours wanting to sleep. This song isn’t an ode to sleep, but it does remind me how I want to sleep forever. Sleep is great.

4. Silent Movie Susie – The Big Moon.

Summer is in the song so it qualifies for a summer mixtape. The Big Moon are my favourite new band. Their songs are very tongue-in-cheek and their music videos are fun. Silent Movie Susie about a girl named Susie hopefully coming back for the summer. I cannot recommend this band enough.

5. Celestine – Spector.

Celestine is another reflective track. The guitar throughout, but particularly in the intro to the song, has an 80’s pop vibe which screams Summer.

6. Because the Night – Patti Smith.

This one is a personal one. I’m doing my dissertation on Patti Smith’s poetry (along with other poets) so naturally I am listening to her music. Because the Night is a song you have to scream and dance around your bedroom to because it is so catchy and I do not understand how you cannot dramatically sing to this. However, this song has a place on the playlist because it reminds me of the research I am currently not doing…

7. Glass in the Park – Alex Turner.

I know Alex Turner has already appeared on this playlist, but there’s always time for the Submarine soundtrack. In the film, Lloyd Tate puts this on side A of the mixtape, titled “Celebratory”, to capture the feeling of new, young love. Turner’s melancholic vocals contrast that feeling of innocent love and leave you feeling like there’s something missing from that strong feeling. When listening to Glass in the Park it reminds me of unrequited love, even if that love is a fictional character named Oliver Tate.

8. Feels Like We Only Go Backwards – Tame Impala.

If you haven’t watched the music video to this, go and do it now. It is absolutely mesmerising so you cannot help but self-reflect for 3 minutes and 20 seconds.

9. Mountain at My Gates – Foals.

Undeniably my favourite song from 2015. Foals are amazing. The song is amazing. The music video is incredible. Use the mountains as a terrifying metaphor for the things in life you are avoiding and this song will be your background music when tackling those tasks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. No Hope – The Vaccines.

The entire of Come of Age is a reflection on the transition between teenage life and adult life. No Hope is the anthem for twenty-somethings who have just finished their degree, or about to finish their degree, and now are left with the scary question – now what?

And there you go. I hope you enjoy this playlist!

The fear of falling out of love with reading.

Before I started my degree in English Literature I thought it was not a thing to fall out of love with reading. All of my life I have loved reading. I have always had the motivation to read.

I am lacking the motivation to read.

I’ve read 28 books since handing in my last assignment in May. One of those books was War and Peace. I think I have exhausted myself with the amount of reading I have done. I have my reading list for first semester of third year (scary, I know) and I am excited to read all of the books but I’m struggling to find the motivation to read and analyse them.

Maybe I am struggling to read because I am intimidated by the amount I want to read before September. Maybe I read too much before my reading list was released so now I am tired. Maybe it was a dumb idea to read a 1200 pages book before the 12+ books I need to read for my degree. Maybe I am not giving myself any free time from working so reading now also seems like work.

I wouldn’t say I am falling out of love with reading; I am just tired. There’s books on my bookshelf I am desperate to read but I am not letting myself because I have to prioritise what I read. Seeing my pleasure reads as a reward for finishing my uni books is possibly putting too much pressure on trying to get through them.

How do you recover from a reading slump?

How can you prevent reading feeling like work?

How do you improve motivation levels?

A beginner’s guide to work experience.

This post is aimed at people who are just about to go into the world of work and are looking for work experience to put on UCAs forms. I’ve volunteered and worked, alongside my studies, since leaving secondary school when I was 16 years old. During those 4 years I have learnt a lot about how to get work experience and how to improve my job prospects. Now I’m writing it down here to hopefully help and inspire some young people on where to start with job hunting.

1. Create a CV.

A great place to start is with a CV. Creating the physical document will help you see where the gaps in your knowledge of work are.

There are plenty of CV templates online to download which can help structure your CV and make it stand out.

Start with your contact details. Underneath that section should be your education history, then your work experience, achievements,skills, hobbies, and references. Presumably you have been in education most of your life so as that is you main achievement, that goes before you employment history. Your referee will be your tutor at school, or another teacher who knows you quite well. Alternatively, just write ‘references available upon request’.

It is important to write anything that is true and makes you look good. You like badminton? Write that down in your hobbies section! If you are struggling to add things to your hobbies sections, join an after school club or start a blog or scrapbook.

2. Not all job vacancies are advertised.

Walking around your local town centre and handing out CVs to shops is a good way to get potential employers to notice you. However, it is important to know not all jobs are advertised. Let me elaborate…

3. If you are trying to get work experience for a future career, search for the job you want.

I wanted some experience working in museums so I tried to find vacancies. When I was searching I couldn’t find any jobs going so I emailed museums instead.

Emailing companies with your CV and politely asking if they have any space for you to volunteer or do a work placement is a good way to search for work experience.

I got the placement because I sent an email. The worst that can happen is that they are not accepting job applications at the minute, or they could not reply altogether. It’s not the end of the world.

4. Volunteer.

When I was 16 I found it hard to get a paying job. In fact, I was 19 when I finally got a paying job. Up until that moment, and still now, I would volunteer.

Charity shops and libraries rely on volunteers so asking them if they have any vacancies is a good way to fill up your CV and to learn vital skills needed for working.

If you are writing a personal statement for university, it looks great when you say you spend your free time volunteering.

5. One week of work experience is still work experience.

So you emailed your CV to a company and they let you volunteer there. However they only offered you a week.

A week is still work experience. Put that placement on your CV. You do not have to write on your CV that is was only a week. Emphasise the skills you learnt during your time there and your CV will look amazing.

 

 

 

From the archive: My experience volunteering at a festival.

First published: 30/07/2013

I am slightly off the literature topic, but I feel as though this is important. This year has been the first year I have volunteered at a music festival and I want to document my experience and share it with you all.

For years I have been a music lover and attended local festivals and gigs dreaming of what it would be like to be caught up in the action. Two years ago, I decided I will volunteer at a festival when I was old enough with a friend and enjoy the privilege of a free festival ticket. As part of my current job, I received the opportunity to help out at a festival my work run and it was a great experience.

The days never had a dull moment as I did a variety of jobs ranging from the box office to glass collecting, photocopying to entertaining people and so much more. It was amazing viewing a festival from a different perspective and gaining lots of experience.

On the final night, I was sat on a hill watching the headline act and reviewed my experience. I’ve accomplished something I dreamed of doing and I had so much fun doing it. My advice to anyone who enjoys listening to music or the atmosphere of a festival is volunteer. It is an experience I will never regret and will always remember and I think it is a great opportunity for anyone who can get it.

From the archive: Atonement book review.

First published: 27/06/2014

 

Considered to be one of his best works, Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement highlights the tragedy and harm that comes from lying.

Just a few years before the outbreak of World War Two, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis has finished her debut play titled The Trials of Arabella. While waiting for her older brother and his companions to arrive for a meal in her country house, Briony observes a private act she should not have witnessed. To her shock, Briony sees her sister Cecilia with the family maid’s son, Robbie Turner, next to the garden fountain where Cecilia strips off her clothes and dives into the fountain while Robbie watched. This event changes Briony’s view on the world and ultimately transforms the lives of all the people involved in the fountain affair.

Later that day, Cecilia and Robbie become victims of Briony’s naive, but wild imagination. The young girl holds the power to determine Cecilia and Robbie’s future and spends the rest of her life trying to atone.

McEwan’s novel is split into four sections, which take place in different time periods to emphasise the prolonged effect caused Briony’s vocal mind. Within Part One of the novel, McEwan interestingly changes his narrative voice to several of his characters and presents their perspectives on single events throughout the chapters. Beautifully, the variety of narrative voices intertwine and illuminate the blindness characters may feel when viewing a situation and not knowing all sides of the story.

Atonement was written in 2001, however the scenery and way of life presented at the start of the reminds the reader of an Austen novel. Although to begin with it seems that McEwan may go down an Austenesque route, he modernises the concept by the use of vulgar words that are more fit for contemporary texts and is writer’s craft removes the sameness that could be received from a Nineteenth century novel. McEwan also touches upon World War Two and instead of focusing on the actual battle, he chooses to describe the horrors soldiers went through and the representation of home, which is a refreshing approach in War literature.

Overall, Atonement is a beautiful and tragic novel which can be loved by a variety of age groups. However, it should probably be recommended to a 16+ audience due to its mature content.

From the archive: Palma Violets gig review 2012.

First published: 17/02/2014

I wrote this review for a magazine competition.

Palma Violets

Westgarth social club, Middlesbrough

11/10/12

The Westgarth is home to undiscovered bands before they get big. Tonight one upcoming band kept to the tradition. With an audience of over excited teenagers and curious club regulars, the crowd was spread through a variety of ages. Naturally, the young ones were as close to the stage as they could possibly get creating a claustrophobic atmosphere for the band while the older members of the audience loitered around the bar at the back. After two support bands, Palma Violets hit the stage. Instantly the crowd was electric, everyone connected jumping up and down to every upbeat song they played. Finishing the set with current single “Best of Friends” everyone suddenly went wild resulting in a near disaster involving the stage lights. Palma Violets know how to get a crowd going whether you know all their songs or none at all. 2013 is going to be their year.

Revised note:

17/02/14

I was right, 2013 was their year. On February 25th, the debut album 180 was released and received an amazing 8/10 from NME magazine. As well as praise for their album, they later went on to win an NME award for “Best New Band” and held a comfortable slot on the NME/Radio 1 stage at last year’s Reading & Leeds festival. During Palma Violets album cycle, I went to see them perform at a slightly bigger venue than the Westgarth. The size of the venue was no problem as they easily filled it and the crowd were as electric as the night in 2012. Palma Violets are the live band to go and see. Their spark won’t fizzle out any time soon.