Rekindling my love for music.

Since the age of twelve I’ve always identified as a music lover. I struggled with the transition from primary school to secondary school and the thing that got me through it was discovering music. My favourite past time was reading music magazines to discover new bands.

Two days after my fourteenth birthday I went to my first concert. A couple of months ago I went to watch a band at the venue of my first ever gig and it filled me with so much nostalgia. I went to a lot of gigs as a teenager and saw a lot of bands I admired at the time.

At seventeen I landed a volunteering job at a music venue and by eighteen I was attending at least one gig a week. Listening to my local music scene expanded my musical horizons (and also got me really weirdly into psychedelic rock) and I felt like music defined me. People knew me as that girl who went to gigs, worked at a music venue, and knew a lot about bands.

For various reasons – mainly my poor work-life balance – I stopped making the effort to search for new bands. In college I listened to a few artists who I didn’t really love but felt like I had to like more than what I did. I still have CDs I bought when in 2013 of people who I know I was never fully ‘digged’. Some of those bands I’ve have learned to love, for example after seeing Swim Deep support Wolf Alice in 2016 I decided to dust off their debut album.

It soon got to the point where I stopped giving bands the chance and was overly critical. I would think ‘yeah, but they just sound like Arctic Monkeys’ or ‘they sound like five other bands on the scene right now’. In reality this has always been the case no matter what time period we are talking about, but for some reason I was allowing that to be a valid excuse not to listen to new music. I was so bored and this mindset has taken me three years to get out of.

Last year I watched a documentary about Andy Warhol and an entire section of it was dedicated to The Velvet Underground. I had listened to The Velvet Underground before but for some reason the beginning of ‘Venus in Furs’ enchanted me and I felt like a door had been opened. For months I would only listen to Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, The Kinks, The Beatles – basically any revolutionary artist of the 1960s/1970s. I was reading rock memoirs and rediscovered my love for 90s grunge and delved into the world of Riot Grrrl. Part of the reason I am writing my dissertation on Allen Ginsberg and Patti Smith (besides them being incredible) is because of this epiphany. I’ve even shocked myself by not writing on Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, but when picking my dissertation topic I knew I needed something to inspire me the way The Velvet Underground did. As cheesy as it sounds, there has not been a moment during the writing of my dissertation where I have no been excited. A nod to the music scene Ginsberg and Smith were involved with kinda runs throughout my dissertation. I had already found myself in literature thanks to Dorian Gray, but I was still trying to relocate myself in music and Ginsberg and Smith have become my mentors.

It’s all well and good listening to the greats of the twentieth century, but what about the up and coming artists? I still wasn’t there. I managed to come back to the first decade of the twenty-first century. I am always going to embrace my emo roots and scream the lyrics of Taking Back Sunday, Panic at the Disco, and Weezer at the top of my lungs. Teenage Dirtbag is still my jam at £1 a pint on Saturdays. I’m nostalgic for Phantom Planet and Motion City Soundtrack like I’m in a 2005 time warp. I proudly wear my indie band t-shirts pretty much every day and have a classic 2000-2008 indie playlist on Spotify. The Vaccines, Two Door Cinema Club, Foster the People and my absolute loves The Black Keys are the soundtrack to 2012 and leaving school. Peace, Swim Deep, and Tame Impala made the cut to document my college days. Wolf Alice were the only ‘new’ band I listened to during my first year of uni.

Discovering The Big Moon almost a year ago has really helped me discover new music. I am obsessed with them and cannot wait for their debut album to be released in April. Here’s a sample of their music:

For the first time in years I was really excited about new music. I have bought every single they have released, which is something I never used to do.

Listening to The Big Moon motivated me to check out more bands. I started to listen to the bands the musicians I liked where listening to. If I saw a celebrity I like on Instagram (usually someone from Alexa Chung’s circle because in my head it is still 2011) was at a gig, I would check that band out online.

So, getting to the point of this post, I think I’m cured and out of my rut. I can say I love music again! For ages I have felt like an impostor of my own identity because I didn’t really live up to the title of ‘liking music enough’. It pained me hearing people ask me why I wasn’t as interested in listening to new music like I used to be. Taking a step backwards and going to the roots of bands that inspired me when I was 14 perpetuated me forward to find my favourite bands of 2017.

There was absolutely no point to this blog post but I haven’t posted in a while and wanted to document the return of my enthusiasm. I am currently drafting a post about journaling and how to journal which should have more of a purpose.

 

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Self-care and education.

This is my fourth draft of this post. Let’s see if I publish it.

When I hit certain points during my time as a student I panic and think I have to do all the things. I did just that in my final year of college by doing two casual jobs and several volunteering jobs alongside my education. It’s crazy, I know. I said I’m never doing that much again because it was draining and my grades and happiness suffered. I juggled too many tasks just to feel like I was ‘enough’.

During my first year of university I decided to never do that again and just focus on my education and work during my long breaks off. That worked for two years. Now it’s third year and I am doing the thing I said I should stop doing – overworking. Maybe it’s a fear of not doing enough with my time and a fear of regretting not saying yes to opportunities. Maybe I do not want to look back on my time as a student and think “I wish I was involved in more extra curricular activities”.

I carefully planned my summer to try and make third year as stress free as possible. I moved back home and worked at my old job. I organised my research for my dissertation and read the books I was studying for the upcoming semester. I was incredibly lucky and volunteered in the Lake District at an organisation relevant to my degree. Surely that is more than enough, right? Apparently not.

As soon as September arrived I was applying for every job I saw advertised and applying for volunteering jobs. I freaked out and decided I needed to do everything this year. I knew this was a silly idea but I justified it by saying I would only work for a short period of time then I can chill in semester two and just focus on my studies and applying for postgraduate courses. It’s semester two and that has not happened. I have managed to burn out before my classes have even started and it is inevitable it will happen again at some point during the semester.

I think writing all of this down will help as a reminder to stop overworking and prioritise what is important to me, which at the moment is my degree.

This is what I want to do:

  • Take breaks. It sounds really simple but I actually struggle to do this. This year I am not allowing myself to eat and work. If I am eating my lunch or my tea, I have to stop working.
  • Only work between certain times of the day. This is something I will have to work on and I know I cannot always stick to it if I have a lot of deadlines. I want to try and work during reasonable hours and after a certain point stop and leave work for the day. I have a bad habit of working long hours when I do not need to and it does not benefit me in any way. Although I finish the day thinking I can relax more the next day, I still do the same amount of work the next day regardless. Setting my self a time frame might help me complete tasks quicker and more efficiently.
  • Do a few things well rather than many things poorly. Another one I really need to work on. This year I need to prioritise what matters the most and what makes me happy. Basically, I need to be brave and say no to opportunities I know I do not have the time to do.
  • Stay Organised. I’m pretty good at this and want to keep it up. I bought an hour-by-hour journal to organise my days and it is really helpful. I dedicate certain times for certain tasks, for example one afternoon I will only work on my dissertation and another I will only work on the seminar prep for one of my modules. This has stopped me from being overwhelmed by all the things I have to do.
  • Write a list of my achievements that day. I always feel guilty if I haven’t been productive. I want to write lists of what I have done to stop me feeling guilty when I try to relax. Even if it is just cleaning the house or sending an email, I am still being productive.

I know a lot of people worry about trying to get enough work done during the day and I hope this list can be a reminder not to burn out. I think it’s easy to convince yourself to try and complete every task at once but it is not realistic. It is important to manage your time and make room for relaxation.

 

 

 

Reading goals for 2017.

I thought I would start the year off with planning out my reading habits for 2017. I normally write a small list in my journal of the books I want to read in the year, but this year my list is planned out in a slightly different way. Last year I made a list of 14 books but I purposefully did not complete the list. I can be a bit of a perfectionist so I made the effort not to read everything on my list so I could learn to deal with not completing a task. The list I have created this year may be slightly ambitious because I am about to enter my final semester of my undergraduate degree and (hopefully!!!) start a MA at the end of the year. However, I hope I do not tick everything off this list this year because I want to work on being less of a perfectionist.

Last year I read more poetry, memoirs, and Russian literature which I was really pleased with. I also read a lot of large books (500+ pages) which I am really proud of because the average book I would read would usually be about 280 pages. I also used audiobooks more and borrowed from the local library.

This year, along with my other goals, I want to use the university library more for pleasure read books. I wouldn’t say I am a person who buys lots of books, but I want to make sure I limit my spending when it comes to book buying. Unless it is a book I really want to own, I am going to use the library instead. Anyway, here are my reading resolutions:

1. Read three Shakespeare plays.

The last time Shakespeare play I read was The Tempest when I was in college. I did have to read it again for my first year at university, but I cheated and didn’t because I know the text backwards.

Considering I am a literature student, I am embarrassed to say I haven’t read many Shakespeare plays and I want to change that. This year I want to read one Shakespearean comedy, one tragedy, and one historical play.

2. Read five new plays.

The only play I read in 2016 was Harry Potter and the Cursed Child so this year I want to try harder and read five plays. I have already read A Streetcar Named Desire this year, but I am not counting that because I want to try some plays I have not read before. If any one has any recommendations, that would be great!

3. Read 2/3 of the books I own but have not read.

Over Christmas I counted the books I own but have not read and thankfully the number wasn’t ridiculous. Since moving to university and living in a city with amazing secondhand bookshops, I have acquired quite a number of books because they are cheap so I buy them before I never see them again. There are some books on my shelf I really want to read this year, such as: The Little Friend by Donna Tartt, Persuasion by Jane Austen, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, and I, Claudius by Robert Graves because I have owned those books for a couple of years and have not read them. I also own Richard Ellmann’s biography of Oscar Wilde which I want to finally get to this year. I have written all the books down in my notebook and hopefully I will cross a lot off this year.

4. Read a Dickens novel.

I have only read A Christmas Carol and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and I really wasn’t a fan. I remember downloading Great Expectations on a reading app on my phone when I was 15 and it took me a year to read because I really did not enjoy it and I would stop reading it to do other things. I was resilient and eventually finished the novel but I decided I did not like Dickens. At the time I was new to classics and wasn’t used to the writing style of nineteenth-century novels. Now with a broader insight to literature, maybe my opinion will change. I think I might Oliver Twist or Hard Times. 

5. Read more ancient classics.

I’ve wanted to do this for some time. When I was little I loved Greek mythology but over the years I have forgotten most of it. One of the first texts I read at university was Ovid’s Metamorphoses and I loved it. I want to try and read more Greek and Roman myths so I can understand references in more modern books. This goal could tie in with my aim to read more plays this year, but I do want to read a diverse range of plays and not just several from one literary movement. Again, any suggestions of what to read would be most welcome!

6. Read Les Misérables by Victor Hugo.

Every year since I was 15 I said I would read this book and every year I fail to do so. I will read this in 2017. This is the one goal I must complete because it has been nearly six years since I said I will read it. I read War and Peace last summer so I am hyped and I am going to do this. I’m going to find myself a copy with a readable font and a good translation and hopefully that will encourage me to finally read it.

I will stop my list there. I feel like a lot of the stuff on my list are things I should have already read so this year I want to tick some off. With saying that, I do not want to restrict myself just to this list. Last year I gained an interest in late twentieth-century American fiction so I read a lot from that time period so I strayed away from my list.

Currently I am reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara and re-reading The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. After A Little Life I am going to concentrate on my course books and then hopefully find some time in the semester to tick off some of my reading goals!

 

My Top 5 Books of 2016.

If you asked me at the beginning of the year what my 10 favourite books are, I could only rank 3 in definite order (for the record they are: The Picture of Dorian Gray, Brighton Rock, and Submarine). Any book after third place was just randomly placed on the list with little thought put into why it was in said place. This year I have read several books that have really struck a chord with me and now hold firm positions in my top 10 list. In this post I have selected five highlights of 2016.

1. The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov.

 

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This is my book of the year and has knocked Brighton Rock from second place (sorry, Graham Greene). It would probably make more sense to put this at the bottom of the list and build up anticipation but I didn’t do that because I did not plan this at all.

The Master and Margarita is set in Soviet Moscow, where God is not present but the Devil very much walks the streets. Without saying too much, Ivan Ponyryov (Bezdomny) is an aspiring poet and witnesses a horrific event which leads him to meet the Master. Bezdomny hears the Master’s story of his interactions with the devil and his relationship with Margarita.

The novel is full of magic and is completely surreal. At times I wasn’t sure if what I was reading was actually happening to the characters or an illusion. As there are a couple of different story lines happening at once, it does take a couple of chapters to get used to the changing scenes and characters but it makes perfect sense when you can see the connections between plots. It is a piece of magic realism, to an extent, and that made it memorable. The witches, the religious imagery, the intertwining of narratives – I was immersed in this world. I think this is a book everyone should read.

2. Perfume – Patrick Süskind.20161223_135641

After finishing this novel I had to put it down and contemplate what on earth I had just read. This book is so ridiculously twisted and messed up and weird. The last chapter is so strange but amazing.

Set in eighteenth-century France, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with the exceptional sense of smell. He becomes a perfumer and is on the search for the perfect scent. On his quest for the ultimate perfume, Grenouille goes on a murder spree. The narrative is poetic and absolutely beautiful.

I would recommend not eating when reading this, because it did make me feel slightly sick, but it is brilliant.

3. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy.

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Okay, so when I was 17 I remember saying I would never read War & Peace. After watching the most recent BBC series of War & Peace I was disappointed that I had not read it sooner. I’ve always known a very basic outline of the plot, but I didn’t realise how interesting it was. After watching the series I instantly bought the book.
I think I have read it at the right time with the series still fresh in my memory because it has made it easier for me to visualise characters. I love Pierre with all my heart and the characters are so complex and gripping. They take you on a roller coaster ride of emotions as you follow their stories through the years. Watching Natasha grow from a 13 year old girl to a young woman makes you feel like a proud mother.
What put me off this book before (besides the size of it) was the great sections of war narrative but I actually quite enjoyed those parts.
The ending was a little bit off. I have heard how people have said ignore the epilogue. I liked part one of the epilogue because it rounded everything off but part two took a philosophical turn as Tolstoy writes critically about history and historical events. Although I understand why he wrote it, I think it would’ve been better as a sort of afterword or appendix separate to the epilogue.
Anyway, I’m glad I read it. Everyone should read it. If you enjoyed an adaptation, read it! You will love the book!

4. A Brief History of Seven Killings – Marlon James.

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I did not want this book to end. In my head this was like a multi-million dollar, decade long, award winning HBO show which would bring every one together to discuss. It is amazing.

Taking place over several decades, James takes us from the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in 1976 to New York in the 1980s to Jamaica in the 1990s. Before the novel begins, like War and Peace, there is a character list and throughout the novel different narrative voices interweave with each other to create a bigger picture. The narrative was haunting and I came away from this novel learning something new. I did not know much about the attempted assassination of Bob Marley or the politics of Jamaica but I couldn’t help but research alongside reading the book and wanting to know more.

Marlon James definitely deserved the Man Booker Prize for this because this novel is a masterpiece. I know this is quite a big statement to make, but I do think this is one of the greatest novels of the twenty-first century so far.

5. Moby Dick – Herman Melville.

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Who knew whales could be so interesting? Like War and Peace, I thought I would never read Moby Dick. My friend Rachel read this book and absolutely loved it so I thought I would give it a try and it was a roller coaster ride. Ishmael’s narrative voice is really engaging and I now want to live a life at sea.

Melville’s writing is an absolute work of art. The plot is incredible and I loved the chapters on whales in art and literature. I was originally cautious of reading Moby Dick because I thought it would be boring but nope I’m invested. It’s a book I want to read again and again.

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Other books I loved this year were: Just Kids by Patti Smith, The Outsider by Albert Camus, Stoner by John Williams, and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, to name a few more. I hope I find even more amazing books to read in 2017!

In 2017 I want to read all my unread books on my bookshelf. Excluding the books for my university modules, I have 23 books to read which I think I can do. I’ve owned I, Claudius and Howards End for too long and not read them it’s embarrassing.

The Body Extended: Sculpture and Prosthetics.

When is the body no longer human, but a machine? The Henry Moore Institute in Leeds exhibited artist works of prosthetics from the nineteenth-century to present-day.henry-moore

My favourite piece in the exhibition is Yael Bartana’s ‘Degenerate Art Lives’ (2010). Bartana’s short film is incredibly unnerving and thought-provoking. The grotesque, disturbing illustrations of soldiers slowly creeping along the screen elongates the feeling of time spent watching the animation. Upon inspection the soldiers look as though they are pieced together like a mosaic. As their limbs move, a mechanical sound can be heard with each movement. Complemented by the sound of the film reel behind the audience, the machine imagery intensifies. The same four characters are replicated hundreds of times and, therefore, lose any form of identity they could possess. This was the last piece I saw in the gallery and I think the build-up of the other pieces made ‘Degenerate Art Lives’ even more powerful. Viewing Horace Nicholls’ photography and Stuart Brisley’s ‘Louise Bourgeois’ Leg’ first built up my understanding of prosthetic work as an art work and Bartana’s work applied what I gained from the previous art pieces I viewed.

The collision between art and science creates an unsettling viewing and has left me deep in thought long after my visit to the institute. Prosthetic work serves as a reminder of World War One and experimentation in a post-Frankenstein world. It is not just art or science, it is history. Prosthetics not only allow us to be more than human, but to feel human again.

The Body Extended: Sculpture and Prosthetics was on until 23rd October 2016 at Henry Moore Institute, Leeds.

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 are 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!