How has your 2021 been? We’re nearly a sixth of the way through the year and I guess that for most, there hasn’t been much of a difference from 2020? Here in the U.K. we’re still in lockdown, not able to see friends and family and not able to go to pubs, restaurants or non-essential shops. At least, there’s light at the end of the tunnel with an effective vaccine rollout and a plan that suggests we could be back having festivals in fields by the summer. We cling to that in the knowledge that we’ve had false dawns before.
“This year I was gunna get my shit together, Now I’m tryin’ stay alive hoping 21 is better.”
That’s a line sung in Natalie Gelman’s perky earworm of a pop song, 2020. In it, with humour, style and grace, Natalie chronicles some of the tough things that happened last year but looks forward to this with a slightly more positive spirit. I check in with Natalie and ask if 2021 is currently living up to expectation.
“It’s crazy to think how quickly this year has been going and that we’re already 2 months in.“, she says. “I’m starting to feel more hopeful this year than I did as 2020 ended. Personally, I feel like I hit a wall at the beginning of this year as the lockdowns got stricter and politics in the states turned really ugly when the capital was stormed.”
Natalie tells me that she’s been writing a lot and has written her first original song on a kalimba. She’s also got plans on the horizon.
“This summer I’ll be releasing a full length album with an indie label. I’m working with them to explore how we can work with things as they are and safely do concerts that fall outside the norms. I love to play and miss touring so much so it feels good to figure out ways to make the connection at online, drive in or micro house concerts.”
Natalie seems pretty sorted. She’s got a decent stash of loo roll anyway. Anybody who can write a fun rhyming couplet admonishing those people who’re unable to fathom how to properly wear a mask is OK with me. And the future song on the kalimba sounds like something to wait up for.
As we hurtle towards another blank 2021 weekend, happy Friday all.
I tend to keep it very quiet but I was once a full-on born-again Christian. During my teenage years, whilst friends got high and stole cars, I chose to read my bible and to organise impromptu prayer meetings in the school library. I had it bad; speaking in tongues and getting slain in the spirit was my drug of choice. Every slight distraction from that path was the temptation of the devil.
It was never going to end well. A fundamentalist faith doesn’t sit well with a liberal outlook and I became increasingly conflicted. On the one hand, the Church was telling me that homosexuality is an abhorrent sin and yet I couldn’t quite reconcile that with the sense that my gay friends were the coolest and kindest people I knew. The church was governed by a set of male elders whilst women did the childcare, played the piano sweetly and made the sandwiches and tea after the services. I would have done anything to listen to a women preach but to suggest such craziness would have been derided; this church was not a place where the apple cart should be upset. Talking of apples, some of the elders seemed to delight in the fact that Eve was the temptress.
I know that not all Christian faith is as wildly right-wing as the one that I landed in. But the net result is that I have no faith now, just a language of love that includes everyone with no preconceived notions.
And that seems to be the place that Ryne Meadow has settled upon as well. Raised in a southern baptist background, Ryne has clearly been on a spiritual journey. A gay man, he must have felt confused, sidelined and denounced as he came (out) to the judgements stemming from modern-day evangelicals. In today’s glorious Sonic Breakfast tune, Ryne reclaims his power by contemplating that judgement. With soulful voice and intense intent, Judgement is a passionate plea for the personal to be considered over and above any organised religion. It’s a tune that sparkles with class as it meanders towards a thrilling climax. And it marks Ryne out as a real talent to watch.
You only have to look at the events in Washington over the past few days to see how dangerous it can be to follow a set of beliefs so wholeheartedly that you somehow lose your own critical faculty in the process.
As relationships go, my time with AMBER could hardly have been considered a rip-roaring success. Over before it really began, this was one of those long-distance affairs that promised much but delivered little. We didn’t agree on much politically but tried hard to make it work as we glossed over our obvious differences. Things petered out within the space of a few sad months and we moved on to better things before the Summer was done.
It might then be odd and a bit niche if I was now, after all of these years, writing a blog post about that relationship. But, as VíB are quick to point out in the press release to their song ‘AMBER’, “Often times when people hear “AMBER” they think it’s about a women, but AMBER is a metaphor for whatever your vice is.”
They add, “Sometimes too much of a food thing isn’t good anymore. Just because it’s good to you doesn’t mean it’s good for you. That is AMBER.”
Lockdown has been good in so many ways but my waistline has noticeably suffered. Never blessed with the thinnest of frames, it turns out that the combination of bread, chocolate, crisps, cheese and wine is not a sensible one if I want to avoid weight gain. Tie that in with the more sedentary lifestyle that working from home brings and the fact that the fridge is only ever a short walk away and trouble is brewing.
VÍB’s AMBER is a fantastic, soulful song of despair and temptation. You feel the guilt as the singer gives ways to his addiction and orders another portion, gram, dose, glass or batch. You can’t help but relate as you eat your cheese and biscuits for supper and drink one more glass of wine before bed. You catch a glimpse of your side profile in the shadows and reflections as you waddle off for a night’s sleep and resolve that tomorrow is the day when your new life begins, a plan easily forgotten when the new day dawns.
VÍB are planning for new releases in 2021 – and it turns out that so am I.