Listening Post #4

by Emily Pratten

I was going to open this fortnight’s Listening Post with yet another comment about the rain, and then noticed that there’s a pattern occurring whereby I insist upon commenting on the weather at least once every time. What can I say, I’m British, it’s in my bones. Moreover, in acknowledging that I always talk about the weather, I am therefore, once again, talking about the weather. Aside from my journalistic skills being called into question, there is some incredible music featured in the Listening Post this time around. Though neither Halloween themed nor pumpkin spiced, there is some really beautiful Autumn listening on offer. As a very damp, considerably cold Exeter gets darker earlier every day, take solace in the fact that Christmas is now only two months away, and warm alcoholic drinks are soon to resurface. Power onwards.

1. Bastille - Torn Apart (vs. Grades)

Just a few days ago Bastille released Torn Apart, a teaser track from their third mixtape, Other People’s Heartache Part Three, and it’s a rocky-electronic masterpiece. Other People’s Heartache has undoubtedly featured some of the band’s best work, in my opinion, and this is no different. Some fans have complained about the electronic nature of this track, which I personally think is ridiculous because it implies Bastille have never ventured into this genre, which is untrue. Those who hopped onto the Bastille bandwagon for Pompeii may be disappointed, but for those who were around for Other People’s Heartache Part 1, there is nothing here but joy. Upbeat and fast paced, frontman Dan sings “We were born to be together”, over an electronic dance track that would not sound out of place playing at 3am in a dark laser filled hole in the ground. It’s catchy and brilliant, and makes me excited to hear what will follow.

2. Talos - Tethered Bones

This is my favourite track on the Listening Post this fortnight. Released a few months ago, Talos’ Tethered Bones came into my life only this week. It’s perfect for Autumn so I am comforted by that. It starts very simply and very slowly, with ticking staccato and stand-alone notes that gradually become more and more involved and intricate. He sings “I’m islands in the sea, I’m tethered to your bones”, and it’s truly beautiful. It’s almost as though The xx, James Blake, and Bon Iver came together to produce this track which builds and fades and builds and fades before finishing strong, all the while accompanied by a soft vocal and heartwarming lyrics. It’s extremely chilled out. It makes me feel like I’m floating on a large body of water, which, as we all know, is the dream.

3. Chvrches - Get Away

New song, Get Away, from Chvrches is owed to the reworking of the Drive soundtrack, the 2011 Ryan Gosling cinematic hit. It’s everything we’ve come to expect from Chvrches without being boring or average or at all monotonous; the Scottish synth trio never fail to disappoint. Featuring a strong synth foundation throughout, layers are added and it becomes textured and atmospheric. Lauren Mayberry’s vocal carries the track onwards gracefully and pointedly: the chorus is very strong. She sings “I will never let you get away” and manages to give the song a raw and emotional element. It’s infectious.

4. Pr0files - Forgive

This is perhaps another one of my personal favourites in this post, and not just because the band followed me on Twitter after I complained about vinyl-related shipping costs. California duo, Pr0files, present us with Forgive; previously heard as an emotionally raw and very moving live demo, this track has become slightly more dressed up in its latest reworking. My first observation is that it is extremely reminiscent of the 80s, so much so that if I heard it on an old dusty vinyl my mother found in the attic I would be not at all surprised. That said, the track remains fresh and edgy - if it isn’t too pretentious to use those words. The vocal is stunning: “And I wonder do you think of me,” is the chorus line that echoes out over a persistent rhythm and slow burning synths. It remains emotionally rich and is ridiculously catchy; it’s at once ballad-like and a pop track. The production is incredibly impressive, and really showcases the upcoming talent of a group that I am certainly very keen to hear more from. When they come to the UK I’m obliged to buy them a drink. It was a Twitter promise.

5. Taylor Swift - Out Of The Woods

Anyone that knows me in person or follows me on Twitter will be well aware of how I feel about this song. Before you turn your nose up at the fact that it’s Taylor Swift, I seriously consider that you give it a listen. It’s such a ridiculously catchy pop song that I’ve been able to sing little else for well over a week. It’s incredibly basic and a snare-like synth and percussion is the backbone of the track. Swift sings slow burning verses that lead into the repeated question “Are we out of the woods yet?”. The movement from the bridge into the final chorus is pop at its finest.

I’m going to take the liberty here of going off on a bit of a tangent to talk about Taylor Swift more generally for a second. Taylor Swift receives such a huge amount of hatred from the music community and from the media as a whole; people remember her as the young girl with the slightly annoying voice who sang that song about that boy and there may have been a horse in the video and oh God, isn’t it just a little bit country. It’s not a masterpiece of a discography, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and more often than not it is certainly not my own. I myself have been very rude about her in the past. However, no one yells at Bruno Mars or Ed Sheeran for singing about their ex-girlfriends, so why should we criticise Taylor for doing what every other artist does by drawing on her own experiences? Swift herself has recently commented on this trend and has said it is a wholly gendered issue.

I personally think that a lot of the hatred towards Swift as an artist is not about her music at all, but rather needless criticism based in sexism. Though having said problematic things in the past, Taylor Swift has recently taken a new turn and is making a conscious effort to be viewed in a new light, using her voice to talk about feminism and women’s rights and signal boost to her audience of largely teenage girls, which I think is an incredibly positive thing. I would endeavor to suggest that Taylor Swift is becoming an extremely good role model. Knowing my luck she will say something very rude or misogynistic next week and this tangent I have run off on will be rather embarrassing. Nonetheless, I think that she has done extremely well in the face of the really quite awful and harsh media scrutiny that she has been bombarded with for years.

I’m not saying that I’m suddenly a huge fan of Swift’s entire discography, and I do think that she is an over-hyped artist a lot of the time. But myself and culture generally need to learn to separate the music from who Taylor Swift is as a person. She has definitely come a long way and, as an objective observer who isn’t invested in her career, even I can see that changes have been made. Growing under the harsh light of celebrity is brutal, and yet Taylor Swift seems to be doing so quite gracefully. She genuinely seems very happy with her new album and looked overjoyed recently performing Out Of The Woods at Jimmy Kimmel Live. She even shut down John Cleese in front of millions of Brits watching the Graham Norton show when he made several misogynistic and sexist comments. Without wishing to be too cliché about it, I think that perhaps Taylor Swift is actually out of the woods.