There’s an online group I belong to and someone has presented an advent challenge – to name a song in a different category every day in December. Today’s challenge is to name a song that we never tire of hearing. Someone has put “Matty Groves” by Fairport Convention; someone else has “The Whole Of The Moon” by The Waterboys. I put “Thinking Of A Place” by The War On Drugs. This was released on April 22nd 2017 and was announced as a single from the forthcoming album “A Deeper Understanding” which was released on August 25th 2017. That meant that for four months, Roo and I were anticipating the release of the album. It meant that we played “Thinking Of A Place” over and over again for four months. It is a beautiful song and, luckily, it’s over twelve minutes long. When the album was finally released, I had high expectations which, although the album is good, were never quite met.
A few months ago, someone noted that the domain name mccartneyiii had been bought by Paul McCartney. Speculation was made about the forthcoming release of “McCartney iii” and reviews are finally out for the album which is released next Friday. Expectations are high, certainly from behind this keyboard.
It’s my belief that most conflicts in the world are a result of mismatched expectations. For example, in my lessons on quadratic equations to a group of low ability 15 year olds, I expected them to shut up, to listen and try to puzzle out what to do. A minority of the pupils had expectations that the next hour of their lives was going to be boring and they expected that it would be okay not to pay any attention or look at their phones or chat to their mates. Or, as Boris Johnson gallantly rides to the rescue of the BREXIT negotiations, I can foresee plenty of conflict from those people who expected the country to be better off when the UK is out of Europe (as promised during the run up to the referendum) when the reality is that the economy will shrink, there will be fewer jobs, the roads will be clogged up and cheap holidays to mainland Europe will disappear.
I’ve already written about how one day, walking from record shop to record shop in London in 1974, I noticed the display in the window of an album by Tim Buckley that I’d never heard of. I quickly snapped up an import copy of “Look At The Fool” and rushed home to play it. After the title track had finished, I sighed with great pleasure expecting more great songs. Unfortunately, by the end of the album I realised that it wasn’t a very good album but that didn’t reduce the feeling of excitement that I had experienced when I found a new album that I had not expected.
Taylor Swift has replicated that experience today with a surprise release of “evermore”. (I think it’s called “evermore” and not “Evermore”. She seems to have done away with capital letters completely). Her previous album “folklore” was a similar surprise when it was released in July. Today, she wrote “It feels like we were standing on the edge of the folklorian woods and had a choice – to turn and go back or travel further into the forest of this music. We chose to go deeper in.” The suddenness with which this album has been released has meant that there are no expectations.
My initial impression of “folklore” in July was not great but listening to it again, I grew to love it and I bought the CD. Although I had no expectations of this CD until 11:00 this morning when Peter told me about its sudden release, listening to it now, I do have expectations that it will be as good as its predecessor. I’m happy to say that my first impressions are very favourable.
“dorothea” tells the story of someone looking at the TV and seeing a former friend who is now rich and famous. The singer tries to convince herself that having a simpler life makes for a happier life and maybe their friendship can resume.
“’tis the damn season” tells the story of two former lovers who return to their home town for family visits at Christmas and end up in bed together whilst realising that they have no future together.
A couple of my friends have told me how much they love The National and so far, I resisted but the duet with Matt Berniger on “coney island” may well give me the impetus to explore. It’s a lovely duet between two people who used to be perfect together but for a reason that’s not too clear, they are no longer together. I especially like the line in which she sings that they used to be “like the mall before the internet – the place to be“.
“willow” is the lead single from the album and the video starts with the imagery from “cardigan” on “Folklore”. There is already speculation about the lyrical content of the song and the assumption is that the guy she is singing to is her long term boyfriend, Joe Alwyn, the British actor who was born in Tunbridge Wells. I think that the online gossip, about who the songs are about, detracts greatly from the beauty of the music.
The title track “evermore” is another duet with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. As with “exile” on “folklore”, her duet with him makes for the best track on the album in my opinion.
Here’s another quote from Taylor Swift’s Instagram post today. “I know this holiday season will be a lonely one for most of us and if there are any of you out there who turn to music to cope with missing loved ones the way I do, this is for you.” That’s just great and goes back to expectations. Many people have high expectations of Christmas and although I am trying to lower mine, having lovely new musical surprises to make up for any disappointment seems perfect.