I miss shit nights out. Now I know this is a bold claim, and no, I don’t just miss being hammered. Alcohol certainly helps ease the evening along when the tunes aren’t to your taste, but I don’t think that’s the driving force behind appreciating them. Since the pubs opened on the 12th April it’s been great to have a big one at the pub, but as I sat there with my mates I couldn’t help missing the sensation of being in a crowded, crappy club with cheesy hits blasting in my ears. Still need convincing? I’ll talk you through the stages of a basic night out, all the way from loathing to loving.
Stage 1: Disbelief. I think everyone has their trigger song that kicks off this stage. Mine is ‘Come on Eileen’, a song I personally believe is a strong contender for the worst audio recording of the 20th century. Anyway, I could write a whole article about that, so let’s not get sidetracked. In the middle of the crowded dance floor, your trigger song comes on, and all you can do is stand there in awe as you foresee the night degenerating before your eyes. “I can’t fucking believe this”, you think to yourself, “the one song I didn’t need them to play was this, and now it’s on”. There you stand, helpless, as your mates drunkenly wiggle to the anthem of your waking nightmare.
Stage 2: Anger. The shock is over, now it’s time to start thinking of all the other places you could be instead. You reel through all of the cooler clubs that you could be in, all of the missed Skiddle tickets and unbooked Ubers that could’ve brought you to a dodgy industrial estate, to enter a warehouse full of overpriced Red Stripe and that specific subgenre of techno that makes you look interesting if it’s on your playlist. That’s what I should be doing, you say to yourself furiously, instead here I am listening to Since U Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson and watching my mate get off with the person they swore they never, ever would ever again. What a wasted opportunity.
Stage 3: Acceptance. Well, you’re not in the warehouse, so you might as well make the most of things. It’s at this point you realise not all is lost, that you can in fact have a good time listening to music that you don’t love. Nights out aren’t all about the tunes, they’re about being with your mates and having fun, you remind yourself. Let’s face it, you actually kind of like ‘Hips Don’t Lie’. And why wouldn’t you? It’s a banger.
Stage 4: Joy. That was an understatement- you LOVE ‘Hips Don’t Lie’, and you couldn’t care less if that makes you embarrassing. Everyone seems to be having a really great time, no one’s trying too hard to look cool- in fact the exact opposite is happening. It hits you that you’re having a better time right now in this grimey club than you’ve had at ticketed events, and that’s because nothing quite brings people together as much as a collective cringe. Bad music and bad dancing make us do something that we often aren’t allowed to, and that’s to let go and be the most unhinged versions of ourselves we can be. The best bit is – no one cares! This is precisely what you’re expected to do here, embrace the cringe. What’s the worst that could happen?
It’s not been a great year for the majority of us, and if by chance fortune has smiled upon you, keep it to yourself until June and tell us all about it over a pint. For me, the saving grace, or survival tool, has been music. At the best of times music remains a constant in our day to day meanderings, whether it’s the soundtrack for the punctual bus commute or blasting through speakers into the late night. But from March 2020 to March 2021 (the time of writing), it has progressed to an even greater role than it previously held, inhabiting the shape of a study-buddy, a distraction, and at times, a friend.
Consequently, unlike my previous late teen years, in which the chatter of Snapchat and jealousy inducing Instagram occupied a worrying amount of my life, Spotify has been the app of my twentieth year. Before critiquing the limits to the streaming giant’s promotion of new music, I would like to make clear my appreciation that we had it on hand to guide us through the last twelve months. Life would have been a little bit darker without the convenience of music streaming, as much as we sometimes look down our noses at it while cradling our vinyl records in our arms. Music doesn’t always have to be an event, I feel it’s a luxury we should allow ourselves to indulge in as frequently as possible, and streaming is the easiest way for us to do it.
With that being said, hunting for new music is a discovery unlike most other discoveries, in that the hunt for new music never ends. Very little beats the feeling of hearing a new song for the first time or rediscovering a tune that feels so intimately wrapped in the memories of a certain time in your life. I experienced this a few years ago when I stumbled across Why Can’t This Be Love by Van Halen, a song my Dad had ripped and put on a CD for my Walkman when I was four, and all of those car journeys up and down to Northumberland came flooding back to me. It’s a magical feeling when it happens.
The Spotify algorithm in these trying times was, for many including myself, the primary key to a whole bank of undiscovered discographies and playlists- for a time. Spotify boasts 70 million tracks in its rich database, and yet, as every album I hear fades out the once-infectious now-infected groovy chords of So Good at Being In Trouble buzz into my earphones like an angry wasp. At first I welcomed it in as a kind neighbour, liking it and adding it to all of my summer playlists. But as the winter months arrived I realised that my kind neighbour was a bloodsucking vampire invited into my home, feeding off the algorithm and the opportunities its fellow sixty-nine million fellow tracks deserved.
The unusual thing here, is that Spotify used to have an option to prevent this – a like or dislike function while listening to a radio from a selected song – which disappeared some time ago. In place, the Spotify algorithm rotates between a handful of songs the listener already listens to on a regular basis, Unknown Mortal Orchestra in my case and after some thorough research, Harness Your Hopes by Pavement for my housemates. In a time where bars and gigs are closed, meetings with friends are severely limited, and the churning output of steady music is slower than the usual, it is a shame that Spotify were unable to seize the chance to introduce a new host of upcoming musicians to the world. This, to an extent, was reflected in the inclusion of well-established artists KAYTRANADA and Phoebe Bridgers in the Best New Artist category at the recent 2021 GRAMMY’s with both artists taking a giant streaming leap with Kyoto (31,067,512)and 10% (41,202,083) respectively with major assistance from the Spotify algorithm.
What can we do to counter this? This is by absolutely no means a ‘boycott Spotify’ article, but I can only suggest and encourage you to sign up to newsletters from as many online vinyl retailers (such as Rough Trade and The Turntable Lab), as well as independent, unincentivized music websites (such as us!) to find your new musical fix.
In any case, that is all for now. Unknown Mortal Orchestra, hit the outro…
Like most other girls my age, as a pre-teen I had a particular affection for Simon Cowell golden boys One Direction, and whilst they still hold a special place in my heart and their lyrics seared into my brain forever, times change. But as I twirled around my poster-clad room to ‘Gotta Be You’, downstairs my parents were re-living their early 20’s vicariously through their seemingly endless boxes of CDs. Many an evening would me and my sister spend manically dancing around our living room in our vests and pants to Dad’s own mix of rave anthems (or ‘bong dong’ music, as was penned on the CD). Without realising it, my own future excellent music taste was being moulded by a combination of relentless nostalgia and genuinely good music. I will be forever grateful to my mum and Dad and their persistence to show me that music is more than five floppy haired heartthrobs (apart from Harry Styles, the very essence of good taste). The following is a carefully curated list of 10 albums- in no particular order- I believe have done the most towards shaping me into the woman I am today.
Radiohead- The Bends
What better place to begin discussing albums of my childhood than with an album which I see as the fifth member of the Ogden family. My bleach blonde alcoholic older brother, The Bends. Over the years, Radiohead would become a collective obsession of my entire family, specifically my mum who discovered a Facebook group of likeminded middle-aged alternatives and became something of an obsessive. By no means do I believe this to be Radiohead’s best album. For me, their best work comes in the form of In Rainbows, but I am merely here to reminisce rather than to criticise so before I Anthony Fantano myself and start a riot with the Radiohead purists, I will press on. I can’t remember the first time I heard this album, because it’s always just felt like it was part of me. It was always on in the house, in the car, in the garage, coming from Mum’s iPad, by now it’s part of the Ogden DNA. I remember Mum telling me once that ‘High and Dry’ always reminds her of Dad, specifically the lyrics ‘Flying on your motorcycle, watching all the ground beneath you drop’ simply because of his love of motorbikes. Associations don’t have to be that deep do they.
Gorillaz- Demon Days
Another big one for my family. I didn’t like Gorillaz at first. I thought they were weird and that my dad overplayed them. I didn’t like the idea of an animated band, I wanted eye candy. But as I grew older, found my own way sonically and figured out that, yes that is the nation’s favourite Damon Albarn supplying the vocals for empty eyed cartoon 2D, I grew to really appreciate them. I don’t claim to know the most about Gorillaz, as it was always my dad and my sister who were the fans of the family, but this album is certainly my favourite of their discography, and easily their most iconic. As with Radiohead, this is a band that I genuinely enjoy in my own time, not just because of my family. This album has all the big uns, ‘Feel Good Inc.’, ‘DARE’ and ‘Dirty Harry’? A veritable feast of tunes. So far so good Mum and Dad.
The Prodigy- The Fat of the Land
Enter the chaos of my dad’s musical past. As a youngster, my dad was, for lack of better words, a little shit. Being chased by the police, setting fire to your hands and knocking out your front teeth was all a day in the life for a young Ashleigh Ogden. No better album soundtracks how I envision my Father’s raucous teenage years than this. Admittedly, The Prodigy’s 2009 ‘Invaders Must Die’ was a more frequent fixture in my household but in my opinion, this is infinitely better. This album encapsulates what people associate with The Prodigy; a cacophonous combination of classic punk, 90s rave and Keith Flint, god rest his soul. As with Gorillaz, I really wasn’t keen on The Prodigy, but I’ve always secretly enjoyed ‘Breathe’, ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ and ‘Firestarter’, the latter being a very appropriate song for my dad, a self-professed casual pyromaniac.
Unlike the other albums on this list, it wasn’t so much the music that drew me in, that came later; because ever since I can remember, I’ve developed extremely intense, albeit fleeting, fixations with weirdly specific things. Currently it’s 1996 Brian Molko. Before that it was regency undergarments. But one of the very first was the cover of my parents’ Trainspotting soundtrack CD. When I was alone, I would pull it out from the stack of CDs and literally just look at it. I think what drew me in was the fact that I wasn’t allowed. Trainspotting was an absolute no go for baby me (for the obvious reasons) so naturally, I wanted to know more. It was only when I turned 16 and anticipating the release of Trainspotting 2 that curiosity got the better of me and I finally saw what is now one of my favourite films. Like any teenager who watches Trainspotting, both the film and its soundtrack instantly became the basis on which I formed my personality for the next year (excluding the use of hard drugs).
10cc- How Dare You!
This offering comes from my maternal side- a part of my family with a vibrant musical history, beginning with my Grandad Mike. In the 60s, together with three of his mates, he formed Purple Haze (no prize for guessing inspiration) which would later become Beggars Farm (again, no prizes) and eventually, The Alligators, whom he was still gigging with until about two years ago. His musical gifts to my mum manifest themselves mostly in narrative song writing, more specifically the penning’s of Paul McCartney (‘Eleanor Rigby’, ‘She’s Leaving Home’) and tongue-in-cheek art rockers 10cc’s ‘I’m Mandy, Fly Me’; a tall tale about fictional flight stewardess Mandy and a dramatic plane crash where she becomes the saviour of the song’s subject before mysteriously vanishing. Very prog I know. I’ll admit I’m not a big fan of progressive rock, I don’t even think Mum is either, but we both have this association with 10cc that cross boundaries of genre.
Massive Attack- Protection
When I was growing up, there were always four or five albums that I remember always being played on long car journeys; Justified by Justin Timberlake, Supernature by Goldfrapp, Plastic Beach by Gorillaz and Massive Attack’s 1994 Protection. Massive Attack is a major player in my musical upbringing. I couldn’t tell you the names of any of the songs on this album, but after years of melodic brainwashing, it’s difficult not to catch me humming along. As you’ll come to see, both my parents have an affinity for trip hop and now I do too. It is one of the more top tier genres, both technically and audibly. With its laid-back approach to dance beats, combined with emotive lyricism and the occasional addition of sweeping strings, trip hop is exactly what I want from music sometimes.
The Killers- Hot Fuss
Compared to my other album choices, this isn’t one that was a frequent member of the ‘heard it all the time’ list. This exclusively appeared at family BBQs, and that’s all I remember it for. Many who hear this album and its singles are immediately transported to a sticky nightclub packed to the rafters with Liam Frey wannabes quaffing Red Stripe by the litre, but not me. I’m reminded of hot summer evenings, ‘Glamourous Indie Rock & Roll’ flowing through open windows and filling our back garden whilst Dad grills up another ‘kiddie burger’ for me and my sister, birds tweeting in the trees and Mum in her summer dress sorting the side dishes in the kitchen. And for the record, I fucking loathe ‘Mr Brightside’.
Various- Ska Is the Limit
If there’s one thing my parents love, it’s a compilation album. There was a hell of a lot of them around the house when I was growing up. We had 1 by The Beatles, The Best of Radiohead and of course, when I was given The Sound of the Smiths a few Christmases ago, that went straight in the car. Say what you want about compilation albums, I don’t mind them. They work well for people like my parents who wanted a range of music before the era of playlists. While I was writing this, I had a listen back to the album and I cannot remember any of the songs that aren’t by either The Specials, The Selecter or Fun Boy Three. Dad clearly had his favourites; I don’t know why he didn’t just buy their album.
Massive Attack- Mezzanine
I’ve saved the final two spots on this list for two very special albums, both in my heart and the hearts of my parents. Massive Attack have already made an appearance on this list, but I wasn’t about to skip past this absolute tour de force of an album. Massive Attack take everything they have learnt from Blue Lines and Protection and fuse it with a dark and sensual energy to create a sound that endures. If Mezzanine were a woman, she’d be the one at the party dressed in black and stood in the corner by herself because everyone else is too intimidated to speak to her. She’d be the spot-lit femme fatale smoking a cigarette in a 40s noir flick. Despite being yet another album played on repeat by my parents, even to this day, none of us are sick of it. Mum and Dad even went to see them live on the 20th anniversary of Mezzanine. I will be eternally jealous.
We find ourselves at number 10 of this eclectic assortment, and what a ride it’s been. Thank you for sticking with me. Wrapping up my list is fellow trip hop pioneers Portishead and their debut album Dummy, Mezzanine’s blonde and equally sexy cousin. Another car journey favourite of my family and easily one of my favourite albums of all time. As with Mezzanine, my parents are still as in love with Dummy as they ever were, because that sound is so timeless. The combined element of nostalgia with futuristic effects, particularly in songs like ‘Strangers’ and ‘Numb’, is what keeps Portishead in the mind of the listener. It combines my parent’s taste in music perfectly. For my dad, it offers succulent basslines and an occasional nod to classic breakbeats, whilst also remaining chilled out enough for driving to work, and for my mum it rewards the eery-sweet vocals of Beth Gibbons, akin to PJ Harvey and frequent Massive Attack collaborator Tracy Thorn. With all these elements rolled into 49 minutes of auditory pleasure, its easy to see how it’s stood the test of time with my family.
All album covers used in this article were sourced from Wikipedia.