WORDS BY ELIZABETH BARKER & LAURA JANE FAULDS, ILLUSTRATION BY JEN MAY
The first morning I ever heard Aries, a bunch of cool things happened:
1) The Universe stopped doing whatever else it was doing. It stood up, and walked to the archive it keeps about everything that ever happened, which it keeps because, sweetly, it's proud of itself. It located the notebook it keeps to document all the moments from all history when all the different creatures from all the different galaxies fell in love with songs the hardest, and then it wrote my Aries story down. I’ve probably been featured pretty heavily in that notebook, and I’d like to think that the Universe is proud of me for that, that it makes the Universe feel happier than usual about inventing the 1960s and electric guitars and Charlie Watts and so on.
2) I synaesthetically heard it as being the colour pink. There is some other music I hear as being pink but not a ton of it. I hear the entire album I’m Going Away by the Fiery Furnaces as being the really dense and pure glossy bubblegum pink and pastel purple combo that I found out about from its being featured on the plastic Babs Bunny purse I had when I was a kid, & then there's a trio of early Pink Floyd singles— Apples & Oranges, Candy & A Currant Bun, Arnold Layne— that I hear as being a very dark hot pink and also they are Christmas songs.
Aries by Fairfield Parlour vacillates between being the palest seashell pink that could possibly count as being pink and the dusty rose of a velvet fainting couch in a black-walled room. All the lights are turned off in the room, except for one fey little lamp whose prissy aesthetic I would not be attracted to in an antique shop, which is shining directly onto the person sitting on the couch, who is either me or the guy singing the song, depending on my mood.
3) I didn’t believe it actually existed, or that anything in the world existed, except myself, which is narcissistic of me, but like... yeah. It was impossible for me to believe that a song so perfectly-suited to my own sensibilities was a real thing that a person who wasn’t me had conceptualized, written and recorded; the only logical conclusions I could draw were 1) that I was asleep and dreaming and the song is a song I made up in a dream. In the world where the song didn’t exist I would wake up in the morning and feel so sad that it didn’t exist &/or 2) that nothing in the entire world existed except myself and that everything I’d ever known to be real had only been a projection of my own mind. I’d made up London and Montreal and Los Angeles, and Paul McCartney, dogs, and wine. Every man who had ever broken my heart had broken my heart because I’d wanted my heart to be broken.
There are a lot of beautiful sentences in Aries. Here are some of them.
1) I used to collect cigarette cards.
2) Pilot Boat Park was our paradise.
3) Oh the summers with the girls, if you want I’ll show you the scars.
4) I really don’t know why & just now I can’t think back that far.
5) We smoked a million cigarettes.
6) I love the Beatles.
Those sentences were not written by me, which is weird. They were written by a man named Peter Daltrey who looks like a wizard. In 1967 he was in a band called Kaleidoscope, who sang a song called Black Fjord that I was really obsessed with four summers ago. In 1969, Peter Daltrey gave up on the dream of Kaleidoscope and changed its name to Fairfield Parlour, which was a good call. Peter Daltrey is an Aries, a March one, so when I listen to Aries I usually devote a chunk of my listening-to-Aries time to thinking about how cool it is that Peter Daltrey wrote a song named after his own Zodiac sign, which is totally something I would do, except that if I wrote a song named Cancer it wouldn’t have the same amount of impact as Aries because people would probably think it was about the disease or a metaphor about the disease. I wonder if Aries is about a girl Peter Daltrey met who is also an Aries, or about the idea of a girl who is an Aries, or if it’s about a girl at all. I hope it is. The vaguely-incestuous experience of falling in love with a person who has the same Zodiac sign as you is an extremely valid topic to write a song about.
There was a time in my life when I cared about shitty campy psychedelic rock singles written by unpopular bands who made no impression on the world more than anything. In my heart I loved the Beatles but I thought it was lame to like popular shit so I rarely let on that it was true. I was a dipshit with a DJ night. My DJ night was amazing, but also very lame, so lame it took place on a Tuesday, not even cool enough for a Sunday or Thursday. The Tuesdayness of it provided me with the only effective pick-up line I've ever known: “What are you doing Tuesday night?” (The answer was always “Nothing,” because nobody ever has Tuesday night plans, which gave me the opportunity to force them to come watch me bop around to Idle Race B-sides while drinking blueberry Stoli & tonics.)
I remember, back then, feeling scared that at some point in my life the thrill of it would reach its finite conclusion: there are only so many shitty campy 60s psych singles that exist, and one day, yes, it’s true, I will have heard them all. I’ve been terrified that I might’ve finally hit that point since the summer I fell in love with Black Fjord, and it’s reassuring to find out that I still haven’t. But if Aries by Fairfield Parlour really is the last shitty campy 60s psych song ever to steal my heart, I would consider it a fucking honour.
"No Problem" by Chance the Rapper + "No Feelings" by Handsome Furs (Liz)
These songs are next to each other on my phone; I like to go back and forth and live in their different vibes and colors. "No Problem" is Day-Glo and fruit-punchy and all the happy colors of the world, "No Feelings" is black and white and silvery-gray, all fuzzed up together like the snow of some broken TV channel. So they're way different moods but they both give me energy and make me run a little faster, if I happen to be running at the time. The most energy-giving is the last minute of "No Feelings," when Dan sings it like a cheerleader. I wish lots more rock songs would sound like cheerleading.
Wolf Parade, "What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had to Go This Way)" (Liz)
I like putting on my makeup to this song. My last morning in New York, the day I went to Veselka and thought about magnificence, I did my eyeliner and mascara and lipstick listening to it on my phone. I'd gone to see Wolf Parade the night before and bought a t-shirt of Godzilla putting on lipstick, then slept in that shirt and kept it on the whole day. That thing of putting on makeup without having taken a shower + wearing the shirt I slept in made me feel 26, grubby and careless in a way that used to seem glamorous to me and still kind of does.
And I was going to type something about how I wish my 26-year-old self had gotten to hear "What Did My Lover Say?" by Wolf Parade, but then I realized I don't actually agree with that. I'm no longer concerned with the wellbeing of my 26-year-old self, I'm over it, who cares how you wasted your time or didn't waste your time when you were younger? Or how you fucked up or didn't fuck up. It's so much better to hear songs now, especially this song, with that cool verse about beaches turning into earrings, and all the other good lyrics about the ocean and the sun. My favorite is: "I got a sandcastle heart, made out of fine black sand/Sometimes it turns into glass when shit gets hot." I hope all the ocean/sun metaphors keep getting more slapdash and grand as we get older and older.
Drake, “Pop Style" (LJ)
(It seems like Drake's record company has deleted all the audio versions of Pop Style off of YouTube so that you'll spend money on them, so here is a picture of Drake looking hot at a Raptors game with a cool hoodie sweat-stain vibe going on instead)
A profoundly miserable 5000 word story-essay about the day I fell in love with Views by Drake exists and is sitting, fully realized, inside my head, but nobody will ever read it, because I will never write it down. I’ve tried to write it down twice now, but twice I’ve given up, because writing it’s not therapeutic, it’s dispiriting, and I worry that the act of reading it might make other people feel as miserable as writing it made me. I’m okay with writing about bleak shit if there’s some sort of self-celebratory “But don’t worry— life is actually really beautiful!” pay-off at the end of it, but I haven’t made it far enough into writing about Views to get there, and in the middle of writing this sentence I realized that maybe the happy ending to the Views story is this: me wearing red running shorts and a leopard-print cardigan while smoking a Marlb menth in my kitchen, thinking about all the times I’ve strutted down the street listening to Pop Style like a baller, 100% unencumbered by emotional turmoil.
Now I’m in my bedroom, I’m not in my kitchen anymore, I’m drinking tap water out of a Volvic bottle, I need to pee but am too lazy to stand, I’m so tired from work, today it rained. It’s June tomorrow, I’m so happy that it’s June tomorrow. A few years ago I wrote the sentence “In June, nothing can ever be bad” and a few years before that I wrote the sentence fragment “sun-drunk and June-stoned,” and tonight I am writing the sentence “The entire month of June is my birthday to me,” which is my own personal take on the Drake lyric, “Turn my birthday into a lifestyle.” I love the idea of turning your birthday into a lifestyle; I love people who love their own birthdays. People who hate their birthdays are the hugest drags ever. Be more like Drake and I. Fucking celebrate yourself!
Pop Style, not the words he says but the music playing behind them, makes me think of an underground lair, the basement of a castle. It’s a creepy and dark grey song that shines like metal. The whole record is grey, a Torontoey grey. It’s more of a March record than anything, for days when the snow has turned to slush and the slush bleeds through your boots and gets your socks wet, then splashes up the back of your jeans.I always forget that Drake's not a Pisces. He's a Scorpio, which is even better.
Drake’s genius lies in the punishing simplicity of his lyrics, which are usually dull, not even clever enough to count as platitudes, but communicate emotional truths too fundamentally human for a smarter person to think so basically as to notice. Drake is an idiot. My friend from home who’s brother is the head of the security at the Air Canada Centre told me that whenever Drake rolls in with his squad they all pull up in their Lexuses or whatever and open the front doors of their Lexuses and step out, all at once, it’s a choreographed routine they’ve worked out. And then— again, synchronized— they all throw their car keys onto the hoods of their cars, to communicate to the world that they are rich enough not to care if they get stolen, and it’s horrible— I want to say it’s gauche but it’s actually so horrible that it doesn’t even deserve to be described by the sexy French word for tacky. It’s just tacky.
But I don’t mind. Finding out that fact about Drake in no way affects my opinion of Drake. I like how stupid Drake is; I relate to it about him. I like when he says things that are just so staggeringly dumb, like the part in Childs Play when he takes the girl out to the Cheesecake Factory and gets mad at her for ruining his Cheesecake Factory experience and then says “This a place for families,” which is basically the worst point anyone’s ever made, and also my favourite lyric on the entire album. Drake reminds me of a conversation I once had with a really smart person I know, like a genuinely intelligent guy, the kind of person who can concentrate on reading a newspaper and comprehends what sentences in books that were written before the year 1950 mean and all that other smart people shit that stresses me out because it reminds me of school. We were talking about how I’m kind of a genius (I mean sorry, but… yeah) but he’s afraid he never will be, and I told him, “Dude, you’re too smart to be a genius! I’m a fucking idiot! Genius is all I have!”
I’m going to date Drake for three months next winter, maybe a little bit into the spring, February through April I’m thinking? It’s my favourite thing to talk about when I’m drunk, and also not drunk. How should Drake and I meet? Boringly, it’ll probably be when he goes out for dinner at whichever restaurant I happen to be half-assedly assistant managing, and I’ll give him really charming advice about which sparkling rose will pair best with his calamari, and then start frantically Tweeting about it in the bathroom and be like “This is my moment! This is my moment!” and then, because I’m me, I’ll ask Drake if he wants to hang out with me, and he will, because I’m me. Next thing I know, I’ll be telling Drake jokes about the Beatles in the back of a car somebody else is driving, and then we’ll be in a hotel room drinking Veuve and I’ll be telling him about the methode traditionelle, I’ll be enthusiastically pantomiming the act of remuage and he’ll be FUCKED, like not on drugs or wine or anything, FUCKED as in he’ll be so in love with me he won’t know what the fuck to do with himself, and I’ll be Tweeting in the bathroom. Fast-forward to a couple weeks later, when my and everyone else in the world’s life becomes an endless parade of paparazzi photos of Drake & I chillin courtside at a Raptors game, me drinking a fountain Diet Coke while wearing extremely cool LJ’s-dating-Drake-now-style shit such as a cut-up 1994 Raptors t-shirt with sequined Balmain Daisy Dukes, oatmeal Yeezy Boosts, and like twenty-five of those Hermes cuff bracelets with the studs on them. Drake will be gazing at me adoringly while eating ACC nachos and wearing Drake’s-dating-LJ-now-style shit like a red Lacoste cardigan over a Bad Brains t-shirt, cut-off jean shorts & oatmeal Yeezy Boosts also. And then maybe we’ll get engaged for a bit? Yeah, yes, I mean, yes is what I’ll say when Aubrey “Drake” Graham gets down on one knee and asks me to marry him, ew, it’s gonna be soooooo corny. I hate him. I’m gonna lose interest. Then he’ll write an album about the way I broke his heart named after whichever street I happen to live on in Toronto, but in the end, everything will work out for both of us. Drake will end up with Rihanna, and I’ll end up with 1967 George Harrison.
I’m bored of talking about Drake now. I’m over Drake already, and have completely failed at writing about why I loved the Drake song Pop Style in the month of May. I wanted to tell you about the time I rode the bus from Brockley to Brixton while listening to Views and imagining myself eating a slice of Pizza Pizza pizza with extra creamy garlic sauce while drinking a Tahiti Treat, and I also wanted to tell you about this extremely important realization I had about why hip-hop has replaced rock-and-roll as the dominant genre of music that young people care about, but I suppose I’ll just have to save those particular slices of idiotic genius for Drake in the hotel room. I wouldn’t want to blow my load too early or anything.
"Inside Out" by Spoon + "Crystal Blue Persuasion" by Tommy James & The Shondells (Liz)
For a little while in April and May I had some idea that I was gonna get into bimodal sleep; it lasted about two weeks but I had a cool time with it. I was in that post-Lemonade state of existence and thought I might abandon all attempts at keeping shit in line. I decided that if my body or brain wanted to be wide-awake at 4, 5, 6 a.m., I'd go with it and get the hell up instead of trying to fight myself. Mostly when I woke up in the night, I'd just roll out of bed and turn my music on and pull my notebook out-- or read books that I'd already read lots of times, like Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?, with the babe Silsby Chaussee and her wild toes. That's a perfect middle-of-the-night book, and "Inside Out" by Spoon is a perfect middle-of-the-night song: it's sweethearted in a way that makes me feel so safe.
Sweethearted/safe-feeling is a good dynamic and it's also rare, at least in rock music, but "Crystal Blue Persuasion" embodies that for me too. One night a long time ago, when I was new to Los Angeles and still working deep in the Valley, I was driving down some street like Victory Boulevard and listening to the oldies station. It was December and a boring weeknight, and a little girl called up the radio and requested "Crystal Blue Persuasion." She must've been like 8-years-old, and she dedicated the song to her big sister, "because I love her so much." It was so sweet and weird. I keep listening to that song lately and wondering about those sisters and thinking about inventing a story of how "Crystal Blue Persuasion" came to be their song. But then I always stop myself, because it's not my story to invent. I just want to let it be this nice little mystery about the radio and sisters and the Valley at Christmastime.
The Who, “The Song Is Over" (LJ)
I spent the entire month of April and the first half of May channeling the bulk of my emotional energy into getting over a dude, which was an annoying thing for me to have to do. It felt regressive: before I met him, I was a bit fucked up about a few things but felt mostly okay, and then I met him, and I liked him, and chose to start dating him, not just because I liked him but because it seemed like having him in my life was going to improve it, but then the relationship failed, and the failure of it made me feel horrible, and then I was emotionally so much worse off than I’d been before I met him. And that was very frustrating for me, because I could have just, like, not dated him, and then I never would have had to spend a month and a half of my life feeling like shit all the time. And even though it’s now now, and I’ve learned all my life lessons and I’m LJ and can’t not spin everything that ever happens to me into a celebratory pro-me tale that I’m the hero of and the Universe is a beautiful place and it’s June and ooh la la check out how cool I am in June, significantly happier than I was before I met him or while I was with him, I still see where I was coming from when I made that point. I made a fucking ton of personal sacrifices to incorporate that dude into my life, and our relationship didn’t just end, it exploded, and I felt foolish, "cuckolded," like I had been left with nothing. And since I’m LJ and can’t not spin everything that ever happens to me into a positive, it took me a lot longer than I would have liked to admit to myself that the only way I could get my happy ending was to Don-Draper-telling-Peggy-Olson-“It’ll shock you how much it never happened” the living fuck out of that situation.
I think the worst part of being stuck in a place of trying to get over a person you can’t get over isn’t the not being able to get over them so much as it’s the fear of never being able to get over them. But, you know, you always do. Even if you never get over them, you still get over them. You just do.
And I think the best part of being stuck in a place of trying to get over a person you can’t get over is that there’s certainly no shortage of heart-shatteringly beautiful rock-and-roll songs about that experience for you to listen to and take solace in. They’re called “break-up songs,” and until I met this dude, I’d kind of forgotten that they were even a thing. But there are fucking millions of them, and all the best ones are written by Bob Dylan, a subject that I don’t want to blow my load about now, since I’m planning on writing a really epic thing about Blonde on Blonde when I go to Barcelona at the end of the month of my life to turn my birthday into a lifestyle. But I do need to state, for the official record of my life, that it was listening to the part of Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright when Bob sings “You just kinda wasted my precious time” that motivated me to fully pull the plug on the “not being able to get over this dude” chapter of my life. The thing I did, it’s a really intense move, and once you’ve done it, there’s no going back. You can’t do it too early, you’d regret it; you’ve absolutely got to allow yourself to live out the drunk-texting phase of the “not being able to get over him” era of you. But once you get there, you’ll know it, and once you do it, it'll be the best thing you ever did.
It’s nothing revolutionary. All you have to do is block the person’s phone number and then delete every interaction you’ve ever had with that phone number from your phone. That way, you have absolutely no way of contacting them ever again (I mean, I suppose there’s always social media, but fuck that. Even the shittiest relationship of all time deserves better than, like, a Twitter DM), and more importantly, they can’t reach you (that was an SATC reference), which at some point in the future of course they’ll fucking try to, when they finally wake the fuck up and realize that they ruined the best thing that ever happened to them, which is you, which they will. Do not put yourself in a position to allow their laggardy future realization to jeopardize your future happiness!
The first time I ever heard The Song Is Over was the day after I did that phone thing. I was at work, and it was the end of the day. At my work we don’t have a work iPod or a work playlist that you have to listen to over and over again until you want to kill yourself, you just plug in your own iPhone and listen to whatever you want, which sounds really great in theory, and often is, but sometimes you’ve been working for like three days in a row and have exhausted every potential musical vibe in the book, and it’s the end of the day, and you’re Hoovering, or mopping, and all you want to do is go home, and you’ve already listened to The Clash’s entire discography three times that day, and you’re grasping at straws, and all all you can really do is put on Who’s Next, to find out what Who’s Next is like.
That was the same day that started out with Karl sending me a text that said “Good morning, wolf girl,” the same day I spent my entire workday writing a song called Good Morning Wolf Girl for my future concept album Good Morning Wolf Girl, and it was the end of the day, and I was Hoovering, and The Song Is Over started playing, but I couldn’t quite hear it over the whir of the Hoover, so I started disjointedly reciting Good Morning Wolf Girl lyrics to the The Song Is Over melody in my head, I was into it as fuck, and then I finished up with Hoovering and wondered what the song I’d re-appropriated into being a beautiful ode to the mind-blowingly fabulous experience of being a Wolf Girl that another person wished Good Morning to was actually all about, and as it turned out, it was the most anthemic break-up song I’d ever heard. The Universe grows increasingly perfect and beautiful with every subsequent move it makes.
That night I walked home listening to The Song Is Over on repeat, and by the time I reached the underpass by Brockley station I’d learned most of the words, and began to enthusiastically lip-sync along to it, an impulse I seem to have less and less control over with each passing day of my life. I imagined myself standing in the middle of a wide-open field and belting it out, punching the air and kicking the air and wearing my bleh but nice outfit of steely-blue corduroys and black ballet flats and black tank top with the Posh Spice neckline, and lately I’ve been getting a lot of text messages from people telling me that they saw me walking down the street but I couldn’t see them, and I think "Of course I couldn’t see you. I wasn’t there." This is the world that I live in, and nobody else can touch it.
Ever since I was a little kid I’ve known that all I ever want to be doing is either walking down the street listening to rock and roll music on headphones and feeling it really hard or else writing about the experience of it, and I never felt scared that as I grew older that feeling might go away, but now that I fully understand that it hasn’t, and won’t, I suppose I worry it might isolate me. But I guess I only worry that because I feel like I’m supposed to, because I’m afraid it means something bad about me, how often I choose rock and roll over being a good person.
But life is so much better when it’s a dead guy banging on drums that sound like a million rocks rolling all over each other, when it’s a stranger from forty years ago singing “I’ll sing my heart out to the infinite sea” instead of me having to write so corny of a sentence to explain a particular feeling to myself. I don’t mind that I don’t mind getting my heart broken if it means that in the end I get to listen to a rock and roll song about getting your heart broken and feel more excited by that song than I ever did by the person who broke it. In real life, you can’t just excuse yourself from the goings-on of your day-to-day existence to go stand in the middle of a field and scream a bunch of shit and have Roger Daltrey’s voice come out of you. It isn’t possible. You need songs to help.
The Sandwich Police, "The Credits" (Liz)
The Sandwich Police is a new band from Martha's Vineyard, starring Willy Mason and Marciana Jones and good ol Evvers Dando. They have three songs out and "The Credits" is my favorite-- I love how woozy it is. It sounds like being cutely drunk in a sun-dappled meadow on a Sunday afternoon in springtime, on some secret part of the island that I've never been to or even heard of. Sandwich Police is total meadow-rock.
Sometimes in life I wish I lived on Martha's Vineyard, or at least lived there part-time. I want to live in a beach house with bad art, like how in my room at the Vineyard two years ago there was a painting of a cat lying under a wooden beach chair. On the Vineyard there’s this good clean mildewy smell to all the houses, and there’s pine needles on the ground almost everywhere, and someone always knows someone who’s just caught a fish and that’s what you’re having for supper tonight. Also at dinner you drink a nice average wine, and the dessert is something you'd eat for dessert in the '80s, like maybe black forest gateau. Everything on the Vineyard feels about 30 years behind, and that's conducive to a cozy laziness that seems so opposite to the cities I'm usually in.
In my Martha’s Vineyard daydream it’s always gray and raining, button-down-flannel and big-wool-sock weather. Anyone can be in Martha’s Vineyard in the big shiny summertime, but if you’re there when it’s gray and cold and raining, you were either born there, or you’ve made some weird decision about your life. The island supports and encourages you in your weird-decision-making, maybe. It makes life feel bigger and smaller at the same time, and it quietly makes you braver. Once when I was 16 I jumped off this bridge too:
P.S. This picture's by Stephen DiRado, from his Jump series.