The Song. "City Lights," The White Stripes
"Will you dig a tunnel to me?"
Released in September of last year, this song was written for the "Get Behind Me Satan" album. It's a shame it didn't make the cut, but there's comfort in it making its way to our ears now, eight years since the White Stripe's last formal release. Simple and soothing, the light guitar picking and minimal instrumentation glide under Jack White's distinctive vocals and carry the listener through the song. The music video is also worth a watch. Michel Gondry's unassuming visual work makes for the perfect pairing.
The Artist. Julien Baker
"And I just let the parking lot swallow me up
Choking your tires, and kicking up dust
Asking aloud why you're leaving
But the pavement won't answer me"
Authenticity. Rare to find at times, but when it's there, it can almost be tangibly felt.
I feel it in the words and notes that spill onto each track of Julien Baker's "Sprained Ankle." Each song is stripped down, with only her electric guitar, silvery voice and candid writing to fill the space. There's pain, sincerity, yearning, and even, surrender, as she pours herself in to the nine songs on the record.
I felt her authenticity far before I confirmed it. I normally don't give a detailed account of an artists background when writing of songs or artists I've come to enjoy, but for her, it brings an even deeper level and meaning to her work. After reading through her interviews and watching her performances online, there really is no doubt left in mind: the piercing beauty of her honest craft is as authentic as it gets.
Baker is 21 year old from Memphis, Tennessee, living in the heart of what's consider the Bible Belt of the United States. She had no real intentions of becoming a recognized artist, and was instead studying literature with an emphasis on secondary education when she recorded "Sprained Ankle" with a friend from her college's audio engineering program. There were no expectations and it was never a consideration to create tracks that would sell. I believe this is one reason her honesty shines through.
She was honest about her pain: pain after a break up, pain after years of destructive behavior, and pain in her search to find God and reconcile what it means to be a southern Christian woman who identifies as a lesbian. She doesn't hold back. It's honesty you can feel. And it's honesty that drives through to the heart of the listener.
An unfeigned, transparent creation by a talented artist, "Sprained Ankle" is truly a work of art.
I stepped outside into bright light. It was a welcomed greeting for a London winter. Not a cloud was in the sky, and the only visible condensation was my breath as it floated before me. Sunlight bounced off the perpetually damp streets and my face felt warm in the rays despite the brisk air. It was 10am and a half moon still hung above the buildings, stubborn and not ready to disappear for the day. An airplane made a clean streak in the clear sky.
On this same clear, bright day, sitting at my favorite café with a good friend, I watched the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States—a man whose rhetoric has pointed toward hate, intolerance, and a blind disregard for marginalized groups or interests other than his own. Incongruence at its finest.
Today, I was greeted by another sunny London morning. This time though, instead of watching an “America first” speech in the hours to follow, I watched thousands of men, women and children march through the streets toward Trafalgar square.
I am not naïve enough to think the simple act of walking equates to tangible change. But I would be lying if I said that seeing such large numbers moved to action was not a comfort. Across the world, thousands are disturbed by the wave of self-interested patriotism searing through the political sphere. From Brexit, to Trump, to Marine Le Pen “hailing patriotism as the policy of the future,” the influence is undeniable.
Though this ideology is troubling on many levels, perhaps most concerning is the associated hate rhetoric and the turning a blind eye to issues that should not be ignored. It doesn’t matter if problems with racism, sexism, acceptance of the LBGT community, aid for refugees, and concern for the environmental well-being of our planet are inconvenient—they still must be addressed.
Blind patriotism isn’t the answer. But, neither is a simple march. The marches of today showed that there are numbers. There are people who are upset, disturbed, concerned. But sheer numbers do nothing. It is only the mobility of these numbers that equate to change.
My hope is that all who marched today will not simply return to life as usual. Brexit and Trump, for the time being, cannot be reversed. But there are still small individual actions that can lead to tangible results. For me, I know I can’t keep talking about my concern with what is happening in Syria, and never do anything about it. I have to get actively involved. Whatever it is that bothers us, whatever it is that got us out to march, it is that which we should act upon. It is that which we should fight to change.
The women’s march today was for more than just women. It was for the deep seeded problems we are frightened to watch grow—problems of negligence and problems of hate. We cannot sit back and idly watch it all unfold. It’s easy to become disillusioned, but there are still bright days to look forward to, even in a spell of grey. That, at least, is the small hope I hold it. That, at least, is the reason I fight on.
Enjoying and learning from this chapter as the pages turn