The Art of Getting By

There’s a scene in Family Guy, that cultural behemoth of our times, where Peter Griffin addresses the camera directly in a TV segment he’s hosting called What Really Grinds My Gears. On this occasion, the issue is Lindsay Lohan’s sexualised body: “You’re out there jumping around, and I’m just sitting here with my beer. So, what am I supposed to do? What do you want? Are we gonna go out?” Peter’s frustration isn’t caused by what’s being projected out to him; it’s working out what he’s supposed to do with something he can’t touch or affect in any way.

Watching Sufjan Stevens perform Carrie & Lowell in its entirety at Bristol’s Colston Hall last month, I found myself wondering what we’re supposed to do with the album and, by extension, the performance. It’s a wonderful record, and it’s obviously been hugely therapeutic for Stevens, but what about the audience? What are we getting out of this?

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The Sound of Protest in 2015

Everyone seems pretty angry at the establishment these days. By ‘these days’ I mean, of course, all days, across all demographics and every quadrant of the political spectrum. But there sure is a lot of it right now. For the Left, it’s witnessing Reagan and Thatcher’s neoliberalism in full swing, watching in horror as every public institution gets carved up and sold off, while the looming threat of corporate initiatives like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) seem destined to put even more power in the hands of big business. For the Right, it’s an erosion of free speech through a programme of cultural Marxism, diluting free speech with political correctness. Race riots are tearing America apart. Iraq and Afghanistan are still fresh in the memory. So where are the great protest songs of our generation? Where is our Dylan, our Seeger, our Clash?

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Dark Dark Dark – Flood Tide

As fictional eulogy to a lost friend, portrait of the closed and the closing towns of post-industrial America, paean to the Bohemian dream of life on the move, collaboration with art collective the Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea, documentary of a DIY raft-building project on the Hudson River, and showcase of Dark Dark Dark’s versatile turns at folk, jazz, Americana and ambient set pieces, Flood Tide is a truly multi-platform endeavour.

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Roller Trio – Fracture

Despite the attention lavished on Roller Trio’s lively eponymous debut, Fracture almost didn’t happen at all. After extensively touring in 2012, the Mercury Prize survivors reluctantly took to crowd funding website Indiegogo, offering the usual bundles of t-shirts, signed albums, unreleased live recordings, and potentially awkward home performances in exchange for the means to record a new album.

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