I was dead and born again / And soon it will feel all so long ago
Standing outside the venue I order an uber. Next to me, three women giggle about a setlist and whisper to each other. I look around, hopefully. I see Rostam exit the stage door but my uber’s just arrived and it’s central London. I get in. The driver asks me how my night was. We have a quick conversation and then I stare out of the window. I cry and cry and cry. The violins echo through my restless sleep that night. I dream of being front row again, knowing all the words but being a bit too scared to shout them – this night feels too special, too close. Bike Dream plays and I dance and dance and dance.
It has been a year since Half-Light was released. Feels far too long. How have we fit so much life, so much time in between? The album feels imbued with nostalgia – always associated somewhere in the back of my mind with a burgeoning love for music, new discovery via a band with New England in their song titles. Alongside me, the music has matured, the love has grown and expanded and stretched – grown taut. Something about the drum beats feels the same. Something about the play, the experimenting, the intelligence. That is not why I love this album, it’s only the beginning.
Every one of us has felt our heart beat pound / Every one of us has felt it on our own
In my room, second year of university, it’s the middle of winter. This bed, this space, feels temporary. My friend George comes round just to listen to music and talk. Just that. A special, close space. I have just received my Half-Light vinyl in the post. We listen to the whole thing start to finish. I tell him to listen out for Hold You, I think it will be his favourite. He waves goodbye to me from the street and I play the record all the way through once more.
String sections flit in and out of focus, rising and falling with my heart. The drums keep in constant time with my steps. The vocals coast around me and wrap me tight. They feel unavoidably familiar. It is selfish to assume that these words are holding fast to my bedside alone. They keep company to more than me, of course. But for now, they are all mine. The words, when they come into focus, repeat this image of looking at yourself, feeling outside yourself. There’s a distance between ideas and reality; an idea of what love could, should, might have been, but then waking up and seeing it for what it really is. Dreams and naps and sleep also feels really important, both in the lyrics and in the melodies. When sunlight peaks through the curtains and you are half awake, but slowly, slowly, you drift back into a half-sleep. I’m not sure if it is the ethereal strings, or the heavy, heady bass and drum kicks but I really feel like this is what those dreams sound like.
All of these dreams keep comin back to me / Slowly slowly
The rising chords are carving out a space in my chest. Some of the sounds remind me of my childhood spent in a country I was not born in. Lyrics become poems become repetition become mantra become second nature. I send the Gwan music video to a friend; listen to this isn’t it amazing I am seeing him live and can’t wait! im going on my own bc i want to do smthg that’s just for me… She says; yes I’ve heard it! you played it in a rehearsal.
I find it sprinkled, like sawdust, across so many parts of my life. See the songs crop up on my friend’s playlists, they recognise the name, the sounds. I find it reminds me of a thousand memories at once. All strong and tugging at me, from the year past. It does not feel like a year. It does not feel like it has been a year since I sat up late in my room waiting for the release and trying and trying to write about it but not having the words. Not having the knowledge to analyse but wanting so badly to express the inexpressible. My dad still talks about the albums that stayed with him from when he was my age. That indelible impression on your heart that sticks like a third-degree burn. If Half-Light reminds me of anything it reminds me of my love for rooted and nurtured friendships and simultaneously my love for solitude, for sitting up and writing late at night like I’m doing now.
I just keep holdin on / To what I’ve got till it’s gone
Music, like food, plays a central role in my home. So when Safura cooks for me and I show her Rostam’s album and she asks me to play Wood again, it feels special, close. I record the whole song for her in London. Every time I listen to it, I’m reminded of how sharing is really the root of our friendship, a constant interchange. Or maybe we just both really like good food and good music and laughter. Saf lives in Malaysia now and I won’t see her for a year. Wood sounds different. Happy/sad.
Half-Light has bridged that gap between an album I have shared and shared and shared, but also an album that feels so tightly sewn to my chest that I can’t possibly let anyone else near it. Does that make sense? Can two things be true at the same time? In a River was just released. It is different, because I have not lived with it for a year. I love it, of course. It feels fresh, different to everything else that I listen to right now. It is as if Half-Light encompasses a lot of who I am now. Because of Rostam, I fell in love with Wet’s new album, with Cosha, with Maggie Rogers, with Santigold, Charli XCX, Carly Rae Jepson. A wealth of influential women with kick-ass songs. Because he composed music for This Is Our Youth, I go and see the first piece of theatre that really sparks something inside me. I go home and I write the first page of my first play.
When you tie and knot your connections to pieces of music, it is easy to forget that they are not just yours. That these lyrics are memorised by thousands of others as well. That these string sections accompany walks home. That the album cover stares down from bedroom walls just like yours. It is that thing of music being so utterly personal and so completely communal at the same time. This is not a review, it is not a diary entry; it is a bit of both. I like to think that at some level, every time we write and think about art we are giving up a little piece of ourselves. It feels only fair, since those people you are writing about have given you so much.
It’s still all up to you
image is a still from Bike Dream music video by Rostam