A year off of anti-depressants: my mental health in words

It has been roughly one year since I stopped taking anti-depressants. In this time, I have learnt a great deal about my relationship with my mental health. So I write these words in the hope of helping anyone else who is struggling.

I stopped taking sertraline because I felt I was ‘over’ depression and anxiety. At the time I chose to stop, I felt great. But within a few months, I learnt that depression and anxiety are not things that you simply ‘stop’ feeling.

That is not to say I regret stopping taking anti-depressants, I don’t. Depression and anxiety are subjective, and different ways of coping will work for different people. If they work for you, then of course take them. I used anti-depressants to reach a point where I could envisage and pursue a future where I wasn’t reliant on Sertraline.

Anti-depressants like Sertraline numb your emotional reactions. I elected to experience the full range of my emotions by getting off anti-depressants. And I am happy about this. I have learnt that I experience very intense emotions, but as scary as that intensity can be, I want to feel that, rather than live a life that is emotionally limited.

Sertraline is only a moderate anti-depressant, and I was not on a particularly potent dosage, but even so, the withdrawal effects were surprising. For a couple of months after weaning myself off them, I was still feeling on top of the world, with added confidence as a result of ‘beating’ depression and anxiety. This confidence imploded the first time I felt truly sad again. I was immobilised by the force of it. I had to go home an hour into my shift at Tesco after I couldn’t stop crying on the checkouts. I looked broken, asking if my unfortunate customers if they would like a bag whilst tears streamed down my absent face.

I decided my sadness was due to being stuck in Somerset in summer, when I would have rather been elsewhere. However, after I moved to London, the sadness lingered. After a couple of months of living with that darkness over me and not doing anything about it, I decided I was going to make time to work on my mental health. After neglecting it for so long, I realised you have to want to help yourself before you can reach a better place.

Since I experienced that real aching sadness again, I have come to understand that mental health is a journey that doesn’t have an endpoint. Change is the only constant. Your own mental peace comes from within, and so you need to turn your focus inside.

This can be a very intimidating thought. Particularly if you have spent significant periods of time trying to escape the issues within yourself. It is incredibly difficult to unlearn the way you think. Particularly when the way you think has been forged through constant repetition during your formative years. To work on yourself thus requires you to ask some questions of yourself and everything you think is fixed.

To do this, I elected to use meditation. I use the headspace app, which does a fantastic job of making meditation accessible. I have learnt so much from taking just 15 minutes per day to go inwards and work on myself. Taking this time out every day allows me to visualise

what I want to gain from meditation. Which is ultimately to become a healthier, happier and more positive person, for myself, and for all the other relationships in my life.

Here are some of the most fundamental lessons meditation has allowed me to realise:

Ø Don’t be so hard on yourself – it doesn’t matter.

Ø Only exert energy on things that are justified – If you can’t do anything about it, why waste energy? And if you can do something, then do it!

Ø You can’t control what other people do, but you can control how you feel about it

Ø Don’t be afraid to be the person you want to be

Ø Don’t get lost in thought – you control your emotional reaction and the energy invested into different thoughts

Ø You can manifest happiness – a warm, spacious, and clear light

Ø You are not defined by your thoughts and feelings – don’t reproduce them

Ø Thinking is a habit, and you can grow accustomed to negative thoughts which take time to break

Ø Live in the moment – it’s the only tangible space in which we can live, and you’ll end up unhappy if you live in what has happened or might happen

Ø Find what you love and cherish it. Get into veganism or women’s rights or Wu-Tang or the gym or the car boot and be passionate about it – there is a beautiful clarity in doing something you love

Ø Everything is down to you

I am still a deeply flawed person. All humans are imperfect. But the more I work on myself, the calmer and happier I become. I still have much work to do, having neglected myself for so long. But as long as I keep turning inward, I know I am striving to become my best self.

A year off of anti-depressants: my mental health in words

What I actually learned at university, or how to disappear completely and rediscover yourself

Many people go away to university and have a ball. “Best three years of my life” they’ll tell you, before proceeding to tell you that you’ll have a great time. There is a belief that you should love it. Sadly, I have not. There have been days during my three years, where even the most banal, everyday decisions were a great internal struggle. In this struggle, the feeling that most often emerged as the victor screamed stop. There have been many occasions where I wanted simply to stop. Stop working. Stop going to lectures. Stop university. Stop interacting. Stop leaving my room. Stop being here.

Depression makes you deeply unwell. It causes doubt. Doubt about everything you thought you understood about the person you thought you were. Countless times I gazed at myself in the mirror, and thought “who the fuck are you?”. When you look into your own eyes and see a vacant stranger, something is fundamentally wrong with your psyche. University pushed me into having an identity crisis. The person I thought I was disappeared. Nothing prepared me for it.

I wallowed in my own self-pity and blamed people around me for the better part of a year. I pushed people away. It is far easier to take your anger out on others than it is to accept that you need to change your attitude. I came to the realisation that I needed to make a change only last summer, on a trip to Bolivia and Peru. I finally wanted to get better enough to help myself. I interacted with people. I said yes to things. I looked forward to things. I enjoyed things.

For so long, I ceased to be myself. With this new attitude, I set about rediscovering and reshaping who I wanted ‘myself’ to be. As an individual, your identity is never static, it is dynamic. You are constantly in a process of becoming. So despite the fact that who you are is constantly changing, I have learned to confident and happy with who I am, and where I’m going. And, whilst university broke me into a shell of a person at times, I wouldn’t change what happened for the world. I have learnt so much about myself, and I write this in the hope that these thoughts can offer some help to whoever is reading when carrying on seems pointless.

Things I learnt

If you accept that things are constantly changing, you will be far happier. You can’t live in the past.

Accept that sometimes life is really shit. It is impossible to be happy about everything all the time. Appreciate and be happy about all the good things that come along when they do.

Nobody else other than you can ever know exactly how you feel, but this doesn’t mean they can’t help.

It is ultimately up to you to feel happy in yourself.

You have the power to shape who you want to be, what you stand for, and where you’re going.

You don’t have to be remotely intelligent to go to university, you just need to jump through hoops and have a bit of money.

So many people go to university because they either expect, or are expected to go. This is pointless. It is not your god given right to be educated. It is a privilege. Don’t go unless you want to learn.

You have access to millions of different educational resources. Learn everything you can.

University is so far removed from the real world.

University pastoral support is woefully inept.

Educate yourself on the world. Refuse to be content to coast through life without knowing things.

Don’t be afraid of having an opinion. Stand up for your beliefs.

Being pretentious and shitting on everything in a quest to be considered interesting is deeply unfulfilling.

Don’t blame your situations on other people all the time, whilst they may contribute to how you feel, the only way you’re going to be happier is to focus on yourself as an individual.

There are lots of bad people in the world.

There are some good people that make up for all the bad.

Climate change and environmental degradation caused by humans are destroying the planet. This is well known. Yet people still choose to avoid changing their actions. Don’t become a victim of cognitive dissidence. Do everything you can to preserve the Earth.

People think we live in a society where men and women are equal. We don’t. Sexism is alive and kicking, especially at university. We need Feminism and people that deride this idea are wrong and simply don’t understand the concept.

Exercise is amazing. It focuses your mind and blocks out all other distractions.

Find meaning in forms of expression. Take personal meaning in art, music, books. Write. These things can help you to interpret and understand what’s going on in your head.

When the time comes, you outgrow certain places, and certain people.

It is ingrained into us not to talk about mental health. We are taught to pursue things without addressing deep personal issues. Silence is killing people and making so many people miserable. It needs to be normalized and discussed in public, you shouldn’t feel unable to talk to anyone about how you feel. Check how your friends are doing they might need some support.

Don’t stop. Things get better.

What I actually learned at university, or how to disappear completely and rediscover yourself

Don’t: A definitive guide on how not to do university

Don’t expect freshers to be an uber-fun hedonistic paradise

Don’t try and fool yourself into being something different from what you are and then detest yourself intensely. 

Don’t try to convince yourself you’re not having a shit time.

Don’t neglect the few decent people you do meet in the beginning.

Don’t put your belief into your old friends from home.

Don’t hesitate to move flat if you’re in the incredibly likely scenario where you miraculously don’t get on with strangers with whom you are randomly thrust together.

Don’t pay a load of money to join a bunch of societies and then stop going because of the initial futile awkward tension.

Don’t drown in your own self-absorption, believing that no one is having a worse time than you.

Don’t let your hatred of those that surround you prevent you from making any friends so you end up in a house with the first group of people that have a space for you.

Don’t spend every night in your room alone refusing to socialise.

Don’t refuse to move on from your old friends through shortsighted and bloody minded ignorance.

Don’t start second year exactly the same.

Don’t convince yourself you’re far too unique for the people at your university, and blame their conformity for your lack of ability to make friends.

Don’t doubt yourself.

Don’t ever be utterly reliant on one other person, it’s not fair.

Don’t hate people for having a good time.

Don’t think it’s normal to detest life in such an intense and painful way.

Don’t let your mood wreck your work.

Don’t bother with people who aren’t worth your time.

Don’t let your mood get to the stage where crippling social anxiety prevents you from engaging in social activities. 

Don’t take your frustration out on people that actually care.

Don’t make your only respite a trip home every weekend.

Don’t go to enter your third year as a friendless hollow shell of a person.

Don’t give up trying.

Don’t: A definitive guide on how not to do university

The Raphael Foundation: Triumphant Hope

Everyone deserves a fair shot at life. Sadly, in our world of perpetual inequality and unavoidable prejudice, this is not the case. This is why it is imperative that we help those who are less fortunate in society. This simple logic underpins all the fantastic work that takes place at The Raphael Foundation, based in the town of Codlea. They may not have a lavish array of equipment to call upon, yet the tireless staff and volunteers give everything to ensure that the project’s 72 clients have the happiest experience possible.


Happiness was certainly the focus during the morning, with the centre offering much needed respite for a group of local children. Of the seven children present that day, five were orphans, and these were “the lucky ones” according to fellow volunteer Anissa, who divulged that “it has taken three years to get the orphans to this centre”. Anissa then described the conditions of the local orphanage with fervent passion, and told tales of treatment that fall far short of acceptability or of basic humanity, disclosing that “the children are not touched often in the orphanages”, and going so far as to state that “if they hadn’t been neglected in the orphanage, some would probably be perfectly able”. Accounts of children without the use of their legs sat in their cribs all day, with almost no chance for physical exercise, stimulation or human contact; or stories where the solution to a child throwing their mattress out of their crib is to take the mattress away highlight the struggles the children must go through before they can even talk. Raphael can give these children a fair and just childhood for a brief time each week, as they are shown devotion and affection that is otherwise absent from their lives, allowing cognitive development and joy to flower.

Taking part in this morning session, it was blatantly obvious how much the centre means to the children. After an initial hesitance to get involved during the morning’s singing, I threw myself headfirst into playing with the children, and the results were spectacular. The children absolutely adored human contact, and playing with them gave them some much needed social interaction, putting glowing smiles onto the children’s faces. The ecstasy was infectious, and seeing the children enjoy their right to have fun filled me with radiance, and gave me a deeper understanding of why the staff and volunteers devote their time to such a noble cause. The jubilance was bittersweet however, upon the realisation that the joy for the orphans would be so short, and that in the afternoon they would return to the orphanage. The children will then be left to wait until the Raphael Foundation offers them an escape route at the same time next week.

They are people just like us, we are the same” was a touching and righteous statement by young volunteer Ruben, an ambitious and articulate individual striving to be teacher. Ruben brought to my attention the severity of social discrimination that disabled individuals still face in Romania, remarking that “A lot of people treat them like animals, when they are just like us”. These animal comparisons are astute, when one considers that the forty disabled children in the Codlea orphanage are changed only twice a day, and washed only twice a week. Therefore, it is vital that the Raphael foundation provides an outlet for the children, as volunteer Lacramiora says: “they have nothing, there are lots of children with money and parents but these kids don’t, they come here to have fun”. Lacramiora sacrifices her free time to help at Rafael when she is not at school, and this selflessness is incredibly admirable. She revealed that her mother works at the orphanage, and that “there are maybe three or four staff to forty special needs children”, which illustrates the need for investment in Romanian orphanages to provide a satisfactory environment for the children.

As the children returned to the orphanage, there was no time to rue their situation, as the adult programme got underway with a circle discussion to encourage social interaction; a taken-for-granted benefit for the majority of people, but one that is a precious commodity for those with disabilities. Andrea, a social worker at the Foundation, echoed this idea, understanding the importance of their role: “otherwise they would just sit at home and watch TV, they don’t get to play or talk to people”. She also remarked that while the job “can be stressful, they have a lot of fun”, this was certainly evident when I was there, with one of the individuals’ birthdays calling for a celebration. Amidst all the dancing, the friendliness and amity crackled through the air, a heart-warming sight that proved disabilities cannot and should not stop anyone from being happy.


To overcome the physical barriers of disability, physiotherapy is a necessity; however, the existing attitudes to the disabled coupled with the scarcity of equipment in Romania, means that therapy is a luxury. Physiotherapy is a fundamental part of what the Rafaela foundation do, allowing each client’s needs to be addressed. Despite the pressing need for physical therapy, Gratiela, the physiotherapist at Rafaela, reveals the reality of life at Raphael: “sometimes it is hard, we don’t have all the things we need”. This underlines again, the need for more investment in the disabled, as does the fact that it is difficult to fund everything themselves. She explains that physiotherapy “is important because they have to be independent”, inferring that the lack of available resources for the disabled removes independence from the lives of their clientele, meaning they are increasingly reliant upon the work of noble volunteers and centres like Rafael. Alongside the self-explanatory physical advantages of physiotherapy, Gratiela sees the mental benefits of “a self-esteem boost”, as well as the “social network” offered by the foundation, a concept also articulated by Andrea. To continue her outstanding work, Gratiela would like to see future development of the project with “a bigger room, better equipment and more specialized beds”; and with the rapid growth of Rafael since 2007, I sincerely hope they can grow even further to continue their invaluable work in Codlea.


Estera, a long time worker and volunteer and Rafael, seeps determination when discussing her ideal future for the project. Her masters centred on community projects and social work, and she is keen to apply this to Rafael, which, as a Codlea native, carries a heavy personal weight for her. She envisions a “respite care centre”, and whilst this dogged aspiration is heartwarming, significant financial investment is required, as she estimates the development would cost “€750,000, and it is hard to get sponsors”. It is therefore essential that Rafael continues to grow and gets sufficient investment, as it provides a service of unparalleled importance: bringing enjoyment to the disabled. The fact that the project does this through the local community means that they play a pivotal role in changing the stigmatisms that still exist around the disabled in Romania. The Raphael Foundation is not a wealthy project, they may not have enough equipment, and they may only get limited access to the local orphans; however, they show how lives can be changed in spite of these deficiencies, via generosity, humility, hard work, and hope.


Feel free to donate here or get involved with the Raphael Foundation here.

The Raphael Foundation: Triumphant Hope

Human Performance – Parquet Courts

pqhqParquet Courts return to their familiar antagonistic slacker roots on their fifth LP after forays into Swans-esque experimentalism on the Monastic Living EP. Swans are not the only New York natives the Brooklyn four-piece channel on Human Performance, with a pinch of Sonic Youth’s dissonant guitars, a dash of Ramones riotous fuck you attitude, and even a sprinkle of Talking Heads; all hurled together to produce a fantastic LP.

For all the talk of Parquet Courts influences, the band embedded deepest into their sound is evident: slacker/indie darlings Pavement. Stephen Malkmus’s bored drawl and quirky lyrics are alive and kicking in Andrew Savage, while the band also replicate Pavement’s keen eye for a melody straight from the off with some gripping guitar work from Austin Brown on opener ‘Already Dead’. These infectious guitar riffs are plastered all over ‘Human Performance’, like on the country ramble of ‘Dust’ where scatter-brained guitars zip along until whirring into a storm. Rollicking country licks underlie the pessimistic defeatism of ‘Pathos Prairie’, where Savage turns his beam of hate on fickle human nature: “Like how we tell lies//like that we’re sure//that we’ll change”; however, this beam doesn’t reach full power until the ranting moan of ‘Captive of the sun’: “Don’t get out//don’t have fun//living like a captive of the sun”.

The guitars on ‘Human Performance’ range from a sun-flecked jangle on the carefree bliss of ‘Outside’; to the jerky strut of ‘I was just here’ and ‘One man no city’; to the country twang of ‘Berlin got Blurry’. The aforementioned ‘I was just here’ describes the tortuous mundanity of everyday life before erupting into a punk blowout harking back to their birth in the gritty New York underground. Despite sharing the similar jerky, uptight guitars, ‘One man no city’ is a completely different animal, as a funky bass groove accompanies tribal bongos before flowing into a thick sea of hazy psychedelia.

Parquet Courts punk roots shine throughout ‘Human Performance’, never more so than on ‘Two dead cops’ as urgent drums and a droning bass brawl with the unrelenting manic guitar riff, while the title track boasts a semi-raucous chorus against a meandering bassline. The band show a real penchant for unpredictability, deployed in the breakneck tempo changes on ‘Paraphrased’; and whilst they can churn out energetic fun tunes like the fantastic ‘Berlin got blurry’, they can equally throw out a sucker punch, like sleepy album closer ‘It’s gonna happen’.

Parquet Courts’ disdain for the dull greyscale of everyday life is channelled into glorious melodies and scathing cynicism on ‘Human Performance’, reaffirming their status as one of modern guitar music’s brightest sparks.

Listen here.


Human Performance – Parquet Courts

Everything you’ve come to expect – The Last Shadow Puppets

The-Last-Shadow-Puppets--768x768Messrs Alex Turner and Miles Kane collide once again to birth album number two as The Last Shadow Puppets. The posters boys of modern British indie music place all impetus on ‘cool’, producing a predictable sleek noire effort.

Turner’s transition from scruffy indie-boy to slick quaffed crooner resulted in 2013’s AM’, a painstakingly blunt record with little excitement to be found amongst its grey instrumentation and nonsensical lyrics. This combination was heralded by some as a masterstroke, and it is with this combination Turner and mod-wannabe pal Kane, continue. ‘Aviation’ is served as the LP’s amuse bouche, as strings cast a monochrome filter over the record from the off, as Turners baritone wavers against a propulsive bass, spewing dire, un-relatable, unintelligent non-words. These non-words infest ‘Everything you’ve come to expect’, from the horrendous “Haunted house sound effects//Dracula teeth” on the dishwater dull ‘Dracula teeth’, lurching to the pathetic “you’re the first day of spring//with a septum piercing” on ‘Sweet Dreams, TN’ before mediocrity plummets into the abyss on ‘She does the woods’ with the rhyme of “sensible shoes//purple kagoules”. Abysmal. From a man heralded as one of the greatest songwriters of his generation by NME. No wonder the ailing publication is on its last legs.

Perhaps Turner and Kane’s musicianship can rescue the album from its toxic infatuation with horrendous lyrics? Extinguish those candles of optimism, the answer is absolutely not. The album lacks any variation, flair or genuinely interesting guitar leads, drums or bass grooves; never before has a guitar solo sounded as safe as on ‘Miracle Aligner’. Safe is the word sprinting to the fore when listening to ‘Everything you’ve come to expect’; even the memorable bizarre fairground music opening to the title track gives way to some heavy-handed riff and beige backbeat. There is a severe dearth of innovation throughout the album, with tales of yearning for some unrequited love churned out time and time again, with ‘The element of surprise’ and ‘Sweet Dreams, TN’ shining as particularly ham-fisted stabs at appearing seductive. Single ‘Bad Habits’ is the most energetic thing on the album, as jarring strings and animalistic screams from Kane aim to make the track sound ‘dangerous’, sadly the track is let down by an entirely unconvincing vocal performance from Kane, with the chorus “Bad habits//yeah” devoid of any menace. This lack of energy is apparent on the sleepy ‘The dream synopsis’, and in the desert-tinged guitars of ‘She does the woods’. On the latter track, the flat delivery and lack of conviction is clarified by the presence of strings; the atmospheric power of strings is completely at odds with the bland nature of the songs. ‘Used to be my girl’ could not be more uninspiring if it tried, lazily tussling with closer ‘The bourne identity’ for champion of mundanity. One of the albums only highlights (if you can call it that) is the slinking funk riff of ‘Pattern’, and even that is cruelly sabotaged by Kane’s nasal sneer.

‘Everything you’ve come to expect’ is an instantly forgettable drag from boring start to boring finish. Turner and Kane can still bank on their status as indie rock iconoclasts of cool, they will remain as poster boys, but god knows why; their Last Shadow Puppets project is dead in the water after falling flat on every front. A reflection of the depressing state of British indie music.

Listen Here.


Everything you’ve come to expect – The Last Shadow Puppets

The White Album – Weezer


weezer-whiteNo band screams inconsistency quite as much as Weezer. The pained, self-depreciating zenith of the ‘Pinkerton’ era feels eons ago, buried beneath swathes of torrid mediocrity, embodied no better than by the genuinely abysmal collaboration with Lil Wayne. How could a band once obsessed with underground alt-kings Pavement have plummeted to such a nadir? Many questioned if the band could return from such an abyss, yet 2014’s ‘Everything Will be Alright in the End’ was a solid, if un-remarkable, return to form; in comparison to the dire output of the hideous mainstream crossover attempts plaguing most of the bands noughties catalogue. The new LP sees the band picking up where ‘Everything will be alright in the end’ left off, and fans the fledgling flames of recovery.

‘The White Album’ is Weezer’s first shot at a concept album since the magnum opus of ‘Pinkerton’, with the band chronicling a relationship from inception to demise. This is not new ground for the band, but they say write about what you know, and Rivers does so with aplomb. The first six songs are breezy and carefree, with the trilogy of ‘Wind in our sail’, ‘Thank god for girls’ and ‘(Girl we got a) good thing’ all being piano driven; as a result, the guitars are largely subdued except for a Thin Lizzy-esque solo from Rivers on the latter track, bursting free from the oppressive shackles of the keys. The crystal-clean production fostered by producer Jake Sinclair suits the upbeat tracks, particularly the afore-mentioned ‘Wind in our sail’ and ‘(Girl we got a) good thing’, with sickly displays of love-drenched optimism smattered throughout the lyrics, ie. “Girl we got a good thing//I don’t see this ending”. These amorous overtones are set against typical chugging guitars and a steady backbeat from Patrick Wilson and Scott Shriner. Euphoria reaches full throttle on ‘King of the world’, Rivers’ ode of assurance to his wife Kyoko, which is really quite touching as he offers for the two of them to “ride a greyhound all the way to the Galapagos” to cope with Kyoko’s anxieties.

Amidst ramblings of cannoli’s, centrifuges and Bacharach, the bizarre lyricism does conjure some insightful imagery, particularly regarding gender power structures. Rivers’ dependence on strong women is prominent in lines like “She’s so big//she’s so strong” on the faux-rapped ‘Thank god for girls’ and the declaration that “God is a woman” on the wonderful blue album grunge-pop of ‘Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori’. Once the relationship breaks down the protagonist embarks on fruitless pursuits of other girls, as detailed in the bands best single for some time, ‘L.A Girlz’. Rivers bitterly reflects that the various women of the city of angels “treat me like I have the plague”, before a bittersweet climax erupts from a classic Weezer guitar lick as the euphoria is shattered and mood hurtles back down to earth. This is immediately followed by the sorrowful ‘Jacked Up’, where Rivers dons his finest falsetto to helplessly wallow in self-pity, “why why why do my flowers always die?” he demands. Like ‘Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori’, the final track ‘Endless Bummer’ is ripped straight off ‘The Blue Album’, as carefree summer days become mired in dread and pointlessness.

Weezer being Weezer, of course there are cringey moments, with the curse of mediocrity looming over certain moments, particularly the uninspiring opener ‘California Kids’, and ‘Do you wanna get high?’ which both feel a bit lumpen and predictable. Obviously ‘The White Album’ isn’t going to be some radical, avant-garde re-invention: this is Weezer we’re talking about. The LP is nothing ground breaking but that’s not why people listen to Weezer, people listen for the bands unparalleled ability (however much it has waned over the years) to churn out the melodic slices of poppy rock they built their career on. Weezer are finally tolerable again, and that’s enough cause for celebration in itself.

Listen here.


The White Album – Weezer

neo – So Pitted


This fierce new Seattle band are fully aware of the illustrious musical past of their hometown. Evidently influenced by the muddy assault of grunge bands like Mudhoney and particularly ‘Bleach’ era Nirvana, So Pitted cram unrelenting minimalist force right down your throat, a cutting blend of monstrous distortion and punk nihilism. Sub Pop is an ideal home for them.

‘Cat scratch’ wastes no time in blowing the doors off, with the chaotic fuzz from Jeannine Koewler’s guitar blasted through a bass amp. Piercing wails of feedback scar the ears throughout the record, never more so than on the hazy love-kills rant of ‘I’m not over it’. Dissonance takes centre stage, meaning the sound is wholly unpredictable, which contributes to the messy excitement So Pitted excel at. This unpredictability means songs can you with grave apprehension – they could snap at any moment, like on the volatile ‘pay attention to me’. This anxiety embedded into So Pitted’s delivery is largely down to the gnarled, abrasive vocals swapped between drummer Liam Downey and guitarist Nathan Rodriguez, particularly evident in the corrosive delivery of ‘holding the void’ – “I’m done with you//when you’re done with me”. Downey’s bullet drumming is a punishing weapon integral to So Pitted’s rage-filled exuberance, and shines throughout ‘neo’, particularly on cuts like ‘no nuke country’, ‘the sickness’ and ‘get out of my room’. Urgency is found throughout ‘neo’, with the motoric drums forming one spike of a three pronged trident of attack, combining with diseased splutters of guitar and desolate vocals to produce a toxic onslaught, complementing each other perfectly on ‘the sickness’ in particular. ‘Feed me’ is a hunched over, wound of a song, the ominous hopelessness embodied perfectly by sketchy, scrawling guitar work. Both ‘woe’ and ‘rot in hell’ are a tad bland amongst the rest of the songs, showcasing how the lyricism could do with some improvement, yet other than that there is little wrong with the record. ‘Get out of my room’ sees robotic drumming fill unsettling pauses, juxtaposed perfectly next to storms of wild instrumentation; before So Pitted go out with a bang on the havoc-inducing blitz of ‘chop down that tree’.

The album does lack variation, however this is not an issue on a short and sweet statement of intent (neo clocks in at 28 minutes), particularly when the sludge-y, vitriolic screech of So Pitted leaves its roar lingering in the ear-drums. Crank it up loud.

Listen here.


neo – So Pitted

The Life of Pablo – Kanye West


lifeofpabloThe irrepressible ‘Yeezus’ returns to his saintly duties with the hotly anticipated media furore that is ‘The Life of Pablo’. The self-appointed “biggest rockstar on the planet” delivers a polarising mess of an album, which smacks of desperation to be “artsy”. Kanye sells these half-baked, pretentious pieces as concepts, yet from within these trenches of mediocrity, a few bursts of genius do emerge.

Auto tune defecates its pristine shimmer all over this record, particularly on the lacklustre ‘Wolves’ and ‘Pt.2’, this seeks purely to remove any promise the song may have had and serves as a ferocious irritant throughout. That being said, there are some fantastic vocal performances in places, particularly on the wonderful, gospel-inspired Kanye communion of opener ‘Ultralight Beam’, Kelly Price provides a soulful edge to the song, combining seamlessly with the euphoric gospel choir and stop start beats. Other guests have mixed success on ‘The Life of Pablo’, with Rihanna’s poppy vocals threatening to derail the decent ‘Famous’, the bass is pulverising while Kanye’s well-documented gargantuan ego carries the track, yet its scattered nature is its Achilles heel, it doesn’t follow any logical progression in its pursuit of sounding “edgy” and falls, flat and edgeless. Kendrick Lamar’s guest verse on the slinky banger that is ‘No more parties in LA’ is an album high, his flow is impeccable, and this seems to bring some fire out of Kanye, who is not the greatest rapper or lyricist in the game, but delivers one of his most convincing performances of the album. Kanye is a spokesman for the self-entitlement generation, an arrogant, narcissistic brat at times, he summarises the hopeless nadir of modern society in the murky, manic ‘Facts’ with a reference to “Kimoji’s”, a creation of sickening malevolence, proving that while he may not be the spokesman the younger generation want, he’s the one that a generation in which “Kimoji’s” are allowed to exist, deserve. ‘Fade’ sees out the album not with a bang, but a pointless, mundane whimper, a horrendous 90’s dance throwback where Kanye’s influence is barely registered.

The skits on ‘The Life of Pablo’ are a mixed bag, as is everything on the LP to be honest. ‘Silver surfer intermission’ is barely worth a mention, but the tongue in cheek, hater-baiting ‘I love Kanye’ is the pure essence of Kanye as he sarcastically spits “I hate the new Kanye//the bad mood Kanye//the always rude Kanye//spaz in the news Kanye”, affirming his intolerance for critics as though it wasn’t already thrust into the faces of the public on a near-daily basis. The dark menace of ‘Freestyle 4’ contains the erraticism of the rest of the record, but channels it to its advantage, producing a lo-fi, erratic snarl of a track. This collision of ideas fails more than it succeeds however, with the album flowing about as cohesively as two small moons colliding, the transition between songs is jarring, and even within certain tracks, the progression does not allow for an enjoyable listen, particularly on the bizarre, annoying electronic whir of ‘Father Stretch my hands Pt. 1”, in which Kanye provides beautiful poetic prose about “bleached assholes”. The double take of ‘Low lights’ and ‘High lights’, ironically, are both low lights, pure filler tracks, sounding rushed and confused in their own artistic direction, as does the track that precedes them ‘Feedback’, where gnarled beats mask poor lyricism and a weak flow from Kanye. Both ‘Waves’ and ’30 hours’ are a chore to endure, the irritating, crawlingly slow nature of both cuts grates the eardrums, while ‘Waves’ has a particularly aggravating mash of vocals that achieve nothing. ‘FML’ had the potential to be good, with Kanye’s verse injecting some much needed urgency into the frequently turgid ‘Life of Pablo’, yet the Weeknd’s overblown vocals detract from the genuine sincerity of the track. Kanye remains defiant to his haters, and apparently logic on this track, as the ending ventures into some distant realm, making no sense whatsoever. ‘Real Friends’ is the most heartfelt track on the album and a real high point, where sombre backing instrumentation, including a chiming piano melody, blends perfectly with Yeezy’s ode to the fake friends encrusted into the poisoned chalice of fame.

‘The Life of Pablo’ is certainly a mixed bag, ultimately sounding like a collection of ideas rather than a cohesive album, where some of the ideas are executed masterfully, as on ‘Ultralight beam’, ‘Real Friends’ and ‘No more parties in LA’, or conversely, where the rush of the creative process produce songs lacking a clarified musical direction, and sounding deeply confused and uninteresting as a result.

Listen here.


The Life of Pablo – Kanye West

Bloc Party and Drenge – NME Awards Tour Leeds 8/2/2016

drenge liveIf there’s one thing Drenge know, its chaos. Keeping the crowd writhing in anger and ensuing havoc throughout, Drenge are a riled-up beast. Eoin Loveless stutters about the stage peeling off vicious riffs with a wolfish grin on his face, whilst brother Rory is a manic blur of flailing limbs and hair, possessed to demolish all in front of him, and bassist Rob Graham remains motionless, keeping the bass grooves flowing. Eoin’s bleak vocals were impeccable throughout, adding extra anguish on ‘Fuckabout’ and ‘Let’s pretend’ in particular, not to mention his outstanding guitar work, never more evident than during the solo of ‘Undertow’ standout ‘The woods’. The addition of a bassist for their second album provides cuts from their debut album, like ‘Fuckabout’ and ‘I want to break you in half’, with an even greater wall of sonic dirge. The aforementioned ‘I want to break you in half’ birthed a gargantuan circle pit, a flaming inferno of ruin and rage, engulfing all within it. Drenge are bags of fun to watch due to their unrelenting energy, even with minimal crowd interaction, bar when Rory introduced ‘I don’t want to make love to you’ as a “Beatles cover”, much to the delight of the audience. After the brooding, crushing hopelessness of ‘Let’s pretend’ brought down the curtain, the crowd were desperate to devour more, with Drenge unfortunately playing too short a set to include fan favourites like ‘The snake’ and ‘Backwaters’.


Kele pranced about on stage all smiles as the band kicked off with ‘So only he can heal me’. Bloc Party’s set drew heavily from ‘Hymns’, which participated only to their detriment, as it was evident the vast majority weren’t there for their newer songs, but for the vitriolic anger and yearning anxiety of their first two albums. Of all the newer songs, ‘The love within’ drew the biggest reaction, baffling considering the intolerable synth was no less prominent live, making me want to rip my ears off. ‘Exes’, the best song off their new album was bizarrely overlooked, for the dire, grey sludge of ‘Fortress’, which forced itself upon the venue, smothering the crowd into submission. Louise Bartle was surprisingly fantastic at replicating the robotic perfectionism of Matt Tong, which begs the question of why the drums on ‘Hymns’ lack the punishing propulsion of previous albums, when Bartle can evidently step up to the mantle. The hidden jewels in Bloc Party’s crown were ‘Intimacy’ cuts ‘Mercury’ and ‘One more chance’, expecting these to fall lukewarm, I was pleasantly dumbfounded, gone was the washy electronic instrumentation of the studio, and in stormed a powerful array of organic instrumentation, including a baritone sax operated by Justin Harris. This completely reaffirmed my biggest gripe with the stale mediocrity of ‘Hymns’, the bland synths Kele is so transfixed upon detract from the songs, perhaps if an increased impetus on organic instrumentation was deployed on the ‘Hymns’ live songs, they wouldn’t sound so utterly forgettable. The noughties indie-rock staples justifiably produced the biggest roars of the night, with both ‘Banquet’ and ‘Helipcopter’ not even requiring Kele to sing, as the lyrics are hurled at him from all corners of the room, whilst the tender ‘Waiting for the 7:18’ and ‘This modern love’ were embraced with complete adoration. Bloc Party concluded the evening on the madcap warble of ‘Rachet’, ensuing pandemonium in the crowd as Kele demanded his army of followers to dance.

bloc party live2

Drenge undoubtedly stole the show with their unrivalled ferocity, whilst Bloc Party were by no means bad, their set smacked of a band desperate to show how they’ve “evolved”, meaning many early and frankly better tracks like “Little thoughts” and “Flux” were omitted at the expense of the lacklustre drudgery of ‘Hymns’. A few personal issues with set lists aside, the performance of both bands was a joy to watch.


Bloc Party and Drenge – NME Awards Tour Leeds 8/2/2016