Looking back, and then Forward

Being my first post this year, one would expect me to have a lot of things to talk about. I’m not exactly sure how much I have in mind. It’s been a long time since I have spoken my mind on the internet in such elaborate manner. It’s probably going to take a while for me to warm up.

A good place to start it off with, would be:

Life in 2012

Obviously, we didn’t all die. Of course, many did. Some of them as good as Gods in what they did, and some as evil as the devil himself, sometimes both. The lines blur when it comes to defining a person by their deeds.

2012 had been a particularly eventful year for me. To start with, playing a part in the organizing of the tech fest of my college, which was among the first things to happen that year, has given me some of the most valuable of life lessons. It’s been the first time I have been a part of a formal team that doesn’t completely consist of friends. The first time I’ve worked under a leader, and the first time I faced actual challenges on a more professional front. My contributions mostly consisted of content writing and editing. I’ve had that love for writing ever since I opened up to it, which was sometime in eighth grade, around when I started this blog. But working here meant a completely different use of what I was good at. I’m rather proud to admit that my love and skill at this helped me acquire a reputation for the job. Which is when I began to get wary of the whole idea. Approaching an activity that I enjoyed, from a more professional and yielding perspective than from the usual emotional landscape was something that I was totally unprepared for, and I slowly began disliking what I was doing.

Needless to say, that’s why I hardly blogged all year.

The striking realization of how the act of systematizing and clipping of my passions actually generated hatred brought a strange sense of insecurity. I’m sure we were all encouraged to pursue what we are passionate about. Also, ever since childhood, a job always had a negative ring to it, as it was considered nothing more than a way to make ends meet. A means to make money. More of an act of tolerance and perseverance that paid off on a material front and nothing else. We’ve all always dreamed of landing a job that would let us do what we liked and earn some dough at the same time. I began to fear that such a thing did not exist. From a point of view where I felt that working on what I liked would make work easier, I slowly began to believe that working on what I liked would somewhat reduce my enthusiasm altogether.

I spent a large part of the summer wondering what I really wanted to do with my life. Visiting new places, watching new people was indeed insightful, but it only provided more ways to look at things from. And that didn’t really help. Third year at college began full of rush about deciding one’s career, at least in an abstract sense. It was time to start prioritizing. at this point, I’m still not sure what I want to go ahead with. I saw this coming about a year ago, but nothing over all this while, I’ve only liked each face of myself more that it’s been just as hard, if not harder, to choose.

Songwriting was something new I picked up in 2012. Music has always been close to me, and years of listening to new music and attempts at writing tunes and collages on my guitar led me to try out songwriting. Of course, my earliest trials were nothing more than blatant rephrases of my favourite songs. But that gave me my own way of writing. All I had to do was stick on to the rhythm of a song that inspired me at that moment, and write my own stuff to it. Most of them have that abstract minimalist sense to it, which has more to do with me not being a very good singer yet. I strive to be one someday, but let’s see about that!

Getting myself an electric guitar propelled me forwards in that direction at exhilarating speeds. Within months, I saw myself becoming better in places I wanted to be. My first cohesive track was ‘CCTV’ which started off with me trying to write a poetic rant on some people I loathed at college, but I eventually ended up with protests against a seemingly Orwellian world with references to the New World Order theory. ‘CCTV’ refers to the British graffitti-art ‘One Nation under CCTV’ by unnamed artist Bansky. Hope I record that one someday.
I also wrote another instrumental called Paperclip, referring to post-WWII German scientists working in the US: Check that here.

Music in 2012

As I’ve always said, this place would mostly contain the best albums that I discovered in 2012. Not necessarily ones that released then. The year had been quite a journey through genres ranging from glitch to trance to metal. I’ve quite understood what kind of music I’m prone to like. Jazz is still an enigma, though. So many complexities hidden within, yet presenting a very sit-back, juvenile look. I’ve also taken to liking a lot of experimental music primarily depending on electronica. That said, being a guitarist, I still look for music that has sufficient amount of human touch in it to make me feel secure. My album of the year definitely exemplifies that. Starting with:

10: Secrets are Sinister – Longwave

An interesting album from 2008 with the familiar 90s feel. The overall setting of the album resembled the happy yet urban and multi-layered  atmospheric music from the likes of Interpol. I particularly liked the young-Radiohead-esque abusive guitar strokes by Steve Schiltz over the methodic rhythm-defining bass licks in the background. It’s not much of a defining album really, but the vocal melodies had an effect on me. 
Must Listen: No Direction, The Devil and The Lair, Sideways Sideways Rain

9: The Eternal – Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth has been another album that I dug around, long after listening to their magnum opus Daydream Nation, which was back in 2009. I remember developing a keen ear for the clanging guitars and feedback filled breakdowns that build back into wholesome punk songs. The Eternal is yet another piece of their works, with a little more structure and focus on melodies as opposed to all their efforts on creating so many different textures in their other albums. Their comfort with such awkward guitar-tuning is still a great mystery to me. It was a strange coincidence, but I met an Italian Sonic Youth fan one New Year’s Day at a nearby historic temple. 
Must Listen:  Anti-Orgasm, Antenna, Malibu Gas Station, Walking Blue


8: Help! – The Beatles

Every Beatles album has its own thing. I became more of a Beatles man during the semester exams in May 2012. This was mostly due to my need for less demanding music to accompany my all-nighters before exams, and of course that mild desperation for female company on both an emotional and intellectual level that I have had for a while now. Help is unique with its guitar arrangements and vocal harmony styles where the main melody and the harmonies are not really in sync and go on to tell their own versions of the same story. 
Must Listen: Help, The Night Before, You’ve got to hide your love away, Act Naturally, I’ve Just seen a face


7: Illusion – Isotope

After my tryst with Mahavishnu Orchestra and Brand X the year before, I had always been looking for worthwhile music from the genre. Illusion by Isotope has that standard structure of a jazz-fusion album with a grand start, a funk follow-up and then a break into phrygian scale melodies and then back into full-swing awesomeness from both the drummer and the bassist. The guitar-work is surprisingly more atmospheric, as opposed to most bands that try adding intricate lead pieces that impersonate the original brass solos of the genre. 
Must Listen: Rangoon Creeper, E-Dorian, Golden Section


6: Secret Diary – College

Best known for its track in the movie Drive(2011), College is an electronica project founded by french musician David Grellier in 2005 with loads of elements from the electroclash scene that the country has been home for. College, in Grellier’s words, was an attempt “to synthesize into my music the emotions of my childhood” and was greatly influenced by American 1980s pop-culture. Filled with the good old Moog synthesizer and Roland drum machine sounds, Secret Diary is one that brings nostalgia, which is not very disturbing. 

Must Listen: End Theme, Desire, Something Wrong Tonight, The Energy Story

5: A Different Kind of Fix – Bombay Bicycle Club

I discovered Bombay Bicycle Club while exploring music soon after the Radiohead concert in June left me overwhelmed and dissatisfied with any music that I found. BBC reinforces the hope that guitar driven rock is on even today. A Different Kind of Fix is an excellent follow-up to their all-acoustic album Flaws which had won me over already. However, this album had more to offer. They have substantially developed since their debut album and grown into something so mature and modern with music that could be compared to the likes of Arcade Fire and TV on the Radio. 
Must Listen: Lights Out Words Gone, Shuffle, What You Want


4: The Clown – Charles Mingus

I would call this album an evil twin of the 50s musical Singin’ in the Rain. With outstanding bass solos and brass sections that got as heavy as modern day rock, this album excels in every aspect of jazz music. This is also the first comprehensive concept-album that I’ve come across in the genre. It had its own dark moments and lonely solos, which then run into overwhelmingly noisy sequences.
Must Listen: Haitian Fight Song, The Clown


3: Incunabula – Autechre

I came across Autechre while checking Radiohead’s list of inspirations. Needless to say, things are pretty apparent right from the first listen. However, Autechre excels in its own accord with complex rhythms and syncopation with very little ambience to spare. The ever-pulsating cymbal samples and synth sequences are a signature Autechre style with the cold bass beat that changes rhythm with each track. It was another of those albums that helped me through the nights before examinations.
Must Listen: Eggshell, Bike, Bronchus 2

2: Swing Lo Magellan – Dirty Projectors

One of the most anticipated follow-up albums on my list. Bitte Orca had already made me a huge fan of the band and Swing Lo Magellan managed to surpass all my expectations. Backed with Michael Johnson’s motorik yet grungy drum lines and the female vocal harmonies guiding through the tracks, topped with occasional stylish bass melodies resulted in a unique texture over which David Longstreth wove his dark lyrics at odd-time signatures.
Must Listen: Gun Has No Trigger, Offspring are Blank, Just from Chervon

1: After the Gold Rush – Neil Young

Like I said, nothing can be as good as listening to a simple soulful album with expressive guitar and piano. Then again, After the Gold Rush is much more than just that. Neil Young demonstrates his brilliance with the flow-y falsetto vocals and attacking piano lines. I found this album at an old record store during my brief visit to the US in the winter and, instantly, it became the perfect company for all the train rides, cold walks through the American winter and the long, introspective journey back to college. The album brings back so many happy memories from childhood as Young innocently sings along to simple drum beats. The lyrical content is ineffably beautiful in true poetic sense. Starting off with a regular sounding country song, the album goes into beautifully constructed pieces, each laced with poetic, yet paradoxical lyrics that pacify and intrigue right from first listen. Along come the stylish but expressive treble-dominated guitar lines that set the mood for the latter half of the album which is comparatively warmer.
Must Listen: After the Gold Rush, Till the morning comes, Southern Man, Only Love can break your heart

Books/Literature

2012 has been a good year when it came to me reading books. Although that statement bases itself on the number. I’ve read quite a few novels over the year. It started off with me hunting bookstores late 2011.
From the harsh toilet humour from Chuck Palahniuk to soul-kindling first person anecdotes from JD Salinger, I came across a number of masterpieces. But then, the best I’ve read this year would have to be:

Animal Farm – George Orwell

An outstanding piece of satire, cleverly taking a dig at landmark political events that occurred during the 20th century. This novel also presents an excellent insight on the mindset of leaders, power play and amazing analogy on the short-term goal oriented work of leaders and their hidden agenda. Around the time I read this novel, I opened up to the raging political issues in the country and a some of major political tactics such as propaganda and muscle-intimidation made substantially more sense to me after this book. This simple story with animals being the main characters contains sublime references to a number of real world incidents including the Perestroika and other communist acts. 
This book threw Orwell into fame and also inspired people in a variety of fields, most notable of them being the Pink Floyd album “Animals.” Unlike Orwell’s other works such as 1984 and Burmese Days, which are more realistic and filled with dark humour, Animal Farm gets to business as soon as it starts and takes you for a ride through the deepest places in the mind. 
This is a must read for, I’d say, everyone. 
I haven’t really watched many movies this year, so there’s nothing really to comment on. I’ve been waiting to watch some of the movies that won stuff at the Oscars, but let’s see about that. 
That’s with the old year wrap-up content. Okay, so I did have a lot to say. Cool.

It’s ankle deep into 2013 already, and this year will certainly be a crucial year in my life as it is the time when I shall have to make important life decisions and say goodbye to a lot of things, good and bad.

I do hope to keep posting, but that’s not my New Year’s Resolution or anything. 
Till then, I shall return to the other place and wait there
– Sumanth
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