Letter #110

Hello,

How are you? I know I say this every letter, but I really mean it at the moment. How are you? I’d genuinely love to hear from you. I hope you, your friends and family, and everyone you know is safe and sound.

Before I get started, I’d like to say a huge thank you to both Ciaran and Peter for the last two guest letters. Both letters and both mixtapes got absolutely rave reviews and lots of really positive feedback. As ever, I feel very privileged and lucky to bring in such high quality guest editors.

Now, on to this week. I’m back. Hello. ❤️

Over the last three letters (basically while we’ve been in lockdown), quite a few people have gotten in touch to say that they’ve really looked forward to these letters. The idea of some stuff to do, some stuff to read, and thirty happy, dance-your-troubles-away songs have provided some solace in an otherwise troubling situation. I want to say a big thank you to those people, and also a big sorry. This week’s mixtape and letter is a little different.

If you’d like upbeat, forget-what’s-going-on, throw-your-head-back music, then there’s loads in the archives, also try this from Love Will Save The Dayer, Nigel Pauley, or  this epic playlist from fellow Love Will Save The Dayer Paul Campbell. However this week, I’ve put together a mixtape that’s pretty instructive; heal yourself and move. Named after one of my favourite Theo Parrish songs, this week is all about not blocking any emotion – instead basking in the lows as much as the highs. With as equal focus on heal yourself, as there is on move. There’s an accompanying letter explaining more, and a bumper TL;DR Section too.

Since going on lockdown (our daughter had a cough a few weeks ago, so we’ve been on full isolation for a while now – she’s fine), I’ve experienced a real rollercoaster of emotions. This last week I’ve had some pretty low moments. So I wanted to put something together for you (of course), but also for me. I find so much solace in music, and now is no different from any other time. There’s more detail in the notes below, but this week’s letter and mixtape are about the importance of not trying to bluster away the blues, but instead coaxing yourself back up slowly. Hopefully the mixtape just does that, both for you (if you’re sharing my feelings), and for me.

For anyone experiencing the same feelings of melancholia (outlined beautifully here by Hannah Jane Parkinson), then all I can recommend is exercise, fresh air, meditation (Headspace has opened up lots of free content), filling your life with as much music and interesting books as possible, and talking to people. It might mean nothing to you, but I want you to know that I am always here. Any time. We’re all in this together, and I swear to god I’m twice as good at listening as I am talking 😂.

Please stay safe, stay home, and stay in touch xxx

PS. If you’re new then this is how it worksHere’s what you’ve missed so farAnd this is me.

PPS. If you’re wondering why you’re getting Love Will Save The Day so soon again, then it’s because I’ve taken it back to being weekly while we’re on lockdown – we all need more music, more culture, and more of each other ☺️

PRESS ME TO PLAY
🌪 TL;DR Section 🌪
IMPORTANT: If you’re in adland and you’ve either been let go, or you’re freelance and contracts have dried up, then The One Club has put together a great list of open roles.
Stuff to do
  • A couple of weeks ago I put together a very spit-and-sawdust set of notes for setting up a livestream for DJs to share with friends, but RA has jumped me and published a much more polished version
  • Endless – an app that lets people make music together, apart – looks pretty good
  • For producers; Grimes and WeTransfer have partnered to launch a competition to remix her latest album. Instructions are here
  • Grayson Perry is launching a new show on Channel 4 soon called Grayson’s Art Club, which will give lessons on drawing, painting and sculpture, as well as featuring lots of different artists talking about their process too. Should be good. More on it here
  • I’ve become a bit obsessed with the designer Raimund Wong
Stuff to watch 
  • It’s a modern cultural symbol that is almost peerless. It’s 30 years in. There’s now an extraordinary documentary all about it. The Story of Air Max
  • JAZZ KLAXON – Montreux Jazz Festival is publishing audio and video from more than 50 classic concerts from its history
  • Manchester Keeps On Dancing – a documentary on acid house – sounds amazing, so I’ll be watching this week. And all the proceeds of renting it go to back into the Manchester arts community too
  • That documentary I mentioned on record collecting a few letters ago – Record Safari – is out now
  • I’ll be watching this documentary on the history of the London broken beat scene this weekend
  • The Face has a published a list of music documentaries that’s worth looking over – lots of stuff you’ll certainly have seen, but I reckon there’ll be some stuff that’s new to you too
  • As part of my obsession with culture, years ago I started reading with a real fervour about network analysis – in an effort to understand how culture and ideas spread between people and groups – but all that science was built by epidemiologists who were studying the spread of disease. In an odd, and obviously macabre way, the spread of COVID-19 is also a good analogy for how culture spreads. This simulation is a good explainer
Stuff to listen to 
Stuff to read
And finally, slightly off-topic, but if you’re a bit bored – or you’ve got children and you’re running out of ways to keep them entertained and mildly educated – then the National Geographic YouTube channel has some amazing 360, 4k coral reef videos; then on a more relaxing tip, Nomadic Ambience has some really great walking tours of different places around the world; and finally the HarvardX YouTube channel is filled with some gems too
📚 The notes 📚

I know that what I’m going through is in no way unique, and that I’m incredibly lucky to not have contracted COVID-19, or to be suffering from a serious medical condition. There are lots of people who aren’t so lucky, and I do not want to in any way overplay what I’m going through compared to them. However, I wanted to share how I feel, because in my experience sharing these things has been cathartic for me (selfish, I know), and it’s also sometimes been helpful for others. It’ll also hopefully go some way to explaining the mixtape too.

The first week that COVID-19 started to feel real in the UK, I was working on a pitch, so I was distracted. The only thing different from usual was the media coverage, and the fact that we’d sent the rest of the agency home. After we’d pitched, I started working from home, and the second week (my first full week working from home) was pretty manic again. Schools and colleges closed that weekend, so my daughter and Shiv were both now at home full-time. Between home-schooling and entertaining our daughter, and trying to find a way to balance Shiv’s college work and my work, it was pretty mad again. Client calls, team calls, Zoom, Teams, Skype, (what felt like hundreds of) documents written, Houseparty, whole agency town halls. It was mad. My adrenalin had barely slowed from the pitch week. Then the weekend came, the vague novelty of working from home had worn off, the lack of the structure we’d had in the week kicked in, and the restrictions of what we could do dawned. It all became very real.

That weekend, the government put in more comprehensive restrictions, and all of a sudden I could only leave the house once a day. So I started going for either a run in the morning, or a walk in the afternoon. The runs helped (and continue to help), but the afternoon walks were odd. People avoiding each other was strange. The lack of traffic – overhead or on the ground – was really bizarre. The lack of noise (other than birdsong) was staggering. It was a true example of Freud’s the uncanny. The mixtape this week opens with birdsong, because I always try to incorporate as much music as I’ve listened to each week into the mixtape – and birdsong has been on heavy rotation.) You might’ve also noticed the mixtape image – that’s the album cover from Steven Julien’s album Fallen (great album)which was shot on Southend seafront. That’s where I run, and where I go for my afternoon walks. I wanted to try and share those walks with you – and the mixtape is, in a way, a sort of elongated soundtrack to those walks.

Over the course of a few days I started to feel more and more melancholic. When I originally wrote this set of notes, I thought melancholy might’ve been the wrong word, but despite my empathy for what a lot of people are going through, I’d consider myself and my family incredibly lucky. My sadness feels more existential, and what I’ve realised is that the source of my melancholy is the uncertainty of what’s going on. You see, I’m a create of habit. I have mild compulsions around my habits (I wouldn’t go as far as OCD, but it’s the same ballpark), and when my habits are broken, I find myself with a sense of unease. Despite loving the idea of Nassim Taleb’s The Black Swan (so much so it’s tattooed on my wrist), uncertainty can drive my anxiety sky-high. I’m usually a very chipper, glass-half-full type that almost-always sees the upside, and most of the time I can find a route out of my own malaise. But on these walks I just couldn’t see the finish line.

So I decided a few days ago that instead of trying to force myself to be more positive (the very Northern ‘pull your socks up lad’ approach), I would let my soul settle a bit with it. On my walks I listened to Miles’ Birth Of The Cool (one of my favourite feeling-low albums), and I let my mind wander into any thought; however melancholic or dour. I let myself cry. I wallowed. I spoke to those close to me about how I was feeling. It felt like turning a slow-release valve, and it helped. I realised that what I needed was that very release.

The sound of Miles’ trumpet on Moon Dreams reminded me of how art makes us marvel. Creation brings to light beauty, goodness, and truth, and at the very heart of society, is the love of creation. We all yearn to make something. Whatever that looks like. This train of thought reminded me of a quote from the German philosopher, Johann Gottfried Herder, who said that “culture is the lifeblood of a people, the flow or moral energy that holds society intact”. Every moment of creation – whether something as grand as Miles’ cover of Glenn Miller’s Moon Dreams, or something as minuscule as me writing this letter to you today – is the creation of a set of symbols that combine to create something (hopefully) that’s valuable. That when combined adds something to culture. I love Alan Fletcher’s The Art Of Looking Sideways, and something that always sticks with me is the idea that a symbol is an explicit experience of an implicit meaning – and what excites me is that now there’s an incredible opportunity to create a million symbols that convey everything that we’re going through now, much better than I have here. I hope that the art that emerges from this time dominates how we think of now, rather than remembering it for social distancing and stark headlines.

I still have a haze of melancholy over me, but I’m slowly finding a way to turn it from something that lingers over me, to something that I use as a platform for creating something – anything – positive. This, I suppose, is one of my first steps to that.

From awful situations, beautiful art arises. For every bust, comes a boom. With every night, follows day. Goethe said that “talent is developed in quiet places”, and this is the quietest our generation has ever been – something beautiful must surely follow.

Culture is what keeps us together. Art is the communication that fuels culture. Love is the tinder that sets it alight. Love Will Save The Day ❤️

📃 The tracklist  📃
  1. Nature Sounds – Blackbird
  2. Nils Frahm – First Defeat
  3. Aphex Twin – #3
  4. The Stan Tracey Quartet – Starless And Bible Black
  5. Telefon Tel Aviv – Mouth Agape,
  6. Luke Abbott – Tree
  7. Miles Davis – Blue In Green
  8. Chassol – Dark Touch
  9. Lana Del Rey – 13 Beaches
  10. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Fireflies
  11. Apparat – Goodbye
  12. The Horrors – Still Life
  13. Air – Cherry Blossom Girl
  14. Seahawks – Escape Hatch
  15. Beverly Glenn-Copeland – – Colour Of Anyhow
  16. Gil Scott-Heron – I’ll Take Care Of Your (Makaya McCraven version)
  17. The Rationals – Glowin’
  18. Donovan – Get Thy Bearings
  19. Bill Withers – Can We Pretend
  20. Stevie Wonder – Love’s In Need Of Love Today
  21. Diana Ross – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
  22. Carol Williams – Love Is You
  23. MFSB – Mysteries Of The World
  24. Cloud One – Spaced Out
  25. Universal Togetherness Band – Ain’t Gonna Cry
  26. Benita – Time For A Change
  27. Folamour – Don’t Make Me Leave You Again, Girl
  28. O’Flynn – Glow Worm
  29. Theo Parrish – Heal Yourself And Move
  30. Whitney Houston – Love Will Save The Day (Jellybean and David Moralas remix)
💥 If you enjoy this letter, then please take a second to forward this email, or share this link with a recommendation on Facebook or Twitter 💥
See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

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