Like I said I would, between swabbing the deck and hoisting sails whilst sailing over the last three months, I did my best to listen to a couple of albums quite intensively, and only partially to block out the sound of bilge water sloshing back and forth or the engine gunning at 2600 revs at 3am. There was the expected recurrent rotation of a couple of heavy albums, but also of a couple which are in no way heavy, which have been a real surprise to myself. I said in my previous post that the artists I thought I’d get the most out of would be those who create a sense of immersion in another world, with an expansive feel and a musical breadth and depth that borders on the philosophical, and this proved to true. But sometimes albums which I didn’t think would fit this description turned out to do so very aptly. I think the uniting characteristic of the albums that stayed on rotation was a successful balance of immersion and escapism.
Another thing I learnt (which is the point of travelling, non?) is that, like how absence makes the heart less hateful, being away from home and limited to listening to whatever I had chosen to put on my iPod built up my appreciation for the much wider choice of music I had upon arriving home. This wasn’t because I quickly came to dislike each piece of music I had put on my iPod (the opposite in fact, and I would be worried if this had been the case; after all, I had chosen the music on it), but just part of an increased appreciation for what can be taken for granted in daily life; food, water, shelter, family, friends, reading material and music. I’ve been away from home and lived out of a rucksack for weeks at a time beforehand, so this wasn’t something new to me; in fact, it’s something that I enjoy, and it was a conscious choice. Hemingway said that training to fight burns the fat off of the soul, and whilst I’m quite happy to take a more gentle, gentle approach to things, I understand the concept. I think that this is one of the most valuable realisations I’ve gathered through travelling.
Mastodon, Leviathan. What more is there to be said of Leviathan? Given that its narrative thrust is a retelling of Moby Dick, and that one of the vessels I was on was a wooden–hulled tall ship, rigged with canvas sails and traditional ropes, I thought it would be an appropriate listen. I actually found it to be a hard album to listen to for several years, having approached with cultural baggage and expecting big things, great things, and finding it underwhelming, especially in comparison to Blood Mountain’s slightly more streamlined songwriting, which came out just as I started to listen to Mastodon. However, with time, Leviathan’s barbs have caught me, and on this trip I heard something in this album that inspired a sense of wonder, a sense of travel, and of being divested of one’s familiar surroundings, creating that feeling of forgetting your own name as you float along in the cosmos. Leviathan is a story, and one told through more than lyrics, as poetically rich as they may be. Besides the already–mentioned barbed riffs, the jazzy drumming (does anyone else wonder how drummer Brann Dailor remembers it all?) and the contrast between the space and the dancing guitars gives the songs a wealth of content to dig into. Each of the instruments contains their own little intricacies and flurries of notes, with the story finished by the psychedelic, tumbling Hearts Alive.
Isis, Oceanic. Absorbing, distinctive, influential, clever, and forever building. Whenever Oceanic finished playing through my headphones it kept on going in my head, and I felt a little older, a bit more reflective, appraising the world anew, much like finishing one of those books that takes ages to finish and in the process finding your world view changed.
Parkway Drive, Deep Blue. Imperative and catchy, but unlike a lot of metalcore, well written, being distinguishable and substantial from first to last. The themes of loss and pain resonated, as did the plentiful nautical imagery.
Gorillaz, Demon Days. Varied and escapist, yet forming a cohesive dark and twisted world. It’s a mix of styles, with each track better than I first realised. The highlight is the gospel–heavy closing track Don’t Get Lost In Heaven.
Action Bronson, Dr Lecter. Its urbanity provided a total contrast to the environment I was in. I enjoyed just listening and picking up on some different lyrics each time, as well as the excellent choice of samples.
Wolfmother, s/t. Only now have I realised its full excellence. Lots of lyrics about travelling and cutting loose old ties, accompanied by John Bonham–style drumming and elements of psychedelia.
So there you have it. You and the world can finally stop holding your breath. I’m back home and have finished travelling several weeks earlier than expected due to a torn ankle ligament (which scores 0/10). Whilst this means I’ve had to cancel my plans of listening to soaring anthems on top of mountains, it does mean I have a lot of time to listen and write about a large variety of music with a rekindled interest. Besides some more Four String Thunder, and finding those couple of perfect songs to add to the summer mixtape, Ithaca’s new E.P is out
soon imminently now, which I’ve been keen to hear, so expect a review of that soon.
 (As well as the pub jukebox, for which The Swordfish Inn in Newlyn must get a mention. A lot of Born To Run got played there).