I swear to God, I tried
I swear to God, I triedCaroline
Hey hey hey! I manged to link #40, Kanye West, with #39, Caroline Shaw, now I’ve managed to link Shaw with Arlo Parks at #38! Will I continue to do this right down to the year’s best album? Absolutely! Until I forget to do it, which I will definitely do with the next one, because it’s going to be a struggle to think of a link between JPEGMAFIA and Arlo Parks. Oops. Spoiler, I guess…
‘Collapsed in Sunbeams’ was released at the end on January 2021, when the UK was coming up to a solid 12 months under on and off lockdown measures. It was a different time. Or, at least, different at time of writing. Much of the country had been cut off from the percentage of humanity that didn’t work for Deliveroo* and had just been forced to spend a Christmas away from their friends and family. Well, unless they were lucky enough to have specific ‘business meetings’ and they actually passed these laws so in a strange loophole they didn’t actually didn’t apply to them. God speed, moral superiors. The whole country was on edge, wondering exactly how many banana breads made and opinions on the USA George Floyd protests posted online per afternoon is diagnosed as mentally dangerous, and the disgustingly young Arlo Parks’s debut album was soon instilled as the nation’s official comfort blanket, winning Brit Awards and the Mercury Prize. Parks combined emotionally raw and painfully honest lyrics with soft and silky pop music, which all seemed to carry the message that, hey, everything gonna be a’right. Personally, I didn’t really need that much comforting regarding the lockdown – I was lucky enough to be in a job that was never in danger of being swept from under me, plus I’ve never been one for overly championing the company of other people. Other people are dumb and annoying. However, for me, it certainly offered timely comfort around the chaotic breakdown of my second marriage. Ah, bollocks, I’ve become one of those guys, haven’t I?
(*those people who were forced to work jobs that they couldn’t adopt safety measures in though, fuck them, right? What’s most important is they deliver me my food while I mope about the house and sadly mourn the fact that I’m forced to do my venture capitalism at home without being able to bash fists with my fellow finance bros)
I first spoke to Meghan, for it is she, in May. I met her through Bumble, while I was writing my critically and commercially acclaimed ‘Rumble in the Bumble‘ series. While we were initially talking and sparks were flying everywhere like we were a pair of Topsies being scientifically investigated by Thomas Edison*, she found out about my blog, and became the latest in a long line of relationships to be violently jettisoned by this dumb fucking blog that nobody reads. I wrote about the experience, and was extremely respectful of her while I did so (this was aaaaaaaaall my fault!). She read the piece. She didn’t hate it, and reopened communications. This was the first emotional red herring: I love a good origin story. I had met my first wife when she asked a mutual friend if they knew anyone with hair clippers (she wanted to shave of her hair, which is, obviously, really hot), I met Hejjy and spoke to her in garbled Chinese until she smiled and told he she spoke English and sparked off the greatest and most tragic love story of our age. Gimme that narrative! I only want a love story that will translate easily to a Hollywood RomCom staring Ryan Gosling, I’m not interested in crafting a Mike Leigh film starring Peter Mullan. We were soon engaged to be married, and did so in October in front of a legally permitted thirteen further people.
(*also from that Wikipedia article about Topsy: “Topsy gained a reputation as a “bad” elephant and, after killing a spectator in 1902, was sold to Coney Island’s Sea Lion Park. When Sea Lion was leased out at the end of the 1902 season and replaced by Luna Park, Topsy was involved in several well-publicized incidents, attributed to the actions of either her drunken handler or the park’s new publicity-hungry owners, Frederic Thompson and Elmer “Skip” Dundy. Their end-of-the-year plans to hang Topsy at the park in a public spectacle and charge admission were prevented by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The event was instead limited to invited guests and press only”. Fuck me, wasn’t the past amazing?)
You’re not alone like you think you are
We all have scars, I know it’s hard
You’re not alone, you’re not aloneHope
I knew I had made a mistake long before that wedding though. I had moved into Meghan’s house, walking out of a ‘hen’s teeth’ council house in the process, and it became clear extraordinarily quickly that our relationship was as toxic as the Toxic Crusaders being called into clean up a chemical spill at the site of the recording of Britney Spears’s 2003 hit single. It is to my eternal shame that I never had the bravery to call the wedding off beforehand, saving a couple of people unnecessary emotional toll, myself a few thousand pounds of savings and, Christ, a few horrendous months of a beyond miserable living situation. In truth, I was terrified of what Meghan’s reaction would be, and so started calculating how long I could stay in this marriage before I could legitimately leave. Surely, after a year maybe she’d understand? By the time Arlo Parks’s debut was released we had been married for almost three months, I had already spent many nights sleeping in a hotel because the house was simply too toxic to stay in, we had broken up on several occasions (including a particularly miserable time on Christmas Day when I would, honestly, rather be sticking my dick in a dead pig’s mouth at Boris’s traditional Tory Christmas do), I was hit down by a horrendous condition that meant I needed to sleep in a separate bed so we didn’t even have the (admittedly amazing) sex to take our minds of the fact that everything else in our relationship was a trash fire of elephant dung being inhabited by venomous rats. I was mentally exhausted, I was being made to cry for the first time since I quit drinking, I was having both suicidal and self harming ideations for the first time since I actually attempted suicide, and now I was suffering a more debilitating illness than I could ever remember. I remember dearly hoping that this thing that had stricken me down to such a degree (and that doctors were baffled at) was cancer. Wouldn’t that just solve everything really conveniently? I could at least move into a hospital for a few months until I passed, get out of this house of horror. My sickness eventually got so bad that I was rushed to hospital and had to stay there for about ten days. I remember when I was able to return to Meghan’s house, I started to cry (again! I cried so often during this marriage it as like I was on trial for murdering BLM protesters) silently while left alone in the living room. I just simply couldn’t accept that this was the ‘home’ I was returning to. It was my fault for lacking the strength to stand up for myself, for lacking the bravery to end such a damaging relationship as soon as its horror became evident, and perhaps Meghan’s for… Hmmm… We’ll talk more about it later.
I know you can’t let go
Of anything at the moment
Just know it won’t hurt so
Won’t hurt so much forever
Won’t hurt so much
Won’t hurt so much foreverHurt
By about April, I had named ‘Collapsed in Sunbeams’ as the second best album of the year, at a time when I really needed its messages of self-help and basic support, when I needed such understanding concerning mental health and self-care. However, by now I’m feeling great, my life is starting to look a little less chaotic, and ‘Collapsed…’s messages can too often sound a little simplistic and a little too comforting rather than truly challenging. That’s what people with good lives want, to be needlessly challenged to make them feel fucking alive! Bring me #37! It can’t be overstated what an achievement Arlo’s debut album is though, managing to provide an essential comfort for many people experiencing many disparate issues, and the fact that she’s – what? – eight years old or some shit means that her potential is astonishing.
Some of these folks wanna make you cry
But you gotta trust how you feel insi-i-i-ide
And shine, and shi-ine, yeah, yeah, yeah
I wish that your parents had been kinder to you
They made you hate what you were out of habitGreen Eyes
So, yeah, if you’re paying attention, I’ll admit that I’m older than Arlo Parks, but younger than Caroline Shaw. That’s as close as I’ll ever get to telling you my actual age. Late, late, late twenties, remember?