While we're talking about folktronica, here's a live performance of a track from múm's 2013 album Smilewound. múm got steadily less -tronica over time, and arguably less folk- too. I didn't really get into this album back then, but this track holds up well.
We'd been making some soup, and I asked L if she would like to listen to some music. She would! What would she like to hear a song about? “Soup!” Well, the only song I know which relates to soup comes from Good Arrows, by folktronica pioneers Tunng. When they perform this live, they announce this as being “inspired by Icelandic prog rock, plus a bit of Megadeth”.
L wasn't really sure what to make of it. She reported, “I don't like it very much, but I like it a little bit.” Then the first song from Tunng's 2018 album Songs You Make At Night (with the original line-up for the first time since Good Arrows!) and she asked, “Is this song about soup?” (No.) “No! I want the soup song again!” So I'm rounding this up to #dadrockmydaughterlikes.
(Does having “Soup!” as the only lyric strictly make this a song about soup? Is it even really a song?)
The opening track, Part Cardiac, is honestly a bit heavy and sludgy even for me, but L liked it. Next up were SuperImposer and Build Us A Rocket Then…, which are in a variety of weird time signatures. At one point (which at the time I remember being in 11/8 but I can't find it now, so maybe it was “only” 7/8) she asked me to show her the actions for the song, which felt like a savage burn of my taste in music.
This was the first album where I felt uncomfortable about exposing a three-year-old to the artwork:
The first two CDs L plucked from the box were Mogwai's Happy Songs for Happy People and Caribou's Swim. Neither lasted more than a minute before she bashed the ⏏ button on the PS3.
Happy Songs for Happy People is a bit of a slow-burner, so I'm not too surprised it couldn't hold her interest. Swim was a bit more surprising: it's got great artwork, and gets straight to the point.
But then we turned to Give Up. A classic! And three-year-old minds agree. We made it three tracks into this one, which I'm calling a success.
When she was small and upset, I used to sing her songs from this album, though for some reason it was usually This Place is a Prison which I've always wanted to cover. We didn't get far enough into the album to find out if she remembers it.
This weekend, my three-year-old found my CD collection.
I haven't bought CDs for a long time, and a few years ago I culled my collection down to 60 or so that I couldn't bear to part with: albums I still love, with some sentimental value, or with particularly nice packaging. So, it's a nice snapshot of what I was into 5-15 years ago, with some of the rough edges filed away. And “music from a decade before I had children” is, by definition, dad rock.
I don't actually play them, of course, but I did save our PlayStation 3 from last year's cull, so at least I still have something that can read optical media.
And so, when my daughter found three mysterious boxes lurking at the back of a shelf while we were tidying up, she wanted to hear what was on them. Whenever I've tried actively listening to music I like with her before, she's always lost interest within a minute and demanded that Alexa play something different. But she's older now; we don't have The Wheels on the Bus on a CD; and a friend happened to have sent me the lovely video below a few weeks ago; so, we gave it a go! More on what she rated in a future instalment.
My older daughter has a copy of Midnight Feasts, a poetry anthology curated by A.F. Harrold. We gave a copy to one of her friends for their birthday, too. I didn't only buy it because it contains This Is Just to Say but it may have been a factor.
One of the poems that has stuck with me is Trouble Came to the Turnip by Caroline Bird. It begins:
When trouble came to the village
I put my love in the cabbage-cart
and we rode, wrapped in cabbage
to the capital.
Each stanza has the same form, with trouble coming to the place they fled to in the previous stanza, and the narrator and their love escaping in increasingly abstract or absurdist fashions. For example:
When trouble came to the nunnery,
I put my love inside a prayer book
and we repented, wrapped in prayer
to the prison.
Honestly, it's a bit abstract for a three-year-old! But it makes this thirty-four-year-old want to build an homage using some word embedding toolkit to generate new parameters. Will I have time during NaNoGenMo 2020?
I've been watching Alice Fraser's Savage. (It's good! But don't expect a non-stop stream of laughs: it's about the more difficult aspects of life.)
At one point, she asks (paraphrasing) if you can remember what it was like to be three years old, eating an ice cream in the sunshine, shirt off with the ice cream slowly dripping down your torso. I can't – I don't have all that many clear memories of that part of my life. Fortunately, I don't have to remember: I can often see with my own eyes what it's like to be three years old and covered in ice-cream. Heaven.
I used to think I was a night owl who worked best late into the evening. Over the last few years, a combination of factors – a family member who wakes up early, nursery drop-off, working from home for a company whose prevailing time-zones are in the Americas – have taught me that I get my best work done in the morning, provided I make a plan and start promptly.
Then came the pandemic. With nurseries throughout the UK closed, my partner and I shared childcare and split our working days for the best part of three months. The prevailing time-zone of (my teams at) my company is on the other side of the Atlantic, so the only sensible way to divide the day was for me to start work after lunch. If I ever wanted confirmation that the morning is my best time for productivity, taking the mornings away provided it.
Now nurseries have reopened, and I have my mornings back for work. (Better than before, actually, because I cleared out most of my morning appointments.) The downside is that mornings were also the best time for playing in the sunshine.
The chorus of this duet between Neil Gaiman (vocals) and Ben Folds (piano) popped into my head the other week and just won't leave. Is it wrong to sing “And the people that she hated will be neatly bifurcated” in the presence of a two-year-old?