Bunch of Fives: Azere | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Having left Hexham for the sights and sounds of Newcastle, music maker azere was inspired to create a collection of tunes for the upcoming EP, in the meantime-forever (out 20th March). The songs cover that strangeness of being new to a city, the small and larger joys to be found in it and the feeling of having to work to forge a new beginning. The variety on offer in this EP creates a sense of explorative wonder with the a melodic Damien Rice-eqsue tones on one track, to the engaging spoken word delivery of Jamie T on another, to a more Devotchka-y style instrumental on another. Despite the selection of styles, in the meantime-forever is a cohesive collection that takes those who listen to it on a joyous musical journey.

Here, azere tells gives us his top five songs that fill him with wonder…

I decided on this topic for my Bunch of Fives because I wrote ‘we’re all here’ from my new collection of songs in the meantime – forever about the city stadium in summer. I did that because I wanted to bring that place to life for people who are not privileged with calling Newcastle their home, or are not able to sit there in the sun, on a hill banked towards the running track, with a novel, a notebook, and an otherwise empty afternoon.

Not all music evokes a place, but those that do seem to fill me with curiosity and wonder about the lives lived by others in other localities. Here are a bunch of five songs which have done that wonderfully for me.

Milo – Napping Under the Echo Tree
A conjuring of so many places remembered by our narrator – ‘or was it with Hank Dumas, in Oakland, by the lake where I openly argued with my fates?’ Milo (now known as R.A.P. Ferreira) tours us round a psychic past, the fleeting fragments of a life, running with like a river – all curving and then reconnecting to form an Oxbow Lake of a song. ‘Gathering more and more of the less and less.’

It stood out, too, to my former poetry and literature tutor Andrew Shields who picked out the line ‘measuring years by tooth decay’. This is a song that whisks memory and place into a delicious mixture, baked until golden brown by a vocal delivery over Kenny Segal’s wonderful, boundless and echoing production – strings, pitched down sampling, and a gentle bass line all directing us toward a contemplation of the places in which we have whiled away our own lives.

Andy Shauf – Neon Skyline
This album was my balm in the long lost days of the ‘first lockdown’. It is a story set in The Neon Skyline, the eponymous, fictional bar of Andy Shauf’s non-fictional Toronto.

Little is said to evoke the place other than small details: Andy’s journey to the bar ‘I looked in my fridge – it was a dark scene so I buttered some bread. Chewed my way out the door and walked down the street.’ 

This narrative, with its description of the qualities of bar staff, friends, and lovers all collude to build this world within eleven songs, and a rich vision of the life lived at a  

Kendrick Lamar – good kid
Following with another titular track from a story led album, Kendrick Lamar paints life in Compton with the most vivid colours on ‘good kid’ (a fellow fan of the lower case title).

Daylight gunfights and robberies sour the non-native listener’s introduction to Compton, but to describe a place in music is not akin to describing a place holiday brochure – Kendrick’s Compton might scare outsiders but, through the album, and on this track especially, he develops the listeners image of a place by planting us directly in the midst of the violence and unavoidable terror of his own experience – being harassed by police on his walk from bible study, coerced into theft by friends, and  witnessing the death of a friend. 

Among and within this chaos there is a beauty which Lamar reveals to us – by parental voicemails, field recordings – providing local context and colour to the incredible arching story of his early life there.

Kae Tempest – Firesmoke   
 This one, purely for the lines:
The fire, rises between us
And makes us get on the wrong trains
Walk the wrong way
Make strangers smile greetings on Lewisham way’

It makes such a delicate nod to the place Tempest lives, yet is completely unmissable. 
For our narrator to be so aware of the street names on which they stand, in the midst of such an overwhelming love, when ‘the whole world is just ripples in the middle distance,’ is a wonder and a deftly captivating detail.

The Unthanks – Fareweel Regality (Originally by Terry Conway)
This is the song my family would have playing on our way from, or back to, Hexham, before or after a trip away – it didn’t seem to matter which way. I lived most of my early life in Hexham. The sprinkling of place-names here may not be so evocative to non-Hexhamites but each one dropped among the verses throws me back to the parcel sorting room of the Royal Mail, flinging placing parcels into the right sorting trolley, or to the fading light on white road signs as dad whisks around the bends up the Hartside Pass on the way home.

The resoundingly triumphant final line of the chorus ‘away from Hexhamshire’ has me welling up on each listen – a true love song to a place.

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