[END OF YEAR] Cos I’m a Foreigner To You: Best Dark Indietronica 2014
Dark indietronica is my voice. Sometimes it’s the only way I talk. An amalgamation of dark pop, dark r&B, chill trap, and chillstep–dark indietronica is one of the most diverse genres musically. But what makes dark indietrpnica is the feeling. It’s music that carries you on a journey. It abandons you in its world and lets you land swinging. I won’t say much more here of what it means to me–you’ll see plenty of that below. But I hope somewhere in this list of the best of the best of 2014, you can bits of your voice embedded in the tracks, in my words and in your memories. And you can see why this is the genre I live for, that helps me keep on living.
As always enjoy a FREE DOWNLOAD of the tracks here at my Soundcloud profile. Full playlist at the bottom.
Photo courtesy of photographer Liam Levitz.
Who do you think you are?
Your own reality, engineered
You know what you want, and
You know what they need and
They just try to stay relevant
This year, I wasn’t a body. I mean, if you punched me, if you hit my chest with a tight fist of rage, I wasn’t there. I don’t always know where I was, where I am. Dispersed. Deconstructed. Disassociated. Here, there, 1000 metres inside my mind. Anywhere but in front of you. Trauma made me a ghost heart, it made post-physical. It gave me a direct insight into the music of Pictureplane, which has always been about a body giving into anarchy. His music stares down a world with carnivorous eyes and says ‘Fuck it. Engineer your own reality’.
There was a time I wasn’t this way. I used to sit down with my best friend, tumblers of whiskey in hand as we tumbled over our emotions, as we got all our ya-yas out. She knew everything, and now no one knows anything. Because there came a day when terror shot out my mouth in every breath, and no one said a word. And I felt that if I let my body walk amongst the other bodies and their day to day lives, I’d implode. So post-physical, so a ghost heart I became. And it was fucking freedom. I am a wild child, I don’t even have the self-control to stay 5 minutes in the same room with you.
Time won’t stay,
It’ll stretch itself out from a minute to days
And I’d like to think that
We don’t dream to wipe it off
‘Cos I’ve been here
Living up, giving up
I like sex. We’re so fucking hung up on it. But it illuminates who we are, who we fake being while we fuck. Sometimes who we really are, but I doubt that’s often. Sex isn’t neutral for me: it’s a battleground. It’s ground zero for my terror. And there’s a lot of reasons for that I won’t ever say, not even to a friend and certainly not to the poltergeists of 2010 that dance in the sheets with me every.fucking.time. Sex is war and you’re my adversary. I can stare at you from the across the hotel room, and see the rays of the city light highlight your nudity; but I don’t see you as vulnerable. That skin is an armour, as is mine. And we might debate who is bottom or top over breathy moans but the real heated discussion is how much of me I’m going to let you see. Because when you enter me, you’re deconstructing me, and you might corrupt me. I got to take control: stay apart from my heart.
SPECIAL NOTE: When I think of the shallow way that the music blogosphere read this song, the way they refused to see it as an extension of her art’s mission, as a re-extension of Grimes’ voice as a person out of the muted trauma world of ‘Oblivion’; I was pretty crushed. I wondered why I was writing about music at all in this banal industry. Because that’s what this song really achieves: that explosive moment of finding your voice for the first time again in the arms of another and how you recover from that. The ‘drop’ everyone complained about was the most disappointing thing all year: only because the pithy, opportunistic comments of music bloggers that wanted to jump on the ‘clever’ bandwagon drove a highly sensitive person like Grimes back into the studio, to destroy all her work and progress over it. All over a misreading. Really, fuck you, most of the music blogosphere. You don’t have to like the track, but be a human being about it.
We hold on for a while
This is all we’ve got right now
Pretend we’re doing fine
Pretending we’re doing fine…
We’re just going to pretend it’s fine. We’re going to pretend I didn’t spend the last 3 weeks curled up inside my bed with you denying reality with kisses, crawling to the bathroom only in moonlight and creeping to the Circle K convenience store at 3am because no one, no one at all would see us. That’s really all we’ve got right now, this pretending. No one would have the temerity to even say: ‘fuck you, man, that’s not true.’ The sadness disease has got me, it took me on the streets of Ho Chi Minh and it beat this foreigner into submission. Because I lost you on my birthday, but it was never really my day. You came to Vietnam because you had 3 months to live, and I came here because I wanted to be unmoored from my reality. And your death, it threw me off my foundations, it knocked me back like C4 thrown at our last coos together. The moment you overtook me, my stubbornness, my general tendency to be an asshole to myself, you conquered me in a bloodless coup and said ‘Turn around. Stop being the death spirit that dances’. I’m glad I could touch you, friend, when no one else would. When the world had abandoned you long before you became a pile of bones that was swept from my room.
You’re just a man, I’m a human being
Now they’ve used you good
And turn around and say you’re sick
Who is clean? Who is diseased? Who has crossed some imaginary line that places them one second at sex god and one test result later a shunned POZ whorebag? Point of no return transformation, over 30 years in, that’s how the queer community increasingly sees it. Which is bullshit to me. It could never happen to you, so you say, until you’re hanging out in the back alley with the men you threw to the AIDS wolves–or so, that’s where you think they went. I connect with the othered; and these men, I find special connection to these men who find their reality transform in a matter of secondS, a few eye glances on a page later, a cloying doctor holding their hand trouncing them with news. Nothing has taught me more about life than men brandished with a scarlet A for AIDS by the queer community. They say ‘I am not unclean’. I am not toxic. I am not a biohazard. And their inhibitions flee, and so do any legacies of a tepid way of living. This track is the personal tale of singer John Grant coming to terms with those thoughts with his HIV+ diagnosis.
17. PHORIA// EMANATE
I left you all cuddled up
My lungs digging in further
I like to think I can release the emotions one small sigh at a time. One short shout into the ether is just what the doctor ordered. But that’s not true: life is all about the buildup. And the explosion. And I feel a lot, but I never show anyone. Because I don’t want to feel self-conscious when I’m about to emanate. And I might leave you cuddled up, all alone, as I sneak solo to let the tsunami shoot out my ears, eyes, and nose, to let my heart burst in a tidal wave. Because I know what it was like to lie numb, racing on the back of a motorbike in Bangkok unable to deal with what I saw, what it was like to have three gay. abandoned AIDS patients die in my arms at a hospice, to walk every city block for an entire night in search of a feeling after. And you don’t. Because you weren’t there. And I just want to sit back on my couch and let that moment at 3:16 here give me the freedom to cry tears of every shade of emotion, to swell, to emanate feeling, to not give a fuck what your reaction will be.
Is it over?
Did it end while I was gone?
Somebody better let me know my name
Before I give myself away
I lived the year sans an identity. That’s fine: a ghost heart begets a ghost face. And a ghost faces bears the memory of no one, the legacy of no action. You’re pretty unmemorable: some people are reviled on sight, some might find contours of loved ones passed in you, but ultimately you’re a wisp in the wind to everyone. Drinking. Fucking. The fading marks of a rope burn, left from a night of restraints. They may have asked you to dominate them, you may have even submitted; but they’ll rebuild all the pieces in seconds once you’re gone. The night might have been fantastic, but it was also phantasmic. The cumshot, the smell of your lips on their navel, their neck—will all be gone when you walk out the door. All the faces look the same. Someone let me know my name, before I give myself away. Let me tell it to you so I know you’ll be muttering it even just moments after I leave.
Gravity, gravity it’s pulling me
It’s why we get, why we get so lonely
I’m looking for that spark. And oh my fucking god, not that romantic spark with a one true love. I’m going to spill my cerebellum in the lap of the next person that says that, right after I get done ramming my head into a wall and their mouth and back again, repeatedly. Shut up, already. Gravity pulls me down into my reality. I can’t lie and pretend that I want to constrict myself to monogamy, where you and I are just trampolines bouncing off each other until one of us flies off and breaks a leg, a heart. I can’t breathe for two; and I’m a plastic bag: breathe into me and you’ll asphyxiate. Gravity is why I dabble in loneliness. I’m—we’re—that plastic bag that the American Beauty kid found lovely. And I want to waft into the wind, up through the thunderclouds and be hit with a thousand bolts of lightning, a parade of penises and some lady caverns if you will, until my life is a clusterbomb of energy and the television is screaming out the radio. Give me a life of a hundred kisses that electrocute my mind any day over your suffocating, sweet, wet dream.
All my life I’ve been searching in the dark
Searching in the dark,
How long must I wait for you here?
You’re taking on your hero
Since this song came into my life, I’ve been radically different. I took on the role of my hero. You all, really, were just leaving me lying in the dirt. And I’d gotten used to the taste, to the periodic kicks in the face, and the fear of another shiv in the back if I dare got up. And I waited for you to see me covered in bruises, with sprawled legs and a humerus piercing through what little humor I had left for my situation. These were the darkest days, these were the days I thought just living meant I had a home. That if I searched in the dark you would turn on the light; and there, right in front of me, would be your face illuminated by a bulb. One more night. One more night. I told myself that over and over. One more fight. I didn’t believe it anymore. How could I fight and land so hollow? And eventually the rage just built up and I spurned my ghost heart into fighting back. I made it roar. I roar. I’m my own motherfucking hero.
13. PAPERTWIN// ALKALINE
The black sea, it changed me
I think people think you can always come back. Like I know some people stare at me, tap their feet impatiently and shoot flare guns into the air to say ‘here’s your normalcy’. And maybe there’s a certain point where you’re drowning that swimming to the shore makes sense. When you’re sitting in the water, though, little earthquakes are hitting your body, slowly shifting you apart. Faith gets old real quick. Eventually the black sea changes you. It changed me. I spent the year deciding if I was going to reclaim my old self, a version of me I really liked, that I barely recognized, that I stumbled upon in a flashback of my Facebook timeline. The other option was to go with recovery me, the part that formed in the wake of brass knuckle smacks to the head. Eventually, one part of me was going to get hacked to pieces.
What a bizarre choice to make. I thought of all the whispers in the night, all the times I walked through the city and conversed myself into calming down, into sprouting a new leg, an ear or an arm after the last me was blown to pieces. And recovery me became me, because I was in disguise as my own best friend. I didn’t know it for the longest time. When I did, I didn’t want to lose the feelings, the memories of what those conversations meant to me. I didn’t know how to tell you about them. I didn’t know how to show you I was back. So, I never came.
Losing myself at night
It’s a shame I’m never right
It’s nothing new
Keep my emotion tight
Staying out of sight
Survival, I know. We’re best fucking buds. I mean, really, usually it’s just me and him kicking it in the streets of the Baghdad of my heart. And we get lost in the night holding hands like lovers. And we kiss under the moonlight of bombs exploding overhead, and in between gunfire we skip rocks on a lake of emotion pooled around my mind. Our romance was born in a bit of a nuclear holocaust, and we act accordingly. We keep our emotions tight and our sex muffled—life isn’t really about living loud and proud. It’s about staying alive, going unnoticed. We don’t fuck on beds, he enters me on rubble. We don’t hit the club, we make dancefloors out of moments hit by mortars. And I feel like if I screamed, if I shouted ‘here I am!’ a drone would strike me down. It’s nothing new. But lately he’s been telling me Survival isn’t enough, he wants me to go and try to re-invent the light. It’s time for a revival; and you might die but you’ll never feel so alive.
I am no one, I’m nobody
And the shot goes through my head and back
Gunshot, I can’t take it back
I’m pretty good at ruining things. Gunshots to the face: mine or yours. Whatever will allow me to dart out of this self-destruction. Remorse is not for those who shoot and run, whose autobiography might one day be entitled, ‘How I Became A Runner’. It’s a bad habit, really, this explosive nature of my love. And if I just stayed silent my life would be a dream. But I know the moment I open my mouth, the moment your lips touch mine—the end is just a cock of the gun away. Whoever is holding the pistol is just a matter who wants to run the soonest. So far, though, I always held the gun (I don’t know why).
To whom it concerns
We’re only giving up on this
Shattered and wake for all its worth
The city was abandoned. Tet in Vietnam and everyone goes back to hometowns, to families. And I walked streets normally plagued by motorbikes with ease. I sat in the street and tempted death screaming at the few bikes that made their way past the sight of my diminished eyes. And you and I found mirrors and a way to forget ourselves on them; and rushing, rushing to places we were doomed to crash from, we placed those mirrors up on the ceiling and watched the remenants pour down on us like snowflakes as we stared at selves that seemed totally shattered. I think when we kissed it felt like we were giving up. On ourselves, on the people we could be. You weren’t a bad influence, I was just always moving away from me.
Now, this burden weighs me down
The heaviest of weights
Knocks me to the ground
Right down to the…
I’m an orphan traipsing the world. Literally. Home means nothing to me. Ask me to name one and I can’t tell you. I’ll run through the cities I’ve left some socks stuffed away in some guy’s sheets in. All 37 of them. All by [motherfucking] accident—even in sleep my feet restlessly walk highways. And I can look five years down the road and see the small of my back leaving an indent in the beds of men in six other cities, but I can’t think of a home.
I see an angel in the sky
Burning her wings but still hoping to fly
Where god doesn’t try
To find me at night
Midnight mode is my natural state these days. Out on the streets, feet crossing city blocks that feel like kilometers in my mind, I’m walking towards the promise I can find me at night. I shout into the sky and hope to hear echos of courage me come back. I burnt my wings, I didn’t pretend I could be some angel floating over the terror that’d taken over my life. Denial is not my thing. Denial is never waking up. Although, I mean, god knows I’ve tried. I’ve got to walk here amongst the city every night, letting my ghost heart shimmer by the shine of the streetlamps. I believe that one of them will make it glow again, will signal to me ‘Walk down this part of your mind. Down there is freedom.’. You won’t hear me at all as I throw myself into danger. I have nothing to say if it could make me feel again. I’ll get on the back of your motorbike, stranger with a heart of ill, if you race me to where I can find me at night.
7. MIRA, UN LOBO!// SEROTONIN
I’m holding on
Drifting on, I’m sure you know
I wish you’d stop
I don’t think the world changes around you. I don’t think you change the world. But I do think that you can change if the world eats you. If you can recover from the point of momentous impact, of the gunshot, of the teeth on the jugular–you can be your own shield of reflective light. There’s a point where you’re holding on, where you’re slipping, flowing into the feeling, where your eyes extinguish. And in those irises of your forgotten self that stretch and expand until even the white of your eyes is but a distant memory, you forget the world is everything but a pack of wolves hugging you with shivs. Walking down the street is an exercise in being alien, ‘cos you’re a foreigner to them, and all you can say is ‘Look, a wolf’ under your breath upon sight of every other passerby. But bust out of that, remember yourself, and you can be a shower of serotonin wherever you walk. It confuses the fuck out of people to eat a smiling person.
Is he gonna fright me?
He rescue, right
Is he gonna fright me?
He mister right.
It isn’t going to frighten me. You can’t scare me. I’ll take that mafioso I just met to bed. I’ll ride his motorbike to places of the cities where illicit deals poke their head out the crevice out of every alley. My safety is not sacrosanct. I play with it, I throw it to the wind at will. I don’t know how much I really matter. And I’ll take your bet to sleep with your friends. We can play this game of chancy one-upmanship. Our souls are in a sea of sludge, but the rush excites me. And you can look at me eyes and see I gave up searching for satellites to lead me home, away from here. And you hold me down and whisper into my mouth, ‘someone needs to rescue you, mister’. And I punch you in the chest, and say ‘fuck that, I don’t need anyone to hold my hand. Do I seem weak to you? This is how I live, with indomitable spirit.’
You came home late last night
Stumble past half drunk beers
As the day became weeks
How did weeks became years?
You said this would be your year
But you fucked around now December’s here
I said it’s going to be my year. I always do. But it’s December and I’d rather throw myself into the Bay of Thailand than spend 365 days more looking at myself in the mirror. I’m running out of years to believe this trope, for that tired promise to grow legs and learn to walk on water like I always thought I could. I don’t know, fuck perfection. But I’d settle for even a year where I didn’t fuck around, where the ghost heart became solid, where it began beating on the same rhythm of even a few others. Where I didn’t spend months of every year locked away inside myself, rising at 12 to the tune of a cold shower and running my fingers down a body I barely recognize, veins that don’t beat the blood I gave my heart. I’m tired of sleeping. I’m tired of my own bullshit. I’m tired of being my own worst enemy. I’m one of the dreamers. Next year, will be my year. I don’t know what to do if it’s not.
You told me every little thing is going to be alright
But we were younger then,
And now we’re not
Well, I know I’m hard to take
While I try to forget
I used to be something great
It was my first Thai monsoon. It was my first night in Bangkok. I had someone in my hotel room. He could be jacking my shit, but I didn’t care. I’d darted out to 7/11 for Maker’s Mark and chasers, but somewhere in an alley off Ramkahaeng this song came on my ipod and the rain started pissing. The electricity of a new mega city swarmed around me, and the sudden realization that no one really knew where I was crystallized for me that I was totally, hopelessly lost. And that freedom scintillated the air with the intimacy of everything. The humidity, the feeling of a kiss on my neck, what it was like to spoon clutching chest hair, to feel the energy of a city with someone—all rushed on me at once. I was present, fully, in that moment, for the first time in four years.
And I stripped to my underwear—what good were clothes in this downpour? Besides it was a torrent of remembrance in that thunderstorm, with each raindrop hitting my skin like a memory of life forgotten. And I let them hit my epidermis like a million breaths of life and had an orgy of feeling with each one. And I knew then that I’m hard to take, that no one would get why I’d be doing this. I know most people hate me, find me intimidating or offputting. But I felt like if they knew what it was like to be present in that moment for me, just present and nothing else—a reality they live in all the time, unaware it’s privileged—they might know, really, I’m just someone trying to deal with the fact that I used to be someone great.
Someone from my heart
Said you could turn off
And never wake up
I face myself because I fear I’m going to turn off and never wake up. The risk is mine, it dangles in front of my face like a fist wrapped in a paper bag. Come have a little lunch. Ah, fuck, now you’re unconscious. It wouldn’t be unheard of: I turn off all the time. This year I spent a month silent. I disappear two weeks at a time. I always feel better. I am, after all, floating through the hurricane whips on broken butterfly wings. And that’s where the optimist in me—and yes, I am one (if I wasn’t I’d be dead)— plays kingcraft. It makes my ghost heart flip over chairs until it comes to, it slams them in the temple with those chairs if it doesn’t. You can fall apart. You can shut down. But I’m going to clap, clap, motherfucker until you wake up.
You lost your trust
When you were young
You couldn’t control
I don’t sleep much. I never really have. The moon is just Sun II to me. When it rises, I really start to live. I didn’t always have that freedom. When I was 7 I used to lay in bed and hear my breath and just panic. Counting sheep never worked, I’d rather count bombs. It filled me with blue I couldn’t control, having to listen to myself.
And I suppose it’s tragic I see life as an amalgamation of little acts of violence. Love is violence, it ends in gunshot. Sex is but a power play, sometimes I’m on top. Learning how to feel for me, as a kid, was a broken jaw. Power was who could wield their fisticuffs first. But I always chose the pacifist route as a teenager. Power for me was running as far as I could in the midnight mode of my mind. Sleep for me, came then—and still does—at the point of utter fatigue. Collapse onto the bed. These days though I take a dusk minivan to Bangkok laying my head back against the window as the sun sets in my eyes and on the horizon. Calm. As the kilometers pass behind me, bringing me closer to city streets, my power grows. I control me. I control the blue.
1. SOLOMON GREY—ELECTRIC BABY
Won’t you get yourself more radical?
I can’t see the end of the road for me. But one night I laid on a rooftop I’d broken into in Ho Chi Minh City and I sat on the edge and I thought about jumping. Well, they’d say I fell off, that I let myself fall off. Just another stupid, fucking drunken foreigner. And I looked down at Đường Nguyễn Đình Chiểu, the street below me, and Solomon Grey came to my eardrums like saviours sailing on notes. Suddenly, I felt pains in my chest, marks on my body that throbbed with a call to attention. Fucking touch me. Feel me. I traced my hand down my chest and I thought, these bullet holes are for real. These wounds are mortal. I haven’t felt a thing for years, and now all this feeling is making me ill. And I rolled over onto the safety of the patio below and stared at the sky. I have to make myself more radical. I’ve got to get myself more radical. I have to make myself at home. At home in me. Fuck the ghost heart away.