The best reason not to make New Year’s resolutions? Everybody breaks them anyway.
And April was the month in which I broke a quiet promise to myself, that I made at the start of the year and didn’t even share with you guys: that I’d stop making excuses to not go and see shows I had already paid for.
Not only that, I did it twice. But while I’m sorry to Ben Marwood and The Menzingers, I’m more sorry for me. Because I love live music, and I would have loved both of those shows – and both of them were on Saturday nights, so it’s not even like I had the usual mid-week excuse.
I’ve been awful low on energy these past few weeks. I suspected, at first, that it was the lingering hangover of international travel but it didn’t seem to pass, despite the well-timed bank holidays that meant my last few weeks of full-time employment were anything but. At my worst, I had to nap off a migraine at the Small Animal Hospital on a Tuesday afternoon, while we were waiting for my friend’s cat to come to after a heart scan (she’s fine: both my friend, and the wonderfully-named Dolly Purrton). Not my finest hour.
This month, I should really be putting my new routine in place – but a pre-booked trip south to see Frank Turner (with a ticket I bought in response to skipping a far-more accessible show) and a family wedding could make that difficult. Plenty of time for books though, right?
New Girl season 6 (2016, now airing on Channel 4): Or, that time Stringer and I realised we had fallen almost a season behind on one of our favourite sitcoms and binged the lot in four days – the outcome of which was that I accidentally called Biggie “Furrguson” when I left to go to work the following morning. We’ll find out later this month if Zooey Deschanel and her loft-mates will be returning for another season, but with each character left ready to begin the next phase of his or her life to a greater or lesser extent in the finale I’d be happy either way (indeed, this spoiler-filled Hollywood Reporter column makes a pretty solid case for why it should in fact be done). A perfect final scene set to Lorde’s “Green Light” kept me laughing and crying for days afterwards, until the clip finally disappeared from Twitter. ****
13 Reasons Why (2017, Netflix): in which Lis proves completely unmoved by the Netflix drama that got everybody talking last month, but was bawling by the end of the behind the scenes featurette. While this was partly down to me reading all the episode synopses beforehand in order to prevent me stumbling across a graphic rape or suicide scene I wasn’t emotionally prepared for, I suspect a larger part was my response to the storytelling device.
Part suicide-as-revenge-fantasy, part Manic Pixie Dead Girl Could Have Been Saved By The Love Of Cute-But-Socially-Awkward-Boy (who still gets invited to all the cool kids’ parties), there’s no denying this is an extremely well-executed drama by extremely well-intentioned people who believe themselves to be doing Good Work. But, even though I’m now a good two decades removed from the target audience, I can’t help feeling as though this would have pushed all the wrong buttons had I watched it as a bullied teenager dealing with her first bout of recurring depression. **
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017): Yeah … after last month’s movie extravaganza, it’s unsurprising that I only managed one new film this month. While I hooted with laughter throughout the Guardians’ return to the big screen, and left the cinema with a spring in my step, I’m not completely convinced it held together as a film. More like an hour and a half-long skit featuring some characters I really like, before an emotional climax with a few more jokes thrown in. Not a waste of my time as such, but if I hasn’t already fallen for the Guardians during their first – decidedly better-structured – outing, would I really have cared?
Drax’s laugh is the best, though. ***
guys the new Katy Perry song is one of the worst things I have ever heard and I’ve sat through an entire Ed Sheeran concert.
— Lisa-Marie Ferla (@lastyearsgirl_) April 28, 2017
Hurray For The Riff Raff – The Navigator: HEY so you know how I stopped reviewing albums, and then pretty much fell behind with all new music ever? This one actually came out in March, so it’s not my worst, but still. I’d somehow mischaracterised Alynda Segarra as americana based on 2014’s Small Town Heroes, but her story is perhaps even more quintessentially American. Based in part on her own journey from South Bronx immigrant kid to the downtown punk scene and beyond, The Navigator is a concept album that draws from Puerto Rican poetry, street culture and activism and a range of musical styles including rock, doo-wop and bluegrass – yet never sounds anything less than coherent. It’s a stunning achievement.
June’s looking pretty good for new music, with Big Thief’s Capacity (due out on my birthday!) and Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit’s The Nashville Sound (16th) among the albums I’m most looking forward to. I mean, the lead singles from each album are among my favourite songs of the year to date so you could say I have high hopes.
“Laughing (Or Pretending to Laugh)” closes out the new album from The Smith Street Band, but nothing beats this wonderful solo performance by band frontman Wil Wagner at the offices of Rolling Stone Australia.
On the podcast front, comedian Chris Gethard’s Beautiful Stories From Anonymous People falls smack bang into that ordinary-people-talking-about-their-extraordinary-lives genre of storytelling I’m so into, so it’s no surprise that it included some of my favourite audio moments this month (although I just found out today that Gethard played the “men’s rights is nothing” guy on Parks and Recreation and am currently reassessing my worldview. Recommended: #56 A Midwife Discusses Birth Schmutz in which Chris talks about being raised Catholic in the context of reproductive rights (feelz!); and #58 Vinyl Market Researcher, who is trying to decide whether to quit his well-paid corporate job and buy out a record store.
Daisy Buchanan, How to be a Grown Up (2017):* Ever read a book and just … kick yourself that somebody has managed to so perfectly capture everything you ever wanted to say? Wonderful lifestyle journalist Daisy Buchanan stirs such feelings in my chest quite often, but never more so than in her fantastic first book (she’s even covered that, in a chapter called “How To Be Jealous”). Think of it as a professional big sister handbook, covering everything from love, sex, friendships and family to career, confidence and even clothing – though I’m still waiting for the picture of the gold jumpsuit I was promised on Twitter. Buchanan’s frank yet reassuring writing style makes this book the perfect companion, even if you’ve already made it out of your 20s. ****
Louise Beech, How to be Brave (2015): As I read the first few chapters, in which narrator Natalie’s headstrong young daughter collapses with what turns out to be Type 1 diabetes, I became convinced that this was autobiography. I ultimately discovered that, yes, both the ‘present day’ narrative and the historical shipwreck that the pair piece together as a way of bringing them closer together while they come to terms with the daughter’s illness were based on the lives of the author and her grandfather – and promptly felt pretty shitty that the only thing I took away from the book was an overwhelming feeling that the only stakes here would be if it happened to you. ***
Mark Billingham, Die of Shame (2017): SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT: I got hold of this book after my favourite Wolves-supporting crime fiction writer from the West Midlands chaired the bestselling author’s launch event at Glasgow’s Aye Write! festival back in March. The book centres on an addiction support group and their therapist, a circle which includes both victim and, evidently, killer. It’s an intriguing concept, and red herrings abound – but I’m still not over the whole carefully refusing to disclose the gender of the detective’s partner in order to CLEVERLY REVEAL SHE IS A LESBIAN in the next chapter trope. ***
Lisa McInerney, The Glorious Heresies (2015): A multi-award winning, darkly humorous epic about the intersecting lives of various petty criminals, gangsters and down on their luck characters in the Cork City underworld which deserves every plaudit. It’s hard not to warm to McInerney’s sympathetically-drawn characters despite their endless mistakes, and her skilled way with words is an utter joy to read. *****
“Snarling Girl” by Elisa Albert – a stunning essay on (and against) ambition that has become my new touchstone. Every word is quotable, but I will leave you with these as a taster:
Here’s what impresses me: Sangfroid. Good health. The ability to float softly with an iron core through Ashtanga primary series. Eye contact. Self-possession. Loyalty. Boundaries. Good posture. Moderation. Restraint. Laugh lines. Gardening. Activism. Originality. Kindness. Self-awareness. Simple food, prepared with love. Style. Hope. Lust. Grace. Aging. Humility. Nurturance. Learning from mistakes. Moving on. Letting go. Forms of practice, in other words. Constant, ongoing work. No endpoint in sight. Not goal-oriented, not gendered. Idiosyncratic and pretty much impossible to monetize.
Craig David, SSE Hydro, Glasgow, 3rd April: With part-time work looming, I felt under pressure to accept every offer of a live review from The Herald this month. Plus, wouldn’t born again pop star Craig David be a hilarious cringe? WRONG: the humility and infectious delight with which David has embraced his second act made for a fantastic show, and it turned out that I knew far more Craig David songs than I thought I did.
Ed Sheeran, SSE Hydro, Glasgow, 16th April: Okay, tagging my social media posts from the night with #FerlaVsSheeran might have given a misleading impression of my intentions, but I swear I went into this reviewing gig happy to be proved wrong about my least favourite inexplicably popular mega-selling pop star. Instead, I discovered that that cheeky chappie nice-guy persona hides some pretty misogynistic lyrics – and that “Galway Girl” is even more heinous when presented accompanied by green neon lights and a video backdrop featuring floating pints of Guinness.
Craig Finn, LP Records, Glasgow, 23rd April: As tempted as I was to chalk off playing promoter for another member of my favourite band by bidding to host a “living room show” for Craig Finn in support of his new solo album, that would have deprived me of the opportunity to experience this intimate show in one of my favourite places in the world. A perfect mixture of storytelling, performance and hang-out – and one that even featured an unexpected acoustic rendition of a song I love so much I have its lyrics tattooed on me.
- calling Ed Sheeran misogynistic in a national newspaper;
- seeing some stars I did on the front of an IRL DVD for the first time in my life;
- a fancy Blythswood Square afternoon tea for Sarah’s birthday – where they were happy to trade all my sandwiches for Lis-approved plain versions
- Easter-appropriate all-natural vegan chocolate-flavoured lip butter by Edinburgh-based cruelty free Lucky Cloud Skincare* – it tastes surprisingly like the real thing;
- Cadbury Dairy Milk with mint Oreo chocolate;
- getting Craig Finn to pose for a ridiculous photo with his words on my skin
- Glasgow Food Geek’s simple but delicious tomato sauce recipe;
- the 3.5 mile walk from Glasgow city centre to my house, particularly if I treat myself to an ice cream cone at Glasgow Green;
- Blurt Foundation’s “Outta This World” BuddyBox, which turned up as a surprise in the mail when I needed it most.
April, you were surprisingly good to me. What were your highlights, folks?
This post contains PR samples, but all views are my own and unbiased.