"Jemma Nicole – My Darkest Hour"

480Some bands and artists may not qualify for a dedicated article, but definitely deserve a blog post. This is the first of six blog posts in a series of female artists or female-fronted bands that will be published under 2024. We will start with Jemma Nicole, an artist from Melbourne, Australia. Let me start by saying that not all people are surfing in Australia. The sundrenched continent has its dark moments too. In fact, the continent is known for producing dark and gothic-influenced music. In my line of work you will be constantly wading through a quagmire of statements and platitudes. There is a difference between writing and storytelling. The copywriters of the world surpass themselves in their pursuit to stacking clichés, breaking through the noise and to get attention. However, this elaborate declaration caught my attention: "Haunting and beautiful, Jemma Nicole’s gritty, country noir is born from a love of sad songs and the darker side of Americana. Imagine Nick Cave and Hope Sandoval on a double date with Glenn Danzig and King Dude with Johnny Cash waiting the table. You’re getting close." This sounded fabricated, but Jemma Nicole lives up to the hype. Her debut album from 2016 is called "My Darkest Hour". And it's a dark album with a thematic consistency exploring the darker corners of life. The best songs are "To Late To Save My Soul", "Only A Man", "The Killing Of Me", "My Darkest Hour", "Perfume, Cigarettes And Wine", "Whiskey Shivers", "If I Had A Gun" and, last but not least, a cover of Dolly Parton's "Jolene". The arrangements are simple, yet well-constructed, and built around the passionate vocals. This is so much better, than all the copiers, fakers, imitators, impersonaters and imposters out there. You can buy a cd copy from her Bandcamp page. 

"A matter of perspective"

480A tagline caught my attention when it appeared in my social media feed. I can't rediscover the line, but it was something like "cyclists get a lot of hate, but not as much as they deserve" or "cyclists get a lot of hate, but they deserve so much more". Some call cyclists pedalphiles. Being an avid cyclist myself, I wonder where all this hate come from. Wherever there are strong and dismissive reactions, there are psychologists. Some psychologists have a theory that motorists think that cyclists have broken the social contract. It's a strong and inherited psychological reaction at people who break the rules: riding through red light, overtaking queues of cars, undertaking on the inside, exceeding the speed limit or take a slalom course in the traffic. Cyclists are a threat against society and challege one of the pillars (the justice system) on which a society must be built upon. The lycra-wearing doesn't help their case. I doesn't matter if one cyclist breaks the rules and the other ninety-nine cyclists behave. Cyclists are perceived as one homogenous group and all have to be punished. "We cooperate in traffic" was a Swedish slogan a couple of years ago. Yeah, right. For cooperation to work, there needs to be an act of giving and taking. The giving means be able to drive safely. In my opinion, the most skilled drivers in traffic (in descending order) are drivers of: garbage trucks, delivery trucks, buses, private motorists and taxi drivers. In the latter case, you sometimes wonder if, and how, they got a driver license. Cycling is good for you and the environment. Copenhagen is probably the most cycling-friendly capital in the world. Stockholm is far behind. I know many people who are afraid of cycling in the city. The perception of an increase in cyclist-related accidents and the campaign of anti-cyclist hatred matters.

If you ride your bicycle a lot it's not a matter of if, but when, you are involved in a bicycle accident. I have had three major accidents. The first accident was when I ran into a faulty barrier when I was passing tram tracks. I had the sun in my eyes and didn't see that the barrier was faulty. I landed on the ground, which resulted in a dislocated shoulder. It hurt like hell. On the positive side: I got the chance to be included in a medical research study: physiotherapy or operation. I was sampled into the first group. The second accident was when a man opened his SUV car door right in front of me. I flew straight into and over the door. This resulted in a leg injury and crutches. It hurt like hell. The third accident was when I ran straight into a curb. It had snowed and I didn't see it. I literally landed on my teeth. It didn't hurt like hell, but it felt like I had gravel in my mouth. It wasn't gravel, it was part of one of my incisors. My dentist had to fix it, first temporary and then permanently. He did a good job, but it didn't come cheap. The hatred and the accidents have not discouraged me. I will keep on pedaling. Everything is a matter of perspective.


Review of "The Stillness And The Peace"

480In music, there are two paths you can go by. Either you strive to constantly renew yourself or you stick to a strict formula. Oldboy of the Fens (OotF) belongs to the latter category. They have continued on the beaten path. This isn't the same as being stagnant or uninteresting. This is the finest example of british rural realism. There's no anxious glancing sideways, only a consistent implementation of ideas. OotF (originally just Oldboy) was formed in 2007 by Adrian Hunt (vocals, guitar) and James Campbell (multinstrumentalist). From 2007 to 2024 is an eternity in the gothic country genre. In 2023 OotF made an unsual move. They released a compilation album (16 Songs) on Yellowbelly Records. Most bands and artists aren't around long enough to produce sufficient material for a compilation album. In fact, they either disband or go on a never ending hiatus. The selection criteria for the compilation album was democratic and inclusive with two tracks from each of their previous albums. Personally, I would have included a couple of more songs from "In The Cold Light Of Day". Anyway, now they are back with a new album "The Stillness And The Peace". This is their eight original album (nine if you count their their self-titled ep debut). OotF delivers high and consistent quality on regular basis. This is the case this time, too. The arrangements are stripped-down to the bone and the lyrics deal with death, doom and despair. Maybe, this album is a bit more elaborate and melodic compared with their previous albums. What I particularly like about OotF (and respect them for) is their honesty, unwillingness to compromise and endurance. And, they still release physical albums. Kudos to them. The best songs are "I Take It Back", "The Divine Mistress", "River Bed", "Nowhere" and, last but not least, "Cargo Of Souls". Executive summary: another solid album from Oldboy of the Fens. 

"The aesthetics of plastic couch covers"

480We Swedes have such a love and fascination with American culture. This trend accelerated after WWII. Music, movies, cars, clothes, food, drink and you name it. Even the obscure gothic country genre has found its way over here (a strong but limited interest). However, plastic couch covers never made it over the ocean. Their purpose is to protect the couch. In my ignorance I thought that it was to protect the couch when you were away (just as furniture dust covers in the Victorian era). However, the plastic covers were never taken off. You were supposed to sit on the plastic cover(!). Plastic couch covers peaked in the 1960-70s. It's assocíated with a frugal older generation. In those days, buying a couch wasn't a spontaneous buy on credit. Money was saved and a lot of time was put in to find the the right size, shape and style. Once bought, the first thing to do was to place a plastic cover over it. Obviously, there's a trade-off between aesthetics and utility. On the downside, you slided about for a while before the plastic had adjusted and the cover made a characteristic sound when you sat down. You couldn't feel the fabric. The seating comfort and visual impression clearly fell by the wayside. On the upside: you could see the fabric. The couch was protected, thus lengthening the life of the couch and maximizing its utility. In the best of worlds, the couch could be passed on to the next generation (we shouldn't exaggerate the demand for this). Younger generations have a more healthier, yet pragmatic, approach. We buy a couch for the comfort and without a protection plan. 

"No 91/100"

480All things come to those who wait. Anyway, that is what people tell you in your hour of need. In truth, in most cases you are waiting in vain. I have waited ten years for a physical copy of "One Year Lost At Sea", read more here (opens in a new window). This isn't just any hard-to-find album. The difficulty level is insane. Only 100 cdr copies were made, which were sold at concerts in the Boston, MA area. I live in Sweden, a remote country far away from where it - however unlikely - could be found. I have never seen it for sale. Until recently. Now, I have a copy of my own (numbered 91/100). Well, I didn't see that coming. I'm overwhelmed and find it hard to take it in. Maybe I deserve to succeed for my efforts, but it defies all statistical probability. "One Year Lost at Sea" is placed as number 1 on my list "10 rarest albums in the gothic country genre", read more here (opens in a new window). Hard-to-find albums is a chapter in itself and goes beyond the scope of this blog post. What makes an album rare? Firstly, the number of copies. Secondly, if it's a self-released demo or debut album (often co-varies with number of copies). Thirdly, the demand for the album (always co-varies with number of copies). There are 100 copies of "One Year Lost At Sea". It's Reverend Glasseye's "fourth" album (a demo). That being said, even an obscure cdr album could have its hard-core collectors willing to pay top-dollar for a copy (two interested buyers is enough to drive the price upwards). I practise several search methods. Systematic and random trawling is one of them. Monitoring through wantlists, wishlists and saved searches is another. Contacting, stalking and harassing people is a third method. Adding to this, you should be mentally prepared to accept adversities and challenges with a resilient mindset. When it comes to albums in the gothic country genre I have been equipped with the patience that withstands a comparison with Job.  


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