Sixty for 60: 22. Penfriend

To celebrate my 60th birthday, I asked my social media friends to nominate a favourite song from 2021 – 60 to commemorate the fact I am 60. This isn’t one of them, though. This is some downbeat, beautifully introspective bedroom electronica – think Pet Shop Boys, think oh I don’t know Sarah Blasko or the great La Roux with some early 1980s Atari computer noises and recalcitrant drum machines thrown in – a kickback against this impersonalised Zoom World we now find ourselves in, with no seeming way out.

Recommended to me by Dan Thompson on Facebook, who writes “This might appeal. The new album by Penfriend is about 500 sales away from the Top 40. Do it for DIY culture. Please RT too!”

DIY culture. Yeah, I mean I’m into that and everything, and anti-the corporatisation of everything, most especially dance crazes (like dance isn’t the most vital, important, individual human activity ever), but does it have a good title? Yeah, it has a great title. ‘Exotic Monsters’. Love the title. Makes me want to listen to David Bowie or something. Makes me want to dance to the beats of Laura Kidd. Slowly.

As the artist puts it:

Sparked by a throwaway phrase from Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”, “Exotic Monsters” is a laundry list of asynchronous human needs and desires; a reflection of our increasingly confused, disconnected and polarised lives. A timely reminder of the practice of cultivating gratitude through meditation, the song is an attempt to examine our internalised inconsistencies; the “facts” we pile up on our own backs throughout lives bombarded by airbrushed images and ads for the unattainable baubles we’re informed are essential for true happiness.

Yep. All of that. Synth wave. Go on. Treat yourself. Buy a copy of Laura’s album. God knows you deserve it. It comes on green vinyl with a small yellow vinyl supplement and some ace drawings.

Fun fact: “Exotic Monsters” features several Creative Commons drum samples created by the European Space Agency, recorded at their European Space Research and Technology Centre in the Netherlands. Using sounds from space on a song about feeling disconnected from life on earth just felt wildly appropriate.

Love it.

Most Played Songs in my iTunes Library

Sugababes

This is taken from the last six years. I have not included any act twice, despite several of them appearing way more than once (e.g. easily the majority of the top 50 most played songs is made up of Dexys and Beyoncé).

The top entry is the song I played when I finally submitted my revised PhD thesis.

1. Sugababes – Push The Button

2. Girls Aloud – Sound Of The Underground

3. Beyoncé – Hold Up

4. Dexys – Now (live at Duke Of York’s Theatre)

5. Estelle – American Boy (Radio Edit w/ Kanye)

6. La Roux – in For The Kill

7. Emiliana Torrini – Jungle Drum

8. Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Murder On The Dancefloor

9. Amy Winehouse – Hey, Little Rich Girl

10. Dandy Livingstone – Rudy, A Message To You

11. Billie Eilish – Bury A Friend

12. Little Mix – Shout Out To My Ex

13. Prince Buster – Too Hot

14. Taylor Swift – Lover

15. Mitski – Nobody

16. Tropical Fuck Storm – You Let My Tyres Down

17. Baby Rose – All To Myself

18. Cornershop – One Uncareful Lady Owner

19. Mariah Carey – All I Want For Christmas Is You

20. The Distractions – It Doesn’t Bother Me