I've been listening a bit to Taylor Swift recently. She can be a polarising figure. For a while there she was everywhere.
Throwing Fourth of July parties at her mansion on Rhode Island, throwing shade at people who, well, threw shade at her.
It was the stuff that most people get up to in their 20s. Learning who they are, stretching the boundaries, standing firm on the things they believe in.
Except in her case it was on a global stage. Such are the perils of fame.
But I digress. This is about the music. She released two "sister" albums this year - Folklore and Evermore. They are a change of focus, a reinvention in the indie folk vein while dipping her toes into the pop and country realms she has already conquered. They have been widely acclaimed for their maturity and her songwriting development.
I'm captivated by many songs on both albums. They are an antidote for a world gone mad. I'd had a similar relationship with her Red and 1989 albums, tramping out hundreds of kilometres while training for hikes with them blaring in my headphones.
But, more than this, they have helped reconnect me with music I'd moved away from. Time and tide (and music trends) wait for no woman. And wallowing in nostalgia isn't my thing, even if a cocky friend once said that the only music you go back to is the stuff you listened to in your early 20s.
But Swift's new music awakened some long-lost memories. The key one being my love of 10,000 Maniacs. I was a huge fan of the seminal folk-indie band from the late 80s and early 90s and its lead singer, Natalie Merchant. Their MTV Unplugged album was one of my most-listened to for years.
Then I grew away from it. It happens.
But in recent weeks, thanks to YouTube, I've reconnected. While streaming Swift tracks they dropped in a couple of 10,000 Maniacs songs.
It was like finding with an old friend on Facebook. There's a certain delight tinged with wariness - will we still have something in common beside old memories. Thankfully, the 10,000 Maniacs and I are still in sync.
I also found that, looking at old clips, there is an uncanny resemblance between the cover for Folklore and bits of the 10,000 Maniac's video for These Are Day. All moody black and white forest shots. Freaky.
And there's an intimacy to the lyrics of both Swift and Merchant (once dubbed the thinking man's Madonna in a newspaper headline) that can be compelling.
From the 10,000 Maniacs the playlist threw up Tori Amos (another favourite and a stunning live performer) followed by Fiona Apple, Indigo Girls and Rhianna. All strong female musical role models. And all favourites of mine.
It lead me to check up on what Merchant was doing these days and I discovered a whole new tranche of music to explore, beautifully backed by strings. From there I danced across to Michael Stipe via a duet of To Sir With Love that he did with Merchant. Stipe, the ex-frontman of the legendary R.E.M is writing and recording new music, I discovered. Yippee. 2021 is looking up.
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