Tonight I’m going to see one of my favourite bands, a Swedish sister duo called First Aid Kit. I only discovered them a year ago and already I’m in love with their lyrics. One of the songs that comes to mind is ‘Stay Gold’ and how there’s this desperation, this glimmer of hope, for things to remain perfect but that impending fear that the weight of the world will be too much to bear. It’s such a human feeling in not wanting to face our fears or failure but to remain lost in the moments that bring us joy and happiness.
‘What if to love and be loved’s not enough?
What if I fall and can’t bear to get up?
Oh, I wish, for once, we could stay gold’
I can relate to this song because for a while I went through a tough battle with depression and there was some days when I couldn’t even bear to get out of bed, lying there listless, looking at an empty ceiling yet hoping, praying, to see stars. All I needed was a tiny, miniscule sliver of hope to keep me going each day. Yet, some days it never came and I wandered scared and alone through my mind’s dark caverns. There were no lights to guide me, no colours, no sound, nothing. Only an endless black void. It was in the worst of these moments that I physically dragged myself out of bed and started to listen to music and explore the lyrics in songs. Anything just to find a connection to the world outside and to feel.
The more I listened to music, the more I started to become re-acquainted with my emotions. It wasn’t just tears or emptiness anymore. It was this twinkling light, a distant star, that showed me a path. I’d gone from complete blackness to purple twilight and memory was no longer a painful purgatory of ‘what ifs’, ‘what was’ or ‘what will be’. I was broken but now I could see something through the cracks. I could see hope. It reminded me of the Leonard Cohen song ‘Anthem’ and those famous lyrics.
‘There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in’
Light started to trickle in, little by little, until it flooded me all at once. I was filled with ideas, stories, and being creative. It had felt like an eternity trapped beneath the weight of my self-doubt and negativity. It felt freeing and I could breathe full breaths for the first time in what felt like years. It reminded me a little bit of the Japanese practice of Kintsukuroi where broken objects would be mended with gold or precious metals and so that even their faults would be regarded as beautiful. I used to think that it’d be better if some omniscient being would erase me and create me anew, allow me to start again, but I don’t want that any more. I’m thankful for my faults because it’s allowed me to see the world in a different light and be more in tune with my emotions and the people around me. So, to me, staying gold doesn’t mean for everything just to perfect all the time but to be able to accept my flaws and create something from them.
Sometimes it’s hard to see past the idealised view of the world and all its offerings with advertisements barraging news feeds telling you what you want, people’s sunny holiday snaps plastered across your timeline, and articles telling you the best ways in which to be happy. It’s so easy to hide behind the guise of social media and only show your highlights to your friends and followers but in doing this people lose track of who they are and want they truly want. They lose themselves to others’ expectations and mindlessly scramble to meet these ideals. It’s easy to fall in love with these notions because everyone, even me, wants to be loved and to do their best but don’t do it for anyone else. Do it for you. Do YOUR best. This brings me to the Nick Cave song ‘Spell’.
‘I have no abiding memory
No awakening, no flaming dart
No word of consolation
No arrow through my heart
Only a feeble notion
A glimmer from afar
That I cling to with my fingers
As we go spinning wildly through the stars’
The poetic lyrics are beautiful and picturesque at a glance but when it’s combined with the melancholic melodies something doesn’t feel quite right. Cave knows that there is nothing to jolt him from this dream no matter how many arrows or darts are fired at him. He’s lost in this vision and he’s hanging on desperately because it’s all he has no matter how feeble it might feel at the time. Not everyone might have that burning intensity, or at least not all the time, but the fact that something is there, despite how small, it’s a reason to continue. He mentions stars at the end of this verse but he’s moving so fast, he can only see the hazy bigger picture, and things are still unclear. In my darkest times I used to feel that the world was like this and I was spinning constantly unable to hold on to anything because everything felt fleeting and transient. Through music, I’ve learned to try to slow down because I want to see those stars in all their shining glory. It’s the small details that make me appreciate the world and all that’s in it no matter how broken or cracked they may be.
It brings me to another First Aid Kit song where they sing ‘There’s hope, there’s a silver lining’. So, no matter how bad things get there is something that we can glean from those moments. It’s about being present in the here and now and not focusing on our past mistakes or our future fears and making the most of your life no matter what turns it takes.
‘Can’t worry ’bout what’s behind you or what’s coming for you further up the road
I try not to hold on to what is gone, I try to do right what is wrong
I try to keep on keeping on
Yeah I just keep on keeping on’