Every Sunday here on Counterforce, I like to take it easy with you and hopefully some music. Sometimes maybe a poem or two. Sometimes maybe a glimpse into someone else’s culture. But when possible, I’d prefer that we all just laid together in bed and listened to a little music.
So that’s what we’re going to do this afternoon, but we’re going to do it with one of my favorite artists, Gemma Hayes. Up above is “Hanging Around,” the first single from her first album, Night On My Side.
Gemma is still massively under appreciated and little known, but she’s incredibly talented and, quite frankly, very possibly one of the most beautiful women on the planet.
She’s Irish and was originally a busker (Once-style) but around the time she was at university in Dublin, she realized that she could do the music thing for real and dropped out to make that happen. She released a few EPs before her first album in 2002 and eventually won a few awards and was nominated for a Mercury prize. Below is her second single from that album, “Let A Good Thing Go.”
I don’t even know how I found her originally, probably a review in the back of Rolling Stone or something near it around the time of it’s release. You can imagine how poor any review in Rolling Stone was, and I just filed it away in my mental sex dungeon and went on about my business.
Luckily I found Night On My Side a year or two later in a used music shop, and just through it’s low price and my recognition of the name, I purchased it and I’m ecstatic that I did. I was on a long flight once, completely emotionally devastated, and either her music, her soulful voice, and her deep grooves either got me through that trip in one piece, or I’ve only convinced myself after the fact that they did, but either way, I give the girl from Ireland all the credit. This is third single from her first album, “Back Of My Hand”
In preparing for this, I read a lot of other people’s reviews of her music and I kept seeing the words “exquisitely cute” come up to describe her. Very true, but also missing the mark by miles, maybe as many as the distance between L.A. (where she lives now, of course) and Dublin. To focus on that is to do her a massive disservice (and yes, I know I focused on it at the start of this, calling her possibly the most beautiful woman on the planet)(which she is)(and I will fight anyone who disagrees with me to the death), and you miss the beauty inside. You miss the angry soul inside this music, the one seeking just a little solace and peace in the world. Whether she’s beautiful or not, doesn’t matter (not to you or me, not really, because to us, she’s the face on CD cover or in the music video), but what matters is that she comes off as just another person, possibly oblivious of her own gorgeousness, and in search of a little beauty to call her own.
At times her lyrics are generic, which you can attack, naturally, but there’s a universal movement to her. I can tell you from personal experience that her music, when you’re in that right frame of mind, can be a warm aural cocoon and you can crawl in there with your heartbreak and your worry and you can sit there, safely, hoping to bloom into something better. I even had one of those cliched movie moments while listening to “Back Of My Hand” on headphones while waving goodbye to someone on a bus, certain that I’d never see them again and shocked into my very marrow how perfectly the lyrics seemed to fit my precious little bullshit life at the time.
And that’s all we care about in our lives, right? When we say generic things about songs, about how they’re “the soundtrack to our lives,” what we mean is we really just need something to keep us company through all of our precious little bullshit, right? Up above is “Happy Sad,” the first single from Gemma’s second album, The Roads Don’t Love You.
Her third album, The Hollow Of Morning, was released last year and I’d love to tell you more about it, but I lost my copy and then only just found it again a short while ago. I’m still absorbing it and its’ very nice. I don’t let it, not yet, but there’s a good chance that could come. Here Gemma performs the first single from that album, “Out Of Our Hands.”
When I was planning this post last night, I was thinking about just inundating you with youtube clips, interviews and live versions of songs and just anything I could find. I was so hungry to have you fall as much in love with this amazing and lovely artist as I am, but now I’ve decided that I’ll let you do that on your own. Just as it should be. That said, I’m sure you don’t want to miss out on her doing “Whiskey Girl” live with Kevin Shields or her cover of Kevin Drew’s “TBTF.” Or this very nice version of “Happy Sad” recorded at Abbey Road or the Irish siren explaining why she’s bad at relationship advice. Good stuff.
And I’ll leave you with Magnet (featuring Gemma Hayes) covering the classic Bob Dylan song, “Lay Lady Lay.” This is one of the few Dylan songs that I not only like, but actually love, so you can imagine my shock and the overwhelming sense of synchronicity I felt to find that Gemma was involved with the cover. Magnet is usually fantastic but I think he’s made a massive error by not including her in the video (which has, sadly, a trailer park theme). Lay out some pillows so you don’t hurt yourself when you fall in love and give it a listen.