They say, ‘Take what you want, and pay for it,” and I do.
They say, “Learn from your mistake,” and I learnt from you.
In my late teens, I seemed to be discovering new and obscure music all the time. Probably the most striking example was the time I went to see the Arctic Monkeys for £2 in a dingy Sheffield bar in 2003, but it was far from the only time I took a chance on a new band.
I’m now in my mid twenties. It’s hardly that old, and I still love music, but after a long day at work, it seems so much easier to put on something old and familiar, or at best, someone that everyone acknowledges as the next big thing, than it is to scour the internet for new stuff, ask friends for their recommendations or take a chance on a random gig. Even when someone does suggest a new band to me, it takes effort to actually bother listening to it.
Recently, I’ve got into a few things recommended by my brothers, who are still young, cool and have time to dig through the rubbish so I don’t have to. There’ll be a post about at least one of those bands in a few days, but this isn’t about that. This is about a singer I discovered all by myself, whom hardly anyone seems to have heard of, and who has grabbed me in a way that few musicians have in ages. That singer’s name is Julia Johnson.
Time after time, wondering if I’m going crazy.
Even Atlas couldn’t hold up, all the corners of the world and make it easy.
So what made me a)find out about, and b)take a chance of listening to her? Well, the classical reference in that last set of lyrics might be a clue, as might her surname. Yes, she’s Boris Johnson’s little sister.
I sort of feel awful for even mentioning that. Whilst I love my brothers, we have sufficient levels of healthy sibling rivalry that I’d be furious if someone ever suggested that the most interesting thing about me was being related to one of them. Certainly, on her website, she seems to avoid mentioning it – http://julia-johnson.com/
However, I also think she’s missing out on some fairly straightforward publicity. Basically, I love Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, genuine former Cavalier Bullingdon Club member, fluent speaker of Latin and Greek, probably the cleverest and certainly the most amusing politician I’ve ever come across. I’ve been tempted to write a post about this, but I’m saving it for when he becomes Prime Minister. Or possibly President of America. Or maybe both at once.
So when I found it he had a twenty-something sister who was in a band (she’s gone solo now), I couldn’t load up Spotify quickly enough. I have to admit, I came for the “what on earth does she sound like?” novelty, but I stayed because the answer was, “amazing.”
First, she can sing. As you might imagine, coming from that family, she was trained in singing from a young age. Second, she scatters literary and classical references liberally through her songs, and it’s always nice to have that smug thrill of recognising a quotation. Third, the music is beautiful, and fourth, the lyrics are clever and lovely. More than any of that though, there’s just such a gorgeous theme of melodramatic heartbreak running through all the songs that just chimes perfectly with the sort of thing I like to listen to and indeed to write about.
Go on Spotify now* and give her a go. I particularly recommend Elegy and Atlas, but most of the songs are pretty good. There’s also her old band, Second Person (Oh god, a grammatical reference in a band name. Swoon), which are worth a listen too, though I like the solo stuff best.
Go on. Even if you’re not that into music, I bet you’re intrigued to see what she sounds like, whether any of it’s in Latin and what her hair’s like.
*If you don’t have Spotify, then for goodness sake download it. Legal, free music that supports the artist – what’s not to like. It’s one of the very best things about the internet.