agenda by Liv Siddall

reading time 4 minutes

Writer and Podcaster Liv Siddall is known for her witty and astute observations on art and culture.  She started her career as Features Editors at global creative blog itsnicethat before working on a range of publications and projects for brands like Rough Trade, Riposte Magazine and MagCulture. She also has a charming Instagram side project called @husbandmaterial where she champions handsome, brilliant, intelligent, daring men who would make good and useful husbands. Here Liv shares the songs which defined her career so far, from tracks which make her write better to songs which soothe those frustrating moments we all face at work.

Jeff Mangum – Oh Comely (live at Jittery Joe’s)

I started my career at It’s Nice That. My day was divided between writing multiple articles at high speed, and being distracted by a bunch of simultaneously irritating and hilarious colleagues. When I had to concentrate, I’d put on my headphones to drown everything out. It’s hard – sometimes impossible – to listen to music as you write. I’m big into lyrics, so I insist on listening to songs as if they were audiobooks. But when you’re writing, that becomes a little like trying to do a Sudoku while someone yells numbers in your face. It’s too hard. I managed to find one song, that wouldn’t distract and made me write better. It’s a whiny live recording of Oh Comely by Jeff Mangum. I’m not particularly a fan of Jeff or his band, nor am I a fan of the quality of this recording (particularly when a baby starts crying JUST as Jeff reaches an ear-splitting note). So, it is inexplicable that this song could actually make it easier for me to write, but it did. I wrote some of my favourite pieces with this song screeching into my brain.

Sharon Van Etten – Serpents

We all have challenging times during our career. This is my go-to song when I feel really frustrated. It’s not the angriest song in the world, but it harbours a quiet rage. I love the way Sharon delivers each lyric with so much hatred as she compares the subject of this song to a serpent. Not a snake, oh no – a serpent. Menacing, cold, evil. Spectacular!

Cate Le Bon – What’s Not Mine

Something happened in my life around the first time I heard this song. It was as if my brain installed loads of updates overnight and had a beautiful, fresh new screensaver in the morning. The repetitive nature of it – particularly at the end of the song – drummed a new way of thinking and seeing into my head. When I listened to it, it was like I was wearing goggles and seeing clearly. Like when people get their first pair of glasses and can suddenly see ants. The way I saw myself, and the world around me totally changed. The effect this had on my work and writing is something maybe only I can see. Will this song have the same effect on you? Maybe not. But worth a try.

Robert Forster – 121

I listen to this when I’m on my way to work, and I want to have a really good day, OR when I’m leaving work, and I’m on my way to a party or, in the olden days, to a hot date. Robert Forster is a hero of mine. I used to make a magazine for Rough Trade, and he once told me he was a fan of it and always picked up a copy whenever he was in the UK. Hearing that from him was a career highlight.

Girl Ray – Where Am I Now?

This is a life changer of a song. For me, it encapsulates the time when I spent two years working in Rough Trade East as their editor, making a monthly music magazine and having the most fun I have ever had. Girl Ray’s album came along with this on it, and it blew my mind. Hit me right between the eyes when I needed it most. I vividly remember being in a pub with some friends and sneaking outside to stand in the dark and listen to this on my headphones because I missed hearing it. It goes like this:

“Been working with the world, ‘cause I see that it’s time. Been talking to my girl, who says that ‘I’ll be fine. Where am I now? If I listen to myself, I’ll be proud. I’m sanding down the burrs, straightening my spine. My thoughts are often blurred, I’m talking all the time. Where am I now? If I listen to myself, I’ll be proud. You’ve got to know yourself to get around. Take the time, find the ground.”

These lyrics apply to anyone who’s lost themselves or needs a bit of a breather. Work is tough; sometimes it’s nice to hear someone else is having a tough time too, right? I suppose – discounting the more braggy, mushy love songs – that’s what music is for, isn’t it?

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