Fact: England has spectacular taste in music. I learned this within my first couple weeks in Leeds, when it seemed that a multitude of great songs were following me wherever I went. I walked into Next and heard Alvvays’ ‘Dreams Tonite’ playing over the speakers, I perused HMV while they blared Noel Gallagher’s ‘Holy Mountain,’ and a trip to Oliver Bonas meant singing ‘Heart of Glass’ to myself in the back corner of the store. I like that I can find bits of who I am even in a foreign city, and I like that a lot of those bits have to do with music.
Charlotte came to visit me for a couple days this week, and we somehow managed to hear more than a dozen of our favourite songs over the course of a forty-eight-hour period. The coincidences became difficult to ignore, and she made a Spotify playlist of all the tracks while I scrawled the most memorable ones into a new notebook. Hearing music you know and love in new places is comforting and makes everything feel like it’s in alignment, and that feeling deserved a blogpost.
February 6th, 3:45 PM. Millennium Square. ‘Sign of the Times’ by Harry Styles.
For reasons unbeknownst to me, Leeds is currently staging a Valentine’s Fair in Millennium Square. Charlotte and I walked past it while making our way from the train station to my dorm room, and it took about a millisecond for the two of us to register the fact that they were blasting Harry Styles from the midway. Last year, when we drove home from seeing Patti Smith in New York City, Charlotte woke up from a nap to me playing his debut album as softly as I could, mumbling the lyrics to myself. She promptly turned it up, and we listened to the rest of the record while singing along loudly. The fact that we have listened to him in Toronto and New York and now Leeds makes me particularly happy, and hearing ‘Sign of the Times’ less than half an hour after she arrived in my new city was most definitely a good sign.
February 7th, 12:45 PM. Village Bookshop & Gallery. ‘Shut Up Kiss Me’ by Angel Olsen.
On our first full day together, we spent a few hours wandering into shop after shop, hunting down records and books and vintage clothing. Village is a tiny gem stocking magazines and art prints and countless other trinkets, and just as we walked in, the clerk put on Angel Olsen. We made it partway through My Woman before we exited the shop, Charlotte and I and the guy behind the counter singing softly to ourselves.
February 7th, 2:00 PM. Blue Rinse Vintage. ‘Because the Night’ by Patti Smith.
Shuffling through vintage clothing shops is one of life’s simple pleasures, partly because it’s exciting to find a treasure amidst the racks, and partly because they tend to come with good soundtracks. While standing in line waiting to buy vintage denim, Charlotte and I and at least a couple other patrons hummed along to Dusty Springfield’s ‘Son of a Preacher Man,’ which promptly gave way to ‘Because the Night’ by Patti Smith. I turned to look at Charlotte from where I was combing through a box of bandanas, both of us wide-eyed and excited. Patti makes everything better, even when it’s already good in the first place.
February 7th, 2:45 PM. SingleShot Vinyl Records & Coffee House. ‘Lust for Life’ by Iggy Pop.
A solid playlist is usually guaranteed when entering a record shop, and this was no exception. We stopped in SingleShot on a whim, keen on looking through stacks of vintage vinyl. Iggy Pop was an added bonus, and we stayed until the song played out before going off in search of coffee.
February 7th, 4 PM. Layne’s Espresso. ‘Dark Days’ by Local Natives.
Layne’s Espresso is close to the train station and boasts big, bright windows that feel almost nonexistent, making it the perfect place for both coffee drinking and people watching. Charlotte and I stopped here for an hour or so in the afternoon, pulling out notebooks and novels to pass the time. I wrote poems and doodled the scenes in front of me, enjoying the unmediated experience of sitting in a coffee shop without my laptop or a pair of headphones. They were playing good music, and I perked up when ‘Dark Days’ started playing, the layered vocals only adding to the atmosphere.
February 7th, 5:45 PM. Friends of Ham. ‘Go Your Own Way’ by Fleetwood Mac.
At this point charcuterie seemed like the only option for dinner, and we walked two doors down from Layne’s Espresso to Friends of Ham, proceeding to spend an hour eating cheese and prosciutto and sourdough dipped in olive oil. Fleetwood Mac has my heart forever, and hearing ‘Go Your Own Way’ in the middle of a packed restaurant was the perfect way to end the day.
February 8th, 9:30 AM. Greasy Pig. ‘I Can’t Quit’ by The Vaccines.
The next morning, we made the trek to Hyde Park for breakfast. The radio show they were playing in the restaurant was particularly awful, but it eventually redeemed itself when the DJ put on ‘I Can’t Quit.’ I was wearing my denim jacket, the arm embroidered with the song’s title, and I had a Vaccines concert shirt on underneath my sweater, and the whole thing felt perfect. Hearing my favourite band on the radio will never get old, especially not when I’m two months away from seeing them play to ten thousand people at Alexandra Palace.
February 8th, 12:30 PM. Mrs. Atha’s. ‘Money’ by Peace.
Mrs. Atha’s makes the best flat white in probably the whole world, but aside from that, they play a constant stream of great songs. David Bowie’s ‘Life on Mars’ was floating through the speakers when we walked in, and that melted into ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ by The Smiths, which turned into ‘Money’ by Peace. When I first bought my turntable, I scoured the internet for a copy of Peace’s debut album, In Love, eventually finding a copy on red translucent vinyl on eBay. It’s still one of my most played albums, and listening to the band while drinking coffee and eating salted caramel shortbread is my idea of the perfect afternoon.
Music takes up a prominent place in my life, but it becomes even better when the world around you speaks in songs and artists that you love. Leeds felt good almost as soon as I got here, and these constant sonic encounters keep reminding me how glad I am to be in this city.
Charlotte’s playlist goes well with this blogpost, and it can be listened to here.