Belated October Favourites

I am well aware of the fact that, in the wake of the sudden drop in temperatures here in Madrid, October now lies behind us as seemingly far-off as starting primary school and the turn of the century. Nonetheless, I come cap in hand to offer you a snapshot of what’s particularly caught my fancy this past month, and hopefully a chance to get to know me slightly better, for those of you who like that sort of thing.

Without further ado:

Hair

H'Suan Wen Hua Hair TreatmentI have received a fair few comments about my hair both on social media and in person, and so I thought I’d mention the products that keep it looking the way it does. (If you’d be interested in a full post on my haircare routine, please let me know!)

I invested in two fairly pricey Lush products soon after getting here because the sun and sudden increase in heat treatment had fried my hair and left it looking even worse for wear than Emperor Kuzco after he is left in the rain. They are H’Suan Wen Hua and Retread (called Spa here in Spain). Again, if you would like a full run-down on what exactly I do (particularly if you have heavy, thick, dry hair similar to mine) then please give me a shout – for now, I’ll mention briefly that I use both approximately once a week. I mix the former with olive oil and apply to my hair about an hour before washing; I then Retread Hair Conditioneruse the conditioner in the normal way. (Please ignore the reviewers saying they only got about three uses out of a tub – I’ve been using these for several weeks now and have barely used a quarter of each. I honestly think some people have far more money than sense: is your hair really going to absorb half a tub of thick conditioner in one go? And I have the thickest, driest, heaviest hair ever, so I feel I am qualified to comment here.)

These have taken my hair from staggering at the gates of the Underworld to sprightly, dancing-through-the-fields, grow-an-inch-a-month. It’s a miracle. My split ends have all but disappeared and I haven’t had a haircut in – oh God – four months. (I know.) It’s like steroids for my hair. Unbelievable. Can only recommend.

Makeup

MAC Prep + Prime Fix +I occasionally joke that all the money I save by not drinking goes to buying MAC products, but lately I’m starting to feel there’s more truth to this than I’d care to admit!

An internet friend recommended I try their fixing spray, MAC Prep + Prime Fix +, as a remedy for my ongoing frustration at my makeup packing its bags and heading decidedly southwards by noon. Anyone with hyperpigmentation knows the struggle of noticing your three step correct/conceal/fix has evaporated after all that effort – and I am delighted to say that this Does The Trick. It holds your makeup onto your face without feeling as thoroughly disgusting as hairspray is wont to: the first day I tried it, I even went to the gym and my makeup was intact. It does slip occasionally, but only inasmuch that you yourself may notice it on close inspection in a mirror. It also feels beautifully refreshing on your face, as it hydrates – possibly why mattifying is not in the list of properties it possesses, so MAC Prep + Prime Lipyou will still need powder. I don’t think I can be without this now – someone produce a travel version, please!

Another product I added to my stash of “save me from Madrid weather” tools was the MAC Prep + Prime Lip primer, as mere lipbalm (and Lush at that) no longer suffices. For some reason, not only does my lipstick wave its goodbyes after less than an hour, but the skin on my lips falls apart and looks generally awful (and is impossible to fix with any range of lip treatments). This has helped to solve that: it’s difficult to explain, but it basically holds the skin on my lips together all day, so now when I get home, my lips are intact, as opposed to requiring immediate exfoliatory action. I won’t pretend it’s miraculous at keeping lipstick on despite food, drink and the odd passionate kiss hours of shouting at errant children, but it at least means that you still have a canvas on which to reapply the paint, so to speak.

Music

Music will always probably be my longest category because I take greater joy in finding new favourites in this field than in any other.

To begin with the mainstream, and the probably well-hated by readers of this blog: 5 Seconds of Summer. Australian boyband with some pretty damn good songs – the thing I love most about music, literature and art in general is the capability it has to reference and draw on previous works, and the reasons for doing so. In this album you can see the influences pretty easily – one of the son5SOSgs, “End Up Here”, references Bon Jovi‘s “Livin’ on a Prayer”, as clumsily as that allusion may have been executed, for example. However, the main influence I can hear in this album is none other than, well, Busted. The lyrics generally contain the perfect mix of self-deprecating comedy (compare “18” with “Britney”) with heart-rending guitar-strumming (“Sleeping With The Light On” is surely a forerunner of “Amnesia”, “Everything I Didn’t Say” and “Beside You”), and just the right amount of sexual indication to keep them well out of One Direction territory.

While I do feel I am ever so slightly too old for them, the songs do remind me so much of the intense rush of hormonal excitement that comes with being sixteen and at a party, or the seemingly eternal walk home from school, during which anything could happen if you were with the right person – and I think I identify as much with “Good Girls” now as I did when I was fifteen. On that note, I particularly like that track for the skilful way in which it demolishes the good girl-bad girl dichotomy (possibly stemming from the Madonna-Whore complex) and yet does not strip the female character of her agency by allowing the central message of the song to come from her mouth. “Social Casualty”, on the other hand, sounds like it could have come from Simple Plan‘s songsheet and doesn’t really offer anything new. It´ll be interesting to keep an eye on them and see whether their sound matures over time, or whether they meet the same fate as those responsible for “What I Go To School For”.

Happy New YearDepending on who you are, this next album is either again totally mainstream or incredibly niche. I am referring to the soundtrack for Farah Khan´s recent Diwali release, Happy New Year. I would very much like to see the film soon, despite my suspicion that the story will hold less water than a broken sieve. (SRK as an underdog? Really? And a gang of protagonists with only one woman? But I digress.) It´s one of those films that follows the formula for incredible box office success: massive names, something to do with diamond thieves, and an explosive soundtrack.

“India Waale” (the electronic version) is uplifting and cheering – a sort of bringing-everyone-together song – while remaining catchy and powerful. “Satakli” may seem austere on a first listening, but the traditional air is welcome in a electronic/autotune-dominated soundtrack – which is why the video is such a disappointment: only a full-on garba routine would have been able to match the power of the track itself.

All that I would add is that I personally feel “Kamlee” far exceeds “Lovely” – oh, and don´t forget to look out for the distinctive tones of Mika Singh.

KaaviyathailavanIf you like musicals and Tamil music – I realise this combination is a seemingly unlikely one – then I highly recommend Kaaviyathalaivan, the soundtrack of the upcoming historical drama. I first heard the second track, the enchanting duet “Aye! Mr Minor”, on BBC Asian Network, and was intrigued to read more about the return to traditional Tamil musicals within this film, as well as by the strategic nod to that cultural marker, the Ramayana (ever-present in the same way that Goethe’s Faust trio pops up in the least obvious ways) on the cover.

The first four tracks of the – disappointingly short – album are the ones that really grab my attention, but as all the songs are very different from each other, I’m fascinated to know how they all work together within the film.

Mira DentroThis post wouldn’t be complete, I suppose, without a Spanish inclusion. Probably my favourite album on this list, Maldita Nerea‘s latest offering Mira Dentro is, reassuringly, no extreme departure from their usual mellow sound. I say reassuringly because for me, the music represents support, comfort and warmth. It’s hard not to feel drawn in by several songs that all seem to say “Hey. Don’t worry. I’m here for you.”. I’m going to see them live in December and am already looking forward to it due to the sheer infectiousness of every song on the album. My favourite is undoubtedly “No Estarás Sola”, but the beat of “Mi Única Verdad” and the humour of “No Pide Tanto, Idiota” come incredibly close. I must also add that it is an incredibly uplifting feeling to listen to their older tracks and realise you understand much more of them without even trying.

So, that was my October recap. I hope you found it – if not informative – at least entertaining, and please do feel free to shoot any questions you may have my way. Into November we go!

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