It was the first time I’d been back in the city in almost five years. Growing up, I’d despised the place. A slew of soggy, miserable family holidays, using London as a launching pad for the rest of Europe, had stained its reputation in my mind seemingly irreversibly. When the Australian Dollar was hardly worth the paper it was printed on, London in winter was a pretty horrible place to be a kid. There was so much promise hidden in the architecture, parks and museums of this city but everything you wanted cost too much. That changed five years ago when, returning alone for the first time, I realised the wealth of free options at my disposal. Returning a few days ago, I retraced some of those gratis steps but, now with greenbacks backing me up and Brexit painting a happier fiscal landscape for travellers, I could splash out, too.
When not wondering through the awesome British Museum, running along the Thames and ogling things I still couldn’t afford at Harrods, there is a certain quietness to the city that impressed me. While London is undoubtedly a throbbing metropolis, with Tube stations as hives of activity, Pret a Mangers as cut-price sandwich hubs and a staggering history in its streets in between, I was struck during my days there by the number of opportunities I had to sit and reflect. By the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park, in the cavernous Victoria & Albert Museum and in the unhurried St John’s restaurant in Shoreditch, there is something unnaturally calm about the city. Despite the myriad hawkers and screaming H&M stores, it seems easier to get lost and tune out in London than in a lot of other places.
Maybe it’s just the Odesza talking. Yesterday, among honking geese and more towering memorials to dead white males than you could point a stick at, I walked through the park and really listened to ‘Kusanagi’. Odesza’s entire debut ‘In Return’ has been kicking around my Spotify library for an age but I was always mildly put off by its mass appeal. Just when I thought I’d found something intricate and unique, I discovered that the rest of the world – and a vast proportion of its bros – had discovered it, too. As I’ve found with my burgeoning appreciation for London, though, popular things can sometimes be popular for good reason. With Odesza, and the Japanese-inspired ‘Kusanagi’ in particular, that reason is amplified in the surprising tranquillity of London; this is at once both evocative and redolent music. For a group that I hate to like in a city that I can’t help but love, that makes for a perfect soundtrack.