being “just the same but brand new”

the song, if you want to listen to it

4 min readSep 10, 2023

one of the things i am most Annoying about, if the scale of my loveable annoyingness can be quantified and/or measured, is music. it is the literal soundtrack to my life. i play the boy with the arab strap whenever i miss the bus. i partner a cursory indeed scroll with heaven knows i’m miserable now. i start every summer off with lana del rey’s rendition of doin’ time.

i could write some more spiel about how much i love music, and how essential it is to my life. whenever i write, i like to put on something to play in the background. usually, it is a spotify playlist of gta v’s non stop pop radio. one of these days, i will write an article about how masterful the gta v radio stations are. today is not one of those days.

the song that most people would assume to be my favourite is what this article is mainly about. ignoring the days where it’s true love waits, if you asked me what my favourite song is, i would say cruel by st. vincent. that wouldn’t be a song people particularly associate with me, i wouldn’t think. that (honour? depressing accolade? one of the two, anyway) is another song by st. vincent. it is my bio on the vast majority of social media. it is the song that means the most to me. it is probably the song i talk about the most.

just the same but brand new.

the song is definitely one of my favourites (obviously). i don’t listen to it particularly often. whenever i go on a walk to contemplate life’s phenomenology (usually, to yearn, if i’m being truthful), is when i put it on. but never by itself. always as the album, called actor. it is one of my favourite albums, a real classic i always have in rotation. my one criticism of it is that they left bicycle (a b-side to actor out of work, my second favourite song on the album) off of it. sometimes i feel compelled to buy the 7-inch single release of it, but they are £40 and i have better things to spend that money on in life (i don’t).

being “just the same but brand new” is the mantra for my life. it is my northern star, what i aspire to embody in every single action and interaction i undertake. obviously, it is a deeply paradoxical and oxymoronic one. but that’s why i love it. the idiosyncrasy it provides is second-to-none.

i go through many waves of trying to dissect every single facet of my self, and lay it out, mutilated, in front of me. i don’t like doing this particularly much, but it’s one of the few things that passes the depressing winter months. (small side-note: if you say winter is your favourite season, i will always harbour some level of resentment for you & your love of drudgery.)

i am a big thinker of thinking about thinking about things, which is what leads to the mental sacrifice of my personality on the hyper-medicalised altar of “mental health”. doing this is tedious, provides no catharsis whatsoever, in both the classical and modern sense, and leaves me with the same feeling of simultaneous self-disgust and self-pity that watching a disney live-action remake instils in oneself. trying to tell myself to be just the same but brand new is one of the few salves.

i’m not a perfect person, obviously. no-one is! and before you think i am about to delve into some eat, pray, love proselytising of self-love and the nebulous ideal of always trying to be better, this is the cringy-but-worth-it bedrock of being just the same but brand new.

a lot of the time, i remain in a cycle of thinking that things i did in my past were, in the loosest of uses imaginable, “cringe”, and i have distanced myself from those things, for the better. i then end up rediscovering my love these things, start to enjoy engaging with it holistically, and then lambast myself for being an (insert pejorative that isn’t that insulting but stops you in your tracks to think about it for a minute here).

i don’t think i’m a bad person for feeling like that. and not to delve back into the faux-milennial “love yourself unconditionally no matter what #beyounique”, but the vast majority of people aren’t that bad. as much as i wish they were, my misanthropy stems from my ideologue-ness, compared to actual wholehearted belief. i don’t have to, as said before, “try in vain to take away the pain of being a hopeless non-believer”. and that’s what being just the same but brand new is, in my opinion, meant to embody.

trying to square up to, in even-looser-than-the-loosest air quotes, being a ~good~ person, isn’t going to get me anywhere. but i should still care about being good! and trying to be better! and nice! and weird but only in short, limited, bursts. and i’ve never been able to properly click with the idea of “self-love”. at best i think i like myself quite a bit. at worst, i weakly latch onto a tacit acceptance of my existence, much like a baby with colic. i think that’s fine. or at least, i hope so.

taking the best parts of your selves along the years, and getting to grips with the worst (less good, if we want to be fully #mentalhelth) parts of those selves is how i strive to engage with life. and that’s what being just the same but brand new does. completely different to who you were a week ago, and the exact same as you will be 17 years and 24 days in the future, and completely different two days after that.

that’s what i love about music. my just the same but brand new is someone else’s my tears ricochet, is someone else’s sing about me, i’m dying of thirst, is someone else’s i was a prisoner in your skull. as one of the most seminal artists of our time once said, “ugh music is so good”.